test content
What is the Arc Client?
Install Arc

What PRIMUS Is

bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
I often see CO players who have or want to create PCs connected to PRIMUS, but have unclear or mistaken notions of how PRIMUS actually functions, what its authority is, and what agents of PRIMUS do. To be fair to them, the information they may have access to may be incomplete, and the group has gone through several incarnations over the decades which are sometimes contradictory. PRIMUS in the current official Champions Universe suffers a bit from not having an up-to-date dedicated source book published for it. The last such book is copyright 1998, and refers to an earlier incarnation of the CU than the present one. (It is still available from the Hero Games website for a very low price, and is a fine book in its own right.) Most of the current official info about PRIMUS, which is rather thin, appears in the recent Champions Universe source book for Sixth Edition HERO System. It does carry over some details from the earlier PRIMUS book, but changes others. It's unclear how much of that earlier book still applies; but further details from an official PnP source are very unlikely for the foreseeable future, given the current state of Hero Games, publishers of Champions. The developers for Champions Online also seem in no hurry to embellish PRIMUS for the MMO.

In order to give CO players using PRIMUS a bit more to hang their role-playing hats on, I thought I'd summarize the available info about the present group, and try to flesh out areas skimped over with precedents from the earlier versions, particularly the 1998 source book, where they don't conflict. Further input and questions from interested parties would be welcomed. :)

In its earlier incarnations PRIMUS was the "Primary Response and Interdiction Military Unified Service," a special joint detached service of the American armed forces tasked with countering superhuman crimes against and threats to the United States. However, for the current setting it's been redefined as the "Paranormal Research and Investigation Mission of the United States," a branch of the civilian Department of Justice like the FBI, with main responsibility for dealing with "supercrime" within American territory. Its primary function is law-enforcement, although that often also involves combat with supervillains. Agents can have a military background, but are recruited from all walks of life, provided they meet PRIMUS's rigorous standards.

Besides employing cutting-edge weapons and technology to give its agents the firepower to battle supervillains, PRIMUS uses a physical enhancement process called Cyberline to create low-powered superhuman agents known as Silver Avengers. At least one Silver Avenger is assigned to cities where PRIMUS maintains a base, while the largest urban areas can have several Avengers. Silver Avengers are promoted from within the ranks of the organization, based not just on their qualifications as agents, but their compatibility with Cyberline. Only a small percentage of the population can benefit from Cyberline. The Silver Avenger who is most reactive to Cyberline typically undergoes the more intensive (and expensive) process to become the more powerful Golden Avenger. The last named Golden Avenger was Daniel James "DJ" Johnson, who succeeded the first GA, Robert Kaufman. But since that info dates from nearly a decade ago, and Johnson was a veteran in the role even then, I think it likely that he's retired by now and a new GA created.

Champions Universe asserts that Silver Avengers sometimes command regional bases, while the Golden Avenger is the overall leader of PRIMUS. My personal feeling is that this would be somewhat impractical, particularly in the case of the Golden Avenger. It doesn't make a lot of sense to place your strongest front-line fighters in what are primarily administrative positions. In earlier versions of the organization the Golden Avenger was the effective field commander of PRIMUS, but a Director administered the organization as a whole, and dealt with political and public-relations issues that affected the organization. IMHO the leadership structure of current PRIMUS would probably have been retconned more like the earlier version if an updated source book had seen the light of day. But in the likely absence of future clarification it would be up to CO role-players today as to which interpretation you prefer.

Now, more detailed info about PRIMUS has to come from the 1998 book. I'll present a summary of the most relevant info which doesn't contradict official statements. Under the Director of PRIMUS, the organization is divided into several branches: Assault Agents (the combat troops), Intelligence (criminology and surveillance), Human Resources (support personnel), and Avengers. Each division is headed by its own Director (the Golden Avenger supervises all other Avengers). Within the Assault Agent branch, Agents (which seems to be the basic rank title) are organized into squads of five, led by an Agent Commander. Each PRIMUS base within a major US city is under the command of a Base Commander, who reports to his Regional Director, the rank below Director of Agents.

