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TC, part 13: Inquisitorial Explosive Device

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  • TC, part 13: Inquisitorial Explosive Device

    Last installment can be read here. I'll try to keep this brief, since this covers two game sessions' worth of content and, up until the end, wasn't much more than moving around and dialogue.

    So, we got us a plague on! Current year is 1348. In the 34 years since the last story there was a major famine; the Ventrue fought against the Inquisition in their own way by using the Holy Roman Emperor as a cudgel against the Church, with excommunications, Antipopes, and mini-crusades; and Nova Arpad suffered a humiliating incident at the hands of Transylvania's Gangrel, Nosferatu, and Tzimisce revolving around "unnaturally large" pigeon migrations, and a large-scale operation to exterminate them.

    Meanwhile, the Ventrue and Tremere are selling protection from the Inquisition to vampires who can prove useful, and when the plague breaks out the Tremere start selling their "cure". The prestation cost of both are so high that, essentially, for either the vampire is selling themselves into slavery to the two clans. This pisses off a lot of younger and more vulnerable Cainites, especially since "throw the young and weak under the bus to save yourself from the Inquisition" is becoming more and more popular, along with a lot more restrictions on Domain and Hospitality which is seeing vampires of all walks of life displaced from their havens and herds.

    As far as the players, they were just getting by as best they can, facing a full-on auto-de-fe at the hands of the Inquisition. Lots of running and hiding. And, also, everyone but one player became a Plague-Bearer, because I'm an asshole and made them all roll Stamina + Medicine to see if they got it.

    The Lasombra's player takes the cake on this motherfucker. He decided, in his own words, "fuck Transylvania", and took to the Black Sea to start trading items of value along its coast. He also wrote in his backstory -- completely accidentally -- he was going to frequent one of the very ports the Black Death historically originated from. Naturally, he triple botched his roll to resist the Plague.

    So, not only did he get it, but the ship he spent all his resources to buy became infested with it. Being a Lasombra, he decided he'll throw the sick overboard and impress more people to serve at the next port of call. So not only did he help spread the plague across the Black Sea, he and his ship become known and most refuse to trade with him or allow him to dock. Naturally, he just resorted to piracy and scavenging plague-devastated habitations for valuables.

    This brings our Atrocity Count so far this chronicle to 1. First time I've ever awarded a background (Fame 3) for botching a roll. Not that the fame in this course is good, it's just fucking bizarre.

    One of the two Gangrel players became the target of some unintentional comedy as well. This character had been diligently training, maintaining, and building up a Retinue as a ghouled mercenary company. He even got them in a really good shape after some initial setbacks, too. Then he got the plague, but his childe -- his childe that learned Vicissitude instead of Protean, and is territorial instead of developing animal features he he frenzies -- didn't. So he put his childe in charge of feeding the ghouls, his childe creatively interpreted this as the ghouls are now his territory, and he absconded with them...straight for Ventrue territory, where he can make a fortune selling their services to the Eastern Lords.

    This will bite his childe in the ass later, but for now the Gangrel PC is Really, Really Pissed Off.

    So, the story. The Nosferatu PC's sire tasks him with herding the cats to execute a plan. Just to bring readers back up to speed, the Nossie's sire and one of the Gangrel's mentors are both Prometheans, as is the Szantovich Prince of Schaasburg (the same Szantovich that was originally in Brasov). The Prometheans with the aid of Mitru, Marusca, Ruxandra, and several other Tzimisce were the ones behind the Pigeon War in Mediasch, and they also whacked a major Inquisitor back before the 1314 story which prompted major escalation on the Inquisition's part.

    Before going to Schaasburg, the Lasombra makes a quick detour to Mediasch. He just bites a bunch of people and gets the fuck out the same night with no one the wiser.

    Atrocity count: 2.

    The PC's meet at Schaasburg, exchange pleasantries and all, and the Prince explains the plan. The Prometheans have among their number a vampire who can cure the plague. Well, more accurately, a vampire who knows Thaumaturgy and has access to the requisite rituals, who isn't a Tremere. The Tremere are blood hunting this vampire, obviously; they need to arrange for this vampire's transportation from where he and his sire are currently hiding and protection, and the task falls to the PC's. The vampire's name is Christof Romuald.

