Category Archives: RPG
You may have noticed that I am a fan of making the Player Characters fight each other. There are several reasons for this, first and foremost being that the Player Characters in Mage are tremendously overpowered. Or maybe the fact that if the PCs are fighting each other I don’t have to stat any bad guys comes first. It’s pretty much a photo finish. I mean, take last week’s Minotaur for example. I spent all kinds of time tweaking his stats to make sure that he had a good chance of hurting those pesky PCs while at the same time not being likely to one-shot kill them. (Slow death is always more fun.) I give him a solid range of interesting powers that make sense to his concept, and how does he repay me? NOT ONE SINGLE SUCCESS!
So the Mages manage to make their way into Morgan’s Oneiros. Now it’s true that I wanted them to get there, because if they didn’t I did all that planning for nothing, but they should have been beaten up a bit when they got there. Instead they roll outta that morgue drawer fresh as daisies*!
And why wouldn’t they roll out of a morgue drawer? One of the defining moments of Morgan’s life was the death of his father. Furthermore, I really want to send these jerks a message that I want them dead. So yeah, morgue drawer. In fact, when the Mages were using Matter Magic to scan around the labyrinth I had them pick up the presence of some pockets where the dirt around them was missing… regularly spaced pockets that are roughly 6 feet long by 3 feet deep by 3 feet wide.
But I digress.
As they pile out of the morgue drawer Damien attempts to summon one of Morgan’s Daimons and fails miserably. This failure will come into play shortly.
What they enter is a corridor with a very military feel to it – think Stargate SG-1:
Very grey, but with colored lines on the floor that can help you to not get lost if you happen to know which colors lead where. Fate magic leads the troupe down the blue line to a room filled with a bunch of scientists. Exactly Neils’ kinda place! There are all manner of dials, and flashy lights, and buttons to push – FUN! There are also loads of guys in lab coats. As always, Aenaiyah casts Perfect Moment and then brashly runs in to ask for status updates and such. Riff-Raff and Argus cover the door. Argus is naturally invisible. Neils starts looking over a scientist’s shoulder and acting like he should be there. Damien, Arrow, and Rex move toward the observation window.
Aenaiyah finds out that the patient is fully under, and that his vital signs are stable. She insists on heading in to check on him physically to make sure everything is in place. That Perfect Moment spell she cast earlier lets her get away with this. She heads down the spiral staircase into the operating theater.
Damien, Arrow, and Rex look through the window to see a man who looks suspiciously like the Morgan they saw at the zombie house lying strapped to an adjustable medical gurney with a bunch of IV lines sticking out of each arm, each hooked up to a large IV bag. A woman is sitting next to him, holding his hand, and saying soothing things like “Rest dear, you’re safe now. It’s OK, you just need to get some rest. It will all be better when you wake up.” Damien and Arrow covertly start casting buff spells on the sleeper to make him resistant to the drugs (Arrow) and to increase his mental alertness (Damien). Rex is holding an action in case Aenaiyah winds up needing some help. None of them has done anything that would alert the scientists that anything is amiss, so no one is paying any attention to them.
And then Neils goes to touch a dial. And the scientist who is manning that panel realizes he shouldn’t be there and stabs him with a needle.
Roll for initiative!
The scientist has a surprise round on Neils because he plays it cool and doesn’t start yelling or anything. He simply acts like he’s going to tell Neils what something does and then injects him full of a mind altering drug. I ❤ Neils.
The other characters do not know that Neils has been drugged, and go about their business. Aenaiyah is talking with the woman sitting next to Morgan’s true self and discovers that this woman is his mother. (or, to be more precise, his concept of his mother. Which is to say, she is his negative Daimon of Complacency – as per my previous post.) Aenaiyah, thinking “Oh! Damien tried to summon Morgan’s Daimon to help us before, this must be her!” engages her in conversation, which leaves her feeling very soothed and calm indeed.
Despite the fact that all hell has not quite broken loose yet, Riff-Raff pulls his gun and tells everyone to stay where they are.
The scientists, on their respective rounds, listen to the gun-toting maniac and stay where they are.
