Setting of the Day: Actuary Prison
(The Actuaries are a New World of Darkness: Mage take on the Technocracy drawn up by my friend Aaron. They carry over the control-obsessed and clandestine nature of the Technocracy, but are smaller in scope and resources. A replacement for the Seers instead of a setting-covering set of bad guys.)
Well, that didn’t work so great.
Adam Ice fiddled with his shackles, tracing the sigils that left his hands feeling numb and disconnected. He walked slowly, sandwiched in between two sets of tall men in dark suits and indoor sunglasses, and tried to take in as much of the facility as possible. Not that there was much, other than long white hallways and the burning silver glow of wards along each set of doors.
Otherwise naked, the bald thirty year old shivered with the cold – both in his belly and in the air. The temperature was about sixty, which he did not mind so much; but the cold empty hole in his gut where his mana should have been? That hurt, an ache the former addict knew all too well.
He counted three wings – right, right, left – before the Actuaries presented him to a final set of gates. Two guards watched the gateway, their guns shimmering with power. Adam began to squint, to focus his Sight on them, and the Actuary behind him clubbed him on the head.
Staggering and deafened, he managed to twist himself into the guard station. He hit the cold metal dead in the stomach, curling forward, and got one precious look at the computer system on the other side before they hauled him back into position.
Blood trickled down his neck, and his temples began to pound.
The security gateway opened when both guards pressed their palms to specific sigils and chanted a word in High Speech he didn’t know. The gateway flared, and those runes he could read:
A new life awaits you. Be cleansed. Be purified. Be Saved from your Self. This is for your own good.
“Welcome to Block D,” said the one who had clubbed him. “Your home away from home until your Reassignment. It is scheduled for Tuesday.”
“You mean the part where you scramble my brains like egg white and give me a desk job at the DMV?” Adam spat. Five days until they robbed him of everything that made him a mage and a man.
The Actuary jabbed him hard in the back, forcing him through the gateway. Actuary magic burned across his skin, violating into every crevice in search for the slightest contraband.
“No,” said the man with a thin smile. “We have already lined up a position for you at the DEA.”
Adam shivered involuntarily. His mouth began to water at the thought of being in the presence of pounds and pounds of crisply wrapped heroin.
“Whether you become a stalwart officer or a mug shot on the five o’ clock news is not relevant. Both are accounted for in The Plan.” The Actuary tipped his head, smirked, and turned sharply.
New guards dragged Adam through Block D, past regular indentations in the smooth wall. At number thirty one on the left hand side, they caused one such indentation to melt into a doorway and threw him through into his new home. Metal toilet, metal bed, no visible source of the dim light that pervaded the space, and a desperate scrawl in dried blood across the far wall:
Remember me when the I that is I am gone.
“I’ll do better than that, my departed friend,” Adam said, slumping down onto the metal bed. He waited long minutes in paranoia. Finally, he furtively traced along the shackles….and a pen emerged from the bottom, spit out by the metal that had held it hidden. He held it up in his numb hands, smiling.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
And for a Master of Matter, that was the honest truth.
In a hero’s travels, they fight against the Men in Black, the Controllers, the Oppressors behind the curtain. They fight and they die, giving their lives to push the light of Truth a little further.
Not all are so lucky.
Facility White is a maximum security Witch Containment Facility located in a slice of reality hidden between here and there. It features comprehensive processing in order to psychologically evaluate and log a new arrival. This information is used to assess the proper place for the Witch in the Plan, and the facility holds the Witch while the Pattern is reformatted to allow smooth reconstruction of the Plan around the new arrival.
The Witch’s original, chaotic personality does not survive the transition, and the ability to create chaos – “magic”, they call it – is surgically removed before shipment.
Facility White is separated into five active wards (with two more currently closed off), one for each of the Witch’s blasphemous taxonomy. As each type of Witch shows aptitude in certain patterns of disruption, each wing is formatted for maximum dampening of those talents.
Average transit time from arrival to Reassignment is seven days, though young Witches can often be reintegrated into the Plan with as little as three days and some elder Witches have proven so disruptive that execution is the only solution. Its a shame, really. Perhaps one day Witches will see that the Plan is for their own good.
