Category Archives: World of Darkness

Project Lullaby


Project Lullaby
Seer Brahms

Proposal: Project Lullaby

Pentacle Orders have been obtaining funding under the auspices of CIA project MK Ultra to test the potential of lysergic acid diethylamide since roughly 1950. While their experiments have not held promise toward their aims of controlled Awakening, I believe that the true promise of lysergic acid diethylamide (hereafter LSD) is to prevent, and possibly even reverse, the Awakening process.

The following has been excerpted from Pentacle records with regard to CIA project MK Ultra.

Point: There exists anecdotal evidence that links LSD with visions of the supernal.

There are copious references in drug culture to experiences that “transcend” the normal world. For example, LSD users have been cited as being able to “see” sounds and “feel” colors. Their descriptions often bare similarities to that which we know as uses of “Mage Sight”.

Question: Is it possible to use LSD to bring about Awakening in a controlled environment.

Experiment: Expose Sleepers/Sleepwalkers to the drug LSD to determine suitability for use in controlled Awakening.

::: End Excerpt:::

According to information obtained by Seer operatives present during testing there was no conclusive evidence linking LSD to Awakening. At best LSD temporarily, though unreliably, induced a Sleepwalking state in users.

Point: Exposure to LSD induces a Sleepwalking state in some individuals

Though experimental results were unreliable, LSD does show promise in bringing about a Sleepwalking state in some individuals.

Point: There is no known evidence of a Sleepwalker having experienced a full Awakening.

Sleepwalkers are those Sleepers who have had memorable experiences of the Supernal, yet have not fully Awakened. Despite many years of working with these Sleepwalkers, there is not even one recorded incident in which a Sleepwalker has attained full Awakened capabilities.

Question: Is it possible to use LSD to induce a temporary “Sleepwalking” state that will prevent individuals from Awakening in the future?

Question: Is it possible to use LSD to sever the connection between a Mage and his/her Watchtower, reducing the Mage to a Sleepwalking state?

Experiment: Captured Pentacle Mages will be exposed to the drug LSD for varying periods of time. These individuals will be watched by Seers to determine the following:

  • Is the Mage able to cast spells while under the effects of LSD?
  • Is the Mage able to cast spells after the effects of LSD have worn off?
  • Is the Mage able to remember past Supernal experiences after exposure to LSD?
  • Does exposure to LSD alter a Mage’s aura?
    • If there is a change, what is the nature of the change?
    • If there is a change, does the change last after the drug has cleared the body?

Additionally, Sleeper scientists within the CIA have conducted other experiments using combinations of LSD and other mind altering agents (as well as electroshock). While most of these are irrelevant to us, there is one avenue that is of interest. Can LSD be used to implant alternate personalities in patients?

While it is possible for any Mastigos to control the mind of another being for limited durations, and even to permanently erase memories from a target, this magical tampering can be picked up and countered by others with talent in the Mind Arcanum. If LSD can in fact be used to deeply implant agendas in the mind of a Mage or Sleepwalker these commands, since non-magical in nature, would not be able to be countered. Further, would it possible to hide this tampering from scanning altogether? Since LSD breaks down in the body relatively quickly, it is possible that these alternate personalities might not be detectable as ‘foreign thoughts’ using Awakened magic. If so, the potential to place unknowing Seer agents among the Pentacle Orders would be greatly enhanced.

Question: Can LSD, in combination with other mind altering techniques not involving magic, be used to create hidden personalities in Awakened?

Question: Can these ‘hidden personalities’ be ferreted out as foreign tampering by those skilled in the Mind Arcanum?

Experiments:

Experimentation will involve long-term exposure of captured Pentacle Mages to LSD, combined with electroshock techniques and other drugs. The trials will run along lines similar to those of CIA project MK Ultra (packet included) geared toward the creation of new, hidden personalities in individuals. If new personalities are successfully implanted, skilled Mastigos Seers will probe the subjects to determine if the new program is distinguishable in magic scans.

If successful, these experiments have the potential to greatly increase the vision of our Ministry.

Vision is power.

 

Mages Make Me Cry

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Compel This!


I am still basking in the glory of my recent TPK. (no ketchup, extra relish) This could prove problematic for my regular (and I use that word loosely) troupe this weekend. They have now been warned.

Getting back to them: Damien ran like a byotch while Aenaiyah soiled herself, and then Damien decided to make use of his cowardice to come to her rescue bearing ass-less chaps. This went over far less well than you are probably imagining. Far. Less. Well. I personally think that’s a little unfair to Damien  given the circumstances as he probably simply didn’t want her to feel bad about ruining another pair of defenseless pants.

