"Dammit," June muttered to the words on the luminescent screen in front of her. She pushed her laptop aside and stared at what she had written. This just wasn't going to go. The story wasn't flowing the way that she wanted it to. She saved the file and put the small computer to sleep, shutting it down for now. Maybe a break would help to clear her thoughts and get things back on track.
She lay back on the queen-size hotel bed and stretched, listening to her joints pop. A sure sign that you're getting old, kiddo, she thought as she stood up with the grace of a dancer and made her way over to the small counter next to the bathroom where she'd left some overpriced soda from the local Seven-11 (still cheaper than what they wanted for a single can at the hotel vending machines). She scooped up some half-melted ice from the bucket and poured herself a glass, letting the hissing sound of the bubbles soothe her thoughts. The latest story was tough. Maybe I'm just out of practice at doing anything creative, she thought bitterly. After years of pot-boilers and bodice rippers doing something original isn't turning out to be as easy as I thought.
She went into the bathroom and set the drink down on the counter. Turning on the tap, she splashed some cool water on her face. Drying off with a white hotel hand-towel, she regarded herself in the mirror. She didn't look too bad for a woman who was creeping up on 40. Her small frame and delicate bone structure carried her well and gave her a very youthful appearance that had gotten her carded at restaurants and clubs all through her 20s. She still remembered the day she ordered a drink and the waiter didn't ask to see her ID. "No problem," he'd said, "you're okay." Had talked himself right out of a tip.
Still, "maturity" went well with her and she kept in shape doing aerobics and getting out and enjoying the skiing in the New England area when she could. That was one of the reasons that she had gone on this little vacation, although she had told her publisher that the primary goal was to give her "space" to work on her new book in some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, neither seemed to be helping all that much. It seemed like the characters and the world she had created had something of a life of their own, they simply refused to go along with the plot in the way she had originally imagined. Maybe it was time to own up to it and just relax into it and see where the new world would take her.
The sound of a faint breeze rustling the cheap plastic shower curtain made June look up from her soda glass. As she set the glass down and turned to look for the source of the sound, she failed to notice the shimmering in the bathroom mirror. The silver seemed to melt and flow out of its frame into the shape of a figure reaching out from the world behind the cold glass. June's new world would take her father than she ever imagined.
This scenario is based in a small town in Vermont, but it could just as easily be set in any isolated, rural place where some people might go to "get away from it all." The Storyteller should feel free to adjust the setting to suit his or her individual Chronicle.
Alternately, the mages might simply be in Eastridge for the same reason as June Dano: a vacation or respite from the activity of their daily lives. If so, the forces of fate conspire to have the characters in the right place at the right time to combat The Hierophant and his bizarre reality.
If the player characters are not already acquainted, the Storyteller should take the opportunity in Scene One to have them "coincidentally" run into each other in the town. Such a strange coincidence bringing together several mages in the same place should be enough for astute players to immediately realize that there is something unusual going on in Eastridge that might require the attention of the willworkers.
The mages check into the Eastridge Mountain Inn, which happens to be the same hotel where June is staying. When they register at the front desk, the gamemaster should make an Awareness + Perception check against Difficulty 6 for each character. Anyone who is successful notices an aura of "strangeness," ripples in the fabric of the Tapestry in the town. They may simply chalk it up to the presence of the Node, if they are aware of it.
If the willworkers are in Eastridge to investigate the Node and rumors of Technomancer activity, they can use their abilities to try and track down the location of the Node and find out more about it and any activity surrounding it. An Extended Awareness + Perception check (difficulty 8) that gains a total of 6 successes will allow a mage to pinpoint the location of the Node. They can also track the Node through coincidental magick (Prime 1, difficulty 4) allowing them to "stumble" across it while wandering around the town. If the mages are unaware of the Node, the storyteller should make secret Awareness + Perception (difficulty 8) checks for them. Once they have accumulated 4 successes, they sense the presence of a Node in the town. An additional two successes tells them the Node's location.
