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Kambal twins (Trese allies) flying and shooting above Manila

Kambal


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

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly lit side of the metro, where the aswang (monsters) run the most wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre (cigar smoking giants) are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos (elves) slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.


Context

Trese is a fascinating occultist noir detective story set in Manila. It uses real Filipino folktales, mythology, urban legends and locations. A few characters even strongly resemble real people. The necessary context can be found in our Alexandra Trese character profile, which should be read first.


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The name “Crispen” is taken from author’s notes in the back of the third book, and has not actively been used in the series yet.

For more information about any of the mythological creatures mentioned here, please see the write-up on Filipino Mythology.


Background

  • Real Name: Basilio and Crispen.
  • Other Aliases: The Warchild, the Half-Breeds, “My boys” (to Trese).
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Talabusao (Father), Ramona (Mother), each other (brother).
  • Group Affiliation: Clan of Trese.
  • Base Of Operations: Metro Manila and any adjoining realms in the Underworld.
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 170 lbs.
  • Eyes: Black Hair: Black
  • Other Distinguishing Features: The masks of Humor and Tragedy appear over their faces during combat.


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Powers & Abilities

The Kambal are the “Warchild,” the sons of Talagbusao . He is a spirit/deity that is the very embodiment of courage, bloodlust, and berserker rage. A little of the Talagbusao is said to exist in all the great warriors. However, too much of this war god can make a man blind with anger and may be responsible for various massacres or killing sprees.

As such, his sons (born of a special ritual) have great martial prowess and are virtually undefeatable in battle. They have been naturally skilled in the ways of war literally from birth.

Even as toddlers, a single son was able to dismember an entire pack of lycanthropes without much effort, much like other children might play tag. At his tender age, the boy had enough strength to rip hearts and limbs from the creatures two at a time using bare hands.

The Kambal also recover from wounds, even missing limbs, almost instantaneously. They seem impervious to pain, once remarking that a missing arm “tickled” before it healed in the next panel.

In addition, they seem to have excellent senses, especially their senses of smell and eyesight.

Masks of The Theatre of Doom

These masks resemble a diamond shaped version of the Greek “Sock and Buskin” (more commonly called Humor and Tragedy) masks. Anton acquired them during a case where a man was using them to control a pair of aswang (probably manananggal).

Anton and Alexandra used a ritual to permanently bond the masks to the Kambal and empowered the masks to help the twins control their rage and bloodlust (eliminating their Catastrophic Rage). It is unclear if Trese can or does use the Masks’ Control Power to control the Kambal or if they are simply naturally loyal to her. 

21 Guns Salute

Being the embodiment of battle lust’s children has left the Kambal with a genuine love of weaponry and most especially guns.

At first, it may seem odd that the Kambal use firearms considering their physical prowess. With their martial skill and strength, they can manhandle creatures that normal ordnance would have difficulty injuring, especially considering they normally fight supernatural creatures.

There are a variety of possibilities as to the reasons they use handguns and other such weapons. The most obvious advantage is range. Often they shoot first at a distance without allowing their targets to get close to them or Trese.

The Kambal twins in flight

They may also prefer guns to allow them to somewhat blend in with more normal thugs. Trese would prefer that most of the city remain unaware of the mystical denizens that live so closely, as to prevent conflict between man and the aswang.

Many fans speculate that the guns are magical. Considering the Kambal are rarely concerned about losing their weapons (other than their ability to keep firing), and they don’t stick to one type of gun, it seems unlikely the weapons themselves are special.

Hypotheses

Another possibility commonly brought up is that any weapon becomes magical in the Kambal’s hands, allowing it to damage mystic creatures. There isn’t any clear demonstration of such in the source material, but they certainly seem to damage aswang and other creatures that normally wouldn’t be harmed by regular bullets (at least according to the legends).

What seems more likely is that the Kambal have access to whatever special ammunition they need. That could be:

  • Blessed bullets.
  • Silver bullets.
  • Armor piercing rounds.
  • Magical bullets.
  • Salt loaded rounds (since many mystical creatures in the Philippines are vulnerable to salt the way European fairies are to cold iron).
  • Or maybe even rounds laced with sting-ray venom (a spear made from a sting-ray’s tail is said to be able to slay mystic creatures).

