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Old 12-27-2018, 11:54 AM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default [MH] Caribbean by Night

In a world outwardly like our own, where occult tides and otherworldly incursions threaten humanity, rough men must stand ready to bar the gates of reality and live and die to protect a society which remains in blissful ignorance about the stakes. These are their stories.

The PCs are funded by a mysterious and eccentric billionaire, J.R. Kessler of Galveston, Texas. Along with a loose network of academics, reporters and various contacts, as well as teams composed of former policemen, special operators and intelligence personnel, the PCs confront preternatural threats that either originate from outside our reality or pose a risk of opening a way for other realities. Their area of operations is concentrated in and around the Bermuda Triangle, one of twelve Vile Vortices that Kessler believes represent areas where the fabric of reality is especially weak.

Kessler himself is a colourful character, having been born almost a hundred years ago to poor immigrants in Galveston and achieved great wealth through somewhat murky methods, before discovering, in the twilight of an adventurous, if immoral existence, that the world he knew was threatened by insidious influences which rendered all old certainties moot.

If one were to believe Kessler's own tales, he spent his formative childhood years as a rumrunner deck hand during Prohibition, knew every thug and racketeer of 1930s Galveston by name, fought in WWII with the French Foreign Legion, was initiated into several occult societies in Egypt and Morocco*, knocked out Hemingway once during an epic drinking bout, ran a casino in Cuba until Castro's rebellion, invested racketeering profits in oil and natural gas and rapaciously despoiled former European colonies in Africa and Asia of mineral and petrochemical wealth.

Kessler holds a US citizenship by birth, a French one by blood and Domincian (Commonwealth of Domincia) and St. Lucian ones by investment. It's entirely possible that Kessler actually holds more citizenships in exotic nations with 'understanding' immigration regulations, but simply chooses not to reveal this fact to others.

Kessler employs a host of accountants, tax lawyers and financial managers, mostly, it seems, to ensure that no one can ever gain an accurate picture of his true holdings, with layers of offshore companies surrounding even the simplest of his investments. Kessler pays a fair bit of taxes in the US, but has fought the IRS for decades to ensure that this is kept to a minimum, registering everything he can in St. Lucia or other Caribbean island nations, not to mention owning a network of offshore companies in, it seems, every tax haven in the Caribbean.

By now, the ancient Kessler lives on his yacht, the Penemue, which is ca 220'-280' long and was built in the 1960s as a very fast super yacht, though nowadays she's distinctly small for a billionaire's plaything, let alone home of record.

In this thread, I'll be asking forumites for advice, opinions and assistance with all sorts of things. For instance, I'll need help to portray the Gulf Coast of the United States accurately, never mind the Caribbean islands (I've visited neither place as yet).

To start with, I'll need to name and describe the crew of the yacht Penemue. Kessler has owned the yacht since the 1960s and has lived on it continuously since the early 1980s. The crew of the Penemue are exposed to some strange sights and need to be absolutely loyal. As a result, they are highly paid and, ideally, have been with him for a very long time, perhaps having a familial connection to prior employees. Kessler very much favours family retainers over simple employees, at least when it comes to the people who live with him.

These are the crew positions I'll need filled:

