Category Archives: World of Darkness

Thanksgiving – Geeknam Style


I find myself suddenly startled by a blaring, raucous noise.

Roll Wits + Dex -3 (startled from sleep): Botch

The sound of a shattering light bulb, coupled with the continuance of the blaring noise, seems to indicate that instead of hitting the snooze button I have instead knocked a lamp off the bedside table and onto the floor.

Roll Dex + Athletics: 1 Success

I manage to not skewer my foot on a sharpened piece of light bulb. This is fortunate because I haven’t had coffee yet and might have died of blood loss before realizing I had been injured.

I blow a Will Power point to make coffee and grab a donut.

Roll Resolve + Composure +3 (there goes another Will Power Point): 1 Success.

I decide that it really would be wrong to ditch visiting the family to spend quality time with my XBox instead. After all, it is Thanksgiving. On the plus side: there will be ludicrous amounts of food. (Vice = Gluttony so get that 1 Will Power Point back for being willing to face danger in the name of nummies.)

Roll Wits + Drive: 3 Successes

Clearly my driving reflexes are fully cognizant of the fact that a turkey dinner is on the line! I swerve right around that fallen tree that’s blocking the road and get past the two sets of train tracks just before the “You Shall Not Pass” barriers come down to indicate a coming train, which is crazy talk because I simply can’t picture a world in which train service hasn’t been suspended due to the lack of clouds in  the sky.

I have arrived at the ancestral abode. It’s time to run the gauntlet.

Roll Dex + Athletics: 1 Success

“Who’s a good puppy? Gizzie’s a good puppy!” Gizzie is also my favorite member of the family, as she has just helped me dodge the dreaded cheek-pinch. Gizzie gonna be gettin’ some treats for sure!

Roll Resolve + Composure -2 (accute olfactory senses): BOTCH!

I start to “aimlessly wander” toward the kitchen.

Roll Wits + Stealth: 2 Successes

Brother Rolls: Wits + Composure: 3 Successes

Blast! My brother has noticed that the turkey is in danger. He is now moving toward the kitchen on an intercept course!

Rolling Inititative

How is it possible he has a higher Initiative than I do?! Gorammit! Now he has placed himself square in the only path to the kitchen and there’s no way around him!

Roll Dex + Athletics, blow a Will Power point for +3 (this is important!): 4 Successes! Ooorah!

Brother Rolls: Dex + Brawl – he’s going for a grapple… and he’s blown a Will Power Point also!: 5 Successes

Roll Strength + Athletics to break free: BOTCH!

Oh the humanity! The turkey is being removed from the oven and set on the kitchen counter. It’s…right…there… I can al…most reach…it…

Brother Rolls: Strength + Resolve: 3 Successes – he has blown yet another Will Power Point to thwart my efforts.

Roll Resolve + Composure + 3 (good thing I got that Will Power back from before!) : 1 Success

I act totally cool, like it’s all under control. With luck my brother will fall for my evil ploy.

Roll Manipulation + Subterfuge + 3 (come on… last Will Power Point… YOU CAN DO THIS!): Exceptional Success!

Brother Rolls: Wits + Empathy reflexively (he may instinctively be on to me): 2 Successes – not enough.

He has seen me run this con before, but clearly he is distracted by the wafting aroma of turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes.

OOC: I convince the GM that it was Prudent of me to fight off my temptation and lull my brother into a false sense of security, thereby getting all of my expended Will Power back. (Virtue = Prudence)

Hold…

HOLD…

My plan is to wait until the very moment my brother’s back is turned and then dash into the kitchen to devour the turkey and indulge my gluttony vice. this will take 2 rolls: the first to choose just the right moment, and the second to dash into the kitchen and claim the turkey.

Roll 1 – Wits + Subterfuge: 1 Success

Roll 2 – Dex + Athletics + 3 Will Power : 4 Successes

ALL YOUR TURKEY DINNER ARE BELONG TO ME! 

I hope your Thanksgiving got you back some well deserved Gluttony induced Will Power replenishment!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Mages Make Me Cry

Roll Resolve + Stamina: BOTCH! TRYPTOPHAN FTW!

From Hell’s Heart I Stab At Thee


What the Mages didn’t know:

The Mages decided to clear up whatever it was that Neils had unleashed in their basement as quickly as possible. Part of this was owing to Aenaiyah’s somewhat dramatic insistence that they would destroy all of Manhattan if they didn’t fix the problem within 48 hours at the latest. Aenaiyah was off by a few weeks, but everyone took her word for it and instead of playing around with this effect and maybe learning something about the nature of magic they shut it down with soul stones right away.

