Friday, 14 December 2018

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Nine - The Pasadena Problem (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...
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. Some in-roads have been made but there's still much to do...
Why LA? - Well it contains a lot of different baronies giving me a lot of interactions to play with, allows me to use some of the more interesting characters from the Bloodlines PC game (which two of the players were familiar with) and is a setting not yet experienced by the players familiar with the Vampire RPG which gives me a chance to keep them on their toes. I've also changed quite a lot and inserted some new characters of my own to make things a bit more interesting...well...interesting for me at least...

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.

The introduction to this campaign and the first story can be found at the following links...
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwo and Three

The Storyteller
Garreth as Everyone else...
The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
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...

Having successfully resolved the Fortier and Bartholomew families little indiscretion and having retrieved both the mysterious box and the young lady from the boot of George Bartholomew's retrieved vehicle the coteries attention once more returns to the issue of which side to take in the Vignes love triangle. The decision is currently a difficult one to make as they're unsure if they can help one of the two sides at all and so plan to enlist the assistance of Marius's ghouled Verbena mages...

Scene Nine - Return to the Salem Suite
Hallowbrook Apartments and the Venture Building
Your phone call is put through to Victoria by the switchboard at wherever the number for Aegis Acquisitions actually goes to which to be honest could be anywhere given what you know of your patron. "I imagine you wish to arrange an appointment with Marius's pet witches as discussed at the Bartholomews?" "In anticipation of the request I have arranged for you to be met at Hallowbrook and escorted to see them both. I can also probably arrange for Marius to be available some point the same evening if there's anything you wish to discuss with him in addition?"

Michael confirmed that was indeed the case as they had need of some advice on the occult that was somewhat outside the knowledge of both themselves and their own contacts. He also informed Victoria that though it was possible they might need to talk to her employer they wouldn't know for certain until they had their meeting. Marius's ghoul told him that she'd attempt to keep a gap in his schedule for them but couldn't promise anything. "They'll be available in an hour or so, I'll send a car to collect you, it should be there in about twenty minutes." "How many of you should I be expecting?"

Despite a strong desire to have the discussion alone he was sure that his Malkavian companions insights would be important and he couldn't think of a polite way of excluding the hulking Brujah. So he reluctantly set the number at three at which point she bid him goodbye and then hung up.

One of the covertly armoured vehicles that Marius seems to favour arrives outside the gallery at the agreed upon time. You recognise the driver as 'Dion' the one member of the security team who always seems slightly out of place.

Roach fairly predictably got in the front seat as was his habit as the two coterie members seated themselves in the rear. The mischievous Malkavian then put his seat back as far as possible forcing Michael to either sit in an awkward position or slide closer to Vin. They passed the journey without bothering with small talk and soon arrived at their destination.

Storytellers Note - So the players have no interest whatsoever in this obviously relevant NPC I've hurled in front of them four times yet spent three hours after the last session discussing what to do about a random blood doll I hadn't even given a name to...welcome to life as a storyteller...

As it's fairly early in the night there's a lot more people coming in and out of the apartment building though they're using the three standard elevators not the private one and a few are milling around the spacious lobby or leaving via the underground car-park entrance. 

From their dress many leaving appear to be office workers rather than the more casually dressed individuals who are apparently residents though all have to navigate the security checkpoint within. A security officer meets you as you enter and guides you to the private elevator which opens as he approaches. He indicates that you should enter but makes no movement to go inside himself.

Michael queried why the guard wasn't accompanying them and he explained that the top floors had their own security teams and were off limits to any-one else. Roach was already sitting on the elevator floor waiting for Michael and Vin. As before only certain lights were illuminated on the elevator controls and it started to move as soon as the group was safely within.

Victoria - Ghoul PA
and Psychopath
As the last of you enters the spacious lift the door closes and takes you swiftly to the floor where you previously met the two mages or witches as Victoria refers to them. Victoria herself is waiting in the waiting area come lobby for you as the door opens. She is dressed much less conservatively than usual possibly feeling like she has no reason to hide her nature when dealing with you now you've seen her torture a man to death and eat his tongue.

Roach headed straight to the door and waited impatiently for the others to finish chatting so they could get on with the business at hand. Michael was reasonably sure that the source of his hurry was less about meeting the mages and more about the vast quantity of exotic drugs they had in their herbal stores.

Other than a different smell of incense the 'Salem' suite is exactly as you remember it. One of the two mages who were waiting within however had changed hair colour and the other usually conservatively dressed one was apparently having a Gothic moment.

Storytellers Note - Our Malkavian has taken a liking to one and not the other so I've decided to mess with his expectations a little...

Knowing that Roach wouldn't be particularly helpful till he'd ransacked the jars of drugs and changed the music, Michael attempted to explain as best as he could the issue they had but without the Malkavian's peculiar gifts was having some difficulty in translating what he had been told into terminology familiar to the mages. After swapping the one sisters playlist that seemed to be working through the back catalogue of The Pretty Reckless to the post-punk Gothic rock of Bauhaus Roach finally deigned to involve himself in the actual reason for them being there.

Clara and Sylvia Drake - Ghouled Verbena Mages

After some verbal explanation the Malkavian decided that it might be easier to show them if he drew what he'd saw but the only drawing materials that were available were a few sheets off odd coloured parchment and some charcoal. The now quite amused sisters pointed out to Victoria that they knew of at least one person in the complex who might have some art supplies and would she be kind enough to go and fetch them.

With a look at every-one concerned that could probably have been weaponized with little effort the most senior of Marius's ghouls went off in search of something appropriate, returning some minutes later with a large box of pencils, felt-tips and a few crayons that had the name 'Heather' on a label written on one side. Victoria's mood was in no way improved when the result of Roach's artwork looked very much like a load of red splodges on a child's drawing of a house.