The Node is located in an old book shop/coffeehouse in the town called The Never-Ending Story. The proprietor of the shop, a large, jovial man named Andrew Orlando, is a Sleeper who is unaware of the special properties that his shop has taken on. He knows only that his humble establishment has become more attractive to people in the town and that they enjoy browsing, reading and chatting here because of the homey and pleasant atmosphere. Much of the Never-Ending Story's attractiveness is tied to the Quintessence that it generates, presently at a rate of a mere 3 points per week, but slowly increasing. This Quintessence gathers in the pages of some of the old science fiction and fantasy books that fill the shelves of the store, turning them into Tass. There are only 3 points of Tass that can be culled from the shop's shelves. If any of the characters inquire of Mr. Orlando ("No please, call me Andrew. Would you care for a latte?") he will inform them that Ms. Lane, a local high school teacher, purchased about two dozen books recently for her students. This is odd, because he recalls Ms. Lane being against "frivolous" fiction such as sci-fi. The books were never given to any students at the school, but instead were carefully processed by the Technomancers to extract their Tass.
Once the mages have been in the shop and had a chance to look around, the Storyteller should make a secret Awareness + Perception check (difficulty 7) for each of them. Any mage who achieves success senses a powerful presence in the Umbra approaching the site of the node. Any character with Spirit 1 or more can attempt to look through the Gauntlet (which is only 3 near the node) to see a strange machine, easily the size of the small store, gliding through Umbral space. It appears to be something like a classic "UFO" flying saucer, with glowing lights hovering on a beam of light. Mages will recognize it as a Qui La Machinae, a Technocracy device used for "sanitizing" Nodes before they are taken over.
If the willworkers want to stop the Qui La Machinae from going about its work, they will have to keep it from the node in some way. Possible means of holding off or disabling the machine are left to the players to invent but may include entering the Umbra to combat it directly, or using Correspondence, Entropy or Forces magick against it. This requires at least Spirit 2 for the mage to be able to reach across the Gauntlet to affect the construct. Mages unable to penetrate the Gauntlet can attempt to use Prime 3 or greater countermagick to "secure" the site's Quint-essence against the Qui La Machinae.
Any interference with the operation of the Qui La Machinae will gain the attention of Ms. Alyson Lane, who is the senior Technomancer in the town and a member of the New World Order (see the Supporting Characters, on p. 25). Lane will move to investigate any disturbance backed by a group of Men in Black equal in number to the mages present. The Men in Black will pose as police or federal agents and claim that the mages are dangerous criminals who are under arrest. Just as the Technomancers advance on the willworkers and conflict seems about to erupt, all Hell breaks loose . . . literally.
The mages stand in amazement, waiting for some kind of massive Paradox backlash to occur from this outrage to reality, but it doesn't come. Instead, all of Eastridge is re-shaped and transformed, including the town's Sleeper inhabitants. The mountains seem to grow up all around the town, creating a deeper valley surrounded by cyclopean peaks that appear to moan and shed rivulets of tears from their sides. The woods become dark and the trees seem to take on an evil intelligence and movement. The small stream running through the town becomes red as blood and the houses and buildings become constructions of bone, glass, copper and iron. Only the Never-Ending Story remains unchanged by the reality-shift.
The people of Eastridge are transformed as well, becoming bent and twisted goblin-forms of their true selves. Only the Awakened (the mages and the Technomancers) are left untouched; their Avatars protect them. The transformed townsfolk turn immediately on the willworkers and attack them with terrible ferocity. There are 12 goblins in the book shop itself, with thousands in the entire town. They will begin hunting the unchanged characters almost immediately, advancing on the Never-Ending Story in a mob.
Attributes: Strength 4, Dexterity 4, Stamina 4, Charisma 1, Manipulation 2, Appearance 1, Perception 3, Intelligence 1, Wits 3.
Abilities: Alertness 2, Athletics 4, Brawl 4, Dodge 4, Melee 4, Stealth 3.
Health Levels: OK (5 2), -1 (5 2), -2 (5 2), -5, Dead.