When we get to Neils’ round he rolls a reflexive RESOLVE + STAMINA save versus the drug, and Neils being the favorite absolutely fails to save versus PC-on-PC action. As such, I describe to him what he sees:
You see colors swirling all around you. You have an extreme sense of clarity of purpose. There are three people standing by the observation window who really shouldn’t be there. Additionally, there is a crazy person standing in the doorway waving a gun in people’s faces.
And Neils’ strikes the gun wielding psycho with magic lightning.
As Neils attacks Riff-Raff (the gun wielding psycho) one of the doctors who has a held action makes a break for it and runs into the hallway. His goal is to pull an alarm and get some backup down here! Sadly, Argus was quicker (and invisible) and tackled him before he could get to the alarm. The doctor was caught completely off-guard (no defense) and can’t actually see Argus to stab him with psychotropic drugs.
Riff-Raff crumples to the ground with multiple points of aggravated damage from Neils’ vicious attack. (I love that guy!)
Aenaiyah needs to roll some RESOLVE+COMPOSURE to shake off the soothing effects of Morgan’s mother. (Thanks Damien!) She somehow manages (fiesty wench) and starts pulling IV needles out of Morgan’s arm, much to mother’s distress. Mother has no physical prowess whatsoever, but does continue to work her manipulative abilities on Aenaiyah to convince her that Morgan needs these medicines to get better and that she’s hurting him by ripping the needles out of his arm, and his arms are indeed bleeding because she isn’t being all that gentle about it.
Damien is continuing his attempts to use Mind Magic to wake Morgan up, and now he can very definitely feel the presence of another mind here working against him from outside.
For the record kids: this is why we shouldn’t tell the bad guys when their best operative might start working against them!
The scientists (who are really mental constructs themselves) are attempting to re-stabilize Morgan’s drug induced sleep while Neils continues to roast Riff-Raff with some sweet, sweet lightning. Argus continues to grapple with the doctor in the hall (who is in turn trying to stab him with psychotropic drugs) so that reinforcements don’t get called.
Neils has just blasted Riff-Raff into unconsciousness (and right out of Morgan’s Onerios). Arrow took his round to scoot downstairs to help Aenaiyah with Morgan (he is trying to purge the drugs from Morgan’s system), which leaves Neils with one target in the room: Damien! Neils Mage Lightnings Damien, who is getting way too close to waking up Morgan because the GM can’t roll for SH*T this session. Damien hangs on and attempts to help waking Morgan. Argus bests the doctor in the hall and goes in to find out what the hell is going on in the other room. Aenaiyah continues to rip needles out of Morgan’s arm while Arrow heals up the bleeding wounds. Scientists are unconscious. Morgan’s poor old Mom is begging Aenaiyah to stop hurting her son! Damien is struggling Braino-a-Braino with his ex-wife’s grandfather in a tug-of-war over Morgan’s mind!
And then Neils zaps Damien with Mage Lightning just before Damien can wake Morgan up! (GO NEILS GO! GO NEILS GO!)
Aenaiyah rips the final needles out of Morgan’s arms and he begins to wake, while Arrow makes his mother fall asleep using Life Magic.
Argus is about to shoot Neils in the face when Neils disappears without warning. In the waking world Damien has just full on bitch slapped Neils’ body so that he will be dragged out of Morgan’s Oneiros too. (And also because he was really pissed at Neils.)
To Be Continued…
*Daisies… Morgue Drawer… yeah, I went there.
The Mages have stumbled upon a powerful Seer operative who has a hidden, subjugated personality. This personality is not entirely happy with the things he has witnessed himself doing as a Seer. This personality could be a great help to the Player Characters with little things like freeing people from the oaths that they made to the “Guardians of the Veil” who were really Seers in disguise. After a little heavy-handed arm twisting they have finally decided that freeing this personality might be a good idea.
Well, most of them decided that. Others are not entirely convinced, but they’re all going anyway dammit!
Sadly for them they decided to let slip to the Seers that their star operative hidden in the Consillium is losing control of his inner Mage. Naturally this means that the Seers, headed by the Arch Master Mastigos who was directly told of the potential containment breach, devoted some energies to improving security around this guy’s psyche. Go Team Mages!
First the Mages have to find a way in to Morgan’s Oneiros. This won’t be incredibly easy as they haven’t invested a great deal of time in getting to know him well. In fairness, his dominant personality has been kind of a douchebag. He did lock them in a house filled with a horde of acid-vomiting zombies, a whirling silver chandelier of death, a flame-throwing stove, staircases that turn into slides that dump you into pits of even more acid-vomiting zombies, and other assorted fun.
