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Controller mutant in STALKER

Controller

(S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video game mutant)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a late 2000s series of three video games. Inspired by the Stalker movie and novel, these Russian works take place in a fantasy version of the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone. Reality therein isn’t doing well, and the games mix survival, horror, exploration and action.

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games have a peculiar mystique, and are often considered a high point in the immersive survival genre – especially with patches and mods.

This profile is based on the controllers as depicted in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with the Oblivion Lost mod active. This mod restored some abilities, events, and NPCs relevant to the controllers that were cut from the final retail release of the game. Accordingly, the controllers depicted in this writeup have more expansive powers and behaviors than seen in the standard game.


Background

  • Base Of Operations: Mobile within the Zone.
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 180 lbs.
  • Eyes: Varies Hair: None


Powers and Abilities

A controller exerts a constant malignant force upon the local noosphere . Anyone in its vicinity will initially experience disorienting visual and auditory effects. These begin as a low moaning noise, slightly wavering vision, and mild vertigo that builds to a constant roar, badly blurred double-vision, and intense vertigo as one gets closer to the controller.

This effect is accompanied by the gradual destruction of the victim’s psyche. Those exposed to the controller’s influence will eventually die though many first go insane as their perceptions are warped by the controller, coming to see others as zombies and in turn believing zombies to be friends and allies.

Those whose minds have been ruined by a controller’s emanations can be revived by its monstrously powerful mind as a servitor or limited intellect. Most controllers surround themselves with a small entourage of such zombies whenever possible.

Mind games

When confronted with foes who manage to resist its field effects, a controller will defend itself with a combined telepathic and telekinetic attack. The victim of such an attack has a brief out-of-body experience in which his mind is seemingly pulled from his physical form, yanked face-to-face with the controller.

A mutant resembling the Controllers in the STALKER video game

His psyche is then “hurled” back into his body while a telekinetic bolt slams into him. Even those rare individuals strong enough in mind and body to survive the initial assault will normally be stunned and vulnerable to further attacks unless they retain enough presence of mind to quickly seek cover.

The mutations that provide a controller with its mental powers also toughen its body. A controller can sustain considerably more injury than a normal person before dying and is particularly resistant to radiation.


History

In 2006, 20 years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster, the zone of alienation around the CNPP was wracked by a bizarre cataclysm. Afterward, the zone was suffused with anomalies in which the laws of physics were twisted in inexplicable ways.

The study of those anomalies and the artifacts they produced drew scientists and would-be profiteers to the zone. Yet its many dangers forced the Ukrainian government to strictly control access to the area.

Despite the military cordon, the zone is populated by numerous mercenary and militia groups and lone adventurers (the latter nicknamed “stalkers”). These either seek to profit from its treasures or to understand and eliminate the zone’s dangers before they can expand into the outside world.

One of the zone’s many dangers is the strains of mutant life inhabiting the area. The exact circumstances that give rise to the controller strain of mutants is unknown, but fortunately for the people within in the zone they are among the rarest of mutants.

Controllers are usually found toward the center of the zone in urbanized areas. Whenever controllers are encountered, the warriors of the zone will flee if possible unless they are cornered or can bring overwhelming force to bear in eliminating the threat.


Description

Controllers appear mostly human. Yet their lumpen mottled skin and swollen hairless craniums easily distinguish them even at a distance. At closer ranges observers will note their lack of a little finger and their grayish tridactyl feet. Though they usually wear pants, controllers are invariably shoeless. They have at best only a few remaining tatters of whatever shirt they once wore.

The third illo displays the visual distortion one experiences in a controller’s presence and the fourth illo shows a typical zombified victim. The live-action illos were taken from an episode of Stargate SG-1 featuring a telekinetic experimental subject with a similar appearance.

Controllers never move in a hurry, plodding along with a slump-shouldered gait. Controllers do not speak or make any other noise and remain largely expressionless except for a cruel smirk that only shows when they unleash their powerful mental blast against a particularly recalcitrant foe.


Personality

The controllers’ motivations are largely a mystery. It has been impossible to study them at length due to the nature of their powers. Anyone in their presence either eliminates them quickly or becomes another of their mindless thralls.

