Friday, 25 November 2022

Vampire the Masquerade - V5 - Session Zero - Galerie Sanguine: San Francisco

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

Our primary 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. This however will be the first one of several planned interludes which will centre on the expansion of Baron Michael Tomassio's 'Galerie Sanguine' franchise to other domains.
The now obligatory warning bit - These session write-ups will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. There are however a list of potential triggers listed before the introduction. 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.
Links to our main campaign, with a summary of each session can be found HERE.

The PC's
Thomas Caldwell, Ventrue
Francis Maranzano, Lasombra

The Storyteller
Everyone else...

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. Introductory pieces that I read to the group are in Blue. 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.

Trigger Warnings for This Session: Blood (Obviously)

Storytellers Note - This session zero will also contain a lot of storytellers notes to explain how we folded our character creation ideas into the narrative.

Introduction: Welcome to San Francisco
You have been residents of San Francisco for three months now, preparing for the grand opening of the latest franchise of Galerie Sanguine. Your residency in the city is currently due to favours pulled in by the Venture Patrick Hodge who runs most of the cities sex trade, in return for the rescue of his childe Ricardo Beltane, from the unbound ghoul gang known as 'The Young Bloods', by agents of Michael Tomassio. 

Storytellers Note - That particular event can be found HERE, though if you wish to read the hole story then start HERE instead.

You have been granted a small feeding ground around the gallery itself which due to it's size has required careful managing of your feeding habits.

San Francisco at Night
You are located in Mission Bay in San Francisco in the up and coming Art District within it. Currently covering ten square blocks, the area is commonly referred to as DoReMi. (Do)gpatch, Pot(re)ro Hill, and (Mi)ssion. Your current feeding ground is a single block.

Storytellers Note - This first session was to finalise character creation and to pass on information to the player characters about what they could have reasonably learned about significant kindred within the city.

Establishing a gallery, effectively from scratch, was certainly a challenge.

The two kindred each approached the accumulation of the necessary resources and contacts in their own unique manner. Thomas Caldwell, a Ventrue business man through and through, utilised his skills of persuasion and negotiation. Though admittedly these natural talents were also supplemented by his supernaturally enhanced presence. Francis Maranzano, a Lasombra whose criminal talents complemented Thomas's more diplomatic approach, had instead intimidated a number of individuals into giving them very favourable terms for a variety of necessary services. Much of their stock was to be shipped to them from Michael Tomassio's original Galerie Sanguine in Los Angeles so they only had to put minimal effort into this part of the operation.

Mission Bay - San Francisco at Night
Storytellers Note - I ignored the rulebook's 'two dots each' recommendation for the set-up of their operation. Instead I gave them a single dot for free then one additional dot per two successes on the roll for their chosen method of generating business. They got ten successes between them giving them six dots to spend.

Combining both their efforts, they managed to acquire both funding for their gallery and the cooperation of several businesses that provided them with luxurious decoration, a simple but effective security system and some staff. Francis also managed to 'convince' a local construction firm to add an escape route in the basement without bothering to obtain planning permission or keep any records of the job.

Storytellers Note - In practical terms this equated to Postern 1, Herd 1, Luxury 1, Resources 2 and Security System 1. I gave them the building itself and the 'Haven' bit for free...

Scene One - Touchstones and Convictions
Both of the kindred had contacts within the city, but each had one that was significant to them individually.

Thomas had developed a close working relationship with a local businessman who had a genuine appreciation for art. Caldwell only really saw artwork as a way of making money, so had become fascinated with Toby Forster's desire to keep such works for reasons other than making a quick profit.

Toby Forster's Art Collection
Mr Forster had also invested heavily in the newly expanding artistic community and so was, in his own way, part of the community they were attempting to infiltrate. Thomas had decided to keep a close eye on this mortal and ensure that no other kindred interfered with him.

Thomas had another interest in the community, but this one was far more selfish. As one of Clan Ventrue he had far more rarefied tastes in blood than the other clans. Like many of his kind, the first taste of blood had become his preference.

Unfortunately for Thomas, his tastes were quite specific, though luckily there was no shortage of these within the artistic community. Caldwell only truly enjoyed the taste of blood from recovering drug addicts and gained little sustenance from any other kind without considerable acts of concentration.

It was for this reason that Thomas never preyed upon drug dealers. Without them there would be no addicts in the first place and so he refrained from feeding upon them.

