Saturday 20 October 2018

Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition - Session Four - Three Murders (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...a life which they hopefully won't decide they like better...
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...

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 Storyteller
Garreth as Everyone else...
The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
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...they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections. 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...

Victoria - Marius's Ghoul
The three kindred sent by the Camarilla to undermine the Anarch free states in Los Angeles have been operating independently to establish their identities as disillusioned neonates looking for unlives away from the influence of the Ivory Tower but as their activities have drawn the attention of the powers that be in LA the time has come for them to be gathered into a coterie for mutual protection and to pool their resources.

Their contact is an Autarkis Gangrel called Marius who has given the three the opportunity to establish themselves by untangling a particularly unusual murder case directly and indirectly involving several influential of the kindred in LA...or three murders to be specific...with almost every lead followed and promises to fulfil to those whom they've traded information with it's time to eliminate the thin-blood rebels and retrieve the painting so sought after by all concerned that their patron's most loyal ghoul has informed them he most definitely wants to see before they do anything with...

The introductory session introducing every-one and establishing their individual covers can be found HERE, Part one of this story can be found HERE, Part two is HERE and Part three is HERE.

Act Twelve - Lock and Load
Having acquired a small arsenal of weaponry from a new contact known as 'Fat' Larry through a combination of negotiation skills and a little bit of blackmail the coterie began their preparations to assault the hide-out of the faction of thin-bloods who are attempting to provoke the de-facto thin-blood leader Jenna Cross into the outright war they believe she should already have started.

Despite having had some new clothes acquired for him by Michaels ghoul Lisa Vin was dressed in his usual scruffy combat gear and was wearing a large pocket filled coat that he used when travelling with his small arsenal of weaponry. Now knowing that their opponents are somewhat tougher than mere mortals Vin has swapped his knuckledusters for his two-handed Parang machete and also has his Glock 17, a heavy combat knife and the drum fed automatic shotgun acquired for him by his coterie mates concealed in a large canvas bag. As much spare ammunition as he could conceivably carry was stuffed in his various pockets and pouches.

Somewhat lighter equipped Roach and Michael nonetheless had a handgun each and spare magazines with Michael additionally taking one of the three shotguns they'd acquired and Roach had made himself three Molotov Cocktails from available local materials. Before leaving the Malkavian attempted to use his powers of premonition by concentrating on the location they were to visit but merely perceived a group of three men arguing in a room, a large box and a fridge...

Storytellers Note - Apparently Vin's player wasn't making his 'these knuckledusters should be enough' mistake from last time the group tangled with this lot, lol.

While discussing strategy Roach put forward the plan that the local street gang he'd struck up a decent relationship with on their last visit to the area might make good allies as his street contacts had informed him that they were currently being starved of guns, ammunition and drugs by several larger rivals. Vin countered that despite the help being broadly speaking a good idea it would make it difficult for him to use the full range of his abilities if there were mortal witnesses. However if Roach could convince them to keep their eye on their vehicle and cover their escape route it would be very useful should they have to leave in a hurry to have some supporting fire-power. Begrudgingly accepting that this was probably a slightly better plan the Malkavian agreed to see what he could do and they loaded all their spare weapons and ammo into the boot of the car as potential trades.

Interlude - The Line 20's
Storytellers Note - This was a hand-out I prepared for Roach's player as last session he'd asked his contacts to look for information on the gang they'd encountered a couple of times previously.
Several gangs attempted to fill the vacuum left by a sudden reduction in the activities of the larger gangs after what you know to be a Cathayan assault but which the locals and authorities have put down to the escalating hostilities between various sets of the bloods and the crips. A small group of minor gangs based in skid row and several of the slum areas in downtown banded together in an attempt at surviving the onslaught of better equipped enemies under the banner of one Santiago Francisco leader of a minor set called the Line 20's after a bus-line that ran from their territory into downtown LA proper. This new leader made a name for himself with the somewhat unconventional tactics of only selling drugs to people who actually wanted them, actually protecting the people who paid them protection money and running off any pimps whose girls were underage. Though they also gained a reputation for the creative methods they used to torture and murder any-one who broke their rules. This combination of old-school values and new-school levels of violence has seemingly been a recipe for success as over the last ten years they've increased from barely fifty members to closer to seven hundred and fifty.

Wearing purple and white as their gang colours they have began to appear in more and more locations around downtown gradually moving from the slums into more profitable areas. Under the inspired leadership of Santiago and his lieutenants the Line 20's have now reached the point where any further expansion will put them directly against some of the largest and deadliest gangs in Los Angeles and are now effectively in a stalemate as their enemies attempt to stifle their expansion by attacking their supply routes for drugs and weapons forcing them to go on the offensive in areas where they would rather consolidate what they have. Santiago himself has become somewhat legendary amongst his peers as he's survived almost a dozen assassination attempts by rivals with everything from machine guns to machete's and ice-picks seemingly unscathed. However, now threatened on all sides and with their stocks of narcotics and weapons under threat it's possible that the luck of the gang and their leader may have finally run out...

