The_Edom_Files_Front Cover_350Eight desperate missions against the Un-Dead!

From the mountains of Bulgaria to the streets of Berlin

From the Russo-Turkish war to the War on Terror

From 1877 to the present day 

For the Dead Travel Fast

Operation Edom is the top-secret section of MI6 dedicated to thwarting and, ultimately, controlling the Un-Dead. Open the Edom archives and read the sealed files to learn the true shape of the 20th century.

 

  • Stoker: First Blood (1877): In this prequel to Dracula, British adventurers exploring the Balkans thwart a vampiric horror.
  • The Carmilla Sanction (1948): As the Soviets seal off Vienna, an Edom hit team hunt the notorious vampire Carmilla – but can they find her among all the decoys she’s created?
  • Blood Coda (1971): A Romanian ballet company defects to the West, but there’s a vampire hidden among the dancers. Hunt her down before the curtain rises.
  • Day of the Wehrwolf (1981): A prisoner exchange for a captured Edom officer leads the Agents into a race against time to stop the bombing of Radio Free Europe.
  • The Slayer Elite (1980): A mysterious employer hires a team of elite mercenaries to carry out an operation in England. Their target: Edom.
  • Four Days of the Bat (1989): Edom investigates an attack on one of their hidden stations, while outside the Berlin Wall falls and the Soviet Union collapses.
  • The Moldavian Candidate (2005): A long-cold Edom case file is the key to thwarting a Conspiracy plan to assassinate the American vice president and escalate the war on terror.
  • The Harker Intrusion (201-): An entry vector to the main Dracula Dossier campaign, giving one way for a team of Agents to acquire the stolen Dossier.

The Edom Files is part of the Dracula Dossier series. It stands alone as a compendium of one-shot adventures, but combine it with the Director’s Handbook to flash back into Edom’s history, or play through it all as a century-spanning epic!

 

Authors: John Adamus, Stephanie Bryant, Dennis Detwiller, Kenneth Hite, Emma Marlow, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Ruth Tillman, Bill White. Stock #: PELGN09
Artists: Mary Lillis, Jesús Blones, Luigi Castellani, Raina Kuptz, Amanda Makepeace, Olivia Ongai, Margaret Organ-Kean, Miguel Santos, Alicia Vogel Format: 192 pages, B&W, perfect bound

 

Buy now

EF cover_350The upcoming Edom Files, yet another part of the I-can-justifiably-use-the-word-epic-at-this-point epic Dracula Dossier series, is an anthology of eight missions, ranging from 1877’s Stoker: First Blood to the present-day Harker Intrusion . These missions can be used as one-shots with or without reference to the larger Dossier series, or as Flashbacks within a regular Dossier campaign, or – for the truly heroic – as part of a century-spanning Unto the Fourth Generation or Fields of Edom game.

One of the nice things about having an anthology of historical scenarios in a game about immortal monsters is that you can play with horrors in the past and reasonably expect them to survive into the present, making those historical missions more than just backstory.  If Edom fails to kill Carmilla in 1948, during The Carmilla Sanction, then she’s still around in 2016 to menace your Agents. That hellish mountain lair in First Blood is still there in the present day. For each scenario, we’ve included an encounter – a person, place, object, node or ravening monster – that might survive into a contemporary campaign.

In fact, due to a slight miscommunication, we nearly included two for the Carmilla Sanction. Ken’s NPC works better in the book for sinister plot purposes, so here, rescued from the cutting room floor, is another encounter tied to that mission.

Object: The Vordenburg Diary

Appearance: A handwritten manuscript from the late 17th century, written in a mix of Latin and German, that describes the occult research of a Baron Vordenburg, who was troubled by vampires when living in Moravia (present-day eastern Czech republic).

Supposed History: Baron Vordenburg – the younger baron, the one who shows up in Carmilla – described how his ancestor was a lover of Countess Karnstein, and when she became a vampire, he studied the curse and resolved to leave notes on how to find her tomb and destroy her when she rose again. The Baron’s notes may have been part of the bundle of papers in the possession of Le Fanu when he wrote his novel; Carmilla may have removed them to her new fortress, where they fell into the hands of Edom or the occupying Russian forces.

