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Mage: Pentacle City (Actual Play)

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  • Mage: Pentacle City (Actual Play)

    A quick word before we start

    This is a Chronicles of Darkness game that is intended to become a Mage: The Awakening 2nd Edition game upon the release of the new book. The Player Characters are destined to awaken as Mages, the players know this but the characters naturally do not. This is my first Actual Play series, I'll be figuring things out a little as I go along so please bear with me, advice and comments are welcome. This is intended for the players to be able to read, so it will remain spoiler free about events that the player characters don't yet know or understand. These are the events from my memory and point of view as the Storyteller, but of course the players may have different understandings especially regarding what their characters are thinking and feeling. When I describe these things it's either because the player told me, or it's simply my best guess.

    Why Pentacle City? There are two reasons behind this title.

    Firstly the game is set in New York City, a place that abounds in Supernal symbolism. The Pentacle refers to the five boroughs of New York which some scholars believe conform to the symbolism of the five Supernal Realms. The great mystery of New York City is that more awakenings occur here, per capita, than any other place in the world. No one knows why, but many people investigate this great mystery in the hopes of discovering how and why some people awaken and others do not.

    Secondly the game is thematically focused on money, the more mundane meaning of the pentacle symbolism in tarot. The characters are a group of criminals hired to perform a heist, this simple job offers a view into the supernatural world which the characters do not yet understand but will come to know in great detail.

    What's the schedule? This chronicle is run every fortnight on Tuesdays, although this might vary in the future. Each session is around six hours long, although this also contains a lot of socializing, getting dinner and all of that fun. During the other weeks, our Tuesday night group plays in my friend's Hunter game. The first session of this game was yesterday, Tuesday 29th December. This was actually an early start, we weren't going to begin until January, however due to the holidays the Storyteller wasn't quite prepared to run the next session of the Hunter game and so we started a little early. I intend on writing new entries to the actual play after each session while the memories are still fresh.

    Introducing the heist team: our player characters and one NPC
    Not all details are here yet, due to the short notice start of the game some of the characters were created on the spot.
    Once I receive the full details from the players, I can add more information.

    Martina Mariano: The Forger (played by Mandy). A young woman from a poor family who chased a dream to study art. Her technical skills are flawless but she's always struggled to express herself creatively. Her ability to make exact copies of the work of master painters was discovered and became the gateway to a criminal world. Although she takes these jobs she doesn't consider herself a criminal. She's just doing what she has to in order to support her family and look out for her future. One day, she'll give up all this when she finally creates the art that makes her famous in her own name. On top of all this, she has a secret that no one yet knows.

    Scipio Tonelli: The Mobster (played by Aaron). A middle aged man who works for the Trovato crime family, one of the 'five families' of this alternate universe NYC. He's only ever had one job before, to look scary and make sure that the family gets its money. Despite that he's an ambitious man, hoping for more of a future with the family. He finally has his chance as after many years of loyal service he has become a made man. Proving himself is going to be difficult though, he knows he doesn't have the education or even the criminal experience of many others in the family, he's always just been a thug.

    Sigrun Lassila: The Hitwoman (played by Sam). Sigrun's life was shaped for her, turning her into a perfect weapon but raising her isolated, alone and used by her own family. She was saved from complete isolation by an unlikely friendship with the daughter of the family's Patriarch, Liljiana, still an innocent young girl. The family was betrayed from within when Sigrun's father attempted a coup on the patriarch, not caring that his own daughter would also be killed in the cross-fire. Sigrun helped Liljiana escape the slaughter of that night and they've both been running ever since.

    "Matty": The Fixer (played by Misha). A law student drop-out who embraced the criminal lifestyle out of a sense of fun and a broad anti-authoritarian streak. To him, the real criminals are the people in power who allow and cover up deaths just to help corporate profits. Compared to that, what's the harm in selling people what they need? He thrives on his contacts and making connections between people. To him, it's all a game. He knows just about everyone, but a range of disguises and fake identities means that very few of them really know him.

    Lin Wu: The Chemist (played by Alex). A doctor of chemistry, frustrated with professional academia and chasing meaningless grants. She has an interest in traditional medicine, which she was able to study for her doctorate but hasn't been able to find the grants to support further realistic and scientific study in this area. Manufacturing illegal drugs may not be any better than the type of research that attracts grants but at least it's on her own terms and pays even better.

    Darren: The Driver (played by James). A former LA stunt driver for Hollywood, Darren lost his old career and struggled to make ends meet. He drives a taxi but on the side makes a living moving drugs, contraband or people wherever they needed to go. The player couldn't be here for most of the session, so there hasn't been a lot of time to discuss the character yet. Very broad strokes so far, but it let him join in for the last part of the session.