The Church of Francis Maranzano's Priest
Francis Maranzano had always been a religious man and had a great respect for the church. Despite the beast within, or perhaps because of it, Francis made frequent visits to a local church and still went to confession. 

One secret that Francis never shared was the fact that he had killed several members of what was once his mortal mob family. Though he had been a 'Made Man' so were some of those he had killed, and this went fundamentally against the codes he had sworn to live by.

Though he was careful to phrase his sins in a way that never revealed what he truly was, he nonetheless appreciated the priests commitment to the sanctity of the confessional booth. Concerned with how close he was to breaking the masquerade, Maranzano had vowed to protect the priest from danger and hopefully also protect himself from the consequences of his own actions.

Both Thomas and Francis had their own codes of honour of sorts but fundamentally they both demanded respect, though were also more than willing to respect others if they had earned it.

Storytellers Note - Their Chronicle Tenet is "Respect others and demand respect."

Scene Two - The Player Characters
Storytellers Note - I gave out some bonus XP in order for them to fine-tune their characters a bit. These were the results...
Thomas Caldwell - Ventrue
Galerie Sanguine - San Francisco
Thomas Caldwell 
Clan - Ventrue
Generation - 10th
Predator Type - Scene Queen
Concept - Art Salesman
Conviction - "None may control me."
Ambition - Earn a place in Los Angeles
Desire - To be respected

XP Remaining - 1

Toby Forster - Local Businessman

Strength 2, Dexterity 1, Stamina 2
Charisma 4, Manipulation 3, Composure 3
Intelligence 3, Wits 2, Resolve 2

Health 5, Willpower 5, Humanity 7
Blood Potency 1

Firearms 1
Etiquette 3 (Anarch), Insight 2, Intimidation 1, Leadership 4 (Command), Performance 1, Persuasion 3 (Negotiation), Streetwise 2, Subterfuge 3
Academics 2, Finance 2, Politics 2, Technology 1
Dominate 3 (1: Compel, 2: Mesmerize, 3: The Forgetful Mind)
Fortitude 2 (1: Unswayable Mind, 2: Toughness)
Presence 1 (1: Awe)

Backgrounds - Contacts 1 (Cocaine Dealer), Fame 1, Haven 1 (Luxury), Influence 1 (Local Area), Retainers 3, Status 1 (Art Collectors).
Merits - Beautiful 2
Flaws - Addiction 1, Enemies 1, Prey Exclusion (Drug Dealers), Stalkers 1
Ventrue Feeding Restriction - Recovering Addicts

Francis Maranzano - Lasombra
Galerie Sanguine - San Francisco
Francis Maranzano
Clan - Lasombra
Generation - 12th
Predator Type - Alleycat
Concept - Undead Mob Boss
Conviction - "Respect the Church."
Ambition - To control 'crime families' in San Francisco
Desire - To be respected

XP Remaining - 0

Local Priest

Strength 4, Dexterity 2, Stamina 3
Charisma 2, Manipulation 2, Composure 1
Intelligence 2, Wits 3, Resolve 3

Health 6, Willpower 4, Humanity 6
Blood Potency 1

Athletics 2, Brawl 3 (Grappling), Drive 2, Firearms 3 (Colt 1911), Larceny 2, Melee 1, Stealth 1
Etiquette 1, Insight 1, Intimidation 3, Leadership 2, Persuasion 1, Streetwise, 2, Subterfuge 1
Awareness 1, Investigation 2, Technology 1

Dominate 1 (1: Compel)
Oblivion 3 (1: Shadow Cloak, 2: Arms of Ahriman, 3: Touch of Oblivion)
Potency 2 (1: Lethal Body, 2: Prowess)

Backgrounds - Haven 1 (Watchmen), Retainer 3 (Ghoul Assistant), Retainer 1 (P.A.)
Flaws - Dark Secret 1, Stigmata 1
Lore - Descendent of Montano (3: Abyssal Apprentice)

Scene Three - Know Your Enemy
You have been doing some subtle but comprehensive research on the powers that be within this Camarilla city.

The Prince and Her Entourage
Sara Anne Winder - Ventrue
Price of San Francisco
Sara Anne Winder - Ventrue: Prince of San Francisco
Sara is a battle-hardened general in the guise of a sweet and flirtatious young lady.

Prince Winder is as cute as a button. She pulls her long blonde hair back in a ponytail and her eyes, blue as ice caves, sparkle when she smiles. She dresses casually, but makes a point of wearing clothes that accent her lithe build.

