Welcome to Las Vegas (campaign concluded)

Update
Procrastinating the final write-ups

We finished the campaign in an epic climax involving the Wild Hunt coming to Las Vegas, confronting a powerful Outsider on its own turf, and a royal smack-down at the Red Court headquarters.

We ran two sessions that combined the two story-lines and two sets of characters.

I need to write up the sessions, but I’ve been busy and with the campaign finished there’s been less pressure to get them up. So my apologies… keep watching here and I’ll get the sessions up eventually.

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Fifth Session ("City" Campaign)
Busting the Trafficking Ring

Locking Up the Ring Disc in Safe Place

Daniel is still carrying the copper disc ring he took from Benny earlier that day (see the second “City” session). The ring is critical for facing down the Outsiders and is one of the main reason that he and James Fendler, both Venators were sent to Las Vegas (and also a main reason that the Venatori Umbrorum are in town, providing unwitting cover for the Venators.

James was murdered by the Outsider called Vanguard (who is currently possessing the body of Jacob Huxhold, one of the Warlock’s two lieutenants in the Tower). Vanguard knows about the rings and Daniel only got the second ring disc seconds before Vanguard showed up, plus Daniel believes that Vanguard may already have the first ring that James had been trying to buy from a couple small-time thieves (see the second “Street” session and all of the Act I sessions for more details).

Daniel wants to get the ring somewhere safe as soon as he can, so he decides to head to the Venatori Umbrorum headquarters in an office building in a business park in suburban Las Vegas. Since Marcovic and Alois are going to begin the tracking spell to find Cass Williams (Sammy Beck’s daughter who he believes has been kidnapped for the purpose of being ritually sacrificed), he decides to head out now while they’re busy. Tom goes along with Daniel to help protect him (and because he wouldn’t be much help with the thaumaturgy ritual).

They get to the office building containing the Venatori Umbrorum headquarters, including the Venatori Umbrorum Temple which has some safeguards against magical scrying or invasion. That’s where Daniel intends to leave the ring disc.

The Effects of James’ Murder

Several Venatori Umbrorum members are standing around when they get there and it’s clear that they’re demoralized and scared because of James’ murder. Patrick Uman, the leader of most the Venatori Umbrorum delegation in the city pulls Daniel aside (Daniel outranks him, but is a field agent rather than being directly attached to the local delegation). Patrick asks Daniel exactly what is going on. Patrick knows enough to know that Daniel is of a higher degree within the Venatori Umbrorum order and also that his mission is secret, so he should know better than to ask so directly and forcefully. Daniel is sympathetic (he can see how rattled Patrick and all of the other Venatori Umbrorum members are), but he also has to balance that against his mission and the higher cause he’s dedicated his life to: The Oblivion War and the necessities of keeping that secret even from the Venatori Umbrorum who aren’t part of the Venators.

(I compel Daniel to not give too much information with the understanding that it will place the Venatori Umbrorum in danger; we negotiate that he can still tell them enough to help calm and boost the morale of the group.)

Daniel tells Patrick that he can’t tell him everything, but assures him that he is doing something important and that Patrick is also playing a very important role (Daniel strongly implies that this situation could bring Patrick to higher attention and lead to promotion to higher degrees and secrets). (Daniel rolls Presence and rolls really high, Patrick is refocused and bolstered.)

Patrick then asks Daniel if they are safe and Daniel assures him they’re as safe as they can be, though nothing is ever guaranteed. He tells Patrick they need to be calm and be prepared

An unwanted Hitchhiker

Meanwhile, Tom is hanging out in a common room with several Venatori Umbrorum. Tom’s master Bear (who is still mad at him for the treatment of the Spider Host) pulls his attention to one of the Venatori who keeps eyeing Tom nervously. Tom sees that he is possessed by a spirit of some sort. (After a compel of his Trouble aspect of “Spirit Bridge”) Tom points at him and says he’s possessed. The other Venatori Umbrorum members are startled and look uncertainly between the two.

The possessed man, named Joey, tries to make Tom seem crazy and pull on his status as one of them while Tom points. (Tom rolls much better so) the Venatori Umbrorum members converge on Joey, grabbing his arms and pinning him

Calming the Mob

Daniel and Patrick emerge just in time to see all of the Venatori Umbrorum grabbing and holding a man while Tom points at him. One of the crows of Venatori Umbrorum yells out, “He killed James!” (This startles Tom as much as Daniel).

Daniel immediately takes charge (with his high Presence, he grabs their attention easily). He asks Tom what is going on and Tom tells him that Joey is possessed by some sort of spirit. Daniel has one of the Venatori Umbrorum run and grab Annette, a “sensitive” Venatori Umbrorum Minor Talent with the ability to read auras and detect magical influences (Daniel introduces the character on the spot with a FP and a minor declaration).

Once Annette gets there, Daniel has Annette, Tom, and two Venatori Umbrorum “guards” take Joey to a room to interrogate and examine him.

Leaving Las Vegas

Annette confirms that Joey is possessed and threatens to exorcise him (a maneuver I set up for Tom). The spirit freaks out, begging not to be exorcised, or at least not until they were outside of Las Vegas.

Tom intimidates the spirit into talking. He isn’t naturally good at it, but the spirit knows he’s an emissary of Bear (+1 from Aegis of Power) and Annette’s looming threat of exorcism adds some weight (free tag) and he convinces it to talk.

It tells him that Las Vegas is becoming increasingly unstable and dangerous and that it’s screwing up the realms of the Nevernever that touch it. There’s a void or vortex at the center of the city that’s almost impossible to escape for spirits (that’s why he was trying to hitch a ride in Joey). It also says that there’s a name that’s beginning to pop up more and more often among spirits of the attached regions: The Defiler. The spirit doesn’t know who or what the Defiler is, except that it’s very, very bad news and somehow tied to the spiritual “black hole” at the heart of Las Vegas.

Rousing Speech

Daniel gathers the rest of the Venatori Umborum together to give them a pep talk. He can tell from their faces that it won’t be easy (James’ murder and Joey’s possession both act against him, raising the difficulty to 6), but Daniel gives a variant of the speech he gave Patrick (part of something important, be calm but prepared, etc.) and he reaches them (he rolls an 8!).

After that, Daniel goes into the Venatori temple and buries the disc ring in a warded and protected box in a chamber below the floor.

Tracking Spell for Cass

Alois and Marcovic decide not to perform their ritual in the Aria, so Alois rents some otherwise empty warehouse space.

Some initial exploration makes it clear that Cass is behind some sort of threshold or ward and so scrying won’t be easy (Complexity 14 to overcome the wards without drawing attention to them).

They begin their preparations (Alois uses Resources to find a good space, Marcovic uses Lore to research the ritual — especially when opposing wards).

Then they both work on getting into a focused, meditative state purified of distraction (both roll Discipline; Alois’ difficulty is much higher at first as he deals with his two Minor Mental consequences, but I let them clear after his focusing and meditation).

Finally they begin the ritual itself. Alois sets up a proper circle (a lore maneuver, which is enough to bring their Lore up to 14 and begin the ritual).

There’s no pressure on the casting itself, so Alois casts slow and careful until the spell is complete.

Immediately he feels a pull from the general direction of downtown (whether the Strip or Fremont Street is impossible to tell until he gets closer) and sees a number of flickers of ghostly movement out of the corner of his eye. He knows that once he gets closer he’ll begin to see ghostly reenactments of where Cass has been,

They wait a bit for Daniel and Tom to arrive (they’ve added a bit of extra Complexity in the spell to give them a little extra time to wait for Daniel and Tom and to follow the trail).

The Summoning Pit

Alois leads them to the edges of the Strip where he sees his first full image of Cass, meaning she’s been at that spot recently. She is struggling against something or someone (the assailant doesn’t show in the image, only Cass) then the image flows backward in time a moment to show Cass walking then apparently be grabbed and pulled to the side.

Alois follows the trail further until he sees Cass laying down seemingly floating a few feet above the road. Ghostly blood is pouring down her face and her eyes are glazed. Alois just figures out that she’s lying in a car trunk (the car isn’t shown in the images, only Cass) when it flows back in time a moment to show her being shoved down hard and her head hits something hard and the blood begins to flow.

Then the trail crosses off the Strip and into Fremont Street ( Red Court territory). They only hesitate a moment before following. It isn’t quite night time, but it’s getting late and there’s a real risk of being stuck in Red Court territory after dark.

Alois sees Cass again, now standing again, though clearly leaning against some invisible support. Her eyes are glazed and in the hazy, pseudo-subjective visions of the tracking spell it’s clear that she has suffered severe invasive mind magic. The vision rewinds a few moments to show her being pulled upright out of the trunk.

This last vision happened just outside of an old hotel that’s been converted into offices. Around the back there is a short corridor to a doorway. The debris piled in the corridor makes it appear that it hasn’t been used in years (like when they put up new walls inside to convert the hotel to offices, this door now leads nowhere). But the vision goes down the alleyway before abruptly cutting off at what is clearly a powerful ward. Tom can also smell fresh blood, also making it clear that the old debris is a camouflage.

Alois and Marcovic study the ward; it’s a nasty piece of work, with a strong ward coupled with alarms and a vicious landmine. They decide to unravel the spell together. Marcovic creates a shield of earth in front of them to take the brunt of the landmine when it goes off and Alois uses wind to attack and tear apart the ward itself (adding extra power to take out the alarm as well before it triggers).

As soon as Alois’ counter-spell hits the ward, a nasty blast of flame smashes against Marcovic’s earthen wall. Marcovic blocks it completely, but if anyone unsuspecting had triggered the ward, that blast would have been fatal (more evidence that the wizard who created this ward is a warlock who willingly breaks the laws of magic).

After that, the group heads to the door. They aren’t certain what’s on the other end (though none of them can hear or smell anything on the other side). Alois uses a small, but complex spirit spell to grab the bolt inside the door and pop it open (a high difficulty spell). Inside is a small room (no more than 10 feet by 20 feet) with no obvious doors or other exits. But now that the ward is down, the image of a now gagged and bound Cass being seemingly dragged through a wall (as well as the smell of blood leading to the same spot) makes it clear that there is some sort of hidden door.

They find the hidden door, which opens immediately into a winding stairway that goes to a room directly below where they are standing. The small of blood, fear, and piss is almost overwhelming and Daniel’s ring lets him know that there have been very powerful Outsider presences in this room, though there are none now.

In the small, dingy room, Cass is chained onto a filthy mattress on the floor; her eyes are open and staring at nothing. She looks terrified and barely aware of their presences. On another part of the floor is an ornate circle drawn on the floor, clearly part of some sort of ritual.

Daniel is a Venator, who focus on finding and destroying rituals to summon Outsiders, and he immediately recognizes that this is, indeed, an Outsider summoning ritual. Alois and Marcovic, between the two of them, also piece together that the ritual requires human sacrifice (presumably the reason for the kidnappings and Cass’ fate if they hadn’t found her) and further that there is a further piece of the ritual that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the direct summoning and instead seems to be involved in some sort of entropic unraveling effect on a regional (city-wide) scale. They can’t tell beyond that what it does.

Daniel crosses to Cass and calms her down enough that he can remove the gag. He tells her that Tom is going to change into a bear to break her chains and that she doesn’t need to be afraid. When Tom changes, she whimpers, but doesn’t panic. Tom easily snaps the chain as if they were made of aluminum foil. Then Daniel asks Cass a few questions, mainly asking if she can describe her attacker. She can and she clearly describes Max Gray, the lieutenant of the Warlock in the Tower. They don’ ask any more questions for now as she’s clearly suffered.

As Daniel and Tom are helping the battered Cass up the stairs, Marcovic and Alois decide to leave a nasty surprise for the summoner if he tries to use the circle again. Marcovic uses earth magic to turn the ground beneath the circle at a depth of a few inches to dust (destabilizing the ground and causing subtle warping, but not being obvious yet). Then Alois changes the markings subtly (subtly enough that it will be hard for the summoner to detect the changes — Alois spends two FP on the subtlety to make it harder to detect!). Unless the summoner is really observant (Difficulty 7 to notice), he’ll get a nasty surprise when he tries to cast the ritual again.

A Family Reunion

The group takes Cass to Billy’s Diner, where Sammy Beck, her father, is waiting. They bring her in and he runs to her, gingerly helping her sit and obviously heart-broken at what he sees. Billy Miles, the owner of the diner and a man of considerable faith, wanders over, too. Marcovic gives them what information he has about resources and then they leave them alone to their reunion. She’ll have a rough road ahead of her and may never recover fully.

Confronting the Warlock

They have strong evidence that Max Gray is the summoner and that Jacob Huxhold (the Warlock’s other lieutenant) is possessed by Vanguard the Outsider. They decide that a visit to the Tower is in order.

The Tower is the Warlock’s power and one of the most mystically charged and dangerous places in the city, for all that it’s in an unobtrusive garden and maintenance building on the spot where the original Flamingo casino once stood before being rebuilt.

Daniel has heard that the Warlock is a wine connoisseur, so he buys a high-quality expensive bottle or Merlot. They also approach slowly and openly (the equivalent of knocking politely, though the Tower didn’t necessarily have such clear doors).

They are quickly met by Rami Carrister, a known focused practitioner with a gift for wards who is a supernatural security specialist-for-hire as well as a professional through-and-through. She is not friendly on seeing Daniel (he has an aspect about seemingly incriminating dealings with Max Gray before). Daniel reassures her (buying off the compel) that he is there on business that will bring certain dealings of Max Gray to the Warlock’s attention. Then she tells them the Warlock is busy, but they convince her that this is something he’ll want to hear.

Finally, she agrees to lead them to the Warlock, but she gives them a list of instructions as they walk. Don’t interrupt the Warlock at any time. Do not speak until spoken to. Be polite like your life depends on it (because it just might). If he pauses, wait for him to think before jumping in. And don’t make eye contact; sure they know about soul gazes, but for some reason it’s particularly dangerous with the Warlock and can literally be fatal.

She gives some more specific instructions until they reach an unassuming door, seemingly a janitors closet, in the middle of a utility corridor inside the garden and maintenace house. She opens the dorr and they see what is clearly a portal leading to somewhere in the Nevernever.

Rami gives them a last piece of instructions: “This is the heart of the Tower; inside there the reality of that realm itself responds to his very thought. He could take on Senior Council member and probably win inside of there.”

With that cheery thought, she gestures them through.

Heart of the Tower

They step through into the interior of a vast stone tower, but it appears inverted. They are standing on the ceiling and the window in front of them is clearly upside down. Out of the window is a seemingly endless wasteland. By subtle but unnerving motions in the floor (or ceiling as it were) it seems that the entire tower they are standing in is suspended upside down over the floor of that wasteland.

The Warlock is standing at the inverted window looking out. He doesn’t seem to notice them at first, but they remember Rami’s instructions and wait without a sound. Finally the Warlock turns around.

