Mystery Men Role Playing Game: Behold A Santa!

Lest there be some readers who think I am too fine to play something geekerific like role playing games, I’d like to share a private part of my life with you. This is a game called Mystery Men, based loosely on the movie, based loosely on the comic book.

You play a squad of between four to six incompetent super heroes.  Below is a description of my first turn.

While in the stockroom of his Superdepartment store job, Chris Cringer, during one of his rare breaks, in astonishment saw a supernaturally glowing disembodied yet nonhuman head appear in the air above him, accompanied by theramin sound effects. The blue head was bald and wisened, and wore a red cap trimmed with white fur.


Like a silent, psychic shout, the words of the immensely old, immensely potent brain rang across the light-centuries of timespace directly into Chris’ own. “Santa of Space Sector 2814! The Guardians of the Christmasverse have need of you! Use your all- powerful magic ring to fly immediately to the Great Attractor beyond the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies! We have learned the GALACTIPHAGUS, the eater of Galaxies, is planning to ruin Christmas by eating all the galaxies in your cluster!”

“I’d be happy to comply, but I do not exactly have a magic ring, O Guardian.”

“Foolish youth! Abin Santa should have told you how to operate the Omnihedrogon of Anti-Time which is at the center of your Fortress of Santatude now assigned to you! The Omnihedrogon will lead you to the ring, which was placed near the Big Bang for safekeeping.”

“Great! Where is this fortress of Solitude?”

“Santatude. At the North Pole.”

“Er… that is hard for me to get to.”

“… Of the planet Neptune.”

“Er… even harder. We earthmen do not have space ships that can reach there.”

“Nonsense! Our records show that the super scientists of the late Neolithic Dinosaur Men of Lemuria have such vessels, as do four of the five civilizations of mole creatures living in the core of the earth, as well as the major civilizations covering seven tenths of the Earth’s surface who can talk to fish. This is EARTH, we are talking about, right? Third planet of Sol? The only planet in the Milky Way where all the parallel timelines of alternate realities happen to converge? The one with the Moon that is about to be blown up? According to our records, the ONLY earth-dwelling species that does not have spaceships are a group of primitive and superstitious goons so stupid that they live on the surface of the planet, not under the ocean or under the crust where it is safe. It is as if they don’t know the moon is about to explode. What doofuses. ”


“According to our records, you are ruled by loving and peaceful council of shapechanging vampire mummy robots known as the Draculocons buried under the pyramids of Egypt, who are actually Martians in their pyramid forms, hibernating. The pyramids are Martians, I mean, not the mummies. Your leader, Professor Menace, made radio contact by means of faster than light hyperwave with our station on Alpha Centauri, and we put our most trusted agent, Agent Sinister von Grinch, in charge of giving him every thing he needed to quell the rebellions on his Earth planet. He told us it belonged to him.”

“The records may be less than perfectly accurate, O Guardian.  I think Professor Menace is some sort of supervillain who keeps his brain in a jar, or keeps a jar in his brain, or something. And …”

“What a moment — you are Santa that picked up his commission off of Abin Santa’s corpse? While he was delirious? Which of the surface dwelling races are you a member of? Homo Magicus, who can cast spells by talking backward? Homo Neanderthal, who have immense psychic powers and can walk through dreams to other planes of existence? Or Homo Superior, whose mutant genetic superiorities allow them to control matter and energy?”

“None of the above. Is there another choice?”

“Only the race we call Homo Doofus.”


“Look, maybe stopping Galactiphagus is too steep for you right now, at your level of cosmic evolutionary yokelness, youth.  Why not try taking out a few purse-snatchers or street thugs with your Homo Doofus powers and abilities, whatever they are, and then we’ll talk more? Hanging up now…”

“What was that about the Moon blowing up? Hello? Hello? And how do you hang up a brain?”

Chris Cringer, punching his fist into the palm of his other hand, said to his Talking Reindeer, Adolph of Exposition. “Adolph! If the Moon is blown up, that will end all life on Earth, and stop Christmas from Coming! I must stop Christmas from being stopped from coming! But how?

