Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kraven

"Superpower? Washboard abs."
Kraven the Hunter is a true badass and one of my favorite super-villains. Of course, I say this with knowledge based solely on two sources: the Marvel Superheroes RPG (he appears in the Advanced edition) and his appearance on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. And as I never actually used the Kraven write-up in any of my past Marvel campaigns, it's pretty safe to say the lion's share of my admiration comes from his depiction in the cartoon (episode #2, circa 1981).

Let's take a look at why.

Here's a guy who looks like Tom Selleck on steroids, wears a lion-head vest, and hunts dinosaurs with his bare hands. He is, to coin a phrase, The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Oh, sure, he has a potent jungle power potion that gives him "the strength of ten gorillas," but really how strong would that be?

[per the internet, gorillas are estimated to be six to ten times as strong as a human, meaning Kraven at full strength is around 80 times stronger than a human...about the same strength as Spider-Man whose official stat line says he can bench around 10 tons]

Kraven's real superpower is his giant brass balls...in MSH terms, they rank as Monstrous (75), or at least Amazing (50). The guy's courage is well-over the "foolhardy" red-line. His half-baked plan to conquer New York with an army of newly hatched dinosaurs that "only he can control?" That kind of crazy is what led to the Jurassic Park franchise making millions and millions of dollars.

But crazy or not, there's no denying he's a sharp dude with a heap of skill. He out-plots and out-thinks (for the most part) three veteran super-heroes, despite having no real super-powers. A little chloroform, a little taser-type action, and voila! Three bound and helpless superheroes, despite the guy lacking true superpowers. Hell, he doesn't even use a gun...Kraven's got his own twisted code of honor. Sure, some might say he plays "dirty," but he's just using every possible angle. When you're going up against mutants that can melt steel...or freeze and shatter it...you need to use every angle.

Kraven is an evil version of Batman. Not the Superfriends version that I grew up with, but the always prepared, The Brave & The Bold version of more recent years. You young 'uns dig the hip, Eastwood-cool Dark Knight...I prefer the brash and bombastic "bad guy" version. He positively oozes villainous self-confidence.

Case in point: I love how he refers to himself in the third person. That's sooo hip-hop! In 1981!
: )

Kraven's main failing? Being a super-villain, his arrogance leads him to "go it alone" (or with a minimum of henchman help), and he definitely bites off more than he can chew. I'm not sure how he handled Spider-Man in the comics, but it's readily apparent in the 'toon that any single "Spider friend" is over-matched by his devious hunter's mind.

Which is nuts, right? Because he doesn't have super powers. And even Spider-Man should be able to deliver a beatdown in a straight fight. Kraven doesn't wear body armor, he doesn't have "the skin of a rhino." This is a one-punch fight...like Jason killing Horshack.

There are two takeaways here for game design purposes. First, an antagonist/peril does not require the bad guy to be a Big Bad Boss-type monster to provide a challenge (and a good one) to players. Secondly, in a cinematic (live comic book) style game, simple mechanics coupled with teamwork can provide decent action sequences without necessitating large stat blocks.

But that latter is an insight mainly for Yours Truly...the design equivalent of an "inside joke" that needs a bit more explanation. Perhaps when I talk about DC Heroes (AKA Mutants & Masterminds III) I'll get into that. Yeah, probably.

[by the way, while I've never used a Kraven-type villain in a supers game, but I always felt the Hunter/Vigilante class in Heroes Unlimited was about the perfect vehicle for such a character...even without a "jungle power potion"]

Just by the way: my son also digs Kraven...though the hunter doesn't scare him nearly as much as Mysterio.

6 comments:

  1. Along similar (but not the same) lines, look up Squirrel Girl. She's my new favorite thing in comics.

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    1. @ Faol:

      Oh, I am well familiar with Squirrel Girl (and the Great Lake Avengers for that matter). The only knock on SG is that over the years she's become "the mightiest hero in the universe," knocking off Big Bads as a running gag. Taking out Dr. Doom was a nice (and worthy) feat...but probably a one-time deal. Taking out Thanos?...

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    2. Well, the Thanos thing was a joke, and not canon (it occurred in the GLX-MAS holiday special, which was a collection of parody stories). The others, though, she does with (usually, depending on the writer) clever use of her seemingly insignificant powers.

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  2. Kraven was one of my favorites in the '94 series (where he shared a VA with Mysterio). It's been forever since I watched that, so I'm not sure how well that version holds up. Dang, now I'm getting all nostalgiac for the old Fox Kids lineup. I'm too young to be old!

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  3. I actually played Kraven as a good-ish guy in an old superheroes game. Good times.

    After all, villains make better hunting than heroes because they're always planning their escape.

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  4. @ Tom:

    I WANT to play Kraven...though probably in a HU game, not Marvel.

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