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Actual Play - Walking in Absolute Silence

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  • Actual Play - Walking in Absolute Silence

    Since I often enjoy reading other people's stories of their games, I thought I might share some of my experiences with Awakening 2e. This is the story of a face-to-face game, run at our local gamestore over the past year or so, weekly or biweekly as schedules change. Face-to-face tends to be paced a bit differently than play-by-post, and since there are no written records, all of this runs off my memories of events. I hope you'll enjoy.

    I'll add more posts here following her adventures as time allows - some people here will be familiar with Rhea's story from one of the Mage servers I previously shared it on, but now that I've left there, I wanted a more permanent location to chronicle her adventures.

    Our protagonist is a small hispanic woman, 5' 3", 23 years old, in her second year of graduate school in Boston. She's a mathematician, with a focus on certain obscure areas of set theory and vector fields. Her hobbies include physics, machinery, and staying at home lonely while everyone else is hanging out with friends. Her drivers license and student ID cards don't have names on them. No matter how many times they enter one at the DMV, it still prints out blank. This causes no end of trouble when she has to interact with law enforcement, but she's gotten good at explaining it away with an innocent shrug, and the documents are genuine, so she deals with it as best she can.

    The trouble, you see, is that she doesn't have a True Name. Rhea, as she thinks of herself, lost her name two years ago, shortly after Awakening. She was at home for Christmas, exploring her magic when she accidentally summoned an Abyssal entity of some sort. It killed her father, and Rhea threw her name at it for a distraction. Since then... well, three dots in Occultation, weirdness with her student ID card, and she doesn't remember what her parents called her while she was growing up. Or her mother's name. Rhea is what she uses, but it doesn't really "fit" - she's not sure why she chose it, but it was the only way she could think of to refer to herself. It's like an ill-fitting coat - not usually a problem, but now and then bothersome. It's not her.

    Also, there's something weird going on at home. Exactly what, she doesn't know, but it's uncomfortable. She hasn't returned since her father's death, not even for the funeral or to visit his grave. Instead she's stayed at school in Boston. Not MIT - she chose something lower-key, a university that hasn't been named in-game.

    Unless the situation is life-threatening, she never casts a spell without combining it with Supernal Veil. She has Cloak Nimbus up 24/7, making her look like a sleeper. Rhea is in hiding, you see, from the Abyssal entity she summoned, as well as hiding from everything else on general principle.

    Rhea is about to join an existing game, which has been running for some time.

    One day, she starts receiving notes - dropped on the sidewalk, folded up in her mailbox, scrawled on the side of fast-food containers. They all say that someone would like to meet her, inviting her to a certain coffee shop on a certain day. She's freaked out by this - apparently her hiding skills are not nearly as good as she'd hoped. She decides to go and meet this mysterious person who's apparently tracked her down somehow.

    Of course it's a Fate mage. He didn't know her, didn't know who or what she was, but he wanted someone to keep an eye on the cabal of existing characters. They've caused a ruckus all over the world, and Vagabond, as he's known, wanted someone who could temper their hotheadedness. They come to an agreement - he'll help her defend herself from Fate magic, and in return she'll keep an eye on the other PCs for a while, see if she can keep them out of trouble.

    The other PCs include:
    • Garrett, a Life mage (player has a learning disability, he enjoys playing with us, but the PC doesn't have much drive/personality)
    • Skeleton Key, specializing in Fate (he mostly acts as an observer and peanut gallery, again not a driving force in the game)
    • Rene, a Life/Spirit mage. He awakened by traveling a year into the past - his unawakened self is still wandering around. Regularly changes his face, is not even sure what his natural shape is anymore.
    • Shard, a changeling. He used to be a Mage/sword (complicated), but lost himself (and all his Wisdom, whoops) and shattered. Now he's a Changeling/sword-shard. Unstable. A bit violent. No memories more recent than a thousand years ago. Very lost and confused. Rhea likes him immediately.

    Rhea greets these strangers warily. They greet the strange Hispanic woman who's apparently going to be joining them equally warily. None of them beat her Clash - she just looks like a sleeper, with no magic at all. "Whatever, we're about to go to Japan. You want to come with?"

    Rhea gives Vagabond with helpless a 'what have you dragged me into' stare and says sure.

    And that's how Rhea, Prime + Forces + Matter Obrimos, ended up wandering around having adventures with a group of misfit mages! Anything dark tends to happen off-screen, with an understanding nod between player and ST - It's in public at a game store, which makes it hard to maintain mood sometimes. Kids running around playing Magic and all that, but there are some poignant moments coming up none the less.
    Last edited by BlueWinds; 01-02-2019, 01:01 PM.

  • #2
    Looking forward to it, I have been curious about Rhea's story ever since the Children of The Hearth legacy post, its interesting when a mage seeks tranquility above all else, to find the eye of the storm in the chaotic world they live in, regardless of the call of the Mysteries.

    I am wondering if she has the Anonimity merit as well. Rhea is a normal Shadow Name or does she also have the merit ? If so, what symbolism did you define for it ?

    New experiences are the font of creativity, when seeking inspiration, break your routine.

    The Agathos Kai Sophos, an Acanthus Legacy of strategists (Mind/Time)
    The Szary Strażnik, an Obrimos Legacy whose invisible hands guide through the Glyphs of Fate (Fate/Prime)


    • #3
      She has 3 dots in Occultation and 0 dots in Shadow Name. There's no symbolism attached to Rhea for her - it's just a name. It doesn't fit. More about exactly what that means will come up later, it's a pretty central point to her story, and results in some definite tragedy later on.

      Vagabond's mansion (or one of his mansions, rather - a story for a different time) is a rather nice place an hour outside the city. Or at least it was a rather nice place, until the cabal overstayed their welcome by killing all the fish in the lake, killing the guardian spirit, and spawning a new spirit of corruption that's trying to colonize the surrounding land. Exactly what happened is unclear, other than that it involved a lot of paradox - either the rest of the cabal isn't telling Rhea, or they don't know. Neither option is particularly promising.

