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.
In addition, this post in particular has some spoilers for the Pagan Publishing adventure Realm of Shadows.
**You Have Been Warned**
Saturday night was the latest installment of our Armitage Files campaign.
We had left the last game with the characters deciding to go snooping after Wallace Hutchinson, who had come to their attention previously during the Helping Hands investigation, because they had found evidence at one of his warehouses of a potential Cthulhu cult. Their decision had caught me completely off-guard, and I asked their permission to stop the game early so I could prepare some interesting things for the search for Hutchinson ((What can I say? I was tired after running the D&D Game Day at Imagine Games, and not as nimble on my mental feet as I wanted to be for this change in direction. Also, their decision sparked a bit of an idea that I needed to do a little research to pull off the way I wanted to.)).
See, when they suggested going to hunt Hutchinson, a wealthy businessman who had fled the police, somehow I flashed to the Pagan Publishing adventure Realm of Shadows, which is a great little campaign in itself ((Of course, so is everything else by Pagan Publishing. If you like Cthulhu games and you haven’t looked at their stuff, you’re doing yourself a disservice.)). Part of the game takes place down in French Guiana, at a ziggurat full of ghouls, half-ghouls, and their followers and worshipers. It’s a wonderful, nasty denouement for the RoS adventures, and I thought the exotic locale and the ghouls would make a neat departure for our campaign.
I was wrestling to make it fit, though. Sure, it would be easy enough to give the players the clues they needed to send them down there, and run them through a jungle trek and the nasty, ghoul-filled pyramid at the end, but it didn’t really tie all that well into what had gone on before in the investigation of either the warehouse or the Helping Hands. In addition, I’ve been trying not to show too many monsters, keeping them remote, mysterious, and damned frightening for the characters. Throwing them into a hive of ghouls struck me as a little too much, too fast. Besides, the whole adventure is set up as the climax to an ongoing campaign against the ghouls, and is appropriately big and horrific. I wasn’t using it as a campaign climax, and I was worried it was going to overshadow the rest of the campaign.
Then, due to some cancellations ((First, of my new Dresden Files RPG city-building session, then of the Fiasco game I had proposed to replace it.)), I found myself with an extra evening free to work on the prep for the game. After doing some fiddling with it, I had a brainstorm, scrapped the RoS idea, and came up with something that I think worked better.
So, the investigators started by digging around in the public record, looking for properties Hutchinson owned that he might use to hide out. Unfortunately, he’s a rich guy, and there were too many options with not enough information to narrow them down. They talked to the police, with no better luck – the FBI had taken over the case, because it was probable that Hutchinson had crossed state lines. But the cop Roxy talked to did mention that the Hutchinson business lawyers had been able to keep the cops and the feds out of Hutchinson’s business office in Kingsport.
Playing to her strengths, Roxy broke into the offices one night, bribing the cleaning staff to bring her in with them and then forget it ever happened. Moon and Solis stayed outside, Solis watching the front and Moon the back. Roxy was very jumpy about the burglary, still feeling somewhat nervous after what happened the last time the party split up like this ((Deep one vs. gangster, with a birth and a grenade thrown in.)). She cracked Hutchinson’s safe and, among the watches, cash, and business papers, she found a handkerchief-wrapped bundle. She stuck the bundle and the watches into her pockets, put the rest into the cleaning cart, and headed out. For some reason ((Certainly it was nothing I did or said…)), she didn’t trust the elevator, so she put the cart into it and sent it down to the ground floor, while she went down the stairs. At the bottom, the elevator door opened, but the cart was not inside. Freaking out a bit, she ran.
Aaron, meanwhile, was waiting in the back alley, when he started to smell the sea. This was quickly overwhelmed by a pungent stench, and he turned to see a tall, humanoid shape, close to nine feet tall, in the shadows, reaching out toward him. He drew his gun, but the odour was making his eyes water and nose run. The thing closed its strangely shaped hand over Moon’s gun, which he fired. The shot brought the others running, to find him bent over on the ground, eyes and nose streaming, hacking, coughing, and retching. The group identified the creature as similar to the thing Armitage said he had encountered in the library in the latest document, and Solis found the same fibers in Moon’s mucous.
Business documents were lost in the cleaning cart, but Roxy still had the handkerchief-wrapped bundle. It contained a plate of what appeared to be metal, but upon analysis, turned out to be some sort of strange ceramic. It was etched with bizarre symbols, and accompanied by a page of a journal that seemed to translate it ((I spent Saturday morning creating these as hand-outs. Unfortunately, the plate was just printed on cardstock, but it still looked pretty good.)). It hinted at an impending incursion into our reality of Those Outside, presaged by many strange events and conditions orchestrated by the Voice, which was one of the masks of Nyarlathotep. One of the ways the document said you could tell that the end was approaching was by the occurrence of periods of non-standard time, where perception of time and duration become fluid or porous. This really got to Moon, who has been experiencing just such events.
The other things the document told the group was that Hutchinson had been planning to go to a mine in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, to learn more from some beings that said they would have to make some changes to him before they could do so.
Somewhere in the midst of that – I forget exactly where – Aaron used his Cthulhu Mythos to get a handle on the thing in the alley ((He is using it a lot, which is really helping him burn through his Sanity.)). I gave him a spiel about Sasquatch, and Skunk-Apes, and Yetis, and how they were tied to the Mi-Go, which didn’t make him very happy, so I felt my job there was done.
Anyway, they packed up and headed off to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the small mining town of Doylestown. They decided on posing as journalists doing a story on Skunk-Apes and other local folklore, with Roxy being the primary journalist, Aaron being the editor, and Solis being the scientific expert. Talking the idea up in the local pub – and buying many drinks for the locals – they managed to get the name of a local who claimed to have actually seen something strange in the woods, as opposed to the normal friend-of-a-friend stories.
They sought this fellow out and, after some Flattery, Reassurance, and outright bribery, he told them the story of going up on a nearby mountain with his dog, and how the dog was vivisected in a few short minutes it was out of his sight, and his glimpse of something he said looked like a giant grasshopper with a rotten pumpkin for a head. Moon identified this as a crude description of a Mi-Go.
A little investigation at the local newspaper turned up a story about the mine being closed in about 1820 and the whole production moved to a neighbouring mountain after a series of caves were discovered and a team of engineers were lost in them. Local folklore said that the original mine was cursed. This seemed like a good target for investigation.
In the mine, they found the caves, and saw that many had ropy, pulsing tubes of some fungal matter running along the walls and ceilings. In one chamber, they found many of these tubes joined by masses of strange fungus that emitted strange smells and colours, while they worked almost like hearts to move bizarre liquids through the hoses. In another, they heard strange buzzing voices persuading a flat, tinny voice that it was time to leave. When they made it to the place they had heard the voices, all they found was the vivisected body of Wallace Hutchinson, along with a number of empty cylinders made of the same substance as the plate they had found, marked with similar symbols. Moon managed to catch sight of some indistinct shapes flying up through a chimney in the chamber carrying one of the cylinders, but the shots he fired at them had no effect.
The group planted the dynamite they had brought to bring down the caves ((Gracious even in defeat, huh?)), and fled the town.
Not sure what they’re planning next, whether they plan to go back to the warehouse and snoop some more, or to move on to something else. Whatever the choose, it should be fun.