Storytellers Note - He rolled quite badly on a Craft roll...okay...really badly...he had a better idea afterwards though...

Eventually the Malkavian remembered a horror film he'd seen that had something similar in it and between that, a slightly better drawing and a finally coherent description the sisters began to peruse their collection of books. Both Roach and Michael could pick up that both seemed quite concerned about what they'd heard and became more and more disturbed as they researched further and further. While waiting for the ladies to complete their task Roach had busied himself rearranging the lids on all the various colours to some weird combinations that probably made perfect sense to him but just looked like a random selection to every-one else. After the third sabotaged attempt to return everything to the proper configuration the Toreador gave up and just resolved to avoid looking in their direction.

Storytellers Note - Our Malkavian seems to zig zag between complete paranoia and some strange form of reverse OCD where he prefers things mixed up.

"Binding spirits and creatures to places and things more than likely involves Necromancy which is somewhat out of our sphere of knowledge." She looks at her Sister "They'll need to see Pisha..." The other shudders at the name and turns to Victoria "They'll have to speak to Marius about seeing...her...unfortunately...if any-one knows about such things it's her...they'll have to go themselves...we wont go there again" Victoria doesn't look particularly happy "Fine, Marius should have finished his meeting by now anyway. Please, follow me"

Scene Ten - The Wilds Pack
You're led out of the door and along the central corridor to a set of stairs at the far end secured by a heavy duty door with a keypad and palm scanner along one side. You are led up four flights of stairs, each of which passes a similar secure door though the one on the floor before the top more resembles something you'd see on a bank vault than on a home.

Roach's supernatural senses detected the now familiar aura of magical defences on the most secure floor, the first of such he'd actually sensed in Marius's haven and headquarters.

Marius's Temple Garden
At the top of the stairway a final secured door leads through to an elaborately designed roof garden with a central stone circle surrounded by elaborately carved pillars which are themselves surrounded by trees and other greenery with a pond off to one side. Within the centre of the temple a thick and gnarled tree is growing in which a crystal orb is set that glows with a pleasant yellow light. It has all the appearance of a small sunlit temple in the middle of a forest, a surprising sight to see at the top of a high-rise building. An odd selection of birds of prey, crows, ravens and several unidentifiable carrion fill the tree-tops.

The stonework looked ancient and the details and markings were completely unknown to any of the coterie though Roach did detect a vague background aura of some kind from the temple. He also detected the familiar and suspiciously stable aura of Marius and that of four more kindred and that a large number of the winged creatures in the trees had that hint of vampiric essence that indicated that they were ghouls, famulus or at the very least fed on some amount of kindred vitae. As he scanned across each of the kindred individually he detected the black veins that were the sure sign of diablerie in the aura of one lank haired kindred male.

Myranda - Wilds Pack Leader
Standing next to one of the pillars is the 'Fixer' Marius with his large wolf-like dog at his side, he is speaking to a man and three women.

A striking featured, voluptuous auburn haired woman in an ill-fitting but expensive dark red dress is seated on a stone plinth, sprawled nearby across a large white furred wolf is another girl with short hair dressed in jeans and a t-shirt while the third woman has dark hair, glasses and a number of piercings which appear to be made of bone is seated dangling her feet in the pond. You presume she must have arrived via the freight elevator as she has a significant amount of blood around her mouth and on her long, claw-like fingers. 

The one male of the group has lank, greasy brown hair and is wearing a long tatty coat that looks like it was made from a piece of tarpaulin and has a large canvass bag at his side seemingly filled with some quite bulky heavy objects from the shape. You appear to have arrived at the tail-end of whatever is being discussed as the seated lady is rising ready to leave. "Fine, but if they 'accidentally' wander onto our turf again to feed they all die. Then the four of us and Nicodemus will head down to their shitty pier and fuck-up the lot of them, no survivors not even your spies, agreed?"

Lezabel, Lola and Samael

Marius doesn't actually reply but instead turns to the recently arrived Victoria "Would you mind escorting Myranda and her pack out via the garage? I believe we're done here for now" You hear the blood-stained girl say "No need, I'll make my own way back" as her form flows into that of an unusually large, dark feathered eagle whose beak and claws are dripping blood and accompanied by the strange selection of birds you observed earlier disappears into the night.

Samael - Out for a Stroll
As they walked past towards the exit the lank-haired kindred made eye contact with Vin and the challenge was obvious. The Brujah who considered himself an expert at intimidation by staredown found himself in the unusual position of blinking first. Not having felt it for quite some time it took him a moment to identify the desire to get away from this creature as quickly as possible as fear. With a formidable effort of will he managed to overcome the desire to flee and briefly considered taking a swing just to satisfy his frustration but eventually steadied himself enough to simply step aside. Once the pack had departed Marius turned to address the coterie "It's said that the worst kind is your own kind, this evening I'm inclined to agree" 

Michael enquired about who exactly the group were and Marius explained that they controlled a large area of Los Angeles known as 'The Wilds' and were extremely territorial. "Myranda is the leader if they could be said to have such a thing, the girl with the wolf was Lezabel, the other was Lola. The one staring down your friend was Samael though ironically he's not even the most dangerous of them as that honour would have to go to that walking masquerade violation Nicodemus, though I'd have to say Vin made the right decision in letting the challenge go though it's doubtful Samael would have gone too far, well, not in my home at least." Michael immediately became curious and decided to see what else Marius was willing to divulge about this group.

Roach meanwhile was leaning against one of the pillars just out of sight making a concerted attempt to look as casual as possible while apparently passing the time playing on his phone. He quickly sent a message to Jenna Cross warning her that whichever of her followers had decided to make the Wilds their hunting ground needed to stop immediately if they wanted to a) not be brutally torn to pieces and b) not bring down some unpleasant attention on the pier. After briefly considering the potential consequences he decided the risk was worth it and attempted to cement his relationship with the thin-bloods and Jenna by informing her that the Gangrel Marius had spies within her group.

