Greetings everyone. We will be trying something new in the following weeks. We will be publishing our first set of player made modules, ready for use for GMs who need a bit of structure to get a game off the ground! Shortly after we published Meet the Party: Dresden Files Accelerated, someone in the comment section over at Evil Hat said something along the lines of: “This is great, but what about a few loosely laid storylines for a GM to get started with?” We thought it was a great idea, and one we are going to unabashedly pretend that we were planning all along. While we’ve been backed up with some other things, it’s been simmering on the back burner. Today is the first part in a three part series where we give interested GMs the background on the setting and the factions withing it, and a series of four interconnected Case Files for which to create a story arc for their players.
We’ve begun with the faction list that we published on our Patreon, and we’ve built upon it. These contain references to characters described in our Meet the Party. You are free to use them as you like, but also feel free to make your own characters and use the group in the Meet the Party as NPCs. The following factions is a non-exhaustive list of movers and shakers in magical Philadelphia. Feel free to add a few of your own, especially if your players offer backstory details which you find irresistible, but for the sake of the plot, these factions are the intended plot drivers for this story arc.
The City of Philadelphia
A city is a living thing, waxing and waning along with the people within it. No place is immune from the tendencies of the people living there, and that bleeds through into the city’s psyche. Philadelphia considers itself a perpetual underdog, and one that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It considers itself a major player, like New York, Chicago, LA and Boston but rarely is considered an equal. In spite of its vast size and strong economy it considers itself a blue collar city. For this contradiction, we’ve assigned the aspect “Silk Shirt, Blue Collar”.
The city also has an aspect to it: “Convocation”. Philadelphia has a tendency to call together grand events. It was the site of the first Continental Congress, and where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution was signed. It has been host to multiple presidential nomination conventions, and within the past few years has played host to the Democratic National Convention, the Pope, and the NFL draft. For whatever reason, it has a natural tendency to act as a beacon for events of importance.
Another feature is a lesser known nickname: “The City of Neighborhoods”. For its relative size, Philadelphia sports a large number of neighborhoods with their own distinct culture, architecture and feel. Manayunk may be in the city limits toward the Northwest, but no one would mistake it for Passyunk in the Southeast. In the magical world, this has had the consequence of a number of almost feudal domains, all pushing against each other, and the crossing of those borders can have serious consequence.
Philadelphia is a neutral city to the Winter and Summer Courts. An obvious incursion by one will invite a similar response from the other, but at this time, their attention has been focused elsewhere (Chicago, perhaps).
The Local Fomor Cell
Goal: Recruit or conscript supernatural talent and gain control of all supernaturally significant sites in Philadelphia.
Obstacle: Longer entrenched organizations opposing their incursion
Resources: Their leader, Pwason-Gootȅ (main NPC); a half-dozen powerful lieutenants (supporting NPCs); powerful servitors, AKA Turtlenecks (minor NPCs); the willingness and ability to do vast workings of ritual magic in support of their aims.
Weaknesses: Hubris (aspect), tendency to ignore/overlook non-supernatural intervention (aspect).
Next Steps: Obtain Thomas Holme’s surveys on the geography to identify ley lines that can be tapped for magical power.
Places of Power: Along the riverfront of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, waterfronts in NJ
Overview: The Fomor are ancient beings who at one point were forced into exile beneath the waves, to the greatest depths of the world. However, with the sudden obliteration of the Red Court the ensuing vacuum has offered them a foothold of graft and addiction to exploit. While their long term goals remain mysterious, their first steps seem to prioritize gaining magical power. Their leader, Pwason-Gootȅ, seems to have an understanding of the history of the city, and a fascination with documents and features of Old Philadelphia. This ensures that members and resources of the Venatori Umborium (such as Gunther Graves) are target for the Fomor. They would also like to capture powerful magic users such as Fitz Crowninshield III, but his association with the White Council risks embroiling them in direct conflict before they are ready. A more ready target is Fatima Madani, though the volatile nature of her powers makes her a high risk acquisition.
