Supporting Cast

Circus Maximus

by Stephen Dedman

The group known as Circus Maximus has been collecting, exhibiting, selling, and possibly even creating oddities and monsters for hundreds of years. Someone curiously similar to Maximus is reported to have supplied hermaphrodites and phoenix meat to Caligula and Egabalus, freaks to Vlad Dracul, and giants to Catherine the Great.

The Circus Maximus also has a profitable sideline as a smuggling operation. Mostly it smuggles fugitives, disguised as part of the freakshow or the crew, but the hidden compartments in its wagons have also carried stolen property, counterfeit currency, weapons and drugs. Maximus also delights in luring the young, innocent and attractive away from their country homes. Those who prove useful may stay on, but most are sold as slaves or (after some mental and/or physical modifications) freaks. Maximus and Mr. Methuselah would never hesitate to destroy someone's face to prevent them being recognized, or even to amputate their hands so they can't be identified by their fingerprints.

The Circus Maximus always comprises at least 10 people, including Maximus himself. Most of these will have been with the Circus for years, but others may be riding with them for protection, or have been recently abducted. Maximus has become increasingly reluctant to visit large cities since the invention of telecommunications, preferring small towns with few police. A marshal's posse in a Weird West or Deadlands campaign may have to protect a town from the Circus's onslaught: modern city-based PCs are most likely to encounter Maximus if they are trying to track down a fugitive or an abductee who may be traveling with the troupe.


250 points

ST 13 [30]; DX 13 [30]; IQ 14 [40]; HT 15 [50].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d Swing: 2d-1
Dodge: 8* Parry: 10 (Fencing) Block: 6
Basic Speed: 7 Move: 7
* Boxing gives Dodge 9 vs. bare-handed or thrusting attacks

Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15]; Cultural Adaptability [25]; Empathy [free with Telepathy]; Handsome [15]; Longevity [5]; Voice [10]; Wealth (Comfortable) [10].

Psionics: Telepathy (5) [25].

Disadvantages: Bully [-10]; Gigantism [-10]; Lecherousness [-15]; Sadism [-15]; Xenophilia [-5].

Quirks: Snappy dresser; Distrusts new inventions; Intolerance (Doctors); Collects silver coins and dirty jokes; Curses in Latin.

Appearance: Late 30s; olive complexion, dark gray eyes, black hair, moustache and goatee; 7', 270 lbs.

Gear: Powerful revolver; Swordcane or Saber; 4-yard whip; Winchester '94 (in caravan); Black upper-class suit over concealable body armor; light cape (black); top hat; black cowboy boots.

Skills: Administration-13 [0]; Area Knowledge (USA)-14 [1], (World)-13 [.5]; Acting-13 [1]; Bard-16 [2]; Boxing-12 [1]; Cloak-11 [.5]; Detect Lies-16 [1]; Diplomacy-14 [1]; Driving (Truck)-12 [.5], (Car)-12 [.5]; Fast-Draw (Pistol)-13 [.5], (Saber)-13 [.5]; Fast-Talk-13 [1]; Fencing-14 [4]; First Aid-12 [.5]; Forgery-12 [.5]; Fortune Telling-13 [0]; Gambling-13 [1]; Guns (Pistol)-16 [2], (Rifle)-14 [.5]; Holdout-12 [.5]; Hypnotism-14 [4]; Intimidation-14 [2]; Juggling-11 [0]; Language (English)-16 [0], (French)-14 [0.5], (Hebrew)-14 [0.5], (Latin)-14 [0.5], (Spanish)-14 [0.5], (Russian)-14 [0.5]; Leadership-14 [2]; Merchant-16 [8]; Mindwipe-12 [1]; Pickpocket-11 [0.5]; Psychology-16 [1]; Riding (Horse)-12 [.5]; Sex-Appeal-16 [2]; Sleep-12 [1]; Sleight of Hand-14 [8]; Stealth-12 [1]; Streetwise-13 [1]; Telereceive-13 [2]; Telesend-12 [1]; Whip-13 [2].

Maximus, ringmaster and sideshow barker of the Circus Maximus (as well as stage hypnotist, mentalist, conjurer, and croupier), rarely discusses his past. He carries documents identifying himself as 38-year-old Julian McManus, heir and sole survivor of an old circus family, but these may well be forged. Nobody in the circus remembers a time when he wasn't the boss.