The effect in question actually comes from a book called “Intruders: Encounters with the Abyss” and it’s called “The False Demesne”. Where the book gives you a lot of “some theorize that”, I filled in my own explanations for what was happening and why. The solution to the problem was taken directly from the book though.

I had decided that Paradox simply didn’t ever happen… ever… and I was having no more of that. Much like Mages can cast extended spells, I decided that the Abyss can intrude over time as well. Neils’s tampering with magic in one location, repetitively, with no protective measures, and pushing the limits of his skill all the time… this sounded like ideal conditions for an Extended Paradox to me. The way to shut it down was in the book, and the effects of it were in the book, but what I had to decide was how to handle it if they didn’t shut it down.

Yes, I could have let it kill them all and honestly I wasn’t going to rule that out! That said, killing them all would kind of end the campaign and then I wouldn’t be able to continue torturing them. What to do, what to do?

It is at about this time that I picked up another book in the line: “Book of the Dead“. Now, White Wolf listed it as a generic World of Darkness Book even though the book itself seems to be pretty clearly related to Geist. That said, it makes one Hell* of an awesome book for Mage!  Book of the Dead talks about how the underworld works in World of Darkness, and how Supernal Magic works there.

So I decided that the Mages had a few choices:

  1. They can deal with the event horizon in the basement before it gets out of hand.
  2. They can attempt to manage the event horizon in the basement by feeding it mana periodically (much like one would mitigate a regular Paradox dice pool by using mana during spell casting) which would not shut it down completely but would prevent it from spreading and growing stronger.
  3. They can make some poor decisions and an explosion will indeed happen… and that explosion will drag them to the edge of the Abyss (as close to it as a sentient mortal can go) right at the corner of the Abyss and the Underworld.

I had a rough sketch of what they would encounter in the Underworld in my head in case that looked like it would be used, though of course my players smashed my dreams asunder by not letting me kill them all and continue torturing them too. Inconsiderate Bastards!

I had also decided that to the rest of Manhattan it would look like a gas explosion had occurred in their Sanctum. The Consilium would be able to figure out that this was much more than a simple gas explosion (any reasonably competent Mage would), but that doesn’t mean that they would be able to trace the group to wherever it was they wound up, or bring them back. They would however be able to deal with their magical transgressions appropriately when/if they ever did return.

But no… instead my players don’t try to harness the untold power being unleashed in their home and get a call from the Werewolves telling them that Officer Brewer, who you may remember as being a police officer who saw a bunch of Pure Werewolves transform and went a little Werewolf Paranoid but remembered the whole thing, may actually be a Werewolf who is about to go through his first change. And where is Officer Brewer right now? Why, he’s in prison… like any crazy person waving a loaded gun around in a diner in Manhattan for no good reason should be.

What makes the Werewolves think that this man is about to become one of them, you ask? It might have something to do with the recurring visions of a moonless night, prison bars, a shield, and a furry fist punching through that shield that Shannon has been having. You know: police officer/ shield… he’s in prison/bars… there’s a blue moon that night/moonless night… and as an added extra: his name is Brewer, and Blue Moon is a beer! Honestly, their GM and I thought that they would figure it out much faster than they did.  (Especially since it seemed like every time the group went out to eat in real life between Shannon having the vision and her player figuring it out there were ads for Blue Moon Beer on every surface of every restaurant!)

So now they have a guy who there has been a nationally televised press conference about, who is in lockup, who is about to turn into a Werewolf for the very first time, who is somewhat insane.

Clearly subtlety will be the buzzword of the next session.

Mages Make Me Cry

*Hell… the Underworld…See what I did there?

From now on, I’ll stick to science!


The mission I gave to Neils’ player was simple: What AlterNeils wants, what he really really wants, is to expand the area of effect of what’s happening in RealNeils’s laboratory. For the moment the effect is being constrained by the natural walls of the space, but if those walls were to be removed the effect could expand.

Dutifully, when everyone else runs off to the Consilium to ask for ideas, AlterNeils heads downstairs “to study the problem”.

While others are attempting to call in favors or find any references to this kind of thing having happened before hidden among the library’s extensive collection, AlterNeils was trying to help in other ways.

While Glamdring was busy attempting to call in Obrimos Archmage Guthwine (who the PCs don’t get much chance to interact with since he works at the state level in Albany), and Narsil is trying to not find out anything too damning because as a Guardian he should be killing them all right about now and that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as letting AlterNeils kill them by accident, AlterNeils is removing the wall between his laboratory and the rest of the basement so that the effect can start to expand.

