Monday, 17 December 2018

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Solo Session - The Neillson Library

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. As certain players have desires for their character which wouldn't really suit a session with other players I've agreed to run solo sessions for those with personal schemes in mind. I've decided that in order to maintain game balance any rewards for these sessions will be in the form of Loresheet dots or similar backgrounds from a pre-approved list so in character upgrades are achieved rather than another 3xp to spend on disciplines...
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 'Zero'
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree and Four

The Storyteller
Garreth as Everyone else...
The PC
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
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. 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...

Your phone rings and you hear the distinctive voice of Marius's right hand ghoul Victoria on the other end. As usual she gets straight to the point "Michael...did you have any plans for the next few days that can't be cancelled?"

Michael immediately concluded that probably meant 'cancel all your other plans immediately' and as the coteries plans to move on the barony of Pasadena where currently awaiting other matters to resolve before continuing he did indeed have time to spare.

"Marius has a guest arriving tomorrow, some-one for whom we look after certain interests in between their occasional visits and he'd consider it a personal favour if you were to look after them while they're in town while he's otherwise engaged. Perhaps it'd help with your decision if I showed you just exactly what we look after for them...interested?" "I'll be at the gallery in...oh...about an hour, if that's satisfactory?

Michael's natural curiosity at the vagueness of the statement got the better of him and he agreed to meet with Victoria to discover what Marius's group was protecting.

One of the larger of Marius's vehicles arrives outside and as you leave to meet it the driver gets out and opens the rear door for you. You can see that Yukio is in the passenger seat next to the driver and Victoria is inside the vehicles rear together with a pretty young woman who you recognise as Isabella, the 'cargo' from the missing car you were sent to locate several days previously. Victoria informs you that you'll be taking a drive to Hollywood so you can introduce himself to Baron Isaac Abrams as they'll need to spend some time in his territory and Marius wants the formalities dealt with first.

Isabella - Blood Doll
Marius's 'Herd'
Michael introduced himself to Isabella as he was unsure given the state she'd been in after her ordeal whether she remembered him. "So you're one of my rescuers then?" Michael confirmed that he'd played his part in her rescue but chose not to mention that the box in the glove compartment had actually been prioritised over her or that he'd spent most of the combat outside.

Storytellers Note - The events skimmed over here are covered fully in this story HERE.

He did notice that without all the make-up she'd been plastered in when they first saw her she was actually quite petty in a 'girl next door' kind of way though was also somewhat younger than he'd imagined. She did however seem to be much happier in whatever role Victoria had created for her though he could still see several faded bruises here and there from her previous ordeal. Given the depravities he'd heard of being perpetrated on the blood-dolls provided at the Fortier's parties hosted by Catherine Du Bois he doubted she could be any worse off as despite Marius's ghoul Victoria being a complete psychopath she did seem unwilling to waste anything or anyone vaguely useful as a resource and reserved her particular gifts for enemies of which Marius certainly wasn't short.

Scene One - The Baron of Hollywood
Isaac Abrams - Baron of Hollywood
You park outside an exclusive looking jewellery shop and the driver opens the door to let you out but only Victoria accompanies you. You are directed towards a rear entrance with a pair of guards standing watch outside who Victoria addresses. "This is Michael Tomassio, Marius has arranged for him to introduce himself this evening" The first guard steps aside and the other one addresses Victoria "Kindred only I'm afraid, you know how Isaac enjoys the formalities" Victoria nods and takes a step back and you notice that Yukio is no longer sitting in the car but leaning against the wall at the end of the alleyway with her hand resting casually inside her jacket. 

The door is opened for you and you are directed within. Seated behind the counter is a distinguished man in an expensive hand made suit wearing about a million dollars of jewellery including a Patek Philippe watch that you'd estimate cost around quarter of a million dollars on it's own. "I'm a busy man and I dislike Marius arranging visits via his ghoul so make your introduction brief and to the point..."

