Mage Session 9: Prizefighter

Starting Point: Donnal, a teenaged apprentice Mage, has been challenged to a Duel Arcane by Miranda Peacock, an experienced and influential Mage, member of the Consilium Council and the powerful Cabal The Golden Trinity. If Donnal wins, all charges against him are dropped. If he loses, he loses his master, and will be reassigned to someone else if the Council’s choosing. It probably won’t be someone he likes…

Events

Donar immediately volunteered to be Donnal’s champion, mistakenly believing that a Duel Arcane might involve actual combat.

He quickly learnt that, no, it’s a match of magical power. Participating Mage’s choose two Arcana, one for attack, one for defense, and attempt to overwhelm the other, reducing their Willpower.

John Kelly stepped up, as the most magically proficient in the Cabal (Gnosis 3, Space 3, Fate 2).

As Hopper squared the circle (prepared the magical dueling area), John Kelly prepared himself… Cheating – using abilities, items and outside influences to improve your dueling capabilities – is strictly forbidden. However, it’s very hard to prove some interventions. John cast a good luck charm on himself using Fate 2, giving him the ‘9 Again’ benefit on a certain number of rolls. Normally in Mage, a single die showing ’10’ is counted as a success and rerolled: 10 Again. 9 Again allows a reroll on a 9 and a 10, increasing your chances of additional successes.

Bolstering in this manner is hard to detect and hard to prove.

John was also stocked to the gills on Mana, a magical resource that can be spent to add dice to magical dice pools, or to enhance magical effects.

What we’re saying here is that John went into the fight with lead shot in his gloves.

The first stage of any Duel Arcane is shit talking. Both combatants reel of magical lineages and accomplishments, and mock their opponents. The most cutting remarks win a bonus during the battle itself.

John won the shit talk stage, and then rolled badly, hardly denting Miranda, his opponent. In return, Miranda hit back with a solid blow.

It did not look good for John.

Then he decided to spend a point of Willpower (risky, because that’s the resource that your opponent depletes. The first to 0 Willpower loses), and rolls well.

Stupidly well.

With his Willpower expenditure and 9 Again enhancement, John scores 7 successes against Miranda, which instantly floors her. John wins. No one expects this.

I did not expect this.

As Storyteller, I’d tried to set this up as a close fight, but ultimately one they’d lose.

I let John’s player, Dave, load up on effects because I wanted him to have a chance, for the battle to last long enough, and for defeat to be close fought.

But no. Two rounds and he trounced her.

Oh well.

Still, this left me with a challenge.

The fight was supposed to demonstrate the inherent injustice in Mage society, and how the Golden Trinity cabal had corrupted the justice system to serve their own ends.

And their current goal was to usurp Granny and remove her from her, albeit unused, position of authority in the Consilium.

What I’d planned was a close battle, and defeat of the players, then the Golden Trinity pressing the letter of the law to strip Granny of all authority and magical assets. The players had already enforced a similar edict, so should be aware of how little of a shit the Consilium gave for ‘fairness’ in such matters.

But, my goals are The Golden Trinity’s goals are my goals. The Trinity want to antagonise Granny and goad her into an illegal act of aggression. It’s still possible, just a little harder.

Tall Les is still at large, so Angela, the defacto leader of the Trinity, issues a warrant for Tall Les’s arrest. Dead or alive, it’s all the same to me.

End Position: Granny rises to the bait, and squares off with Angela. Tall Les was her student, and she’ll throw everything else away before she sees him convicted of a crime be didn’t commit. Probably.

As the session ends, Granny has withdrawn from the Consilium and revoked her position within it. She exits the gathering warning all and sundry that any attempt to enforce Consilium law on her land or her people will be met with force.

Wait – That’s not how it ended… We had about 30 minutes of playtime left. I expected the Cabal to return home, regroup, discuss tactics and then attend to Granny.
Noooo.
They went straight to Tall Les’s instead. They were worried about him.

