Night Floors – Setting the Stage

©Arc Dream Publishing. Art by Dennis Detwiller.

 Warning: Spoilers for Impossible Landscapes below.

Impossible Landscapes begins in 1995 with a team of Delta Green agents investigating a young woman’s disappearance from an artist’s co-op apartment in New York City. The strange state and contents of Abigail Wright’s unit prompt the Organization to look for an occult connection at the Macallistar Building. 

While the occult connection persists throughout the campaign, the truth is Abigail unknowingly stumbled into an extra-dimensional bookshop and purchased a copy of The King in Yellow. She shared the mind-shattering text with her fellow residents, propagating a memetic contagion, and opening a connection to Carcosa via the weird, liminal Night World.  

The classic Pagan Publishing Delta Green supplement.

Originally released in 1999 as a stand-alone scenario in Pagan Publishing’s Countdown for Delta Green, Night Floors presents an experience. It lacks a clear-cut, defined conclusion, as Abigail remains missing and the full nature of the Night World, The King in Yellow, and Carcosa remain mysterious and undefined. While the agents must determine what to do (or not do) with the residents and the Macallistar Building, this chapter serves primarily to introduce elements, themes, characters, and motifs to excavate, unravel, and tease throughout the campaign. 

Night Floors sets a baseline for relationships between the agents and the Night World and creates touchpoints for them to connect with individually and as a group. As a result, the Handler should strive to make the experience of exploring the Night Floors as memorable and vivid as possible. Here we will discuss our experience, highlight some key campaign components, and float some modifications to the campaign mechanics.   

Netflix series Archive 81 draws serious inspiration from Night Floors effectively capturing the period and setting. It’s based on a podcast of the same name.

Launching the Mission: After a session zero and brief agent introductions as the mission invite interrupted their day-to-day activities, we quickly jumped into the Washington Square Park briefing. The meeting is set for 4:45 PM. Depending on the level of pressure Marcus exerts, the agents potentially head straight for the apartment setting up an early encounter with Night Floors strangeness. This is an important consideration, as curious agents can get distracted from the seemingly bureaucratic tasks and leave interesting clues on the walls. To slow the pace of the investigation, consider setting the rendezvous with Giuradanda to allow a full day of search and daytime interactions at the Macallistar Building.

The Assignment: While documenting the apartment, our agents automatically found one valuable piece of information and then rolled Search for an additional clue. There are 11 clues to uncover in the apartment, and our five agents found eight using this method. We created a random table for the clues and allowed the agents to roll on it and determine what they found. Depending on your preferences, you could divide the clues into auto-finds and random options. We feel the Macallistar Map, The Airline Ticket, and The Yellow Sign are key clues. Once they have the map, though, they will be ready to explore. If you expect your agents to stay on task, you may wish to require both Search rolls or withhold the map.    

Various version of the Yellow Sign presented by Base113.

No Clue Firewalls: Dennis Detwiller’s deep and textured investigations contain very specific pathways to uncover information. Unfortunately, if a Handler hews closely to the written text and agents ignore the highly focused tracks, they miss interesting and important information. If you identify an interesting clue or thread, do not feel obligated to respect the written clue trail! Relocate the information to an easily accessible location or in the hands of a chatty NPC.   

Night Floors Exploration: The campaign provides specific mechanics for exploration. There are 23 total Manifestations available for the Night Floors, and the minimum number of Manifestations is equal to the highest Corruption score among the Agents. Since agents are capped to gain no more than 3 Corruption points per single game session in Night Floors, the number of Manifestations could be limited depending on play pace and session length. If you intend to deploy these manifestations later, you may not feel the pressure to unleash as many of these as possible. Due to the density of content and number of foreshadowing clues, I ignored the Manifestation mechanics entirely and presented them as a combination of hand-picked Manifestations (Bottle, Clockwork Child, Restraints, and Stage) mixed with randomly generated selections. For another, more structured alternative, consider the Manifestations you find most compelling for your campaign, and consider making them guaranteed events. Once these have occurred, check the Corruption limit and allow the Sanity rolls to take place.

Evoke the themes of creativity and aesthetics with this song collection from Black Project Gaming.

More is Better: Everything in the Night World is weird and disjointed. The puzzle pieces do not begin to truly fit together yet, and each player will remember different elements. The more loose threads they uncover, the more they will latch on to in later chapters. The realization of these bizarre connections is one of the greatest features of this campaign and requires intentionality.  