Michael introduced himself formally by name and as one of clan Toreador which seemed to pique the barons interest if only slightly. He then asked permission to travel though Isaac's domain as he had some business with Marius's ghoul that would require him to be here for the day at least. There was a pause before the Baron spoke in a particularly sarcastic tone "...I suppose I should be grateful that you asked permission at all considering last time you entered my domain you didn't feel that it was necessary"

Michael immediately concluded that he was talking about their visit to Gary in the sewers below Hollywood which they had indeed done without respecting the traditions that Baron Abrams seemed so fond of. It was hard to detect from the tone whether he was genuinely offended by the imposition or was just pointing out that he knew they had been there though Michael suspected it was the latter.

The artist immediately decided to blame the absent members of his coterie as being the uncouth ones and as one was a Malkavian and the other a Brujah this seems plausible. He then changed the subject by stating his general objections to having to enter the sewer system at all to which the baron was entirely in agreement with. After some more flattery, blaming of absent coterie members and bonding over a distaste for Nosferatu's choice of home he was eventually granted rights to travel through Hollywood but was expressly warned against feeding while there.

With the interview now obviously over the artist gave a deferential bow and left by the door indicated by a dismissive wave.

"So what did you think of the Baron of Hollywood?" asked Victoria as they drove off "Exactly as his reputation would indicate no doubt" she concluded. Michael had to admit that he'd been somewhat abrupt or an "arrogant self important prick" as Victoria put it a moment later. Michael enquired if he had any particular reason for his less than sparkling personality and was informed that he was being left behind by technology as he was stuck in the era of film and had failed to embrace other modern media advances. This meant that as his power was primarily based around money made from a very specific set of businesses that others were beginning to eat into his profits with their own enterprises. As she seemed unlikely to elaborate any further he spent the rest of the journey making small talk with Isabella.

Scene Two - Hollywood Cemetery
After a relatively short and uneventful trip you arrive somewhat surprisingly at the gates of the Hollywood Cemetery. The driver is apparently staying with the car but Yukio, Victoria and the girl all get out. It's somewhat of a concern considering your visiting a cemetery at midnight that as she hands you a maglite torch you can't help but notice that Yukio has a suppressed military model FN P90 tucked under one arm. Apparently she notices you looking "just in case..." is all she says...

Understandably Michael's response was "In case of what?" but received only a wry smile in return.

Victoria opens the locked gate and once you're all inside the gate is locked behind you and Victoria begins walking purposefully through the paths between the valleys, hills and various impressive monuments, crypts and graves of this vast cemetery eventually reaching what looks like a small home for a caretaker of some description.

Romero - Cemetery Custodian
Evidently you're expected as the door opens and a pale skinned man with short hair, wearing a dark shirt opens the door. He has a rifle in one hand but as soon as he sees your group approaching he puts it just inside the doorway and the girl accompanying you heads towards the structure. Victoria explains that Romero is the caretaker here for the cemetery and works for Isaac Abrams to ensure that the dead "Stay where they're meant to be..." but that as he works all night he doesn't get much company so occasionally they provide him with some companionship as a good will gesture though what he does for them in return she doesn't say.

Isabella gave Michael a wave presumably to assure him she was fine. This left Michael with just Victoria and Yukio to which he asked the question that had been playing on his mind for the last few minutes. "So what exactly does 'stay where they're meant to be' mean in a cemetery?". Victoria explained that the dead didn't always rest easy in this particularly location and it was sometimes necessary for Romero to prevent a messy masquerade breach caused by dead celebrities deciding to go for a stroll though no-one was quite sure why it happened so often here specifically. Even less comfortable after the answer than before Michael kept close to the heavily armed Yukio.

After another ten minutes you arrive at a fairly plain, square structure that appears to be one of the older crypts in the area and are led down a flight of stairs to a large stone door. Victoria opens the door with an intricate looking key from a chain around her neck. It has an unusual purple glow from a section to it's rear and as she turns it within the seemingly ordinary lock the door-frame glows with intricate runes for a moment as the key is turned. 

The Neillson Library - Hollywood Cemetery
Ahead is an antechamber with several sarcophagi within and another flight of stairs leading further down. Yukio somewhat irreverently takes a seat on one of the stone covers as Victoria continues down the stairs...

"Yukio will keep an eye on things while Romero is otherwise occupied, we're nearly at the place I wished to show you..." She opens a second door with the same key as before and this leads into another antechamber with a large archway on the opposite side sealed with a portcullis. Marius's ghoul places her hand on a circular indentation in the wall beside the lowered gate and it begins to raise as she withdraws her hand. You can't help but notice there are a number of bloody marks in a circle around her palm but she seems unconcerned about them. 

