Ennies and recent favorite RPGs

Fellow role-players, as we continue to discuss our current games and what we might play next, don’t forget to vote for this year’s Ennies! Here’s how I voted:

While I haven’t played many of these, I own several, and I’ve looked at many more products and Web sites. I explain why I chose what I did below.

RPG dice
A pile of polyhedral dice — most tabletop role-players’ fancy

Fantasy

Standouts include Paizo and others’ continuing strong support for the Pathfinder system (a.k.a. “D&D3.75”) and Obsidian Portal, whose wikis our current face-to-face and telecom groups have been using.

I haven’t yet played The One Ring, but it has impressive production value, as do supplements such as DungeonMorph’s cards and the “Mass Transit” series of maps. Many of you have received the news and Game Mastering advice I’ve forwarded from Gnome Stew and EnWorld.org. I enjoyed Rich’s “Way of the Wickedone-shot.

Modern and superheroes

I voted for DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains Vol. 1 (using D20/OGL Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Ed.) over the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game even though we’re using the latter in Jason‘s “Glassworkssuperhero miniseries. I thought Green Ronin’s relatively timeless approach to DC’s iconic characters was better than Margaret Weiss Production’s dice-intensive take on recent Marvel continuity. I’ll leave the various Cthulhu supplements to the horror authorities among us.

Science fiction

I’ve used various SFRPG supplements in developing the “Vortex” space opera, including Ashen Stars: Dead Rock Seven, Eclipse Phase: Panopticon, and Star Hero. Even though FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer has been our baseline, Bulldogs! is a much clearer presentation of similar rules.

Publishers

I’m not sure that Wizards of the Coast’s polls are the best way to get feedback for “Dungeons & Dragons Next” (5e), and Mongoose still has too many errors in its rulebooks, even if I like that it’s keeping Traveller going. Cubicle 7 has let support for Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre slip, so I voted for the publishers of my other favorite supplements of the past year.

What were your favorites? In addition, don’t forget to vote for which of my campaigns you’d like to see for the face-to-face groups in the coming year! Happy gaming, -Gene

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“Glassworks” Session 4: Disco roach motel

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Jason E.R.‘s latest superhero session, which Brian W. hosted at his home in Newton, Mass., on Monday, 9 July 2012:

>>Player Character roster for Jason E.R.‘s “Glassworks” Bronze Age/noir superhero scenario, using the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game (based on Margaret Weis Productions Ltd.’s Cortex system, originally using DarkPages), as of spring 2012:

  • Kyle Martins/The Cloaked Quarrel” [Gene D.]-male human college student and legacy crime fighter with mystical crossbows
  • Eli Wasserman/the Amazing Mr. Fantastic” [Brian W.]-male metahuman with shadow manipulation, semi-retired superhero and private investigator
  • Rain Tomotowa/Thunderbird” [Sara F.]-female Native American metahuman park ranger, able to change into an eagle
  • Matthew Shanks/Merlin” [Josh C.]-male incubus sorcerer and occultist with an ancient family legacy
  • Tim Gray/DarkStorm” [Bruce K.]-male metahuman super soldier, experimented upon by the government, amnesiac weapons designer for Oryx Industries, and armored vigilante
  • Summer Winters/Santanica Pandemonium” [Rich C.G.]-female human nurse and mother/demon with flame powers, newly aware of her dual nature
  • Ezra Goldman/Daedalus” [Beruk A./absent]-male metahuman with the ability to temporarily imbue machines with personalities
Kyle and Eli
The Cloaked Quarrel and the Amazing Mr. Fantastic in a fight (image from “Archer and Armstrong”)

As an impromptu band of metahumans and crime fighters reviews its cases in Eli’s office, the semi-retired vigilante gets a distress signal from his Seventh Legion communications device. Fanboy Kyle recognizes the “VII” symbol and 1960s technology.

The “Amazing Mr. Fantastic” recognizes the signal as coming from John Getz, a.k.a. “Red Planet.” The group goes to the Indian Beach neighborhood of Hamilton, Del., and finds Getz’s apartment trashed.

Merlin identifies members of the Coven, a New York-based rival to Hamilton’s mystical Conclave, who lie sprawled amid the wreckage. DarkStorm is impressed that Red Planet, a “brick” or “tank” of the Seventh Legion, didn’t go down without a fight.

Eli attends to Getz, who is mortally wounded and gives him a burned-out cintomanni (also called a dragon pearl or philosopher’s stone). Red Planet notes that it was a trophy from King Naga, who disappeared years ago. The costumed villain’s breastplate was part of the jade warrior’s panoply that various parties are seeking.

The rocky brawler says with his last breath that “He was always her white knight.” The mournful Amazing Mr. Fantastic notes that Richard, the White Magus, was once known as the “White Knight.” His partner Eva Ball, who was recently entangled in the Devil Doll arsons, was known as “Damsel.”

Santanica Pandemonium keeps an eye out for Erechtho, Shard, or other members of the Coven. Thunderbird and the Cloaked Quarrel search Getz’s apartment for clues and find an old subway map with an extra line. Apparently, a Metro line to the Annex was built in the late 1960s but was never used — the project’s funds were diverted to the Annex’s infrastructure. The team leaves before the police arrive.

Back at Wasserman’s office, Daedalus keeps watch on prisoner Rasayana, who with Erechtho attacked the estate of industrialist James Orex. Merlin hides the cintomanni in his extradimensional library.