In this, the center of his power, the warping of his spirit is more clear. He is no longer truly human. While he is rational and controlled (unlike the raving monsters many warlocks become), he is purely sociopathic. He looks at them as if they were no more significant than a mildly interesting math equation. he is also clearly distracted by something that seems to be taking most of his concentration.

“I see you,” the Warlock says in a cultured, but unaccountably chilling voice. “Why have you disturbed me?”

In carefully respectful terms (even Alois manages to keep his mouth under control this time), they tell him it’s about Max Gray. The Warlock waves a hand in annoyance and says he knows Max is plotting but he is too busy with absolutely critical matters to take care of it now.

Then they mention that max is the one who’s been summoning Outsiders for the outsider trafficking. The Warlock seems confused and asks them what Outsider trafficking. He seems to be the only supernatural power in the city who doesn’t know. Surprised, they nonetheless fill him in. He becomes increasingly concerned, then finally afraid. He stares out the window, furiously thinking and tracing what seem to be math equations in the air.

“The Defiler!” he finally says, “that explains the pieces that haven’t been fitting.”

He doesn’t offer any explanation of who or what the Defiler is and they don’t ask.

“Go,” he finally says, “I need to take care of this. You may take care of Max Gray as you see fit. As of this moment he is officially exiled form the Tower and stripped of all the protections of that association under the unselie Accords and the Compact. He now falls firmly under your jurisdiction, Warden Marcovic. Please also inform your White Council’s Gatekeeper that there is an Outer Gate in Las Vegas and that if I fall, he is to do whatever is necessary. Please also tell ”/campaigns/welcome-to-las-vegas/characters/134692" class=“wiki-content-link”>Marduk, the Summer lord of the Fae in Las Vegas to visit me at his earliest convenience; we have matters to discuss."

With that, they’ve clearly been dismissed. They leave and immediately on exiting, Rami informs them that Max and Gloria Pierce (effectively the acting head of the local Paranet and, Rami informs them, the recent ally and lover of Max) have just fled the Tower. The group has guaranteed safe passage out of the Tower but are not to linger at this time.

With that the group leaves the Tower. They now know all the pieces of the Outsider trafficking, though most of the major players are still on the loose (Eric is in the sutody of the Skotakis clan, the Red Court are still on the loose, and Max Gray, the summoner, has fled (though he is no longer protected by the Compact or the Accords and so is in a dangerous position).


Thus ends Act II. Join us next session for the beginning of Act III, in which both story lines come crashing together in a deadly climax that will determine the fate of Las Vegas (and possibly much more).

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Fourth Session ("City" Campaign)
Spiders and Zombies and Vampires, Oh My!

“We Have Eric”

Marcovic is sitting in his room at the Aria (he was left behind when the group went into the Storm Drains looking for Benny last session; in-game because he was sulking in his room and out-of-game because the player missed the session). There’s a knock on his door and he opens it to see Monique Skotakis. Monique has always been friendly, even flirtatious, in the past but now she is cold and business-like. She tells him about the destruction they caused in the Aria earlier that day (this is all news to Marcovic) then tells him that the Skotakis clan is not happy with the White Council, particularly the rude Alois; she makes it clear that any further episodes would be unwise. Then she tells him that while his “friends were playing in the sewers”, her family has found and apprehended her brother, Eric. She tells him that the rest of the group is in the storm drains if he wants to find them.

Running Through the Storm Drains

“Oh, shit!” a frantic Aaron Devadoss yells at Alois, Daniel, and Tom, “You have to help me now or I’m dead!”

There’s a strange hissing noise as Angel and Dierdre, the “daughters” of the Spider Mother grow and shift into grotesque half-human, half-spider monsters. Aaron, also an emissary of the Spider Mother and part of the Spider Host also transforms into a similar form and shoves Alois, Daniel, and Tom to get them running.

The group has a choice whether to stand and fight or to run and they run. Thinks don’t look good, as the “daughters” are much faster than them and much more maneuverable, able to run on walls and the ceiling as easily as the floor.

(We handle the chase using the “Cat and Mouse” extended challenge rules; the chase will last three turns and each PC will roll for one of the turns, with the other PCs, plus Aaron, supporting them with maneuvers and declarations; similarly either Angel or Dierdre will roll each turn with the other supporting. The Spider Daughters are much faster than the PCs, but have less support, and less FP, which helps even the odds a bit).

Alois throws a potion that creates a mist of sorts that entangles and slows the Daughters and the group runs as fast as they can. The eerily swift daughters shriek in rage as they try to force their way through the cloying mists (the group gets a solid lead in the challenge).

The mist only holds the daughters for about ten seconds, then they shatter the spell and surge down the long corridor towards the group. Tom transforms into his huge bear form and Alois and Daniel pull themselves up with his thick fur. Aaron smashes a weak section of the wall and throws chunks of cement and rubble in the daughters’ path to try and slow them. The daughters climb the walls and go above the rubble with only the slightest slowing. They gain on the group until they’re almost close enough to strike.

Daniel pulls himself into a less precarious position on Tom’s back and turns back towards the daughters. He fires off a dozen shots as they continue to close. None of his hits do any real damage, but he slows them enough for Tom to turn around a corner and for Aaron to again throw rubble in the passage. Tom and Alois throw their might (muscle and magical respectively) to add to the debris, this time filling most of the corridor. The daughters hiss and shriek again at the debris and begin clearing it.

By the time they’ve cleared the rubble, the group is far enough ahead that the chase is effectively over. The group is safe… for about 1 minute.

“The Count Says Hello”

The group is in a fairly abandoned stretch of the storm drains and wants to get out as fast as possible; the Spider Host is not restricted to the storm drains (Angel and Dierdre regularly hunt on the streets above) but the odds of being followed decrease significantly. Aaron leads them towards the nearest exit. When they ask where the exit leads, he tells them it’s in the heart of Fremont Street (the heart of the Red Court’s power).

Meanwhile, Marcovic has been looking for them; using his natural skill and affinity for traveling through the Nevernever, he finds them. But before stepping back out of the Nevernever, he peeks across the Veil and sees a strange Red Court vampire (obviously female from her body, but her face is covered in a mask made out of a human face—her eyes looking out of the eye holes and the lips sewn shut) and a small horde of zombies arrayed in front of her.

The rest of the group comes around the corner and both groups surprise each other.

Ana recovers first (with her vampiric speed). She is a Kemmlerian necromancer in addition to being a Red Court vampire and her first action is to summon up a shield of entropy and death energy around herself.

Marcovic drops through the Nevernever without a sound behind her, then uses one of his enchanted items to peak through the Veil at several points around Ana until he finds a connection to a Nevernever realm filled with water (tied to the storm drains intended function to channel water during flash floods). He opens a portal above her and water comes crashing out, turning quickly to ectoplasm even as more water keeps pouring (he did a maneuver to place an aspect on the zone).

Tom roars and throws an armful of concrete and stone shards, mixed with debris like broken bottles, towards Ana and her zombies (also maneuvering and placing an aspect).

Daniel (who still has his gun out from when he fired at the spider daughters) opens fire on Ana, to keep her pinned (also a maneuver).

Then Alois takes advantage of all the maneuvers to pull up a massive “storm” of black lightning (created of pure spirit and filling the entire zone). Like when he blasted one of Vanguard’s bodies earlier, he cranks the power up to absurd levels then uses aspects and fate points to keep control of the whole mess.

The lightning interacts violently with the water and ectoplasm still pouring from the rent in the Veil, but also being sucked inwards (towards the hapless Ana and her zombies). Combined with the pinning fire from Daniel and Tom, the attack is devastating (again over 20 damage base! After this we had some discussions about how to interpret some of the evocation rules — the end result being that Alois was toned down a bit from being an insanely destructive damage monkey to only a really powerful damage monkey).

Ana has her ward she just cast, as well as her natural toughness and a finger bone necklace containing a powerful block against a single magical attack. Even with all of that protection, she is fried to a near-crisp.

Her flesh mask is completely destroyed and her rubbery black flesh is melted and ravaged. Her literal mask of skin (one of her magical foci) has also been destroyed. Her zombies are turned to ash before ever acting. She promptly surrenders, offering information for her life (she offers a Concession; which prompts a fairly lengthy discussion about whether they could accept the Concession, get the info, then just kill her anyway — the answer was no if they accepted the Concession but yes if they pushed it all the way to Taken Out — they decide to accept the Concession).

Ana spills on the Outsider Trafficking

Ana tells them everything she knows about the Outsider trafficking: A wizard who is part of the Tower is the one summoning the Outsiders. She doesn’t know who it is, though she knows both Count Val Dosti and Nikki Kraja know. The Red Court provides the summoning place, the supplies, and handles most of the logistics of the trafficking ring. Eric Skotakis uses his connections to find the right kind of high-end prospective buyers and runs the auction itself (his Skotakis ability to amplify a sort of reckless feeling of invulnerability helps drive the prices even higher than they would already have gone and it gives him a chance to satisfy the Skotakis rarified feeding needs even though exiled from the casinos and other typical Skotakis hunting grounds).

She also tells them that each summoning and sale takes several months (she doesn’t know whether this is the fastest the outsiders can be summoned, or whether they go at that rate for other reasons, such as the time to find appropriate buyers).

Ana has not been directly involved in the Outsider trafficking at all; she suspects that Count Dosti already fears her power (even as he makes use of it) and he doesn’t want her close to another potential source of power.

After she has finished telling them what she knows, Ana slips through the Veil and runs. Marcovic could probably follow her and bring the other along, but they decide to let her go because they’re battered from effectively three conflicts back to back without a chance to rest (or clear stress). (Plus, letting her get away alive was part of the Concession so the rest is really just justifying it in the narrative).

“They’ve taken my daughter!”

The group heads back to their rooms at the Aria; they’re on heightened alert until they get off of Fremont Street and back onto the Strip and its relative safety as Neutral Ground. there are no other incidents until they reach the Aria.

Sammy Beck, the Paranet scout who tipped them off to the Outsider auction at the Harmon Hotel the night before is waiting for them in front of the Aria. His eyes are puffy and red and he’s clearly on the edge of tears.

“They took her!” he says in a broken voice, “I thought it was just rumors, but they took my ”/campaigns/welcome-to-las-vegas/characters/cass-williams" class=“wiki-content-link”>Cass!"

They calm him down enough to get a more coherent story.

Sammy tells them that there have been rumors of minor talents being kidnapped off the streets and then vanishing. There was never many and Las Vegas has tons of disappearance, plus the rumors always involved “a friend of a friend”, so Sammy never took them seriously. But now his daughter, Cass Williams, had vanished and he knew she was in danger. He doesn’t have much talent, but he has the Sight and a gift for divination with tarot cards, and he’d been able to learn enough to know she was in danger.

In all of his tarot readings since her vanishing, a couple cards had come up over and over and over again:

  • The Tower: this shows up a lot in Vegas and is pretty well-known to be connected to the Warlock’s Tower (the Warlock, before becoming the Warlock, always used tarot archetypes for his nicknames and the Flamingo was always a nexus of power even under the previous Warlock, but it was the current Warlock who began calling it the Tower), but it’s almost always inverted in Las Vegas, meaning disruption is being prevented, but now it’s upright
  • Death: Especially in conjunction with the Tower, it meant change was coming; major and disruptive change
  • The Hanged Man: The Hanged Man was tied to sacrifice, but it was inverted so it isn’t positive or voluntary; the card keeps coming up around his daughter and he’s sure it means she’s going to be sacrifices

He’s also sure it all means that her disappearance is part of the major upheaval that was triggered by the auction the night before.

Sammy doesn’t have the ability to track Cass himself (he has some minor talents, but he isn’t a full practitioner), but he has several things that belonged to her and he knows enough about how magic works to know they’ll work for a tracking spell.

The group agrees to help him then send him to Billy’s Diner to wait for them.

“Don’t call us, we’ll call you…”

As soon as they’re back in the Aria, Aaron sets in and asks what about him? Alois assures him that they’ll still help him, but he’ll have to wait until their current issue is resolved. it’s clear from Aaron’s face that he’s convinced they’re abandoning him and he’s as good as dead. He accepts their assurances otherwise with a vague nod and leaves.

Then the group turns to planning their next steps, including learning more about the Outsider trafficking (such as who is the summoner who’s involved with the Tower) and finding Sammy’s daughter, Cass.

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Third Session ("City" Campaign)
Opening Volleys

Session 3

Good Old-fashioned Mundane Research

Alois, Daniel, and Tom meet up in their rooms at the Aria to discuss what they’ve each found out. Marcovic doesn’t join them because he’s gone to his room to sulk after being humiliated in front of Alois and Eric Skotakis after his botched control of a simple spell at the Harmon Hotel earlier (see the previous session — Marcovic’s player wasn’t there this session).

They have a couple leads they can follow. They quickly decide to track down David Massengill (the successful buyer of the Outsider from the auction the night before at the Harmon Hotel). He may have already left town, but if he hasn’t then time is of the essence.

After a few quick calls (using connections and contacts from the Venatori Umbrorum and from his own extensive field experience), Daniel is quickly able to track down that David flew into Las Vegas a day before the auction with four other business associates and that their return flight is scheduled for later that evening. While they could have driven out or flown under different names, it seems likely they’re still in Las Vegas. Further, Daniel finds out that they booked into a room right there in the Aria, just a few stories down from their own rooms, and they haven’t checked out yet. (Daniel rolled well and used his extra shifts to shorten the time significantly down to under an hour.)

“We Tried to Play It Safe… Honest!”

Daniel and Tom decide to go check out the room to see if David and associates are still there. To be safe, Daniel calls in some Venatori Umbrorum contacts to watch the Aria in case David leaves or enters building. They also send Alois to talk to Monique Skotakis and get her help in dealing with them so they don’t violate the Compact or the Unseelie Accords or otherwise piss off their host.

It’s a nice plan, but things go downhill fast….

Daniel knocks on David’s room, prepared with a story about it being the “wrong room, oops” (he just wants to check if anyone’s in the room). No one answers, but Daniel gets a tingle from his ring indicating the presence of an Outsider (he can’t tell through the door if it’s still there or not). Then Tom smells blood and hears moaning. (After a compel of his hunter nature) Tom shifts into his huge bear form and smashes down the door. Daniel glances quickly around and sees no witnesses (except a tastefully hidden hallway camera) and rushes in after Tom; what choice does he have?

Meanwhile, Alois finds Monique and fills her in on the previous night, including Eric’s involvement. Monique starts out charming. but Alois is rude and blunt, turning the conversation into questioning her if she’s involved with her brother in the Outsider trafficking. Monique snarls at him and tells him that the Skotakis clan will deal with Eric and they are to bring him to her if they find him; she claims the right under the Unseelie Accords. Before Alois can respond, a White Court vampire rushes into the room and tells Monique there’s trouble on the fourth floor (Alois recognizes that’s where David’s room is). She rushes over to a monitor and pulls up a camera image of a door burst off its hinges. There’s a burst of light (eerily quiet since the camera has no sound) but Monique and Alois both recognize it as gunfire near the entrance. Monique turns to Alois furiously and tells him to go to his room and stay out of this. Alois looks at the monitor, which chooses that moment to break down in his presence. Monique glares at him harder and he decides not to push things further and heads to his room, but not before telling Monique that their conversation about the Outsiders isn’t over.

