The Decepticon Thunderwing arrived from Nebulos with a special present for Galvatron - Pretender shells! These new weapons enabled any Decepticon warrior wearing them to become extremely powerful. The Autobots soon got their hands on some, and so it became an arms race... until Thunderwing donned his final creation, an ultra powerful transforming shell. Driving him insane, he vowed to destroy both the Autobots and Decepticons and was only driven back by a joint defense.
The mysterious Decepticon Outburst arrives on Earth with a mission for the Decepticons - capture a shark, a lion and an eagle for his experiments.
Outburst is revealed to be working for the Decepticon scientist Thunderwing. Thunderwing had been in residence on the conquered planet of Nebulos where he had developed mighty exosuits for the Decepticons that he called Pretender shells. These shells were part organic, allowing for fast healing in the heat of battle, and could be used by any Decepticon. Some called him a genius. Some called him a madman. Some called him a genius madman.
This weapon was too good to pass up, and the first test resulted in a massive win for the Decepticons and huge destruction in P'yongyang.With intelligence coming in that a second shipment of Pretender shells was en route to Earth, the Autobots realised that this technology in the sole hands of the Decepticons could result in the end of the war. A diversionary assault was launched on the Decepticon base of New Crystal City, whilst a small taskforce went into space to hijack the shipment of shells. In the fight, two shells were successfully stolen, and one destroyed.
In revenge for this attack, Thunderwing leads a squadron of Decepticons to Dinobot Island. After a titanic battle, the Dinobots are left defeated and the island torched.
The Autobots decide to stop the production of Pretender shells at the source, and so send a unit to Nebulos.Whilst this is happening, Thunderwing begins working to his own agenda, and leads the Decepticons to the planet Tycos, to steal the rare element rheanimum.
The Autobots assault Thunderwing's base in the Nebulan city of Nogginburg. As this is happening, Ultra Magnus and a team break into Thunderwing's lab to confront the Decepticon directly. His dream crumbling around him, Thunderwing decides to use the ultimate weapon - a transformable, gigantic Pretender shell. The device is unfinished though, and merging with it starts to send him mad. Attacking Autobot and Decepticon alike (with one fatality), Thunderwing escapes into space.
Thunderwing soon returns, heading straight for Cybertron. His merger with the shell has caused him to go temporarily mad, and he swears revenge against Autobot and Decepticon alike for ruining his experiments. He decides that the Transformer race must die, starting with the city of Nightseige. A group of Autobots and Decepticons intercept Thunderwing in orbit, to delay or destroy himGalvatron and Ultra Magnus join forces to await Thunderwing at Nightseige. However, Thunderwing is able to remotely control the remaining shells, and uses them and their occupants to attack their fellow comrades Thunderwing finally arrives, fighting through fierce firepower, until he is finally sealed in molten metal
As a coda, when the shell was finally cut free and opened, Thunderwing was nowhere to be seen...
- A Pretender TP. Who'd have thought it!
- Outburst was a TP character created so that Magnus' player, who was helping to run the TP, could have someone on the Decepticon side (Magnus was his only character at the time). He was also there for handy foreshadowing and exposition.
- The plot took equal nods from the depiction of the Pretenders in the classic Marvel US comics, as well as IDW's Stormbringer, especially with Thunderwing as the creator of the technology. This is because using Thunderwing was just too cool to pass up.
- The rheanimum pops up again during the All Hail Megatron TP, used to resurrect Galvatron.
- The capital of Nebulos is called Nogginburg, apparently. This is all Fulcrum's fault.
- Thunderwing had also tried - and failed - to develop Powermaster technology
- Thunderwing's huge transforming pretender shell was originally meant for Galvatron. At least, that's what he told him.
- The Pretender shells were modelled on the exo-suits codewise, but a special +shell command had to be created to activate them.
- The Decepticons had two shells - an Octopoid creature (based, of course, on Octopunch) and a reptile-style creature. The Autobots had a humanoid in Eagle armour (based on Sky-High) and Shark Armour (based on Splashdown). Each armour had a 'speciality stat' that it was particularly good in.