Naturally, when the others return home he denies all knowledge of what made the wall disappear.

This is definitely one of those sessions when I loved the fact that my players, well most of them anyway, bring laptops to the session. Neils’ player and I were totally discussing his actions by IM and playing off the sound of his dice hitting the table periodically as rolls for his attempts at scrutinizing what is happening in the basement. The other players were blissfully ignorant of the truth. Additionally, he was able to keep me abreast of what RealNeils was doing all this time, which is to say that RealNeils wasn’t at the Sanctum at all. RealNeils had gone off to see his mentor to ask for ideas.

You can only imagine the hilarity when the Mages regroup at the Sanctum, discover that the basement wall “was overtaken by whatever is going on down here”, and suddenly Aenaiyah gets a phone call from Neils asking what’s happening back home.

Neils’ player had secretly asked me if I had any specific ideas as to when he should have RealNeils contact his friends, and I secretly told him to wing it.

Good times!

Sadly the Mages were not to be lulled into attempting to harness the effect. This could have proven useful to them for a time as all the mana pouring out of downstairs was double-the-potency and double-the-fun, but in reality it is exactly the kind of thing that can draw unwanted attention to your Sanctum. (Not that anybody seemed altogether worried about that. Go fig.) It also would have required the pumping of personal mana into the effect from time to time to keep it under control (the very same way a Mage can use mana to mitigate a standard paradox), which could have been fun when the time to pump in mana came up during a fight with some Seers or something. (Of course, what are the chances they’ll wind up in a fight with some Seers?)

Even more sadly they dispelled AlterNeils out of existence. Poor AlterNeils.

I wept. Inside.

Since they were not sufficiently tempted they did decide to go with the one way that they found to possibly get rid of the event horizon in their basement: the creation of a Soul Stone. The chances to wiping out the effect entirely is enhanced by creating a Soul Stone of the same path as the effect, which gave the Mages two choices: Neils – the Obrimos who wasn’t in any way responsible for this thing happening in his lab at all!; and Argus – the Guardian of the Veil who happens to be of the same path.

Although Guardians of the Veil are typically expected to be the ones to create the Soul Stones for their cabal sanctums (thus making magic safer for everyone present), our Guardian made the decision to let Neils clear up his own mess – thus, in his mind anyway, making Neils safer for everyone present. Damien and Rex decided that Soul Stones are pretty cool and so they decided to contribute Soul Stones of their own to the Sanctum, though this was done a bit later.

As for Neils, there was a chance that his Soul Stone might explode without wiping out the effect entirely, or explode but completely clear the effect, or clear the effect and not explode even a little. Damn his good fortune (and the Acanthus who keeps giving it to him) he made his target successes and the Cabal had their first Soul Stone. It was quickly joined by the other two, and once again the city was saved!

Yes, the black marks of Soul Stone creation were in their auras, but it was pretty clear what those marks represented and why they had chosen to do it, so not much was said about it by the Consilium. Of course, it was duly noted who contributed Soul Stones and who didn’t.

It was right about this time that the Mages found out something interesting about their friend Officer Brewer, but that is a tale for another post.

Mages Make Me Cry

 

Previously on Mage the Awakening:


The episode opens with a montage:

  • Neils is in his lab staring into space.
  • Narsil, with a look of horror on his face, calmly says “You’re holding… a press conference.” (The calm is clearly forced.)
  • Neils is in his lab moving at ludicrous speed.
  • Damien is at a Press Conference being asked why he thinks Werewolves wouldn’t be good police officers, if they existed of course, by someone we all know that he knows to be a Werewolf.
  • Neils is in his lab staring into space.
  • At Starbucks there is a line for the Women’s Room. It sounds like someones might be in there for a while.
  • Neils is in his lab staring into space. The lights are flickering around him.
  • Aenaiyah walks past an elderly woman in the bathroom line at Starbucks who has a name for people who use public restrooms for personal pleasure. 
  • In the basement of the sanctum there is a gathering of Mages. Rex yells for Aenaiyah and Argus to “Quit fooling around and get down here.” Aenaiyah can be heard attempting to coax her familiar, Noel, into clawing Argus’s face off.
  • Neils is swearing that whatever it is, he didn’t do it.
  • Aenaiyah reaches her arm into Neils’s lab, and as it crosses the threshold into the lab it looks… wibbley-wobbley.
  • Neils continues to insist that this isn’t his fault as Aenaiyah goes into a spell-casting induced trance.
  • A mushroom cloud.
  • Aenaiyah screams “24 to 48 HOURS AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO EXPLODE!!!”

