Friday, 8 February 2019

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

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Having made a few allies unsuspecting of their greater goal they have decided that in order to gain influence they need to acquire a barony of their own.
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, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order...
'Infiltrate LA' Chronicle
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThreeFour
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwo and Three

The PC's

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued in 'Becoming Baron' - Part Five

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.


  1. I just finished reading all the entries and I have enjoyed it. It appears that you and your players are having fun with this. I'm looking to start my own game and I have a few questions for you if you are willing.

    1. Do you use the Relationship Map described in the core book? Would you be willing to share your current version? I'm interested in how they look.
    2. What are the Chronicle tenants of the game? How did you come up with them?
    3. I've noticed that your players take a very active role in the game world. Making plans of there own and such. What are the ways you encourage this style of play? Is this equal among your players or do you have one or two that do most of the planning?
    4. Having played now 17 sessions, are there any rules that you have added, removed or changed to make the sessions work better?
    5. Do you have players purchase backgrounds with XP or do they come and go through game-play only? Is it a combination of the two?

    I think that is enough for now. I'm looking forward to the next post.

    1. 1: I use a variation of the Relationship map which gives basic details of who they've met, where they're based, clan if known and the nature of the relationship. I'll post a picture of it in the next article.
      2: As for chronicle tenants I'm allowing them the first phase of the chronicle without them so they develop organically. If Michael gets to be Baron or fails in the attempt I'm starting a new chronicle (a continuation really) where they'll have to decide on one or more as a coterie.
      3: Three of the four players are experienced roleplayers so some happens all by itself. I do however drop things in that happen in the world unrelated to their activities so they get the feel of a world going on around them. They all get involved in the planning which is great though I'd say that Roach and Michael's players tend to guide the narrative most.
      4: I've tweaked a few things. I need to create a page for the players with them all on as a reference. As soon as I've done it I'll post a link.
      5: I use a combination of the two. Broadly speaking if they pay xp for them I let them exist without much interference. Any that occur through game-play and are effectively 'free' they have to constantly maintain or they disappear.

    2. Thanks for answering my questions. I look forward to the rules tweaks and the relationship map. On your blog, i really enjoy the Storyteller notes. Seeing how the story is reflected by the game play is very helpful. Specifically when there is a bestial failure or a messy critical. Seeing how they are role-played helps me in providing guidance with my players.

      Thanks for what you do. I look forward to the story to come.


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