Arrow came to our Cabal through way of RetCon.
Aenaiyah’s player was running a Doctor Who adventure, and Arrow’s player was her Captain Jack Harkness. He was fabulous! We had to assimilate him.
So he dreamed up Arrow. Arrow is a Thyrsus Mage, and when he was initially described to me White Collar’s Neil Caffrey immediately came to mind. Like Neil, Arrow is a lovable miscreant. He isn’t a bad guy really, he just doesn’t let little things like the law stop him from having a good time. In fact, the very first thing he did was pick Argus’ pocket and steal his badge. Now, he didn’t look at Argus’ badge mind you, he just took it because he wanted to prove that he could do it.
And then he wondered why Argus wasn’t sold on the idea of him moving into the Sanctum right away.
So he spent some time hanging with the Werewolves. Being somewhat silver tongued he managed to convince the Werewolves’ Alpha, Aldous, to let him have some Werewolf fur. Arrow then proceeded to contact his retainer and have him post notices that he had some Werewolf fur to sell. This was Arrow’s first session with the group.
Now, as GM, I had to come up with a buyer for this fur. On a whim I decided to Google the word “Angmar”. Go ahead… Google it… I’ll wait…
Did you Google it?
Did you see how 99.999999999% of the entries are about The Witch King of Angmar… aka The Leader of the Nazgul? (Remember kids, my Adamantine Arrow NPCs have a tendency to name themselves after Tolkien weapons.) Did you notice that one other link snuggled in there about a Home Healthcare Facility, acting all warm and fuzzy like?
Folks: WE HAVE A WINNER!
And so Dr. Blair was born. Dr Blair is Arrow’s customer, and he isn’t about to insult Arrow’s intelligence by offering him something gauche like money. Oh no. Dr. Blair offered to teach him the Mind Arcana. Of course, that meant Dr. Blair would wind up with some access to Arrow’s mind, but that’s a small price to pay. Don’t let the fact that his medical company is named after a prominent figure in Saurons’s army bother you. So what if Dr Blair is deftly ducking the question of what Order he belongs to? He’s buying Werewolf fur on the black market he must be on the level!
Seriously though. He runs a healthcare facility. He has devoted his life to caring for the elderly. He’s trying to figure out how it is that Werewolves can heal so rapidly. If he can harness that regenerative power he can really help people!
He can also make an army of Awakened Werewolves to carry out his every whim, but would he do that?
So we’re in the dream space of Damien’s ex-wife, and Arrow is blissfully wandering around naked, and yes I absolutely had him roll against Damien to see who was better endowed. (Damien’s ex would know. Sorry Damien.) The Mages are conversing with that part of Sara’s mind which enjoys telling secrets. Damien is totally going all lawyer on her ass, and since this is a childish part of her she’s having none of it. So then Aenaiyah gives it a shot, and talks to her like a children’s book author (a subject Aenaiyah is familiar with), so she and Sara’s desire to gossip totally hit it off! The conversation goes something like this:
Aenaiyah: So, tell me Sara, do you know who the head of your Seer group is?
Sara: uh-huh! (Shakes head yes vigorously)
Aenaiyah: Good! that’s very good, Sara. (Sara beams with praise.) What do you call the head of your group?
Sara: I call him Grandpa!
:::Aenaiyah shoots a dirty look at Damien, who shrugs as if to say “I didn’t know!” and then turns a smile back to Sara:::
Aenaiyah: You call him Grandpa….
Sara: Uh-huh! (More vigorous nodding)
Aenaiyah: What does everyone else call him?
Sara: Lots of things!
Aenaiyah: Lots of things?
Sara: Yeah, he has lots of names he uses.
Aenaiyah: Is there one particular one he’s using right now?
Aenaiyah: It’s alright, you can tell me. You can whisper it right in my ear.
Sara: (Whispering, but loudly) Dr. Blair
:::Arrow slides down in his seat – I try very hard to not notice this but I really can’t stop myself:::
Aenaiyah: Dr. Blair… that’s good, that’s very good Sara…
:::Aenaiyah notices that Arrow has slid all the way down in his seat and is trying in vain to hide under the table:::
Aenaiyah: ARROW! WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DID YOU GIT DO?!
And that is why Arrow was wearing RED at the Pyramid.
As it happens I only coughed up one lung last week, which is fortunate because I only have one spare!
So we’re wandering around in Damien’s ex-wife’s dreamstate… and of course our Thyrsus Mage Arrow is naked. Nothing at all awkward about that!
