Monday, November 21, 2011

The Replacement JLA: The Devil is in the Details

We had the fourth session of our superhero campaign on Sunday. (I've started a separate page for the campaign log posts and that can be found here.) It was a bit of an odd duck and two days later, I'm still forming an impression.

Eric, our GM was raising funds for prostate cancer research as part of Movember. To that end, he auctioned off plot twists in our game to the highest bidder. He's a phenomenally gregarious guy who knows a million people, and he wound up raising a bit of money to make the world a better place and got a couple ideas to torment his feckless players. It was one of those rare situations where everybody wins.

We opened on Themyscira, with a bunch of pissed-off amazons demanding to know where Wonder Woman was. This was Dave's first outing with his retooled character, Ash, aka "The Suit". The pitch had been that he'd be *based* on the guy from the Greatest American Hero, but in actual practice, we were treating him as if he *were* that guy, down to the red pajamas, silly name and sillier hair. And I was guilty as anyone, but it did tend to undermine the seriousness of the game. He was reinvented as a globe-trotting explorer who happened to have a suit of alien armor that looked like a uniform. Anyways, he bungled his interaction with the amazons to the point that his severed penis was added to their list of demands. I did no better, absent-mindedly making finger quotes when talking about "Batman". Rächen didn't do as badly, and Blink just mostly stayed quiet and didn't dig us in any deeper.

The Amazons stalked off, saying that they would have words with this "Batman" and we were shooting the shit, (I was like, "Why does John keep calling your mom Milf? Isn't her name Maggie?") then all of a sudden a golem popped up and started blasting at Rächen and warning him that he was in danger.

"You're in danger, my precious!"

He went down pretty quickly, when Ray blasted the animating sigil off of his forehead with an expertly executed called shot.

We poked around the golem and found the artist's imprint the first place we looked, inside its mouth. It would be the first and only time we picked up on any kind of clue. Apparently, one Beatrice Strobel was responsible for this thing. We took it and ported up to the satellite, where we were verbally abused by Batman. Apparently, he thought things would go poorly with the Amazons no matter who the envoy was, so he sent us as a "fuck you" to them and a punishment for us. ("Batman" is kind of a dick.)

We figured John Constantine would know who she was, but he was off on a personal errand, but Mister Terrific was good enough to track him for us. We ported down and Eric asked me for a sanity check, because we arrived right next to John and a hooker in the middle of the act. (On seeing this Katy wordlessly crumpled up the "Do you like Maggie? Yes/No" note she'd been planning to give to John.)

So, after a little bit of screaming, we found John some pants and he told us where we could find Beatrice. We headed on over there and had a chat with the delightfully eccentric Beatrice. She had a pet raptor named Roger. At first I thought this was a request from a fan of Tekken 2, but when I went home to look it up, I saw that Roger was the kangaroo and Alex was the raptor.

Yes, friends. This is the kind of game it was.

Beatrice told us that the golem was named Ulysses and he was her gift to Heinrich, her ex-husband, when they separated. She gave us his address in a shitty part of Gotham (as if there are any other parts of Gotham) and we took off to see him.

Eric had mentioned that this was going to be a skill-focused adventure, and I didn't really think that I'd be able to contribute much to it beyond some interesting interaction, because my character is a seventeen-year old who spent sixteen years growing up in a clean room, but she has a couple super-senses and I gave her high ranks in perception and insight to reflect that, so she actually found a couple clues.

We went up to the apartment, and Ray intimidated a dude threatening his girlfriend by speaking directly into his mind. We got to the apartment and saw some mystical patterns on the door. Ash made his expertise:history roll and identified them as warding patterns used by various cultures, Rächen made his expertise:magic roll and recognized them as Elder Signs.

I peeped through the wall with my x-ray vision and saw Heinrich's eviscerated corpse. Ash was ready to break down the door, but Blink just popped over to the other side and opened it. We poked around for clues for a bit, and noticed that Heinrich did not cast a shadow, and that his heart and fingerprints had been removed. We noticed that his name had been cut out of all the documentation in the apartment. It seemed to be some kind of ritual to erase his identity. I went downstairs to see if the mail still in his mailbox had gotten the same treatment.

