Saturday, 10 November 2018

Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition - Interlude One

With the tangled web created by three separate Los Angeles kindred factions all being involved in a single crime initially without each others knowledge being somewhat untangled and miraculously without making enemies of any of them the coterie has now had some time to take stock of their situation.

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 One, Two, Three, Four and Five

An Introduction to an Interlude...
Using Michael's artistic skills and contacts and a not insignificant investment by their Mawla Marius they have begun to establish their haven 'Galerie Sanguine' as a legitimate business within the community. Roach's own considerable contacts amongst both the student population of LA and a burgeoning relationship with the thin-blood community in Santa Monica has also drawn in a not insubstantial amount of local art and curious customers. This has further helped to create the illusion of a new investment in the artistic community and local economy rather than a place for three vampires to hide in plain sight and find themselves an occasional unsuspecting snack. For his part Vin has made sure that local criminal elements are aware of the consequences of interfering with the building and it's customers via several convincing practical demonstrations.

With Michael's ghoul Lisa already an experienced salesperson from her time selling his own works the three kindred have found themselves with some time to attempt to further infiltrate the LA kindred scene in line with their long term goal to bring the Camarilla back into power there.
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 characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested...

Storytellers Note - I gave each of the players the brief that they'd have several relatively undisturbed weeks in which to further their personal goals. After receiving their vastly varying ideas about what you could fit into a week or three of nights I decided to let them know the results of their scheming in narrative form. This was done individually as I presumed they'd have personal agendas too...what with being vampires and all...there was some back and forth as information received prompted further questions...tbf it's created several interesting story-hooks so I might do it again should we have any significant downtime...

Vincent 'Vin' Ghast
Scene One - The Criminal Element
Leaving the politics to the other two coterie members 'Vin' had only the minor concern that his network of street people that he relied on as a combination of retainers, allies and herd were now based some distance from their new base of operations. He was also reasonably certain that Michael wouldn't welcome thirty unwashed beggars, bums and prostitutes hanging around outside the gallery.

Storytellers Note - I think Roach objected more but that's probably because Michael mentally deletes any-one not impeccably dressed from his mental picture of the landscape but Roach notices everything...

He therefore decided to move the three most useful (that more socially aware kindred would consider retainers) nearby and kept them in their existing role of look-outs and general dogsbodies. The rest he gradually moved from their downtown haunts to the blocks surrounding his new base but also made them quite aware that they were to keep their distance and only contact him through the few he'd kept as runners.

With life on the street being both hard and dangerous many of those forced to live there were highly territorial so Vin had to spend some time mediating disputes between his own followers and those that already considered the area theirs as well as having some frank discussions with a few local gangs and the occasional pimp about how things were going to be done in the local area from now on.

Vin - 'Chatting' With the Locals...
With any-one not willing to embrace the new status quo moved on or suddenly needing to visit the local hospital with a mysterious case of 'having the shit kicked out of them' Vin found himself with a slightly expanded herd and the area found itself with a minor drop in local crime and an equivalent drop in property values. The downside of course was that several local criminal elements were now aware of his presence...

Storytellers Note - In broad terms a three dot herd is considered as seven to fifteen vessels and Vin also has two dots in allies and one in retainers. As I'm not giving him any free dots in anything we'll just presume that he's on the top end of the numbers in quantity and the bottom in quality.

Michael Tomassino
Scene Two - The Political Landscape
Having for the first time in several weeks the opportunity to actually create some art Michael set himself to painting a few new pieces to add to the stock already at his disposal and using both his and his ghouls contacts to bring as much business in as he could.

With a combination of skill, natural beauty and a few talents inherited from Michael via his vitae Lisa was a highly successful salesperson leaving the kindred artist some time to investigate local politics and further his occult research. His newfound interest in such matters inspired by their revelations about the painting they'd spent so much time and effort to retrieve.

Edward Vignes - Baron
As their initial move to the area had been negotiated via their patron Marius and the Baron of Pasadena Edward Vignes they were unaware of quite what had been agreed but apparently any transfer of boons had been between them rather than involving the coterie. He was however of the opinion that arranging a formal introduction between themselves and the Ventrue leader of the barony was somewhat overdue from an etiquette point of view. Of course it never hurt to do a modicum of research first.

Storytellers Note - Michael's player was very keen to emphasise the word 'subtle' in conjunction with his enquiries.

From what he could discover from subtle enquiries with his few contacts within the community there were barely a dozen kindred within Pasadena and the nearby barony of Glendale and that included the coterie. Edward and Vera Vignes were Baron and Baroness of Pasadena and had kept their position by staying out of Anarch politics as best as they could though Edward still played politics the old Camarilla way so adhered to the traditions as best as he could. He has also managed to defend himself from several attacks by both kindred and kine with acts of extreme violence. However how a Ventrue known for his mental capabilities rather than physical prowess managed such destruction upon his enemies is a mystery that has resulted in no further attempts to do him harm. Unlocking the source of this protection would be essential to any attempt to oust him from power.

