When last we left our intrepid Mages they were off to investigate a gym in China Town. this is not because they had any interest in joining one, much to the disappointment of a certain Adamantine Arrow Sentinel who wishes they would, but because they have the feeling that something strange is afoot at the Celestial Body Qui-Gong. Like a good Scooby Gang they are off to investigate!
They decide to approach the dojo as if they are prospective members. This seems to make sense since they don’t know for sure that anyone at the gym has done anything wrong. Over the course of a day/evening the various members of the cabal file in to observe a class. The woman behind the counter, Busy Bea (because she’s busy like a bee!), is more than happy to let them watch a class. She’s proud of her family’s gym! The dojo belongs to her father, and she and her husband help him with teaching classes and running the business side of things. Those who can read auras decide to do so, and I tell them that everyone at the gym seems calm and happy. When no one bats an eyelash at that emphasis I have my aura readers make an additional WITS+COMP roll, which is promptly failed. Had it not been a rousing failure I would have said that everyone, including your fellow mages, looks calm and happy. Since it was a rousing failure I somehow managed to restrain myself from giving them the additional information.
And the Mages decided to observe, and even try out, some of the classes.
What they didn’t know is that I had pulled this scenario straight from “Intruders: Encounters with the Abyss“. It’s a go-to book for any World of Darkness GM, but it’s best in the hands of a Mage GM. (/plug)
You see, the people running this dojo were also Mages, and skilled enough to disguise several things. One of these things was the fact that they were masking the aura of any living being in the dojo to look “calm and happy”, a combined spell they liked to call “Happy Customer”. This was meant to disguise the fact that the students’ auras actually were sickly, twitchy, and borderline psychotic. They were also disguising the supernal resonance of the moves they were teaching the students. And so, not penetrating this disguise, the Mages not only obsrved the class, but some of them were fool enough to join in!
This is where I wish they had better DEX+ATHLETICS scores! Had they actually been successful at replicating the moves they could have been touched by the abyssal taint! Instead they just looked rather silly and embarrassed themselves in front of the more skilled students. Because they did not manage to replicate the moves, they didn’t feel any different after trying to perform them, and so they didn’t yet realize that anything was amiss.
This was going to call for a subtle investigation, and really… what could possibly be more subtle than knocking out the electricity for an entire city block?
The Mages don’t have much to go on, but they know that the person with the tentacles sprouting from his chest used to be a police officer, and they sorta know what he looked like before he turned into something with tentacles. Whatever happened must have happened recently. It was time to scan the papers and call in some police contacts.
As an FBI Agent, Argus knows a few officers of the law. He’s able to track down some information on people who had gone out on medical leave recently, one in particular who looks like a promising candidate. This particular individual wound up in the hospital after a brutal fight during a “domestic dispute” call left him with a punctured lung. Punctured lung… surgery on his chest… tentacles coming out of his chest… I believe we have a winner!
It is at this point that I must let you all in on a little secret. One of the folks from a long-ago game group of mine is an ambulance driver. One of the folks at this Mage table was part of that group, and is a lung doctor. It was impossible for me to pass up the opportunity of having both of them show up as NPCs at this juncture: getting the man to the hospital and then giving him a lung transplant. The beauty of this was in letting the lung doctor (he plays Argus) explain to himself how the surgery went. It’s a wonderful way to make sure that those annoying player-types don’t question your lack of knowledge on a subject like lung tranplants!
And so, Argus’ player explained to Argus the successful lung transplant, and then Argus tried to convince his player to give up the identity of the person whose lung was inserted when Argus’ player knows full well that he shouldn’t be handing that information out to just anyone.
It only now occurs to me that this may have been when I broke Argus’ player.
While Argus and his player argued with himselves?… each other?… themself?… other members of the cabal tried to find out more about this domestic dispute. As it turned out, the couple in question had been engaged to be married, and things had been going quite swimmingly. Sure, there were some tense moments involved in planning the wedding because of dealing with the families, but nothing all that unusual. The bride-to-be joined a gym in order to lose those last few pounds before her final fitting, and to help herself relax. She was studying Qui-Gong at this new place that opened up recently in China Town, not far from where she worked. Ironically, it was a couple of weeks after starting the classes that the blushing bride started to get… twitchy. “I always thought that kind of thing was supposed to help people relax”, her fiance said, “but this time not so much.” Their final fight got vicious, and a neighbor called the police. When the officer arrived the husband to be let him in. He simply didn’t know what else to do. The woman he loved was having some kind of psychotic break and he couldn’t handle it alone. She needed help. She attacked the officer, and they fell into a glass table. He wound up with a large glass shard sticking out of his chest, she wound up with one slicing her throat open. She was pronounced dead on the scene. The officer was alive, but his lung was collapsing.
