by Adam Gauntlett

A scenario seed for Trail of Cthulhu, in which the Investigators must find out who’s been breaking into the Empire State Building.

History

The Empire State in New York is conceived in the booming, prosperous 1920s, but it breaks ground on October 1st, 1929, when the building previously on that site, the glamorous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, is demolished. On October 4th, the stock market implodes. By the time the Empire State is complete, 45 days before its anticipated due date, the Great Depression is well under way. It becomes an icon when King Kong climbs it in 1933, but it is an icon without tenants. For the first few decades of its existence the observation deck at the top floor makes more money from fascinated tourists than the rest of the building put together. Despite this, the building’s lights are kept on all the time, to create the illusion of occupancy. Defeated Democratic Presidential candidate Al Smith, an investor and president of Empire State, Inc, occupies the top floors. Altogether there are perhaps 20 tenants for the whole building, including Smith in a skyscraper meant for 20,000. Hence its nickname: the Empty State Building.

The Waldorf-Astoria, New York’s iconic hotel, opens in 1893. It’s a heavy, weighty, Germanic design, stuffed full of antiques, marble facades, and dignity. At its height it has 1,300 rooms and is the first hotel in New York to feature electric lights and private bathrooms. Though laughed at for its pomposity, dignitaries and the wealthy flock to it, to eat one of Oscar of the Waldorf’s celebrated meals, or dance in the Waldorf’s iconic ballroom. New York’s fashionable women compete to outdo each other on what becomes known as Peacock Alley, the main corridor of the hotel that ran the full length of the building, all along 33rd Street.

Introduction

The investigators are hired by Empire State, Inc, to look into a problem. Rumor has it that people are breaking into the Building at night and wandering around the ground floor corridors. Though nobody’s prepared to confirm this, it’s said that one of the people who have seen this is Al Smith himself – but Al isn’t talking. The Trust that manages the Building would very much like to have this handled discreetly. Can the investigators find out who’s breaking in, and how?

All anyone knows about the intruders is that they are always seen by someone inside the building. So far, they’ve never been spotted by someone on the outside looking in, which is odd, as the intruders are never seen on any floor except the ground floor, where they ought to be visible from 33rd Street. Nobody can agree on what the intruders look like, except that they’re very graceful.

“They’re always dancing,” says building superintendent, Max Baum. (Forties, pugnacious, family man, former Democrat ward heeler who worked on Al’s campaign).

Opening Scenes: The Stake-Out

If the investigators check, it soon becomes clear that there’s no easy way into the Empire State. All the ground floor entrances are locked, and once locked they don’t open again till eight a.m., when the cleaning staff arrive. Max has the master keys. Only Al Smith has his own key so he can come and go as he likes. The other tenants have keys to their offices, but not the building itself. The building closes to the public at 5 pm and the main entrance is monitored by door security until 8 pm; after that, should a tenant still be working in the building, once they leave they can’t get back in. None of the locks have been tampered with.

Some tourists do get locked in the building after the day is done, “goofing around after a trip to the observation deck,” Baum says. With such a large, empty building it can be difficult to monitor every corridor. Baum thinks the mysterious figures are tourists who deliberately stay after hours, probably for a bet.

The only slightly supernatural connection the Empire State has is that it once hosted a séance to contact the ghost of Thomas Edison, in 1932. It was a publicity stunt dreamed up to attract tenants. “A flop,” says Baum. “Just like all the other stunts.” Privately he wonders if these intruders are yet another stunt, dreamed up by Al Smith in a fit of desperation.

Staking-out the ground floor after hours finds little unusual. Occasionally the investigators hear footsteps or smell what might be fine cooking. Anyone with access to a radio (the doorman has a portable one, to keep him from going stir crazy) hears old broadcasts from 1926, the year NBC aired its inaugural radio show from the Waldorf-Astoria’s ballroom. Comedian Will Rogers hosts the show, which is mainly music and comedy routines. The doorman doesn’t realize what he’s listening to, but he’s a Will Rogers fan, so he always turns the radio up when Will is on. (Keeper: Rogers dies in a plane wreck in August 1935, so depending on when this scenario is set he may already be dead.)

Midpoint: Haunted City

At some point during the stake-out the investigators discover a jacket, hastily discarded near the elevators in the lobby. It has a long tear down one sleeve, as if someone was attacked and forced to drop it in the struggle. Among the items in its pockets (most of which are irrelevant but the Keeper can have a fun time describing) is an iPhone.

Of course, the investigators won’t have any idea what one of those is. It’s a funny flat brick with a cracked glass screen to them. However, it still has some juice and its owner didn’t believe in locking it, so it can be accessed. Without internet or towers most of its functions are unusable, though it has plenty of saved video content – cat gifs galore, funny cat videos, and production footage of Exploring the Apple by Sarah Dansky, whose latest episode, still in progress, is NYC’s Seven Most Haunted Buildings. Footage shows that Sarah wears the same jacket found in the lobby in some of the establishing shots.

‘There are so many spots here that have paranormal activity, and I’m going to be getting into many of them today,’ Sarah smiles. One of which is the Empire State. According to Sarah, mysterious figures were seen in the lobby and ground floor of the Empire State, linked, she says, to an incident that took place in the Waldorf in 1926. ‘However, the owners of the building called in notorious paranormal expert [investigator name] in [one year prior to the current investigation] who was able to solve the problem.’

Naturally notorious paranormal expert [investigator] has no idea what Dansky’s talking about. However, further footage shows Sarah in the basement of the Empire State, (where she’s not supposed to be), discovering a safe deposit box hidden behind a false wall, put there by the paranormal expert. She gleefully holds up the box to the camera, and says she’s going to take it to ‘a historian’ for further analysis, in the last video clip. On the lid of the box is carved the Yellow Sign.