Casey: That's a federal offense.
Me: We're the JLA. I'm not afraid of the postmaster general.

The mail still in the box was untouched, so we did more searching. We found some sticky, foul smelling substance on one of the walls, and a box with a box of matches, a small fire extinguisher and a note that read "When in doubt, burn the note."

Just as we opened the box, we got a call from HQ that demons were running riot in Gotham, and it wasn't immediately clear if our opening the box was the cause of that. They ported us over, and the Bloodson, on seeing the other demons, quipped that "High School never ends."

We made pretty short work of them. Eric was trying out the minion rules. (Minions automatically take the worst result from any failed check, so they go down in one hit.) They were immune to attacks with the fire descriptor, so Rächen wound up chucking a big mailbox at them, further irritating the US Postal Service. One of the demons threw a baby like a football, but I made my athletics check and caught it, zipped over and handed it over to a police officer who was cordoning off the area, getting my picture on the front page of every newspaper in America.

The demons poofed away when defeated, (Eric described the effect like the dusting of Buffyverse vampires) and we had enough foresight to capture the last one in order to question him. We tried to intimidate him, but I think we had about five ranks total in intimidation between us so that went about as well as anything we tried. However, I had the halfway bright idea, "Hey, Intimidate is resisted by Will, right? Just use your will draining power on him," and we got him to talk doing that.

Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot to say. The demon mentioned it was part of a horde, and made some threats about what awaited us, but didn't really give us anything actionable. Ash received his second offer of castration for the night. Once again, our powers filled in when our smarts failed us, and we were able to backtrack the residual heat of the demon's flaming footprints back to their source. Ash and I flew, and Ray climbed on to Blink's back and they did quick ports.

Rächen's magic sense started tingling when we passed by a club called Details. I thought it was an odd name for a club, because it made me think of the magazine. It turned out there was a method to Eric's madness, though we didn't learn what it was right until the very end.

Ray and Blink stopped to talk with the gentleman who had set off the alarm. He called himself Mister Mammon and he engaged them in Auric Goldfinger-style sinister banter,

A man of wealth and taste
  while Ash and I continued on and found the warehouse with the portal.

We called in to the satellite of love, but the portal was interfering with our coms, so we couldn't get through, though we did get a hero point for our troubles, so that was nice.

We gathered up the other two and once Ray had a look at the portal, he figured he could devise a ritual to bring it down with seven rounds of prep time. So we just had to keep him alive long enough to do it. Blink looked in to the portal, and saw an Elder Evil, but made his will save. A bunch of minions swarmed in on the second round, but Blink is an absolute beast against minions, and he decimated them with his selective burst area attack.

And then Mister Mammon teleported into our midst and things got really interesting. This was a bear of a fight, and he shrugged off two consecutive critical hits without even a bruise.

Of course, we didn't need to win this fight, just survive it long enough for Rächen to do his thing. My character is more or less the tank of the group. She isn't much tougher than the other characters at this point (and I'll really be glad when we go up a level and become more able to differentiate ourselves through our saves), but she does regenerate from damage very rapidly. The problem is, her regeneration is fueled by sunlight, and the sun went down several hours ago, and there's nothing darker than a Gotham City night.

We held Mammon off long enough for Rächen to do his thing, and we closed the portal, and Blink stunted a nullify effect to drop Mammon's force field, and we managed to start accumulating some hits on him, but he ported out before we could drop him, as a good villain should.

We went to Heinrich's funeral with Beatrice, and with a little prodding, we figured out that we should light the turpentine-smelling fluid on the wall. It spelled out, "THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS" and I was like, "Oh, I get it!" and I proceeded to explain it everyone else, which was rather unnecessary, because they had all figured it out too.

Overall? Good adventure, though the disparate elements at times made the session at feel like a series of vignettes and not a logical progression of cause to effect. They were fun vignettes, though, so I'm not complaining. The fights were good, the investigation was neat, we all had our times to shine and I think everyone had a lot of fun. My biggest disappointment is that we're all going to be so busy that we're not going to have another game until the New Year rolls around. That's okay. The game is good enough that I'm willing to wait.

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