      There are actually two more members of the cabal I forgot to mention last time (they left the game a while ago, slipped my mind until now).
      • Magician. Former leader of the cabal. He got busy and moved away - the session I joined was the last session he showed up for. Mastigos, too much Space magic and not enough common sense.
      • Spooky. Moros, Death-focused. Curious to the point of danger, willing to poke his head into anything and everything. Obsessed with finding new and unusual forms of magic.

      Anyway, the Cabal - which Rhea and Skeleton Key haven't formally joined, they're just tagging along - is heading to Japan to speak with the High Priestess. Not a high priestess, but The High Priestess. Rene feels responsible for the lake and wants to resolve the problems the cabal caused, but isn't very good at Spirit magic. He's arranged a holly spirit and ongoing festivities (mostly involving Changelings) to help contain the corruption, but doesn't know how to fix it permanently. He wants to consult with the High Priestess.

      Rhea asks if they've spoken with her and gotten an invitation. She gets blank looks. They were just going to pop in. Rhea sighs and pulls out a piece of paper and a pen. Does anyone here know Japanese? Blank looks. She sighs and starts writing a polite letter of introduction in English. Bam, Magician teleports the letter to the High Priestess, taps his fingers impatiently for about ten minutes, tries to scry on the letter - nope, it's been taken inside wards now. Waits impatiently another ten minutes, tugs again, and gets his response back. It's in Japanese. She sighs and translates it with her phone. They're welcome to come visit.

      The cabal asks if Rhea wants to come along. She doesn't, but, well, she did make a promise to Vagabond, so sure. "Let me just go pack my things and tell my thesis advisor I'll be missing a fe... woah!" Magician shoves her through a rip in space to Japan.

      This is how the cabal usually operated before Rhea joined. No wonder they need someone to keep an eye on them.

      The High Priestess lives in a secluded valley far up in the Japanese mountains. It's a valley that time forgot. There's a small town straight out of the 10th century. There are kitsune wandering the streets. There's no cell reception and no electricity. Rhea's rather upset about that, and vows to find a way to make it work. She also threatens Magician with grievous harm unless he takes her back to her car, then to the college campus so she can pack an overnight bag. She sure as hell doesn't trust him with the location of her apartment. But first, time to meet the High Priestess.

      The High Priestess is an ageless, elegant woman with silver hair and fox ears and a tail. Rhea's the only one in the cabal who can see them, the only one who wins the clash to pierce their concealment. Rhea bows respectfully. The Priestess nods in appreciation, making Rhea feel absolutely plain and uncultured. She blushes. Fortunately, the rest of the cabal is loud and jumps straight to business. Will she help them deal with the corruption spirit?

      Yes. Maybe. If they win her tournament, which is, surprise, just about to start. The High Priestess, in addition to being a fox spirit of the highest order, is also a Master of Fate, Time, Life, Spirit and who knows what else. She is awe-inspiring. Rhea feels awe. But the tournament! She claps her hands any lays out the rules. For the winner - a boon. For the losers- nothing. Honorable single combat, with only a single magical item allowed. Anything goes. Leaving the arena is a forfeit. To surrender, unconsciousness, or death. The cabal will act as a team, will not be forced to fight each other, must put forth a challenger for each round. Rhea isn't sure about this whole fighting thing, but, well... she's eager to prove herself as well. The rest of the cabal is clearly so much more experienced than she is, and she wants to learn.

      That, then, was the first session. A good start! A couple words about XP, houserules and mechanics here.

      Important house rule - PCs can purchase Arcana dots above the normal Gnosis limits. So while the cabal is mostly Masters, they're also mostly Gnosis 3. This was, I think, originally a misinterpretation of the rules about Common and Inferior Arcana costing more XP to raise above their normal limits (4 and 2 respectively) - but by the time I joined, it was far, far too late to change. :shrug: Things work out just fine, but keep it in mind that when I say the other PCs were Masters of their Arcana, it's not as impressive as it would be in a normal game.

      At this point, Rhea is character-creation, Gnosis 2, while the rest of the cabal has ~50XP and are all Masters of their respective arcana. It's a pretty big power gulf. The ST gave me 50xp to spend as well, but I metered it out slowly, to make the growth feel more organic - meteoric, but organic. You'll see her rapidly gaining in power and confidence over the next couple sessions.

      Last edited by BlueWinds; 01-02-2019, 01:02 PM.


      • #4
        I'll be honest - this arc was a bit of a mess. We had players joining and leaving, we had changing group dynamics, we had trouble holding together a plot. I've done my best to put it together into a coherent thread, but while fun, it wasn't the smoothest to play through. Things get better after we leave Japan, promise. I'd be tempted to skip recounting it entirely if it didn't lay the groundwork for things to come.

        As the cabal made ourselves at home in the village that time forgot, Rhea notices that there's no electricity and no cell reception. This is unacceptable. She didn't even have time to pack an overnight bag before the cabal all but abducted her halfway across the world. She threatens Magician with serious bodily harm unless he takes her back to her car briefly. and then to her university campus, and picks her up again several hours later. She actually wants to pack things from her apartment, but she'll be damned if she trusts a teleporting crazy-mage with the location of her apartment.

        Rhea doesn't understand Sympathy or Space magic yet. She thinks keeping the address secret will help.

        With supplies safely in tow, Rhea sets up a temporary workshop in their quarters - CnC machines powered by the local leylines, a phone charging station, her laptop... she could almost pretend she isn't trapped in ancient history if it weren't for the lack of internet. Though she considers retuning one of the leylines to act as a massive antenna (she has too much Prime and Forces, but no Space at all), she never quite gets around to it. We're busy with the tournament.

