Friday, 15 February 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Eighteen - Becoming Baron (Part Five)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Having made a few allies unsuspecting of their greater goal they have decided that in order to gain influence they need to acquire a barony of their own.
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The now obligatory warning bit - Unlike my other RPG write-ups this one will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. If you can't tell the difference between real peoples opinions and grown-ups role-playing predators who crave blood then this probably won't be for you. I've also used actual photographs to represent some characters which I'll give acknowledgements to at the end if I've any idea who they are.
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The introduction to this campaign, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order...
'Infiltrate LA' Chronicle
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThreeFour
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThree and Four

The PC's

Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
and Hope Romero - Gangrel
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
and Marie - Clan Carna
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Dave as Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested.

As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure Malkavian premonition will turn up in purple. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red...

Storytellers Note - This session was about eight hours in duration so this write-up is fairly long. I also gave them two sessions worth of XP.

Introduction
The discovery that the the coteries neighbours the Blount sisters were diablerists and possibly serial killers was going to have to be a problem for another night as they had a more immediate issue to resolve.

The money they required for their legitimate expansion came from the recreational substances distributed by coterie member Roach and their expansion in this area had bought them into conflict with a mortal gang with considerable resources.

The Malkavian decided the best way to resolve this was to acquire a gang of his own and had ghouled the leader of the Line 20's a gang in downtown that were being pushed out of existence by kindred sponsored rivals. Now a little more reconnaissance would seem to be in order to decide upon the best way of making his new enemy go away...permanently...

Scene Seventeen - Know Your Enemy 
Reuben Hart - Ghoul
Line 20's Leader
Realising that if their plan succeeded they'd have more than enough resources and if it failed then they'd have more pressing concerns Roach contacted Fat Larry and used some of his remaining capitol to acquire twenty bullet-proof vests and an equivalent number of firearms so as to equip enough of the gang to stand a better chance against 'Reaper's own forces once he'd decided exactly where best to hit them.

Reuben Hart the leader of the Line 20's had told Roach that persuading the rest of his people that the move was in their best interests might take a little time and as the equipment he'd ordered would take a few days he decided to spend the time with a little surveillance.

Recruiting two of the bums from the herd of Vin who most looked like a pair of junkies and changing his outfit to match theirs he decided to play the role of customer and see if their were any weak links in Reaper's distribution network. The Malkavian then made a circuit of the campus and surrounding area making small purchases as he went and attempted to engage any of the dealers who might have loose lips into conversation.

It was a long shot and as expected the more serious dealers had no intention of passing the time with a junkie and the weaker ones were apparently too afraid of their boss to make small talk. He did however discover that his sources estimates were somewhat off as a lot more of the corner dealers were professionals than he'd been led to believe with the weaker, unwilling ones being a definite minority.

With no obvious weaknesses discovered he decided to implement the second part of his expansion and see about creating a drug route for his increasing requirements of narcotics.

As the airports were under the control of kindred of significant influence that Roach had no desire to get involved in at this stage he decided he'd need to use one of two major ports he was aware of that were under kindred control. The first belonged to the Ventrue baron of Torrance, David Geduld who controlled the port of Los Angeles and the other to Steve Booth, the Baron of Long Beach whose territory included Long Beach harbour. Long Beach harbour was managed for Steve Booth by a Ventrue called Harvey who kept things running smoothly for the laid back Steve in exchange for a small percentage and feeding rights.

Scene Eighteen - The Baron of Long Beach
Jenna Cross - Caitiff
Thin-Blood Baron
Had their drug operation been under the control of the Toreador Michael it's possible they would have gone to David but as it was under the overview of the Malkavian he decided the more relaxed Steve might be easier for him to deal with. Not wanting to go off without at least some background information Roach decided to pay a visit to Jenna Cross and her thin-bloods to see what they knew about Steve and also ensure that the chat she'd had with his ally Michael when he had been forced to lure her from her office as they dealt with a Sabbat bomber (whose target selection had been somewhat their fault) hadn't caused any ripples in his long term plans.

Jenna confirmed that Steve Booth had a condo on the beach, just east of the harbour which may or may not be his haven but was definitely the place to find him of an evening as the nearby beach apparently had the best surfing conditions. As far as she knew he was content with his domain though defended it's borders against intruders like most barons. It was however common knowledge that his neighbours in Torrance had their eyes on Long Beach harbour as possessing both would give him a lot of economic potential and power. Deciding that if surfing was Steve's thing it might be a good way to curry some favour he found himself a surf shop on the permanently open pier and bought himself a surfboard and some shorts. Roach who had many repressed memories due to mental trauma suffered in the Vietnam war was never quite sure whether the thoughts in his head were real recollections or delusions so he thought it might be a good idea to see if he could actually surf...as it turned out not only could he surf, but he was actually quite good at it.

Storytellers Note - So the Malkavian put on some shorts, went surfing and got a success on every dice he rolled so we decided he could surf. I gave the player a free specialisation in surfing, I mean it's not like it'll come up that often, but I felt the moment needed commemorating lol.

After purchasing a bike rack for his surfboard from the same shop he decided to take a ride down to Long Beach to see if he could negotiate a deal to smooth the way for his drug shipments. Other than an unfortunate tendency to wobble when taking corners his motorbike skills weren't bad either and he was soon at the border of Steve's domain. Almost immediately after crossing the border a pair of kindred on dirt bikes began to flank him as he made his way to Steve's beach condo though the going became a bit tricky as he reached the actual beach due to his particular bike not being a great choice for riding over sand.