Blood on the Carpet and Bear-shaped Dents in the walls

Inside David’s room, things are a mess. David and his colleagues are there, but they’re bodies have somehow been fused together. It’s like they were shoved into the same place and five sets of twisted limbs and heads are all tangled together like some monstrous Siamese pentuplet. There’s no broken skin where they’re joined; the blood comes mostly from the hands, feet, and faces, where muscles and fat has been pushed out when there wasn’t room in the central tangled mass of torsos, and the grotesquely swollen extremities have burst like overripe fruit, spraying blood, fat, and other tissues across the room. A few of the limbs and heads are twitching, but most of the faces (at least those facing outwards rather than fusing into another head or torso) are clearly (and mercifully) dead.

But despite how grotesque the remnants of David and his colleagues are, Tom and Daniel can only spare a quick glance before turning to face the Outsider floating in the center of the room. It’s hard to focus on the Outsider; light, sound, and space itself seems strangely warped around it. It appears to be a writhing ball of tentacles.

It recognizes Daniel (his Trouble aspect is “The Outsiders know who I am”) and laughs. Its voice is utterly wrong and painful to listen to; blood comes from Tom and Daniel’s ears on hearing it, while the few still living heads in the fused bodies moan in what can only be love or ecstasy. “”/campaign/welcome-to-las-vegas/wikis/venators" class=“wiki-page-link”> Venator," it says, “You are too late. Soon ”/campaigns/welcome-to-las-vegas/characters/vanguard" class=“wiki-content-link”>Vanguard will have both rings and then he’ll have time to play with your Venatori friends."

That’s all it has time to say, because Tom has immediately charged it with stunning power. The Outsider is pushed back against the wall (a maneuver to place an aspect that Tom uses the following wrong to start a grapple).

Meanwhile Daniel darts across the room to find a better place to shoot from (a Maneuver to place the “In position” aspect on himself to set up his shot later).

The Outsider lashes out at Tom with its tentacles; they burn into Tom’s fur.

With a roar, Tom grapples the Outsider and pins it down with immense strength.

Daniel spends another turn aiming carefully so as not to hit Tom when he fires.

The Outsider doesn’t try to escape, but instead wraps its tentacles tighter around Tom and tries to wrestle him into submission. It turns the tables and now it’s Tom caught by the Outsider.

Tom tests his strength against the Outsider and wins out, turning the tables again and twisting around to give Daniel a clearer shot (another aspect for Daniel). During the wrestling, Tom and the Outsider have smashed much of the furniture in the room and even dented out a large section of the outside wall and shattered the windows (sending broken glass down onto the streets below)

Daniel knows from experience how hard to hurt the Outsider is likely to be and even with a clear shot and his considerable skill, he’s worried. Then the cross necklace he got from his mother begins to glow (the necklace is a holy item and can satisfy the Outsider’s catch, but it’s also not under Daniel’s control; after some negotiation, we decide that if Daniel gives up the two aspects he’s placed on himself to help his shot, then he’ll be able to use the holy light to satisfy the Outsiders catch; based on the Outsider’s Supernatural Toughness, this is a good trade and Daniel’s player accepts). Daniel is shocked when the light glows and loses his careful aim; this has only happened once, long ago, and Daniel immediately shoots. He destroys the Outsider’s form, driving it out of our realm (he uses the free tag from Tom the last round and burns several fate points of his own).

Tom changes back into his human form and just has time to get partially dressed before Monique and two White Court security guards burst into the room, eyes burning a cold white.

Daniel and Tom try to defend themselves when Monique furiously accuses them of violating her hospitality. They say they had sent Alois to get her help or blessing, but they couldn’t wait because an Outsider was in the room (it’s a tough sell, but Daniel spends a Fate Point and uses the “Corpses fused by an Outsider” aspect on the scene to underscore the urgency). Monique grudgingly accepts that they didn’t maliciously violate her hospitality (it isn’t technically an issue of the Unseelie Accords, since neither Tom nor Daniel belong to signatory groups and Alois and Marcovic, who are bound by the Accords, were not directly involved).

But while they avoid immediate retaliation, they’ve turned the Skotakis clan from open allies to enemies. Monique tells them to pack their things and leave. A little later, Alois offers to pay for the structural damage to the Aria and manages to shift the Skotakis clan back to neutral (and they get to keep staying at the Aria… as long as there are no more “events”).

Murdered Friends

In the immediate aftermath of the clash with Monique, Daniel’s phone rings. It’s Patrick Uman from the Venatori Umbrorum delegation in Las Vegas and with a voice thick with emotion he tells Daniel that James Fendler. James was fellow Venator (the secret order at the heart of the Venatori Umbrorum) who was tasked with acquiring the copper disc ring artifacts while Daniel focused on helping the White Council track down and stop the Outsider trafficking. The Outsider in the hotel room had said that Vanguard (an Outsider Daniel has had clashes with before) almost had the ring discs. James had been meeting with the current possessors of one of the ring discs at a warehouse and that’s where he had just been killed (see the second “Street” session for a view from the other side). The Outsider in the hotel room had implied that Vanguard knew where the other one was, too. Daniel knew that a homeless man named Benny (some sort of “shaman” in the Storm Drains had the other ring.

Daniel told Alois and Tom that he had to go into the Storm Drains right now and they could come or stay. Tensions got high when Daniel wouldn’t explain all the details and was bossy (some compels were thrown around) but in the end all three of them headed into the Storm Drains.

The Bear spirit that Tom served was allies with a dangerous spider spirit, the Spider Mother in the Storm Drains and he pushed the others to introduce themselves properly first, rather than just trespassing on what was clearly her turf (another compel). Daniel agrees only very reluctantly since tangling with the Spider Host would slow things even more if they were caught trespassing.

Reluctant Monsters

Tom finds Aaron Devadoss, one of the emissaries of the Spider Mother (in some ways his parallel counterpart). Aaron seems intrigued with Alois and asked probing questions trying to figure out if Alois can break his “curse” and free him from service to the Spider Mother. Daniel is in a hurry and tries to rush them. Aaron leads them to Benny’s makeshift room but tells them that only one can enter. Daniel goes on without hesitating.

“Well, that’s one solution to the homeless problem…”

Inside the room, Benny refuses to give the ring disc to Daniel. In a combination of frustration, intense hurry, and the still fresh news that James, his friend, was murdered (another compel) Daniel gets violent, pushing Benny hard to the floor after hitting him and then stealing the ring disc right out of his pocket.

Then his ring alerts him that an Outsider is near. Vanguard comes out of a drain above, crawling unnaturally on the walls. Daniel, holding the ring, runs for his life. He can feel the blast of despair from Vanguard, but his ring protects him. Benny is not so lucky and Daniel can’t stop to help him. Vanguard splits into two copies, one chasing after Daniel and the other going after Benny.

Making New Enemies

Alois agrees after some discussion to try and help Aaron if he can. Then Alois’ enchanted glasses give him a moment’s warning before Daniel, followed by Vanguard, burst out of Benny’s cove. Alois is ready and fries Vanguard with a blast of black lightning that leaves him little more than a charred skeleton. Since that blast would have melted a tank (an insane amount of power and fate points led to a total of around 20 damage!), Alois is more than a little surprised.

Tom finished off Vanguard before he gets to the bottom of the ramp, smashing him into the charred cement wall and crumbling much of his body to greasy powder.

Aaron suddenly says “Oh, shit, the daughters are here.”

Angel and Dierdre, two other emissaries of Spider Mother saunter in. They’d be more seductive if they weren’t covered in blood and Dierdre wasn’t holding a chunk of bone and flesh that was clearly human. Angel and Dierdre tell Tom that it’s time to hand over the ring disc that Bear promised he’d give to Spider Mother.

Things are just beginning to heat up (Daniel has no intention of handing over the ring disc) when Aaron decides to “help” the group and preemptively attack the daughters. He yells at them all to run as the daughters transform into hideous half-human, half-spider monstrosities.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! What have I done?” Aaron moans as they start to run, “now you have to help me or I’m dead!”

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Second Session ("City" Campaign)
The Hunt Begins

Wake-up Call

Marcovic is awakened in his hotel room at the Aria (courtesy of their hosts, the White Court Skotakis Clan) by the sound of an old-fashioned phone (the room is designed for wizard guests, with no T.V. and minimal electronics, as well as decorations designed to help diffuse magical energies). The voice on the other end of the phone (scratchy and full of static) begins with a Warden passphrase and waits for Marcovic to give the appropriate counter-sign before informing him that a lead came in from the Paranet and they are to meet a local minor practitioner named Sammy Beck who claims to have information about an auction the night before that White Council analysts believe might have involved Outsiders

Marcovic meets with the rest of the group (Alois, Daniel, and Tom) and fills them in. They all leave together to meet with Sammy. On their way out they run into Monique Skotakis, who greets them warmly (especially the wizards). Alois (due to a compel) mouths off, but instead of angering Monique, it just seems to make him more appealing to her and it’s clear from her smile that Alois is her new project. She also mentions that she needs a message delivered to her outcast brother, Eric Skotakis, and the eager marcovic (because of a compel) recklessly made an oath to Monique Skotakis that he would find her brother, Eric, and deliver a message to him.

Outsiders and Waffles

They meet Sammy Beck just outside the Aria. Sammy first tells them that Gloria Pierce (the unofficial leader of the local minor talents) has forbidden anyone from using the Paranet to bring in the White Council, so he’s taking a risk. He’s obviously frazzled. Daniel calms him down. Sammy takes them to Billy’s Diner (an anomaly for being a public building with a strong Threshold, bolstered by the owner, Billy Miles’ faith) before giving them the details. Tom notices a spirit that’s been following them and watching them.

Once the two wizards cross the threshold (leaving most of their power behind) and everyone settles in a booth, Sammy tells them about the sale. It took place in the Harmon Hotel last night (at the same time they were at the ball at the Aria – see last session). The Harmon is unfinished due to structural faults and indefinitely on hold. It’s technically owned by the White Court, but everyone knows the spirit called theArchitect is the real tenant. Sammy gives them some sketchy details about some of the potential buyers, including a middle-aged German or maybe Swiss woman and a small group of chubby, rich techie types from California.

He also tells them he reads Tarot cards and that the Tower card has come up over and over again, seemingly based around the auction last night, suggesting that major upheaval is about to happen.., and their presence and impending investigation of the sale last night is likely right at the fulcrum.

Snooping Around the Harmon and a Home Visit

The group splits up to investigate.

Daniel and Tom talk to (and bribe) the security firm manager at the vacant, half-finished Harmon to let them watch the security tapes around the time of the sale. They see a group enter the hotel and take the elevator to the thirteenth floor. The manager is surprised and says that shouldn’t have happened. He gives them the name of the guard who was on duty.

Daniel and Tom find where he lives and drive out. Along the way, the spirit Tom spotted is still following them (appearing at several points along the way, though they never see him move). Then the spirit is in their back seat but only Tom can see it. The spirit greeted him as a servant of Bear and told him that the Spider Mother (from the Spider Host) was an old ally of Bear and was calling in an old favor so that when Tom got a certain artifact (it then describes one of the copper disc rings) he was to bring it to the Spider Mother. I compelled Tom’s ‘Spirit Bridge’ aspect and since he accepted, he felt Bear acknowledge the request and knew that now he would either have to do so or piss Bear off.

At about the same time, Daniel got a call from James Fendler, his fellow Venator agent, saying that he had set up the meet to buy one of the copper disc rings from the group that had stolen it from the earlier auction (see first “Street” session) and that he had a solid lead on the other disc in the possession of a homeless man named Benny in the Storm Drains. James was just filling Daniel in, since Daniel had different duties (tracking down the source of the Outsider trafficking).

Both are talking about the same artifacts, though neither knows it.

The guard lives in a suburb in a quiet neighborhood. The guard is sleeping but Daniel tells his wife (watching several young kids) that it’s urgent and she wakes him up. Daniel convinces him that he isn’t in trouble and the guard tells them that one of the guys comes a lot, but since he’s one of the owners of the hotel, it isn’t really breaking the rules…

Power Outages and Going Straight to the Source

Meanwhile, Alois and Marcovic head to the local city government building to get a floor plan of the Harmon Hotel. Marcovic tries to mute his hexing aura, but Alois is overconfident (a compel) and blows out the computer of the woman looking it up for them… and the entire antiquated network goes down. Alois and Marcovic walk out empty-handed.

They decide to go scope things out more directly. Alois and Marcovic walk right into the Harmon as if they belong there. I compelled them both on different aspects and they drew the attention of the Architect. They go for the stairs (it is 12 flights up but they’re not going to risk the elevator). The Architect locks them in and speaks to them as a disembodied voice. It asks who they are and how dare they intrude. They go for the (incomplete) truth) and say they’re looking for someone who was in the hotel the night before. The Architect says that two of two of the guest’s from yesterday are still in the building, actually, on the 13th floor along with a guest. Then the Architect seems to come to a realization and says with disturbing glee that it’s finally that time. It says that things are about to get very interesting and it says it’ll let them out. It’s clearly very eager for something.

Alois and Marcovic exit on the 13th floor and it’s easy to find where Eric and his guest are. A woman with a Swiss accent is alternating between making demands in a business-like voice and begging piteously.

Marcovic decides they should enter with flair and summons a wind to bang the door open before them. He loses control of the spell and it slams shut again, throwing him and Alois back. Alois keeps his feet, but Marcovic hits the wall and slides to the ground in a ruffled heap.

Marcovic has an aspect about being prideful and always trying to one-up others, but also pouting when shown up, so he stays on the floor on the verge of tears (a compel including that he won’t notice Eric Skotakis is in the room and won’t give him the message and that it will come back to complicate his life with Monique). Alois goes in alone.

Inside, the Swiss woman (Greta Strauss) is begging Eric Skotakis to tell her where the winning buyer is. She caught a glimpse of the Outsider she lost and she’s like an addict desperately trying to get another hit. Eric is refusing, seeming more bored than dismayed.

Alois and Eric talk a bit. (I can’t remember how Alois convinces Eric, but…) Eric won’t give Alois the location of the winning buyer, but he does give him the winners full name: David Massengill (that’s enough to form a sympathetic connection with the buyer for thaumaturgy). The Swiss woman is clearly not a knowledgeable practitioner because she doesn’t blink at that or try to remember herself.

As Alois is leaving, Eric finally has enough and hits the Swiss woman with a hard blast of despair (not the usual Skotakis emotion – clearly Eric has associated with other White Court houses). Alois pauses to make sure he isn’t about to feed on her, but Eric just walks away as she crumbles in a sobbing heap on the ground.