Among the questions that Damien wants answers to is precisely who is working for the Seers of the Throne. Now his ex, true name Sara, isn’t all that high ranking as of yet. Her grandfather is pretty much at the top of the food chain in NY, but she’s still fairly young and hasn’t earned her rank just yet. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a pretty powerful Acanthus with some sneaky tricks up her sleeves, but these things take time. As such, she doesn’t always know who everyone is, or what all of the Seers plans are at any given time. She has seen a bunch of people however, and her brain is collecting its impressions of those people in a setting rife with symbolism.
Because honestly, where else would the Seers of Panopticon hang out? Am I right?
As a side note, when I was writing this campaign I came up with a bunch of NPCs named after weapons from the Lord of the Rings. (Narsil, Glamdring, Guthwine, Orcrist, etc, etc). I did not yet have the Seers of the Throne book, and as such had not chosen the Seers of Panopticon as the main adversaries of the Consilium in NY. It was completely random chance that the Seers in my campaign are represented by an all seeing eye… much like some other main adversary we all know and love…
Apparently I just can’t be not awesome.
In any event… the Mages are wandering through Sara’s Oneiros looking for clues as to who in the Consilium might be a Seer spy, or simply be being used by the Seers unbeknownst to them. They have as their guide (in one of the smartest moves my players have ever made <~ Truth) the part of Sara’s psyche that likes to tell secrets. This was a move I hadn’t specifically planned on, and so I had to come up with how this part of Sara would manifest itself to them. I decided it would manifest itself as a child, because we all know that when kids have secrets they LOVE to tell them to everyone. There will be more on this in my next post (NO SPOILERS ARROW!), but for now simply understand that the Mages are wandering around Sara’s dreamspace with a part of her that really, really, really wants to tell them everything they want to know if she can – and especially if she shouldn’t tell them about it!
And at her side they walk up to this enormous Pyramid with an eyeball floating above it. Sara tells them that if they want to find out who the Seers are they have to go inside. She doesn’t know all of their names, but if she’s seen a face and they are somehow working for the Seers they will be here.
It’s a crowded pyramid.
So for their next trick the players have to figure out who is working for the Seers without realizing it (Sleepers in their employ would have no idea what is going on); who may be being coerced into doing things for the Seers without knowing for certain that it’s the Seers pulling the strings (for example, if someone’s sister has been kidnapped and made the subject of the Bad Stuff that will result from a broken Geas); or who may be very happily bowing and scraping before the Exarch. There are a lot of people in this pyramid, and trying to talk to all of them would take a great deal of time. This is where the next Smartest Thing The Players Have Done Ever comes in!
Aenaiyah turns to young Sara and asks her if she knows who is working for the Seers because they want to, who is working for the Seers because they have to, and who doesn’t know that they are working for the Seers at all. Sara says she can’t be sure, but she can make some guesses. Aenaiyah says that would be swell, and then asks Sara to color code the clothing of everyone in The Pyramid as follows:
- RED = Willing Seer Supplicant Mage
- ORANGE = Unwilling Seer Pawn who is Aware of being manipulated by Seers
- YELLOW = Unwilling Seer Pawn who is Unaware of being manipulated by Seers
- BLUE = Not Working For The Seers At All
And suddenly the clothing of everyone in The Pyramid, including the Player Characters, becomes color coded to indicate their status as far as Sara is herself aware of it!
Aenaiyah makes careful note of her own Cabal Mates who are standing where she can see them. Herself, Neils, Rex, Riff-Raff, and (much to Sara’s dismay) Damien are all wearing BLUE.
At about this point Argus walks over and asks “does anyone know why my clothes just turned Yellow?” Aenaiyah explains the color scheme, and tells him that his YELLOW clothing means that he is an unwitting pawn of the Seers. He replies “Well, then shouldn’t my clothes be ORANGE now?” Sara exclaims “GOOD POINT!” and Argus’s clothing turns a lovely shade of ORANGE.
Various of the characters wander around looking for people in The Pyramid to interact with. Riff-Raff has a very interesting conversation with Sara’s mental image of her grandfather, who explains to him why it would be a very bad thing indeed for all of humankind to Awaken. “Can you imagine what would really happen should that come to pass? Why, should that much raw power be handed to every individual on Earth the world would surely be ripped apart by the resultant clashing of wills. Humanity is ill prepared to handle the magnitude of even a small fragment of what we can do. It would be chaos, and ultimately annihilation. The Lie is all that stands between us and the Abyss. Surely you must see that?”
He actually makes an extremely convincing argument.
