Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Calliope Mall. ( A setting for Mage The Ascension)


Calliope Mall 

Anywhere in the world, where warehouses lie between a river and a railroad track, this mall can be found. It exists, coincidentally, all over the world.

While most of the malls and shopping centers of the world are owned outright by the Syndicate, this mall is an exception. Located downtown in a warehouse district... the Calliope was once an exceptionally large hanger shaped warehouse. 

A man by the name of Randolph Bachman (Order of Hermes, House Merinita) bought the mall and put a small amusement park inside, complete with a funhouse, a midway, a hall of mirrors, and a very large Merry-go-round, steam powered with a wood and brass calliope at its heart. 

That calliope is one of the rarest things, it generates tass and quintessence, even in the Umbra. Also, people forget that anything purchased from the mall came from there, simply assuming they bought it from another store somewhere. 

The front door of the mall has this rote on it... Leaving thought that door subtly alters the memory of anything truly odd that happened in the mall. an altercation with a faceless manequin becomes a fight with an actor PRETENDING to be a manequin... etc... this rote simply adds doubt in the minds of a sleeper. 

Anyone who battles this rote with willpower will likely want to return... and its THOSE people bachman is paying attention to. 


Layout: 
 When the railroad tracks are crossed, any mage with spirit, correspondence, or prime will be aware that they have crossed a threshold. The rules of magic around the mall are more relaxed, and paradox is rarer. 

The mall is a horizon realm... but it can be better compared to a very large sanctum. Picture four warehouses two stories high, pointing in the cardinal directions, North, South, East, and West, The second floor of the hangers seems to consist of private apartments, many windows on the second floor reveal lamps, bookshelves and other private dwelling scenes. At the junction of the four buildings is a round building some three stories high, that connects the others into a unified whole A lot of skylight style windows are in this central building, and a skilled observer can see a tree inside.

. One side is located on an ancient pier, overlooking the river. there is about thirty feet of dock extending out from the building all the way around, and several tables outside. This coincidentally matches the design and style of any warehouses its nearby... If the mall is in France or Louisianna, the mall matches the neighboring warehouses.

The river in the real world may be polluted and sluggish, but coincidentally, here it tends to freshen up and look rather pretty.

 Parking is along  the mall, and rather cramped... a railroad track still in use is nearby, and marks the boundaries of the lot. Around the calliope are other warehouses... reflecting the area of the world the viewer came from. .At the center of the mall, visible from every entrance and store, is a huge Merry-go-round, with tracks of animals ten deep, and over 500 carousel animals (none of them are horses). Each track is going at a different speed , and often seem to race. The music plays night and day, playing hundreds of songs popular in the 1920's. The arrangement of animals will vary each time the mall is visited.

The funhouse is hopelessly outdated. Mechanical monsters spring out that haven't got the power to scare a toddler, with shifting floors and twirling barrels that are designed to make people dizzy and fall, but barely seem capable of affecting people nowadays. 

This will change completely if the mall is under attack. Bachman has the place (coincidentally) rigged with the most lethal deathtraps that a master mage with high forces, matter, and spirit can devise. and it will somehow be convenient and safe for anyone friendly to Bachman to pass through the funhouse if (for instance) fleeing an opponent.

The Hall of mirrors is rather interesting, lots of mirrors reflecting infinite images and peculiar reflections. people can get lost in there for hours. The mirrors are quite powerful in the Umbra, and the threshold is weak here. Stepping into one allows access to various horizon worlds, chantries and locations, including most of the interesting places found in the book of worlds, and Horizon itself. 

However mirror worlds are common, and unless you know what you are doing, you may not find yourself in the "right" reality. For instance one mirror leads to a world where Ticto and Bachman are fighting for the fledgling mage player character, and competing to claim her as an apprentice, another leads to where one of them is trying to kill her, and the other is trying to prevent it.

 Since many of the mirrors lead to protected areas, visitors will find their way blocked unless passwords, keys, and unlocking magick are used as well. 

