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.

Gird 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. In between, a layer of armour plating guaranteed to stop a rosewood bolt fired from a specially adapted sniper’s crossbow. (Note: the final product may substitute sturdy cardboard for armour plating).

Accompany the screen is the bountiful 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, 64-page resource guide

Pre-order

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…

 

In the setting of Mutant City Blues, approximately one in a hundred people developed a mutant ability in the wake of the still-mysterious Sudden Mutation Event. Some powers had obvious social or commercial benefits, and mutants with these powers could easily find a place. Mutant healers transformed parts of healthcare, telepaths and dream-peepers revolutionised psychology, transmuters made new wonders possible in chemistry and material science.

Other people were gifted with more dangerous powers – they could shoot blasts of fire from their fingertips, or spit venom, or drain all the oxygen from a room with a touch.

They, too, could easily find a place.

In the course of their duties as part of the Heightened Crime Investigative Unit, Mutant City Blues characters might bump up against mutant-related military activity or espionage. They might have to liaise with military police to arrest a mutant recruit who fled the Army’s GXI section, or discover that the disease-spreading criminal has powerful friends in Washington thanks to her connections to a secret mutant bioweapons group.

Select Operations Support Group

Part of the USSOCOM Special Operations Command, the Select Operations Support Group brings together the most powerful mutants from the US military and trains them to take part in special operations missions. The Select Operations Support Group’s primary purpose is support for conventional SOCOM tasks – they’re more interested in having teleporters carry supplies to units behind enemy lines, or water manipulators who can disable underwater drones without being detected. Still, anyone in the SOSG has passed the supremely demanding Q Course used to vet all special forces recruits.

1stGXI

The 1stGenetically Expressive Infantry Brigade is a newly-formed US Army unit made up entirely of mutants. Ostensibly, the 1stGXI’s purpose is to group mutant Army personnel together to develop methodology and tactics using heightened abilities, similar to the Heightened Crimes Investigative Unit. The GXI program has been troubled since its conception; initially it was seen as an exercise in PR, and mutant soldiers tried to avoid a transfer to the unit to avoid damaging their careers. Since then, it’s been rocked by a scandal involving a cell of mutant separatists who were caught stealing explosives and ammunition from the army. The GXI still has a tarnished reputation.

CIA Program GRIDFIRE

The CIA reactivated their old STARGATE program within days of the first mutant manifestation, and quickly identified and recruited mutants who might be useful either for intelligence gathering or for their black-ops section. The program isn’t called GRIDFIRE any more – its current codename is classified, but the GRIDFIRE name was used in a tranche of documents leaked by a whistleblower who revealed details of the program’s use of mutant mind controllers and telepathic interrogation techniques.

Of particular interest to police was a subprogram called SPEEDRUN, which monitored the prison population for mutants with useful abilities, and offered them reduced sentences or special treatment in exchange for the use of their abilities.

FBI Talent Resource Office

FBITRO is a section within the Bureau’s Human Resources division that recruits and trains mutants who might be useful to agents in the field. If an FBI agent needs a Tracker, or someone who can command birds, or bulletproof backup, the TRO can find the nearest reliable and thoroughly vetted mutant. TRO prefers, where possible, to use law enforcement personnel, so HCIU mutants might be temporarily seconded to FBITRO and assigned to a federal investigation.

FBI Mutant Screening Centre

The Mutant Screening Centre’s primary role is to identify and monitor mutants with Article 18 powers. It also functions as the federal equivalent of the HCIU, taking on investigations that involve considerable use of mutant powers. MSR hands off most of its cases to local law enforcement when possible; it’ll inform local authorities when a registered A18 subject moves into their jurisdiction – or when a rogue A18 needs to be apprehended.

Brightlane Services

Brightlane’s a private military contractor that provides “security consultancy” across the world, especially in war-torn and unstable regions. Brightlane employs a considerable number of mutants; they’re especially interested in recruiting mutants with combat abilities. Brightlane’s been accused of pressuring mutants into working for them; allegedly, if they need a particular talent, they’ll use blackmail or other threats to ensure compliance – or so the rumours go, anyway…


Mutant City Blues is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game by Robin D. Laws where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. Purchase Mutant City Blues in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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

by Steven Hammond

It’s been two or three months since we published an update on the new Gumshoe character tool. I lost a little time to an Olympics related project, but we’ve been cranking away all of March, and I think we have some great stuff to share.

Addressing Your Input

First, I want to talk about what we did with the character sheets and surveys you sent in. The number one thing we heard was that you don’t want to see the huge list of possible abilities during play. Instead, you want to focus on your character’s abilities. Several you also asked for a straight list of abilities rather than the category lists found on the print sheets.

