(Profile #2 - 1975-1983)
This profile follows right on the heels of the Doctor Faustus (profile #1) article, and you absolutely should read them in sequence. Doctor’s order.
The Doctor Faustus profiles each cover a small number of encounters. This is because in-depth DC Heroes coverage of the assets he employs during these appearances is a lot of text. And we’d rather avoid monster writeups these days.
The series goes :
- Doctor Faustus profile #1 (1968-1975).
- Doctor Faustus profile #2 (1975-1983) — this here profile.
- Doctor Faustus profile #3 (1987-1993).
- Real Name: Dr. Johann Fennhoff.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Anna Fennhoff (mother, deceased), unidentified father (deceased).
- Group Affiliation: None at this stage.
- Base of Operations: The Fennhoff Institute in the Catskills (upstate New York) ; later a posh high-rise in Manhattan.
- Height: 6’6″ Weight: 321 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Red
Powers & Abilities
Faustus is now more in a super-villain mould, but his abilities haven’t changed much. His power of observation and deduction becomes even more apparent, though. For instance he quickly notices that Daredevil (Matt Murdock) behaves like a blind man would.
Furthermore he employs more, new, exciting specialized assets in his dastardly plots.
Dr. Faustus probably still packs his wafer-thin parachute under his vest, since that already saved his life at least once and he’s afraid of heights.
In 1977, he blew cigarette smoke at Spider-Man that had powerful hypnotic effect. Spider-Man was groggy, confused, and accepted that Faustus was an important and benevolent man and that he should help him.
Faustus still needed to use his manipulative talents and keep Spidey exposed to the smoke, but it worked fine even against Spider-Man’s tremendous willpower.
Once Spider-Man was fully under Faustus’ sway, he swiftly regained his full capabilities. But after he shook the effect, he was badly dazed.
The same formula was reformulated as a transparent, low-odour gas stored in small canisters, and even canned as a spray for the Grand Director. Ultimately, Faustus raided Manhattan with a giant zeppelin equipped to pour enormous quantities of the smoke into the streets and buildings.
A high-rise in New York
This building was equipped with a gauntlet of traps to capture Captain America :
- The “receptionist” was a robot operating a submachinegun. Though it wasn’t a very sophisticated robot, it was styled to closely resemble Sharon Carter for psychological impact on Captain America.
- The lift was booby-trapped, though Cap easily evaded it (he was expecting a trap).
- One room had holographic projectors, confronting Cap with holograms of MODOK and the Red Skull (holding the Cosmic Cube). That they were just projections became obvious by the first attack, though.
The actual goal of this gauntlet wasn’t to kill Cap, but to keep him breathing hard. A transparent, odourless gas was being pumped in the room and corridors. It made Cap slow, physically vulnerable and weak-willed – without him realizing it until it was too late.
The Fennhoff Institute
The estate was specially prepared to break Reed Richards’ mind, using such means as :
- A special emitter making it difficult to concentrate and notice details, and greatly helping suspend disbelief.
- A full set of low-powered androids mimicking the other Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and Franklin Richards. These doppelgängers seemed badly wounded and traumatized to run a nightmare scenario for Reed, and explain why their super-powers were but a shadow of the originals.
- Some gadgets to allow an actor to impersonate Spider-Man (though it mostly relied on the special emitter bollixing Reed’s brain).
- A static array to overwhelm every sense and overload the brain, coupled with a barrage of low-powered missiles.
Faustus worked for months on his next plot, assembling a crew and procuring special equipment from the Tinkerer.
The goal was to break into a maximum security laboratory. This was where the vaccine against the 1977 antelope flu was being prepared. Faustus has concocted an additive to the vaccine, which would makes much of the American population more susceptible to his suggestions.
Spider-Man randomly stumbled upon Faustus and company as they were tunnelling into the lab with a laser cannon. Unflappable, Dr. Faustus talked to Spider-Man whilst blowing his cigarette smoke at him. The smoke had a powerful mesmeric effect, and Spidey soon became loyal toward Doctor Faustus.