Steve Booth - Brujah
Baron of Long Beach
Intercepted on the way in by the two dismounted bikers he was escorted to the front of a building with heavy-duty shutters over the windows though they were currently open. A fairly relaxed beach party was going on and Roach's mystical sight could detect a mixture of kindred, ghouls and mortals. Sprawled out on a bench on the front deck of the beach-house was a tall handsome, well built man with short, blonde hair who was undoubtedly the Long Beach baron Steve Booth chilling with two ghouls. The two kindred who had followed him to the house were nearby but seemed content to let the newcomer get on with his business. Roach pulled up a chair, lit up joints for himself, Steve and the two nearby ghouls before getting straight to the point. "I'd like to bring a shit-load of drugs through your harbour..."

After what was possibly the most relaxed negotiation in kindred history Roach and Steve came to terms about the use of the docks and permission to cross his turf. "Harvey runs the docks for me. If I tell him it's cool he'll sort your shit in and out no drama. Any 5.0 aggro you chill yourself, If I have to get my dudes involved the deals off and you and the rest of your grommets get rag-dolled, yes?" Steve seemed confident that the kindred running the harbour on his behalf could be trusted with the financial side of the operation because as he said  "Harvey gets his cut, He'll make sure I get mine".

David Geduld - Ventrue
Baron of Torrance
The Malkavian also broached the subject of the barony of Torrance and on this subject the surfing Brujah was marginally less relaxed. "Yeah, Got some neighbour issues at the moment, Davey Boy in Torrance is pushing his luck. Might have to call up the bros in Huntington Beach and straighten his shit out if he does anything stupid." The conversation then ended abruptly as Steve noticed one of his Bro's heading towards the surf and grabbed his board. Still confident after his first attempt Roach grabbed his from the bike and joined in.

Storytellers Note - I have a feeling this might become a thing. I suppose I better watch 'The Lost Boys' again as reference material.

All eyes were on their leader who was undoubtedly an expert surfer so the Malkavian's much poorer performance this time went unnoticed. He then spent a quite enjoyable evening relaxing with Steve and his Bro's before checking back in on Reuben's progress on his way back to the haven, using his 'appearing from nowhere' trick in order to reinforce any doubts that the gang leader might have had about the reality of the previous night. While there Roach got a status report before feeding Reuben his blood a second time. With things going rather well he returned to the gallery to wait for the various threads of his scheme to weave together.

Scene Nineteen - A Gift From Sophia
Sophia Bartholomew - Toreador
Artist
Sophia Bartholomew arrives at the gallery accompanied by a short, muscular woman who you presume is a bodyguard of some description based on her manner. "I'd like to speak to Mr Tomassio or one of his associates if he's unavailable?"

Lisa rang through to Michael's office to inform him he had a guest and upon hearing it was Sophia briefly checked to make sure he was suitably attired and headed down to meet her. Roach who had decided to give himself this night off was relaxing in his usual spot above the rear fire escape though he was quite capable of using his enhanced senses to hear any conversations going on downstairs so stayed where he was. Michael made the usual introductions and expressed his pleasure at seeing her once again.

"I understand that the task you recently performed was primarily a matter between you and Mariel but as you indirectly provided a service for myself also, I'd like to show my gratitude in a more tangible manner." "If you can allow my delivery people entry to you loading bay I have a few items for you." Three men in overalls began to unload two large shipping crates of the kind used for transporting paintings, several other boxes of varying sizes and a single narrow case that they seemed to be taking particular care of. "There are some paintings of mine that you may exhibit or sell as you wish and some work of several of my 'brothers'. They indulge their creative desires but have no desire to exhibit their work. I thought perhaps you might make some use of them?"

Roach's curiosity got the better of him and he decided to have a look at what exactly the artist of the Bartholomew family had bought with her. Her own works consisted of a total of nine paintings, six of which were landscapes, two were more abstract pieces and there was also a single cityscape and were all extremely high quality work. However it was the work of her brothers that interested the Malkavian.

Amongst the works were three elaborate carvings of mythical creatures, a dozen statues of different coloured glass which were mostly naked male and female figures and a pair of stone sculptures depicting a man and woman. Both were separate works but intertwined when placed together. Though all were impressive technical pieces to Roach's unusual senses the glass statues all seemed very slightly wrong as if the sculptor saw proportions very slightly differently to normal and he began to see none-humanoid features appear upon them the longer he stared though to Michael they looked perfectly normal. It was however the stone statues that were to trigger the Malkavians abilities as a seer.

Portrait of Michael
You see the woman in the stone sculpture gasping for breath as a thin cord is tightened around her neck, the man screams as needles pierce his flesh and in both visions the killers face is the same. Though you've never met him you are sure that this is the face of Archibald Bartholomew's childe George and the figures immortalised in stone are carved images of two of his victims.

Oblivious to the Malkavian, Sophia continued talking to Michael and reached for the single portrait case "This is however a personal gift" The parcel contained an impressive portrait of Michael and was in his opinion one of the best of her works he'd ever seen. Thanking her profusely they chatted for a few minutes longer and then she departed with her bodyguard. While they had been talking Roach had taken the glass and stone statues to one of the side rooms of the exhibition hall and made a display of them with the stone statues at the centre and the nine glass creations in a rough circle around them. Seemingly pleased with his creation the Malkavian returned to his usual spot while Michael worked out where in his office would be the best place to put up the painting of himself.