“Quickly, my red-nosed chum! To the Sleigh-mobile!”


Later that Night, after changing into his Super Santa Suit and trying to climb down the chimney of District Attorney Scanlon, getting stuck and getting arrested, and spending the evening in the drunk tank, Supermarket Santa was once more consulting his good friend Adolph the Talking Reindeer. Adolph had thrown a coat over his back, and purchased a latex mask from a Halloween Shop, and convinced the guards he was Santa’s lawyer. The deer had some trouble getting his mouth to the telephone to talk to the prisoner through the glass.

“Der Goot News, mine friend,” said Adolph in his outrageous comic-opera Prussian accent, “Iss Zat the Dizricht Attorney —”

“Okay, okay, stop. Just stop. Why don’t I just IMAGINE you have a really thick Prussian accent, and you spell all your words normally. Okay?”

“Can I throw in a few words like Achtung! And Jah! So people still think I have a Prussian accent?”

“Sure. Whatever. Compared to that blue guy in the hat, this is normal.”

“The District Attorney says he’ll drop all charges if you do him a favor. He knows some other Superheroes and he is willing to help you. With the loss of Super Strategist, he thinks a vigilante committee of anonymous weirdoes with utterly useless powers is just the thing this city needs!”

“Just the thing needed to fight crime and keep the spirit of Christmas alive?”

“No, just the thing to distract the supervillains and organized crime gangs, so the police can have an easier job catching them. I’ve arranged to have everyone meet in the FORTRESS OF SANTATUDE at the North Pole ….”

“Um. That does not work for me. Remember? I don’t actually have a magical flying sleigh just yet. I have a VW bug with a red nose and reindeer horns called the Sleigh-mobile. I can get to District Attorney Scanlon’s house.”

“Um, I mean, ACHTUNG! That is no good. Either he is afraid of revealing your secret identity, or he does not want a vigilante dressed like Santa near his house. We will need to find another secret headquarters for the team.”

Just then, a large but otherwise inconspicuous barrel, which had been resting innocuously in the corner of the Prisoner’s Visiting Room now tipped sideways, rolled inconspicuously up to the glass where Supermarket Santa was speaking to his disguised reindeer, and righted itself. A periscope and a microphone emerged from the barrel’s bung hole.

An eerie echoing laugh issued from the barrel.  “Who knows WHAT EVIL lurks in the barrels of men? BWA-hah-ha-ha-ha-hah! The Barrelman knows!”

Out of the barrel popped a mysterious figure in a hooded sweatshirt and billowing black cape, who with great agility, tripping over his cape only once, now hefted his mighty barrel over his head, flourishing it menacingly.

Binoculars, a stethoscope, an icepick, and one or two other things he kept in his utility barrel fell out of the open lid, clattering to the ground.

The other criminals in the area, being a cowardly and superstitious lot, were suddenly laughing with relief.

Supermarket Santa said, “Barrelman! I had thought you were a myth!”

“A myth to some! To others— a nightmare!!” intoned the mysterious figure.  “I command the powers of all barrel-related powers! I can make this barrel stink like a pickle barrel! Or explode like a barrel of gunpowder! Or catch on fire like a barrel of tar! OBSERVE!”

Suddenly, to the astonishment of the guards and prisoners there, the barrel burst into flame.

Tar Barrels Intermediate 2009

Later, hands bandaged, Barrelman and Supermarket Santa shared the night in the cell and were released the next morning. “My barrel-cave is not yet ready,” explained the dark cylindrical avenger of the night. “Perhaps we can meet at Moe’s Pie Shop at the foot of Shadow Hill.”

“The Haunted Pie Shop?” Exclaimed Supermarket Santa in surprise. “You mean that horrific Pie Shop in Shadow Hill where there were several pie and pastry related murders, reputed to be haunted, and where folks on moonless nights say that they can smell apple pies and cherry cobbler being baked — even when there is no pieman in the shop? You expect us to go into that sinister site of crusty cream filled horror?”