And then we get to Arrow, who has indeed dressed for his trip to The Pyramid, and his clothes turned a lovely shade of…
…To Be Continued…
A Seer of the Throne, who goes by the name Sara, has been captured and she may have information on the whereabouts of Aenaiyah’s kidnapped younger sister, not to mention some other questions they would like to see answered. There are many ways that they can attempt to extract this information, and after some discussion they decide that the most fun way would be to go on an Astral Romp through her psyche. This means that I have to design some set pieces to make up areas of her mind that the Mages can wander through. Some of these things will be fairly literal interpretations of events that she has either witnessed or been part of. Others will be less direct. In order to help me pull this together I asked the players to come up with the questions that they will be seeking answers to at the end of the prior session. This would give me time to come up with representations that fit the various circumstances of this character’s past.
Keep in mind that one of those circumstances is that she was married to our Mastigos, Damien, for several years. It is Damien who is directing the Astral Journey for the group, so the questions are asked from his point of view.
- Where is Aneiyah’s Sister?
- Who are the Seers spies in the Consillium? By this point the player characters have strong reasons to suspect that the Consiliium has been infiltrated. They want to find out how thoroughly.
- How long has she been a Seer?
- Who else from my former life works for them?
- Why me?
- Did she ever really love me?
Which of course leads to the need to figure out how much she knows, how much she thinks she knows, and how much is news to her.
1. Where is Aenaiyah’s Sister? This really is the $99,000 answer. It is also one that Sara can help out with. Not only is Sara aware of where Aenaiyah’s sister is, Sara is the one who made the travel arrangements.
It’s kind of a funny coincidence, really. The Seers had never made any attempt to go after Aenaiyah’s sister. Aenaiyah’s sister, Betsy, was simply concerned. She had received a call from Aenaiyah on New Year’s Eve during which she had been told that Aenaiyah was off to see the Statue of Liberty, and watch the ball drop later that night. Then… nothing. Some months passed and still nothing. Betsy was worried. Aenaiyah had gone a little off just before leaving. (If you consider chopping her hair extremely short, dying it purple, cursing out her boss before walking out on her job, and throwing her engagement ring in her fiance’s face ‘a little off’.) Aenaiyah had visited her sister before leaving to say that she needed some time to be herself and figure out who that was. She didn’t give any indication as to where she might be going, and had in fact stated that she hadn’t decided really. At first Betsy figured she was going out of town for a long weekend or something. She never figured that so much time would go by without word. Aenaiyah had always been the responsible one before this. Up until that phone call the family had no idea where she had run off to. Now Betsy has a lead, and who can blame her if she decides to follow it up?
She has a photo of Aenaiyah with her fancy new hair, because who doesn’t have a smartphone with a camera these days, and so she puts together a flier and starts talking to the police, to churches, to people who run support groups, and to anyone else who will listen. Most tell her that her sister is an adult and as such their hands are tied, but if they see her they will pass along the message that her sister is looking for her. They also remind her that new York City is a huge place, and that her sister might not even be in the state at this point. They also wish her luck.
One support group contacts Betsy. They may have some information about her sister. Can she please stop by the church they meet at to talk to them. Betsy of course agrees to go, and winds up magically asleep in a Gazebo in Arcadia. To be honest, things could have gone much worse. The Seers know exactly who Betsy’s sister is, (the spikey purple hair, the British accent, the crazy behavior… these were pretty good clues), and quite frankly it isn’t a very good idea to have your unAwakened, defenseless kid sisters handing out your photo and your true name all over the city where you live if you’re an Awakened Mage. In a sense they really did do Aenaiyah a favor, and Sara absolutely sees it that way. Now they want a favor in return. Mostly they want a certain Cabal of Mages to stop poking around for information regarding a string of deaths of Awakened Mages that were not quite as random or accidental as they appeared on the surface. Mostly, that’s what they want. Of course, it’s also possible that they would like some time to try to bring the Cabal to the Seer point of view: if all of humanity is Awakened the resultant cluster-fuck of opposing wills would likely rip the universe, or at least Earth’s corner of it, apart. And, you know, if there might happen to be some artifacts in the Mysterium’s reliquary that would aid the Seers in their cause the delivery of those artifacts would be greatly appreciated. In return Betsy lives a good life, with a nice steady job working with great people who happen to believe that Supernal Powers are simply not a good thing for the general populace to have. What’s so bad about that?
For the Astral Imagery I chose a gazebo. Not only does it fit in perfectly with the idea of being outside in the wilds of Arcadia, it is satisfying on other levels as well. If you are a gamer you are probably aware that you must face the gazebo alone.*
My notes for the session are as follows:
A feeling of peaceful rest overtakes you as you enter the glade. A successful RESOLVE+STAMINA roll will be necessary to remain awake. If anyone falls asleep, the others will need to wake that person up within 5 rounds or the person will fade out of Astral Space. (See “Rings of Astral Unity” with Glamdring to rejoin the group.)
