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Context

A number of American DC Heroes RPG community members have occasional need of European supers. They also feel that the official characters in the MU and DCU such as Le Peregrine (sic) are somewhat campy. So I took the liberty of creating a few French supers from an French point of view.

Marianne is intended to occupy the niche of the most powerful, JLA-class national champion – whereas the rest have more common power levels. She has a fair bit in common with Superman, though the power level is closer to Martian Manhunter’s.

The universe for the Gendarmerie characters is purposefully vague.

  • There are hints of Wildstorm (post-human operatives being activated, superhuman (para)military units).
  • There are hints of DC (the Kryptonian-ish power suite).
  • It could easily be Marvel-ified by replacing powers activation by Xavier-style training to teach mutants to properly use their superhuman abilities.

Sequence

The profile ended up being a bit long, since — for the sake of non-French readers — it takes time to explain what is being discussed.

So it was split in two. .

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Background

  • Real Name: Formerly Adjudant-Chef Sophie Robais, now Marianne Nemo.
  • Known Relatives: Charlotte (mother, deceased), Fabio Robais (now Roger Guillemot, father), Antoine Dessaillères (former husband), Nicolas (now Alexandre Nemo, son).
  • Group Affiliation: Operative for the French government.
  • Base Of Operations: Mont-de-Marsan (near Paris).
  • Height: 5’8” (1.72m). Weight: 130 lbs. (59 Kg.). Age: 31.
  • Eyes: Gray-blue. Hair: Dirty blonde.

Powers and Abilities

Marianne’s power is a bond with something called an “ancestry line”.

Most persons on the line are not actual ancestors of hers, but they form a long series of persons sharing a link. It goes uninterrupted all the way back to the first forms of complex life on Earth.

At any given moment, there normally is one individual with a connection to the ancestry line living on Earth.

Marianne explores and develops this unique power in close collaboration with Dr. Madeleine Moreau-Levy, an aged genius and one of the best global experts on superhuman powers.

Marianne - French superhero - DC Heroes RPG - Portrait

Power from the people

Marianne is imbued with the accrued physical power of every single person along the ancestry line.

How the maths works is unclear, but this adds up to colossal strength, speed, durability and sensory acuity. Especially since many members of the ancestry line are not human. For instance Marianne’s strength includes the might of multiple large dinosaurs.

The ancestry line holds a number of surprises. For example the flying is chiefly derived from a dozen generations of human-like beings with huge gossamer wings who lived in the Causses area  during the Permian era  . Nobody even suspected that these guys existed.

(This is a super-obscure reference to a 1913 short story by Maurice Renard, The Fog on the 26th of October).

Marianne can :

  • Bench-press a modern naval cruiser.
  • Fly faster than any jet fighter.
  • Run at supersonic speeds.
  • Move quickly enough to catch 5.56mm bullets at close range.
  • Hold her breathe for hours.
  • Demonstrate 500/40 eyesight and equally keen hearing.
  • See in pitch darkness.
  • Survive a direct hit by a 120mm anti-tank shell, with little more than localised burns and mean bruises.

Marianne’s physical powers are not unlike Superman’s, though she operates at the tier below Kryptonian-classOn the same general power level as Superman.

Training

Marianne is a fit and proficient athlete. She is also a trained military police officer, hand-to-hand fighter and tactical operator.

She regularly trains with krav maga instructors, with some specific and unusual focus areas :

  • Superhuman combat (including aerial, superspeed, superstrength, etc.).
  • Collateral damage avoidance.
  • Non-lethal immobilisation techniques.
  • Fine control of her strength. She generally paces herself to have the strength and speed she would display had she no superhuman powers.

Marianne - French superhero - DC Heroes RPG - Portrait

Retrogressive telepathy

People down the ancestry line can be contacted via retrogressive telepathy. It is always possible to communicate with them, and they are generally agreeable to requests for help.

However, the simplest forms of life all the way down the line have such minimal brains that communication is worthless. Even for scientific purposes.

Receiving help from the past is usually a complex proposition – except for advice and intelligence, which can be extremely useful in their own right. Furthermore, the laws of chronophysicsThe science of time (usually used for time travel) have to be respected. The main one is the Observer Effect, described below.

Marianne has worked with chronophysicists to establish safe policies about using her power. So as to avoid creating negative side effects such as paradoxes.

