Friday, 18 January 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Fourteen - Becoming Baron (Part One)

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.
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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.
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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

The PC's
Phil as Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Matt as Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Tom as Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian
Dave as Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah
The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested.
As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure Malkavian premonition will turn up in purple. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red...

Introduction
With the Baron of Pasadena having met his final death it should have been a simple matter for Michael to take his position at the behest of the Baroness Vera Vignes who had promised to quietly abdicate the position and leave Los Angeles with her lover Henry. Unfortunately with Henry's death at Vera's hand and the revelation that something far more deadly than the lovesick woman had been living inside the Baroness's mind with dark plans of it's own, hope of a smooth exchange of power is unlikely.

'Atarah' - Autarkis Kindred, Clan Unknown
To make things worse the creature that was bound to Edwards service is now returned to it's body and in possession of it's own free will. Though this gives them a potential ally against Vera or whatever possessed her it does add another potential powerful kindred player to the already complex Los Angeles network of baronies and independents.

Daniel contacted his ghoul Andrew and instructed him to come to the abandoned air field and retrieve the bodies of the staff and the remains of Henry for disposal. Given the ease with which the request was made and obeyed it was obvious to the others that this wasn't the first time he'd sorted out such a task for his Banu Haqim master.

Then it was time to sort out their other obligations. Daniel and Vin were to take the sword they'd retrieved from the Vignes mansion to the Nagaraja Pisha as agreed and hopefully gain some knowledge from her based on what had occurred. Michael and Roach whose skills lent themselves better to negotiations decided to inform their ally Marius about the events of the evening hoping that he wasn't as pissed off about it as Roach thought he was going to be.

Scene One - Promises Kept
Pisha - Nagaraja Bloodline
Their journey through Pisha's domain was quiet this time as neither of the coterie members capable of seeing the horrors awaiting any kindred or kine foolish enough to wander from the path were with them. Roach was unswerving in his stated intention to never enter the abandoned hospital again and Michael had the unenviable task of explaining recent events to the Gangrel 'Fixer' Marius who was somewhat notorious for over-reacting to bad news.

They found Pisha in her usual place in the hospital depths and as Vin and Daniel were both more pragmatic and used to death than their coterie allies the blood soaked mortuary and dismembered bodies caused them little distraction. Pisha was unusually animated this evening "So, have you bought the item?...". Daniel unwrapped the strange multi-bladed ritual weapon from the blanked he'd wrapped it in and reverently passed it to the necromancer. Her delight was obvious from her reaction. "This will make an excellent addition to my collection..." She paused and ran a long fingernail along one of the spiralling blades "I presume all went well then?". In need of all the knowledge they could obtain, Daniel with the occasional input from Vin explained the majority of what had transpired to her to see if she had any insights.

Pisha confirmed some of what they'd surmised and learned from the freed entity. Firstly that it was entirely possible for a diablerised kindred with a strong enough will to control the body of the one who consumed it's soul and secondly that if this was indeed the necromancer from Boston they'd discussed that she was definitely in possession of that level of personal will.

Of the freed entity she knew little other than that the name 'Atarah' meant crown in Hebrew and that she was obviously a kindred of some power and age given her mastery of the dark discipline that she described as 'Oblivion' as it was a rare power amongst kindred.

All the while they were talking Pisha's attention was only half on the conversation as her interest was far more focused on the sword on the table. Daniel had noticed that the glow surrounding the weapon was visible even without the amulet provided by Pisha to find the fetters and that it seemed to be surrounded by a slight mist that he hadn't noticed till he had handed it to the Necromancer. Attempting to regain her attention once more the Banu Haqim asked if there was anyway to track Vera now that they were aware of what she was a victim of.