In addition to standard Assault Agents, the most physically-capable recruits are often inducted into the Iron Guard program, and trained to use the PRIMUS Iron Guard powered armor. Iron Guards are the heavy combat troops, and are organized into their own five-man squads under a Base Commander. Silver Avengers are outside the agent chain of command, with the possible exception of base commanders as noted previously; but they're accorded great respect and often take informal charge of operations. They may also undertake investigations on their own (they have their own support staff, including combat agents).

Comments

  • jaazaniah1jaazaniah1 Posts: 3,723 Arc User
    Thanks for all that. I like the first meaning of the PRIMUS acronym better than the current one.
    JwLmWoa.png
    Perseus, Captain Arcane, Tectonic Knight, Pankration, Siberiad, Sekhmet, Black Seraph, Clockwork
    Project Attalus: Saving the world so you don't have to!
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    You're welcome. :)

    I'd keep the second acronym, but substitute "Response" for "Research." I think that suits the org's mission better.

    But in either case, to paraphrase SHIELD Agent Ward: "Someone really wanted our name to spell out PRIMUS." ;)
  • jaazaniah1jaazaniah1 Posts: 3,723 Arc User
    I was thinking the same thing when I read the rebooted name :)
    bulgarex wrote: »
    But in either case, to paraphrase SHIELD Agent Ward: "Someone really wanted our name to spell out PRIMUS." ;)

    JwLmWoa.png
    Perseus, Captain Arcane, Tectonic Knight, Pankration, Siberiad, Sekhmet, Black Seraph, Clockwork
    Project Attalus: Saving the world so you don't have to!
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    As this thread is mirrored on the Champions Online Role Players (CORP) forums, when a question on one of these fora brings up more relevant info I reproduce my response on the other.

    In past incarnations of PRIMUS its officials have generally displayed reluctance to recruit superhumans from outside the organization, preferring to stick with their Avengers. However, the PRIMUS source book alluded to earlier describes a group of diversely-powered supers designated, "the Prime Team," assigned to PRIMUS. Their official biographies gave most of them a military background, but they were in fact clones created from samples of several prominent PRIMUS operatives, and given false memories. Only a few within the organization are aware of their true origins, part of a more sinister "rogue" faction within PRIMUS. (Which demonstrates the influence of the Iron Age of comics, still going when that book was written.)

    The books for the current official Champions Universe make no mention of the Prime Team, and as more info on PRIMUS is unlikely anytime soon, it would be up to CO players whether or not they want to use it. FWIW in my own PnP games I have used those characters as a military super team, but made their fabricated origin stories their true ones.

    BTW the FBI, like PRIMUS a branch of the Department of Justice, does recruit superhumans to be special agents, sometimes assigned to specific cities/regions, like Kodiak and Teknique in Millennium City; while others are shuttled around the country as needed.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    For several years early in the millennium, Hero Games published a PDF magazine with articles covering a wide range of Hero gaming issues, called Digital Hero. A few of those articles updated and expanded the older material about PRIMUS. One of them, in Issue #2, described a PRIMUS division officially called the "Detached Department for Research and Experimentation of Metapsychic Activity (DDREMA)," but whom everyone in PRIMUS refers to as "the Wizards." Congress refused to fund the department when it was first proposed, but the then-director of PRIMUS put a number of agents on detached duty as an "unofficial" department. As presented in the article the Wizards are rather underfunded and mocked by their colleagues; but the various Area Agent Directors of the Wizards report directly to the Director of PRIMUS, so they're taken seriously at the top of the agency.

    Hero Games management always stressed that anything concerning the Champions Universe appearing in DH should not be considered canon unless and until it made it into a published source book. But since there's nothing like that for PRIMUS on the docket, this might make a good basis to build from.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    edited May 2019
    There have been some questions raised as to the relationship between PRIMUS and UNTIL. The official source book for the latter agency, UNTIL: Defenders Of Freedom, addresses the matter in fair detail.

    The United States is signatory to what's commonly called "the Tribunal Treaty," which "gives UNTIL the ability to operate without other restrictions [i.e. as per its charter] in any signatory state or international territory" (U:DOFp. 46). No more details about the treaty are given. UNTIL agents have "International Police Powers," a (fictional) authority to arrest anyone committing a crime in any signatory state (i.e. nation), although the definition of "crime" has to match the laws of said state.