Vera Vignes - Baroness
He also had considerable control over the mortal politicians and people of influence within Pasadena which would enable him to cause considerable difficulties for any within his domain he wished to complicate things for. He was also of course a kindred of two centuries of experience with all the skills and powers that came along with it. Michael had also picked up several interesting but unverified rumours that all was not well between Edward and Vera as they had been seen together less and less over the last decade. Their servant and childe of Edward, Henry Waters is now a far more common sight accompanying Vera than her husband Edward...

Nearby in Glendale the only kindred residents were Edith and Enid Blount. These identical twin sisters in their 50's were apparently embraced by the Toreador who had made their own father into a vampire due to his regret over their father draining them nearly dry in a hunger frenzy.

The Blount Sisters
Though their father took to kindred society fairly well the two sisters never quite recovered from their ordeal and became quite reclusive up until they were forced to enter kindred society when their father disappeared in the late 1920's. They survived the Anarch revolts mainly because they had nothing any-one wanted and had never involved themselves enough in kindred matters to make any enemies and have effectively been left alone ever since. They are happy to grant temporary feeding rights to any in need who ask permission first. Their only kindred contacts are the Vignes who they occasionally meet socially though one or the other usually attends any of the occasional kindred gatherings known locally as 'rants' purely because they believe it would be impolite to refuse the invitation.

They have worn black since their fathers disappearance and are considered by all to simply be two sweet old ladies bought into kindred society through unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. Over the recent years several kindred have disappeared within the Glendale area and the rate of mortals going missing has also increased considerably leading many to believe that the sisters are no longer the only residents of the barony of Glendale though they themselves seem blissfully unaware that there's anything amiss at all. Local gossip now has it that something other than the Blounts lives in the Hills and requests to hunt within their barony have become less common.

Their generosity over the previous decades to kindred in need has left them with a considerable stockpile of minor boons that they have never called in and now many of the Anarchs regard them in much the same manner as a mortal would a pair of aunts who always seem to have your favourite snacks ready when you visit. It was the opinion of both Marius, his ghoul and the coteries new friend in the Fortier family, Mariel St John that any overt actions that caused the sisters harm would be poorly received by the Anarch community to say the least.

These enquiries still left him some time to organise the piles of books gifted him by Marius (or more likely his two pet ghouled mages) to start his fledgling occult library but he was somewhat concerned by Victoria's cryptic warning about some of them coming originally from a destroyed Giovanni mansion. Several of the crates were indeed cold to the touch and some of the works covering more disturbing subjects such as necromancy and the realms of the dead felt for want of a better word 'wrong' when handled. Knowing from their recent experiences that Roach had some unusual abilities allowing him to see things that escaped others he asked him to give his new library a once over.

Using his particular gifts the Malkavian investigated the storeroom at Michael's request and was somewhat surprised to see a pale-skinned young woman in an old style white nightdress, white hair and eyes that were lacking in pupils or iris standing almost casually in one corner. As he focused upon her the room seemed to blur and over the top of the actual decor an old study had superimposed itself though it was difficult to discern the era as the vision was somewhat indistinct and faded in and out as he attempted to concentrate on any aspect of it. The woman seemed to notice that she was being observed and turned to face Roach, smiling as she did so as simultaneously the laughter of a young child could be heard.

The source of the amusement was a girl of about eight years old wearing a cheery pink dress from a far more modern era who was seated on what looked like a toy box playing with three dolls that bore an uncanny resemblance to Roach and the other two members of the coterie. As he noticed the dolls, the girl reached for the one modelled on the Malkavian observing her and violently twisted off it's head. Abruptly the vision disappeared leaving him once more in the converted store room with a a sudden headache and a blissfully unaware Michael. The room had warmed up slightly however.

Roach explained what he'd seen to Michael in a completely 'matter of fact' manner as if there was nothing wrong with it at all giving all the impression that he saw things like this all the time and nothing of consequence ever came of them. This assessment was to prove moderately incorrect when a day later Michael found the library full of various creepy dolls...

Johnny 'Roach' West
Scene Three - Friends and Allies
With recent events having exhausted much of his accumulated cash and having no real need for his original haven to look or actually be habitable he stripped it of anything of value effectively liquidating his assets and making himself somewhere in the region of eight thousand dollars which he intended to use to ensure his supplies of narcotics could no longer be disrupted. In anticipation of needing loyal customers to maintain a steady supply of drug filled blood he also began to work on some of his regulars in anticipation of building up a herd of his own.

Storytellers Note - 'Roach' requires those he feeds on to be stoned so maintaining ready access to narcotics is quite important to him.

Further to his plan to ensure that he had ready access to the drugs needed to feed his own addictions he began to look into the possibility of opening a drug dispensary to take advantage of Los Angeles decriminalisation of marijuana sales. This plan was of course made somewhat more difficult by the fact that the current identity he was using would more than likely fall apart under the kind of scrutiny that would be focused upon it should he apply.

