[Mage: the Awakening Actual Play] Endangered Species Episode 3 (Long)

Posted: April 1, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness

This weekend’s game was shorter than the usual, resulting in what will be a much more condensed Actual Play report for today. Also, I was only able to run for three player characters: Amaya, Masamune and Reimu. Mikaboshi’s player, Paulo, was present, but had to attend to Real Life concerns, and was unable to play for this session. Likewise, Melon Pan’s player was also unavailable.

Amaya had compiled her findings in her last investigation on the graduates of the self-help program and took the time to present it to the rest of the Guardians of the Veil. There, she learned that nobody had heard from Masamune since her last contact with him, and his mentor was assuming that he was deep undercover, and unable to send back any information as of yet. She relayed her findings, stating that the graduates seemed to be in a peculiar “holding pattern” as soon as they hit a certain strata of success. She reasoned that if these were like sleeper agents being introduced into society, then they could very well be a threat to people if someone was coordinating their actions.

The Guardians took her warning to heart, and sent her to investigate the effects of the self-help group on the Spirit World, as it was a concern that the group’s activities might further strain Spirit-Mage relations.  She set off to the same district as the headquarters of the group, and stepped in the Spirit World. There she encountered a group of cat-spirits, and struck a deal with them. In exchange for their information network, she would then help any stray cats that she would encounter. It seemed like a fair enough trade, and one of the cat spirits decided to accompany her as she furthered her investigation.

The cat spirits told her that the people who came from the self-help center all “smelled the same” she wasn’t certain as to what that meant exactly, but when she arrived at the site of the headquarters, she was overwhelmed by a sickly-sweet odor emanating from the building. All the angles of the building seemed to be pointing into the entrance, defying mundane geometry in maddening ways. Amaya watched with morbid fascination as someone stepped out, surrounded by conformity spirits, all uttering the same thing, over and over:

“Follow your instructions and everything will be perfect.”

Amaya turned back to the building as it dawned on her that the building itself was aware of her presence.

“So, you’ve returned,” It spoke to her, “And without the instructor I gave you. It seems I have misjudged you.”

“Sorry.” Amaya grinned, “I tend to dabble in self-help groups, no offense, but I was just testing the waters.”

“I have a success rate of 99%.” it spoke, unamused.

“Well, there’s always the 1%” Amaya replied.

“You ARE the 1%, and I cannot let you escape me.”

Amaya was glad then that the building itself could not move, as she decided that it was a good idea for her and the cat spirit with her to beat a hasty retreat. She didn’t like that threat, and it was only a matter of time before she would see what the spirit of the self-help institution was planning to do.

Amaya’s phone rang mere moments after she’d stepped back into the material realm.

“Amaya? It’s me, Masamune.” The Male Host was thoroughly bothered by the fact that he felt what could only be described as an overwhelming impulse to find out where she is. “We need to talk.”

Amaya agreed, “I’ve figured out a little more about that self-help group.” She said, “You won’t like it.”

Masamune looked at the Astral Construct attached to him, the humanoid figure that loomed over his shoulder, “Yeah, I’ve got some news that you won’t like either.”

The two met up in a 24-hour internet cafe, with Amaya in a disguise to make sure she could shake off anyone that might have been sent to follow her. With the threat from the self-help group, she realized that it was possible that the thing could be sending the graduates and indoctrinated to finding her. Her hunch was right, as Masamune confessed that he was acting on an unusual impulse.

“It’s not really mind control, per se.” Masamune explained, “But it works by mimicking the voice in your head, making you think it’s your idea.”

“So how can I even trust you?” Amaya asked, warily.

“Because of this.” Masamune shared his Mind Senses with her, and she saw that aside from him having an Astral Construct that spoke as his conscience, he had also managed to partition his mind with a Spell in order to retain true autonomy.

“That’s complicated.”

“I know.” Masamune said, “But necessary, for now. Needless to say, you’ve got the entire group looking for you whether they know it or not.”

“Your mentor said you were in deep undercover.” Amaya said, “Are you planning to continue your course of action?”

“Yes. Someone needs to see how this operation works on the inside.”

With that, the two split up for now, with Amaya taking steps to figure out how to stop a spirit of that scale and influence. She had access to Spirit Magics, but it was going to be difficult to exorcise a building and castigate the spirit behind it. She needed a plan that could put the thing out of commission for good.

