Friday, 1 February 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Sixteen - Becoming Baron (Part Three)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. 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 One and Two

The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
and Hope Romero - Gangrel
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
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 three alleged Sabbat spies having met their final deaths it was time to search the farm for evidence of their guilt and for the survivors that Roach's premonition had indicated were there. Having been manipulated before the coterie was also keen to establish if there was more to the matter than first indicated before reporting back to Mariel.

Scene Nine - The Farmhouse
With their enemies defeated Vin returned to the jeep to fetch some petrol for 'clean-up' purposes as Roach approached the camp now that the area was clear for exploration. Hope investigated the farmhouse from which the war party had emerged and Daniel went to check on the cellar entrance that the Malkavian's vision had indicated contained the kindred prisoners of the Sabbat.

The house has been trashed. In one of the backrooms a dining room table has been pushed against one wall and several maps of Los Angeles are pinned against the wall with certain areas circled and arrows have been drawn pointing to other locations. Basic technical drawings of a number of devices are scattered across the table and several salvaged electronic devices from the house have been dismantled for parts with various circuits laid out on one of the few clean areas of the house.

Hope's military experience in the area of improvised explosive devices indicated that the diagrams were indeed for bombs and booby traps of various kinds and the salvaged electronics were mainly timers and switching circuits. The maps circled areas seemed to coincide with important vampires lairs as several of the circled locations were places Hope knew were lairs of important kindred like Louis Fortiers mansion, Santa Monica Pier, Marius's apartment block and so on.

The arrows on the other hand seemed to point to known kindred meeting places such as Club Confession, Club Zombie, The Asylum and other notable places where vampires were known to meet, feed and conduct business. There were also three sets of motorbike keys on hooks on edge of the pinboard presumably for the vehicles parked outside.

On closer inspection of the desk she discovered a notebook hidden under some of the paperwork on the table. It contained lists of names many of which had been crossed through. Most of these crossed out names were on pages with the heading 'Mohammed al-Muthlim' who was a baron killed some time ago by 'Eastern' vampires though there were some others that were completely unknown to her. Mariel St. Johns name was on one page and had been circled a number of times with an arrow on it pointing to the name Sophia Bartholomew which was also circled. The Gangrel presumed that their knowledge of the Sabbat must have came to the bastards attention and they no doubt had planned to remove that threat. Several old sheets of paper had been tucked into the book with more names on them and locations that she seemed to recall were targets of the Sabbat back in 2004 when they invaded LA before being repelled by both Anarchs and agents of the Camarilla.

Upstairs were a number of rooms that judging from the decoration were that of the mortal family killed by the vampires as one was very clearly that of a teenager and one was filled with the toys and posters associated with a young child. One room had been trashed and contained several more piles of dismantled electronics and contained a closet with their vanquished enemies personal armoury consisting of two Mossberg 500 shotguns, an unloaded M16A1 Assault Rifle next to a slightly damp box of bullets and several handguns including a Browning High Power, Beretta M92FS and a Sig Sauer P320. At the bottom of the closet was a large canvas bag that Hope used to carry all the weapons and ammunition figuring that they might come in useful in the future as well as the map from the wall and all the relevant notes and notebook.

Storytellers Note - I'm not a gun person particularly but one of the players is so now I specify what the weapons are so I don't have to look it up later as I know he'll ask.

Scene Ten - The Cellar
There's a locked set of shutter doors that appear to lead into a cellar off to one side of the main house beneath one of the side buildings. The lock seems fairly standard and is rusty but functional.

Seeing no need for subtlety Daniel simply ripped the lock from the doors and swung them open.

Just inside the cellar door is a heavy switch with cables crudely tacked to the wall leading downwards alongside a rickety flight of stairs that disappear into the darkness below though you can see a dim orange glow emanating from somewhere in the depths. The glow however does little to illuminate the stairway...

As he'd already made a considerable noise opening the door without a reaction he made his way downstairs to investigate figuring that as the three sabbat were dead there should be little of danger below especially as Roach's premonitions though odd were usually fairly accurate.