Major Item: The book contains detailed observations on vampire physiology by Vordenburg – observations that can only be the result of extensive experimentation on captured subjects. It discusses methods of dispatch, feeding cycles, the relationship between the vampire and its tomb, and lists several vampiric creatures destroyed by the Baron. For good measure, the Baron has also transcribed key sections of other texts (like Le Dragon Noir, DH p. 273, and reading it gives a 6-point pool that can be spent on Vampirology, Diagnosis or Occult Studies – or on general ability tests when fighting a vampire. Close reading with History also turns up links to other vampire hunters (possibly the Vatican, the Hospital of St. Joseph & Ste. Mary, DH p. 230, or the Fortified Monastery of St. Peter, DH p. 144).

One small downside – the book was written after Carmilla implanted post-hypnotic suggestions in the Baron’s mind and blood, and reading the original diary (but not a copy or scan) exposes the reader to the vampire’s influence. Call for a Difficulty 6 Stability test on reading the book; failing doesn’t cost the reader any Stability, but opens up a psychic connection. Cue dreams, nocturnal visitations, and an obsession with anagrams. If Carmilla’s still active, then she starts targeting the reader as her next victim. If she was destroyed, then she possesses the reader (if female and of a suitable age) or someone close at hand (a Solace, maybe), slowly conditioning her victim to seek out another vampire and return Carmilla to un-death in a new body. Diagnosis spots the signs of possession.

Minor Item: As above, but the Baron’s notes aren’t half so comprehensive, and there’s a lot more extraneous material about lesbianism. A cruel Director might make the notes on vampirism actively misleading or dangerous – maybe Carmilla deliberately had Vordenburg write the diary as misinformation, and it points towards some location or relic that Carmilla desires. A Vampirology spend spots the errors; if the players don’t make a spend, then give them a clue pointing to a trap laid by Carmilla.

Fraudulent: It’s a fake, written by Carmilla herself in the 1930s. The book contains no useful information, but it’s still got the hypnotic curse. She wrote it as a trap for Edom; optionally, it might be the key to the 1977 mole hunt, and the mole is some woman possessed by the spirit of Carmilla. Check out the library file on the book with Research to find out who read it last, and hence determine who’s secretly Carmilla – maybe the Balkans Specialist (DH p. 91) or the Sculptor (DH p. 100) or Lucy Blythe (DH p. 41). Perhaps there are several psychic doubles of Carmilla running around.

Connections: Doubtless Van Helsing (DH p. 31) and the Hungarian’s grandfather (DH p. 94) were contacts of one Vordenberg or another. The Former Gehlen Org (DH p. 82) might know what became of any Vordenberg Legacies that are still alive.

 

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 the Pelgrane Shop.

 

Current News: The Dracula Dossier in the Bundle of Holding

Long-term readers of See Page XX will know about my very personal connection with the Dracula Dossier, and it still remains one of the Pelgrane projects I’m most proud of. The two-book core set (The Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook, and Dracula Unredacted) together form a complex and ambitious sandbox campaign for Night’s Black Agents, wherein the events of Dracula the novel are the redacted after-action report of a real incident when the British Naval Intelligence Division decided to recruit a vampire. Needless to say, it went badly; so they hunted him down, and killed him with extreme prejudice. Or so they thought…

Decades later, Dracula resurfaced in Eastern Europe; he’s the brilliant handler of a mole in (what has in the meantime become) MI6 in the 1970s; and now, in the modern day, your players must hunt down and kill Dracula – for good, this time.

As well as the core set, Bundle of Holding purchasers also get the Night’s Black Agents core book; introductory adventure The Van Helsing Letter; the adventure collection The Edom Files; Dracula Dossier cards, with instructions on how to use them; the Edom Field Manual, revealing the best and brightest of MI6’s secret vampire-recruiters; heartbreaking work of staggering genius The Hawkins Papers (digital only!), and Ken’s The Thrill of Dracula, a whirlwind tour of the myth, legend and media of the legendary vampire himself. Get this extensive high-octane thriller collection for a limited time only in the Bundle of Holding.