An echo of eerie laughter was his only answer; he turned, but Barrelman had vanished! Supermarket Santa leaned on the large cracker barrel sitting inconspicuously in the middle of the street, and looked left and right carefully, wondering where the Crimefighting Cask had disappeared to!

The next day, Supermarket Santa arrived at the Haunted Pie Shop to discover that it was overrun with Secret Service Agents and Paparazzi. Parked outside was a motorcade of limousines and motorcycles and armored cars, flying the Presidential Flag. Also, the world famous racecar Mock Mach Macht Schnell, driven by Go Mifune.

After being frisked by the Secret Service, Santa was escorted by a marine guard squad into the pie shop. All the other customers and staff had been cleared out. There, seated in a booth in the back, was James Norcross, the President of the United States! Next to him was the world famous race car driver, Go Mifune. They were exchanging autographs. Next to Go Mifune was a small boy in a baseball cap and overalls, and next to him was a monkey in a baseball cap and overalls.

“Hmm…” said Adolph the Talking Reindeer.  “Compared to this, Santa Claus from Outer Space seems normal.”

“Hush!” cautioned Santa. “I have had to put you in a baseball cap so that no one will recognized you as Adolph, the talking reindeer that belongs to Christopher Cringer, store employee.”


“Mr. President, what are you doing here?” asked Santa.

President Norcross said cagily, “Nothing, oh, nothing. It is just that — pardon me, boys, but could you give me a moment?”

Grumbling, the small army of Secret Servicemen and Marine Guards backed out of the store, leaving only a nondescript janitor with a broom behind, sweeping up.

President Norcross said, “I happen to have this — friend — who knows a guy with superpowers willing to aid the new group you are forming. We’ve focus group tested several names, and polls are leaning heavily toward, NORCROSSCARE as a name.”

“Santa Squad and his Elves,” said Adolph. “We will call it SANTA SQUAD AND HIS ELVES!”

Go Mifune said, “I also have a — friend — who is interested in stopping the illegal gambling and race fixing that is occurring in Tokyo. Perhaps he can join your team. I can, uh, lend him my car. And my clothes. And my voice. His name is Superevangelion Macross Appleseed Eighth-Man of Justice.”

Norcross said, “Sorry, Mifune, everything ending with ‘Of Justice’ is taken. My friend the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court told me so. Your friend will have to go with ‘Superhighwayman’ or something!”

The little kid said, “That sounds like the name of a villain!”

Go Mifune shrugged. “I will surely tell him to change his hero name to FAST SPEEDSTER or SPEED FASTER.”

Santa said, “I think it should have the word ‘super’ in it.”

A low, eerie chuckle issued from the non-descript barrel sitting next to the pie counter. A pair of powerful twin periscopes issued from the bung hole.

 kwalish no legs

 Santa stood up suddenly, “Gentlemen, that is Barrelman. You see, my space powers allow me to tell when someone has been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! I think we can trust him.”

Go Mifune said, “Where did you meet him?”

Santa said, “In prison.”

Go Mifune, “You met him in prison, he dresses as a barrel, and we can … trust him?”

Santa nodded briskly. “So, President Norcross and Mr Mifune, what is the name of your two friends who will be joining me in fighting crime and saving Christmas?”

President Norcross said, “Well, you might not believe this, but I happen to know SUPER PRESIDENT!”

“You seem like such a mild mannered Commander in Chief, sir,” offered Go Mifune.

“How do you happen to know Super President?”

“He is Tony Stark’s Bodyguard or something,” said the President nervously, running his finger between his necktie and his neck. “We met at a fundraiser.”

Go Mifune said, “Well, it just so happens that Super Speed Car Driver is in the bathroom here in this very pie shop. Except, uh, he’s invisible. Until I go get him. Wait here.”