 The mirrors guardian is the visitors own reflection, and various funhouse versions of the players will emerge and attack those who do not belong here. The versions will use rotes and effects the players themselves have used in the past, and will be very dangerous indeed.


TASS and NODE 
The flux from the node manifests itself primarily as merchandise in the many shops of the mall, small knick-knacks, curios, strange musical tapes and such... a mage with prime can spot an item that has become tass easily. 

The node itself is in the carousel, merely riding one of the horses is enough to make an avatar grin, but the real rush comes when you step into the central chamber, this is a room, surprisingly large, that doesn't spin, although the walls do. Meditating in this chamber is very easy, and pillows and large cushions have been provided to assist in this. The walls spin with the calliope, and small holes reflect light into the room in a dizzying kaleidescopic series of flashes. The music from the machine is muted here, and the darkened room, the music, the moving walls and shifting lights combine in a very pleasant "lava lamp" type effect. 

The shops consist of: 

Diversions Rare Books: Bachman runs this store, a maze of tiny cramped passages lined with books radiate away from the counter, as you wind your way through them, you find nooks and crannies, with comfortable chairs and reading lamps, throw rugs, and live cats. Locked curiosity cabinets, Hand painted portraits, and difficult to discover rooms abound... the bookstore is much bigger than it seems from the storefront. You can literaly get lost forever in the mile after mile of books here, if Bachman does not rescue you.  Bachman has a high level correspondence rote working here that allows his bookstore to connect directly to every other cluttered bookstore and library in the world. You can wander in and out of these bookshelves, and wind up in a similar place on another continent, without ever knowing it is happening.

One of these makeshift book rooms has a throwrug on the floor... underneath the rug is a working circle, etched into the hardwood floor. Fully prepared for elaborate ritual magic.

 Bachman seems to be a middle aged man in his early forties, grey hair, cut short. His glasses are small rectangles, with beveled edges. He wears suits at all times and does not actually need his walking cane to get around. The cane has a large glass ball in the tip as an ornament. His "power suit" reflects his days as a carnival barker, straw boaters hat, and seersucker suit with wide red stripes.

Rare gifts of wonder: Nida, an oriental woman, with exotic eyes and perfect english runs this store, selling bolts of silk, clothing, and a few imported items from the far east. She has, more or less, allied herself with Bachman, and her version of magick is quite formidable. Nida scares the hell out of vampires and werewolves alike, and neither really want to tangle with her. She is an elegant and enigmatic oriental woman, tall and olive skinned. 

In some games with a strong werewolf element, she is an Anansi were-spider, in others she is a mage. 

 In addition to bolts of silk and supplies, her shop has small oddities all over the place, strange boxes, weird knick-nacks, and carved figurines are everywhere... She's rather fond of Bachman, and he flirts outrageously with her. She is the closest person to Bachman, and they have had a long term romance for some three centuries. Neither one is interested in moving in together, or getting more serious. Her store smells of Teakwood, incense, and spices.

Electrica: 
 Ramna Bey is the proprietor of this shop, specializing in gizmo's, gadgets, electrical items, and odd computer paraphernalia. Nowhere in his shop would you find a copy of windows, or a microchip made by intell... but you would find programs that hack them. 

The most popular computer games aren't here, but there's a whole wall of "shareware" code that seems to be just as good. His gizmos have an odd look about them... like they were wrapped in plastic wrap from the kitchen, and stapled to cardstock printed out on the computer. It's as if the merchandise was all built in the back room rather than purchased from a distributor. 

 Ramna Bey is in fact, an immortal Faerie, He has spent the last twenty years trying to understand technology, especially electricity, and hasn't quite grasped the concept. He's trying to figure out the entire merchandising thing now and is rather enjoying being a "shopkeeper" especially a shopkeeper with an eastern accent "I am to be trying to help you sir, what problem is it that I can fix?" 

