CoX: Z3-R0

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.

Across the islands of the Etoile and the remnants of Praetoria, the mercenary known as ZERO has taken on mission after mission, supposedly for the highest bidder. Nobody knows who hires her, but everyone respects what she can do – and the outbreaks of monsters that she’s an expert in dealing with.

Zero’s definitely got that symbiote swag – rippling extensions of her flesh that let her shapeshift, create armour, heal rapidly, and attack from unforseen angles. She looks familiar? Maybe.

Praetoria’s darkest deeds are back with an old threat in a new time!

Serious. Reserved. Aloof, even, possibly even methodical to the point of frightening. Most people who work with Zero, across the Etoile and Praetorian reconstruction, don’t really know her as a personality, just as a efficient and functional mercenary. She shows up, she beats up Spiders, she beats up Family, she beats up Carnies, and then she goes, never bothering to make friends or contacts, for some reason.

Power-wise, she’s a very obvious kind of mutant monster type; she walks in a cloud of poison, her weapons are made out of carapaces of flesh and rippled coral on her skin. She hits things hard enough to throw them around, can shake the room by stomping on the ground. When she has to reach things that are a distance away, she either throws something or uses a tendril or long clawed arm to do it, snapping back to a normal shape once she’s done.

When it comes to her skillset, it seems that she isn’t really endowed with a lot of exploratory skills – not prone to bookkeeping or lockpicking or computer use. She has the personality of a thrown brick when she’s fighting and usually shows up to jobs with specialist. Sometimes she’ll even refer to them as ‘nerd’ to give them directions.

Her bio is, also, based on the box text for Metroid Fusion.


God, brutes are dumb. Just so good, all the tools in one spot. Anyway, yeah, uh, Zero’s build is disgusting. No purple IOs, one PVP IO, no Winter or Archetype IOs. I think if I bought all the pieces for this build the whole thing would come in under the amount of money she’d earn farming a character up to level 50.

She’s a Stone Melee/Bio Armour Brute. Bio Armour is probably the strongest armour set available if you’re looking for something to stick IOs on, because it provides so much general stuff that anything you add can push it across thresholds for survival. Like the difference between 44% and 45% defense may not seem like much but it is 100% of the potential incoming damage you can have a defense for.

Her build, in total, is looking at:

  • 45% defence to Smashing, Lethal, Fire and Cold damage along with 42% defense to melee, which like, I wasn’t gunning for that, just got that for getting all the other stuff.
  • 75% smashing/lethal resistance, which scales up when she has more targets in her area of effect
  • 71% global recharge, without hasten which is important because stone melee hits like a train (which is to say, once every fifteen minutes)
  • The most ludicrous permanent buffs from Parasitic Aura, up 50% of the time

As an experience to play she’s incredible, because the worst thing I can say about her is there’s waiting time. She arrives, drops an AOE attack and then waits until everyone mills around her, builds up her fury bar, and then fires off the AOE attack again, because it’s not like anyone can kill her in that time. She also has Seismic Smash, a power I love because at high levels of fury, it can be a ‘delete this’ button for a bunch of enemy types.


Zero is a test character.

Specifically, when City of Heroes: Homecoming launched, one of the first things I did was to make some characters. Then I set myself rules. One rule was that, in order to stop my extremely stupid altitis from getting out of hand, I wouldn’t make any new characters until the last character I made was level 50, IO’d and at least Veteran Level 1. I wanted to learn new ways to sustain myself, since my old account on live was rich – not wealthy, I wasn’t Smurphy, but I had money enough to throw a few billion at things and a large body of level 50 characters.

Zero therefore, originally called ‘Project Zero’ was one of my earliest characters that persists. I made her to be something I thought would be very self-sustaining, had no real meaningful character history, and would just find what the game presented in its new form. At this point, one thing I keenly felt was a weakness of mine from that old period, which is what I keep mean is ‘Live,’ was how bad I was at making women characters, believing that fell to ‘women players.’ This is, yes, very dumb.

Another thing I knew I wasn’t great at was variety in costumes. I didn’t tend to make characters who had a lot of looks, they’d often have one and then do nothing with the other slots. Characters wouldn’t have a variety of looks, things that represented ‘this is how this character would think about how they want to dress.’ I resolved to fix that this time and part of how I fixed it was uhhh

By uh

Copying someone who has a lot of cool looks.

It hit upon the look for Zero of her Samus Aran lookalike, and then ran around trying out Homecoming, seeing if it was a ‘real’ game or not. And eventually, the time came to breathe life into her, and come up with an explanation for what she is and why she is. Why stone? Why bio armour? Why science, and not some other effect? I had these pieces, already set around me, and I had to come up with an explanation for it that held it together.

An explanation that also covered ‘wtf does she look like Samus Aran?’

And thus we come to the horror underneath Zero.

Z3-R0 is not just a way to spell the name ‘zero’. It’s a base-36 number, representing a range from 1263 to 972, a range that counts down 291 units of something. Whatever it is, that’s a pretty large number of them, and it’s the earliest piece of information Zero remembers putting together. It’s the digits on the containment chambers that broke and flowed together to make…


If you’re paying attention to these OCs, you might remember Astray. He’s basically a ‘Spiderman Style Symbiote’ building on the idea of goopy monsters that bond to people to make them cool monster people with a bio-goopy shapeshift that highlights their personalities. I talked about them with Wild Hare, too, where I touched on the idea that there’s a conspiracy fighting to protect and care for the Symbiotes, many of which have been lost and scattered, attaching to hosts or lurking in wait around the ruins of Praetoria to glom onto a host.

A coagulation of these Symbiotes, symbiotes sticking to one another and enhancing one another, forming a fountain of terrible scientific failures into the form of a person, resulted in a person, standing out of the mess, calling itself Zero, as it taught itself to read, as it rapidly ingested information. I don’t know when Zero first encountered Super Metroid, but the X-Parasite and SA-X was the first time it considered an identity like that, the ability to become someone it chose to be, and it chose to be her.

It became she, and modelled herself on Samus Aran. A hunter, a hero, a guard, and a monster.

Zero is a monster girl. Under her skin, there’s layers of corded fluid flesh that don’t follow the rules of flesh and bones. There’s structure to her, to be what she wants to be, but there’s no reason it makes sense, no way it would have evolved. She is a terrible thing, a collection of predatory, flesh-eating inhuman sinew…

And she is striving to be a human. A good one, at that.