From the Armitage Files: Playing Defence

Bonus Warning

I try to keep this blog pretty inoffensive in terms of language and imagery. This session of The Armitage Files, though, took a bit of a surprising turn into a dark place. It was a wonderful bit of roleplaying on Sandy’s part that really stands out, and I’m going to talk about it below, but I warn you, it’s strong stuff. To give you the option not having those pictures in your head, I’m going to put the relevant section behind spoiler tags.

Read at Your Own Risk

**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**

Well, my players did not get back to me before the last session of The Armitage Files to let me know what they wanted to investigate, so that turned the evening into Opposition Action Time! I wanted to hit each of the characters separately, so I came up with a good threat for each of them, and went to town.

Aaron Moon, alone in his bookshop, had a disorienting moment of seeing his body from outside himself, and felt something trying to push its way into his consciousness. Being a paranoid who had read a lot of occult – and a few mythos – books, he immediately decided that something was trying to possess him1, and ran to the basement, where a rather high-difficulty Preparedness roll revealed that he had a protective circle of salt2 laid out on the bare floor. When that didn’t seem to work, he wracked his brain3 to figure something else out, and wound up carving a protective sigil into the flesh of his chest. This allowed him to hold off the possession attempt, and he hurried over to Roxy’s place to warn her about the attack. On his way out, he noticed that there were tiny crystals scattered along the trail he had taken from the shop down to the basement.

Roxy Crane, meanwhile, had been out trying to track down a lead on the mysterious Kim Nak, and spreading word that Charlie had been killed and there might be a reward for anyone who could help find the responsible culprits4. She was met on the street by Austin Kittrell5, who seemed quite chipper and eager to speak with her. He offered to buy her supper at a local club, and they retired there. In the midst of their conversation, with Kittrell dropping hints and asking leading questions showing that he had some knowledge of the kinds of things going on, he showed Roxy a drawing, asking if she recognized it. It was a quick, crude sketch of the crystal snowman that the gang has come to identify with Chaugnar Faugn. She confirmed that she recognized it, and asked him to destroy it, which he did. Then he asked her if she recognized another drawing, and showed her the symbol that had infected her mind in the Kingsport warehouse way back here.

Roxy had been dealing with strange, watery dreams ever since, and seeing the symbol again knocked her right into one of them, where she was swimming down into the depths, where a light awaited her, escorted by strange fish-frog-men. In this dream, I kicked in a little more horror6, I told her that her swimming was hampered somewhat by her advanced state of pregnancy. She fought off the lure of the depths and swam up to the surface instead, to find that a vast, beautiful and terrifying city was rising out of the sea.

Spoiler
She climbed up on top of a big, basalt mound, which continued to rise out of the water. I told her then that she felt the contractions starting. She grabbed a shard of obsidian and said, “I cut it out.”

“Okay,” I said, “you slice into your pulsing belly…”

“No, not that way. There’s all sorts of organs and things that I might damage cutting in that way. I know right where it’s coming out, so that’s where I’m going in to abort it.”

Things got pretty quiet at that point, and we all stared at her with shock and admiration. She’d taken the horrific moment I had created for her, and run with it to the next level, deepening the personal horror and nastiness of the situation. Which is what playing in a horror game is all about, in my opinion. So, that’s what she did.

She awoke, bloody and without coat, shoes, or handbag, in an alley in the predominantly black section of Arkham. It took some doing to find a bar where she could make a phone call to have her cousin come and get her.

Malcolm Crosby7 was headed over to Moon’s shop to do some research, seeing if he could learn more about tcho-tchos and/or Kim Nak, when he felt a little sting in his neck. Having heard the tales of the investigators’ run-ins with tcho-tchos and their poisoned weapons, he ran as fast as he could8 to a busy street to hail a cab. He had intended to have it take him to Moon’s shop, but when the player was reminded that they no longer had any tcho-tcho antidote and no one to make more, he changed his mind and went to the hospital. He made it there before passing out, and was able to give the dart to the doctor to help make the antidote.