Scene Twenty - Marie
Marie - Clan Tremere
House Carna
As Sophia leaves another woman arrives who can only be described as stunning. Tall and elegant with dark hair who wanders in as if she owns the building. 

The woman walked through the gallery straight to the security door barring entrance to the private offices upstairs and seemed somewhat irritated that there was no-one waiting to grant her entry. As Michael asked what the stranger wandering around his gallery wanted she informed him she was here to see a "Mr West." This threw Michael for a moment as he had never actually heard Roach referred to by his real name and had quite frankly never bothered to ask what it was. "I am here to enhance the protection of your home on a more...metaphysical level. Marius sent me on Mr West's request" The Toreador then made the connection between the conversation he'd had with Roach about needing wards to protect the galleries private areas in light of the kindred they'd released from imprisonment at the Vignes hands and the name. "I'll show you the areas we need protecting and then leave you to it if that's acceptable?" "Oui" was the only answer he received.

After giving her the promised tour and then leaving her to her own devices Michael asked Roach to come to his office to discuss what they were going to do about the map of the suspected havens of the kindred of Los Angeles. Michael's initial plan was to make a copy of the map and transfer only some of the information on it so it appeared that only the obviously known kindred meeting places and locations had been discovered by the Sabbat. This would give them a tactical advantage should they move against another barony.

Roach suggested however that as they now knew that only the coterie and the now very dead Sabbat were aware of the maps existence that they should keep it completely a secret. Enough information existed to prove what the kindred had been without needing further collaboration and the map would be a much more valuable tool if as few people as possible were aware that they had any knowledge of their rivals havens. It might even work as a tool to unite the remaining baronies together at some point in the future which would put them one step closer to restoring the Camarilla to power. The one problem with Roach's plan was however that Michael had already let Marius know about a map with his own bases on it but he hadn't mentioned any other details. Roach wasn't overly concerned about this as in his opinion if asked they could just say that those were the only locations indicated and they needn't mention the notebook of names at all.

Marius Walker - Autarkis Gangrel
Occasionally Prone to Overreaction...
Michael was somewhat concerned about the idea of deceiving the notoriously dangerous Gangrel 'Fixer' but conceded that Roach's plan would give them the best chance of accomplishing their long term goals. As the Malkavian opened the door to leave he almost walked into Marie who was standing just outside. "I couldn't help but overhear your interesting conversation...perhaps we should talk?.."

It soon became apparent that Marie had heard every word of their plotting and knew that they were Camarilla agents, had a map of the havens of LA's kindred and were keeping important information from their Mawla who was also broadly speaking her employer and protector. It soon became clear that her price for keeping this information to herself was the large quantities of blood she required to perform her rituals and also some protection. Though she already had one such protector given what she had in her possession more would be even better. Michael agreed in principle to an 'arrangement' but wanted more details about what exactly she possessed that was so important.

Carna - 'The Princess Witch'
House Carna
Marie explained that after the collapse of the Clan Tremere structure more commonly known as 'The Pyramid' the clan had split into three main houses and she was affiliated to one known as House Carna. The item she possessed was a copy of a tome said to be used by her house founder to sever her blood bond and that it was sought after by other houses of the Tremere who wished to destroy it.

In short in return for their pledge to help her keep this item safe she would keep their secrets to herself and assist them with magical wards far more powerful than those she normally crafted for 'clients'. Realising that their agreement was effectively based on blackmail she decided to show her commitment by starting on the more powerful magical protections immediately. The only slight stumbling block was that any wards or protective magics that intersected with the coteries library were immediately undone by the spirits they'd inherited that were bound to the volumes within so the sorceress placed those nearby more carefully.

Storytellers Note - Their occult library is haunted....for reasons unlikely to be explained any time soon...

Unsure whether they'd gained a new ally or a new problem Roach decided to return to an issue that he at least could do something about namely the removal of the rival to his drug empire.

Scene Twenty One - Don't Fear the Reaper
Twenty bullet-proof vests and the equivalent number of firearms and ammunition for the same had been delivered as promised by 'Fat' Larry and Roach delivered them to the gang he now controlled. He instructed their leader Reuben to ready an appropriate number of his men and to ensure at least one of them was a lieutenant he could trust. They were to make themselves ready so when he called they could assist him to remove his enemy and take-over his organisation for themselves. He also took the opportunity to give his ghoul a third drink of his own blood thus bonding the gang leader to himself.

Hope Romero - Autarkis Gangrel
Deciding that the time for subtlety was over he obtained the number of the Gangrel Hope who was employed patrolling the borders of their territory and had been so helpful in dealing with the recently encountered Sabbat. Hope was of course more than happy to assist once she learned that their target was a rapist who dealt drugs to teenage girls. Vin was of course up for anything that involved mindless violence but unfortunately Daniel was unavailable having found it necessary to do some work in his identity as a surgeon so as to stock up on the supplies of bagged blood which were his primary source of sustenance. Roach informed them all that he'd arranged a meeting with this 'Reaper' at a remote location in the Pasadena wilderness that was mainly used by Vin to practice shooting things somewhere out of the way. It was there he hoped his gang would be able to eliminate the opposing one with the kindred there to assist. "I presume you're planning an ambush then?" asked Hope. There was a slight pause, "I am now..." was the Malkavian's reply.

