My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

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My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Tue Oct 27, 2015 4:42 pm

So, I'm currently running a CoC campaign using ToC supplements Arkham Detective Tales and The Armitage Files. Thus, the rest of this thread will feature significant spoilers on both!

Arkham Detective Tales is a collection of short crime stories with the usual supernatural bent. They actually start in New York, I'm using the only one which has an actual Arkham connection. It starts as a typical closed room murder investigation, with leads sending the investigators towards Arkham. This has led the PC in contact with Dr. Henry Armitage, who'll be one of the key NPCs in the next stages of the campaign.

Basically, I'm using the first adventure to build the party and introduce Armitage, then the adventure will develop mostly on its own.

The party is composed of four investigators:
  • A Californian gonzo journalist of Italian background, largely based on John Fante's Ask the Dust protagonist Arturo Bandini. Main drive: make a living out of investigative journalism.
  • A New-England millionaire and Klondike gold rush veteran, largely based on certain Disney characters... Main drive: protect his investments (he owns a share in the newspaper for which the first character works).
  • A young Chicagoan hooker. Main drive: personal connection (she's a cousin of the victim).
  • A reformed mob hitman and snitch, half-Italian and half-Chinese. Main drive: personal connection (the victim was a his police handler).
During the first session, the investigators met each other after being woken (or otherwise distracted from their nocturnal occupations) by gunshots in the low-cost hotel they were all staying at. Some of them decided to investigate, and found NYPD Thomas Talby dead in his own room. Although the scene was later written off as suicide by the police, the investigators found several clues pointing to a murder.

They are currently investigating Talby's mistress and his recent trip to Arkham. Moreover, the millionaire and the hooker have both been plagued by mysterious dreams which also feature Arkham -- both characters and Talby have ancestors that lived in the area, while the other two investigators do not.
Talby's trip to New England apparently aimed at reconstructing some events in which a Talby ancestor was involved in Arkham. However, multiple contradictory accounts exist of the events, so the investigators are now trying to understand what actually happened. At the same time, investigating Talby's mistress, who seems to have disappeared, has led to an unsettling discovery: the girl was pawning off goods (rings and necklaces) likely stolen from the dead.
Last edited by agathokles on Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: My CoC campaign

Post by Havard » Tue Oct 27, 2015 5:41 pm

fascinating setup! Thanks for sharing this. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next :)

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Re: My CoC campaign

Post by agathokles » Thu Oct 29, 2015 9:58 am

Yesterday night, the investigators focused on the Arkham Historical Society and its curator, who told them Talby had been there recently with a vaguely familiar, red-haired girl. They also learned that Talby's ancestor had been a soldier, part of a detachment led by Captain Mullady which had been sent to protect Arkham. Apparently, two members of the detachment, Talby's ancestor and another soldier who shares the same surname as the hooker, settled in Arkham after the events.

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Re: My CoC campaign

Post by agathokles » Fri Nov 06, 2015 2:48 pm

We had an inconclusive session in which the investigators tried to pry information from Amos Whately, the caretaker of the local cemetery, where a kid who disappeared during the previous night was said to go to play. Whately is a repulsive sort, who drew immediately the suspicions of the investigators. However, it proved all but impossible for them to surreptitiously enter Whately's shack to search it. For now, they've retreated and questioned more the Arkham Historical Society curator, John Abbot, who, however, seems as unaware of current events as he is reliable on genealogy and history.
Furthermore, the millionnaire had more sleep difficulties, though he did not experience (or remember) a particular nightmare. However, many people in Arkham seem to have had problems sleeping these nights...

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Re: My CoC campaign

Post by agathokles » Fri Nov 13, 2015 10:21 am

The journalist investigator finally managed to persuade Armitage to share more about the background of the witch cults in Arkham, giving them access to elements of "The Dreams in the Witch House" (Gilman's story, the location of the Witch House, the disappearance of Ladislas Wolejko, and the identity of the kind's mother).
The investigators have then gone on to discover that a modern building, housing on the ground floor the premises of one of Arkham's banks, has been built on the grounds of the Witch House, which collapsed shortly after the death of Gilman. The bank's chairman, Franklin Merriwether, was glad to have the millionaire investigator as a customer, and went as far as to invite him to join his masonic lodge.
Merriwether is leading the search effort for the disappeared kid, and the investigators have suspicions about him -- in part due to the fact that the journalist found a rat's skull in his pocket, which appears to be a sort of threat, and believes it was planted by a cultist, a middle-aged, well-dressed fellow who bumped into him on the street. Of course, none of the clerks at Merriwether's bank match the description of the purported cultist...