    Lucas Fletcher: The Hacker (NPC). A young man who was always interested in computing and didn't mind using his skills illegally out of curiosity. He only turned to using these skills to make money a few months ago after his family was caught in a traffic accident. His mother still remains in hospital on life support in a medically induced coma, his father came off lightly in comparison but was injured too badly to keep his construction job. Lucas himself had a spinal injury that has made him paraplegic. The money he makes working with Martina is the only way his family can afford their medical costs. Through all this Martina and Lucas have become friends.

    Coming next: The first session.

  • #2
    I'd subscribe if it were an option. Looks fun so far.


    • #3
      Session One: Planning the Heist

      Important NPCs

      Emilio Baylon: Wannabe Mastermind. Still quite a young man, Emilio is trying to get into the trade of organizing capers. So far they've mostly been small, but he's made a name for himself as someone who will take the sticky and strange jobs that no one else will touch. He's known for creativity and lateral thinking, solving problems by getting together people with unexpected skill sets who can find a solution that no one else would consider. The heist of this session is his first big score. His cheerful smile wins him a lot of friendship but he has a lot to prove before people trust his abilities.

      Part One, Prequels and prologues
      In which the question "How do you know Emilio?" is answered for most of our characters

      Sigrun is stranded out at sea. Her plan to leave Finland without attracting her father's attention worked perfectly and has her smuggled aboard a container ship to New York City, her plan for arriving and safely getting onto land though fell through at the last moment. She's now only several nautical miles away from New York City. Hopping between ships as they head in and out of port, trying to delay while the captain of the first ship reaches New York City and gets her help. It seems unlikely that he'll find anything. Most of her bridges are burning behind her and all she has to offer are her very particular set of skills.

      Only a day or so later a large pleasure yacht pulls up alongside her ship though and invites her aboard. The yacht is a party boat and everyone aboard is a blonde Nordic model in a bikini, lounging about and drinking cocktails. Sigrun and Liljiana get aboard and disappear amidst a sea of blondes who superficially resemble them. When the party boat returns back to the docks, no one notices two extra faces aboard. Between the camouflage, the sex appeal distraction and a little bit of bribery keeping the coast guard clear, she slips easily into the city. She discovers that a local man, Emilio, was behind her rescue and agrees to owe him a favour.

      Months go past with only minimal contact, aside from Emilio helping out with fake identification documents, until one day he calls in the favour, asking her to come to a meeting for a job that he's planning. He also asks her to arrive a little bit early before everyone else so that he can discuss the favour.

      It's nearly Christmas and on a busy street, Matty and Lin Wu meet as they often do. Lin Wu is pulling along a suitcase by the handle which Matty takes graciously from her as though helping her out with the heavy bag. As ordinary and relaxed as the two people look, no one passing ever realizes that a drug deal just went down in broad daylight.

      "There's some more candycanes for Santa's workshop." Lin says quietly. Matty responds by wishing her a Merry Christmas and handing her a tacky generic Christmas card.

      As they walk on a little together to keep the transaction from drawing attention Matty tells her something he couldn't risk saying over the phone. "There might be a job if you're interested but I can't be sure yet, I haven't got all the details."

      Matty and Emilio have worked in the same circles for years and have mostly the same contact list in their phones. Every so often they trade or share contacts with one another, taking advantages of the specializations that they each have. Lin Wu is a contact that Matty has never shared, after all a professional drug manufacturer is far too valuable to let anyone else know. Emilio has asked Matty though to help him find a skilled scientist who can do some sort of analysis to verify something. The whole vague situation was made worse by the fact that Emilio knows absolutely nothing about science and is explaining what he needs very badly while unable to say much over the phone.

      Lin is potentially interested though and so Matty, Lin and Emilio make a plan. Matty will get to the meeting a little early, Lin can wait somewhere nearby while Emilio answers some of Matty's questions. Once the job is confirmed as legitimate then Matty can send Lin a message to come in.

      Scipio Tonelli's immediate superior in the family, known to most as Il Generale, is a man of few words and Tonelli usually likes it that way. Their meetings are simple with Il Generale telling Tonelli what he wants done, when and how. Then Tonelli goes and does it. Working with other members of the Trovato family has never been quite as easy. A few weeks after becoming a made man Il Generale tells him, "The boss wants to see you at the townhouse. Two o'clock."

      Tonelli has met the boss Joseph Trovato before plenty of times but he's never had a set meeting with him one on one like this. He doesn't question the orders at all, but he's nervous as he approaches the townhouse where Joseph lives and conducts some of the higher level discussions. The boss's wife, Celestino, greets him at the door like an old friend though. She asks about his mother and makes sure that he's doing alright before guiding him into Joseph's study for the meeting. She even gives him a cup of coffee to drink, helping to set him at ease and feel much more welcome.