Parker was invaluable in navigating the heavily trapped corridor that remained before the white room. However, once in the central white room, the air purification system broke the smoke’s hold on Spidey. Faustus almost escaped, but Spider-Man did capture everyone.
By 1978, Dr. Faustus was still jailed, but he had acquired new criminal connections. That’s what prisons are for.
The resistible rise of the National Force
The criminal conspiracy the Corporation agreed to have Faustus freed, and put him to work in a mental health institute they owned in the Catskills.
Secret facilities therein were used to keep the bogus Captain America (Steve Rogers, formerly William Burnside) and Bucky (Jack Monroe) in suspended animation. The government contract was probably to attempt to cure them of their paranoid delusions, but of course neither the Corporation nor Faustus intended to do that.
The Corporation was then nearly destroyed, leaving Faustus’ hands free.
Thus did Faustus launch his epic National Force plot :
- “Rogers” was thoroughly brainwashed to become Faustus’ right-hand man and enforcer. As a loyalty test Faustus even had him “kill” Monroe. Though “Rogers” thought he had remorselessly murdered his friend, the gun was actually loaded was blanks.
- “Rogers” received a new identity as the masked neo-Nazi and White supremacist, the Grand Director. The GD headed a new political movement, the National Force, lashing out to defend the racial hierarchy in New York City.
- Faustus kept tabs on Sharon Carter and her relative Peggy Carter, as he intended to use them to strike against Captain America.
- This was likely done using ex-Corporation double agents within S.H.I.E.L.D.. This was shortly after it was discovered that most of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newest super-agents were Corporation infiltrators.
- The National Force used a lot of KKK imagery, including burning crosses. As the crosses burned, hypnotic gas was released from hidden canisters. This meant that the GD was incredibly convincing during his dramatic speech. Really, it was closer to nigh-instant brainwashing.
- Within days, the National Force thus began fielding a fanatical White supremacist militia with advanced infantry weapons. Their chalk-white uniforms also included a mechanism to destroy themselves with incendiaries, which they unhesitatingly used rather than be captured or arrested.
- National Force agents kept Captain America under surveillance, as Faustus correctly assumed that he would be the first hero to respond.
- Political contacts (likely brainwashed by Faustus) at, at least, the city level interfered with those in the NYPD who wanted to investigate and expose the National Force. This held for but a few days and was overturned by the District Attorney, but this delay was sufficient.
The Captain of her heart
A race riot erupted in the middle of Central Park, during a National Force rally. Even Sharon Carter, who was surveilling the event, joined the National Force under the influence of the hypnotic smoke. Her relative Peggy began investigating, but when National Force operatives saw her talking to Cap they nearly killed her.
The National Force then rolled into Harlem with guns out. As expected, the mob of Boss Morgan scrambled to meet them in combat. Captain America prevented a massacre by fighting everyone to keep them busy until the National Guard arrived. However, he was taken aback when running into the brainwashed Sharon. She was wounded in the fray, and feared dead by self-immolation.
Faustus then had Peggy Carter kidnapped by the Grand Director from her hospital room, leaving clues for Captain America to find. Reeled in, Cap ran into a gauntlet of minor traps. The actual ploy, however, was to subject him to a weakening gas. It allowed Faustus to down America with one punch.
(Though this isn’t mentioned it likely was a revenge for their very first encounter. Back then Cap had gratuitously knocked out Faustus with one punch.)
Captain America was then quickly brainwashed, the National Force swastika was painted on his shield, and he was used in propaganda videos where he spouted White supremacist talking points.
Blind man’s bluff
However, Daredevil (Matt Murdock) tracked Cap down. Though he couldn’t fight him head on, DD arranged to have oil splashed on Cap’s shield, soon dissolving the painted-on symbol. At Murdock’s urging Rogers stared at the symbol on his unaltered shield, which broke the hasty mental conditioning.
The two heroes narrowly escaped the National Force. They then intercepted Faustus and his men as they loaded a large airship with hypnotic smoke-filled canisters, to be sprayed upon Manhattan. DD and Cap doggedly pursued using a biplane from an air show, but failed to board the dirigible and crashed.
