Friday, 7 December 2018

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Seven - The Pasadena Problem (Part Two)

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.

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 formally introduced themselves to the Baron and Baroness of Pasadena the coterie have discovered a strange love affair has formed between the Baroness and the Barons childe and servant Henry. Henry's bond to his sire is fighting with his love for Vera and Vera is on the verge of doing something hasty to free herself from her husband and sires abusive control. However before the coterie can decide on a course of action another issue comes up.

Storytellers Note - The details of the love triangle can be found HERE.

Scene Four - Another Small Favour
Roach who had left the Vignes house earlier than his coterie mates was sitting in his usual chair at the top of the fire escape at the galleries rear when to his surprise the kindred he knew only as 'The Cabbie' pulled up in the rear carpark and got out of his vehicle. "Do you know where Michael keeps his car keys? I need you to get them and meet me downstairs". This was the longest sentence he'd heard the driver utter and the first time he'd seen him set foot out of his car so he presumed the matter was of some importance. Not wishing to disturb Michael's ghoul Lisa at the moment or simply because it amused him to do it this way, Roach decided that subtlety might be the best solution and promptly disappeared using his recently increased powers of Obfuscate.

Storytellers Note - As he's used the discipline consistently through the first story I saw no reason not to allow him to buy the second dot in Obfuscate.

A skilful bit of lock-picking later the cloaked Malkavian entered the Toreadors impeccably ordered and decorated rooms and for his own amusement re-arranged several items on the desk before retrieving the car keys from the elegant dish that was apparently their home before moving that as well. On his return the driver was once again in his usual place behind the wheel of his traditional looking cab though the noise coming from the engine led Roach to believe that underneath it was of far less standard design. "Follow me, your friends are going to need a car soon and I'll be busy..." and then he drove off with the bewildered looking Malkavian in pursuit.

As they left the mansion Michael and Vin were somewhat surprised to find Roach awaiting them outside and even more questions sprang to mind when the Toreador realised it was his car that he was sitting within.

Interlude Two - Dr Daniel Matthews
Daniel Matthews, a kindred of the Banu Haqim clan had arrived in Los Angeles on the run from his sire after a significant difference of opinion and had been provided with documentation and a Haven by an Autarkis Gangrel named Marius whose lack of loyalty to any one side in particular meant that hopefully he would keep the doctors new location to himself as long as he proved useful.

Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
His phone rang and the Gangrel Marius who provided his haven and some other documentation was on the other end. "Dr Matthews, you're at St. Georges clinic in Pasadena" It was a statement rather than a question "I need you to perform a small task for me." Having anticipated that such a moment would occur eventually he responded with a simple "Fine. What can I do for you?"

"A particularly stupid ghoul driver of an acquaintance of mine has got himself beaten up and the vehicle stolen" "I need you to go and make sure he's not going to bleed to death before we get a chance to have a chat with him" "I'll try and get some other useful assets to deal with any complications so if a 6'4" slab of muscle, a pretty boy with expensive shoes and sunglasses and an inexplicably charismatic Kurt Cobain lookalike turns up give them any help they might need, and don't underestimate them, they're surprisingly resourceful." There was a pause as if the Gangrel was considering something "Do you have transport? if not I'll send the Cabbie."

Daniel confirmed that transport would be helpful and with impeccable timing a cab driver in a suspiciously supercharged sounding cab was waiting for him the moment he left the clinic who seemed to know exactly where he was going.

Scene Four - Continued
Marius Walker - Gangrel 'Fixer'
Michael's phone started ringing, then a moment later Roach's and after a few seconds Vin's. As Michael answered the other two phones immediately fell silent. Marius's voice was on the other end without any of the insincere pleasantries that he usually started conversations with "Where are you three right now? Anywhere near your gallery" Michael revealed that they had just left the Vignes Mansion. Marius's tone lightened very slightly "Excellent, that's closer than I expected and I need a does Louis Fortier...and another party who will need to remain anonymous for now...I'll of course make it worth your while" It immediately occurred to Michael that given the situation they were about to step into with the Vignes having Marius owe them a boon could be useful sooner rather than later and with the phone muted quickly appraised the other two of the request. Coming to the same conclusions as Michael in regard to favours they nodded their agreement and the Toreador confirmed their willingness to assist.