If everyone falls asleep they will all awake outside of Astral Space together.
As they enter the glade everything will take on a cartoon-like appearance. Everything will appear to be outlined, colors will be flatter (less shading) but more vivid in hue, everything will seem more surreal than the rest of Sara’s Oneiros. The feeling is one of watched safety.
In the center of the glade there is a white marble gazeebo. Roses grow on and around it. If the players approach the gazebo they will see an iron bed inside. There is a sleeping woman on the bed.
Before the players can get too close they will feel something preventing them from entering. RESOLVE+GNOSIS to enter. Any attempt at dispelling this effect will cause a sense of dread. A second attempt to do this will cause a confrontation with the gazebo. If the glade itself is dispelled the sleeping figure will be taken away, and Sara will tell them what happened when she wakes up. (or if they confront her directly in her Oneiros.) This area is an active Fae Glade spell. Sara is not controlling the spell any longer, but it does share a connection with her. It has a potency of 10. If it is dispelled here it will be dispelled in reality.
If Aenaiyah uses her Fate site she will realize that this area is a Fae Glade constructed by Sara. 5+ Successes on scrutiny will cause her to realize that the actual Fae Glade, if collapsed, will deposit any physical objects or persons inside into the Fae Wild. Sara would not be happy about it at all because the fact is that she doesn’t want to see Aenaiyah’s sister dumped into a Fae’s backyard.
Clearly, the sleeping figure is Betsy. If the Mages manage to approach the gazebo they will see that it is Betsy. (Or rather, Aenaiyah will since the others don’t know what Betsy looks like.) A close examination of Betsy will reveal that her hands (which are clasped on her chest) conceal a small silver thorn. An even more thorough investigation will reveal that there is a tiny pin-prick in the center of each of her feet. This was done to bring her through the hedge gate in the subway system.
The Dread Gazebo has six figures that each get attacks each round. It would not be wise to face this gazebo alone!
Gazebo Powers: Entangle – The Gazebo has an 8 Dice entangle attack that causes rose vines to wrap around the Mages. The Mages contest with DEX+ATHLETICS. If they successfully contest they will not be hurt. Attempts to escape after entanglement will be at either DEX or STR + BRAWL versus 8 dice. If the Gazebo wins the players take lethal damage from the thorns. (1 target per round) (Init + 1)
The 6 Figures (Init + 2,2,3,3,4,4)
Melee: 6 Dice
Lullaby: 10 Dice contested RESOLVE+GNOSIS. If the Mage fails he falls asleep and must be woken up within 5 rounds to remain in Sara’s Oneiros.
The gazebo & figures will only attack to defend the sleeping woman. If the Mages back off it will let them. It may even talk to them if they make a successful Social roll. It has no mind per se, but can answer limited questions regarding Betsy’s whereabouts and current condition through the mouths on the figural struts.
The gazebo and figures can not be physically damaged. The only way to defeat the gazebo is to stand down, or dispell it. Dispelling the gazebo will free Betsy! (…by stranding her alone and undefended in Arcadia.)
*The original Gazebo story can be found here. Thanks Interwebs!
OK, where were we again before I was sidetracked by Hobbitses and Apocalypses…?
That’s right! The players had just seen Officer Brewer change into a Werewolf for the very first time. The joke’s on Officer Brewer, since I don’t suppose he’ll be hunting down those “Horrible, Evil Werewolf Monsters” now will he! Ahhhhh irony…
In the process of breaking him out of jail there was a wee bit of chaos outside of the police station. Pedestrians were put in harm’s way, the police tossed some tear gas grenades into a near riot situation, Hunters (capital H) arrived on the scene, one of those Hunters wound up unconscious and in the hands of some crazy new Werewolf players… good times.
And then they came across the possessed nun. The nun was possessed by none other than my very favorite Demon, Sangre Santo! This is a story I’ve told before, so I will be lazy and let you go back and read my original post here: Death is Always an Option (The original post features original artwork from Sangre Santo’s creator!)
Keep in mind as you read through the reconciled time line that this particular Seer of the Throne was once married to everyone’s favorite shady lawyer turned Mastigos Mage, Damien. That’s right, that’s his ex-wife they are beating the hell out of without any indication that she has herself done anything wrong. His poor ex-wife who he cheated on multiple times, and who he made completely miserable, has been beaten into a coma because she wanted to talk to them.
Tune in next week to find out how they twisted this poor woman’s mind and made her even more insane than they make me!
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.