Maximus likes to use his mind-reading act in every town, to see if anybody is worth blackmailing, robbing, or abducting. He prefers to leave combat and other dirty work to his employees, but will defend himself, the circus, or his hoard of silver coins. He always wears the best concealable armor available at that tech level.

This is a super-normal version of Maximus, designed for use as a villain in Cliffhangers, or modern day adventures (for an Old West or earlier version, replace Driving with Teamster). In a GURPS Deadlands campaign, Maximus may be a huckster as well as a hustler: add Magical Aptitude [Huckster]/4 and the Hexes Missed Me!-14 [4], Phantom Fingers-13 [2], and Trinkets-14 [4]. Total Points: 320.

In a GURPS Voodoo setting, Maximus might be one of the Snake People (see p. V0102), with the added advantages and disadvantages of that species. Total points: 420.

Condor (Richard Connor)

100 points

ST 11 [10]; DX 13 [30]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 11 [10].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d Swing: 2d-1
Dodge: 7 Parry: 8 Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 6 Move: 6

Advantages: Acute Hearing +3 [6]; Ambidexterity [10]; Attractive [5]; Combat Reflexes [15]; Weapon master (knife only) [20].

Disadvantages: Bad Temper [-10]; Bloodlust [-10]; Code of Honor (Pirate's) [-5]; Overconfidence [-10]; Stubbornness [-5].

Quirks: Always wears black; Homophobe; Collects exotic knives; Dislikes cold weather and hates snow; Never sits with his back to the door.

Appearance: Early 20s, tanned skin, blond hair, green eyes; 5'11", 150 lbs.

Gear: Two large knives; 10 daggers in bandolier; Leather jacket; Tight jeans; Cowboy boots; Red bandana (used as blindfold in act); Collection of knives (see p. CII26) in caravan.

Skills: Acting-10 [2]; Blind Fighting-13 [4]; Brawling-12 [.5]; Carpentry-10 [.5]; Climbing-12 [1]; Driving (Car)-12 [1]; Knife-16 [8]; Knife Throwing-16 [8]; Pickpocket-13 [4]; Pressure Points-12 [6]; Riding (Horse)-12 [1]; Running-8 [.5]; Sex-Appeal-10 [1]; Starglazing-13 [1]; Stealth-11 [.5].

Condor, the youngest member of the troupe, is the other half of the blindfolded knife-throwing act (see Livia Leblanc), as well as acting as a roustabout and Mosca's apprentice.

Derringer (David Gold)

110 points

ST 12 [20]; DX 14 [45]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 10 [0].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d Swing: 1d+2
Dodge: 6 Parry: 9 (Brawling) Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 5 Move: 4

Advantages: Night Vision [10]; Sharpshooter [45].

Disadvantages: Alcoholism [-15]; Code of Honor (Gentleman's) [-10]; Dwarfism [-15]; Lecherousness (only when drunk) [-5]; Unattractive [-5].

Quirks: Very touchy about his height; Hates fairy stories and fantasy novels; Dislikes tobacco smoke, especially when hungover; Prefers revolvers to semi-automatics; Likes using empty bottles for target practice.

Appearance: Late 30s, freckled skin, dark brown hair, green eyes; 3'6" tall, 90 lbs.

Gear: Revolver in fast-draw rig (+2 to Fast-Draw); concealable pistol in sleeve or ankle holster; Bowie (large) knife; good suit over concealable body armor; bowler hat; cowboy boots.

Skills: Acting-11 [4]; Brawling-14 [2]; Disguise-10 [2]; Fast-Draw (Pistol)-16 [4]; Filch-15 [4]; Guns (Pistol)-18 [8], (other)-12; Holdout-10 [2]; Knife-13 [1]; Language (English)-10 [0]; Pickpocket-13 [2]; Riding (Horse)-12 [.5]; Scrounging-10 [1]; Speed-Load (Revolver)-13 [.5]; Stealth-13 [1].

Derringer is the sideshow dwarf, though he prefers to be known for his ability to shoot the aces out of a playing card (usually held by Livia Leblanc). He supplements his income from the circus by disguising himself as a child and shoplifting, but is careful not to draw unfavorable attention to the circus. He respects and fears Maximus, likes Herakles, and loathes the Geek.

