Last weekend was the kickoff game of my Mage: the Awakening 2e game set in Chicago. It was a fairly straightforward re-entry into the Awakening universe for me and my players, but since this was only the second time we’ve had a chance to really run the God-Machine Chronicles rules through the paces, we came out of the session with a much deeper appreciation for the system.
But before that, let’s go over the characters:
Detective Jack Lawson, Shadow Name: Reynard (Played by Hikkikomori) Thyrsus of the Free Council. A dirty cop who does whatever needs doing… for a price.
Penelope “Penny” Spencer, Shadow Name: Prism (Played by Miguel) Obrimos of the Mysterium. A photojournalist specialising in the Occult with an obsession over Ley Lines and the flow of Mana in the city.
Jeanne Donnely, Shadow Name: Jane Doe (Played by Silver Countess) Obrimos of the Guardians of the Veil. A woman without a past, but an abundance of identities, somehow hoping that one of them will be a clue that leads her to the truth.
The story begins with the three characters gathered in a torn-up bedroom of a tiny flat in a bad part of town. Illuminated by just a single feeble lightbulb, the room looked like it was torn right out of a horror movie. The bed was soaked through in dried blood, but the room was otherwise untouched. Whoever lived there was a recluse and a bit of a hoarder, with stacks of papers piled up around a work desk, and a wall with a large inboard featuring a web of threads and articles tacked to a map of Chicago.
All over the room, little yellow plastic evidence markers dotted the room. indicators of the team of forensics people and cops that scoured the place already. The corpse was long gone, but the iron smell of dried blood clung to the air.
Reynard stood quietly, keeping an eye on the front door that had been cordoned off with police tape. None of them had a right to be here. This wasn’t his case, but it seemed to be a cute enough lead to look into and make a quick buck from. Both Prism and Jane had a thing for occult stories so a cut from their work for what was a quick in-and-out didn’t seem so bad.
Prism was already working through the place, taking photos on her phone, using a pen to lift the evidence markers out of the way before each shot. Jane on the other hand, had her eyes on the pinboard.
“What do you make of it?” Jane asked.
“We’ll find out.” Prism acknowledged, looking at the threads and expanding her senses, reaching out to peer into the Supernal through her understanding of Prime and Forces, adding with it a touch of Space.
The familiar faraway look of a mage gazing at something that was beyond normal sight came over Prism as she analysed the board, as she came to the conclusion that the board was somewhat magical. It had a weak Sympathetic Link to all the places on the board, possibly through the events marked down.
“Looks like our dead guy was one of us.” She said, “Jane? Fancy a look?”
Jane nodded, adding her own touch of the supernatural, accessing the vagaries of Fate. “What are you for?” she whispered to herself… as Fate replied in her head. Your answers will come right through that door.
“Someone’s coming!” Jane warned, and Reynard stepped into the living room as the other two hid away from sight.
Reynard assumed the stance of a detective at work, turning towards the figure of a slight woman, clearly from the streets, unwashed, wearing a ratty shirt and torn jeans.
“I’m going to have to ask you to stop right there, ma’am.” he said, taking out his badge and flashing it, “Detective Jack Lawson, and this here is my crime scene.”
“Hello Detective.” the woman’s voice held a funny accent. Educated, enunciated. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you. This crime scene belongs to another Detective. You shouldn’t even be here.”
A cursory scan and Jack felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He caught the dark lines under her eyes, the rank smell and bad teeth. He saw the marks on her arms, scars of substance abuse. Whoever he was talking to, it wasn’t this girl.
“I’ve come to tell you that you should leave well enough alone.” The girl said, “Whoever did this took one of our own. And we mean to resolve our own business.” She glanced over his shoulder to the doorway leading to the bedroom, “That said, we’re not against overlooking this transgression in exchange for information on any leads you might find. You are a detective after all.”
Jack frowned, “You’ve got me at a disadvantage.”
“Just as it should be.” the girl replied with a wry smile, “We’ll be in touch Detective Lawson. If you play well, we’ll make sure to reward your effort handsomely.”
Lawson said nothing else, instead tailing the woman as she walked out, watching as her confident stride fell into a junkie’s staggering gait not long after she’d left the apartment building.
He lingered outside, before messaging the others, “Do what you need to do. We’re being watched.”
He met up back with them not long after. “All done?”
“We know what the pinboard does.” Prism replied, “Sympathetic connections across a whole range of places. Weak, but serviceable.”
“But no motive, and no suspect.” Jane added, “Aside from our little visitor from the other guys a while ago.”
“The dead guy’s one of them.” Reynard confirmed, “But now it’s time to see what really happened.” He cast the spell, crafting it with his will, setting it’s parameters and fashioning the Imago with High Speech before letting it go, and peering into the past… just before the time of death.
The vision was crystal clear, and Reynard recounted the details to the rest of the Cabal, how the victim came home from work, settling in on the bedroom to work on the inboard. The victim was some mid-level employee working for the DMV, a regular nobody that kept track of records that could be used to track people down. A perfect position for a non-ambitious member of his conspiracy.
He heard a sound, startled, heading to the door as it was kicked open. He was supposed to say something when the sight of his assailant silenced him. Seven feet tall with muscles straining from under a military surplus jacket. Rough, massive hands reached for him, and snapped his neck, ending him even as he was desperately scrambling to put together a spell.
“All your fault.” the military man whispered, talking to himself as he hoisted the dead man into the bed. “You’re all puppets.”
He stepped outside and pulled in a large duffel bag, again, military surplus. “Nobody else can do this.” he muttered, “I’m the only one that can.”
Reynard continued to narrate how the giant stripped down naked and began to break the man’s limbs at key joints, threading some heavy duty fishing line through them like one would a puppet, tying them in a strange formation above the bed. It was painstakingly slow work, and when he was done, the man took a hot shower, scrubbing himself clean of the blood, and left.
The detective turned to his two companions. “Things just got a lot more interesting.”
“Not one of ours.” Prism said, “Both the victim and the suspect. This has nothing to do with the Consilium.”
“But it does.” Jane corrected, “Remember, this is a mage killer. Just because his first victim belongs to the other team doesn’t mean he won’t strike one of our own next time.”
“But what led him to the guy?” Prism turned to the pinboard on the wall, “I think the answer is staring right at us.”
This writeup is getting a bit long so I’ll cap it off here. I’ll pick up on the second half of the session where the team confronts the killer in my next entry, and reflect a bit on just how the new 2e system works to push the atmosphere of horror and influences how people play.