From the Armitage Files: Desperation

**Potential Spoilers**

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**

Last Saturday was the latest installment of my Armitage Files game. We picked up pretty much right where we had left off the previous session, with the investigators returning from Rot Tal to Arkham. The group had told me – via e-mail between sessions – that they intended to continue to investigate Edwin Carsdale and the Society of Syncretic Inquirey, but they hadn’t provided any real specifics about how they intended to do that, so I started things off by asking them what they had planned.

Solis wanted to look into the possible connections between Carsdale and the Donlands-Fuschack gang of bank robbers out in Montana ((This is one of the threads mentioned in the source document.)), and the fortune teller they apparently consult. So, he sent off a telegram to a contact in Billings, and got the names of three fortune tellers that had licenses and registered places of business in Montana ((I’m not sure if they still intend to follow up on this after this session.)).

Moon took some time to get his insurance money and start setting up his new shop. He was visited by Carsdale, whom the group believed was responsible for the firebombing of Moon’s old shop. Moon decided to play it cagey, and blamed the firebombing on anti-Semitic sentiments in the community. Carsdale seemed shocked to hear this ((Though according to Moon’s Assess Honesty, he was actually more amused.)), and, as a show of support, asked Moon to find him three rare books ((One of them a mythos tome, which he added to the list to see how Moon would react.)). It became pretty obvious to both that they were dancing around each other ((Moon had no interpersonal skills to counter Carsdale’s Assess Honesty. This prompted the quote of the game: “Fuck! I need some fucking people skills!”)), but neither was going to give the other the satisfaction of breaking character first.

Roxy, meanwhile, left town, assumed a new identity, and went to Kingsport to follow around Frost, one of the other members of SOSI who seemed to be in the inner circle with Carsdale. After about a week of this, she got bored, and decided to make something happen. She sent Frost a vague and threatening note, alleging that she knew something Carsdale was keeping secret. Well, Frost showed it to Carsdale, and mentioned that he had seen Roxy Crane in Kingsport ((Roxy is great at being sneaky, but a sucky roll is a sucky roll.)). Carsdale thanked him, and decided to take action.

A few evenings later, Roxy was attacked in her home by… something ((Okay, it was a dimensional shambler.)). She couldn’t see all of it, only the horrid mix of ape-like arms and insect appendages that seemed to reach out of thin air, from all around her, to try and grab her. She tried to run, she tried to shoot it, and almost managed to get away, but I got lucky right at the end. It grabbed her, and yanked her out of reality.

At this point, I left Roxy’s player wondering if she was dead, and moved on to the other players, who had been listening to this little encounter open-mouthed and wide-eyed. It was somewhat similar to when I had had the nightgaunts snatch Solis, but a little harsher, and I wanted everyone to be uncertain about her fate ((It worked well. Sandy even started working out a new character to continue the game.)) for a while. Especially because I was unsure about it, too.

So, I mentioned to the others that their characters hadn’t heard from Roxy in a couple of days. They jumped at this opportunity to go to her rescue, tracking her to Kingsport and the rooming house where she had been staying. There, they found some strange gouges on the floor and one of the door frames, and an investigation of her belongings showed her pistol had been fired twice. Unsure how to proceed, they recruited Roxy’s driver ((Roxy is a rich girl who got rich through crime – her own, and her family’s. Her driver has some useful skills.)) to help them kidnap ((I teased the gang about how well their kidnapping of Kittrell had gone for them, but they pointed out, quite rightly, that I had started it this time by kidnapping Roxy. Fair enough.)) Frost to interrogate him.

In an abandoned gas station on an old country road, Moon and Solis used a combination of Intimidation and Reassurance to good-cop-bad-cop Frost, who admitted that he had tipped off Carsdale, and that Carsdale was leading a few members of the group in certain experiments having to do with gaining access to higher spatial and temporal dimensions. He even claimed to have a page from one of Carsdale’s journals ((This was a document I threw together by snatching selected passages from Dreams in the Witch House, working in a Mandelbrot image (rotated to look kind of like a snowman), and a mention of strange crystals and joint pain. I produced it as a hand-out for the group.)) that described some of the effects of the experiments. He turned it over to the investigators in return for his life and the life of his wife.

Now convinced that Carsdale had Roxy – or at least knew what had happened to her – they decided to go snatch Carsdale and get him to tell them what he knew. At this point, I switched back to Roxy, to tell her how she was dragged through a different dimension (description drawn from Dreams in the Witch House) by a creature that was hard to describe because she was looking at it from all angles at once, but it seemed to have some hominid features, and some insectoid features, and four limbs ((Which was at odds with the number of limbs that had reached through to grab her. She figured that it must have reached through from different higher directions with the same limb.)), and that it was propelling her somehow through the void. It dumped her out on a cold stone floor in front of Carsdale, who was gesturing with a strange knife. Before she could do much more than lift her head up, Carsdale left the room and locked it from the outside.

I jumped back to Roxy a few times in the rest of the evening, usually to make her make a Stability or Health check, as her days of captivity in a cold, damp basement took their toll on her. I had a bit of a countdown going – in X number of days ((I’m not going to tell the players how many, but it was close!)), Carsdale was going to come back and sacrifice her. The group didn’t know that, however; they just knew that she was slowly dying and going mad. Especially after she found the strange crystals on the floor of the room where she was being kept.

Meantime, her compatriots tracked down Carsdale at his Boston home and went to pay him a visit. They surprised him, and tried to tackle him, tie him up, and take him somewhere quiet to beat information out of him. Unfortunately, Carsdale did not co-operate, and somehow caused Solis’s hand to knot up and atrophy ((Okay, it was the Shrivelling spell.)) before they managed to knock him unconscious. They tied him up and gagged him, and Solis searched his rooms, finding no trace of Roxy.

