Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Many Faces Of Jack Deth An NPC For Your Old School Space Opera rpg Campaign


Jack Deth! The name is legend in the annals of Trancer hunting. Throughout time, space, & beyond Jack Deth has been hunting the psychic parasites known as Trancers. Jack Deth is a wisecracking police detective (or “trooper”) in Angel City (the future Los Angeles) and is portrayed by Tim Thomerson in five out of the six films, as well as having a cameo appearance in the movie Evil Bong.


According to Wiki:
"Jack Deth is a cop who originally was from the 23rd century, c. 2247 in Angel City (the renamed 
Los Angeles, following an earthquake) and he was married to a woman called Alice B. Stillwell, who was also his partner, until she was killed by zombie like enemies called "Trancers" after an operation went wrong. After seemingly killing his arch nemesis (Trancer guru and psychic mastermind, Martin Whistler) on Mekon Seven, Jack briefly quit the force to go into retirement, when he was thrust into a new assignment by the council of Angel City, who wanted him to re-capture Whistler, who had unknowingly escaped back to the year 1985 using some kind of drug induced time travel technique, with a plan to assassinate the ancestors of Angel City’s three ruling governors; Van Zandt, Ashe and Spencer."
When we first meet Jack he's already a 4th or perhaps 5th level fighter moving through the mean streets of Angel City. He's pissed off, sort of cynical, & ready for a different direction in his life. Because of his involvement with the entire 
Whistler/Mekon affair he's looking for an entirely different direction in his life.
There are two possible places to run into Jack's rough & tumble form of justice. Mekon Seven & the death trap it almost becomes for Jack with the PCs helping to pull his ass out of the fire. Or '85 Los Angeles as he's hunting down Whistler. The '85 affair allows the PCs to offer support without playing around with his timeline

Trancers II takes place six years after the first movie & this is a more polished Jack Deth. This is the true fifth level fighter waiting for the next shoe to drop in the Tracer war. This comes in the form of  Whistler's brother, E.D. Wardo (Richard Lynch), has gone back in time and created a "trancer farm" under the guise of an environmental organization. GreenWorld strives to 'clean up the world', but they are kidnapping the homeless and mental patients to enslave in a trancer army.
 Green World is a perfect foil to bring the PCs into the Jack action happening. The Trancer movement is on the rise & this film allows the PCs to get in on the action. Green World could well survive ED Wardo with little problem & come to menace any number of PCs & the organizations that they work for. This is where the PCs could come in as both clean up & support. Trancers II is one of the most accessible of the series & really throws the hammer down as far is the roots of this problem.


Trancers III is the one that finds Jack cruising toward 6th level fighter.  Jack (Tim Thomerson) is now a successful private detective, catching cheating lovers in the act. Angel City begins to come apart at the seams as the Trancers War breaks out fully. To save Angel City from its future destruction in a massive war Jack is pressed into service. His mission - find the origin of this new wave of trancers and end it with extreme prejudice.Here's where  PCs come in & offer support & really take the fight to the enemies of Angel City! We get to see the extent of the destruction these things cause. Jack is really at his cynical best here. The introduction of an android partner allows the Mutant Future roots of this 90s cheese fest to show right through. Allow the PCs to really shine in the spot light & while Jack gets the glory the PCs get the gold & adventure. 

 Trancers Four is 90s cheese at its best & gives us a Jack Deth at Level 7 when the DM decides to mix it up a bit. We get a new dimension in the form of the planet Orpheus & a brand new monster in the form of the Trancer Nobles. This caste of Trancers are mutant psycho zombie overlords. They're similar to another species seen in the Richard Band movies Subspecies. Critters who feed on the psyches of their victims or simply monsters who drain the levels from the poor fools. 
Jack manages to assist a rebel group known as the "Tunnel Rats" crush the rule of the evil Lord Calaban.
 The Tunnel Rats are great as a cell for the PCs to be thrust right into the middle of the good fight for Orpheus & its environs. The planet is someplace that's seemly ripped from the pages of Arduin or some other OD&D cheese fest. Perfect material for a Mutant Future or even a Carcosa project. There are several megadungeon locations to be mined from in this movie. Pure awesome Brand name cheese! 

