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Night’s Black Agents won two silver ENnie awards for Best Game and Best Writing, and was nominated for Best Rules, Best Interior Art and Product of the Year. Find out why!

Night’s Black Agents puts you in the role of a deadly secret agent, taking down the forces of darkness.

Bring your favorite high-octane spy thrillers to the table with Night’s Black Agents from legendary designer Kenneth Hite (Trail of Cthulhu). Have friends who love console shooters? This is the tabletop RPG for them! Access the eyes-only Resources page for blank agent dossiers, quick-reference sheets, a 20-minute demo and more — but sweep for tracking devices first.

Buy the standard edition

Buy the limited edition

The Cold War is over. Bush’s War is winding down.

You were a shadowy soldier in those fights, trained to move through the secret world: deniable and deadly.

Then you got out, or you got shut out, or you got burned out. You didn’t come in from the cold. Instead, you found your own entrances into Europe’s clandestine networks of power and crime. You did a few ops, and you asked even fewer questions. Who gave you that job in Prague? Who paid for your silence in that Swiss account? You told yourself it didn’t matter.

It turned out to matter a lot. Because it turned out you were working for vampires.

Vampires exist. What can they do? Who do they own? Where is safe? You don’t know those answers yet. So you’d better start asking questions. You have to trace the bloodsuckers’ operations, penetrate their networks, follow their trail, and target their weak points. Because if you don’t hunt them, they will hunt you. And they will kill you.

Or worse.

Night’s Black Agents brings the GUMSHOE engine to the spy thriller genre, combining the propulsive paranoia of movies like Ronin and The Bourne Identity with supernatural horror straight out of Bram Stoker. Investigation is crucial, but it never slows down the action, which explodes with expanded options for bone-crunching combat, high-tech tradecraft, and adrenaline-fueled chases.

Updating classic Gothic terrors for the postmodern age, Night’s Black Agents presents thoroughly modular monstrosity: GMs can build their own vampires, mashup their own minions, kitbash their own conspiracies to suit their personal sense of style and story. Rules options let you set the level of betrayal, grit, and action in your game. Riff from the worked examples or mix and match vampiric abilities, agendas, and assets for a completely custom sanguinary spy saga.

The included hook adventure gets the campaign going; the included city setting shows you what might be clotting in Marseilles’ veins even now. Rack silver bullets in your Glock, twist a UV bulb into your Maglite, and keep watching the mirrors … and pray you’ve got your vampire stories straight.

Designer’s blog entries

An interview with the publisher

Free downloads and resources for Night’s Black Agents

Listen to Ken Hite talk about Night’s Black Agents on the Fear the Boot podcast

 

 

Review Highlights

Read all the reviews here.

As good as the toolkits that Night’s Black Agents provides are, the rules and advice deliver on the game and genre that they promise. Whether it is blood pumping action or heart stopping shocks, Night’s Black Agents is probably best shaken, and definitely has the “Vampire Spy Thriller” staked. – Matthew Pook

Vampires and spies – once you’re past the initial surprise, you’ll see that they work tremendously well in tandem. Well, I think they do, and I think the book’s an absolute knockout. – Sidney Roundwood

 

Stock #: PELGN01 Author: Kenneth Hite
Artist: Alessandro Alaia, George Cotronis, Chris Huth, Phil Reeves Pages: 232pg hardback

Buy the standard edition

Buy the limited edition

by Adam Gauntlett

This Thrilling Chase scenario comes courtesy of Ian Fleming’s Octopussy, in which a dead body found frozen in the mountains near Kitzbühel leads to death for a former wartime hero.

Location: Kitzbühel

Demographics: 3,200 (1890s), 5,500 (1939-45), 8,000 (1970s), 8,200 (2014). The majority are Austrians, often with Italian connections; in the modern day about 24% are foreign born, with Germans, Turks, Bosnians, Serbs and Romanians being the largest foreign born demographic groups. Standard Austrian German is the common language; English is uncommon.

Type: small mountainside medieval tourist town, heavily dependent on winter sports and skiing. In the summer there are mountain bike paths and hiking trails. There are over 10,000 guest beds, which means in season the tourists outnumber the locals, probably at a 2:1 ratio at least. The World Wars largely bypassed it, so its medieval heritage is intact. A river runs through it, the Kitzbüheler Ache, and there are rail connections. Before skiing and tourism took over, Kitzbühel was a mining town – silver and copper. Its ski season is mid-October to early May, and most of the tourists who go there are High Society 1 or more. The city centre is car-free. The crime show SOKO Kitzbühel, a modern police procedural, has run for 17 seasons since 2001. Recurring characters include a Michelin-star chef turned amateur detective, and a Countess.

Landmarks: Museum Kitzbühel located in former granary & medieval tower, comprehensive history of Kitzbühel from Bronze Age to present. Town Fountain designed in 1971 to celebrate 700th anniversary, with statues of town founder and famous Tyroleans. Death Lantern chapel in a cemetery, designed in the shape of a square death lantern, similar to wayside shrines. Built 1450. Lebenberg Castle hotel built in 14th century, has been a guest house since 1885.

