Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ars Mortalitas Campaign, pt. 3: Session 2--Pretty Pictures and Local Hoods

For this session, the acolytes started here, at Gunthrop Manor:

Which is found in the Vorkant region of Balani III, along the Blue River Valley.

At the beginning of the story, the Gunthrops are getting the fire under control, but are still distracted by it. They also have a stack of 10 paintings. The 1st one is up in the Old Man's study.

From my notes:

The PCs have a chance to look at the remainder of Samara Jaxx's artwork. Each time a painting is viewed, the person viewing them will have to use Psyniscience (doesn't matter if test failed or not, so long as skill is used). If successful, he or she will then need to make a Willpower Test, or incur a number of insanity points (listed at the end of the description). Here are descriptions of the paintings (#1 is the one in Werner von Gunthrop's study):

Painting #2: A pict-quality painting of a young man playing chess with his young son. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals a double image of these two. In it, the man's head is a shattered ruin and the son is weeping bitterly. The psychic emanations of his pain at the loss of his father are palpable. [1d5-1 Insanity Points]

Painting #3: A pict-quality painting of Werner Gunthrop as a young man. He is dressed in a guardman lieutenant's uniform, standing on the stairs of Gunthrop manor with his late father, Gunter. Both of them are smiling. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals Gunter to have monstrous features, and blood drips from his outsized jaws. His eyes blaze with insane rage, and giant black claws sprout from his hands. Werner looks about the same as he does in the "real" portrait, but a close look reveals the eyes to be a bit disturbing, and his features are no longer smiling, but grim and predatory. [1d5 Insanity Points]

Painting #4: A pict-quality painting of a young couple, at their wedding. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals the young man with half his head blown off, and the young woman hanging from a noose, her features twisted by the rigors of her ghastly death. [1d5 Insanity Points]

Painting #5: A pict-quality painting of a young boy in hunting attire astride an unknown riding animal. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals the same boy with a bloody hold torn in his chest, being held by his weeping parents, both of whose heads are shattered ruins. The skeletal riding animal stands nearby, ridden by Samara Jaxx, attired like an angel of death. [1d5 Insanity Points]

Painting #6: A pict-quality self-portrait of Samara Jaxx, wearing her dress uniform, with NCO's sword at her waist. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals Jaxx to be in largely the same position, but skeletal, and in tattered black robes, the impression of vast, black wings rising behind her. Deathly whispers emanate from the painting. [1d5 Insanity Points]

Painting #7: A pict-quality portrait of Captain Werner Gunthrop in dress uniform, standing in his study. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals Gunthrop in the same position, with distorted, bestial features, and blood dripping from his fanged maw (much like his father in Painting #3). Cowering at his feet, an expression of horror on her face, is a young woman who resembles the twins, Alice and Marie. [It is Hera von Fürstenburg]. [1d10 Insanity Points]

Painting #8: A pict-quality portrait of a thin, tall, distinguished-looking man, attired like a planetary noble. He is leaning casually against a carved wooden desk, a slight smile on his face. Behind him are some shelves on either side of a wooden door. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals little change in the man, but the door is now carved in leering, daemonic visages, which writhe and seem to be trying to break free from beneath its surface. [The man in the painting is Frederick von Fürstenburg]. [1d5 Insanity Points]

Painting #9: A pict-quality portrait of a young Hera von Fürstenburg in the flower of young womanhood. The resemblance between her and the Gunthrop twins is uncanny. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals the truth of the painting: Hera is now a daemonhost, her body tattooed with Chaos runes that make one's eyes hurt, bound with silver inscribed shackles and heavy, black chains, her eyes blazing with fury. It seems so real, that the painting has a Fear Rating 1 for the viewer who can hear its furious howls [1d10+1 Insanity Points]

Painting #10: A pict-quality portrait of Werner Gunthrop with his twin daughters, Marie and Alice. It's a formal portrait of the three, with him sitting in a chair, and the two of them kneeling primly in front of him. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals the monstrous, bestial version of Werner, still seated in the chair, his feet propped atop the broken corpses of the two girls. [1d10+3 Insanity Points]