Derringer uses the most accurate revolver available at the time for his show and guard duty (post-1955, a Colt Python with target sights, Acc 5; before that, a S&W Russian, Acc 3), and also carries at least one small handgun as a back-up.

Herakles (Erik Hanover)

220 points

ST 23 [130]; DX 11 [10]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 13 [30].
Basic Damage Thrust: 2d+1 Swing: 4d+1
Dodge: 6* Parry: 8 (Brawling or Boxing) Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 6 Move: 6
* Boxing gives Dodge 7 vs. bare-handed or thrusting attacks

Advantages: Animal Empathy [5]; Collected [5]; Fit [5]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Rapid Healing [5]; Toughness (DR 1) [10].

Disadvantages: Dyslexia [-15]; Easy to Read [-10]; Gluttony [-5]; Sense of Duty (Circus) [-5]; Unattractive [-5].

Quirks: Likes spicy food; Sleepy drinker; Loves most types of music, as long as it's loud; Mild claustrophobia; Undiscriminating.

Appearance: Early 20s, dark brown skin, shoulder-length curly black hair, dark brown eyes; 6'3" tall, 200 lbs.

Gear: Metal tomahawk; Hammer; Shotgun (in caravan). When not in the boxing ring, wears a sleeveless leather jerkin (PD 1, DR 1, areas 9-10, 17-18), heavy canvas pants (PD 0, DR 1), boots, and leather gloves.

Skills: Animal Handling-13 [4]; Axe/Mace-13 [8]; Boxing-12 [4]; Brawling-12 [2]; Carousing-12 [1]; Climbing-15 [0]; Driving-10 (Truck) [1] or Teamster-11 [1]; Freight Handling-9 [1] or Packing-11 [1]; Guns (Shotgun)-14 [4], Rifle-12 [0]; Intimidation-15 [0]; Knife-11 [1]; Language (English)-10 [0]; Leadership-15 [0]; Lifting-20 [.5]; Riding (Horse)-12 [.5]; Running-11 [1]; Stealth-10 [1]; Swimming-15 [0]; Thrown Weapon (Axe)-13 [4].

Maneuvers: Jab-12 [2]; Neck Snap-18 [0]; Roundhouse Punch-12 [2].

Herakles believes he is Kleopatra's younger brother, which may or may not be true. He serves as the circus's strong man, able to lift 1,725 pounds (2,931 with extra effort), as well as offering to take on all comers in the boxing ring. He also tends to the circus's animals (except for Kleopatra's snakes), organizes sentry duty, and does most of the hard physical work around the show.

Herakles is not normally a violent person, but he is absolutely loyal to Kleopatra; he will obey any order she gives him, and will not hesitate to fight to the death (usually his opponents') to defend her or the circus. He keeps a powerful shotgun in his caravan (a double-barrel 10 gauge before 1950, a Remington Model 870 after that) for hunting and other duties.

In a magical campaign, Herakles may be a zombie (Reduce IQ to 9; point total 70); in a Voodoo campaign, a Tonton Makout (Increase DX to 12, HT to 14, reduce IQ to 9, point total 241. See p. VO102).

Jimmy the Geek

-100 points

ST 10 [0]; DX 9 [-10]; IQ 8 [-15]; HT 9 [-10].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d-2 Swing: 1d
Dodge: 1 Parry: n/a Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 4.5 Move: 1

Advantages: Cast-Iron Stomach [15]; Disease-Resistant [5]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Resistant to Poison [5].

Disadvantages: Alcoholism [-15]; Amnesia [-25]; Bad Smell [-10]; Dead Broke [-25]; Lame (Crippled Leg) [-15]; Ugly [-10].

Appearance: Late 40s, pale skin, dirty light brown hair, blue eyes; 5'9", 150 lbs.

Gear: Wears rags.

Skills: none.

The Geek is another constant at the Circus Maximus -- sometimes an unfortunate victim of Mr. Methuselah's experiments in brain surgery, and sometimes (particularly during Prohibition) a wino willing to do anything for unlimited cheap booze. In a "real-world" setting, he is no more than he seems: a hopeless drunk blessed (or cursed) with the ability to eat almost anything -- live animals, ground glass, and the remains of some of Maximus's victims. In a weird setting, he might be a zombie -- and in a Deadlands adventure, he might be a slow-witted but physically tough Harrowed.

