Dresden Files Accelerated Philadelphia: Raising Cain and Court Summons

Welcome back prospective GMs! Last week, we started off intrigue and mystery in the City of Brotherly Love using Dresden Files Accelerated from Evil Hat Productions. In Break & Enter, the players discovered a Fomor burglary ring attempting to steal a mysterious document from a wealthy collector. In Group Texts a missing researcher found himself seized by a spirit beyond his control, looking to tap into a well of power.

I also encouraged GMs to take some time with Case Files of their own in order to address plot elements brought in with the players. While this isn’t necessary, it does help people flesh out their characters. However, if you are feeling anxious and want to get right into the action, we will bring this plot arc to a head with Raising Cain and Court Summons.

Case File #3 Raising Cain

This case file is considerably more freeform than the previous two. The basic premise is this: The “Internal Politicking” weakness from House Cathus is flaring up again. Cameron Cathus is growing tired of playing second fiddle to the leader of House Cathus and his father, Simon Cathus. He’s managed to form a splinter group, with a number of middle management members of House Cathus willing to see who comes out on top. While players may in theory be fine with both sides weakening each other House Cathus feeds on wrath, so as summer heats up violent incidents are beginning to spark and each side is stoking the flames to ensure they are fully fed.

The word on the street is that an accord of sorts is going to be happening in about a week. This presents both danger and opportunity to the party. There is a real chance to drastically weaken the White Court presence in the city, but also a risk of violence spiking and spilling out into the city at large.

The players first might get tipped off about the situation by news reports of a brawl spilling over into the streets, or a local detective contact asking for help with news of mobsters getting riled up and suspecting something supernatural. They also might be contacted by one or both sides of the conflict depending on their interactions with White Court politics in previous sessions.

Simon Cathus holds power over the Philadelphia mob. Within White Court politics his hard line dedication to being recognized as a separate House has ruffled a few feathers, but he has been a stable leader for close to thirty years at this point. Cameron has a reputation for being a hot head, but he has been growing popular with younger members of the clan. He feels that they need to begin expanding outside of the city, up north to New York and to the south in DC and Baltimore.

If Elias Raith was helped in Break & Enter he’s managed to carve a nice foothold for himself in the city, and has managed to cozy up to a lot of the mob members of Simon’s power base. He also has been granted resources from the Raith clan in Chicago, who would love to destabilize the current status quo and use Cameron as a cat’s paw and puppet leader. Elias is also a Venator, one of the secret leaders at the highest level of the Venatori Umbrorum, and is able to get the local Venatori chapter to hand over details of what they know. The Raith family is going to be steering Cameron to be very anti-Fomor, making sure that they are excluded from any agreement, and will be steering Cameron’s expansion toward the South, where the Fomor have been more active. This alliance is fragile, but overall the supernatural community doesn’t mind them too much, as their fight is considered to be standard internal White Court politics.

If Elias Raith is out of the picture, then it is the Fomor who are willing to back Cameron. They are viewed with a lot more suspicion. Their alliance is far more cohesive, but will have a much more difficult time convincing unaligned parties that they can be a stable partnership. Cameron is seen as unequal to the task of running Philadelphia by a lot of people. The Fomor will steer Cameron North toward New York, which would lead closer to a mob war.

Players will have a week in-game to interfere with one side. Allow them to come up with ideas to bolster or strengthen each side’s weaknesses. If they manage to work their way into the good graces of one side, they may be asked to accompany them to a meeting, and the party will be considered a mover and shaker within supernatural Philadelphia. For each action the players take in the week leading up to the peace summit, add an appropriate Aspect to the faction led by Simon or Cameron. The more strained one side becomes, the more likely they are to capitulate. If one side has a difference of three of more aspects in their favor (two positive vs one negative, three negative vs. neutral, etc.) one side’s leader will capitulate. In Cameron’s case, he exiles himself from the city and Simon’s dominance is reaffirmed. If Simon is forced to capitulate against a Fomor alliance, he will submit to Laura Raith and will act as her vassal in exchange for control of his city again. If Simon loses against an Elias/Cameron partnership, he resigns his post and goes on a suicide run to go out swinging.