Chase Scene elements: Road. Cows. Kitzbühel is still a farming community; cows outnumber permanent residents by 3:1. Horse-drawn carriages. Narrow, cobbled medieval streets with gaily decorated gabled houses either side. High-end classic cars, unblemished, as if they’d just rolled off the production line. Ski. Cable cars and ski lifts, over 57 of them. Snowcats, massive enclosed fully tracked vehicles designed for group tours. Treat as Speed 0 Manoeuvre -2. Over 32 km established ski routes, plenty of off-country opportunities and deep powder. Trails (summer). Gentle Alpine slopes. Hiker Huts and shelters. Adventure realms with dinosaurs, witches & spirits, perfect for driving through at high speed.

Inciting Incident

A corpse was discovered out on the mountainside, and best forensic evidence suggests the body’s been there at least ten years. The identity is going to depend on the era; 1890s, a Vatican exorcist and vampire-hunter. 1939-45, a German Communist and anti-Fascist suspected of having stolen information from the German vampire program. 1970s, a British pilot involved in flights in and out of Kitzbühel during the War. 2014, a Russian former KGB agent and fixer to the great and powerful. Whoever the person was, they had information on them when they went missing, and the question is, where is that package now? Was the McGuffin stuffed under a rock, hidden somewhere in Kitzbühel itself, something else? How did the dead man come to be there, and what killed him? The tip to the inciting incident can come from Tradecraft, Cop Talk, High Society.

OPFOR

The dead man was killed by a Conspiracy Node that is now non-functional or under new management. The reconstituted Node, or its replacement, is suspicious of this discovery, particularly since it comes at a time of crisis; one of its competitors is challenging its authority. The timing is too perfect to be a coincidence. It activates the Yojimbo option, sending an unaffiliated team to scarf up any information it can, and hopefully trigger any traps or ambushes. The Node also sends an agent of its own to monitor the situation, and step in if the Yojimbo team gets trounced.

Yojimbo Team: (N=agents+4) Thugs, all gym rats (expert skiiers/mountain bikers). Civilian High Society fixer with Athletics 6, Driving 6, effective Flirting 1, posing as a VIP. Led by former Soldier, Shooting 9, inhabited by an Adzeh who hates the cold and really wishes it were somewhere warmer. Armament will vary depending on era, but assume the Thugs have at least rifles and pistols, or the equivalent. The Soldier uses a crossbow, with the Sniping option.

Node Agent: Vampire, with Civilian High Society fixer, Athletics 4, Driving 4, Hand-to-Hand 4, effective Cop Talk 1, posing as a Michelin inspector and amateur detective working for a client who ‘prefers discretion over publicity.’ Equipment will depend on era, but their job is primarily surveillance, so they’ll have the best era-appropriate surveillance equipment. The Michelin Guide doesn’t exist prior to 1900, so in an 1890s scenario the Civilian is a travelling epicure.

It All Goes Boom Variation: Of course this wasn’t a coincidence. The rival Node placed Class 3 explosives at the target site, hoping to catch someone important. The Director may or may not use this variation, as required.

Arrival

Kitzbühel is, as always, full of life, but now it seems frenetic, frenzied, like something out of Poe’s Red Death. Mountains glower down on the little medieval outpost, and the shadows grow longer each night. The Ork, a Tyrolean ogre or demon, is supposed to live in those mountains, ever the enemy of man; on cold, dark nights like these, it seems plausible. The tourists seem happy enough, but the locals go home as early as they can, lock their doors, and refuse to come out till morning’s light. Tradecraft or Surveillance notices the Yojimbo team immediately; even with their fixer doing the best she can, they stand out. However they don’t seem to have realized the agents have arrived. A point spend sees that the Yojimbo team are being watched, by the Vampire’s Civilian fixer.

The Body

Cop Talk, Law, or Bureaucracy spends needed to get access to the body, or see the things found with it. Infiltration Difficulty 4 to get into the police morgue. The police station in Kitzbühel is close to the river and rail lines, far from anything glitzy or touristy. Autopsy notes can be found on computer (Digital Intrusion Difficulty 4) or the forensic medical examiner’s notes can be found at the station, in the doctor’s office. In any scenario at or prior to 1939 there are no notes; the body hasn’t been examined, and awaits an expert’s visit.

The dead man was knifed in a manner that strongly indicates military experience, possibly special forces. Medical report or Forensic Pathology study of the body needed to realize this. Some effort was taken to conceal its identity – face bashed, fingers cut off. However sufficient evidence remains (DNA analysis, giveaway tattoo, tailor’s marks, as needed) to tentatively identify the body.

Among the possessions is an Idaite fragment containing copper, iron and sulphur. Given the location of the shallow grave where the body was found, the likely source is a mine – Röhrerbüchel, one of the deepest medieval mining operations. It hasn’t been used in over 150 years. It isn’t a tourist site, though it is occasionally visited by geologists and rockhounds.

Chase #1: Yojimbo Rabbits

The Yojimbo team either interrupts or arrives ahead of the agents. It wants everything it can get its hands on, and will try to get away with something that seems valuable – the body, the autopsy report. However the real prize is the Idaite, which the Director should ensure ends up with the agents. How Yojimbo gets in depends on circumstances; Infiltration, or determined bluffing from the Civilian fixer, as she tries to smuggle Thugs through the front door. Road conditions: cramped, if the chase goes into historic Kitzbühel. The Thugs use an SUV, the Civilian fixer a sports car. The Soldier oversees this operation from a distance, and does not appear in the scene.

