[Mage: the Awakening Actual Play] Endangered Species Episode 2 (Long)

Posted: March 25, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness

Last night’s game was picks up where we last left off, with all the player characters going into full investigation mode. Majority of my players are old hands at Mage: the Awakening and are well aware of the quirks of the way I run a game, so the game takes on a slightly slower, and more deliberate pace than my other campaigns. In some ways this is a good things as the players really play to their strengths, but at the same time I worry about players getting bored when it’s not their turn.

Anyway, on to the play report:

Melon Pan (played by Mappy) and Mikaboshi (played by Paulo)

The interview with Yasha yielded precious little, save for the fact that the young mage was very disturbed. Mikaboshi reasoned that the child was suffering from illusions of grandeur and was a fanatic, and asked Vajra for more information. Vajra admitted that Yasha’s personality shift occurred after he had been attacked by a banisher. The banisher in question died during the attack.

With that lead Melon Pan and Mikaboshi decided that they’d gain more information by interviewing the ghost of the banisher. With some fast talk and cheap tricks involving a firecracker thrown by Mikaboshi and Melon Pan’s badge-waving as a police officer, they were able to gain access into the home of the banisher’s family, evacuating the banisher’s wife and child from the home. Melon Pan went inside under the pretense of an inspection to see what happened inside, and found the ashes of the banisher on the family altar. Melon Pan then transferred some of the ashes into a small container and took it with him.

Mikaboshi on the other hand decided to cash into a few more favors with the Silver Ladder, calling on an Adept of Death to assist them in the summoning. The plan was to call on the ghost of the banisher and compel him to tell them about what had happened in the attack. The summoning took place in the scene of the attack, a construction yard in one of Tokyo’s quieter districts. The team prepared for the casting, with the Adept creating a summoning circle, and scattering the ashes inside them.

The ghost of the banisher appeared, a balding middle-aged man with average height and glasses, wearing a bloodied business suit typical of a salaryman and rebar sticking out of his sternum. Upon realizing that he’d been summoned, the banisher railed and ranted, raging against the constraints of the spell. Rather than waste time trying to talk it down, Mikaboshi signaled to the Adept that forced the ghost to obey against its will, drawing forth the details of the attack from the ghost’s own mouth by force. The ghost glared at them as it spat out the details, how it had set an ambush for Yasha, thinking it would be an easy mark. Yasha apparently had help, as the ambush was reversed when he heard a gunshot, and a bullet grazed his shoulder, giving Yasha the opening to use telekinesis to shove him back and over an open pit where he fell backwards into the rebar.

Mikaboshi and Melon Pan were troubled by that revelation. They’d assumed that the banisher had twisted the boy somehow, but this was different. Yasha had an accomplice, and with Yasha in custody, someone else was out there. Someone with a gun.

Masamune (played by Hikkikomori) and Amaya (played by Silver Countess)

Amaya was on her way back home from the temple when she decided to call her Uncle and mentor, who was also the editor-in-chief of the occult magazine that she worked in. She asked for help, as she realized that something was affecting her, but she didn’t have the arcana necessary to deal with it. Her uncle told her to head home for now and wait for Masamune. They surmised that this was a Mind effect of some sort, and as such Masamune would be somewhat equipped to deal with it.

Masamune got a call from his own mentor requesting him to pay Amaya a visit. As it was already after his shift, Masamune dropped by Amaya’s apartment, and the two shared their notes on the matter. It would seem that their initial interviews in the self-help seminar dictated the nature of the Astral Construct attached to them. Masamune’s construct made it so that anyone who would speak to him would feel inferior to and in awe of him. Meanwhile, Amaya’s construct was created so that anyone that she found attractive would be encouraged to find her remarkably attractive as well.

This was one point where the game slowed a bit as it turned into philosophical / moral debate. Amaya found the entire thing to be dangerous and wrong, while Masamune reasoned that this wasn’t any different from Advertising, albeit with magical means. After a while the two decided to agree to disagree at this point, but decided that they needed more information to make a decision.

And so they settled on how they would deal with the situation. Amaya decided that it was too risky for her to try an infiltration and requested Masamune to destroy the Astral Construct attached to her. She would then try to dig up any and all information available through her other sources, and identify the people who have “graduated” from this self-help seminar. Masamune decided that he’ll try to see how far this rabbit hole goes and the two shared contact information and went on their separate ways.

After leaving Amaya’s apartment, Masamune proceeded to an internet cafe, where he logged into the account they gave him on the seminar. He found various news articles and other things that didn’t seem to matter much… but what did catch his eye was an opportunity to elevate his status by signing up for an “advanced” course. Seeing that it couldn’t hurt to try, he signed up for his next rest day.