Thunderbird observes that the stations on the train map correspond with the arson sites leading toward Glassworks. The assembled heroes agree to go to the crystal factory at Inneman Station.

DarkStorm makes sure to park his vehicles a safe distance away, and the Cloaked Quarrel shoots a nylon line to lower himself into the disused tunnels. Santanica Pandemonium unfurls her demonic wings and creates a whirlwind to lower the others.

Flashlights in hand, the investigators don’t go far before they meet four cockroach-themed malefactors! Palmetto, whom the Cloaked Quarrel had humiliated in their first encounter, praises “the glory of the mother.”

Death’s Head engages Santanica Pandemonium, who erupts into an infernal blaze. Discoid readies his disc shooter, as Palmetto dodges crossbow bolts. Hisser and Thunderbird trade sonic attacks.

The Amazing Mr. Fantastic misses Discoid, and Thunderbird slams Palmetto into a wall. Death’s Head and Santanica Pandemonium grapple. Merlin conjures up an illusion of a giant can of insecticide, but it’s too dark for his foes to see.

DarkStorm uses his staff to parry shots from Discoid, while Merlin casts Chain Lightning. A muscular man wearing a mask watches the conflict from the sidelines. Santanica Pandemonium later identifies him as Ilya Petrovich, or “Tarakan,” the bodyguard of Russian mob boss Ozerov.

Cloaked Quarrel misses Hisser, who responds by inflicting horror on the young hunter. DarkStorm drives off Hisser, and Santanica Pandemonium tackles Death’s Head. Thunderbird disrupts Hisser’s sonic scream with a thunderclap.

Palmetto blasts his stink guns at Cloaked Quarrel, who narrowly dodges. Discoid and DarkStorm maneuver, while the Amazing Mr. Fantastic blinds Palmetto with darkforce manipulation.

Death’s Head pummels Santanica Pandemonium, but superior Thunderbird saves her winged ally by knocking him out. Discoid’s weapons find their mark, wounding DarkStorm, and the do-gooders stumble about in the dark.

Santanica Pandemonium ends the battle by blasting the area with flame. Three of the four roaches scuttle away, but Petrovich apparently broke Death’s Head’s neck rather than allow him to talk. DarkStorm and Santanica Pandemonium take his mask as a trophy and for further analysis.

The subway spelunkers continue on toward Inneman Station. Music from the ’60s emanates from speakers, and inside a wall, they find the skeleton of King Naga. According to the Amazing Mr. Fantastic, he had fought Harrier back in the 1950s before reforming.

Merlin takes the jade breastplate, and the Cloaked Quarrel tracks wires from a speaker northwest to a strange vending machine in Stevens Station. It dispenses Indian-brand candy, which was manufactured at the factory where the group recently encountered Devil Dolls and a mystic dragon cage.

Santanica Pandemonium knocks the dispenser over, exposing elaborate machinery and more wires spreading through the tunnels. The women who were turned into masked, wrapped pyromaniacs must have each placed a quarter in this machine, even though it’s in an unused station. More mysteries.

Back on the surface, the super friends continue their many inquiries. DarkStorm finds out that Mora Burch, the wife of a missing scientist found turned into glass, was originally entomologist Mora Petrovich, tying her to both the Russian mafia and Oryx Industries. She must be the “mother” Palmetto referred to.

Santanica Pandemonium interrogates Rasayana, whose real name is Keith Lucido. The goon says that Erechtho merely hired him and gave him alchemical armor (with some invisibility). Eli then turns Lucido over to the police.

Thunderbird and Merlin consult seer Kittaguka. The old woman tells them that Dream Hunter and the Coven have the helmet of the jade warrior. The Cloaked Quarrel has his bow, Santanica retrieved daggers, and King Naga had the breastplate.

DarkStorm and the Cloaked Quarrel go to meet the Red Right Hand at the Forcements. The violent vigilante tells the armored wonder and crossbow-wielding kid that “everybody’s looking for a warehouse in the South Market — the Russians, the Italians, the Coven, and the Conclave.”

The Amazing Mr. Fantastic recalls that D.J. Sharrif hired him to find missing chemist Boyd Burch and believes that he may be tied to dragons. Burch had gone to Ozerov for protection against the Galati crime family because of his gambling debts. He and the roaches apparently sought the dragon pearls for glassified Mora.

Kittaguka tells Thunderbird that King Naga, like her ancestors, was a dragonslayer. Merlin says the package that everyone is looking in the South Market could be the last cintomanni, the helmet, or even a dragon.

Merlin goes to the White Magus to share what he has learned so far and to ask about the Devil Dolls and Red Planet. The Cloaked Quarrel wonders why so many people are seeking the pearls and the related jade warrior’s panoply.

After dropping off Lasido, Eli finds Faisal Marzug in his office. On behalf of Ms. Sharrif — who wants to rename Hamilton’s Annex sector as “Fatima” — Marzug gives Eli a check for $25,000 and says that his services are no longer needed.

Late one night, Santanica Pandemonium receives a shadowy visitor. The “independent interest” offers to lead Summer to her son Timmy (and presumably, ex-husband Bobby Galati) in return for the inactive dragon pearl.

DarkStorm learns about Todd Klucas and that the Hamilton Candy Co., which produced the Indian Head brand, was bought by D.J. Sharrif. This connects back to the strange machinery and the mystic dragon cage….

While I’m sorry that we were unable to meet for Brian’s Dungeon Crawl Classics demonstration this past Monday, I look forward to the penultimate “Glassworks” game next week!