The players should be reminded that these goblins are innocent Sleepers who have been transformed by an outside force. They are not in control of themselves and not responsible for their actions. The mages should be discouraged from simply slaughtering them because they can. If none of the players thinks to mention it, Alyson Lane will. Despite her Technocracy affiliations, many of the people in Eastridge are her friends and co-workers and she has sworn an oath to protect them from threats just such as this one. Such a show of compassion from their traditional enemy might well shock the player characters (it should).
The mages do have one thing working in their favor. Within the bounds of The Heirophant's pocket reality, Paradox has a lessened effect. The wild, new reality is more malleable and open to change, so using vulgar magick against the goblins should be considered "without witnesses," since the townsfolk don't really have their wits about them and won't recall anything that took place while in their altered state. This means that the willworkers can use magick more freely. Mages also cannot suffer from Paradox while they are within this altered reality. Any Paradox effects or backlashes that the mages accumulate during the remainder of the story are "delayed" until they are outside of The Heirophant's domain. Then, Paradox will exert its full force once again, and the characters will suffer any Paradox effects they generated during the story.
After fighting the initial onslaught of goblins, the characters will eventually want to try to escape so they can gather their wits and formulate a plan of action (Alyson Lane will suggest a strategic retreat if no one else does). Clever use of magick should allow the mages to escape from the goblins for a while, but they will discover that no use of magick is strong enough to allow them to leave the transformed valley where Eastridge rests or to communicate with anyone outside of it. Any attempt to do so automatically fails.
After the characters have been on the run for a little while and had a chance to debate what they are going to do, they discover another disturbing aspect of the Heirophant's reality. The "weakening" in the fabric of the Tapestry that the marauder has caused allows for easier use of magick, but it also gives life to the ideas and inner selves of the Awakened. The mages effectively exist in a state of Quiet while they are inside the transformed reality, and their thoughts and emotions will warp reality around them, creating hallucinations of all kinds based on their current level of Paradox (which may be higher then normal from the use of vulgar magick). The characters will not be trapped in their own mindscapes (there is no escape from The Heirophant's domain) but they can suffer all manner of delusion and hobgoblins. (See Mage, Second Edition, p. 178 for more information on Quiet.)
Eventually, the characters will hear a disturbance outside of or near their hiding place and any character with Awareness will sense the nearby presence of an Awakened Avatar, another mage. The mages may question at first if this is simply another manifestation of their own delusions, but it is not. The Storyteller, however, shouldn't tell the players either way!
Attributes: Strength 6, Dexterity 4, Stamina 5, Perception 3, Intelligence 2, Wits 3.
Abilities: Alertness 2, Athletics 4, Brawl 4, Dodge 3, Tracking 3.
Attacks: Bite/5 dice.
Health Levels: OK (x3), -1 (x2), -2, -5, Smashed 2 dice of inherent Countermagick.
If the characters rescue June from the pack, they will see that she is untouched by the reality shift in Eastridge. She will ask who the characters are and for an explanation of what is going on. Once the characters calm her down a bit and assure her that they mean to help (through proper roleplaying or an appropriate ability check), she will tell them what she knows about the situation in town.
June describes her frustration with her new novel concept and how she came to Eastridge to work on the idea some more in relative peace and quiet. She then describes a strange man (The Hierophant) appearing in her hotel bathroom and abducting her. He raved about the brilliance of her concept and how it only required the work of a true artist to bring it to life. He brought her from a strange and formless place (the Umbra) into a giant cathedral that was right out of her story: one of the strongholds of The Hierophant. She managed to time things so that she could slip away while The Hierophant was distracted with performing one of his strange rituals. She ran, but the
pack began to hunt her down until she encountered the characters.
All of the transformations of the town are like the descriptions of the domain of The Hierophant from June's novel. The players should quickly realize that The Hierophant is a marauder who is using June's ideas as a template for transforming reality using the energy of the Node. If the characters question June for details, she will remember The Hierophant saying something about "reaching out for other wellsprings after drinking deeply enough of this one," suggesting that the marauder plans to locate and tap other Nodes in order to expand his new reality. The willworkers will have to stop The Hierophant now while his beachhead in reality is still tenuous.