Kleopatra (Jenny Hanover)

200 points

ST 11 [10]; DX 14 [45]; IQ 13 [30]; HT 14 [45].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d-1 Swing: 1d+1
Dodge: 1 Parry: Brawling 8, Knife 6 Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 7 Move: 7

Super-Powers: Control Animals (5)-14, (Snakes Only, -60%) [18].

Advantages: Beautiful [15]; Double-Jointed [5]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Longevity [5]; Night Vision [10]; Resistant to Poison [5]; Temperature Tolerance/2 [2]; Voice [10].

Disadvantages: Bully [-10]; Jealousy [-10]; Laziness [-10]; Sadism [-15].

Quirks: Bisexual; Promiscuous; Dislikes cats (feeds kittens to her snakes); Incompetence (Gambling); Would rather die than be unattractive.

Appearance: Mid 20s, dark brown skin, short black hair, dark brown eyes; 5'7" tall, 120 lbs.

Gear: 4-yard whip; small knife (frequently envenomed with cobra or viper venom); handcuffs; tight leather vest and shorts (PD 1, DR 1, areas 9-11, 17-18); boots; medium pistol (in caravan); Python; 5-hex horde of venomous snakes.

Skills: Acrobatics-13 [2]; Animal Handling-11 [2]; Area Knowledge (USA)-12 [.5], (World)-12 [.5]; Acting-13 [2]; Bard-13 [.5]; Brawling-13 [.5]; Climbing-16 [1]; Dancing-13 [1]; Detect Lies-11 [1]; Diplomacy-12 [.5]; Disguise-13 [2]; Driving (Car)-12 [.5]; Equestrian Acrobatics-13 [2]; Erotic Art-12 [1]; Escape-15 [1]; First Aid-11 [.5]; Guns (Pistol)-16 [1]; Holdout-12 [1]; Knife-14 [1]; Knife Throwing-14 [1]; Language (Arabic)-11 [.5}, (English)-11 [.5], (French)-13 [0]; Merchant-13 [2]; Pickpocket-13 [2]; Psychology-12 [2]; Riding (Horse)-13 [1]; Savoir-Faire-14 [.5]; Sex-Appeal-17 [2]; Singing-14 [.5]; Stealth-14 [1]; Streetwise-12 [1]; Swimming-13 [.5]; Whip-14 [2]; Wrestling-13 [1].

Kleopatra is the circus's female acrobat, who also performs a very popular snake dance and escapology act in the sideshow. She acts as accomplice and mistress to both Maximus and Mosca, but prefers to sleep in her own caravan surrounded by her snakes.

Kleopatra never fights when she can use sex appeal, but she's no pacifist. In a combat situation, she will try to keep her venomous snakes (a 5-hex horde of rattlesnakes, coral snakes, and cobras -- including spitting cobras, if available) between herself and any opponent, and attack with whip and pistol (a .32 or .38 revolver before 1908, a 9mm automatic after that). Her favorite method of disposing of an enemy is to tie him up and throw him into her snake tank.

To make a slightly less dangerous 188-point version of Kleopatra, change her Super-Power to a magical ring in the image of a snake (Breakable, cannot be repaired, -6 to hit, can be stolen with stealth or trickery but is not obviously powerful: -70%). To make her more powerful, give her the Shapeshifter (weresnake) advantage (10 points, p. CI44) and/or the ability to spit Venom (21 points/level, p. CI71), either as an inherent power or as a power bestowed by the ring.

Livia Leblanc (Lisa Belasco)

0 points

ST 9 [-10]; DX 11 [10]; IQ 12 [20]; HT 10 [0].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d-2 Swing: 1d-1
Dodge: 5 Parry: 11 Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 5.25 Move: 7

Advantages: Initiation (Second Level) or Magical Aptitude (Magery)/1 [15]; Night Vision [10]; Rapid Healing [5].

Enchantment: Ghost Shirt or Missile Shield (tattooed onto body).

Disadvantages: Addiction (Heroin) [-40]; Albinism [-10]; Sadism [-15]; Unattractive [-5].

Quirks: Secretly in love with Condor; Likes horror stories, especially about ghosts and vampires; Mild phobia of heights; Wants to be a more powerful magician than her mother was; Takes pride in her art.

Appearance: Late 20s, white skin, long white hair, red eyes, tattooed with magical symbols and images of snakes; 5'6", 115 lbs.