Sudden Deth or Trancers five is one of the best of the series because its where the movies introduce new elements, characters, & the most D&D like of the Trancer movies. Here's a plot summery of Trancers 4&5 according to wiki : 
Trancers 4: Jack of Swords
"After Harris scolds Jack for allowing Shark to be destroyed during a mission, Jack was about to reconcile with Alice when he learned that Alice and Harris had began a relationship (Trancers 4: Jack of Swords) while Jack and Alice were apart. Very angry over this, Jack leaves and is rubbed the wrong way by a woman in a bar called Lyla. Unable to remain out of work for any length of time, Jack returned to Harris’ lab, where Jack was assigned by Harris and (to Jack's surprise) his new supervisor Lyra to journey to Kansas using the TCL chamber. During this assignment, a stowaway creature called a Solonoid caused Deth’s time machine to make a crash landing on another planet, which he later learned was called Orpheus.
On Orpheus, Jack gets caught up in a war between the surviving humans and the never-before-seen vampire like Trancers called Nobles, as well as their fearsome leader, Lord Caliban. A prophet named Farr predicted Jack’s arrival in Orpheus.
Jack is injured trying to escape from these new bloodsuckers, and passes out in the woods. He is found by a kindly peasant, who nurses him back to health and then sends out a carrier pigeon, alerting Caliban of his whereabouts and betraying Jack. The man is killed when the Trancers show up with Caliban, despite being loyal to Caliban, and Jack is captured after his time freezer watch fails to do its job, resulting in the Trancers humoring his predicament.
From then on, a woman Jack called Lyra (because she resembles her namesake from Jack’s own time) involuntarily served Jack, at the order of Caliban. Jack eventually escaped from Caliban’s castle with the help of the Trancer lord’s son, Prospero, and a rebel group called the “Tunnel Rats”. Jack was able to foil the diabolical plans of Caliban, thanks in part to the deceased wizard Oberon, and Prospero (who had chosen to align himself with Jack, so he would not end up like his evil father).[5]"
Trancers 5: Sudden Deth
"Unfortunately, one of Caliban's men uses an art work of Caliban to somehow bring him back. Caliban figured that Jack Deth would head for the Castle of Unrelenting Terror. After learning of a talisman that could allow the possessor to cross dimensional realms, Jack and Prospero journeyed to the Castle of Unrelenting Terror to obtain the Tiamond, so that Jack could return to Angel City (Trancers 5: Sudden Deth). Prospero also saw this as an opportunity to distance himself from Shaleen, a female rebel who he was falling in love with. Prospero understood that he may have hurt her during an uncontrollable feed, and also due to this, Jack does not fully trust Prospero, even if he is now on the good side. This causes Prospero to become offended, as he explains to Jack his ruthless methods of killing Trancers causes Jack to be uncaring. After this argument, Jack allows Prospero to act as a guard during the night, while Jack rests up, perhaps proving that Jack has gained some trust in the very thing he has hunted all his life.
Jack and Prospero were unknowingly being followed by the returning Caliban, who disguised himself as a wild dog and saved them from a hostile refugee in the woods. Once inside the castle, Jack and Prospero were able to overcome all challenges that the castle threw at them, which included being tricked with fake food and female company, and yelling at some ghosts, causing them to simply back off, and Jack defeating his evil doppelganger, which then ultimately awarded him with the Tiamond. Just then, Caliban returned and threw Jack and Prospero in two separate cages, locking them inside, before he escaped with the Tiamond, and due to its unique power, he could return to his castle.
Jack used his special switchblade to cut through the bars and they hurried back to Caliban’s castle on horseback. During the final showdown with Caliban, the Nobles and the Tunnel Rats, Jack was severely wounded by Caliban, leaving only a limited amount of time to get back to L.A. As many rebels and Trancers fought each other, Prospero faced and killed his father, allowing Jack just enough time to use the Tiamond to return to L.A., somehow bringing Prospero with him. Jack stepped out of the TCL chamber with Prospero and overheard Harris and Lyra talking about him, and they were surprised to discover that he was still alive. Prospero chose to stay in L.A. for a while, as he now felt ordinary, while Jack asked Lyra for a fresh start. Meanwhile, in Orpheus, the other Lyra realizes she is pregnant with Jack's child." 

We've got more information on the Trancers of Orpheus, we've got background on the "Subspecies" like Nobles, half Trancers like Prospero, the Castle of Unrelenting Terror megadungeon along with the artifact the Tiamond, & we've got a whole new campaign world to mess with. 
Orpheus allows the DM to play hard with the Trancers saga without touching or messing with the Dethverse at all. This is where we've got Jack at 8th level & going strong with his Trancer partner, rebel love interest, & son on the way. The PCs can follow in his foot steps, save his bacon, assist with the rebellion or simply go adventuring on Orpheus. 
 Trancers 6 is where the DM loses it completely 