There are two bodies chained to one of the walls by heavy manacles at their wrists attached to a large ring in the wall and a single body on the opposite side and all three are spaced just out of reach of one another. 

The woman against the wall on her own is wearing a torn gingham dress and has had a crudely broken piece of wooden fence panel staked through her heart. The other two victims are a young looking man in what was once a fairly trendy tracksuit but now is both dirty and bloody and another man older in appearance wearing scruffy farm workers clothes who has congealed blood all down his front. 

Off to one side of this last individual is a metal bucket with the congealed remnants of what you imagine must be animal blood of some description and against the wall are two similar containers but these are full. It looks like someone has been keeping these two active with animal blood yet they seem severely weakened despite the fact that some-one is apparently actually feeding them. From the state of them you would imagine they've been held prisoner here for quite some time, perhaps months. As you approach the older mans eyes flick-open and he stares directly at you, from the young man there's no reaction.

Julianna Goodwin - Gangrel
"Are you another one of the bastards who did this?" "You don't look like one of them...". Daniel assured him that he was definitely not a Sabbat and that the ones above had been "Dealt with" quite permanently. Several keys were on the wall just out of reach which Daniel used to open the mans shackles. His initial musing about why the Gangrel hadn't used his clans renowned shape-changing abilities to escape were answered when he saw that the chains also had crude spikes driven through them keeping the victims effectively crucified.

While helping him unchain his wife the Banu Haqim tried to get a picture of what had happened. He was told that the couple had been ambushed by the Sabbat 'pack' who had staked his wife while he watched and had threatened to decapitate her if he didn't co-operate.

Bryce Goodwin - Gangrel
They'd been feeding him enough animal blood so they could then feed off him themselves apparently having a taste for kindred vitae but hadn't left enough in his system to risk using his abilities without going into torpor himself as he'd also have needed to heal the damage from the spikes driven through his limbs. He was unsure when the young fellow had been bought in but he thought it couldn't have been more than a few days. He believed that they'd been feeding him blood as well and then torturing him for amusement but they always took him away from the cellar when they tormented him.

The kindred farmer finally got around to introducing himself as Bryce Goodwin and his wife as Julianna. He carefully removed the stake from her heart and fed her some blood from the bucket before scooping her up and carrying her upstairs. As he seemed to have no interest in the young man Daniel picked him up himself and carried the other man himself. As they climbed the stairs Bryce asked about the mortal family and seemed genuinely upset to learn of their deaths, This struck the Banu Haqim as unusual as the members of Clan Gangrel weren't well known for their sentimentality.

He did however learn one more useful piece of information which was that the farmer had heard the sounds of a car pulling up before the attack rather than the three bikes they'd seen outside. Either there was another person involved or there was a vehicle hidden somewhere nearby. Armed with this new information the newly returned Vin began to search the outbuildings for the missing vehicle. He soon located a large station wagon with a motorbike trailer attached and not one to waste anything he decided they'd take it and the bikes with them.

Storytellers Note - As well as the gun nut I also have a player who likes motorbikes so I have to make sure I know what they are as well. Sometimes being a storyteller and feeling like your doing some-one else's homework are very similar indeed, lol.

As Bryce went upstairs and laid his still inert partner on one of the beds upstairs the gathered coterie informed him in broad terms of the items they'd discovered and their intention to take them. Bryce had no objections "I can never repay the debt I owe you, take what you please. Anything left of their's I'll destroy anyway." Daniel asked if there was anything further they could do but were told they'd done more than enough already and that he intended to bury the family properly as he'd been fond of them and was pleased that they'd been avenged.

He also expressed his intention to call a gathering of all the Gangrel in Los Angeles to inform them of what had happened and make sure none were taken as he had been. Hope let him know that they'd eliminated the threat on behalf of Michael Tomassio who was planning on taking over Pasadena now that it was minus a baron and that he would be grateful for any support he could get. Daniel had been about to say the very same thing but realised that he'd been failing to keep a low profile in Los Angeles as he'd planned and that perhaps it was time to let others be the centre of attention. Bryce promised that their part in his rescue would be known to all who attended the meeting though he was dubious about how much good it might do. With their mission concluded they left Bryce to care for his wife and as he had no interest in the other victim of the Sabbat that they decided to take him with them and offer him shelter while they decided what to do with him.