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Thu Nov 19, 2015 2:16 pm

So, yesterday the investigators (minus the millionaire, whose player was missing) explored the Unvisited Island, finding there traces of evil rituals (chewed human bone fragments, a circle of stones, footprints in the mud), as well as a sleeping girl, who turned out to be the sister of Talby's mistress. The girl, Irene Rosewall, had no recollection of reaching the island, and actually seemed to have a case of amnesia, since she couldn't really remember anything in the last week. She did remember her sister and Talby visiting her family on Friday (one week before, and one day before the start of the campaign -- on Friday 13th September 1935).
The investigator helped Irene back to town, lent her a dress (she was wearing a nightgown when they found her) and walked her back home, in the family house in the woods out of Arkham. There, only her father Harvey appeared, and it was soon clear there was something wrong with him -- stilted speech, clumsy posture and jerky movements. The journalist even though he could be one of the infamous Haitian zombies... Anyway, Harvey was apparently grateful for the rescue of his daughter, although not terribly polite, and explained that Irene suffered from sleepwalking and bouts of amnesia. The investigators insisted to have her brought to the local hospital, to which Harvey would not agree.
A scuffle began, with Harvey engaging the reformed hitman while the journalist circled around trying to smash a chair on Harvey's back, and the hooker got out of the house with a very confused Irene. Finally, after a few solid punches exchanged, Harvey barked some unintelligible words and collapsed into the arms of the hitman, while a tenuous fog evaporated out of his mouth and ears, condensing into a vague but terrifying shape over the hitman, who panicked and broke in a run, fleeing into the woods screaming (with much sanity loss...), pursued by the fog.
The journalist, a little shaken, checked out Harvey's body, finding the man was indeed dead. He then left the house, found Irene and the hooker, who had not seen anything of the scene -- except for the hitman rushing out of the house and into the woods -- and started back to Arkham with them.

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Thu Nov 26, 2015 4:22 pm

Yesterday evening we played out the last session of the Arkham Detective Tales scenario. The reformed hitman was lost in the woods, pursued by the horrific fog entity. He emerged from the woods at night, in a clearing near a cliff, saw a woman kneeling in front of a monolith covered in weird etched symbols, and a cairn near the cliff. The woman reacted badly, cursing him when he asked for help, then starting an unintelligible chant. At the point, the hitman shot the woman, wounding her. She didn't relent, so he punched her. She was unusually resistant, so the hitman went back to his .32, but at that time it was too late -- the woman died, but the fog entity got a hold on the hitman, and started entering his body, coalescing around him. Frantically, the investigator tried to smash the monolith, then to dig into the cairn, but soon his consciousness was overwhelmed...

Meanwhile, the journalist and the hooker had got Irene back to town. The journalist went out for a while, while the others went to bed. The hooker had another dream where she was a soldier in the late 17th century. She awoke in the woods, with an antiquated musket in her hands, dressed only in her nightgown. She soon emerged in a clearing, and saw a blood-covered man wielding a gun. The man appeared shocked, but raised the gun, taking aim at the girl, who shot him in the head, killing the former investigator instantly. She then found out that the man was the reformed hitman, and he had (just?) killed Miriam Rosewall (Irene's sister and Talby's mistress). The cairn was, according to a roughly hewn inscription, the grave of one of the soldiers, Nathaniel Adams, and "another". The inscription warned against disturbing the cairn -- something which had clearly been done, possibly by the hitman.
The hooker managed to find her way back to Arkham and warn the others. They went all back to the Rosewall house, and found no one, not even Harvey's body. There was no trace of Irene's mother, too.

The investigators went back to Arkham once more, and they did notice that the city seemed somehow less tense, back to its sleepy nature. People spent the Sunday sleeping (finally without dreams or sleepwalking episodes).
In the evening, back to the hotel, the investigators found a letter from Dr. Armitage waiting for them, with an invitation to visit him in his study the next evening...

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Thu Nov 26, 2015 4:25 pm

Highlight: the hitman never managed to make a critical hit (20% chance) on five shots (although he got four mediocre hits) against Miriam Rosewall, the hooker (with only the baseline chance of scoring a critical with a shotgun, 6%) killed him with a single critical hit shot, without even having to roll damage... :-D

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:46 pm

So, we've gone forward quite a bit, although I didn't have time to write about the campaign.
The Armitage Files is very improvisational, meaning it requires proactive players -- mine are more reactive, so they might not be terribly fit for the adventure. Anyway, they went to see Armitage, who revealed that he had found a document, in his own handwriting, which he did not remember writing. The document purports to have been written in the future, and sent back to 1935, to warn Armitage of errors he made in an investigation, leading to a catastrophe of some kind. Two more documents appeared, inexplicably, in the following days in the possession of Armitage's friends.