City mice

Controllers are known to gravitate to urban areas. These offer two significant benefits for them. The first is protection. With the many opportunities for concealment and the relatively limited range of visibility in a modern city compared to open wilderness, a controller can destroy and enslave the minds of most people before they can even find the controller much less take action against it.

A mutant resembling the Controllers in the STALKER video game

The second is numbers. Urban locations tend to have denser populations, providing more potential subjects for the controller.

Once a controller (or group of controllers) establishes itself in an urban location, it seems content to wander the vicinity gathering an increasingly large army of zombies. Anyone encountering the controller and its group is either subsumed into service or ruthlessly eliminated.

Even groups comprising dozens of hardened soldiers occupying fortified urban headquarters in the zone have been devastated by controllers that have entered their camps. Those militias can usually dispose of a single controller at great cost, but groups of two or three have proven unbeatable without heroic measures.


DC Universe History

Any number of labs or temporal anomalies in the DCU could unleash controllers upon a hapless populace. There are also locations such as the former site of Blüdhaven that are corrupted with all manner of chemical and radiological materials that could spawn these fearsome mutants.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Controller

Dex: 03 Str: 05 Bod: 07 Motivation: Power Lust
Int: 05 Wil: 08 Min: 10 Occupation: Roving Marauder
Inf: 03 Aur: 05 Spi: 10 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 011 HP: 030

Powers:
Animate Dead: 10, Debilitate (Mental): 08, Mental Illusion: 04, Mental Blast: 10, Mind Blast (1): 10, Mind Blast (2): 01, Sealed Systems: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Animate Dead is not a mystical reanimation ability but instead psionically revives those whose minds have been destroyed by damage from the Controller’s Mind Blast (2) — see “Brain Scorcher” below for details.
  • Debilitate has an Area Effect of 8 APs but is Diminishing, losing 1 AP for every 2 APs distance from the controller (+2FC total).
  • Mental Blast and Mind Blast (1) are Combined, with Mental Blast being the carrier Power (+1FC each).
  • Mental Blast only has a Range of 05 and is incapable of Multi-Attacks (-2FC total).
  • Mental Illusion has an Area Effect of 4 APs (+2FC).
  • Mental Illusion can only cause victims to misperceive normal people as zombies and zombies as allies (-1FC).
  • The effects of Mental Illusion immediately cease once the controller is dead or if a victim goes outside its range (-1FC).
  • Mind Blast (2) has an Area Effect of 08 APs and is Lethal (+4FC).
  • Debilitate, Mental Illusion, and Mind Blast (2) are Always On (-1FC each).
  • Sealed Systems only protects against radiation (-3FC).

Skills:
Thief (Stealth)*: 03

Advantages:
Iron Nerves.

Connections:
None.

Drawbacks:
Miscellaneous (The plodding ambulation of a controller means they will never walk faster than 1 AP per phase), Strange Appearance.


Hit the One in the Middle

One of the effects of Debilitate is blurred and wavering double vision. As controllers often operate in pairs and sometimes even triads walking together in close proximity, the visual distortion can make it difficult for an affected observer to determine how many controllers he is facing.

At the GM’s option, those affected by Debilitate may be required to make a Perception Check with an OV/RV of 02/02 to determine precisely how many controllers there are or to target a specific one among a duo or trio if desired. Failure to gain any RAPs on this Check will result in a miscount or aiming the next attack at the wrong target depending on the circumstances.


Design Notes

I’ve added the X-19 Psi-Emitter’s and Brain Scorcher’s abilities to “zombify” people to the controller. This was done for two reasons.

  1. The first is that the controller has the same ability to destroy people’s minds as those devices did, albeit at a slower pace and with lesser range.
  2. Secondly, controllers often have zombies accompanying them just as many zombies are clustered around the X-19 Psi Emitter. It seemed reasonable to link these phenomena and this also provides the controller the ability to generate a group of zombie servants even when imported to other settings.


Brain Scorcher

Once the psychically corrosive presence of the controller has destroyed a person’s mind (that is, once Mind Blast (2) has reduced their Current MIND Condition to -Mind APs) the victim does not die. Instead, the controller’s will revives them as a brain-damaged mockery of what they once were.

Because the zombies in this instance are still living beings, albeit ones with severely diminished mental capacities and no ability to feel pain, they undergo the Attribute and Skill modifications standard to Animate Dead (with the exception noted below) but do not suffer the usual RV penalty versus fire.