In the meantime, it was good to see The Amazing Spider-Man with some of you, and I look forward to The Dark Knight Rises and the FATE 3e “Vortextelecom space opera this Sunday. Please remember to vote in the poll about upcoming face-to-face games at the Yahoo/eGroups Web club when you get a chance.

“Glassworks” Session 3: Alley of the Devil Dolls

Fellow role-players, here are the notes for Jason E.R.‘s latest face-to-face game, which Brian W. hosted at his home in Newton, Mass., on Monday, 25 June 2012:

>>Player Character roster for Jason E.R.‘s “Glassworks” Bronze Age/noir superhero scenario, using the “Marvel Heroic Roleplaying” game (based on Margaret Weis Productions Ltd.’s “Cortex” system, originally using DarkPages), as of spring 2012:

-“Kyle Martins/The Cloaked Quarrel” [Gene D.]-male human college student and legacy crime fighter with mystical crossbows

-“Eli Wasserman/the Amazing Mr. Fantastic” [Brian W.]-male metahuman with shadow manipulation, semi-retired superhero and private investigator

-“Rain Tomotowa/Thunderbird” [Sara F.]-female Native American metahuman park ranger, able to change into an eagle

-“Matthew Shanks/Merlin” [Josh C.]-male incubus sorcerer and occultist with an ancient family legacy

-“Tim Gray/DarkStorm” [Bruce K.]-male metahuman super soldier, experimented upon by the government, amnesiac weapons designer for Oryx Industries, and armored vigilante

-“Summer Winters/Santanica Pandemonium” [Rich C.G.]-female human nurse and mother/demon with flame powers, newly aware of her dual nature

-“Ezra Goldman/Daedalus” [Beruk A.]-male metahuman with the ability to temporarily imbue machines with personalities

>>Session 3: “Getting the Shaft” or “Alley of the Devil Dolls

Abandoned warehouses
The scenic warehouse district

In response to a rash of arsons and mysterious murders, a strange group of people gathers in Hamilton, Delaware. Kyle summarizes what he and his newfound super friends have learned so far for Eli:

-The Case of the Masked Arsonists: The masked and wrapped women known as “Devil Dolls” have been setting incendiary devices around the city.

Devil Doll I was caught setting fire to properties belonging to the White Magus, leader of the mystical Conclave to which Matthew belongs. She was later revealed to be Eva Ball, former partner of Richard/the White Magus, and was taken for treatment to Rain’s grandmother, the shaman Kittaguka. Mute Eva recalled escaping from some institution.

Devil Doll II was captured while setting fires in a line leading to a factory in the Glassworks neighborhood. She turned out to be Maggie Orex, daughter of James Orex, the founder of arms firm Oryx Industries.

Maggie was also Tim’s girlfriend, who was believed to be dead, and both Eva and Maggie suffered from serious physical and emotional/mental injuries.

-The Case of the Glass Woman: Upon foiling a Mancari Security armored car heist by the costumed Palmetto, the Cloaked Quarrel had discovered a glass woman in a metal casket. She was Mora Burch, wife of the missing Boyd Burch, a chemist at tobacco firm D.J. Sharrif.

Eli had been hired by Faisal Marzoug on behalf of Ms. Sharrif to find Boyd, who had been kidnapped from D.J. Sharrif’s facilities at 54 Tennant Street in the Annex — a neighborhood that Sharrif wants to rename “Fatima.”

Meanwhile, DarkStorm had gotten a tip from fellow vigilante the Red Right Hand about Burch’s former CalTech classmate, Oryx scientist Albert Boyle. Boyle had been found murdered near a warehouse at 315 Mycroft Ave. in Fairmont. Burch had been working on something called “Project Jabberwock,” which involved “reverse-engineered DNA” and “umbral matter.”

Near where Russian mobsters (led by a man named Ozerov) had been watching Burch’s apartment, the Cloaked Quarrel had found primal runes later translated as “Little Jack Horner.” Kyle also made contact with the Red Right Hand and believed that the D.J. Sharrif and Oryx Industries cases were somehow connected.

-The Case of the Dragon Pearl: Merlin and Thunderbird had been assigned by the Conclave, a group of about six mages, to search the South Market for the “cintamanni,” a.k.a. the “Philosopher’s Stone” and the organ responsible for certain dragons’ flight. While apprehending the Devil Dolls, they had encountered Santanica Pandemonium.

The fiery winged woman had fought Erichtho of the Coven over a jade dagger at the Ramsaeir Museum of Natural History. Summer’s ex-husband Bobby Galati, of the Galati crime family and Mancari Security, eventually surrendered the dagger to her at All Saints Hospital.

Santanica/Summer also later mentioned that she had been seeing the face of Dr. Ben Nitten (who had summoned three demons to question her) and some peasant flickering around other people. Is he a shapeshifter, some spirit possessing victims, or a figment of her fractured imagination?

The “jade warror’s panoply” apparently included the jade dagger and the Cloaked Quarrel’s crossbows. Other mystics from the Conclave and Coven, including Shard, were hunting for the cintamanni.

-Making connections: While the Red Right Hand may have killed Albert Boyle for his involvement in shady Oryx Industries research, Boyd Burch was likely also searching (or had even obtained) the dragon pearl to try to change his wife Maura back to flesh and blood.

Because of his gambling debts, Burch had apparently turned to Ozerov for protection, even as Mancari Security had his wife, and Bobby Galati ended up with the jade dagger that Erichtho had taken from the museum.