Arriving at Tall Les’s house in Tadcaster, they discovered signs of a struggle – They piece together that Les was packing in a hurry, and then was set upon. Some of the damage to the kitchen and hallway is horrific.
Then, in the bath, they find a dead body.
Outside the bathroom, they find a raven.

Winston Blue uses Mind to converse with the Raven, and they learn that Les used to feed it, and occasionally ride it. It tells them some details of the fight, and how Les fled to the other side.

Eels song: Prizefighter

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Mage: the Awakening session 8 – Restraining Order Blues

Starting position:

We started with a brief XP expenditure and bookkeeping exercise, with the most notable event being Matt buying Death 4 for his character, Jon-Anthony, and cemented his position as party liability.

“I’ve had a look at what I can do with Death magic, and I’m buying the 4th dot!”

Other players:

Events

It’s been, um, 4 weeks, so this is going to be very woolly…

Donnal’s trial begins. His charges are basically ‘getting involved in shit that endangers other Mages’. The book is being thrown at him, apparently for political leverage reasons rather than a pursuit of justice.

The Council members hearing his case are weighted against him. Three are members of The Golden Trinity, who have already asserted his guilt prior to the trial. The other two members are effectively neutral. It would take direct intervention by the Consilium Hierarch, the oldest Mage in the area, to override any verdict reached by the Trinity.

The Hierarch is Granny. She trained Tall Les, who trained Donnal. Tall Les offered up a part of his Soul and magical potential, a Soul Stone, as bail for Donnal. Tall Les is effectively on trial here as well, being responsible for Donnal’s conduct.

It would be a great breach of protocol for Granny to get involved in this instance, and would expose her to political challenge and censure.

As the trial begins, and the charges are read, it is revealed that Tall Les is now missing, as is his Soul Stone. It is asserted and accepted that Tall Les has broken the conditions of Donnal’s bail, and is now a fugitive.

The trial format is not one of opposing arguments, rather an agreed narrative. Events and arguments are presented, and then agreed upon, leading to version of the truth that both sides accept.

Donnal does not do well. The cabal present their evidence, which clears Donnal of the actual crime. The Trinity find that Donnal is at fault, as he placed himself in peril. They find that Tall Les is at fault, as he did not teach Donnal how to recognise and counter such magical effects.

Sentencing is that Donnal will be removed from Tall Les’s direction and assigned to a new master. Tall Les will be hunted down and brought to trial, or killed.

At this point, Granny intercedes, and asserts her veto as Hierarch. As this is debated, Donar notes that the silhouette of Miranda Peacock, the Mastigos Mage from The Golden Trinity, matches the silhouette of the Goetic Demon they observed possessing Lucy, which got Donnal into trouble in the first place.

Donar asserts this, loudly.

This escalates the argument somewhat, and results in Miranda challenging Donnal to a magical duel, which is apparently still considered a fair and legal way to settle a dispute.

End Position

Donnal has been challenged to a Duel Arcane, which will ultimately settle his guilt or innocence.

Donar instantly put his hand up to be Donnal’s second, because it probably involves hitting.

Eels reference: Restraining Order Blues

Mage: the Awakening session 7 report – Things the Grandchildren Should Know

Starting position: the Cabal have beaten up Ch’ord Upperhill, and forced their way into his shop. They are looking for a 5 volume arcane book (books? Whatever, it’s a set), and are happy to break shit until they get it.

Main events: the players did break shit. They broke my plot.

They had two options

  1. Take the books from Ch’ord, give them to Barnaby Woodhouse, because he’s the legal owner of the books, and set Plot Ball A rolling
  2. Let Ch’ord keep the books, because he’s the moral owner, and set Plot Ball B rolling

So, the thing about Mage, is that you can choose to magically create a second trolley, and achieve both results.

Yes, the results in this case is ‘through the players conscious choice, they have caused 6 innocent people to die, rather than 1 or 5’. This was not lost on the players. They delighted in it.

After whaling on Ch’ord, they started talking to him, and out of the blue decided to use magic to create a second, identical set. They even provided raw materials, 5 pawns of Tass to make them permanent, and the Arcanum that Ch’ord lacked, Mind, so that he could perform a ritual to create identical copies.