She suggested that they might look for reports of items going missing from local museums or private collections as often this was a good place to find occult items whose purposes were unknown to the mortals and that if this possessor needed items to create a new protector she'd need raw materials. It was obvious that she was far too distracted by her new toy to pay much heed to the conversation so they bid her well and left after receiving the map providing their new route through the death trap hospital. As they left Pisha informed them that "They should make sure Marius gets that map after you leave as I doubt you'll need to visit me again..." Both Daniel and Vin took that statement as actually meaning "Don't come back..."

Scene Two - "It's not as bad as you've heard..."
Marius Walker - Gangrel
'Fixer'
Both Michael and Roach were ushered quickly through the security at Hallowbrook Apartments and escorted into the office where they'd first met Marius some months ago which was only the second time they'd been there. Somewhat worryingly it was also the room where the Gangrel kept his extensive selection of melee weaponry.

Marius was sitting at the large meeting table and as well as themselves they were joined by Victoria and Yukio. The Gangrel's large wolf-like famulus was sitting in the corner teeth bared and Yukio had one hand inside her jacket and another slid behind her back where she normally kept a bladed weapon of some description. "Been busy I hear?" the tone was measured but Michael could detect the hint of something more dangerous in there somewhere.

Roach had long ago abandoned any attempt at reading Marius's aura as it always showed as suspiciously neutral regardless of the situation though he had noticed that his creature was a fairly good indicator of his mood as it had no such shield. The aura of the wolf was a swirling mixture of purple aggression and the red of anger both of which led Roach to believe that they needed to spin recent events considerably to get out of the building free of consequences.

Victoria - Ghoul
Marius's PA and Interrogator
Michael explained that their plan to remove Edward had been completely successful and that his wife Vera and her retainer Henry were also no longer any hindrance to the takeover of Pasadena by themselves but skimmed quickly over the fact that an entire compound was now a bullet-ridden inferno and that the Vignes mansion had exploded. In fact he pretty much missed out all the collateral damage and other problems they'd caused until it became obvious to him that his attempt at subterfuge was an utter failure. Deciding that confession was better than been caught in a lie he continued the conversation almost without missing a beat and filled in all the gaps as if he never intended to lie at all. Roach filled in several omissions in the exchange including what they'd learned about the enslaved kindred and the possessor of Vera. At which point Victoria indicated she had some input of her own.

"You bought some C4 explosives from Mercurio?" she enquired with the usual monotone she used in any circumstances other than torturing people to death. It was very much a statement even though phrased as a question. "Is there any connection between that purchase and the detonation that completely destroyed the Vignes mansion and killed the eight servants inside at the time?". Michael assured them that according to Daniel the explosion had coincided with the entities release and that they and he had had no part in it at all. Roach could see the wolf's aura begin to change to the blue that normally indicated suspicion or distrust but at least the fading of the red seemed to indicate that the chance of Marius brutally murdering them all seemed to have lessened.

Yukio - Ghoul
Bodyguard and Enforcer
"So to summarise..." interrupted Marius "...you've cleaned up the bodies at the airfield, cleansed the site of your gun battle with fire and both Vera and Henry are gone but we now have a vengeful kindred of undetermined allegiance who can teleport between shadows wandering around LA?" Roach and Daniel both gave their confirmations. "I'm sure you realise that this means you'll have to gain the support of some powerful allies to support your takeover now you have no-one to smooth the transfer of power?".

Fortunately Michael indicated that they had some ideas in that direction and it was with some relief that they noticed Yukio's hands were no longer in ready positions and that the wolf had stopped baring his teeth. As these were usually good indicators of the Gangrel's mood it seemed that they'd managed to if not placate him at least put him back in a receptive frame of mind.

The Toreador and Malkavian explained that they had already planned to gain additional support via acquaintances they'd made over the last few months including Mariel St John of the Fortier's, Gary of the Nosferatu, Hollywood  Baron Isaac Abrams and possibly Jenna Cross and a few others. Marius indicated that his ghouls should leave, presumably to check on the accuracy of what they'd been told and to investigate the unforeseen issues that had arisen. "I might be able to help you with Mariel..." The kindred immediately paid attention as Marius and Mariel weren't exactly on friendly terms so this was probably going to be interesting.