Scene Eleven - Reporting In
Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Defacto Baron of Pasadena
On the return to their gallery base the coterie reported to Michael in his office that the targets were indeed Sabbat agents as they'd been informed and that the problem had now been resolved permanently. Hope handed over the map and documents after explaining what she'd seen. Noting the page with Mariel St John and Sophia Bartholomew's names on it he removed it as precisely as he could from the book and stored it separately reasoning that he had promised to keep their involvement a secret and that their names in a dubious notebook might be prone to misinterpretation by certain parties.

The fact that the Gangrel were going to have a 'Gather' was certainly news as he was sure the Gangrel of Los Angeles hadn't had one before and the fact that their positive actions to help resolve the events would get a wider audience couldn't help but benefit his campaign to take Pasadena as his own. The added support of another barony albeit a small and not particularly influential one couldn't hurt either but was insignificant compared to the fact that they now had the support of one who spoke for the Baron of Downtown, Louis Fortier. Though support for their claim was growing, the Toreador was still of the opinion that at least one other powerful kindred would be needed before he felt secure announcing his self elevation to Baron at the next rant.

The only loose ends that left were the potential stolen station wagon they had which Roach would obtain forged documents and false plates for via the carjacker acquaintances he'd gained while sorting out an indiscretion for one of Los Angeles kindred and the thin-blood prisoner of the Sabbat from the Goodwins farm. It was decided that as the night was nearly done they'd lock him in their secure vault and storeroom until tomorrow. Vin left one of Daniel's few remaining blood bags in the cell with him so he could feed when he awoke. Roach used his soul scrying abilities to ascertain that their new guest was a thin-blood but after that had effectively lost interest.

The others who were used to the Malkavian's variable attention span had already decided to leave him out of any questioning that might be required. With all that could be done completed they retired for the day.

Obviously nervous from his recent ordeal but seemingly willing to co-operate with his new captors the thin-blood told them that his name was Philip Frazier and that he'd been travelling with a female mortal companion from San Diego. He and his companion had been picked up by three men in a station wagon but what he expected to be a group of travelling mortals turned out to be something far more deadly. He had been separated from his companion and ended up in a cellar with another kindred of which one had been staked, periodically being removed from the cellar and beaten and tortured for their amusement. Unfortunately he had little information to pass on other than what the coterie already knew and seemed somewhat surprised when told he could leave whenever he wished accepting the news that there had been no sign of his female companion surprisingly well.

Michael let him know of the thin-bloods base at Santa Monica pier and that their leader was known as Jenna Cross. He did warn him however that over-crowding was something of an issue but that Jenna seemed to have a policy of accepting all dusk-born and caitiff's who sought sanctuary there so he should be welcomed.

Wanting to help as much as he could but not particularly wanting another mouth to feed they gave him one of their extensive stocks of burner phones and a small amount of cash so he could arrange transport for himself and then Vin allowed him a moment to ready himself before escorting him out and sending him on his way. Michael could see that the former prisoner was nervous which he attributed to his recent ordeal so offered to help him at a later date should he have no luck with Jenna. With his conscience clear he indicated to Vin that they were done and Philip was sent on his way.

Scene Twelve - Mariel and Sophia
Mariel St John - Ventrue
Harpy of Baron Fortier
You are somewhat surprised to find that Mariel specifies Club Confession as a good place for you all to meet up given that it's Marius's club and he and Mariel aren't exactly on the best of terms. Despite you smoothing this over a little recently you can't imagine him as the 'forgive and forget' type. Nonetheless on your arrival Venus directs you to one of the reserved upstairs rooms where Mariel St John and Sophia Bartholomew are waiting for you. Several 'special' bottles of wine are on the table and one has been opened and half emptied. As you enter Venus hands Roach a bottle made from an unusual bone coloured glass. "The 'donor' for this particular vintage should be more to your tastes. Don't drive afterwards though..." She winks and then leaves, shutting the door behind her.