A moment later, a mysterious figure dressed exactly like Go Mifune emerged from the back, stepping around the nondescript janitor with the broom and the large oblate rock he was sweeping in front of. The figure wore a white jacket, white pants, a scarf at the neck, and a helmet with a big red M on the brow, but with the visor lowered, no one could see his eyes. His jaw, mouth and chin looked exactly like Go Mifune, but, after all, what does that prove? All those racecar drivers look alike.

“It is I, Fast Racedriver!”

President Norcross said, “I thought your name was Speed Fester or Feed Spaster or something….”

Adolph muttered, “Und I wanted you to have the word ‘Super’ in your name…”

The super motorist put his fists on his hips. “Superhighway Fast Racer!”

A voice issued from the barrel. “If Super President joins us — ”

President Norcross rose. “If you will excuse me, gentlemen, it just so happens —” But then at that moment, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the Drug Czar entered the pie shop asking for James Norcross. There was a bit of an altercation, since the Barrel thought that the Drug Czar was a supervillain of the same name, and the Secret Service hustled Norcross away at the first sign of danger.

A voice issued from the barrel. “If Super President joins us, this team, the Barrels of Justice—”

“All the ‘of Justice’ names are taken,” said Santa wearily.

“Just call it the Super Santa Squad until we come up with a better name,” suggested Adolph.

The lid of the barrel opened and a spooky figure in a hooded sweatshirt and a long black cape slid mysteriously out. “Fortunately, my barrel can also double as a convenient seat, as well as a raft, and a rolling, uh, thing. As I was saying, if Super President joins the squad, we will have one member whose body is charged with might born in a cosmic storm, who can turn into steel, or granite, or whatever the need requires.”

“What about cheese?” asked the boy in the baseball cap, whose name no one had asked yet. “Can he do cheese?” The boy’s name, for the record, was Kurio Mifune.

“Yes!” snapped Barrelman curtly with a savage motion of his hand. “What do you think whatever the need requires means? He can do cheese, rubber, admantium, uranium, glass, whatever the need requires!”

“Ook! Ook!” observed the monkey.  His name, for the record, was Sanpei. Whether or not he is related to Blip, Bleep, Gleep, and other space monkeys is a matter for speculation.


“I can provide the brains and detective work,” said Barrelman, “Provided we concentrate on crimes that any criminals leaning on barrels tend to talk about. And Santa, do you have a magic ring or something? Flying reindeer?”

“Talking,” muttered Santa. “Talking reindeer. We are working on the magic ring. For now, I have a brick in my bag.”

Fast Racer said, “My car has a robot pigeon with a camera on it. It can also cut down bushes and shrubbery with twin sawblades that come out of the front fender. It can be useful for — um—let me think—”

Barrelman said, “So we have one member with impressive defensive skills, because he can turn into something bulletproof –”

“Including cheese!” chimed in Kurio.

“Ook! Ook!” pointed out the monkey.

“— and three members who can do basically nothing —” muttered Barrelman.

Fast Racer, looking worried, said, “O Master of the Barrel, what wisdom can you

give us in this, our most beclouded hour?”

Solemnly, Barrelman said, “The lack of manpower can be replaced by the addition of

firepower. Every superhero team needs a brick.”

Santa said, “Exactly! The way the Fantastical Four has a hero called The Object, and the Avengerators has the Incredible Bulk! By a brick you mean a hero of monstrous, superhuman strength who is nigh invulnerable!”

“No,” said Barrelman, “I mean a hero who slides a brick slowly across the ice, sweeping away impediments and evils with a broom!” With a dramatic flourish, he turned toward the nondescript janitor. “YOU! I have penetrated your secret identity! Who else could you be except — Captain Curling, hero of the Most Boring Winter Game of All!” Turning to the others, he said, sotto voce, “The Captain and I met while I was disguised as a barrel that ice skaters were jumping during the Ecuadorian Winter Games back in ’09. I was tracking down a Sporting Goods Themed Villain named Evil Luge.”