Roach had prepared the large abandoned warehouse unit at the specified location with graffiti that indicated that this was the Line 20's actual base and had parked his old van that they had used for transportation within it as temporary cover. Several of the gang were concealed in a forested area nearby in order to cover any retreat and also to secure a weak point in the fence surrounding the compound. The rest were waiting within to ambush the hopefully surprised enemy gang who Roach imagined would be coming in force despite any agreements they'd made about the meet-up. Vin and Hope were also concealed by the tree-line but were positioned to assault the Reapers gang from the rear as they approached the ambush site.

As he was expecting treachery Roach wasn't surprised when more or less the entire of the Reapers gang turned up in a dozen vehicles, nor when Reuben's lieutenant Jevonte informed him that half a dozen men were approaching the building from the rear in a flanking manoeuvre predicted already by Hope. What was of more concern was that the force outnumbered them by at least ten and were better armed. Of course what they didn't have was a Brujah or a Gangrel.

Bullets from over a dozen weapons from within shredded the first of Reapers men and as his flanking force ran forward alerted by the sound of gunfire the majority of those were cut down by Jevonte's force concealed in the woods. The survivors of the gang lieutenants ambush made an attempt to return fire but had no cover to speak of and found themselves pinned down, losing another three of their number.

Those survivors of the opening salvo retreated from the warehouse as others gave them covering fire losing several more as rounds struck them in the back. Though the initial onslaught had been one-sided the enemy had overcome their initial shock and were taking up firing positions with better cover. Some were firing sporadically from behind the warehouse doors which were of little threat but others using their vehicles as cover had better lines of sight to the gang within. Jevonte had finished off the initial flankers but more of the gang were circling the building and were approaching the weak point at the rear. It was time for the Malkavian to play his two trump cards.

The van had been positioned to shield a prepared escape route so it was impossible to see from the main entrance and Roach commanded his own gang to pull back while he gave covering fire, unloading his assault rifle over the barrier without even looking. Once his mortal allies had disappeared from sight he himself vanished from view as he signalled for Vin and Hope to make their presence felt. The circling group of the rapist and murderers gang found themselves caught in a crossfire from those Line 20's in the woods and those withdrawing from the building and were shredded from two directions. The first those using their own cars as cover knew that they weren't alone was the wet splat as Hope's shotgun removed ones head soon followed by a fully automatic shotgun wielded by Vin emptying it's twenty round drum into those who turned to investigate.

As the amount of firepower heading in his direction reduced considerably due to the noisy assault from the two kindred, Roach emerged under the cover of his cloaking disciplines and circled around the interior wall. As a result of his abilities the one foolish scumbag who had moved into the building to investigate had only a second to register his surprise as a man in a purple t-shirt appeared from nowhere and shot him neatly through the forehead before stepping back into the shadows and fading from sight. As their weapons emptied both shotgun wielding vampires dropped their firearms and closed to melee range. Potence enhanced fists from the Brujah killed three as Hope hacked a pair to death with a fire axe she somewhat worryingly kept handy for just such a situation.

Panic fire caught the pair and inflicted several superficial wounds as Vin flipped a car over which stood between him and his next victim while the Gangrel extended vicious claws from her fingertips slicing out two throats and inflicting a horrendous eviscerating wound on a third target. Point blank range, fully automatic weapon fire struck Vin centre mass but wasn't enough to significantly damage the unfeeling, undead flesh of the brawler whose counter-attack hit with such force that the shooter's upper body disintegrated in a shower of blood and viscera. Amongst the remnants of his decimated gang the tattooed and heavily muscled form of the self styled 'Reaper' tried to bring some order to his now terrified men without success. As Vin ripped off a car door to get at a fleeing victim, Hope instead had set her self the task of dealing with their leader.

Hope casually sliced through the reapers groin and up through his stomach with protean crafted claws before finishing him off almost dismissively and turning her attention to the rest. Now caught up in the thrill of the chase she bought down one of the three survivors, tore out his throat and then dragged another to the ground, losing control for a moment she ripped him apart not even bothering to feed until there was little left but fragments of flesh and splinters of bone. Correctly assuming that the sole survivor of the massacre was the last thing on her mind currently the Brujah pursued him as he attempted to out-distance his relentless pursuer.

Roach had given the gang the location of one of the many properties the coterie had acquired from the Vignes estate and informed Reuben and Jevonte to head there in anticipation of moving the rest of the gang to Pasadena. He also wanted to ensure there were no mortal witnesses to the blood bath his fellow kindred had carried out. Acquiring what car keys he could from the carnage the Malkavian began to move first vehicles and then bodies into the bullet ridden building before setting the whole thing alight. When Vin returned to the gallery an hour later where a simple nod indicated that the last of Reapers men had failed in his getaway attempt. Roach of course had no desire to know the details, merely that all loose ends were now cleaned up.

Reuben Hart, the new leader of the Line 20's had already started to relocate his gang to the properties provided by Michael and had sent men to salvage what they could of their vanquished rivals operation and round up any of his victims in case they could be utilised by his own gang. Material assets were also taken including stockpiles of weapons and drugs as well as retrieving the few remaining useful assets of his own operation but the task was still in it's early stages.

For only the second time Marius visited Galerie Sanguine and for once was accompanied by neither Victoria or Yukio. It was no surprise to Roach that he strolled through the wards created by Marie as he had suspected she would have created them so he could pass through as she was still significantly reliant on him for protection though the reason for his visit was of more interest. After extracting himself from his ghoul Heather who expressed her pleasure at seeing him both vocally and physically he made his way to their upstairs meeting room. As usual he dispensed with any pleasantries. "Another busy night I hear?" Of course it wasn't really a question.