As they approached the area the gang had their usual presence on a couple of corners and using his considerable streetwise experiences and a little help from his ability to discern information from the auras of others Roach picked out the one gang member who seemed to be in charge.

Having the benefit of natural charisma he managed to bring the conversation around to some of the troubles he'd heard of the gang having and mentioned he had a few problems of his own and perhaps they could help each other out. After some haggling he managed to persuade the gang leader to have his available men guard their escape vehicle and position themselves to cover any potential retreat in exchange for half a dozen handguns, a pair of shotguns and the uzi sub-machine gun in their boot together with some of Roach's dwindling supply of narcotics and some of their remaining reserves of cash. He did however ask that they didn't follow them using the excuse that his compatriot Vin was somewhat indiscriminate in his shooting. Having already met Vin a week ago and having decided that he was obviously a psychopathic lunatic the gang lieutenant found this very easy to believe.

Act Thirteen - Search and Destroy
The building is much as you remember it, the fence has had the lock on the front changed but as before light can be seen from the upper windows. At the rear of the building a single guard is standing watch by the gate which has the chain fed through the rails but the lock itself is unfastened. As before there are three cars parked outside though there's also a large skip outside that wasn't there before. You can see that the rear door has had an improvised repair carried out on it but it's a hasty job and the door now has only a single lock securing it. The guard periodically looks around but seems to show no signs of abandoning his post any time soon.

Vin was reasonably confident that he could take out the guard quietly though having never seen him do anything with subtlety the other two had their doubts. Roach moved to a point that he could support if necessary and then blended into the shadows using his powers of Obfuscate. Michael being less than stealthy stayed out of sight on the nearest corner. Moving with surprising stealth the Brujah advanced on the unwitting guard stopping only briefly to check that there were no other witnesses before sliding his weapon silently from it's scabbard. The guard turned just in time to witness a heavy blade moving towards him and his last experience of unlife was the machete biting into the side of his neck before slicing his head cleanly from his shoulders. Vin then almost casually switched the weapon to his left hand before catching the body by the collar and lowering it gently to the ground the only sound made was the sound of a severed head bouncing several times before rolling into the gutter as Vin took just enough blood from the corpse to replace that he'd expended enhancing his strength. Carefully removing the chain from the gate he then beckoned his coterie mates on while he kicked the head along the ground like a football towards the back of the building and lobbed the body into a heap by the skip.

The rear door was unlocked and the back-room in darkness as Roach slid through the gap and moved inside to see what else was awaiting for them. Once within he could hear a heated debate between three men within...

A somewhat petulant voice was the first heard "I'm telling you they were fucking vampires, 'Mac' shot that fucker in the back about twenty fucking times" A second somewhat louder individual however had other ideas. "Then why didn't they come back, it's been days? I tell you it was just some thieving crack-head, probably so high on PCP he didn't feel anything till he dropped dead full of holes an hour later." A third voice then chips in presumably this is Mac "I don't know about that....the guy in the doorway didn't look like a crack-head, too well dressed, could shoot too....and anyway Travis, that bastard who rushed in and took you out in the back-room must have been bastard quick and then he fucked up Killer and Mikey real fast too" 

Though the assessment seemed reasonable enough the first thin-blood seemed unwilling to give up on his theory "Were a lot tougher than fucking humans and that big guy punched Mikey's fucking jaw off, he's fucking dead because we couldn't go out and get him some fresh blood cuz were stuck here guarding a bastard drawing" "Humans don't punch peoples faces off, I don't care if they're fucking full of PCP..."

The second louder voice continued regardless of the others theories "What difference does it make? We got rid of the guard, and the traitor, Killer slit the witnesses throat, we have the painting under lock and key and can't leave here anyway till Jimmy can get the alchemist here to do her thing so it doesn't matter what you fucking think....we...are...fucking...staying..." There's some grumbling from the other two but the other ones points seem to have ended the debate about leaving, though the first voice still seems to need some reassurance..."So when's Jimmy bringing this alchemy chick here? I'm sick to death of bagged blood and we've only got enough for two more days anyway?...well?!?!?"
Sensing the debate coming to an end Roach moved back to his allies and the last thing he heard was the second voice saying "Tonight, An hour from now, two at the most..."