Communicating takes place at the speed of a normal conversation. Thus, setting things up with an ancestry line person can take minutes or even hours. On the other hand, there’s never any linguistic issue. It’s always possible to communicate fluently with anybody on the ancestry line, even animals, unless their brains are too simple and tiny.

The past is the same country

There exists a handful of persons who can initiate communication *up* the ancestry line. All of them have some form of magical or psychic powers. All of them insist that Marianne must never use similar powers she might have inherited from them. This would apparently create some sort of temporal paradox.

Marianne’s ability to communicate with the ancestry line is not an action-oriented ability. But can be quite powerful (if complex) given sufficient planning and strategic acumen. A Presidential-level group of historians (nicknamed the “Bloch block” in homage to a famous French historian  ) once worked on plans for Marianne to implement through the ancestry line.

Though it was a long, slow process of exploration, these subtle and scholarly schemes brought various benefits to France. They retconnedMaking changes to a character or story after the fact the nation into being more prosperous and socially harmonious, and mitigating some of its worst crimes.

However, the work of the Bloch Block became bogged down in virulent political disagreements and huffy departures during the Sarkozy  years, and never recovered.

Hidden depths

Marianne usually works with her physical power, with the retrogressive telepathy being kept as a secret technique. Almost all intel about her describe her as a physical, Superman-not-so-lite powerhouse.

When assets from the past are brought into play, the effects are usually incomprehensible for those present. It’s closer to magical reality manipulation. The effects also do not appear tied to Marianne. Stuff just… happens.

Soundtrack

As we’ll discuss in the History section, parts of Marianne’s roots lie in the early 1980s French reggae scene. Which of course was sparked by the big Jamaican names from that time – Bob Marley, Burning Spear  , Steel Pulse  , etc..

But though by the early 1980s there already were obviously talented French artists, they didn’t gain strong recognition during that decade. Early leading performers include Daddy Nuttea (from Guadeloupe) or 6th Continent (from Martinique).

One of the first artists from that wave to get big sales was Tonton David – younger than most of the pioneers, and from La Réunion Island. His first, 1990 dancehall hit Peuples du monde was thus notable in the history of French reggae.

More about the ancestry line

The working hypothesis of Dr. Madeleine Moreau-Levy (which has yet to be falsified) is that the ancestry line is essentially the product of reincarnation. It also seems that something along the lines of a soul travels from a dying subject to one being born.

What it is, and whether it says anything about persons other than Marianne, remains unknown.

Guided interviews with persons down the ancestry line have revealed that every fully-sapientCapable of intelligent reasoning person remembers having Marianne-like powers. Yet none can place them at all in their own biography.

Moreau-Levy hypothesised that the Marianne power is a sort of token that floats down the ancestry line. Only one person can have the token at any given point, and it gets a bit more powerful every time it “changes hands”.

But there were a handful of cases where there seemed to have been two “tokens” in play at once, and at least one with three tokens. These seemed tied to accidental time paradoxes.

More recent research shows that “token entanglement” cases are much more common than previously thought. That is, one person holds the “main” token, but other persons have fragments of it. This makes them much harder to reach telepathically — hence this being a later discovery — but they exist.

You only live twice

This means that Marianne Nemo/Sophie Robais can expect to live her life twice. The first run will be with the Marianne powers, and the second run will be lived without the Marianne “token”.

Furthermore, during this second life Robais will likely receive communications from people further up the ancestry line – in the future. These will have the Marianne “token” she once held, and will be able to communicate down the ancestry line.

The notion that she’ll live twice has been welcomed with the usual relaxed attitude by Marianne. Her interest in chronophysics is chiefly about what she can do rather than the innumerable questions that having somebody live their life twice triggers (does it take place in a parallel dimension ? Does it create such a dimension ? Since the actions of the ancestry line take place in the “real” past and not a parallel timeline, could it be that the time of the entire universe stutters every time an ancestry line person dies so they can live their second life ?).

Marianne - French superhero - DC Heroes RPG - Portrait

Temporal geography

Most persons and critters on the ancestry line lived in an area that approximates modern France.

The rest tend to be in areas with cultural and historical ties to France. But given the extend of military operations, colonialism, trade and cultural soft power during French history that can mean pretty much anywhere.

There are even a few cases where the identifiable tie is more like the idea of France. Such as a 1920s Korean girl whose favourite possession during her brief life was a battered copy of an illustrated British children’s books about French fairy tales.

