Having created two relative heavy hitters — the Minuteman and the Swamp Fox — for my early 19th century superhero pastiche Sons of Liberty game, I decided to move on to a more mechanically complex idea — trying to model someone on the Green Lantern. Magic rings are few and far between in early American folklore, but significant lanterns are relatively plentiful. The mythic history of the beginnings of the American Revolution is tied up in the idea that noble Boston sentries warned Paul Revere of the coming British invasion by hanging lanterns in the Old North Church tower, passing on a critical warning in a simple code: one if by land, two if by sea!
Considering the relatively loose approach to historicity I was already taking in creating the background for a superheroic 18th and 19th Century America, it was a relatively simple thing to suggest that at least one of the lanterns hung by church sexton Robert Newman to warn of the coming British was able to lend him some kind of power. Deciding just what kind of power was the trick.
While I had attempted to stick closely to the origins of their inspirations in designing the back-stories for the Minuteman and the Swamp Fox, I wanted to get a little further afield with the Lantern. So Newman’s lantern became an Arabian artifact of significant occult power — the prison of a powerful Djinni who would use superheroics (and a possessed Robert Newman) as an elaborate disguise that it hoped would eventually lead it to a power great enough to free it from the lamp. Er…lantern. I also threw a little Lovecraft in there. Like you do.
Newman, probably no great fan of playing host to an amoral creature of smokeless fire, would have supported the cause if he could not wrest control of the creature’s substantial power for himself, which I hoped would give whomever played the Lantern a chance to play up some internal conflict and give me chance to foster brief intra-party conflict if the adventure called for it. This dual nature — along with the Lantern’s relative mechanical complexity — makes him a challenge to play, but thus far everyone who’s had the opportunity to do so has met the challenge admirably.
Millennia before Robert Newman was born, Shazzan al-Djinn was conceived by Shaitan and born of Lillith, queen of Monsters. He roamed from Anatolia to the Rub’ al Khali, feasting upon the souls of mortals, rollicking in hidden places behind the veil of worlds. After 1,000 years of blissful havoc as a demon of smokeless fire, the mad Arab sorcerer known as ‘Abd-al-Hazred lured Shazzan into the catacombs beneath Damascus with the promise of blood sacrifice. But al-Hazred did not fear the Djinn, for he was a master of Elder things that even Shaitan feared. There, ‘Abd-al-Hazred bound the demon to his will and to the Lantern with foul sorcery. The evil once done in service of its terrible hungers paled in comparison to the dark biddings of the mad Arab, whose foul desires makes even demons shudder.
However powerful al-Hazred was, he could not avoid mortality forever (though he had much delayed it). When he died, his distant kin quickly disposed of his possessions, including the lamp that held the Djinn. For nearly a thousand years, it passed from hand to hand with Shazzan trapped within it, making its way across the Middle East and North Africa. None would keep the lantern for long, for even those unaware of the spirit realm could feel the power that al-Hazred had bound within it.
Eventually, the lantern was sold to a trader in Algiers, who then sold it to Robert Newman, a church sexton in Boston, a great city on the sea in a nation not yet born. Newman, unlike any lantern-bearer since al-Hazred, was sensitive to the spirit realm. But he was unprepared when Shazzan lashed out from the lantern in late 1775, just as Newman signaled to his fellow rebels that the British would come by sea. Trapping Newman’s soul proved easy for the djinn, but assuming his identity was not. Shazzan found that he could only hide his true nature by drawing heavily on Newman’s memories, acting as Newman would if given Shazzan’s tremendous power. Now, he finds himself struggling not to absorb the faithful Church leader’s beliefs — and more and more of his personality, as well.
Shazzan had hoped to cast Newman’s body aside once he found a way to free himself from the lantern, but ‘Abd-al-Hazred’s prison has proven stronger than expected, though he continues to challenge the mightiest beings the earth has to offer. No power yet encountered has proved strong enough to destroy the ancient artifact, and so the Lantern continues to hide among the great and the good. Like it or not, the Lantern is now held as one of the heroes of the age: one of the Sons of Liberty!
I think I can shed a little light on the subject!
Haughty and overbearing, the Lantern does his best to shine his light on the moral and spiritual shortcomings of his inferiors. The Lantern’s judgemental stare is well-known in this young nation, and is feared only slightly less than the otherworldly light of the lantern he bears. Often seen as little more than a dark silhouette behind the lantern’s glare, Newman’s form is no less feared by miscreants because of its inherent falsehood.
The Lantern is at his most effective when fighting from a distance, making it harder for enemies to disarm the device that gives him his power; without ‘Abd-al-Hazred’s brass lantern in his hands, the Lantern is effectively powerless. When expedient, he’s willing to use his Radiant Blast on distant foes, but he prefers to create Force Constructs that can interfere with or restrain his enemies, or use his Blazing Hand to hurl debris across the battlefield.
The Lantern (PL10, 150pp*)
Strength 1, Agility 3, Fighting 3, Awareness 3, Stamina 1, Dexterity 4, Intellect 1, Presence 4
Close Attack 5, Eidetic Memory, Improved Hold, Precise Attack (Ranged, Concealment), Ranged Attack 7
Lantern Blast +10 (Tough DC 25)
Telekinesis +10 (Dodge DC 20, 250 ft. range increment)
Unarmed +8 (Tough DC 16)
Grab +8 (Tough DC 16)
Throw +11 (Tough DC 16)
Toughness 10 (1)
Athletics 1 (+1), Deception 8 (+12), Insight 8 (+11), Intimidation 2 (+6), Perception 8 (+11), Persuasion 0 (+4), Stealth 2 (+5)
The Lantern of ‘Abd-al-Hazred [Removable Device, Container]:
Force Constructs [Create 15: 32,000 cubic feet, DC 25], **Mobile Constructs [Create 10: 1,000 cubic feet, DC 20, movable], **Blazing Hand [Move Object 10: 25 tons, Sustained], **Burning Light [Blast 10: Tough DC 25, Affects Insubstantial 2, Dimensional 3, Homing 1, Penetrating 4], **Radiant Shield [Burst Area Immunity 10: Life Support, Affects Others, 30 ft. radius sphere], Buoyant Glow [Flight 5: 60 mph, 900 feet per round], Force Field [Force Field 10: +10 Toughness; Immunity 10: Life Support, Permanent], See Into Men’s Souls [Comprehend 2: Understand All Languages and Be Understood]
Enemy: Shazzan is well-known to other lesser demons who still walk the material plane, not least due to his association with the Mad Arab, ‘Abd-al-Hazred. Many Ifrit would delight in returning Shazzan to the plane of fire from which he was born, but even their emnity pales in comparison to the unending hatred that drove ‘Abd-al-Hazred himself. Rumors have begun to surface that tales of the sorcerer’s death were exaggerated…and that he may have found a sort of immortality of his own. You know that, if he found you, he would seek to control you once more — you would seek oblivion before servitude.
Identity: No one knows that the spirit animating the Lantern resides in the powerful artifact he carries. Although he lays claim to the identity of Robert Newman, his mortal guise is little more than an elaborate ruse. Now he hides behind an exaggerated parody of Newman’s strict ethical doctrines to prevent anyone from learning the truth.
Motivation – Freedom: Shazzan seeks a way to free his spirit from the Lantern that holds his spirit. Once that happens, he can end the ruse that he is Robert Newman, and release the church Sexton whose body he has used for the past twenty years back to a man long-trapped in his own body.
Power Level 10, 150 PP; Abilities 40 + Powers 58 + Advantages 15 + Skills 7 (*28 ranks per 4 skill points/pp house rule) + Defenses 30. **Alternate powers.