    I've mentioned here before I rewrote Christof's backstory, but the gist of it is he was a Templar squire, was at Acre when it fell, but managed to be captured rather than killed and impressed into slavery to the Saracens. He managed to purchase manumission and made his way back to Europe, but after the Templar were excommunicated in 1314. Then did he manage to slay Azhra the Unliving, and was Embraced by Ecaterina. The stuff with Anzeka happened, but instead of immediately learn of her whereabouts, Christof searched for her for decades, eventually gave up hope of finding her alive, and turned towards living a virtuous life and aiding those in need as Anezka would have. And...Christof has ECD (Thaumaturgy) due to his past as a Templar, and the relationship between the Tremere and Templars especially in Acre.

    What the PC's don't know, is that Christof was a Templar, thus intimately tied to the Tremere, and also the target of an auto-de-fe. They also don't know the Tremere are using the Inquisition to hunt him, but at the same time the new leader of the Inquisition is having none of the Tremere's shit and plans to use Christof against the sorcerous clan. Thus, the PC's decide their best, first, step is for one of them to call in their clan boon to call off the blood hunt; after deliberation, the Norse Gangrel decides he'll call in his; he travels with the Finnish Toreador (the Ventrue player's new character) to Alba Iulia to make arrangements.

    They meet the Tremere Prince of Alba Iulia; the Prince says outright the Christof situation is above his head, and he'll have to confer with his sire to learn if this is something that can be done. It takes all of an hour for Krasimir (the Prince) to return, and tell the PC's he's arranged the meeting, and they're teleported away...to Vienna. To meet directly with Etrius, who's taken personal responsibility of cleaning up the Templar/Goratrix fiasco.

    After some pleasantries, Etrius informs the PC's since they're already familiar with the details involving Goratrix and the Templar and that he considers them a clan friend, he will speak freely and frankly. Etrius tells them what they ask cannot be done, because Christof isn't being blood hunted; since Christof is a Templar, the Tremere consider him one of their own, and want him brought into the fold safe and sound where he can be protected. Of course, every last word of that is a lie, but good luck beating a 4th generation Tremere's bullshit roll. They're whisked away back to Alba Iulia, where Krasimir informs them Shit is Going Down -- the Inquisition is mobilizing to attack Schaasburg -- and the best he can do is teleport them some miles away in hopes of traveling in all haste to beat the Inquisition there.

    The Gangrel and Toreador decide, nope too dangerous (to be fair it would have been), and they snack up on innocent woodland creatures before going beddy-bye in a nearby cave.

    Thus, Schaasburg is attacked during the day with absolutely no warning. The other PC's are staked in their sleep...except one, the Setite, who managed to soak enough to avoid being properly staked. He awakes in the dungeon of Schaasburg's castle, where he and the two other PC's are laid out and staked, and three Inquisitors are preparing to torture the PC's for information and to death. He attacks the Inquisitors, takes two down, but a fourth Inquisitor overhears the fighting and comes in loaded for bear.

    This Inquisitor is an Arete 4 mage, with Forces 4 and specialty in fire. The Setite gets roasted down to crippled in aggravated, but manages to unstake the Lasombra, Nosferatu, and Gangrel. Together they manage to barely finish off the Inquisitors, but not before taking a metric assload in aggravated thanks to Burny McBurnface's fire shield, fire bolts, fire balls, and wielded red-hot poker. This Inquisitor was only the second in command, and having taken down the immediate threat, they decide to sneak out of the castle in their own ways.

    The Lasombra decided to Embrace one of the Inquisitors and stakes him, with the intent of interrogating him later. And before sneaking out, he finds in a nearby cell another Inquisitor torturing the Nosferatu PC's sire about the "Templar's" whereabouts, while the Gangrel's mentor and Prince of Schaasburg also lie staked nearby. This Inquisitor is a nun, he recognizes her as the one in charge, and considers attacking her before his Auspex spidey-sense goes ballistic in her presence. So, he decides discretion is the better part of valor, and he fucks off.

    So...the Inquisitor in charge, most notably, is a master of Mind, an adept of Connection and Time, and a disciple of Forces. Nasty customer, and explains how the Inquisition was able to mobilize, travel to Schaasburg, and attack in the same day. She also has samples of the PC's blood, taken while they were staked and asleep. In the two evenings it takes for everyone to find each other in the wilderness, regroup and lick their wounds, and share what they've learned, she attacks the four PC's in their sleep, by pulling them into dreamscapes.