The documents point obscurely to a number of potential suspect activities, including those of an encyclopedia seller, a masonic lodge, and a worsted mill. The investigators have been trying to work their way into the lodge and factory, although the fact that the last document mentions the beheading of the millionaire in the factory seems to have scared them a bit...

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Tue May 17, 2016 6:03 pm

Wow, I've gone a long time without updating this. Well, it seems that the Armitage Files themselves are too cryptic for my players, who need a more traditional setup, so I switched (seamlessly) to the storyline of the well known "Shadows of Yog-Sothoth" series. Basically, since they had investigated the lodge, I pointed them towards a sister (and reputedly more occult) lodge in Boston, the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight. A new character, an Italian priest, has replaced the hitman, who had died in the first arc, and he sneaked into the Hermetic Order hall after the millionaire had bought his affiliation to the lodge. The priest, together with some Irish hired goons, found a letter from Scotland to the lodge master, hinting at some suspicious plans for taking over other occult societies, so the investigators boarded the "Mauretania" to London (which is the location of the homonymous CoC scenario).

During the trip, the hooker stole occult books from a retired Harvard professor, half-learned a curse ritual, and attempted it on the ship purser, who she had singled out as a cultist and seduced. Unfortunately, she didn't have nearly enough magic point, so she fainted... and was never seen anymore.
Meanwhile, the millionaire had witnessed a clairvoyance ritual by the retired professor, which shook him quite a bit, and caused the professor to hang himself. The trip was also made more exciting by the murder of a Russian nobleman by bolshevik agents, although this event did not appear to be Mythos-related.

The characters are now in London, where they are going to meet with the hooker's twin sister (a former NPC contact who is now turning into a PC).

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by rabindranath72 » Tue May 24, 2016 11:47 am

I recently acquired The Armitage Files, I am hoping to run it in the future, but I can see how a "traditional" group might have problems with the whole setup.

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Tue May 24, 2016 5:58 pm

rabindranath72 wrote:I recently acquired The Armitage Files, I am hoping to run it in the future, but I can see how a "traditional" group might have problems with the whole setup.
Yes, this specific set of players is a bit "traditional", if you want. But "The Armitage Files" is not an easy scenario anyway, in that it has few opportunities for action -- the NPCs are initially mostly passive, and most of the scheduled events, beyond finding the documents, happen only much later. Thus, if the players are passive, the adventure tends to lag, or the Keeper needs to alter it significantly (as I did by basically injecting other scenarios in it).

This is not, however, an issue with the general structure of this type of modules, but specifically with "The Armitage Files". I've been playing the "Dracula Dossier" campaign (by the same publisher and also GUMSHOE, but more recent and in the modern Night's Black Agents setting), with another group, and the added experience shows a lot, as it is much easier to define active opponents using the tools provided (conspyramid and vampyramid, if you know Night's Black Agents). This makes the campaign able to progress even if the players are a bit shy and/or too paranoid to act.
In hindsight, a similar structure for "The Armitage Files" would have made it much easier to manage.

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Wed Jun 01, 2016 12:32 pm

In last session, the PCs attempted once more to corner the ship purser while the Mauretania is docked in England. They also pursued a second thread, dealing with the disappearance of a journalist, the London correspondent of the New York newspaper for which the journalist investigator works (and which is partly owned by the millionaire investigator). The tracks, picked up from a ghostwriter, Sean O'Mallory, who used to work for the missing journalist, lead to Cannich, in Scotland...

The PCs also intend to visit continental Europe to track down some of the tomes from the Armitage Files, but have to fix the London issues first.

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by Big Mac » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:12 pm

If your PCs are still in London, you really should send them to James Smith & Sons Umbrellas Ltd. That shop has been there, largely unchanged, since 1830 and looks great. It would be a great place for them to pick up a sword-stick. ;)

You could also look up some historical maps of the London Underground and steal the plot of the TV series Quatermass and the Pit (later turned into a movie) which features a mysterious object discovered during the building of a new Underground line. :twisted:

If your game is set in 1935, then (according to the Timeline of the London Underground's 1930's section) Harry Beck's iconic London Underground map would be just two years old and the London Transport Passenger Board (the governing body of the time) would be promoting it's "New Works Program". Perhaps you could sneak some sort of freemason cult into the LTPB staff and have them close down stations (that really closed down around that time) so that they could be converted into meeting areas for people who are attempting to secretly take over the freemasons.