Marius - 'Fixer'
Remembering that Marius had twice mentioned a contact within the police Roach decided he had nothing to lose by asking for a favour in moving this plan forward.

Marius seemed surprisingly open to the idea and has said that he'll arrange for his police 'friend' and some other contacts to slip a licensing request for a dispensary into the system and look at bypassing some of the legal complications created by the fact that Johnny West doesn't technically exist. It would of course take a while to process but he assured the Malkavian that he'd make sure his ghoul Victoria kept nudging the right people and that he'd let him know when there's any movement. He did however make it clear that he'd expect a reasonable percentage of any subsequent profits in exchange for his help.

Storytellers Note - Marius owed a significant boon to some-one or several some-ones high in the Camarilla the payment for which was setting up the three infiltrators in Anarch territory. They required a haven, resources and in-roads into the Anarch community all of which he'd provided. Despite having fulfilled his requirements he's still been helping the coterie with advice and aid in return for accumulating a minor boon or two. His long-term goals in Los Angeles are unknown but so far he's been suspiciously reasonable in his dealings with them...

Roach also put forward a few other business ideas but it was pointed out to him that most of the mortal decision makers in Pasadena were under the control of Baron Edward Vignes and that at some point he was going to have to have to make some formal introductions before the baron decided to exert his authority with the newcomers by creating problems for them. With the ball rolling on that particular aspect of his long term plans he decided to spend some time on the other of his goals which was cultivating the thin-bloods as potential allies.

Rosa - Visionary
A number of thin-bloods had began to accept him as 'part of the crowd' but he was streetwise enough to know that he wasn't quite in yet. Fortunately his natural charisma was keeping him on friendly terms with most of them however a few who were friends of the recently disappeared 'traitors' were keeping an eye on their new Malkavian guest but had made no hostile moves presumably as Jenna had vouched for him after he, Michael and Vin had removed a potential problem for her.

Storytellers Note - It's a long story but in summary they made five of her own people who were making her look bad stop doing so...permanently...while keeping her own hands 'clean'...

He had also began to make enquiries about Rosa who had piqued his interest when they'd first encountered her on their initial visit to the thin-bloods declared Elysium at Santa Monica pier. Rosa had a fortune tellers booth on the pier and was unsurprisingly to Roach very good at it as he had witnessed her talents at premonition personally. Of course occasionally a lone patron left the booth a little paler than when they entered.

It didn't take long for him to realise that Rosa was well aware that she was being observed and seemed to alternate between indifferent and amused though her aura fluctuated so wildly that getting a fix on her mood was impossible. There were also a handful of others within the thin blood camp that seemed to have some influence and authority.

Lily and 'E'
An Australian thin-blood known as 'E' and another apparently thin-blooded woman called Lily who he had been been told was his sire seemed to have considerable popularity within the community and Roach had to admit that E did seem to be one of those people who was just naturally likeable. He did however sense some unresolved tension between the two but no-one he spoke to seemed aware of the source.

His sire Lily was the more serious of the pair and became quite defensive if it looked like another was taking up too much of his time especially if they were female. Between them they seem to fulfil a role similar to that of a Harpy as many seem to seek their approval and emulate their fashion choices. They also seem to be two of the few duskborn who have a relationship with Rosa based on friendship rather than fear.

Storytellers Note - It had been earlier established by the coterie that most of the thin-bloods were at best uncomfortable and at worse terrified of Rosa but couldn't find out why...

Claudia - Thin-Blood
With the death of the traitorous Jimmy at Vin's hand the role of enforcer seems to have been taken by a large Samoan gentleman called Laki. Since he has taken over the position the Malkavian had observed that security seemed to be taken far more seriously. He noticed him watching his activities fairly closely the first few times he visited the pier but he now seems to have accepted that Roach wasn't a threat or at least not one he needed to deal with immediately.

The young alchemist who the group rescued from the clutches of Jenna's enemies had made the occasional appearance to speak with both Jenna and Rosa but seems to spend little time socialising with others of her generation.

Roach had also seen the pretty blonde who he himself had identified as a thin-blood who had arrived at Marius's haven after their own meeting had completed but have discovered little other than her name (Claudia) and the fact that she is a recent arrival in the city and along with 'E' and Lily was of the few friendly with Rosa, the brunette who accompanied her to Marius's Haven he'd yet to see anywhere. Her status as a newcomer fitted with the coteries information that Marius offered aid to new arrivals in return for future favours though they'd also observed that pretty young women tended to get the best deals or end up as ghouls if they were useful mortals.

To be continued in Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem'.

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 wasn't really a session as such but I wanted to keep the momentum going during the few weeks gap forced upon us by being adults with jobs and families. I therefore as mentioned earlier in the article got the players to describe their characters downtime, informed them of the consequences and then asked for further reactions. It worked pretty much as planned as it's created several plot ideas for myself and allowed me to put some story seeds into the players minds in advance of the next session.

That next session is a week from today (all being well) so the next story will start around about then...

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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