Ch’ord took them to his secret sanctum; a locked storage unit in a converted industrial estate. Behind the standard yellow corrugated iron door, Ch’ord keeps what looks like a small pocket dimension. It has a TARDIS effect, and was much larger inside than it appeared to be on the outside. At this point all the nerds in my game shouted “yes, we know what a TARDIS is, thank you…”

Ch’ord also keeps a pet zombie, called Lennie. Lennie was supposed to be a combat encounter, as he guards the sanctum, but the Cabal had effectively negged Ch’ord by this point and he called Lennie off.

Lennie is an enhanced, permanent zombie, and as such probably worth quite a bit. Ch’ord claims to have stolen him from a morgue.

The sanctum also featured an angry portrait of a stern looking woman (I know what I said) that the Cabal were advised not to touch.

So Barnaby Woodhouse got the originals, and is very happy. Plot Ball A is rolling.

Ch’ord Upperhill also got the copies, and is happy. He gets to continue his Master’s work, as well as having 5 large handwritten books (in Sumerian, you should have heard Lionel read Sumerian poetry) to remember his departed father figure. Plot Ball B is rolling.

So both balls are going to try to roll down the same track, bounce off each other, and probably kill more than 6 innocent bystanders.

End point: Ch’ord is now their BFF. He owes them 5 Tass and a solid. They are Facebook friends (of a sort)…

Barnaby is acting like a doting uncle. He’s promised to pull some strings on behalf of Donnal, although he’s incredulous that he’d need help if Granny is his Master’s Master. He’s also made promises of future employment.

Session Title: Things the Grandchildren Should Know – Eels

Mage: the Awakening e6 Report: Estate Sale

Starting Position:

The Mages have been hired by Barnaby Woodhouse to reclaim items stolen from the estate of Lionel Davidson by Davidson’s apprentice, Ch’ord Upperhill.

Woodhouse is named as beneficiary in Davidson’s Last Will and Testament, however it is over ten years old, and written prior to Woodhouse and Davidson splitting up and never speaking again.

Upperhill has taken certain magical items and arcane texts, claiming that Davidson wanted him to have them. Sleeper law and the local Mage Consilium support Woodhouse’s claim.

Our Cabal of Mages are empowered to recover the items of Davidson’s estate from Upperhill.

Notable/Key Events:

The Cabal opted to take the direct approach, and confront Upperhill at his Sanctum: a Taxidermist in Wetherby (Upperhill Restorations). They found him vaping in the alley at the side of his shop.

Upperhill is in his late 20s, wears a black shirt, drainpipe black jeans, winklepicker boots, and a trenchcoat. He is doing vape tricks when they find him. His vape smells of strawberry shortcake.

The Mages cut straight to the chase: “we’re here for the items you took from Davidson’s estate.”

Upperhill firmly states his position: Davidson wanted him to have his works, Woodhouse has no claim, the Cabal can get bent. Whilst he’s talking, John Kelly notices that Upperhill is using the thick white vape cloud to hide the fact that he’s been manifesting Ectoplasm and weaving it into a functional shield and weapon.

Kelly acts first, and opens a portal behind Upperhill, with the intention of seizing the shield or weapon from his hands.

We fall into combat time, and Upperhill rolls really, really badly on initiative. Upperhill has been statted as a real combat threat, but that’s basically all negated if literally all the players get to act before he does.

The combat is short. Upperhill is cursed with Fate magic by Kelly, confused with Mind magic by Winston, whacked with a telekinetic blast and then electromagnetically disrupted by Hopper, intimidated by Donar and persued by Jon-Anthony and Sebastian the shadow pony familiar.

Upperhill flees into his taxidermy shop, with the cabal giving chase. Kelly opens a portal through the locked door, and Hopper and Donar rush in. They are confronted by a bizarre menagerie of posed animals.