To implement this, we gave Black Book character sheets 2 modes — edit for creating or updating characters, and play for use during a game session. Edit mode, looks like a normal Gumshoe character sheet. All the abilities are visible and grouped into their categories. In play, you choose to view all abilities, or just the ones where your character has ranks. You can also have the visible abilities grouped or in a single, alphabetized list.

The other common thread was that Health, Stability and Stamina were hard to read in the grid boxes. We’ve addressed this by making those abilities large and prominent, while keeping the grid to make updating these often changing values easy.

The video below shows these features in action.

 

Alpha Test Starts This Week

What, does Alpha Test mean. The app is not feature complete, nor are all the features there polished. There is enough there to play with it and giving us feedback on how things work, find bugs, measure real-world performance, etc.

You should know things won’t be stable, servers will crash, and we don’t promise you will be able to keep characters from one release to the next. We are still moving too fast to spend time migrating data as our format evolves. If this sounds a little wild for you, then you might be happier waiting for Beta to start. At that point we will be feature complete, stable and polished. Once Beta starts, we will commit to preserving characters between releases.

A number of people volunteered to test the Black Book. We will email the first 10 people on that list with an invite code they can use to join. You cannot register without one of these invite codes. Every week or so, we will invite 10 additional people to participate. This will help ensure that we can keep up with the feedback and that there are always fresh perspectives giving feedback. There isn’t a scheduled start date for Beta yet that will happen when we are stable and feature complete. If you want to get in on the testing, go to https://theblackbook.io and submit your email address.

This is a project, I’ve been planning about for a long time and I am super excited for you all to finally try it out. Let me know what you thought of the video below and watch your email for those invite codes.

“The children of the night… what music they make!”

We’ve prowled around the topic of werewolves in Night’s Black Agents once in a blue moon. The ghoul stats in the core rulebook (p. 150) include a quick-and-dirty conversion to wolfman mode; a pack of terrorist werewolves shows up in The Edom Files. Some say Ken chains himself up in his basement on certain nights, but that’s probably a scurrilous rumour. It’s a pity, because werewolves work almost as well as vampires for occult espionage thriller games. You’ve got dark secrets, you’ve got secret identities, you’ve got distinctive means of dispatch, and a whole host of meaty metaphors to chew on. Werewolf as cursed soul, dragged in for one last job. Werewolf as terrorist, the monster hiding in plain sight. Werewolf as plague, as super soldier, as secret weapon.

This article presents a somewhat tougher and more developed werewolf than the hairy ghoul variant, but it’s still only a taste, and we don’t go into a deep dive on werewolf mythology here. Consider this article to be the moment when the big dog burst out of the woods at the side of the roads and bites you. Think nothing of it, it’s just a scratch…

Supernatural: Werewolves are skin-changers; humans able to adopt the form of a beast through sorcery, magic salves or some other supernatural gift. The power of lycanthropy might be inherited through a bloodline, or bestowed by a magical ritual, or maybe you need to put on an enchanted wolf-skin to become the beast (so, if you want to become a werewolf, you’ve got to hunt down and skin a werewolf). Supernatural werewolves have a measure of control over their transformations, and may willingly embrace their skin-changing talents. Possible examples: the devil-hunting Benandanti, viking berserkers, were-witches of Livonia

Damned: Werewolves are humans cursed to become beasts. The modern conception is that the curse is spread through being bitten, but it might equally be punishment for misdeeds (or the physical manifestation of spiritual corruption). Other traditions suggest that one can become a werewolf after death if buried in the wrong spot, or that drinking from the footprint of a wolf makes you become a wolf. In any case, the Damned werewolf is a victim suffering from a magical affliction – although the people it devours may not see it as a fellow victim.

Alien: Lunar associations and spiritual projections aside, werewolves are earthy creatures, things of meat and hair and bone and blood. Presumably, then, the alien werewolf is a byproduct or adaptation of some alien entity coming into contact with earthly fauna. Maybe weird dimension-shifting warp drives cause some sort of quantum overlap, entangling beast and man. Maybe werewolves are guardian monsters engineered using a mix of earthly DNA and alien science. Lycanthropic chest-busters, anyone?

Mutant: Lycanthropy was created in a bio-weapons laboratory, or as the result of experiments in creating super-soldiers. Obviously, there’s the last stand of the Third Reich in Operation WERWOLF (where the stated goal of creating a stay-behind network of partisans and guerrilla fighters was clearly cover for Nazi werebeasts), but you could also look at Stalin’s experiments in creating ape-human hybrids, modern genetic engineering experiments – or look back in time, and wonder if there’s something alchemical to the salves and enchanted potions of mythology.

Shapeshifting

Setting the parameters for a werewolf’s shapeshifting is as big a deal as deciding how stakes and mirrors work in a vampire-centric game. Here are four possible options.

