As Arrow’s player correctly pointed out on last week’s post:
You forgot my crowning achievement of the session. When the Thyrsus magically jacked up his strength, berserker rushed a Pure, completely botched to hit, kept running, aced his Stealth (crowds) roll, deftly maneuvered through the tear gassed people, quietly sat down in the police office lobby and said “Hi Damien” as though nothing had happened.
And you thought I was lying when I said that actually breaking Brewer out of prison was the easy part!
Inside of the station was a model of efficiency, which is even more incredible when you realize that Aenaiyah was just making shit up as she went along in there. That’s the part that went well. Go fig.
Outside in the middle of the street outside of the precinct we have Forsaken Werewolf on Pure Werewolf action, tear gassed pedestrians, and ordinary folks just trying not to lose their minds. Is it any wonder my mind is desperately attempting to repress these memories of carnage? I seem to recall a grenade (the explodey kind, not the tear gas kind) turning up at some point, and a standoff between armed police officers and insane Werewolves. That may have been the point when the Hunters turned up.
That’s right, there were Hunters around. And why wouldn’t there be? They too had an interest in Brewer. He was talking openly and honestly about having tracked a bunch of Werewolves after all. Any group of Hunters could use a guy like that. Somewhere in the midst of the fracas our new Werewolf brothers wound up with a beaten senseless Hunter on their hands, and instead of either killing him at the scene, or leaving him where he was, they decided to bring him back to the rendezvous point where the Werewolves and Mages were meeting to figure out how to handle Brewer’s impending first change and kill him there, in front of everyone, because you know… it was the Hunter who was senseless.
Naturally, this lead to a bit of in-fighting among the players. After all, Argus had been a hunter once upon a time (before he Awakened), and so he understood why Hunters did what they did. He also understood that some Hunters combine their Hunting and killing to those Supernaturals who are doing harm to the community (insert glare at the Werewolf Brothers).
And have I mentioned that Aenaiyah clearly has a thing for Argus and will defend him on this point even though outwardly she insists that she doesn’t “LIKE like him”, he’s just… you know… a mate. (not THAT kind of mate!) She in fact likes him so little that she is willing to defend him to the Werewolves who are not convinced that eating his face would be a bad thing. That would give most sane people pause. Then again, this is Aenaiyah we’re talking about.
One of the Werewolf brothers decides he’s going to sneaky sneaky over to the unconscious Hunter and slit his throat, at which point Arrow uses his powers of Thyrsus Awesomeness to make the guy get dizzy and trip so he can get the knife away from him. Neither Werewolf brother likes that very much, so they gang up on Arrow while Shannon is trying to calm them down. Argus is accusing them of being savage animals which is a sure fire way to help the situation. Rex, Riff-Raff, and Neils are trying to get between Argus and the brothers. Damien is trying to use Mind magic to figure out how ugly this is likely to get. Hot-headed knife-wielding brother decides to throw the knife up his other sleeve at the Hunter from where he’s standing. Calypso gets in the way of that knife, at which point the knife in Werewolf Brother’s boot goes winging its way at the unconscious Hunter’s throat. Aenaiyah tries to get into its path but stumbles, and then uses Shifting Sands to go BACK IN TIME to get stabbed in the gut with a thrown knife. (Paradox AND stabbed in the gut. Win-Win!)
I believe it was the sight of Aenaiyah bleeding out all over the ground that finally convinced folks that maybe this wasn’t the most productive way that they could possibly handle the situation, which was a pity since I had just grabbed fresh pop-corn from the snack shelf. I was enjoying watching her bleed out, dammit!
Ultimately they decided to let the Hunter live (boooooring), and deal with the fact that Brewer was rapidly growing fur. Mother Luna descended to have a chat with the gathered Uratha, and not being part of that Arrow excused himself because he had an important phone call to make. Previously he had convinced the Werewolf Alpha to give him a lock of his fur, and it seems that Arrow’s retainer has found an interested buyer.
I have revived from the turkey coma! I hope the holidays are treating everyone well so far. Now, where were we?
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.
This sounds like the perfect time to introduce two new players to the Werewolf table! The new players (incidentally, both excellent role players who I enjoy gaming with) are playing Irish brothers who are Werewolves. One is a priest, and the other… well… the other is not a priest.
So everyone arrives at the precinct to scope the area out and see if there is some way that they can get Officer Brewer out of his cell and away from anyone that he might potentially hurt (or drive insane) when he turns into a Werewolf for the first time later this evening. While most of the players are trying to come up with a plan, the new brothers discover a van with a cartoon wolf painted on the side of it and the realize that the people in the van are Pure. Forsaken Werewolves (PCs) hate Pure Werewolves like I hate Mages. This should be amusing!