Finally, there is the possibility they simply like shooting things. There have been instances where they have shot at something that their bullets obviously had no chance of killing just to gain its attention or to knock it back.

In this way, it could be the Kambal’s way of pulling their “punches” since they usually aren’t trying to kill their quarry. Additionally, it is possible that it’s harder for them to control their battle lust in melee combat, which may also explain why they rarely seem to use melee weapons.


“There’s been talk of a Warchild, born with the strength and savagery of Talagsubao. An army that carries The Warchild will never lose.”


History

Birth of the “Warchild”

One investigation Trese helped her father with as a teenager was the case of the Talagbusao. It was a warrior deity said to be responsible for the courage and rage of all berserkers. It seems this spirit of bloodlust and war had found a way of entering the Terro Mundo physically by possessing a warrior who had killed all the men at a battle (including his own) as part of a bizarre berserker ritual.

It was in this way that Talagbusao had made his way to the material world and ravaged (and/or raped) a fierce rebel named Ramona. Unbeknownst to him, Romana gave birth to twins.

The Talagbusao’s ritual would only allow him to enter the world temporarily. But Talagbusao knew that he could remain in this world permanently if consumed the heart of his son and absorb his power. When he discovered he had twin sons, he was delighted. He would consume both their hearts and become even more powerful!

While Trese and her father managed to save the twins from their father, banishing him back to the spirit world. Their mother was apparently killed in the conflict.

The Kambal mask their rage and become protectors to the Trese

There was some consideration about what to do with The Kambal. Since they were the children of the Talagbusao, they would possess a bloodlust that would only grow as they got older. Even as toddlers, they were extremely dangerous.

When the Treses first encountered The Kambal, one had single-handedly wiped out and dismembered the entire pack of weredogs. These had been the assistants and bodyguards of Anton Trese. Anton decided that the family would raise them and use magic to help them control their rage.

Anton Trese had a pair of masks from The Theatre of Doom he had acquired on a previous investigation. The case dealt with a man who had controlled aswang by using the masks. Anton and Alexandra used a ritual to permanently bond the masks to The Kambal.

Once bonded, the masks allowed the twins to control their rage and bloodlust. Whenever they enter battle, the masks manifest. The twins grew older alongside Trese and became like protective little brothers to her.

Masked

When Trese took the test of The Mandirigmang-Babaylan, she entered the great Balate tree for the ritual. Being aware of the timing and the prophecies, Trese’s family gathered their allies to protect the tree, including the Kambal.

The four tribes of aswang soon appeared to attack in an attempt to make sure she wouldn’t be a threat. They were seemingly unwilling to place any faith in the unknown Trese daughter being their savior.

The Kambal guarding Trese

While in the tree, Alexandra’s family and their allies fought a vicious battle with the Aswang. Anton ordered the Kambal to protect his father, and ultimately sacrificed himself to keep the tree safe. When Trese emerged from the tree three years later, the Kambal became her bodyguards and virtually constant companions.

As she began her investigations, they became her muscle and have made quite a name for themselves amongst the supernatural creatures in the Underworld. 

The Return of the Talagbusao

Eventually, the Talagbusao returned to once again challenge Trese. They sought to consume his sons’ hearts. Trese had earth elementals disguise themselves as The Kambal while they flew high above the battle. The twins assisted in the battle using sniper rifles.

They eventually flew down and used more standard automatic firearms, causing their father to remark how weak they had become. They appeared to miss, but had drawn the circle necessary for one of Trese’s rituals using their bullets.

The moment Talagbusao tasted Trese’s blood, she activated the Dragon’s Gate and used it, with the help of a few other supernatural friends, to trap Talagbusao in an MMORPG  in cyberspace.

Here, he could fight players of the game virtually forever as a raid-boss much to his delight, while remaining harmless to the outside world.

Aftermath

Since then the Kambal remain loyal bodyguards to Trese. They have assisted her on numerous investigations, usually acting as her muscle. They enjoy finding trouble and seem to obey Trese out of respect and genuine admiration.

The have faced countless aswang and mystical threats at the side of Alexandra Trese. As recent events have brought new foes to the fore; they may soon have to face something even scarier… politicians.


Description

The twins appear to be two tall, well-built Asian men in black suits with white ties. Crispen keeps his hair trimmed short and his expression serious, while Basilio keeps his hair roughly shoulder-length and often has a jolly grin.