Clever players may well come up with some other option to overcome The Hierophant and restore reality to normal. The Storyteller will have to improvise to deal with any new plan, but should allow a new idea that sounds reasonable to have a chance of working based on the information presented here.
The Node is guarded by a group of goblins (at least twice the number of the willworkers) and any magick used on the Node will gain the immediate attention of The Hierophant, who will appear instantly through Correspondence magick to stop the interlopers. The mages will have to hold off the marauder long enough to destroy the Node. This is the final battle, and should consist of a valiant effort to hold off The Hierophant and his forces while the Node is drained and reality restored. Vulgar magick will fly thickly as The Hierophant attempts to stop the mages, all the while commanding them to obey him and join his new reality where magick will be a true power and the Awakened will rule as kings.
Draining the Node requires at least Prime 3. If none of the player characters have this level in the Sphere, Alyson Lane will attempt to drain the Node herself. The mages might not be crazy about the idea of trusting their lives to a New World Order mage, but they have little choice. Totally draining and shutting down the Node requires an Extended Magick Check with a total of 12 successes against a difficulty of 8. Several characters can act in concert to drain the Node, or one character can attempt to gather the successes.
Once the Node is drained, reality will seem to snap like a taut rubber band being released. The Gauntlet will be restored to its full strength and The Hierophant will be drawn screaming back into the Deep Umbra. The reality of the town and its inhabitants will be restored to normal. The mages will suffer the effects of whatever Paradox they have accumulated as the force of consentual reality re-establishes itself. No time will appear to have passed during The Heirophant's reign of terror, and the characters will find the townspeople around them shaking their heads for a moment like an odd feeling of deja vu, then going back to what they were doing as if nothing had happened. Any townspeople killed by the mages during their activities in the transformed reality will die soon of various "coincidental" accidents and natural causes unless steps are taken to prevent them. The gamemaster can use this as an additional short story or can ignore the effects of the character's actions in The Heirophant's domain if he wishes to wrap the story up neatly.
June Dano will be inspired with confidence and ideas for her book by her Awakening. The player characters should try and recruit her for the Traditions, perhaps even taking her on as an apprentice for their Chantry. If they don't, she will be approached by Alyson Lane about joining the Technocracy and will eventually end up as one of the better spin-doctors of the New World Order, writing the kind of material that sustains the belief that magick is nothing more than a quaint fiction.
The Never-Ending Story Node will no longer be a point of conflict, but there is no guarantee that the draining of the Node is permanent. The Technocracy will keep watch on the site for any signs of the Node re-awakening and will move to sanitize it if it does. The characters may well find themselves again working to save the renewed Node in the future.
And - of course - The Hierophant will remain lurking in the Deep Umbra, plotting another means to return to Earth to work his mad plans of Ascension. He will certainly carry a grudge against the willworkers who thwarted him the last time.
The Hierophant - Marauder
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 4, Charisma 5, Manipulation 4, Appearance 2, Perception 4, Intelligence 3, Wits 3.
Abilities: Awareness 4, Expression 4, Intuition 3, Intimidation 2, Cosmology 5, Enigmas 3, Lore 2, Occult 2.
Backgrounds: Arcane 3, Avatar 3, Dream 4.
Spheres: Correspondence 5, Spirit 5, all others 4.
Image: A man of average height and build with a slightly roundish face, topped with a shock of pure white hair. His bright blue eyes burn with the fires of fanaticism and madness, but his outward demeanor is calm and composed most of the time. He only becomes impassioned when preaching about his "great purpose" to others, then he tends to rant and rave almost hypnotically. The Hierophant is usually dressed in some kind of ecclesiastical garb, from simple black robes to elaborately embroidered getups like a medieval bishop. He wears a strange amulet/holy symbol around his neck that is a collection of shifting geometric shapes that is almost painful to look at. The amulet appears to have no real significance or power, although the players might suspect otherwise.
The true identity and background of the Marauder who calls himself The Hierophant is unknown. It is widely suspected that he may have once been a member of the Celestial Chorus centuries ago, and that he went mad and gave himself over to the powers of Chaos. Like many marauders, The Hierophant was banished from Earth by the growing power of the Order of Reason, and kept away by the Gauntlet and barriers to the Deep Umbra. The Hierophant has wandered the distant realms for centuries, improving his knowledge and power and making occasional forays to Earth, only to be driven back to the other side of the Gauntlet again.