Mariel St. John is dressed impeccably and is as usual maintaining her perfect balance of managing to look casual while wearing thousands of dollars worth of clothes. Her companion is undoubtedly Sophia Bartholomew as she matches the self portrait observed by Michael at Therese Voerman's Gallery Noir perfectly. Michael and Daniel made their introductions to Sophia, though Roach seemed more interested in the contents of the bottle he'd been handed. Vin was outside door observing the club from the balcony and making sure no threats were approaching. Meetings generally bored him unless there was some kind of tactical element to them so he was content to wait outside.

Sophia Bartholomew - Toreador
After Michael made the point of complimenting Sophia on her work at the gallery, he and the coterie confirmed that the kindred had indeed been Sabbat though he was vague about what they were up to until he could discover exactly what Sophia had seen. If at all possible he was hoping to keep word of the map and notebook to himself. Sophia revealed that she had met the three at the well known kindred meeting place 'A Taste of LA' and that they claimed to be travellers from San Diego. Sophia had agreed to show them some of the sights but during that time had heard them carelessly using the name "Sabbat" and some comment about "Making the weaklings pay for 2004" when speaking to another who was apparently a contact of theirs. Realising she was being used and that the three had seemingly underestimated her considerably she contacted her friend Mariel for help. Michael was relieved to discover that she hadn't seen the map but was somewhat concerned about this fourth person she mentioned. When asked for a description she replied "I can do better than that, I can draw him for you..."

As the picture took shape it took all of Michael's effort to mask his emotions as the drawing went from vaguely familiar to a startlingly accurate picture of the thin-blood 'Philip' who they had 'rescued' from the Sabbat held farm-house and sent off with funds, a phone and the address of a pier full of kindred. Thanking both for their help and leaving both ladies with the definite impression that the problem had been resolved Michael rounded off the meeting as politely but swiftly as he could after Mariel gave her assurances that he would have the Fortier's support for his bid for baron and details contact details were exchanged between the two artists.

Venus Dare - Ghoul
Club Confession Manager
As they left the manager of Club Confession Venus dare asked if she could have a meeting with Michael alone. Despite needing to urgently deal with the new problem that had emerged he had no desire to insult one of their Mawla's favoured ghouls and an important contact of their own so reluctantly agreed. It turned out she had two important pieces of news for him, one good and one bad.

Venus indicated a beautifully decorated bottle of wine of fine vintage in an exquisite display case on the desk and the Toreador suddenly remembered the gift he'd asked to be prepared for the Baron of Hollywood, Isaac Abrams. "Leanna has made a 'withdrawal' from one of Marius's blood dolls and refined it significantly before handing it onto the Witch he keeps to manufacture such things for him." "She's also arranged for a courier who fits the Baron's aesthetic preferences to deliver the item on your behalf. Delivering it yourself would obviously create completely the wrong impression as I'm sure you're aware" Michael had already concluded that the by the barons 'aesthetic preferences' she meant some-one other than a ghoul or blood doll of Marius's as they were all female and he was already reasonably sure that the Baron preferred those of his own gender which Venus confirmed was the case.

"On a different subject, it's come to my attention that your friend Roach's new more aggressive stance with regards to his 'distribution network' has drawn some attention from...a competitor shall we say. He might want to look into it in case it causes difficulties that come back to your door..." "The gentlemen in question refers to himself as 'Reaper' though despite picking a silly name for himself is in all other area's quite dangerous indeed". Michael gave his thanks for the information before sighing inwardly at how quickly their victory had turned into a new set of problems.

Scene Thirteen - Damage Limitation
Realising that he'd asked Roach to inform Jenna that they were sending her a kindred visitor he realised that any problems caused by a Sabbat terrorist would firmly be blamed on them. He was therefore relieved tremendously when the Malkavian informed him that he hadn't "bothered yet" as he'd "got distracted". For once his adviser's variable attention span might actually have done them a favour.