Withdrawing back to the rest of the team they quickly discussed their options and given that they wanted to be able to set an ambush for the remaining gang member and the alchemist he was bringing they couldn't really go in all guns blazing as they'd originally planned. Vin was sure he could take one before anything could be done to stop him and engage a second but that would leave a third potentially able to escape or attack him while he was occupied. Though not particularly skilled in close-combat it was hoped that between them they could keep the third restrained until the Brujah was ready to get involved. Vin instead suggested that they made themselves ready to intervene with the final enemy but only to enter if it looked like he needed the assistance.

The plan agreed Roach readied himself to kick open the door so Vin could assault the group while Michael readied himself to give covering fire with his handgun as a last resort.

A crushing downward blow split the first of the thin-bloods from left collar bone to mid sternum before he had finished turning towards the door as Vin yelled at the other two of the rebels to stay where they were. Perhaps believing that survival might be an option the figure to the left raised his hands in surrender but unfortunately for him the offer had merely been a delaying tactic rather than a genuine chance at mercy. A blow to mid torso tore through his left arm and continued thorough his chest before emerging with enough force to sever the right hand at the forearm as two severed limbs fell to the ground along with the eviscerated body of their owner.

Quickly realising that only the death of the berserk interloper could save him the last survivor made what would turn out to be a futile attempt to draw a weapon as a two-handed blow forced the heavy blade through his chest. A cracking of bone and tearing of flesh could be heard as the machete blade was twisted and torn free from the now quite permanently dead kindred. Blood covered the walls, much of the floor and a few splashes had even reached the ceiling as with a supreme effort of will the Brujah pushed back the beast willing him to continue the slaughter with whoever may be available and began to almost casually search through the bodies for anything that might be of use putting guns and knives to one side like a child might collect shells on a beach...

Michael and Roach entered the massacre zone which was now empty of life containing merely a cheap table and some chairs all now coated with blood and viscera. An open doorway on the right led to a flight of stairs going downwards which Michael investigated. The scene reminded Roach uncomfortably of the war he'd turned to drugs to forget and he excused himself saying that he would inform the gang that the plan had gone more smoothly than expected and that their help wouldn't be needed any longer. In actuality he just needed to get away from brutal bloodbath before him.

Michael could see a locked door at the base of the stairs that also appeared to have had a combination lock added just as Vin announced that he'd found some keys. Without thinking he asked the Brujah to throw them down to him as a bunch of bloody keys squelched into his palm. One of the keys did indeed fit the doors main lock but that still left the combination to decipher. Deciding to have an attempt himself before calling for Vin or Roach to use their particular gifts to open it he tried 0000, 0001 and 9999 before finally opening it with 1234. The basement was significantly smaller than the upstairs room and contained only two items of note other than a few sleeping bags and a mattress in one corner which were a locked trunk and a large fridge. One of the remaining bloody keys opened the trunk and somewhat anti-climatically it contained the painting rolled up in a simple refuse sack at the bottom.

While he unravelled the painting to have a look Vin entered and opened up the fridge which he discovered contained the exsanguinated corpse of what he presumed was the thin-blood they'd called 'Mikey' before Vin had punched off his jaw and caved in his ribs almost a week ago, half a dozen blood bags and several cheap supermarket TV dinners. At this point Roach reappeared to discuss what they were going to do about this 'Jimmy' and thin-blood alchemist that were apparently due imminently. As they returned to the main room, Vin dragged the corpse of Mikey from downstairs and put it with the other bodies hoping that when discovered later the authorities might presume that some of the blood had come from that body. in his opinion it was "Worth a try at least" but for now they piled all the bodies and body parts in the back room.

In order to avoid any chance of escape Roach thought that the best course of action would be to attempt to lure Jimmy and whoever he was with as far into the room as possible perhaps by creating the impression that they were the three men he was waiting for even if only for a few seconds as their backs were to the door. Though Michael's glance at the blood dripping from the ceiling tiles and his expression as he panned up the blood soaked Vin cast some doubt on his opinion of the plans success he was willing to give it a try. As best as they could they soaked up the blood with the piles of leaflets, Roach popped one of the meals in the microwave in the back-room and they scattered a few of the blood bags on the table hoping as best as they could to give the look no matter how brief that all was well. Unfortunately a significant problem with the plan was about to occur...

Act Fourteen - 'Jimmy' and the Alchemist
The first sign that the plan was doomed to fail was the sound of car beeping it's horn from the rear of the building, followed by the sound of the car-park gates being pushed open. Apparently the latest guest was arriving by the rear gate, not the front door as Roach had hoped. As the three raced for the rear entrance where the bodies were now stacked they could here two voices approaching. a female voice could be heard saying "It's not right, I won't do it..." followed by a mans "If you want that family of yours that still thinks you're human to see another dawn you'll do exactly what I fucking tell you to..."

