The M-Files: Session 6 Recap

In this week’s session, we wrap up the mystery started the previous week and in fact an entire arc within the game. Plus, a beach scene!

Write-up

Road trip! The van has been repainted to draw less attention and filled with sugary snacks. On the 6-hour drive from Dallas to Corpus Christi, Andi doomscrolls obsessively while trying not to think too much about the upcoming conversation with her father. Alice plays guitar and sketches, while Ophelia rides up front in charge of the music and plays multiple weird versions of “Dueling Banjos”. Cordelia drives on, thinking about the possibilities and trying to put everything together in her mind.

Green grasses on a sea shore during day time.
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

They arrive in Corpus Christi in the late afternoon. The address they’ve been given turns out to be a seaside home: split level with an additional above-ground floor. The hunters don’t see any activity in or around the house, at least not visible from the street. Cordelia looks up the address in the Order’s database, and sees it is listed as “restricted”. Once she contacts the Houston office, however, she learns that it is a property used by the Council.

Cordelia and Alice go up to the front door and knock. The door turns out not to have latched fully, and so it opens slightly. Cord leans in slightly to see a large, ornate orrery as the centerpiece of a sitting room to the side. And did she hear a thump from inside the house?

Back in the van, Andi decides to call upon her magic once more to look into the past. She breathes on the window and draws magic sigils in the resulting condensation. In her vision, she can see Phoebe (the Order official) arrive and go downstairs; sometime later, the lights on the bottom floor visibly pulse red. However, the magic resonates a little strongly in her.

Poking around the side of the house, Alice feels the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She knows she has found herself in a bad situation, with danger inside (although she could flee to the neighboring beach if needed). She texts Cordelia, who has quietly entered the house and feels something pulsating in the floor. Other decorations in the house include a shadow box with small figures representing each of the figures on the Order’s divination cards.

Ophelia considers using a pentagram to summon a demon for backup, but Andi pushes back on this. Instead, she scries downstairs: she sees Phoebe and an ancient, old figure suspended in the air, arms and heads thrown back, slowly rotating around… something that can’t be seen. Or rather, something that actively resists the scry.

The group texts each other quickly with eyes emoji; Cord has headed downstairs and found a strong door with a faint red glow around the edges. In the most “Millennial Urban Fantasy” moment yet in this game, she and Alice send selfies of themselves in mortal danger.

The Rosy Cross Lamen as worn by Adepts in the Rosae Rubae et Aureae Crucis, the inner order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The four of them burst into the room on the bottom floor: Alice via the back door, the others via glowing red door at the bottom of the stairs. Inside, they find see five objects: the Hand of Glory and ritual dagger they previously provided for the Order, as well as a Rosy Cross, a cup with a bezoar stone mounted inside, and an etched glass bottle with something swirling inside. Impossibly, red energy connects the five objects in a pentagram and creates a magical “dark resonance” affecting them all. Alice, as the least “magical” of the group, resists it, but Andi and Ophelia feel it pierce into them, with Cordelia only having a mild effect from it.

Andi reaches into her memory for any black magic that could help here; she previously saw a ritual in the Enchiridion of Flesh that would disrupt the resonance. It caught her attention because her family, with a long history among the esoteric community, had previously found and sold this exact Rosy Cross on the arcane market.

Ophelia, who has a messenger bag of holding, pulls out the Enchiridion and reads the ritual’s requirements: three participants must provide their blood while channelling the magic. If they fail, the dark resonance will not be disrupted but instead freed out into the world. Before they do so, Cordelia uses her Order’s divination techniques and lays out three cards: the Tower, the Witch, and the Anchor. She must catch the First Augur when the resonance dissipates, or else they will fall and take a severe injury due to their extremely advanced age. Ophelia pulls on her connection to fate and destiny ((spending a Luck point)), ensuring the success of the ritual but feeling her dark side grow nastier. The artifacts all break and shatter as a result, but the two people held by it are released. Andi takes a small amount of harm, but Cordelia does indeed catch the First Augur.

Once things have settled, they learn that these objects resonated unexpectedly with each other when collected near each other. In thanks, the First Augur provides each of them with a small divination token ((giving each of them +1 forward to their next roll about the future or past)).

The young women all spend a day relaxing on the beach, playing volleyball and drinking goth umbrella drinks, then collecting shells in the middle of the night before heading home.

Wrap-up

This concluded one of the two major arcs of this small campaign, centered on the Order of Fallen Night. As we’d previously agreed that “betrayal by allies” would not come up for the group, I had decided that instead someone in the Order’s leadership had miscalculated and caused trouble by accident. From there, all I needed to do was get the group connected to whatever caused the trouble (two of the artifacts) as well as have a stake (Phoebe) in seeing it resolved.

For the Dark Resonance, I wrote a custom move that works a little differently than most: higher rolls cause more trouble for the characters. Of course, the players knew this in advance, so as to support the collaborative storytelling.

When you first stand in the presence of the Dark Resonance, roll+Weird. (Note that this is a “reverse move”: higher results mean the resonance is more likely to affect you! If it does, you may eventually need to act under pressure to fight off its influence or find some Big Magic to purge it.)

* On a 10+, the resonance takes root within you. The Keeper gets 3 hold, to be spent one-for-one as penalties to rolls you make.

* On a 7-9, you struggle with the resonance. Take -1 forward while in the presence of the resonance.

* On a 6-, your will is your own. Take +1 forward when acting against the resonance’s influence on someone else.

The group really liked indulging their “Millennial mood” with the selfies, and of course wrapping up an arc felt satisfying. Cordelia’s player appreciated the nod to the oracle cards she had created with the shadowbox. This particular mystery used the “Phenomenon” structure from the Tome of Mysteries rather than an actual monster, and they liked this change of pace.

Since the next mystery will conclude this campaign, everyone wants more fun interpersonal roleplay, and the return of Andi’s father. Expectations for “final boss levels of crazy stuff to wail on” are high. I hope I can meet them!

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