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Old 02-12-2020, 01:12 AM   #21
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Default Knowledge About J.R. Kessler, the PCs' Patron, and His Occult Network

Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
Do any of the bad guys of your world know about Kessler? ISTM that if they did, taking him out might be a priority. Has Kessler made any provisions for his untimely demise? Or for his own natural death, for that matter, which is probably not too far away if he's over 100?
In occult underground circles, J.R. Kessler is notorious as a billionaire interested in the paranormal, who surrounds himself with mystics and mercenaries, and lives on a yacht that functions as a mighty Sanctum with a powerful Threshold. Few know the full extent of Kesler's activites, as most of what he spends he does through complex corporate ownership structures and the activites of the 'Night Riders' (Monster Hunters) are concealed behind layers upon layers of shell companies, offshore holdings and flat-out proxies whose connections with Kessler are not commonly known.

There is also the fact that even most people who've heard of Kessler's interest in occult research and know of him as an important force behind academic and scientific research of paranormal phenomena in the 1990s consider him senile by now. It is commonly believed in occult underground circles that the network of people concerned with the occult financed by Kessler's wealth is now controlled by others, although theories about exactly whom vary wildly.

Of course, there are any number of superstitious occultists who believe that Kessler is more (or less) than human and still working toward some undefinable goal of his own, but as none of them agree on the specifics, this remains a fringe view.

Kessler has made many provisions to reduce the odds of an untimely demise, including full-time security that rivals some heads of state and even better occult protections. However, as far as the PCs know, he has no heirs and no ackowledged plan of succession, although it is always possible that a secret plan of some sort is in place.

Edit: As for these cultists in particular, they should certainly be aware of the potential threat posed by people connected to Kessler, as the mysterious Consortium that was providing logistical support to the cultist has already been in contact with Kessler's people, attempting to negotiate for the return of the Girl with the Kaleidoscope Eyes, a young woman carrying papers in the name 'Gwen Delvano' (but whose real name is Gisella Ester Cortés Rojas), a sorceress of the cult captured by the PCs and secreted away onboard the Penemue, Kessler's yacht.

As it turned out, the PCs refused to hand her over to the representatives of the Consortium, even when offered her weight (around 115 lbs.) in gold. Not even when it was made clear that this offer was good for them personally and would not have to be shared with anyone else. Instead, the PCs reported the offer to Jean-Michel Dieudonné Alexandre, Kessler's Haitian valet, steward, major-domo, man-of-all-work and right hand.

After consultations between various senior people aboard Penemue, some of which the PCs were privy to, some of which went on without their knowledge, Alexandre told them that Monsieur Kessler wanted the girl turned over to the police. The biggest factor in that decision was the legal and political risk of concealing her aboard now that somebody knew about it, as she was wanted for questioning due to a suspected connection with a kidnapping (of Alice Talbot, a PC).

So, the one would expect at least some of the cultists of the Keepers of the Last Hearth to be aware of Kessler in general and also of the specific fact that the Penemue is docked at Galveston, with people aboard who are willing and able to use violence and supernatural abilities to oppose the cult.

That being said, the cell structure of the cult means that only the leadership in South America received any reports from those who actually met the PCs and these were brief and unsatisfactorily status updates during operations, not full after-action reports. And as the representatives of the Consortium and the cultists of the advance team were all killed, captured or forced into panicked flight from law enforcement shortly after, the South American leadership has only received incomplete information.

Which means that the other cultists will also have limited information. They might know that some people with connections to the eccentric billionaire J.R. Kessler somehow got wind of the advance team and reported them to police, but they almost certainly consider the ongoing law enforcement response the true threat and the people responsible for calling the police merely annoying busybodies.
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Old 02-12-2020, 05:49 AM   #22
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Default 'Red Dragon' Cultists

The 25 cultists (and 7 pishtaco) planning a ritual in Texas on New Year's 2018-2019 all have some form of connection to the Hidden Master in South American responsible for the prophecy behind this ritual. However, they are not all natives of South American countries.