Louis Fortier - Ventrue
Baron of West LA
Roach confirmed that they'd been forced to deal with a rival to their operations but had cleaned up after themselves as usual. Marius continued. "It seems that Baron Fortier is as prone to flights of fancy as the mortals of Downtown and has managed to get caught up in the legend of the seemingly unkillable Santiago Francisco." Roach had a fair idea of where this was going but kept silent in case he was mistaken. "He has therefore hired me to find him and kill him as he believes he is the only thing stopping the gangs under his control from dominating West Los Angeles and the rest of Downtown." He paused briefly and the Malkavian got to see the rare sight of an amused Marius "This is especially ironic as both you and I know he doesn't exist...so how exactly should we go about resolving this situation?"

Roach assured Marius that Santiago Francisco would never be heard of again even as a rumour as the Line 20's were now under new management. "Actually..." interrupted Marius "...perhaps it would also be beneficial if the Line 20's also ceased to exist. Perhaps a re-branding might be an idea?". Roach had already been considering renaming the gang and also had some ideas about who to use them to bring even greater profits than simple drug dealing. While he was musing the future the Gangrel 'Fixer' tossed a pouch onto the table in front of the pondering seer. "That is your percentage of the contract on the now deceased Mr Francisco." He slid his hand over it as Roach leaned forward "If we are agreed on the terms I specified of course?". Already planning how to spend the substantial pile of cash in front of him the deal was agreed and the Line 20's under Santiago Francisco ceased to exist. The Apostles under Reuben Hart however had just become a major player in the criminal activities of Pasadena appearing almost as if from nowhere.

There will be a Solo Session 'The Gather' Before this story is Continued in 'Becoming Baron' - Part Six

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...

This was a long session starting at 4ish in the afternoon and at about 11.00 in the evening I offered to finish it another time but as no-one apparently needed to get up in the morning we finished up, continuing to about 1.00am next morning. I gave them two sessions worth of experience points as we'd used up two sessions worth of my prepared material, lol.

The next session will be a solo outing for Phil's secondary character Hope. As events in a previous session had made the Gangrel decide to have one of their clan meetings known as a 'gather' or 'thing' and she is one of that clan it made no sense for it to happen completely in the background without her being involved. I therefore expanded it into a full stories worth of material. Don't worry though, the further adventures of the coterie will appear on the blog soon after that.

A few people have asked about the Relationship maps I use. Here they are.


Acknowledgements
I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Michael Tomassio is represented by the actor Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is quite obviously Kurt Cobain, 'Vin' is the actor Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Marie is Eva Greene, Sophia Bartholomew is Sophia Myles, Jenna Cross is Rhona Mitra and the Blount sisters, Steve Booth and Carna artwork is taken from the VtES trading card game. Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement...

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Seventeen - Becoming Baron (Part Four)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Having made a few allies unsuspecting of their greater goal they have decided that in order to gain influence they need to acquire a barony of their own.
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The now obligatory warning bit - Unlike my other RPG write-ups this one will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. If you can't tell the difference between real peoples opinions and grown-ups role-playing predators who crave blood then this probably won't be for you. I've also used actual photographs to represent some characters which I'll give acknowledgements to at the end if I've any idea who they are.
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The introduction to this campaign, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order...
'Infiltrate LA' Chronicle
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThreeFour
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwo and Three

The PC's

Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
and Hope Romero - Gangrel
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
and Marie - Clan Carna
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Dave as Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested.

As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure Malkavian premonition will turn up in purple. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red...

Introduction
With the fourth member of the Sabbat's infiltration team located and destroyed, the support of Baron Fortier via his adopted childe Mariel St John has been obtained. Now Michael seeks the support of his neighbouring barony of Glendale before the coterie deals with the new gang challenging Roach's expansion of his criminal empire.

Scene Fourteen - The Blounts
Victoria Anne - Ghoul
Ghoul PA
Daniel tasked his ghoul with doing some research into a few names that had come up in their investigations as potential allies of the now deceased Baron Vignes primarily to ascertain if they were supernatural or mundane in origin. Vin alerted his own allies, retainers and herd to be on the alert for any newcomers or unusual guests into their domain and to report back to him with any information they might pick-up. Roach meanwhile began to investigate the area around Caltech University as it had in the past been a common location for poaching by young vampires who may be tempted to return to the place now that the feared Baron Vignes was no longer in the picture.

Deciding that it was best to divulge the information rather than have him discover it on his own the Toreador attempted to contact Maius but instead only got through to his ghoul Victoria. He then relayed to her in broad strokes that they had dealt with three Sabbat on site at the farmhouse for Mariel and Sophia and disposed of a fourth who had temporarily eluded them soon after. He also passed on the intelligence that they had been scouting the havens of LA kindred and that Marius's apartment building and clubs were on the list. With precautions taken and his back covered as best as he could Michael returned to the matter of local kindred politics, namely formally introducing himself to the Baronesses of Glendale, the Blount sisters.

Identical twin sisters, Edith and Enid Blount live in a rotting mansion in the foothills of Glendale. Their only real social acquaintances were the Vignes but they have dominated Glendale and its mortal politics since the disappearance of their father in 1927. Unlike many barons, the Blount sisters permit limited hunting in their barony "as long as everyone is nice about it," and the Glendale Galleria is a major draw for young Kindred on the hunt. On the other hand, a number of Kindred have disappeared in the area recently, and the local gossip has it that there is something besides the Blounts living in the hills of their barony.