They can still be affected normally by any other phenomenon that would injure a living being such as suffocation, blood loss, exposure to the elements, gas attacks, poisons, and even disease. While these zombies will remain reanimated after the Animate Dead Power expires, they will eventually starve to death unless they find some source of food.

For thematic purposes they may be given a preference for animal flesh, but will in fact take sustenance from anything a normal person would.

Zombies

The zombies created by a controller retain basic elements of Physical Skills, albeit only at a level equal to their current DEX or their original APs of Skill minus 03, whichever is lower. A zombie that had the Weaponry (Firearms) Skill can fire any guns it has on it and may even be able to reload if it has magazines on its person and was formerly a well-trained soldier thoroughly drilled in weapons discipline.

Such a zombie will still not have the sense to pick up new weapons or ammunition once it has exhausted whatever supplies it originally carried. A zombified martial artist would probably be able to use most of the components of the Martial Artist Skill except for the Techniques Subskill.

While a zombie would normally not have the presence of mind to use any Thief (Stealth) Skill it retained, a controller could likely compel it to do so or to at least not give its customary moan when it sees a potential victim.

The APs of Animate Dead in this instance do not denote the maximum number of “corpses” a controller can reanimate. Instead, it represents the maximum number of revived persons the controller can directly command. As noted above, once reanimated by a controller zombie remain active until dispatched by other means or until they die of natural causes.

Uncontrolled zombies will simply meander aimlessly unless they see someone who is neither a controller nor another zombie, in which case the zombie will attack them. Those who have been zombified relatively recently will display some holdovers of their human existence, such as muttering nonsensical phrases or warming their hands by a fire on a cold night.

Recovering

Those who were zombified some time ago (which is usually obvious by the degraded state of their attire) will do little more than stumble around and make no noise except to moan when they see a potential victim.

While the damage done to bring a zombie to its unfortunate fate is probably irreparable, it is possible in a superheroic setting that even this drastic alteration could be repaired. Such attempts would probably face an OV/RV of at least 12/12 for the relevant Skills or Powers than could be brought to bear.

This also allows GMs to create an interesting dilemma: If the hordes of zombies unleashed by a controller can be restored to normal, it may place the PCs in the position of trying to stop them without seriously harming them.


Taking Control

Controllers can be very formidable foes for most street-level heroes, particularly in a high-population urban setting where they have plenty of hiding places and many potential “recruits”.

However, higher-powered heroes or those with significant psionic protection may not be adequately challenged. The following changes can make the controllers into tougher opponents:

  • Control: 08 can be used to subvert enemies with more subtlety and deliberation than the controller’s limited Mental Illusion normally allows.
  • To make the controllers full-fledged psychics, add Iron Will: 04, Mind Blank: 04, Mind Probe: 06, and Telepathy: 06,
  • Controllers can be made more physically threatening by giving them Telekinesis: 06 and Force Field: 04. Force Field is Self Only and allows attacks through the field and both Powers can only be used while the controller remains stationary.
    These Powers with the Bonus and Limitations in question were possessed by the gnome-like mutants known as Burers which were also restored by the Oblivion Lost mod and sometimes appeared as servitors of the controllers.
  • A small number of controllers such as Koshei the Immortal are unusually resistant to physical damage. The Controllers have BODY 08, Skin Armor: 02, Invulnerability: 04, and 15 extra HPs.

Comptroller

Rather than rolling for each of the Area Effect Powers’ for each NPC, here are a few simple guidelines for handling them in play. These assume that normal people will have 2-3 APs in the relevant Attributes and up to 5 HPs while police, security personnel, or soldiers have 3-4 APs and up to 10 HPs.