If the difference is two aspects, one side refuses to capitulate, but the other is considered to be the real power in charge. One might offer a token resistance, but the mainstay of their power is broken.

Alternately, the players can choose to attempt to weaken both sides in pursuit of grounding out the fight, keeping things equal in the hopes that they wipe each other out.  If so, the ongoing war continues in the background, but neither side can effectively take part in any other city side conflicts for the foreseeable future.

In the background, if players use Paranet as a resource to look around for anything interesting going on in the city, they will hear rumors about disturbances in graveyards around the city. This is not related to the current conflict, and will not appear so to the party. This will be the work of the Sons of Free Magic (specifically under the direction of Abbon Fitzpatrick), attempting to prepare for another type of ritual. If the players choose to investigate this and track down the Sons, they will disrupt an attempt to exhume a Red Court corpse, and another box will be checked off on the Fear of Being Identified track.

Case File #4 Court Summons

This is going to lead up to a Major Milestone, so feel free to throw in the kitchen sink, and make this case last as long as you like to get a satisfactory conclusion.

The party first learns that something is going on through contacts through the Paranet. This can be the players themselves, if they have a talent or aspect which connects them to it. It can be an NPC ally they have discovered (an alive Kalen Trath, for instance), or possibly the Venatori Umbrorum. Regardless of how they find out, the overall discovery is the same: an announcement has gone out through Paranet, welcoming people to join a new coven in Philadelphia, offering to “protect them from the White Council and Wardens in the pursuit of true magic”. If the Sons of Free Magic have been discovered already, they are now considered to be in open warfare with the White Council, and are making a desperate push. If they have remained secret, there is still a mystery.

Around the same time, there is a sudden surge of reports throughout all of supernatural Philadelphia that numerous emissaries of parties who belong to the Unseelie Accords have been sighted around Philadelphia, even if they are not typical mainstays. The Sons of Free Magic are attempting to be recognized, at the very least, as a Freeholding Lord if not a minor faction in their own right under the Accords. To do so, they need to be sponsored by at least three current existing members.

There are a number of ways that they can do this, and the players will have the chance to explore these meetings (and possibly sabotage them). Each time the Sons of Free magic need to reach out to a new contact, this should be the chance for the GM to feed them details about the organization as a whole, its base of operations, and its plan. The more that players are able to stop them from accruing contacts, the more details should become available to them, and the more assets drained from the Sons.

If the Fomor were unable to secure the document in Break and Enter, they will be willing to bargain their sponsorship for the Sons’ copy. They will similarly agree if they hold the document, and the Sons managed to take a copy of the cipher from Group Texts. If the Fomor hold neither, and the Sons have both the document and cipher, they will offer their sponsorship and form a long term alliance (and be willing to withdraw from any partnership with Cameron Cathus if necessary). The Sons will have Fomor support going forward. If players search after Fomor haunts, they might be able to find Eliza Chance making the deal and may be able to track her back to the Mutter Museum.

The White Court can be brought in at a number of different junctures. If Simon Cathus is still in play but the fight with Cameron is still ongoing, he is inclined to offer sponsorship on the condition the Sons drive out any resistance to his authority. It comes with an implied caveat: if Simon is removed from power, then his sponsorship is useless, so the Sons MUST successfully drive out Cameron and his allies. They will be overt about this, and it will be one of the few times they have been seen participating in visible action. Create a few Focused Practitioners to act as high level lieutenants. Players can influence this attempt by sabotaging the attacks, helping Cameron and his allies, or by using it to spy on or scout the forces they are up against.

If Cameron Cathus is currently holding onto power and in the middle of the fight, and allied with the Fomor, he is likewise open to the Sons helping him against his father and similar conditions would apply. However, if he is in an alliance with the Raith clan, Elias (and his boss) insist that any association with the Fomor is a hard “No”.