Alois talks to Greta briefly, and recognizes the signs that she’s a White Court junky (like he used to be). He talks to her a little about her White Court mistress in Switzerland to try and build some rapport. He gets a little information from her, but not much. He gets her phone number in case she might be useful later.

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First Session ("City" Campaign)
Monster Ball

Character creation and the first session were interwoven.

The in-game story is in regular text…

And character creation steps are indented and italics.

The Briefing

To start things off, I asked each player to think about their character was being sent on this mission. As part of that, they had to create their High Concept aspect. All requirements from their template still applied as usual.

Two wizards sat in a White Council briefing room, waiting to be briefed by the Warden leader Morgan about the mission they were about to embark on. The first wizard was Alois, a strong, experienced combat wizard; he had the strength and experience to be a warden, but his resistance to authority and his focus on making money kept him on the outskirts. The other wizard was Marcovic, in many ways Alois’ opposite. Marcovic was a boy scout, eager to please, totally buying in to the party line, and intent to prove himself to the White Council. Marcovic was strong and trained in combat wizardry, but he lacked a certain maturity as of yet. Still, Marcovic was a Warden (the Vampire War was taking its toll) and technically outranked Alois.

Morgan filled them in: They were going to Las Vegas: Outsiders were being sold to the highest bidder and were now starting to show up all around the world. The Gatekeeper on the High Council had tracked the source to Las Vegas. Things were going to be dangerous for the wizards in Las Vegas. The Red Court vampires had recently begun making inroads into Las Vegas and were building it up as a stronghold in the Western U.S., which meant that the wizards would be outnumbered and outgunned. The Warlock was an extremely powerful warlock who openly flaunted his violations of the Laws of Magic and who had his so-called “Tower” with several other warlocks under his thumb. The White Court Skotakis clan was powerful in Las Vegas. Things were uncertain between the White Court and the White Council at present; the White Court had not yet entered the war alongside the Red Court and Morgan made it clear that if the two wizards did anything to tip the White Court towards joining the Red Court, they would deeply regret it. Morgan filled them in on the other factions and powers in Las Vegas.

Morgan stressed that shutting down the Outsider Trafficking was their only mission and it was of vital importance. It was not their job to take the war to the Red Court (not that a few more dead Reds would be discouraged, of course). That would be the job of future objectives. Similarly, it was not their job to capture the several warlocks openly breaking the Laws of Magic in Las Vegas and bring them to trial. In fact (and Morgan said this like he was choking), they even had permission to make a temporary alliance with the Warlock in order to achieve their goals.

Finally, Morgan told them that the Vampire War was going badly and they couldn’t expect any back-up. The Regional Warden Commander Ramirez was leading more of the Wardens on a different mission, which it was best Alois and Marcovic knew nothing about, in case they were captured. Plus the whole damn city was an anomaly, somehow blocking all attempts to scry remotely and all of the old safe routes through the Nevernever had been altered or broken by some sort of flux around Las Vegas. Still, they would have allies. There was a Venatori Umbrorum presence in the city and plans had been worked out to meet with one of their representatives once they got to the city. That representative was Daniel Hollister, who the two wizards had worked with before.

Daniel was a veteran field commander of the Venators (the secret organization hidden within the Venatori Umbrorum that neither the White Council nor the Venatori Umbrorum themselves knew anything about). He was already in the city along with another Venator field agent (James Fendler) and a fair-sized Venatori Umbrorum delegation. The Venatori Umbrorum was in town to acquire two copper ring disc artifacts that could be used to banish Outsiders from our world. The Venators were dedicated to stopping the summoning of Outsiders into our realm (something they called the “Oblivion War”) and Daniel was already tracking the Outsider trafficking and so was happy to have two wizards along.

The last ally who would join the mission was Tom, a Native American were-bear and emissary of a powerful Bear spirit dedicated to keeping unwelcome spirits, demons, and Outsiders out of the Las Vegas Valley (the thin Veil and the valley’s proclivity to trouble predated the coming of humans). Tom had worked closely with Daniel before and had worked with both wizards, as well.

The group was set and their mission was clear: Alois, Marcovic, Daniel, and Tom (two wizards, a veteran mortal, and a werebear) had to track down the source of the Outsider trafficking and shut it down with extreme prejudice… alone.

At this point I asked them to think about why they were sent on this mission instead of something else? What was their Trouble aspect? For the two wizards, what kept them from being on Ramirez’ mission instead of being sent to Las Vegas because they were the only two available? For the other two, what was going to make their life (and the mission) in Las Vegas much more difficult?

Gathering at Marverick and an Invitation

The four met up at Marverick Truck Stop, a large truck stop just outside of Las Vegas when coming up I-15 from Los Angeles. Marverick was the last outpost of White Council presence near Las Vegas. The four had all worked together before, so the greetings were warm but brief. The owner of Marverick, Ray King, was a representative of the White Council. He wasn’t a wizard (though he was a skilled practitioner with a knack for wards) and he had an abrasive personality and he delighted in making White Council members uncomfortable, but he was the best they had. He came out to meet them, making it clear from his expression that he was not encouraged by what he saw in them and that if they were the best there was, then they were all in trouble.

’You’re late,’ Ray said. ‘Here, these came for you a couple hours ago.’ He handed each of them their own fancy envelope of expensive cream colored paper.

Alois sniffed at it with his sixth sense, checking for any enchantments or curses, but it seemed clean. Alois snorted. They opened their envelopes and found invitations to a ball in their honor being held at the Aria hotel and casino on the Strip. That made the four nervous, since the Aria was the flagship of the White Court Skotakis and at the heart of their power. To make things worse, their arrival in Las Vegas was supposed to be a secret, but clearly every faction in the city had known well before they arrived. On the other hand, the invitation followed all of the protocol of the Unseelie Accords, naming them as formal guests, plus the entire Strip was Accorded Neutral Ground, so they were as safe there as they would be anywhere in Vegas. They deliberated a moment and decided they would go. Ray snorted again.

‘Of course you’re going,’ he said.

To the Ball

They arrived at the Aria; the entire building was extravagant and beautiful, full of white and silver (very much fitting the White Court). It was also, however, less than half full. The crash of the economy had hit Vegas, too, and the certainty that ever bigger and grander hotels would always be filled had been found to be not completely true. The four were met by security and escorted to a large banquet room where scores of the most powerful and dangerous men and women of the Las Vegas supernatural crows milled around in tuxes and ball gowns.

I explained the plan to the players here. Each of them was to pick a faction that their character had tangled with in the past, whether in a positive or a hostile way. We’d take turns and on each of their turns they’d pick their faction, then do their phase 3 of character creation (writing a short blurb for their first ‘novel’). Their phase 3 blurb had to include that faction in a significant way. And their aspect had to be something that could be compelled and invoked frequently in Las Vegas specifically on this mission.

On their turn, they’d have a scene with a representative of that faction, then we’d do a flashback where they did their phase 3, then we’d come back to the present in the party. I used the Social Conflict rules from Diaspora (a different FATE game) with a simple map. Each faction was a pawn and the players would get an action to try and sway that faction either towards being allies or enemies for the start of the campaign (of course those initial faction dispositions could and probably would shift throughout the campaign). They’d be opposed by representatives of the Red Court, who would try to sway the factions towards opposing the group, or at least refusing to offer any aid.

Then there would be a second and third exchange. Each player would pick one of the other players’ factions (both their flashback and phase 3 and their present interactions at the ball) and guest star. They’d do their phase 4 (in the second exchange of the social conflict at the ball) then take an action to sway that faction (again, opposed by the Red Court). Then they’d do the same for a different character and faction in the third exchange (doing their phase 5 guest star roles). The first co-star role (phase 4) they chose and the second co-star role (phase 5) I assigned.

In the session, we did all of the phase 3, then all of the phase 4, then all of the phase 5 steps. I wrote up in a different order below, writing all three exchanges for each faction together, to make it easier to read.

The White Court

As soon as they arrived in the ballroom, their hostess, Monique Skotakis, approached them. Alois reeled visibly when he felt the touch of her influence. He had extensive experience with the White Court. He had once been a thrall for years before being rescued…

Flashback: When Alois was a thrall of a White Court vampire, he needed to escape the gilded cage and regain his freedom. But would he succeed when he was thoroughly addicted to his mistress’ charms? Aspect: Former Thrall of the White Court

Monique saw his reaction and smiled. ’Which one of my kin let a prize like you get away?" she asked, sliding in close.

Looking at Alois’ new aspect, the GM held up a fate point and smiled. He suggested that Alois didn’t trust himself to reply, giving up his turn to try and influence the White Court through her for this turn and letting the GM choose where the White Court would start on the disposition map. He agreed and took the fate point.

Alois stared at her, blushing but not trusting himself to speak. Monique laughed and put her arm through his.

’I’m glad you came,’ she said.

‘Yes, indeed,’ said a rich voice with a noticeable but not overpowering Serbian accent. It was the Red CourtCount Valon ‘Val’ Dosti, the leader of the Red Court in Las Vegas. ‘But they won’t be here long. They might be a pleasant diversion, but we don’t want to forget the long-term view, would we?’

Count Dosti rolled Rapport to move the White Court pawn towards being enemies of the PCs by suggesting it would be foolish to associate with the here-today-gone-tomorrow White Council delegation when the Count and the Red Court would be around for the long haul. He got a fair success, moving the White Court.

Monique graciously removed her arm from Alois and turned more formally towards the rest of the group.

Daniel knew what had happened with Alois…

Flashback: Daniel, on a mission from the Venatori Umbrorum, visited Alois’ mistress and saw the wizard under her thrall, so he notified a White Council ally of his plight.

Daniel also knew that the disposition of the White Court would be very important to their mission. Monique was rumored to be a business mogul first and foremost, so he approached her on that level.

‘Our physical presence may be short-lived, but that doesn’t mean our influence will be,’ Daniel said, ’My organization has considerable resources and has been considering investing in Las Vegas. Perhaps we can discuss details at a later time?"

He rolled Resources to try and sway her with the offering of future business considerations. He succeeded solidly and the White Court moved back towards the White Council.

‘Ah, let’s not forget our own ongoing dealings,’ Count Dosti cut in.

Count Dosti also rolled Resources, trying to beat Daniel at his own game, but he fails. The White Court pawn doesn’t move.

Monique’s smile grows a little less warm as she turns to Count Dosti. She doesn’t say anything, but it’s clear that they’re both remembering something and Count Dosti realizes he made a misstep.

Marcovic decides to speak up as the representative of the White Council here.

Flashback: After Daniel’s tip, a warden visited Alois’ mistress. Marcovic was that warden’s apprentice. They negotiated an exchange and Alois came back with them. During Alois’ debriefing and ‘detox’ period, Alois and Marcovic became, if not friends, at least friendly acquaintances.

I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember what Marcovic rolled, but he also succeeded solidly and the White Court pawn moved all the way to the ‘Open Allies’ space on the map. I also can’t remember what the Count rolled, but he failed again.

Count Dosti tried to recover from his losses, but fails . He’s clearly angry, though he covers it with the required levels of decorum. Marcovic and Monique exchange some pleasantries and Monique offers the group free penthouse rooms at the Aria as long as they are in town and the friendship of the Skotakis clan.

The starting disposition of the White Court is ‘Openly Allies’

The Tower and the Warlock

A little later, the group notices the Warlock. At first glance, he seems like an absorbed, introverted intellectual, but that impression is quickly supplanted by an aura of power on many levels and the realization that his detachment is the outward sign of a sociopathic lack of empathy. He does not see people, but background data, threats, or tools.

Daniel’s stomach churns when the Warlock looks his direction. What does the Warlock know…?

Flashback: When Outsider trafficking rears its head in Las Vegas, Daniel must stop it at all costs. But will he succeed when Max Gray, the rebel warlock, tries to co-opt him into his schemes? Aspect: Potentially incriminating correspondence with Max Gray

Looking at the new aspect, the GM offer’s Daniel’s player a FP to be blocked form action when Max Gray arrives and Daniel’s too focused on avoiding suspicion to be at his best.

Max Gray approaches and begins to talking to Daniel. Daniel glances over and sees the Warlock watching them with a distracted squint.

Marcovic didn’t know the details, but he noticed the look and approaches the Warlock.

Flashback: No flashbacks for the two co-stars in Daniel’s story with Max Gray and the Warlock; since they just got there, we decide to treat the interactions at the ball as the co-starring.

Marcovic decided to run interference for Daniel and approached the Warlock. Marcovic enthusiastically set into a pitch (bordering on a lecture) on magic and ethics. Everyone who knows Marcovic tenses a little; he’s very… enthusiastic (you either love him or pray he doesn’t get you cornered at a party).

Marcovic rolls Conviction to impress the Warlock. The difficulty is pretty high for a number of reasons, but he manages to slide the Tower pawn a space or two towards alliance.

The Warlock hesitates, then begins arguing back. He certainly is convinced of anything, but he seems to be enjoying the conversation and his attention is drawn away from Daniel and Max (which was the goal).

Then Count Dosti’s right-hand man, the Red Court Infected Fisnik “Nikki” Kraja, meanders up and asks the Warlock who Max was talking to (drawing attention back to Daniel).

Nikki rolls Intimidation, loading his statement with a mixture of menace and mocking. He rolls about as well as marcovic did, sliding the Tower pawn back to the middle of the disposition map.

The Warlock glances over and his eyes narrow again.

‘Thank you for the conversation, Warden,’ the Warlock said in a calm but somehow frightening voice, ‘I am pleased by your civility and look forward to future conversations.’ With that, the Warden takes a step towards Max and Daniel.

Tom has also been watching the exchange from across the room. When he tells a young White Court vampire (who’s been drinking heavily) that he’s a werebear, she gigglingly asks him to transform. Tom knows about the danger to Daniel, so he obliges, doing a dance in bear form.

Flashback: Again, no flashback, since this is the co-star role.

Tom rolls Performance to create a distraction. He just succeeds, not moving the Tower token, but pulling the Warlock’s attention.

The Warlock stops and looks over when there’s a crash and loud laughter from across the ballroom. Tom, in bear form, is dancing and a crowd has gathered to watch.

Nikki shoots the bear an annoyed look and calls to Max loudly enough to cut over the laughter.

Nikki rolls Presence, competing for attention. He fails.

The Warlock doesn’t hear Nikki, but Max does and notices the Warlock is nearby. With a smirk, Max excuses himself and asks Daniel again to consider an alliance. Daniel is noncommittal and Max walks away before the Warlock looks back again. The Warlock seems distracted by something and wanders on to other concerns.

The starting disposition of the Tower is ‘Neutral’.

The Wild Hunt

A while later, Tom (back in human form) is shocked to see a goblin sidhe in the room. Tom knows this goblin well; it is Karsa, a head huntsman of the Wild Hunt.

