Nephilim – Chapter 5: Acquistion

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within our Nephilim RPG campaign. It serves to give some context to the fiction I post, as well as simply practicing writing.)

Chapter 5: Acquistion

Synopsis

Last time we saw our heroes, they have secured an Earth Plexus in a cave/sewer network beneath Berlin. Having secured the Earth Plexus, our protagonists are presented with an unexpected situation by Skaro.

She has obtained information about two manuscripts that might contain more modern writings about Golems (not the clay prototyp developed in 17th century Prague), but they are part of a private collection that is being auctioned off.

Two sets of two invitations are granted to the group, and they will have to get creative in order to get the fifth person into the venue.

Skaro has also provided funds, 400.000€, and an additional 25.000€ in cash.

Arrival at the venue

The auction is held at a private mansion, and the group arrives fairly early.
Finistur summons her kabbalistic sword and armor and deposits them in the group´s jeep, “just in case”. With a bit of magical assistance from Gealach, Sil’Faron, in his identity of Bernd Schiffer, manages to dupe the doormen that the 17 year old Kek is actually his son. The bouncers are quite dazzled by the charismatic display, and let them all in.

Sha Naqba Imuru and Sil’Faron have received bidder numbers for the auction, while the others are only present as their aquaintances.

Once inside, our protagonists survey the list of items that will be auctioned off.

  • The two manuscripts by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz they came for
  • Three paintings of archangels (Jophiel, Raphael and Gabriel)
  • Three french books
  • A horrendous looking sculpture of a melting person
Photo of the auction programme and list of items
Photo of the auction programme and list of items

Lounging & Socialising

Before the auctions are starting, the group socialisies with the other attendees, finding four other Nephilim among them. This makes for a total of nine Nephilim present, a staggering number, considering how far apart they are usually. An illustrious gathering indeed.
They approach all of them, to find out where they stand regarding the acquisition of the manuscripts.

Surprisingly, Joris, who is known to the group as Tanja, is present. She wants to spy out the humans, to find out which ones belong to secret societies. She´s also here under a fake identity, Anna Michalska.

Finistur meets the englishwoman Caitlin Sanders, a Fire Nephilim incarnated into an elderly woman. She is interested int he sculpture and the painting of the Archangel Raphael, and also wants the other items to go into Nephilim hands, as opposed to the grubby fingers of mundane humans. She claims to be willing to destroy the merchandise otherwise.

Gealach has a brief chat with a dark-haired woman named Francesca, a Moon Nephilim.
She appears to be a direct competitor for the two Schwaller manuscripts.

Kek, and later Gealach, engage in a Poker game in the mansion´s Gentleman´s Club, with a young man called Eduard Miller. He savagely cheats at the game, using concealed magic to embarass a player to leave the game during a large pot. Afterwards, Kek approaches him to find out about the auction. Mr. Miller first claims to only be here “for the people”, but later admits that his patrons are interested in one of the french books, Der Kampf ums Dasein am Himmel, which contains only “beginner level” arcane knowledge.

There are also a number of notable “regular” humans among the crowd of about 50 people present, some of them obviously not interested in the occult. Sil’Faron manages to talk a pompous man named Marco Probst, who obviously has no appreciation for literature, into believing that the Schwaller manuscripts are not originals.

A few guests seem to have suddenly become quite sick, requiring an ambulance. A coincidence? Too much sparkling wine? Spoiled hors d’oeuvre? Unlikely.

Auction round one

The first round of auctions starts, and the group silently observes the proceedings, without any interest for the french books. Two of these go to Eduard Miller and his associates, the third to an unremarkable collector.

They make a bid for one of the Angel paintings, but it goes to Mrs. Sanders, as does the disgusting sculpture. She seems pleased, and so does Mr. Probst, who buys the two remaining paintings.

Kek notices a man and a woman who appear to be more interested in the guests than the auction themselves, taking pictures of the high bidders. He shadows them for the remainder of the evening.

Sil’Faron is approached by the woman named Francesca, who offers a bounteous 100.000€ simply for him not bidding on the manuscripts, but he declines, knowing how important these books are for the group.

Before the manuscripts are auctioned off, there is a dinner break, and Gealach manages to confuse Mr. Probst with her alchemical arts. He is now more interested in indulging in the sumptuous buffet than the auction.