Röhrerbüchel

The abandoned mine shafts stretch on for miles, but agents spending Notice or Outdoor Survival find trail marks left behind by the dead man. Depending on the era this can be Latin tags (1890s), German (1939-45), old RAF marks (1970s), KGB symbols (2014). Not spending means the agents will have to follow the Yojimbo team.

The McGuffin is hidden deep in the mine, and may be booby-trapped with explosives that cause a cave-in. If the booby-trap option is used, an extra point spend of Notice or Outdoor Survival sees that the trail marks are too fresh to have been made by the dead man, warning the agents that the McGuffin is a trap.

Chase #2: Roger Moore

The surviving Yojimbo team pursues the agents down the mountain, either on skis or by mountain bike. The mountain is steep, with potential avalanche if the booby-trap went off. The chase ends in Kitzbühel, where the Vampire steps in to claim the prize. The Vampire will want either the McGuffin or a kidnapped agent to tell it what happened. If an agent is kidnapped, the Vampire can be traced via its Civilian fixer, allowing an escape attempt.

 


Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite puts you in the role of a skilled intelligence operative fighting a shadow war against vampires in post-Cold War Europe. Play a dangerous human weapon, a sly charmer, an unstoppable transporter, a precise demolitions expert, or whatever fictional spy you’ve always dreamed of being — and start putting those bloodsuckers in the ground where they belong. Purchase Night’s Black Agents in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

by Adam Gauntlett

The BMW shot through a red light turning against the flow, missing oncoming traffic by the grace of God, ignoring angry, blaring horns.

The Serb, Karlo, gunned his Audi. So much for surveillance; Volkov would have his head if the bastards got away …

What makes a chase scene Thrilling? Well, Director, that’s largely up to you. Whether the agents are trying to recreate Bullitt’s famous San Francisco muscle car blowout, or skiing down the black slope like Roger Moore with a flock of AK47-toting goons on his tail, now’s the time to put the pressure on.

Though I’m going to concentrate on Driving chases, these techniques can be used for any Thrilling chase.

A film Director plans out each least element of a chase scene. A moment that flashes by in seconds might take up entire binders full of pre-prep, and on the day of shooting the chase environment is tightly controlled down to the least bump-and-scrape. In game, things are different. A Chase can blow up at any time, and you need to bring the Thrills.

How to do this?

First, use your camera.

DIRECTOR: cut to two junctions ahead. Water fountains many feet high from a broken main, and traffic slows.

KARLO: [groans]

Shift the POV to action, something that’s going to complicate the chase but which the agent hasn’t encountered yet. This allows the agent to factor the problem into the scene. Maybe Karlo uses this to his advantage, or maybe he saves his points because he knows trouble’s coming. Either way, the complicating factors you highlight now become action soon afterward.

The camera can look anywhere, which means you can look anywhere.

DIRECTOR: interior, BMW. The goon in the passenger seat looks over his shoulder at the Audi, as he slots the last few shells into his shotgun.

KARLO: Better get ready to duck, huh?

Or from any perspective.

DIRECTOR: Interior, National Police station. As the two cars flash across surveillance camera feeds, a dozen alerts go off, dispatchers scream down mikes, and every cop car in Baku gets the call.

KARLO: Well, there’s that Heat spike I wasn’t looking forward to.

Again, the point is to get the agent to focus on the immediate future, and plan accordingly. That shotgun isn’t going to get fired for another round or so, but Karlo knows it’s there. Those cop cars aren’t on the scene yet, but in a round or so …

When using the camera, never let the agent get complacent. Always cut to action, and never let up. The goon loads a shotgun. Water fountains. Dispatchers scream down mikes. It’s all action, and it all increases the urgency.

Second, cheat.

The players are encouraged to jot down some notes for those Thrilling Dialogue moments; so should you. If you know that one of your players chose to put more than 8 pool points in Driving, then you’d better learn the difference between a Bootlegger’s Turn and a Moonshiner’s Reverse, because the day will come when you want to throw that at your agents and watch their jaws hit the tarmac. The same goes for Parkour, or any other chase mechanic. Take notes, and deploy as necessary.

This also applies to landmarks. Every city has them, and cunning Directors use them. If you know the agents are going to be in Baku, Azerbaijan this session, a quick Google ‘famous Baku streets’ gets you some handy backdrops. After all, who doesn’t want to ram an Audi at high speed through Fountains Square? Gee, that pedestrian-only shopping street looks inviting – and there’s an achievement in Double Tap that looks doable.

Don’t worry about the city’s internal geography. Films never do. Bullitt certainly didn’t.  It’s not a good idea to slalom past the Eiffel Tower after blasting through Nizami Street, unless this chase scene was brought to you by Euro Disney, but otherwise, go nuts. Is Nizami Street near the Russian Flea Market? Do your players care? No? Then for the sake of this chase scene, it is. And if it actually is, well done – you look even cleverer than you already are.

Don’t put hours of research in. The agents might never see it. Just do a quick Google before the session, take notes as necessary, maybe save a couple of pictures if they add a bit of cool to a scene. Then you have it ready to go, if and when it becomes relevant to a chase sequence.

Finally, choose your words with thrills in mind.

The players aren’t going to get enthusiastic if you’re not enthusiastic. That means you need to use evocative language, which means you need to know a little about the subject. Not a lot. Nobody’s asking you to take a film course, but a few minutes down the YouTube rabbit hole wouldn’t go amiss.

