[Actual Report] Awakening Manila, Session 1 (Long)

Posted: November 20, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
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Hey guys, welcome to the first Actual Play Report for the Mage: the Awakening campaign I’ve started last weekend. I’ve written up quick profiles for my players yesterday, and while some don’t have names for their characters yet, I’ll do what I can to write up the session in a comprehensive manner.

To break things up from my usual meandering narrative, I’ll be breaking the session up according to Scene, which will hopefully be able to make the play reports easier to digest.

Scene 1: When In Doubt, Use Fire.
Location: The Slums of Tondo Manila

Crow sat nervously, glancing back at his open laptop and checking the statistical analysis running on his machine on the probability of survival of the rest of his Cabal. They were steadily dropping, and looking at the fire consuming the overcrowded wooden homes and the screams of the panicked occupants, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out why.

The rest of the team had cornered their man. The Apostate had tried to evade them, tipping over a crude kerosine lamp that caused the blaze, hoping to use it as a means of escape. The fire spread quickly in the crowded homes, and already the place was a chaotic mess. The Apostate was a ragged, undernourished squatter, shirtless and grease-stained, with ratty hair and missing teeth and skin decorated with several poorly done tattoos.

He knew he was outnumbered, and instinctively he knew that they were like him. Different. Empowered.

Rather than risk capture, he leapt into the filthy sewage water below, hoping to swim to safety through the muck.

Mayari, the young freelancer moved swiftly. She was indignant at the callous damage done by this fleeing coward, and channeled her will into a spear of psionic energy, targetting his consciousness rather than his form. The initial blast struck the Apostate with incredible force, causing his limbs to spasm as his synapses fired off in a crude approximation of a seizure.

Seeing his chance, Torre found a nearby chunk of concrete, kicking it towards the Apostate as he came up for air. The missile struck true, aided by both Torre’s skill as a professional football star and his command of Forces.

Rosa on the other hand, was more concerned about the blaze around them. Focusing her will inward, she fashioned a spell to put out the flames and sent it forth snuffing out majority of the flames with words of magic.

Taking advantage of the moment, Hikkikomori’s Moros character ran outside to rally the people of the slums. He whipped them into shape, getting them to form a crude fire brigade to put out the remaining flames before they spread anew.

The Apostate recovered somewhat from his injuries, trying to paddle away when both Mayari and Torre lunged into the putrid sewage after him, before clocking him unconscious. Torre hauled the unconscious Apostate to safety by the roadside, when he was recognized, and a nearby reporter of the local tabloid Abante rushed to interview him.

Rather than risk being interviewed, Torre turned to try and rally the bystanders to help. Starstruck and also perhaps encouraged to participate because of it, Torre was able to whisk himself away from the tabloid reporter’s microphone before too many uncomfortable questions were asked.

The team regrouped shortly after, with Mayari securing their target and tossing it into the back of Hikkikomori’s Moros’ jeep and bringing it to their mentor’s Sanctum in Quezon City.

Scene 2: KFC and Debriefings
Location: Anito’s Sanctum, Quezon City

Anito was the Cabal’s handler and occasional mentor. A senior member of the Guardians of the Veil, Anito is their common contact and coordinates many of their efforts for the Order. Middle-aged and partly balding, Anito has the demeanor of everyone’s favorite beer-guzzling uncle, until it was time to discuss Awakened business.

After welcoming them to his home, and sending Torre and Mayari off to the direction of the showers, he congratulated the group on their success in capturing this particular Apostate and bade them to stay and eat, as he had more information related to their latest catch.

The group reconvened once Torre and Mayari had both bathed and changed out of their sewer-soaked clothes. Over a fast-food meal, the team was briefed over some disturbing developments.

First was the fact that the Apostate that they’d caught was the fourth in a series of mages that had awakened in poor areas, away from the attentions of other mages. Left to their own devices, and imbued with Awakened magic, these Apostates eventually lashed out against their enemies, or found ways to take advantage of their situation.

Anito was certain that this wasn’t the end of it, and told the team to investigate the matter. He provided them with a list of the older cases, and where the Apostates came from, and the team got to work almost immediately.

Crow was cross referencing the data with anything else, hoping that some sort of pattern would emerge. True enough with a little nudge of pure luck from his Fate magics, he was able to ascertain that the Awakenings were happening in conjunction with a government health program initiated in various poor communities with free eye checkups and medication.

It was a strange lead, but a lead all the same, and the team found that the next leg of this government program was taking place in San Juan the following week.

Torre and Crow took the time to check out some leads via their respective methods. Torre spoke to his agent to reach out to the people behind that program to ask for an interview, using the excuse that he was hoping to improve his public profile and felt that a health program was perfect to make him look better. Crow on the other hand dove into social media, checking out facebook and hacking into government websites to find out more.