        The tournament. The cabal participated in a total of six rounds. I'm going to be brief with several of these, since I'm focusing here mostly on Rhea's story, and they had little lasting impact.
        • The first foe was Songstress, a kitsune who spent the evening before the match seducing Spooky and addicting him to her magic music. The cabal only barely manages to get Shard named as her opponent rather than Spooky - he was planning to enter and then immediately forfeit, you see. Shard summons a sword made of paint. Songstress attacks him with sound. Shard cuts her badly, and she surrenders before he kills her. Shard is not a gentle Changeling.
        • Skeleton Key fought an old man who commanded natural disasters. The arena turned to lava and earthquake, and Skeleton Key trips over his own feet at the perfect moment and avoids falling into the lava. The old man keeled over with a heart attack. Fate Magic is rough sometimes.
        • Rhea was up next. She's pretty scared of this whole thing - it's deadly, it's serious, but she's determined to contribute. The next round will be held in the morning, so she retreats to her room muttering to herself. In the morning the cabal finds her baggy-eyed and nervous. She drops her staff several times. She hasn't slept. Garrett takes pity and uses Life magic to refresh she and calm her down a little. They all ask if she's sure she's up for this. Yes, she's up for this.
        Rhea, small hispanic math student who, as far as everyone can sense, is a sleeper with no magic on her, steps into the arena holding her staff nervously. Her foe is a 6'6" bare-chested, impossibly handsome muscular man. The gong rings. Start. Her foe starts chanting, and begins sinking into the concrete. Rhea looks spooked, and all hell breaks loose. Gravity turns sideways. The entire area is filled with red mist. The ground covering the entire arena turns to liquid - still concrete, but not liquid. Stunned momentarily by the blinding pain of eyes full of pepper spray, her opponent is washed out of the arena by a mass of liquid concrete falling sideways. The match is called in Rhea's favor. A very shaken Rhea releases her magic. Gravity returns to normal. The concrete resolidifies.
        She'd spent the entire evening ritual casting, you see. Taken the pepper spray from her purse, grown it, solidified it (temporarily) and painted it all around the arena. Turned gravity sideways over the arena, then cast Dispel Magic to suppress it. Alchemist's Touch to render herself immune and orient her gravity downwards. Supernal Veil over everything. Which meant that all she needed to do was reflexively release her spells, and everyone but her gets pepper sprayed and fell sideways. She hadn't been counting on him burrowing into the ground though - liquifying the concrete was a panic move, and while her gravity was still downward, concrete is heavy, and she was washed away with the flood just as her opponent was. Her first taste of magical combat. It's with sincere thanks that she lets Garrett heal her broken ribs.
        • Garrett fought a frost mage. He ended up turning into a polar bear to ignore the winter storm and bit his foe until they submitted. It was pretty close, and Rhea learned exactly how gross Life magic usually is.
        • Shard ended up fighting Just Lightning, an honorable warrior more than his match. Things went poorly at first, until Shard pulled out his trump card - a shard of his old soul that can freeze time. He did that, moved around her, and posed his blade for a debilitating stroke. Time resumed, he struck, and though he struck deeply, she neither surrendered nor went down. Shard paused time again. Took a dramatic failure on a medical roll to see how healthy she was - barely slowed down by his previous strike, he gleaned, time frozen as he examined her. He struck again, harder. She died.

        We won that round, but made a terrible and dedicated enemy - Void, a trickster spirit of chaos, mind and lies. Just Lightning was both his ban and his lover. He was not amused that Shard had killed her. The sixth and final fight was against him. I'll save that, and wrapping up the arc, for another day.

        Magician's player (our Space Mage), moved away and his character was never heard from again. Alas, we'd have to find our own way home from Japan.
        Last edited by BlueWinds; 01-01-2019, 06:17 PM.


        • #5
          This is interesting. I wish more people would post their play experiences in sequential format like this so I can peer into people's games and understand how they play better. I hope you'll continue updating this AP as you get chances. What was it like around the table?


          • #6
            So I lied, not going to wrap up the arc here – still need one more post after this to conclude the Japan arc.

            I'm glad people are enjoying it, gives me more motivation to continue.

            As for how things are at the table, the usual dynamic is one of taking turns, as it sort of has to be in a face-to-face game. For each scene one of the players is usually the focus, while the rest of us just happen to be present. The ST’s attention is maybe 50% on one player and 50% spread out among everyone else. Garrett doesn’t usually take center stage – the player feels pressured if he’s given too much attention, and mostly just enjoys being there and part of the game. Skeleton Key is only present about half the time – his schedule is pretty rough. Shard also tends to come in rather late to each session.

            With all that, you can see why Rhea ends up central to most of the story – we give other players attention when they’re there and pursue their plots as we’re able, but for most of the campaign I’ve been the most reliable attendee, and thus Rhea has driven much of the story.

            As the final match of the tournament approaches, Rhea learns that most of the cabal is almost empty of mana, and has been for some time. They don’t scour, and none of them have access to a hollow except her. That’s ok though, the local geomancy is incredibly strong, and Rhea can feel a strong node and associated hollow just up the mountain behind the the High Priestess’ village. We’ll just go there and meditate a bit. Side quest time.

            Hiking does not agree with Rhea at all. She’s a city girl, and all this wilderness and physical exercise is not to her taste. Despite the discomfort, up the side of the mountain we climb to a point where the leylines start diving beneath the earth. There’s a hidden entrance, but several of the cabal manage to pierce the veiling, and with some occult puzzle solving, reveal a cave mouth. At this point we debate whether to press on – the hollow is clearly claimed and protected. We decide not to, however. On arrival we were given a list of things not to do, and coming up here wasn’t one of them. It seems perfectly in character for the High Priestess to just shrug if she learned of it – if we can pass through her protections, clearly we deserve to be there.

            We head into the cave, and here’s where things start to go poorly. There’s a guardian spirit, which promptly possesses Spooky and whispers that he needs to get us all out of here right now or we’re going to die. While Spooky tries to convince everyone to leave, and Rene works on banishing the spirit, Shard and Garrett dash past to the end of the tunnel, where it opens up into a cavern. The group is scattered. Rhea hesitates, has a bad feeling about this, and turns herself invisible, following Shard.