    The book also spells out quite a bit of international law, under which a sovereign state is considered to have primary jurisdiction over: anything that happens in its own territory; persons or things of its nationality anywhere in the world (including corporations and vehicles); protection against acts which threaten its existence or proper functioning, including internationally (such as counterfeiting currency); and to legislate against activities universally condemned, such as genocide (pp. 24-25). From this I would infer that in a case of dispute over jurisdiction, PRIMUS as an arm of the American Department of Justice would, strictly speaking, have authority to investigate, detain or arrest a suspect involved with any of the above mentioned spheres, over UNTIL. The concept of "jurisdiction" is rather vague, though -- probably deliberately so.

    However, U:DOF underlines that UNTIL goes to great lengths to avoid or diffuse such disputes. It maintains an Ambassadorial Corps with ambassadors and staff to all signatory nations, as well as liaisons with major law enforcement agencies. Whenever time and circumstances allow it notifies appropriate law enforcement and governments before taking action on their territory, and coordinates its activities with them.

    "Currently, UNTIL-U.S. relations range from coolly cordial to extremely friendly, depending on the personnel involved and the situation." (U:DOF p. 47) Page 46 also describes UNTIL and PRIMUS as "friendly rivals." To me this implies that generally the two organizations cooperate when appropriate, but that conflicts likely do happen in the field from time to time; but if they do, the situation would almost certainly be referred to representatives of the higher-ups of both organizations for resolution. Neither party would desire a diplomatic incident. I should also add that even if the criminal is wanted in another country, the nation where the criminal is arrested would have to go through an extradition process to send him to that country -- assuming the two states have an extradition treaty.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    Until 1992 the United States was not a signatory to the Tribunal Treaty allowing UNTIL to operate in American territory. PRIMUS was established in 1986 partly to deflect political criticism of the American government for not signing. (Mechanon's near-seizure of control of America's nuclear arsenal the previous year was another major impetus behind PRIMUS's creation.)

    After the Battle of Detroit in '92, when the American public learned UNTIL had mobilized to help fight Dr. Destroyer, but was stopped at the border over bureaucratic red tape until too late, popular outrage forced the American government to sign and ratify the Tribunal Treaty.
  • lordxanadulordxanadu Posts: 5 Arc User
    Thank you for the info. I had just converted one of my characters into being a special PRIMUS agent, so it was quite timely for me. I wanted my character to deal specifically with heroes who overtly commit crimes while engaged in saving the day. Things such as murder, torture, or other 'punishment' they may feel criminals deserve. Basically an anti-vigilante squad. I liken it to the old west where a gun fight might be judged to be 'legal' and the survivor set free provided he could justify the death in court. They aren't out to punish heroes, just keep it clean. My references all mention PRIMUS fighting super villains, but nothing about policing heroes. I would assume it's under their jurisdiction though?

    "Hand over those guns boys."

    "It was a fair fight, we was legal."

    "I'm sorry boys, I gotta take ya before Judge Spicer."

  • shadowfang240shadowfang240 Posts: 1,547 Arc User
    so would Nu!PRIMUS still keep dossiers on superheroes/villains? (i.e. does the primus database website still work in its intended purpose with the current incarnation of the organization?)​​
    blacklivesmatter.png

    #LegalizeAwoo

    A normie goes "Oh, what's this?"
    An otaku goes "UwU, what's this?"
    A furry goes "OwO, what's this?"
    A werewolf goes "Awoo, what's this?"
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    edited May 2019
    lordxanadu wrote: »
    Thank you for the info. I had just converted one of my characters into being a special PRIMUS agent, so it was quite timely for me. I wanted my character to deal specifically with heroes who overtly commit crimes while engaged in saving the day. Things such as murder, torture, or other 'punishment' they may feel criminals deserve. Basically an anti-vigilante squad. I liken it to the old west where a gun fight might be judged to be 'legal' and the survivor set free provided he could justify the death in court. They aren't out to punish heroes, just keep it clean. My references all mention PRIMUS fighting super villains, but nothing about policing heroes. I would assume it's under their jurisdiction though?