      Joseph gets started without much small talk, "I know you must be frustrated over being an associate of our family for so long before finally having your loyalty recognized by your co-workers, but I need to ask a little more patience from you. We've told everyone who works for us that you're a gentleman of respect but we haven't spread the word to anyone outside of our own community, haven't given the warning yet that you're untouchable. That's because we have a tough job for you and you'll need to be a little undercover for this, it's alright that people know you've done work for us, but we don't want them to know that you're part of our family."

      Tonelli doesn't complain saying, "I've survived without being called untouchable so far, I can do it a little while longer. What do you need me to do?"

      "Arico's been telling me that someone has been sniffing around his operations, trying to get their hands on information about our drug manufacturers. We've been following up on it and found out who it is, do you know a man called Charles Bowles?"

      Tonelli (after failing a streetwise roll) doesn't know anything about him. The boss explains to him, "He's worked with the black market for years but we don't cross paths much. He mostly associates with the weirdos and doesn't deal in our sort of merchandise. Normally we'd just take care of anyone looking into our business but we need to get some more information before we act, to find out if someone else is involved and what they're looking for. This Charles Bowles guy doesn't usually associate much with the people we know so it's hard to get anyone close to him to find anything out. He's hired a young punk, Emilio, to put together some sort of crew for a job. Lorenzo is going to lean on some of Emilio's contacts and make sure that when the recommendations come through, he's going to want to hire you. He should get in touch with you soon. Take the job, find out about his client."

      "It's not actually a Rembrandt or anything, just a practice piece I was working on to figure out that style by copying one of his works." Martina explained to the man staring quite shocked at one of the paintings she had in her yard sale.
      "You know, you could make a lot of money with this sort of talent." Emilio said with a smile.

      Months of working with Emilio followed, each time justified as a one off thing when new school fees came up for her little brother or when her mother's car broke down. She started working with Lucas as well, combining their talents to duplicate official documents. Lucas would research the technical details, while Martina would provide the creative eye and careful hand of an artist. It was easy to believe that they were doing the right thing when she saw the difference the money was making to her family or to Lucas' situation. One day, while going out for drinks with Lucas and Emilio, he surprised her though as he started talking about a bigger job. "It's not too big is it? We don't want to get greedy and get ourselves in trouble." She asked.

      Emilio said, "Well, it's a lot bigger, but it's the sort of money you could rely on for a long time. Put it in shares or something legitimate and it'll keep you set. That shouldn't draw as much attention." Martina nudged Lucas, excited and looking between the two of them said, "You mean this might be our way out."

      "I just need to warn you though, we'll be dealing with some proper hardened criminals. I'm going to try to act like I know my way around the criminal world but I wanted to make sure that you two are going to be alright doing this before I expose you to that sort of type. See, we're having a meeting..."

      Coming Next: Part Two, The Meeting.


      • #4
        Oh man, consider me hooked already.

        Question though, do you plan on making the Mystery of New York more visceral? My first impression is, that more Awakenings is perhaps a bit strange but it's hard to dig into. Is it enough to grab the obsessive interest of Mages? To be fair, I personally like to grab onto concrete things. Like the Abyssal sources of Awakenings that intrude on life in normal ways.

        Man, I was going to say The Fixer looked the most interesting, and then you introduced The Hacker. They're all interesting, but those kind of play to some of my inherent interests.

        Regardless, keep it coming.


        • #5
          Part Two, The Meeting.
          All of the player characters together at last.


          The Gammon Room: Once an Irish pub in Highbridge, the Bronx it came close to going out of business as the neighbourhood started to slip into poverty. Most of the Irish locals of this region moved out and the neighbourhood became known for its Puerto Rican inhabitants instead. The pub was taken over by Patricia Townsend, a professional criminal who maintains the pub as a meeting place for heist crews. Overpriced drinks and a bar kept too fancy for the neighbourhood it's in keep it from ever becoming a popular night spot. Customers are very deliberately discouraged although a few people who still come here anyway provide a useful cover. The original owner of the pub, "Grandpa Sheridan", still owns the building and quietly enjoys free drinks for life in the corner. As a side note, one of the PCs "Matty", used to work here as a bartender.

          Important NPCs

          Patricia Townsend: A no nonsense lady, now reaching her middle age. Most people see her as humourless though she does still have a dry appreciation of wit, even if she never shows it. She's polite and formal to all of her customers but expects them to be polite and respect her business accordingly. Despite her being African-American Matty, from when he worked for her, has a running joke where he's always pretended that she's Irish. She doesn't play along, but she's never objected either. She also has a very well hidden maternal streak as well for young people who need help.