In public settings, she comports herself in such a way that others cannot even imagine her behaving in a cruel or aggressive fashion. She is a smiling and gracious prince, and deals pleasantly even with those individuals you know she despises. Likewise, she can enthral a target and engage them in witty banter even while her most favoured assassin moves into place behind them. Though not malicious, neither is she above even the most extreme and perfidious tactics if it will win her a battle.

Prince Winder bases herself within The Transamerica Pyramid building in the financial district of San Francisco. The entire building is considered to be Elysium and it is here where she most often holds court.

Thomas and Francis knew that she was aware of the coterie, and as far as they knew had nothing against Anarchs in particular.

Suzanne Rochelle - Toreador: Seneschal
Suzanne retained the role of Seneschal after her lover Vannevar Thomas was forced from his role of Prince by politics and a failed war against the Anarchs of Los Angeles. Some have suspected that she has done so in order to pave the way for the return of Vannevar to the role of Prince. 

Suzanne Rochelle, Ventrue, Seneschal to Prince Winder

Other kindred point out rumours that a wedge was driven between her and the former Prince by her attraction to the notable L.A. Anarch, Michael Tomassio. Even more malicious tongues hint at an affair between the two. Though the source of these rumours is quite obviously the cities harpies, such is their influence that some of the most often repeated of these lies are beginning to be believed.

Whatever the truth, she has been a skilled advisor to Sara and it is she who mitigates some of her Princes more brutal excesses by finding diplomatic solutions before more destructive options are explored.

Miriam Caravaggio - Toreador
Sheriff of San Francisco
Miriam Caravaggio - Toreador: Sheriff of San Francisco
Miriam is an extraordinarily lithe and beautiful young woman, she dresses to accentuate her form while still allowing herself complete range of motion. She most frequently wears a black body suit with a brightly coloured (and easily removable) sarong, though will dress to blend into high society if accompanying Sara somewhere more formal.

What is clear is that she sees herself as superior to the majority of the kindred inhabitants of the city. For her, every movement is a dance, every interaction a performance. However her favourite dance is that of violence and it is she who carries out any formal sentences inflicted upon those who break the traditions and defy the directives of the cities Prince.

One of Michael Tomassio's coterie in Los Angeles had met her briefly and had warned Thomas and Francis that in his opinion she had the skills to enforce her Prince's will and would most likely enjoy herself while doing it.

Gustavo Morales - Gangrel: Scourge
Morales is a tall, thin, but still-attractive Hispanic vampire who typically wears cargo pants and sturdy shirts, though will also dress appropriately for the locations in which he works. His lean appearance belies his fighting skills, as evidenced by his tally of victims.

He is considered something of a loose cannon and generally does his own thing. Some kindred admire this independent quality, others clearly do not. Given his position and impressive body-count it’s in the best interests of those who do not approve of his actions to nonetheless stay out of the way.

There are some questions about whether his loyalty would be tested should Prince Winder and the Gangrel Primogen, Mirko Mirkonnen ever come into dispute. 

Gustavo Morales - Gangrel, Scourge of San Francisco

Fortunately for the Prince, with the Gangrel no longer part of the Camarilla, Mirko's position is tenuous enough as it is, without him making an enemy of the one who has allowed him to retain a position that many say should be made obsolete. Morales, for his part, enjoys his role to much to put it at risk.

Francis had learned that Guatavo is prejudiced against the Asian community, due to the death of his brother. Additionally, and despite their initial suspicions, they were now sure that he was not a descendent of Mirko Mirkonnen.

Anya Bloom - Toreador
Keeper of Elysium

Anya Bloom - Toreador: Keeper of Elysium, Harpy
Though there are many trendsetters amongst the kindred of San Francisco who consider themselves to fulfil the role of 'Harpy'. The undisputed leader amongst them is Anya Bloom.

In the wake of the second Inquisition, Anya has created a trend for less overstated and obvious displays in the area of outfits. The more expensive yet subtle the outfit, the greater the status that she attributes to the wearer. Her ownership and control of many of the leading fashion houses within San Francisco means that she can influence upcoming trends and pre-empt the most up to date fashions in clothing, jewellery and accessories.

She is invariably accompanied by a small group of toadying sycophants who hang on her every word.

It is fairly common knowledge that Anya doesn't like Suzanne Rochelle, and is actively spreading rumours of affairs and the like about her. Some believe that she sees the position of Seneschal as hers and is more than willing to do whatever she can to make the situation vacant.