So What Really Happened?

The Waldorf, in its early years, faced the same problems the Empire State now faces. No guests, no future: Astor’s Folly. John Jacob Astor IV, later to drown on the Titanic, solved the problem with a charity ball that attracted the wealthiest families of New York, thus establishing the hotel’s reputation. Or so everyone thinks.

In fact, Astor, a devotee of science fiction, utopian, and author of A Journey In Other Worlds, hatched a scheme. He would push the hotel’s bad luck forward in time. It was his moral right to do so, he felt; his success was worth the price of future failure for someone else. He pushed that bubble in time forward as far as he could by burying it beneath the Waldorf, in a kind of capsule. There was a very nasty incident in 1926, when the protections weakened and it looked as if there might be an outbreak during NBC’s 1926 broadcast, but by then Astor was long-dead.

What he’d done was seal entropy away, and Hastur shall not be denied. On that spot, throughout the timeline, the Thing that wears its Mask dances. It brings despair, tearing things apart at their foundations as Samson brought down the Temple. Its surface manifestation is financial ruin – the same fate that nearly brought down the Waldorf is bringing down the Empire State.

This means two things: first, time is weak here. The future and the past walk hand-in-hand at the Empire State. Oscar of the Waldorf still makes Thousand Island Dressing in the kitchen, Evelyn McHale continually tumbles to her death in 1947, and Lt Colonel Smith’s B-25 will always and forever smash into the north side of the 79th floor.

Second, time gets weaker whenever someone uncovers Astor’s time capsule, which is what Sarah Dansky did in (insert date here). When that happens, the capsule reappears at some point along the timeline, and whoever finds it has to bury it again or live with the consequences.

In this instance the capsule reappeared the year before the events of the scenario, which means the investigators have to discover a way to contact their past selves. Luckily for them there may be a way: the Empire State has its own post office and internal delivery system, and right now time is very weak indeed. If they can find a way to get a letter pre-dated to a year ago, and then send it from the Empire State, they’ll get the letter in time to do something constructive.

Or the players can come up with an ingenious scheme of their own. Whichever works.

What’s In The Capsule?

Who can say? It might be Dansky’s iPhone, mysteriously repaired, now filled with The King In Yellow audiobooks, each read by a different horror author. It might be Astor’s unpublished science fiction novel, Entropy Denied. Evelyn McHale’s signed photograph, an Empire State snow globe, a mint-in-box Robin D. Laws (with Kung Fu grip!) figurine – whatever the Keeper likes. Of course, opening the capsule weakens the timeline almost to destruction …

Currently the capsule is held by Sarah Dansky, which means the investigators will have to get it back from her, and then get it to their past selves.

The King Dances

Meanwhile Hastur gnaws away, Níðhöggr to the Empire State’s Yggdrasil. This manifests as the Dancers, which are encountered whenever the timeline weakens. They are people past, present and future; Astor might be waltzing with Sarah Dansky, or McHale with Lt Colonel Smith. They have fallen to Hastur, as must every soul who comes too close. They are the Peacocks drifting through the marble halls of Astor’s temple to wealth. Always beautiful, always impeccably dressed, and each with their own masque not unlike something seen at Venice Carnival. Their dance is mesmerizing, but it can be fatal: anyone who gets too close risks seeing Hastur, which lurks behind their hypnotic, intricate parabola.

Mechanically, each encounter is a Stability check, with the Mythos Difficulty modifier. Potential checks include Supernatural Manifestation at a Distance, Supernatural Creature Up Close, and Speak With Someone You Know to be Dead. If this last happens, and the investigator fails the test, then that investigator’s next brush with the Dance will be a direct encounter with Hastur, with all the Sanity-blasting impact that implies. The Keeper may choose to have it be the invisible form, for less damage, if desired.

If the capsule isn’t reburied, the Dance will continue. Perhaps the Empire State will never pull out of its financial nosedive, or perhaps it will become a new temple to the Yellow King. Perhaps …

With modification, this Trail scenario could also be suited for Robin Laws’ Yellow King RPG.

Author’s note: I’m well aware the present-day Empire State is open from 8am to 2am. For this scenario, I’m assuming the opening hours were different in the 1930s, when the building was nearly empty.


Adam writes, and writes, and writes. Among his credits are Pelgrane’s Soldiers of Pen and Ink, Dulce et Decorum Est, The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby, and Silver Ennie Award winner The Long Con. You can find him on Twitter at @ag_Karloff, and online at http://karloff-shelf.blogspot.com/.


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu, and its many supplements and adventures, in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

A derelict superyacht hides a deadly secret in this adventure seed for The Esoterrorists

By Adam Gauntlett

Background

In 2004, Ukrainian billionaire Andrej Teresenko (oil exports) commissioned the superyacht Starfire from AS Knutsson shipyards in Florø, Norway. Over 130 ft long, with helicopter landing pad, gym facilities, a large bar (complete with Steinway piano), private movie theatre and luxury VIP as well as ordinary guest suites, this was to be Teresenko’s crowning achievement. He died before he could enjoy it. The media says it was natural causes; Ukraine’s government suspects assassination, probably by the Russians. Whoever did it saved Ordo Veritatis the trouble, as Teresenko was a person of interest in a Dollarmen investigation. With Teresenko out of the way the trail went cold, though operation BLUNDERHEAD was never officially wound up.

However, the research division discovered the yacht as part of its ongoing trawl of the internet, looking for anything that might indicate Esoterror involvement. They found YouTube footage of the yacht, now just a rusty hull in a Norwegian shipping yard. Records indicate it was part-furnished before all work stopped, but nobody’s bought it, moved it or removed any of the contents since Terensenko’s death in 2006. Nor has anyone offered it for sale; the shipyard seems content to let it sit there and rust itself to death. Operation BLUNDERHEAD has been reactivated, and the agents are tasked with infiltrating the shipyard, getting aboard Starfire, and ensuring that there’s nothing more sinister than a ruined Steinway in that decayed hulk.