How were the jade warrior’s panoply and the cintomanni connected? What were the Dragon Dolls trying to flush out with fires toward Glassworks, and for whom? Who wrote the primal runes, and what was Dr. Nitten?

-Back into the field: Rain and Tim go to Kittaguka’s to check on Maggie. The Native American shaman tells her granddaughter that Devil Doll II’s wounds were caused by science, not magic, and that she needs herbs from Kunzang Tenzin, a member of the Conclave, from which she was expelled. Matthew and Kyle plan to visit the White Magus to check on Eva/Devil Doll I.

Summer is upset to find that her ex-husband Bobby is missing, along with her son Timmy. Now aware of her Santanica Pandemonium identity, she asks her former mother-in-law about Timmy. Apparently, the Galati crime family is angry that Bobby has gone into the witness protection program and fears that he may expose the family’s leadership to law enforcement.

Eli calls in his “science guy,” Ezra Goldman/”Daedalus,” to track down Palmetto. However, the “Amazing Mr. Fantastic” and Daedalus, as well as Merlin and the Cloaked Quarrel, are sidetracked when Santanica Pandemonium calls for backup as she, Thunderbird, and DarkStorm go to the warehouse in Fairmont where Albert Boyle’s body was found.

An alley connects Mycroft and Pallas Avenues, running between an apparently abandoned factory and a warehouse whose security DarkStorm found was still active. The Amazing Mr. Fantastic believes that the warehouse is a decoy or trap and that the best way to any subterranean hideout is through the factory.

Thunderbird and Santanica fly to the roof of the warehouse and use their wings to buffet security cameras out of position. Daedalus reroutes other monitors near the doors, then he and DarkStorm join the others at the factory. They easily break in through a window.

The Cloaked Quarrel finds machinery under tarps that has been reassembled in a strange configuration. The Amazing Mr. Fantastic looks for clues and sees scratch marks in the floor. Santanica Pandemonium keeps watch outside.

In a dusty office, Merlin and company find unused “Indian”-brand candy wrappers belonging to the defunct Hamilton Candy Co. He and DarkStorm also find a cargo elevator that leads to a lit shaft.

Daedalus and the Cloaked Quarrel find that some of the devices can be moved to slots in the factory floor, but as they interact with one, it pierces a barrel of fluorescent goo. The Amazing Mr. Fantastic contains it with his summoned shadows, even though the private detective doesn’t like using his powers.

Armored DarkStorm and the magical Merlin descend and find a corridor with about 20 Devil Dolls! The masked women stand in rows, seemingly inert. Closer examination determines that they are inhibited by pieces of “magic candy.”

Merlin hits all of the Devil Dolls with a Lightning Storm spell, forcing the lozenges out of their mouths. The wrapped saboteurs then begin advancing toward the two metahumans!

In avian form, Thunderbird flies down but tells the Cloaked Quarrel that everything is under control. Gadgeteer Daedalus and the young Cloaked Quarrel are curious about the machinery, while the Amazing Mr. Fantastic recommends caution and notes the commotion down below.

Santanica Pandemonium enters and is drawn to the devices. The Cloaked Quarrel draws his mystical crossbows in alarm, but the fiery woman comes to and identifies the devices (later confirmed with Merlin’s divination) as components of a “mystic dragon cage.”

Winged Thunderbird knocks down some of the Devil Dolls, and Santanica flies down and pulls out DarkStorm, who doesn’t want to harm the women, and Merlin. The group narrowly escapes the factory, despite Merlin and Santanica’s desire to destroy it.

The crime fighters regroup and discuss what to do next. Thunderbird goes to Kittaguka and asks about the dragon cages. She learns that her ancestors were known as dragon slayers (Unktehila), a history that seems related to the hunt for the cintamanni.

Merlin has one of the candies chemically analyzed and contacts White Magus. Summer/Santanica wants to send a bloody message to the Galati family but decides to leave her ex-husband and son in the relative safety of witness protection until she can solve her cases.

Eli uses his psychology experience to help Maggie remember her time as a Devil Doll. She writes that the fires were set to drive something out of the buildings. The Amazing Mr. Fantastic theorizes that Faisal may have hired him on behalf of a real dragon.

Despite the Cloaked Quarrel’s misgivings, DarkStorm brings Maggie to her father James Orex. Summer accompanies them as a nurse and is alarmed when she recognizes the butler as Dr. Nitten!

James seems happy to be reunited with his daughter, but his house goes into security lockdown as Santanica and Merlin look for Dr. Nitten. Metal plates drop in front of windows, security guards scramble through the mansion and its grounds, and the outer gates close and lock.

The rest of the would-be superheroes borrow one of Matthew’s vehicles and get past the outer perimeter’s security measures. Santanica blasts through doors and walls and pursues a nearly invisible man.

Matthew’s secret identity as DarkStorm is blown before his boss, but James says his first concern is Maggie’s safety. The CEO of Oryx Industries claims that Project Jabberwock was mothballed as a failure and that he knows nothing of the Devil Dolls’ arson scheme or Albert Boyle’s murder.

The Cloaked Quarrel manages to pin the man fleeing Santanica Pandemonium, who redirects her attention at new arrival Erichtho. The flying witch casts fiery snakes at berserk Santanica and Thunderbird. Merlin and the Amazing Mr. Fantastic try to block Erichtho, but she, Rasayana (the man with the invisibility suit), and Dr. Nitten teleport away.