An antique stuffed chimpanzee with cymbals and a fez animated and started laughing and clapping whilst following their movements with intelligent eyes, so Donar blasted it with a lightening bolt from his wand, leaving the chimp ablaze and partially melted. Hopper found Upperhill crouched in the middle of the floor, and booted him as hard as she could, knocking any remaining fight out of him.

End Position:

The cabal have a defeated Upperhill in the foetal position on the floor, and full access to his shop. They still do not have the volumes of work they’ve been employed to retrieve, or know their location.

Session title: Eels – Estate Sale

Mage: the Awakening session five report; Last Stop: This Town

Starting Point

The Mages are in their still undefined and undescribed sanctum.

Jon-Anthony is still unconscious from the previous session.

The characters are still concerned by the Donnal case they’ve been asked to investigate, and by the unprovoked attack they suffered last session.

Key Events

The last session ended with an opportunity to spend XP, so there’s a brief activity montage as the characters pump iron, read books, shave etc.

Jon-Anthony begins to regain consciousness, and is offered a cup of tea. He slips back into unconsciousness briefly, so Donar, Hopper and Winston discuss tea consent.

“He’s unconscious, so we can’t make him drink the tea…”

“But we don’t want to waste the tea, and he indicated that he would like some tea before falling unconscious again…”

“No. Just no.”

After Jon-Anthony is reliably conscious again, and has drunk his tea of his own free will, everyone else berates him for randomly summoning a ghost. This leads to discussion of the haunted storm lantern that Jon-Anthony bought in the first session, and how they suspect that it could have been a lure used by witch hunters. After some debate, the Mages decide that they have no immediate plans to blow the lantern up, and instead put it to one side.

Winston receives a call from Barnaby Woodhouse, a retired professor of History and Ancient Languages at York University. Barnaby introduces himself as an ‘old friend’ of Millicent Bulstrode, the Consilium Provost overseeing Donnal’s investigation. He asks if he can meet the Mages in two days, at a local pub, and they agree.

At this stage I expected the players to montage their XP expenditure. Instead they opted to revisit the scene of the crime and see if they can detect any more tell tale magical resonance.

They travel back to the now empty racecourse and attempt to sense the magical resonance of the area. Through recapping their existing knowledge, reading the fading magical resonance of the site, and through calling Tall Les, they confirm the following:

  • They think that Lucy was possessed or urged by a Goetic Evocation – a spirit created and commanded by a Hubristic Mage. The spirit is shaped by the Mage’s driving Vice, and appears as a platonic ideal of that Vice and the Mage that summoned it
  • They agree that a Mastigos Mage is the most likely to summon a Goetic Demon, given the Arcanum involved. A Thyrsus is least likely, as they would struggle to master the Mind magics required. However, it is possible it could be any sufficiently skilled Mage
  • They recall that Amanda Peacock, a member of the Golden Trinity cabal, and Consilium Counsellor, is a Mastigos
  • Tall Les can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to frame him or Donnal. “I mean, ok, there was that one time I compelled a flock of earth element birds to crap on her car…” “Was the car expensive?” “I think it was in a Bond film once…”
  • There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing towards different actors, but no actual evidence
  • They agree that they have a solid argument that Donnal did not commit the crime, but one only presentable within magical circles. As far as Sleeper society and law is concerned, Donnal is guilty as sin.

After further discussion, they agree to head to the arranged meeting with Barnaby Woodhouse.

They meet Woodhouse on The Swan and Talbot, a pub in the middle of Wetherby. Woodhouse is a round faced man in his late 60s, wearing a Tweed suit and sporting a hearing aid and an ornate, antique walking stick. The stick instantly pings as magical on their Unseen Sense.

Woodhouse lays out his problem: his partner of 20 years, Lionel Davidson, recently passed. Lionel was a genius, a research historian like Woodhouse, but he was into something. Something big, fundamental… revolutionary. He recorded all of his work in five volumes The Truth of Reality; Stripping Away the Great Lie, and it’s these volumes that Woodhouse is interested in.