Preliminary Investigation

The agents may look over the records of operation BLUNDERHEAD or study architect’s plans of Starfire. The plans are still kept on the architect’s servers, so they can be had with Data Retrieval (0 point).

With this, the agents can get a good idea of the layout (as designed) of Starfire, and what to expect. This grants a 2-point pool to Infiltration or Evidence Collection (or both) while aboard Starfire.

If the agents go one step further and spend 1 point Research, Forensic Accounting or similar, they notice that among the many invoices that went out as part of the build were some significant spends on medical equipment. Except there’s no indication on the ship plans that a state-of-the-art medical bay was part of the ship’s design. It’s not uncommon for a superyacht to have a sophisticated surgery ward, particularly if the owner has health issues. However, Starfire’s design doesn’t allow for one.

Heading to Florø

Florø is a pleasant-bordering-on-quaint island town, the most western town in Norway. It has a coastal museum, lighthouse, deer center and brewery. The agents can get there by car, ferry or plane.

Founded in 1860 when fishing was much more of an industry than it is today, Florø gets much of its living from North Sea Oil, though fishing is still important. It was one of the most prominent towns in the area when transport by sea was still vital, but as highways became predominant Florø’s importance slipped. These days it’s the kind of small-ish town with little serious crime and not much to do.

The Knutsson shipyard is well-regarded by anyone who bothers to think about it, which isn’t saying much, since most folk in Florø have little to do with it. A family-run business since 1873, the shipyard’s been moribund since the late 1990s, when old man Knuttson died and left the business to his sons Jostein and Martin, neither of whom have the go-getting spirit their father had.

Reassurance or similar (0 point) finds out that for the last four years large cars with tinted windows visit the shipyard two or three times a year. Locals gossip that the shipyard’s involved in organized crime, perhaps narcotics smuggling. Cop Talk (1 point) pours cold water on this theory. When it started happening the local cops sent word to the authorities in Oslo and there was a brief inquiry, but it turned out there was nothing to the rumor. The cars are just wealthy clients making enquiries about new ship builds. Though it is odd; for all these inquiries, no ships get built. It’s never the same client, either, always someone different, though the cars are always the same. They belong to the law office of Advokat Erik Helgesson, Oslo; checking reveals this to be a Dollarman front, though Helgesson will die before he gives up any useful intel.

A.S. Knutsson Shipyard

Though neat and efficient, the shipyard is clearly (Architecture 0 point) an outdated relic trying to get by on equipment that should have been replaced years ago. There’s plenty of safety code violations and a case could be made for illegal dumping of petrochemicals, but nobody in Florø cares that much. They feel too sympathetic to the Knutsson brothers, two local lads struggling to get by.

The Starfire is berthed in one of the furthest corners of the shipyard, out of direct sightline of the main offices. Almost as if the brothers didn’t want to see it if they could help it.

The shipyard has a dozen permanent employees, mostly skilled trades, perhaps a score or more temp-hires when there’s a big job on, and there are a couple dogs on site, but they aren’t security-trained; they’re just big and noisy. Infiltration difficulty 3 to get into the site, falling to 2 at night when there aren’t as many people. The Knuttson brothers sleep at the shipyard, but nobody else does. In the event of trouble, they call the cops.

One employee, Geir Blomhagen, has an unusual sideline. Every so often, always a week before one of the cars arrive, he picks up a package from the post office and takes it aboard Starfire, where he leaves it below decks. He’s never looked inside any of the packages, though he knows from the return address that they come from medical suppliers. He’s scared to talk about this, but he drinks heavily ever since his boyfriend left him, so he sometimes lets things slip. Reassurance (1 point) gets him to open up.

Getting Aboard Starfire

If the agents get into the shipyard without trouble, they don’t need to make another Infiltration check to sneak onto Starfire. She’s unmanned and unwatched.

She would have been impressive had she ever launched, but now she’s a rusty orange hull. The swimming pool on the upper deck is empty, save for a shallow puddle of rainwater. She has four decks above the waterline and two below, and for the most part she’s exactly what she appears to be: an abandoned superyacht, part-furnished. The Steinway rots in the bar, alongside leather bar seats and walnut fixtures that have long since perished. The en-suite VIP cabins with their luxury furnishings are ruined. Even the flatscreens, never connected, were left here, though at the time it would have been easy enough to remove and sell them to some deserving Florø household, no questions asked. It’s as if the workers were too frightened to touch anything after the commission fell through.

Evidence Collection (0 point) finds Blomhagen’s trail. He always goes to the same place – the bar – and leaves the package on the Steinway. This can easily be told by the marks in the rust and dust. What’s not so easily told is what happens after that. Whoever removes the package leaves no trail.

Evidence Collection (1 point) notices that although the ship ought to have two below-waterline decks, there’s no obvious way to access the second deck. Architecture (1 point) or another point spend Evidence Collection finds a concealed access hatch that leads to the second below-waterline deck.

It is immediately clear, on entering the second below-waterline deck, where all that medical equipment ended up, back when Starfire was built. This equipment wouldn’t shame a top-rated surgical facility. None of it is in good repair and blood and viscera are liberally scattered over every surface. The entire deck stinks like a midden and is slick with greasy fluids. The medical packages Blomhagen brought aboard are here, torn open, their contents presumably used – everything from plasma to harvested organs from China.

Also here is what’s left of Andrej Teresenko, impossibly, necromantically, still alive.