What he did find was a key marked Farm, and a deed to a farm outside of the city. Going with the classics, they rolled Carsdale up in a carpet ((Actually, if I recall, it was a blanket, but whatever.)) and hauled him down to the car. Then off they went into the wilds of rural Massachusetts.

At the farm, they found Roxy in a cellar room, nearly dead of thirst – she’d been there for three days. They also found a small laboratory, a selection of strange tools, a scrapbook collecting accounts of encounters with higher dimensions, and this happy little statue, along with the tiny crystals they had encountered before at Monument creek. This was too much for Moon, and he took Carsdale down into the cellar and shot him in the head. Then, after the big Stability check for committing cold-blooded murder and violating one of his Pillars of Sanity, he was pretty much catatonic.

Roxy was also pretty much out of the picture, being in poor shape both physically and mentally after her ordeal, so Solis bundled them both into the car, set fire to the farmhouse, and went to investigate the barn. He found a few small pallet beds set up in one stall, near a small firepit with a spit across it. And a swarm of flies in a stall farther back that he didn’t want to investigate. So, he just tossed a stick of dynamite into the firepit, and they got the hell out of there as the explosion brought down the old, rickety barn.

That was where we left things. They have essentially killed the SOSI, but they still have the weird link to the bank robbers in Montana if they want to follow up on that. Otherwise, they’ve got several other leads in their documents to pursue. We’ll have to see what they go after next.

One other thing to mention: there has been some talk amongst the group about how they’re going to have to start collecting some of the evil tomes they come across, rather than just burning them. To that end, I created a new tome for them to find this game, and they did. I think they plan on keeping it. Here’s the write-up I gave them:

A Discussion of Higher Dimensions

This book is a collection of thirty-four diary sections and other handwritten documents bound into a quarto book. Some of the pages are folded to fit within the bindings, and some are attached to larger pages with binding tape along one edge, allowing smaller pages to be anchored into the book. Each of the entries is the first-hand account of an experience wherein the writer perceived some aspect of higher dimensions, non-linear time, or the distortion of space.

Each entry is marked with a code number – no key is given as to what the number means – and is annotated with extensive marginalia, discussing possible scientific explanations for the events described in the main text. These notes are in a variety of handwritings, and each section ends with several  pages wherein the marginalia is developed and expounded upon, providing an extensive historical and scientific analysis of the event. There are ten pages between each entry, and from two to eight of these are filled with this summary and analysis.

Skimming the book provides 2 dedicated pool points for Anthropology, History, Physics, or Occult when dealing with the idea of higher dimensions or nonlinear time.

Poring over the tome provides +1 to your Cthulhu Mythos, or +2 if you have already experienced any of the phenomena the papers talk about. It also provides 3 points of Magic potential.


The analysis at the end of each section summarizes and distills the basic elements of the primary source in detailed scientific and occult terms. Of the thirty-four entries, nine provide enough detail that, in conjunction with other entries, the following spells can be derived:

  • Recipe for a Tincture to Effect a Temporal Dissociation (Compound Liao)
  • Meditative Principles to Expand Dimensional Awareness (Dho-Hna Formula)
  • Recipe for a Compound to Effect Dimensional Revelation (Powder of Ibn-Ghazi)
  • Speculations on the Causal Collapse of Living Subjects (Shrivelling)
  • Measures to Prevent Psychogogic Invasion (Sign of Koth)
  • Account of the Address of Higher-Order Predator Forms (Summon/Bind Dimensional Shambler)
  • Mental Collapse of Higher Dimensions into N-Space (Angles of Tagh Clatur)
  • Some Thoughts Toward Three-Dimensional Travel via Higher Dimensions (Create Hyperspace Gate)
  • Fragments of Rite Dedicated to Primitive Crossroads Deities (Call/Dismiss Yog-Sothoth)

It’s a pretty powerful, meaty volume in a very specific field of inquiry. But that field happens to be one that’s come up repeatedly in the game, and has become one of the central themes of the game. I’ve put in a bunch of spells, though the one most likely to use them (Moon) has already suffered some real blows to his Sanity, so it’ll be tricky. This may be a real leg up to the group, or it may be just enough rope to hang them. We’ll have to see how it goes.

I’m betting it goes badly.



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5 Responses to From the Armitage Files: Desperation

  1. Tannjew says:

    You wrote: “Moon had no interpersonal skills to counter Carsdale’s Assess Honesty.”

    Which interpersonal skill would you recommend to counter Assess Honesty?

  2. Rick Neal says:

    In this particular case, Reassurance would have been the best bet (I do my best to Reassure him that I’m convinced it was a hate crime), I think, though a case could also be made for Flattery (I make it obvious that I would never think someone like him would deign to use such a sordid tactic).

  3. DrummerDave says:

    This is great to catch back up on your story and how it’s progressing. We just finished running TAF after 20+ sessions, and I wish I had taken the more measured approach you seem to take. How often do you play? And how long are your sessions? I think we ran too fast at trying to solve something.

    Anyway, I left your campaign for a while, but it’s good to come back and see it still moving.

  4. Rick Neal says:

    Welcome back!

    We play every three weeks (ideally; scheduling can get tricky some times), for between four and six hours each session. We’ve had 16 sessions, and I figure we’re a little less than half-way through. That is, if the characters can keep from self-destructing. 😉

  5. Pingback: What's He On About Now? » From the Armitage Files: Emigrant, Montana

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