The Primogen
Mirko Mirkonen - Gangrel: Primogen
Mirkonen is an enormous muscular man with the same three-day beard growth he died with over a millennium ago. There’s a certain vulpine cunning in his eyes that makes others uncomfortable. He typically wears black steel-toed work boots, jeans and a black t-shirt. As something of a signature note, Mirkonen always wears a mangy fur vest that he made years ago when attending meetings. Out of battle, he has nothing to prove and is generally a relaxed and easy-going individual.

It is common knowledge that he is a dangerous combatant, and seemingly sees no reason to overstate the obvious by betraying any information to potential adversaries. Reflecting his respect for the living world, he attends to the natural order of things and tries not to feed heavily from any one area. 

Mirko Mirkonen - Gangrel Primogen of San Francisco

In warfare, he is a different person; every cruel urge manifests when he enters a berserker rage. He is neither flashy or fast, but you can both deliver and withstand enormous damage.

His considerable personal reputation as a warrior has been further enhanced by surviving running battles with the notorious Gangrel 'Fixer' Marius Walker on two separate occasions. Though he was defeated in a personal battle between the two, the fact that he still was granted certain allowances shows, in his version of events at least, that the confrontation was very close indeed.

Thomas and Francis have been informed by Michael Tomassio's Scourge Hope, and his 'Fixer' Daniel, that the likelihood of this fight being anything other than massively one-sided is highly unlikely. If Marius has granted Mirko any concessions then he must have had good reason to do so.

Both Mirko and Gustavo have their havens somewhere in the region of Golden Gate Park and this area is considered to be their exclusive feeding zone. All San Francisco parks are under their protection.

Luna Demian - House Tremere
Regent and Tremere Primogen
Luna Demian - House Tremere: Primogen
Luna means 'moon' and despite it's more common usage as a moniker in modern times, Luna Demian takes her name very seriously. 

She was middle aged when she received the Embrace and her hair had already turned silver. Furthermore, death has given her a smooth white alabaster like appearance, and she has a notable penchant for wearing white and silver lace dresses. Those elements, when combined, project an image that others find vivid and unforgettable, as befits a woman of her vast learning and achievement.

She has no time for social niceties. When possible, she avoids interacting with others in favour of conducting mystical research on whatever hapless enemies or interesting subjects she has acquired. When others interrupt her, she makes sure they know it, though she is chillingly polite when chastising them, the wise pay attention. A second interruption will likely prove fatal... eventually...

Demian has grown paranoid since her transfer to San Francisco. At any given time, she is likely to command between five and twelve well-armed and armoured decoy ghouls dressed in her exact likeness. She assigns these Demian's to her various haunts around the city or with her to protect/substitute for her at a moment’s notice. They stay linked by discreet two-way radios, not unlike those used by the presidential secret service. Given her dramatic appearance, Demian’s arrival with her entourage of pallid clones is an impressive spectacle, even in a city as accustomed to drama and artifice as San Francisco.

The Chantry is located in an area of San Francisco known as 'The Castro' and has considerable contact with Los Angeles's own equivalent in Downtown.

Kokopell Mana - Nosferatu
San Francisco Primogen
Kokopell 'The Kachin' Mana - Nosferatu: Primogen
Kokopell Mana, the Kachina, is a wizened old woman of Hopi extraction who was Embraced as Nosferatu. Nobody is sure of her age because of her clan deformations and the muck with which she covers herself, but she appears and claims to be downright ancient. In fact, she believes herself a fertility kachina of the same name.

Kokopell has a hunchback and uses “sewer muds” to paint her face. She looks like a Hopi kachina doll with wild straw-like hair and native clothing.

Fortunately, as a 'spirit,' she uses Obfuscate to travel unseen in the normal world. In practical terms this means that she can turn up pretty much anywhere she pleases, and sees no need to ask for permission to do so, that is if anyone is even aware that she was ever there. Many whisper that her enemies have a tendency to experience their final deaths under mysterious circumstances, never knowing that the creature that ended their unlives was even in the same room as them.

She sees this pantheon called the Camarilla as her family despite the fact that it argues and bickers, but they are still her family, and you will not abide any betrayal to them. Though most kindred are at least partially pragmatic, Kokopell is not. The traditions are the law, and she upholds them with religious conviction.

Vera Vignes - Ventrue
San Francisco Primogen
Vera Vignes - Ventrue: Primogen
Vera Vignes, formally of Los Angeles, controls the San Francisco docks and the majority of the logistics companies that are based within. Her Anarch roots have long been abandoned and she is a wholehearted supporter of the Camarilla, and perhaps always was.