- The shell that was destroyed was the Humanoid Lion Armour shell. This wasn't a reference to Groundbreaker, but in fact the real-life Double Pretender Lion Armour prototype toy, which has only ever been seen in a broken state! Blueshift is a huge nerd like that!
- Because of the way the code was set up, Thunderwing's armour has to have its own unique name. It was thusly christened 'Thunder Armor'. Like something from Thundercats.
- Thunderwing returned in the scene A Return and a Mystery which set up his character and motivations for the rest of the year.
It was in early January 2008 that Magnus' player came to me with a proposal for a Pretender TP. I rolled my eyes. Was he insane?
I like Pretenders. Heck, I love them, I was all for it. However at that time there was a large proportion of staff who were very die-hard early G1ers. For them, anything after the movie wasn't real Transformers. I did get the feeling that an attitude like that was more suited to a pre-movie game, since the crazy gimmicky space adventures of the movie and season 3 meshed very well with the latter years of the toyline. But that's enough about that!
We eventually sold the idea to the rest of staff as 'Exo-suits for Transformers'. The TP would be a chance for any player to put on a sweet suit of armour and be amazingly powerful for one scene. We'd have opportunities for scenes, and everyone would get to experience the rush of knowing you could crush your opponent's head. And it would lead to some interesting IC dynamics as an arms race got going. It worked, the Wizards at the time agreed, under one strict provision - we were not allowed to call the suits 'Pretender' suits at all. They would be 'Exo Armor'. It was made very very clear to us.
This all fell apart in the very first scene, when Thunderwing's first line amounted to "TADA, PRETENDER SHELLS!"
Bless you David.
Depthcharge, the Charstaff head at the time was a lovely guy and is sorely missed. He was initially really against the idea of Pretenders, but once he actually coded the shells up, he was in them all the time, running about in the testing rooms and telling me how excited he was for the TP. To me, that is part of the magic of putting together a TP like this - creating an idea so solid and fun that even haters turn into huge fans.
There was some discussion over the nature of the Pretender shells, though not too much. In fiction there were two main uses - as disguise (small, human sized as per the Masterforce cartoon) or as giant suits of armour (as per the comic). We went for the giant suits of armour idea - it was felt to be more obviously attractive, but also in following the comics, it kept a more 'Western' theme to the MUSH. I'm the biggest fan of Masterforce myself, but I've always seen the Pretender shells first and foremost as giant suits of armour. Of course, this also meant it was easier to work scenes around them.
Rodimus at the time was also a huge fan of the idea, and was down to play Thunderwing. Thunderwing's inclusion was never in doubt, he's one of my favourite characters and the chance to use him was too good to not use. As it happened David suddenly had a load of real-life work piled on him so was only able to play Thunderwing in the very first and very last scene. For the rest of the TP he was played by me. And I enjoyed every goddamn second of it. This was also the start of me playing every single TP villain that year.
We were quite loose with the actual structure of the TP - I made sure there were certain 'beats' that were followed - the introduction, the Decepticons getting the shells, the Autobots then stealing the shells, the trip to Nebulos and the finale on Cybertron. Everything else was mostly player-instigated. When running TPs, I found one of the most important considerations was to sit back and say 'if I was just a normal player, what sort of scenes would I be able to idly start around it with no admin about'. The fact we had related scenes every night during the two weeks seemed to show this to be a success. Indeed it was the busiest time for roleplay until the All Hail Megatron TP, with the height being around 750 hours of IC activity in week 2. That's a lot!
The entire TP was two weeks. You'll find that every TP I ran lasted a maximum of two weeks, generally no more and no less. I found that with 'big' ideas, if you run it for less than two weeks, quite a few players won't be able to get a taste before it finishes, and if it is longer than that, people get bored even if they think they won't do. It is always best to leave people wanting more rather than burn them out on an idea, after all.
