Friday 30 April 2021

Vampire the Masquerade - V5 - Session Eighty Five - 'The Unbound' (Part Four)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our chronicle is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to bring them back under Camarilla control. Over a year of plotting allowed the coterie to gain control of two North-Eastern Baronies and a large part of a third. Now they are moving on to the final stage of their campaign and have their eyes on taking over the entire city, either directly or by proxy.
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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. If you'd prefer a summary of each session rather than read everything then there's a more detailed link page HERE as well as links to the first episode of each story in the blog sidebar.
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Chronicle One - 'Infiltrate L.A.' 
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree, and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Gather'
Story Three Continued - 'Becoming Baron' - Part SixSeven and Eight
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Chronicle Two - 'Foothold L.A.' 
Solo Session - 'Hostile Takeover'
Story Four - 'Countdown' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Five - 'The Missing Chantry' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Anaheim Assassination'
Story Six - 'A Meeting of Barons' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seven - 'The Carmelita Situation' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eight - 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One and Two
Story Nine - 'Blood Money' - Part OneTwoThreeFour, Five and Six
Story Ten - 'Anathema' - Part One and Two
Story Eleven - 'Predators and Prey' aka 'The Blount Sisters' - Part Three
Story Twelve - 'Aftermath' - Part One and Two
Story Thirteen - 'The Messiah Complex' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
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Chronicle Three - 'Incursion L.A.'
Story Fourteen - 'The Rant'
Story Fifteen - 'Ties of Blood' - Part One and Two
Solo Session - 'A Gathering of Roses'
Story Sixteen - 'The Southern Solution' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seventeen - 'The Baker Disappearance' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eighteen - 'Inevitable Betrayals' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Nineteen - 'The Marius Contracts' - Part One and Two
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
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Interlude Session One - After Griffith Park
Interlude Session Two - Divide and Conquer
Interlude Session Three - On the Brink of War
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Chronicle Four - 'Conquest L.A.'
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part Six, and Epilogue
Story Twenty Two - 'The Unbound' - Part OneTwo and Three
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The PC's
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, 'Baron of the North East'
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, 'Constable'
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, 'Census Taker'
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, 'Seneschal'

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested, but be warned that the page is usually several stories ahead of the most recent write-up and may contain some spoilers. There's also some minor 'house-rules' HERE that have occurred as we went along.

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 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. Anything covered via player handouts will also be in blue as they're written in the same style as introductions and the like. Where particular NPC's have a mention in a faction profile you will be able to reach it by clicking on their name or faction beneath their picture.

Introduction
San Jose is now firmly in the grip of forces under the control of Vannevar Thomas, Camarilla Prince of San Francisco. Only five kindred have known to have survived the attack and of these, at least one may have been better off destroyed.

Elspeth, the former de facto leader of San Jose's kindred and her childe Jaskaran have been given sanctuary in the North Eastern Anarch domain of Michael Tomassio. Two other Gangrel refugees have been recruited by Marius and have been granted refuge within Santa Clarita, a domain under his protection. 

The fifth survivor was captured by the unbound ghoul gang known as The Young Bloods and is no doubt already chained in their bunker where his vitae will allow the gang to recruit more members and expand their strength even further.

Scene Nine - Response
Vannevar Thomas - Ventrue
Prince of San Francisco
Michael has directed the coterie members to use their contacts, investigators, agents and other resources to ascertain exactly how the other Anarch Barons are responding to Prince Vannevar Thomas's attack upon their neighbouring domain.

Daniel has asked to continue his observations of the Young Bloods gang. Michael has agreed that this is still a concern but has informed Daniel that Vannevar must be their priority now as he is a far more immediate threat.

As they expected, the Anarchs response has been disorganised and unfocused.

There have been a number of border skirmishes as Anarchs on the Northern border of the Free States have engaged with small groups of Camarilla kindred who were presumably scouting ahead in preparation for an advance by Vannevar's forces.