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A map of the auction venue, the mansion of Katrin Frueh

Auction round two

This is the main event, the Schwaller manuscripts are up. Quite a number of bidders is missing from the room, due to mysterious illness and sudden hunger flashes.

As soon as the first manuscript, The Temple Of Man, is presented, Gealach creates a visual illusion of water damage upon the book, which scares several more bidders off.

Sil’Faron gets the high bid, with 105.000€, which leaves the group with 325.000€, and the hope that they can pay in cash or leverage some Sil’Faron´s private savings.

Having conserved so much cash, they win the bid war for the second manuscript, The Temple In Man, as well, with Francesca being the only serious contender.

She stomps off angrily, and the two frenchmen seems to follow her to the parking lot. Kek notices this, and he and Finistur decide to take a shortcut over the terrace, while Sil’Faron and Sha Naqba Imuru retrieve their acquisitions.

Trouble at the parking lot

Francesca speeds off in her sports car, completely oblivious of the fact that she is being followed by the two strangers.

Kek holds them up at their automobile, demanding to know why they took so many photographs, but the situation rapidly devolves into violence, as one of them draws a gun.
Kek drags the driver from the car, throws him against the next vehicle, and goes to cover.

The second stranger seizes the opportunity and tries to escape with the car, but she did not take into account the presence of Finistur, who has retrieved her kabbalistic blade from her Jeep. The entire left backside of the Peugot is sliced apart, including the axle. This car will not drive anywhere anytime soon.

The suspects are quickly knocked out and stuffed into the jeep´s trunk. Tanja arrives, and after a quick surveying of the situation, returns to the house to get the rest of group.

Four things are in possession of our heroes now. The two manuscripts, which hopefully contain enough knowledge to construct a working Golem, as well as two unconscious people, whom Kek suspects to be Templar operatives…

Gamemaster´s Perspective

This was an interesting session to prepare. I had four goals in mind when I did this:

  • Advance the main plot, by bringing more of the Golem related knowledge in reach of the players
  • Have only one event in a session, not multiple
  • Provide a setting where the non-violent characters can show their strenghts
  • Introduce some actual human NPCs, instead of too many Nephilim

Preparation was interesting insofar as I wanted an interesting set of bidders present, as well as the opportunity for the players to screw themselves up by being greedy. I intentionally did not make up a bidding strategy or similar things, only a list of “high-profile” bidders that would compete for the four important items of the auction.

The players showed remarkable restraint in their bidding, which allowed them to have enough money left for both manuscripts. For me personally, this meant that there was a foregone conclusion: I knew that none of the NPCs could beat the player´s on the final auction, which took out a bit of tension for me, but the players assured me that they didn´t notice. 🙂

On the flip-side, some NPCs have powerful artifacts in their hands now as well, which might become relevant at a later time. The disgusting statue is actually a focus for a very powerful Fire spell.

What I did not like was the fact that I had to juggle too many NPCs, and thus could not flesh out their characters too much. I´ll have to work on that.

Between this session and the one before, I also had solo sessions with two of the players, which advanced several side-plots that were opened up during the beginning of the campaign. I will not discuss them here, as there is too much character knowledge in these, that I want to separate from player knowledge 🙂

Nephilim – Chapter 4: Sinister Machinations

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within ourNephilim RPG campaign. It serves to give some context to the fiction I post, as well as simply practicing writing.)

Chapter 4: Sinister Machinations

Synopsis

When last we left our heroes, they had successfully liberated Sil’Faron´s stasis, an icon of fertility from his first life, in ancient Egypt. All five of them are in possession of their stases now.

Investigations

In the following weeks, not too much happens. The ruckus around the Pergamon Museum has died down a bit, and Sha Naqba Imuru, in his role as Markus Vogt, the police investigator, is monitoring the situation. He wants to see if any evidence turns up which might incriminate him and his friends, or if he can find any information regarding the possible appearance of a sixth Nephilim.

At home, he makesa few attempts to open or activate the enigmatic bronze cube he Harvey had given him.
It briefly reacts to a spell he casts, and one night he discovers part of a technical drawing etched into the surface of his kitchen table… Has he interrupted something?

The huntmaster arrives

Theseus has come to Berlin, and a meeting has been arranged in the court of Justice.
They can not meet atop Skaro´s tower, because Theseus refuses to take the same oath that the group has sworn.