Antagonists of Facility White
Director White – The name of Director White belongs to whoever runs the facility. It has become a coveted, highly competitive slot ever since Reassignment Therapy came online. With the Facility’s growing notoriety inside of the Organization, it is now seen as a clear stepping stone to the higher echelons. The current Director White took the position in 2003, following the Kelly incident. He claims credit for an incredible success rate of 75.5% with Reassignment, thanks in large part to Dr. Akagi. Taciturn and focused on the Plan, he tends to sit with his hands knitted in front of his mouth.
Dr R. Akagi – White coat and sharp glasses, a tendency to speak to herself and a serious crush on her boss. Dr. Akagi is not suitable for field work, far too prone to being overwhelmed by her latest flash of insight. She is, however, an expert on the Witch condition – specifically, on the removal of it. If it weren’t for her, Facility White would still be executing every Witch at sunrise. Her Reassignment procedure has revolutionized Plan Therapy.
Head Warden Dimitri – While the Director and the Dr. see to the vision of the Facility, Head Warden Dimitri keeps its cold heart beating. Dimitri has spent twenty years honing his abilities as a Purger, capable of detecting and destroying even the slightest wiff of Witch patterns, and he makes regular rounds to insure that the facility integrity remains at 100%. Formerly large and hulking, he was recently approved for Pattern reallocation. At this moment, he is sixteen years old and scrawny; hormones have led him to be more vindictive than previously seen. This is predicted to fade in another year as his new body matures into its appropriate 25 year old form. In the mean time, the occasional beating is overlooked given his dedication to the Plan.
The Whisper That Comes Last Thing Before you Shut Your Eyes and Have Horrible Dreams
(((There is a whisper on the air conditioning, a chill that puckers the skin. A breeze that smells like ice and brine. Something deep. Something deep. You find yourself in dark waters, crushing waters. You try to breathe, but choke on the salt. Try to swim, but your limbs weigh a thousand pounds. You try to fight and try to live, but you sink down, down…towards waiting jaws with glimmering teeth of ice in a maw like a whale. It welcomes you into its belly, joyously, in a cacophony of speech that isn’t. A mind that isn’t. A wrongness that welcomes you inside. Forever.)))
Locales of Facility White
A Block – Containment for Witches capable of meddling with Plans and Orders. Includes comprehensive temporal reformatting and Pattern anti-threading protocols. Chance happenings are not allowed. Ever. These Witches have been found to be best stymied by application of Inertial patterns.
B Block – Containment for Witches who use Meta-craft and Fires. Requires daily attention by Purgers with Burn Out Pills. Wardens are authorized to use physical force on suspicion of Crafting. Often experience delusions of grandeur that directly contradict the Plan; the most likely Witch to attemp direct confrontation. Entropic focusing is their area of weakness.
C Block – Containment for Witches that can twist the Mind and break spacial patterns. These Witches are fitted with Occlusion masks which block all senses and deprive the Witch of the ability to speak their cursed, honeyed lies. The Masks provide basic life functions and are *never* to be removed, no matter how good an idea it seems at the time. Witches of this type appear to be incapable of transmuting basic physical patterns.
D Block – Containment for material Witches. Physical containment integrity is critical here, given the corrosive and mutative nature of these Witches. These witches must remain naked at all times, regularly checked for the slightest contraband. Even a fork can become a deadly weapon in their hands. They appear to be incapable of communicating with Extra-Global Entities.
E Block – Containment for feral Witches. Such witches are capable of plagues and mutative curses against life. No Wardens enter this Block; it is run by the Automated Mental Grid protocols. Comprehensive anti-bacterial bath takes place via sprinkles every two hours. It is often necessary to poison these Witches with each meal so their disruptive patterns are forced to focus on maintaining physical health. E-Block World Separation is maintained to the highest degree at all times so that the Witches cannot call Extra-Global Entities. Feral witches have weak minds, incapable of trickery.
F Block – Closed in 2002 after the Kelly Incident. Rumors of Witch-type shadows stalking the halls are absolutely false, and speaking of such things at meal time or in the Warden Recreation Area is grounds for discipline.