Beyond is a spacious chamber filled with books, cabinets containing odd ornaments and several seating areas some of which have books open on the nearby tables. "I really wish people would put things away when they've finished with them..." She mutters before explaining further... "This is what kindred scholars call a Neillson Library. The Toreador archaeologist Carmelita Neillson unearths the past, preserves kindred historical artefacts and interviews Kindred of interest. Over the years shes been chronicling a vast array of vampire history and conversations with vampires as old as two millennia apparently. 

Mi-ka-il - The Dream
As the Camarilla forbids her from archiving any of her findings electronically, she has established several 'Neillson Libraries' in discreet locations. We look after this one for her and make sure that any-one with permission to look through it's archives doesn't abuse the privilege or more accurately Marius hunts down and brutally kills any-one who abuses the privilege..."

Michael who had a keen interest in certain aspects of kindred history particularly Constantinople asked if they had time for him to look around and his guide confirmed that she's be giving the cemeteries guardian another hour or so before they retrieved Isabella.

The library had an extremely well organised index and the Toreador made some notes about various volumes that interested him hoping he'd be able to return and perused several in the short time he had available to him while asking a few questions of Victoria who had completed her brief housekeeping session.

Surprised that he hadn't heard of Carmelita, Victoria explained that she was more or less the role model for those of the Toreador clan that aspired to be more than what according to her Marius referred to as "Pretty but talent-less." Michael had to agree that some Toreador did indeed pick progeny for less than well thought out reasons and beauty was no doubt the cause of the majority of impulsive embraces and mentioned the Bartholomew's in passing.

Sophia Bartholomew
He commented that of the ones he was aware of Sophia Bartholomew seemed to have some talent though Victoria claimed she found her work dull and uninspiring despite her regnant's liking of some of her landscapes. It occurred to the artist that a kindred would probably show more interest in a painting of a sunset than a person who was capable of observing one directly whenever they pleased.

Victoria interrupted his musing "I think we've given Romero enough time..." "...and I suppose you'd like to know what we actually require of you..."

"Carmelita herself is arriving tomorrow to add some archives to this repository and will no doubt wish to explore the mortal museums and places of learning to see if anything kindred related has accidentally found their way into them." "Marius would like you to accompany her and make sure she has some companionship on her travels...she's quite loquacious once she gets into a subject and you seemed an ideal candidate to keep her occupied...who may learn something of interest at the very least it's got to be more stimulating than your usual companions..." "If she finds you agreeable she may even give you continued access to this particular library but that's her decision, not ours"

The ghoul once again put her hand over the indentation in the wall and the room sealed leaving once again a circle of bloody pin pricks on her palm. "I gather that wouldn't work if I attempted that?" queried Michael and was told that it would in fact be more than likely fatal and that attempting it would be a very stupid idea. "Many of these libraries are secured purely based on their obscure locations but this one contains enough sensitive and rare materials to warrant occult defences." she explained "Should you be given access to this place after your meeting the wards will be modified to allow you to access this place without your blood boiling"

Victoria suggested that Michael use one of the Hallowbrook Apartments 'dayrooms' tomorrow so he could make an early start in the evening and seeing the wisdom in it accepted the offer graciously. They picked up Isabella on the way who seemed none the worse for her experience but he imagined that considering what a liaison with a Fortier client for a night entailed, an hour with a lonely caretaker couldn't be anywhere near as traumatic. He decided to briefly return to his own haven in order to pick up a change of clothes and carefully selected an outfit that he calculated was somewhere between 'smartly dressed' and 'doesn't think too much of himself'in order to impress Carmelita as much as possible.

Scene Three - Sleepover at Hallowbrook
Natisha - Blood Doll
Marius's 'Herd'
The 'Day-room' is an extremely well decorated apartment that could pass for luxury accommodation anywhere if it wasn't for the fact that all the windows have been bricked up. "I imagine you're an early riser?" "I'll have refreshments sent to you in the morning and then you can meet up with Yukio for the actual meeting with Carmelita" said Victoria as she left Michael in the luxury apartment.

Michael woke up an hour or so before darkness as was his habit to a polite knocking on the rooms door. A beautiful dark-skinned girl is at the door. "My name is Natisha, Victoria sent me to see to any needs you might have before you're taken to Yukio in about half an hour"

Though not particularly hungry it seemed foolish to turn down a free meal so the Toreador bit into the girls neck and took a small quantity of her blood before dismissing her. Though he usually fed via seduction it seemed a wasted effort on this occasion.

One of Marius's security people escorts you to a floor you've never been to before. There's a small lobby area with a door on each side. It appears that the entire floor has been divided into a mere two apartments. 

You are directed towards one of these apartments by the escort who then leaves. Yukio's apartment has been created in the style of a traditional Japanese home with Tatami flooring, sliding wooden panels and all the classic features. You note that the area in front of the apartment door has a Genkan area for removing footwear.

Michael removed his footwear and placed them next to the others facing the same direction as he presumed this was the correct thing to do.

Yukio greets you at the entrance wearing a kimono and directs you to a short low table with several thin pillows around it presumably for sitting on. The apartment is equipped with all the modern conveniences though the majority have been cunningly designed to appear as traditional as possible. 

The only exception to this are a number of gun and weapon cabinets along one wall next to a table equipped for servicing and maintenance of firearms. Several of the cabinet doors are open and each one contains a bewildering selection of firearms with racks of bladed weapons between. 

Michael complimented Yukio on her decor pointing out that he'd almost forgotten where he was until he saw the armoury. Yukio was as upbeat as ever "I just need to change into my work clothes, I'll only be a few minutes" "There's wine on the table if you wish some, I understand you can consume such things" and then she disappeared into a side room and closed the door behind her.

The first weapon cabinet held two of pretty much every model of Glock handgun ever produced which Michael knew were her preferred sidearm though there were also a selection of handguns from other manufacturers as well as ammunition. The second held a variety of shotguns ranging from pump action to fully automatic and as with the first held plenty of shells of a variety of types.

There was also a rack of assault rifles though these were mainly bull-pup configuration weapons including several relative short weapons such as P90's, and an Ultimax 100 LMG presumably as these were more comfortable given Yukio's small build. Several other cabinets were locked and if what was in the open ones was anything to go by he dreaded to think what might be in the others that made them require concealment. Michael poured himself a drink and also one for Yukio out of courtesy then awaited her return.

She returns about fifteen minutes later in an expensive tailored suit though you also note the custom body armour and handguns just before she puts her jacket on and they disappear from view. "Lets go meet Ms Neillson then" "I imagine you have some questions? We can talk on the way"

Yukio - Modern Onna-Bugeisha
"So had did you end up with this task then, Michael?" The Toreador pointed out that it was probably a choice between him, Roach or Vin and as his one companion could be a little standoffish and the other was brash and somewhat boorish he doubted they'd have been a good fit and besides which he was much better at interacting with any none-kindred they may encounter during any excursions Carmelita might wish to make.

When Michael asked about Carmelita, Yukio admitted that this was the first time she'd been given bodyguard duty with her as last time the job was done by Alice. As Alice was a name he hadn't heard yet amongst Marius's various agents he attempted to learn something about her but could tell that Yukio didn't wish to discuss her so changed the subject. "So Yukio, how long have you been in the service of 'The Fixer' Marius then?"

Yukio started with what Michael had learned was the standard line from the more senior of the Gangrel's ghouls "Oh...quite a long time..." and was expecting to get little else so was pleasantly surprised when Yukio continued. "My mother was an Onna-Bugeisha, a female warrior in Japan but the culture was beginning to change and there was a significant transformation in the social acceptance of women. Many samurai viewed women purely as child bearers; the concept of a woman being a fit companion for war was no longer conceivable and my mother was concerned that I would never have the chance to be the warrior she had hoped I'd become" She paused for a moment as if the memory troubled her.

"Travel was demanding and unsettling for many female samurai as they always had to be accompanied by a man, since they were not allowed to travel by themselves. Additionally, they had to possess specific permits, establishing their business and motives. Samurai women also received much harassment from officials who manned inspection checkpoints. Marius told my mother and I that I would always have the chance to be a warrior in his service and that any who impeding our progress from Japan would regret the imposition." She seemed to have reached the limits of what she was comfortable revealing only making one more statement... "To be fair to Marius he kept his promise, I've been a warrior ever since..."

Scene Four - Carmelita Neillson
Carmelita Neillson - Toreador
You have been instructed to meet Carmelita at Los Angeles airport where she is due to arrive on a Gulfstream whose flight plans have been pre-cleared by the noted Ventrue Fiorenza Savona. Yukio collects passes waiting for you to allow runway access provided via Victoria no doubt and has somehow managed to wander through airport security fully armed. As Carmelita leaves the plane the Brazilian part of her ancestry is obvious in both her appearance and dress though the Irish is somewhat harder to detect. She greets Yukio in fluent Japanese before turning her attention to you.

Victoria has informed you that the artefacts and journals in Carmelita's care will be transported from the plane to the 'Neillson Library' by one of Marius's own security teams and that unless Miss Neillson has other plans you merely need to take her where she wishes and keep her entertained before returning her to Hallowbrook Apartments where a guest 'room' has been made available to her.

"So Marius is avoiding my attempts at an interview yet again. Lets hope he's provided some-one a little more interesting to accompany me than the vacuous blood doll he saddled me with a decade ago." Michael considered this his cue to give a formal introduction and assured her that he had been carefully selected so as to ensure her visit was as pleasurable as possible. He also complimented her on her work and expressed his own interests in similar fields of study.

"Some interesting Native American artefacts from Los Angeles's early history have turned up out of the blue which may be connected to an Elder Brujah I recently interviewed on his emergence from Torpor. I'd like to see them myself to ascertain if this is the case and if they need to I have timed my visit to coincide with their once monthly late night opening event so we should have plenty of time" "I presume that the more sociable of the Gangrel's two pet killing machines will also be accompanying us?"

Michael confirmed that Yukio was to accompany them in order to deal with any complications that might interrupt their trip and that Yukio was the only 'killing machine' of Marius's he'd encountered. The kindred archaeologist pointed out that that was probably for the best but didn't elaborate, further piquing the artists interest in the mysterious Alice but that was a problem for another night. Yukio waited for the pair of toreador to finish chatting before guiding them through the airport via several seemingly unmanned areas to the awaiting car. For all his influence in Los Angeles, Michael doubted that even Marius had the influence to just bypass airport and therefore some powerful sponsor of Carmelita's must be at work here.

Scene Five - A Night at the Museum
The museum isn't particularly crowded and your charge seems interested only in the new exhibit though she does take a tour of the facility on the way to it. Michael took this opportunity to impress Carmelita with his knowledge of antiquities as his mortal father had been an archaeologist himself and some of that knowledge had been passed on. This, combined with his artistic endeavours enabled him to hold his own with the expert Miss Neillson and his empathetic skills seemed to indicate that she was enjoying his company.

The majority of the cabinets are currently empty and contain various versions of 'coming soon' signs with some photographs but one has been filled with a number of worn stone tablets with various symbols on them. She turns to you "Oh dear. I'm going to have to acquire these before they go on display. Too much of the symbolism matches that which a certain group of the Inquisition has on file" She gestures over to a woman in a guard outfit my a security door on the other side of the display "How are you at seducing young women till they do what you want?" "I need a private tour of the restoration area" she finishes with a wink.

Museum Security Officer
Michael sighed as he realised his evening was about to become complicated and turned to locate Yukio who had been doing her usual trick of blending into the background until needed and beckoned her over. It briefly occurred to him that he had completely forgotten about her since entering the museum and that she must be quite formidable at shadowing individuals when necessary. "Yukio dear, how difficult would it be to disable the security cameras in this building?" Yukio who apparently made a habit of planning for just such an eventuality didn't even look up. "Give me fifteen minutes before you do anything impulsive" she said before walking towards the stairs to the second floor where presumably she already knew the security office was from some previous reconnaissance.

After waiting the requested quarter of an hour the handsome artist moved over to the security guard and engaged her in casual conversation before launching a full charm offensive reinforced with his presence discipline and soon had her complete and undivided attention. "You're obviously wasted just guarding a doorway. Perhaps you would be kind enough to give me and my acquaintance the benefit of your no doubt considerable knowledgeable of the museum and give us a private tour of it from 'behind the scenes' so to speak?" Even Michael had to admit that it wasn't his best segue but by this point the young woman was so enraptured by the stunningly attractive man giving her his attention that she just wished to please him and readily agreed.

Storytellers Note - For some reason her three dice pool failed to resist the onslaught of Michael's eight dice one...

As they made their way through the security door Michael's phone buzzed as he received a text from Yukio which informed him that the security room cameras were now neutralised and they had an hour and forty five minutes until the shift change. He then told Carmelita that they had to meet their car soon and inserted the time that Yukio had given them subtly into the conversation before turning to their guide and asking her if this was a 'no cameras' area. The intelligent archaeologist easily grasped the message Michael was attempting to relay and as they closed on the restoration area gave him an almost imperceptible sideways nod of the head indicating that he needed to divert their guides attention. "I'm sure someone as interesting as you has some favourite place here in the museum where we could talk privately?" He followed this with a wink and all the effort he'd put into making her obsessed with himself had the desired effect and she led him to a room in a quiet part of the museums depths while Carmelita made her way to the area where the artefacts were stored.

Storytellers Note - A definite 'fade to black' moment I think...

Michael Tomassio - Toreador Siren
An hour or so later Michael emerged from the less than salubrious store-room sure he'd given his fellow Toreador enough time to accomplish whatever theft she'd decided to engage in with an extremely happy security guard in a significantly more ruffled uniform than she had on when they entered. "Our car is meeting us along this side of the building in a few minutes, Is there another exit nearby we could use?"

The now completely infatuated and possibly soon to be unemployed woman escorted them to a rear exit and somewhat optimistically handed her phone number to Michael as they left. So focused on him was she that she completely missed the fact that his companion was carrying a large bag that she certainly hadn't had with her when she arrived. Outside they met Yukio as she dropped from a window a story above them and quickly made their way to the car before the night shift security took over from the incapacitated afternoon shift.

"Well that went quite smoothly all things considering" stated their guest though all she got from their driver Yukio was an eye-roll. Michael chose not to enquire how the security office personnel had been neutralised or how any restoration staff had been bypassed in order for Carmelita to acquire the items she desired as he had a feeling he didn't want to know. He also had a feeling he might well be reading about it in the news tomorrow.

Carmelita Neillson
With his responsibilities for the evening discharged above and beyond the call of duty in his opinion Michael escorted Carmelita back to the Hallowbrook building where Victoria was there to meet them and between them they explained briefly what had occurred. To Michael's surprise Victoria seemed more interested about whether Miss Neillson had been happy with the companion she'd been provided with after as she put it "Mr Walker mistakenly thought that some pretty young thing with a single digit IQ would be adequate company last time" rather than the fact that they'd just burgled a museum. Though he didn't actually dislike Heather, Michael knew enough about etiquette and politics to not leap to her defence in this conversation as this might undo any goodwill he'd managed to accumulate so he joined in with the general character assassination that ensued.

"Thank-you for an unexpectedly enjoyable and productive evening Michael. If you'd care to provide me with a tiny sample of your Vitae I'll have the wards on the library modified to allow you access. Victoria has spare keys and can make one available to you when you require." She paused and then offered some reassurance. "I only need the tiniest amount, nothing that could be used against you I assure you" The Toreador of course readily agreed before making his polite goodbyes.

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...
It's normally fuller than this...
I'd forgotten how quickly you burn through scenes during solo sessions where there's no real gaps while the players discuss things. I also failed to take into account that normally I make notes during those same conversation breaks so I need to perfect the art of writing about one thing while talking about another, lol.

All in all though both me and the player Phil enjoyed the session so that makes it a success as far as I'm concerned. It also gave him a chance to use some of the many none combat aspects of his character that he sometimes doesn't get to utilise to there full potential.

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, Isaac Abrams was Gary Oldman, the 'blood doll' Natisha is a model called Gracie Carvalho, Isabella was a young actress called Nancy Talamantes and Carmelita Neillson is of course Salma Hayek. 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, 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.
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