            Inside the mountain we find a vast cavern, tangled overgrown wilderness, and in the center an impossibly tall tree. That’s where the hollow is. Rene, though, is in trouble. He’s accidentally pricked himself on a thorn, and discovered just how deadly it is. He’s convulsing on the ground. Shard picks him up and runs back to the entrance, but not fast enough – another one of the guardians has found him. A six foot wolf-spirit grabs him in its jaws and flings him against the wall. He goes limp.

            Rhea doesn’t panic. Two of the cabal are down. One is possessed. She’s invisible, and nothing has noticed her yet, but she can’t see a way that things aren’t going to get worse the longer they stay here. Quite roughly and without warning, she decides to eject everyone from the cave by turning gravity sideways. She tips gravity for all the Mages, including the unconscious ones, and they all fall down a steep slope (that was level a moment before), screaming or bleeding or convulsing, back out into the open. The wolf does not pursue. Everyone licks their wounds and slinks back to our room in the village.

            Rhea learned a valuable lesson here. If you want something done right, do it yourself. The other mages are liabilities in any sort of subtle endeavor. She speaks to Rene in secret, and has him suppress her scent. She wards herself six ways from Sunday, and returns alone late at night.

            The guardian spirit can’t sense her (Cloak Nimbus + Invisibility). She’s immune to the poison thorns (Alchemist’s Touch). The wolves can’t smell, see or hear her. She walks in completely unmolested and makes her way to the great tree. There she finds a spiral staircase leading down among its roots. The air is poisonous down there. She gathers herself a supply of oxygen and heads down. Her spell control limit is increasingly taxed. This is the most magic she’s ever held in her mind at once. She steels herself and begins to descend.

            Deep beneath the earth at the heart of the mountain, surrounded by roots and stone, seemingly isolated from the entire world and very much alone, Rhea finds a perfectly still pool, glowing faintly blue. It is a sublime experience. The place is filled with spiritual and magical power. She kneels at the edge and tastes the water – pure tass. She fills a small water bottle with it, taking only a few mana, bows her head, and leaves the way she came without incident.

            As everyone gathers for the final day of the tournament, the High Priestess catches her eye, smiles at her. Though she’s sure she left no evidence, somehow the fox-diety knows. Rhea also knows that her respectful attitude is approved of.

            Rhea is starting to make a friend. Shame it won’t last.
            Last edited by BlueWinds; 12-23-2018, 05:45 PM.


            • #7
              The gravity escape plan was a really cool idea, nice reaction under pressure.

              I think the High Priestess is just subtle herself. Based on her Arcana spread, she can just stop Essence from being drawn without permission, which just leaves mages to benefit from it. So how did she find Rhea out ? Oaths Fullfilled cast on the lake, with a visual cue when someone draws water from it. If they are warded, then their footprints and DNA left on the scene will reveal who it was, no Clash of Wills required. She probably appreciated how even handed your second approach was (because the guardians already told her about the first).

              New experiences are the font of creativity, when seeking inspiration, break your routine.

              The Agathos Kai Sophos, an Acanthus Legacy of strategists (Mind/Time)
              The Szary Strażnik, an Obrimos Legacy whose invisible hands guide through the Glyphs of Fate (Fate/Prime)


              • #8
                Oh yeah, there are absolutely plenty of ways the Priestess could have found out. Rhea's a very, very new Mage, remember - she knows basically nothing about magic other than what she herself can do. If it's not Prime, Forces or Matter, she has no clue.

                That lack of knowledge is going to bite her pretty hard a few sessions from now.

                Void is a problem. None of us know what he looks like, only that he’s upset with us, that he’s dangerous and that he’ll be our opponent in the final match of the tournament. We decide to do some preparation. Skeleton Key asks for a weapon, and Rhea can provide. She makes for him, using the tools she brought from home, a pistol. The safety has three settings rather than the usual two. Safe, Dangerous, and Extremely Dangerous. On Dangerous, it’s merely a very nice handgun, with Rote and a +5 equipment bonus. In Extremely Dangerous mode, it throws 6 agg worth of supernal flames at everything in a big cone in front of it. You know, just in case that’s what he needs during the fight.

                Void, it turns out, looks like a relatively generic Japanese man, fit but nondescript. As he faces off with Skeleton Key in the arena, Rhea decides something about this is off, and begins attempting to discern his true form.

                When the gong sounds, Skeleton Key draws the gun and unceremoniously shoots Void. Something strange happens though, and though he hits Void square in the center of mass, there’s only a little bit of blood and he hardly seems to notice. In the stands, however, Rhea screams and doubles over, blood pouring from a wound. She’s seeing double now, the real overlaid with the supernal. Her vision pierces the veil – it’s Shard standing in the arena, with a dark cloud over his head. This isn’t blood pooling from her, it’s rice. Fortunately help is close at hand, and Garrett closes her wounds with a touch. She convulses, goes momentarily blind then regains her vision as, below, Skeleton Key tries something else, still unable to affect “Void” in front of him.

                She knows what’s happening, now though, and how Skeleton Key can win this seemingly impossible fight. Has already won it, in fact, even though he’s heavily on the back foot down below, dodging attacks and unable to touch the person opposing him. She only needs to tell the High Priestess what she knows. There’s a crowd in the way though, and after a few fruitless moments trying to get people to move out of her way, she turns to her cabal for help.

                Garret’s a big, muscular man. Spooky’s has an unnatural presence about him. They clear a path easily while Rhea follows on wobbly legs, really hoping Skeleton Key doesn’t try the extremely unsafe mode on the gun she gave him.

                They reach the High Priestess – and though she can barely be heard above the crowd, Rhea’s voice rings with undeniable truth as she explains the situation. That isn’t Void in the arena – he was never present at all, and thus has forfeited the match. Also, that’s Shard down there, in violation of the Priestess’ word that they wouldn’t be forced to fight one another.

                She smiles. She knew, of course. She calls the match in Skeleton Key’s favor, and announces the cabal the winner of the tournament. Rhea sits down and tries to catch her breath. Being shot takes a lot out of a person, magical healing notwithstanding.