NEW: The Dracula Vector

And if you’re looking for a way to introduce your players to the Dracula Dossier, but worried about jumping in too quick, check out our PDF adventure, The Dracula Vector. Set in London, an old contact gets in touch with the PCs, concerned there’s a supernatural cause to his daughter’s illness. Designed by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan as an introduction to the fast-paced and cut-throat world of modern espionage in Night’s Black Agents, this one- or maybe two-shot adventure does double-duty as an entry point into a longer Dracula Dossier campaign. It includes the usual shady bunch of pregenerated characters, but works just as well with your own PCs.

NEW: Elven Towers PDF

Pre-orderers of the print book of this champion tier 13th Age adventure by Cal Moore can now download the final PDF, and Aileen’s colour map folio, from their bookshelves. For those already possessed of groaning bookshelves, who are more interested in the digital version, that is now available, and also includes the map folio.

Work in progress: The Borellus Connection

This globe-spanning campaign for The Fall of DELTA GREEN features eight linked operations, each one playable as a standalone investigation, or as part of an epic hunt for an infamous enemy, using the heroin trade and the BNDD as a narrative spine.

The final manuscript is so massive that we’ve had to hack chunks out of it just to fit it all into one book! (For Handlers only: find a wealth of articles cleaved from the final under the “FINEST EFFECTS” tag).

It’s now finally finished its sensitivity read, and Shao’s delivered an extensive, and really insightful, report from a Southeast Asian perspective. Ken and Gareth are going through her notes now and writing up the edits; once they’re done, I’ll make the changes to the master manuscript, and pass it over to the incredibly talented Jen McCleary, who’s going to do the interior art and layout. We’re hoping to release this on pre-order next month, and have the final to pre-orderers in March 2021.

Work in progress update: Saigon ’68

This ideal companion to The Borellus Connection, this Looking Glass-style writeup of the Vietnamese “Pearl of the Orient” has also finished its sensitivity read, and Ken’s currently going through the edits, at which point it’ll pass it over to the incredibly talented Jen McCleary, who’s going to do the interior art and layout. We’re hoping to release this on pre-order next month with Borellus.

Work in progress update: Even Death Can Die

I’m delighted to report that Christian has finished the final PDF for the printer, and pre-orderers can now download this from their bookshelves. He’s currently working on the cover, and once that’s finished, it’ll be off to the printer. We’re hoping to get this out to pre-orderers in January.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

Due to the massive size, I put out a call for artists and got more than 400 responses! Which is a good problem to have, but going through so many portfolios really slows down the art process, so we haven’t made as much progress on this as I’d have liked. We’re now looking at 2021 to have this to pre-orderers. Rich Longmore’s belting through the art he’s doing, though – here’s his Buzzing Acolyte:

Work in playtesting update: The Paragon Blade

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s fantasy setting for the GUMSHOE One-2-One system, currently-but-still-provisionally titled The Paragon Blade, is currently in playtesting until the end of October. Play heroes barbarian Conn the Unslain, Aletheia the Scholar, or mysterious thief Puc, in a fantastical land still scarred by the evil of the fallen Hellbound Empire. Full details on how to take part in the playtest are here.

Work in progress update: The Yellow King Bestiary

Only recently announced, Robin and the other writers have been hard at work on this compendium of Carcosan creatures, and have submitted the final manuscript now. This is nearly finished copyediting, and we’ll shortly be starting art direction on it. Expect a pre-order for it either late this year or early 2021.

13th Age work in progress update:  Elven TowersCrown of Axis, and Drakkenhall: City of Monsters

Rob Heinsoo’s very kindly already written this bit for me, and you can read it here.

And finally, a request.

Wherever you live in the world, but most especially if you live in the USA, please vote.

 

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.

“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.

The ENnie award nominations have been announced, and the voting booth is open.