Mariel St John - Ventrue
Fortier Family Harpy
Marius explained that the adopted childe of Loius Fortier, Mariel St John had been making covert enquiries for kindred 'muscle' for some kind of dangerous job though seemingly not subtle enough to escape his notice. The fact that she hadn't approached Louis or any of his contacts must mean that in Marius's opinion whatever task she wanted performed was to resolve some mistake of hers or some-one she was beholden to.

He put forward the idea that if he revealed he knew of her enquiries and made some of his own it would force her to seek aid sooner rather than later before she was discovered. He was reasonably sure that she would then approach Michael based on the fact that he and his coterie had helped her in the past and would do so quickly if he himself exerted the correct pressures on her. Needing all the support they could, Michael agreed and they were both dismissed with a casual wave of the hand. As they left Roach informed Michael of just how close to losing his temper their host was and suggested they give him some time to cool off before bothering him with anything else.

Interlude one - An Unexpected Gift
Vera Vignes - Former Baroness
On their return to the gallery Lisa handed Michael a letter addressed to himself in perfect script on an expensive envelope. Ready for anything after the night they'd had so far he took the envelope to the meeting room where he opened it in the presence of the rest of the coterie. Inside was a letter from Vera Vignes.

"By the rules of Prestation I owe you a major boon for the service you provided. So I am providing you with all the information you may need to control the mortal politics of Pasadena. I enclose a key to Edwards safety deposit which contains boxes of files and documents and the appropriate identity codes and numbers to gain access to them. Henry and I have already put away the finances to start our new life together and I hope you can use the information provided to create the empire you desire while I leave Los Angeles with mine. Eternally in your gratitude, Vera.

Roach reached for the letter and as he focused upon it he saw a vision of Vera sitting at a writing desk with Henry beside her. The love between them was almost tangible even though this was a look into the past and the Malkavian could only conclude that when it had been written in one of the moments where Vera was in control of her own form. Still suspicious that it may be a trap of some kind they somewhat callously tidied up one of Vin's herd of bums and sent him to fetch the contents during the day rather than use a less expendable ghoul.

The safety deposit box actually turns out to be five boxes. Details on a number of business transactions, contact lists, receipts and account ledgers fill four of the boxes. A fifth is empty except for a few print-outs of bank account contents and you presume that this contained his financial information presumably now in the hands of 'Vera' or whatever is wearing her form at least. 

A brief glance reveals that most of Edwards control was through bribery and influencing decisions via campaign donations and you imagine some dominate as a few of the approved projects are dubious at best. Also, If Edward was planning on helping out Roach with his business plan then he hadn't made a start on it yet. Without Edwards money, maintaining control of his contacts is going to be tricky though you may be able to cobble together enough for some blackmail if you're careful.

Michael soon realised that some-one with the money to throw at the region could take advantage of the information within but they sure as hell didn't. The other unfortunate issue he concluded was that any-one they gave the information to who had such resources would then have significant influence over the mortal powers in their barony. He imagined their best bet would be to trade the info for boons but the recipient would have to be some-one they trusted not to screw them over in Pasadena and that was a list without a single name on it. In short the information was valuable to some-one with money and resources who they don't mind being able to influence the politics where they lived.

Michael saw that there was no choice but to help Roach with his plan to expand his fledgling drug empire in order to bring in the money they needed and then to use their bought political connections to protect it while it expanded further and so on. Suspecting that tomorrow would be another busy day, Daniel once again utilised the galleries basement safe area as a haven as his fate was now irrevocably tied to that of the coterie.

Scene Three - Club Zombie
An impeccably dressed and handsome young man in the expensive tailored suits favoured by Catherine Du Bois for the ghoul bodyguards of Louis Fortier arrives at the gallery and hands you an expensive looking envelope. "Miss St John has asked me to deliver this note to you personally and to await your reply..."