There are a few shops in the British Museum area that are actually connected to the disused station there (I'm not sure when that station actually closed, but I know it was closed during WWII). Maybe you could have someone breaking into a shop, going through the London Underground and gaining access to the British Museum, so that they can steal some sort of weird object that has special significance to the freemasons.

The Brill Tramway was closed in 1935, but if you send your PCs there, while it is still open, and have them discover some sort of weird murder-plot, you could have the tramway get closed down, as part of a government coverup, and if any of your players actually wonders what a "Brill Tramway" is and looks it up online, it would be fun for them to realise that they discovered the "real reason" why it was closed down. :twisted:
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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:45 am

Hi Big Mac,

thanks for the inputs! Indeed, the party is still in London (current date is November 26th, 1935), and will probably remain there for a few days at least. Up to now, they've got an invitation to the British Museum for a gala dinner (I'm using part of an Age of Cthulhu module here) and clues from past adventures lead to Scotland (from Shadows of Yog-Sothoth).

As I said before, they've not reacted too well to the open-ended investigations in "The Armitage Files", so I'm going to be a bit more railroady. Basically, now I've had three of them receive an invitation to the British Museum gala in "Age of Cthulhu 2: Madness in London Town" via different contacts. The journalist aims at learning what the retired Harvard professor had to discuss with Dr. Whitlow at the British Museum, whereas the pharmacist (a new PC who replaced the hooker, who disappeared aboard the Mauretania) was invited by a suitor of her, and the jesuit priest met Dr. Whitlow at the British Library while he was researching the symbol that the Mauretania purser, who is a suspect cultist, wears.
At the same time, they've got a couple of clues leading to Cannich, Scotland -- a colleague of the journalist who was the London correspondent of the New York newspaper he works for disappeared there, and the jesuit priest found a letter from a Cannich man in the basement of the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight in Boston.

These two trails should keep them busy for a while. After that, they'll be notified that the Basel Codex (from "The Armitage Files") has resurfaced in Vienna ("The Auction", from an old collection of Cthulhu scenarios).

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by Big Mac » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:43 pm

The British Library used to be located in the round building in the middle of the British Museum. I don't know when it official moved out, but you could check.

The British Library had/has a semi-secret section containing restricted books. As well as stuff like Lady Chatterley's Lover you could have some Cthulhu-like books. You could even have an important book get stolen and taken to Scotland.
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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:38 pm

Yes, of course the restricted section of the British Library is a staple of CoC campaigns. It holds several top Mythos tomes.

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by Big Mac » Thu Jun 09, 2016 2:04 am

You might also want to send your PCs to 60 Great Queen Street at some point. :)
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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Thu Jun 09, 2016 5:27 pm

Eh eh, masonic halls are another staple, indeed. The PCs just visited one in Boston before boarding the Mauretania to UK. They may indeed have some unfinished business with the masons.

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:19 am

So, the PCs got involved with the Madness in London Town plot, but were quite slow in reacting to the events, so they missed the ritual and a few Dark Youngs of Shub-Niggurath were summoned. The British Army contained them and passed off the events as a mix of military tests and an epidemic of ergotism. A lot of people died, including the priest PC who was stabbed to death by an animated wax statue while trying to protect the pharmacist during the investigation in London. Finally, they managed to obtain some late evidence connecting the senior curator of the British Museum exhibit, Merriwether, and a rich patroness to the cult. Unfortunately, the two had already left for an extended vacation to the United States.

The PCs (including a new one, an anglo-french tour guide and wannabe novelist) followed them back to New York, where they were able to locate them at the Chelsea Hotel, and have them followed by a hired P.I., while they investigated into the "Look to the Future" events and reported back to Armitage.
Now, they have been able to connect Merriwheter to Carl Stanford and John Scott, and therefore to Look to the Future and the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight. Unfortunately, they ransacked Merriwheter's room, alerting him. With his newfound magical powers, the curator put a warding spell on his hotel suite, so when the tour guide and the journalist went there to kidnap him, he was immediately alerted and summoned a Byakhee. The investigators fled, but the Byakhee reached them while they run in 8th avenue towards Central Park. The monster attacked the tour guide with its claw. Both investigators fired their guns, but the Byakhee was able to gut the tour guide before taking a fatal wound from a policeman who had been attracted by the commotion. The monster's corpse disappeared, leaving behind the wounded journalist, the tour guide's corpse, and a shocked policeman...