Voluntary Shapeshifting (Any): Drawing on their inner beast, the werewolf can shapeshift into a wolf-man form. Or into a wolf. Or maybe they can take on either form. In every case, the werewolf must make an Aberrance test to change (Difficulty 4 if the transformation takes 1-6 rounds; Difficulty 6 to change instantly.) The Difficulty’s adjusted by circumstances:

-2 at night

-2 in moonlight

-1 if the werewolf’s already angry

-1 if the werewolf’s already injured

-1 if there’s fresh meat or the smell of blood

+2 on consecrated ground (Da, Su)

+2 in the presence of wolfsbane flowers (Su, Mu)

Triggered Shapeshifting (Su, Mu): The werewolf has to take some action involving an external trigger to transform – inject a shot of adrenaline, put on a belt of wolfskin, rub on a salve, eat a human heart. If unrestrained, the werewolf can use the trigger freely; doing it in combat requires an Athletics or Filch test (Difficulty 4). Spend 3 points of Health to change instantly; otherwise, it takes 1-6 rounds.

Projection (Su, Da, Al): The werewolf doesn’t physically transform at all – it’s a psychic effect, projected from the werewolf’s human body. Maybe the werewolf sends out her spirit, maybe it’s a tulpa or a distillation of the werewolf’s animal impulses. Maybe the lycanthrope possesses a nearby animal of the appropriate type.

Compulsive Shapeshifting (Da, Mu): This sort of werewolf has to transform in certain circumstances – the full moon being an obvious example. Resisting the transformation requires a Stability test (Difficulty 4, modified by the inverse of the modifiers listed above under Voluntary Shapeshifting). A successful Stability test buys the werewolf 1-6 combat rounds, but it counts as Shaken while caught mid-change.

When shapeshifted, add a suitable bonus (+6 at least) to the werewolf’s Athletics, Stealth, Hand-to-Hand and Health.

Other Powers

 

Immunity (Su, Al): Werewolves can’t be injured by bullets and other projectiles; weapon attacks do minimum damage. Fire and explosions do half damage and cannot kill the beast.

Regeneration (Da, Mu): Werewolves regenerate health when transformed at a supernatural rate (regaining almost full health every round for a super-tough werewolf, 3-4 points per round for something slightly more manageable). However, it can’t heal completely using this supernatural gift; the last point of damage inflicted by each injury must heal naturally. So, if you shoot a werewolf three times for five damage with each shot, it’ll be down by 3 Health when next encountered (in any form).

Savagery: In any round in which the werewolf is attacked or impeded, it gains 1-6 points of Aberrance. In any combat round in which the werewolf’s enemies all hide, flee or do something else non-threatening, it loses one Aberrance.

Werewolf Heart: In any form, werewolves possess animal magnetism and dangerous charisma. The werewolf can spend Aberrance to mimic the effects of spending Flirting or Intimidation.

Infection: Anyone bitten by a werewolf might:

  • Become a Damned or Mutant werewolf
  • Become a werewolf subject only to Compulsive Transformation
  • Have to make a Health test to avoid infection
  • Contract an especially damaging variant of rabies (onset 10-60 minutes, Difficulty 6 Health; Minor +2 damage and Hurt; Severe +6 damage, -4 Athletics, and -2 Health and -2 Athletics until cured).

Also, obviously: Animal Senses (p. 128), Darkvision (p. 128), Vampiric Speed (p. 133), maybe serial-killer-esque “It’s behind you” Apportation (p. 133), Strength (p. 137), Summoning (p. 137).

Banes

Silver, in all its forms.

Wolf’s bane, aka aconite.

(Da): Holy items.

Compulsions

Hunt on nights of the full moon.

Werewolf Assassin

General Abilities: Aberrance 4, Firearms 9, Hand-to-Hand 14, Health 14

Hit Threshold: 5

Alertness Modifier: +2

Stealth Modifier: +1

Damage Modifier: +1 (claw or bite). The werewolf can only make one bite attack, but can make any number of claw attacks using Werewolf Speed as long as it has the points to spend.

Free Powers: Voluntary Transformation, Regeneration (in wolf form only), Savagery, Animal Senses (only when shape-shifted)

Other Powers: Werewolf Speed, Werewolf Strength, Infection

Banes: Silver

 

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

GUMSHOE core games present the GM with a default scenario structure you can use when creating your own mysteries to challenge your players. By following it you can ensure that the investigators have at least one, and preferably many, routes to solve the adventure’s key question, whether that be a killer’s identity, a vampire’s conspiracy, or a demonic entities’ location. It supplies a number of scenes in which the PCs can interview witnesses, examine physical clues, and hit the books in search of pertinent facts. Each key scene includes at least one core clue: a piece of information leading the team to another scene. As part of the standard header for the scene, we indicate its Lead-Ins and Lead-Outs–the scenes that feed into it, and that it propels investigators toward, respectively. This especially helps when writing published adventures, forcing the writer to make sure that each scene goes somewhere. Ideally the Lead-Outs line encourages the scenario creator to build in core clues that point in more than one direction. This gives the players the opportunity to make choices, deciding which leads to follow and in what order. These decisions ward off the dreaded linear or railroaded scenario. You can build in Alternate scenes that the characters can choose to explore, but don’t need in order to solve the mystery.  Both a Core and an Alternate scene can share the same Lead-Out. Designate the most obvious or likely scene as the Core scene and the one that feels like the sidelight as the Alternate. For a home brew scenario the distinction between the two doesn’t matter: bother with it only if you’re writing, say, a con game for someone else to run.