    She fails against the Setite and Lasombra. Because the Nosferatu is on Humanity and devout, he gets a rote shame, flagellation and interrogation scene, and ends up with six Willpower beaten out of him before being the recipient of a Mind command to bring the Templar to the Inquisition when they find him; she also encourages the Nosferatu to tell the others about his nightmare. She intends for him to sew dissent in the party and split them up, figuring they won't allow him near Christof, or have to forcibly restrain him if he gets near. She also lets slip a key piece of info: the Tremere were the ones who tipped the Inquisition off about Christof.

    The Gangrel gets something special, however. He awakens in broad daylight in a sunny meadow, with no cover to be found; his Beast is clawing to be set free, but for some reason he cannot Rotschreck, all while the sun roasts him. The nun appears before him and taunts him about how he knows too much, and the Tremere will never let him exist with the knowledge he has. The sun burns four Willpower from him, before he wakes up screaming, in a panic and caked in blood-sweat, on the verge of Rotshreck. He looks down and sees his arms and hands a stony-grey complexion...feels his face to reveal foreign bestial features...stretches his wings...and looks at his reflection in a nearby stream to see a Gargoyle's face looking back at him.

    Then he wakes up for real.

    But, hey, good news. The Prince of Schaasburg made it out too, because she doesn't actually sleep in her own haven, a fleshcrafted body double does. She escaped by killing a lone Inquisitor and fleshcrafting herself to look like him, before just walking out all casual-like. The two PC's share their dreams, and the other Gangrel reveals Christof was a Templar which means he must be the Inquisition's target all along. It's about this time the Assamite PC (who hadn't been around until now), Setite PC, and Lasombra PC, with their collective knowledge of blood sorcery, figure out for the Inquisition to know all of this and be constantly one step ahead, they must be able to scry on them...

    ...so, game over for the nun, who actually had been doing this the whole time. Because, y'know, Adept of Connection with the blood of the involved Cainites. So she blows up the Inquisitor the Lasombra PC had Embraced, to the tune of a seven aggravated fireball, all of which managed to be mitigated by good Auspex rolls and dodges.

    Cue a particularly nasty body horror scene, since seven aggravated means enough to incapacitate...the fledgling vampire survived. Just think a certain character from Breaking Bad, but missing an arm and the lower half of his body too. Oh, and the explosion blew out the stake as well, which meant said fledgling was dragging his mangled body by his remaining arm, pleading to know "why?" and begging for death. So the Lasombra PC indulged him and diablerized him on the spot, figuring he would be a weakness the Inquisitor could exploit, but at least he could gain some information by absorbing some of the fledgling's memories.

    Atrocity Count: 3.

    Figuring they're in the clear from scrying for the moment (they are, the nun used the blood samples already), the PC's decide it's time for her to go. Having little else to lose, their plan is to retrieve Christof, take him to Bistritz, and use him and the Nosferatu as bait to engage them on at least favorable terms with enough firepower to do the trick. Delya (the Szantovich Prince) is the only one who knows where Christof and Ecaterina are hiding, so she volunteers to retrieve him while the rest of the conspiracy rides ahead to meet with Radu, finish healing, and make final preparations.

    Of course, Tzimisce gonna Tzimisce, and an astute reader might figure out where this is going.

    Radu tells them in no uncertain terms will he allow them to drag the Inquisition to his domain to wage a full-on pitched battle they aren't likely to win, but offers an alternative: do it on Nova's domain, where he at least can get them some aid by convincing other voivodes it will be a bold strike against the hated Ventrue and Tremere, giving them their due as a matter of course. Then, he asks the four PC's who had been the Inquisitor's targets to leave, in case they're still being scryed upon or subject to mind reading, and tells the Assamite, Toreador, and Norse Gangrel the real plan:

    Delya is Radu's cousin, which means the two are acquainted and allies. She sent animal messengers ahead once the party split. She's bringing Ecaterina and a fleshcrafted double of Christof to Bistritz, but to get there means passing through Nova's domain anyway. The real Christof, much to his displeasure, is being sent elsewhere. The PC's meet Delya, Ecaterina, and "Christof" in Nova's domain, draw out the Inquisition, and take out the nun all else be damned...Radu would like her captured alive to make an example of her, but failing that killing her will be more than enough.

    Of course, Mediasch thanks to the Lasombra PC's dalliance with biological terrorism is staring down the barrel of a full-blown plague outbreak, but that's not information the PC's really need right now, is it?