Roach just managed to yell to Vin "Don't kill the girl" as the two groups collided in the corpse filled warehouse rear. Michael and Roach grabbed hold of a surprised and distraught blonde lady as Vin grabbed hold of what was presumably Jimmy and with Potence enhanced muscles hurled him through the main rooms door without opening it first. Before he could get back on his feet a machete blade was driven through his heart into the floor causing catastrophic damage killing him pretty much instantly. As both Roach and Michael had suspected the 'Jimmy' in question was actually the same Jimmy that had been sent by Jenna Cross to investigate the matter in the first place and was apparently one of the very traitors he was supposedly investigating.

Meanwhile in an attempt to keep the girl quiet, Roach used a minor application of the Dominate discipline to command her to stop screaming and this worked long enough for Michael to catch her attention with his own more subtle Presence. The girl became focused almost entirely on the Toreador and as he reassured her that they meant her no harm she began to calm a little though Michael was careful to keep her attention on him and away from the four dismembered bodies on the floor at their feet. Her main concern seemed to be that Jenna be made aware that she was helping the traitors under duress and definitely wasn't a traitor to the cause like they were and of course that they didn't kill her.

Lilith - 'Alchemist'
Once Michael had managed to convince her she was safe (and resist the voice in the back of his head that was wandering what she tasted like) he assured her that she had nothing to worry about on either account and at this point Roach started to ask her just exactly what Jimmy had wished her to do. The girl who introduced herself as Lilith though Roach was reasonably sure it was a name she'd picked rather than one she was born with was somewhat perplexed as she had told Jimmy that what he wanted just wasn't possible. She explained that some thin-bloods had a talent with a form of alchemy that allowed them to replicate the disciplines of other vampires but that the process required blood. Jimmy had told her that he had a painting containing the blood of a kindred but all her experience was that fresh blood was needed not old blood mixed with paint and she was firmly of the opinion that this renegade thin-blood faction were either stupid or insane.

Wishing to keep their knowledge of the paintings secret to themselves they played along with her assumption and offered to take her back to the thin-bloods Elysium on Santa Monica's pier and confirm her story with Jenna. On his way out he grabbed a couple of old dust sheets from the pile of boxes to protect the seat of Michael's car from the blood splattered Vin. Unable to think of a way of making the scene any less sinister than it was Vin suggested that a good fire would at least slow any investigation down and was handed the three petrol bombs created by Roach and lent a lighter before they left the Brujah to do whatever he thought was necessary. A pile of bodies, several thousand paper leaflets, a dozen cardboard boxes and three bottles of petrol later and it would take a skilled investigator indeed to ascertain exactly what had happened in the ill-fated former church...

Storytellers Note - First 'lets burn it down' of the chronicle achieved...

Jenna Cross - Thin Blood 'Baron'
Roach sent a text to Jenna before they set off simply saying "We're on our way" presuming she'd know that they'd only wish to visit her if they had accomplished something of note and were about half-way to their destination when a reply was received telling them to meet her at the pier security office. On this occasion the pier was open to visitors though the Malkavian could discern the distinctive auras of thin-blooded kindred scattered through the crowd no doubt looking for an easy meal for the night. Jenna's inner circle let them through to the office where the mortal apparently in charge of the piers civilian security was waiting though Jenna herself was sitting behind his desk and dismissed him as they arrived. This made sense to them as the kine in charge would have been the first person they ghouled to ensure their control of the area as well.

Before they even had a chance to talk Lilith began to babble about the horrible traitorous thin-bloods who had kidnapped her and were trying to get her to do something impossible because they were all insane and how she's been rescued by these three kindred and so on, repeating herself several times in her urgency to prove her innocence of any wrong-doing. This of course played straight into their hands as it cleared Jenna of involvement in the murder of what were effectively her own people despite actually having sanctioned it and gave the coterie a perfectly justifiable reason for bringing them to their final deaths which didn't make them look like a bunch of hired killers. With knowing glances exchanged all around it now left the coterie with the problem of just what to do next in order to keep the many promises they'd made to several important kindred about the fate of the mysterious portrait...

To be concluded in 'Three Murders' 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...
So apparently I need to make any enemy of the coterie considerably tougher if they are to withstand the onslaught that is a Potence using Vin...Apart from that minor issue the session went very well indeed though I'll be interested to see how they juggle all the promises they've made without making at least one enemy...

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, Rosa is a model and dancer called Mahafsoun and Jenna Cross is currently Rhona Mitra (mainly due to Jenna being described as looking like Lara Croft and Rhona Mitra was the original publicity model for her) while I must admit I've no idea who the blonde girl is. 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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