The Blounts Mansion
The mansion before you was once no doubt a splendid building but now seems to be in need of some repair. Though structurally sound much of the gardens are just slightly overgrown and the windows could do with a clean. More or less it looks like some-ones making an effort to keep it in order but their heart isn't in it. The door has an old fashioned brass push button doorbell.

Roach began to get the uncomfortable feeling that the house was smiling at him in the same welcome manner that you'd expect a spider to grin at a fly.

An elderly gentlemen in a butlers outfit answers the door and seems unusually spry considering his age. "Are you expected?" Michael apologised that he hadn't made a formal request for a meeting but had decided to introduce himself and the rest of his allies now that they were more or less neighbours. Roach could detect that he wasn't a kindred, merely a ghoul though his aura was somewhat predatory. As he could on occasion be less than helpful in social situations Michael requested that Vin stay to secure the car though he also did his usual strategic evaluation of the area, just in case before leaving Michael, Roach and Daniel to enter the mansion house.

Edith Blount - Toreador
..or possibly Enid Blount...
You're shown into a sitting room that looks like a brochure from the 1920's, the room is cosy, slightly too warm and contains several comfortable sofa's filled with garishly flowery cushions. Sitting in a rocking chair, knitting a scarf is a well preserved woman who appears to be in her 50's with bluish hair. The butler refers to her as Madam Edith and informs her that she has guests "Take a seat deary, you don't look like the usual starving kids asking for a snack. What can I do for you?"

Somewhat surprised at her appearance but hiding it well the Toreador made his own formal introductions and the others did the same though Daniel continued the pretence of being a Brujah rather than one of the Banu Haqim. Still uncomfortable due his vision outside, the Malkavian seer peered into the aura of the old woman and could feel it radiating malice and a cold hatred of everything it also contained several black veins, the telltale signs of a diablerist eater of kindred souls, or in this case a creature who seemed to make a habit of it. Catching himself a moment before engaging in his usual habit of rearranging other peoples ornaments he moved into a corner with one eye on the doorway from which they'd entered. Blissfully unaware of this, Michael continued with polite conversation.

As the subject turned to the recent explosive demise of the Vignes household, Edith became somewhat more serious in tone though continued knitting. "I'm sure sweet young fellows like yourselves understand that Edward had pledged to protect our territory, should we require his assistance and that you'd be expected to take on his obligations?" "...especially if at some point you took full control of his former domain..."

Enid Blount - Toreador
..or possibly Edith Blount...
Perhaps if he had access to the same information as Roach he would have responded differently but as it was he saw no reason to rock the boat by altering what had apparently being a completely satisfactory relationship between the two baronies and agreed to mirror the agreement. He did however bring up the subject of the disappearances in Glendale and asked if she had any insight into them or needed any help. She seemed somewhat amused by the offer of help but pointed out that "There hadn't been any disappearances for weeks" and "It was probably just some pesky vampire kids yet to learn subtlety".

She also wanted his guarantee that the politics of Glendale would be left in the hands of herself and her sister and that he wouldn't interfere with how they ran things. As this seemed completely reasonable Michael agreed. "In that case feel free to pop around whenever you feel like a chat, It gets a bit lonely here sometimes with only my sister and Jenkins to talk to."  Feeling that the meeting had gone rather well and for once hadn't gotten them involved any problems the Toreador left in quite a good mood. Unfortunately the fact that Roach had behaved perfectly normally, which for him was anything but normal began to concern Michael as was his desire to leave as quickly as he could as the previous occasion he'd acted this way had been in the home of the Vignes and that situation had gotten complicated very quickly indeed.

Storytellers Note - For those of you who haven't read previous write-ups (shame on you, go and rectify that immediately) the character of Roach has several little idiosyncrasies amongst which are rearranging peoples stuff, changing their radio stations, etc. When he doesn't it's usually a warning sign to the coterie that he really, really doesn't want to annoy the kindred in question. 

To Roach every creaking noise the building made sounded like a faint cry for help and he felt like it had seen terrible, terrible things. In fact he began to feel like whatever terrible thing that's killing kindred and kine in Glendale is actually far more familiar than some monster in the hills...in fact he was sure they'd just met one of them...

As soon as prompted about his unusually unusual behaviour the Malkavian wasted no time in ruining the Toreadors evening by informing him that Edith Blount was a serial diablerist and more than likely her, her sister or possibly both were also whatever was responsible for the disappearances of kine in Glendale. Even if they weren't they were definitely responsible for the missing kindred and he then briefly explained that there were signs of such activities that he could detect. Though this went completely over Vin's head, Daniel immediately realised that this meant that Roach was well aware of his own recent diablerie of the Sabbat Nosferatu even though the Malkavian had said nothing. Suggesting a less direct route back in case they had any unwanted observers, Michael filed this particular issue into his 'problems for another day' file as he had for now got what he wanted anyway. Daniel raised the point that he didn't see what an elder kindred would gain from devouring the souls of those weaker than themselves though deep down he knew from his own clans weakness that kindred vitae was far sweeter than that of mortals.