Flashback: When Tom is in the path of the Wild Hunt, he must join the Hunt to survive. But will he be able to separate himself from the hunt again when part of him revels in it? Aspect: Thrill of the Kill

‘Tom! It is good to see you!’ Karsa says, approaching with an asymmetrical grin. All of his features are disturbingly asymmetrical and he radiates a feral aura of danger.

Looking at Tom’s aspect, the GM offers a fate point to lose his action as he struggles against the reminder of the Hunt that almost stripped his humanity completely. Tom’s player refuses, buying off the compel and rolling [I can’t remember what] to greet Karsa warmly as an old friend. He succeeds and the Wild Hunt token slides towards the group.

Tom greets him warmly and they fall into easy conversation.

Count Dosti steps in to try to bring the Wild Hunt around to the Red Court side.

The Count rolls Presence, playing up the predatory nature of the Red Court. He gets a marginal success, moving the Wild Hunt pawn a little, though it’s still solidly towards the group.

The Count joins the conversation, presenting himself as a fellow predator while getting in digs against the White Council (though not against Tom himself). Karsa welcomes the Count easily (Tom is not nearly as comfortable), and responds to the jabs at the White Council with deep laughter, then responds that he’s enjoying watching the war between two such great powers.

Alois jumps in at that opening…

Flashback: Alois found the near-feral Tom after the Wild Hunt and helped nurse him back to his humanity.

He plays up his own background in two world wars, showing confidence that the current Vampire War would end in the White Council’s favor.

Rex rolls Intimidation, digging at the Count. He succeeds, sliding the Wild Hunt pawn solidly to the very end of the map in their favor.

Count Dosti tries to load the conversation with greater implications and change it from a personal conversation to a political one.

The Count rolls Intimidation, too, to bring the benefits of alliance with the Red Court and the dangers of enmity. He fails.

Karsa seems greatly amused by the Count’s insinuations, easily mocking both sides and seemingly utterly unconcerned by the War or the potential ire of the Red Court.

Daniel wanders over from across the room.

Flashback: Daniel gave Tom, was still on teetering on the edge, a mission and a cause to help bring him all the way back.

Daniel hasn’t been part of the earlier conversation and comes in with a totally different tack.

Daniel rolls [I can’t remember] and criticizes the surrender to base, feral instincts (he is speaking more for Tom’s benefit than Karsa’s). Surprisingly, Karsa eats it up and the Wild Hunt pawn would have slid even further in favor of the group if it wasn’t already all the way towards ‘Open Allies’.

Karsa doesn’t seem insulted at all, and gets into the argument.

Count Dosti tries again, this time focusing on attacking the individuals rather than the White Council as a whole.

The Count rolls Deceit, weaving insinuations and half-lies to paint Alois (and by extension the White Council) as stuffed-up buffoons. He fails.

Karsa laughs heartily at Count Dosti’s insinuations and stories and Alois feels his ears going red, sure that the Count is swaying the Wild Hunt. Count Dosti clearly thinks so, too. Until Karsa excuses himself and warmly wishes both Tom and Alois a fond farewell, and even Daniel gets a warmer farewell than the merely polite farewell to Count Dosti. The Count is livid.

The Wild Hunt’s starting disposition is ‘Openly Allies’.

Two positive and a potential enemy merely neutral… can things continue this well?

The Winter Court

The Summer Court of the Fae was much more strongly represented in Las Vegas, but the Winter Court had an ambassador, the coldly seductive Jenni Skye. It’s Jenni who approaches the group first.

Marcovic feels the familiar rage in the pit of his stomach when he spots a servant of Winter at the ball. She notices him, too, and walks towards him with a cold smile and colder eyes.

‘Too bad this is Neutral Ground,’ Jenni said in a sultry voice, ‘I hope next time we have a chance to… resolve things.’

Flashback: When Marcovic’s entire village is wiped out by a winter storm made unnaturally vicious by fae from the Winter Court, he sets out for revenge. Can the trail of dead Winter fae continue indefinitely, or will Winter stop him cold? Aspect: Writes his name in Winter snow

Looking at Marcovic’s accent, the GM holds up a fate point to have him spend too long sorting his words and miss the chance for a retort (and so miss his turn). Marcovic’s player refuses, buying off the compel and rolling Intimidation to push Winter’s disposition farther away from his group and towards the enemy side of the map. He doesn’t roll great, but the difficulty was low and the Winter pawn slides a few spaces towards the enemy side of the map.

Marcovic assured her that he looked forward to that, too. They remain civil, but their eyes are both filled with fury.

Nikki notices the tense introduction, and steps in to do his part to make things worse.

Nikki rolls Empathy to get a handle on the details of the tension. He succeeds, learning Marcovic’s aspect about Winter and getting a free tag for later.

Tom steps in before things escalate.

Flashback: Tom was there in that small Balkans town when Winter attacked and he saved the young Marcovic from the initial assault.

Embarrassingly, I can’t remember what Tom rolled or if he succeeded.

The immediate tension eases a little, but the promise of future encounters is clear.

Nikki pushes further.

Nikki rolls Rapport, playing on the shared enmity, trying to link Winter’s anger at Marcovic with the Red Court’s war with the White Council as a whole. Even with the free tag from his last action, he fails. Winter is still on the hostile end, but doesn’t slide further.

Alois arrives to make a show of unity with his fellow White Council wizard.

Flashback: Alois helped Tom hunt down and kill the Winter fae behind the storm that killed Marcovic’s village.

Alois is civil on the surface, but makes it clear he’s on Marcovic’s side here.

Gah, I can’t remember his roll either!

Nikki realizes he doesn’t have to make the animosity worse, so he focuses on offering the Red Court’s willingness to help kill the whole group.

Again, I can’t remember the roll, but Nikki pushes the Winter pawn the rest of the way towards ‘Open Enemies’.

The conversation breaks off with a hiss from Jenni and tension thick enough to choke on. It’s clear that things are not over between them.

The starting disposition of the Winter Court is ‘Openly Enemies’.


And so ended the first half of character creation and the first session. Phases 1 and 2 of character creation still need to be completed, plus skills, powers, stunts, etc. are still only partially completed.

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Fifth Session ("Street Campaign")
Gambling with the Sun

The Call and a Plan

Giovanni, Jerry, John, Mark, and Sean are waiting for the call, but they aren’t waiting passively. Monique (Sean’s occasional client and a White Court vampire) has told them where Martha and her Red Court flunkies is waiting so the group has a chance to prepare. They are holed up in a warehouse in an industrial area.

Mark drives out ahead again to scope the warehouse out, since he the most experience with breaking and entering. The first thing he notices is that it isn’t abandoned. He also sees at least two guards who scream Mafia. Mark learns as much as he can about the layout without going in,

Meanwhile, the group prepares as well as they can. They hide the real copper ring disc and check the copy they got from Murkelhop in the Goblin Narket. Giovanni checks his guns. Mark had created some charms for them (sigils drawn on small wooden planks; effectively “potions”) to give some limited armor as well a charm for Giovanni that would veil him from sight from all but the most alert observers.

They also talk about John’s strange new ability to slow himself down and whether there’s any way that can be of use. John knows he can extend the range of the slowing effect (as evidenced by the car wreck the night before) and he’s done some experimenting, but he doesn’t know how far he can push it out. He does know, though, that the longer he holds the effect, the slower the area inside the effect gets compared to the outside world, at an exponential rate. He’s never held it long enough to know what the limit to how slow he can go is (or even if there is a limit).

While talking as a group, John hits on the idea that if he can slow down the entire warehouse and keep Martha and her vampire and mob goons from noticing, then they can drag the conversation out until dawn, knock down a wall or something, and give the vampires a nasty surprise. But he doesn’t know if he can make the effect big enough (it has to cover the entire warehouse or else someone’s going to notice that people suddenly seem to move at super speeds at the far side of the room…).

So he heads out to an uncrowded gas station parking lot roughly the size of the warehouse to practice and to test his range. But earlier he had been touched by Officer Plitt and had picked up a gambling addiction from that touch. John decided that a few coins in one of the slot machines in the gas station before getting started couldn’t hurt. A couple hours later he gets a phone call from Giovanni asking if he’s ready. Realizing what time it is (and being several hundred dolalrs poorer) John lies and says he’s good to go. Even though he knows he shouldn’t, something about the gamble of waiting until he needed it appealed to his new addiction. Besides, his luck had been terrible at the slot machines, so statistically it had to turn good now… right? Uh, right?

Working on the assumption that John will be able cover the whole warehouse and slow it down enough to make dawn come in a relatively short time, the group next turns to how to get sunlight into the warehouse as widely and quickly as possible so the vampires don’t have time to get out of the way. There’s a large truck bay door on the east side. Mark knows enough about garage doors to know where to pull hard to make the door collapse off its tracks and drop. So now they have a plan.

  • Mark sneaks back and puts hooks in the right place so that later (just after dawn)
  • Jerry will be waiting out of sight until just before dawn, then he’ll attach the prepared hooks to a truck and pull the door down almost instantly
  • Giovanni picks out his spot and he’ll wait with a rifle and the magical veil Mark gave him (he’s still got major injuries, including a gun shot and a broken leg, plus he’s better with guns than in a direct fight anyway)
  • Then Sean, John, and Mark will go in at the allotted time and stall until dawn (which will hopefully be quick)

Into the Bats’ Den

Sean’s cellphone rings; it’s one of Martha’s vampire flunkies with the place (which they already knew from Monique) and the time. Not surprisingly, they’re only got enough time to rush over (the vampires are trying to not give them any time to prepare).

Sean, John, and Mark arrive in Mark’s jeep (Giovanni will slip into place separately and Jerry is staying at least a few blocks away the whole time to make sure he isn’t caught).

The same two mob thugs Mark spotted before and waiting for them. They’re guided into the warehouse through the North entrance. The warehouse was laid out as a huge open floor, with several sections, including areas with permanent shelving, areas with stacked pallets with shrink-wrapped cases, and even a auto shop in the South-East corner.

Martha sat on top of a car parked over the auto pit; Sean’s family were under the car in the pit, held by guards. Several Mortal guards (they looked like mob) were spread throughout the warehouse, all aimed at Sean, Mark, and John. The two vampire flunkies were also there: Dirk in the car pit with Sean’s family, and Weasel with some of the mob thugs covering the three PCs.

Stalling for Time

John began pushing out his time-slowing effect. Sean and Mark were nervous, but not as nervous as John (who had lied about having practiced this before). To his relief, the effect spread rapidly and effortlessly. All of his past experiments had been cautious, focused on keeping the power from getting out of his control. When he let it go fully, it spread out with ease.

Now the group just had to stall for time until dawn. They couldn’t see outside, so there was luck and trust involved. Jerry would tear down the garage door with the truck and Giovanni would open fire as soon as teh sun came up enough. Jerry would have no idea what was going on inside and the groups inside wouldn’t know how long until the doors came crashing down.

Sean asked to see his family and Martha asked for the copper ring disc first. Sean’s mother called out, followed bya cry when one of the guards hit her and told her to shut up. Sean was tense as a wire, but kept his anger leashed; he needed to stay calm and stall for time to help them (but it wasn’t going to be easy).

Sean told her that he hadn’t brought the ring in; it was outside until he was sure martha had his family. Martha let him hear his family then told him to get the ring and be quick about it. She wasn’t worried about letting him go out unguarded since there were two guards waiting outisde the door who’d be able to watch him, plus she still had his family.

Sean went outside. The guards hadn’t noticed anything from the time slowing field and they acknowledged him, but didn’t say much. One of the guards was on his cell phone having an argument. From his half of the conversation, it was obviously a girlfriend or wife. The guard also obviously an abusive asshole. The other guard looked annoyed.

Sean avoided the temptation to look over to the spot where a hidden Giovanni was covering the guards with a sniper rifle as he walked over to his car. He opened the door and turned on the clock in the dashboard. He’d synched his watch and his car clock ahead of time, so he was able to check the discrepency to make sure that time was slowing and also to get some idea of the rate. The two times were already several minutes off, even though he’d only been in the warehouse a few minutes; things were going according to plan. One thing that meant is that he had to take his time outside since if he went right back in then the time he was outside would seem relatively very short to the vampires inside. So he rummaged slowly, trying to balance stalling against making the guards suspicious.

A Real Family Man

While Sean was digging through his trunk pretending to be searching for the disc (who knew right where it was, of course), another car pulled up. Sean watched as a young woman, at least eight months pregnant, got out of the car. She was hanging up her phone and the guard shut his phone at the same time and they started yelling. The girlfriend had come to continue the fight in person. The other guard said they were on duty but they both ignored him. The argument got ugly fast, then the first guard hit his girlfriend hard across the face.

Giovanni (a champion of God) was watching, too. He and Sean watched as the first guard pulled her into her car and the argument continued. There was more hitting, then the struggle changed. He tore at her clothes and she was trying to fight her off. The second guard glanced over several times, trying to get a look, but trying to keep alert, too. It became clear that he was going to rape her right there in th car.

The GM compelled Giovanni to get involved as a champion of God, but Giovanni bought off the compel, staying on task and not risking his cover. He showed that he was hard enough to watch something terrible happen to stay focused on the “greater good” (in this case staying hidden to protect his friends).

Sean, though, couldn’t do the same. He walked over and knocked on the passenger window. The driver side door opened and the first guard stuck his head out. He told Sean that he’d better have a damn good reason for interrupting him. Sean tried to play it causla and de-escalate the situation. He didn’t pull it off, despite his charm. The guard in the car was threatening to teach him to mind his own business and the other guard had his hand on his gun. Then the guard in the car pointed his gun at Sean. Things weren’t going well.

Sean saw the guard’s head explode before he heard the silenced bullet whiz by his ear; Giovanni had gotten involved when the guard pointed a gun at Sean. The other guard was frozen in shock long enough for Giovanni to take him out before he could react. The girlfriend started screaming.

Sean opened the car door and tried to shush her. No one rushed out of the warehouse, but that could have been because of the time delay. Giovanni hoped they wouldn’t investigate the screams, since they probably sounded like a chipmunk or something inhuman because of the time slowing.

Sean got her to be quiet long enough to tell her it was a mob hit and she was in danger if she went to the police. She was wide-eyed with shock and horror, but nodded. Sean knew she was a danger; police (or anyone else) coming in the next eight hours could mess everything up. But he wasn’t willing to tie her up or do anything else to “take care of the issue” more certainly. he told her to drive somewhere safe and hidden and stay out of sight for the rest of the night. Even though he felt sick doing it, he implied she was still in danger and they might come back to kill her, too.

Sean dragged the bodies out of sight from the warehouse entrance and from the road. It would have to do for now. Then he went back into the warehouse.

The First Exchange

Inside the warehouse, no one seemed any tenser than when he left, so apparently they hadn’t noticed anything. Sean walked up to stand by Mark and John and surreptitiously checked their watched against his. He wasn’t a math whiz, but it was clear that time in the warehouse was continuing to slow at an steadily increasing rate.