The ENnies are annual awards which celebrate and reward the year’s best roleplaying game releases. They are run by ENworld – a huge and popular forum devoted primarily to roleplaying games.  Each year at Gen Con they host a ceremony which acknowledges and rewards that year’s roleplaying game highlights. As with many awards the recipients get more excited about them than the customers who buy the products. But we are recipients, and this article is about our excitement!

First the judges examine all the entries to select the nominees, then it goes to a popular vote.

There are six Pelgrane and five Pelgrane-adjacent nominations. The Edom Files, a collection of Dracula Dossier adventures gets a nod for Best Adventure. Timewatch, written by Kevin Kulp  is nominated for Best Game and Product of the Year. The Book of Changing Years, a multi-author in-world journal for TimeWatch is up for Best Writing. Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan wrote Swords Against the Dead and The Van Helsing Letter, a 13th Age and Night’s Black Agents adventure which is nominated as Best Free Product, and is available as part of the KWAS and 13th Age Monthly subscriptions. Pelgrane is the executive producer of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff– a multi-award winning podcast.

Our friends at Evil Hat published the GUMSHOE-powered teen detective roleplaying game Bubblegumshoe, and it’s received an amazing four nominations. Many props to Emily Care Boss, Kenneth Hite, and Lisa Steele.

Finally, Campaign Coins produced the beautiful 13th Age Icon Tokens.

Best Adventure
The Edom Files (Pelgrane Press)

Best Aid/Accessory
13th Age Icon Tokens (Campaign Coins)

Best Family Game
Bubblegumshoe (Evil Hat)

Best Free Product
Free RPG Day Flipbook – Swords Against the Dead and The Van Helsing Letter (Pelgrane Press)

Best Game
Timewatch (Pelgrane Press)
Bubblegumshoe (Evil Hat)

Best Writing
The Book of Changing Years (Pelgrane Press)

Best Podcast
Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

Best Rules
Bubblegumshoe (Evil Hat)

Product of the Year
Bubblegumshoe (Evil Hat)
Timewatch (Pelgrane Press)

 

 

ENnies Page XX logo
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Regular readers may notice something different around here – specifically, over there ——->

Yes, it’s an ENnies winner sticker! After many years of nominations, See Page XX has finally been recognised by the ENcademy as a good website. Huzzah! Of course, this was slightly lost in the flood of Pelgrane- and Pelgrane-adjacent wins at the 2016 ENnies – in case you missed it, Simon has more on this in his article, below.

This month sees a bumper double issue of See Page XX, crammed full of articles and the usual post-Gen Con flood of new releases, like the first new GUMSHOE corebook of our tenth anniversary year, Fear Itself 2nd Edition, and The Esoterrorists globe-spanning Worldbreaker campaign. For one month only (or while stocks last), we’ve also got some of the metal 13th Age Icon Tokens from our friends at Campaign Coins. The newly-released Dracula Dossier Thriller bundle gets an outing in PDF, and there are two editions of 13th Age Monthly available now – July’s Shades of Fey, and August’s Alarums & Incursions: Downtime for Six Icons.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

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May you live in interesting times, goes the alleged Chinese curse; and it’s hard to think of more interesting times than the UK is currently experiencing. Many friends of the Nest have expressed concern about what Britain’s vote to exit the EU means for Pelgrane Press (and more importantly, their Dracula Dossier campaigns); Simon and Gareth tackle both issues in this month’s articles, below. Speaking of which, the Dracula Dossier is one of they many fine Pelgrane products which been nominated for some ENnies – vote here! For those of you who didn’t back the Kickstarter and want to know what all the fuss is about, this month sees the release of the remaining Dracula Dossier books, available either singly or as a discounted bundle. And continuing this month’s vampire theme, the latest edition of 13th Age MonthlyTemple of the Sun Cabal, sends the PCs to rescue a vampire from a neighbouring sun cult.