In the kind of quirk of fate that can only happen in the World of Darkness the woman and the officer had the same blood type. She was gone either way, and she was listed as an organ donor, so the fiance told them to transplant her lung into the officer. It was the fight with her that caused his injury, and in saner times she would have wanted to put that right.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I think I do have a flyer from the dojo sitting around here somewhere… yes… on the computer desk. Sure you can have it. I certainly don’t want it.”
The Mages have a mystery on their hands. They have a body in a van, and it has drawn a great deal of attention from the mundane world. Not only is the well read though little believed conspiracy rag “Sick Sad World” reporting on this, major news outlets are reporting on it too. This is exactly the kind of thing that draws the attention of Hunters, which makes it precisely the type of thing the Guardians of the Veil are supposed to prevent from happening.
What follows, right after a certain purple haired Brit gets asked a few questions about who she is and why she’s in the city, is lots and lots of research.
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT
A ‘Sick Sad World’ Exclusive Story!
According to this article distributed by an anonymous press (download the PDF at the link above!) some art students from The Cooper Union were witness to the events of the previous evening. Both this article and the previous one, MONSTER IN MANHATTAN, seem to indicate the presence of Werewolves at the club. The van’s headlights were shining on a symbol carved into a tree that is consistent with a Werewolf Territory Marker. The thing is, the body that was found in the van doesn’t look like it was killed by a Werewolf. Werewolves aren’t exactly known for sucking the insides out of a body while leaving the candy shell intact.
Somebody must be trying to call out the city’s Werewolves!
The Mages decide that the best thing to do is split the party. Having noticed the sidebar about the “NBC Production Employee sent home after Wild Ravings”, one group (including resident FBI Agent on Sabbatical Argus Guille, and Moros Mage Rex) will be heading to the station’s offices to track down this employee and talk about what happened. One group: Mastigos Molly, Free Councillor Neils, and the Acanthus child Marissa, is heading off to the college to talk to the students who drew the artwork. The third and final group, Thyrsus Nokoni and the newly met Acanthus Aenaiyah, are off to Central Park to see if they can be not torn apart by the city’s Werewolf community.
At the TV station Argus abuses his FBI credentials to have a chat with the production manager who sent the employee home. She informs him that the employee was working on a story about illegal casinos operating in the city. It takes a while to get inside of one, or even track one down. They move around a lot, and don’t operate every night. He had finally gotten in, without smuggling in a camera because he knew he would be searched, when something happened that drove him totally over the edge. His manager’s suspicions involve drugs. She doesn’t believe he was deliberately taking any, but perhaps the operators of the casino were drugging the gamblers to loosen their wallets. Maybe her guy just had a bad reaction to something that they used. At any rate, she can give the FBI agent her employee’s home address, but obviously she can’t guarantee that he’ll be there. She advised him to see a doctor, but doesn’t know where he actually went after leaving the office.
At the college our intrepid Mages have little problem tracking down the artists they are looking for. Neils, being an academic, knows his way around a college campus and how to chat up the students. Molly, being a Mastigos Mage, can read minds. It’s a pretty potent combo in this situation. The fact the the law enforcement type didn’t tag along doesn’t hurt. The students are more than happy to talk about what they saw. “It was freaky man, they were like… Werewolves or somethin’. Pretty crazy. I mean… I know I was a little high… but this picture is like totally accurate…”
Having been removed from the house of the alleged book thief rather unceremoniously, the Mages decide to regroup at the edge of the grounds. Once Rex has finished telling Nokoni and Marissa about the Argus Follies and everyone has stopped having a good laugh at Argus’ expense, soon to be a recurring theme of the campaign, they formulate a less crazy plan to re-enter the estate under cover of darkness and steal the book from the person who stole it from them. After all, turnabout is fair play.
Queue: Mission Impossible Theme Music
The mission, should they choose to accept it:
- Crawl through the sewer drain uncovered by the Acanthus child, Marissa
- Break into the massive estate house
- Find and retrieve The Loquacious Grimoire
- Bring the book to the NY Public Library Mysterium Reliquary unharmed
- Get Marissa to bed before 9pm EST and head off to the pub for some much needed refreshment
The crawl through the sewer drain went far more smoothly than I had hoped. I blame Nokoni for abusing his powers as a Thyrsus Mage to clear the path of verminous critters. As they make it to the point where they can see the outlet onto the house grounds (way too many characters have the “Direction Sense” merit for me to even bother having them make rolls to make sure they are going the right way, damn them all) Argus goes invisible. Surprise, surprise!