 His merchandise contains quite a bit of wild fairy magic, and works reasonably reliably, at least the first time... after that odd things begin to happen with them... toast might pop out of the top of the computer monitor you bought, for instance... or the radio snores quietly when unplugged. A Micky Mouse watch will relax its arms till it notices you looking at it, THEN display the correct time. 

 Sleepers who don't beleive in Fairies never notice these things, as their mundanity is too high for them to overcome. The devices just seem to stop working for no reason, and get thrown out as "Junk". However, the stronger your belief in magic, the more powerful a fey pattern becomes... eventually these things begin eating quintessence, and develop their own agenda's. All wild magic is dangerous because of this. 

 Ramna is truly Fey. Even though he's immortal and "unkillable" he won't break character, he'd rather be torn limb from limb than reveal he's anything other than a shopkeeper... but his own total unconcern over the situation tends to display his otherworldly nature.  (for instance if his arm was just ripped off by an angry werewolf, he might respond "Really, I must not to be seeing the need to be having so much anger over this, perhaps you would be wanting a refund?")

Ramna is greatly affected by belief, as are all fey... If people convince him of a fact (gravity doesn't work on Tuesdays  then he will believe that fact, and for him it becomes true (on Tuesdays he chains himself and his merchandise to the floor to keep from floating away, and his stuff WILL levitate if this isn't done. Bachman is still both amused and ashamed with himself for teasing Ranma that way, and has since been far more careful with what he tells Ranma). 

 Mostly he is affected by what people say about him... his reputation becomes reality. If people think him a coward, over time he will grow more craven. Also, Ramna is incapable of breaking a vow, if he swears something, then he must do it. This applies to all contracts with his name, any legal documents (including a saleslip from a movie rental), a handshake agreement, whatever. He takes such things incredibly seriously, and woe to the person who breaks any sort of commitment to him. This is again, directly resulting from his faery nature.

 Bachman was approached by Ramna as he was thinking about putting shops into the mall, and the fey personally requested the chance to set up shop. Ramna's store is the oldest shop in the mall, and next to Nida, Bachmans oldest friend. 

Sniffum Bakery and Deli Mrs. Thompson is an elderly black woman "My oh my, what have we here, you look hungry enough to eat a whole pie! You sit right down and get yerself comfortable, I'll bring you something to eat!" 

Bubbly and enthusiastic, she is what every kid wants in a grandmother. She dotes on the mall residents, and "nobody pays for food if'n they work in the mall." Mrs. Thompson's husband died many years ago, but she still insists on being called Mrs. Thompson. 

Nobody but Bachman knows her first name (Emma), but she doesn't use it or go by it. Mrs. Thompson possesses true faith. Deeply religious and very pious, she doesn't put up with any nonsense around her, the fact that she's also blessed means she can back her wishes up with mage-like lucky breaks.... 

 She takes care of all the outside tables and chairs, and runs the bakery with amazing efficiency (it doesn't hurt that all the fey creatures in the mall, including several brownies help her whenever she isn't looking). Her sandwiches, soups and baked goods are incredibly delicious. 

The Fey dote on Mrs. Thompson, and help her out any way they can. Her true faith is not at odds with this... Thompson believes in fairies completely... although she has never seen one. Bachman discovered her a few years back after a group of three vampires  had tried to attack her. She fought them off with a can of mace and her umbrella, defeating them soundly to their shock and embarrassment. 

Randolph was so impressed with her that he asked her to set up shop in his mall. She hasn't regretted her decision once. 

 Five "Brownies", (small fairy spirits) have become permanent members of the mall, and have taken to protecting and aiding Mrs. Thompson. They are Turnip, Onion, Parsnip, Carrot, and Cabbage. They can turn invisible, insubstantial, and teleport at will, and each fairy is as strong as a full grown adult human, even though they are about six inches tall. They have never actually been seen by Mrs Thompson, although a mage with the right spheres will have little trouble spotting them.

Fresh Herbs.
 This store, has hundreds of houseplants, growing everywhere. Anyone examining the plants will not recognize any of them unless they have been to the summer lands of fairy.. The plants are for sale, but heaven help the person who neglects them. 