And besides, there was still a multiple murderer on the loose!

They scouted out much of the rest of the abandoned monastery, but use of a Locator spell helped them to avoid one or two nasties that had been hanging around in some areas they bypassed. (Sad GM) It did manage to bring them straight to the waiting arms of a certain Mage Killer, but not before Argus rolled in filth and vomited on himself.

For those keeping score – GM: 2 / PCs: 0

You see at one point in time, after it was officially abandoned of course,  this location was being put to use by some scientifically minded Mages. Those scientifically minded Mages had need, from time to time, of getting some experimentation materials down to the lower levels. Since they were Mages and could easily reshape materials to better suit their needs they installed a “laundry chute” of sorts. This laundry chute happened to be about the right size for a person to use it as a slide. The chute had not been well maintained in the long years that the monastery had been abandoned. Vagrants would tumble down it from time to time. At other moments it seemed like a convenient place for them  to relieve themselves.  Faster than Rex can say “I cast Find the Hidden Hoard to find another way down” Argus hurls himself down the chute. The filth made for a soft landing, a moist & squishy landing, but a soft one nonetheless. The resultant RESOLVE+COMPOSURE roll did not go well.

Nor did the RESOLVE+COMPOSURE rolls of those around him. (He stank.)

Current Score – GM: 3 / PCs: 0

Of course, the hilarity was only compounded when Rex found the door, opened it, walked down the stairs, looked at Argus, and said “or you could have just used the stairs.”

Final Score – GM: 4 / PCs: 0
Conn Smyth Trophy Winner: Rex

When the players did find the source of the metal they discovered that it was in fact an old and well used iron shovel. They didn’t see anyone with it, but since they already knew that the assailant could be invisible this wasn’t very surprising. Their quarry had sound mastery up as well as invisibility, making him difficult to detect even with echo-location. The poltergeists in the area (there had been a fire, people had died in it) were less difficult to get a fix on. They were hurling random things at the Mages and using a variety of poltergeistly numen on them. They inspired fear. They hurled sharp objects telekinetically. They were pains in the ass, and they needed to be exorcised. Exorcism works as follows:

Like an abjuration, an exorcism is more about the person who performs the rite than the words spoken, and is primarily a contest of wills between mortal and spirit. 

The rules go on to describe how a blessed object can be used in an exorcism. (I just knew those blessed items from the gift shop would come in handy!)

As it happens Damien has a derangement, and his derangement is Narcissism. Being a Narcissistic jerk (the player’s words… and mine), Damien decided to carve “the symbol of ME!” into his palm and the ghost he was battling didn’t need to contend with “The Power of Christ” compelling it, that poor ghost had to face “The Power of ME!” Damien actually took the lethal damage for this self-inflicted wound. (He Resolve+Composured and everything)

Remember: an exorcism is more about the person who performs the rite than the words spoken, and is primarily a contest of wills between mortal and spirit. 

In the name of good story-telling the power of Damien compelled me. I gave him the bonus, and ultimately he compelled that crazy ghost right the hell outta there.

And then he got his face smashed in with a shovel.

Compel that, jerk!

In the end they did manage to exorcise the ghosts and kill the murderer. They also stumbled across a hidden room with a vintage C64 Commodore Computer stored in it, which they managed to coax some information out of.

And if things happen in order this time you might find out more about that next week!

Mages Make Me Cry

*In the NHL Playoffs the Conn Smyth Trophy is awarded to the Most Valuable Player.

This Was A Triumph!


I’m always nervous going into a convention game. Call it “stage fright” if you like. With my regular troupe I pretty much know what I’m getting into, but GMing a group of players you’ve never met before… well it can be a bit daunting. I have all my story lines ready, all the clues that they can find are plotted out, the PCs are fully statted and given some personality nudges, but no amount of planning on the GMs part can determine what kind of players you get at your table.

RetCon, once again you did not disappoint!