DarkStorm tries to do damage control with the Orexes and calls for law-enforcement backup for the candy factory. He also makes plans with the Cloaked Quarrel to contact the Red Right Hand, mainly about the corporate espionage and organized crime. Daedalus analyzes the candy sample, which uses a neural inhibitor and “reverse-DNA” to control the nearly dead women.

Furious Santanica Pandemonium and Merlin want to track down Erichtho and Dr. Nitten and to find out more about the cintamanni and jade warrior’s panoply. The Amazing Mr. Fantastic, the Cloaked Quarrel, Thunderbird, and Daedalus plan to head to the second factory in Glassworks….

While we didn’t have quorum to continue Rich C.G.’s Way of the Wicked adventure path last night (Monday, 2 July 2012), we did enjoy a School Daze one-shot. I also plan to post an update for the first FATE 3e “Vortex” space opera session with the latest telecom team this past Sunday.

Next week,  I look forward to continuing Jason’s “Glassworks” game, and in the meantime, have a happy Independence Day! -Gene

“Glassworks” Update 2: Devil in the details

Fellow role-players, here are Jason‘s and my notes for Session 2 of our superhero game, which Rich C.G. hosted at his apartment in Waltham, Mass., on Monday, 4 June 2012:

>>Player Character roster for Jason E.R.‘s “Glassworks” Bronze Age/noir superhero scenario, using the “Marvel Heroic Roleplaying” game (based on Margaret Weis Productions Ltd.’s “Cortex” system, originally using DarkPages), as of spring 2012:

-“Kyle Martins/The Cloaked Quarrel” [Gene D.]-male human college student and legacy crime fighter with mystical crossbows

-“Rain Tomotowa/Thunderbird” [Sara F.]-female Native American metahuman park ranger, able to change into an eagle

-“Matthew Shanks/Merlin” [Josh C.]-male incubus sorcerer and occultist with an ancient family legacy

-“Tim Gray/DarkStorm” [Bruce K.]-female metahuman super soldier, experimented upon by the government, amnesiac weapons designer for Oryx Industries, and dark vigilante

-“Summer Winters/Santanica Pandemonium” [Rich C.G.]-female human nurse and mother/demon with flame powers, unaware of dual nature

-“Eli Wasserman/the Amazing Mr. Fantastic” [Brian W./absent]-male metahuman with shadow manipulation, retired superhero and private investigator

-[Beruk A.]-male metahuman with the ability to temporarily imbue machines with personalities

Gotham City Cataclysm
Hamilton in flames

>>Sometime after Santanica Pandemonium encountered snaky sorceress Erichtho at the Ramseir Museum of Natural History, nurse Summer Winters sends an e-mail to her ex-husband, Bobby Galati. Their son Timmy has been asking about his father. Summer then goes to a local library to do some research into a dagger that was stolen from the museum, according to news reports. She isn’t sure why she is curious about this item.

The schizophrenic woman goes to the museum, not realizing that her demonic alter ego already visited it. Summer finds only the gift shop open, and she buys a book cataloging a collection of Asian artifacts including the jade dagger. A picture shows a makara (sea dragon) design in the hilt. Summer studies late into the night….

Meanwhile, three other metahumans have met and captured arsonist “Devil Doll.” DarkStorm drives Thunderbird, Merlin, and their prisoner to the “Little Baghdad” neighborhood of Kingsgate, a section of Hamilton, Delaware. They go to the stately manor of the White Magus.

A strange manservant greets the motley group, and they take the restrained Devil Doll to a sitting room. DarkStorm removes the woman’s mask and sees burn scars and that she is mute. Devil Doll seems to recognize her host, and after she is magically bound and given some writing implements, she identifies herself as Eva Ball, the former partner of the White Magus thought killed in a fire! Merlin divines that she escaped from a hospital-like institution….

Still excited after his first brushes with the superhero community, the Cloaked Quarrel leaves the private detective office of Eli Wasserman in Germantown and returns to the apartment of Boyd Burch at 54 Tenant Street in Kingsgate.

The Russian mobsters whom “The Amazing Mr. Fantastic” had met are gone, and a hopscotch board with odd symbols has been drawn on the sidewalk in front of Burch’s building. The Cloaked Quarrel quickly copies them into his notebook before going in to look for clues to the missing chemist.

Burch’s apartment has been thoroughly ransacked, but the Cloaked Quarrel does pick up some keys and pictures of Burch with his wife and a fellow CalTech grad. A sound in the bathroom brings the Cloaked Quarrel face to face with the Red Right Hand, a violent vigilante.

Kyle eagerly shares what he and Eli have found so far, and “Mr. Hand” gives him a manila envelope with more files and a burner phone in return. The Red Right Hand tells the Cloaked Quarrel that he believes the Russian mobsters were actually trying to protect Burch, possibly from the Galati crime family, because of his gambling debts and connections to tobacco firm D.J. Sharrif….

The next morning, Nurse Winters returns to All Saints Hospital. She confronts Dr. Ben Nitten, who had lured her into an examining room. Not knowing that she had transformed into Santanica Pandemonium, Summer isn’t sure how she got from there to waking up naked in an alley sometime later.

Nitten responds cryptically, gesticulating wildly. He denies any wrongdoing and takes Summer to the security office, where they find Wally, the janitor who had helped her the other day. The nurse’s vision blurs, and Wally somehow becomes guard Billy, and they review fragmentary camera footage.

Summer also glimpses Dr. Nitten flickering back and forth with a dark-haired peasant. She gets sleepy and is surprised to find herself back at home, with her alarm clock ringing for her next shift at the hospital….