Nicodemus - Gangrel Elder
The Toreador enquired about who this Nicodemus was and what was meant by 'walking masquerade violation'. Marius seemed happy to explain "As you know all our clans have their own particular weaknesses or 'Banes' as many call them, my clan unfortunately takes on animal characteristics should they succumb to frenzy though they fade in a day or two." "Sometimes elder kindred whose blood is more potent are prone to more extreme manifestations of those Banes. With some Gangrel those transformations become permanent and Nicodemus is so cursed" He paused briefly as if considering whether to go on "He has been taught enough of the arts of concealment to just about pass for a mortal should he need to travel but he rarely leaves the Wilds unless he's going to kill something specific or attending a particularly important meeting." Apparently he had said all he intended to on the matter as he then changed the subject. "Were the sisters any help?"

Storytellers Note - The Wilds Pack have their own faction file for the players reference which can be found HERE.

The coterie explained that the mages had identified the magic they were investigating as a form of necromancy and also that it was outside of their realm of knowledge. Michael then told him that they had recommended some-one called 'Pisha'. Even through whatever discipline was shielding his aura Roach detected a flicker of some emotion when the name was mentioned. "That's not something to be undertaken lightly, what's so important that I need to involve her?" Though they had planned to keep the Vignes name out of their conversation with Marius it seemed that if they wanted his help they'd have to reveal their true reason for needing the information. Attempting to be as vague as possible the Toreador told him that they needed to weaken or disable a power protecting the Baron Edward in order to further their plans.

 Baron Edward Vignes, Baroness Vera Vignes, Henry Waters - Retainer

Marius didn't seem at all surprised at the revelation that they were making a move on the Barony of Pasadena but did seem caught by surprise that he had supernatural defences though as he pointed out it did "Explain quite a lot..." though they were still asking for "...a considerable boon". Roach interrupted and made the argument that removing Edward would suit both their plans as it was obvious that there was no love lost between the two of them and having Pasadena controlled by some-one friendly to him couldn't do anything but help with his activities. Marius who had some considerable experience at haggling over price knew exactly where the Malkavian was going with his point. "So, what you're really saying is that you want me to help you but don't want to use the boon I owe you to obtain that help as you seem to think your doing me a favour as well?" Roach confirmed those were his feelings on the matter but braced himself to be told to fuck off. He was therefore understandably pleased and a moment later distinctly suspicious when Marius's reply was "Fine, we'll call it a mutual favour then."

"Pisha is one of the foremost experts on the occult in the world and necromancy is her speciality, she is also very much some-one not to be trifled with but as you say this benefits us both so I'll arrange a meeting. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that you shouldn't deviate from the instructions I give you in any way." "let's get this done tonight, there's no point delaying it..."

Michael decided that given the way pretty much every-one seemed to soil themselves when the name Pisha was mentioned that some back-up might be useful and phoned the doctor who had helped them locate the Bartholomew's missing car. He had witnessed his medical skills as well as talents for stealth and combat abilities both up close and at range and could see the potential usefulness of his skill sets in the situation they were about to enter. However, when he asked for his assistance he was careful to not particularly emphasise the potential danger quite as much as perhaps he should have done though this was in part due to constant interruptions from Roach asking to get the doctor to bring him some drugs. Curious about the group and whatever they were up to and it no doubt being exponentially more interesting than the clinic paperwork he was currently doing, Daniel helped himself to a selection of easily misused medical supplies and drove to Hallowbrook to meet the rest of the coterie.

Storytellers Note - The doctors player had been pre-warned that if we were roleplaying all the new interactions rather than just hand-waving him into the coterie then there would be bits he'd just have to sit and watch as they were plots he'd have no reason to be involved in. I'd rather have done it the other way but keeping the players happy is my job...kinda...and that's how they all wanted to do it.

Attempting to gain some foreknowledge of what lay ahead for them Roach concentrated on the location they were heading to and forced a premonition to occur.

Something has already spooked you and the further into the hospital you get the more the sightings increase in frequency. Old and young, male and female, some in hospital garb and others in outfits from many walks of life but all stay off the route you're taking though several are beckoning you from it. 

You're suddenly very glad you chose not to wander off...again...there were definitely four of you when you began but now you are completely alone...

Scene Eleven - Prisoner or Predator
You have been given a card with a logo for something called Aegis Construction with a phone number and I.D. code on it which you are informed is in case the security patrols stop you, a set of six keys, four are labelled 'Gate', one says 'Main Entrance' and the last says 'Lift' as well as an address for the hospital and a plan of the building with a red line on it tracing what looks even to a casual observer like a random and indirect route through the facility. You have also been informed that a legitimate mortal security firm patrols many businesses in the area including this one but they don't go inside. A none affiliated firm was chosen in order to minimise any attention the building might get from any-one investigating Marius's interests. He'd still rather you didn't eat any of them though as that would somewhat defeat the object. 

Since just after you had your conversation with Marius, Roach has even by his own standards been behaving strangely. As soon as the map was handed over to the group he snatched it from Michael's hand and has been studying it over and over again and once in the lobby had even began to pace out the route ensuring he knew exactly where to go. Meeting the coterie outside the doctor offered to drive and the four of them headed to the specified location which was apparently an abandoned hospital.

The hospital is indeed the very image of abandoned. Razor wire topped fencing has been erected around the entire structure and the heavy duty barrier is also surrounded by large concrete lumps presumably to deter any vehicle tempted to ram it's way through. The perimeter is adorned with signs covering every warning possible from structural and safety issues through toxic waste and onto radiation warnings. Security cameras can be observed on several corners of the building. Those of you with Investigative skills note that the warning signs and concrete blocks each have a small triangular logo next to the name Aegis Construction on them in the bottom corner.