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by Big Mac » Sat Oct 22, 2016 1:46 pm

agathokles wrote:So, the PCs got involved with the Madness in London Town plot, but were quite slow in reacting to the events, so they missed the ritual and a few Dark Youngs of Shub-Niggurath were summoned. The British Army contained them and passed off the events as a mix of military tests and an epidemic of ergotism. A lot of people died, including the priest PC who was stabbed to death by an animated wax statue while trying to protect the pharmacist during the investigation in London. Finally, they managed to obtain some late evidence connecting the senior curator of the British Museum exhibit, Merriwether, and a rich patroness to the cult. Unfortunately, the two had already left for an extended vacation to the United States.
An animated wax statue, huh? Are you suggesting that Madame Tussauds is involved in some sort of wax statue plot? They are based in London, but have a branch in New York. But they didn't start opening up international branches until the 1970s. So I'm not sure if they existed at the time your campaign is set in.
agathokles wrote:The PCs (including a new one, an anglo-french tour guide and wannabe novelist) followed them back to New York, where they were able to locate them at the Chelsea Hotel, and have them followed by a hired P.I., while they investigated into the "Look to the Future" events and reported back to Armitage.
Now, they have been able to connect Merriwheter to Carl Stanford and John Scott, and therefore to Look to the Future and the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight. Unfortunately, they ransacked Merriwheter's room, alerting him. With his newfound magical powers, the curator put a warding spell on his hotel suite, so when the tour guide and the journalist went there to kidnap him, he was immediately alerted and summoned a Byakhee. The investigators fled, but the Byakhee reached them while they run in 8th avenue towards Central Park. The monster attacked the tour guide with its claw. Both investigators fired their guns, but the Byakhee was able to gut the tour guide before taking a fatal wound from a policeman who had been attracted by the commotion. The monster's corpse disappeared, leaving behind the wounded journalist, the tour guide's corpse, and a shocked policeman...
Sounds like your policeman has to decide if he wants to tell the truth (and maybe be called a liar) or talk to your PCs about what to tell the authorities.
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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:29 pm

Yeah, the policeman is going to become the next pc :-)

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:39 pm

I just noticed I never managed to complete this thread. To make a long story short, the group followed the storyline of Shadows of Yog-Sothoth quite closely, through California to Chile to Easter Island. It didn't end well -- they overlooked too many clues and did not manage to overtake the cultists.
As a result, the cultist performed their final summoning and the world ended...

Now we are playing Horror on the Orient Express. For now, they are doing better :-)

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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by Big Mac » Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:16 pm

agathokles wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:39 pm
I just noticed I never managed to complete this thread. To make a long story short, the group followed the storyline of Shadows of Yog-Sothoth quite closely, through California to Chile to Easter Island. It didn't end well -- they overlooked too many clues and did not manage to overtake the cultists.
As a result, the cultist performed their final summoning and the world ended...
Is that a bit of a weakness with Call of Cthulhu or is it fine to keep resetting the clock and running a new game in a world that has not been destroyed...yet?
agathokles wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:39 pm
Now we are playing Horror on the Orient Express. For now, they are doing better :-)
Is that a Cthulhu version or something else?

Have you got a topic for it?
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Re: My CoC campaign ("The Armitage Files")

Post by agathokles » Sun Jun 24, 2018 8:47 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:16 pm
Is that a bit of a weakness with Call of Cthulhu or is it fine to keep resetting the clock and running a new game in a world that has not been destroyed...yet?
Well, it does not always happen. Masks of Nyarlathotep and Horror on the Orient Express, for example, do not (necessarily) have a world-destroying endings, and neither do many other campaigns. This one, however, did -- the original premise of The Armitage Files is that the PCs receive communications from a future where an apocalyptic event has just happened. As a result, a major failure would lead to an end-of-the-world event at the end of the campaign.
That said, it was also a year-long campaign, so it was ok to reset the campaign world.
agathokles wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:39 pm
Now we are playing Horror on the Orient Express. For now, they are doing better :-)
Is that a Cthulhu version or something else?

Have you got a topic for it?
Yes and no, Horror on the Orient Express is not directly a Cthulhu version of Murder on the Orient Express, but the eponymous train takes a major role in this campaign, as the players are led to find parts of a magic statue in Paris, Lausanne, Milan, Venice, Trieste, Zagreb, Vinkovci, Belgrade, Sofia, and Constantinople, thus following the route of the Simplon Orient Express (the adventure starts in London).

I don't have a topic for this one, as the adventure is much less open-ended than The Armitage Files, so it is not as interesting to read an account of it (and, actually, it would be mostly spoilers).

GP

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