White Magus isn’t sure what to do about pyromaniac Devil Doll, especially if she’s his former partner, but Merlin asks her to show him where she escaped from. DarkStorm drives the team back to the not-so-abandoned warehouses at 315 Mycroft Ave. in Fairmont. They find only police tape at the scene of the murder of Albert Boyle, a former colleague of Tim Gray.

On the way back to the White Magus, the would-be heroes learn of another arson. The leader of the mystical Conclave says it’s not one of his properties, and he reluctantly agrees that they should go investigate the blaze at 26 Orissa Street.

As firefighters get the flames under control, Merlin collects ash and scrys upon a woman wearing a mask and cloth wrappings similar to Devil Doll. She is headed northwest. Merlin douses a necklace with a potion of stealth and gives it to DarkStorm.

Thunderbird flies to the roof and is shocked to notice a pattern of holes from vertical fires in a row of buildings leading to the Glassworks section, home of the Hamilton Harriers [see “DarkPages” one-shot]. Since Merlin’s spell tracking “Devil Doll 2” is still active, DarkStorm decides to follow that lead first.

The Cloaked Quarrel reviews the files he got from the Red Right Hand and is waiting to share with The Amazing Mr. Fantastic. Boyd Burch’s wife Mora died about five years ago in an industrial accident. Kyle recognizes her as the glass woman he found while foiling costumed villain Palmetto’s heist of a Mancari Security Co. armored car.

The other man in the photos from Burch’s apartment is Albert Boyle, a biologist at Oryx Industries, which supports D.J. Sharrif’s plan to take over the Annex. The Cloaked Quarrel sets out for the suburb of Blackbird to check on Boyle….

Outside All Saints Hospital, Summer meets ex-husband Bobby Galati. Dr. Nitten appears and encourages their argument. An orderly tries to interpose, and Santanica Pandemonium emerges and rips out his heart!

Horrified, Galati tries to run to his limousine, but Santanica blows it up. He admits that he stashed a jade dagger stolen from the museum in the car, and the succubus retrieves it and flies away….

On the way to Boyle’s house, Kyle is sitting in a city bus when he recognizes DarkStorm behind the wheel of his car (with Merlin, as well as Thunderbird overhead). The superhero fan jumps out, and once he learns that they’re also investigating the arsons, asks to join the case.

Merlin is frustrated when he realizes that he had been magically tracking a dagger that the Cloaked Quarrel got from the first Devil Doll rather than the second arsonist. DarkStorm notes that Boyle is already dead and agrees with the Cloaked Quarrel that their leads are connected.

Another fire erupts, and DarkStorm drives his new acquaintances to it. Rain transforms back into avian form and brings the Cloaked Quarrel to the roof, where he confronts Devil Doll 2. Merlin engages Santanica Pandemonium, who is curious about the inferno.

The Cloaked Quarrel fires bolts from his mystical crossbows, but Devil Doll 2 knocks them away and hurls a knife in return. DarkStorm stashes his vehicle a few blocks away and begins climbing the ornamented exterior of the old theater to get to the roof.

Thunderbird creates a thunderclap with her large wings, briefly weakening the fire. However, Santanica whips up the flames between the Cloaked Quarrel and Devil Doll 2, provoking an attempt by Merlin to banish her with a silver crucifix. The wizard is unsuccessful, and they begin trading verbal barbs.

The second Devil Doll is entagled by a second volley from the Cloaked Quarrel, and DarkStorm unmasks the arsonist. Tim is upset when he recognizes her as Maggie Orex, his former girlfriend thought killed five years ago in a mugging! Her face is bruised, and like Eva Ball, she is apparently mute.

After a few minutes of sparring, Merlin and Santanica stand down at the request of the other crime fighters. The Cloaked Quarrel gets the demoness to go to Evergreen Park to talk. Thunderbird later translates the hopscotch characters as a mix of a nursery rhyme (“Little Jack Horner”) and primal runes.

DarkStorm drives Maggie to Rain’s grandmother, the shaman “Kittaguka,” for treatment of her physical and mental injuries. At Evergreen Park, the team reconvenes to finally compare notes, but Merlin and Santanica Pandemonium continue haggling over the jade dagger.

Arcanists Merlin, Thunderbird, and Santanica wonder about the connection between the Cloaked Quarrel’s ancient crossbows, the “jade warrior’s panoply,” and the dagger that Erichtho of the Coven stole from the museum and that Bobby Galati had.

What’s the significance of the fires leading to Glassworks, and where is the “cintamanni” (dragon pearl or Philosopher’s Stone) that various mystics are hunting? Merlin and Thunderbird had promised the Conclave that they’d search the South Market.

DarkStorm, the Cloaked Quarrel, and [presumably] The Amazing Mr. Fantastic want to investigate the connections between the murder of Orex biologist Albert Boyle, the disappearance of D.J. Sharrif chemist Boyd Birch, and the attempted theft of the glass corpse of Mora Burch.

The Cloaked Quarrel takes DarkStorm to the armored car. They agree that the mix of magic, science, corporate espionage, and organized crime is confusing. A burned-out house bears further examination, and DarkStorm also still wants to find the warehouse in Fairmont.

Further complicating matters is Santanica Pandemonium’s dual nature [and Dr. Nitten]. Summer calls Tim from All Saints Hospital, and when he and Matthew explain what has happened, she begins to remember her activities both as a nurse and a demon.