Some Mages might try to hide something like this from their Consilium. Some Mages might think that this is exactly the kind of thing that can get a cabal in trouble.

That would not be these Mages.

On the one hand, going to people with more Arcane Skills than you to fix something like this that could put a large number of people in jeopardy is the right thing to do. On the other hand, it kinda takes the fun out of it for the GM. I mean, the Arch Mages of the Consilium should have some clue as to what might be happening here. After all, if they don’t they look like they maybe aren’t as competent as they would pretty much have to be to keep a lid on a city the size of Manhattan. The problem is that I don’t want the Consilium to step in here. I want the PCs to take care of this mess themselves. After all, it is their mess. This is why I made the decision that the Obrimos Arch Master is not in town. After all, he is the guy who works at the state level in Albany so it makes sense that he isn’t around all the time, and this sort of thing really would be a Prime Arcana area of expertise.

I also wanted to let the situation develop a bit. After all, just because Aenaiyah says they have to take care of this thing RIGHT NOW doesn’t mean they really have to worry about it now. Let’s face it, we all know Aenaiyah is just a bit excitable and a tad melodramatic. And then there’s the part that I knew that they didn’t.

Well, most of them didn’t. Let me give you a bit of history:

One of my favorite moments as a player happened many moons ago playing FASA Star Trek. My brother (our GM) had Transporter Chief West (an NPC) beam my character (Chief Medical Officer Standis) and the corpse of an Andorian Ambassador (pending autopsy) beamed through the shields of our ship, instead of simply beaming us up a few levels past the blocked turbo lift and into the medical area of the abandoned complex on the planet’s surface as I had specifically requested. (The result of his rolling a critical fail on the transport.) Naturally this didn’t go so well for the former ambassador, or me for that matter. (#@%& WEST!!!)

What my crew mates didn’t know, and I was about to find out, was that the Andorian Ambassador was in fact a shape shifting alien who had taken the place of the ambassador. This shape shifter wasn’t actually dead, though it really didn’t have any warm fuzzies for our transporter chief after the beaming incident let me tell you! (DAMN YOU WEST!!)

Anyway, my character was, in truth, knocked unconscious, and being handy the shape shifting alien took her place so that it could work its way into a position of power. So now I was tasked with the alien’s mission: get the captain of the ship alone, take his place, and get the ship to take me wherever I bloody well please. And so I (the PC, the GM was no help at all) came up with this story about needing to pull medical records from the facility on the planet, and needing the Captain to come down with me so that he can enter his command codes so that I can get access to the computer. The person playing the Captain totally falls for it and away we go! (And this time West remembers to lower the shields first. CURSE YOU ANYWAY WEST!)

Meanwhile back on the ship, Security Officer Dugowski (a Player Character) has a minor injury and heads to sickbay. Not seeing my character there, he goes to the supply cabinet for the first aid kit and “Standis’s body falls out of the closet on top of you.”

Dugowski: “Wait. What? Isn’t Standis on the planet with the Captain getting some records from the station?”

GM: “Hold that thought. I have to go into the kitchen to see what’s happening on the planet with Standis and the Captain.”

Dugowski: “But… wait… BRRRRRT!” (player makes flipping-old-school-Start-Trek-Communicator-open motion while imitating the “open channel” sound.) “BRRRRRRT!”

Mind you, I can see what’s going on the other room but have cleverly maneuvered the person playing the captain so he won’t be paying attention to what’s happening in there.

The person playing the Captain was not pleased when he figured it all out moments later.

Now: back to the Mage game a decade or two later…

Enter: the person playing Neils.

You see, one of the many cool things you can do with Prime Magic is create puppets with Prime.

Sometimes these are very real looking puppets!

And sometimes a Paradox involves some kind of manifestation from the abyss.

And sometimes…

I love my job.

Mages Make Me Cry

Too much science? Is that possible?


With Halloween right around the corner it seems like the perfect time to talk about bringing some terror into your players’ lives. It’s only fair, since if your players are anything like mine they make you shudder with fear and loathing every time they show up for a session. You need some pay back, and I’m here to help.

