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Challenging murder investigations for Mages with Time2 and other Sphere Perceptions

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  • HorizonParty2021
    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.

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  • monteparnas
    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.

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  • Dogstar
    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).

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  • Ramnesis
    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.

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  • Aleph
    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.

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  • monteparnas
    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.

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