Undaunted, the two heroes came back in a Quinjet, and this time Captain America got in. With Peggy’s help, he stopped Dr. Faustus in the nick of time. The zeppelin crashed in the Atlantic. In the crash, huge gas canisters fell upon Faustus. Cap saved him from drowning.
During the fray, the psychologically fragile Grand Director committed suicide. For decades, he was believed dead.
(It will later be revealed that the falling gas canisters broke Faustus’ back. But this is a retcon , and this is not apparent during this era. It will be discussed in the next Faustus profile.)
The everyman of the fantastic
By this point the Corporation was gone, but Faustus had forged new ties with the Secret Empire conspiracy. They ensured that he got out of prison within weeks, and return to managing the Fennhoff Institute.
A new project was launched within a few months, targeting Reed Richards. It relied on a super-weapon called the Absorbascann, and having brainwashed the Every-Man (Larry Ekler), a very minor costumed madman. Though Faustus presented the Absorbascann as his invention, it seems likely that he was greatly downplaying the Secret Empire’s input.
The Every-Man nearly destroyed Mister Fantastic and Spider-Man (Peter Parker), but they narrowly survived. For details, see our Every-Man profiles.
Faustus had planned for this. He was expecting Mister Fantastic to show up at the Fennhoff Institute to investigate who had warped Larry Ekler, and an elaborate trap was ready. Destroying Richards’ mind would give Faustus great credibility with the Secret Empire’s leadership.
Doctor Richards I presume
The core of the trap was to persuade Mr. Fantastic that the rest of his team and family (who were away at that point) had been defeated and mentally destroyed by an unknown foe at the Fenhoff Institute. The ploy rested on the following tricks :
- A mind-scrambling field across the entire estate, making it difficult to reason and drastically lowering suspension of disbelief.
- An actor passing himself for Spider-Man with the help of a few gadgets and accompanying Reed to feed him Faustus’ narrative.
- Android duplicates of the other Fantastic Four who seemed badly wounded and severely traumatized. It seemed that hideous experiments within the Institute had irreparably damaged their mind.
- An android duplicate of Doctor Doom, supposedly the man behind the attack. This android also bore Reed Richards’ face behind the mask.
- An android duplicate of little Franklin Richards, acting as if he had been brainwashed to become Doom’s murderous pawn.
- An electrical field to shock Richards as he approached Doom, a preset sensory saturation barrage (employing lights, smells, holographic projections, sounds, etc. to severely disorient), and volleys of missiles to finish everyone off.
This all very nearly worked. But upon gazing into the eyes of the “Susan Richards” gynoid , Richards realized that it was a duplicate. This allowed him to play possum, and he knocked out and arrested Faustus and his staff.
The green pinstripe suit has now become Faustus’ de facto “costume”.
Faustus remains a fairly generic comic book villain, prone to megalomaniac schemes with a brainwashing schtick thrown in.
He’ll rant about his genius, about how his opponents do not stand a chance of stopping him, how he understand their every weakness, how he will carve an empire out as he takes control of the USA, etc.
He’s also still big on how his plans are perfect and cannot possibly fail. This overconfidence will inevitably come back to bite him on the arse. There’s a pattern where he mostly spends his Hero Points to get his plan rolling flawlessly, and then to conquer the heroes upon their first encounter. Which means that he’ll have too few Hero Points when the heroes counter-attack.
During this era there are very minor moments where Faustus seems touchy about being called mad. This seems to be just a general cliché until the very end of this era, when his hallucinations about his mother are exposed.
(To a mesmerized Spider-Man) “Simply lead the way, my friend. The corridor that awaits us is fraught with *unknown perils* ! We are trusting *you* to lead us safely *past* them !”
“I have *already* succeeded ! Even as we watch, those canisters containing my ingenious mind-gas are being affixed to special hookups within this dirigible’s exhaust system ! At my command, these loyal National Force agents will begin flooding the city with it, bringing every man, woman and child in New York [City] under my absolute MENTAL CONTROL !”
“My plan is flawless, Anna ! Victory is as good as mine !”
Very impressed henchman: “You’re a genius, boss !”