          Early Arrivals

          Sigrun is the first to arrive and spends a little time investigating the neighbourhood and ensuring that everything is safe for the meeting. She has a rifle disassembled in her briefcase and a pistol on her just in case anything goes wrong or they need to begin the job immediately. She sees no problems nearby, but does discover that the security for the Gammon Room also patrols the surrounding area. She heads in and Patricia sends her back through to the private room where Emilio is waiting. The weapons are permitted inside, since the PCs are known and respected. While the security team are ready to deal with issues, the main protection the Gammon Room has is the backing of the Bronx Mafia and the threat of reprisal against any attacks.

          They talk a little, sharing polite small-talk before Emilio explains the favour. "I'm worried about the man who has hired me for the job, his name is Charles Bowles. I think there's a good chance he wants to kill me when it's all done. Nothing I could prove just, a feeling I get when I look in his eyes. The job's actually pretty safe, the payment is being held in escrow by a third party waiting for confirmation so I don't think he's planning to financially double cross me. Anyway, as you know this is my first job this big and I'm aware that he might want to just use me for this as a disposable patsy. I might just be paranoid but in case I'm not I want to get you involved to keep an eye out for traps and to watch my back. That's the only part I'm asking for as our favour, for doing the job you'd still be getting the money and everything else, just like the rest of the team."

          Sigrun actually has heard of Charles Bowles, but all she knows is that he's got a reputation as a black market dealer for cults, satanists and strange types who want weird items like "an orphan's tears" or similar occult style rarities. She doesn't know any more about him than that. "Double-crossing your partners like that isn't professional and I don't like people who do that. I'll watch your back for you." With the favour out of the way they chat while waiting for Matty, the next early arrival, to get there.

          Matty has another Christmas card for "Paddy" Townsend. Inside the card it says 'Irish you a Merry Christmas'. She takes the card with a simple thankyou, showing superhuman resilience to the power of bad puns, and places the card up on the shelves of liquor bottles on clear display. She directs Matty through to the conference room.

          He manages to get a much clearer idea of what Emilio is looking for, in terms of scientific testing. However rather than those details it's the discovery that the job pays $200,000 each which motivates him to message Lin Wu and get her to come in.

          Lin Wu has been waiting at a coffee shop nearby. She brought a rather heavy bag that she's been struggling with, full of equipment she might need for a chemical analysis. The bag seems to have caught the attention of some local muggers who she sees approaching. Before anything can happen though, one of the security guards for the Gammon room intervenes. There's no violence, the security officer simply walks towards them shaking his head and they immediately turn around and disappear into the night. She thanks the security guard and goes inside for the meeting.

          The Meeting
          Note: There were a lot more questions and back and forth here. I've edited it down to the highlights, especially since I couldn't remember every question and who asked it.
          It looks a little here like Emilio is doing all the talking, but in actual fact it was mostly him answering questions from the players.

          Everyone else arrives one by one, settling into the conference room and being served drinks. Once they settle in the meeting can begin and Emilio explains the plan.

          "First thing to cover is that this job might be a little longer than some of the usual ones. Not all the details are clear, we're going to have to do some research and preparation work to fill in the gaps. That's part of why the paycheck is so high. We stand to collect 1.7 million dollars in total, minus my finder's fee that works out to $200,000 each for you and one more person that couldn't make it to the meeting today. We're after a rare book. The personal journal of David Zeisberger from 1781."

          Of course everyone around the table begins rolling to try to recognize details about the book and David Zeisberger. Alex rolled an exceptional success so it turns out that Lin Wu referenced his work heavily during her doctoral studies since he mentioned some traditional Native American remedies. Misha only rolled a single success but because of their different fields got some different information.

          Lin Wu says, "He was a missionary from the Moravian church. Lived among the Native Americans back in the 18th Century and wrote dictionaries for their languages."

          Matty adds, "I heard he was in prison in 1781, can't remember anything about the case though."

          Emilio goes back to the explanation. "Our client said that he tried to purchase this at auction but that someone else won. I tried to get some more details but other than the auction being in New York City and on the 10th December at 10pm, I couldn't get him to tell me anything else at all about the auction. He didn't actually tell me those things either but made it pretty clear that he was dropping hints and made those details clear indirectly through other things he said."

          At someone's suggestion Lucas searches on his phone and is able to confirm that there were no publicly advertised auctions at that date and time.

          "He was being very careful about what he said. Acted like he was afraid of having said anything about the auction house, it was strange. Now he also never told me to steal the book, I paid attention to his exact words since he was being so careful and he said, 'I'm wanting to acquire a copy of this book. I attempted to bid on the original at auction but failed. A resourceful young man like yourself might be able to acquire such a rare item. If you can then I'll be able to guarantee a payment of 1.7 million.'"

