Dr. Carl Brenner is not necessarily what you’d call a virtuous man or a kind one. He comes from a well off family and has a well paying job as a dentist. He used to work out just enough to keep in shape, went on some survival camping trips (the office kind) with his buddies and drives around in his Ferrari. He has a wife who works at a gallery and a young boy who goes to a private school. He had no worries about the darker life on the street and had a good life.
Things changed though, when his local bank was targeted by robbers while he was making a deposit. Two people were killed and a few more were injured, but Carl got out of it unharmed. The fear however, was paralysing.
Some would say that there had always been something buried deep within Carl’s soul, something violent. But what it was really, was the fear that criminals could get away with it. The police never caught the robbers, and slowly that fear turned into burning rage. He became distant from his family and couldn’t focus at work. One night, he just drove around for hours after work to clear his head, until he witnessed someone robbing a corner shop. The police wouldn’t do anything, so Carl followed the crook and put him into a hospital.
It was then that Carl had an epiphany. If the police couldn’t do anything about the city’s crime, then it was up to him to balance the scales. He would stalk the streets, find those who prowled upon the weak, like the people in the bank, and he would bring violent justice upon them. That’s when he became Specter, and he felt a little better about himself.
Specter is the violent anti-hero. He is not yet a villain, but his method of beating down criminals until they are unable to stand is sometimes considered a sign that he will eventually cross the line and make sure they’ll stop breathing entirely. For now, he considers himself to be medicine to fight back the symptoms, but eventually he’ll think it’s better to remove the cancer entirely.
To some people, it may not sound like such a bad thing, to get rid of criminals for good. But the real problem is how it affects other heroes and vigilantes in the city. One vigilante crosses the line and they all take the heat for it. They must show support to their ally, and be hunted with them, or they must condemn them and bring them to justice. This might be someone who’s worked with the heroes, a friend even, who’s done good things, but how will the media and the police accept that the heroes view themselves as above the law?
And Specter wouldn’t stop by himself. He will forget himself once and keep punching until the crooks stop breathing, and he will realize that he can cure this disease. Perhaps it’s someone he put in a hospital before, perhaps he’ll find those bank robbers that started the whole thing, or perhaps he’ll be in a foul mood. Whatever the reason, it is bound to happen.
In this case, Specter serves two themes: First, he plays the role of a ticking time-bomb of a hero that is bound to step over the ledge, and second, he serves to show the average person, without the early-life drama and poor upbringing, becoming a vigilante, not to save the city but to heal his own fractured soul. Like a quote from a good movie points out: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” That is what Specter is.
Specter had no real combat experience before he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or any practical combat training. At best, he had some introduction to rich-man’s boxing. Afterwards, he started training hard though. He’ll take evening classes before going out to stalk the streets, and he’ll come beaten up home afterwards.
Armed with brass knuckles and clothed in dark padded clothing, he’ll follow the criminals to a place where they’ll put their guard down, then attacks. He takes on maybe 3 punks at a time, has survived and escaped a fight with 6 or 7, although barely, but avoids any fights against guns, unless he thinks they can’t reach them.
He doesn’t work much with theatrics, but recently started turning off the electricity before attacking with night-vision goggles.
Aside from his brass knuckles, Specter sometimes arms himself with a small club or a baton, but will fight with anything within reach if it’ll hurt them.
Mutants & Masterminds, as well as many other games, has a mechanic called Complications, which is essentially just plot-driven hindrances or disadvantages that awards the story. If the heroes need to fight Specter or bring him in, here are some ideas on how to make it easier for them:
First of all, Specter loves his family. His wife and son are everything to him, but he won’t find peace unless he acts against crime. He keeps his life a secret, but anyone threatening his family will drive him over the edge.
Second is his temper. Specter is a very angry person and easily tipped off. Drawing his attention away from what he’s doing is easily done by making him angry.
- Collateral Damage: Specter only attacks people who are criminals or at least suspected of being criminals. So far, he hasn’t been wrong. But that’s until someone gets brutally beaten and taken to the hospital. Everything suggests that Specter did the beating, but the victim has no apparent connection to the life of crime. Does Specter know something the police doesn’t, or did he make a mistake?
- The Line: There will come a time when Specter crosses the line, and it is this day. Among a small gang of criminals that have been beaten by the Specter, one of them is found dead at the scene. Putting criminals into the hospital is one thing, but how should the other heroes deal with one of their own becoming a murderer? Not only will the media and police start a manhunt, but other vigilantes will suffer a major blow to their reputations.
- Specter & Ghost: Someone joins Specter’s crusade against crime, but she is even more messed up than he is. Specter hasn’t killed anyone yet, but she has no such limitation. In fact, she will push him until he crosses the line.