When they go into battle, their hair seems covered in black hoods while white diamond shaped masks appear over their faces. Appropriately, the sad face of tragedy appears on Crispen while the grinning mask of comedy appears on Basilio. They look enough alike that it often takes people a moment to realize they’re not seeing double when they first encounter The Kambal.


Personality

For the most part, The Kambal really enjoy their lives. They love to tease Trese and each other (though they are quick to knock it off with a glance from her). They flirt readily with any attractive girl they encounter (human and non-human), easily charming them.

They enjoy fighting, video games, and challenges. The few times they encounter any real resistance to their formidable martial abilities, they seem to enjoy the fight even more. Of the two, Crispen (being the elder) is the more serious and the first to think of duty.

He also worries about his brother’s haphazard attitude at times. Basilio (the younger) almost always has a quip on his lips and is ready to charge in head first.


DC Universe History

As with Trese, they could easily exist in the DCU as they do in the Alamat comics. They’d probably go drinking and girl-hunting with John Constantine any time he found himself in Manila, perhaps acting as his personal bawds and showing him the nightlife.

At the same time, they could easily be seen comparing firearms with any member of the League of Assassins without thinking anything of it. As long as said assassins maintained their manners in front of their “bossing”.

If Talia and Rha’s al Ghul maintained appearances while in Manila, they likely wouldn’t interfere with any schemes they were cooking up. If heroes somehow convinced Trese to get involved, The Kambal would love to test their might against the league.

Being sons of a war god, they could end up as pawns in a plot of Ares. Since the Talagbusao shares quite a few similarities with the Greco-Roman God of War, Ares might take the boys “education” to heart. If they could be manipulated into fighting Wonder Woman or some other Amazonian heroine, The Kambal could prove to be quite useful, and they’d delight in the challenge.

If Ares found a way to counteract the effects of the masks, he might find a pair of like-minded warriors he could “adopt” as his own!


Marvel Universe History

Wolverine seems to always have some background subplot that takes him to some past battle site, brothel, defunct US military base, or bar from his distant past at least once a year. Manila happens to have all of the above in abundance.

He could easily bump into The Kambal in any of these places. Considering his typical surly attitude, it would almost certainly lead to a fight; especially if the person he needs information from happens to be a pretty girl.

Perhaps the volcanic eruption that destroyed the US Clark Air Base  was actually caused by a mutant being experimented on as part of the Weapon X Project. Ole Wolvie could be investigating his latest forgotten love (whom he only remembers now that a new memory block has been removed) and ends up trying to shake information out of someone in Club Diabolical, only to have The Kambal come to their rescue.

It *is* considered neutral ground; and they are the bouncers, after all. It might prove entertaining to have Wolverine fight something that regenerates faster than he does.

Another interesting option would be for Captain America to have to investigate something having to do with WWII and the Pacific Front that turns up some old ghosts (literally). The ghosts need something from MacArthur’s old office in Ft. Santiago (or perhaps were killed in the Bataan Death March ) and the presence of such a courageous spirit attracts the attention of The Kambal.

The twins could encounter Cap after Japanese Axis ghosts (or whatever’s trying to stop Cap) manage to remove the masks, so that The Kambal face him in full battle rage. They could learn a little about courage without rage and strength with restraint from the Star-Spangled Avenger.


One last approach

Another option entirely is to use The Kambal as they would have been had they defeated their father without the Trese family. With their blood rage intact, they would probably have slowly become violent conquerors constantly trying to outdo one another with acts of courage and aggression.

This would likely have made them at least anti-heroes if not outright villains, depending on how much they could channel those violent urges constructively.


Quotes

“The guy was about to blow up a train. I had to do something. Besides, I was about to get the number of the girl beside me.”

Crispen: “Bossing, you want us to take care of this ?”
Basilio: “Ya, if they don’t talk, it’ll be fun to see their shiny new cars go boom !” [“Bossing” is a local version of “boss.”]

Crispen: “Hiya Bossing ! We smelled the Laman Lupa when they popped out of the ground !”
Basilio: “We didn’t want you to have all the fun !”

Crispen: “Bossing you got a plan ?”
Basilio: “Ya, the shoot-them-’til-they-drop plan isn’t working.”