In the meantime, DarkStorm and Thunderbird decide to go with Santanica/Summer to find her son Timmy. The Cloaked Quarrel and Merlin head to the White Magus to report on their findings and check in on the Devil Dolls. Kyle [+6 x.p. total] also hopes to talk again with Eli and the enigmatic Red Right Hand….

Thanks again, Rich, for hosting Jason’s game! I look forward to tonight’s playtest of Dungeons & Dragons Next (5th Ed.) at Brian’s place. Rich will host and run the Pathfinder: “Way of the Wicked” evil module on Monday, June 18, followed by Jason’s “Glassworks” on June 25.

See also the Yahoo/eGroups message board for our discussions regarding upcoming games, including the Sunday night telecom group‘s return to my “Vanished Lands” fantasy setting after Josh’s FATE 3e “Spelljammer” miniseries. Take it easy, -Gene

“Glassworks” superhero miniseries, Session 1 — Born in flames

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Jason E.R.‘s first full “Glassworks” session (originally using DarkPages), on Monday, 21 May 2012. Note that they may eventually be edited and posted to our Obsidian Portal site. Josh C. also plans to write up his notes.

Metal Month of May
Glassworks in flames

>>Player Character roster for Jason E.R.‘s “Glassworks” Bronze Age/noir superhero scenario, using the “Marvel Heroic Roleplaying” game (based on Margaret Weis Productions Ltd.’s “Cortex” system), as of spring 2012:

-“Kyle Martins/The Cloaked Quarrel” [Gene D.]-male human college student and legacy crime fighter with mystical crossbows

-“Eli Wasserman/the Amazing Mr. Fantastic” [Brian W.]-male metahuman with shadow manipulation, retired superhero and private investigator

-“Rain Tomotowa/Thunderbird” [Sara F.]-female Native American metahuman park ranger, able to change into an eagle

-“Matthew Shanks/Merlin” [Josh C.]-male incubus sorcerer and occultist with an ancient family legacy

-“Tim Gray/DarkStorm” [Bruce K.]-female metahuman super soldier, experimented upon by the government, amnesiac weapons designer for Oryx Industries, and dark vigilante

-“Summer Winters/Santanica Pandemonium” [Rich C.G.]-female human nurse and mother/demon with flame powers, unaware of dual nature

-[Beruk A.]-male metahuman with the ability to temporarily imbue machines with personalities

>>Sometime after “The Gate With the Dreadful Faces” incident, college student and would-be superhero Kyle Martins goes skulking in the Fairmont neighborhood of Hamilton, Delaware. The scent of smoke alerts “the Cloaked Quarrel” to a possible arson, and he runs to an apartment complex where he sees a stairwell on fire.

The Cloaked Quarrel slips past firefighters and police and enters the building, shouldering his way past evacuees. The costumed crimefighter’s attention is divided between devices on the walls and a woman wearing a mask and cloth wrappings….

Meanwhile, across town, Tim Gray is relaxing in his King’s Gate pad when he gets word about a blackmail meeting from the “Red Right Hand,” a fellow vigilante. The weapons inventor suits up as “DarkStorm” and drives to warehouses at 315 Mycroft Ave. They’re supposed to be abandoned, but electronic security is active.

The Red Right Hand’s methods are relatively brutal, so DarkStorm isn’t too surprised to find the body of Albert Boyle with an envelope bearing a bloody handprint. Apparently, Boyle worked at “B” Branch of Oryx Industries, an arms firm that is also Gray’s employer. DarkStorm finds a file mentioning “Project Jabberwock,” which stirs fragmented memories….

In Germantown, the metahuman once known as “The Amazing Mr. Fantastic” gets a well-dressed visitor at his private investigator’s office. Eli Wasserman asks Faisal Marzug to state his business. Marzug explains that he needs Wasserman’s services on behalf of Ms. Sharif, the owner of D.J. Sharrif (a tobacco company) whom was recommended to him by former colleague Whistler Johnson (a.k.a. “Harrier,” now deceased).

Mr. Marzug says that Boyd Burch, a chemist working at D.J. Sharrif, was kidnapped from its offices at 54 Tennant St. in the Annex. Company security cameras caught footage of two men. Eli reluctantly agrees to take the potentially lucrative case, and after Marzug leaves, he calls Sgt. Larry Barley to see what he can find about Burch….

Not far from Kyle’s apartment in Fairmont, student Matthew Shanks hears a scratching at his window. A talking cat summons him to “the Conclave at Spring Unity,” a fountain in Germantown and the site of a secret gathering of mystics.

The heir of Merlin grabs his Irish walking stick and finds other local notables already there, including Rebejah DeJardines, Papa Chango, Kunzang Tenzin, and Metion the Windlord. They are soon joined by Soul Mage, Kerbala, Nethryk the Whisperer, Arcane, Alpha Draconis, and Zodiac, and Shard teleports in. Each represents a different tradition, and there is much posturing. Notably missing are the White Magus and Rainer Burroughs (the latter is M.I.A.).

In the absence of the White Magus, DeJardines leads the Conclave, saying that a “cintamanni,” or “dragon pearl,” the organ responsible for certain dragons’ flight, is missing, as is Rainer Burrows, a protégé of the White Magus….

Nurse Summer Winter is at All Saints Hospital when two patients are rushed into the emergency room. Their uniforms indicate that they were working at the Ramseir Museum of Natural History, and their symptoms indicate that they’ve been poisoned. Nurse Winter calls for toxicologist Ben Nitten.