From a tactical point of view neither Vin nor Daniel could see a way of approaching the building without being caught on at least one of the cameras and both Daniel and Roach were aware that their supernatural abilities of obfuscation would not fool electronic surveillance. This left them no choice but to simply walk up to the gate and use the keys they were given.

The one gate is also full of warning signs and is secured by no less than four heavy chains with a shiny new lock on each. As you approach a car bearing the logo of something called Mercury Security pulls up and a man wearing a uniform with the same logo on it gets out. He has a handgun holstered at his side but the holster clip is buttoned down. Apparently he doesn't see you as a threat. "Bit late for sight-seeing isn't it?"

Michael reached for the card he'd been given, Daniel started a story he'd prepared about a medical reason for them being here and Vin moved closer in case he needed to knock the security man out. All of this became irrelevant as Roach told him to "Go away!" which with the aid of some dominate he promptly did. To Roach's senses each of the four gate keys glowed with their own unique pattern of runes which each matched a particular lock so he was somewhat surprised that Michael didn't get each one correct on his first attempt. Once the gate was opened Roach almost pushed every-one in and quickly locked the gate locks again and admonished any-one not walking exactly along the centre of the path from gate to entrance despite there being no red line on that part of the map. One of the two remaining keys opened both the heavy security locks on the hospital entrance where Roach once again repeated his insistence that they get in as quickly as possible before locking the door behind them.

The main lobby has a single flickering neon light in the ceiling so power must be reaching the building from somewhere. The map indicates you should use the second entrance on your right despite a broad main corridor ahead being seemingly fairly clear other than a few over-turned beds and a few piles of random junk. In fact the indicated route looks like the most dangerous and poorly maintained one available.

Storytellers Note - My insistence that the route on the map looked really dangerous and every other route looked clear by comparison failed to convince them to ignore the map which was disappointing as I had several random encounters planned...

Roach had told every-one to keep on the route shown on the map about every twenty seconds and was beginning to become irritating. The hospital was as derelict as expected and the route on the map was convoluted in the extreme but other than a few overturned cabinets, beds and the odd trolley the route indicated was fairly easy to navigate despite the few working lights being somewhat random in location.

Several of them noticed there was the occasional smear of blood here and there and a few trails of blood drops which judging from the direction were from something moving a very similar route to the one they were taking. Roach was becoming more and more erratic as his ability to sense what was unseen to others meant that for him periodically the air became cold though he was seemingly the only one of the group who has felt it. The third time this occurred he saw a haggard figure staring through the window of an old store-room and as his long nails scratched down the window the figure smiled cheerfully at the Malkavian and then faded but didn't disappear completely. The others could only watch bewildered as Roach stared into an empty store-room.

After some prompting the Malkavian continued onward though he now mentioned "Follow the line on the map..." In an almost continuous loop. Suddenly a feeling of Deja Vu hit him as the area of the hospital they entered matched his earlier vision exactly and he experienced for both the first and second time the sightings increase. Though something had changed as at least this time his companions had survived the journey. They were now at least two levels below the surface and the Malkavians constant chatter had put everyone on edge...

Eventually you reach the lift marked on the map, it's door is dented slightly and the neon sign above is hanging from several wires. A metal box has been fixed across the area where you'd expect to find call buttons and is secured by a ordinary looking lock which opens using your final key. Within the locked box are two buttons though the one for up is bent inwards. The down arrow is illuminated and appears to be functional. There's a bloody fingerprint directly in the centre.

Eventually after drawing their weapons and a brief exchange of guns after Vin complained that the reason he'd only carried with him his admittedly pathetic .22 was that he didn't like Glocks and the only other gun he had was a Glock 17 so borrowed Daniels spare Sig Sauer P320. They then finally pushed the only button available and awaited the arrival of the lift. The lift arrived with an alarming grinding noise and the doors opened one at a time rather than simultaneously as the second seemingly was slowed by the dent on the outside. Vin commented that it looked like the dent made when a body was hurled into something and his word was taken as if any-one knew that fact it was going to be Vin. The assessment was confirmed by the doctor as the fluid in the upper section was in his opinion brain matter. he also noted a lot of dents that were undoubtedly caused by bullet impacts. Daniel inspected the inside which was no less appealing as bloody stains and smears lined the floor and walls and a large plate had been welded and bolted to the hatch in the top preventing any means of exit other than the doors. Michael made his way to the least blood-stained area he could find and waited patiently for some-one else to push the down button.

The doors open to reveal a well illuminated basement room with a number of bloody smears leading from the lift to a set of double doors ahead where a pair of decaying corpses are slumped on either side and the severed head of a young man hangs from the ceiling by his lank hair, a few severed vertebrae all that's left of his lower body. As you enter the room it's eyes flick open and turn to observe you and a moment later a female voice can be heard faintly from beyond the double doors and quite clearly from the mouth of the severed head... "You're expected, please come in..." to Roach however the scene looked somewhat different as superimposed over the severed head and the slumped bodies he could clearly see a hazy outline of the dead as they must have been in life their spirits seemingly bound to what's left of their mortal remains. 

After his attempts to engage the three as far as he was concerned quite alive individuals failed he offered each a cigarette and then in the best mood he'd been in since he arrived in the hospital casually entered the next room much to the bewilderment of his compatriots.

The room was apparently once a mortuary as several gurneys are lined up against one wall. Next to them are a variety of traditional surgical instruments and a great deal of less conventional knives, saws and cutting implements. Three of the gurneys have partially dismembered bodies upon them and there is blood and viscera on most surfaces. You recognise two of the bodies as members of the car-jacker gang you took alive, the third looks vaguely similar to the one Vin punched the head off at the same location. A catering blender is plugged in off to one side a quarter full of thick red liquid and several red stained glasses are placed nearby. You can see movement from a room in the rear.