Scene Fifteen - Hostile Takeover
Roach - You have of late being having considerable trouble keeping your supply of narcotics incoming to fuel your aggressive expansion which is causing difficulties given your extensive use of such materials to ingratiate yourself with the thin-bloods and of course in order to feed consistently in addition to your expansion plans. You currently have two main issues, first a rival who is pushing you out of your preferred primary turf of the college and secondly a need to move into harder drugs to fund your expansion which will require creating new import paths. Of course all of those problems are irrelevant without the manpower to run an organisation.

'Roach' - Malkavian Seer
Drug Dealer
Roach's first concern was doing some research into this rival that Venus had referred as 'Reaper' who was definitely the most likely candidate for being the cause of his problems. It had come to his attention via various sources that the recent issues with drugs supply were due to a particularly unpleasant dealer attempting to intimidate his suppliers, scare-off customers and generally expand his operation into the area of influence currently favoured by Roach.

Apparently he'd spread word that as Roach had none of what he referred to as 'soldiers' or 'back-up' there was in his words "fuck-all he'll be able do about it". It seems that he'd targeted the Malkavian's operation as an easy mark to remove in order to spread his influence and the current expansions to increase the coteries operational revenue had drawn his attention to them or specifically to Roach. This intimidation campaign was also putting off local students from bringing their artwork to the gallery which was beginning to impact on their legitimate businesses also.

Once the connection between the gang leaders name and the problem had been made it was a simple matter for Roach to compile a considerable amount of information and rumours on him via his many street contacts and natural charisma.

You're aware of the dealer in question as he's notorious for selling to kids (in particular teenage girls) who he then turns out as hookers if he can later and gets vulnerable people into drug related debt which he takes advantage of with his other sideline as a loan shark. Up until recently he's been small-time but apparently he's now expanding and has seen the university and some of your haunts as a likely place to do so and therefore his expansion and yours have collided somewhat especially as he seems to have come into possession of a vast quantity of cocaine, heroin and very good quality weed which he is churning out at bargain prices. You're known for quality and efficient service but that isn't going to keep you in business against what is effectively a hostile take-over. Of course he thinks you're just some ordinary student pot dealer who through a bit of luck and no competition has carved himself a niche...

Other information that might be of use was also beginning to arrive courtesy of his own and other coterie members various sources of information. The somewhat (in Roach's opinion at least) cliche nickname of 'Reaper' had actually been earned as rape and murder were definitely in his history despite never being charged with something that stuck. His real name was apparently the far less fearsome Billy Roberts and using it in his presence was a virtual guarantee of violence.

As far as his organisation itself he had about twenty five to thirty dealers in his employ, but only about a third to perhaps half were doing it willingly as the rest had been intimidated into it or were paying off drug debts by doing his dirty work. This had apparently become necessary due to him attempting to shift far more product than ever and he was now outstripping his normal dealers ability to keep up with his demands. He has nine maybe ten men who do his enforcing and another two who act as pimps for his current stable of about a dozen girls.

The head pimps name is Earle and one of Roach's acquaintances has obtained a phone number for his escort service from a student who hired several girls for a party and noticed a significant number of signs of violence on their bodies. Being known to the police his men tended to avoid carrying weapons that can be found in a search and instead kept stashes nearby for 'emergencies' though a few were obviously still going to packing guns in Roach's opinion. He also has 'runners' usually children or teenagers who he used to fetch or hide weapons as they were both less likely to be prosecuted and also expendable.

Territory wise he had several blocks under his control not far from the university campus and his 'men' often hung out at a bar nearby called the 'Madcap Jester' that they effectively owned through fear and intimidation against the owner. Reaper had  now amassed enough influence to interrupt drug supplies around the university but was as far as Roach knew still small fry on a citywide scale, however his recent activities have made him doubt that assessment. He either had significant backing or had stretched his credit to it's limit and needed to shift all his product in order to pay his debts. Either situation could be exploited with the right push.

Roach decided a little reconnaissance wouldn't go amiss and picked the bar as his first target to see if he could get some first hand information on the ass-hole causing him all this shit. The bar was fairly well located and might once have been a nice place to visit but was now the very definition of a dive bar. Obvious gang members and general scum were all over the area and he could clearly see armed scumbags going in and out.

Using his disciplines to disappear from sight he waited until a patron entered and slipped in while the door was open, found a dark corner and observed the interior. None of those inside the bar seemed to be what Roach would consider leadership material though all were armed. Kindred had much less to fear from small arms than a mere mortal but in the Malkavian's opinion there was definitely enough firepower spread across the gang to potentially cause a vampire some trouble. Even the formidable Vin had taken several nights rest and a considerable quantity of blood to heal himself when caught in the crossfire of five enemies with guns. Now firmly of the opinion that he'd need some mortal support to take this rival down without drawing attention to his fellow kindred he decided to contact his occasional allies in the Line 20's gang in downtown.

Scene Sixteen - Santiago
Helping himself to one of the bikes they'd liberated from the Sabbat and a selection of guns from Vin's salvaged pile...

Storytellers Note - Vin collects every spare gun or clip of ammunition left after every encounter and keeps the ones he likes for his collection. This means that in his room in the gallery there's a large pile of misc. firearms that are either duplicates or a bit rubbish.

...Roach took a ride to the area of downtown that he knew was the turf of the Line 20's but when he arrived many of their gang markings had been removed and those milling about were unfamiliar to him. Playing a hunch he rode deeper into what used to be their turf and spotted several familiar faces including Reuben, the gang Lieutenant who had helped them out twice. Once with a false description to the cops and once more with some fire support to cover their retreat when dealing with the renegade thin-bloods.