Thinking quickly the Toreador arranged for Hope to meet them at the pier and as Daniel quickly drove the four of them to Santa Monica he phoned the apparent Sabbat agent 'Philip' to try and discover his location or divert him somewhere they could deal with him. Though not expecting an answer he was pleasantly surprised when the thin-blood answered. His offers to meet him and help him out some more or give him transport to the pier were met with polite but firm rebuttals though he did tell them he was "On his way there anyway". With no other evidence they had to presume he was heading to the target they'd effectively handed to him and sped to the thin-bloods elysium in order to intercept him.

Hope had made excellent time and was awaiting the coteries arrival and they briefly laid out the plan they'd discussed on the way. Michael would make his presence obvious on the pier so as to put off the interloper from approaching from that direction while Roach used his abilities of premonition and aura detection to attempt to pick out the Sabbat member from the crowd with Hope nearby to act on his instructions.

Vin and Daniel would patrol the area themselves on opposite sides so they had the maximum area covered should Roach give word he'd spotted any danger. It was unfortunately the best they could come up with without revealing to Jenna and her followers that they'd potentially sent a mad bomber to their home. Pushing his abilities to the limit the Malkavian managed to locate the familiar aura of the Sabbat they'd believed to be a prisoner approaching the pier. Even at this distance his exceptionally senses noticed he was carrying something in a large bag that he'd definitely not had on him when he'd left their gallery.

Jenna Cross - Caitiff
Thin-blood Baron
As this information was relayed to him Michael realised that he needed to get Jenna out of the area of her office at the very least as that would no doubt be his primary target based on the intelligence they themselves had given him. Charming his way past the guard he managed to persuade the thin-blood leader that he was there to discuss granting feeding rights to her followers when he ascended to the barony of Pasadena and with his supernatural abilities turned up to eleven managed to persuade her to take a walk with him to discuss the matter further.

As the closest to the enemy based on Roach's estimate Daniel activated his illusionary powers and to all intents and purposes appeared to be a somewhat generic member of the crowd as he quickly mad e his way to where 'Philip' was moving to below the pier. Hope and Vin were also moving towards him but from where they were would arrive too late. Switching to his powers of stealth the Banu Haqim saw their enemy snap the neck of an innocent bystander smoking beneath the pier before placing a large heavy bag on the ground beside him. Realising that he had little time to spare the assassin moved to his target at superhuman speed and drove his Karambit blades into his back over and over again. Unfortunately his constant use of disciplines had almost starved him of blood beyond his ability to control the beast within and he fell upon the rogue Sabbat member and drained him dry just as the others arrived. Though his hunger was now sated they were beneath a public pier with a dead mortal and a drained vampire...

Roach was using his powers over the minds of mortals to send them away from under the pier as they approached but it was a strategy that could only work for so long as the effects were only temporary. With no better ideas springing to mind they drove hope's jeep along the beach and quickly threw the bodies onto the back under the large tarpaulin she permanently carried in the back presumably for similar 'emergencies' along with several pieces of driftwood hoping that any observers would believe that was their reason for being there. Fortunately the Gangrel Hope's patrolling of the outskirts of their territory had revealed a number of locations suitable for disposal. With one new issue solved at least Michael began to calculate how much of what had occurred at the pier could be attributed to them and how to put a positive spin on it to any kindred who found out...

To Be Continued in 'Becoming Baron' - Part Four

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

So, confession time...the session was going to finish quite early due to the players approaching things rather cleverly so I randomly decided that the last prisoner was in fact a filthy traitor. Ironically this turned out to be the players favourite part so maybe I'll just stop bothering to write anything and wing it all, lol.

On the bright side this unexpected (even to me) plot twist has given me a lot of ideas to make the Sabbat conspiracy far larger than it was going to be and I've intertwined it with several other sub-plots.

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, Sophia Bartholomew is Sophia Myles and Venus Dare is a glamour model called Sophia Howard. 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. This is a really good recap, thank you for posting it. I look forward to reading more of this and enjoyed the group dynamics.

    1. Thanks. There's links to the previous write-ups at the top just above the character pictures if you want to read previous ones.


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