Somewhat reassured by the fact that despite the corpses this room was free of the wraiths and apparitions he'd been plagued by since they arrived he deemed it safe to probe ahead and see what awaited them in the next room. The other three watched as Roach dropped to his knees in an apparent catatonic state as inside his mind he experienced the deaths of some fifty people simultaneously and none of their endings could be described as pleasant. In an effort to wake him Michael sliced open his forearm and dripped some blood into his open mouth and the taste of Vitae seemed to restore him enough to stagger to his feet.

Roach felt the tasteless vitae flood his system as for the first time in decades blood without any trace of narcotics flowed into his body and gave him little to no sustenance at all. His vampiric body so used to tainted blood began to feel sluggish and weak as his mental abilities also began to slow. At least he was now awake enough to move on with the rest.

Scene Twelve - Pisha
You enter a morgue area with cabinets along both sides for the storing of the deceased. A few have bloody fingerprints, smears and a variety of fluid stains splattered across them and all have elaborate runes, symbols and writing in a language unfamiliar to you written on them in careful, precise lettering. A table in the centre contains a seemingly random selection of items. Keys, random crystals and stones, a wallet, a statue, some photographs, various items of jewellery, a watch and so on.

Roach could sense each of the items glowing with a strange light very similar to that of the aura he'd detect from a being whose soul he'd viewed. It became apparent to him that in his ill conceived attempt to gain a premonition of what was ahead he'd inadvertently scanned every item in the room and the fate that had befallen each of their previous owners. At that point a melodic female voice came from the nearby office "Well are you coming in or not?"

Sitting casually in what was once an office room is a dark haired woman with strange tattoos on her face wearing a dark dress, blood is smeared down the front of it. She's casually reading a book bound in a pale leather and seems to be waiting for you to get to the point. A bank of monitors is along one wall which seem to be displaying the views from the exterior security cameras and a few internal ones.

Somewhat surprised that the monster in the basement seemed to be a polite, well educated and well-spoken albeit blood splattered young woman Michael seeing no alternative spelt out what they knew about the Vignes defences and what if anything they could do about it.

"It appears to be a poltergeist of some description. A particularly unpleasant manifestation as normally it takes a lot of effort for a wraith to manifest physical effects" "This would require a being of significant power or will even before their demise" "It will be bound to something, an object or item important to it when alive, it's 'fetter'" "If certain rituals have been cast upon it the bearer can control the creature bound to it. Such powers are beyond Edward and his household, if he had such powers I would know about it...he does not..."

Pisha asked several more questions confirming or clarifying certain pieces of information and disappeared into a room beyond the office through a knocked down section of wall where apparently she kept more tomes of knowledge."You say you detected energies about the house?" "It's possible given that Edward is protected both at home and when travelling that more than one binding ritual is in effect. Though unusual there may be more than one fetter, something of power within the house and something more personal to summon the creature to his side when necessary.""Destroying the fetter or fetters should release the spirit from his control though it's subsequent actions are unlikely to be predictable. If it's serving willingly it may be ungrateful, or the centuries may have robbed it of any residual humanity it once had. Many seek vengeance upon their jailer. Without the powers to bind such a creature anything could occur"

After some thought and referencing several more volumes that hurt Roach's mind to look upon she informed them that if they obtained for her something of significance to the house she could create a talisman that would guide them to the fetter but it would have to be something that embodies the house or represents it even if only on a sympathetic or esoteric level. If they wished to locate the personal fetter as well she added that she'd also need something personal to Edward also. Begging her leave they moved into the adjacent room to discuss what they wished to do. Pisha told them to call her when they'd made a decision and disappeared into the rear room.

Though a number of ideas were discussed Michael recalled that the date plaque on the house had seemed significant being quite old yet at the same time had felt right like it had always been there, a theory that Roach confirmed seemed plausible based on what he'd felt when observing the mansion. On the matter of something personal of Edwards they decided that if Vera and Henry really wanted rid of Edward then they'd have to do some work themselves and obtaining something of the Barons would be up to them. With the broad details agreed they decided to split into two groups with Vin and Roach returning to the mages to see if with this new knowledge they could solve the issue without having to deal with Pisha while Michael and their new ally Daniel would go to the Vignes mansion and attempt to obtain what they needed from there.

With that decided they called for Pisha and informed her they were leaving. As they turned to leave she called them back "You used the map to find your way from the hospital entrance to me of course?" Roach confirmed that was the case and she reached into a desk draw and handed him another in the same handwriting but with a very different route upon it. "Use this to make your way out and when you return. The other map will be no use to you now" With this she turned and returned once more to the depths behind the office in which they'd first met her.

Suddenly Roach realised why Marius was so reluctant to send them to see Pisha. If she controlled the route to and from her then she also must control everything from the inside of the hospital door making the whole area her domain. This would also mean that if the route changed each time then only her last visitor could return to speak to her subsequently as the map was the only guide. Worryingly it also occurred to him that if she decided to withhold a map then any-one attempting to leave would have to face all the undead and spirits she had enslaved within which was not a reassuring thought.

With the map tightly in hand they left the hospital as quickly as they could to prepare for the next part of their plan...

To Be Continued in 'The Neillson Library' a One Part Solo session before we continue to 'The Pasadena Problem' - 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...
I was really hoping they'd wander from the path...

Tom's roleplaying of his Malkavian characters paranoia and eventual breakdown was spectacular as well as amusing and the rest of the players reactions to it were also excellent. It's been nice to see the characters develop and become deeper as the sessions have gone on.

The only downside from my point of view as that they're taking a different approach to the Vignes issue than I was expecting so I need to do some re-writing before the next session. Hopefully I'll see you all there.

