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**
**Extra-Special Spoiler Warning**
The basic spine for this investigation is outlined in The Armitage Files book. The adventure below doesnâ€™t follow it exactly â€“ with the improvised structure of the game, thereâ€™s really no way it can â€“ but the report below can be pretty spoilerific as to the broad strokes. So, think carefully before reading this one.
**Seriously, Dude, You Have Been Warned**
Last Friday night was the latest session of my Armitage Files campaign. A previous session had got bumped ((Thanks to my inability to read a calendar. Sorry, gang.)), so it had been longer than I liked between sessions – especially in the middle of an investigation. It was also a short session ((I was in the middle of a work crunch that required me to work through the long weekend. That meant an early end to the evening, as I needed sleep before going back in to the office on Saturday.)), but we managed to wrap up this particular line of inquiry.
I’ve left the Extra-Special Spoiler Warning at the start of this post, but frankly, the investigation went in a pretty different direction than the original spine. There may still be a few little spoilers, but the overall events nicely avoid the scenes as spelled out in the book. What I’m saying is that this post is pretty safe from that kind of spoiler. but I like to err on the side of non-spoilage.
So, we picked up the game with the players doing a recap of the last session ((Here’s a little trick I like to pull with doing a recap: I ask, “Who needs a recap?” This generally leads to one or more of the players saying, “I do!” I then get the group to provide the recap via Socratic method: “Do you remember where you are?” “Why did you go talk to him?” “And what happened then?” I jump in with little hints here and there, and correct any significant errors of fact (but not those of perception or interpretation), but generally let the group – including those who needed the recap – generate the recap themselves. This has a few advantages: I don’t have to start the game giving the group an info-dump, the resulting recap is based on the group’s perception rather than GM viewpoint, and it gets the players’ heads into the game in an easy, immersive way.)), and then talked about what they were going to do. The consensus seemed to be that they wanted to head out to Five Points and track down the pedlar who had sold Gudzun the Buer coin bank, but first they wanted to check out the other two files taken from Gudzun’s office to see if the people they pointed at were still alive.
A little creative investigation, shadowing, and impersonation revealed that they were alive. Roxy, in her Mary Matthews persona, managed to speak with one of them, who was somewhat reticent to discuss his financial affairs with a stranger, but who did not seem to be in any real danger. Along the way, I had Solis, the keeper of the Buer coin bank, make a few 0-point Stability checks without telling him the results. Whenever he failed, he put a coin into the bank without noticing. When he succeeded, he resisted putting a coin into the coin bank. When he rolled a six, he caught himself about to put a coin into the bank. Sense Trouble checks for the others gave them a chance notice this.
Well, he managed to put a few coins into the bank before he finally caught himself. He then stuck the bank in the trunk of the car they had rented, but I had him make another Stability check, which he failed, so he absent-mindedly put the bank back into his coat pocket, and the fun continued. When Moon finally caught him at this, they again locked the statue in the trunk – cue another 0-point Stability test and Sense Trouble test.
That sorted out ((So they thought, anyway.)), they headed downtown to Five Points.
Man. Talk about babes in the woods.
Okay, Roxy, though wealthy, is very acquainted with the dark underside of society. She knows how to behave, how to blend, and so on. Moon, on the other hand, was waving around money, and Solis sounded like Prince Phillip talking to coal miners. Soon enough, they track down the bar ((Well, essentially a bar. It’s a dirty basement room with a door laid on saw horses that sells what amounts to turpentine with a lemon dipped in it.))Â where the pedlar in question drinks, and Roxy manages to flirt the location of the man – right upstairs in the flop-house, as it turns out – they’re looking for. And then it’s time to pay for drinks, and Moon finds that his wallet has been lifted. Solis pays the barman a dollar – about ten times the cost of the drinks – from a wallet suspiciously short of cash that is tucked into the same pocket as the Buer coin bank.
Anyway, they cornered Old Joe, the pedlar, in his little room, but guns got drawn, and coin banks got brandished, and then Moon punched Solis, and Roxy pistol whipped Solis ((To be fair, they were trying to get him to stop feeding the coin bank and to put it down.)), and Old Joe done a runner, but he left his pedlar’s pack behind.
In the aftermath, Moon wrapped his jacket around the coin bank, emptied the pedlar’s pack ((Just junk in it.)), and stuffed the bundle inside. They hadn’t got any real information from Old Joe, beyond the fact that he seemed frightened of the bank, but they had decided the thing was too dangerous to just leave lying around. So, they decided to find a foundry and melt it down.
On their way out of Five Points, however, they were accosted by a gang of thugs who didn’t take kindly to these swells coming onto their turf and stealing from one of their own. They demanded that Moon return Old Joe’s pack, which he did, and the investigators were allowed to leave.
And then it was out to a foundry in New Jersey, where a bit of a bribe and a cover story got Roxy and Moon inside to toss the bank into the crucible and see it melted down. Solis, deemed to be unreliable around the bank, was left with the car. While the others were inside, Old Joe showed up, looking less like Old Joe and more like the man who had offered Solis a box in his dreams. This man offered to make amends for harming Solis unintentionally, offering him The Tears of Azathoth in payment of his debt.
Solis didn’t trust him, so declined, and said that there was no debt. Old Joe told him he was very generous, then had his nightgaunts tear the roof of the car open and carry Solis off into the night.
I was torn, here; on the one hand, I want to make things risky and scary in the game, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to just arbitrarily kill Solis. So, I decided they were taking him off to Five Points to tear him apart at that famous intersection and thus gain magical power for Old Joe. That gave them several minutes’ flying time, which incidentally gave Solis a few attempts to escape. He managed to kick free over the river, and swim safely to shore.
He made it back to the hotel about the same time as Roxy and Moon, who had to walk out to the highway and hitch a ride in, because their car was mysteriously shredded. They got a little more sleep, wherein Solis once again dreamed of Old Joe. This time, Old Joe offered a simple bargain – they would agree not to pursue each other, and that would be it. Solis wheedled and tried for more information about Tears, but was unwilling to offer anything in exchange, so he got nothing. Until he agreed to the bargain, that is. Then, Old Joe told him, as a gift, “It was written here.”
Now if Solis only knew what that meant.
That’s where we left it. This line of investigation is closed, and I’m waiting to see where the game goes next.
Now that we’re four documents in, I’m also starting to keep a Win/Lose/Wash score for the party, with an eye to having it inform the overarching development of the story, and feed into the endgame. I don’t know what the endgame is going to look like, yet, but this will help me shape it.
What’s the score? Well, I’m not going to say. It might give away more of the backstory than I’m comfortable with to get into this in public. If my players start thinking about it in those terms, it could change the dynamic of the game in a way that I don’t want. I’d prefer to keep the objective investigation into the documents, not trying to rack up Wins. Racking up Wins is part of the investigation, but I only count things as a Win if the party both defeats the threat and understands what was happening. Losses are when they fail to stop the threat, even if they mitigate it and understand what was going on. Washes occur when they stop the threat but really have no idea what was going on.
Really, it’s just a tool for me to judge how dark things become, and to keep track of loose ends that can come back to haunt the investigators. Winning more investigations doesn’t mean the characters will “Win” the campaign – it just means that conditions during the endgame will be different, with different pieces on the board.
Anyway, that’s for further down the road. We’ll see how it goes.