Sil’Faron and Skaro have worked out a deception tough; Sil’Faron appears in the form of Skaro, with the aid of a spell that allows her to speak and act through him. He also takes on her metamorphosis; Golden eyes and fully grown Angel wings.

Theseus arrives and falls for the ruse.
He has returned from a hunt for gryphons in south america, together with a young Nephilim called Vashiko in tow. No pleasantries are exchanged, he announces his business in Berlin to the gathering:
They tracked a transgressor of the Devil Arcanum and want to bring him down.

Theseus demands warriors to stand ready for the time that he has cornered his prey, and he also orders Kek to find and secure an Earth plexus.

Before he and his friend can depart he is challenged by Eresh Szat, who had been watching the proceedings, to “open” his two-handed hammer.

An orichalkum short spear is revealed, hidden with the hammer´s shaft, and the judge makes it very clear that whoever uses this forbidden weapon to destroy another Nephilim would have to stand trial before the court of Justice.
Even the Devil transgressor should receive a fair trial.

Meeting Theseus in the Court of Justice
Meeting Theseus in the Court of Justice

After the greek warrior has left, Vashiko joins the group in the Dojo above the court, and with Theseus gone, she seems liven up a bit. Gealach and Finistur arrive as well, and the find out that Vashiko, going under the human name Ashley is actually a Nephilim in her first incarnation, born a mere two years ago.

Going underground

The group decides to venture out for an Earth Plexus, without Ashley, as they do not fully trust her. They seek the plexus for themselves and postpone the decision wether to tell Theseus about it or not.

Finistur has a spell ready, with which she triangulates the position of the nearest Earth Plexus, which seems to be underground, but at least within the city of Berlin.

They venture into the sewers, prepared with spells, lamps and a summoned troglodyte, where they find a breach in the wall, leading to a cavern system… and are ambushed by two horrifying alligator-like creatures, sewn together from human body parts and bones. Their smell is overpowering, and sinewy tentacles sprout from their sides.

After a brief skirmish, they follow the tunnels leading away from the canals, deeper into the bowels of the earth, where a large grotto opens up before them,.
Again the rancid stink of rotting human flesh is in the air, and another battle ensues.

This time the flesh puppets are shaped like huge scorpions, with vicious stinger tails, and a layer of armor made of human bone fragments.
Finistur manages to sneak up on one of them and cut off the tail before it can react, but as the battle starts, more enemies enter the fray.
Emaciated human shapes dash out of the shadows and attack Kek with their claws.
One of them lets itself onto his back with a nasty kick.
Isolated from the group, who is busy hacking and shooting the bone scorpions apart, he takes several wounds before the troglodyte arrives and finishes off the last of these sordid beings.

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Earth Plexus cavern

Rest

As the adrenaline from the battle subsides, the group has time to take a look around. They are within an Earth plexus, Ka energy flows freely here, and some of them begin to recharge their stases.

Kek´s wounds are tended to, by magical and mundane means, and the group ponders wether they can venture deeper into these caverns, or if they should stay until their stases are refreshed and then leave…

Gamemaster´s Perspective

Again, the session took too long (in excess of 5 hours), as we started too late with the actual playing. I´m hard at work on moving the solo play and character development to actual solo sessions, which would have saved about one hour in this sitting. This hour could have been used to actually finish the journey into the caverns. (The caverns continue at 15b in the picture above, while 16a is an exit (the players could have arrived from here).

Combat also took longer than expected, especially the first encounter. 

Two notes I have for myself and the players here: Make more quick decisions, some minor decisions took very long (which is okay for important tactical decisions), which takes a bit of excitement out of the action. The second one is: Don´t argue about mechanics too long (“Can I parry the scorpion´s claw attack with my boots.”).
I made a snap decision (follow the rules as printed, which denies it) to keep the game flowing.#

On the plus side, I think everyone had fun, I learned that Finistur, the character of which I assumed it is the weakest (unfortunate rolls during character generation), is actually, if properlay prepared, an indestructible death machine with her summoned sword,armor and the troglodyte. 

Fun fact: The troglodyte summoning spell is named differently in each version of the source book I found. “Those who hit the scorpions”, “Those who hit like scorpions”. The first one was apt in this battle.. 🙂

Looking forward to the next session!