Consider:

DIRECTOR: the BMW veers to the outside, wheels shunting up onto the pavement, sending pedestrians scattering. Brake, brake, quick shift and BANG! He swings at a 90-degree angle into the turn.

That’s a Swerve. It’s also (broadly) how you complete a 90-degree turn, which is less about the speed you go into the curve and much more about your speed as you come out of it – hence the braking at the start, and the veer to the outside to give a better turning circle. However if, as Director, you say ‘the BMW attempts a Swerve, using a 90-degree turn to do it,’ that’s boring. You need to make your language as compelling as possible, to spark the agents into doing something equally compelling.

Remember, this is all Improv, as has been said many times before. Improv uses the Yes, And, principle, so when you make an offer, the other actor has to accept your offer and run with it. That means there has to be an offer at the start – and if your offer is dull, the agents will have to work hard to make it less dull. Or, more likely, they won’t, and the chase scene falls flat.

Ideally, you make an offer, the agents accept and up the ante, bringing the thrills with offers of their own. Which you then accept, and up the ante again with more thrills.

Don’t feel as though every offer has to be earth-shattering. Even the best start small. That famous chase scene in Bullitt kicks off with a killer fastening his seat belt and a revving car engine. You didn’t need to know in-depth racing terminology to understand that fastening a seat belt and a revving engine equals wild times a-coming.

Equally, as Director, remember where you are and anticipate the obvious. If the scene is set at Val-d’Isère, one of the finest ski resorts on the planet, you’d better have a ski chase scene prepped. If the agents are in Monaco, home of the Grand Prix, one of the Triple Crowns of Motorsport, you’d better prep a car chase. It doesn’t automatically follow that there will be a race down l’Espace Killy, or high-powered muscle cars barrelling down the narrow streets of the most famous city-state in the world, but you’d be silly not to anticipate one.

It’s all about building up the offer. These are both evocative settings, known throughout the world for very specific things. It follows that the more you can lean on the setting for Thrilling elements, the better you can make your offer.

There’s no part of the world you can’t make Thrilling, even if you have to steal elements from somewhere else. It’s great when the chase scene’s set in Berlin, London, or San Francisco, where Thrilling elements are two-a-penny; but even if it isn’t, that’s no reason to cut back on thrills. Even sedate Guernsey has Neolithic monoliths, Nazi forts, and needle-thin roads with looming granite outcrops on either side.  Pick a spot, and I guarantee you can find something to Thrill over.

Not only do these elements make the scene more Thrilling, they can be written down beforehand and deployed when needed, which is a blessing. However don’t be afraid to invent elements as and when needed. Is there a Leichter Panzerspähwagen parked outside the Guernsey War Museum, perhaps as some kind of temporary exhibit? Would it make the scene more interesting if there was one? Then yes, there is. With a full tank of petrol, why not. After all, if James Bond can drive a tank through St Petersburg, there’s no reason your agents can’t ram an armoured car through St Peter’s Port.

Use your camera. Cheat. Choose your words with thrills in mind.

DIRECTOR: the BMW spins, sideswipes a fuel pump which immediately explodes, and careens into a parked car. The impact stops the now-burning BMW.

KARLO: I’ll just tell Volkov it was all their fault …


Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite puts you in the role of a skilled intelligence operative fighting a shadow war against vampires in post-Cold War Europe. Play a dangerous human weapon, a sly charmer, an unstoppable transporter, a precise demolitions expert, or whatever fictional spy you’ve always dreamed of being — and start putting those bloodsuckers in the ground where they belong. Purchase Night’s Black Agents in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Night’s Black Agents player characters are highly trained super-spies, veterans of dozens of covert operations, ready to use guile and lethal force to overcome any obstacle. Night’s Black Agents players are even tougher. Ready yourself for the inevitable conflict with our Director’s Screen, keeping your notes and maps hidden until that final dramatic reveal. On one side, stunning artwork; on the other, vital reference tables for your eyes only. Accompanying the screen is the practical Resource Guide, containing Initiation Scenes to kick off your campaign New Monsters and enemy Operatives to bolster the ranks of the Conspiracy Combat Options and Thriller Scene rules for when you need to zoom in on the action Mission Skeletons and Location Plans to help build your adventures! Stock #: PELGN15 Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan Artists: Marisa Erven, Jérôme Huguenin, Heather Landry, Georgia Roan, Jorge Fernández Sanz, and Karolina Węgrzyn Format: 4-panel full-colour GM screen, 56-page resource guide Pre-order

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I was listening to the new BBC podcast on The Ratline (it’s about escaped Nazis and post-war conspiracies, so it’s useful for both The Fall of DELTA GREEN and the Dracula Dossier), and was struck by one observation that there are very few survivors of WWII left. For that matter, most of those who were in senior positions in 1977 are retired or gone, too. Vampires may be immortal, but most witnesses are not. The larger the gap between the ‘present day’ strand of the campaign and those historical periods, the less plausible it is for various supporting characters to still be alive.

(On the bright side, Al-Qaeda is apparently enjoying a post-ISIS resurgence, so… I guess that’s good for espionage campaigns involving vampire-tainted counterterrorism operations.)

There are several ways (some used in the Director’s Handbook) to introduce an NPC from the 1940s or 1970s other than tracking them down in some retirement home.