Martha asked if he had the ring and Sean held up the case. She said to open it and he said he’d show it to her after she released one of his family members. She agreed, since she still had the others as insurance. The vampire Weasel walked over to the pit, where the vampire Dirk half-handed, half-tossed one of Sean’s sisters up as if she weighed nothing. Weasel walked her over to Sean, Mark, and John. Then Weasel looked at the case meaningfully.

Both to stall for time and to try and get an advantage for later, Sean opened the case with exaggerated care as if it was laced with explosives. Martha’s eyes widened from across the room. Weasel (carefully) examined the ring and told Martha everything looked right. The decpetion seemed to be going swimmingly, until Mark (already tense from the stand-off and beginning to get very agitated as his PTSD flared up) turned and vomited from the stress of Martha’s stare (thanks to a compel). Her suspicions were raised and though she didn’t tell Sean to hurry in case it was loaded with explosives, she was now watching the whole group suspiciously and any future attempts at deception were likely to be harder to pull off. Since stalling was the name of the game, that wasn’t good news.

John spoke up and asked how they were going to work the exchange. After some negotiating, Martha let all of the family members except for Sean’s mother go. Once they were by Sean, then Sean would hand the case to Weasel. Once Weasel had teh ring, then they’d release Sean’s mother. His family (including the sister already released) couldn’t leave the warehouse yet (which was actually fine with Sean, since he had no way of telling them about the time slowing field and if they called the police or anything else, it could be disasterous).

Sean and John did what they could to drag the exchange out, but the time still came when everything was ready for the final switch. They had no way of knowing what time it was outside.

Martha jumped down from the car and walked with Dirk and Sean’s mother towards the case. Then the door was ripped off the hinges (just a few moments too soon). Weasel and Dirk were fully in the sun’s path and screamed as the light destroyed their flesh masks and began burning their rubber yblack skins. Martha was hir glancingly, but jumped quickly back into the darkness. Her flesh mask was tattered but not compeltely destroyed. Luckily she let go of Sean’s mother in the pain instead of ripping her arm off or dragging her back into the shadows.

Seemingly automatic gunfire erupted from outside as Giovanni opened fire (able to take his time aiming at the figures inside moving at a crawl. Mark burst into action, too, throwing one of his sticks covered in fire sigils to create a fire ball in a group with at least one of the vampires and some mob thugs. Sean threw the case with the ring disc at Martha (hoping to scare her that it would explode, appease her that she had the ring disc now, or hopefully both). And somewhere in the mix, John touched Martha’s arm… and stole a portion of her vampiric traits (her Hunger, flesh mask, claws, and inhuman strength) and in the process losing his ability to slow time.

Martha screeched inhumanly from the darkness. Dirk and Weasel had also disappeared into the darkness. There was enough darkness that the vampires were safe from the sun in that corner. The group decided to get out of there. There was no way they wanted to face off against the vampires in that corner, no way they’d get the vampires to come to them, and while the mob thugs were still recovering, some were still around and they were getting organized again, so waiting around wasn’t a good idea either. (They also thought about sending someone else there, but the vampires would either be gone by then, perhaps under a tarp in the back of a car or something similar, or else they’d likely be sending the cops into a death trap; it wasn’t like they had any vampire hunter friends.)

After the group were driving as fast as they could away from the warehouse, Sean’s mother asked him what he had gotten involved in. Sean didn’t answer but he told them he was sorry and they all should get out of town for awhile. They weren’t satisfied, but they were deeply shaken from having seen three people’s skin melt off to reveal bat-like monstrosities underneath as well as a whole night seemingly passing in half an hour. Sean made sure they were taking his instructions to leave town seriously before letting them go. He didn’t go with them, because he figured he’d put them in more danger by his presence.

Sean, Mark, Giovanni, and John knew they had made powerful enemies and that they wouldn’t get that lucky again. Jerry could have walked away (they’d never seen him) but he had nowhere else to go and no memories yet, except a feeling of being hunted. They decided to leave town.

They picked up the case with the real ring disc first, before heading out. They opened it to make sure the ring was still in there, but as soon as the sunlight hit it, the ring changed into a bunch of copper wire, branches, and leaves. They were sure they’d kept track of which one Murklehop said was the copy. Murklehop had given them back two fake copies.

Meanwhile, across the city, martha, Weasel, and Dirk made it to a Red Court shelter out of the sun. They opened their own case, only to find the same wire, branches, and leaves. Martha’s shriek was filled with inhuman fury… and fear. The Count would not be happy.


And so ends the first story arc of Giovanni, John, Jerry, Sean, and Mark. Read on as we introduce a small group of White Council wizards and their allies sent into the middle of a Red Court stronghold to shut down the Outsider trafficking at whatever cost.

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Fourth Session ("Street Campaign")
To the market we go...

Family First

Sean rejoins Giovanni, John, and Mark and fills them in on the kidnapping of his family by the Red Court and their demand that he bring them the ring disc if he wants to see them again alive.

The group settles on a plan to make a copy of the ring disc and give that to the vampires in exchange for the family. Mark and Giovanni both have decent crafting skills, but the ring disc has a distinct supernatural “feel” and they know it’s beyond their abilities to duplicate. They talk about ways to get a copy fast. The Goblin Market is thrown out, but most of the group is uncomfortable with that, except as a last resort, so they decide to visit Alfonso Sabio at the Bellagio again. Sean and Alfonso exchange some cryptic emails hinting that certain undesirable groups want the ring disc and they are looking to make a copy. Alfonso agrees to see them and says they’ll discuss the details in person.

Back to the Bellagio

At the Bellagio, they meet Alfonso and his assistant, Danielle. Alfonso greets Sean warmly and seems pleased to meet Giovanni and John. He’s cool to Mark. Mark looks at his feet while he apologizes for accusing Alfonso of evil intent. Alfonso accepts and insures Mark he has no intention of bringing about an apocalypse or any other form of harm. After mark is forced to apologize, Alfonso has Danielle bring the cart out again. It takes about five minutes and when teh cart comes it’s loaded with still steaming pot pies. (Alfonso and Danielle argue like a married couple; Alfonso says they were in a hurry and Danielle answers that she just found the recipe…). They head back to the sitting room and get down to the business of making a copy of the disc ring.

Alfonso asks why they need a copy. The rest of the group looks at Sean to make the decision what he says, since it’s his family. Sean tells Alfonso that vampires kidnapped someone’s family and are demanding the disc ring as ransom. Alsonso says that he’s still disappointed that they aren’t sellign the disc ring to Mr. Wynn, but that he’ll help them to keep it away from the vampires.

Alfonso can’t make the copy, but he has contacts throughout the market and tells them their best bet is to find Murkelhop, a faerie master craftsman in the Goblin Market. He’s the best forger available and he can make an exact replica in a coupel hours. Alfonso gives them directions to the Goblin Market (the entrance is in the back of a high-end boutique called the Black Swan just off Fremont Street). He also tells them there’s an gatekeeper at the entrance that everyone calls “Grandfather” that will probably give them some sort of task to compelte before he’ll gie them the password. They ask Alfonso why he can’t jsut give them the password and Alfonso answers them that Grandfather always seems to know who does that and he wasn’t going to risk losing access to the Market.

The group asks for the recipe to the pot pies from Danielle then they take their leave to seek out the Goblin Market.

‘No, I want real news…’

The group heads the several blocks from the Bellagion on the Strip to the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall downtown. They push through the crowds (the daytime crowd is less dense, but still significant). They walk past the Black Swan several times before they find it. Compared to the neon signs and the giant barrel canopy overhead, the Black Swan is only marked with a small, tasteful picture of a black swan over a stairway heading down to a store filling the bottom floor of a several story building.

When they walk in they’re met by a pretty, young hostess. Her professionalism slips just a moment when she sees the scruffy group (everything they have on combined costs less than the shoes the hostess is wearing) but she covers it quickly. She asks how she can help them. They glance around at the wares. Nothing has a price tag (if you have to ask, you can’t afford it).

Sean turns on the charm, getting a sincere smile form the hostess and says enough that she realizes they’re one of those customers so she sends them through a hallway in th back under a sign that reads: ‘Crafts and Custom Wood Carving’.

They pass by dressing rooms then through the hall to a small alcove in the back. A grizzled, small man dressed in old man clothes is sitting and whittling at a stick. Behind him is a thick battered wooden door that would look more at home in a medieval manor.

‘You want to go through, I suppose,’ the wizened man, obviously ‘Grandfather’, asks without looking up, ‘so what’s the passphrase?’

‘We were told you could help us.’

‘Oh, I can.’

‘…Well?’

‘Mortals. Always in such a rush.’ Grandfather finally looks up at them. ’I’m stuck back here. Tell me some news.’

The group look at each other then each tries thowing out headliens they can remember, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the elections to the economy.

‘Ugh, boring! I want real news,’ Grandfather says, clearly losing interest in the group.

Largely by accident, the group throws out a piece of gossip and Grandfather’s eyes light up. So Sean runs out and buys a People magazine. Grandfather oohs as he grabs it and begins flipping through it. They ask if they can go through and he tells them they still have to compelte a task. He rummages through a leather pack and pulls out a boxed set of DVD’s; it’s a complete season of the Penn and Teller show.

‘I already have Penn’s autograph. Get me Teller’s so it’s a set. They’re doing a show in Vegas right now."

The group exchange exasperated looks, but head out with the DVD in hand (they don’t let Mark hold it jsut to be safe).

With a mix of chutzpah, a hat, and a clipboard, Sean walks right into the stage where Penn and Teller are rehearsing as if he has every right to be there. He chats them up, somehow turning exasperation into bemusement and gets the sutograph with suprising ease. Then he walks out with a wave. The rest of the group are staring at him.

Back at the Black Swan, Grandfather gives them the passphrase (‘By Autumn’s knees, by Winter’s toes, by Summer’s hair and Spring’s nose, please, please let me in’) and let’s them in.

The Goblin Market

The doorway open onto a cobblestone path leading out of a short alleyway. shrubs line the walkway. There’s no dominant season; patches of snow, chill breezes, and red, yellow, and fallen leaves are mixed with spring buds, warm sunlight, and brillaint summer green. The market itself has a core of permanent shops built in a range of architectural styles surrounded by a much larger ring of temporary shops, stalls, carts, and hawkers. The whole market is a mish-mash of styles, from scores of Earth historical periods to otherworldly styles. And walking through teh market were humans, faeries, vampires, demons, spirits, and stranger things. The Market was Accorded Neutral Ground (and if the Unseelie Accords aren’t enough, the squat, vicious goblins patrolling the grounds with their disturbing assymetrical faces and eagerness for violence went a long way to keep shoppers in line).

The first person the group runs into is a small almost-human girl selling ribbons for a penny. The group each buy one (she digs a 1965 penny out of Sean’s offered handful of pennies and squeals with delight) and ask her where they can find Murklehop. She directs them to the heart of the market center.

Murklehop’s shop is inside of a cave with a finely-carved door. inside, Murklehop is an inhumanly round figure with a droppy moustahce, a dirty shirt, and a dirtier apron.

The ytell him what they want and he assures them he can do it. He brings up price. First he asks for Giovani’s faith, then John’s “gift”, then Mark’s magic, then all memories that bring Sean joy. They’re staring at him and don’t hear the door open again until a woman’s voice behind them tells them that Murklehop takes money, too.

Murklehop glowers and whines, ‘Fabienne, you did this to me 30 years ago, too!’

‘I can’t just stand by,’ the woman, apparently named Fabienne. She flashes a radiant smile at the group. She is stunningly beautiful in a bright, full of life way. She appears human (though it’s best not to make too many assumptions in the Goblin Market).

‘Fine,’ Murklehop says grudgingly, ‘but no U.S. dolalrs. I don’t want that Monopoly money. I’m a businessman! I follow economic policies (‘quantitive easing’, bah!). I want something that will still be worth something in 20 years. I want $40,000 equivalent in gold or Swiss Franks.’

The group bargain him down to $32,000 (taking a big chunk of the money they still have from the briefcase from James Fendler the murdered member of the Venatori Umbrorum).

Fabienne asks them if it’s their first time in the Goblin Market. When they ask why she thinkg that, she points at the ribbons and tells them not to tie the ribbons up in any little girl’s hair unless they wanted them to wake up strangled. Then she wishes them well and says she has business to conduct with Murklehop.

As they’re leaving to find a money changer or gold trader, they hear Murklehop asks Fabienne how the ‘Sun King’ was doing. She answers that he’s up to the usual, still working on his grand quest.’ Then they hear Murkelhop say something abotu the usual price and the door closes.

The money changer changes the bearer bonds in the briefcase into gold at a 5% exchange rate. The gold comes in the form of Kruger Rands from Apartheid South Africa. With a sack of gold coins, the group heads back to Murklehops workshop. The door is closed with a sign not to disturb.

Thirty minutes later the door opens and Murklehop gestures them in. He holds up two boxes.

’There you go; perfect copies," he says proudly. And the two ring discs are indeed identical, from age marks to scratches down to the unsettling aura around each. They tie a ribbon around the first to keep clear which one is the copy for the Red Court.

Rush Hour

As they’re leaving, John fails to notice a small pick pocket with a fox’s tail reach in his pocket until the thief’s hand brushes his bare siade and he feels a jolt as his power activates. He grabs the thief’s wrist and the fight over what’s in his hand (a cell phone).

The rest of the group sees the two struggle. The two are moving in slow motion (John hasn’t noticed yet.

John gets the phone back and teh pick pocket gets away. As soon as John lets go, the thief moves at such blinding speed that he’s gone in a blur.

John is still moving in slow motion (he’s stolen the power of Slowness from the pick pocket, who apparently needed it to slow down enough to interact withthe Market). The group has to drag John through the Market and out through the Black Swan, then Fremont Street to their car, all while he’s still moving at a crawl. Then they get in their car and hop on I-15 to the next stop.

As they’re driving, suddinely John’s slowness blossoms out to include the entire car. Suddnly traffic around them seems to speed up and a split moment later another car smashes into their back side. The spin out from the collision is also in slow motion, and the other car is slowed to their speed as soon as it enters their vicinity.

They speed bakc up to normal (including John) and the other driver is saying that they came to almost a complete stop almost instantly, with no break sounds. The cope some around, brush off teh man’s story and give the ticket to him, since he was following and the group was in their lane.

Visitors at Home

Back at Sean’s shop, they try to finish any last minute preparations while they wait for the Red Court to call with the rendevous time and place. Then there’s a knock at the door.

It’s Monique, who has hired Sean for strange jobs invovling the supernatural before. She tells Sean she’s heard he’s having trouble with the “Reds”; one of her associates was at Tony Demeo’s party and heard his conversation. Sean and Mark remember a woman there at the end who had a similar disturbing but scintillating presence as Monique.

She then tells them that if they just go in guns blazing, then they’ll die. She tells them she knows where teh rendezvous will be and also tells them some of the Red Court weaknesses (sunlight burns them and they have no armor on their belly).