Split the Party: We covered 15 Manifestations during our playthrough of Night Floors. By allowing, encouraging, and facilitating party splits, we increased and varied the number of Manifestations. Since we were playing online, using two separate voice channels and scheduling team/individual sessions allowed us to create unique experiences for each agent. The strangeness of Night Floors lends itself to far-flung wanderings with unexpected reunions. The subsequent information exchanges further enhance the surreal while building on Detwiller’s intended theme of alienation (page 15). 

Key Elements:

The Map: As mentioned earlier, the map promotes action and exploration. Consider holding it in reserve until the agents have unearthed other key clues. Trust me, they will want to know what Roses & Butter means. We placed an answer in The Smoking Lounge. Butter can always be Abigail’s shorthand for Butterflies, too.

An unassuming copy of the Red Book. Created by Owlglass_Moot.

The Play: This is the thing. It’s everything. Prepare excerpts in addition to the provided handout. Following the suggestions elsewhere in the campaign, record dialogue and include conversations from play between the agents and residents. Sprinkle these throughout the Macallistar. We broke from the campaign suggestion and allowed our agents to exit via seemingly subterranean tunnels leading into the Bookshop. This allowed them to fully cement the connection between Abigail, the play, and the building while obtaining a copy of the Red Book before A Volume of Secret Faces. Besides, it’s great to introduce it in New York and then have it appear elsewhere again when they learn to look for it. 

Michael Witwer: Get this guy out there. The Ticket Clue and Restraints Manifestation paid off huge in A Volume of Secret Faces when my players made the connection. These haunting, weird clues drive action and motivate investigation 20 years later.

Van Fitz’s Books: Personally, I prefer A World Without Doors and Maude Goes to the Masked Ball to help set the tone and reinforce the themes of Impossible Landscapes. The Reputation Book feels shoehorned in, and the unexplained disappearance is frustrating. A History of Russo-Germanic Hegemony might benefit from an extra copy in Caistaigne’s apartment. The English-Tartessian Dictionary should be presented as an unwieldy text for long-term study (my players had no interest) and could reappear in the hands of Barbas or Dallan.   

Awesome cover for Nightsea by Redittor Owlglass_Moot. Find more books here.

The Bottle: To drive home the importance of the bottles, I modified the Bottle Manifestation. In addition to describing the photograph described, I expanded the last photograph. Instead of showing a single dark bottle with an Agent’s name on it, I selected the two agents with the highest corruption and described them dressed in unusual clothes (could be masque garb or 2015 attire) holding their individual bottles with blank expressions. This picture was found by another Agent. He retrieved it and showed it to them, effectively roping the entire group into the bottle mystery. 

The Conclusion: The campaign identifies exploration and survival as the primary tasks of Night Floors. Detwiller presents a standard Delta Green solution of fire and dynamite as the viable “semi-permanent” resolution for the scenario, and this might be the knee-jerk response for veteran players. Others may refuse to accept the events taking place in the Macallistar Building altogether. After their Night World foray, our agents wandered disoriented back to reality. In our game, Agent Marcus prodded them back to Macallistar to clean up the mess. He demanded someone to pin Abigail’s disappearance on. This brought the mission back to reality. Ending the mission with Abigail at the forefront of players’ minds sustains her as a key connector. Other external forces, like the NYPD via Giuradanda, ARTLIFE, or the residents’ friends and family could spur action to establish closure.      

Not everything need end in flames…yet.

While many of our Delta Green scenarios progress at a rapid pace, we intentionally slowed the Night Floors investigation to create a sense of immersion. The scenario identifies four discrete stages: the normal world (1), momentary glimpses (2), unfolding impossibility (3), and existential terror/escape (3). Our agents spent more time in conversation, reflection, and connecting with residents and their bonds. Spending ample time in the normal world and slowly introducing momentary glimpses helped ground reality before yanking the rug out. Careful attention to pacing allowed the players and their agents to appreciate the nuances and subtle clues that pay off as the campaign jumps forward. 

1 thought on “Night Floors – Setting the Stage

  1. Evan Perlman says:

    What a great write-up, Doc! I ran this for my players as a Fall of Delta Green scenario, the 3rd in a short series of 3 scenarios in that system that revolved around weird numbers stations, one of which was apparently broadcasting from the Macallister. Because it was the capper, we sort of collectively brought it to a TPK (b/c time passes differently, they lost a lot of time inside and wound up being blown up by a truck bomb they had called in).

    I’m interested to see how it fits in to the campaign framework of IL.

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