Deciding on the direct approach Roach rode up to the door and after a brief "Sup?" asked to speak directly to their leader Santiago. An obviously reluctant Reuben told him that given the dangerous situation they were facing that such a meeting was out of the question. Roach countered this by simply opening the large canvass bag and showing the lieutenant the contents. Starved for weapons and ammunition as they were he knew that this was the bait he needed. "I'll see what I can do..." was Reuben's response. Roach lit up a joint for each of the remaining guards, one for himself and then waited for the gang members return.

After some fifteen minutes Reuben opened the door to the gangs current base and ushered him in, up several flights of stairs and then gestured to a door ahead which Roach entered as bidden. He arrived in an empty room with a large desk and chair at one end and as the door closed behind him he heard the click of a handgun being readied. "You've been good to us Roach but you ain't seeing the boss and I need those guns, so hand them over and you'll leave here alive, I promise." Roach had hoped to ease into the next part of his plan but it seemed that this guy would have to do for his demonstration. The Malkavian simply said "Drop the gun". Reuben looked at man in front of him as if that was the stupidest thing he'd ever heard and then swore as his suddenly shaking hand obeyed the instruction and the weapon hit the ground and Roach scooped it up and reversed the situation. "How the fuck did you do that?"

Reuben Hart
The Line 20's Real Leader
"That's just the beginning of what I have to show you..." He stated matter of factly and handed back the gun. Reuben took the weapon back but was now much less confident and Roach knew that he needed to show the criminal something more impressive if what he was going to tell him next would be believed. As the now very off balance Reuben looked away for a moment to ensure they were still alone the kindred took the opportunity in the fraction of a second he was out of view and promptly disappeared. While the bewildered kine scanned the weapon with his handgun Roach made himself comfortable in the chair behind the desk, lit up a joint and re-appeared. "I know I ain't stoned...so who or what the fuck are you?"

"That I'll need to discuss with your main man, I'm afraid" was Roach's response "Well that's still gonna be tricky..." was Reuben's counter "...being as he doesn't exist." "You best elaborate then." was Roach's answer. Reuben explained that the Line 20's leader Santiago Francisco was a fabrication and his entire history of surviving assassination attempts was utter bullshit. Their actual leader had died in a drive by shooting and Reuben made up the legend of Santiago Francisco to cover it up and has been the 'liaison for Santiago' ever since, effectively leading the gang while pretending to serve another. Every now and again when one of the gang survives an attempt on their life another tale is added to the legend of Santiago. Now only about fifty or sixty of the gang remained with the rest having been killed, gone into hiding or in some cases changed sides rather than lose their own little corners of the Ghetto. They were being starved and hunted out of existence by gangs with far more power and resources. "Then..." said Roach "...I'll explain my proposal to you instead..."

Louis Fortier - Ventrue
Baron of West Los Angeles
Roach knew for certain that many of the gangs in LA were controlled or influenced by kindred and it seemed very likely that one or more of these powers is squeezing a rival out of existence using resources that the gang couldn't hope to match, especially as Downtown where the Line 20's were based were under the control of Louis Fortier who had virtually unlimited political and financial resources to throw at them. It did occur to him however that the gang was now small enough to transplant somewhere where Roach's own influence was stronger and if all went well with their plan to make Michael Baron then their power would soon be undisputed.

In broad strokes the Malkavian explained that vampires were real, Reuben's gang was being assaulted by forces with power he couldn't ever match and that if he wanted to survive he'd need a powerful patron of his own. "So are you going to drink my blood?" asked Reuben somewhat incredulously. "No, actually..." said Roach "You're going to drink mine..." whether it was the power of his argument, the demonstration of power or just desperation on the part of the gang banger, the Malkavian didn't even need to use his powers of domination to get the man to drink from the vein he opened in his arm.

The addictive nature of vampiric Vitae began to do it's work and Roach was aware that other changes would also be occurring. Reuben would no longer age, would heal faster and would gain some aspect of the Malkavian's own powers. He tasked his new ghoul with gathering the remnants of his gang and readying them for a job that would clear the way for new opportunities for them in Pasadena, he also promised to provide them with guns and body armour to ensure they had the edge in the conflict which he knew he could obtain through one of the two Los Angeles arms dealers they were now familiar with.

Now with a gang to call his own, Roach knew his next moves were to work out how best to wipe out the Reapers gang and just how he was going to bring enough drugs to fund his expansion into the city. That was however a job for another night...

To Be Continued in 'Becoming Baron' - Part Five

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...

Due to issues of player availability this was mainly a solo session from the point that the meeting with the Blount's ended. I try to accommodate players as best as I can in the area of solo sessions and flexible meeting times as part of the storytellers job is (imo at least) to make everyone as comfortable as possible so they come back, lol.

In all honesty most of the gang recruitment was improvised on my behalf as I wasn't expecting the mix of subtlety and directness that Tom decided was going to be Roach's way of getting stuff done. With that in mind I thought it worked rather well especially as I pulled the 'Santiago doesn't exist' thing out of thin air ;-)

Acknowledgements
I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Michael Tomassio is represented by the actor Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is quite obviously Kurt Cobain, 'Vin' is the actor Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Marie is Eva Greene (though the character wont actually be introduced till next session), Victoria is a model called Lilith May and the Blount sisters artwork is taken from the VtES trading card game. Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement...

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.
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