However, when the doctor arrives, he seems more interested in getting the comely nurse alone in a room than in treating the poison victims. He tries to place her in a circle of containment, but Summer transforms into Santanica Pandemonium. The succubus is surprised to find that she isn’t as powerful as she is used to being….

Rain Tomotowa spends time with her grandmother, “Kittaguka” (a Metinuwak or shaman of the Lenape tribe), who is banned from the Conclave. Kittaguka asks Rain to serve as her representative, so the young woman transforms into “Thunderbird” and flies to the meeting….

Back at the burning building, the Cloaked Quarrel realizes too late that the second stairwell is also set to explode, and he chases the masked woman across the roof. She easily leaps across an alleyway, but Kyle finds himself barely hanging on. He pleads for the woman’s help in an attempt to slow her down. She releases a fire escape with a thrown dagger, which he later retrieves.

The Cloaked Quarrel doesn’t have time to rest or analyze clues because he hears of a “211 in progress at Charlie and 8th” — an armed robbery. After checking his crossbow bracers, Kyle jogs to the site and finds an armored car and the bodies of two guards….

Eli finds that he’s not the only one watching Boyd Burch’s apartment on 54 Tenant St. in King’s Gate. Since nobody notices an old man, Wasserman can get close to two thugs at a coffee shop as they complain about their work for the Russian mob. He recognizes the tattoo on one of them from the security footage of Birch’s abduction….

At the Conclave, “Merlin” meets latecomer Thunderbird and offers to help find the dragon pearl. The group divvies up their search, leaving the South Market to Merlin and Thunderbird. But first, they stop at Kittaguka’s place, where they encounter Rain’s grandmother’s friend Richard, also known as the White Magus. He says that his properties have been victimized by arson, possibly in an attempt to find the artifact. Kittaguka also reveals that in ages past, the Thunderbirds slew many “Unktehila” — great dragons — and kept their cintamanni in a safe place….

Trapped in the summoner’s circle, Santanica Pandemonium rages. Three demon lords — Narasimha (a sphinx), Zhu Bajie (a boar), and Abezethibou (an ogre) — ask three questions:

-“Would you sacrifice the life of Summer Winters to protect a loved one?”

-“Who do you truly blame for your son’s tragedy?”

-“If you knew a crime was being committed by the Galati organization, would you interfere?”

Only Abezethibou likes his answer, so he reveals critical information that Mancari Security Co. is a front for the Galati crime family. Released, Santanica flies on leathery wings to the Ramseir Museum of Natural History.

Santanica crashes through a skylight into a large hall, where she sees a floating woman surrounded by snakes. Pandemonium blasts two guards under Erichtho’s control with hellfire. The serpent sorceress then animates a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, which Santanica smashes from the inside. However, Erichtho flies away….

DarkStorm drives his black sports car to Boyle’s apartment in the suburb of Blackbird, but it has already been tossed by the Red Right Hand. Tim finds that Boyle went to CalTech, and a safe rattles him with dim memories. DarkStorm then rushes to another fire….

Merlin and Thunderbird head to the same arson in Fairmont. A divination reveals that “Devil Doll” is about to set fire in yet another stairwell. The urban wizard helps evacuate the building, while winged Thunderbird chases Devil Doll, who uses parkour to get to a third-story ledge….

At the armored car and dead Mancari Security guards, the Cloaked Quarrel confronts “Palmetto,” a costumed criminal resembling a giant cockroach. As Palmetto threatens to shoot, the arcane archer fires bolts that jam his stink guns.

The Cloaked Quarrel finds a metal casket with a woman seemingly made of glass. He takes the vehicle and casket, which is labled with the name “Boyd Burch,” to an outlying parking lot of his college and heads to Burch’s apartment….

Santanica Pandemonium returns to All Saints Hospital and returns to human form. Without memories of recent events or clothing, the attractive nurse gets help from a janitor named Wally who assumes that she has a drug problem. Summer goes home, where she finds a parchment note note with incomprehensible writing.

Nanny Lucy McGillicutty hands over Summer’s son Timmy, who asks again about when he’ll see his father, Bobby Gallotti. Summer puts him off again and finds a TV news report about a jade dagger stolen from the Ramseir Museum of Natural History strangely fascinating [event milestone: jade warrior’s panoply]….

At Boyd Burch’s apartment, the Cloaked Quarrel is impressed to watch the Amazing Mr. Fantastic pull one of the Russian mobsters into an alley and interrogate him using his shadow powers. The surprised thug admits that he was told by someone named Oserov to watch Birch’s unit.

After the goon is released, the Cloaked Quarrel eagerly introduces himself to the Amazing Mr. Fantastic, who wants nothing to do with an “amateur.” Kyle tries to assure Eli that he is aware of the dangers that crimefighters face. He also says that he has found something strange that belonged to Burch.

Wasserman reluctantly accompanies Martins to the stashed armored car and the glass woman, and they agree that the D.J. Sharrif scientist was involved in something big as they head to Eli’s P.I. office….

DarkStorm arrives at a blazing building and sees a huge bird attacking a woman on a ledge. Not realizing that Thunderbird is trying to stop arsonist Devil Doll, he shoots at Thunderbird until Merlin arrives to straighten things out.

Thunderbird and Merlin later report to the White Magus and turn over Devil Doll to him….

P.S.: As you may have seen from discussions on the Yahoo/eGroups message board, Rich is willing to host a game tomorrow, 4 June 2012. OF course, you should touch base with him and the rest of the group, especially since Josh was wondering if he should try to move his FATE 3e “Spelljammer” game from tonight to Monday.