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, Victoria is a model called either Lorelei Swan or Lilith May depending on where you find her, the Drake sisters are a model called Absentia and another called Elisanth, Vera Vignes is Helen Mirren and Henry Waters is a very young Henry Cavill. 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.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Eight - The Pasadena Problem (Part Three)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players...
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. Some in-roads have been made but there's still much to do...
Why LA? - Well it contains a lot of different baronies giving me a lot of interactions to play with, allows me to use some of the more interesting characters from the Bloodlines PC game (which two of the players were familiar with) and is a setting not yet experienced by the players familiar with the Vampire RPG which gives me a chance to keep them on their toes. I've also changed quite a lot and inserted some new characters of my own to make things a bit more interesting...well...interesting for me at least...

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.

The introduction to this campaign and the first story can be found at the following links...
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part One. and Two

The Storyteller
Garreth as Everyone else...
The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
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...

Having been tasked with locating a missing vehicle and two rather important bits of cargo the coterie has been teamed up with another of their patrons operatives. With the simple brief of retrieving the items intact and obtaining as many prisoners as possible the four kindred have now acquired a definite clue to the location of their prey.

Scene Seven - L.A's Finest Auto Garage
The business in question is on a heavily industrialised estate that's quiet as a grave at this time of the night, behind a building that is apparently a wholesaler of Chinese foods during the hours of daylight and definitely doesn't look like the place you'd find a seller of high-end automobiles or where you'd trust the owners to sell you anything you could trust to get around the block before the wheels fell off. 

The whole compound is surrounded by eight foot of fencing with crude barbed wire wrapped around the top. There are two high performance cars within the compound which look totally out of place and a large van with the garage logo on the side you can see. There's definite activity going on within, the sounds of mechanical work can clearly be heard as well as several raised voices...

A quick recon of the area revealed it to indeed be deserted other than the activities going on within the building they had come to investigate. As they'd been warned there were security cameras over the main entrance and a couple more on each corner of the side of the building that had the only other entrance.

Looking at the weapons at their disposal Michael, Roach and Vin could see no way of disabling the cameras without making a lot of noise due to the generally high calibre weapons they were carrying. While they were debating the point Daniel drew his silenced handgun and calmly disabled each camera with a single bullet each to some vital area or connecting cable before carefully collecting the four spent cartridges.

Storytellers Note - Six dice, eight successes due to tens...

After picking the simple lock and chain holding the gates together the coterie and their new ally moved within the complex and quietly discussed their options. Roach and Michael were the first to admit that armed assault wasn't really their forte though they could provide covering fire if necessary. Roach put forward a plan that basically involved setting fire to the main double doors as a distraction while Vin and Daniel stormed the building. Michael would wait as back-up and offer support with his revolver should it seem like it was necessary. He also reminded them that their brief had been to take as many as possible alive.

As Roach lit the fire and quickly withdrew Vin kicked the side door in as Daniel ran in just behind him. Michael drew his .357 and took up position by the doorway just in case.

The five men awaiting immediately within were caught completely by surprise as Daniel drew upon his powers of Celerity and crossed the garage within a moment to disarm a thug who had grabbed a shotgun from behind the counter by driving a blade through his hand and then slicing through the tendons in his forearms with a pair of karambit knives. Vin turned towards a pair of men just inside the door and with Potence enhanced strength drove his knuckleduster clad fist hard into the closest ones stomach bringing him crashing to the floor coughing up blood from ruptured internal organs.

Drawing once again on the vitae the Banu Haqim disappeared in a blur of movement and crashed into two more men disarming and gutting one as the other stepped back and in panic raised a shotgun at his supernatural attacker. The second of the two men engaged with Vin unloaded several rounds into the Brujah but they did little damage to his dead flesh as a shotgun blast roared from the far end of the area winging Daniel but not slowing him.

Completely forgetting his brief about taking prisoners the now enraged Brujah punched the handgun toting criminal in the face where the combination of his natural strength, inch thick brass knuckles and the effect of the vitae enhancing his physical prowess powered through muscle, bone and brain decapitating the man in an explosion of bloody fragments.

Hearing the gunfire from within Michael entered the workshop just in time to see a blood splattered Vin watching his victim fall to the ground as Daniel disarmed the shotgun wielder beside him by severing wrist from forearm. A sixth man with a shotgun charged out from a back room as the Toreador yelled at him to put the gun down but instead a quick glance at the carnage convinced him that retreat was his best option. A moment later he turned and ran back the way he'd came slamming the door behind him. Despite having burned through a considerable amount of blood the doctor once again enhanced his speed of movement to superhuman levels and pursued the retreating figure into the room from which he'd emerged.

Feeling the hunger overwhelm him the doctor grappled the fleeing figure and drove his fangs into his throat. Having spent the last few months living off bagged blood, a meal direct from the vein was a welcome change though he managed to reluctantly resist the urge to drain him completely. As he choked the now anaemic figure unconscious he saw a naked girl curled in a fetal position in one corner of the store-room. His medical instincts took over and he checked on her condition and though she seemed uninjured she was clearly catatonic with terror. With the building now silent other than the moans of the injured Daniel re-entered the main central section and began to stabilise those he could ready for whatever fate awaited them at the hands of Marius's mysterious client.

Though the missing vehicle was sitting in the middle of the building intact there was no sign of any ornamental case or box matching the description they'd been given. While Roach cared for the girl Michael interrogated the most stable of their prisoners calling upon the full extent of his entrancing presence to convince him to tell the Toreador whatever he wished to know. Bewitched by the beautiful man in front of him to the point that his pain faded from notice he willingly revealed that one of his fellow carjackers had been attempting to open the box they'd found in the car when he'd pricked his thumb on something sharp by the lock and became sick almost instantly with some virulent form of blood poisoning. He had been taken by his friend to a local clinic for treatment and had taken the box with him in case the doctors needed to identify whatever substance had done the damage. Fortunately for the coterie their new doctor friend was more than familiar with the location in question.