Gear: Wears light cloak over skimpy costume (no DR) and boots; .22 pistol (in caravan).

Skills: Acting-11 [1]; Artist-13 [6]; Brawling-10 [.5]; Calligraphy-11 [0]; Cloak-10 [1]; Forgery-13 [6]; Guns (Pistol)-12 [.5]; Knife-10 [.5]; Language (English)-12, (French)-10 [.5]; Lockpicking-12 [2]; Occultism-11 [1]; Streetwise-11 [1]; Sex-Appeal-9 [1]; Tattooing-13 [4].

In a campaign using GURPS Magic, Livia has the following spells: Apportation-13 [4]; Death Vision-12 [2]; Detect Magic-12 [2]; Lend Strength-12 [2]; Locksmith-14 [6]; Missile Shield-14 [6]; Recover Strength-12 [2]; and Slow Fall-14 [6]. Total Points: 30.

In a campaign using GURPS Voodoo or GURPS Spirits, Livia has the following Skills and Rituals: Ritual Magic (Voodoo)-12 [8]; Vever Drawing-12 [4]; Path of Protection-12 [8]; Ghost Shirt-10 [10]. Total Points: 30.

Lisa Belasco is the orphaned daughter of a powerful New Orleans witch with too many enemies. Apart from an addiction to heroin, one of the last things Marie Belasco left her 13-year-old daughter was a permanent charm of protection against missiles, tattooed directly onto her skin.

Lisa is traveling with the circus, working as signwriter, tattooist and the endangered half of a blindfolded knife-throwing act, while she searches for a magical teacher. She plays little or no part in the circus's illegal activities, except for occasionally forging documents, but keeps a pistol in her caravan and will defend herself if the group is attacked.

Mosca (Marco Reyes)

250 points

ST 13 [30]; DX 15 [10]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 13 [30].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d Swing: 2d-1
Dodge: 8* Parry: 11 Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 7 Move: 7
* Boxing gives Dodge 10 vs. bare-handed or thrusting attacks

Advantages: 3D Spatial Sense [10]; Absolute Timing [5]; Collected [5]; Catfall [15]; Combat Reflexes [15]; Daredevil [15]; Double-Jointed [5]; Fit [5]; Handsome [15]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Perfect Balance [15]; Peripheral Vision [15]; Rapid Healing [5]; Strong Will/2 [8].

Gadget: Human Fly suit, gives Clinging and Flight (Gliding Only, Small Wings) super-advantages. Breakable, no penalty to hit, unique. [15]

Disadvantages: Addiction (Cocaine) [-15]; Bad Temper [-10]; Code of Honor (Pirate's) [-5]; Compulsive Spending [-5]; Lecherousness [-15]; Overconfidence [-10]; Sadism [-15]; Voices, Demonic [-15].

Quirks: Mild triskaidekaphobia; Proud; Dislikes spiders; Caffeine addict; Baseball fan.

Appearance: Early 30s, olive skin, short black hair, dark brown eyes; 5'10" tall, 150 lbs.

Gear: Large knife; two daggers; jump suit; silenced 9mm pistol (after 1908).

Skills: Acrobatics-16 [8]; Acting-11 [4]; Body Language-8 [1]; Boxing-15 [2]; Carousing-13 [2]; Climbing-18 [.5]; Dancing-13 [.5]; Driving (Car)-14 [1]; Erotic Art-12 [0]; Escape-16 [1]; Fast-Draw (Knife)-15 [.5]; Fast-Talk-10 [2]; First Aid-9 [.5]; Guns (Pistol)-16 [1], (other)-12; Jumping-17 [4]; Karate-15 [4]; Knife-17 [4]; Language (English)-9 [1], (Spanish)-10; Lockpicking-10 [2]; Mechanic (Car)-12 [.5]; Motorcycle-14 [.5]; Pickpocket-14 [2]; Riding (Horse)-13 [.5]; Running-10 [.5]; Scrounging-10 [1]; Sex Appeal-14 [4]; Stealth-15 [2]; Streetwise-10 [2]; Swimming-14 [.5]; Throwing-15 [4].

Maneuvers: Back Kick-15 [1]; Drop Kick-13 [2]; Hit Location (Karate)-15 [2]; Jump Kick-15 [1]; Kicking-16 [2]; Roundhouse Punch-14 [1]; Spin Kick-16 [1].