Michael asked the bearer of the note to wait while he took it to their meeting room and requested the presence of the others while he perused the contents.

'I'd like to meet up with you for a discussion on how I can help you with an upcoming problem of yours in return for assisting with an issue of my own. I have arranged a private room at Club Zombie in the Sepulchre at 10.00 PM and I'm sure men of your integrity would be willing to give me the benefit of your company. The vacuous fool who handed this to you will require a simple yes or no response. Signed Mariel St John.'

Roach picked up the letter, retrieved a large coloured pen from his room and wrote 'YES' in large letters on the back before handing it to the messenger and returning upstairs. It appeared that the leverage provided by Marius had indeed driven Mariel to contact them for help. Now they just needed to negotiate her aid in exchange for whatever task she required performing.

As the door to the Malkavian's room was open the others couldn't help but observe that the wall was covered in a gigantic mass of notes, photographs, newspaper cuttings and scraps of paper joined by lines created from string, various thread no doubt purloined from Heather's sewing box and lines drawn in pen, crayon and felt-tip pen. If these were tangible representations of the Malkavian's thought processes then it was probably best not to look at them too closely. With the meeting confirmed they prepared themselves for a trip to Club Zombie.

The club is actually a converted warehouse that the owners claim was once a coffin factory and is cheesily decorated with skeletons and coffins while all it's staff are wearing funeral garb and have their faces painted dead-white. Three gentlemen are acting as doorman, two are wearing the garb of lunatic asylum inmates while a third is dressed as a mortician by the entrance-way which is decorated with very obviously plastic skulls reminding you somewhat of a fairground ghost train. 


It is the the 'mortician' who is directing people to where they may pay their entry fee, turning others away and very occasionally will consult a list hanging just inside the door, stamp the individuals hand and then ushers them directly inside.

Vin used his considerable bulk to intimidate his way to the front of the queue while Roach simply used his grasp of Dominate to command any-one in his way to step aside as Daniel simply followed along in the corridor they created. Michael on the other hand who invariably on rising used the blush of life to give himself the appearance of a healthy human had been slowed considerably by a number of female and male admirers drawn by his stunning looks amplified by his habitual use of the Presence discipline. The doorman greeted Michael though he knew him only as an occasional patron and was somewhat surprised when he checked the clipboard and discovered his name was on the 'special' portion of the guest list. As he attempted to stamp the hands of each member of the group presumably to allow them access to the Sepulchre area of the club, Roach ignored him and strolled straight past.

The club is as cheesy on the inside as it is on the outside though is surprisingly packed for somewhere so tacky looking. The area you have been directed to has a set of stairs going downwards protected by yet another man in morticians uniform.

As Michael and the rest approached the doorman gestured to them to allow him to scan the stamp on their arms and when he noticed that Roach was missing his refused to let them past. The Malkavian who was unused to being prevented from going anywhere used his ability with dominate to force his way ahead. Unfortunately his pronouncement "You'll let me past..." was swiftly countered with "No I fucking won't".

At this point he concluded that he should probably have guessed that the doorman at a vampire bar would be resistant to such basic tricks. Seeing Vin getting edgy the Toreador interjected by informing him that they were due to see Mariel St John and that any blame for keeping her waiting would be firmly placed with him. Apparently fearing her more than his desire to adhere to procedure he stepped aside and let them past.

Scene Four - The Sepulchre
'The Sepulchre' is a different matter altogether and is decorated elegantly in dark marble and brass. There's a dance floor in the centre that is currently unoccupied though there are open tables and booths surrounding it as well as several booths shielded with heavy curtains of expensive cloth. A dozen or so patrons are seated in small groups and many have bottles and glasses in front of them as there is somewhat surprisingly an actual bar within and all the bottles behind it seem to have suspiciously blood-red liquid in them. 

