The Armitage Files is an improvised campaign structure. It uses a number of stock pieces, such as NPCs, organizations, and locations, that are strung together by individual GMs to fit player action. The adventures I create with it may or may not match any other GM’s version of the campaign. That means that reading these posts may or may not offer spoilers for other game groups.
**You Have Been Warned**
We’re trying to squeeze in two Armitage Files games before I leave for GenCon, because when I get back, two of the three players head off to Europe for about a month, and we won’t get back to a regular schedule until September. Given that this summer has already seen some challenges in scheduling the game, we wanted to get a little momentum built, to make sure the game doesn’t wither and die.
That’s why we got together this afternoon to play, and are planning on doing it again next Saturday night.
We had finished off the Monument Creek storyline last session, and the characters were taking a couple of weeks to rest up after the beating they took on that little outing. As is my usual practice, I asked the group to let me know about a week in advance what reference they were planning on following up next. They decided to look into the Kingsport Yacht Club, because the Captain from last session was heading to Kingsport Harbour with the idol when they blew him up. And the Yacht Club was near the harbour, so…
Now, I cheated a little bit on the prep for this one. I had already decided that the group was going to receive the next document this session, so I wanted to tie in a few extra threads to the storyline for the Yacht Club, because it’s probably going to be the last one from these documents that gets investigated. Maybe not, but I think the pressure of a new document, with new hints, is going to get the group fired up about some of those. That meant that I wanted to draw in a few of the things that had featured peripherally in the earlier investigations, specifically Austin Kittrell and Diamond Walsh.
That seemed like it was tailor-made for stealing one of the spines from the Scenario Spines chapter of The Armitage Files, which I did, choosing The Dweller Within. I tweaked it from the basic structure to better suit what my group are starting to show as their play style, did up a few sets of stats for various things along the way, and away we went.
Their first step was to try and infiltrate the Kingsport Yacht Club by having Dr. Solis pose as Arthur Matthews, a recent widower returned from South America with a daughter (Roxy, starring as Mary Matthews) who wanted him to meet the right people and start getting involved in the local society circles, so that he’ll stop paying so much attention to her life. Roxy’s high Credit Rating meant that she knew the names of several people who were members, including Austin Kittrell, a wealthy party-boy (and collector of strange documents) with whom she’d had some minor dealings previously. He knew her too well, though, so she and Solis went to Samuel Hepburn, a lawyer who didn’t know her as well, and prevailed up on him to put Arthur Matthews forward for membership.
Why Dr. Solis? Well, Roxy is a woman, and Aaron is Jewish, so neither would have a chance of getting in. Welcome to 1935.
On the night of the membership drive, Aaron went along with the pair, disguised as their chauffeur. While Solis and Roxy were hobnobbing with the other members, prospective members, and their families, Aaron was hanging out with the staff below stairs, trying to pick up some gossip. The character, unfortunately, doesn’t have a lot of skill in that area, but his roleplaying and the things he paid attention to got him some solid information. For example, among the waiters, cooks, maids, and drivers, there was a pair of goons in bad suits sitting by themselves with a bottle of whiskey. Aaron decided to see what he could get out of them by pulling out a deck of cards (with dirty pictures on them) and gambling with them for some whiskey. Over the course of the evening, as he lost a fair bit of money to them, he found out they were Walsh’s men – the gangster who had been transporting the idol for the Captain in the last investigation. He also found out that Walsh was married to Zora Gardiner, daughter of Oliver Gardiner, and president of the Yacht Club. The men were bemoaning the fact that, ever since the wedding, Walsh had been getting soft, and was now trying to get respectable by joining the Yacht Club.
Aaron also caught sight of a small figure – possibly a child – hiding in the bushes when he went to check on the car at one point, but didn’t get a good look at it, nor did he follow it into the shrubbery.
At the party, Solis and Roxy met the Gardiners, Walsh and his very pregnant wife Zora, and Dr. Lynch, the club secretary. They found that Gardiner had a fondness for local history, especially that of the native peoples, and that the club library – the province of Dr. Lynch – contained many books on local and maritime history. Other than that, and a strange encounter between Austin Kittrell and the disguised Roxy, everything went very well, and our heroes retired at the end of the evening with every expectation that Arthur Matthews would soon be receiving an invitation to join.
Over the next few days, they did a little more research on the Gardiners, and on Walsh and the Yacht Club. Their digging turned up the origins of the extended Gardiner clan in Merry Mount, in the early days of Puritan settlement, where they made good money at fishing. A Cthulhu Mythos use reminded Aaron of a passage from The Book of the Voice, which spoke of how the pre-European inhabitants of Merry Mount (called Mounte Dagonne by the early French explorers) had worshiped an ancient sea-god, and were said to have interbred with the children of this god.
Further research turned up a pattern of stillbirths, miscarriages, and deaths in childbirth among the extended Gardiner clan over the past year. All of the physicians of record were listed as Dr. Lynch, which struck them as odd, because they knew Dr. Lynch was a surgeon, not a GP or OB/GYN. At this point, Aaron’s player was getting very nervous about things, so he spent a Cthulhu Mythos point, and recalled hints he had seen in old books about how the offspring of the sea-god’s children would be vulnerable and mortal for the first two-score years of their lives, until they shed their mortal form and returned to the realm of their god. Some of the men who had made pacts with these creatures had sought various ways to force this transformation in utero, eliminating the vulnerable period of the god’s grandchildren. He recalled how pregnant Walsh’s wife – Gardiner’s daughter – was, and how in two days, there would be a spring tide, a time of power for Dagon.
Some quick checking confirmed that Walsh, a forty-year-old gangster, had no children, which was so unusual as to strain credulity. The investigators came to the conclusion that Gardiner was getting control of Walsh and his business using the promise of a child and respectability. Checking with the police revealed that Gardiner’s enemies and business rivals had a habit of disasters; disasters that someone like Walsh could easily arrange. A check of Lynch’s past showed that his father had also been a member of the Yacht Club – along with Kittrell’s father – and that Lynch had been a battlefield surgeon in the Great War before traveling extensively in Europe and Asia, finally returning to Kingsport six years previously.
And so our heroes wound up arguing over the corpse of a stillborn child in a graveyard at midnight.
They had all agreed that they needed to examine a body to confirm their guesses but, when they had finally unearthed the tiny coffin (suffering some nice Stability tests), Aaron refused to allow the others to take the body from the graveyard and desecrate it farther. They had a quiet, desperate argument there in the dark before Solis finally went under the blanket with sad little body and a flashlight.
Cue Stability check, with extra Sanity loss.
He found that the body was fairly decomposed, but the limbs seemed to be a little too long and spindly, and the webbing between the fingers and toes was still fairly pronounced – unusual in a foetus at six or seven months, but not all that strange. What bothered him most were the signs that the thing had undergone surgery in utero – there were healed scars over its abdomen and torso. That and the tiny, needle teeth in its mouth.
TheyÂ reburied the body and left the graveyard, badly shaken, and unsure what to do about the situation, knowing that they have two days before something is likely to happen to Zora Gardiner and the child she’s carrying.
And that’s where we left it.
Next game is this coming Saturday, and that should put paid to this scenario, though I think they’re going to have some tough choices to make about how they settle things.
Oh, and I dropped the next document on them, while Aaron was working on the research and Roxy was talking to the Kingsport Police. Cyrus Llanfer brought it to Dr. Solis, saying that he had found it inside the Necronomicon, which he periodically checks to make sure that, for instance, no half-breed wizard from Dunwich makes off with it.
So they’ve got that to think about, too. I’m interested to see what they come up with.