I called this particular session episode zero since this was sort of a prequel, a small and isolated one-shot sort of affair that served to help players find their legs and settle into character. The reason I ran it this way was because I felt that the players were quite used to Rokugan and the general feel of epic fantasy so the sudden shift in the setting to the admittedly bleak World of Darkness might take some getting used to.
The game begins as it often does in the World of Darkness: with a dead body. The corpse was that of a young high school girl, still wearing her uniform, and inside a rather expensive suite of a hotel in Roppongi. While profile of the victim is not particularly surprising to people in Tokyo anymore, after all, the practice of Enjo Kosai, or “Compensated Dating” is a known phenomenon, there is one little hitch that makes this particular murder worth paying attention to.
The girl was also an apprentice Mage.
Worse, she was the daughter of a high ranking member of the Free Council, and the hotel in question belonged to none other than Paulo’s character, who was a member of the Silver Ladder. The whole thing was fishy, and Paulo went on to investigate the matter first, after being alerted by his Personal Assistant, Mariko, that there had been an incident and that the police were investigating the room.
Paulo’s character went down to check the place out, speaking to the police officers who were already checking the crime scene out, during his trip there, he sensed that there was something supernatural about thanks to his Unseen Senses. Rather than poke around while the police were there, he decided to pull back first, and return to do further investigation when the police had left.
Paulo snuck back later after the police has finished vacating the body, using his mastery of Death to call upon the ghost of the girl. She was unaware that she had died, and it was only after a short conversation that he was able to determine that she had been killed instantly, so she had no recollection of the moment of her death. Further investigation revealed that she was killed with magic, resulting in a crime scene that would stymie the police until the case gets swept under the rug for not making sense, just another in a long line of odd cases that will never find resolution.
Word of the dead mage had gotten around, mainly because the father of the victim had decided to pull a few strings with the other Orders in hopes that they would be able to dedicate a few resources towards determining who the killer was. In response, the Guardians sent Masamune and Amaya, while the Mysterium sent Melon Pan.
The team then went on to meet Paulo’s character in the lobby of his hotel the next morning. The meeting was sort of awkward given that Paulo was still operating under his modus operandi of posing as a sleeper to keep attention off of him, which left the rest of the team trying to find ways to get rid of him before they broke out all the necessary spells. It was only when Amaya spoke with the ghost in the room that she was able to determine that Paulo’s character was actually a mage.
Once that point of confusion was resolved, the team then went on to try and figure out a better way to determine the identity of the killer. Amaya came up with the idea of rousing the spirit of the Mirror in the hotel room to wakefulness and requested for it to show the events that had happened that night. The vision showed the girl checking her watch and looking towards the direction of the window when a large chunk of her face exploded outwards, the result of a bullet plowing through the back of her head and out from her face.
The team scrutinized the scene, trying to find out what the heck could have done that. A quick call to the police station revealed to Melon Pan that the wound didn’t match any existing caliber sized bullet. Whatever it was that blasted her face off, it doesn’t exist. Add the fact that there was no spent shell casing or even burns on the victim and gunpowder residue in the room meant that it was most likely magical in nature.
The team submitted their findings to the dead girl’s father, hoping to ask him who would want his daughter dead. The father, who turned out to be a high ranking officer in the Japanese Self Defense Force, informed them that with his position, it was easy to have any number of enemies. Still the methods used and the way that the bullet behaved seemed more similar to a rail gun. Possibly performed by someone who had skill in the Arcanum of Forces.
Paulo’s character was informed by Mariko the next day that one of the credit card transactions used to rent the same room had gone bad. He checked out the bank records, which returned that the transaction was cleared even if there was no such account existing in the bank. Alarmed, he invited the other members of the team back to the hotel room. He informed them that he checked the security tapes and saw a young man enter the room a few weeks before, carrying a duffel bag. The next day, the young man stepped out, wearing the same clothes, and walked out. He didn’t leave the room at any time in his entire stay.
It was then that the team had the idea of summoning the Spirit of the Room, which manifested as a nondescript member of the Hotel Staff. Upon identifying himself as the Hotel’s Manager, Paulo was able to permit the spirit from talking about the visitor, which was otherwise taboo, considering that the individual had the Do Not Disturb sign on the door for his entire stay. Upon further prompting, they were able to get the room to replicate the events in the day, where they were able to watch the young man prepare a ritual, an extended spell to fire a phantasmic bullet into the room.
The team had their culprit.
They returned to the girl’s father and informed him of their findings. He acknowledged that he knew the boy, and that the killer was an apprentice from the Free Council as well. He thanked them, saying that dealing with the boy would have to be an internal affair, and the team split up at this point, fairly confident that their paths would not cross again as the case was technically closed.
This was an interesting session, though I fear that my handling of a mystery plot was somewhat hampered by trying to get used to Mage again. I made several mistakes in making the session inadvertently more difficult than I had anticipated, and I was very worried that I’d started Pixel Bitching at some point when the players were looking at each other with the “WTF” expression more than once.
That said it was a fairly loose and slow paced game that gave them room to get used to their characters. I expect that as proficiency escalates the games will start flowing much smoother over the rest of this campaign.