Catherine DuBois - Ventrue
Childe and Mistress of Baron Fortier
Packs from The Wilds have ambushed and massacred at least two scouting parties and a third was pushed back by the Gangrel of Santa Clarita, whose forces now include two of the surviving Anarch kindred of San Jose. The Gangrel of Santa Clarita were assisted by ghoul mercenaries from Louis Fortier's own guards who had been granted permission to use their farm as a staging point for scouting operations.

Though the Gangrel only sustained minor wounds, several of Fortiers ghouls were killed and this has apparently caused some tension between the two factions as Fortier's childe Catherine DuBois has implied that their people were used as expendable cannon-fodder and has refused to commit more of her forces. Louis has seemingly supported his most favoured childe's decision. Having arguably the two best generals amongst the Anarchs at loggerheads with one another is hardly an ideal situation under these circumstances.

Marius Walker - Gangrel
Baron of Downtown
Marius has stated that the kindred of his protectorates and allies are free to act as they please but he himself will commit none of his assets unless Vannevar attacks Los Angeles directly, which most kindred are taking to mean "Attacks anything of mine..."

Similarly, Isaac Abrams  is believed to be unlikely to interfere unless his Hollywood Barony is threatened as he had previously allowed the Camarilla Prince, LaCroix to declare Praxis without interfering. Isaacs interests have always been centred on his own domain. No-one expects aid to come from Santa Monica either as Therese Voerman has well documented Camarilla sympathies. There is little chance of her assisting Vannevar in case he fails, though she cannot be relied upon to provide help to the Anarchs either. The Southern baronies are too far from the border to be of help until enemies have penetrated well within the city, which will of course, be far too late.

Armando 'Nines' Rodriguez - Brujah
Anarch
Nines has been quite vocal about the need for the Free States to resist the oppression of the Camarilla. A significant number of Brujah from a variety of baronies are beginning to heed his call to arms but despite his qualities as an inspiration to Anarchs, a war leader he is not.

It is likely that any mass assault by forces under his command would be outmanoeuvred by Vannevars own generals which are rumoured to include Camarilla Archons with centuries of experience in such matters.

Though the Free States have repelled the predations of enemy factions before, these have been hostile take-overs with little support like LaCroix's, or the fairly disorganised mass assaults of the Sabbat. A number of additional confrontations, assassinations and terrorist style attacks have also been perpetrated against Vannevar's forces but it's difficult to establish who exactly is responsible. 

Archon trained Assault Teams
It is clear that the Anarchs are pushing back, but there is no coordination to their strategies. It is also likely that these initial battles are merely tests using expendable forces and that once Vannevar realises that the Anarchs defence is haphazard at best, and that any truly organised battle plan will easily counter enemies that can be taken apart piecemeal, he will attack Los Angeles with every resource at his disposal. If he has even a fraction of the rumoured resources, his victory under such circumstances would be inevitable.

Daniel's surveillance teams have been forced to move their observation posts further away from the Young Bloods 'Bunker' after nearly being discovered by a patrol by a group of their bikers. His teams suspect that the gang have some form of counter-surveillance capabilities. Their only out of place visitors arrived in a  none-descript, dark-blue Chevy Impala. 

The three men and one woman entered the facility, stayed for about two hours and then left. Two briefcases that were with them when they arrived, were not in their possession when they left. As it seems unlikely that two briefcases could contain enough weapons to make a difference to the already well armed gang, Daniel suspects that this was a cash payment by the gangs sponsors. Whoever they may be.

The teams have also discovered a few other minor points that may be of interest. 

The gang has two vans in their possession. Presumably these aid in their smuggling operations and are also used to move their kindred prisoners. The gangs two leaders, Bobby Z and Vera, are inseparable. Where one goes, the other accompanies them. Vera is usually to be found on the back of Bobby Z's motorcycle though on occasion they ride side by side as she also has her own bike. 

Bobby Z and Vera - Unbound Ghouls
Leaders of 'The Young Bloods'
This information has unfortunately meant that Daniel's plan to lure out Bobby Z by kidnapping Vera has had to be abandoned. At least for now.

