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Challenging murder investigations for Mages with Time2 and other Sphere Perceptions

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  • Challenging murder investigations for Mages with Time2 and other Sphere Perceptions

    So, I know I could have a killer be a Mage with Corr2, Matter2 and just teleport a poison pellet into the victim's coffee from the other side of the world. That might be a little too hard to solve. One of my players has the Time Sphere. Even if I restrict access to the crime scene, she can see who went in or out of a place in the past. The killer could have the Time Sphere as well, but I already had a different NPC use a Time Ward to hide their participation in something nefarious. I'm not ruling out using it again if there's no better option.

    If you were building a Technocracy character (any Convention) to be an assassin intent on covering their tracks, what Spheres, Abilities and Backgrounds would you prioritize? A bonus would the ability to frame a Tradition Mage from the same Cabal as the victim. Their targets might also include sleepers, later on.

  • #2
    Something that helps to make a heavy use of proxies. Don't do the deed yourself, but make others make others make others do it for you.

    She/her pronouns


    • #3
      Yeah, that: That way mages will lose time pursuing the leads, and may expose themselves.

      In general, I think a good idea would be to provide an alternate easy (but wrong) solution intended to led the mages astray. Mages can see a lot, but they have to want to see: So if you can provide an alternate truth to the most superficial scans, they may miss some clues.

      Time alone will allow to see the scene. That doesn't mean you will understand the scene, that's where the other Spheres enter. Like, w/o specific Spheres you wouldn't know that the scene has an illusion superimposed onto it. W/o Life you can't see it's poison rather than another cause. W/o Mind or Prime you can't see the murderer was being controled ... etc. And, in the same vein as the Spheres can detect something, the Spheres can also make something seem like it has another cause.

      For instance: Any kind of magical murder it's easy to detect for someone with Prime, but a second spell of the same or lower intensity, that's used to suggest a different cause of death, may pass undetected - especially if the characters don't bother to try other (or more specific) perceptions. Toss in some subtle ressonance, perhaps some other "clue", and you could try to frame another mage (and if that mage had reasons and/or the opportunity...)
      Last edited by Aleph; 09-15-2021, 11:04 AM.


      • #4
        I wouldn't build that kind of assassin. I'd focus on him not getting caught instead.

        Your technocratic assassin is going to have a difficult time hiding his actions from the Traditions. More importantly, though, he probably doesn't need to. What he needs is to be difficult to stop and difficult to catch. If he has that then the Trads knowing he is responsible works to his advantage. It makes him the hunter and them the prey. He might even want to leave some kind of oblique calling card.

        My advice is do a token gesture of hiding evidence, but let the players find out if they put in the legwork. Put your effort into blocking them from doing anything with that information. Make sure what they do find is useless for sleeper authorities. Make him difficult to identify, track, and predict.

        But if you do want to cover up the real evidence, too much evidence is better than not enough. Mages are really good at detecting things, but they usually don't have more time than anyone else. Give them too much to handle at once.

        Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink


        • #5
          The traditional crime story functions by layering clues on top of each other, one after the other. Any that are solved before the climax turn out to be dead ends, inscrutable, or lead onto another clue to be solved, and it is not until that climax that the 'real' clues are presented which leads to the actual solution. Real police work, of course, is not at all like this.

          For an RPG campaign to function like this you need to keep setting new tasks for the players before they have a chance to completely solve and follow up on the old ones. There is a fine line here because if you give your players too many they will get frustrated, which is no fun for anyone.

          Ramnesis' advice is good here 'too much evidence is better than not enough'. Try breaking things down into smaller simpler clues and then let the players try to puzzle out how they fit together. Once they've bought in throw them a 'corner piece' which they can build from. Most importatnly, when the players use their abilities make sure to only answer what they directly ask, don't volunteer information, and don't join the dots for them (unless they're getting frustrated of course).


          • #6
            That's the gist of it. If you try to use magic to counter magical analysis, you're working against the game's purpose and against yourself. Instead use magic to create.

            To create proxies;

            To create red herrings;

            To create dead ends;

            To create scapegoats;

            To create escape routes;

            To create noise;

            To create distractions.