Painting #11: The final painting is a family portrait of Hera and Frederick von Fürstenburg, with Lys von Fürstenburg. A closer look by someone psychically attuned reveals that they have been joined by Marie and Alice Gunthrop. They are all (except for Frederick and Lys) foul creatures, huddled over the corpse of Werner von Gunthrop, gorging on his flesh and entrails, the mother daemonic, and the daughters of ghoulish aspect, with only their resemblance to Painting #1 giving away their identities. [1d10+5 Insanity Points]

Between them, John's psyker and "Garth" the new psyker (who had appeared as if by magic, because Mark failed to show, or to send a character sheet) took a total of 36 Insanity Points. Garth began obsessively praying after one particularly bad incident. John's character, on the other hand, took 20 of the 36 points, and he's just fine, thank you. It could have been much worse.

The series of paintings reveals the outline of a long and tragic story of the Gunthrop and von Fürstenburg families, and their sins against kith and kin. Some are obviously past history, but it's hard to tell if they show the future as well, or not. But how does it all fit together and what, ultimately, is the moral of the story, at least for the acolytes? Time will tell.

Before taking their leave from Gunthrop Manor, the acolytes purloin the paintings. To make perfectly clear, only a few of the paintings had been viewed by the psykers at this point. They make their way to the Village where they make conversation with a local innkeep to learn what's what with the two Great Families of the Vorkant Region.

Of the things that I planned for this session, only #3a and #6 actually happened. Also, the PCs produced a #6b from their collective hat.

Things that will/might happen [edited to protect the narrative]:
3. The acolytes may determine that the von Fürstenburgs are involved.
6. [now 6a] If they are able to Charm (or bribe) Korg DeVine, he may reveal info. If they reveal themselves to be Inquisition, he may suspect that von Fürstenburg's days are numbered, and sell him out.

The PCs' Contribution:
6b. The acolytes attempt to have a private conversation in a bugged room, revealing their hand to Korg DeVine, which more or less triggers the revelation of the Inquisitorial provenance of the group, and leads DeVine to count von Fürstenburg's days as numbered. He decided to throw in with them in order to get out while the getting' was good. Either way, he still gets paid.

They return to Balani Hive City to seek more information:

It turned out to be a good idea. The PCs convince DeVine to join their cause, as it will keep his ass clear of any "Imperial complications" that might otherwise have cropped up. They begin to talk about taking out the von Fürstenburgs. It becomes clear fairly quickly that the acolytes are short on some of the skillsets needed to infiltrate the compound, rather than attempting to take it by force. While Schloss von Fürstenburg is a bit ragged about the edges, and the fortifications aren't manned as they might have been during its heyday, it's still too formidable a task, unless the acolytes are willing to shed some of their own blood to make things happen. Even with a more stealthy approach, it might be difficult.

Korg DeVine suggests that he might have some appropriate henchpersons for the job. It turns out that Herr DeVine's "ladies" (okay, whores) have some pretty diverse training on top of their more conventional skills. Ferrus recognizes one of them from an earlier "encounter." Awkwaaaaard!

They need more info, though, about the Ars Mortalitas cult. They find out that there is an exclusive club, where nobles go to dabble in the dark arts of torture, pain, and death, but it would be hard to get in without an escort. Luckily, DeVine knows a client, a dissolute young noblewoman who fits the bill. It is decided that Ferrus should go investigate, but we didn't get to that part of the roleplay. And, really, I wanted to see that roleplay, as did we all. I think we all remember Ferrus' mad skill with the ladies from the visit to The House of Dust and Ash, lo these many years ago… Ah, memories.

Instead, Daemus (Jason's character) has what might be a better idea. If DeVine has been providing human subjects to von Fürstenburg for whatever awful rituals have been taking place at his castle, and if von Fürstenburg truly hates the Gunthrops, then it would be relatively easy to entice him with some Gunthrop victims: One (both?) of the twins, Alice and Marie.

That's where we ended.

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