 Plot according to Wiki 
"In the year 2022, Jack learned from Dr. Jennings that he fathered a daughter called Josephine, after Jennings witnessed her being attacked by an unknown female assailant, while he was doing a routine check of the timebelt (Trancers 6). Although Jack had met the girl in 2005, he did not know they were related. As it turned out, Josephine was in danger because she saw a meteor fall to the Earth, and her boss happened to be Mr. Castle, an alien Trancer who came to Earth inside the meteor. Castle's assistant Shauna Wilder is put in charge of recruiting new Trancers.
Jack inhabited Josphine’s body when the newest group of Trancers appeared in her time and began using the energy from the meteor to mass-produce the deadliest Trancers ever seen, in an attempt to take over the city, and ultimately, the world."  Basically this is the end of the Trancer era where the saga has always had gender messing with & odd stuff this sequence take the action in several directions. The Trancer menace is now an intergalactic as well as inter dimensional mess. There are several places where the PCs can get involved. Since the threat is intergalactic & growing the Dm can ignore the problem of a missing Jack Deth move the action to his favorite colony world. He could pigeon hole the game into helping Jack in his mad Trancer conspiracy in the alternative world of '05. However there's an alternative to all of the above. What about Angel City? Sure Orpheus is cool & the nobles are awesome but what the hell happened to Angel City? Certainly the council is going to have to find Jack! They're sitting on their collective rears & just waiting for the menace to strike yet again. 
Using Jack Deth In Your OSR Game
 Jack Deth is a cop who originally was from the 23rd century, c. 2247 in Angel City (the renamed Los Angeles, following an earthquake) and he was married to a woman called Alice B. Stillwell, who was also his partner, until she was killed by zombie like enemies called "Trancers" after an operation went wrong. After seemingly killing his arch nemesis (Trancer guru and psychic mastermind, Martin Whistler) on Mekon Seven, Jack briefly quit the force to go into retirement, when he was thrust into a new assignment by the council of Angel City, who wanted him to re-capture Whistler, who had unknowingly escaped back to the year 1985 using some kind of drug induced time travel technique, with a plan to assassinate the ancestors of Angel City’s three ruling governors; Van Zandt, Ashe and Spencer.
 The fact is that Jack can show up anywhen or anywhere. Seriously its all a matter of hunting Trancers wherever they rear their ugly heads! The whole series allows PCs to thread in & out where they're needed. What ever happened to Orpheus? Jack can't be everywhere or can he? Well because of the nature of parts 4 & 5 the question of happy ever after is never settled. The Tunnels Rats could be fighting their Noble masters even now! What bout Jack's son on Orpheus & the evil Nobles who want to twist the mind or spirit of that child? Jack is completely unaware of him or her! Then of course there's Angel City naked, cynical, & complete unprotected from machinations of those Trancer nobles & their human psychic thralls. What about Mekon seven? Is there a loose end or two there? Trancers left behind in the 85 period still out there waiting, plotting, or hatching at this very moment?
 Jack ends the series at 8th or 9th level. The cameo in Evil Bong is possibly the last we see of the Mr. Deth we all know & love.
The Tools of Deth 

 Like all cool science fiction or fantasy heroes Jack has all the cool gadgets. Here's a complete listing of them according to wiki : 
Jack Deth is equipped with a plasma powered gun called a “Heater” in his own time, but uses a .38 Special when he is sent to the 1980s. He can identify a trancer by scanning them with a bracelet (only seen in the futuristic opener of the first film). He is later given awrist watch that can temporarily halt time, stretching one second to ten (although this appears to be inaccurate on-screen). This trick can allow for a quick getaway. This was referenced in The Matrix.[6] The time travel drug was phased out and replaced by the TLC chamber, but the original premise returned in Trancers 6.
His other supervisor “Lyra” (Stacie Randall) later supplies him with a new gun that can be powered naturally with sand, small rocks, etc. He also receives a new wrist watch that can still slow down time, but with unlimited use. However, this trick backfires on him in Orpheus because Orpheus uses magic.
The most important item he receives from Lyra is an ordinary looking switchblade, that is designed so it can cut through just about anything. This saves his life on more than one occasion. Jack Deth is a fan of vintage cars, and is also a smoker, as Jack (as Josephine) receives a case which includes a pack of cigarettes.
Trancers 6 tries to be like the original Trancers, by only including the original movie's time freezer watch. Although including this is probably a plot hole, as Trancers 6 ignores parts 4 and 5 completely, and therefore, it does not make sense to be using the old one.
 There's enough in there to keep a Mutant Future DM jumping for quite awhile. Well this concludes our Trancers coverage. Thanks for the cult ride. We've got more fun coming up. 
For a Complete Biography of Jack Deth go right over Here

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