Just then, with a tinkle of the door opening, Captain Curling, dressed in his Curling uniform, whatever that looks like, carrying a broom and a stone and toting an ice making machine came through the doorway, brushing the floor before a slowly moving stone which crossed the floor and thumped into the glass pie case, causing an impressive crack in the glass.

“Sorry I am late. It always takes me a long time to get here. My backstory is grim and bathetic but extremely long,” intoned Captain Curling. “I was born of rich but proud parents in a mansion, and my every whim was attended to by a bevy of nurses and maids. Then, my father was gonked painfully in the head by an evil golf ball, raising a small welt …”

“Whoa, wait!” interrupted Fast Racer. “I mean, seriously? My older brother is dead, killed by organized crime lords fixing races — and you are complaining about your Dad being bonked in the head?”

Captain Curling said, “That is when my father explained that he had taken a vow to fight pirates, as had his father before him and his before him, back to the Fifteenth Century, when the first of my line, called the Ghost Who Curls by the native tribesman of the coast of Africa where I and all my ancestors learned curling. Which is why I am called THE PHANTOM CURLER!”

“That,” said Fast Racer, “Is a ridiculous backstory.”

“It is better than saying my whole planet was blown up by a golf ball by Galactophagus playing golf with an asteroid, which was my other option.”

“Besides,” said Racer, “Your name is Captain Curling, not The Phantom Curler.”

“Correct! You see, I was 4-F and unable to compete in the Winter Games, so in a secret project, I was given an experimental super soldier serum by Professor Pathos, before he was pathetically killed by Nazi spies.”

Racer said, “Meaning you take steroids. Isn’t that illegal?”

Captain Curling said, “Whereas special tires and jack-pistons that allow your car to do acrobatic leaps and climb walls is perfectly legal in your sport, eh?”

Santa said, “But if that man there is Captain Curling — WHO IS THAT?” and he pointed a trembling red-gloved hand at the sinister figure of the janitor.

The janitor quickly removed his cap and a fake-looking wig and donned a big black Mexican wrestling mask with a huge red X on it. Throwing aside his janitor’s uniform, he wore a chauffer uniform beneath it, one of the old fashioned kind with buttons up the side.

“It is I, Chauffer X,” intoned the figure. “I am the world’s greatest driver of tricked out spy cars, and for reasons that cannot be revealed, I often help Fast Racer win races by protecting him against member of the Car Acrobatic Racecar Team, or C.A.R.T., led by Snake Oiler. But I am also the chauffeur and bodyguard of Super President….”

“Wait,” said Fast Racer. “Why does Super President need a chauffer if he wears a rocket belt, and why does he need a body guard if he can turn his body to steel, or granite, or whatever the need requires?”

“…. and Super President sent me to tell you he has a very busy schedule, doing, um, super things. You can contact him by igniting the Great Seal of the United States Signal on the roof of the District Attorney’s office. If it is at night. And if there is a low hanging cloud hanging conveniently nearby. And if he sees it.”

“Now!” said Santa, “That the Santa Squadron has gathered as a team…”

“I like the name Squadron Supreme,” said Adolph.

“That’s taken,” said Barrelman

“Racer Squadron Macross Plus,” said Fast Racer.

“That’s dumb,” said Barrelman

“I like the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors,” said Captain Curling.

“Taken AND dumb,” said Barrelman.

Santa said, “Until Barrelman has his barrel cave ready, or I can get to my Fortress of Santatude at the North Pole, we can make the Haunted Pie Shop our headquarters. No one knows we are here, um, except for them …” He pointed to the huge crowd of security officers, secret service agents, press, television cameramen and paparazzi clustered thickly outside the area where President Norcross was given a speech about the economy or health care or the war overseas or something.

“Who owns this pie shop?” said Fast Racer. “Does anyone know this Moe?”

Santa said, “I have it on good authority that the Moon is about to blow up, and I think that if we find the Super Strategist, that will be good for our squad’s street cred. Also, someone will have to brave the supernatural horrors of Shadow Hill, looking for crime to keep our pie shop safe, and to find Moe.”