The Successor: The Agents run into a child, former assistant, confidante or custodian of the late NPC who knew them very well and can answer all their questions. The dutiful daughter who took care of her aging parent; the protégé of a senior spy; a student of the late academic who carried on her work. This successor may dismiss stories of vampires and supernatural strangeness as nonsense, but the Agents can glean vital clues despite their disbelief. (In particular, see “Cushing”, p. 92)

I’ve Got A Box Of Papers In The Attic: You’re looking for my mother. She died ten years ago… she never talked about her work for the government, so I can’t help you. Although, now that you mention it, there’s a box of her papers in the attic. She never threw them out. Said we shouldn’t look at them, but she had us drag them down once a year so she could relive old memories. Huh – actually, it was always on St. George’s day, and that’s today. What a co-incidence. I’ll go up and get them…” (The Acting Director of MI5, p. 80, uses this approach) 

The Transcript: The Agents discover a transcript or a recording of the late NPC – and  the mysterious interviewer is questioning them about the exact topic the Agents want to interrogate them about! Not only do the Agents get the information they seek, but they also have a new mystery to investigate – who was this other vampire hunter, who seems to have followed the same trail of clues as the Agents? And what happened to them? (The Late Con Artist, p. 84, uses this approach).

The Flashback: Combine any of the previous three with a flashback, perhaps using an adventure from The Edom Files. You need to talk to the MI5 Deputy who ran security in London in ’77. He’d dead – but when you dig into his files, you learn about another incident a few years earlier, involving the ballet…

Later in the campaign, dead NPCs can take a more active role:

I Have Prepared This For You: Not only do the Agents find the late NPCs’ papers/diaries/successor, they discover that the NPC anticipated that one day, someone would come looking, and that they’d need help. The NPC left behind a cache of supplies (Night’s Black Agents, p. 94), possibly including some Objects or handouts from the Hawkins Papers – and definitely including some lovely period gear. Escape in that lovingly maintained Aston Martin DB6, or take out bad guys with a WWII Sykes-Fairbairn knife issued by the Special Operations Executive back in ’41.

The Dream: One of the Agents dreams of the late NPC. It’s an unusually vivid nightmare – the two are in some building associated with the NPC (the old MI6 headquarters at Century House, a cottage in the Cotswolds, Ring Manor, a castle in Transylvania, a nightclub in Berlin) while a storm rages outside and some animal tries to break in (but what animal beats its wings against the upper windows like a bat, but scratches at the door like a dog?). Clearly, it’s just a dream, and none of the information obtained within can be relied upon… especially as Dracula can send deceitful visions by night. Or did the late NPC have some special grace from the Almighty to send one last message?

Necromancy: The campaign crawls with ways to raise the dead. There’s the Spirit Board (p. 279), the Online Mystic (p. 126), the Psychic (p. 96), the Solomonari (p. 74). Any of them could call up a dead soul, or even resurrect a corpse in some ghastly mockery of life. For the dead travel fast – and talk even faster, under interrogation.


Dracula is not a novel. It’s the censored version of Bram Stoker’s after-action report of the failed British Intelligence attempt to recruit a vampire in 1894. Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have restored the deleted sections, inserting annotations and clues left by three generations of MI6 analysts. This is Dracula UnredactedFollow those clues to the Director’s Handbook, containing hundreds of encounters: shady NPCs, dangerous locations, conspiratorial nodes, and mysterious objects. Together they comprise The Dracula Dossier — an epic improvised, collaborative campaign for Night’s Black Agents, our award-winning vampire spy thriller RPG. Purchase the Dracula Dossier starter kit bundle in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Your lone spy in Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops has been burned. You’re out on your own. Oh, you’ve got a network of connections and contacts you can draw on specialist skills – you can find a forger in Budapest, or a computer hacker in Buenos Aires, or an arms dealer in Boston – but you don’t have the resources or backing of a major intelligence agency behind you.

At least, not at the start.

It’s possible through play to build connections with the CIA, or MI6, or the Vatican, or some other organisation. This works as a special variant of the Network general ability, one per agency. You start with zero dice, but can pick up one-use Edges (“A Favour from MI6”) or – if the Director approves – pick up more through experience.

When you call on a favour from an Agency, it’s a Challenge.

 

Friends in High Places

Agency

Bonuses: +2 if you’re on the Agency’s home turf.

Penalties: -1 per Heat card in your hand.

-2 if you’re really outside the Agency’s sphere of influence.

Advance 7+: The Agency’s willing to help you out. They’ll supply you with a local Contact, a suitably deniable Edge like “Suitcase Full Of Cash”, or a special Push representing the Agency’s imprimatur.

Hold 4-6: The Agency’s willing to assist, but there’s a catch.

Pick one:
either it’ll Take Time before the Agency can respond to you

or the Agency demand a favour in return

or You’re at -1 die to further tests using this Agency ability for the rest of the operation.

Setback 3 or less: They’re not going to help unless you spend a Push – and even then, you’re at -1 die to further tests using this Agency ability for the rest of the operation, and you’ve got to choice between Taking Time to get assistance or doing a favour in exchange.

Extra Problem: Gain a Heat Problem (or, if the Director’s feeling cruel, a “They’re Going To Double-cross You” Blowback Problem.

Stunt? No.