Interlude Three - The Clinic
The building is a fairly busy 'free' clinic with the usual mix of drunkards, stupid accidents and people who can't be bothered to search for cold cures on the internet.

Borrowing a jacket from Michael to at least partially conceal the bloody clothing he was now wearing Dr Daniels strolled into the free clinic where the nurse on duty recognised him instantly. He told her that he'd been helping the victim of a stabbing but needed some medical supplies from their stores. With a smile she agreed but reminded him to make sure he filled out the appropriate forms as he'd forgotten last time and she'd had to do it herself. While making small-talk he had been scanning the occupants of the waiting room where he noted two individuals who matched the description that Michael had gotten from his bewitched new best friend and his interest was particularly drawn to a bag beneath one of their chairs.

Quickly checking the treatment rooms he found one with a window near the car-park and messaged the others to be ready for a couple of new prisoners. Approaching the two men he told the obviously quick sick one that they would be seen next and the other that he was welcome to accompany his friend. Guiding them to the room he'd already selected Dr Daniel Matthews gave the victim of the trapped box a strong antibiotic for the infection and another to knock him out, the second he simply strangled unconscious from behind before bundling them both out of the window into the care of the others. It occurred to Daniel that the victim of the poison may well have been better off if that had been the cause of death rather than what no doubt awaited them.

With their mission complete they contacted Marius who gave them an address where their business could be concluded.

Scene Eight - The Bartholomews
The address your given for the meeting is a lavish house in Bel Air with a couple of fairly inconspicuous guards near the entrance who are obviously expecting you as they open the gate as soon as you approach and close it behind you as you drive in. A stocky, grey-haired woman who seems to be in charge meets you as you exit the vehicle. "I understand we owe you a debt of gratitude"

The woman introduced herself as Harriet or 'Harry' as she was known to most of the household and offered to escort them personally to their meeting.

You are escorted around the rear of the house through what you imagine is the servants entrance as the kitchen can be seen through a nearby side door, along a short corridor and then down into a room some six feet square which was once a wine cellar but now contains a mere few bottles here and there. Sitting outside a door on the far side is Marius's ghoul Yukio, she has a broad bladed sword sheathed nearby, is holding a handgun and a large automatic shotgun is leaning against the wall next to her. Your guide has returned upstairs leaving you with Yukio. A muffled scream of pain from behind the door she's guarding breaks the silence. "You can go in if you wish, Marius is here though Michael, you may want to wait here, it's not really your sort of thing I'm afraid..."

Trusting her word Michael waited outside as did Roach while Vin and Daniel entered. They left the door open so those outside would be able to hear the conversation.

The room you enter is four times the size of the wine cellar, the floor has been lined with plastic sheeting apart from a strip across the middle which has several grates within. Over two of these, men are hanging from rings in the ceiling via chains wrapped roughly around their wrists. One a portly gentlemen is very obviously dead and is missing both his hands and feet, the cauterised wounds no doubt the source of the smell of burnt flesh that pervades the area though the cause of death appears to be a long slice down the femoral artery. The second man is the chauffeur you met earlier, he has cuts and bruises over much of his body and is missing several fingers and toes, though the rest are broken or have had their nails violently removed, he's also missing an ear and both his eyelids. 

Victoria - 'Working'
You can see the back of a woman in high heels, a leather skirt and a dark basque, with long dark hair scraped back into a tight pony-tail. She whispers something to the torture victim before turning around to simply nod to Marius who is leaning against one wall apparently watching her work. 

You are greeted by Marius's most trusted blood-bound servant Victoria, Splatters of blood criss-cross her clothing and she also appears to have some on her lips, her right hand is holding a vicious looking device soaked in blood and her left holds a square of skin cut from the unfortunate drivers chest. She passes a nearby folding table which contains a variety of blades, medical tools and other paraphernalia of the dedicated torturer and the skin she tosses down the drain. The usually cold and aloof ghoul seems in an uncharacteristically good mood as she shakes her hair loose "Greetings gentlemen, apparently this has all been a terrible misunderstanding. How did it go with your little task?"

Those within and outside the room confirmed that they'd retrieved the box and young lady from the car and had captured at least half a dozen of those responsible for whatever punishment the client saw fit. Daniel also noted that the 'work' that had been carried out on the unfortunate chauffeur had been done with the expert precision of a surgeon. Each cut, piece of removed skin and broken bone had been selected to cause the maximum suffering possible. It was also his opinion that given the damage done the victim must have given up any information he had some time ago with the majority of the torture being simply unnecessary for any purpose other than causing pain for the sake of it.

"It seems that this gentlemen had accumulated some gambling debts and had arranged for one of his employers vehicles to go missing as a small down payment. Unfortunately for him his somewhat fickle boss swapped his duties at the last minute and when he attempted to change the plan his new friends thought he was backing out and took the car seems they'd somewhat cleverly cloned his phone so they could keep tabs on him, the wonders of modern technology." "If your hungry help yourself, the fat one is fairly fresh and the other one will be being disposed of shortly."

Never one to turn down a free meal Vin sated his hunger on the currently still living driver though the others politely declined for various reasons.

As you're having your discussion the woman who first greeted you appears at the door together with a man on the pretty side of handsome with shoulder length blonde hair who appears to be in his late 30's wearing a casual blazer come smoking jacket. "So Mr Walker, have the issues with my childe's unfortunate evenings entertainment been resolved? I'd hate to miss my invite to the next of Mr Fortier's wonderful parties because George has terrible choice in staff..." Marius replied that "Fortunately I had some understanding acquaintances nearby who have been most helpful indeed" You can't help but notice that Marius's speech patterns change considerably in tone depending on who he's speaking to "Gentlemen, introduce yourself to Mr Bartholomew, sire of George Bartholomew whose minor indiscretion we've been resolving this evening"

Archibald Bartholomew - Toreador
The coterie made their introductions and gave a brief overview of the situation and in broad terms what they'd done to resolve it but as the gentlemen was unknown to them kept many of the details vague, especially those that could be potentially used against them.