Hunter: the Vigil: I had three modules to run this weekend, and the schedule had me starting off with my “Hunter: the Vigil” adventure: Quit While You’re Ahead. I had decided to do something slightly different this year and set my modules in the same game world as the adventure I ran for RetCon 2010, Asylum. In that adventure, the players are a film crew hired to shoot the pilot for a paranormal TV series called “Truly Terrifying Tales”. The crew arrives on the scene, shit gets real, and hilarity ensues! For this year, I decided to look at those same characters after the events of Asylum. They have been through that experience, and now they are aware of the supernatural. Their footage (and that first group of players came away with incredible footage!) was not taken as seriously as they would have liked and it is instead being turned into a low budget horror movie, but life goes on. They have now been hired to shoot a series called “50 Shades of Play” about the wonderful world of strippers.  Since this is the World of Darkness they will be crossing paths with the supernatural once again! I was in a “1950’s Horror Movie Theater” state of mind, and so I decided to base this particular scenario on the film “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”.

Highlight of the Hunter Session for the GM: The film crew’s decision to interview the decapitated head! I had given myself a detailed run-down of how a poor young woman mere months from her wedding day became a severed head attached to a dialysis machine and a respirator waiting for her husband-to-be to arrive with a suitably attractive replacement body for her (because a dialysis machine wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as a stripper body on the wedding night), but never in my wildest dreams did I dare to think that I would actually get to play out an interview with her! She was, as one would expect under the circumstances, stark raving mad and the film crew was able to convince her that they wanted to interview her fiance because what he was about to achieve was too momentous to not be preserved for posterity. I was expecting a big fight scene with the group of Hunters, a bunch of animated headless corpses being controlled by the will of the severed head, some animal mix-ups that the good doctor was practicing on before he got to human experimentation… you know, good times! Instead not a single drop of blood was shed, two strippers were saved (one pre-surgery and one post-surgery), and whoever suppressed that last bit of footage these guys got is gonna have even more fun with this one! It’s a wrap people!

World of Darkness – Innocents: I had never run this system before. In fact, I’d never even played this system before. The basics are all typical “World of Darkness” which I have years of experience with, but Innocents does have some differences. For the record, I greatly prefer “Assets/Faults” over “Virtues/Vices”.

This particular group of 12 year olds had just been dropped off at their new boarding school by their disgustingly wealthy families. Naturally the school has a diabolical plan for these poor youngsters. The kids are all miscreants. They are little con-artists, hackers, pranksters, thieves, bullies, and partiers.  Their parents really don’t feel like putting up with them, so they are willing to pay this school ludicrous sums of money to turn these kids into model citizens. The school has unsurpassed results! This is mostly owing to the fact that they are removing the kids’ souls from their bodies and replacing them with the souls of disgustingly wealthy old people who aren’t quite ready to die yet. Naturally, these disgustingly wealthy old people pay an exorbitant fee to the school for this service, so the school wins on both sides of this transaction. The old people are young again. The families get well behaved and respectable heirs… everybody wins! Except the kids of course. The kids pretty much loose.

Highlight of the Innocents Session for the GM: The person playing the party-girl decided to pull out all the stops this game! That child coached her classmates into milking the nurse’s office for every last ibuprofen they could get, scored all the mouthwash on the floor to mix cocktails with, and had tears of laughter rolling down my face pretty much the whole game. This was a tough act to keep up with, but when my con-artist (played by the only person at the table that I knew before the game started: Aenaiyah) asked the group if someone could possibly create a diversion “like, if the nurse thinks someone has a back injury they won’t want to move the person so they’ll have to come to you!”, and my bully replied “I think something can be arranged” I knew no good would come of it. I had given him the fault “cruel”.

Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window.

Sadly one of the players wound up really needing to leave by 11pm, whereas I had been scaling things to reach a story milestone at 11pm (either an escape attempt or the players stocking up for a fight with the administration… or both!) such that we could end by 12am – the scheduled session end-time. As a result the ending of the story was more rushed than I had wanted it to be. Instead of having school security snag the kids attempting to escape the grounds and drag them back to perform the soul-swapping ritual early, I decided to simply have them chased by dogs and let them escape if they could climb up the fence fast enough. A fight simply would have taken too long. The party girl decided that she was too scared to leave, but don’t fret. I’m sure the administrators treated her very well and gave her all the pain killers her little heart could desire right up until the big moment.

Mage: the Awakening: This session was also tied to the Asylum session that I ran during RetCon 2010. You see, that film crew escaped with all that awesome footage of supernatural creepiness, and somebody has to suppress it and keep supernatural baddies in check. Enter the Mages.

While the Guardian of the Veil Mastigos Narsil from my campaign world deals with the film crew, and Gladmring, the NYC Head of the Adamantine Arrow, is dealing with some horrors stumbled upon by the campaign Mages, someone needs to find out what drove that film crew from the Asylum grounds, and deal with it. According to a well placed source, the problem appears to be zombies. It’s time to send in the B Team.