The high ranking members of both Winter and Summer Courts can also be, well, courted into offering sponsorship, but at a heavy cost. First, the Sons will incur a rather large debt to whichever Faerie Court they make a deal with. Second, the opposite Court (being obsessed with balance) will offer similar aid to the Sons’ greatest threat (the PCs). A clever PC might remember that deals with the Fae are bound by Exact Words, and might be able to negotiate the Fae representative into double dealing: delivering exactly what was promised, and nothing more, or even undercutting what they have initially done.

Feel free to introduce other members of the Unseelie Accords as you wish. Perhaps Abbon (necromancer) has something interesting to offer the Black Court. Perhaps Polonius Lartessa is interested in an eager and willing host for a Blackened Denarius, and sees the Sons as a recruiting ground. Use whatever tickles your fancy, or what your players have invested into the story, to build up to the tipping point. Continue up until the Sons have at least two sponsors (possibly three).

The final plan will vary by a number of factors leading up to this. Ideally, Abbon and his followers would like to use Kalen’s cipher to properly channel leylines around the city to funnel into a nexus (ideally the one at the Metropolitan Opera, but another one will do if it is drained in the events of Group Texts). They will attempt to use the ritual to attune to the nexus and distribute it around the city, so that the entire city is a magical battery to them. Similar to the fight with Kalen, the players will have a number of turns before the ritual is complete to stop the ritual. Recruited allies will be the first line of defense, though other members of the Sons will step out of the ritual in order to defend Abbon as necessary. There should be a number of defensive spells in place with a track, and check off one for every successful attack that is stopped.

There are a number of things which will modify this plan. The Sons require a copy of the document from Break & Enter, and the cipher from Group Texts to effectively do so. If they are missing one or both, they will be simply attempting to attune to a leyline and drain it into magical artifacts to use as power sources. But even this benefit is worth little if they do not have recognition under the Accords.

If the Sons only have two sponsors, or they are unable to complete the ritual as planned and time is running out, they will try to execute a dangerous backup plan: to revive the Red Court, under their control. As briefly mentioned in Raising Cain, someone has been snooping around looking for remains of the Red Court vampires, who recently were all wiped out by a massive spell. Abbon is convinced that if one is at least possibly revived in some capacity, and kept under control, he can have a dangerous but powerful ally. One of his ectomancers will try to summon up the remnants of Bianca St. Claire’s essence, and attempt to bind it to an ectoplasmic form that is powerful enough to sustain her for a short time.

The extent to which Abbon is successful depends on the time available to him, and how many resources he has been able to gather. In a full success, a nearly lifelike recreation of a Red Court vampire is created, though it will have more similarities to the Black Court now. A limited success will create a hungry husk that can do little more than feed and infect new targets. If the players fizzle the spell entirely, the remains are destroyed, along with Abbon’s ambitions.

No matter what, at the end of the ritual Wardens of the White Council arrive. Abbon will sound an order to retreat (no matter the result), though how successful he and his followers are depends on the damage the players have done. The players are recognized by the Warden leader for their part in the fight, and players should consider the resolution a major milestone.

As for the fate of the city, a great deal depends on how things play out. A revived Red Court threatens to rekindle the war with the White Council, but it also may create a moment of strange bedfellows, as the Fomor have been the beneficiaries of the Red Court’s absence. If the Sons of Free Magic fail in their attempt for power they scatter, but a Warden presence remains to root out the rest of their organization. If they managed to bind a great deal of their own power, Philadelphia becomes the site of magical urban warfare as a White Council exhausted from battling the Red Court goes up against an entrenched and dedicated group of magicians who know the territory.

That’s all for now folks! This could be the end of the line for the campaign, or it could be the start of something entirely new! Please feel free to make changes as you like. Remember, at the end of the day, this is about you guys having fun! Let me know how the campaigns go!

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