Mosca, known to his friends as the Spanish Fly, is an acrobat, burglar, and savate champion who came to the Circus seeking refuge and became Kleopatra's second-favorite lover. He stole the human fly suit from a mad scientist who Maximus and Kleopatra were blackmailing, and who later committed suicide.

Mosca is one of the most hot-headed of the circus's perennials and actually enjoys fighting. His favorite maneuvers are the drop kick (p. MA47) and jump kick; his daggers are meant for throwing, not close combat. As well as burglary, he also performs the occasional murder-for-hire.

Mosca dislikes Maximus, but his code of honor (and a vestigial sense of self-preservation) prevents him rebelling against him. Maximus, in turn, quietly delights in sending Mosca on very dangerous missions.

In a pre-1970s campaign, Mosca's suit will be leather and padded cloth (PD 1, DR 1) with a heavy leather helm, boots, and gloves (PD 2, DR 2). In a later setting, it will be lined with Kevlar (PD 2, DR 14) or some similar flexible armor, while the helmet will be fitted with CBR filters, light-intensifier or infra-red goggles, and other gadgets.

Mr. Methuselah

25 points

ST 9 [-10]; DX 10 [0]; IQ 13 [30]; HT 10 [0].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d-2 Swing: 1d-1
Dodge: 5 Parry: n/a Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 5 Move: 5

Advantages: High Pain Threshold [10]; Longevity [5]; Metabolism Control/1 [5].

Disadvantages: Addiction (Barbiturates) [-10]; Callous [-6]; Pallor [-10]; Skinny [-5]; Ugly [-10].

Quirks: Rewrites his will frequently; Doesn't drink alcohol or smoke; Avoids sunlight when possible; Loves opera, especially Wagner; Distrusts women.

Appearance: Leathery white skin, thin white hair, gray eyes; 5'5", 90 lbs.

Gear: Wears old jeans and shoes when doing act. Offstage, wears white coat over middle-class suit, broad-brimmed white hat.

Skills: Accounting-13 [4]; Acting-12 [1]; Archeology-10 [.5]; Area Knowledge (World)-12 [.5]; Disguise-13 [2]; Guns (Pistol)-11 [.5]; History-11 [1]; Language (English)-13 [0], (Greek)-11 [.5], (Hebrew)-11 [.5], (Latin)-11 [.5]; Lockpicking-13 [2]; Merchant (Drugs)-16 [.5], (other)-10; Pharmacy-13 [4]; Physician-13 [4]; Poisons-12 [1.5]; Research-12 [1]; Streetwise-11 [.5]; Surgery (Cosmetic Surgery)-16 [2], (other surgery)-10 [0].

Mr. Methuselah claims to be an ancestor of Maximus, cursed with immortality without the advantage of eternal youth, whose act consists of apparently dying on stage: he has mastered body control to the degree that he can suspend life signs. He's actually a medical doctor, struck off for drug-related offences, and acts as medic and pharmacist for the circus, as well as helping to disguise some of the fugitives they transport. Some of his less successful attempts at plastic surgery have joined the ranks of the sideshow freaks.

In a magical campaign, Mr. Methuselah may be an enslaved mummy (p. U72), which can be reanimated on demand. In a Deadlands campaign, he may be Harrowed, with Soul Eater/2. Total points: 228.

Swami Sutra (Natesh Jindal)

100 points

ST 10 [0]; DX 13 [30]; IQ 11 [10]; HT 13 [30].
Dodge: 6 Parry: 8 Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 6.5 Move: 6

Advantages: Breath-Holding/2 [4]; Double-Jointed [5]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Rapid Healing [5]; Strong Will/1 [4]; Temperature Tolerance/2 [2].

Disadvantages: Addiction (Cigarettes) [-5]; Miserliness [-10]; On the Edge [-15]; Pyromania [-5]; Skinny [-5].

Quirks: Hates snakes; Won't eat red meat; Chauvinistic; Incompetence (Cooking); Intolerance (Muslims).

Appearance: Early 50s; dark brown skin, dark brown eyes, bald but for thin white eyebrows; 5'9", 100 lbs.

Gear: Cheap foil (for Sword Swallowing Act); Cheap scimitar; Small knife. Wears turban and loincloth, with an old overcoat for cold weather.

