We’ve just finished up the latest installment of our Armitage Files campaign about twenty minutes ago. I’m posting this tonight because tomorrow I have to work on writing other stuff – some homework for the excellent D&D 3.5 campaign run by my friend, Clint. Monday is going to be busy getting ready for GenCon, so if I want to get this posted before then, I’ve gotta burn a little midnight oil.
This is also the last Armitage Files game for more than a month, because a couple of my players are heading off to Europe for several weeks.
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 GMâ€™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 wrapped up the Kingsport Yacht Club storyline tonight, though I don’t think any of the characters really counts the resolution of the situation as a win. Which is good to happen occasionally in a horror game – endings that the characters are ambivalent about are a standard trope of the genre. If they can’t tell whether or not they’ve won, it increases the bleakness of the story, which is fitting for a Cthulhu game.
At the end of the last session, they had put together the idea that Diamond Walsh was being used as a puppet by the Gardiners, a wealthy family that ran the Yacht Club. He was being offered both respectability and a child, in return for his mob connections and being a surrogate father for the Deep One half-breed his wife was carrying. This foetus had been surgically altered in utero by the family doctor, Lynch, to try and make it breed true as a Deep One from birth, rather than having to wait decades for the transformation, making it a sort of Deep One messiah.
To try and get more evidence on what was going on, they broke into the doctor’s home to loot his home office for clues. Good spends with Arcitecture and Streetwise let them find a retired bootlegger on the street who let them in to the rum-running tunnel that connected several of the houses and ran down to the water. They used this to get in to the doctor’s home, where they found evidence that he had indeed been conducting surgeries in his home, rather than at the hospital where he had surgical privileges. They also uncovered a book hidden inside a hollowed-out copy of Gray’s Anatomy.
The book on its own was nothing terribly special – it was a copy of Secret Mysteries of Asia (p106 in Trail of Cthulhu) – but it contained a number of hand-written notepaper pages folded into it, detailing rather unsavoury surgical experiments carried out by the doctor, including a lengthy and detailed accounting of several unnamed pregnancies where prenatal surgery had been conducted on the foetuses, implanting fish organs. Most of the experiments ended in the death of the subject, but one pregnancy was still continuing, according to the notes.
But they didn’t read the notes right away, because they heard someone upstairs, and went quiet to avoid detection. Unfortunately, something heard them – just not the doctor, who had awakened to use the bathroom and then gone back to bed. No, the thing that heard them was hiding in the tunnel when they crept back in, and shot small bone blowgun darts into Solis and Moon as they tried to flee through the low, narrow tunnel back to the house where they had got in. The darts had some sort of hallucinogenic poison on them that laid out both men just after they escaped. Roxy had to get her bootlegger contact to help her carry the unconscious men out to her car, and warned him to take a long vacation. Which saved him from being home that night when his house burned to the ground.
The next little bit convinced me that I need to make up a SCENE card, as suggested in the rules. The group discussed what they should do, finally settling on sending photographs of Lynch’s notes to Walsh with a note telling him where to get in touch with them if they wished to talk about what they meant. Once that was done, though, they started looking around for more clues, when I didn’t have any more to give them through research. We flailed about with that for a bit until I finally said, “Look. There’s no more information here for you. Get on with things.” This is a change in mentality that is difficult for me to get used to, but the idea of the SCENE card to hold up when the characters have found everything there is to find sounds like a much better idea to me know than when I first read it.
But we did get on with things. The gang wound up in Kingsport, with Solis and Moon… assisting Walsh with inquiries, let’s say, while locked in his basement, and Roxy out on the loose trying to keep track of where things were going. They told Walsh that Zora was probably either at the Yacht Club or out on a boat, where her crazy family were about to do something horrid to her and the baby. Walsh sent men to both the club and the harbour, but decided to hang on to Solis and Moon in case they didn’t find anything.
Now, I had the group of men sent to the harbour not report back, thinking that would get people out there to see what happened to them, but it didn’t. Instead, the blunt force trauma to Solis’s and Moon’s heads shook loose the memory of the bootlegger tunnel running down to the water, so I moved the climax of the adventure there.
Roxy followed the next wave of goons from Walsh’s to the doctor’s house, then crept over to the small cliff where she could look down on the tunnel mouth and see what was happening. I told her she saw a number of naked men lit by braziers of burning sulfur, and a very pregnant woman sitting in the water about to give birth. I also told her that there were strange ripples in the water, and glistening hands reaching up from below the surface to help hold Zora still.
Things got a little hectic around then. Zora was screaming in pain, the men were chanting, one of the ripples out in the cove started moving toward Roxy’s perch on the clifftop, and the goons burst out of the tunnel and started shooting everyone down there. Roxy threw a stick of dynamite down, throwing up a wave, and then strange, silvery shapes started coming out of the water to attack the men coming out of the tunnel. Zora got washed out of sight by the dynamite wave, and a Deep One came leaping up the cliff wall right at Roxy. She missed it with a thrown rock, and then it was on her. Her bullet hit, but didn’t seem to do much damage, and then the thing slashed her a couple of times with its claws. Roxy turned and ran, throwing her last stick of dynamite behind her. She missed the creature, but the explosion collapsed the overhanging clifftop, and the thing dropped out of sight.
She hurried back to Walsh’s, and convinced him to go out with the rest of his men to try and save his wife. He left, after threatening to come after Roxy if she had played him false, and gave her the keys to let Solis and Moon out of the cellar. They then set out after the crowd to see what they could do.
It was all over but the shouting by the time they got there. Two more houses on the street were in flames, and the water was littered with bodies. The police and fire wouldn’t let them get any closer, and they had to head home. Newspaper accounts over the next few days told of a gang war that left many dead, including Oliver Gardiner, Dr. Lynch, Walsh, and Zora. The more lurid papers wrote of how Zora seemed to have been torn open from the inside.
So, not a good ending for the home team, but they’re all alive, and can press on with their investigations. Whatever they decide they should be.