A glitch in time ?

Based on the diffuse memories of people down the ancestry line, Moreau-Levy suspects that Marianne’s “power token” might have been activated during the wrong life. One of her theories is that the powers are available during the second life rather than the first.

In this theory, detecting and activating Sophie Robais’ powers during her first life pre-empted the normal emergence of the Marianne powers during her second life.

In this hypothesis, what the previous ancestry line persons remember for their powered life is actually memory leakage from the person before them. Which *does* match some of the less logical interviews. If that is the case, what will happen when Marianne dies is unknown.

Moreau-Levy has said that she’s reasonably confident that it will not destroy the universe as a result of a paradox. And that it’s too late anyway.

Dr. Moreau-Levy also suspects the existence of a “balancing token” that flows the other way but skips most persons on the ancestry line. This is an hypothesis to explain the telepathic communications from the past toward the future.

Marianne - French superhero - DC Heroes RPG - Portrait

The Observer Effect

A simple formulation of the Observer Effect is that an observed event cannot be changed. One cannot tamper with a scene that has been witnessed by individuals who are still alive. Or contradict something that is documented, proven history.

The observer effect has many subtleties and effects for time travellers, but this is the gist of it.

(What quantum physicists call the Observer Effect is an entirely different animal  .)

If Marianne wants an ancestry line person to sabotage the Ancient Fiendish Device, but a Bad Guy examined the Device ten minutes ago, the ancestor cannot make changes to the Device that contradict what the Bad Guy just saw.

And of course the ancestor has to reach the Device in their own time period, bring the tools to execute on the plan, etc..

Chronal resistance gauged

Both Marianne and the ancestry line contact can gauge chronal resistance as they consider options. If something would conflict with the Observer Effect, one or both will intuitively sense an almost physical resistance to the idea on the universe’s part as they plan.

It is thus common for one or both to rapidly list ideas or associations to sense in which general directions the resistance lies.

Cheating with the observations of witnesses is difficult. Though almost nobody clearly remembers things they have seen, the information exists accurately within the person’s mind. It could be obtained through, say, hypnosis-aided recollection. This is the type of information the Observer Effect is based on.

However, there usually exist blind angles, details so trivial as to be beneath the threshold, etc.. And the possibility of engineering the scene exists.

For instance, the ancestry line person could prevent a random passer-by from reaching the scene – then take their place wearing similar clothing. This way there isn’t an extra person “in the picture”, and the differences are too small to be noticed by a witness.

Another practice is to physically explore an area with hands extended to feel any “soft” place that is unwitnessed and undocumented during the targeted time span.

The simplest trick is to have an object buried in a specific spot. However, it will have to survive the entire span of time between the ancestry line person and Marianne.

Manipulations are more complex, and often involve letters from the past handed over to attorneys, to be opened at a certain date.

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History (part 1)

Sophie Robais was born in Aix-en-Provence  . She grew up in Marseille  , where her parents moved when she was two.

She was a lively teenager, blooming in the rich street and club scenes of Marseille in the 1970s – and enjoying a free-wheeling lifestyle.

That was to the consternation of her father, an old-fashioned member of the French Gendarmerie  .

Roots rock reggae

When Sophie was 16, her mother died from cancer. Her more aged father took an early retirement, moving to a creek house close to Marseille.

Sophie grew closer to the emerging roots reggae  subculture in Marseille. She was among the first people in France to discover Jamaican dancehall music.

Adopting the locs-and-backpack lifestyle she travelled around the world with a rag-tag band of friends, living as cheaply as possible. They angled to live close to reputed skiing and surfing spots, practising these sports as often as feasible.

The group spent several months in Cabo Verde  , where Sophie learned Portuguese. She also greatly cut down on her consumption of cannabis as a consequence of a minor respiratory allergy.

Les bronzés font du ski

From 1983 to 1987, Robais lived in the Canadian skiing resort of Whistler  . She earned money as a freelance French language teacher – and soon as a guide and mountain sports instructor.

She trained as a mountain guide certified by the ACMG  . She also qualified as a ski guide, alpine guide and rock guide – then obtained her IFMGA badge.

She lived for years as a ski bum, practising backcountry skiing, heliskiing and Alpine-style ski mountaineering on her own, or with paying clients.