            And then almost any combination of Spheres, simple or complex, can be used for your NPC's style of doing those things.

            She/her pronouns


            • #7
              Emphasis on using a Proxy. Three possibilities present themselves.
              1. Killer for hire.
              2. A person previously drugged and subject to mental coercion in a mundane fashion.
              3. A person controlled via Mind 4.

              None of these proxy-killers would stand a great chance of sneaking up on the Awakened victim, who I need to define a bit.

              As for layering, here goes:

              1. Victim is a male Verbena Mage appearing to be in his late twenties. He is over 100 years old, having used Life Magick to extend his lifespan. Long ago, he built a house on property he owned in what remains a Primal Reality Zone in a forest. It is also the site of a rank 3 Node. Unable to maintain his real identity with passing time, he officially sells the property to a member of his Cabal, refunding the sale in cash. Every twenty years or so, the property is sold in the same way to another Tradition ally who respects his right to remain in the house he built. It is a fallback position for his Cabal and can accommodate guests. The Verbena woodsman has never taken any interest in pretending to be someone else.

              2. The killer, a Technocracy Mage, devises a scheme to cause confusion, in advance of an assassination and frame-up. The plan is to:

              - Find a dying male hospital patient who resembles the Verbena Mage.

              - Extend the patient's life with cybernetics that function well, but would fail in a Primal Reality Zone.

              - Install a brain-machine interface to control him.

              - Surprise and overwhelm the current legal owner of the Node-Property using Mind and other Magick to force a sale of the property to the cyborg who the killer claims will die of Pattern Bleed if not brought to a Node that can supply Quintessence.

              - Have the cyborg pay substantially more than the property is worth, with the sale being officially recorded. Have the cyborg carry all of the legal documentation proving his identity and ownership of the Node-Property.

              - Send the cyborg to the Node-Property, announcing to the Verbena occupant that it was bought out from under him.

              The plan unfolds in the following way:

              - The Verbena who built the house without power-tools is not having any of it. A physical altercation ensues, the Verbena using Magick aligned with the Primal Resonance of the Node and RZ to improve his combat abilities. This triggers the cyborg's hardware to fail, putting him on death's door.

              - Realizing this is the last chance to get any useful information from the cyborg, the Verbena attempts to save him from death. He brings him inside and tries to do surgery to restore the man to his optimal state of health, removing the broken cybernetic hardware. This fails, leaving a bloody mess.

              - The Verbena goes through the dead man's possessions to determine who he is. He discovers the documents that seem to confirm that his own Cabal ally sold his home to the dead man. He wants to go to town to confront his old friend, but his clothes are soaked in blood. He also realizes that he could simply use the identity of the dead man who he resembles, but he is unsure about doing so without knowing about what kind of person he was or why this is all happening. He's also wary about leaving the Node undefended.

              1:52 am. I will continue this in the next day or two.


              • #8
                What is the connection between the woodsman and the killer? i.e. How does the killer know of the woodsman and why does he want to kill him? Good motives make for good mysteries.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by HorizonParty2021 View Post
                  Emphasis on using a Proxy. Three possibilities present themselves.
                  Interesting plan forming, but the secret is that I didn't said proxy, I said proxIES. The basic plan doesn't need to be too complicated. Also, keep in mind that your proxies don't need to be all common humans (or dying cyborgs, for that matter). Your killer may also provide them with all sorts of equipment, as long as it is never directly delivered.

                  Find out the basic steps of your plan in broad terms. Those are your Setups. Inside each setup, you define the actors you'll use, those are your Proxies. The key is to keep the Setups as simple as possible, but each setup as crowded as possible. Not complex, crowded, they most involve as many people as possible, with as few as little actors willing to do all the work themselves.

                  Lets devise a simple plan: sell the house to a guy that will bring a party to it, so the occupant can't solve the problem without leaving (since eliminating so many people will attract undue attention). Get the official owner out of town for a time to avoid problems. Arrange a place for the target to wait their return, maybe another Tradition Mage have a safe place nearby. Arrange the assassination there as something that would target something else, it could be a botched robbery or an assassination targeting their host. Backup: have at least two planned attempts and/or accidents to accommodate changes in course.