(Unlike a Core scene, an Alternate needn’t have a Lead-Out. Keep these to a minimum, and make sure they’re entertaining as heck in their own right. A session full of scenes that don’t pay off makes for a not only meandering but also confusing installment of your mystery.)

This isn’t the only way to put together a scenario but it’s one you can depend on to reliably deliver. Recently we have given this default structure a name, the Maze of Clues, to distinguish it from others.

Ken, in such scenarios as “The Carmilla Sanction” from The Edom Files, uses an alternate set-up called the Ocean of Clues. It establishes a mystery and a rich assortment of hooks you use to create your own scenes during play.

Both The Armitage Files and Dracula Dossier could be regarded as Ocean of Clues scenarios writ large over the course of an entire campaign.

When you prepare your own scenarios in advance, whether you write them in full or (more likely) as point form notes you will flesh out into scenes as you go, the Maze of Clues will help you elaborate your premise into a narrative that the players will fully realize when you play.

When you straight-up improvise without that kind of prep, don’t worry about the Maze of Clues and its different scene types. You’re not trying to reverse engineer your way into a scenario you can then assign Scene Types and Lead-Ins and Lead-Outs to. Nor will you have any reason to create the Scene Flow diagram that accompanies our published Maze of Clues scenarios. Focus on showing the players a good time. Almost any GM will find it more useful to focus their notes on details of the mystery’s backstory.

When I improv a scenario, I jot down names of people and establishments in a Google doc shared with the players. An example from a recent Yellow King session, from our “Aftermath” sequence:

  • Mercantilists previously under Castaignes want to go slow

  • Commercials want money
  • Jessie Daniels – chief of staff to Hank and perhaps his successor as war crime trial advocates
    • Melvin Mason – Guardian leader and a possible patron 

 

    • Theresa Tucker – patrol officer in psych ward at Bellevue 

 

    • Eula Mckenzie – nurse on duty at Bellevue 

 

    • Wilbur Salazar – original complainant 

 

    • Yolanda Howell – her kids were hacking around 

 

    • Ed & Andy Howell – her kids 

 

    • Lt Rita Woods – Theresa’s shift commander, hostile to the PCs 

 

    • Aaron Moran – got turned into a clown head 

 

 

Glorious Sun – dive bar near the cemetery, doesn’t take kindly to slinks and has a clown jar if you want to turn the red velvet sad clown painting around

 

Charles Cunningham – super of building where the mermaid is in the basement, wears sea captain outfit

I worry about distinct scenes and their placement in the Maze of Clues only if, and when, I later take that seat-of-the-pants session and write it for publication. (Sometimes I have to ask my players if they remember how they got from point A to point B!)

Some GUMSHOE games, including Ashen Stars and Yellow King, use a timing increment called an interval, which begins when one clue is discovered and ends when the next is found. For these games you do have to be able to decide what pieces of information count as core clues. But this is simple: a core clue is any bit of information, almost certainly derived from an investigative ability, that points to another scene. A shift in scene generally entails a change of location. In some instances that might be a virtual shift: for example, from the corpse you’re poking at in the morgue to the digital archive your forensics expert starts searching for obscure and suppressed biomedical research papers. Any info introducing another GMC, place or avenue of inquiry that leads the group closer to the mystery’s solution is a core clue. Should you ever ask yourself the question, “Is this a core clue?”, the answer is almost surely yes. Err on the side of declaring a new interval. Another test: if it’s not important enough to put in your notes, it’s not a core clue.

If the heroes get stuck and can’t see a way forward, you’ll solve that problem as you go, by inventing a new Core clue to pull them deeper into the mystery. Where the Maze of Clues exists to solve problems before they occur, you’re there to keep matters rolling in real time.

In short, scenario structures are here to serve you, not to have you serve them. Your improvised scenario can, in retrospect, be expressed as a Maze of Clues with Core and Alternate scenes and Antagonist Reactions and the rest. But there’s no reason for you to do that, or give yourself the nagging feeling that you ought to be able to.

Instead, use that time to figure out just how Aaron Moran got turned into a clown head–and what the team can do to stop it from happening to others.

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