During a trip to Blackcomb, she stumbled upon another French tourist – a gendarme who knew her father. Himself a confirmed mountain infantryman, he was impressed by Robais’s alpine skills. He told her that the Gendarmerie would probably be interested in recruiting her.

Marianne - French superhero - DC Heroes RPG - Portrait (big version)

Quand te reverrai-je, pays merveilleux ?

As a Canadian guide, she was further qualified in first aid, crevasse rescue, avalanche response, transceiver search, operating from an helicopter, etc.. This was of obvious interest to French gendarmes working in the Alps and other mountain ranges.

After checking with her father, Robais returned to France. While she didn’t have a high school diploma, she applied on the recruitment track for high-level sports experts.

While undergoing a medical examination, military doctors determined that she was a potential superhuman.

Her potential power level was off any scale they had.

La taque-taque-tique du gendarme

Sophie was offered the usual deal. Full activation of her powers and full training with those in exchange for volunteering for the Gendarmerie’s superhuman squad, the ESIGN (popularly called “the ninjas” due to their features-concealing hood).

She took it. Given her tremendous power level she was handled directly by France’s most senior researcher on metahuman medicine and powers, Dr. Madeleine Moreau-Levy.

The activation of Robais’s ability went fine. And as often, her physical ageing dramatically slowed down over the following years.

Scoring very high on just about everything, Robais joined the one-year training program run by GIGN  veterans. She volunteered for additional training in diving, close-circuit diving, K9, parachuting and others, and served as a rock-climbing and skiing instructor for her fellow trainees.

Marianne - French superhero - DC Heroes RPG - Portrait

Notes about organizations (part 1)

The dominant model for US super-heroes is the individual, stand-alone protector or vigilante. It doesn’t translate that well in most countries, who have a less individualistic culture.

That includes France – who has a thing when it comes to central, strong state apparatuses. Having superhumans active along Golden Age of comicsSuper-hero comics from the late 1930s to the early 1950s lines would be odd.

This is of course not an absolute truth. Early proto-super-hero French figures, such as the Count of Monte-Cristo, Rodolphe de Gerolstein or Judex are closer to the lone avenger model – and are direct ancestors of 1930s proto-super-heroes such as the Shadow. But they exist in a society that is widely accepted to be unjust and corrupt, a view that changes in post-1945 France.

And even in post-1945 France, the Batman model of super-heroism could make sense for certain marginalised populations. Especially during those spans of hardening ruling class backlash against minority voices and interests. How ironic.

Law enforcement

If we stick with the typical super-hero fare — protecting people against overtly violent threats — having French super-heroes be law enforcement thus makes immediate sense. It’s also convenient for TTRPGs – the Player Characters can just be assigned to a mission.

And since any fighting will likely be high-intensity, picking the military branch doing law enforcement — the gendarmerie, see below — makes more sense.

Now, obviously, this too carries tension. As these characters were created, the age of Police Procedurals All The Time On Every Screen was starting to recede. This plus political evolutions, societal evolutions, police procedures evolution, yadda yadda started *slowly* walking back the image of French law enforcement to something more akin to the days of Rodolphe or Judex.

And the characters were mostly created during the early 2000s, when the political climate within French law enforcement was different.

Gendarmerie nationale

The French Gendarmerie Nationale is not unlike the Gendarmerie Royale du Canada, known in English as the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). They are military units tasked with law-enforcement duties.

Law enforcement in France is separated between the Gendarmerie Nationale (for rural areas and small towns) and the Police Nationale (civilian police, operating in large towns).

Some towns, especially Paris, also have municipal police. Once rare, this arrangement has become much more common in recent decades.

The military nature of Gendarmerie is generally downplayed. It retains something of a debonair, old school and provincial image. Traditionally, countryside-based units worked to have friendly relationships with the locals. Many Frenchmen are not even aware that the gendarmes are military, and have at their disposal means including assault rifles, close-quarter battle gear, armored vehicles, special airborne units and the like.

This perception started evolving in the 2010s, following changes in crowd control doctrines.

Continued !

This profile continues in with more history, more explanations, the Description and Personality sections, TTRPG stats for DC Heroes RPG and Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition, etc..

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Homemade.

Helper(s): John Colagioia, William Peterson, David Johnston, Kal El, Eric Langendorff, Ultimate Powers Book (Marvel classic supplement), rpg.net’s Tangency forum for their Canadian skiing experience. Original M&M stats by Mister O..