                The next day, the cabal arrives at the High Priestess’ reception room to receive their rewards. She asks what each of them desire. Rene wants information on how to banish the spirit of corruption from the lake – granted. He learns its ban and its bane. Shard asks for a kiss. She laughs and turns him down. They had prior dealings, back when he was a Mage – he knows her, she knows him and wants nothing to do with him. Spooky asks after some information about an artifact he’s pursuing. Granted.

                When it comes to her, Rhea hesitates. “It’s ok, you can ask me in private if you’d like,” the High Priestess answers the hesitation.

                Rhea looks around. It’s her, the High Priestess, and her cabal, no one else. She shakes her head, takes a deep breath. “I want to know my name.” The rest of the cabal is a mix of confused and concerned by Rhea’s request. None of them know her story – she’s kept it completely secret, revealing nothing about herself or her past.

                “I think you’d better tell me the whole story, then.”

                Rhea hesitates again, her courage failing. “Let’s do that it private.”

                And that’s how Rhea ended up with a Flame spirit bound to her, with the goal of helping her discover her true name! The story she shared with the Priestess, I already posted in the thread up in the intro. It’s also the first time most of the cabal got a hint that things are going on with Rhea beyond the obvious. She does eventually end up trusting most of them enough to stop keeping secrets, but not yet.

                ...and I lied again. One more post set in Japan, which I triple swear is the last one to finish out the arc. :P
                Last edited by BlueWinds; 12-25-2018, 07:45 PM.


                • #9
                  Keep up the good work. This is great fodder for learning how Mages actually work, instead of thr Death Battle prep-time gods i see in speculation and metagaming threads

                  A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"


                  • #10
                    With all the cabal's goals accomplished, it's time to head back to Boston. None of us are space mages though, and Magician hasn't been seen in some time, so it's looking like an unpleasant hike through the Japanese wilderness back to civilization. Unpleasant for Rhea, at least - she's really, really not outdoorsy. Rene and Shard of course think it's a great idea, while Garrett doesn't have much of an opinion - one place is as good as another, as far as he's concerned. At least Spooky agrees with her that walking dozens of miles doesn't sound like a good way to spend a week.

                    We're saved that particular unpleasantness though by a telepathic call for Rene - some of his associates can provide transportation, as long as he's still in the valley later that evening. He's scant with the details, which Rhea respects, and we all kill some time before the end of the day. As evening approaches though, Rhea starts to feel uneasy, as though shadows are gathering. She goes to speak to Rene, and discovers he's the source of the phenomena - things are coming into the valley through his shadow. She freaks and starts putting up wards just in time, as chaos erupts on the street outside. Shadowy attackers fight their way through the village, opposed by spirits and students. It's beyond us - while Rhea would love to help, she has no idea what's even going on. That feeling of being out of our depth gets worse as the horizon starts wavering, immense waves of conflicting Time and Fate magic fighting it out over the fate of the entire area. We decide to run.

                    Rhea gathers everyone together, and in a bout of newly increased Forces arcana, turns gravity sideways and slightly upwards in an area around herself, launching the entire cabal upwards and outwards, away from everything else. She's new at this, but falling away from the village at terminal velocity turns out to be the perfect solution for escaping orbital bombardment. Yep, definitely out of our league. The blast from a crashing meteor sends us tumbling, throwing most of the cabal other than Skeleton Key out of the area of Rhea's gravity adjustment. They start plummeting.

                    Garrett grows himself a pair of wings and begins gliding to the ground. That's great. Rhea drops the gravity and grabs herself, Skeleton Key and Magician in a feather-fall, letting the three of us slowly drift to the ground. Shard though... she's not fast enough, disoriented by the blast, and misses him. Skeleton Key applies Fate magic though, and rather than breaking every bone in his body, Shard lands... on a bear. A brief comedic interlude ensues with a berserk Shard wrestling the bear until the rest of the cabal arrives and manages to both calm him down and drive the bear off.

                    We dust ourselves off, lick our metaphorical or literal wounds, and turn to Rene with some pointed questions. What the hell was that?

                    Reticent at first, though protesting his complete honesty the whole time, Rene eventually gives the full story. Several months ago he found himself in the hands of an order of Banishers (the political kind, not the messed up magic kind) in New York – Mages who kill other Mages for money and resources. One of their number, Cano, was very persuasive, and offered him an ultimatum. He could make a Soul Stone for them and be released, or they’d kill him. He accepted, ripped out part of his soul for them, and went on his merry way.

                    Rhea has no idea what a Soul Stone is, and examines his soul. She is utterly horrified by what she sees, a gaping wound in his Gnosis with power being drawn off… somewhere. She feels a little sick, didn’t know that magic could be perverted like that, but gets back to the subject. So… what the hell happened.

                    Apparently Cano still has hooks in Rene, and she was the one who was going to give us a ride out of there. But before that, she used the soul stone to dump agents through into the High Priestess’ valley. The story gets clearer when we realize how he learned of the Priestess in the first place – from them. They had a contract on her, but the valley was too well defended. Rene was invited in though, because he had only good intentions. Our whole trip here was a setup. Rhea is angry as all hell – you can tell because she gets quiet and draws back into herself and stops asking questions. She’s very good with this emotions thing, y’all.

                    Cano is still in Rene’s head, though now she sounds rather concerned. None of their agents have reported back, and could we please go try and find them? He relays this. Rhea gives him a hard stare. Yes, we should go check for survivors. Since things have calmed down, we head back to the valley. Nothing lives. The entire area is devastated, nothing but carnage and destruction. The valley is more than dead – it’s desecrated. The geomancy is ruined, intentionally so. Nothing will grow. Sleepers who enter the area will wither and die. We find plenty of bodies, but no sign of the Mages Cano asked us to look for. We find the High Priestess’ body.

                    Rhea stares at it a moment, and then wordlessly picks up a stick and begins scribing a ritual circle on the ground. She pulls out her laptop and begins calculating the optimal placement of her runes. The rest of the group explores the area, continuing the search for survivors, leaving Rhea well enough alone after she snaps a few times at people asking what she’s doing or if she needs help or wants to talk. She completes her work an hour later. Rhea is now Gnosis 3, and in possession of a freshly purchased Mastery of Prime, and the rest of the cabal is about to learn what that means.