Captain: Augustus 'Gus' Starr. A Texan in his fifties, retired USN Captain.
First Mate: Name needed. A Chief Warrant Officer from the Navy or Coast Guard?
Butler (Chief Steward): Jean-Michel Alexandre, Kessler's right-hand-man, been with him since 1986. A stern, dangerous-looking Haitian who seems more bodyguard than domestic servant. Served in the French Foreign Legion for some time in the 70s and 80s.
Executive Secretary: Mary Marchant. For all intents and purposes, Ms. Marchant is in charge of anything she wants to be. While she makes no attempt to dictate what to do to her employer, as such decisions are usually an imprecise and arbitrary matter anyway, Ms. Marchant sees that anything which is needed is done, generally in such an efficient and organised manner that Kessler rarely has to think about his billions of dollars in holdings and investments, as Ms. Marchant is quite capable of dealing with his hordes of lawyers, accountants and other professionals on his behalf. Mr. Marchant is a regal woman in middle age, with an authoritative and confident manner rescued from brusqueness by a slight Texas lilt in her accent. As far as anyone knows, she has been with Kessler since she was young and he trusts her implicitly with anything and everything.
Chief Engineer: Teryn Gilbert.
Chef: Eugenia "Aunty Genie" Seraphine. Dominiquais (Commonwealth of Domincia) obeah woman, who is equally capable at whipping up callaloo and curative elixirs. In her fifties, has worked for Kessler since she was a girl and treats him with fond familiarity mixed with an exasperating tendency to exaggerate his frailty and protect his health, whether he likes it or not.
First Steward: Ramon Alejo Reyes Jr.; retired Chief Culinary Specialist (CS7/E-7) from the US Navy who served two Presidents in the White House, between 2004-2012. Born in Manila with US citizenship (his father was a former USN steward as well), now in his early forties. Eagerly snapped up by a recruiter for Kessler when he retired from his Navy career in 2012. Unflappable, efficient, professional and unobtrusive at all times, Reyes is almost inhumanly good at his job and is reputed to be pulling in a salary only marginally lower than the Captain, which nearly all the crew agree he is well worth, as his organisational ability and uncanny attention to detail make keeping up billionaire standards of living aboard the Penemue that much easier. Reyes is a devout Roman Catholic and a genuinely kind man.
Bosun: Needed.
Engineer: Carlos Camacho.
Medical officer: Dr. Dao Van Sang.
Sous chef: Name needed. Classically trained chef, who might walk into a head chef position on any luxury yacht or even have an excellent chance at re-starting his promising restaurant career, but owes Kessler an unspecified debt. Considers Aunty Genie an amateur in culinary matters and resents her authority, but must admit that she is a gifted amateur. Is also terrified of her and therefore complains to the crew and guests, never to her face.
Armourer: Needed.
Crew chef: Dale Johnson (b. 1975; Houston, TX). Former SEAL who lost both legs. Not a haute cuisine chef, but a good fry cook and excellent barbecue man. Main duties are perimeter security, allowed in the kitchen only on sufferance by Aunty Genie. Mostly cooks for the night shift or when an away team needs a meal at odd hours.
Librarian: Alfred L. Lapointe (b. September 14, 1965, DRC/Congo), an English and History graduate of UT Austin. Expert on Shakespearean dramaturgy, John Dee and the occult underground of Elizabethan London. Looks like Ernest Thomas.
Nurse: Astrid Andersson. Kessler's private nurse. Indecently young and devastatingly attractive, which must surely be wasted on the old reprobate. Aunty Genie keeps trying to convince Kessler to replace her with one of her many nieces or cousins from back home, who'd not only take better care of his health, but would also be much better for the state of his immortal soul, being well-brought up girls who'd never dream of flirting so shamelessly with a man of his advanced age.
Deck hands (2-4): Names needed. Might double as security, in which case they'll be recruited from the Coast Guard, Navy or another branch of the military where operators might learn boating, small unit tactics, waterborne assault, etc.
Interior crew (2-3): Names needed. Will almost certainly also handle personal security. One of these will have a strange job which includes cleaning alchemical gear and might be an apprentice magician. Actually, she's very likely to be a niece of Aunty Genie.

If forumites suggest a nice name, description and quick background for a position, they might get the right to name the character, either their own name or someone else's they feel should be an NPC in my campaign. I'm thinking of using names of forumites for several characters, i.e. have someone named Cole, Douglas, Brett, Rice, etc.

*Most of whose membership, he comments scathingly, were less enlightening company than gangsters and racketeers, as well as having about as much useful occult and esoteric knowledge as the average comic book reader.

Last edited by Icelander; 01-28-2019 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 12-27-2018, 05:49 PM   #2
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Default Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
These are the crew positions I'll need filled:

Captain: I was thinking that a Texan with experience in the US Navy or Coast Guard might do. Maybe in his early 50s, retired after 20 years in 2008 and has been with Kessler since. Probably has a parent who knew Kessler.
First Mate: Preferably a Chief Warrant Officer from the Navy or Coast Guard.
Butler (Chief Stewardess): Kessler has a right-hand-man who occupies this role, a stern Haitian who has been with him since the mid-80s. Haven't named him yet. He'll also be the purser, possibly with some assistance at the clerical side.
Chief Engineer: Has to be incredibly competent, at a wide range of tasks.
Chef: Ditto.
Bosun: Needs to be extremely competent.
Deck hands (2-4): Might double as security, in which case they'll be recruited from the Coast Guard, Navy or another branch of the military where operators might learn boating, small unit tactics, waterborne assault, etc.
Engineers / mechanics (1-2): Might specialise, with one serving as armourer.
Medical officer: Either has to be a Special Forces medic (or the equivalent), a bona-fide doctor (and a very good one) or someone with Esoteric Medicine who can brew healing Elixirs. Ideally, of course, two or more of the above.
Sous chef: No idea.
Crew chef: No idea.
Librarian: Not usually a full-time position on yachts, but this one is special. Will be very learned in occult and esoteric matters.
Secretary (1-3): Must be efficient and extremely discreet.
Interior crew / stewards (2-4): Will almost certainly also handle personal security. One will have a strange job which includes cleaning alchemical gear and might be an apprentice magician.
Given his advanced age, I suggest that Kessler might want to employ more than one medical professional on the yacht, especially if he expects trouble (and why wouldn't he?). This might also let you set up a fun little dynamic between the no-nonsense modern physician and the Esoteric Medicine expert who have to work together to keep Mr. Kessler hale and happy. (I would also suggest that one of them might need to be a nurse, as opposed to a physician.)

Also, shouldn't the butler be chief steward, not stewardess?
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Old 12-27-2018, 06:35 PM   #3
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Default Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

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Originally Posted by Apollonian View Post
Given his advanced age, I suggest that Kessler might want to employ more than one medical professional on the yacht, especially if he expects trouble (and why wouldn't he?). This might also let you set up a fun little dynamic between the no-nonsense modern physician and the Esoteric Medicine expert who have to work together to keep Mr. Kessler hale and happy. (I would also suggest that one of them might need to be a nurse, as opposed to a physician.)
One PC, Edward Alvin Smith, actually has pretty impressive military first aid skills, including field surgery, and he's a fair alchemist as well. Granted, he learned his alchemy in another world and his elixirs actually do not work all that well on humans, but he's bought a medieval grimoire in Arabic, written by a not-at-all-mad Moroccan, to teach himself esoteric medicine and curative magic as it applies to humans.

Still, while Smith used to work for Kessler (before Smith was lost in the Bermuda Triangle), Kessler wasn't expecting him to come back more than twenty years later and would have hired someone as chief medical officer in the meantime.

I suspect I'll give him a nurse, a doctor on board and then have the chef be learned in elixir-making. She can either come from the Gulf Coast (likely a place with a tradition of rootwork and/or voodoo/hoodoo) or one of the Caribbean islands.

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Originally Posted by Apollonian View Post
Also, shouldn't the butler be chief steward, not stewardess?
Yachting magazines are weird. I saw Chief Stewardess used without regard for the actual gender of the person in more than one place. But, yeah, he's certainly the Chief Steward / Major-domo / Chātelain.
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Old 12-27-2018, 07:45 PM   #4
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Default Left Hand Path Demonologists

For reasons entirely unrelated to any hypothetical villains, I'm looking for rituals that your classic dark magicians in a modern subtle magic setting might know, if they were not an ancient order of esoteric knowledge preserved over centuries, but had an institutional history shorter than the Die Hard franchise.

Let us say that there was a coven / cult of New Age satanists on the West Coast, specifically connected to, say for the sake of argument, UC Berkeley. Charismatic, plausible leader, preying on spiritually searching, socially awkward or just plain lost college kids, selling pop psychobabble in a condescending, post-colonial, glorifying Krishna and Vishnu (or Kali, Durga, Ahriman, etc.) kind of way.

Mythological antecendents decidedly murky, eclectic and syncretic. Equal parts New Age mhsticism, rebellious anti-Christianity, Hot Topic chic and a few courses of comparative mythology, cultural anthropology and freshman philosophy of religion. Not to mention demonology learned from Hollywood and RPGs.

But in the setting, there are incorporeal beings of great power that seek to interact with our world. At least there are now. They might have just emerged in the past couole of decades or they might have always existed and simply been having a century of limited connectivity, but now they hover outside the visible world, seeking attention, belief, a certain kind of mind. Seeking, in other words, someone to invite them in, offer them form and function, sacrifices and ceremony.