He reported to work after, where he was called by his boss to ask him about how he was starting to rake in the profits. Seeing an opportunity to observe how it would work on non-mages, Masamune  volunteered the self-help group, and his boss decided to send the rest of the group there. This turned against Masamune later on, when he was confronted by several of his co-workers, whose own astral constructs were encouraging them to deal with any threat to their own careers… meaning him. It devolved into quite a scuffle, but thanks to some quick thinking and Force Mage Armor, he was able to diffuse the situation without anyone getting seriously hurt.

Finally his rest day rolled around, and Masamune proceeded to meet with the consultant that was supposed to guide him to his advanced course. The consultant that met him was strange, and Masamune realized that a few minutes into the conversation that the consultant was devoid of emotion. His interest piqued, he opened his senses to Mind phenomena.  What greeted him was the fact that the person he was talking to was devoid of a mind. Instead a strange astral construct dominated the person’s aura, working him as one would do to a ventriloquist’s puppet.

Even more disturbing was the fact that the construct originally attached to Masamune was subsumed by this machine, and a second Astral construct appeared, this one shaped like a human, with the same height as Masamune, and speaking his his voice. This second, more powerful construct would talk to Masamune directly, offering him advice in the same way a conscience would, though in this case it would offer options and plans to further his personal agenda. Masamune realized how dangerous such a thing could be and decided to try an isolate it while trying to keep his cover.

Amaya on the other hand had gone to perform some research on the individuals who had been involved in the seminars. In her research, she found a support group from those who were related to people who had undergone the seminars, these were all old friends or relatives who noticed a marked change in their relatives, but were not physically present to talk to them. Any members from this group who tried personal contact simply stopped posting.

Amaya knew something was very, very wrong at this point, and emailed the group in hopes of compiling their statements for now, while she went to check up on the individuals who joined the seminar. The week went by with a lot of legwork on her end, as her stakeouts revealed a strange trend. Those who joined the seminars and really stuck with it ended up reaching a certain influential point in their lives before stopping. They never overstepped that certain achievement, instead maintaining it in some sort of bizarre holding pattern.

Her research was even more disturbing when she followed one and observed them from a distance, using her Spirit sight to gain more information. Her spells revealed that these people had incredibly loosely tethered souls, ones that would take only a minimum of effort to remove for some reason. She didn’t know the purpose of that sort of change, but it was almost impossible to deny the fact that it was deliberate. Amaya had no definitive proof as of yet, but it could be a strangely insidious attempt at social engineering… and the methodology seemed to align far too well with the Seers of the Throne.

Reimu (played by Sheimaruen)

Reimu on the other hand was busy trying to work with Jinnai in an attempt to get the young man to excel. Jinnai was understandably frightened by this attention from a woman who managed to make a deal with an extra-dimensional entity and now holds his life in her hands. Reimu spent most of their time together trying to encourage him to do better, and find something that he wanted to be great at. Jinnai was skeptical at first, suspicious that this girl would be paying him this much attention for apparently no real reason, but he tried to get along as best as he could.

It was during this conversation that Reimu got a phone call from her father, who informed her that she was to perform a duty for the Silver Ladder… and assist Mikaboshi with his investigation.

Mikaboshi and Melon Pan managed to secure the bullet that was found in the scene when the banisher’s body was initially found. Melon Pan bribed his way into acquiring the bullet and they met up with Reimu, who was sent by her father. Mikaboshi knew better than to underestimate someone by their looks and gave her the space and the means to cast a spell to see into the past of the bullet and hopefully discern the identity of the person who fired the bullet.

After nine grueling hours of extended casting Reimu was able to glean a vision by casting the Time spell “Postcognition” as a ritual

The vision showed an older, over-weight Chinese man who Yasha addressed as Mister Lao. Lao was apparently some sort of friend, who seemed to hold Yasha in high regard, insisting that as a Mage, Yasha was the future of humanity. The manner of Lao was particularly subservient, and perhaps almost worshipful. Something that Yasha was showing signs of worry about.

That said, Yasha was warned about the ambush, and it was Lao who fired the gun in hopes of helping Yasha survive the deadly attack. The two argued shortly after the incident, with Yasha berating Lao for doing something like that again and leaving, while Lao turned to an empty Chinese altar to apologize to his deceased Master saying that “Yasha will learn to accept his fate. I will make sure of it.”

Reimu, exhausted, but too proud to admit it, relayed the information to the other two, before excusing herself to attend school.

Her arrival in school was one where she had to force herself to keep her focus. She’d been casting all night and was starting to experience the beginnings of fatigue. Her focus was somewhat shot but she insisted on excelling as it was the least that could be expected of her, being the Student Council President and all. She returned to her pet project, making sure that Jinnai wasn’t slacking off again.