The proprietor is Syndi, a Dryad. She lives in the oak tree that grows in the conservatory, and has a vast knowledge of all growing things. She also will flirt outrageously with any man that gets close. She would love to get to know Bachman better... but so far he has resisted her advances... Syndi is a little jealous of Nida, and doesn't really "get" the whole monogamy thing, but respects Bachman too much to make waves. 

 Bachman rescued her Oak from certain destruction at the hands of a Detroyt construction crew just prior to wwII. Bachman needed a door to Fairy, and the Oak was perfect. He offered to save her and she jumped at the chance. Much later she became interested in what the people in the mall were doing, and finally set up a shop. She cannot go more than 300 yards from her tree, and their lives are completely connected. She is also Fey, like Ranma, but far less powerful, her reality altering applies only to plants. 

These plants will have little things about them that reflect their otherworldly nature... perhaps the move on their own, or they have simple magical properties of some sort... Like all things of fairy, they tend to develop their own agenda over time... so owning anything from the land of fairy is both a blessing and a curse.



The Dragons Spaceship: This store sells comic books, odd collectible figures, role-playing games, and wargaming supplies. a very overweight man (possibly 500 pounds!) runs the place. He will talk with great exitement about anything to do with any of the things found in the shop, and can recite verbatum the plot of any known comic book. The only name this man uses is Tim, and he isn't human at all. Anybody doing any sort of life scan on Tim will find no body organs, just air. he actually weighs closer to five pounds than five-hundred, and his skin is an outer shell, much like a balloon. 

Tim is an air-elemental, summoned years ago by Bachman, and given the semblance of human form by the mage as a reward for his services. Tim loves pretending to be human, his greatest delight is games of all sorts...  He truly prefers to sit in his shop and read comic books and play games. Unlike the golems, Tim was self aware long before he met Bachman, and doesn't want to actually "Become" human, he just wants to game and read comics. He is a thaumivore, and must spend most of his time in the mall, when he leaves he seems to shrink in size every hour he's away, like he's losing weight far too fast to be healthy. 

If Bachman asks him, he will shed his human skin and become a mass of moving air. Whirlwind, tornado, light breeze, whatever... Tim can hurl lightning bolts, cause rain, and become a raging storm that can devastate the landscape for miles, but hasn't done any such thing in years...


Parrots and Fish: A large man, with a full beard and an eyepatch runs this pet store... like the name says, only parrots and fish are sold here, as well as parrot and fish supplies. The man, Old Tom Scotchman, is not a pirate. He'll tell you so, again and again... Tom is actually a very sad case. He was a mage once, many years ago, but was captured by Mauraders who somehow managed to nearly gilgul him. Tom still has an avatar, but can't reach it. He can't perform magic anymore, and isn't quite right in the head. Bachman took pity on him and gave him a shop here, where he mutters to himself often and rarely makes sense... unless the conversation is about...you guessed it... parrots or fish. 

While Tom has no magick anymore, he is completley aware of what magick is and how it works, and may surprise the players with occasionally usefull advice. 

He tends to bluster and yell when confused... "I am not a pirate! not a pirate not me! Parrots and fish! Wanna buy a parrot? this ones a blue Mcaw! I am NOT a pirate! Why are you leaving! I haven't shown you my fish!"  


Old Toms mind is looping, stuck in a spiraling recursion based on what the Maruaders did to him. They wanted him to be a pirate on their flying pirate ship, and therefore forced him... when he fought back unexpectedly with magic, they took his magic away. This type of thing is almost impossible to fix, but Bachman is still researching a way. One of the fish tanks has some two dozen fish in it that seem to listen carefully to what a larger fish is telling them, to the point of watching the large fish draw elaborate mathematical formula on the inside of the glass aquarium. Bachman is aware of them, and believes they are possibly a sign that not all of Old Toms power is gone, and is hoping his avatar is healing.