Their findings were interesting as the program wasn’t originally on the government’s Department of Health’s calendar of activities for the year, but it had been bumped up with a generous grant from World Optix, a pharmaceutical company which donated a large amount of cash, bribes and medicines to make it possible.

Scene 3: All Eyes on San Juan
Location: Covered Basketball Court in San Juan

The team convened on the location with special care to appear as normal as possible:

Torre was inside a car for the duration of the event, watching from afar with his Prime Mage Sight spell active, scanning for suspicious activity.

Rosa had joined as a volunteer, after scrubbing her aura to appear as a mortal as opposed to a mage. She was chatting up some of the other volunteers, as she was quite used to this sort of thing.

Mayari infiltrated as a poor girl looking to get an eye checkup and queued up early to get a glimpse of what was going on. Likewise she also had Torre scrub her aura to appear as a regular mortal.

Hikkikomori’s Moros was there as a volunteeer assistant, but as one of the security staff.

Crow on the other hand, was on standby just in case something needed tracking, but already his Fate senses told him that something was about to happen.

When the volunteeers unloaded the cases of medicines, Torre was able to discern that the bottles had faint traces of magic. Immediately he sent a text message to the team to tell them of the fact. Hikkikomori’s Moros activated his own Mage Senses, analyzing the substances in the medicine, realizing that they were laced with a psychoactive substance and quickly palmed one for later analysis.

Mayari waited patiently to receive her eyedrops, feeling no ill effects, aside from being rather refreshed. On the good news, the doctor said that her vision was 20/20.

Torre wasn’t pleased with the fact that the bottles were laced with magic and psychoactives. Using his Prime magic, he imbued one of the people in the crowd with an aura of a mage. Taking her cue, Rosa used her Forces magic to raise the temperature of the medicines above their recommended storage conditions, ruining the medicine.

When the next volunteer reached for the next bottle, they were surprised to find that the bottles were all uncomfortably warm. The project leader made a few cellphone calls peppered with a lot of apologies, before telling the people that because of a logistics issue, the project for the day had to be cancelled as the drugs were no longer viable.

The crowd wasn’t happy, but in the end they let the team pack up and go. With the operation sabotaged, the mages left the area, and decided to call it a day.

Scene 4: Astral Planes and Odd Towers
Location: The Astral Planes

Mayari didn’t exactly sleep well that evening. She expected that, given that she did take the drug. Still being stuck in a strange simulacra of the LRT’s Tayuman Station wasn’t her idea of a good place of a dreamscape.

She stood on the train platform, even as phantom figures, vague “people” walking past her, the place silent as a tomb, even as trains would come and go. She oriented herself, looking at the various exits, noting where they were supposed to go. One particular sign caught her eye. It read, “Fathers.”

Mayari never knew her father, and it was a strange compulsion that led her to take the steps down into the streets below, stepping through her home’s front door and into the living room. She flinched as soon as she heard the voices. Her mother’s voice, and a male voice, arguing over something, over her. Hateful words and roiling emotions hit her like a truck, shards of anger flaying her willpower and self esteem.

She had to get away.

She ran past them, not daring to look at the face of the man she knew was her father, ducking into a dream reflection of her mother’s bedroom. Inside she saw a mirror, and when she walked up to it, she saw that her reflection was that of a little girl, though with one chilling difference, her reflection had no face.

Her reflection beckoned to her, even as lighting struck outside the windows. Illuminating a strange background beyond… an empty beach, and a tower standing alone in the ocean beyond.

Mayari stepped through the glass, watching as her reflection stepped past her and into her room, running away into one of the doors. She looked around and saw that the beach was empty save for a single boat on the sand.

She took to the boat, pushing it off into the water and rowing towards the tower. Surely something must be waiting for her there. By this time Mayari realized that something was afoot, she cast a Mind rote to split her thoughts, separating an analytical mind from the one in her dreams… just in case.

Mayari reached the tower, touching it’s slick onyx surface and finding the entrance. It felt like her Awakening, except different somehow. Could someone really find their way back to the towers? Was this possible?

She made her way up, before she found herself confronted by a barrier of her earliest happy memory. A new dress for her birthday, she was about five years old? It was hard to remember. Mayari pushed through, and the barrier broke, shattering into countless shards that tumbled to the darkness below.

She tried to recall if she forgot anything. She couldn’t remember if she did.

Mayari pushed forward past a few more memories, until finally she was confronted with the memory of her best friend. She hesitated, was it worth losing this?

Would it matter once she did forget? She stowed the memory in her other mind and stepped through, determined to find out the truth beyond these barriers.