He’s just a torso , his eyeless head endlessly twitching, but he still has a tongue, so he can speak. Intimidation means nothing to him now, but Reassurance might work, if the agents promise they will kill him. He has no combat stats or relevant abilities, Health 3. If the agents try to rescue him to interrogate him later about Esoterrorism or the Dollarmen, the GM should decide what happens next. He probably won’t survive long without the Nurse’s constant attentions, or really specialized medical care.

Back in 2004, Teresenko was already aware that the authorities were coming for him. He wanted a way out, so he could enjoy his wealth somewhere sunny and peaceful. For that, he needed the best plastic surgery money could buy, and he spent a full year looking for someone to suit his exacting needs. That’s how he found the one he calls The Cutter, and The Cutter was his way into the Dollarmen. He promised the Dollarmen access to The Cutter, so their own people could enjoy new identities. In exchange, the Dollarmen would help him hide the loot. Teresenko built Starfire so The Cutter would have a safe haven, then faked his own death and delivered himself into The Cutter’s hands.

‘I didn’t know,’ he weeps with ruined eyes. ‘I didn’t know …’

What Really Happened

Teresenko found The Practice. Specifically, he found a Surgeon-Nurse husband-wife team, Ilya Litvin and his wife Yana, medics in the 1914-18 war fighting with the Austro-Hungarian army, shot by their own side in 1916 for reasons unspecified in the historical record – though as is so often the case, history lies. The Litvins made the transfer to the other side of the Membrane, and for decades afterward made hospitals in Kiev a living nightmare.

Teresenko offered them what he thought was safe haven, but the Litvins didn’t care much about that. However, the Practice wanted new victims and Teresenko offered a steady supply, without all the fuss and bother of having to look for them. So Teresenko got his Cutter, and the Litvins moved to Norway. The Dollarmen soon learned their tame plastic surgeons were nothing but. The Dollarmen decided to make lemonade from their lemons and now use the Practice as impromptu interrogation experts.

‘Tell us everything you know, or we will leave you here …’

The Litvins soon got bored of sitting aboard ship and have been making regular trips first to local medical facilities, then further abroad. They always return to Starfire. It’s their comfort zone.

Ilya and Yana Litvin

Stats as per Unremitting Horror, p. 81-90. The team has no Mortician, so nobody cleans up, which is why the surgery is in such a state. Both still wear military uniforms under their medical gowns, and Ilya has all his campaign medals. He’s also tagged on medals from every other military campaign he’s ever witnessed since 1916, not caring very much which army the medals came from. His skull is over-stuffed with brains, so his Alertness modifier is +3. He’s also grafted new, better hands onto Yana, so her Scuffling is 13. They treat Teresenko like a pet, but he’s also a useful guard dog. They don’t keep his eyes in his head, but in a handy liquor-filled jar so they can see the concealed entrance point. Anything those eyes can see, Yana can see. Infilitration Difficulty 8 somehow gets through that door without being spotted. Otherwise the Litvins know how many agents there are, what weapons they carry, and when best to ambush them.

This scenario seed was inspired by this YouTube video.

 


Adam writes, and writes, and writes. Among his credits are Pelgrane’s Soldiers of Pen and Ink, Dulce et Decorum Est, The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby, and Silver Ennie Award winner The Long Con. You can find him on Twitter at @ag_Karloff, and online at http://karloff-shelf.blogspot.com/.


The Esoterrorists are occult terrorists intent on tearing the fabric of the world – and you play elite investigators out to stop them. This is the game that revolutionized investigative RPGs by ensuring that players are never deprived of the crucial clues they need to move the story forward. Purchase The Esoterrorists in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

by Adam Gauntlett

Running all over Europe shooting vampires attracts attention from governments, police agencies, and other unsympathetic official observers. Night’s Black Agents represents this attention, and the concomitant investigations and pursuits, with the abstract value of Heat.

If you make it go Boom, there are consequences. What should those consequences be? How can they be put into effect?

Heat comes from illegal, particularly flamboyantly illegal, actions. Stealing a car gets a bit of Heat. Blowing up Parliament gets a ton of Heat, and probably a sniper’s bullet right between the eyes. However, what the Director needs to understand is, Heat isn’t personal. The authorities don’t know that it’s bang-and-burner Fibber McGee who’s been blowing up all those police stations. They just know there’s a lot of smoking craters where police stations used to be, and are very keen to arrest whoever’s been doing it. So more cops get put on the road, the investigation team gets larger, special contingency schemes are activated, and, in truly awful situations, domestic intelligence agencies, or military agencies, get involved. All this increases Heat, and thus make it more likely that Fibber and his partner(s) in chaos will encounter official resistance.

This means more overt signs of domestic turmoil. Wherever Fibber and his pals go, there are road blocks and stop-and-searches. The underworld shuts down, because the cops are closing down every den of vice they can find. If the police don’t usually go about armed, now they do. If they are usually armed, then they’re even more trigger-happy than before. Soldiers or special forces become common sights. All this, of course, before anyone makes a die roll. The agents smacked the wasps’ nest with a baseball bat; now the wasps retaliate.

So right away you can see one function of Heat: to provide consequence for outrageous actions. Which in turn encourages the agents to save up the really crazy stuff for when it’s necessary, as opposed to going full Terminator whenever they see a police station.

Now let’s look at specific Heat call-outs in the rules. Heat increases Difficulty, and Heat shuts down access to the Black Market.

Let’s say the agents have earned 5 or more points of Heat. That means the Difficulty for all suitable General tests goes up from base 4 to base 5, because the Difficulty is now based on Heat. Going through airport security, breaking into Government IT instillations, Network tests and similar – basically, all the subtle, sneaky, bluff-and-diplomacy options become trickier to pull off. So Throckmorton P. Gildersneeve, the team’s hacker and cracker, is going to find it much more difficult to get into even the least well protected of networks.