These enterprises give her considerable power within the city and she has accumulated influence in both kindred and mortal circles. Any kindred who enters or leaves the city is likely to need either her help, or at the very least, her permission to do so. She is considered to be one of Prince Winder's closest allies and is known to donate generously to causes and organisations that the Prince deems important.

She is assisted by a handsome and muscular Ventrue called Henry Waters whose loyalty to his mistress is absolute. When necessary he enforces her will when diplomacy is insufficient and violence becomes necessary. Rumours of his destruction in Los Angeles were seemingly incorrect.

Though not considered to be an Elysium, the docks are however, Vera's feeding ground.

The pair had learned from their sponsors in Los Angeles that there was some doubt about whether this Henry Waters was the original Henry Waters as they had compelling reasons to believe that Henry had met his Final Death in L.A. two years ago. As far as they are concerned Henry Waters was destroyed, and whatever currently wears his face, is someone or something else.

The only notable Anarch operating within the city is Maximus, a very unusual Nosferatu. His flesh shows none of the overt signs of deformity that usually plague those of his clan. His grey flesh is pallid and pulled tightly over his bones and he smells of decomposition that aftershave and deodorant can merely reduce, not eliminate but in spite of these limitations he can still pass more freely in society than one of his clan can normally manage.

Chinatown, San Francisco at Night

He has a haven beneath Chinatown and is currently competing with the remnants of a independent group of kindred originally from Hong Kong who are, albeit nominally, supporters of the Camarilla.

The relationship between these Chinatown kindred and the Camarilla is somewhat tenuous given the problems San Francisco has had with previous 'eastern' Kindred inhabitants, but currently they are keeping to the Traditions and making all the right noises when it comes to loyalty to the cities Prince.

Lilliana Swann - Gangrel
'The Oratory'
The Circulatory System, Pony Express and The Oratory all have representatives within the city but they are somewhat beyond your financial reach at the moment. Of these you know very little other than the names of their representatives.

Zander Whitehouse represents the interests of The Circulatory System and can be contacted via Patrick Hodge who will, if you are considered suitable, arrange a meeting with Zander. They offer all the expected services and have access to a variety of vessels with particular resonances or ancestries. What they don't have in 'stock' can be shipped in from other farms within a reasonable timeframe.

Douglas Gage, of the delivery service known as 'The Pony Express' can deliver anything to anywhere for the right price. You need not reveal what you are shipping, indeed Douglas guarantees discretion, but nonetheless the added security and precautions required by the activities of the Second Inquisition mean that prices for their services are at an all-time high.

Lilliana Swann is the first contact for anyone requiring the variety of services offered by Aegis and The Oratory. Lilliana is a surprisingly polite and well dressed Gangrel who fits the image of a so-called 'Boardroom Gangrel' almost perfectly. Though given her Clan's preference for a hierarchy based on physical prowess it is unlikely that she is lacking in that area.

Maximus believes that Sara Winder pays a considerable retainer to all three of these organisations to ensure that her own needs are prioritized. Though he has no actual evidence, it is not an unreasonable theory.

There is to be a meeting at one of the cities Elysium this very evening and you have been informed that it would be in your best interests to use this opportunity to introduce yourself. Though the invitation was cordial, you are well aware that this is not optional. Not if you wish to avoid a visit from Prince Sara Anne Winders Sheriff, Miriam Caravaggio, or a less formal but certainly as fatal introduction to her Scourge Gustavo Morales.

The rules of behaviour in Camarilla society are very different to those in an Anarch Barony. Let's hope you can make the transition without any unfortunate mistakes...


Storytellers Conclusions
I sometimes 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 we have the characters and all the associated stats, and an overview of who they are going to be dealing with. The next session will deal with their introduction to the Prince and the rest of San Francisco's kindred society.

Song Lyrics
Also, The quote in the header is from the following song on the off-chance any-one is interested


Further 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 Thomas Caldwell is Oscar Isaac, Francis Maranzano is a young Al Pacino, Sara Anne Winder is Saoirse Ronan, Suzanne Rochelle is Amelia Rose Blaire, Miriam Caravaggio is Sasha Luss, Gustavo Morales is Miguel Gomez, Anya Bloom is Zendaya, Mirko Mirkonen is Nathan Jones, Luna Demian is Andie MacDowell, Vera Vignes is Helen Mirren  and Lilliana Swann is Liv Tyler.

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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