At some point, what was a silly social club, 'daring' rebellion against social norms, dabbling in drug use and the scene of the occasional sexual assault became something much darker. Unsavoury spiritual presences, whether accurately termed 'demon' or not, could offer incredible power and esoteric secrets to those who'd pact themselves to them and feed them as they desired.

I've established that a hypothetical magician who once belonged to the coven can summon some sort of inhuman presence to inhabit a physical body constructed out of mud mixed with blood. The presence is normally incorporeal, but it is not a ghost and likely was never alive, or at least is not the identifiable soul of a mortal now, whatever it may have been. The summoning requires a ritual performed in a place of negatively-aspected mana and, apparently, the sacrifice of a living person. It probably also requires an expensive fetish item, though the PCs did not stay to investigate the remains, but instead followed a 'surviving' mud golem body to try to find its creator.

What else might he be able to do?
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:52 PM   #5
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Default Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

For UC Berkley occult you might want to look at the thread on Jack Parsons. http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread...t=jack+parsons
Only black magic user to have a Lunar crater named after him.
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Old 12-27-2018, 09:39 PM   #6
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Default Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

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For UC Berkley occult you might want to look at the thread on Jack Parsons. http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread...t=jack+parsons
Only black magic user to have a Lunar crater named after him.
Indeed.

Of course, in my setting, Parsons was born well after the last plausible recorded paranormal events (some time between 1888 and 1900) and died a few decades before the first instances of preternatural events occured again (ca 1975-1990, known only to a few people who've personally experienced them and have the Will or other traits to overcome the Facade). His ritual magic, while possibly amounting to both Thaumatology and Path skills in GURPS terms, actually produced no more useful results than in real history, due to the No Mana that existed on Earth during Parsons' entire lifetime.

Even taking the fairly controversial thaumatologic view that even during the 'dead mana' years of the 20th century, parts of Earth were Very Low Mana instead of No Mana and preternatural phenomena still occured, merely subtly enough for it to be extremely difficult to distinguish from coincidence, placebo effects, unreliable witness testimony or confirmation bias, it's pretty far outside established magical theory to suppose that Parsons was ever able to work ritual magic with enough power to accomplish actual summoning of, possession by or even contact with inhuman entities.

All the same, modern Hermetic magicians in my campaign prize the research and scholarship of Parsons and others like him, who kept alive traditions and even advanced the theory, even during a century where no rituals would work as intended. Certainly, many of those who started to study magic in secret in the years since the late 80s and early 90s have used the work of occultists like Parsons to build their magical traditions on.

In fact, I had played with the idea of the PCs' Patron, J.R. Kessler, possibly having known Jack Parsons at some point in his youth. Astute readers may have noted similar anti-authoritarian, libertarian, even anarchistic streaks in their natures, not to mention that both men flouted social conventions and taboos, were brilliant but unstable and had colourful sexual escapades at times when that was frowned upon.

What are the odds that Parsons might have visited Galveston at some point in his late teens or early twenties? That would be at some point between 1931-1939, when Galveston had a reputation similar to what Las Vegas would later gain, as the 'Free State of Galveston', haven for gambling, speakeasies (during the Prohibition, which ended in the first years of this period) and all forms of vice.
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Old 12-31-2018, 07:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: Left Hand Path Demonologists

This is not especially helpful, but in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina there is a town called Black Mountain that "everyone knows" is the "center of Satanism on the East Coast". This would be the dark Satanism, not the fun Chuch of Satan types.

Black Mountain is near Asheville, NC, which is a very eclectic place. There are a lot (A LOT) of various neo-pagan groups there as well as a lot of evangelical Christians. This makes the city council meetings very interesting. There is also a bohemian university there with a fantastic meterological program. More possible RP weirdness: there is a castle someome moved brick by brick outside the city and a cannon on a hill overlooking the main street, pointed inwards. Biltmore House is also there, the l argest private residence in the US (though parts of it are available for events).

The place is also lousy with breweries now.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is full of Cherokee stories and spirits (and pagans running around). It's also full of quartz, if you need an energy sink or giant battery or something.