Her mind remembered the facts. But the emotion was gone. Her heart had gone cold and analytical. The girl she called her best friend was now just a name, a face a statistic… a complete stranger.

Mayari prayed that what lay beyond was going to be worth it.

When she reached the top, she saw the place where she could sign her name, mark the tower as hers. She knew it was impossible for this to be true, she knew that mage lore said that she could only Awaken once. You couldn’t walk two Paths as an Awakened. It just didn’t happen.

Until she carved her name on the Onyx surface, chipping at it with a stone until her hands bled.

It was then that the truth came to her. It was then that she realized that she was in the Abyss, and the Abyss was inside her in turn.

Scene 5: This Little Pig Went To the Market
Location: San Juan

Hikkikomori’s Moros was called up by a few police officers later that morning, and interviewed about the disappearance of an individual present during the government’s project. While the Moros denied all knowledge, he was able to ascertain that the missing person was the mortal that Torre bestowed an Awakened aura to.

After talking to the police, he let the team know that the person had gone missing. This was troubling as this could mean that the person may have actually Awakened, or soemthing else.

Mayari, still shaken by her encounter with the Abyss, was the first to respond. She returned to San Juan to do some preliminary investigation of their own. She was able to track down his home, and information that he’d gone drinking with a few friends. She asked his friends, and all of them said that they hadn’t seen him after he left their late-night drinking session.

Mayari wasn’t about to give up, using her Time magics to look into the past, and track what happened to the man. Her spell opened the past to her, letting her observe him as he finished drinking, and she walked the streets, following the phantom form of his past as he came to an abandoned, dimly lit stretch of road.

It was there that he encountered someone who accused him of doing something to the medicines. The man denied it, his drunken state making him spew his denials with a liberal helping of insults. The man who confronted the drunk raised his hand to perform the rote mudras to perform a spell.

Mayari watched in morbid fascination as she heard the screams of the man’s past as he fell to the ground writhing and squealing as he was forcibly shapechanged into a pig. The mage who confronted the drunk came forward and restrained the pig, dragging it away into a local wet market.

She ran towards the wet market, the spell ending all of a sudden after the shapechange. She tried to track him, using the aura that Torre gave as a guide. What she found was half a pig, hanging from a meat hook, a tattoo near the shoulder where the man had one before.

Mayari called the others, and purchased the half carcass.

Scene 6: CSI Manila
Location: PNP Morgue

Carcasses are normally Maddie’s Thyrsus’ job. As a forensic examiner for the PNP she was used to seeing dead bodies. That said, having her “friends’ haul half a pig to her office was strange even for her.

With Mayari was Rosa, Crow and Hikkikomori’s Moros. It was an awkward conversation, given that they were trying to figure out how to get something decent out of the pig carcass. Maddie’s Thyrsus decided to just humor them, and did a cursory scan.

Her findings were basic, but given what she had to work with, she was already considering it a minor miracle. A few prints, one belonging to the butcher who’d bought the pig, and one from the man who was selling it.

Mayari was worried about the fact that the mage could shapeshift the drunk into a pig. After all, if he could do that, then how easy could it be to transform one’s own fingerprints?

Excusing themselves from the morgue, Rosa and Crow tried to find out if there were existing records of fingerprints that matched the ones that they found. AFter hours of flipping through records, they didn’t find anything.

Mayari realized that she was perhaps one of the few possible leads. She returned to the basketball court with Hikkikomori’s MOros, noting that a doctor was there with the volunteers, as they pasted a new date for the announcement of the free eye clinic program.

She approached him and asked him about the dreams. The man’s interest was piqued, and he interviewed her thoroughly about the contents of her dream, and gave her his business card and invited her over to the clinic so that they could perform the necessary tests to get to the bottom of it.

Mayari was glad that she took precautions, because the doctor’s aura was showing that he was a Mage.

And that’s where we ended the session last Saturday. Given the number of players I was surprised that we ended up with as many scenes as we did.

I have to admit that I’m a bit rusty when it comes to running since the last campaign was the unfortunately on hiatus nMage Japan game that I ran a few months back.

I felt that perhaps I was making things too easy for my players, but that could just be because the team covered all the bases, and all the Arcana were present in the group. That said it was pretty good, and I felt that I was starting to hit my stride in the horror angle with the Astral journey that ended with Mayari in the far shores of the Abyss and being tricked into exposing her soul to the possibility of Abyss-tainted magic.

Then there’s also the poor mortal turned into a pig and slaughtered by an unsuspecting butcher in a wet market. Since his body was the one converted, it was a reasonable conclusion that his mind was still completely human. He knew what was happening, and he must have suffered all the way through to his death.

Fun stuff.

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