          The group began discussing whether simply getting the information and text from the book was enough. Eventually they were able to confirm that yes it should be, however the payment that was being held in escrow to be automatically paid to them was contingent on verifying the identity of the original book through scientific analysis (the reason Lin Wu is there). Charles Bowles did seem to indicate that he'd accept simply a copy of the text, however they'd then have to contact him personally and have him authorize payment rather than it automatically happening through the third party.

          The meeting turned into a discussion of a lot of different plans. Eventually Emilio had to leave to take care of other business but placed Matty in charge of the planning and said to contact him if they needed anything more.

          Lin Wu spoke to their thesis supervisor from university who could confirm that there was no record of David Zeisberger having a personal journal that was ever discovered. This brought up a plan that was discussed by the group for a while of coming up with a forged copy and announcing to the media that it had been discovered. They thought that this might smoke the new owner of the book out of hiding. After a long while of discussion though, they decided that they didn't really know the best way to follow up from that plan to achieve their goals.

          They decided that they would try to track down the information on the auction house instead and try to find it that way. Everyone agreed and figured out some specific plans about how each of them would look into it and meet up to share results the next day.

          This means we got to check the Chronicles of Darkness rulebook and try to figure out how to use the new Investigation system... which we proceeded to get horribly wrong but it was good to give it a try.

          Coming Next: Part Three, The Investigation.


          • #6
            One thing that I forgot to mention when describing this Chronicle. Only half of our group have ever played Mage before, for the other half this is their very first time playing any form of Mage.

            Originally posted by Kumiko View Post
            I'd subscribe if it were an option. Looks fun so far.
            Thanks, I hope you enjoy it.

            Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
            Oh man, consider me hooked already.
            Thanks. I'm really glad people seem to be enjoying this. I'll definitely keep going with it.

            Question though, do you plan on making the Mystery of New York more visceral? My first impression is, that more Awakenings is perhaps a bit strange but it's hard to dig into. Is it enough to grab the obsessive interest of Mages? To be fair, I personally like to grab onto concrete things. Like the Abyssal sources of Awakenings that intrude on life in normal ways.
            Very good question. The short answer is yes. I just couldn't think of a spoiler free way of giving those details out just yet that wouldn't ruin some of the mystery for the players.

            There's a lot more detail behind the more frequent awakenings in NYC that I haven't touched upon at all. The players will have something of a personal stake in this as well, since them all awakening simultaneously is going to touch on this mystery in ways that I can't specify yet (little bit of a spoiler, but I'm sure they've probably guessed that part already). Once they're awakened and come into contact with Mage society they'll learn a lot more clues and information about it and at that point I'll be able to share it here in the actual play.

            This is one of those mysteries where I've already decided the answer myself as the Storyteller and that it can be discovered within the chronicle. However finding the answer is probably quite a distance into the future and is likely to be the narrative arc of the entire chronicle.

            Edit: I was going to do the third and final part now but I'm starting to feel a little sick and need to lie down for a bit. I'll get back to it later on after a rest.
            Last edited by Michael Kenner; 12-30-2015, 12:13 AM.


            • #7
              No worries man. You just do it when it's appropriate. Life is good for me right now. Good enough that I am going to start getting the books again. So I can wait until you feel better.

              I'm still going to follow like a mouse to the cheese though.
              Last edited by Kumiko; 12-30-2015, 12:47 AM.


              • #8
                Micheal, did you determine the Paths for characters now? I make a bit the same thing like you ( running "mortal" game intro before proper Mage ) and I talked about Paths and Arcana in concept step of PCs creation because I want to dwell in to how Arcana Mysteries can be connected with the Awakening of them in play. So I "set the plot stage" for Mage, so to speak.
                Last edited by wyrdhamster; 12-30-2015, 03:49 AM.

                My stuff for Realms of Pugmire, Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E, MtC 2E & BtP
                LGBT+ through Ages
                LGBT+ in CoD games


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Kumiko View Post
                  I'd subscribe if it were an option. Looks fun so far.
                  Top right of the page, just above the first post.

                  I call the Integrity-analogue the "subjective stat".
                  An explanation how to use Social Manuevering.
                  Guanxi Explanations: 1, 2, 3.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Errol216 View Post
                    Top right of the page, just above the first post.
                    Thank You. ...*curtsies*


                    • #11
                      I'm been enjoy this as well cant wait to see the magic unfold

                      Fool's Corner Productions: Where we review Video Game, and eventually tabletop RPGs


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
                        Micheal, did you determine the Paths for characters now? I make a bit the same thing like you ( running "mortal" game intro before proper Mage ) and I talked about Paths and Arcana in concept step of PCs creation because I want to dwell in to how Arcana Mysteries can be connected with the Awakening of them in play. So I "set the plot stage" for Mage, so to speak.
                        We have spoken about it, but nothing has been set in stone just yet. So far no one is quite certain yet, or if they are they haven't let me know. Mandy (playing Martina the artist) is leaning towards Acanthus, but since she's never played Mage before she wanted to think about it before locking that in.

