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The Starburst Bandits (Legion of Super-Heroes enemies) (DC Comics)

Starburst Bandits


Context

The Starburst Bandits appeared in Legion of Super-Heroes stories in 1979 and 1981.

They’re mysterious, and despite their name they operate more as commandos than thieves. Powerful, disciplined, good team players, they’re a challenge for any group of Player Characters .

As often happens, as the writeup progressed they became much more interesting than I’d first thought. They’re LSH foes, but could show up just about anywhere, and should be handy in many sci-fi or fantasy campaigns.


Background

  • Real Names: Zrxxl, Vrzzk, four others unrevealed.
  • Group Affiliation: The Starburst Bandits.
  • Base Of Operations: Formerly Mobile; now a prison in the Himalayas.
  • Eyes: White Hair: None


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Powers and Abilities

The Starburst Bandits all share the power to fire red bursts of energy from their hands. Typically they used wrist blasters to project their bolts, but it turns out that this was a ruse. Their powers are actually internal. They can be projected with equal force and accuracy from their palms without any use of the blasters.

Their bursts destroy metal, blast apart robots, and consistently show enough power to destroy Wildfire’s containment suits with a single beam. Their starbursts also contain red solar energy, enough to KO Superboy.

The Bandits may well have other stellar-based abilities. See the speculations regarding their possible origins in the History section. Likely possibilities include (in DC Heroes RPG terms) some kind of Sealed Systems or Life Support, and perhaps Energy Absorption, Flame Immunity, or Solar Sustenance. Any of these would be possible Powers for their mounts, as well.

Speaking of their mounts, the Bandits display great skill at riding their “horses”. These are flaming beasts which fly through the skies. It’s unclear whether their mounts can fly through space as well. It seems likely that their ship entered the atmosphere before the raiding party disembarked.

The Starburst Bandits are also skilled pilots. They were able to fly not only their own spacecraft, but vehicles stolen from the Science Police as well. They also display a quasi-military discipline and precision.


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History

The Starburst Bandits are raiders from an unknown alien race. They preyed on a number of worlds in the latter half of the 30th century, stealing rare minerals and energy sources.

The six Bandits, mounted on flame-maned steeds capable of flight, staged raids over a significant period of time (likely years) on various relatively unprotected worlds of the United Planets (UP). These included Orando and a world neighboring Talok VIII.

In the name of the seven suns

Beyond the fact of their raids, they are a nearly complete mystery. They speak an unknown language rather than Interlac (the galaxy’s lingua franca), and their planet of origin is likewise unknown. Although they’ve sworn “in the name of the seven suns.”

The name they have been given by the UP — Starburst Bandits — is derived from the powerful stellar energy beams they emit, beams laced with red solar energy. It was originally believed that these energy beams were generated by the wrist blasters they wore. The Bandits kept secret the fact that their energy powers were actually innate.

Their powers, their unique steeds, and the reference to “the seven suns” may indicate that they are from a world of multiple suns and harness and use solar energy naturally. Their attempted thefts of stellar matter may indicate that they are from an old world whose energy sources are used up. Perhaps even a world whose suns are dying.

The six bandits:

  • May be renegades, exiles from their people.
  • May be among the last survivors of their race, striving to provide needed supplies to a dying people.
  • May even be scouts, the vanguard for an invasion.

But this is only speculation. The ultimate numbers and aims of their species remain unknown.

The raids

The Starburst Bandits’ first and only Earth raid occurred in 2983 A.D.. That was shortly after the Earthwar and the Omega disaster, when Earth’s defenses were at a low ebb. They were opposed by the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Their first clash was something of a draw. The Bandits disabled several Legionnaires (including Wildfire and Superboy). But the Legion drove the Bandits away from the synthetic neutronium they coveted. Neutronium is the densest, most fantastic material known to science !”

Making a strategic withdrawal, the Bandits instead sought to take what they needed from a naturally occurring source — Earth’s sun. The fact that this would render the sun’s core unstable and cause it to go nova did not concern them.

They were only stopped when the Legion, rather than risk another direct confrontation, crashed their cruiser into the Bandits’ orbiting ship, destroying both vessels. The stranded Bandits were imprisoned in a high security facility in the Himalayas, and their horses were placed in Metropolis’s Interplanetary Zoo.

Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak

The Starburst Bandits were placed in individual “electro-cells” and guarded day and night. Yet they were close enough together to plot an escape. This was made easier by the fact that their captors did not understand the Bandits’ language.

After a few months, one of the Bandits, Zrxxl, faked illness on his Leader’s orders. When the Science Police guards rushed to his aid, he used his powers to incapacitate them and free his fellows. The escape was facilitated by the fact that the SPs did not learn until too late that their powers were innate, and so failed to take appropriate precautions.