The gang has also been discovered to have a second hideout, off the beaten track in the San Gabriel mountains. It usually has a skeleton crew of no more than three guards. It doesn't seem to serve any real purpose as far as Daniel's teams can tell. Also of concern is the information passed to Daniel by two of the coteries information gathering contacts.

Both Zipper and Eric have come to exactly the same conclusions about both Bobby Z and Vera. Someone with considerable skill has zeroed both their criminal records and pretty much any online trace of their emails. To an outside observer they effectively do not exist. The rest of the gang members seem to be 'run of the mill' violent criminals and petty thieves, though never seem to have trouble raising the money for bail, recently. This has now removed any doubt from Daniel's mind that the Unbound ghouls have a powerful sponsor guiding them. The only question now is whether that sponsor is a kindred, or of the Second Inquisition.

Storytellers Note - The coterie obviously needed to plan their own response carefully as they are in the difficult position of having to help the Anarchs against the Camarilla while at the same time making sure they only acted against Camarilla assets belonging to those not on their supporters list. Even I'm having trouble keeping track of whose side they're actually on now, lol.

Scene Ten - Maximillian
Don Alonzo - Glass Walker Tribe
Tribal Leader
As it was now clear that the Anarchs were ill prepared for the kind of invasion that the coterie knew was imminent, Michael decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to begin his plan to create a council of Anarchs. A council, that he would place himself in a position to guide and manipulate towards his own goals.

First however he had another issue to resolve. He was currently in the rare position of having a working relationship with a werewolf tribe that was currently profiting both Kindred and Garou. Though he knew that the Glass Walkers would not become involved directly he thought it only fair to warn them of a potential war between kindred. Mainly because he didn't want them mistaking the actions of other vampires for his own and therefore jeopardising both his business and quite possibly his unlife.

Don Maximillian Alonzo consented to a meeting in the early evening

Maximillian's business headquarters in Pasadena were as impressive as ever though were sparsely populated at this late hour. The reception was manned by an athletically built security guard who appeared to be unarmed, though from his positioning Daniel was reasonably sure that he had a weapon under the desk. "Mr Alonzo is expecting you." He said as they entered. "You know the way I presume?" Michael confirmed that they did. 

Kiara - Glass Walker Tribe
Member of Alonzo's Pack
As they approached the lift, the security guard added. "Don't wander off..." Hope turned and could see that the guard was smiling. His complete lack of concern about the three kindred meeting with his boss irritated her slightly. He seemed casually dismissive of their abilities, as if mere vampires couldn't possibly be a threat to a werewolf.

Kiara, Alonzo's apparent bodyguard, was also present. Both Hope and Daniel had met her long before they encountered Maximillian. They had both been instrumental in locating and rescuing one of her kin and so had helped pave the way for the current uneasy alliance between the Kindred of the North East Barony and it's werewolf inhabitants.

"Greetings once more Michael. Is there something I can assist you with or is this a social call?"

Michael then explained in the vaguest terms possible the current situation and the possibility that rival vampires might be about to cause some problems. He emphasised that he would do his best to avoid any disruption to the Glass Walkers activities but could only make that promise on his own behalf, not others of his kind.

"Thank you for sharing this with me. I shall let Kiara disperse the information between those of my kind who need to know. One presumes that Marius, eldest vampiric childe of the kin murderer Xaviar, will be involved?" Replied Alonzo. 

Xaviar - Gangrel
Former Camarilla Justicar
Though apparently destroyed, the reputation of Marius's sire Xaviar was still a dark one amongst the Garou. Before his destruction, the mere presence of the former Justicar within a domain would virtually guarantee the ending of any peace between vampire and werewolf. Michael admitted that Marius's involvement was likely and that he himself planned to speak with him personally on the matter. Maximillian then chose to elaborate on his specific issues with the Gangrel 'Fixer'.