Sound Works Velvet Music the fellow that runs this store is a Rastafarian  man, dreadlocks, black shades, and colorful clothing. He never says a word, just points at whatever you are asking for while nodding to the music coming from his earphones... He is in fact a golem, created by Bachman years ago, the dreadlocks shades and earphones disguise the fact that he has no eyes or ears. 

Nevertheless he does a very good job running the store, and never sleeps. Bachman gave this spirit human form years ago in exchange for favors. Slowly it is growing more and more human. Someday it will be able to speak. Eventually it will become human enough to actually make the transition into flesh. 

 The golem is fantastically strong and agile, if combat is necessary the golem will wade into the fight with a pair of drumsticks, weilding them with skill and finness. 

 Like most of the other mechandise in the mall, the selection seems to be hand made rather than bought from a distributor, The music is varied and well done, but seem to be taken primarily from live recordings rather than album productions... there is an excellent chance to find songs that have never been recorded before...

 The tapes also sometimes seem to add a song or two after you've owned it for a while, something only those capable of awakening ever seem to notice. Musical instruments abound... and the silent shopkeeper can play every instrument with flair and skill, even though he has no mouth. The golem is incredibly talented, and can invoke almost any emotion.

Art Works and Woodworks: This store is full of paintings and art supplies. All of the paintings seem to be done by hand in hundreds of different styles. The many small sculptures seem to be originals as well. In the back of the store is a kiln, clay workshop, and painting area. The individual running this store is also a wood golem, like the proprietor of velvet music. Also mute, he dresses in a clean white shirt with a very high collar, a floppy beret and very large rose colored glasses. All of his features are painted on. 

Woodworks: This store sells wooden objects of all types, from furniture to fine art. The store has a full woodshop in the back, with every woodworking tool a man could possibly want. The man in back, dressed in a plaid shirt, shop glasses and baseball cap is yet another golem. Syndalia the Dryad holds no animosity towards the golem or the shop, feeling strongly that the wood is being honored by the golem. 

 As players discover the golems nature they will notice that many of the workers in the mall are also golems, wearing various glasses and make-up so as not to be noticed, doing maintenance and other low profile jobs...
Bachman has some twenty golems total in the mall, hidden in the background.

Gun and knife Works: Brandon Bernard Gunn is a former golem. Originally a spirit of weapons, he has become human enough to take a name, and to speak. He chose to effect a Texas accent and a bit of the attitude, but this is a sham, he is actually a very sweet and considerate being, and will not attack a living being, even in self defense. 

He even apologises (and means it) when he uses a weapon on inanimate objects. (talking to a paper target) "Well now, I'm right sorry about shooting you, but I jest needed to prove it can hit a bullseye." 

 However when weapons are discussed, Beebee is truly in his element, he will gladly discuss any aspect of guns, knives, or anything else that was custom designed to kill. He has a vast knowledge of any and all types of weapons, including many that have not yet been invented. (he is, after all, a former spirit of weaponry)

 His store consists of a counter with a few knives and weapons under glass, and a huge backroom for his prefered customers. 

Potions This is an esspresso stand, set up on a movable cart... with a tall, thin, goth girl running it. Selena is a Sluagh... A fairy spirit at home among shadows, bugs, and things lurking in Tim Burton movies. 

Her stand has rusty, squeeky wheels, hundreds of small bottles with odd and surprising colored liquids inside, her mixing and brewing machine hisses with escaping steam, or brews with bubbling, burping mirth. various canisters contain many dark powders that cause wonderous odors and color changes, when enfused through Selena's machine.

Selena herself moves with an unerving grace, as if the bones in her thin frame were rubber and wire, and not necessarly bound by the normal rules of anatomy. She's pretty in a creepy sort of way, and enjoys flirting with those most unnerved by her. Selena never, ever speaks above a whisper, and has the dark humor and perfect deadpan delivery of Wednesday Addams. 