                    The High Priestess knew her secrets and hadn’t judged her. Someone she was starting to trust. Someone who might have become a friend, or a mentor. Now she’s dead, killed in her own home. The least Rhea can do is leave her a proper memorial. Crying, Rhea kisses the body’s forehead and begins to channel magic. The circle glows brilliant blue, and the ground in the area begins shuddering. This is the first time the cabal has ever seen Rhea’s nimbus, as she relaxes Cloak Nimbus and pours her whole heart into the spell. Golden annotations and symbols float in the air around her. Golden mist starts rising from the area, flowing out. The desecrated geomancy dissolves under the purifying light, as does the High Priestess’ body. The ground shakes, and no one can help but feel the currents of magic in the entire valley shifting under Rhea’s outpouring of power.

                    They valley is still devastated, but it will heal now, back to the verdant paradise it had been under the High Priestess’ tenure. Rhea leaves behind a powerful Hollow. She stands, wipes away her tears, and nods. Now we’re ready to leave.

                    Remember the names Cano and Mathias. We're going to see a lot more of them, and this is our first introduction to two NPCs that will shape the rest of the campaign. Also, Rhea was right - Rene's soulstone is nothing but trouble, and he should have let her destroy it on sight.
                    Last edited by BlueWinds; 01-01-2019, 08:02 PM.


                    • #11
                      We gather around Rene, and with a blip, find ourselves on the roof of a tall building in downtown New York. Cano turns out to be a young woman Rhea’s age, short, tattooed, and… not a mage. Sleepwalker. She holds the reigns to a great many spells for the Banishers, watches over the sanctum when the mages aren’t there, answers the phone, and generally relies on their protection. None of the Banishers have come back, and she’s feeling pretty vulnerable all alone in a sanctum, and can she please come with them? The cabal briefly debates killing her. Rene is not in favor of killing her, nor of letting her come along. Spooky wants her dead. Rhea is… on the fence. Shard has no opinion.

                      But the Soulstone. An agent teleports in – we never did get his name. Shades and dangerous demeanor, Garrett and him have a brief testosterone-fueled standoff and then decide on fistcuffs for the fun of it. They beat each other up a bit while Rhea talks with Cano. She ends up feeling a bit sorry for the sleepwalker. She’s not the one who made decisions, and revenge would feel hollow. Also she’s a bit sick at the thought of killing someone. Rhea votes to let her come along, and gets her way. She has some pointed questions she wants to ask later, in private, and she can’t do that if Cano doesn’t come with them.

                      Testosterone purged, Agent settles down to business. Cano hands over the soulstone, which Rhea resists the urge to destroy. Agent asks if we’d like a ride back to Boston, since one of his superiors, Mathias, would like to speak with us. We agree, having no reason not to, and are promptly whisked to an empty lecture hall in Harvard. Mathias greets us while Agent excuses himself. Mathias is an older, distinguished looking man, greying hair and professorial demeanor revealing little about himself. He examines us with Mage Sight.

                      Rhea is here manages to pull off a pretty clever deception, which later proves vital. She has two layer of Supernal Veil – one, weakly cast, depicts her as a Sleepwalker. Behind that, with all the power she can muster, is a layer depicting her as a Gnosis 1 Initiate of Prime. Mathias, in an amusing turn of events, fails to pierce even the lower-level spell. Dice were not in his favor. He nods – as a Guardian of the Veil, he approves of Mages who hide their abilities. Oops, he thinks she’s good at her job, which is not the impression she wanted to give. She pretends to believe his flattery, and drops the first veil. He examines her again, and is surprised that she’s such a weak mage. Most cabals grow up together, he explains. She responds that she’s new, only joined the group a little while ago.

                      Mathias makes his pitch to join the Guardians of the Veil. They’re important, protecting Sleepers from supernatural horror, keeping errant Mages in line, etc. It’s a pretty good explanation, and Rhea considers it, but declines. She’s not martial, and has no intention of learning how to fight with her magic. The others also decline for their own reasons.

                      Rene, though, gets a special meeting with Mathias. He’s the end result of a generations-long experiment attempting to Awaken a soul which has, apparently, finally met with success in Rene. Mathias gives him back his Soulstone, no strings attached. Seems like a nice guy. He too declines to join.

                      We head away from our meeting with Mathias, and the cabal splits to rest and recove. Most of them have no permanent home, and though Rhea has an apartment, she’s not comfortable letting anyone else know where it is. Cano solves the problem with money – she has a lot of that right now, having access to her organization’s bank accounts and the rest of them being missing. Hotel rooms for the men and a cab ride to Rhea’s apartment for the two women.

                      Rhea decompresses by reading her email and stressing out about all the classes she’s missed while Cano takes a shower. When the Sleepwalker comes out, she’s wearing one of Rhea’s sweaters and a pair of underwear and nothing else, causing Rhea to blush and look away and ask her to put on pants. She does, and they sit down for an uncomfortable conversation.

                      Rhea opens with three options. They can speak, and she’ll be disinclined to trust anything Cano says. Rhea can use a spell to sense falsehood, and she’ll be inclined to mistrust that Cano isn’t leaving out important things. Or she can force Cano to tell the whole truth, which is an invasion of privacy but is just about the only way she’s going to trust the other woman.

                      Cano shrugs and says whatever, but Rhea shouldn’t trust anything she says regardless. The Mages she worked for were in her mind frequently, you see, and anything she knows is subject to having been altered to keep secrets. That tugs straight at Rhea’s heartstrings and melts the rest of her desire for revenge on this woman. She curls up, and instead of an interrogation, they have a conversation. A long talk. The sun sets. The sun rises. Cano will be staying with Rhea for a while until they know more about what happened to her old cabal.

                      Every button to be pressed, every emotion to tweak, Cano found it. She played Rhea like a fiddle, and through Rhea, the rest of her cabal. She got exactly what she wanted – Mages to protect her, a safe home while she searches for the rest of her order.