The Heirophant's desire is to transform reality to suit his desire for something fantastical and wondrous, with himself as the messiah of this new and liberating reality. The energies of the Node in Eastridge, combined with the Awakening of June Dano, attracted his attention, and he latched onto June's new, avant-garde fantasy novel as the model for his new reality, tapping the power of the Node to make it so.
The Hierophant often seems oddly composed and rational for a Marauder, but he is as mad as any of them at his core. The world he has created is only the beginning of a madness that will continue to spread until he is stopped. If he is driven back into the Umbra by the player characters, the Storyteller may choose to have him return at some future point to threaten them again.
June Dano - Novice Mage
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 2, Charisma 3, Manipulation 2, Appearance 3, Perception 4, Intelligence 3, Wits 4.
Abilities: Alertness 1, Athletics 2, Awareness 1, Expression 3, Drive 1, Meditation 1, Research 2, Computer 1, Culture 1.
Backgrounds: Avatar 2.
Spheres: Correspondence 1, Spirit 1, Time 1.
Image: A woman in her late 30s with a petite, lithe figure. Her hair is dark and cut short (she hates it and wants to let it grow out). She moves like a dancer and has a quick smile and a healthy sense of humor, which is under considerable stress during the events in the story.
June Dano is a writer, and a good one, but she feels that most of her work: romance novels and other genre fiction, is rather banal and unworthy. She wants to create a truly original work, to stretch her talents and her imagination. Her efforts to do so brought her to Eastridge and to the edge of Awakening. Her encounter with The Hierophant and his madness pushed her over the edge and showed June the true nature
Although June is frightened and confused by the events in the story, her newly awakened mage nature revels in the tremendous wellspring of creativity and chaos she has been brought in contact with. She will tend to get her bearings quickly once the situation has been explained to her. If the players handle their dealings with June properly, she could become an ally or even an apprentice for their Chantry. If they alienate her from the Traditions, she will almost certainly be snapped up by Alyson Lane to serve the Technocracy.
Alyson Lane - Technomancer
Convention: New World Order.
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3, Charisma 3, Manipulation 4, Appearance 3, Perception 3, Intelligence 3, Wits 2.
Abilities: Alertness 3, Awareness 2, Dodge 1, Instruction 3, Intimidation 2, Subterfuge 3, Leadership 2, Research 3, Computer 2, Enigmas 2, Investigation 3.
Backgrounds: Arcane 4, Avatar 2, Influence 2.
Spheres: Correspondence 3, Life 2, Matter 3, Mind 3, Prime 3.
Image: A somewhat stern-looking woman in her mid-30s. She might be rather pretty if her hair were not so tightly constrained or if she didn't favor dark suits and very little makeup. Alyson carries herself with all of the authority of her position and her place within the New World Order. She is normally very confidence and sure of herself and her place in the world.
Order is Ms. Lane's watchword. In her English class at Eastridge High School, in her position on the town school board, in her personal life and in her duties as a member of the New World Order. Alyson likes to see things running in a smooth and orderly fashion, and when that isn't happening she does what needs to be done to put things to right.
When a Node was discovered in Eastridge, Alyson took charge as the senior Technomancer in the area. She is relishing the responsibility and hopes to use this affair to demonstrate to her superiors how efficiently she can handle a situation like this and move up in the ranks. The chaos caused by The Hierophant will rattle her at first; she doesn't like things in her orderly world being disturbed. After some initial misgivings, she will see the necessity of cooperating with the Tradition mages to stop the Marauder, but she will never waver from her purpose or her loyalty. This alliance is one of convenience only.
The Men in Black
Convention: New World Order.
Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3, Charisma 2, Manipulation 4, Appearance 1, Perception 5, Intelligence 4, Wits 3.
Abilities: Alertness 5, Athletics 2, Awareness 3, Dodge 2, Drive 2, Enigmas 1, Firearms 3, Intuition 3, Intimidation 3, Investigation 3, Meditation 2, Melee 3, Occult 1, Streetwise 2, Subterfuge 3, Stealth 5.