                        I wrote this in the character creation guidelines:
                        "When you Awaken you will be able to choose your own Path as a Mage. (These are divisions like the different clans in Vampire that determine what sorts of magic are easiest for you). This isn't an in character choice, but you as the player can decide what Path your character Awakens on. You don't have to decide now, and potentially some things may change with 2nd Edition. However it's fine to start considering this while working on your character and have a plan in mind. Mage Orders are completely social and political groups, so it's entirely up to your character if they ever join one of them."

                        I've done a few chronicles now where the characters have awakened in game without their path being determined before that happened. In cases like this I sometimes cheat with retroactive symbolism. I pick out moments that just happened for perfectly ordinary reasons, (dice rolls, player choices, etc) and later on bring it up as though it was a sign all along that they were going to be an Acanthus.

                        Originally posted by KingCarnival View Post
                        I'm been enjoy this as well cant wait to see the magic unfold
                        Thankyou, I can't wait either. I'm very excited about this chronicle and getting to play 2nd Edition when the book comes out. It's been a year or two since I've been a storyteller for a long running chronicle (although I've done a few short games and one offs in that time), so it's good to be story telling again.


                        • #13
                          By the way, I liked the way you integrated your character's bios with their rolls so that for instance the doctor knew some obscure dude because she'd done a thesis on him.


                          • #14
                            Part Three, The Investigation.
                            Lots and lots of dice rolling.


                            Principia House Somewhere between Time Square and the Diamond District on West 47th street, Manhattan. One of those fancy buildings that people notice as they walk past it in a city but are never quite certain what it's purpose is. The modern facade and the quite discrete plaque that says "Principia House" gives no more clues. (None of the Players have been inside yet).

                            A quick phone call.

                            This was our first time trying to use the Chronicles of Darkness Investigation system. We used the dice mechanics correctly but didn't really understand how to use the Clues, Elements and Conditions. It was growing late in the evening by this point so we just pressed on and used the system as best we could. We decided for the most part that each Investigation roll would represent one day's worth of chasing down leads. However the characters have a lot of contacts, so they made a few quick phone calls before they started. These were not rolls in the Investigation, but one call helped them know where to look.

                            Once they discover that the auction was not done legitimately Tonelli decides that there was a good chance the Trovato family would be aware of them. He rings his direct superior, the Cappo known as Il Generale. As always their conversation is short and to the point, Tonelli explains what he is looking for and Il Generale says that he'll call back in five minutes.

                            Five minutes later, "No, we're not aware of it. I can confirm that we don't organize it, it's not under our protection and if it was anywhere in Queens we'd definitely know about it by now. Want me to get some of the boys looking into it?" Tonelli accepts the offer and thanks him. They'd managed to rule out one fifth of the city, it's a start.

                            A few more calls are made but don't lead to any extra information.

                            Day One, December 29th, 2015

                            The team splits up into several smaller groups, even though they are all looking into the same question 'where did the auction take place' they are each looking into it in different ways.

                            Lin Wu has a number of criminal contacts from which she purchases equipment for her drug manufacturing, she reaches out to them in order to find out more information. No one is able to tell her anything unfortunately, however one of her contacts clearly knows about it and is refusing to tell her. Lin Wu realizes that this was one of her stranger contacts, someone who was often asking peculiar questions like whether it's possible to test blood to see if it was from a virgin. While this doesn't help the group directly with information, the revelation that this was somehow related to the occult helped the group to understand what they were dealing with.

                            This roll was an exceptional success with five successes. I considered this idea that the group now knew they were dealing with the occult to grant them the Informed condition for further investigation into the auctions.

                            Martina doesn't know much about the criminal side of things, but she does know artists and a fair few work with forgeries. An illegal auction house seems like something that they might know about. She starts indirectly asking around with some of this group, trying to pick up hints. She can tell that some people knew about this but not in quite the way she had expected. These auctions apparently never dealt in forgeries and no one has successfully managed to sell a forged piece through this auction house. Apparently in the forging community, making an attempt to get your work past their authentication process is considered the greatest challenge and something many try at one point or another to prove their skill. So far no one has succeeded. This let her know that it's a regular event, happening around once a month. When she tries getting more information about its location, most of them clam up straight away. She does hear a joke about the authentication being done with a Jeweler's loupe, followed by several racist jokes about Jewish people.