One example is a Chinese occultist who goes by a name something like 'Father Dragon' or 'Black Dragon' (or some equivalents or combination of these) and his four associates, who represent a criminal organisation that goes by the name 'Red Dragon' in Latin America.

This particular crime boss has had regular dealings with the underworld organizations associated with the Keepers of the Last Hearth cult in South America for many years and since 2013, he has been a member of the cult himself. His rise to underworld leadership among expatriate Chinese in Chile, the Andean countries and Panama has been accomplished through his personal mastery of ritual magic and he is not afraid to use supernatural means to intimidate or murder rivals, when appropriate.

I haven't decided where he is born, but he's some sixty five years old and neither physically imposing nor likely to favor personal violence. I'm suppose he'll be born whereever is most plausible for someone of Chinese ethnicity who has had business ties with South America for decades, whether that's the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong or some Pacific location with a high concentration of ethnic Chinese.

'Father Dragon' has natural abilities toward the supernatural and discovered it independently long before he encountered representatives of the Hidden Master of the Keepers of the Last Hearth in South America. He has been developing his own personal abilities as a ritual magician since about 1995, so for 23 years or so, and was probably a sincere believer in the supernatural since childhood.

I'm wondering what kind of magical tradition he might practice. It should be something regarded as 'dark magic' among ethnic Chinese, but that might just be the uses to which he puts it, rather than anything innate to the tradition in question.

Does anyone have suggestion for a subtle ritual path magician informed by some kind of dark supernatural legends of Chinese origin?

Edit: Maybe 'Gu', based on alleged folklore among the Miao people? Or maybe, Gong Tau, the rough Cantonese Overseas Chinese equivalent?

What might have been his go-to rituals for intimidating or neutralizing rivals in the underworld?

What kind of mythical creatures could he create as magical tulpas or the equivalent in areas of very high magic?

Edit: Mogwai, of course. Less amusingly, if perhaps more terrifyingly, gu spirits can allegedly transform into various animals, typically a worm, caterpillar, snake, frog, dog, or pig. Also, venomous centipedes, snakes and scorpions are entirely on brand.
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Old 02-12-2020, 04:59 PM   #23
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Default California New Age Cult

Does anyone have any ideas about the Californian element within the cult?

I've established that the leader is a fairly young woman, in her thirties, Asian-American, very attractive and extremely charismatic. She is college educated, high in Status and commesurately wealthy. With her are eight cultists, who do not necessarily represent all her followers, just her closest, most faithful and most trustworthy ones. Also, ideally, the ones who are prepared to commit any number of felonies, kidnap and murder innocent people, perform truly terrifying rituals and potentially sacrifice themselves.

I've also established that she is very influential among the leaders who have traveled to Texas. As the eight followers she has brought are neither possessed of any notable wordly gifts nor exceptional mystical talents, her influence is likely to be the result of her own power, charm, willpower and social skills, even without Cultural Familiarity for most of the ordinary South American cultists. So, she's personally powerful.

I thought to make her faction a West Coast cult with typical New Age trappings, but behind the harmless 'glorifying Krishna and Vishnu In a post-colonial, condescending, bottled-up and labeled kind of way' mumbo-jumbo, crystal-energy, wisdom-of-the-ancients Hollywood chic was something a lot darker. A 2010s gender-flipped, woke, person-of-color-starring reboot of Charles Manson.

A random roll based on California demographics put her ethnicity at Asian-American. Does anyone have thoughts as to a more specific ethnic origin?

I'm thinking Japanese-American, both because it's reasonably common in California (and can be considered characteristic of the West Coast, as it is much more common there than in the Mid-West, South or even East Coast) and because there will be five other cultists of Chinese ethnicity and I don't want to give players a false impression that the cult of the Keepers of the Last Heart is Chinese in origin, rather than simply conveying a somewhat global scale.