Stealing several SP flyers, the Bandits escaped from prison. They flew to the Metropolis Interplanetary Zoo (colloquially called the “Space Zoo”) to reclaim their steeds. In their new wave of attacks they freed their steeds and downed several Legionnaires and Legion applicants. Yet they were defeated by Legion applicant Blok.

Blok was invulnerable to their attacks, which actually reflected off his rocky “skin”. They disabled the Bandits instead. They were re-imprisoned and have not been seen since.


Description

The Starburst Bandits are alien humanoids. They are bald and wear bright red, wearing sleeveless purple jumpsuits. They are about the average height and proportions of a normal Human male. They are indistinguishable from each other, at least to Human eyes.

Their voices are described as rasping, and their language — which the UP appears unable to translate — sounds more like grating steel than speech.

The Bandits have white eyes and pinpoint black pupils. They ride what seem to be orange, flame-colored horses covered with a fiery aura. They prefer to channel their energies through wrist blasters, but seem equally capable of using them without the blasters, firing them from the palms of their three-fingered hands.


Personality

On the surface they’re just pirates or raiders. Yet there are indications that there may be more to them.

They were clever enough to hide their innate powers. They were patient enough to maintain the charade for several months, until the time was right for a jailbreak. They fight tactically, watching each others’ backs and combining to deal with powerful opponents.

They obey their leader implicitly, and will not break or flee in battle without orders. They are not foolhardy, though. The Leader will not hesitate to order a strategic withdrawal if they are outnumbered or lose the element of surprise.

They are very focused on their objectives, and can be ruthless in pursuit of them. Their first attempted theft of neutronium would have done Earth no lasting harm. But when that failed, they did not hesitate to go to plan ‘B’ — even though that imperiled Earth’s sun.

Overall, they seem to have a very clearly defined hierarchy and a more-or-less military discipline. They refer to each other as brothers, and to their leader as — well, as Leader.

Other traits

While not generally foolhardy, they are confident in their power. Thus, they can occasionally underrate the opposition, especially single, very powerful opponents. This is why they lost against Blok. Unable to believe that one lone opponent could withstand their combined firepower, they fought to the end instead of retreating.

Their Leader seemed to have some drive to avenge their earlier capture, which may also have made him less focused than normal.

One more note. In their first clash with the LSH, the Leader attempted to take Dream Girl captive. It’s unclear whether he was seeking a hostage, or had other, even more sinister aims in mind. This is something for PCs to be wary of, and for GMs to develop as needed.


Quotes

[Unintelligible alien language] “Y58t,tI}.”

“Retreat to the ship. We have lost the element of surprise !”

“A chain reaction is building within this sun. But by the time it reaches critical mass, we will have what we want and we shall be long gone !”

Leader: “Silence ! It is not for you to question my commands, but only to hold yourself in readiness !”
Zrxxl: “Y-yes, Great Leader !”

“Now, brothers — it is time to make our move !”

“All together now — fire starbursts !”

Vrzzk: “It is done, o Leader ! Our fire-maned, flying mounts are ours again at last !”
Leader: “Excellent ! But — what in the name of the seven suns are you staring at, Zrxxl !?”

“The Legion of Super-Heroes here !? Keep firing ! Even they cannot stand up to our stunning starburst bolts !”

“Hah ! We have won ! Onto your mounts, my bandits — and we shall be gone before any more Legionnaires can arrive !”


DC Universe History

Yes, I know, they’re already in the DCU. But they’re very minor characters and could easily show up elsewhere. All those bald crimson-skinned aliens look alike, anyway. Just kidding — some of my best friends are bald, crimson-skinned non-Terrans.

Since their origins are unknown in the 30th century, they could certainly be encountered in the 21st. Though they come from a sci-fi setting, they could easily be used in a fantasy setting. Perhaps as invaders from another dimension, rather than from another planet. If there are more than six of them, they could be a major threat.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Starburst Bandits (Zrxxl, Vrzzk, their Leader, and three others)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Raider
Inf: 03 Aur: 02 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 012 HP: 015

Powers:
Energy Blast: 18, Flame Immunity: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Energy Blast has no inherent AV, and uses DEX instead (-1 to +0, depending on House Rules).
  • Energy Blast includes red solar wavelengths, affecting characters with Vulnerabilities to such energy, including Kryptonians (+1 FC).

Skills:
Animal Handling (Riding): 05, Vehicles (Air, Space): 03

Advantages:
Pets (see Flying Mounts, below).

Connections:
High level connections with each other is about all.

Drawbacks:
Miscellaneous: The language of the Starburst Bandits is untranslatable by 30th century technology. It’s unclear to what extent they understand Interlac.

Equipment:
Wrist Blasters [BODY 07] Note: when in possession of the wrist blasters — which are purely cosmetic — the Starburst Bandits will focus their energy powers through them, to make it appear that they are guns.


Design notes

These obscure Legion foes only appeared twice, so there’s a fair bit of speculation in their stats.