Storytellers Note - The players are very careful how they phrase things, lol.

As Mr Bartholomew turns to leave he addresses Marius "I've been thinking about my childe's play-thing, I doubt he'll want it now it's been soiled by contact with the kine, please dispose of it after you punish the rest will you, I had planned on doing so myself but now I'm weary of the whole situation, deal with it will you" There's a curt "As you wish..." from Marius as the gentlemen is leaving...and then a distinct change in tone once he's gone. "Fucker...If that's all the fucking bastard fucking wanted I could have just had Alice butcher every-one and burn the fucking place down...asshole..." With that out of his system he calms down slightly and turns to the coterie "Still at least you did your jobs I suppose so name your price, but don't take the fucking piss!!!"

The coterie asked for some time to consider the question and moved into the adjacent former wine cellar. Michael and Roach both seemed to think that getting access to Marius's mages in connection to the issue they have with the Vignes might be useful but Roach pointed out that it might be possible to get that without calling the favour in if he could convince Marius that the result suited them both. The question of the fate of the girl they'd rescued also concerned the Toreador as he'd clearly heard the phrase 'dispose of' but doubted that any of his colleagues would be willing to trade a boon in exchange for her life. Trying to ascertain exactly what would happen to her Michael approached the subject from a different angle by asking about the Bartholomew family.

Interlude Four - The Bartholomew Family
Sophia Bartholomew - Toreador Artist
The five kindred members of the Bartholomew family and their most loyal retainers escaped London during the purges of the Second Inquisition and it is heavily rumoured that they betrayed several inconsequential neonate kindred to buy themselves time to get out but this has never been proved. Only Sophia is a genuine ancestor of Archibald Bartholomew, the rest are artistic types he 'adopted' as ghouls and then embraced the most talented of. Failed candidates tended to disappear.

They burned a major boon with the Ventrue Fiorenza Savona to smooth over the rumours and arrange a flight out of the city, Fiorenza had apparently strongly suggested that they avoid Camarilla territories till the rumours can indeed be smoothed over, so they have moved to the 'Free States' and are keeping out of local politics but are portraying themselves as patrons of the arts.

They are also social acquaintances of the Fortiers and to a lesser extent the Vignes and frequently attend Catherine's parties and use her 'services' so not as to poach others herds. They also use Velvet's club for the same reason. Marius Walker has allowed Sophia to use his feeding grounds on occasion but has refused other family members and publicly his reason is that they lack subtlety and can be careless though privately he's confessed to several kindred that it's because he despises them all except Sophia who he seems to have some sympathy for.

Fiorenza Savona - 'New Money' Ventrue
They got out of the United Kingdom with enough money to re-establish themselves and the money was laundered through legitimate businesses of Marius Walkers 'Aegis' group of companies. This favour was done for Fiorenza Savona not the Bartholomews with whom Marius had no connection till they arrived in Los Angeles. Sophia Bartholomew gave him a painting as a thank-you anyway which he keeps in his meeting room at his haven. Marius seems to like Sophia and very obviously hates the rest though seems to hide his feelings when in their presence.

Scene Eight - Continued
After hearing Marius's feelings about the family he felt more comfortable asking whether he was indeed going to get rid of the girl. The Gangrel was clear that the girl was more useful to him alive and right now he couldn't give a fuck about what Archibald Bartholomew thought about it though it did mean that technically speaking he was taking for himself a present given to George by the Fortiers. It was also obvious to Michael that he wasn't concerned in the slightest about doing so. As the Toreador had observed before the 'Fixer' seemed to revel in the fact that his clients both needed and disliked him and strangely seemed to go out of his way to antagonise them.

Isabella - 'Blood Doll'
Reasonably sure that the girl whose name he discovered was Isabella was as close to safe as some-one this involved in the kindred world was going to get he made his goodbyes and left the house stopping only long enough to get the contact details of the doctor who had assisted them. Who knows, he might become a useful ally over time.

As the coterie left for their gallery and the doctor returned to his own haven the discussion returned to what they'd learnt about the Vignes and what side in the love triangle they were going to take though their final decision would have to be based on whether they could help given what they'd learnt of the Baron's defences. The doctor on the other hand having no involvement in the coteries particular problems had other things on his mind. Firstly, what exactly was in the box the driver had been transporting and where was he going with it if he also had a half-naked girl in his boot and secondly that they only had Victoria's word about the gambling debts as the driver was minus a tongue by the time they arrived. Maybe he'd speak to them about it if he ever bumped into them again...

To Be Continued in 'The Pasadena Problem' Part Four

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...
The Three(ish) Musketeers
Well it looks like the coterie of three kindred is on it's way to becoming a four, lol. I had offered the group a fairly justifiable 'hand-wave' way to integrate the doctor into the group but the players decided they wanted to roleplay the relationship so that's what we'll be doing. Of course the downside to this is that it makes no sense that they'd just invite the new guy along to every meeting so I've warned the new player that he might be having some 'sit and watch' moments. This apparently suits him just fine because as a new player he quite likes to see how the others do it and learn more about the every-ones happy apparently. I have however written in a few fairly obvious ways of them including the doctor because I don't like people being left out.

Next session we'll be diving back into the main plot-line of this story and we'll see if they invite a certain doctor along with them.

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 a drawing of Kurt Cobain, 'Vin' is the actor Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen. Isabella is an actress called Nancy Talamantes. 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.
Related Posts with Thumbnails