Z Block – Dr. Akagi’s work wing. A warm and cheerful place outfitted more like a pediatrician’s office than a prison. Despite the decor, no amount of clothing can banish the chill that seeps in from the walls. The whispers in the dark corners. The feeling that Facility White does not belong to the Organization alone…
Artifacts/enchanted items of the Facility
Opal, hard shells that clasp over the head of the victim. On contact with skin, the masks writhe and meld with the outer layer of skin, forming a perfect bust of the victim in marble – complete with blank eyes – and a bar code on the forehead. The face and senses are paralyzed, entombed within, and touch becomes the only reality. The mask provides physiological functions such as respiration and food.
Prime-enchanted handcuffs that cut the flow of energy from the hands to the rest of the body, effectively severing the ability to perform rote mudras of any form that require hand movement. Long term wear often results in alien hand syndrome, and more than one Witch has started screaming that his hand has been possessed by something cold and dark…
Thaumium magic detectors which come in both silent and vocal varieties. Appear as a smooth silverish camera that gleams with its own inner light in the darkness.
Burn out pills
A magical laxative. Causes great pain as it burns through the system of a Witch, rendering their mana into little more than tar in their veins.
Storyteller notes on the setting:
I hope you’re all enjoying this! Facility White is meant to be a short, setting focused campaign for Mage the Awakening. The players have a deadline before their magic is fed to something dark and terrible – they have to get out now! There are mysteries to uncover – what was the kelly incident? What still stalks the halls of the F-wing, and what treasures might have been left behind in what appears to have been a hasty evacuation of that wing? How did Dr Akagi figure out the Reassignment method, and how does it tie into the whispers in the night?
No stats have been given for the antagonists or magical items. The power level should vary based on the number of players, their experience with mage, and their character power level. For an easier time, the magical items can be expensive items reserved for “troublesome” prisoners. For a harder experience, the magical items are common and freely used.
Similarly, how much does the Actuary Organization know about mages? The more they know, the harder the containment is. If the Actuaries know that mages can scour their pattern for mana, expect the wardens to keep the mages beat half to death so that every mana drawn from blood carries the risk of dying. Are the Actuaries aware that Witches can cast spells in their primary arcana without magic? How many rotes do they recognize? When they see magic, do they open fire with shotguns or approach with billy clubs?
What attitude does the Organization have on Witches in general? Is it pity? Hatred? Does the Organization recruit former Witches into its ranks to help hunt those they once helped? Can there be a child in the cell next to you, destined for the same cruel fate, or does the Organization show mercy on the youngest? Once someone has been Reassigned, can they ever be recovered…or has their soul, their very essence, been fed to the Dark?
These should allow you to set a difficulty level appropriate for your group. Facility White can be deadly – a struggle for one or two of your entire party to survive, like fugitives in the night….or it can be an adventure, meant to be ransacked and thrown open for the Awakened world to see.
As the storyteller, you’ll have to tweak the setting a little in accordance with the arcana at your players’ disposal. If you have a spirit-focused thyrsus, let there be tiny mice spirits who can burrow through holes in the gauntlet to carry messages to the Choirs on the other side. If you have a Fate mage, let them whisper stories about the misfortune that will befall wardens into the ears of their nervous captors.
The big arcana to watch out for is Prime. Because Prime acts with illusions, concealment, and control of mana, it can be incredibly powerful in a “mana-starved” environment like the prison. No sane mage, knowing that the wardens are watching, would be able to make a character with less than Prime 2 for cloak, and so think about giving a few options outside of the traditional paradigm:
Perhaps the facility exists on top of a magical sinkhole, and the resonance of their spells only lasts a few minutes. If they can just stall the warden’s round for ten minutes, they can get that crucial ritual done…
Perhaps covert magic in the facility cannot be detected over the “roar” of the Reassignment process in wing Z.
Perhaps the mages can conceal their magic by taking a point of bashing damage, harnessing their echoes inside their own flesh.
Mostly we want the players to be able to choose to play archetypes outside of X-Y-Prime. If they want to go mana burn v mana burn with the Head Warden, that’s fine…but it should be a choice, not a requirement.
That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed it and maybe got inspired a little!