"His sire hunted our kind, not out of necessity, but for the joy of doing so. Marius has been known to do the same. We accepted his assistance against the Black Spiral Dancers as they were a foe of far more significance to us than he was."

Michael could clearly sense that Alonzo had not been happy about the compromise. He then continued.

"We know that he retrieved several of their artefacts. Klaives, fetishes and the like. They should be of no use to him but he never wastes the opportunity to collect that which may become useful in the future." "Anisa of the Black Furies hates him with a rare passion, Jan of the Bone Gnawers has a measure of respect for him however, due to his humanitarian efforts and the maintenance of their underground home. I am somewhat more pragmatic. I will use him if it suits my purposes but his destruction would concern me, not one bit."

Jan, 'Death-From-Below' and Anisa, 'Her-Claws-Always-Wet'

Michael's empathetic talents weren't necessary in these circumstances. All present could clearly see that Maximillian was being quite earnest. It was also obvious that he now deemed their meeting to be at an end. Not wanting to push their luck, they left.

Scene Eleven - Garcia's Childer
Salvador Garcia - Brujah
Sire of Allison and Gloria
Daniel had received intelligence that Allison Maller, Baron of Anaheim and Gloria Martinez, Baron of El Hermandad were meeting that very evening to discuss their joint response to the problems in San Jose. Having access to both Barons simultaneously was too good a chance to miss and so Michael contacted them and managed to persuade them to include him in their sit down.

Vin was tasked with maintaining the security of the Barony while the rest of the coterie travelled to Whittier where the two childer of Garcia were meeting.

Michael's chauffeur Dion did the driving, while Michael, Daniel and Mr Hertz were his passengers. Hope had elected to follow the vehicle from the air in her shapeshifted raven form, in order to ensure that they weren't surprised by any unwanted guests.

Mr Hertz had contacted their Camarilla sponsor Fiorenza Savona via her agent Zhi Baxter, who acted as Hertz's own driver, bodyguard and liaison. She had confirmed that Fiorenza would support any attempts to undermine Vannevar Thomas. Mainly as his overt attack upon an Anarch domain was in direct opposition to Fiorenza's own more subtle plans. Though there was also increasing evidence of a personal dislike of Vannevar considering how keen she was to tarnish his reputation.

Leo Frost - Brujah
Lieutenant of Gloria Martinez
As they approached Gloria's base of operations, Daniel recognized several members of the thin-bloods who referred to themselves as 'The Liberated'. Apparently the alliance between them and Gloria was still holding strong. As they approached, a significant number of kindred guards moved to intercept but dropped back into position at a shouted command by Leo Frost, one of Gloria's top Lieutenants and also Daniel's friend.

"Apologies for the somewhat overzealous security but given the situation I'm sure you understand the need for extra precautions." Stated Leo. Daniel also noticed that Leo was armed, which was somewhat of a rarity. Despite being a former soldier, he rarely carried weapons except in the direst of circumstances.

Gloria's second in command, Josie Parrish was also present and exhibited a visible sign of relief that Vin was not amongst the guests. Her previous encounter with him had not been a pleasant one as her attempt to relieve him of his armaments had failed utterly.

Storytellers Note - Vin gets to roll an obscene amount of dice to intimidate another individual.

The meeting they had interrupted seemed fairly informal. Gloria Martinex, Baron of El Hermandad and Allison Maller, Baron of Anaheim were seated in a side office with another female kindred that Daniel vagally recognised. Gloria introduced the third meeting participant as Amara Martins. "She's the current leader of the Duskborn and Caitiff who call themselves the Liberated who I have granted their own feeding ground within my own domain. Both I and Allison have deemed the area to be under the protection of us both."

Amara Martins - Duskborn
Current Leader of The Liberated
Michael raised an eyebrow at the word 'current' as it seemed to indicate that the position was in doubt. Amara noticed the look and spoke to clarify the point. "We of The Liberated rotate our leadership on a monthly basis so all have a chance to put their own points forward. I know this is unusual amongst kindred but the many outcasts amongst our number have had poor experiences with both Princes and Barons who wielded unilateral powers...