Backgrounds: Allies 3, Arcane 3.
Spheres: Forces 3, Mind 3.
Health Levels: OK (x3), -1, -2, -2, -5, Vaporized.
When the Eastridge Node was discovered, a group of Men in Black were dispatched by the NWO and placed under Alyson Lane's command to deal with cleaning up the Node and any other unusual manifestations that might accompany it. The faceless agents of the Technocracy carry out their duties efficiently without emotion or regret. Once The Hierophant has taken control of the town, the Men in Black will continue to follow Alyson Lane's orders and make excellent cannon fodder for the goblins, the pack hounds and the chaotic magick of The Hierophant.
ST 10, DX 13, IQ 15, HT 16
Basic Speed 7.25, Move/Dodge 7.
Advantages: Alertness +1, Arcane/3, Arete/5, Avatar/3, Awareness, Charisma +7, Dream/8, Immune to Paradox, Intuition, Strong Will +3.
Quirks: wears clerical garb, speaks in parables, pretends towards a higher purpose, seems rational despite his madness.
Skills: Area Knowledge (Umbra)-18, Bard-16, Detect Lies-15, Diplomacy-16, Enigmas-14, Fast-Talk-16, Intimidation-12, Occultism-12, Survival (Umbra)-18.
Spheres: Correspondence-15 (5), Spirit-15 (5) all others-15 (4).
ST 10, DX 13, IQ 15, HT 10
Basic Speed 5.75, Move/ Dodge 5.
Advantages: Alertness +1, Appearance (Attractive), Arete/1, Avatar/2, Awareness, Charisma +3, Intuition.
Disadvantages: Honesty, Stubbornness.
Quirks: thinks best when she's doing something, judges herself too harshly, chews her lower lip when anxious.
Skills: Computer Operation-10, Dance-12, Drive (Car)-10, Meditation-10, Poetry-13, Research-12, Savoir-Faire-10, Writing-15.
Spheres: Correspondence-11 (1), Spirit-11 (1), Time-10 (1)
New World Order
ST 10, DX 16, IQ 14, HT 13
Basic Speed 6.75, Move/Dodge 6.
Advantages: Alertness +3, Appearance (Attractive), Arcane/4, Arete/4, Avatar/2, Awareness, Charisma +3, Status 2, Strong Will +2.
Disadvantages: Duty (to the New World Order), Jealousy, Paranoia.
Quirks: prim and proper, neat freak, makes compulsive checklists.
Skills: Acting-14, Computer Operation-12, Criminology-14, Diplomacy-16, Enigmas-12, Fast-Talk-16, Intimidation-12, Leadership-12, Psychology-14, Research-14, Teaching-14.
Spheres: Correspondence-14 (3), Life-13 (2), Matter-14 (3), Mind-14 (3), Prime-14 (3).
Men In Black
ST 13, DX 13, IQ 19, HT 13
Basic Speed, Move/Dodge 6
Advantages: Alertness +5, Arete/3, Charisma +1, Common Sense, Immune to Paradox, Intuition, Strong Will +3.
Disadvantages: Appearance: Unattractive, Duty (New World Order).
Quirks: Any 5 of the gamemaster's choice.
Skills: Acting-14, Detect Lies-19, Diplomacy-16, Drive (Car)-12, Fast-Talk-16, Guns (pistol)-14, Intimidation-14, Knife-14, Psychology-14, Stealth-18, Shadowing-18.
Spheres: Force-12 (3), Mind-12 (3).
ST 16, DX 16, IQ 9, HT 15
Basic Speed 7.75, Move/Dodge 7.
Damage: thrust 1d+1, swing 2d+2.
Disadvantages: Appearance: Ugly.
Skills: Brawling-16, Climbing-16, Stealth-14.
ST 20, DX 16, IQ 10, HT 18
Basic Speed 8.5, Move/Dodge 8.
Damage: bite 2d-1.
Skills: Brawling-16, Stealth-14, Tracking-14 .
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