Highlight of the Mage Session for the GM: I completely expected my favorite moments of this session to involve the use of Post-Cognition. This seemed even more likely when two of the players who played Asylum at RetCon 2010 signed up for the game, since it was their run through that I had based this scenario on. (A later run-through saw a very… different… outcome.) While describing the events of the zombie-raising ritual as seen by a Mage using Post-Cognition was indeed amusing (and yes, I decided that the spell granted a much longer vision than it normally does for purposes of hilarity) it actually turned out to be not my favorite part of the session after all. The best part: My Very First TPK!

Making a Note Here: Huge Success!

How did this happen you ask? Paradox. When I asked the players if they would like to mitigate their paradox rolls, and started to explain how they could do that, they tapped their chins and said “go ahead… right here… I can take it!” And so I rolled. And I got successes. And it was good. And had the Moros Mage not turned himself into a zombie-magnet so that they wouldn’t need to bother looking for the zombies they might have even survived. Had any of them thought to end the scene by turning off that spell and running into the nearby crematorium the adventure may have continued. Had, when one of them did think of ending the scene by running into the crematorium, they actually done that and ended the scene I might not have had nearly as much fun as I did. But these guys, they told me to bring it. And verily, it was brought! The Thyrsus Mage (aka: the healer) was not in play, and the Moros Mage was looking a little beat up. As a result my Acanthus Mage asks if he can speed up time in a bubble around the injured Moros Mage so that enough time will pass for his bashing damage to heal. Gotta love those Acanthus Mages, am I right?! So, being a sick and evil GM, I say of course you can do that, but it will be vulgar you know. It will be 6 glorious dice worth of vulgar.

Are you sure you want to do this?“, asks the GM.

“Kick me in the Jimmy.”, says he.

And I roll.

  And I roll a Temporal Anomaly.

    And the radius of this anomaly shall be 80 yards.

      And the players tell me: Don’t hold back. Enjoy it.

And enjoy it I do!

The Moros becomes a 2 year old. The Acanthus becomes an 86 year old. The Obrimos is suddenly an awkward teenager. The 2 year old Moros Mage is still attracting zombies from all over the site, and he’s what’s for dinner in no time at all. The first round of attacks leaves him with one hit point, which leaves him wanting his teddy bear, which makes him think it’s a great idea if the nearest thing to him would happen to turn into a teddy bear, which turns the Acanthus Mage into a teddy bear.

The Acanthus Mage reflexively attempts a Shifting Sands spell to prevent this whole turn events by preventing himself from casting that accursed time bubble in the first place, but he’s in the middle of a temporal anomaly and only gets one success. I rule that he arrives just in time to see a version of himself turn into a teddy bear but whether it’s past-him seeing future-him turn into a teddy bear on arrival, or future-him watching past-him turn into a teddy bear is far too confusing for me to be sure of.

Next round ZOMBIE BABY! Because the 2 year old Moros Mage was killed by a bite attack he turns into a zombie, but is quickly dispatched by his erstwhile friends. One down, two to go.

The Acanthus Mage manages to successfully cast Acceleration on his teenaged Obrimos companion, who in turn tries to convince the Acanthus to get the hell out of Dodge and report back on what’s happening. The Acanthus does not do this. The Obrimos rushes in and fights off several zombies before being turned himself, and then it’s player against player as Zombie Obrimos tries to eat the Acanthus’s brains!*

More zombies are pouring in… Zombie Obrimos is doing his best to chow down on the Acanthus… and ultimately he sucks out that final Acanthus hit-point! The GM wins!

The GM WINS!!

Mages Make Me Cry

*Clearly only enough to be an appetizer. He’s an Acanthus after all.

Innocents Musings


I’ve written my first module for World of Darkness: Innocents! I haven’t run it just yet, I’ll be doing that at RetCon on Saturday night, but if how much I’ve enjoyed writing it is any indication everyone will be pleased.

One of the things that struck me as slightly odd about Innocents is that it doesn’t use the Virtue/Vice system. Honestly, I can’t imagine why since the entire rest of the World of Darkness line does. The idea of Innocents is that the main protagonists are children (boogie man in the closet kind of stories) but it’s hardly as though children don’t have Virtues and Vices. Children can be every bit as Wrathful, Envious, Proud, Hopeful, Prudent, and Charitable as adults can. So why not Virtues and Vices? Why does Innocents switch to “Assets and Faults”?