And so ended the fourth session. Tune in next time for the rescue (or slaughter?) of Sean’s family from the Red Court vampires.

View
Third Session ("Street Campaign")
Family, Friends, and Psychotic Vampires

Interrogated in a Hospital Bed

Giovanni is taken to Valley Hospital Medical Center to be treated for his serious gunshot wound. After he is stabilized and moved to a room to recover, he is interrogated by the LVMPD (detectives Elaine Marquis and Arnold Duquette). Det. Duquette quickly steps into the abrasive, accusatory ‘bad cop’ role, while Det. Marquis takes the reasonable, sympathetic ‘good cop’ role.

(Giovanni doesn’t know it, but Det. Marquis and Sean have old history, once being close until lifestyles on opposite sides of the law broke them apart).

Duquette begins the investigation asking Giovanni’s name and Giovanni plays up his accent, pretending to have much worse English than he actually does. After that there are several rounds of questioning. There’s some initial questions about whether Giovanni and John were acting in self-defense, which moves to questions on why Giovanni had assault rifles in the trunk of his car (he owns a gun shop) and why he pulled them out (four gunmen against two), then on to whether Giovanni had any idea why the gunmen would attack them (Giovanni speculates that some minor problems he had with gangs in his gun shop in California might have followed him).

Then Giovanni drops most of the trumped-up aspect and asks abruptly: ‘Look, did I break any laws?’

‘If the story you’re telling us is true, then no,’ Marquis answers slowly while Duquette glares at Giovanni suspiciously becaujse of his shift in speaking patterns.

‘Feel free to dig into my past, but all I’m saying without a lawyer is self-defense.’

‘Give us something, anything.’

After a considering pause: ‘Look into the Venatori Umbrorum.’

‘The what? What is that? Like… some kind of cult or something?’ Marquis asks.

‘Do we need tinfoil hats?’ Duquette adds, snorting.

’I’m done.’

Marquis tells Giovanni that they’re going to hold him in the hospital for awhile while they check out his story.

‘Can I ask just one more question?’ Marquis asks.

’I’m done.’

Duquette leaves first. As Marquis is leaving, she turns and asks again if she can ask just one more question. Giovanni tells her she can ask.

‘Are you sincere about these, what did you call them, Venatori Umbrorum?’

Giovanni justs looks at her seriously.

‘Alright, I’ll keep that in mind.’

New Friends

Jerry cracks his eyes open and squints against the bright lights. He has no idea where he is. There’s muffled voices coming from nearby. Jerry’s eyes adjust enough to see two detectives walk by the open doorway of the small room he’s in. He smells antiseptic cleaners.

He passes out again.

Bad Vibes in a Police Interrogation Room

John is taken to a LVMPD station by Officer Plitt, who responded to the scene. John has stopped crying, but he’s still shaken.

They walk into an interrogation room: concrete walls and floor, table bolted to the floor, and a flimsy plastic chair. As they walk towards the chair, John can feel waves of psychic impressions like a pressure against his skin; this is a place where intense emotions have left strong impressions.

‘Have a seat,’ Officer Plitt says.

John eyes the chair and it’s promise of an intense vision and the corresponding “fit” (while the GM holds up a fate point; it’s a compel either way unless he buys out and takes some easy, boring route).

’It’s… filthy,’ John says a little desperately, planting his feet (and taking the fate point).

‘You want a new chair?’

‘Yes, please.’

‘…Um, no, you’re not getting a new chair!’ Plitt tells him to sit again. John doesn’t move. "Are we going to have to get physical?’ Plitt is getting annoyed and threat is creeping into his voice. ‘Sit in the damn chair!’

When John doesn’t move, Plitt calls in another officer and they grab him. Plitt touches John first and…

…he’s outside of his house (not John, but in the vision he experiences it as if it was him). Overwhelming sadness. He doesn’t want to enter…

…the horrible things he’s seen…

…compromises are made, major compromises and minor compromises one after another, at first to cover gambling debts, then for extra cash, then because it’s too late to back out…

…he walks away, he turns a blind eye, he lets things happen, and people get hurt…

…it’s like a cancer inside, growing and hurting and killing him inside…

…he used to like his job, take pride in making a diffence; not anymore…

…he’s on the edge of hurting someone, himself or someone else…

John comes back to the present. He can still feel the after-tremors of his convulsions. He also feels pain in his wrists; he’s been handcuffed to the table. Across the room, Plitt is starting at him.

’We’re going to have, um, someone come talk to you," Plitt says to John. To the other officer Plitt says, ‘go get Dr. Reynolds.’

Driving around town with “friends”

Mark is driving without a real destination while Sean watches the two injured thugs in the back seat.

‘Where are we heading?’ Mark asks.

‘I know a place… usually the bodies are already dead when I take them there, but that can be remedied,’ Sean answers, pretending to be musing to himself.

Sean turns on the charm, offering the carrot of freedom in exchange for answers. He asks who Jacky Moreno is and why he ordered the hit.

The thugs answer that they don’t know; jacky calls them with jobs and pays well. That’s all they know.

‘Where can we find him?’

‘He works out of his sister’s restaurant, the Blue Flamingo. They’re Italian, but it’s a Cuban restaurant. I don’t know why. Good Cuban, though.’

‘How much did he pay you?’

‘$1,000 each, $500 up front.’

‘To go up against assault rifles? You should have asked for more.’

‘We didn’t know that! It was supposed to be easy!’

‘Give me the money.’

‘Ah, man, really?’

‘You tried to kill us… and we’re still deciding what to do with you.’

Reluctantly, the two thugs each cough up $500 and hand it all to Sean.

‘We could still kill them,’ Sean says to Mark.

‘No,’ Mark answers, ‘we don’t have to kill them… oh, you’re joking.’ Mark says it flat, not smiling.

The Blue Flamingo

The Blue Flamingo restaurant is busy, clearly possible. Mark pulls out a small wooden plank, a paint stirrer covered in painted sigils (it’s a ‘potion’ he’s created to detect supernatural entities). He goes in first, glancing at the sigils. Satisfied with what he sees, he gestures to Sean to enter. There are not supernatural entities in the restaurant (or is there are, then they’re strong enough to cloud Mark’s spell).

= * = * =

[The below is in rushed form because I was running out of time. I’ll update it in more detail later…]

In the Blue Flamingo, Mark and Sean interrogate Jacky. Jacky looks like crap and is obviously rattled. He tells them that the order comes from vampires and is on-plussed when instead of calling him crazy they ask “which kind?”. He doesn’t know there are different kinds, but gives enough description that they’re dclearly Red Court. when they take it in stride. Jacky directs them to Tony Demeo, a higher-up mob lieutenant and gives the address of his condo.

Hi, I’m Dr. Reynolds

Dr. Reynolds, the department shrink, questions John, focusing on his fit and whether he feels he needs help or should be institutionalized again for his own good. John tells him the sotry of the shooting and tells him that the fit was just epilepsy and not a reason to lock him up again.

It’s a Party at Tony’s

Sean and Mark decide on the same plan with Tony that they used with Jacky: Walking up, dropping their names, reference the attempoted killing, and then interrogate him when he comes.

It doesn’t work quite as planned.

First, Tony is much higher up, wealthier, and more collected than Jacky. Sean and Mark barely get in the door and Tony, in the hottub with some Playboy Bunny types, barely gives them the time of day. He does eventually talk to them. He telsl them Jacky is a dead man for ratting to them, then adds that the “reds” are after them, so they’re walking dead men, too. He then throws out with a smirk that their friend in the hopsital (Giovanni) is a sitting duck and one of the Reds has a personal grudge against him. In fact, he’s probably already dead.

Sean and Mark excuse themselves to rush to the hospital.

Hospital Food

Giovanni is eating jello. He doesn’t notice the woman until she’s right by him. She’s got curly hair and a cute, round face. She tells him she’s glad she found him, then seems distracted by all his blood. She touches his chest and tells him he needs to rest. His holy touch flares up and she recoils in shock and pain.

Can’t a Recovering Hellhound Get Any Sleep Around Here?

Jerry hears the shriek form the next room and is now fully awake.

Can I talk to you later, Mom?

Mark is driving fast towards the shopstial when Sean gets a call. Caller ID says it’s his mom. She’s scared and insistent that he come over right away. he asks if it can wait and she says they’re not safe.

Mark (an ex-car thief) hotwires a car then keeps driving to the hopsital while he lets Sam take his jeep to help his family.

Don’t Leave Town

Dr. Reynolds eventually clears John. Detective Marquis arrives and tells him he’s free to go, but not to leave town. She offers him a ride to the hopsital to see Giocanni since she’s heading that way anyway.

Snap!

The vampire can’t get close enough to touch him directly, so she picks up his entire hospital bed and throws it against the wall. Giovanni’s leg snaps (Severe consequence) and he screams with pain.

Rival Predators

Jerry doesn’t know what’s going on, but he smells a rival predator nearby. Instinctively he slips out to check things out and either drive the rical off or (if outclassed) head out himself.

In the hallway he sees three “professor” types walk by, then hear the screams and rush back with guns half hidden by their sides.

Jerry slips back into his room.

The Cavalry?

Giovanni sees the three men enter in a mirror set in the ceiling from where he’s still lying between the toppled bed and the wall (his leg at an impossible angle).

They say something in Latin, then the vampire growls that it isn’t over and jumps out a window before running away in a blur.

Giovanni recognizes the three men as being from the order he was raised in before he faints from pain.

About the same time, John shows up with the two detectives in tow.

Mark also shows up at the same time, sees the detectives, and slips into the nearest room, where Jerry is sitting on his bed.

Family Reunions

Sean arrives to see the cars of several of his brothers and sisters parked in front of his house. Sean is the youngest of 8 kids. His brothers Finn and COnnor are there, along with his sisters Dierdre and Kennedy. Almost everyone in his family are either criminals, cops, or married to criminals or cops.

Inside everyone’s sitting around the table. They set in on Sean asking what’s he’s done now. They’re all being followed and watched and kennedy was asked on campus at UNLV if she was his sister. They’re scared. Sean says he’s taking care of it. There’s a family fight, interrupted when there’s a knock at the door. Sean’s dad invites someone in and two Red Court vampires (Dirk and Weasel) come in, now that the Threshold has been parted for them by the invitation.

Sean and some of his brothers try to fight them off, but the two vampires are far too strong, toughm and fast. They take all the siblings and parents, and leave Sean, telling him that they’ll call him tomorrow and give him a place and a time. If he doesn’t bring the disc, then his family will all be killed.

Visiting the Venatori Umbrorum

The detectives eventually leave and Giovanni talks to the three other members of his order. More is said, but the main gist is that they kow the Venatori Umbrorum and consider them allies for the most part, though there are rumors of a group within the group whose motives are less clear. They give Giovanni the address of the Venatori’s temporary headquarters in Vegas.

(Meanwhile, Mark and Jerry talk with the outcome being that Jerry tags along while Mark vouces for him to the group).

The group heads out to visit the Venatori. Their headquarters is some office space off the Strip. The building is closed, but they show the security guard the ring they took off James Fendler earlier and they’re let in.

They talk to Patrick Uman, a leader of the Ventori delegation, along with a coupel other Venatori. They notice that the rings they wear are similar but different (they don’t have a sword in the design).

The questioning starts friendly. They learn that the sword on the ring denotes a certain rank within the order (a mark of seniority).

They ask about the copper ring artifact and learn that the Venatori are looking for it (and still want it) and that it’s ancient Mesopotamian in origin. They know what it is and offer more money to buy it (and mention they know they still have the earlier $70,000, which the group neither confirms nor denies).

The Venatori ask what they intend with the disc. The group says they plan to destroy it. Patrick urges them not to, saying that if they try it will amke them enemies of the Venatori.

Giovanni questions their motives in trying to prevent them. Patrick answers that the group doesn’t really know what it does, so how do they know whether it’s a tool for summoning Outsiders or a tool against them. Giovanni pauses at that.

Finally, John describes the man he saw in his vision beating up Benny in the Storm Drains and stealin a bundle from him. Patrick looks uncomfortable, then tells them they can confront Daniel themselves and he can defend himself. They can request an appointment.

View
Second Session ("Street" Campaign)
Unwanted Attention

Rise and Shine

When the group wakes up the next morning, they go over their plans again, and then split up. Sean and Mark head out for their appointment with Alfonso Sabio to see what they can learn about the ring disc artifact and the signet ring they took off the murdered buyer, James Fendler. Giovanni and John start the search for the vagrant who offered to sell them another ring disc with similar designs and markings to the one they already have.

Looking for Benny

Giovanni and John only have two clues when they set out looking for the vagrant: He appeared to be homeless and his left eye was completely covered with thick cataracts.

Luck is on their side (or rather Giovanni’s status as a champion of God kicks in with the usual fringe benefit of almost outrageous coincidence helping him along). They stop for gas and while they’re filling up, a homeless woman in a dirty baseball cap is staring at John. John is still frazzled from the psychic backlash of his vision the night before and the homeless woman’s stare is seriously getting to him. He walks into the convenience store, purposefully walking near her to get a better look. She continues staring at him, even walking up to the window and staring in at him when he walks inside.

Giovanni notices the exchange and walks up to the woman. She reeks. He asks her if she needs any money and slips her some bills. She looks at him long enough to take the money and mutter thanks. She turns back to stare at John and asks Giovanni of he’s his friend. Giovanni nods.

’He’s terrified,’ the woman says, ’I’ve seen that look before.’

Giovanni describes the vagrant they’re looking for and asks if that’s who she’s talking about.

She nods. ‘Yeah, him…,’ she trails off, clearly concerned.

‘I can help,’ Giovanni tells her. She stares at him a moment.

‘Are you a priest?’

‘I can be.’

‘He needs help,’ the woman says, turning back to watch John, who has started walking towards the exit. ‘He sleeps in the storm drains.’

John walks up to Giovanni and the woman and tries to join the conversation with his usual charm, but he’s still rattled and her stare is rattling him, and he barely manages to get a half-coherent stumbling line out. Blushing, he backs off and lets Giovanni do the talking.

’You’ve been scared like Benny,’ the woman says to John. John stares at her in silence. ’I’ll take you to him. Wait.’ With that, the woman walks into the convenience store and uses the money Giovanni gave her to buy some cigarettes and Ho-Ho’s. Giovanni follows her and buys some of the same brand of cigarettes and Ho-Ho’s, too, with the plan of using it as a bribe or bargaining tool when they meet ‘Benny’ (which is apparently the name of the homeless guy they’re looking for).

After that they get in the car. The woman’s smell is overpowering in the confined space.

’I’m Lacy,’ she says. Giovanni and Mark give her their names, too. ‘You guys not from around here?’ she asks, because of Giovanni’s name.

’I’m from Ohio,’ John says. The conversation dies off.