Morgan knows how to throw a party.
There is one thing that they do know about Morgan for certain though – Morgan is the one who brought Narsil into the Guardians, and as it happens the Consillium Library’s Chief Relic-Hunter, Reenie, was there when it happened. That she was there brings this particular moment in time into the Temenos, a shared piece of Astral Space where memories held by more than one person exist, and makes her a bridge to that moment’s place in the Temenos. If the Mages can get there they might be able to use it as a bridge into Morgan’s own dream space. It’s a risk, but it’s one they will have to take.
The Bridge Memory happened just before Narsil and Glamdring’s Wedding was supposed to happen. Glamdring was busy getting ready to walk down the aisle when Reenie just happened to wander into the hallway in time to hear raised voices in the groom’s room. Curious to know what was going on, Reenie stayed in the hallway and saw Narsil leaving with a black-robed Guardian of the Veil. Narsil did not look pleased. The black-robed guardian was Morgan. This is the point where the Mages can jump into his Oneiros, if only they can figure out how to do it.
I pictured it happening in much the same way as Sally possessing someone in the US version of Being Human. (Sadly, I am woefully behind with the UK version.) For those who haven’t seen it (like my Players, as it turned out):
I figured they would worm their way in through his back just the way it happens at about the 35 second mark. Since they hadn’t seen it it took them a few tries to figure it out, but ultimately figure it out they did and away they went!
Anticipating a potential problem with his operative, Dr Blair (aka Brahms, aka Head of the NYC Seers of Panopticon), constructed a Labyrinth at the edges of the man’s Oneiros. And what Labyrinth is complete without a Minotaur I ask you? And so the players need to make their way through the Labyrinth into the main part of Morgan’s psyche. In game mechanics terms, they had to hit a target number of successes to find their way out by whatever means they could come up with that would make sense to the situation. Fate could have them happen to turn the right way, Matter could take “walls” out of their way, Prime could give them a line on the floor to follow, Space could help them keep their bearings, etc, etc. Successes would accumulate over multiple rolls, and botch rolls would reduce the number of successes they had already accumulated. Along the way there are pit traps filled with punji sticks, tentacles reaching out of the walls to grab them, nasties crawling along the floor, and the heavy breathing of the Minotaur.
I built the Minotaur to be impressive. He had massive, sharpened, blood-stained horns on his head and a vicious ramming attack that gave him oodles of dice to beat them with! He also had a massive hammer that he could whomp down on their heads. His hide was thick enough to give him some natural armor points, backing up a large number of hit points. His roar could induce fear en masse!
And yet, every time his initiative came up that stupid SOB would F@%$ing whiff! He didn’t do A SINGLE POINT OF ACTUAL DAMAGE TO THESE JERKS!
The GM was not pleased.
That’s the last time I bring in a Minotaur to do a mind-altering drug’s job.
Finally the Player Characters are on their way to resolving this storyline! No more Doing the Time Warp, no more ‘oh so there’s a serial Mage killer wandering around, whatever, let’s go hang out at the museum! ‘ They are actually going to take actions that will resolve this season’s arc story. It’s been a long time coming.
I enjoyed working out what they might see in Morgan’s personal dream-space. I had decided very early on when I was designing the campaign that Morgan had enlisted in the army as a young man to escape a bad situation at home. His father had died when he was a young child, and his mother had remarried. His step-father was not a kind man. I liked the irony of his running to the disciplinary structure of the army to escape the extreme disciplinarian his mother had married after his father had died. Additionally, his being in the army combined with his decision to cut ties with his family made him a convenient subject for experimentation – by the Consillium. The Consillium was trying to Awaken Mages and this newly developed drug, LSD, looked like it had promise. People who took the drug hallucinated, and their hallucinations were not unlike Mage Sight. Under controlled conditions perhaps they could use it to trigger true Awakening.
Their experiments were less than successful.
The results were wildly unpredictable, and those few who did seem to have had an Awakening were… odd. It was as if their souls were not quite connected to a particular Watchtower. No good came of that, and so the Consillium, in its infinite wisdom, hushed the whole thing up and did not speak of it again.