Skills: Acrobatics-13 [4]; Acting-11 [2]; Breath Control-12 [6]; Broadsword-12 [1]; Climbing-15 [1]; Erotic Art-10 [.5]; Escape-15 [2]; Fire-Eating-14 [4]; Fire Walking-14 [6]; Judo-12 [2]; Jumping-13 [2]; Karate-12 [2]; Knife-13 [1]; Knife Throwing-12 [.5]; Language (English)-9 [1], (Hindi)-11 [0]; Scrounging-11 [1]; Sex Appeal-11 [.5]; Stealth-13 [2]; Streetwise-10 [1]; Swimming-12 [.5]; Sword-Swallowing-14 [2]; Theology (Hinduism)-10 [1].

Maneuvers: Arm Lock-14 [1]; Elbow Strike-12 [1]; Knee Strike-13 [1]; Spin Kick-1 [1].

Calcutta-born Natesh "Nate" Jindal is the sideshow's fire-walker, fire-eater, underwater escape artist, and rubber man, as well as frequently assisting Mosca in breaking into houses (usually acting as lookout).

The 100-point Sutra isn't much of a threat, but to make him into a 250-point fire-breathing "rubber man" for a Supers campaign, increase DX and DX-based skills by +2, add Body of Fire/6 (Unreliable limitation; Activation number 11 [24]; Bouncing/1 [12]; Constriction Attack [15]; Damage Resistance/1 [3]; Elastic Skin [20]; Flame Jet (2)-12 [16]; Injury Tolerance (No Blood) [5]; and Stretching/1 [30].

For a 250-point cinematic martial artist, Trained by a Master in Kalari, increase DX and DX-based skills by +2, IQ and IQ-based skills by +1, ST by +3, and add the Trained by a Master advantage. Increase Karate and Judo to 16 and Breath Control to 12 [8 points each],and Theology (Hinduism) to 14 [4 points]: this will also increase all maneuvers by +2. Add Blind Fighting-9 [2], Body Control-10 [4], Meditation-12 [8], Mental Strength-10 [2], Power Blow-10 [2], Pressure Points-11 [4] and Roll with Blow-16 [4].

Ursula, the Bearded Lady

25 points

ST 11 [10]; DX 10 [0]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 10 [0].
Basic Damage Thrust: 1d-1 Swing: 1d+1
Dodge: 5* Parry: 7 Block: n/a
Basic Speed: 5 Move: 3
* Boxing gives Dodge 6 vs. bare-handed or thrusting attacks

Advantages: Alcohol Tolerance [5]; Alertness +1 [5]; Animal Empathy [5]; High Pain Threshold [10].

Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Pirate's) [-5}; Compulsive Carousing [-5]; Overweight [-5]; Poverty (Struggling) [-10]; Unattractive [-5].

Quirks: Distrusts skinny people; Incompetence (Dancing); Congenial; Smokes cigars; Rarely swears and never blasphemes.

Appearance: Freckled skin, red-brown hair and full beard, blue eyes; 5'8" tall, 182 lbs.

Gear: Middle-class dress with slippers (for show); small knife, jeans, shirts and boots at other times. 20 gauge shotgun (3d-2 damage, ST 11, Rcl -3) in caravan.

Skills: Animal Handling-12 [2]; Axe/Mace-10 [1]; Boxing-10 [2]; Brawling-10 [2]; Carousing-10 [2]; Cooking-10 [1]; Disguise-9 [1]; Driving-10 (Truck) [2] or Teamster-12 [2]; First Aid-9 [.5]; Freight Handling-10 [2] or Packing-12 [2]; Gambling-10 [2]; Guns (Shotgun)-12 [1]; Holdout-9 [1]; Knife-11 [1]; Language (English)-10 [0]; Scrounging-10 [1]; Streetwise-10 [2]; Thrown Weapon (Knife)-10 [.5]; Whip-9 [1].

The Circus Maximus has always had a bearded lady. Apart from possibly being female ('she' may just be a heavily disguised male fugitive), the furry-faced Ursula is typical of the Circus's roustabouts. She may, of course, also be a Shapeshifter (p. CI44, Werewolf or Werebear, +15 points), or even a Cat Person (p. VO100, +270 points).

Also Appearing

Apart from its more-or-less human performers and roustabouts, the Circus also boasts a small menagerie, all well-trained: a dancing bear (Black Bear, p. B141), 1d+1 dogs of different sizes (small ratters to attack dogs), an elephant (p. B142), and a number of horses (two saddle horses for equestrian acrobatics, plus -- pre-TL7 -- draft horses and large mules to pull the wagons, cavalry horses for Maximus and Herakles, and saddle horses or ponies for the others).