Here Heat serves as a complicating factor. It’s not directly affecting the agents, but its indirect effects can be catastrophic. This in turn forces the agents to think about their Heat, and how to lower it before a disastrous General check ruins them for good. It doesn’t mean as much to Molly’s Parkour checks, because those shan’t be affected by Heat – but how often does an operation’s success depend entirely on Parkour?

To reinforce this, the Director should enforce this rule as soon as it comes into effect – so as soon as Heat hits 5 or more – and keep hammering away at it for as long as Heat remains at that level. Keeping Heat, and thus Difficulty, high, means the agents will be spending more from pools, and risking greater negative effects every time they make relevant General tests.

Then there’s the Black Market option, or, as I like to think of it, the Banhammer. If Belulah the Wetworker wants to buy guns, she’s got to go to the Market, but if Fibber’s been raising the Heat to unacceptable levels, then this could be costly. If Belulah’s total Streetwise pool plus the number of points spent is less than the team’s total Heat, she gets betrayed by the dealer, in some way. This doesn’t have to mean a fight. It could mean she gets defective goods, or is sold a nice, reliable American assault rifle – you know, the ones with the RFID markers, easily traced.

Notice that team Heat affects the team. It might be Fibber who got a little too bang-happy, but everyone pays the price. This is called Collective Punishment; it’s been with us since the 2nd Century BC, at least. Under Collective Punishment, everyone in the group pays for the sins of one member of the group. “Private Pyle … has dishonored himself … and dishonored the platoon,” as Full Metal Jacket’s Gunny Hartman puts it. By letting everyone know that it was Private Pyle who earned the platoon pushups, Gunny Hartman bullies the platoon into helping Hartman police Pyle. “I have tried to help him, but I have failed. I have failed because you have not helped me. You people have not given Private Pyle the proper motivation.”

The Director should never have to worry about Heat. The Director should welcome Heat. It’s the agents who should worry, because with each point of Heat their lives become more and more complicated. They might all rack up Heat heedlessly, stealing cars, getting into fights, and then get wide-eyed and cautious when Heat reaches toxic levels, and options become unavailable, or too costly to pursue. If they know that they’ll all have to pay for the actions of one, they’ll start policing the one, leading to conflict – and conflict is the engine of Drama.

Let’s go through an example. The team is Fibber the bang-and-burner, Molly the black bagger, Belulah the wetworker, and Throckmorton the hacker. Fibber, the scamp, has been up to his old tricks, and the team’s Heat is 6.

They’re just coming from a scene in which Belulah, in search of weapons, was betrayed by her black market contact, and a fight broke out. All of them got dinged, but the worst was Throckmorton, who’s now Hurt.

Now they’re going into a scene that involves breaking into a Conspiracy installation. It has to be tonight, for plot reasons. They don’t have an easy or quick way to drain Heat, so they’re going in with the Difficulties and penalties appropriate for Heat 6.

Throckmorton could have used Digital Intrusion to change the police database, but he’s Hurt and facing increased Difficulty. He felt the risk wasn’t worth it, especially since he needs his pool for the Infiltration scene, and hasn’t got an easy way to refresh, in the time available. Molly might have tried something similar with Disguise, but she doesn’t have many pool points left after a test earlier in the session. None of the rest of the group have any applicable General abilities, so there’s no chance of getting rid of the Heat before the operation.

Already nerves are on edge, and the other three are snapping at Fibber, who got them into this.

Now they have to break in. When they cased the joint earlier, the guard regime was patchy and their internet security was a joke. Not any more. All the cunning options have Difficulty 6; cop cars drive past the front gate every fifteen minutes, and the Conspiracy’s IT guru is busy on-site, ensuring all that precious data stays secure. After all, the Conspiracy isn’t dumb. If Government installations are upgrading security because police stations are vanishing in puffs of logic, the local Node is at the very least going to change the locks on the front door.

Fibber, anxious to regain group favor, says he’s Prepared for this. “All the Conspiracy bigwigs ride around in those fancy black cars, and carry special ID, right? Well, it just so happens I’ve got that exact kind of car, with the fake IDs to go with it, and some of those off-the-rack suits they like to wear. That should get us past the front gate, right?” Fibber’s plan is a success, and with the advantage gained through Preparedness, the group gets past the front gate.  Throckmorton stays behind, using his hacking skills to take over the security cameras and guide the agents through. Besides, he’s already Hurt, and getting shot at isn’t in his job description.

Unfortunately for Throckmorton, Difficulty’s up, and the Director isn’t telling him by how much. He rolls the dice, and gets a dirty success – high enough to succeed, but below Heat & Hurt levels. So the Director decides that the IT guru spots his attempt and lets it succeed, so the IT guru can backtrack the feed and find out where the attack is coming from.

Meanwhile the team’s getting on with the job, and are close to the objective. Not all of the group has Infiltration, so Molly’s pools have been draining rapidly to cope with this and the higher Difficulty. Now they’re in position, but there’s a bunch of guards between them and the objective. “That’s new,” says Belulah, as she gets her silenced weapon out. She wonders if she can earn the Hush Puppy achievement. That pool refresh is looking pretty tasty, after the black market fight drained her combat pools.

“Uh … guys?” says Throckmorton, over the coms. “There’s … uhh, there’s a bunch of scary spec ops-looking dudes, converging on my location. Can I get a little help?”

“Don’t worry!” Fibber gets out one of his special little packages. “I Prepared for this, too!”

The night is ripped apart by the all-too-familiar noise of high explosives going off, and, in the distance, police sirens.

“Hey! Big Ba-Da-Boom!” says Fibber.