She always hands visitors willing to wait a paper cup filled with something she "brewed especially for you" Her drinks are very good. but completely mundane. After players finally muster enough courage to drink it, she reveals that the drink they imbided was " Chocolate mocha with cinamon and vanilla extract"

Of course, if you ask her nicely, and offer up something in return, she will brew something far more enchanted. Whatever the heart desires. 


 Things Made from Metal Stepping into this shop reveals a HUGE man, standing at a forge, bending and shaping steel the old fashioned way. Korvis is a Troll. He will make anything the players request from metal... in exchange for something of value. His creations are exqusite. Anything forged by Korvis will be far better than something purchased. Korvis himself talks only when he has to, Treats customers as barely tolerated interuptions, and has absolute domination of the things in his store. He will tolerate NO insults or impertinence, and will instantly throw you from his shop ( literally) for obnoxious behaviour, banning you permanently from purchasing his goods, no matter what the price.

The arboretum: Located above the mall, and hidden from casual observation from outside, a large glassed-in arboreum exists. Like many of the wonders of the mall, it is much larger inside than outside. in the arboreum are hundreds of beautiful and rare plants, including a hundred year old oak tree that should not be possible here. A rock wall has a two story cascading waterfall that ends in a mossy banked pond. the oak stands on an island at the center of this pond tiled and mossy fountain. this arboreum is linked to a fey place, and occasionally things like fauns, niads, unicorns, and centaurs can be seen here..."just visiting friends". 

 The Arboretum is "Private" and can only be accessed by invitation. All the back entrances in all the stores link to to staircases that go up to the arboretum. 

 The roots of the oak actually frame the Merry go Round on the floor directly below it. close observation will show that the wood around the calliope's frame is still alive. 



View from the Umbra: Should somebody or something approach the area from the umbra, they will see an incredibly beautiful spinning merry-go-round underneath a huge oak tree, a bunch of free standing mirrors, The train tracks, and a door to Bachmans book store., all of this in a feild of wild flowers near the river, the feild approximates the area of the mall and lot, and the other side of the train tracks shows the usual pattern spider infestation on lifeless glass stone and steel rocks forming countless canyons. 

 If the visitor climbs onto the carousel, the various animals will look at them and then dismiss them. climbing onto one of the animals, or into one of the chariots will cause that particular animal to detatch from the carousel and and float, pole and all, like the scene from mary poppins. 

The rider can guide the animal and it will go wherever the rider wishes, but without additional magick, it cannot leave the near umbra. If the rider dismounts, the animal will immediately return to the carousel. The animals also act as the guardian of the node, and the 500 or so figures will attack those attempting to harm the node or steal its quintessence. 

Animal shapes vary: zebras, lions, tigers, unicorns, hippocampi, griffons, hippogriffs, sea horses, pygmy elephants, rhinocerous, dinosaurs, alligators, jalopy automobiles, pumpkin coaches, giant mice, grasshoppers, kangaroo, butterflies, octopi, and whatever else the mind can grasp. 

 If they explore the room at the center of the carousel, then they can use it as a doorway into the mundane world, as well as its normal focal point for the node. 

 The door simply leads into Bachmans bookstore, and is locked. 

 The train tracks are the border between this place of wonder and the darkness of Detroyt. The train is a powerful paradox based guardian, and anyone attempting to cross the tracks will likely be killed by the evil machine coming out of nowhere to hit them.



The river is also a place of grave danger, as anyone atempting to cross will quickly run into nasty water. An ill wind keeps people from leaving by air. These are spirits based on paradox, that try to contain the "damage" created by this reality deviant, and this place full of things that should not be.

This is the gist of it. I have based several campaigns around this mall. In some, I've destroyed it in a running battle with the technocracy. In others, Bachman has been behind all that has happened to the players, pulling the strings to achieve his goal of returning the mall fully to the world, and bringing magic back. In one werewolf game, Bachman was the evil mastermind that the werewolves had to defeat. and the funhouse was hell. In a vampire game, Bachman was trying to wipe out the Tremere..

Most of the time, Bachman is a force for good, and allied with the players.... most of the time.

(This is an export from Google wave)