    "Hand over those guns boys."

    "It was a fair fight, we was legal."

    "I'm sorry boys, I gotta take ya before Judge Spicer."

    In the United States it's legal for a private citizen to use lethal force in defense of oneself or someone else, provided one had reasonable expectation that a person was under imminent threat of death or severe bodily harm, and there was no reasonable alternative. Whether those actions were in fact reasonable is typically judged in a court on a case-by-case basis. A number of Champions heroes have gone through that process over the years, and been exonerated. However, law enforcement in general is very hostile to vigilantes who routinely kill, torture, or otherwise violate criminals' civil rights and due process. There's no reason to believe PRIMUS is any different.

    PRIMUS does have principle responsibility for dealing with crime in America involving superhumans. Probably the highest-profile vigilante in the Champions Universe is known as Thunderbird, a cross between Marvel Comics' Punisher and Scourge of the Underworld (written up in Champions Villains Volume Three: Solo Villains). Thunderbird has murdered over three dozen supervillains, but never anyone not wanted for a serious crime. But his character sheet notes that he's pursued by PRIMUS for capture, like any other criminal.

    It's worth noting that PRIMUS and the American government in general has options for dealing with overtly-violent "heroes" beyond simply arresting them. That leads to my response to shadowfang240's question, below.
    Post edited by bulgarex on
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    edited May 2019
    so would Nu!PRIMUS still keep dossiers on superheroes/villains? (i.e. does the primus database website still work in its intended purpose with the current incarnation of the organization?)​​

    As per the official time line for the current incarnation of the setting (laid out in detail in the most recent edition of Champions Universe), in 1980 Congress passed the American Superhuman and Paranormal Registration Act (ASPRA, frequently called just "the Registration Act" by superhumans). In principle, ASPRA requires all innately-powered superhumans to register with the federal government, providing information on their true identities, the nature and extent of their powers, and so forth. Costumed crimefighters using super-technology were also required to register under different provisions of the Act, and to reveal the capabilities (but not precise technical details) of their devices.

    In practice, the general popularity of superheroes, and the American government's frequent need for them to help combat various menaces, has kept the government from actively pursuing supers who don't register. Instead the government adopted a strategy of attrition. As supervillains were captured, they were identified as extensively as possible, and the information entered in the ASPRA databases. When superheroes needed government assistance or law enforcement sanction (as they often did), the price for cooperation was registration. Neither side was very happy with the result, but in the end it (mostly) got the job done, and allowed the United States government to build the world’s second-largest database on superhuman powers (after the one maintained by UNTIL).

    Responsibility for registration and record keeping was turned over to PRIMUS when that agency was founded in 1986. As of the last published word on the subject (circa 2010), the ASPRA databases had never been penetrated by outsiders, nor had any information obtained through the Act ever been improperly used against a registered superhero. OTOH ASPRA information about supervillains (or, potentially, line-crossing vigilantes) is freely distributed to law enforcement agencies who need it.
  • jonsillsjonsills Posts: 6,307 Arc User
    bulgarex wrote: »
    As of the last published word on the subject (circa 2010), the ASPRA databases had never been penetrated by outsiders, nor had any information obtained through the Act ever been improperly used against a registered superhero.
    Well, yes, computer security is much more secure when the OS is sapient, self-aware, and actually likes its operators. :smile:
    "Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!"

    - David Brin, "Those Eyes"
    Get the Forums Enhancement Extension!
  • shadowfang240shadowfang240 Posts: 1,547 Arc User
    so...do supers have access to the basic info in PRIMUS profiles on other supers, or just villains? or do they even have access to that kind of data at all?​​
    blacklivesmatter.png

    #LegalizeAwoo

    A normie goes "Oh, what's this?"
    An otaku goes "UwU, what's this?"
    A furry goes "OwO, what's this?"
    A werewolf goes "Awoo, what's this?"
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    edited May 2019
    so...do supers have access to the basic info in PRIMUS profiles on other supers, or just villains? or do they even have access to that kind of data at all?​​

    (Please keep in mind that most of what I'm about to express is my opinion extrapolated from the information given about how the ASPRA database operates. I'm not affiliated with either Cryptic Studios or Hero Games, who could clarify or contradict what I'm about to write at any time, should they wish to.)