She paused briefly and smiled at Gloria, then Allison. "...of course there are always individuals whose methods of leadership are exceptions to that rule." Neither of the Barons seemed to have taken offense at the first remark.

"So..." began Gloria, addressing Michael "...I presume you have some plan of your own for how to deal with Vannevars incursion into San Jose that you wish to share?"

Michael knew that Gloria much preferred a direct approach, though also demanded respect. This meant that dealing with her involved walking a fine line between straight-talking and avoiding offense. With this in mind he began to lay out his plan.

Isaac Abrams - Toreador
Baron of Hollywood
"It is obvious that should Vannevar continue his push Southwards that mine and your domains are amongst the first that lie in his path. He is also, rightly or wrongly, likely to consider us much easier targets than Isaac Abrams domain of Hollywood. Especially as Isaac has previously kept his domain secure despite a Camarilla invasion."
 
"A strike against The Wilds based on their own attacks against him might also be a possibility though I'm sure his own spies are aware of the likelihood of that bringing Marius into the conflict, something I'm sure he'll avoid for the same reasons as he'll undoubtedly avoid antagonizing Isaac."

Allison then interrupted. "It would not be out of character for Marius to allow others to weaken an enemy before finishing them off himself. Despite the expensive suit, he's still a Gangrel with all the pragmatism that implies. Unfortunately he's not very predictable, even in circumstances such as this..."

"Especially in circumstances such as this." added Gloria.

"Which is why..." continued Michael. "...that we all need to cooperate and coordinate. I am therefore attempting to gain support for the forming of a War Council of the Barons of Los Angeles in order to pool our resources and deal with this threat as one."

Allison Maller - Brujah
Baron of Anaheim
Though Gloria had been focussed entirely upon Michael, Daniel noticed that Allison had been observing him instead. This was confirmed when she spoke to him directly. "So Daniel, what is your opinion of your Barons plan? I have come to respect your abilities what with you having twice came to my assistance during trying times and would value your input."

Daniel thought for a moment before replying.

"We undoubtedly need to be pragmatic, search for any weaknesses we can and strike in a unified manner. Not all of us have the luxury of having a thirty strong force to defend our baronies. Many of the Baronies have strengths that the others lack or weaknesses that others can compensate for."

"I take that to mean that you're in favour of the idea." replied Allison with a wry smile.

"Definitely..." continued Daniel. "There are many benefits to a united force. Not least of which are free movement of forces and the ability to create strategic staging points." As Daniel Paused, Michael continued. "I would of course allow free passage through my own barony for the purposes of removing Vannevar's forces from Anarch territory. One has to set an example after all."

Storytellers Note - Michael's player then rolled for persuasion. Normally I'd just let such a good argument succeed but as this was potentially a change to the entire city, I made him roll some dice. He achieved nine successes. More than enough.

After exchanging a look with her fellow Baron, Gloria gave her answer. "Whether you can convince the other Barons to agree or not, we at the very least, will join your war council. I have one condition. Amara must also have a seat on this council. This effects the independent duskborn and caitiff too and they should be given a chance to speak on their own behalf."

Michael agreed to her terms and mentally ticked the first three names off of his list.


Hopefully the other barons would be as open to his idea as these three had been.

To Be Continued in 'The War Council' (Part One)

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 obviously this approach is going to fundamentally alter the state of things in my version of L.A. if it succeeds. So now I need to look at the future plotlines I had planned and integrate them into this new scheme. GM problems, lol.

Acknowledgements
Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Entertainment AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved.

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 Matt Bomer, 'Vin' is Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Vannevar Thomas is Bryan Dechart, Catherine DuBois is Margot Robbie, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Nines Rodriguez is Luis Carazo, Don Alonzo is Stacy Keach, Kiara is Felisha Terrell, Leo Frost is Danny John-Jules, Amara Martins is Indira Varma, Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman and Allison Maller is ChloĆ« Grace Moretz.

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.

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