Once you’ve got two dice in an Agency, you can use them for stunts on other Agency tests – so, if you’ve got 2 Dice in CIA, you could spend these to get a bonus die in an MI6 test, representing you drawing on the influence of your patron to lean on the other Agency.

In the default Solo Ops campaign, our sample Agent Leyla Khan has the opportunity to rebuild her contacts with MI6 in the third operation, The Deniable Woman. She could convert the one-shot A Favour from Vauxhall Cross Edge into one die in Agency: MI6 (or Agency: Secret Intelligence Service if you’re being picky and accurate). She might also build connections with whatever vampire-hunting agency helped her in Never Say Dead, although doing that requires tracking down the mysterious Rostami and convincing her to bring Khan in from the cold…

 

Limited edition with bookplate

Night’s Black Agents won two silver ENnie awards for Best Game and Best Writing, and was nominated for Best Rules, Best Interior Art and Product of the Year. Find out why with the limited edition!

Only 100 copies of the faux-leatherbound limited edition Night’s Black Agents exist. 50 are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada, and 50 are available to customers outside the U.S. and Canada. The books are faux leather with silver foil, and each one includes a sticky-backed book plate signed by Kenneth Hite, which you can add to your book.

Night’s Black Agents puts you in the role of a deadly secret agent, taking down the forces of darkness.

Bring your favorite high-octane spy thrillers to the table with Night’s Black Agents from legendary designer Kenneth Hite (Trail of Cthulhu). Have friends who love console shooters? This is the tabletop RPG for them! Access the eyes-only Resources page for blank agent dossiers, quick-reference sheets, a 20-minute demo and more — but sweep for tracking devices first.

 

Buy the limited edition

The Cold War is over. Bush’s War is winding down.

You were a shadowy soldier in those fights, trained to move through the secret world: deniable and deadly.

Then you got out, or you got shut out, or you got burned out. You didn’t come in from the cold. Instead, you found your own entrances into Europe’s clandestine networks of power and crime. You did a few ops, and you asked even fewer questions. Who gave you that job in Prague? Who paid for your silence in that Swiss account? You told yourself it didn’t matter.

It turned out to matter a lot. Because it turned out you were working for vampires.

Vampires exist. What can they do? Who do they own? Where is safe? You don’t know those answers yet. So you’d better start asking questions. You have to trace the bloodsuckers’ operations, penetrate their networks, follow their trail, and target their weak points. Because if you don’t hunt them, they will hunt you. And they will kill you.

Or worse.

Night’s Black Agents brings the GUMSHOE engine to the spy thriller genre, combining the propulsive paranoia of movies like Ronin and The Bourne Identity with supernatural horror straight out of Bram Stoker. Investigation is crucial, but it never slows down the action, which explodes with expanded options for bone-crunching combat, high-tech tradecraft, and adrenaline-fueled chases.

Updating classic Gothic terrors for the postmodern age, Night’s Black Agents presents thoroughly modular monstrosity: GMs can build their own vampires, mashup their own minions, kitbash their own conspiracies to suit their personal sense of style and story. Rules options let you set the level of betrayal, grit, and action in your game. Riff from the worked examples or mix and match vampiric abilities, agendas, and assets for a completely custom sanguinary spy saga.

The included hook adventure gets the campaign going; the included city setting shows you what might be clotting in Marseilles’ veins even now. Rack silver bullets in your Glock, twist a UV bulb into your Maglite, and keep watching the mirrors … and pray you’ve got your vampire stories straight.

Designer’s blog entries

An interview with the publisher

Free downloads and resources for Night’s Black Agents

Listen to Ken Hite talk about Night’s Black Agents on the Fear the Boot podcast

 

 

Review Highlights

Read all the reviews here.

As good as the toolkits that Night’s Black Agents provides are, the rules and advice deliver on the game and genre that they promise. Whether it is blood pumping action or heart stopping shocks, Night’s Black Agents is probably best shaken, and definitely has the “Vampire Spy Thriller” staked. – Matthew Pook

Vampires and spies – once you’re past the initial surprise, you’ll see that they work tremendously well in tandem. Well, I think they do, and I think the book’s an absolute knockout. – Sidney Roundwood

 

Limited edition with bookplate

A Secret History Unearthed. A Legendary Horror Walks Again.

Only 100 copies of the limited edition exist. 50 are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada, and 50 are available to customers outside the U.S. and Canada. The limited edition books are faux-leatherbound with foil, and each one includes a sticky-backed bookplate signed by Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, which you can add to your book.

Presenting an epic improvised campaign for Night’s Black Agents Roleplaying Game. Do your Agents have what it takes to face the Lord of the Undead himself?

The Dracula Dossier follows in the fully improvisational path of the award-winning Armitage Files campaign. Players follow up leads in the margins of Dracula Unredacted, a rare edition of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece that reveals the terrifying truth behind the fiction. They’ll chase down the real characters from Stoker’s novel, their descendants in the present, and the British agents caught in the backblast.

Dracula's Castle_350Directors combine these leads and notes with pre-prepared elements in the Director’s Handbook, including:

  • Conspiracy nodes, eerie locations and vampiric beasts
  • More than 60 supporting characters in vampiric, heroic, or in-between versions
  • Different versions of the real Mina Harker, Abraham van Helsing, and the other stars of Stoker’s novel — and their modern-day successors, descendants, and survivors — who can drive the story in any direction the players look.