“Great,” reply his unenthusiastic teammates.

by Adam Gauntlett

In Night’s Black Agents, the Network ability represents your network of professional contacts. It works something like Cover in play; at any time, you may reveal or remember the existence of a member of your network in a given city …

Walther PPK, 7.65 millimeter. Only three men I know use such a gun. I believe I’ve killed two of them … Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky, GoldenEye.

Fibber felt ice trickle down his spine as he looked at the corpse of his friend Rico Marcelli, laid out on a morgue slab, the autopsy Y-incision a brutal reminder that, this time, it really was the end of Rico.

Fibber wasn’t just mourning the death of a friend, a colleague, a comrade in the fight against the Conspiracy. When Rico went, he took 4 of Fibber’s Network points with him. Those would be difficult to replace. Plus, Rico was supposed to be finding out as much as he could about the vampiric killer Sweetie-Face, the Conspiracy’s number one killer. Now all Rico’s work was gone – or was it? Maybe, before the Conspiracy caught up with him, Rico had time to load up one of his special dead drops; if he did, Fibber could salvage something from this disaster.

Network, and by extension Contacts, are special tools which the agents can use to help them out in a tight spot. In story, they represent old friends, professional colleagues, people whose skills and talents are vital in obtaining whatever McGuffin needs to be obtained this time. Mechanically, they are floating pools of Investigative and General points and boosts, which can be drawn on to overcome an obstacle.

What is an obstacle? Well, it’s whatever happens to be blocking plot progress in the moment. It doesn’t have to be a threat to life and limb. It can as easily be an invitation to that exclusive party, underworld gossip, or that all-important, difficult-to-obtain, Bane or Block.

Why use a Contact to overcome that obstacle when you have Investigative pools to spend? Perhaps your agent doesn’t want to spend their own points, or hasn’t got them to spend. Banking points in a Contact is a good way of ensuring there’s a way round every obstacle, no matter when or where they occur. Think of a Contact as the Swiss Army Knife of NPCs; a tool for every conceivable occasion – and reusable, so long as the Contact has points left.

In the Bond films GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, Robbie Coltrane plays one of Bond’s Network contacts, Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky, a former KGB agent turned entrepreneur and shady dealer in questionable merchandise. In their first meeting, Bond offers Zhukovsky a benefit – cash from an arms deal gone wrong – in exchange for a meeting with the shadowy Janus, boss of the crime syndicate that snatched control over a powerful, experimental weapon. In their second, Zhukovsky is much more involved with the plot, and saves Bond from a death trap with a carefully aimed bullet from Zhukovsky’s cane gun.

So in their first meeting, the obstacle was information, and an introduction. In their second there are several different obstacles, culminating in a final confrontation in which only Zhukovsky’s intervention gets Bond out of a situation that would otherwise have ended the story prematurely.

If this were an NBA campaign, Bond’s player probably didn’t invest that many Network points in Zhukovsky to begin with. After all, Bond doesn’t need Zhukovsky for more than one thing. So let’s say the player puts in 2 Network points, creating the character, giving Zhukovsky just enough points that Bond can buy that introduction to Janus. The arms deal gone wrong is flavor text; it means nothing to the overall plot, but it provides a reason for Zhukovsky to get involved. It represents that initial Network spend; Bond gives Zhukovsky pool points, and in exchange Zhukovsky overcomes an obstacle for Bond.

However it later becomes clear Zhukovsky’s more useful to Bond that he appeared at first glance. Bond’s player therefore invests more Network points, boosting Zhukovsky’s pool and thus allowing Zhukovsky to do more things for Bond. Network points don’t refresh, either for the contact or the agent, so every time Zhukovsky intervenes, he gets one step closer to burnout. In the story, Zhukovsky exhausts his pool and dies, but not before getting Bond out of the mess Bond’s in.

A Network spend is a big investment for the agent. The agent has to keep paying on the installment plan, with hard-won experience points, or have their Contact repossessed. Even that has its advantages, for the Director. In NBA, losing a Contact to the vampires means a potential cameo later on.  Zhukovsky returns! As a hungry ghost, a ghoul, a vampire, who knows … For Fibber, this might mean Rico’s about to get up off the slab and put the bite on him. That Y-incision could be the perfect decoy!

A Network Contact is usually unplanned, so, unlike every other Director-controlled character, the Contact is the player’s personal project. This does mean the Director needs to keep an eye on what the player creates, and offer advice or guidance, as needed. Zhukovsky’s a brilliant example of a good Contact; an ex-KGB with a sideline in arms dealing can have his fat fingers in all sorts of pies, and be seen anywhere in the world, from Macau to Manchester. On the other hand, Irene the hotel front desk attendant is less useful. Sure, she can overcome that one obstacle at the Paris Ritz, where she works, but she’s probably not going to be at the Ritz Dubai next week, or the Ritz-Carlton Moscow the week after that, never mind the 2020 Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection next month. Irene is pretty much stuck in Paris, along with all those Network points someone invested in her. Moreover she’s only useful in hotels; she won’t be arranging illicit gun sales, or breaking the agents out of prison.

Fibber and his somber team discuss their options. Rico’s death almost certainly means Sweetie-Face is tracking them, possibly even preparing an ambush. Fibber thinks Rico may have left some intel in a safe house that Rico set up, so they decide to go there first.

Sure enough, it’s a trap – but not a very well-planned trap. ‘Sweetie-Face is getting sloppy,’ says Fibber, as the team stacks dead mooks in the bedroom of a La Busserine apartment, in Marseille.

Belulah thinks that was the point. ‘There’s a lot of cops hanging around,’ she points out. ‘Plenty more than I’d expect, given how tough this neighborhood is. Almost like they’re waiting for the Go order. Did you see those stacks of cash and whatever that stuff in the brown bags is, in the bedroom? I bet Sweetie-Face set this up so she can hang some kind of major crime on us, maybe terrorism or drug smuggling.’

