Archive for the 'mage:the ascension' Category


blackfont auction house

Blackfont is spoken of  among mages for whom the lure of power and knowledge exceed their morality – an entirely too prevalent breed.  It is a moving auction that specialises in ‘items of interest’ among mages, from Ducheski alchemical glassware to matched Regency duelling pistols to rare blues records to bloodstone jewellry.  Notably there are no telephone or computer-based bids allowed – this isn’t eBay after all.

Blackfont trades out of London according to their website but the reality is global with small offices in York, Edinburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Oslo, Prague, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Moscow and Singapore.  It’s founder Henry Blackfont was an English swordsmith and pawnbroker to law students during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.  When duelling was outlawed, Blackfont became an auction house.

Blackfont trades on a combination of competent researchers, hauteur and flair for the unusual. In particular, their skill at tracing provenance is formidable.  Fiscally, the auction house is well-heeled with a combination of old money, legal patronage and directors of diverse nationalities and remarkable wealth.  Yet Blackfont keeps to the shadows while providing research services to houses like Sotherby’s.

Auctions start at 13:31 local time in sunlit locations.  Those who attend Blackfont auctions include proxies for celebrities, musicians and other artistes, academics, collectors, politicians,  aristocrats and self-professed mystics.  A few have showed up in person though paparazzi are frustrated.  Most Blackfont auctions are black tie with exceptions for those with enough wealth or influence not to care.  

There are few actual wonders sold (perhaps one in thirty items, anything at Level 2 is a rare find indeed – one in 900 lots at best and nothing beyond) but items with Resonance are plentiful (one in five) and almost all have a history of at least seventy years.  Items range from whimsical (an early phonogram) to macabre (bracelets made of the teeth of Vedic gurus) to desirable (a dress worn by an iconic actress of silent movies).

Security here is discreet, heavily-screened and talented – some auctions boast almost exclusively ex-special forces personnel. Items are transported in safety boxes or cabinets using old-fashioned lock and keys as well as security officers keeping manual records; this lack of trust in electronics has frustrated numerous thefts.  The presence of competent security and demon-possessed guard dogs doesn’t hurt either.

The Technocracy to date have tried to disrupt sixteen different auctions and failed due to unexpected Contingency One or Five situations forcing redeployment.  One NWO administrator stated statistically they must be planned yet there is no evidence even with repeated interrogation (and memory wipe) of specific employees involved with the auction with no recorded telecommunication of any connection to Blackfont.

The rest of the Awakened treat Blackfont as a somewhat exclusive resource.  Recent times have seen vigilantes randomly attacking senior Blackfont staff and at least one vigilante was declared insane by the authorities.  This has led to more rigid enforcement of security which has antagonised some of the more flamboyant mages and collectors.


the frog farm

This is a location that appeared in the ill-fated Mage game mentioned in this post.  As the site was evacuated after the unscheduled re-entry of a television satellite onto the propane tanks of a nearby private compound, it’s safe to release this information to a wider audience.

About 10 miles south of Sao Paolo beyond the favelas where trees and bushes shelter the roadside is a frog farm.  Out of corrugated iron and wooden buildings linked by a gravelled road, locals in bandannas, waders and stained denim net frogs from shallow pools linked by silted water channels to a perpetual chorus of cicadas.  These frogs are stored in glass tanks in a building then transported by unmarked vans. The workers are all Brazilians, many skinheads with criminal records trying to reform.

The farm manager, Jose Costa runs a tight operation.  Costa wears conservative suits, is well-groomed and never seems to perspire. He has no family and appears to be driven to helping reform criminals. The farm is profitable as it provides frogs for culinary and lab work for various interests.  It is also a money-laundering operation for smugglers linked to the kameradenetwork.  Costa has a passion for expensive cigars, cars and women and a talent for graft, motivating workers and handling corrupt officials, many of whom are ‘friends’.