New Releases

      • The Edom Field Manual – This supplement for the Dracula Dossier describes Edom’s history, methods, and tradecraft, initiating you into the innermost secrets of the British vampire program.
      • The Edom FilesEight desperate missions against the Un-Dead of the Dracula Dossier take you from the mountains of Bulgaria to the streets of Berlin; from the Russo-Turkish war to the War on Terror, and from 1877 to the present day.
      • The Thrill of Dracula – Kenneth Hite takes apart Dracula into his component pieces, and shows you how to build new, yet mythic, stories about the King of the Vampires for your  Dracula Dossier or other horror game
      • Temple of the Sun Cabal – To save the world, you have to save a vampire – from the not-so-friendly neighborhood sun cult. A one-shot adventure by Wade Rockett is the latest edition of 13th Age Monthly.

Articles

13th Age

Resource Page Updates – Trail of Cthulhu

      • The RPGGeek GUMSHOE competition-winning Purist adventure, The Keepers of the Woods by Frederick Foulds, is available to download now.
      • An updated Enchiridion of Elucidation, a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game, by Tony Williams
      • An updated Condensed Rules by Tony Williams

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Edom Burning_350In the past three weeks or so, more people have written op-ed pieces about Brexit and the ensuing fallout than actually voted in the referendum, but oddly, very few have discussed its effect on vampires (other than a few passing swipes at George Osbourne). What might Brexit mean for Dracula and your Dracula Dossier campaign?

(For those just tuning in from Promixa Centauri, there was a recent referendum on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. ‘Leave’ won by a narrow margin in a victory that was unexpected even by most of the leaders of the Leave campaign, and has had the same effect on British politics as the rise of R’lyeh.)

Nothing Much… For Now

First off, the UK is still part of the EU, and will remain so for at least another two years. Probably longer – the process of leaving requires that the UK government activate Article 50, starting a two-year window for negotiation. However, this window can be extended, and there’s a lot of uncertainty over who’s going to actually press the ejection button and what needs to be done before the button’s pressed. Brexit need not affect your campaign at all – even the slowest hunters can hunt down and kill Dracula long before the breakup of the European Union.

That said, there’s a good argument that the Dracula Dossier works best as a creature of its times. Setting your game in, say, 2006 avoids unexpected geopolitical upsets intruding from the real world, and has the added benefit of making the survival of NPCs from the 1940s timeframe a lot more plausible. The Edom Field Manual has a longer discussion on future-proofing the Dossier, although it completely missed the possibility of Brexit, because it seemed absurdly improbable (absurdly improbable in a book about vampire spies, mind you.)

Interesting Times

Even if the actual exit from the EU isn’t happening for some time, the referendum has already caused havoc in British politics. As I write, both major parties are in turmoil, and there are many questions over who’s going to be involved in the negotiations with the European Union. Anyone connected to politics in the UK or Europe is going to be preoccupied with Brexit and related matters for years to come.

Notably:

  • The Bureaucrat (Director’s Handbook, p. 108) might represent Romanian interests in the negotiations, or intercede with the British governments over attacks on Romanians living in the UK. If she’s a secret MI6 asset, her double loyalties may make her a key ally in the talks.
  • “Mr. Hopkins” (DH, p. 117) is policy advisor to a Conservative MP – in the ongoing leadership battle for control of the party, he might decide having a group of deniable spies on his side is worth the risk. Just who leaked that email from Sarah Vine to the press? Could it have been your player characters?
  • Philip Holmwood, Lord Godalming (DH, p. 43) might be seen as a pair of safe hands, and be given greater responsibility in the House of Lords, or even sent as a UK representative to NATO (to reassure them that Brexit won’t affect the UK’s military operations) or the EU (as a negotiator). If he’s one of Dracula’s minions, that puts the Count in a position to corrupt the Nato Liaison (DH, p. 125) or to advance the cause of Leutner Fabrichen (DH, p. 146)
  • Iceland isn’t in the European Union, but it is in the greater European Economic Area, which is where the UK is also likely to end up. So, expect the Icelandic Diplomat (DH, p. 119) to be spending a lot of time in Brussels and London.
  • The Journalist’s (DH, p. 120) phone goes to voicemail all the time now. Right now, “vampires exist and Count Dracula is real” might make page 4.