Standing beside one of the curtained booths is Mariel St John in a vintage style black and white dress cut to mid thigh. She holds open the curtain and bids you enter, there are two wine bottles on the table and five glasses. "Please make yourself comfortable and help yourself to a drink. It's quite fine for individuals of our needs to consume though how they manage to preserve it within the wine is I'm afraid a mystery to me..." She then reaches up unscrews the light fitting and pulls down a piece of wire with what looks like a small microphone on the end, pulls a wire out and then pushes the thing back into place and screws the fitting back in..."Now we can have a little privacy...feel free to have a drink before we start"

The coterie were obviously curious about who exactly would be listing in but Mariel simply claimed that this is her preferred booth and that Louis Fortier's childe her 'sister' Catherine Du Bois probably bugged it out of concern for her security. Several of them had doubts about the explanation but this didn't seem like the time for harassing a potential ally. Once drinks were poured Mariel spoke "I presume as you've agreed to meet that your open to discussing a little job for me?"

They confirmed that they would be open to helping her in any way they could but were currently embroiled in the minor issue of wishing to assure the security of the barony of Pasadena which found itself without a leader. Mariel had more than enough experience in kindred politics to know where this was going and assured them that once her current problem was no longer at the forefront of her mind she could turn to other matters such as supporting a replacement for Edward Vignes. Of course Michael would require more information before giving a firm agreement and seeing this as a prompt for her to explain further the current Harpy of the Fortier family elaborated.

Sophia Bartholomew - Toreador
Artist
"A very nice but not particularly smart friend of mine made the acquaintance of several kindred who claimed they had journeyed here from San Diego who seemed keen to learn about the city and it's ways and she was I'm afraid quite eager to please and has relayed probably a bit too much information to kindred she barely knew" 

"However she has made an unfortunate discovery while being somewhat too nosy for her own good and now after some discussion with myself about what she observed we are quite certain that they are Sabbat spies here with some nefarious purpose in mind" She paused briefly to take a sip of 'wine' " Unfortunately those within Los Angeles ideally suited to deal with such situations such as Louis, your humourless friend Marius, Nines Rodriguez and those of similar resources are unlikely to believe that my friend is innocent and even if they do are still likely to require her punishment which I would like to avoid if at all possible.

"To put it plainly I'd like you to investigate, see if our suspicions are accurate and then if they are, make the problem go away." "I appreciate that violence isn't a speciality of you all but you've proven yourselves resourceful in the past and I'm sure you can do work out some way to do this..." "Should you be able to perform this task for me then when you speak at the upcoming rant about your taking over of the Barony of Pasadena I will put Louis Fortiers weight behind your claim. The friend of mine you'll also be helping is not without influence and can add another voice to your cause. I won't guarantee that will be all the support you'll need but it will certainly put off many of the less powerful potential other claimants."

The less trusting members of the coterie wished to know who this 'friend' was is it may become relevant to their investigations though Michael's interest was more about just how much influence they might have to help his claim. Mariel revealed that it was one of the Bartholomew family and as she'd early said 'she' it was a fair guess she was referring to Sophia Batholomew the artist. Armed with a location in Simi Valley and only the most basic of tactical information it was decided that some reconnaissance would be in order...

To Be Continued in 'Becoming Baron' - Part Two

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...

With the death of the Baron I decided to start a new story based around the coteries machinations to gain the support needed to put one of their own in the role and more importantly keep him there. This will involve their attempts to gain control of Edwards political contacts, Expand Roach's criminal enterprises to fund their activities and gain enough support from other kindred to put off any rivals for the job.

Admittedly this session was mainly about clearing up loose ends and creating new sub-plots for them to investigate but they all seemed to enjoy it so we'll call it another success.

Acknowledgements
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, Vera Vignes is Helen Mirren, Henry Waters is Henry Caville, Victoria is a model called Lilith May or Lorelei Swan depending on where in her career you find her and Yukio is Devon Aoki. 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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