                            Matty works with Lin Wu, following up after the lead that it might involve the Occult. Through their contacts they discover that the auction is under the protection of a criminal organization known as the Syndicate. This is a powerful group and well known, although it doesn't engage in most of the typical business of organized crime. Instead they deal mostly with the weird and strange, heavily tied into what criminals often call the "Night Market", the black market for the strange and occult. This gives them a much more specific idea for the location as the Syndicate mostly only hold turf in Manhattan, anything in the other Boroughs of New York is strictly temporary.

                            Sigrun asks questions directly, following this path to Manhattan and the syndicate. Tonelli accompanies her, lending his skill at subtly implied threats and extortion to help people 'open up'. The racist jokes and comments about Jeweler's loupes leads them to the Diamond District, a block with a large Jewish population and a thriving trade in diamonds. From there they are able to quickly find a building that is known to be under Syndicate protection, known as Principia House. After a little while they confirm that this was the right place where the monthly auction occurred.

                            Note: Lucas had been searching for information online but hadn't come up with anything terribly useful to their investigation at this point.


                            The group meets back up again, at the Gammon Room, in order to share information and discuss their plans. The idea comes up that they might get Martina to create a forgery that they could get past the authentication process to help them get into the building. A lot of other ideas also get discussed. Breaking into the building is considered an option, but there's some doubt as to whether the item could be in there or whether it would have been taken by the new owner already. They know it's a big ticket item, so it might have taken some time to arrange the funds and delivery but they don't want to gamble on that chance. Even if the item itself is gone there might be records of some sort kept, but again they aren't certain whether that sort of gamble is worth it. There's a lot of caution about directly antagonizing the Syndicate, especially from Tonelli who doesn't want to start a mob war.

                            They also had another reason to meet as Emilio contacted them to let them know that their Driver was back in town and ready to work with them. (James had arrived and was able to bring his character into the game at this point). They explain the situation to Darren and everyone tries to figure out their plans for the next day.

                            They're a lot less unified about what they wanted to discover so the investigation moves in a couple of different directions. The one thing that everyone agrees on is that Lucas should try to get video camera footage from the nearby buildings, traffic cameras, etc. He explains that it's going to be very difficult as they weren't on any sort of connected network together and he'll have to get it all individually, but he'll try to do it.

                            In case they do somehow obtain the book in the next few days, Lin Wu starts making plans to copy it. She gets in touch with her thesis supervisor again, explaining that she wants to use one of the machines that could safely scan very old books without damaging them. At first the supervisor says how difficult it will be, since they are often booked out in time slots and they don't know when they might need to use the equipment. Lin Wu launches into an argument about how essential this is to preserving the Native American history of the region and that the university might get into political trouble for not valuing native history. (A truly impressive persuasion roll accompanying this argument). The academic passes the argument on to the dean who agrees to give them priority access to the machine whenever they needed it.

                            With another phone call Lin Wu also discovers that the original versions of Zeisberger's books, other than the unknown personal journal, are safely stored within the George Gustav Heye Center in New York.

                            There was some out of game argument about whether the books would be stored here, as one of the players thought it would be stored at the Smithsonian instead. I played my storyteller trump card, simply because I preferred these things to be local within the city to avoid giving reasons for the characters to travel interstate and away from the game's primary setting.

                            Day Two, December 30th, 2015

                            Lin Wu spends the day researching authentication methods in order to try to get a list of tests that Principia House might use to detect forgeries. This is in case Martina is going to fabricate an item to get them inside. She decides to use some of her own product and works continuously on this list, losing complete track of time and when she looks again has assembled an actual database on all the information she's found that seems to be completely comprehensive and well organized.

                            This was yet another exceptional success from Lin Wu, this time granting the Informed condition regarding art authentication methods.

                            Sigrun and Darren both scout the area immediately around Principia House. They are each helping to spot cameras that they can direct Lucas towards, they are also looking for other things. Sigrun is checking the rooftops for good sniping positions. Darren is checking the traffic and preparing a possible escape route from Principia House. In both cases this is just in case it becomes necessary later.

                            Martina once again comes through with a surprising amount of information from her art contacts. She borrows some money from Matty, to get plenty of alcohol so that she can invite some of them around for drinks and use the booze to loosen them up. She finds some interesting information as she speaks with some of the people who had been most obsessed with Principia House as a challenge for forgers. One of them knows the name of the woman who ran Principia House, Talliah Blair, which they noted down for later. Another one makes comments about the "bottled blonde" head of security, who had threatened him after he tried getting too close a look at the building. They discuss some of what they knew about the procedures of Principia House, which includes that items are usually stored on location during auctions, in special vaults in the basement that were looked over by a former museum curator. They also say that the items are usually known only by numbers and there's no description given of them during the auction. Buyers are expected to know this information already if they are interested.