Kambal (together): “That was so cool ! Can we get our own motorcycles ?”
Trese: “No.”

Crispen: “Hey big boy ! Why don’t you fight someone your own size… or something with high-caliber firepower !”
The Judge: “You ! Guilty of indulging in violence and war ! Guilty of murder !”
Basilio: “Haha ! [It’s a] Higante [a giant] ! I called it !”

Crispen: “Where’d you get that law book that Bossing needed ?”
Basilio: “Ahem ! Met this pretty law student along the halls. She was willing to lend it to me.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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The Kambal (The Twins)

Dex: 10 Str: 08 Bod: 07 Motivation: Thrill of Adventure
Int: 06 Wil: 04 Min: 08 Occupation: Bodyguards/Drivers
Inf: 09 Aur: 08 Spi: 09 Resources {or Wealth}: 003
Init: 030 HP: 060

Powers:
Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 04, Flight (ML): 05, Invulnerability: 10, Mind over Matter (ML): 10, Regeneration (ML): 16, Telescopic Vision: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Regeneration can be used to recover permanent damage and missing limbs (almost instantaneously), rendering them practically immortal.
  • If the Kambals’ hearts are taken, their Invulnerability and Regeneration presumably would not function.
  • Flight is almost always used upright. The Kambals’ feet seem to disappear into mist when they fly.
  • Mind over Matter is only allows them to ignore pain and is contingent on Regeneration.

Skills:
Martial Artist: 12, Military Science (no Cryptography or Cartography): 09, Vehicles (Land) 07, Weaponry: 12

Advantages:
Ambidextrous, Insta-change, Iron Nerves, Language (Tagalog, English), Lightning Reflexes, Attractive.

Connections:
Wind People Hannah of the Hagibat Tribe and Ammie of the Amihan Tribe (High), Any pretty girl they’ve met (High), Maliksi the Tikbalang (Low).

Drawbacks:
Catastrophic Rage, MIA toward hitting on women, MIA toward video games, MIA following Trese’s orders, Enemy (Talagbusao, their father).

Genre:
Gritty.

Equipment:

  • MASKS OF THE THEATRE OF DOOM (Humor and Tragedy, AKA Sock and Buskin) [BODY 13, Control (ML): 13, Extra-Dimensional Storage (ML): 13, Bonuses & Limitations: Control is normally only used on the wearers of the Masks. For the Kambal, it only eliminates their Catastrophic Rage. They also can not be removed through normal means and would likely take a ritual or other powerful magic.]
  • Desert Eagles (paired) [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 09, Rec. STR 02, R#03].
  • Submachinegun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 07, R#02, Advantage : Autofire].
  • Sniper Rifle [BODY 01, Projectile weapon: 06, Range: 08, Telescopic vision: 04, Ammo: 06, R#02.
  • Ammunition: Presumably the Kambal have access to armor piercing, silver, or magic ammunition as necessary. They commonly affect creatures that aren’t normally vulnerable to mere bullets. See the “21 Guns Salute” section below.

Design notes

The stats of the Kambal are a bit speculative since they are rarely actually challenged when they enter combat, except by very powerful entities.

For example, their Martial Artist may be slightly lower and some physical stats like Strength could be higher. It does seem they can be injured, but they rarely acknowledge these injuries. They usually don’t feel pain and heal at such an incredible rate. Even lost limbs or being cut in half at the waist are but minor inconveniences to the Kambal and have caused Basilio to comment about being “tickled”.

Some fans speculate that any gun the Kambal use is or becomes magical. While the source material doesn’t clearly seem to reflect this, it is a possibility. If this is the case in your campaign, it’s possible the Kambal have a Mystic Linked version of the Projectile Weapons Power that uses any gun (or other weapon) as an object of opportunity (see “21 Guns Salute” for more detail).

I am presuming that taking the hearts of the Kambal will kill them. The heart appears to be the source of their mystic abilities considering their father wanted to consume their hearts to gain their power, and that the Trese family defended them to prevent their demise.


By Adam Fuqua.

Source of Character: Trese comic series by Alamat Comics, created by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo.

Helper(s): Darci, Weapons Locker articles.

Writeup updated on the 6th of March, in the year 2013 by the Gregorian reckoning.

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