  • #2
    Genuinely curious, In your game how does being a mortal templar translate into thaumaturgy as a brujah? I understand the templar were influenced by Goratrix in France and that the crown used or propagated vicious rumors about blood rituals as an excuse to seize their wealth, but it still seems a stretch for a mortal templar to have any rituals they did participate in translate to thaumaturgy as a cainite.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Vendrin View Post
      Genuinely curious, In your game how does being a mortal templar translate into thaumaturgy as a brujah? I understand the templar were influenced by Goratrix in France and that the crown used or propagated vicious rumors about blood rituals as an excuse to seize their wealth, but it still seems a stretch for a mortal templar to have any rituals they did participate in translate to thaumaturgy as a cainite.
      Three angles.

      First, on the meta level it's an open nod to VtMR, where Christof can learn a metric assload of Thaumaturgy (well, an assload for a non-Tremere anyhow) if you look in all the right nooks and crannies. I know he can learn PoB and LotF, and most of the rituals in the game to boot.

      Second, don't forget the Knights-Templar don't only have roles in Vampire...they're important to another fatsplat in particular, one the players are currently tangling with much to their chagrin. While Christof certainly wasn't Awakened, I definitely had it in mind his knowledge and station made him a candidate for the Tremere embrace, and given another path in life may well have found himself a home among the Gabrielites. One thing that is unique in DAV20 (the rules are in ToS if I remember right), is that while former magi or sorcerers lose Arete/Spheres/Foundation/Pillars/Paths, they retain their understanding and therefore are capable of translating that into blood sorcery given time, regardless of what they were before and are after. Ergo, Christof despite being a squire at the time Acre fell, was still "in the know" and well-versed in the occult long before he was ever Embraced.

      Might also have something to do with how Christof, despite being wounded and alone, manages to fight through a small army of szlachta, and open up a well-deserved can of whoop-ass on an elder Tzimisce in her own haven.

      Third, and this is a big B-plot I'm keeping super down-low but bringing it back up every now and again to keep it on the player's minds, because Acre is Very Fucking Important. It's where the chronicle started, and it's where I plan for the chronicle to end. I'm trying to be coy about it and write subtly, but lacking words I'll out with it. This is a direct through-line tying together the Massasa war, Ascension war, (House-turned-clan) Tremere's role in both, and Tremere (the Antediluvian)'s role in the Jyhad. Since this has as much to do with MtAs as it does VtM it's more of a "behind the curtain" thing just for the sake of keeping pieces on the board and moving in coherent directions, but that's still important in my mind.

      Still working on exact details, but here's what I have so far:

      The Council vamped themselves, nommed on Salubri methuselahs and elders, and Saulot himself. The Hermetic Order found out about this and wasn't happy. Meanwhile, Tremere gets kicked out of his body and possesses Goratrix, and his banished to France. Since Saulot's precious new toy couldn't withstand a two-front war between the Hermetics and Tzimisce, he orders Grimgroth to sabotage Mistridge's defense to turn the Hermetic Order's eye from their traitorous brethren.

      Yup, Saulot kick-started the entire fucking Ascension War as a diversionary tactic. Sure, it got a little bit out of hand, but you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, right?

      However, Tremere fought back as best he can. By that I mean he exploited the trends and circumstances of the time to help turn the Templars into a bureaucratic juggernaut and Awakened vampire-killing force only to be rivaled by the Inquisition itself. The Templar's headquarters in the Holy Land was Acre, which was also the site of a secret Conspirator chantry, and the location of one of Tremere's many side projects which he hoped to keep hidden from Saulot.

      It would prove to be a failure, however, since in 1291 the Salubri held their conclave. The Salubri had been tipped off about the secret chantry and the Conspirators' "alliance" with the Templar; the Warriors decided to go out in a blaze of glory taking this chantry down, and joined with the Assamites and Saracens to do it. Well, mission accomplished.

      The key question is...having survived this clusterfuck, what does Christof know that would draw the undivided personal attention of Etrius, himself? This is also an open nod to VtMR on the meta level, since Etrius was a little bit of an asshole to the poor Brujah when the two finally meet. Might also have something to do with how Christof eventually manages to open up a well-deserved can of whoop-ass on a 4th generation Tremere in his own haven.

      [EDIT: Also, just remembered. Not sure if my players have ever picked up on this, but Brujah with Thaumaturgy is a running gag in my chronicles. I always stick at least one Brujah in my chronicles who, somehow and for some reason, has learned the discipline. It's like giving a chimpanzee bath salts and a crate of dynamite, and I can never resist the siren call.