In the sparsely populated area of Ireland that the brothers are from being a Werewolf isn’t that big of a thing, so the not a priest brother decides to go harass the people in the van. This ends with him punching the Pure in the passenger seat in the face, which naturally leads to a large scale fight involving the police (since they are right in front of a police station), which leads to some of the Mages facepalming and heading into the police station under cover of stupidity.
The quick thinking Acanthus casts Perfect Moment and rushes up to the desk implying that she’s a US Marshall and needs to get Officer Brewer out of his cell and into witness protection before the people outside who are trying to kill him (hence the extreme levels of violence outside) make it inside and succeed in killing him. Argus, who is a consultant with the FBI, and Damien, who was just on TV as Brewer’s lawyer, are with her. Since she has Perfect Moment cast which allows her to act perfectly in an unplanned situation (no one had planned on the lunacy outside), and she happens to have been followed by people who make the situation plausible, and Damien is using the Mind Arcanum to pull a Jedi Mind Trick on the desk guard (‘she’s the US Marshall you’re looking for’) I give it to them. I figure they earned it this time.
The rest of the Werewolf Pack (Shannon, Calypso, and Matteus) along with Riff-Raff (a police officer on leave) are trying to calm down the various parties involved out front while Arrow and Neils play “innocent passersby” who got caught in the middle. Rex wanders through yelling at whipper-snappers to get off of his lawn. Calypso, after a successful INTELLIGENCE + COMPOSURE check, goes to get their van to drive it around to the back of the station figuring that the missing Mages (Aenaiyah, Argus, and Damien) are already inside getting to Officer Brewer.
Meanwhile, inside the station, Damien wound up realizing that one of the prisoners in a nearby cell is also a Pure Werewolf, undoubtedly the inside man for the Pure in the van. The ability to read minds can come in handy that way. Fortunately for the Mages he isn’t in a good position to do anything at the moment as he doesn’t know who they are or why they are taking Brewer out of his cell. All he can tell is that they aren’t Werewolves. Damien is sure to keep his mind away from any thoughts involving breaking out of his cell and ripping them all limb from limb. Aenaiyah tweaks Fate a bit to prevent anyone from happening to walk past at a bad moment and as soon as they make haste through the rear exit they get picked up by Calypso and driven to the rendezvous point. The easy part of the mission, breaking Officer Brewer out of prison, is now complete.
You’d think that would be the hard part, and it would have been, if not for the fustercluck going on outside.
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:
- They can deal with the event horizon in the basement before it gets out of hand.
- 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.
- 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.
*Hell… the Underworld…See what I did there?
Generally speaking, it is unwise to tell your friendly neighborhood Guardian of the Veil representative that you are about to hold a press conference on behalf of a man who watched a bunch of people turn into Werewolves. It is a widely held belief that going on to tell him that the whole thing was in fact your idea is… less wise.
At least Damien chose his moment well: as they were about to leave the graveyard from which the body of a young woman said Guardian representative had been accused of murdering was recently stolen.
It could only have been worse if Narsil, the Guardian in question, only found out because Damien accidentally mentioned that he’d like to get some sleep before having to head over to the steps of City Hall for his press conference.
Which is, as I imagine you have already deduced, precisely how Narsil found out about this press conference.
Narsil was displeased.
I did enjoy playing out Narsil’s reaction to this news. Watching Damien’s player squirm as he tried to spin how this would ultimately work in the Consilium’s favor by painting a picture of a man suffering from PTSD due to the stresses of his job. He went on at length about how this would not only discredit the “supernatural” elements of his story, but he could pull it off in a way that would gain sympathy for the police from the public, thereby gaining the trust of both the public and the police! It made sense, and he rolled well, and as GM I did know that this was the player’s plan going into the whole thing so Narsil (also a Mastigos) wouldn’t detect anything but sincerity from Damien. This is exactly the kind of mass manipulation (for the people’s own good of course!) that the Guardians like to see, and resulted in Narsil asking Damien if he had ever considered a career with the Guardians. He never dreamed that Damien would take it as an offer and accept it, though I’ll admit he had been hoping Damien would for a variety of complicated and conflicting reasons that will become clearer later on. (No Spoilers!)
Of course, as much fun as that was, the press conference was my favorite part of the day. I absolutely made Damien’s poor player (a lawyer in real life as well as in game) play this out. We gathered both tables together (Mages and Werewolves alike) and let people fire questions at Damien. He was then on the spot to answer them. Fun! He was a bit perturbed when I told him that was the plan. He had already augmented his mental abilities (well, his character’s mental abilities anyway) with some spellcraft, but he decided to ask if he could use his skills in the Mind Arcana to split his mind, almost like the Multi-Tasking spell, but instead of keeping track of different mental tasks he would look at the questions from opposing viewpoints while being charming for the cameras and assembled reporters. He would effectively be playing Devil’s Advocate with himself while he stalled. I decided that there could be little in life that would be more hilarious than allowing him to choose from among his Cabal-mates to represent different parts of his psyche and allowed this.