Also, a random roll suggested a high social Status (15 on a scale of 3-18, so about Status 3-4) and she's from California, most likely somewhere not far from Los Angeles. As many high Status people are associated with Hollywood, there is a certain temptation to explain her Status result by her being famous or at least related to someone famous. I don't have any objection to wildly fictionalizing real people or inventing relatives for them, so does anyone have suggestions for a beautiful, charismatic Asian-American socialite in Hollywood who might be a cult leader?
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Old 02-14-2020, 06:58 AM   #24
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Default Devil's Advocate

Fernando 'Nando' Acevedo Allende (b. December 14, 1978; Arica, Chile), is ranked roughly last in terms of final authority among the 5-6 leaders of the cultists of the Keepers of the Last Hearth who have traveled to Texas. This is not because Nando is necessarily held in low esteem by the mysterious Hidden Masters of the Keepers of the Last Hearth, but rather because he does not have the raw magical power and indomitable will of Sister Maria Teresa; the fearsome reputation and vast organizational support of 'Father Dragon'; the supernatural ferocity of the pishtaco; or the numbers or social capital of the California faction.

Acevedo represents a fairly minor criminal organization, at least in comparison to the Consortium or the 'Red Dragon', and while he's successful, wealthy, well-connected and competent, he's not as scary as any of the other leaders. Without him and his contacts, however, it's unlikely that the cultists could have handled the loss of their logistical support from the Consortium and managed to reroute to another potential ritual space. This is especially ironic in light of the fact that Acavedo argued for aborting the mission entirely; to find another time and place where the ebb and flow of the invisible tides were right.

Nando Acevedo was born to what had been a reasonably prosperous middle class family in Arica, Chile. His part-Aymara mother was a teacher with moderate leftist and humanist sympathies while his father was a mid-level administrator for the General Motors plant in Arica and a strong Pinochet partisan. When Nando was born, however, his mother had been detained for subversion on three occasions, a brief period in 1973, a period of several months in 1975 and over a year 1976-1977, and was barred from teaching.

The household was acrimonous and deeply unhappy through Nando's early childhood, culminating in a fire that claimed the lives of both his parents when Nando was five. Officially, it was ruled an accident, though Nando later found out that the arson investigators believed that it had probably been a suicide pact or a murder suicide, but were not certain which of Nando's parents had set the fire or whether both of them had deliberately consumed barbiturates mixed with the considerable quantity of alcohol they had drunk.

Nando grew up with various relatives, aunts and uncles, and with his Aymara grandmother on his mother's side. His father left some savings to pay for an education and Nando graduated from the Universidad de Tarapacá with a degree in commercial law in 2002, albeit slightly in debt. By the time Nando had set up as an abogado, he eagerly grasped at any client, no matter how dubious. In 2003 Nando began representing the cover business of an organized crime syndicate concerned with importing drug precursor chemicals from Asia.

Intelligent, amoral and inventive, Nando quickly grasped the true purpose of the cover business and was only too willing to help cover up smuggling. Nando became a valued member of the criminal organization over time and for the past fifteen years, can be said to have been self-employed as a professional criminal lawyer (emphasis on 'criminal'), drug precursor importer and occasional organizer behind human trafficking.

The underworld that Nando Acevedo made his living around was in that time becoming ever more superstitious. On real Earth, belief in withcraft, herbal remedies and curses is almost as widespread in the Andean countries as the Roman Catholic religion and in the setting, by the 2000s, paranormal phenomena, while still rare, were happening at an increased pace. And it seemed that those on the margins of modern, secular society were far more likely to encounter the inexplicable, with many rising criminal figures claiming supernatural powers to bolster their reputations.

Acevedo had grown up around people who believed in brujeria and various Aymara traditions about the supernatural. While not inordinately superstitious by nature, he had already started to suspect the existence of deeper natural laws than conventional science while he was at university, and through contact with various underworld figures who fancied themselves occultists or magicians, Acevedo learned enough to become utterly convinced. Indeed, by the year 2008, Nando Acevedo had discovered that he himself possessed some talent for ritual magic and he started to study the occult in earnest.

Not devoted to any religious worldview or bound by a specific cultural tradition of shamanism or witchcraft, Nando adopts anything he can learn into an idiosyncratic mixture of approaches. He generally uses his grandmother's Aymara as a ritual language and tends to contextualize things according to Chilean or Aymara folk beliefs, but he's also took some Anthropology classes and reads a lot of scholarly research on religions and ritual magic.