Once everyone was back and safe, they repaired to Moon’s shop to work out a plan9. Some research and Cthulhu Mythos led them to make some connections between Chaugnar Faugn and some recent thought experiments by Danish theoretical physicists, implying that the attention of the Eater of Tomorrows collapsed the waveform of a person’s life and future into one of absolute entropy, thus killing the person, and extruding part of the Eater into the three observable dimensions as the crystalline snow men that they had witnessed before. They also discovered that tcho-tchos were the degenerate descendants of the miri-nigri, amphibious creatures created by Chaugnar Faugn in the ancient past.

The things that attracted Chaugnar Faugn’s attention included ritual sacrifices and worship, but it was also drawn by incidents of non-linear time, and that it increased the occurrence of such incidents as it collapsed possibilities into entropy, and surviving possibilities tended to expand into extremely improbable quantum events in the possibility vacuum thus created10. This led to some speculation about Moon’s irregular temporal perception and visions, and through there to the idea that the documents, coming as they seem to from the future, might be the cause of the very catastrophe they try to prevent.

And that’s when they started thinking that they needed to kill Armitage to prevent him ever sending the documents.

After some discussion, they decided that killing Armitage would be Plan B, with Plan A being to run away and hide for a bit, then come after Kim Nak with everything they had. To that end, Crosby decided to read A Discussion of Higher Dimensions, the single tome that they haven’t destroyed11, and that they obtained from Edwin Carsdale’s farm.

When they went to Roxy’s place to pick up her luggage and some money, they found that Roxy’s husband and wife butler/housekeeper team were dead in their bed12, their blood turned to a brittle, rusty solid in their veins.

And that’s where we left the game. I figure two more sessions to wrap things up.

  1. He was right about that. It was the Mind Exchange spell. []
  2. Here’s the way the exchange went.

    Moon: Okay. With my Occult skill, do I know what things can prevent possession? Like, a circle of salt, or silver, or things like that?

    Me: According to Occult, all that kind of stuff works, as does prayer, crosses, and other symbols.

    Moon: Great. I want to make a Preparedness roll to have a circle of salt in the basement.

    Me: Hmmm. I’m gonna set the difficulty of that one at 8. It’s kind of a weird request, and it’s very specific to this unexpected attack.

    Moon: Okay. I’ll spend some points, and I succeed!

    There follows a few rounds of repeated possession attempts as Moon staggers down to the basement and collapses into the circle of salt.

    Moon: There! Does the circle of salt help?

    Me: Nope. Not even a little bit.

    Moon: Bastard! []

  3. And Cthulhu Mythos. []
  4. She assumed Kim Nak was behind it, but with the overthrow of godfather Elio Marcuzzo, it could have been someone in the new mob hierarchy. []
  5. Last seen way back here, where he didn’t fare too well. []
  6. Drawing a bit on Alan Moore’s Neonomicon. []
  7. I forgot to mention something from last session. Along with the Tears of Azathoth, the gang found a red lacquered box that buzzed in the warehouse. Remembering the warnings about Moebius wasps and the dangers of opening the Red Box from the early documents they had read, our heroes decided to destroy it, burning it in Moon’s furnace. When they tossed it into the fire, it buzzed louder and the metal puzzle clasp that held it shut began to work itself open. Crosby reached into the fire and held the box closed until the buzzing stopped and the whole box was aflame, burning his hand terribly in the process. []
  8. Taking a few more blow-gun darts in the process. []
  9. Also, an objective. []
  10. This is, of course, all crap that I made up, trying to blend my feeble understanding of higher-dimensional physics and quantum theory with horrific ideas from the neighbourhood of the Cthulhu mythos. I think it sounds suitably plausible – certainly plausible enough for a Cthulhu game. []
  11. Yet. []
  12. Why am I picking on Roxy’s servants? Simple. She’s the only character that has created any NPCs around her – friends, family, servants, whatever. The other two tend to be brooding loners. []
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