Meanwhile, the Seers have also heard of LSD and they are thinking that maybe it can be used to lull an Awakened mind back to sleep. As such, the Seers are experimenting too, and the players have uncovered some documentation from Project Lullabye. (the Players know next to nothing about the Consillium’s efforts.)
Morgan wound up caught between the two. He did experience an Awakening, of sorts, and then the Seers caught up with him and tried to lull his soul back to Sleep. They too were less than successful with this, but they did manage to create an alternate personality in him and that personality was able to reign in the more erratic personality byproducts of being tugged between two Watchtowers. That this new personality was a true believer in The Great Eye was gravy for the goose as they say.
All of this gave me some interesting elements to play with when crafting Morgan’s Onerios. This week we’ll cover some of the interesting denizens of Morgan’s subconscious.
You are probably familiar with the cartoon depiction of having a tiny angel on one shoulder telling you to be a good person, and a tiny little devil on the other shoulder telling you to eat the cookie. That is essentially what a person’s Daimons are. As for his positive daimon, that would be his biological father. After his death Morgan’s father took on mythic proportions in Morgan’s psyche. If only Daddy hadn’t died life would have been so much better! Daddy loved me and thought that everything that I did was great and wonderful and perfect. Daddy loved Mommy and made her happy. Daddy loved me and made me happy too. Daddy was the source of all the goodness in Morgan’s life, or so he saw it, and so what better figure to fill the role of his positive daimon?
Sadly for the players the Seers have trapped Morgan’s positive daimon. In reality Morgan’s father has died, so in Morgan’s Oneiros the representation of his father is locked in a morgue drawer deep in his subconscious. Summoning him from there will be no easy feat… which is how the players met his negative influence.
It would have been extremely easy to have chosen Morgan’s overbearing step-father as his negative daimon, which is precisely why I didn’t do it. Morgan’s step-father is an important character in his psyche to be sure, but I felt that his mother would make a far more interesting daimon for him. For starters, the Players would naturally assume that she was the angel on his shoulder. Figuring that she would have a positive influence on him they might try to deliberately summon her specifically. Alternately if they attempted to summon his positive daimon and didn’t entirely succeed they could summon her instead.
I went for subtlety here. Her negative influence could come across as being a positive one for a time. She would urge him (and the Players if they interacted with her) to be calm, to be cautious, to not do anything rash. This can all be very good advice… if it isn’t being used to lull one into a state of absolute compliance. Her ‘attacks’ are designed to make those around her lethargic, apathetic, and accepting of the bad things that happen to them.
As I stated earlier, Morgan’s step-father is absolutely a larger than life figure in his Oneiros. He is the man who ruined his once happy life. He wasn’t all that big on dealing with kids in general, and so having to put up with someone else’s kid wasn’t exactly his cup of tea. This poor child would clearly never amount to anything in life because he had the wrong biological father and as such was doomed from the start. Morgan’s step-father is a representation of his crushing self doubt. Step-Dad has intimidation based attacks that cause those around him to cower with fear. He can also summon hecklers to make Morgan (or the Player Characters since they are there now too) feel bad about himself, lose his confidence, and further fill him with doubt. These hecklers commonly take on the form of soldiers in his unit, though they can also be school mates, coworkers, or women he dated depending upon what part of Morgan’s psyche they are being summoned into.
Next week we’ll take a look at some of the key scenes in Morgan’s Oneiros. Remember how the Player Characters told the Seers that Morgan was becoming a loose cannon? We’ll punish them for that mistake. I promise!
One of the things I loved about the idea of running the Mage campaign had always been the size of the playing field. Mages can do anything, which can be a real painus in the anus to deal with in the physical world, but they don’t necessarily always need to have their adventures in the physical world do they now?
When I was coming up with the ideas behind the Project Lullaby (headed by a Seer using the Shadow Name Brahms) set of stories I always figured that there would be several astral journeys involved. When Damien joined the campaign and his player specifically asked if I foresaw astral sessions I was overjoyed! This was exactly the kind of thing that I had been hoping for.
And then they didn’t ever take the bait.