The fact that my campaign takes place in the World of Darkness makes it somewhat obligatory to have an element of horror, but you don’t want the horror to become too “one note”. You can only hold suspense for so long before the players simply get used to it. Additionally, it can be difficult to sustain a feeling of dread when you have to pause and pick things up next session. A feeling of panic on the other hand… now that’s the gift that keeps on giving! That’s why I always enjoy hitting the players with some bad news right at the end of a session. If you can manage to time something urgent for the end of a session they will spend the time between sessions worrying about it, while you spend the time between sessions posting winky faces at them on Facebook and Twitter alongside vague assurances that everything is Fine![tm]

I am absolutely a fan of hitting the PCs where they live quite literally. When I came up with a glorious plan that might cause their  sanctum to explode I didn’t lead off the session with that fact. Oh no, that would give them time to deal with it before the session ends. Where’s the fun in that I ask you? Instead I slowly made them realize that something might be just a bit… off. When we last left off Aenaiyah was ready to kill Argus for humiliating her at a Starbucks. I don’t know about you, but I laughed.

Anyway, as it turns out one of my players (Neils) moved to Boston, and as such he can’t always make it to NY for sessions. This kinda sucks because Neils is a crazy science guy who dreams of finding the point where Science meets Awakened Magic so that all Paradox will end and Mages will live happily ever after… right next to those annoying shiny, happy folks at the side of the road holding hands. How revolting! This is a dream that needs to be squashed.

I started my War On Hope with an email to Neils’s player prior to his arrival in New York telling him the results of his most recent experiments: some of his equipment is working better than ever before! Some of his equipment works a bit sporadically, and other equipment is really not working at all.

At the start of the session the rest of the cabal is arriving home from Starbucks to find Neils, surprise surprise, tinkering with some pretty odd looking stuff in the basement. They might have been paying more attention to this if Aenaiyah wasn’t trying to convince her Familiar Noel (hereafter: Death Kitteh) to scratch Argus’s eyes out. While they are rolling this out (Aenaiyah rolls to persuade Noel to claw Argus in the face, Noel gets bonuses to resist because Argus has secretly been bribing Noel with tuna and catnip for months, you know… the usual) I tell everyone else that when when they see Neils in his workshop (they have retreated downstairs to escape the ensuing domestic violence), he appears to be moving very slowly at some times, and far too rapidly at others. “Come to think of it”, I tell them “sometimes it looks like he simply stares off into space for hours without moving.” The players downstairs take a vote and decide (unanimously) that this is clearly Aenaiyah’s fault, which is a perfectly reasonable assumption if you ask me. So they call upstairs to ask her and Argus to quit “foolin’ around” and come downstairs.

“His face Noel, just jump on his face and claw it off like a good kitty.”

Next they will devise some experiments designed to see if this really is the Time Mage’s fault, because really… what could possibly go wrong? Pretty soon they’re waving their hands inside the door while they are standing outside, at which point I take great care to explain to them in breathtaking detail how their arms appear to warp and twist at the point where they enter the room. They don’t feel like anything is wrong at all, but what they are seeing is just plain wrong. Arms are really not meant to look like that. At first it seems as though the part of the arm that’s outside of the room is moving faster than the part inside, then the inside part catches up and kinda… warps. The idea that parts of their own bodies are being twisted and deformed by whatever is happening here has the desired morbid and creepifyin’ effect.

While the folks at the laboratory door pull their arms back out and count their fingers, I make everyone ELSE in the basement roll WITS+COMPOSURE to see if they note the reactions of the spirit-ridden stop motion puppets they recently acquired. The puppets can’t actually talk, but they can wave their hands frantically while backing away from Neils’s lab. As a matter of fact, I actually give the table my best “Not the face. NOT THE FACE!!!” pantomime while not saying anything at all. They know what I’m getting at.

Of course, important to any horror story is the promise of rich rewards for those daring and courageous enough to harness what is happening here. In this case our resident scientist feels like Awesome-Man whenever he enters this room. As a game mechanic, every point of Mana that he has is suddenly twice as potent. Now the players have a good reason to not necessarily want to stop whatever this is, because maybe they can control it! In fact, maybe they can even do it (they can if they try), but there must be risk involved. (Oh yes, there will be risk.)

At some point, hopefully near the end of the session, your resident Acanthus will cast a spell to see what will happen if they do nothing about this situation in their basement. If you are a particularly evil GM (and I assure you I am) you will separate the Acanthus from the rest of the group and tell her that she sees a mushroom cloud forming over their city centered on their sanctum, and make a loud rumbly noise like an explosion. If you are even more evil than most (rest assured, I am) you will be sure to tell her that she feels certain that this is not going to happen tomorrow or anything, but eventually it could happen if they do absolutely nothing. If you’ve played your cards right your favorite Acanthus will run outside and cause a panic at the end of your session that will keep them all freaked out about what has been unleashed in the basement and how to fix it until next session.

Mages Make Me Cry

%d bloggers like this: