Monday, October 9, 2017

Pulp Tabletop: Mage: The Ascension

I don't write much about my tabletop adventures, but this is worth sharing.

I'm currently in a Mage: The Ascension campaign set in 1934 San Francisco. Vampire gangsters, speakeasies, ethnic stereotype Irish cops, the works.

The group is a Wu Lung (Chinese mystic tradition) bouncer from Chinatown, a crazy Verbena (earthy, folk magic) cat lady who talks to ghosts, a Cult of Ecstasy (wizards that seek sensation) nightclub singer/alcoholic, an Akashic (another Eastern tradition) ninja exile, a Hermetic (European rite wizards) bartender, and my guy: Harry Vincent, Wealthy Man About Town. And Euthanatos vigilante.The Euthanatoi are death mages, insofar as the cycle of entropy and rebirth is concerned.

When I warned the GM I was going to go full-on THE SHADOW I don't know if he knew how hard I would commit to the Pulp ethos.

The campaign started as a murder investigation. A girl all our characters knew in the past was found dead with the obvious signs of a vampire attack. Digging into the matter further found that this was a string of vampire killings, and that something powerful was using the police department to cover it up. Lots of investigation work turned up a freshly minted vampire connected to the Camarilla faction. A ghoul police captain ended up inside a “ghost rape tornado” (The Verbena witch made a deal with a spirit to “deal with him” and she neglected to specify her terms) and then Harry got a Euthanatos contract to pop a ghoul doctor running a blood bank for the vamps out of a local hospital.

Things were escalating when the rest of the party got lost in the Spirit Realm for a couple of hours trying to find somebody to translate Old Norse while Harry was off investigating a lead.

A couple hours in the Spirit Realm translated into 6 months local time. During which Harry “declared war on all the suckheads in San Francisco.”

Long story short, since most of it was glossed over as background, Harry made friends with the Celestial Choir to come in and start cleaning up the town because “there's monsters that need killing.” And setting up soup kitchens for the homeless, because that's how they roll.

The Camarilla are super pissed that somebody who rolls 10 dice to go into stealth has been going after them hard, the Hermetics that nominally control the city are super pissed that SOMEBODY let the Choirboys in to go DEUS VULT, werewolves have come down from the hills because its open season on vampires apparently, and the Asian traditions (mages and vampires alike) have holed themselves up in Chinatown because the Roundeyes are clearly going insane.

It was glorious.

Last session, the rest of the party returned from the Spirit World to find everything gone to hell. The Hermetic bartender was tasked to find me by the local boss because he really, really wants Harry dead. However, Harry's also the only Euthanatos in town, so a Council is called to vote on how to stop the war because putting a hit on him is something like an act of war.

The Hermetic boss does the rounds, shaking hands and buying votes from the Verbena and Cult of Ecstasy mages. Harry assembles a dossier of all the victims of vampires, all known ghouls found to be operating in positions of power from six months before open fighting started, and a photo of the murdered girl from the beginning of the game at the top of the stack. The argument was that quite clearly, the Hermetics were not “taking care of the situation.”

The vote is essentially split. The Hermetics, Verbena, and Cult of Ecstasy all vote to cease hostilities and censure/evict the Choir and Euthanatos from the Bay Area (and presumably offer Harry's head on a plate to the Camarilla), while the Euthanatos, Choir and Etherites (who I won over during my argument, their head runs the hospital the ghoul was operating out of) voted to continue hostilities. The Akashic had the tie-breaker.

So to summarize, just about anybody who's anybody in the city wants Harry dead, including trying to buy off my fellow party members. My guy's ready to go down to a Vampire or Hermetic hit squad, .45s blazing if need be. But there's no way in hell I'm backing down against Camarilla scum or the Bathrobes who think they're so much better than the grogs scraping out a living in the gutter. Line in the sand time.

And then the Akashic rolled a 1, which normally counts as a Botch in Mage, and the GM rolled with it.

So he sat back serenely, advised us to think about what we were doing, and abstained from voting.

The Hermetic chief was FURIOUS. Now Harry could re-negotiate from a position of power.

Our side was willing to stop the hostilities if the vampire serial killer responsible for starting it all was delivered to the Euthanatos. We would acknowledge the Hermetic Order's control of San Francisco proper. I got a 3 point node in Sausalito to get me out of their hair. I negotiate the Hermetics into allowing one Choir representative to be active in Oakland (Boy he hated conceding that). The werewolves...will need to be approached with delicacy.

So one fine morning, a Hermetic car pulls up with a pinebox to Harry's stately new home in Sausalito. The rest of the party is there for the ceremony. After a quick check to make sure its not a bomb, we learn it has a vampire inside with a piece of oak stuck in his chest, clearly our killer.

Satisfied, Harry pulls open the lid to reveal the transfixed face of the new vampire who came up during our investigations. He had an angry and confused look on his face before the sunlight reduced him to ash. All Harry said was a toast to the murdered girl.

Because the Sun still shines, even in a World of Darkness.

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