There are two notable exceptions to the staff.  One is Till Wastrich, the farm’s engineer.  A pallid, gaunt German with lank hair, beady black eyes, wide mouth and skilled hands, he hunches inside a motorised wheelchair.  He is an electrical and mechanical prodigy who knows the farm’s systems.  His voice and personality are a rusty razor wielded with merciless indifference to others, even his ‘boss’.  It’s hard to determine his age, his face says late fifties but his eyes make you want to add twenty years.

The other is Herman Grippel, the farm’s biologist.  An obese German-Brazilian of indeterminate age with crewcut, tan skin and immaculate labcoat, his congenial nature and knowledge of firearms, medicine and toxicology make him dangerous – he plays a poker face but his eyes are a little too eager.  He keeps pet tree frogs in a tank and harvests curare for his research, sometimes leaving the poor impaled frog sweating poison as a desk ornament.   Such schoolboy cruelties amuse him no end.

Costa, Wastrich and Grippel maintain an underground lab with concrete walls, ceiling and floor sealed off by a three-inch thick steel plate with motorised counterweights.  The lab has mechanical and electronic security measures and two main areas.  One is a processing lab where batches of frogs are exsanguinated, the blood is mixed with enough ketamine to render a normal human comatose and placed in saline bags which are then taken through a steel door with a combination deadbolt lock into the processing room.

In here are six neonate vampires.  In order to prevent trouble, their limbs and eyes have been removed and they have been restrained on medical backboards with vulcanised steel ball gags and hard collars, effectively preventing them from moving their necks or speaking.  The intravenous feeds feed into the collars and the caniculae can be removed without getting within two feet of the vampire’s mouth.  A trochar (a hollow steel spike with a tap used in embalming) is inserted in their hearts, paralysing them as a stake would.

The doped frog blood is fed into the vampires during daylight hours, who convert it into vitae.  Each vampire is given four pints of the mixture.  Three pints of vitae are removed from each vampire by vacumn pumps and packaged for transportation by helicopter.  The courier brings an empty vacumn-sealed and refrigerated case to transport the blood to it’s intended destination.  The courier will also periodically provide them with new test subjects, transported in a locked refrigeration unit.

Costa, Grippel and Wastrich have been running this operation for eighteen years in various guises, having used animal blood and vampires to provide vitae to their masters who have instructed them explicitly on what to do and how to do it. All three are protected by the kameradenetwork and occult forces who learned a lot of necromancy during the Holocaust.  All three are motivated by the prospect of cheating death, by occasionally sampling the goods or through the ceremonies of their masters.


tangled threads and too much information

This month’s RPG Carnival is about roleplaying mistakes and thinking back, I’ve made a few howlers.  My last old World of Darkness Mage game folded due to a mixture of factors, players disheartened by escalating odds and their conflicting goals but the killer was it seems too many plots.

That’s not to say the plot threads weren’t linked – a resurgence of the conflict between Hermetics and Tremere tied to a conspiracy of vampires and mages trying to cure vampirism through certain rites with dire consequences (as the characters learned) and drew the attention of powerful mages.

In the background were plots leading to mass Ascension.  The Technocracy sought to contain multiple threats and launched surgical strikes using intel from Nephandic sources but were losing control as the Avatar Storm was breaking down the Gauntlet and Oracles were walking the worlds.

The group of players were all seasoned roleplayers (about seventy years of gaming experience around the table) with a working knowledge of the World of Darkness; armed with handouts.  The clues were there but the players were drowning. Where did the pieces go? Was this even the same jigsaw?!

Eventually we had to fold the game due to Real Life ™ but it was still a blow as I spent over a year running it and the same prepping for it.  That said, it’s taught me a lot about organising game events; the need to recap information and using NPCs to prompt for and to summarise essential plot arcs.

It’s also taught me you sometimes need to tie off loose ends in a way players can trust won’t come back to bite them in the backside; you can work out a way to bring plots back if need be.  Keeping things open can distract player focus – you can’t look forward while looking over your shoulder…

I’m going to post some plot threads in future posts here so you can use them; after all, I’ve done the groundwork for it.  In the event the game comes back around I’m not going to post threads they were directly involved in but this won’t diminish the amount of material by that much.