The sideshow also features some stuffed (and probably faked) monsters -- and in some settings, such as Deadlands, possibly some real live ones. Possibilities include a giant rat, man-eating plants, or a "Cardiff Giant" that is actually a stone golem.

New Skill: Sword-swallowing (Physical/Easy)

No default

The character can suppress his gag reflex and align his upper digestive tract so that a sword or similar object can be inserted into his mouth and down his throat to his stomach. Best to use a blunt sword, though.

Adventure Seeds

Old West: The circus comes to a small frontier town, but after the show is finished, Jimmy the Geek dies peacefully in his sleep. Maximus decides that the circus urgently needs a replacement, and has Herakles and Kleopatra spirit away the town drunk, Johnny, before they leave. Unfortunately, one-armed Johnny is also the brother-in-law of William Whyte, the town's wealthy mayor and half-owner of the general store.

When Johnny's disappearance is confirmed, two days later, Mrs Whyte offers a reward for his return -- $100 in gold, or $200 in goods from the shebang. The circus has left the county, so the sheriff can't legally act, but the PCs may decide to ignore the finer points of law. Jimmy, however, has been offered all the booze he can drink and doesn't want to leave, and the heroes may find themselves facing the finer points of swords and knives as the circus folk defend their prize.

Deadlands: In a Deadlands campaign, Circus Maximus is doing the work of the Reckoners, increasing the fear level of the towns they visit. One of their methods is to offer rewards for the capture of abominations suitable for their freak show (with smaller payments for corpses), sending greedy hunters in search of varmints that sensible folk would avoid.

The posse encounters the circus when the train carrying both parties across the desert is derailed, killing the crew. Because of Dust Devils, Mojave rattlers, Tumblebleeds and other menaces, Maximus suggests that they send as large a group as possible back to the nearest town in search of help. When the two parties have to fight side-by-side against abominations, the circus folk won't sacrifice the PCs needlessly, but neither will they risk their own lives to protect them.

Cliffhangers: Some time after 1933, the circus visits a small town in the segregationist South, where it receives a cool reception. Todd Browning's Freaks is showing at the cinema, and one of the old-timers claims that when the circus passed that way some 70 years before, it helped many of his father's slaves escape. The Ku Klux Klan visits the circus and starts a fire; somebody sets the animals free, and the county sheriff forms a posse (including the PCs) to try to restore the peace with a minimum of bloodshed.

Atomic Horror: While the circus is playing in a small California town, two of the high school students are caught smoking marijuana, but refuse to reveal their source. The police chief decides to raid the circus and recruits a number of heavily-armed and trigger-happy reserves, as well as all the journalists he can find.

Though several of the circus folk have their own stash of drugs, they haven't been selling them in town (the real dealer is the mayor's son, a quarterback and school bully). "Ursula" is actually a heavily-disguised blacklisted microbiologist who's stolen some bioweapons from Fort Detrick, and if any of the seven vials in her caravan are opened or broken, horrible plagues will be unleashed. The PCs may be journalists, cops, or high school kids from the town, or scientists, feds or military officers searching for the stolen germs.

Supers: New supers are appearing and wreaking havoc in small towns across the USA -- most in their teens or early twenties. A few become heroes, but most are criminals or can't control their new-found powers. Research shows that the Circus Maximus has visited all of these towns less than a week before these incidents -- and in these towns and others on their route, there have also been several deaths caused by a mysterious new drug, a stimulant and hallucinogen called Powerpack.

The doctored Powerpack pills that the circus is selling triggers latent superpowers in about 1% of users. (Roll 1d: on a 1, the powers are permanent. On a 2-3, they are temporary, but can usually be restored by another dose of the drug. On a 4-6, the powers or new disadvantages quickly kill the user.) Any user who critically fails a HT roll on taking the drug will also die; any user who critically fails a Will roll may become addicted.

When the PCs catch up with the Circus, Maximus will try to dispose of their remaining pills rather than be caught -- even if it means dumping them into a town's water supply. The Circus may also have recruited several overconfident new metavillains who have come to them for training or more drugs.

Article publication date: April 4, 2003

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