Masamune on the other hand, had other ideas. He’d left the meeting having made the decision that the group has shown it’s true colors. The fact that it was hijacking people for its own ends only meant that it was not out to help people as much as trick them into becoming slaves. Still, there was a clever form of misdirection at work, one that could easily be turned to an asset of the Guardians of the Veil…

Reimu on the other hand had spent a week in near paranoid worry as she and her friend Jinnai rode out a strange equalizing process. The times at which her magic would fade would grow further and further apart, until finally it stabilized. She retained her magic, but it dawned on her that she only retained half of her original ability. Somehow the incident with Jinnai had forced both of them to share her original power. She had half, and Jinnai was now the rather proud owner of the other half.

While this would have been a good thing, there was one catch: Jinnai never Awakened.

He was still his old self, except now, he had the powers of an Awakened mage. Reimu taught him the basics of Atlantean High Speech, trying to get him to understand enough to awaken, but it didn’t seem to be happening. Still, Jinnai was coming to like his abilities, confessing to her that he wasn’t about to let anything pull him back to his mundane experiences from before. Magic had found him, and he liked it.

Reimu knew that this was a great outlook to have, considering that if he did Awaken, she’d get her magic back (in theory.)

Of course there was one other problem: Her mother.

Being an Acanthus herself, it took less than a few minutes for her mother to discern that something was wrong. She arrived from Kyoto on a business trip, and quietly pulled her daughter away to speak in private.

“Just what exactly did you do?” she asked of Reimu.

“I saved his life, the thing ate away at the connections of Fate in a person, so I bound him with mine.”

Her mother paled, but quickly tried to compose herself. “Look, the problem is that when you split your destiny, this could have any number of ill effects.”

“I’m quite aware of that now, mother.”

“Indeed… but the boy now can cast Awakened magic… we can’t just let him loose.”

“I trained him in some of our ways.” Reimu was quick to assure her mother, “He won’t be a problem.”

“I hope not.” Reimu’s mother was skeptical at best, “Still, I’ve quietly arranged for one of the local mages to take him in as an apprentice for now. Having an older mentor will be better for him, and you won’t be saddled with working too hard when your father has other tasks for you.”

Reimu acknowledged that fact, and left to visit her brother, who had accomanied her mother from Kyoto here to Tokyo. It was a bittersweet reunion, as Reimu actually loved her older brother, feeling that he was the only family member to actually recognize her as a little girl rather than just an asset to the family. It pained her that her brother wasn’t the one to awaken, as he was relegated to a support role of their family, forever to be silently considered to be a failure by their demanding father.

What was worse was that during the conversation, it was getting more and more evident there was a gap now, and no matter how hard her brother tried, Reimu saw the world in an entirely different manner. Conversation was stilted, difficult and awkward as she tried to reassure him all the while aware that she was detached from his concerns… what seemed so important to him was trivial in her eyes. He would never truly be able to see the world as she did with Awakened insight.

It was a troubling thought, as it brought home the idea that in her heart of hearts… she pitied her brother, just like her father did.

The following day, it became clear to Reimu that the issue with the absentee students hadn’t stopped even with her meddling on Jinnai’s behalf. She remembered the “Mu”-Chan board, where people had posted about wanting to disappear. Determined to put an end to it, Reimu requested permission from her father if she could contact those who were suggested to be part of her new Cabal. With his blessing, she made a call to the first on the list, the only Adept of Spirit that she could ask a favor from, using her clout from the Silver Ladder.

That Adept was Amaya.

“Moshi-moshi?” Amaya picked up her cellphone warily, noting that the number wasn’t registered to anyone in her contacts.

“Ah, Apologies for the interruption.” Reimu spoke, “Amaya-dono? I am Reimu from the Silver Ladder. I’ve been informed that you were an Adept of Spirit. Would it be possible for us to speak a moment?”

“Wow, you’re polite. Big change from that stuffy Hotel Guy that kept demanding stuff from me. Are you sure you’re from the Silver Ladder?”

“Quite certain,” Reimu was puzzled, “Amaya-dono.”

“Oh don’t be so formal!” Amaya waved that off, “Just call me Amaya-chan!”