Dr. Faustus: “*Indeed !*”
DC Universe History
He’s still a loose equivalent of Hugo Strange, but at this stage he’s a bit more generic. Actually his plans are now more in the style of Ra’s al Ghul, though he aims at controlling people rather than exterminating them.
Still, he has all the trappings of a Batman villain, and can be plugged in without any problem I can think of. Presumably he would have been revealed decades later to always have worked for Leviathan and Doctor Daedalus.
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
|Dex: 04||Str: 05||Bod: 04||Motivation: Power|
|Int: 08||Wil: 08||Min: 07||Occupation: Criminal, psychiatrist|
|Inf: 06||Aur: 07||Spi: 06||Wealth: 008|
|Init: 018||HP: 040|
Bonuses and Limitations:
Growth is Always On and Already Factored In.
Charisma (Interrogation, Persuasion): 09, Charisma (Intimidation): 05, Gadgetry: 04, Medicine: 09, Scientist (Drawing plans): 05, Scientist (Analysis): 08, Scientist (Research): 06, Weaponry (Exotic, Firearms): 04
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Faustus’ Medicine Skill treats MIND damage and conditions, not BODY. However he can also attempt to treat SPIRIT damage and conditions, but at +1 CS OV/RV.
- Faustus’ Scientist (Analysis) Subskill can only discern psychological factors, not physical ones.
Genius (Limited to applications having to do with the mind), Language (German), Scholar (Psychiatry and psychology).
Underworld (Low), the Corporation (Low) then the Secret Empire (Low).
Distinct Appearance (Enormous size, presence, intimidating red beard), MPR (Slightly nearsighted), Traumatic Flashback (Hallucinations of his mother), MIF of Heights.
- CONCEALED WAFER-THIN PARACHUTE [BODY 01, Gliding: 01, Miniaturization: 04]. Since it saved his life at least once, we’d assume he keeps wearing it.
- NOSE PLUGS [BODY 01, Sealed systems (gasses only): 05]. Given the amount of gas weapons he uses, it is reasonable to assume that Faustus has a stock of concealed nose plugs, which will undetectably protect him against airborne pathogens, hallucinogens, etc.
- Hypnotic Cigarette Smoke [BODY 01, Broadcast Empath: 15, Ammo: 04, see the “Blowing smoke” section below for more]. The smoke was also packaged within canisters of various sizes, including some quite similar to bug sprays.
- GIANT DIRIGIBLE [STR 11 BODY 10, Flight: 06, R#05]. This zeppelin was outfitted with huge downward-pointing exhausts, a large stock of hypnotic smoke canisters, and enough space, plumbing, vehicles and staff to hook up fresh canisters as the previous ones went empty. There was enough smoke to gas the bulk of Manhattan, possibly more.
Faustus’ HP total is for an *entire* plot of his, including the early parts that will likely take place off-panel . Essentially, that’s what he’d use if he were the Player Character and his whole plot was being played.
Thus, his HPs total will be lower (about 20) once the plan approaches its climax, since he’ll have spent about half in ensuring that everything’s flawless at the early stages.
The Hypnotic Cigarette Smoke works like this :
- Brodcast Empath can only be used to adjust Attitude (cf. the New Rules – Powers document)
- Its Range is but 1 AP, and Faustus must physically blow smoke at the person. The smoke must be regularly reapplied, but simply being in Faustus’ vicinity as he smokes is sufficient.
- Sealed Systems and Systemic Antidote both increase RV (and so do Force Field and Force Wall, for that matter. Ditto for some forms of Skin Armour that model a skintight force field).
- Shaking the effect leaves the subject physically wobbly and disoriented. They can think freely, but they’re physically weak and uncoordinated. Simply apply a CS penalty to all OV/RV equal to many steps the Attitude was adjusted. Each CS of penalty is Recovered in about 7 APs of time.
When he enthralled Spider-Man in 1977, Faustus blew HPs and rolled well ; Spider-Man was Blindsided since he did not expect cigarette smoke to mesmerize him. And thus did Faustus score 16+ RAPs against Spidey’s MIND of 08 (!).