I have no answer for that question, and here is another question I have no answer for: why wasn’t “Assets and Faults” made the universal personality trait for all of the World of Darkness instead? Now that I’ve seen the system in Innocents I can’t understand why it wasn’t used across the gamut.

I’d guess that most people are familiar with the seven deadly sins that Vices are based on, and of course the Virtues are all familiar enough as well. The thing is, while Envy is simple enough as a concept, to covet that which someone else has, it’s a little less easy to role play effectively. Envy is a subtle inner conflict that doesn’t always play well at the game table.

In contrast, the Assets and Faults of the Innocents system are all concrete and easy to communicate at the table. They are also well balanced, so that for the various positive qualities a character might have, there are opposing negative qualities: Bravery and Cowardice,  Kindness and Cruelty, Generosity and Greed. As for the replenishment of Willpower Points, they work exactly the same way as their counterparts in the other systems: the indulgence of a Fault replenishes one point of Willpower, and the portrayal of an Asset replenishes Willpower to the character’s maximum.

In the Virtues and Vices system I tend to stick to a core few that I use to make pre-generated characters for convention modules because I want to be sure that players with no experience won’t have a hard time portraying the various characters as written on the sheets. I didn’t have that problem at all writing characters in Innocents. I didn’t see any particular quality that wouldn’t be fun to portray at the table. They all feel like they will work well in a group dynamic.

Of course, I’ll know more after Saturday night’s session!

Mages Make Me Cry

I Peed My Pants!


Previously on Mage the Awakening…
The Mages tracked a Banisher to an abandoned monastery on Staten Island. How, you ask? Rex’s skill with the Matter Arcana allowed him to isolate a sliver of metal from the iron murder shovel embedded in the flesh of one of the victims. At that point Damien cast a Space spell to discover the location of the rest of the shovel, using the sliver as a focus. This particular shovel dated back to a time when the monks at the site forged their own tools, which made it different than your typical modern shovel, though they did turn up two sizable sources of the same iron at the site. One source was about 2 stories above ground, the other roughly as far below ground, and smaller than the first.

Upon arrival the Mages find all of the things you would expect to find at a long abandoned monastery. They wander through a small religious shop where they get their grubby paws on some blessed items (useful in case there might happen to be some ghosts nearby), a chapel with some blessed Bibles,  and a ladder leading up to the bell tower. The bell is the first and larger source of iron at the site.

Now, being a GM I know that if I put a rope next to a bell and there are seven players at my table SOMEBODY is going to pull that rope. Who could resist? When I’m a player character, I can’t. To sweeten the temptation I made sure to point out the location of a small plaque next to the ladder that leads up to the tower which reads: “Faustus Upstairs Up Ladder In Tower.” I promise you I did not make that up. I actually found that on not one but two of the websites I visited while researching the very real abandoned monastery St Augustine’s! How could I not include it? I was obligated. It was a sacred duty. Who am I to drop the ball on the performance of sacred duty?

And so, of course, Riff-Raff pulls the rope. Good old Riff-Raff. I knew I could count on you.

Then the demon attacks. Now Nokoni had been using his Spirit sight to scrutinize the area, but Faustus (I had to name him Faustus under the circumstances) was discorporated until someone rang the bell because that is one of his abilities. So as soon as Riff-Raff pulled that rope several things happened:

  1. The peal of the bell nearly deafened several characters
  2. Faustus materialized
  3. Nokoni’s Spirit senses started tingling
  4. The party was attacked by a swarm of bats

Put another way: shit got real.

It was an epic battle. Aren’t they all? Faustus has the ability to instill fear in people, causing Damien to flee the area for multiple rounds almost immediately. He can not create fear in anyone who rings the bell, so Riff-Raff was off the hook on that one. Faustus can create more bats. Faustus can freeze someone in place – paralyzed with fear. All of this is pretty fun for me, but my personal favorite of Fausty-baby’s abilities is the Desiccation Numina. This particular Numina drains the fluid from its victim. Due to the nature of my dear little demon’s abilities I decided that this took on the very particular form of the character losing bladder control, and taking bashing damage in the process.  And who do we think I targeted with this ability?

Some days I love this job.

Next Week on “Mage: the Awakening”:
Aenaiyah calls Damien back to the monastery with a desperate request. Damien is almost murdered by a cabal-mate when he arrives on the scene with ass-less chaps.

Mages Make Me Cry

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