Storytellers Note - Given the politics of the vampire world and the unpredictable nature of players there's always the possibility that your plans will get ruined by them deciding not to do anything you expected of them so I had to throw in the favour thing to sweeten the deal a little. As Vampires trade on boons it seemed reasonable.

"Here's the address, it's not far from where you are now thank fuck. A...friend of ours, has had a car jacked from one of his fucking ghouls and I need it finding as it has some belongings of his in it that we would like to avoid some light-fingered mutherfuckers messing with" "An ornamental box that should be in the glove compartment...don't open that it's dangerous and something in the boot which needs retrieving, intact" "Drivers name is Connor..." There's a pause as he seems to be consulting with some-one else "...Thomson...Connor Thomson...tall, skinny fella." 

"There should also be a doctor there by the time you arrive, he's kindred and understands the situation. He might be useful to keep around until the jobs done, he has other skills that may come in handy" "Any questions?" Having nothing in particular to ask as the situation hadn't been assessed yet Michael's reply was a simple "Not Yet." The Gangrel fixer then continued "The driver is at the location you're about to receive, see if he knows anything useful, don't kill him finding out though. Ring me back when you've seen what the useless fucker has to say..." He then hung up. The address that pops up on all their phones, had the location as about ten minutes away.

Scene Five - The Driver
Sitting at the roadside is a tall, thin man man in a chauffeurs outfit, minus the hat which is beside him, there's a nasty gash across the side of his head to which he's holding a bloody handkerchief. There is no sign of any vehicles nearby though there are three sets of tyre-marks on the ground as if three vehicles left in a hurry.

Daniel was the first to arrive and quickly set to work on the injured man, cleaning the wound and stitching together what was in his opinion a quite trivial head wound. His basic enquiries about how the injury had come about were somewhat vague with the man claiming that the blow to the head was still making it difficult to concentrate and that the details of the attack were fuzzy. A few minutes later the three kindred who the Dr had been given advance notice of arrived on the scene. Seemingly either the towering figure of Vin or the hypnotic tones of Michael cleared his head a little and he relayed what he could remember of the attack.

"There was a car behind me flashing it's lights but I ignored it, then out of nowhere this other one skidded straight in front of me and slammed it's breaks on. Course I had to stop, I got out to see what was going on and then some bastard out of the car behind smacked me over the head and when I woke up they were all gone. I phoned the bosses retainer Harry and was told to wait here for help..."

Unfortunately for the driver his interrogators had several skills that made them doubt his stories accuracy in a number of areas. Michael noted that the skid marks on the road don't match his version of events at all as the only tracks were leaving with no sign that any-one had approached the drivers vehicle with any speed. Also there was sign of this sudden breaking beforehand that the wounded man had spoken of almost as if they were only in a hurry on the way out and hadn't needed any haste to stop the vehicle in the first place. Michael's empathetic skills additionally caught the hint of falsehood when the man claimed he hadn't been able to make out any details of the target car. Roach had similar doubts about the claim about an inability with identifying the hijacking vehicles and also knew enough about carjacking to know that this was an odd way of doing it though admittedly he was slightly distracted by the sheer amount of drugs he could see in the Dr's medical bag and the fact that he couldn't discern his clan as he didn't recognise the idiosyncrasies of his aura.

Storytellers Note - I had established with Roach's player before hand that he had never encountered a Banu Haqim kindred before.

Vin who had considerable experience at hitting people over the head was looking at the carefully stitched up head wound and was certain that the blow was both superficial and inflicted from the front rather than the rear. This opinion was confirmed when on hearing the story the doctor asked the victim to confirm what had occurred as he was 100% sure that the blow would not have knocked the driver out as he claimed.

Michael once again spoke to the driver about the groups doubts about his version of events and once again probed him on the vehicles who had robbed him. "Okay, okay the cars might have been a Dodge Charger and a Ford Mustang GT now I think about it...but there was still definitely nothing I could do..." 

With some idea of what they were looking for Roach indicated that Vin should follow him, jumped into Michael's car and headed off in the direction that the skid marks had headed. Unfortunately with so little to go on he had next to nothing on which to focus his talents on and so soon gave up and returned to where Michael had been trying a new tactic.

Storytellers Note - It wasn't a terrible idea but we had established in previous sessions that if he forces a premonition he really needs something precise to act as a focus which he didn't have this time.

Very much playing the good cop role he had explained to the driver that it would be in his best interests to tell him the truth as if he didn't then the questions would have to most regrettably be asked again by his acquaintance Vin, Such questioning would involve a lot more breaking of bones and removal of valued body parts than simply talking to Michael would. The artist was sure that he was near to telling them what they needed to know but that a greater fear of something else was keeping him quiet.

As Vin and Roach returned the driver having apparently taken Michael's warning about the hulking Brujah seriously decided to cut his losses and make a run for it while he was still getting from Michael's car no doubt figuring this was his best chance of escape.

He'd got a distance of about twenty metres away and was feeling confident of his escape when he almost ran into the doctor who had been treating him who had apparently appeared from nowhere and swept his legs out from under him. As he crumpled to the ground Vin finally caught up and hoisted the deceitful driver to his feet as Roach used his abilities to dominate the will of another and commanded him to stay exactly where he was.

At this moment their phones began to ring once more. "What's the verdict?" Michael explained that the guys story was full of holes and that he'd already made one attempt at escape. "Get Vin to knock the fucker out, choke him out or tie him to something or the doc to drug him with something and I'll have him collected for a chat. What do Vin and Roach know about carjackers? It's not really in my line..." Daniel promptly obliged by knocking him out with some appropriate drugs from his bag while the rest discussed carjacking rings..

Between Vin and Roach a list of likely carjackers bases of operation was compiled and refined down to five with a few phone-calls to their various contacts to eliminate certain suspects. Another candidate was eliminated with some further enquiries to several drug dealers of Roach's acquaintance leaving them with four to choose from. "Fine...the client wants as many of those responsible alive enough so he can enjoy making them suffer, use your judgement though, if you can only get a couple that should do them, of course if you can get them all then great. The cargo in the boot was a young lady that I'll need back as intact as possible though the box is equally as important" "I suppose you could use the doctor he can be quite understanding."

Michael appraised Daniel of the request that had been made of them and asked if he wouldn't mind given them some assistance given the urgency and the fact that he was already aware of some of the particulars and that Marius seemed to trust him. Curious about the group and figuring that useful contacts were hard to find he agreed to offer what assistance he could. With their haven nearby Michael suggested that he go and retrieve their armoury of weapons as it was unlikely that the thieves would simply hand everything over and the others agreed. While they made their own plans Daniel messaged his own loyal retainer and asked him to bring the tools of his trade to his current location.

Michael discovered Vin's quarters within the gallery were exactly as squalid as he'd expected and was expecting his weapons storage to be equally poorly organised. He was shocked to discover that the large cabinet where the Brujah kept his weaponry was spotlessly clean and perfectly organised in direct contrast to the rest of his room. Each bladed weapon was sharpened and oiled, his various knuckledusters and cosh's each had their own location and his firearms had obviously been treated with upmost care.

Yukio - Ghoul Security Chief
Taking a selection of each type he placed them into a large military style canvass bag from the bottom of the cabinet along with his and Roach's far more limited selection.

He returned as quickly as possible to the scene of the carjacking to find a fellow with military bearing hand the doctor several items before getting in his car and driving away. A moment afterwards two of Marius's vehicles arrived and Victoria and Yukio stepped from one while several large heavily armed security men exited the second.

"We're here for the driver" stated Victoria in her usual matter of fact manner and Vin handed him over though while bored waiting he'd apparently occupied himself by pulled his stitches back out again and braking several of his fingers. "Marius is dealing with another aspect of this disaster and wished me to convey his appreciation for the assistance." In an unusual act of mischief Michael offered his best wishes to Marius and Heather knowing full well how little Victoria thought of Marius's favourite blood doll.

As prepared as possible in the short time they had available the group moved onto the closest target on their short list.

Scene Six - Bailey's American Muscle
There is definite activity from within this particular garage and there are just over half a dozen motorbikes parked out front next to a trio of rat-rods. A set of double doors on one side are open and a fat, heavily tattooed man is smoking outside. While you are watching a second man, also covered in tattoo's but with a body-builders physique brings him what looks like a cup of coffee, exchanges a few words then goes back inside.