Note that the Attitude adjustment can also facilitate Medicine (Brainwashing) rolls.
Make America strong again
The National Force militiamen did not seem to have much training — the timetable was simply too short — but they compensated through fanatical devotion and courage.
These are baseline stats. There certainly were more skilled people – at least one S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and it seems likely that police officers, veteran ex-soldiers, etc. were also caught by the brainwashing.
Generic National Force trooper
“We have lived by the flame ! And, by the flame, shall we be free ! By the flame, our beloved America be purged… until she is strong once more !” (commits suicide via his uniform)
|Dex: 02||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: Programmed|
|Int: 02||Wil: 02||Min: 02||Occupation: Militiaman|
|Inf: 02||Aur: 02||Spi: 02||Wealth: N.A.|
|Init: 006||HP: 000|
Mind field: 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
Mind field can be used to bolster their RV against any attempt to sway them from The Cause, including fear and intimidation effects, including mind control, and including effects targeting INF/SPI (+2).
Vehicles (Land): 02, Weaponry (Firearms): 03. A small crew also had Vehicles (Air): 03, and another lot was a full, experienced movie crew.
CIA toward The Cause.
- UNIFORM [BODY 03. These uniforms have a button for the wearer to self-destruct – apparently they are lined with a thermite-like compound. This seems almost 100% effective, leaving but ashes. If odd circumstances require a roll, Flame Project: 08 is probably a good choice.]
- Rifles [BODY 02, Energy blast: 07, Range: 05, Ammo: 08, R#03, Limitation: Energy blast has No Range, use the listed Range instead]. Whether it was an energy weapon isn’t entirely certain from the art, but it probably was. These futuristic weapons may have been patterned after the S.H.I.E.L.D. plasma pistols, or older Stark weapons Faustus stole in the past.
- Rifles. On some panels, these weapons are clearly some sort of high-tech flamethrowers. Replace Energy blast with Flame project, and lower Range to 04.
- Pistols. Both models of rifles also existed as pistols, with an EV and a Range both lowered by 1.
- Blackjack [BODY 03, EV 02 (03 w/STR)]. A standard sap, used in melee combat when attempting to capture someone.
A high-rise in New York
- The “Sharon” robot had perhaps DEX 02 STR 01 BODY 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 03, and a submachinegun. It was more intended as a taunt than a real threat.
- The booby trapped lift was a 05/05 Military Science (Danger Recognition) check, unless the Character suspects right away that it is trapped. Cap avoided the blast by quickly opening the roof trapdoor, so the explosion within didn’t get him. That’s a 04/04 DEX or Acrobatics (Athletics) check.
- The holograms didn’t leave enough time for a check to recognise whether they’re real, even for Captain America. This would suggest it’s a 12/12 INT/WIL check that he missed. Nevertheless, the holograms dissipate upon contact. The point was just to stall a bit more, and perhaps to have Cap spend a few HPs on a Multi-Attack against both holograms.
- The big thing was the weakening gas, though. It was undetectable (though a 09/09 check with Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent sounds reasonable) and attacked BODY/BODY with a Numb: 10. It didn’t cause unconsciousness with STR and DEX both at zero – even Captain America didn’t realise his Attributes had been so lowered (letting Dr. Faustus hit him with a Critical against Cap’s OV of zero, as a Blindside, with some HPs on Faustus’ end).
The Fennhoff Institute in 1983
During the plot against Dr. Richards, Faustus employed the following:
- HIGH FREQUENCY SCRAMBLER [BODY 02, “Mind” drain: 12, Limitations: “Mind” drain has the subject’s MIND/MIND as the OV/RV but actually damages both INT and WIL (and any relevant Accuracy (Perception) Subskill) rather than MIND. It can only gain one RAP every minute with a maximum of 8 RAPs, though those RAP is deduced from both INT and WIL (and any relevant Accuracy (Perception) Subskill).
This attack will usually Blindside, unless the person can somehow determine what is going on with the sudden headache.
It is impossible to Recover those RAPs while in the scrambling field – but subjects gain a “free” Recovery roll as an Automatic Action within seconds of leaving the field. The Area of Effect of the SCRAMBLER depends on the web of repeaters installed to relay its effects – Faustus usually has an entire building equipped with repeaters.