The capital of Nebulos accidentally became Nogginburg rather than Koraja. This was totally Fulcrum's fault. Ten minutes before the scene, I was still building some of the grid and couldn't remember the name. I went with the first suggestion made, which was unfortunately Nogginburg. It is now canon.
As a final thought on the actual plot, I really liked the dynamics of the finale. We had a scene in space concurrent with a scene on Cybertron, and then everyone met up for the end. In an attempt to get away from the monotony of 'shooting big TP villain until he dies', we introduced the twist that Thunderwing could control the shells, thus letting players be surprise villains too. This was something I kept coming back to - you could never trust your teammates again when I was about!
I think if you had told people beforehand there was going to be a Pretender TP, there would have been outrage. There are some TPs that you need to create a buzz about beforehand, and some that you need to spring on people as surprises. This was definitely the latter, and the fact we had incredible turnout throughout the two weeks, and it is still remembered very fondly today is a testament to the phrase 'the proof is in the pudding'. People tend to think they hate things, until they try them out, when they find they like them. In much the same way, the Headmasters TP turned out to be a huge success, though we struggled for a year to get it run because some of the admin were scared because some players didn't like them. Turns out they did once it went ahead. What a world, eh?
- Seaworldastrophe - On the orders of Outburst, a group of Decepticons travel to Seaworld to kidnap a shark!
- Where Eagles Dare - Outburst orders the Decepticons to capture biosamples of Earth's wildlife for Thunderwing. A squad of Decepticons travels to Yellowstone park to kidnap some rare eagles. Can the Autobots stop them, or is extinction forever?
- Thunder In The Skies - The legendary Thunderwing arrives with a delivery for the Decepticons - two state of the art Pretender shells. But advances in technology can be hard to swallow for some.
- Cattle Run: A herd of energon-producing Turbosteer somehow appear on Arizona... and on the scene is a Pretender-powered Blueshift going toe-to-toe with Prime!
- Dockside Cuddles - The Autobots make a diversionary strike on the docks of New Crystal City. But they reckoned without its guardian - the gigantic robot squid known as 'Cuddles'
- Stolen Thunder - Whilst the Autobot attack on New Crystal City distracts the Decepticons, a task force attempts to hijack Thunderwing's shuttle and steal the new shipment of Pretender shells.
- TNF 1/30/08 - Dinobot Island - Thunderwing's Pretender shells help the Decepticons secure a victory on Dinobot Island...and Scrapper and the Constructicons to avenge years of beatings at the hands of the Dinobots!
- Power Armour Old-Skool Style - With the Pretender armours in the lab, Ultra Magnus decides to take off his own armour for once...
- The Mysterious Mountain - The Autobots meet the mysterious Bufflor - and their love of snap-together spacecraft!
- Touchdown on Nebulos - The Autobots set up base on Nebulos, but Scourge the tracker is on their trail!
- Terror On Tycos - Thunderwing leads the Decepticons on an attack on the planet Tycos, to gain the rare and mysterious element rheanimum
- The Village - Exploring Nebulos, some Autobots come across a small village
- Awakening - Thunderwing's lab is under attack. But he has one more trick up his sleeve.
- Showdown on Nebulos - The Autobots launch an all out attack on Thunderwing's base of operations. But fate has its own surprises.
- Downtime on Nebulos - After the battle, Twitch and Blaster do some bonding. But the peace is soon shattered, as a shadow moves towards Cybertron...
- More Than Meets The Eye Finale - Part 1 - An insane Thunderwing has threatened to destroy Cybertron, starting with Nightsiege. A group of spacefaring Transformers await his arrival in orbit, to intercept him.
- More Than Meets The Eye Finale - Part 2 - The Autobots and Decepticons join forces to await Thunderwing's arrival at Nightsiege. But Thunderwing has a final hand to play - he can control the Pretender shells from space!
- More Than Meets The Eye Finale - Part 3 - Thunderwing vs everyone, with the fate of Cybertron in the balance!