However, Lionel’s apprentice has taken these volumes, plus a number of other magical items and books, and is refusing to return them. Woodhouse shares the Last Will and Testament and probate documents showing that he is the beneficiary of Lionel’s estate, as well as letters from the Consilium stating that they support his claim.

The Mages, in conversation with Barnaby, uncover a couple of incongruities in his story. Barnaby and Lionel were together for 20 years, but Barnaby has never met Lionel’s apprentice. The restaurants that Barnaby suggested as a meeting place all closed years ago. The Will he presented was dated over 10 years ago…

They challenge him, and Barnaby’s mood visibly changes. He appears smaller, and saddened. He expresses his love for Lionel, and his regret at words that were said and will now never be taken back. He leaves what details he has regarding Lionel’s apprentice, and again requests their assistance.

“He’s called ‘Chord Upperhill’.”

“Chord?”

“It’s a common word in the English language…”

“No, wait. It’s pronounced ‘Ch’ord’. Here, I’ll write it down.”

Barnaby offers to ‘grease the wheels of the political machine in your favour’ in return for assistance. He also states that he is only interested in the volumes, anything else they find, they can keep. He may be able to help them out in return, in the future.

End Position

The Mages have agreed to help Barnaby Woodhouse regain some assets from the estate of Lionel Davidson, in addition to their other concerns. They have yet to make contact with Ch’ord Upperhill.

Session title: Eels – Last Stop: This Town

Mage: The Awakening session four report – Friendly Ghost

Starting position

Travelling back home from Harrogate Infirmary, the four Mages – Donar, Hopper, Jon-Anthony and Winston Blue – are intercepted by a four armed men.

The fight very quickly falls on the favour of the Mages. Jon-Anthony uses Death magic to destroy a machete, Donar shields himself with Forces and doubles his defence, Hopper uses Forces to lower the temperature of a crowbar by 50 degrees Celsius, almost taking the wielders fingers off, and Winston uses Mind magic to confuse the assailants.

The tide is slowly turning towards the Mages – Donar and Hopper are the only active participants – and Jon-Anthony decides to summon a ghost.

Key events

A blast of chill air and pure terror washes over the combatants. The assailants are overcome with fear, and run. Jon-Anthony, who’s player couldn’t make it the session, presumably fails the Willpower test, and falls unconscious.

Donar chases one of the assailants down and starts punching him in the face… And doesn’t stop. He keeps going until he hears a ‘pop’ when he hits him and the guy falls limp. He drags the unconscious body back to the cars.

Hopper and Winston have another assailant trapped in a car. Winston uses Mind magic to convince the man he is on fire, and he dives out the car and drops and rolls on the road.

The Mages interrogate him, mostly using intimidation (aided by the blood dripping from Donar’s hands), and learn that the four armed men were hired to ‘test’ them. He has no idea what this means, but he can describe the people that hired them; a middle aged couple that sound suspiciously like the couple that Jon-Anthony recently bought a magical storm lantern from.

Hopper examines the area to determine what caused the wave of cold terror, and finds a strong Death resonance lingering around the boot of their car and Jon-Anthony’s new storm lantern.

The Mages release the man, magnanimously allowing him to drive his unconscious friend to a hospital, and return to their shared Sanctum.

There they examine Jon-Anthony’s storm lantern; it’s not magical, as they first thought. Instead, it’s haunted. They put it on a shelf until they decide what to do with it, and turn their attention to the four men who just attacked them, and why they were paid to do so.

They decide that it’s probably not related to their recent run in with another cabal of Mages and the local Provost, instead it’s most likely related to the storm lantern.

Jon-Anthony bought it because he could sense that it was somehow magical. They all could – it pinged on their Unseen Sense like a buzzing mosquito or a change in air pressure. The people he bought it from were clearly Sleepers, and the lantern was mixed in with a range of other mundane car boot sale junk.

They decide that the lantern was most likely a trap – it would only be of interest to Mages, so anyone buying it could then be observed and ‘tested’. They were put into danger, and used magic to get themselves out of it.

End position

“Shit, we really walked into that one, didn’t we…”

Session title: Eels – Friendly Ghost