  • Mind Blast (2) will inflict 1 RAP of Current Mind Damage every MIND-1 phases. Assuming most HPs will be spent on LDD versus this damage, most normal people will last 12-14 phases (3-4 APs of time) before losing consciousness and another 4-6 phases before “dying” (2 APs of time, for a total of 5 APs between initial exposure and death) and becoming eligible for reanimation. Soldiers and other hardened normals will pass out in 14-16 phases and die within 6-8 (APs of time are still the same).
  • Debilitate RAPs for NPCs can be derived directly from the Result Table when the details are not critical. This means a normal person will suffer 1-2 RAPs and police officers and similar tougher NPCs will suffer 1 RAP when they first enter a controller’s range of influence. This will go up 1 RAP for every 2 APs closer that they approach the controller as the effects of the Diminishing Limitation abate.
  • For PCs, Debilitate only attacks once in each “range band” as determined by its Diminishing effect (08 APs, 06 APs, etc.).
    If Debilitate inflicts RAPs, it lasts for its normal duration and once it expires a new attack is made to determine if the victim is still hindered. If Debilitate fails the first time the target is not attacked again unless he leaves and then re-enters Debilitate’s range or unless he enters a more powerful range band.
  • For NPCs and PCs, Mental Illusion only attacks once when a target first enters its Range. If Mental Illusion is successful, it lasts for its normal duration and once it expires a new attack is made to determine if the victim is still in its thrall. If Mental Illusion fails the first time the target is not attacked again unless he leaves and then re-enters Mental Illusion’s Area of Effect.

Approximately 75% of normal people entering Mental Illusion’s Range will succumb to it and approximately 33% of soldiers or police will likewise fall victim.


New rules – Debilitate Power

By R. D. Miles, Eric Langendorff
Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Adam Fuqua, the_black_adam
Link: DEX, INT, or INF
Physical, Mental, or Mystical Power
Range:
Normal
Type: Dice
Base cost: 45
Factor cost: 7

The use of this Power is a Dice Action, where RAPs of the Attack subtract from the target’s Initiative score, add to the OV for all Dice Actions the target makes, and add to the AV for all Attacks made against the target. At the GM’s discretion, AVs and OVs of gadgets may be immune to this effect if they do not derive their accuracy from the character.

For example, a bomb will not explode differently if the character pulling the trigger is woozy. In addition, some Actions made on the target by other characters may be affected by Debilitate at the GM’s discretion. For example, a Persuasion roll used to convince a target to fight while he is Debilitated by fear will receive additive RAPs on the OV.

When the Power is bought, it must be specified as a physical, mental or mystical power, and the nature and non-mechanical description of the Power should be made. The AV/EV of the Debilitate Attack are APs of the Power. OV/RVs are DEX/BODY if the power is physical, INT/MIND if the power is mental, INFL/SPIRIT if the power is mystical.

In addition, a description of the power’s effects must be given. For example, one version of Debilitate might give the target the shakes, another might make the target inebriated, another might make the target quiver in fear.

If sufficient RAPs are earned, some Automatic Actions may become Dice Actions, where the OV is the RAPs of Debilitate. For example, for Batman with a DEX of 9, jumping through an open window would be an Automatic Action. However, if he was hit with 8 RAPs of Debilitate, he would have to roll with an AV/OV of 9/8.

RAPs of Debilitate may be recovered when Resting Recovery Checks are made, where RAPs of this Resting Recovery Check subtract from the RAPs of the original Attack. AV/EV of the Action Check are DEX/STR if the power is physical, INT/WILL if the power is mental, and INFL/AURA if the power is mystical. The Resting Recovery Check is made against an OV/RV is 0/0.

In addition, each phase following the Attack, the affected Character may use his Dice Action to make a Recovery Check. In this case, the OV/RV is the current number of RAPs of Debilitate (this is not subject to the Desperation Recovery fee). RAPs of Debilitate never affect AVs or OVs of Recovery Checks.

Debilitate may be bought with a (-2 factor, -10 base) limitation for each category of Attacks that are not affected by Debilitate.

For example, a neuron inhibitor could be Debilitate (physical power), does not affect mystical Attacks (-2). In this example, AV/EVs are APs of the Power, OV/RVs are the target’s DEX/BODY, and RAPs add to the AVs and OVs of physical and mental Attacks only.

Another example, an ’aura of fear‘ power could be Debilitate (mystical power), Area Effect (+1), No Range (-1). In this case, AV/EVs are APs of the Power, OV/RVs are the targets’ INFL/SPIRIT, and RAPs add to AVs and OVs of all types of Attacks.

Aura of fear may be bought with Control, derived or elementally linked to Debilitate, can only be used when RAPs of Debilitate exceed the target’s SPIRIT.

By Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (CRPG).

Helper(s): Stalker wiki , Frank Murdock.

Writeup completed on the 1st of November, 2009.

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