ZZ_Spread pages 186_187 (Carfax)

Players choose which leads to track, which scarlet trail to follow. The Director, using the clear step-by-step techniques in this book, improvises a suitably blood-soaked thriller in response to their choices. Clear advice to players and Directors on improvisation, with extensive examples and guidelines, helps you set the scene. Together, you will read and write your own unique version of the Dracula Dossier.

Follow the clues to end the story once and for all, and close Project EDOM forever. You will find, hunt, and kill Dracula, the king of the vampires.

If you survive.

 

Buy the limited edition

Authors: Kenneth Hite, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan Stock #: PELGN05L
Artists: Stefano Azzalin, Francesca Baerald, Gennifer Bone, Jeff Brown, Tyler Clark, Dennis Detwiller, Nyra Drakae, Dean Engelhardt, Melissa Gay, Brittany Heiner, Jérôme Huguenin, Chris Huth, Christian Knutsson, Anna Kryczkowska, Erica Leveque, David Lewis Johnson, Pat Loboyko, Rich Longmore, Amanda Makepeace, Juha Makkonen, Angelus Nex (Tina X Filic), Olivia Ongai, Margaret Organ-Kean, Nathan Paoletta, Jen Estirdalin Pattison, Brittany Pezzillo, Jeff Porter, Danielle Sands, Biddy Seiveno, Patricia Smith, Ernanda Souza, Marc Steinmann, Ashley Vanchu, Alicia Vogel, Britney Winthrope Contributors: Heather Albano, Paul Baldowski, Kennon Bauman, Walt Ciechenowski, Justin Farquhar, Elsa S. Henry, Carol Johnson, Marissa Kelly, Shoshana Kessock, Shawn Merwin, James Palmer, Nathan Paoletta, Will Plant, Wes Schneider, Christopher Sniezak, Phil Vecchione
Cartographers: Olivia Catroppa, Chris Huth, Will Jobst, Gill Pearce, Joachim de Ravenbel, Simon Rogers, Ralf Schemmann Format: 368 page, full colour hardback

 

Take your players on the greatest vampire hunt in history—more than a hundred years in the making with the limited edition of Dracula Unredacted.

Limited edition without dust jacket

Only 100 copies of the limited edition exist. 50 are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada, and 50 are available to customers outside the U.S. and Canada. The limited edition books are hardbound replicas of the first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the Dracula Unredacted dust jacket and each one includes a sticky-backed bookplate signed by Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, which you can add to your book.

Dracula is not a novel. It’s the censored version of Bram Stoker’s after-action report of the failed British Intelligence attempt to recruit and control the perfect asset — the ultimate weapon — Count Dracula. Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have restored the deleted characters and redacted information, inserting annotations and clues left by three generations of MI6 analysts. This is Dracula Unredacted.

Limited edition with dust jacket and bookplate

 

This new edition of Dracula adds new letters and recordings, diary entries long thought lost, and documents suppressed by Her Majesty’s Government… until now. From the first tentative contact between British intelligence and the un-dead, to the werewolf of Walpurgisnacht, to the cataclysmic disappearance of Dracula in volcanic fire, read the story you’ve known for years… for the first time.
Dracula Unredacted does for the Dracula Dossier what Henry Armitage’s letters did for Armitage Files or The Book of the Smoke for Bookhounds of London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stock #: PELGN06L Author: Bram Stoker, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Kenneth Hite
Artist: Jérôme Huguenin, Juha Makonnen Format: 488 pages, casebound, octavo sized

The Zalozhniy Quartet for Night’s Black Agents sends the Agents on a desperate search for… wait. Spoiler warning. Don’t read this article if you’re likely to play in a ZQ game anytime soon. It’s a desperate search for, ah, something fuzzy and friendly and totally does not involve unkillable time-locked zombie monsters.

Now that we’ve cleared the room of non-Directors without clearance, let’s get into it. The Quartet involves a search for two mysterious substances, the nigredo (vampiric essence) and the albedo (a control substance of some sort). Combined, these create the rubedo, a marvellous compound sought by the vampires – and that, incidentally, gives control over the House of Saud and Saudi Arabia. (I note in passing that not only have world events overwritten the opening sequence of The Zalozhniy Sanction, set in Crimea, but current events in Riyadh may soon make the description in Treason in the Blood obsolete…)

If all goes according to plan, the Agents pick up the Albedo in The Boxmen and find the nigredo in Treason in the Blood.

The terms albedo, nigredo and rubedo are borrowed from alchemy. They’re three of the steps towards the Great Work to make the philosopher’s stone and achieve immortality, which makes them obviously pertinent to vampiric weirdness. You start with nigredo, with putrefaction and death (or, if you’re going with a Jungian know-thyself interpretation, the dark night of the soul). You’re wash it clean with (or in) the albedo (the Whiteness, Cleansing). You transmute it through citrinitas, the Yellow, the solar light, the dawn. Finally, you achieve the rubedo, the Red, perfection and victory and immortality (and access to Saudi oil reserves.)

