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**
Saturday night, we wrapped up the Monument Creek storyline from the previous session of The Armitage Files. After the somewhat rocky Hunter game the previous evening, I put in a little extra time Saturday afternoon prepping for the game, making sure there were enough productive avenues of investigation for the characters to follow.
The game went pretty well, though. I had the characters fearing for their lives, and panicking, and going to extreme lengths to save themselves and stop the bad guys.
Now that the scenario is over, I’m safe revealing (most of) what was going on, so here it goes:
In the construction of the new army base, the soldiers had dug up a strange crystalline statue, roughly man-sized, that looked (if you squinted just right) like an elephant-headed snow man made out of faceted spheres, disks, and cones. This was a focus for Chaugnar Faugn, which I used with a bit of a twist.
One of the great things about the Trail of Cthulhu rulebook is that the inestimable Ken Hite gives several different interpretations of each of the Great Old Ones, and I liked this idea of his:
Chaugnar Faugn is a moving cluster of sentient, malevolent discontinuity that leaves crystallized â€œelephant-godsâ€ or idols behind it when it encounters our universe. It sometimes alters human hosts likewise into twisted pachyderm-like monsters. It builds up energy to transit along its lifeline by severing the lifelines of other time-bound entities, such as humans or serpent-folk, and drinking their potential existence.
I decided that this was sort of a mythos-flavoured version of the Observer Effect, in that Chaugnar Faugn’s immaterial attention drained the potentiality from life forms when he focused on a given space/time locus, and that the draining took the form of a crystallization, producing the idols. And the presence of something interesting around an idol (ordered information, in Charles Stross’s Laundry parlance) draws Chaugnar Faugn’s attention.
So, the story is that one of the privates unearthed the idol, it got some blood spilled on it (digging foundations is hard, sometimes dangerous work), and the attention of the Great Old One was drawn to the site. Now, the sign of the increase in entropy – the life draining – in the area is that more of the idols form in the things being drained. Bugs and worms drain quickly, and are transformed into the tiny idol-crystals that our heroes found last game. Larger, more complex life forms take longer, and the conversion process is slower, as the crystals form within their bodies, forcing their ways in between the existing organs and under the skin. If the level of attention focused on this locus is high enough, humans can also be converted completely to idols, but more often, they just die as the crystal intrusions in their bodies prevent them from working properly.
This is what they saw happen to Private Lonnie Pennick.
Anyway, for reasons that the players did not uncover, the Lieutenant in charge of the construction snatched the idol and hid it away, planning to transport it to Kingsport and put it on a ship.
Back to the game.
The morning after Pvt. Pennick’s death, our heroes returned to Arkham – Dr. Solis went to conduct the autopsy, Aaron went to do some more research at the MU library, and Roxy went to have breakfast. Aaron’s research turned up a link between the tiny crystals and the dolmens they had heard were up an Monument Creek, and the history of a native tribe who left the area pretty much over night about six hundred years ago. He then asked to use his Cthulhu Mythos skill for more information.
Now, I had prepared for this with a passage from the single mythos tome that Aaron had read, but somehow I lost the print out of it, and couldn’t find the electronic file, which made me sad, but I was able to give him what I remembered of it, as well as a little sketch of the elephant-headed creature depicted in the petroglyphs at monument creek. I told him that the Book of the Voice contained a reference to the Stealer of Tomorrow, with the head of an elephant, whose sign and presence was his idol, and who stole the future from all he looked upon.
Somewhat shaken, Aaron went to have a drink in the University Lounge, then went to Roxy’s house. When he arrived, he found that only about a half-hour had passed, though he had done at least three hours of research. He had another drink, and a little lie-down.
In the meantime, Dr. Solis performed the autopsy, removing a number of “calciferous tumours” from the body – strangely crystalline structures that looked more like faceted, milky quartz than anything biological. I also told him that the tumours were not growing off any of the organs in the body, but seemed to have formed in between the organs, forcing them aside, though there were no obvious entry wounds. When he lay out the pieces of crystal, he found that they formed the rough skeleton of the same snow-man-like figure shown by the tiny crystals they had found.