      I mean, Christof having PoB and a couple important rituals is nothing compared to the Jedi-ass motherfucker I stuck in my TMR game who had Focused Mind. Players thought he was a Trujah for almost the entire chronicle, but no, it was Focused Mind.]
      Last edited by Theodrim; 04-10-2019, 08:31 PM.

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      • #4
        Ah, thanks for the explanation. Makes a bit more sense. I knew Cristoff was from VtM:R but never played it myself. Anyway love these recaps. Cheers

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Theodrim View Post

          As far as the players, they were just getting by as best they can, facing a full-on auto-de-fe at the hands of the Inquisition. Lots of running and hiding. And, also, everyone but one player became a Plague-Bearer, because I'm an asshole and made them all roll Stamina + Medicine to see if they got it.
          My question would be: What kind of mechanics did you use, any source material? I think it could be a nice addition to our downtime after we finish the Goratrix-1314-plot.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Vendrin View Post
            Ah, thanks for the explanation. Makes a bit more sense. I knew Cristoff was from VtM:R but never played it myself. Anyway love these recaps. Cheers
            No problem. I can see how, if you're not well versed with VtMR, you'd be confused with my choices. My interpretation really differs from VtMR, but in my defense VtMR has a lot of really weird inconsistencies and metaplot contradictions, and running any chronicle that involves the events thereof is going to have issues that require liberal reinterpretation. I opted for one that brings the events into the story I plan to tell, as oppose to maintain thematic fidelity to the game itself as a stand-alone story. It'll help none of my players have actually played it either, which is honestly surprising.

            Either way, I rather like the idea of Christof as having a darker past as a Crusader, and his plight as a vampire directly tied to his activities in those days. Obviously his role in the chronicle won't be huge, largely being a point to pivot from the Kupala/Saulot storyline to the Anarch Revolt, but hopefully it'll be something that sticks in the players' minds for some time.

            My question would be: What kind of mechanics did you use, any source material? I think it could be a nice addition to our downtime after we finish the Goratrix-1314-plot.
            Not really, I just nailed them with a Stamina + Medicine roll, difficulty 9 plus/minus circumstantials as determined by their blue booking, to avoid getting the Plague Carrier flaw. This was punitive by intent, since I want to push home how dire vampires' circumstances are at this point, stuck between the triple threat of the Inquisition, Plague, and ascendant Tremere/Ventrue alliance. The only hope for a real way out is for vampires to not act like...well, vampires...and since that will never happen, the center will never hold which means the Revolt is truly inevitable.

            But that's going to be the focus of next game session, where a miracle beyond anyone's wildest imaginations is going to happen, an entire clan's idealism and ceaseless struggle against other Cainites' basest instincts will be vindicates...and then everything. fucking. burns.

            They just think they hate Nova now.
            Last edited by Theodrim; 04-12-2019, 08:16 PM.

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            • #7
              Just finished the 1314-Plot ourselves. Something funny happened, total coincidence, butit will have a nice impact on our story, slightly similar to your pigeon scandal and black-death-complications: So the Malkavian is looking for clues as to whether Kupala was behind some of the incidents at the Basarab keep in the mountains (I enhanced the whole Dragomir-Scene in the printed TC I, as I wanted to increase the horror of his existence in the mountain-isolation and was able to drop some foreshadowing-stuff for the Vykos-Eldest-Tzimisce story I want to do, too). She scores a bestial failure (yes, trying V5) on a spirit's touch roll examining a dead owl that attacked them when they tried to carve Zelios' runes in the keep's walls. So I show her that basically all creatures in the entire valley have been watching the Cainites of the Keep, which could be the reason why Vintila Basarab ordered his ghouls to kill every last animal in the valley prior to the PCs arrival (or he and she could be total maniacs, who knows?) As she suffers from paranoia anyway I rule that she will be having increased paranoia towards animals.

              So, half an our later, we discuss how we want to deal with the Black Death in downtime, which is approaching. And she says: "I'll be killing each and every cat, dog or rat in the city (she is the Prince of Schäßburg in my chronicle), and I'll lock up every herbivore I can find." Unfortunately, she won't have the necessary resources to do that, on her own. So she will be needing the assistance of a certain Ventrue I added to Schäßburg years ago, a Ventrue of jewish ancestry.
              So what's gonna happen? While the King of Hungary is going to expel the Jews from his kingdom due to the Black Death, they will stay in Schäßburg, which will miraculously be (almost) spared by the plague...AAAAAND the Gangrel (hello, Mitru) and Tzimisce (hello, everyone) in her neighborhood will be terribly pissed by her cruelty to animals.

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