So, there’s a whole alchemical step in the Magnum Opus right there – citrinas – that’s missing in the Zalozhniy Quartet. If that offends your sense of alchemical symmetry, here are some options for adding it in:

  • The citrinas is the human element in the vampire. CITRINE was St. John Philby’s codename for King Ibn Saud; the Conspiracy still use the Citrine codename to refer to the Saudi royal family (“we can draw down funds from the citrines”)
  • Citrinas is the essence of solar heroism – it’s vampire slaying. To create the rubedo, you need the blood of a hero. The Conspiracy needs to capture one of the Agents alive to complete their plan.
  • The citrinas refers to the ritual needed to combine the albedo and The Agents can obtain it from the Russian defector Arkady Shevlenko, or from Kim Philby’s safety deposit box, or St. John’s grave, or Dorjiev’s notes. Alternatively, the citrinas might be a potion that awakens the imbiber’s consciousness, enabling them to combine the albedo and nigredo safely. This also implies that the Conspiracy may end up needing to snatch one of the Agents.
  • The citrinas refers to a magical lens (maybe one of the glass fulminates retrieved from the desert, suitably polished) that transmutes the solar magic of daylight into the alchemical heat needed to achieve the rubedo. The Kingdom Centre in Riyadh is, of course, made using windows of citrinas; the Agents can delay the ritual by blowing up the Conspiracy’s lenses, or hike into the desert to find their own lenses.
  • Citrinas, the moment of self-realisation after death and cleansing, refers to the death-moment of a zalozhniy. Dr. Dorjiev wears citrine stones to anchor his life to that death-moment, as per p. 9 – if the Agents destroy or remove those stones, he’ll have to create a new zalozhniy post-haste to hide his death away again. (Kim Philby also created a citrinas token to sustain him through the Great Work, which is why he was so damned hard to kill – his citrine-stone ensured he survived the shell explosion in December 1937 in Spain, when he emerged unharmed from a blast that killed everyone else in the car he was travelling in. The citrine may be stored in his deposit box in the Kornersbank, or in some KGB storeroom in Moscow.)

For lots more alchemical fun, check out GUMSHOE Zoom: Alchemy

The upcoming SOLO rules introduce a new concept – the lone player has a Shadow score that measures how aware and aggressive the supernatural threats are right now. You gain Shadow problems when you attract the attention of vampires and other horrors, and you can suppress your Shadow by taking precautions like staying on holy ground or keeping running water between you and the vampire’s lair. Your Shadow score limits the type of attacks and antagonist reactions the bad guys can deploy against you. If your Shadow score is 2+, then the vampire might sneak into your dreams by night and torment you. If it’s 4+, then the vampire sneaks into your room by night to murder you, or something equally charming.

Think of it as supernatural Heat. As an experienced vampire hunter, the Agent can judge her current Shadow score, just like she has a rough idea of her current Heat. She can sense when there’s a sinister intention behind the chilly wind, or notices bats circling overhead like surveillance drones.

It’s an indicator to the player, letting her know how much danger she’s in without specifying the nature of the threat. It signals when it’s time to lie low or take a subtle approach, or when it’s time to risk everything. In a One2One game, where the player needs all the information she can get, Shadows’s a vital addition to the rules.

It’s less important in a regular multiplayer Night’s Black Agents game, where you’ve got ablative player characters and it’s less important to give the players a warning signal that they’re poking the wrong vampire lair. Still, if your group enjoys playing with Heat, you might get a kick out of Shadow.

Gaining Shadow

You gain Shadow by coming into contact with vampires or their minions, attracting the attention of the Undead, exposing yourself to supernatural influences, trespassing in dark places, and the like. Some sample Shadow gains:

+1 Shadow: Killing a minor minion, Walking alone at night, Spilling blood, Carrying the vampire’s Bane, Failing a Cover test

+2 Shadow: Killing a named minion of the vampire, speaking the vampire’s name aloud, trespassing in the vampire’s territory

+3 Shadow: Killing a supernatural minion of the vampire, psychic contact with the vampire, destroying any of the vampire’s coffins

Effects of Shadow

Once per game session, one player rolls against the Agents’ current Shadow level. If the roll’s under the current Shadow score, then the vampire strikes at the Agents. This may take the form of a suitable Vampyramid reaction (NBA, p. 189) or just using the vampire’s powers or minions to inconvenience them. Assume the vampire’s willing to spend Aberrance equal to the Shadow score x 3 on this attack.

Shadow also affects the occult underworld just like Heat affects the black market. Suddenly, seers and mystics are less willing to deal with the Agents, occultists might decide they’re better off cutting a deal with the devil rather than siding with the hunters, Renfield-esque patients in psychiatric institutions become agitated, sensitive souls dream of fangs and blood.

Losing Shadow

Shadow’s hard to lose – the players lose it over time, or by moving away from the vampire, or by killing the monster. However, they can suppress their Shadow score in various ways, temporarily reducing it by taking various precautions.

-1 Shadow: Always carrying the vampire’s Dread

-2 Shadow: Staying in a location that’s Blocked against vampiric intrusion

For example, the players are hunting Dracula. If their Shadow score hits 4, then Dracula will be able to enter their dreams and learn their secrets, ala Mina Harker. By always taking care to sleep behind a protective shroud of garlic blooms, the Agents give themselves a vital buffer – the garlic suppresses their Shadow score, keeping it under 4. Then, unfortunately, one of the Agents gets separated from the rest in a firefight with some of Dracula’s minions, and can’t make it back to their garlic-girded safehouse. His Shadow score isn’t suppressed – so if the die roll indicates that there’s a potential Shadow response, Dracula finds him… 

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