I may or may not have personal experience with many of these things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Let us say that there was a coven / cult of New Age satanists on the West Coast, specifically connected to, say for the sake of argument, UC Berkeley. Charismatic, plausible leader, preying on spiritually searching, socially awkward or just plain lost college kids, selling pop psychobabble in a condescending, post-colonial, glorifying Krishna and Vishnu (or Kali, Durga, Ahriman, etc.) kind of way.
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Old 01-01-2019, 04:30 PM   #8
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Default Re: Left Hand Path Demonologists

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Originally Posted by DocRailgun View Post
This is not especially helpful, but in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina there is a town called Black Mountain that "everyone knows" is the "center of Satanism on the East Coast". This would be the dark Satanism, not the fun Chuch of Satan types.

Black Mountain is near Asheville, NC, which is a very eclectic place. There are a lot (A LOT) of various neo-pagan groups there as well as a lot of evangelical Christians. This makes the city council meetings very interesting. There is also a bohemian university there with a fantastic meterological program. More possible RP weirdness: there is a castle someome moved brick by brick outside the city and a cannon on a hill overlooking the main street, pointed inwards. Biltmore House is also there, the l argest private residence in the US (though parts of it are available for events).

The place is also lousy with breweries now.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is full of Cherokee stories and spirits (and pagans running around). It's also full of quartz, if you need an energy sink or giant battery or something.

I may or may not have personal experience with many of these things.
How is this a thing and no one bothered to tell me?

I would have somehow managed to find an extra day or two and drive down there, last time I was in Virginia. Well, no, I wouldn't, because this looks really far from Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, requiring at least three extra days to enjoy travelling this far south before starting the drive up to New York, with frequent stops at battlefields and tourist spots, and I already wanted to visit Richmond, Appomattox, Shenandoah Valley and other places, but there really wasn't time, but I would have thought about it.

Well, this will certainly be an option for somewhere the unpleasant visitor that the PCs are dealing with now could have come from. After all, he was at UC Berkley some three to five years ago, before leaving for an as yet undetermined location to finish his PhD, where he made new friends and learned new ways.

Places of Power, intersections of ley lines and 'Sacred' (or differently flavoured) Places are very important to be able to work any powerful rituals, so even the most secular occultists need to think about securing access to places with folkloric and historical associations with the proper kind of energy.

So even if our unnamed occultist was away for a PhD in Europe or some East Coast metropolis, he might have moved to Black Mountain once he got his degree, in order to pursue some as yet unspecified occult goal. Doesn't really matter whether he can really be meaningfully described as any existing flavour of Satanist or neo-pagan from a religious point of view, it's enough that the place be aspected toward working with some nasty spirits, beings or outsiders.
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Old 12-30-2018, 10:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

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Sous chef: Name needed. Classically trained chef, who might walk into a head chef position on any luxury yacht or even have an excellent chance at re-starting his promising restaurant career, but owes Kessler an unspecified debt. Considers Aunty Genie an amateur in culinary matters and resents her authority, but must admit that she is a gifted amateur. Is also terrified of her and therefore complains to the crew and guests, never to her face.
Armourer: Needed.
Crew chef: Name needed. Former SOF operator who lost a leg. Texan, early forties. Not a haute cuisine chef, but a good fry cook and excellent barbecue man. His main duties are perimeter security and he is allowed in the kitchen only on sufferance by Aunty Genie, which means that he mostly cooks for the night shift or when an away team needs a meal at odd hours.
[/SIZE]
One of your chefs should be "Ryback". Owes the captain an unspecified debt which he doesn't discuss. Mocks the first officer. Good with knives and you get the impression that he could take back the ship singlehandedly if it was ever under siege...
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Old 01-02-2019, 09:19 AM   #10
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Default Re: [MH] Caribbean by Night

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In this thread, I'll be asking forumites for advice, opinions and assistance with all sorts of things. For instance, I'll need help to portray the Gulf Coast of the United States accurately, never mind the Caribbean islands (I've visited neither place as yet).

You haven't asked for this yet, but as a word to the wise, different Caribbean countries are shockingly different, and the distances between them can get very large. Even language groupings can be deceptive. The Jamacian and Trini dialects have some similarities, but they don't translate back and forth at all.
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