Even before joining the Keepers of the Last Hearth, Nando had already learned some nifty magical tricks with indigenous Americas origins, Afro-American roots, Hispanic origins and even a few from some Chinese allies. His favorite Charms and rituals are subtle and modest in effect, usually Path of Chance or Path of Mind, and generally serve to improve his odds to accomplish something that could theoretically have been done without magic, but not as consistently.

Acevedo's motivations for performing a potentially world-ending ritual and belonging to an apocalyptic cult at all are somewhat unclear. Acevedo has clearly benefitted a lot from his association with the cult, but why he has made the jump from 'associate unaware of their ultimate goals' to 'true believer trusted as part of the inner circle' is a mystery. All the other cultists know is that two years ago, in 2016, Acevedo traveled away from his home for an extended period, remaining away for six months (allegedly taking a rest cure) and in that time, is said to have met the Hidden Master in South America.

Now, Acevedo has five of his most trusted men with him (at least, five of his most trusted men without criminal records or warrants that would prevent them from visiting the US). They are his driver/bodyguard, two of his best lieutenants (also minor ritual magicians) and two enforcer types. All are initiated into the Keepers of the Last Hearth, but some of them might have accepted this for other reasons than purity of faith, such as perceived social and wordly advantage or loyalty to Nando.

I don't want them all to be Chilean. Acevedo's illegal activities are not confined to Chile, he also has interests in the ports of Callao, Peru and Guayaquil, Ecuado; as well as Lima and several smaller cities in Peru. His import-export interests extend further, to Bolivia and Panama as well, but he deals with middle-men for that.

Does anyone have suggestions for nationalities and backgrounds for his retinue?
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Old 02-15-2020, 10:34 AM   #25
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Default California Status, Celebrities, Youtube Personalities and Socialites

As benchmarks for Status in modern US society, specifically in Southern California, can forumites name examples that they consider to have Status 3-4?

I'm aware that many celebrities have Reputation with their more enthusiastic fans, but a lot of the hallmarks of celebrity in modern America are indistinguishable from the game effects of Status in GURPS terms, not to mention that being able to maintain a certain lifestyle is often a requirement for a certain social set, just like Status in GURPS.

As partial benchmarks, Status 1 is often the equivalent of any military officer other than very junior ones, established doctor or lawyers, even if they aren't all that wealthy, and Status 2 can be people who aren't all that well known publicly, as long as they are clearly wealthy and well-connected; i.e. successful lawyers and doctors. Status 3+ is where people start being treated like historical nobility, i.e. celebrities and important politicians.

I'm specifically looking for Asian-American families to serve as the real relatives of a fictional cult leader for my campaign.

To take real people as examples, what would forumites say is the Status of a Youtube personality like Anna Akana? She's maybe Very Wealthy in GURPS terms and I'd guess she has Status 1-2, with maybe some Reputation that applies to her fans, whoever those are. From further research of this person, I doubt that she is Status 3+, but I don't really have any feeling for how influential she is or how much help her alleged celebrity is in getting tables at restaurants and the like.

Or a reality TV star slash low-level celebrity like Jamie Chung? Filthy Rich and famous enough so that I know who she is, but not so famous that I can name a movie she has done without Googling. What kind of Status does that reflect?

Or a real celebrity like Lucy Liu? About Multimillionaire 1 (technically about half that, but that's far closer than Filthy Rich) and seems like she would get a lot of the benefits of high Status from pretty much everyone knowing who she is.

What about Benihana magnate Rocky Aoki (before his death)? Multimilionaire 1, all sorts of business ties (legal and illegal), famous and infamous and had numerous relatives who were also well known?

How about Kevin Tsujihara, CEO of Warner Bros Entertainment? His job is only Very Wealthy or so, but his salary is not necessarily his major source of income and studio heads are traditionally extremely influential in Hollywood.

And can anyone name examples of real-world Asian-Americans who live in California and would, in their opinion, have Status 3 or Status 4?
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