                      It’s a good thing her goals don’t run counter to Rhea’s interests, because it’s time to get used to it. Cano, Sleepwalker, is going to spend the rest of the campaign with a Master of Prime wrapped around her finger.


                      • #12
                        With Cano's arrival, we decide to form a fresh cabal, wiping away some of the mistakes of the past (before Rhea joined), and adding new members. With a few suggestions tabled, we settle on the "Lost and the Seeking" relatively quickly. We then spend a great deal more time arguing over a cabal outfit - Cano considers it absolutely vital, and while none of us disagree in principle, what we can all agree to actually wear is another question.

                        We eventually settle on black and black - black jeans and black button up shirts/blouses. Add a gold eye necklace and we're set. Cano does a good job of ingratiating herself to everyone else by throwing around money. Expensive new clothes, good food, a bit of generosity goes a long way.

                        The new cabal is, in Rhea's estimation:
                        - Shard (Lost, literally, he's a Changeling)
                        - Garrett (Lost, doesn't know what he wants from life)
                        - Rene (Lost, doesn't know who he is)
                        - Cano (Seeking her old cabal)
                        - Rhea (Seeking... something. She's not telling.)
                        - Skeleton Key (Seeking... something. He's not telling either.)

                        Rene considers himself neither lost nor seeking, but joins anyway. Spooky declines to participate - his condition was that each member reveal what they're lost about or seeking, more honesty and transparency. Rhea flattly refused when it came to her turn, while Skeleton Key would have done the same had we reached him. She doesn't trust him. He's spooky, he prying, he has way too many Paradox conditions, and Rhea trusts slowly. Nope. Which is fine with everyone, actually - only half the group were officially members of the last cabal, which never became a problem.

                        Forming a new cabal also means checking in with the local powers-that-be. Boston is unusual in that it's far more Changeling controlled than Mage - there are four Courts (Neon, Ivy, Steel and... I forget the last), a "King of Kings" to rule over them all, and many Mages affiliate themselves with one of the courts, while the rest remain deeply involved in Fairy politics, even if not direct members. We speak with our friendly Mage contact in the city, Vagabond, who originally introduced Rhea to the rest of the group. He's happy to arrange a meeting for us.

                        Shard hasn't joined a court yet, but he's dealt with them before, so when the time rolls around he guides us there. It's a massive underground park, with a central tree where the King of Kings awaits us. They turn out to be an androgynous being of starlight and autumn breezes, who welcomes us and seems especially fond of Shard. It takes less convincing than we'd expected for the cabal to be granted territory, a small area around Rhea's univerisity, also containing her apartment. Within our territory we have relatively few limits - no terrorizing the Sleepers too hard, no killing supernatural trespassers without warning, but that's about it really.

                        We thank them and are on our way out when several of the cabal notice that valuables on their person are missing. Rene has lost his soulstone. Garrett is missing his dedicated magical tool. Rhea wasn't carrying anything more valuable than a few dollars in her wallet. We catch sight of the culprit though - a cat-tailed Changeling, ducking through a doorway on the edge of the underground park. We give chase... and find ourselves staring out into the Hedge.

                        Shard knows what that is, and strongly, strongly advises us against going in after him. Rhea agrees - we know, from asking around, that the Changeling is associated with the Court of Ivy. He broke laws stealing from us here and now, and we can go through the Changeling system to get recompense. Garret and Rene of course want to give chase immediately. Cano does too - she's quite a bit reckless, and wants to throw herself headfirst into a new magical adventure, though of course she doesn't put it in quite those words.

                        Cano convinces Rhea. Shard sighs and says we'll need his guidance if we're to have any hope of surviving. We go in.

                        I showed up to the next several sessions after this wearing our new cabal outfit - I have a really nice black silk blouse, and bought some black skinny jeans to complete the look. Everyone appreciated that.
                        Last edited by BlueWinds; 01-17-2019, 08:46 PM.


                        • #13
                          The Hedge is up next ? Cool, its surreal weirdness is one of my favorite things in Changeling.

                          I might be thinking of 1ed, but weren't mages in the Hedge liable to have their Wisdom flayed by the Thorns until they become Unmade at 0 ? Maybe Shard leading the way could allow them to dodge that peril (or some homebrewing).

                          I wonder why no one ever tried to make a Fate & Life Legacy to allow safe investigation of the Hedge, it would be such a Mysterium thing to do.

                          Looking forward to the next one, thanks again for sharing Rhea's adventures.

                          New experiences are the font of creativity, when seeking inspiration, break your routine.

                          The Agathos Kai Sophos, an Acanthus Legacy of strategists (Mind/Time)
                          The Szary Strażnik, an Obrimos Legacy whose invisible hands guide through the Glyphs of Fate (Fate/Prime)


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by KaiserAfini View Post
                            The Hedge is up next ? Cool, its surreal weirdness is one of my favorite things in Changeling.

                            I might be thinking of 1ed, but weren't mages in the Hedge liable to have their Wisdom flayed by the Thorns until they become Unmade at 0 ? Maybe Shard leading the way could allow them to dodge that peril (or some homebrewing).

                            I wonder why no one ever tried to make a Fate & Life Legacy to allow safe investigation of the Hedge, it would be such a Mysterium thing to do.

                            Looking forward to the next one, thanks again for sharing Rhea's adventures.
                            That was in 1e, the Thorns in 2e no longer strip away Integrity or equivalent traits (it was Morality & equivalents in 1e), at least not in an ongoing mechanical sense; the lore is still that the Thorns strip away what makes a Changeling human when they pass through them on their way to their Keeper's realm.

                            However, the Hedge still has other things that make travel dangerous, even for one of the Awakened.

                            proin's Legacy hub


                            • #15

                              Posts and horizontal lines represent dramatic breakpoints, not session boundaries, in case anyone's trying to keep track.

                              So, time to explain a bit of Shard's history.