Michael parked the car close enough to observe the garage and then took a map from the glove compartment and pretended to be searching for a route as the Malkavian and Banu Haqim exited the vehicle and both promptly disappeared from view. Though Roach was invisible to Daniel the opposite wasn't true as the Malkavians powers of Auspex easily penetrated the doctors powers of Obfuscation. While Roach moved closer to see if there was any sign of the missing vehicles the doctor circled around the back to see if there was an alternate entrance. Vin whose powers of stealth were of the more mundane variety and somewhat negated by his bulk elected to stay with Michael and readied his weaponry in case things went bad.

Roach watched with interest as Daniel climbed agilely up a convenient drainpipe and skilfully picked the lock on one of the upstairs windows before slipping into an upstairs office. The office was dark but the windows overlooked the garage interior and enabled the doctor to observe the goings on below. There were a couple of cars within but they were mainly rat-rods being worked on by a considerable number of what he presumed were a local bike gang given that each had a particular stylised skull symbol on either their jackets, vehicles or integrated into their extensive tattoos.

Their leader appeared to be a relatively tattoo free, bald man in jeans and a shoulder holster who they seemed to defer to in-between their other activities. Realising that this more than likely wasn't the location they were after he returned the way he came and was somewhat surprised to be addressed by Roach who he now realised could see right through his concealment.

He passed on his opinion to Roach that this wasn't the place as it contained no muscle cars or the Cadillac Escalade they were looking for and gave him a brief description of the man he believed to be in charge. Roach told Daniel that he was going to hang around for a bit and as one returned to the car the other moved closer to the garage.

Roach dropped into his familiar role as a local dealer and after a quick chat with the guard on the door gave him an exceptionally good deal on some weed and then joined him in a smoke by the entrance. He made a few more deals with some more of the gang members and gradually worked his way inside as the man identified as the leader took an interest in the interloper and asked who exactly he was. Knowing exactly how such things worked he gave the gang leader a free sample of some of his best hallucinogenic filled weed and introduced himself as a local dealer trying to expand his customer base. The Malkavian's natural charisma, street knowledge and the exceptional potent drugs combined to make the gang leader and the few other nearby gang members fairly jovial so once they were suitably relaxed he moved the conversation to illegal vehicle acquisition under the guise of talking about competition amongst criminal activities.

The biker confessed that he had similar problems in his line of work and mentioned a group of car-jackers who were working on his territory. After some back and forth he became a bit suspicious and asked exactly why a drug dealer was interested in such things. Roach explained that an acquaintance had had some trouble and that he was making enquiries in order to locate a particular missing vehicle and was quite keen to reacquire it and make the thieves regret their mistake.

After relaying the vehicles used and the method to the gang leader Roach could see that he definitely knew who was involved but expressed his doubts that a skinny pot dealer could do anything about it. Several seconds later Michael's phone rang with a request from Roach that he send Vin around to the front of the garage.

Despite several of the bikers matching him for bulk Vin had always had a naturally intimidating manner and this combined with his more aggressive applications of the presence discipline gave him an imposing and somewhat disturbing air. By chance one of the gang members recognised Vin as the man who had chased him and four friends from a block in downtown after an incident with a street bum and this was quickly relayed to their leader.

Having the pragmatic view that removing a rival was more productive than avenging a slight against one of his crew he provided Roach with the address of the gang he believed he was looking for, a set of false number plates as he warned him that the place to which he was heading had security cameras and a container of petrol that the Malkavian had requested. After giving his word that the rivals would cease to be a problem that very evening Roach returned to the vehicle with the Brujah thug in tow and the coterie set course for L.A.'s Finest Auto Garage.

To Be Continued in 'The Pasadena Problem' Part Three

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...
This was the first session since the beginning of the campaign where we've introduced a new player character and I was admittedly a bit concerned as the existing dynamic was working quite well as it was. The new player was also a first timer to not only vampire but to pen and paper tabletop role-playing of any kind.

Fortunately despite how some of their vampire characters behave the actual players around my table were all very understanding and helpful and accepted that there would be a bit more stopping to explain rules for a session or two.

As for the actual session itself this was one of the sessions I'd written in case I needed a filler mission between other game elements but I slotted it in at this point as it was an ideal mini-story in which to introduce a new character. The only re-write was a few minor modifications to make the doctor fit into the story neatly though the fact that he was a doctor is going to make something coming up in the next session a piece of cake for them...but you can't win them all, lol.

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. 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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