It was late when they left the school, and Reimu insisted on joining Jinnai on the way home to make sure that he was paying attention to his homework. They’d reached his room and she passes out from exhaustion after telling him that she’d nap a bit.

Her nightmare was particularly vivid.

She re-lived through her Awakening, strange and dreamlike, through the thorns and the bizarre landscapes of Arcadia, before finding her way back to the tower. She made it up, clawing through the madness to find the quicksilver brush that she would use to write her name… only to find that she couldn’t do so. In a slight panic, she turned to the spot where she remembered writing her name, only to find a different name written there.

Katsuhiko Jinnai.

She awoke with a strangled cry, seeing Jinnai there, looking back at her and pointing at his computer monitor.

“I… I just won the lottery.”

Reimu felt her heart sink as she looked at Jinnai, forcing him to take some tests of luck, seeing if he’s gotten some bizarre lucky streak but finding nothing. Jinnai confronts her about it, asking what the hell is getting her so nervous. Reimu refuses to answer directly, but admits to him that their destinies are now shared, and it is imperative that he try to excel.

Jinnai accuses her of being selfish, and that her hounding him was just her own way of pursuing her own self-interests. He was nothing but an unpleasant after-effect of something that went wrong, and she was using him. Reimu didn’t deny any of that, instead telling him that it would be best that they both work together at this point, as anything that goes well with her is also going to go well with him and vice versa.

She left his house to head home, and make her report to her father.

Dinner at her home wasn’t a pleasant affair, as it felt more like an interrogation. What was worse was that her father informed her that her mother would be visiting soon, something that Reimu was determined to avoid at all costs. After all, if anyone could tell what Reimu had accidentally done, it would be her mother.

She retired to her room, and tried to observe her fate to see if there was a way to conceal it from her mother’s scrutiny, but realized that she was unable to cast magic. She was slightly panicked, as she set of to try anything and everything to trigger some sort of magical response, or her unseen senses but to no avail. She fell asleep out of exhaustion, worried for the future.

She awoke the next morning to realize that her magic was back, but she wasn’t taking an chances. She confronted Jinnai, interrogating him to ask if anything strange happened last night. Jinnai said that aside from winning the lottery nothing else seemed out of place. He asked her why she was so high strung, asking if anything had gone wrong. Reimu refused to answer him, unwilling to let this information slip through to him just yet.

Over the course of the day, she was high strung, testing her magic again and again. Eventually it stopped responding again, and she sought him out on the rooftop, finding a Jinnai who had come to realize that he was unnaturally lucky after all. He confronted Reimu, asking her if that was what she was doing all this time. Her successes and charmed existence in school was nothing but a cheap trick, while everyone else that was normal was forced to compete thinking that everyone was operating under the same conditions!

She cut him off, telling him that she can teach him more, but magic was not for the weak willed. She told him that that reason she was forcing him to excel was because it would improve his chances to obtain Magic on his own. He had potential, but he would never Awaken if he didn’t put in 100% into it. Jinnai was talking to her when he felt the magic slipping away again, and she could see how small and weak he felt without it, how he hungered for it now that it was taken away from him.


And that’s where I stopped the game. It’s long in writing, but the gameplay was slower than what I was used to. This isn’t to say that it was bad, but my players were pretty careful about how they do things in my Mage Games. They’re closing in on the end of their respective cases, and at least some of them are crossing over on each other’s paths and acknowledging each other as peers and possible allies as opposed to just another acquaintance.

  1. Hikkikomori says:

    Behind the Scenes:

    Guardians of the Veil – Masamune & Amaya
    Despite our more non-immediately threatening plot hook, it was actually mentally taxing attempting to reconcile with each other, and ourselves, about our positions in the ongoing investigation. Amaya’s character and my own had an extended debate as to whether this Self-help cult’s actions was moral and ethical. From Amaya’s understanding, the fact that there is an outside force influencing low-esteemed individuals makes this entire enterprise an automatic cause for concern. Seeing as what was happening was an unnatural compelling to perform certain actions which individuals wouldn’t have done on their own. On the other hand, from Masamune’s point of view, he does not divorce the idea of the astral constructs as being just another source of influence picked up from another source. And that source of influence now changing your mannerisms to achieve your ideal state of mind and status in life. Just like how when we consume mainstream media and apply tidbits of what we like into our own lives to achieve our perceived ideal selves. The discussion went on for a while as each of us had valid reasons as to whether or not the organization needs to be dismantled or not. What finally made each of our characters reconcile with each other’s opinions was when we cross-referenced our positions in the Order as well as our personal motivations. Amaya works as a Censor of the Guardians of the Veil. So it became understandable that she would find these acts offensive since it goes against her fundamental function in the Order — which is to be on the lookout for blatant misuse of magic to influence the Fallen World. And the fact the she was not magically equipped to deal with Mind arcanum-related threats made it unsettling to the occult investigative reporter. Masamune on the other hand, who serves as an Emissary of the Order, has the privilege of not being too attached to the Order’s political ideals. He can act more freely and maintain his own opinions, and since his job as a host (and his psychosis regarding women), requires him to be more self-serving than his fellow Order-mate. With that debate resolved, and each of us managing to finally settle on what our character’s opinions should be with regards to this issue, both of us agreed to continue with our investigation and not call in for the big guns yet until we have more evidence.