The Special Relationship

The alliance between the UK and the US isn’t going away, even though the US may bemoan the sudden loss of influence in Europe. Brexit may even increase the importance of Operation Edom, either with vampires as a bargaining chip – “you give us a trade deal, we give you the secret of the Seward serum for Nox Therapeutics” (DH, p. 162) – or as a cost-control measure, especially if MI6 positions Edom as more cost-effective than the alternatives. (“You could spend a lot of time and money establishing a network of agents, and tapping phones, and collating data, and then sending a drone in to do a strike that might hit that target – or, for one easy payment, we send in a vampiric assassin. I know we’re effectively selling our souls to the Devil incarnate, but that doesn’t show up on the Single Intelligence Account’s bottom line.”)

Violence & Racism

One of the most alarming effects of the referendum has been the increase in race-related abuse and attacks in the UK. Immigration was one of the major themes of the referendum, and the Leave victory seems to have brought the worst in British society out of the woodwork. Non-British player characters may attract unwanted attention; so might Romanians living in the UK. The Human Rights Activist (DH, p. 118) may need the assistance of the player characters in dealing with these attacks; the Satanic Cult of Dracula (DH, p. 55) might use racist thugs as cannon fodder against the player characters.

(Of course, one obvious reading of the novel Dracula is that it’s a warning about the horrors of swarthy Eastern Europeans emigrating to the fair shores of England, and no doubt Dracula used the open borders of the European Union to sneak his agents from Romania into England. As a staunch Guardian-reading Europhile, I must admit this is somewhat awkward.)

Scotland & the Vampiric Deterrent

Another possible repercussion of Brexit is the breaking up of the United Kingdom. Scotland voted to Remain in the European Union, and there’s already talk of a second independence referendum for Scotland so they can stay in the EU.

HMS Proserpine, Edom’s secret base (DH, p 169) is located off the Scottish coast on an disused oil rig. If Scotland became independent, the prisoners and any supernatural assets stored there would have to be relocated to England. It’s a lot easier to move a handful of illegal prisoners and (possibly) a vampire or two than it is to move the Royal Navy base at Faslane (for those who don’t know, the UK’s nuclear arsenal is based in Scotland…), but it would still be a major headache for Edom – and an opportunity for the player characters to do serious damage, if they ambushed the convoy from Proserpine on the way south. (Presumably, Edom would relocate its vampiric assets to its base in Exeter (DH, p. 167) or Ring (DH, p. 173), or to the old holding facility at Whitby (DH, p. 178) if it’s moving the assets by sea).

Alternatively, Edom has some experience in maintaining assets in other countries. It could resurrect the Treaty Ports solution mentioned in Hawkins Papers 17, relating to Dun Dreach-Fhola (DH, p. 235), giving Scotland independence but retaining control of a few key sites. Or it could run HMS Proserpine in secret.

(Gibraltar also voted to Remain, and there’s a secret Edom listening post there too, as per The Harker Intrusion in The Edom Files. Somewhere in Whitehall, Osprey (DH, p. 52) is getting extremely drunk with some despairing chaps from the Home Office as they contemplate sorting out this mess.)

Master of the Vampire Squid

Another potential casualty of Brexit is the City of London – the financial companies and bankers based there may be forced to move. Already, other financial centres in Europe are making overtures to the banks and fund managers – Frankfurt and Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin are all setting out their stalls. Why not Bucharest, too? Dracula would delight at the prospect of draining England’s financial lifeblood – mesmerising or suborning a few financial leaders could pay huge dividends, so to speak.

Financial uncertainty always drives up the price of gold, so Dracula might also take the opportunity to convert some of his hoarded coins to dollars while the Brexit chaos is in full swing.

Qui Bono?

Finally, who benefits from Brexit? Leaving aside the questions of British sovereignty and the economy, Brexit would definitely weaken the European Union, forcing it to look inwards to its own problems or even breaking it up entirely. Weakness in Europe emboldens Russia; could Dracula have helped cause Brexit’s unexpected win as part of his plans to seize control of Russia, as described in the Russian Roulette capstone (DH, p. 302)? Or did Edom – recalling days of Empire – decide that their control of Dracula made it all worth the gamble?

 

 

 

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