The team starts to sweat, particularly bang-and-burner Fibber, who’s in enough trouble as it is. Belulah grins. ‘I can call in my old pal George,’ she says.

Belulah’s player initially thought of a Marseille gangster Contact, but the Director pointed out that someone closely tied to Marseille wouldn’t be much use in, say, Japan. Not that next week’s scenario is set in Japan, but … [discreet cough]. Instead Belulah puts 4 Network points into George Gamble, founder and CEO of Worldwide Forensic Experts LLC, a small, specialized humanitarian forensics company. George used to work in war zones; a Marseilles apartment stacked with corpses is probably not even the goriest thing he’s seen this week.

Meanwhile, hacker and cracker Gildersneeve puts the backdoor he installed on the cops’ network to good use. Sure enough, the cops are planning a raid on this very apartment block, searching for some big, tough, organized crime types. A few more keyboard taps, and Gildersneeve delays the raid for a precious few hours, by laying a false trail. It won’t last long; Belulah needs to act now.

Of course, the team could cleanse the apartment with Investigative spends. However nobody has a lot of Technical points to burn, and Belulah’s concerned this could end up with bags of suspicious chemicals in the trunk of the car, corpses on the back seat, and Fibber in the passenger seat playing with C4, while she’s driving down La Canebière with sirens howling in the background.

No. Better to make this problem go away. No fuss, no muss.

‘Hiya, Belulah,’ says George. He has his equipment in a carrybag, and Noddy suits for all the gang, so they don’t leave any more forensic traces.

‘No time for small talk, George.’ Belulah’s busy gathering the team’s guns in a bag, for easy disposal. She’s burning Streetwise to discover if dumping them in the Canal or the Harbor is a good idea. ‘We need this whole place cleansed, as if we were never here.’

‘Can do. It’ll be just like that time in Rome. It’ll cost you, B.’ Mechanically, a point spend from the Network pool Belulah invested in George, but in narrative it could be anything. Bond used cash from an arms deal gone wrong to lure Zhukovsky. In game, Belulah uses her High Society connections to get George access to exclusive parties.

‘Sure. Back room of Insomnia, Berlin?’

‘Done, and done.’ George starts laying out the tools of his trade.

‘Oh!’ Belulah remembers Rico’s dead drop. ‘Fibber thinks there’s something hidden here, but he’s not sure where.’

‘If it’s here, I’ll find it.’ Sure enough, George pulls out the intel file Rico hid on a data stick stuffed behind a false power socket. Rico’s last testament is now in Fibber’s possession.

‘You’re a doll, George. Do you speak Japanese?’

‘Hai!’

‘That’s good to know. See you round, George!’

The team scarpers. They have evidence, and their clothing, to dispose of, and Fibber has the clues Rico gave him. It’s time to give Sweetie-Face a taste of her own, bitter medicine …


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

In Night’s Black Agents, Trust provides a modular system for tracking and modelling variable trust within a team of agents … Being trusted by a fellow agent lets you help her out in a pinch – or betray her far more effectively.

TRUCE, n. Friendship.

TRUTHFUL, adj. Dumb and illiterate.

TWICE, adv. Once too often. [Ambrose Bierce, Devil’s Dictionary]

Some players, little cherubs that they are, like to scheme and betray. To recreate that old Le Carré magic, where nobody knows quite where anyone else stands, but everyone knows they’re going to get killed, or worse, if they guess incorrectly. Le Carré, you may recall, based a good deal of his own writing on his experiences with his con-man father, whose continual scheming and money woes scarred Le Carré’s childhood.

Fix that in your mind from the start: when using Trust, you’re playing a con game – a spy’s Big Store, where nothing is as it seems, and you might get the blow-off at any moment, forced to flee without so much as an empty satchel, once full of secrets, to your credit.

Mechanically, you start with 5 Trust points, and spread them around your fellow suckers – forgive me, your fellow agents. This might be in secret or out in the open, but if you’re playing Trust at all, it’s probably better done in secret. Those points can be spent as needed during play, either to help your comrade in a difficult moment, or to hinder them.

There are two unspoken assumptions in that statement. The first, scarcity. The second, benefit.

In order to spend points at all, there has to be opportunity to do so. There has to be a moment when somebody could really use a boost, or cannot afford to be betrayed. This implies they have no, or very few, Investigative or General points of their own – that points are scarce.  Perhaps refreshes aren’t easily had, or the players are encouraged to spend points quickly in-game. That further implies that Difficulties tend to be high, and consequences for failure severe. Why spend points if the Difficulty stays at 4, or 3? Why spend points if failure isn’t painful?

Second, there has to be benefit. Or, as Bierce puts it:

CUI BONO? [Latin] What good would that do me?

When Fibber McGee spends Trust to help Molly interrogate a raving, Renfielded Wallace Wimple, Fibber isn’t doing that out of the kindness of his withered cinder of a heart. Fibber’s doing it because it benefits Fibber. Either getting Wimple to talk is in Fibber’s best interests, or it encourages Molly to put her Trust in Fibber – a mistake that could prove costly later, when Fibber uses those accumulated Trust points to destroy Molly.

All of which skirts round the biggest Trust issue of all – that Trust is about secrets, and therefore story. It’s right there in the opening sentence – this provides a modular system for tracking and modelling variable trust. A mechanic for expressing the consequences of story actions in-game. Trust means nothing without Story. As Director, you shouldn’t focus on Trust as a points mechanic. You should focus on Trust as a means of expressing Story. The points are there to help you do that, but Trust does not begin and end with a point spend.