- ANDROID DUPLICATES [DEX 02 STR 03 BODY 03, Artist (Actor): 06]. The APs of Artist need to be programmed, require access to extensive voice recordings, need to have the android disguised as the subject (using fake flesh, skin, hair, etc. plus costuming) and so on – it’s certainly not instant.
The APs of Artist assume that Reed, for all his shortcomings as a husband, did get a sizable bonus to his Perception roll when looking into “Sue”’s eyes.
Androids mimicking specific persons will have a small cluster of Powers at about 04 APs each. For instance the Human Torch had 04 APs of Flight and Flame Being, the Invisible Woman had 04 APs of Invisibility and Force Wall, the Thing has 04 APS of STR and BODY… the cover story being that they had been severely weakened by torture.
- The Spider-Man impostor simply had a good replica of the costume with suction cups hidden within the gloves, boots and back (Cling: 02). He didn’t have webshooters, enhanced agility, etc. and would never have passed muster without the High Frequency Scrambler above (and the fact that it was reasonable for Spider-Man to be there).
- The electrified barrier was an area-of-effect Lightning: 08 (requiring INT/WIL 05/05 to spot). The sensory overload barrage was Flash: 09 attacking BODY/BODY (and overloading all senses, so most EV boosters will be circumvented). The missiles may have had AV 10 and Projectile Weapons: 08.
Faustus can brainwash even Captain America overnight. This should be impossible by the rules, which only authorize one roll per 15 APs of time.
What Faustus actually does is to use some of his special compounds on a captive – the person must have been made helpless first. The full treatment amounts to Numb: 20, except that Numb affects WIL/MIN rather than DEX/STR.
It also means that the first Medicine (Brainwashing) roll can be done after 13 APs of time, though afterward the normal 15 APs get used.
However, the APs of WIL/MIN that have been lost to the Numb Power will be Recovered per standard Numb rules. This means that you have to keep track of the damage from Medicine (Brainwashing) and Numb separately, since they Recover so differently.
That the damage from the Numb Power is recovered isn’t, in itself, sufficient to break or weaken the result of the Medicine (Brainwashing) roll. Those Brainwashing RAPs were scored. However, it means that breaking the brainwashing doesn’t require the full normal procedure. It’s much easier.
Another person can convince the Character that they have been brainwashed with a Strenuous Persuasion roll. If that score RAPs, the brainwashed Character can pit their current WIL/MIN against the RAPs of the brainwashing to immediately deprogram themselves. The Player can elect to spend Hero Points on this roll.
Generous GMs might allow half the RAPs of the Persuasion roll to be subtracted from the brainwashing RAPs. Also, when Daredevil made his roll, he was allowed to use a weird Character Interaction Manoeuvre where dissolving the paint on Cap’s shield gave the bonus.
A sense of scale
With the 20 APs of Numb we just discussed, only the mightiest minds such as Steve Rogers or Peter Parker stand a chance against Faustus. Likewise, the technologies that can dampen Reed Richards’ intelligence and perceptiveness to such levels would reduce anyone else to the level of a barnacle. And not a particularly bright one either.
However, comics usually don’t work like this – the heroes usually have a fighting chance against such attacks. In-universe this is handled by having Faustus chiefly tangle with people with extraordinarily strong minds, but in your game the Player Characters likely have more modest scores.
So the GM should decide whether to customize the APs used by Faustus to give the heroes a chance (assuming strong Hero Points spending), or to keep them at the levels demonstrated in the comics and thus quantified in our game stats.
It would be a good game mastering practice to signal to the players which option has been taken, so they don’t reason based on false assumptions. Frex, if you keep the APs intact, have a trusted authority figure clearly explain that Faustus very nearly broken Captain America several times, and that almost anybody else would be putty in Fennhoff’s hands.
Source of Character: Marvel Comics.
Helper(s): Dr. Piispanen, Eric Langendorff, Roy Cowan, Adam Fuqua, Darci.
Writeup completed on the 24th of September, 2016.