                  Now we establish the Setups: #1 - The Sell; #2 - The Party; #3 - The Distraction; #4 - First Accident; #5 - The Invitation; #6 - The Robbery; #7 - The Reunion; #8 - The Attack; #9 - The Return; #10 - Second Accident. This is a plan in 4 steps: sell the house, get them out, get the friend out of town for good measure, kill. Step 3 is just a safety measure and then 3 other fallback attempts are planned in two steps each. As the ST you decide at which attempt the deed will be done, but the unused plans may still provide extra clues or extra foils for the players, if you feel the need.

                  Example Setup #1 - The Sell, lets crowd it. Find someone who would have interest in the house for its own purposes, but don't know of the house yet, lets call them Proxy 1: Buyer. Find someone who would be able to falsify the deed for the house and the transaction documentation, Proxy 2: Forger. Our next is simply a Real Estate Agent working in the area, Proxy 3: Realtor. We need someone to pose as the owner of the house in the sell, Proxy 4: Conman. And the person that will arrange the thing for money, Proxy 5: Mobster. Finally, we need extras to do any contact needed with the Setup and needed adjustments, Proxy X: Extras. The owners of other forest houses in the area are all Proxy X uninterested in selling now. Mobster hires Conman to sell abandoned houses, Conman learns about the house in the forest and hires Forger first then starts looking for a buyer, Buyer wants a house in a forest and find out about Realtor, Realtor knows about a few houses but don't know their owners yet, Conman and Realtor meet.

                  1- never act in the Setup directly, not even to contact your main Proxies. Always use a Proxy X.
                  2- avoid using the same Proxy X more than once in the same overall plan, unless it makes too much sense.
                  3- using the same Proxy X in different setups of the same plan is a big no-no, too much of a red flag.
                  4- good proxies aren't cheap. This plan won't leave a big mark in any one proxy, but useful proxies probably were used several times before.
                  5- for actors being used for the first time, always have a backup plan.
                  6- don't use one Proxy X if you can use a chain of 3.

                  She/her pronouns


                  • #10
                    I will give a more detailed reply when I have sorted out names and concepts of characters involved.


                    • #11
                      Just a small thing to add. Time 2 is not the “tell me all” sphere a lot of people think it is.

                      Depending on the paradigm it could just give vague intuitions, dream like symbols, points of data, vague shadows, a single clear image, or even just a crackle mess of pixels and static.

                      The time Mage would have info, but not all the info. And arguably if their paradigm doesn’t beleive that time is fixed, they might only get possible past events that would require entropy to comb through.

                      Time magic RAW wouldn’t even give a very clear understanding of past or future without a lot of successes pumped into it, and that’s not including the number of successes required to how far back, how big a space, or how long a sequence to focus on.

                      And the more successes that one pumps into an effect, the more chance for horrendous botches, the effect becoming vulgar and so accruing paradox, and leaving a big resonance signature that would be exactly what a NWO agent would need to get a lock on to these meddling reality deviants.

                      Time wards are just one way to make time magic more difficult, but played properly, the biggest challenge for a time mage is using the time sphere itself.

                      If their paradigm holds that the future is already written, I might even argue that any attempt to change the future seen in their vision will result in paradox for that time Mage, while if they have a more flexible approach to time, then it calls into question how accurate their time glance may be.

                      For Mages that don’t think past or future actually exist, and they are all but functions of the mind, it may be that the very act of viewing the past is enough to change it.

                      Remember, time only goes in a strict straight line by technocratic convention, there is no reason a Mage’s time magic has to specifically adhere to this. Time can be curved, or wonky, split, convergent, or even a great sea of random events that collapse into a straight line only as we witness them in the present.

                      There is more than enough uncertainty in the system for time magic to be less than perfect to downright speculative.
                      Last edited by Saikou; Yesterday, 07:28 AM.

                      Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running FINALE: Chapter 39: Green Fairy