He came up with the theory that they might be activated by living biological material, so he took one of the tiny crystals, put it in a beaker, and added some blood. His blood.
This wonderful little sacrifice drew Chaugnar Faugn’s attention immediately. I hit Solis with a number of time-distortion effects, as well as the concomitant Stability checks, and then with some Health checks as the crystals started to form in his body.
We had a great little scramble, as Solis quarantined himself and sent for Roxy and Aaron, and they roped in Moore from MU and a couple of his grad students to haul an oscilloscope, amplifier, and speakers down to the hospital to use sound waves to shatter the crystal in Solis’s body. I liked the idea, and so it worked, though it hurt him a great deal and laid him up in the hospital for a couple of days.
While Solis was in surgery to have the crystal shards (very, very sharp crystal shards) removed from his body, Roxy and Aaron drove out in the dark to Monument Creek and hiked up to the dolmen, where they discovered a story about how the Stealer of Tomorrow descended on the local tribe after they had found a crystal idol, and how their shamans had turned its attention away, and then left the area to make sure they never drew it back. Aaron was able to decipher the medicine song they used, and he and Roxy drove back to the hospital to exorcise Solis.
We had another tense scene, with the exorcism drawing attention again, and several time distortion effects, and the beginnings of crystals forming in everyone’s bodies, as well as the small life forms in the room and the leaves of the trees outside. In the end, they were pretty roughed up, but managed to drive off Chaugnar Faugn’s attention.
Remembering the story of how the native tribe had found a crystal idol that started the whole mess, Roxy and Aaron drove back out to the army base and questioned the Lieutenant about any idols being found. He was quite concerned, and very sorry for Solis’s state, but could offer no explanation. He asked for Solis’s hospital room number so that he could go visit, and they gave it to him.
Roxy felt that he was hiding something, so she and Aaron kept watch in Solis’s room that night. Shortly after midnight, someone climbed in through the window with a gun. Solis shot him to death, and Roxy recognized him as a button man for Horace “Diamond” Walsh, an underboss for the Marcuzzo crime syndicate. She hit the streets, and (with an impressive spend from Oral History and Streetwise) found out that Walsh had sent the man at the request of the Lieutenant, and that Walsh’s men were supposed to pick something up at the army base that night and drive it to Kingsport Harbour.
So, the troops loaded up with pistols and dynamite, stole a car, and lay in wait near the army base road. When the truck and its escort headed out, they followed it out past Arkham, about half-way to Kingsport, before Solis drew along side and Roxy threw three sticks of dynamite into the back of the truck.
After the horrific explosion, there was a nasty firefight, with tommy-guns and pistols on the bad guys’ side, and dynamite and pistols on the good guys’ side. Despite an unfortunate accident with one of the sticks of dynamite, which cost them their stolen car and almost Dr. Solis’s life, they managed to kill the Lieutenant and Walsh’s men, and used the rest of the dynamite to completely destroy the shattered idol that had been in the back of the pickup truck. Then they limped back to town.
I’m giving them a couple of weeks of downtime for the characters to recover somewhat, because they’re pretty beat up and need to keep their heads down. I’ve also asked them to let me know what they want to look into next.
All in all, a nice Cthulhu game, with a number of good moments. I’m liking both the system and the campaign a whole lot.
The game was a heck of a lot of fun tinged with some fear, tension, and a whole bunch of character stress. Oh, did I mention the creep factor…
One of my favourite moments was when while prepping for the exorcism by sound, Solis pulled his pistol and held it at his side with the intention of shooting himself if it didn’t work. Potential character suicide after just four sessions! I love Cthulhu games!
That sounds like it was pretty awesome.
Thank you for an interesting write-up of Armitage – it’s getting a lot of play.
You’re more than welcome, Simon. Thanks for publishing such an enjoyable campaign. There’s no wonder it’s getting a lot of play; it’s a great deal of fun!
Awesome and disturbing.
Your Armitage Files entries are putting me in the right mood for gamemastering the campaign, which I will start very soon!
Hope it achieves the same creepy effects as yours!