    As for the upgraded Astral Construct that Masamune obtained, I admitted that I had a hard time attempting to rationalize what it actually is, and does, in relation to my character. I wanted to understand how it acted with regards to my character so I can better adapt his future actions with the addition of the new conscience. It took awhile to personally rationalize that it was not just another voice in my head but it has become ‘the’ voice in my head. My own voice of reason being altered to be more aggressive and confident. If it weren’t for my self-awareness with regards to what had just occurred and my Mind arcanum’s Mage Sight, I doubt I would even notice the change at all. That was the difficulty when other people portray someone else’s subconscious. It automatically feels divorced and unnatural. Not to mention that the other person will be using third-person pronouns and will appear as though another person was conversing with me, when technically, I am just conversing with myself. So, seeing as both, me, as a Player and my Character are now aware of how to rationalize the event, I also then could take the appropriate course of action: I cast the Mind 1 spell ‘One Mind, Two Thoughts’. This would allow me to hold two individual and wholly distinct trains of thought at once, and therefore allow me to converse with myself in two separate instances to see how I reacted to my own thoughts. And that is how I finally realized how the Astral Construct functions since I get two different answers with regards to the same question.

    / What should I do next? /
    – I should go tell my Mentor about this.
    – Now that I know what’s going on, I can easily crackdown on this whole operation on my own.

    • Hikkikomori says:

      Regarding the scuffle that Masamune was in:

      I got sucker punched regardless of my 4 Defense. After which, I activated my Mage Armor – Forces 3 – raising my effective Defense to 7. After that, it was merely child’s play to to dodge and deflect blows, while dispelling the astral constructs influencing them. A fight involving four male hosts was bound to attract attention, so it was only inevitable that someone would be calling the authorities. A quick explanation, and a black eye, was enough proof to explain that I was the injured party and so the police arrested my co-workers.

  2. Sometimes my problem is that I have difficulty explaining what I mean sometimes. XD Especially when the comparison of the influence between mainstream media vs this thought constructs.

    Amaya’s reasoning is despite all the exaggerations about media: is that the influence of main stream media is still limited. If I and 9 other people are exposed to it, does NOT mean that you are guaranteed 100% positive behavior. Those floating astral thoughts? They guarantee 100% immediate results and that’s disturbing, because it implies that those things can actually make people act on impulse behavior. That is more than just “influence” or “ideas” here.

    What’s disturbing is that these astral thought forms reward for you with success, happiness when you give in to it’s suggestions/influence. The more you give in, the more you *give up* your own right to “think” about your decisions. It compels obedience by disguising itself as suggestions and ideas, and rewarding you when you do so. It’s very similar to Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning (Pavlovian Reinforcement).

    At that point my character suspects the link between between THAT and the Self-help group’s logo: which was an Atlantean glyph of the word “Obedience.”

    This is where my character’s paranoia kicks in. Few mages would be this ever so altruistic. Mages are like investors, and magic are the stock funds. It doesn’t help that Mages are “deliberate creatures” (especially in Jay’s game). Nothing is put there without reason, nothing is done without wanting something to happen to their benefit (it can be said it’s human nature).

    Then she thinks of all those successful graduates, all within places of power and influence. All who–what she suspects heavily–are now reprogrammed to be “obedient” happy and successful sheep, all easily commanded by this Mage who made this all happen.

    This realization terrifies Amaya.

  3. sheimaruen says:

    Is it pride? or maybe a fear that the school would call her father…given that she can’t fail at what’s expected from her, i don’t think not admitting it is a sign of pride, after all the mask she wears in her everyday life isn’t something she wanted to wear – its something her father forced her to.

    though in honesty, its hard to play something a bit different from what i’m used to lol. Fun though.

  4. the joined fates has me deeply touched- both unnerved and surprised. I am very interested to see where these two go, and what motivates them to work for or against each other as gameplay goes on.

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