                            Matty realizes that they'd been asking a lot of questions so he spends the day on damage control instead, trying to cover some of their tracks and make sure that Principia House or the Syndicate didn't hear that they were looking into them.


                            Tonelli discovers something a little more disturbing. Now that they know the name and connections of the auction, he thinks that he'll have better luck checking in with the Trovato crime family and seeing what they know about it. He spends the earlier part of the day chatting with the various associates and soldiers of the Trovato family. Finally, while chatting with an associate who was desperately trying to prove themselves enough to be taken in, he's told that this associate had been to that address before. He'd gone there as a driver for Lorenzo Mastrangelo, the family's Consigliere and this was a personal favour that Lorenzo had asked him. He'd been told not to mention it to anyone but surely Tonelli already knew, since he would have been organizing security for the trip.

                            This seemed to be something that Il Generale and possibly even the boss himself hadn't known about. If it was betrayal, then it was from one of the highest ranking and most trusted members of the family. Lorenzo had been the Consigliere to Joseph's father as well, he'd practically been with the family forever. Feeling even more frightened than last time, Tonelli arranges to meet with the boss again. He comes straight out with the information and isn't sure what's going to happen. He can't read any expression on Joseph Trovato's face as Tonelli explains what he'd found out but once he finished the boss asks him to wait there and leaves the room.

                            A nervous half hour of waiting follows, interrupted only by the boss' wife Celestino checking if he wanted a drink. Then instead of Joseph, it's Lorenzo who walks back into the room and sits in the boss' chair.

                            Lorenzo tells him "Don't be afraid. I'm a loyal man to the family and I would never fault you for your loyalty. I have been told that you have questions about Principia House, I'm sorry but I cannot answer them. I've given my word. It's hard to explain."
                            Tonelli responds quickly with "You don't need to explain, a mans' word is everything."

                            Lorenzo offers however, "I could vouch for you if you wanted to get in there, to an auction when it happens or to speak to the staff at any time. I would normally say not to use this to cause any problems or do anything that would reflect badly upon me... however that's not what's important here. As I said, I'm a loyal man and Joseph's needs here come first. You do whatever you need to in order to get Joseph's mission done. However I would ask that you be as careful as possible and don't waste my reputation needlessly."

                            Tonelli agrees and rushes from the room, glad to be out of there alive.

                            Epilogue, Dinner and video footage

                            The group gets together for a steak dinner at the Gammon Room's private room to celebrate their successes so far. While they're waiting for the food to arrive (ordered from a take-out place) they discuss their findings together. Lucas announces that he was surprisingly successful at getting the video footage (thanks to an exceptional success here) and that he thinks he's got fairly comprehensive coverage of the street and nearby places for the time period around the auction. However it's hundreds of hours of video footage to watch through and he doesn't even know what they're looking for.

                            They decide that they'll watch the footage of the front door of the auction house together over dinner and set up a projector to display it on the wall. As they eat their dinner, the footage plays through. For the most part all they notice is how strange a lot of the clients are. Some are dressed in the sort of formal business clothes that would be appropriate for an expensive auction. Others though seem to be dressed in much more outlandish and varied ways.

                            No one at the table knows what Charles Bowles face looks like (there were some quick rolls to confirm this) so they don't recognize him entering. However they get to see around fifty people that they think are clients going in, some more people as well who they think are staff. When they check all the people who went in, eventually come back out again later. Some of them are seen carrying things but no-one is recognizably carrying a book.

                            Sigrun asks them to pause the footage at one point though as she recognizes something. A tall older man is entering the building, a jagged scar across his face and one eye missing. He's accompanied by two pairs of twins. Two beautiful dark haired women, with elaborate braids woven with raven's feathers. Two handsome men, dressed in leather and wearing dogs' collars. Several Futharc (viking runes) tattoos are just visible at the edge of their clothes.

                            She asks the others "Do any of you know Wōtan? Here in the west he is usually called Odin. That man, he and his entourage are dressed as Odin or at least with his symbols. Those are his ravens Huggin and Munnin. Those are his wolves Geri and Freki."

                            The rest of the group are only vaguely aware of the myths but like most people have heard of the god, from movies and similar mentions. They begin discussing the figure and decide that he's probably the leader of some sort of Norse cult, the four members of his entourage are likely to be followers. After examining the footage as closely as possible Darren adds in "I've seen a lot of injuries before, that wound to the face looks self-inflicted."

                            The dinner falls into silence as people consider the strange man and what that says about the type of people they're looking into.

                            And that's the end of the first session.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
                              By the way, I liked the way you integrated your character's bios with their rolls so that for instance the doctor knew some obscure dude because she'd done a thesis on him.
                              Thankyou, this is actually something I normally try to do. However I can't claim credit for that particular one as in that case it was the player who suggested the idea.