Giovanni parks their car in a parking garage and they call a cab to drive them to the storm drain entrance Lacy gave them (Giovanni doesn’t want to leave his car there). The taxi driver is clearly less than pleased to have Lacy in his car, with her smell, and he’s surprised when they ask him to drop them on the side of the road away from anything. In the end, he shrugs, takes their money, and drives away.

They walk down into concrete canal that leads to the storm drains entrance tucked under the freeway underpass. The grating over the entrance has been cut and Lacy peels it back so they can enter. They turn on their flashlights (they had expected they’d eventually need to go into the storm drains) and step into the black tunnel.

Under the Bellagio

Meanwhile, Sean and Mark arrive at the Bellagio, where Alfonso has his office. They walk through the art museum in the Bellagio; both of them scope out the exits and security while paying little attention to the art displays, including several famous pieces on loan from the Museum of Modern Art. They find a hostess at a desk and introduce themselves.

‘You must be Alfonso’s guests,’ she said, ‘He’s expecting you. Here’s your card. Take that elevator behind the Jackson Pollock painting.’ Neither of them recognizes the name, but she’s too professional to sigh as she points it out.

There is an attendant at the elevator who is obviously more than just an attendant. A tingle of the supernatural surrounds him. The attendant asks for their cards and explains how to use the cards to control the elevator; they won’t be able to go to any floor not programmed on the cards. All of the other elevator controls (such as the emergency stop) are covered by a glass cover that would have to be broken to access the controls. They also notice that several floors are skipped by the elevator.

After they swipe their card, the elevator takes them to the 4th sub-basement. They are let out into a spacious reception area decorated in white marble. There’s no one there to greet them.

Another Day, Another Body

’I’ll show you where he stays,’ Lacy tells Giovanni and John as they pick their way through the dark tunnels. ’Don’t embarrass me around him, he’s my special friend. Don’t talk unless I say it’s okay.’ She finishes her smoke. ’I’m nervous. I hope he’s okay.’

As they walk, they pass through several ‘rooms’ where homeless have set up homes. They have a surprising number of amenities, from mattresses to ‘showers’ rigged out of large water bottles to battery powered radios and alarm clocks. Lacy greets most of them by name and it’s clear they know her and are used to her passing through.

’We’re getting close to Benny’s place,’ she says. The she repeats her request that they not embarrass her in front of him. ’He’s nice, don’t get the wrong idea,’ she adds at their expressions.

They get to a small ramp that leads up to a raised ‘room’ blocked off with ‘walls’ made of draped cloth and plastic. She tells them to wait while she heads up first. Both Giovanni and John get a bad feeling, but they let her go alone (in part because of a compel of Giovanni’s naiveté aspect).

Moments later Lacy howls and runs out of the room and past them. She looks terrified and she’s sobbing. They let her run off. They figure she knows the area better than they do anyway and after all, she’s running away from the danger. They barely glance after her; instead looking at the ‘room’ Lacy just ran out of. Only later do they realize she had dropped her light and ran back into the tunnels in the dark.

They go into Benny’s room. John sees a large spider on the wall and gets the irrational feeling that it’s watching him, judging him, and that it thinks he shouldn’t be there. John squishes the spider as he walks past.

Inside the room, Giovanni finds the body almost immediately with his flashlight. It’s similar to the bodies in the warehouse last night: the same look of fear, the same vivid strangle marks around his neck from a cord. There are signs of struggle all around the ‘room’, but the body is lying with arms at its side (something about it makes them think that it didn’t struggle against the strangling itself). They also see that one of the staring eyes is filmed over with cataracts; it’s Benny.

They look for clues the old fashioned way (though John’s hands are already twitching at his side to reach out and touch the body). They find dozens of valueless trinkets in Benny’s pockets and on his jury-rigged shelves, such as a cheap plastic ring with a shiny fake jewel in his pocket, a carved bone on a string around his neck, and dozens of soda bottle lids in another pocket.

John knows he shouldn’t touch the body, especially after only the night before touching another victim of the same killers almost broke him. But… one compel later he touches the body:

John is looking down from the ceiling. The room is muted in sepia tones. Indecipherable whispering fills the room, coming from all sides. Benny is still alive, sitting on his mattress and reading a book and scribbling in the margins. Another man enters the room, dressed in quality utilitarian clothes. Benny is scared at the man’s entrance, though not terrified. The man seems in a hurry, but Benny is shaking his head ‘no’. The man is yelling at Benny (the words are lost underneath the omnipresent whispering). There’s a struggle. The man hits Benny repeatedly then pushes him back. Benny hits his head against the concrete floor. Benny’s too dazed to stop the man from reaching his jacket pocket and pulling out a filthy bundle wrapped in rags. On his finger is a ring with the same marking as James Fendler, the buyer from the warehouse last night.

Then the man looks up sharply. A grating high on the wall bursts out and one of the killers from the warehouse steps out. The man who took the bundle runs out of the room and down the ramp John and Giovanni will come up later. Benny seems transfixed, staring at the killer.

The killer splits into two identical copies of himself. One chases the man with the bundle and quickly is out of range of the vision. The other copy approaches Benny and pulls out a strangling cord. His hands seem much older than the night before with wrinkles and age spots as if he’s aged a decade. Benny doesn’t struggle as he is strangled.

John struggles against the intensity of the vision and it takes him several moments before he can shut it off (since the first session we changed his power from Psychometry to a variant of the Sight). He gets battered a bit, but nothing like the night before. He’s shaking slightly as he tells Giovanni what he saw and the handful of useful facts and insights he got out of the vision:

  1. The hooded killers from the warehouse are in fact a single killer with the ability to be in several places at the same time
  2. Benny was a spiritual guide of the storm drains and had some minor amount of power himself (in fact, John was able to draw on some of his lingering presence to help wrestle control over the vision so he could shut it off)
  3. The man who stole the filthy package (most likely Benny’s disc ring, though that wasn’t confirmed) had the same ring as the prospective buyer from the night before

John feels a certain connection to Benny; especially after he’s pretty sure some lingering part of Benny helped him shut down the vision. He asks Giovanni to close Benny’s eyes and they cover him with a blanket to give him as much dignity as they can. When they leave, they make sure to tell several of the people they pass what happened to Benny and where to find him.

Caviar and Demons

Back in the white marble room below the Bellagio, Sean and Mark look around and try to figure out what to do first. There is a large reception desk with a door behind it. There’s also a hallway on the other side of the room. They look at the desk and see that it’s never really been used (though everything has been kept dusted and clean). There are no clear voices or other signs of occupancy behind either the door or down the hallway. They decide to try the door first so Mark knocks.

A man’s voice with a thick accent yells: ‘One moment! Danielle, we have guests.’ An older, matronly, ‘pleasantly plump’ woman (Danielle) opens the door wide enough to slip out.

’You’re the appointment,’ Danielle says. Then she hurries down the hallway across the room and comes back pushing a cart loaded with refreshments.

‘Help yourselves,’ Danielle says, gesturing to the cart, ‘Mr. Sabio will be right with you. We don’t get many visitors down here. Here’s very excited to see you; you must be very important.’ Then Danielle slips back through the door, closing it behind her.

The cart has expensive refreshments on the top (high-quality wine, teas, even caviar) as well as more ‘low brow’ snacks in the bottom compartment (soda, chips, Oreos, etc.).

Mark and Sean wait in awkward silence for about 15 minutes before Danielle comes out again.

‘Mr. Sabio will see you now,’ she says as she leads them in. As they pass by her, Mark can sense that she’s supernatural in some way, perhaps a practitioner.

Alfonso Sabio is a pleasant-seeming older gentleman in a sweater vest, pink button-up shirt and wireless glasses, with graying curly hair around the sides around his balding scalp. The room is warm (in contrast to the cold formality of the marble entrance room), with lots of comfortable old-world furniture and rich colors. After some initial formalities (on the part of Sean; Mark is uncomfortable and starting to feel mildly paranoid) they get down to the artifact and the ring.

They start with the ring. Alfonso tells them that it’s the symbol of the Venatori Umbrorum, a society of seekers and caretakers of knowledge. He doesn’t know much about them, but does know that they’ve been in town before and that they showed up again a few weeks ago. He adds that Mark and Sean must either be members or have been in interesting company lately, since the rings are not generally available to outsiders. Sean smoothly says that they came across it and were just curious.

Next, they get to the artifact (still imbedded in the back of the cursed bible). Alfonso mentions that the bible recently was stolen just before going up on auction a few weeks ago right there in Las Vegas. Sean lies smoothly, but Mark (never a good liar and too edgy at the moment to even try thanks to his PTSD) botches it up and all but admits they stole it. Alfonso and Danielle don’t seem surprised or bothered. Danielle is watching Mark in a motherly, faintly bemused way, and mark is getting more and more agitated.

’I’d like to buy the disc,’ Alfonso says. Mark looks at Sean, trying to decide if he should mention that it’s cursed and probably can’t simply be bought.

‘Can we?’ Alfonso asks Danielle, seemingly in answer to Mark’s unasked question. Danielle hesitates a moment, looking at the bible, then nods confidently.

’I’m sorry, it’s not ours to sell,’ Sean answers.

‘I don’t know if he’d mind, though…’ Mark adds, thinking about the trouble the bible has caused them and threatens to cause in the future, but Sean shakes his head.

‘What can you tell me about it?’ Sean asks Alfonso.

‘Many people are going to desperately want it,’ Alfonso says, looking directly in Sean’s eyes.

‘How many of them are there?’ Sean asks instead of responding directly.

‘Most accounts say that there are 2 or three discs like this one. They’re connected in some way with the outer plains. They aren’t really part of our reality. I really couldn’t say more within the chance to research it and I feel that my employer, Mr. Wynn, would really want me to either purchase the artifact or charge a professional research fee before continuing.’

Sean starts to say something, but Mark (acting on a compel of his high concept as a spirit hunter) bursts in, accusingly asking what Alfonso or Mr. Wynn would want with an abject that dealt with spirits and bringing them into our world. (Mark’s experiences with spirits and entities from the Nevernever or Outside have all been very negative and he believes that all spiritual entities that come into our world are intrinsically harmful if not outright evil). And if Alfonso is interested in buying the disc, knowing what it deals with, then he’s no better.

Mark begins yelling, while Sean, Alfonso, and Danielle all try to keep things calm and reasonable.

’We’re done here!’ Mark says, shaking with anger. Alfonso is angry, though still much calmer and more professional than Mark, and politely throws them out.

They leave on their own, though Mark has probably burned any bridges to working with Alfonso in the future.

After they leave, Mark apologizes. He says he knows they should have tried to get more information or something. Sean thanks him for giving them a good reason to leave without more pressure about selling. Mark only half believes that Sean means it, but he’s still grateful.

Deposit Boxes and Flashing Lights

After Alfonso said that many would desperately want the Sean has experience, Sean is eager to get the bible somewhere safe. There have already been four murders seemingly tied to the disc (Sean and Mark don’t know about Benny’s murder yet). Sean has experience dealing with ‘hot’ goods and he goes to several banks with safe deposit boxes, taking pains to obfuscate where he actually leaves the box with the bible and disc inside. And before depositing it, Mark added some sigils to the box to block any supernatural attempts to find the box.

It takes several hours, but eventually they deposit the box and are satisfied that even if they are being followed or someone tries to investigate the box later, they’ll have a hard time figuring out where it is.

As they’re leaving the last bank, they are pulled over by a LVPD officer. It’s Officer Plitt, a corrupt cop Sean has dealt with before.

‘Well, well, well, look who it is,’ Officer Plitt says when he looks in and sees Sean. ‘You didn’t signal before your last turn. License and registration, please.’ While Sean is getting them, Officer Plitt asks Mark his name.

Sean starts talking to Officer Plitt, keeping him distracted. A few minutes later, Plitt’s partner calls him on his hand radio and tells him who Mark is and a little of his past.

’Isn’t that interesting,’ Officer Plitt says, ‘You two in business together now?’

Sean intentionally misunderstands him, stating that he’s an honest businessman now. Officer Plitt snorts, but shortly after that he sends them on his way. Only as they’re driving off does he look at his ticket pad and realize that Sean distracted him from ever writing the ticket.

Giovanni and John had gotten back to their parked car and pulled out nearby in time to see Sean and Mark talking to the cops. They waved at them to make sure they saw them, then waited and met up with them after they pulled away. The two cars met up at Billy’s Diner and the two teams fill each other in on what they’ve seen and learned.

…Assault Rifles!?!

After some waffles, they head back to Sean’s apartment. Both cars pull into the alleyway behind Sean’s shop and park. They get out and start walking towards the door that leads up to the apartment above the shop. None of them notice the gunmen.

Gunfire opens up from both sides. Mark and John get behind cover safely, and Sean is only grazed. Giovanni is hit squarely and blood is suddenly everywhere (a moderate consequence with the aspect: ‘So much blood!’).

It takes a moment for the group to get their bearings and locate the four gunmen (one behind them at the entrance and three in front of them down the alleyway). None of them are far away in the small alleyway (the alleyway covers two zones and anyone can be reached with a supplemental action move).

Mark throws a sigil-covered knife and it sticks into the leg of one of the thugs (a minor consequence).

John has a pistol and lays down cover fire to give Giovanni a chance to get out of the middle of the alleyway (a Block action).

Sean tries to shake them by yelling out that the police are right behind them (a Deceit attack) and gets a brief hesitation but no more (1 stress attack).

Giovanni sprints into his car; pulling down the back seat to get at his assault rifles in the trunk (he owns a gun shop). He pulls out two rifles and tosses one to John.

The gunmen hit in the leg with Mark’s knife runs (well, limps) away.

The other three open keep firing. None of them hit, though the one shooting at Giovanni should have hit (Giovanni was protected by divine providence).

Mark, using one of his sigils he drew earlier (effectively a ‘potion’) pulls the knife out of the leg of the first gunman with a magic and sends it flying at a second gunmen, who he also hits solidly.

John catches the assault rifle Giovanni threw and opens fire at another gunman and takes him out.

Giovanni picks the other one off with his rifle.

They catch the two gunmen injured by Mark’s knife (they Conceded) and interrogate them. They learn that Jacky Moreno hired them. It was supposed to be easy. They sure as hell weren’t expecting them to pull out friggin’ assault rifles or have floating knives!

John touches one of the corpses (the one he shot) and gets a flash of layers and layers of puppet strings, including a recent powerful and shadowed force, an ancient evil, that the gunmen isn’t aware of. The thugs don’t know who or what is pulling their strings in this.

Mark and Sean grab the two injured but living gunmen and throw them in the back of Mark’s jeep. Sean keeps the cowed thugs covered while Mark drives off. It’s clearly self-defense, but Mark and Sean both have bad history with the cops and would make things messier. And the two living thugs are their best lead and wouldn’t make things easier talking to the cops about flying knives.

Back in the alleyway, Giovanni calls 9-1-1 and tells them that they were fired out by two gunmen and shot them in self-defense. John supports the heavily bleeding Giovanni and they wait for the police and the ambulance to arrive.

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