    From the given details already cited, I'm sure that any super employed or sanctioned by the American government would be able to obtain ASPRA data on any supervillain relevant to whatever case or mission they may be involved in. They may have broader access if their work directly involves national security or law enforcement. I'm less confident that just by being registered, a superhero would be able to peruse supervillain data at their leisure. They'd probably need to submit a specific request, like an access to information request, adjudged based on need to know and the superhero's standing. After all, the FBI doesn't share all its data on criminals with the average citizen without good cause.

    OTOH I'm very confident that access to superhero data would be highly regulated. Probably only government officials directly tasked with gathering and collating that data would regularly be allowed to view it. Given security and privacy concerns, what even they can access might be compartmentalized into restricted fields. There must be procedures for other officials to view excerpts from it, but I expect they would require a defined justifiable reason, e.g. a court order relevant to a criminal investigation, or a national security concern.

    Consider also that the Sixth Edition Champions PnP write-ups for most of its villains include various details about each, some of which are public knowledge most people are aware of, or could easily ask around to find out; while others require research to unearth, in some cases very difficult research.
    Post edited by bulgarex on
  • kjames91kjames91 Posts: 139 Arc User
    Going off of PRIMUS, is it possible to transfer to UNTIL from PRIMUS?
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    edited May 2019
    There's no legal or societal bar to an American citizen who worked for PRIMUS quitting that agency, and then taking a job with UNTIL, or vice versa. Many Americans already work for UNTIL. Mind you, as one's position in PRIMUS rose up the chain of command, there'd probably be increasing concern within its governing body about classified information being shared with a "foreign" group if that person leaves for the multi-national UNTIL. For the rank-and-file, though, that shouldn't be an issue. However, there's no procedure for "transferring" from one of those agencies to the other. UNTIL and PRIMUS report to completely separate authorities, and share no administrative connections.

    The most likely motivation for a change of agency would be an agent deciding he/she prefers the goals and policies of one group over the other. For example, PRIMUS members largely view themselves as American patriots with a "USA first" attitude, while most UNTIL employees are committed internationalists.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    edited May 2019
    The general public has been led to believe that Cyberline is a drug treatment and biofeedback training, but it's actually a type of gene therapy. Genetic material collected from several superhumans (the method of collection isn't specified) is introduced into a genetically-compatible subject via an RNA retrovirus. The result is low-level superhuman strength, speed, durability, and visual acuity. The treatment is described as "mildly addictive," and the accelerated metabolisms of the Avengers make them more susceptible to drugs and toxins (a fact the government keeps secret). Avengers require daily booster doses of Cyberline to "update" and "correct" their genetic modifications.

    It's possible for someone to have a stronger than normal, and even permanent, positive reaction to Cyberline. One candidate for Silver Avenger gained physical power even greater than the Golden Avenger, perhaps due to a latent mutation being activated. He became a government superhero code-named Liberty Guard. ( A character called Liberty Guard appears in Champions Online: https://pwimages-a.akamaihd.net/www/1d/b3/1db31d9388e3514e2adfbc71a00af9741341355854.jpg )

    The ultra-top-secret Department 17, the Defense Department's hub for research into more reliably creating, and controlling, superhumans, is currently devoting much of its resources to trying to improve the Cyberline treatment, combining it with drugs and chemicals, radiation, and other exotic agents.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 1,890 Arc User
    As per that earlier PRIMUS source book, Assault Agents almost always function as members of their squad, assigned specific missions by their superiors. OTOH agents of the Intelligence division have more latitude to pursue investigations independently, and frequently work solo. Unlike Assault Agents they don't normally engage in combat... unless you'd like one to be able to. ;)

    While the current info about PRIMUS makes no mention of the agency using supers other than Avengers, there's nothing explicitly forbidding the practice. Intelligence Division might employ a super whose abilities are more information-gathering than combat. I'd say it's also more likely for PRIMUS to keep a super who gained superhuman powers after he or she became an agent, rather than recruit an existing super.
Sign In or Register to comment.