Much to my amusement he chose Aenaiyah (to represent his creative side: she’s a writer), Rex (his grumpy side: Rex is a grumpy old man), and Riff-Raff (Riff-Raff is a cop and so would know the law, and Riff-Raff’s player is also a lawyer in real life).
Argus’s player got to be one of us mean people pelting him with irritating questions. Excellent!
Throughout the conference Damien dealt with belligerent questions like “are you asking us to believe that there are Werewolves in the city?!” He was asked if he thought that the officer in question was mentally unstable to begin with and never should have been handed a badge and a gun in the first place; if this clearly currently less-than-stable individual should be handed a gun again at some point in the future; if it really is a good idea to have people who believe in Werewolves on the police force; if the public can expect more mental breakdowns and instability from the people who are supposed to be protecting them; if he was thought it was OK to let this person get away with endangering innocent people in a diner by waving around a loaded hand-gun because ‘any of them could be Werewolves, even you*!”; what kind of disciplinary action he thinks this officer, who endangered innocent people, should be facing; and all manner of irritating questions. One of my favorite parts though: while most of the players were a wide variety of reporters (you had to say a reporter’s name before you could ask a question), one of the Werewolves had apparently (and I did not know this beforehand!) been saying that his character was planning on starting up a website of weird goings on in the city and so he was asking questions as his character, a character that Damien knows, and randomly being a total pain in his ass. Matteus asked questions like:
- “Do you believe in Werewolves?”
- This may require Damien to lie since he knows Matteus is indeed a Werewolf
- “If Werewolves really do exist, and I’m saying if here, why would that necessarily be a bad thing?”
- OK people playing my brain, how do I answer this diplomatically without sounding crazy? GO!
- “Don’t you think Werewolves would make really good police officers since they are really strong, and heal really quick, and have an incredible sense of smell that they can use to track criminals? If they existed I mean, of course!”
- People playing my brain, remind me later to punch Matteus in the brain repeatedly until he is in a permanent coma. Or dead. Dead is OK too.
All told, I absolutely endorse allowing players to hold press conferences. I also absolutely endorse letting the other players grill them like a rack of ribs! Screw the whole “we’re a team we should help each other bit”. Deep down somewhere in the sub-cockle region they enjoy torturing each other and as you know I always say “let them!” Make sure that you have a few good juicy questions ready and then let the group dig in with you. You’ll be glad you did!
*You may recall that the “you” Officer Brewer was speaking to at the diner that night was in fact two Werewolves: Calypso and Matteus. (See: Regrets, They Have A Few)
One of the harder things to deal with as a GM is when your players decide that something you made up on the spot as a means of dealing with some ridiculous thing that they came up with for reasons you’ll never know is in fact the whole point of the campaign.
For example, the Werewolves decided that if they were up against a Promethean they needed to know something about Prometheans. OK, that makes sense. They also decided that they needed to summon an information spirit to find out about Prometheans. OK… the GM covers that. Fortunately their GM is well versed in the Promethean game! Now they need a Gargoyle… well it’s New York City and there are Gargoyles on some of the buildings (and in some of the museums) so that will have to happen. So they show up to fight the Promethean with a Gargoyle and this pleases the Promethean not at all and so he needs a plan. This being NY he grabs the nearest homeless person to make the Gargoyle turn to stone with but a glance. Fine… if only it ended there.
Apparently the whole point of this campaign has now become finding out why this man is homeless, and how they can get his life back on track.
THERE IS A CRAZY MAGE-MAN MULTIPLE-MURDERING (RELATIVELY) SANE MAGES LOOSE IN THE CITY AND YOU WANT TO PLAY HAPPY HOMEMAKER FOR SOME HOMELESS GUY YOUR GM MADE UP IN THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT?
YOU HAVE EVIDENCE THAT A HIGH-RANKING MEMBER OF THE CONSILIUM MAY BE BEHIND THESE MURDERS AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN THINK OF TO DO IS RP OUT TAKING A DRUNK TO A DINER FOR COFFEE AND PIE?!
So the Werewolf GM gives them what they ask for. (This is entirely his fault so I’m not dealing with it.) They take this guy to a public place to talk to him about his problems. Apparently his problems will soon involve waving a gun around in the middle of a crowded diner in Mid-Town Manhattan. As you might predict, this is about to become a problem for a certain group of Werewolves… and Mages. This will ultimately be the kind of problem that leads to a press conference, and I’m sure you can guess how much the Guardians of the Veil LOVE IT when Mages hold press conferences!
Oh yeah… they just love that all to pieces, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The visions haven’t even started yet!