I had handed them the fact that both the Consillium and the Seers were experimenting on the potential uses of a little substance called lysergic acid diethylamide – more commonly called LSD. I had many great plans of walking the group through freaky drug trips. I also handed them a list of names of murder victims, and gave one of those victims a parent who had Brahms’ Lullaby playing in the background of her thoughts. The Mastigos wants to take a stroll through her brain to see what the deal is – but nobody else wants to do it. The rest of the group takes no interest at all in this lead beyond the very mundane conversation they have with her at her house regarding her daughter’s death.
I handed them a crazy Mage who kills newly Awakened folks on the orders of… someone they know not who… who is not likely to simply tell them what they want to know (he is a bit insane) but maybe they could wander through his head and figure out what’s really going on. They naturally opt to kill him outright and wash their hands of the situation.
Damien himself was stabbed by an unknown assailant and his memories of the situation are jumbled. Aenaiyah runs a post Cognition using his corpus as her focus which brings events somewhat clearer, but there is still much he does not know. Do they traipse through his brain to find out more? Of course not.
I make the involvement of Damien’s ex-wife with the enemy impossible to ignore. She is all kinds of personally involved with the kidnapping of Aenaiyah’s sister. After several sessions of punching her in the face and asking her questions they finally, FINALLY, have their arms twisted to tiptoe through the synapses – and hilarity ensues! These really are my favorite sessions of the campaign to date. (And we’ve had some good sessions!)
Earlier in the story the Mages found the hidden journal of a man who is very clearly suffering from multiple personality disorder. One of this man’s personalities is very clearly involved with kidnapping Aenaiyah’s sister, Betsy. They found out that the poor girl was in America at all and had in fact been bagged and tagged by clearing a printer jam in one of his safe houses and finding an upcoming edition of Sick, Sad World stuck in the printer that detailed the fact that the girl had been taken. The journal is being written by the part of him that wants to fight against the personality who was in charge during the kidnapping. The journal speaks about swearing someone to an oath against his wishes and not being happy about it. You’d think it would be easy to get them to consider taking a stroll down this guy’s memory lane – but no. Instead they tell the Seers that one of their operatives is having a crisis of faith and that they are willing to kill this guy for the Seers if the Seers give Betsy back. Because, you know, the head of the Seers who the Mages by now know is a Mastigos Arch Master would want one of his most successful operatives killed by them over a trifling difficulty like this. He wouldn’t simply take measures to keep the personality trying to thwart him in check. Why would he want to do that?
And then… and then… they go and tell Glamdring that they told the Seers that they know that Narsil is compromised, and when she asks why they would do that they tell her that it’s better to have everything out in the open.
I could have had Glamdring kill them all right then and there (she’s like Brock Samson if he happened to be a hot red-headed chick who is an Arch Master Thyrsus Mage) but she’s all about honor and duty (she is the head of the Adamantine Arrow in New York City after all) and with difficulty she restrains herself and simply throws them out of her office.
I’m thinking that if she kills them later maybe everyone will think the Seers did it – and if I’m thinking it, you know Glamdring is thinking it.
I’m generally not one to railroad a game, but this very quickly turned into a situation where I had to make it blatantly obvious that if the players didn’t step up and figure out a way to fix this their characters were all going to die. More than that, their deaths would be slow and torturous. And then their bodies would be disposed of in a way that made the Seers look guilty – or made the players themselves look like Seer spies (which wouldn’t be all that difficult under the circumstances). And their ghosts would be held captive by the outrageously pissed off red-head who had planned on marrying Narsil until she, an Arch Master of Life Magic, died. (which would probably not be any time soon.)
And when that didn’t work I smashed them repeatedly in the face with the Sledgehammer of Obvious Truths and eventually they realized that if the man who swore Narsil to his Guardians Oath (against Narsil’s will) had buried deep inside of him a personality that really wanted to RELEASE Narsil from that oath that MAYBE IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO GET INSIDE HIS BRAIN AND HELP THAT PERSONALITY DO THAT!!!
Which only goes to show:
You can lead your players to clues but you can’t make them think.
The Good News: Despite my understandable concerns, an Alien did not burst out of the swollen mass buried in my throat where I figured a gland was supposed to be.
The Bad News: The antibiotics I’m taking have me completely wiped out and I forgot to write a post this week.
Stamina + Resolve FAIL
Now to spread more plague…
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