The first take on them is in the 1st ed. DCH RPG writeup in the Legion of Super-Heroes sourcebook v.1. A sourcebook which I love, but which makes several mistakes re: the Starburst Bandits (not even counting the misprint with 94 APs of Riding !). The writeups.org version is entirely redone, with priority given to the comics, as per usual.

They may have Sealed Systems or Life Support, as they survived the destruction of their spaceship long enough to be taken into custody by the Legion. This is not definitively shown, and may in any case be technological (something akin to Legion Transuits) rather than innate. You can add it to their Powers if you like.

For flavor, I’ve mostly used basic horse stats for their steeds, except where story evidence indicates otherwise. This includes their DEX as well as the more obvious additions of Flame Being and Flight. Flame Being could potentially be higher — in which case, the Bandits have equivalent levels of Flame Immunity — but this isn’t definite.

Note also that the mounts’ sensory abilities aren’t demonstrated. They may or may not parallel those of actual Terran horses.

Apart from their leader’s command skills, there’s little to differentiate one Bandit from another. So I’ve done one writeup for all six. As-is, they’re useful for a quick encounter. For an extended campaign, customize them to make them more three-dimensional and distinct.

The Leader and the named Bandits — Zrxxl and Vrzzk — may have a few more Hero Points than the others. Be free to add or subtract an AP here or there, too.


Take Me To Your Leader

The Starburst Bandits’ leader, known by the inspiring title of “Leader”, demonstrates Leadership. It’s not my fault that this sentence is redundant. He has 25 HPs instead of the 15 HPs averaged by the others, and probably some kind of Rank.

It’s likely, though not definitively shown, that he and the other Bandits may have 3-4 APs of Military Science.

The Bandits have a definite chain of command and provide excellent tactical support to each other. Unlike most villains, they frequently use Team Attacks, supporting each other in combat, taking on each other’s opponents and combining their firepower against particularly formidable threats.

The Leader will order a strategic withdrawal if it seems wise. Otherwise, they have a high morale and are not easily intimidated. They also make use of flanking maneuvers to set up attempts to Blindside enemies.


Occupants of Interplanetary Craft Make Contact

The starbursts (Energy Blast) of the Starburst Bandits are tremendously powerful. Apart from Blok, only one hero has remained conscious for more than one blast. That hero was Superboy — he was knocked out after two blasts.

Knowing full well how powerful they are, the Bandits never spend HPs on their EV. Instead, they focus on making first contact — er, on hitting their opponents. As noted, they make frequent use of Team Attacks and Blindsides. Such tactics maximize their AV by diminishing the opponent’s OV. If needed, they will also spend HPs on AV to ensure hitting an opponent.

The flip side of this behavior is reluctance to making Multi-Attacks, which would give opponents an OV bonus. Each Bandit generally attacks one target at a time, unless they combine forces on a single foe. The AV boost from their tactics and HPs is enough to consistently get a Column Shift against Wildfire, one-shotting him.

Of course, Wildfire just had to go back to LSH HQ to get a new suit. So it seems unlikely that he spent any HPs on RV or LDD, given that these were simple skirmishes. In other situations, such as helping block a Nega-sphere that threatened to destroy the Earth, Wildfire has proved much tougher.

Note, by the way, that while Wildfire’s nearly invulnerable containment suit is demolished, heroes with a BODY in the 03-06 range are just knocked unconscious. Apparently, the Starburst Bandits don’t usually bother with Killing Combat. Howbeit they have no particular scruples against it, and shifted to Killing Combat against Blok when he was unharmed by their first attack.

In any case, during the time they fought the Legion, the LSH was operating in the Action Genre, making the Bandits less than lethal. The Legion often operates in a Mock-Real or even Gritty Genre – in those settings, the Bandits could easily transition from merely formidable into deadly serious opponents.


Previous Stats

When the Bandits still possessed their spaceship, their Resources (Wealth) would have been higher. Perhaps considerably higher, but at least 06.

Stats for their ship are unclear — its BODY was approximately equal to a Legion Cruiser (12-14 ?), as a collision totaled both ships.

It presumably has FTL Flight capability. It definitely had powerful tractor beams capable of extracting material from the core of the sun. I’d guess 20+ APs of Attraction/Repulsion.


Flying Mounts (x6)

Dex: 05 Str: 05 Bod: 05 Motivation: Obey Rider
Int: 01 Wil: 01 Min: 01 Occupation: Flying Warhorse
Inf: 01 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 000 HP: 002

Powers:
Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 02, Extended Hearing: 02, Flame Being: 01, Flight: 12, Running: 04, Ultra Vision: 03

By Chris Cottingham.

Source of Character: DC Comics (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #252, Legion of Super-Heroes #272).

Helper(s): Chaim Mattis Keller’s Legion Help-File, DC Heroes RPG LSH sourcebook v.1, Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #6 (Oct ’88).

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