“I… I’m not certain I’m comfortable with that, but if you insist Amaya…-chan.”

“That wasn’t so bad was it? Now then, how can I help you?

The two agreed to meet up later on in a gothic lolita cafe, where Amaya wore yet another disguise. Reimu (with Jinnai in tow) met with the investigative reporter and told her of the situation. The group agreed to study the phenomenon first from where it was known to have happened, and visited Jinnai’s room, where Amaya studied the gauntlet, seeing an ugly scar where something could have come from.

Further investigation revealed that the being was able to punch through the gauntlet purely by the assistance of Mortals working in unison. The forum acted as a focus, as the nihilistic isolation of the people participating gave it the necessary resonance to tear through the gauntlet and enter the Fallen World and claim the poor fools that summoned it.

Amaya spoke to the spirit of the home, who told them that the spirit that came through was one from beyond the far shores. Amaya originally thought that it meant something from the realm of the dead, but it became clear to her that what the spirit meant was something from the Abyss.

With that she called her contacts to see if anyone could run a trace on the message board. Whoever it was that was running “Mu”-chan, he or she was giving people instructions on how to call forth an abyssal intruder that would unmake them.

The team managed to find the first place where the trace led them, an internet cafe that reeked of desperation, thwarted destiny and escapism. They stepped inside to find the computer, being an empty casing with no components inside, and a monitor that still kept on going as if someone was using it. Baffled, Reimu and Jinnai combined casted to use Postcognition, and saw a student in the school using it, creating the “Mu”-chan site and holding on to a pendant that reeked of the Abyss.

Reimu realized then that the object must have been housing some form of Abyssal creature that was using the boy and his knowledge to find a better vessel for itself, a new means by which it could consume mortal souls. In her vision, she saw as the boy finished the preparations, and disappeared with the pendant, infusing the website itself with sinister purpose.

This session was slightly different as I had to make adjust things on the fly as I was running. Player schedule changes, and a little bit of plot wrangling resulted in a generally uneven, but still interesting game. That said, they are now aware of two threats that are at work. The “Mu”-chan board, and of course, the Spirit of the self-help group. Both are dangerous, no doubt, but given that this is mage, I have little doubt that the players will find a way to end both threats.

To those paying attention, both threats revolve around the concept of human self-loathing. Man is rarely satisfied with who he is. Everyone wants to be either smarter, more beautiful, more capable or some other concept. Others who loathe themselves fall into a trap of just wishing that they never existed at all. Both of the threats they’re after feed off this negativity, and encourage this way of thinking so that they can continue. They’re parasites that feed on human souls, delighting in extinguishing all hopes, dreams and potential and casting it into nothingness.

  1. Hikkikomori says:

    For those who want to discuss more here are the Endangered Species AP threads at your local RPG forums:

    White Wolf:

    Aw yeah! I knew it! Red Falcon!! Time to bring in the heavy artillery to bring down the alien-infested building!
    -cocks [S] gun-

    Who says ‘One Mind, Two Thoughts’ is only useful for doing 2 assignments at once.

    Masamune’s concerns for this session are:
    He can’t have ‘One Mind, Two Thoughts’ up all the time, lest he attract unwanted supernatural attention. These are the times that he let the alien consciousness seep in who may, or may not, have influenced him that saving the Cult is actually a good idea. Or at least salvaging it’s system is, seeing as it actually could supplement the Guardian of the Veil’s agenda with regards to their ‘Labyrinth.’ If the Cult inspires mortals to excel, the Guardian’s could use this to make more Mortals survive the Labyrinth and be more worthy to Awaken. Hence supplementing their numbers and might actually solve this Crisis of Non-Awakening.
    And if anything else, the Silver Ladder might be more than interested in this, since this is in line with what their Order is trying to achieve – awakening all Mortals.

    Masamune also now is serving as a two-way receiver for the enemy. He is now connected to the Cult’s information network, but at the same time, anything he does also feeds information back to the Spirit entity. He opted to keep the Astral Entity with him for this purpose (and because he’s unsure if he can easily unseat this evolved version of an Astral Construct, unlike its lesser counterparts, without sounding any alarms), as well as thinking of other ways on how to utilize this two-way bug.

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