But… attack dogs can still smell him! Hah-ha!
Damn Thyrsus Mage, Nokoni, “Triggers the Lizard Brain” and makes them all playful of course, so they really don’t care about the invisible guy trying to shoot his way through the enormous door lock with his sizeable handgun. You’ll note I said “trying”, not “succeeding”. It’s an important distinction.
Thanks to “Sound Mastery” no one could actually hear the gun shots, but his partners in attempted crime had no problem seeing the rather large holes being put in the wall near but not quite on target with the locking mechanism. It also prevents Argus from hearing his fellow Mages laughing at the FBI Agent’s inability to hit a stationary target. (The GM had no problems hearing them whatsoever.) This one is a job for the Moros Mage! Rex turns the deadbolt into paper so that it will fold and pull right out of the wall. A simple DEXTERITY+ATHLETICS roll later (to avoid ripping the deadbolt as they open the door making it impossible to cover the signs of their passage later – and only because they came up with the idea of opening the door carefully themselves) and they are in.
This leaves Rex saying “You’re up!” to Argus, who attempts to use the Locator spell to try to find a book that he has no sympathetic connection to. As you might imagine, this does not pan out. Neils uses Prime magic to attempt to find any spells that might be securing the book. Sadly, DeLacey does not have the ability to cast Ward spells and so there are no spells to find. Nokoni keeps the attack dogs happy and quiet so that they don’t wake anyone up. Marissa casts a Fate spell and wanders aimlessly to see if she can happen to stumble upon the room the book is in (stupid Acanthus Mages!), while the GM makes WITS+COMP rolls for the book thief and his staff to see if anyone happens to notice that a group of Mages has broken into the building and is wandering about aimlessly.
Naturally everyone at the DeLacey estate who belongs there happens to be having the best dreams they have ever had in their lives and not a single one of them hears a thing. #grumble
Marissa leads the group right past all of the rooms filled with dangerous people and things and right to the room with the book in it. One more paper deadbolt and a quick Post Cognition, to see where DeLacey put the book when he was done with it, and the group is heading stealthily (enough) out of the door to avoid disturbing the dancing sugar plums in the heads of their adversaries. Then it’s back to the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, and from there the portal is reopened and they are back in New York where it just so happens to be Miller Time.
It’s only the end of the second session and already I hate these guys!
Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. It’s hard to believe that next week I’ll be gorging myself on excessive amounts of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn, banana bread, pie, and anything else at hand that happens to be delicious.
In the spirit of the season, there are a few things that I, as GM, feel the need to give thanks for:
Family: No, no, no… not MY family! I’m talking about the innocent and totally defenseless families of my player’s characters. There is a special kind of cheer that only knowing you have your Time Mage’s sister trapped in Arcadia can bring. If you’ve never felt that special feeling then take it from me, you’ve not truly lived. Family, when powerless and in the hands of the antagonists, makes my heart all happy.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not also thank the player character family that is in fact the antagonists of the campaign. Watching the dawning realization break across the player’s face as he realizes that his character’s own family is on the other side… priceless. And then of course there are the cabal mates who now begin to wonder if they can trust this guy at all. OK, maybe that ship had already sailed, but now they trust him even less!
The Gift of Giving: It has been said that it is better to give than to receive. This is never more true than when you’re giving someone a cursed coin that they can use to free their sister from Arcadia if only they can figure out how it works. Knowing that this power is right there in her jacket pocket and that all she needs to do is wield it, and watching her not let herself do it no matter how torturous and tempting a thought it is, now that is the gift that keeps on giving.
No, really, don’t thank me. Thank You!
Home: For some, it’s where the heart is. For a certain cabal of Mages, it’s where the event horizon is. I mean was! Yeah… was… nothing to see here.
Home, I thank thee.
Friends: The Mage game just wouldn’t be the same without them! For one thing it would be a book, and the characters in it would do things that actually made some sort of sense, but I digress. The fact of the matter is that without the fantastic troupe of players I found through Long Island Role Players (see below!) this game, and this blog, would never have existed.
Thanks guys!! (No, really, I’m being sincere this time… don’t get used to it.)