Goal: Gaining recognition of their House and their hold of Philadelphia by the other White Court clans
Obstacles: Increasing expansion from Raith family; Infighting
Resources: Their leader, Simon Cathus (main NPC); numerous House lieutenants (supporting NPCs), Alberto Merlino (major NPC), Philly Mob Muscle (aspect), Crooked Politicians (aspect)
Secret Resources: Pull with the Higher Ups (Aspect) with the Venatori Umbrorum
Weaknesses: Tendencies to excessive violence (Aspect), A Need to Feed (Aspect), Internal Politicking (Aspect)
Next Steps: Identify incoming spies and agents from other White Court families
Places of Power: South Philadelphia
Overview: House Cathus is a relatively new (and minor) branch of the White Court. All White Court Vampires must feed on emotions to satisfy their Hunger, which empowers them and keeps their Demon at bay. At some point in the last hundred years, a few members of the White Court managed to feed on wrath. The first among these was Simon Cathus, and at first this new trend was seen as an inconsequential, and slightly embarrassing, aberration. However, as he has passed this gift along to his children, they found themselves a small growing force. Cast out and fearing reprisal, his clan set up shop in Philadelphia, a city with a reputation for anger and violence. Regardless of the overall truth of that reputation, he found himself arriving during a time of tumult within the Philadelphia mafia. The anger and violence that he and his family were able to tap into helped them steadily grow in power, and in the early 90s they were able help the Merlino family wrest control away from the new family head appointed by the Five Families in New York.
The Philadelphia mob had long been in the shadow of New York, and with the promises of autonomy Simon has become a staunch and highly regarded ally of the current leader, Alberto Merlino, who is happy to spare manpower for his ally. However, the power struggles that helped Simon come to power are now proving distractions of their own as his relatives eye his throne. Worse, his rule has never been fully recognized by the other House heads. With House Raith consolidating power in Chicago, there is a threat that appears to be massing against him.
Goal: Gathering knowledge about defenses against supernatural forces
Obstacles: Fomor intervention
Resources: Numerous Mason hideouts, Expansive Records (aspects)
Weaknesses: Weak at direct action (Aspect)
Secret Weakness: White Court Venator leaders (Aspect)
Next Steps: Identify agents to use going forwards
Places of Power: Berean Presbyterian Church, Mason sites throughout the city
Overview: The Venatori Umbrorum have a legacy as a secretive organization that is an expansive information network. They typically stay out of direct confrontation in supernatural fights, but they have recently gained a great deal of commendation from the White Council for their support during the war with the Red Court. They managed to attack supply lines and fight through bureaucracy, while providing intelligence to the White Court.
Ostensibly neutral, they have a secret purpose among high level members: to fight the Oblivion War, preventing the Old Ones from being able to cross back into the mortal plane. Chief amongst the hierarchy is members of the White Court, who look to protect their “feeding ground” from new (old) monsters.
Sons of Free Magic (Secret Group)
Abbon Fitzpatrick and his cult
Goal: Gain enough power to be recognized as Freeholding Lords
Obstacles: Small numbers, Opposition from the White Council
Resources: Abbon Fitzpatrick (Main NPC), Eliza Chance (Focused Practitioner-veils NPC) Magic proficient casters, Hiding out in Plain Sight (aspect) Paranet subversion (aspect), Magical Trinket Inventory (aspect)
Weaknesses: Fear of Being Identified (aspect) □□ (Fill in for each session where they are identified. When they are identified, they are no longer a Secret Faction. They immediately become hunted by the White Council)
Small in Numbers (aspect)
Places of Power: Mutter Museum
Overview: There have long been magic users who dislike the ruling position of the White Council. While they are only supposed to care about how magic is used outside of the laws their enforcers, the Wardens, tend to decapitate first and ask deep questions later. It is difficult for any large group of magic users who tend to violate the laws to gather at one time, but in this case, the Red Court and Fomor have been issues for close to a decade now.
Abbon Fitzpatrick had been a long-time practitioner who had been interested in life energy, but was unable to progress far into necromancy while the looming specter of a silvery blade in his future. He needed to remain hidden most of his life, and found a place with enough ambient residual death to prevent anyone from noticing: the Mutter Museum, a medical museum with an abundance of human remains, with plenty of residual death hanging around to mask his experiments.
Abbon saw the Paranet as a recruiting tool, slowly reaching out to find members he suspected could be tempted. With his area as a refuge, he offers the chance to let magic users practice with their magic hidden from the White Council. He hopes to pull together enough force to start making deals to be recognized as a Freeholding Lord under the Unseelie Accords, so that even the White Council would hesitate at wiping them out if they came into the open.
As previously mentioned, these four factions serve as main participants in the upcoming plot. Each has desires, drives and weaknesses, which should help a GM plan their next move. But where do we go from here?
Check back next week for the action to begin, where the PCs get their hands dirty for the first time, and the seeds of conspiracy are planted. We will see you then!
Let us know what you think in the comments below, or on Twitter @HungryHalfing or @WHalfling! We would be thrilled to hear more ideas for factions, or to hear where you think the plot is going to go! Fuego!
The featured image is from Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Tell me it isn’t a little haunted.