                              In his previous life, Shard was known as Kusanagi, a soul attached to the legendary blade of the same name. He was at least a thousand years old, and a Mage. An extremely destructive Mage, with more Forces than sense. He managed to flit from disaster to disaster in the modern world, until, just before I joined the game, his hubris finally caught up with him in the form of the true Fey nobility. He was trapped in the hedge, where all Forces magic causes paradox (in this game at least), and fought with them in an epic battle which ended with huge swaths of the Hedge destroyed and on fire, reaching 0 Wisdom, his legendary sword shattering into five pieces (along with his Awakening), and him being abducted to Arcadia and turned into a Changeling.

                              This is the Shard who's a part of the cabal - a Changeling piece of Kusunagi's soul, wielding a shard of the sword which is still a potent artifact in its own right. He hasn't learned very much restraint since then, but he has lost a lot of power. He can now stab people with a sword and occasionally freeze time, which is way less scary than being a Master of Forces who thinks causing an earthquake in downtown Boston is a perfectly reasonable solution to his problems.

                              So there we are, standing in the border of the hedge, with no one other than Shard knowing what it is, and him extremely inexperienced. We saw where the Changeling who stole Rene's soulstone was headed, and give chase immediately. Or rather, Rene, Garrett and Spooky give chase, Shard follows them, and Rhea and Cano run after trying not to get left behind. The Hedge reacts to our presence - as we run through what's (for now) a relatively normal forest, we have the sense that something is following us. Rhea really, really hates running, but she also instinctively knows that this thing is *dangerous*. And that Forces, which she'd normally use to help her in a footrace, will cause Paradox.

                              In an astonishing burst of luck, Rhea, with Athletics 0 and dump physical stats, rolls *extremely* well repeatedly. In the mad dash through the rapidly darkening hedge, she sees an opening - a place to duck out, an open hole with sunlight streaming through. Split second decision - she sticks with her cabal. Breathlessly she asks Shard how this ends, where they're going - he's pretty athletic himself, and confidently tells her that each of them should duck out when they have the chance, but he won't until he's sure everyone else has made it. Well shit. Cano is lagging. She's as unathletic as Rhea, but without her intuitive understanding of the symbolism involved (read OOC: lucky Athletics rolls). Spooky and Shard hold back in order to help her, keeping her barely ahead of our pursuers, at this point a howling pack of not-wolves in addition to the encroaching darkness. We are, all of us, falling behind. Bad.

                              Shard cuts his hand with his fragment of the sword, freezing time for everyone except him. He goes around and cuts the palm of each of his cabal-mates, bringing them into the frozen moment with him. His cut bleeds harder with every person he brings along, and he he staggers a little as he informs us to run, damn it, run. We can feel the pressure of the Hedge against his bubble of time. It'll break soon, but it gives us a few more moments to pull ahead. Rhea sees another opening and ducks out, her fantastic luck continuing (seriously, I kept rolling 2-5 successes on 2 dice + the occasional WP). Garrett sees another one a moment later and ducks out himself. That leaves Cano, Spooky and Shard, running through a world of frozen time, crumbling into blackness as if cracked chunks of it were falling away into nothingness. The Mage and the Changeling manage to get Cano out, but are themselves swallowed by the void.

                              I missed a session here, the one and only time since joining the game. We'll find out what happened to Shard and Spooky later, when Rhea learns about it.

                              Rhea splashes out of the chase into a swamp. It's wet, but peaceful. She stands silently a moment, catching hem breath and considering whether to clean herself off with Matter. Cano and Rene drop into the swamp nearby, and they catch their breaths together about half an hour before deciding that no one else is going to show up. They see a clearing ahead, and start slogging in that direction. They find themselves at the outskirts of a Goblin Market. Rules are posted - pretty standard stuff. No violence. All deals are final. No carrying marbles in your left hand. The place is a riot of colors and body shapes, goblins and stranger creatures in all forms and hues making a great racket as they trade anything and everything.

                              Rene has started to feel something unpleasant - someone is draining mana from him. He doesn't say anything about it yet. Cano spots Garrett, and together with Rhea heads over to meet with him. Out resident Thyrsis has managed to reacquire his dedicated tool, a necklace of shells, but has no news of Rene's soulstone. Apparently he struck a deal with one of the goblins to have the entire cabal's equipment stolen from the errant Changeling... but only bargained for the return of his own tool. Now, you see, now we have a problem - before, we had leverage over the Changeling that had stolen them. We have no leverage at all over a goblin merchant. Rene is going to have to bargain away something of equal value to retrieve his soulstone. Urgently, too. The drain on his mana is accelerating.

                              We go and speak with the merchant in question, a bloated liquid-filled translucent slug the size of a car. Rene negotiates with it, but is ultimately unwilling to offer anything the goblin considers of equal value. Rhea is also unwilling to part with pieces of herself on Rene's behalf - this is a piece of his soul in question, and now he's paying the price for not letting her destroy it when he had the chance.

                              Rhea though, has something else she wants, and this is an excellent opportunity. She wishes the goblins are to explore a certain address about an hour north of Boston and report back to her on what they find. The rest of the cabal asks what that address is, but Rhea shakes her head and remains quiet. She'll explain later. She offers a beautiful blade made of Truth that wields itself for a year and a day, specially made. The merchant accepts.

                              On the outskirts of the Market, Rhea spends an hour producing such a sword with Eidolon - she produces two of them, in fact, identical down to the smallest detail. She returns to the merchant's tent, and hands one over. She offers a second deal - she'll destroy the second, rather than sell it to someone else, if it will provide a guide back to Earth. It agrees to that as well, eager to preserve the uniqueness of its new acquisition.

                              Rhea is not good at bargaining. Not much of a people person in general. She didn't say *where* on Earth they were to be guided back to. The ST has us roll a die. Rhea, Cano and Rene all end up on the outskirts of Boston, while Garrett... finds himself high in the air over an ocean somewhere. He turns into a bird, circles a bit, finds a ship. Lands, listens in on the conversations of the crew, and decides that he'll just wait while it sails into port.