Fibber might be secretly working for his ineffable, unknowable master, the Johnson Floor Wax Company. Molly might be an Edom mole. Wetworker Belulah might be helping one of Dracula’s Brides kill Dracula, so the Bride can take over the Conspiracy. Hacker and cracker Throckmorton P. Gildersneeve might have been secretly a CIA plant up till that failed break-in, where he was captured by Conspiracy goons and forced to turn to the other side, or die.

All of them have secrets, all of them have Story, and it is that Story they are trying to fulfil when they spend and receive Trust. When Fibber puts 1 point of Trust into Molly, it’s so he can use that Trust for Johnson Floor Wax. Because none of the crew can get what they want on their own, but each of them wants to be the last agent standing when the smoke clears.

For that reason, in a Trust game, players should specify their Story objective right at the start. That objective isn’t carved in stone, and can change in play, just as Gildersneeve changed allegiance from the CIA to the Conspiracy. However, the agent has to be true to their Story objective, as they understand it in the moment. So Fibber is always working for the greater good of Johnson Floor Wax, and if Johnson Floor Wax is actually a Conspiracy front, that doesn’t matter – at least, not until Fibber discovers The Hidden Truth, and has to make up his mind what to do about it. Up until that point, Fibber was being true to his objective, without realizing his objective was wrong-headed. Now he knows it’s wrong-headed, will he stay loyal to Johnson Floor Wax, or find a new Story?

Now, an example.

Fibber and the crew had to flee across national borders, after their last escapade ended in a flurry of explosions. They’ve all had a chance to rest and refresh pools, and Gildersneeve’s injuries have healed. Fibber, the bang-and-burner, has 3 points Trust in Molly, 2 in Belulah, and none anywhere else. Molly the black bagger has 3 in Fibber, 2 in Belulah, 2 in Gildersneeve – she’s been buying extras with experience points. The other team members have Trust investments as well, but for the purpose of this example they don’t affect play.

The wild card here is Gildersneeve. He’s working for the vampires now. That means he can’t be Betrayed; as an agent of dark powers, Gildersneeve expects to be betrayed by his fellow, human, agents. However, Gildersneeve can betray them, so Gildersneeve’s 7 points of Trust (like Molly, he used experience points to buy more) could prove toxic later on. It won’t, in this example – but the Director should remember ticking time bombs like these, because they have a nasty habit of going off when everyone least expects it.

Belulah, working for the Bride, may be in a similar position, but doesn’t have to be. Belulah’s player may know the truth, but Belulah the wetworker still believes she’s working for an elite and secretive band of Vatican vampire hunters. She has yet to discover that her contact, the Enigmatic Monsignor, spends his weekends licking blood from the Bride’s toes. So Belulah can still Betray and be Betrayed, as well as spend Trust to help her comrades.

Fibber and Molly have just come out of the interrogation room. Fibber spent some Trust to move the interrogation along, which helped Molly. Now they know where Wallace Wimple’s mistress in darkness, Sweetie-Face, is hiding. Fibber is all for staking the vamp as soon as possible. The team agrees, and begins to suit up.

That poses a problem for Molly. She knows what nobody else knows: Sweetie Face used to be Edom, and Sweetie Face knows all about Molly’s secrets. If she and Fibber are in the same room, the vampire will tell all, to save her neck – and that Molly cannot have.

She has to distract Fibber. It’s time for Betrayal.

It needn’t be a full-scale Dust-and-Ashes Betrayal – she just needs Fibber distracted, not wallowing in his own gore. However she does have those 3 points Fibber invested in her …

Betrayal can be used to harm or hamper Fibber, or to boost Molly in a conflict with Fibber. During the Betrayal scene, only Molly can use her MOS (not relevant in this particular example, but worth remembering), and Fibber can’t use the 3 points Molly invested in him. Any points Molly spends are gone forever; she’ll have to persuade Fibber to invest more, somehow.

Betrayal doesn’t have to be obvious, nor does it have to end with Molly zipping over the horizon in Fibber’s tricked-out BMW.  All Molly needs is an opportunity to stick Fibber in the rear. She could Betray Fibber by using 1 point to warn Sweetie-Face. That could prove lethal later, when the agents move in on Edom’s former asset. Does Molly have other options?

“I’ll call my good buddy Rico Marcelli, the law enforcement bigwig and my Network contact,” says Fibber, “He’ll make sure there are no cops in that neighborhood when we make our move. That should keep our Heat down.”

Bingo.

“Rico’s dead, Fibber,” says Molly. “Looks like foul play!” She spends 2 points to make it so. Molly’s using Trust as an Investigative point spend – 1 for the basics, 2 for extra benefits. Molly’s getting as extra as she can.

“Dead!” Fibber’s aghast. “But there’s no way they could have known about Rico … unless …”

“Unless it’s a trap! We could be walking right into an ambush!” says Molly.

Now, the players can all see what just happened. They know, mechanically speaking, how Rico really got his – but mechanics aren’t Story. This is improv. They have to yes, and, just like the Director does. An alternative version would see Molly arranging all this in secret, with private Director conferences, or passing notes. That preserves the illusion of secrecy.

As the Betrayed, Fibber can’t prevent what just happened, and he certainly can’t spend Molly’s 3 points to Betray her in turn. He has to roll with the punches.

“We’d better investigate Rico’s murder first,” says Fibber. “If Conspiracy goons did him in, we need to know!”

Everybody smiles. There’s a dagger behind every toothy grin, of course, and Fibber’s already planning for the day when he can use Molly’s invested points to burn her down.

Still, everybody smiles.


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.

a Night’s Black Agents adventure seed, by Adam Gauntlett

The Sacred Temple of the Paparo, founded in Naples, 1579, by three noble daughters of Giovanni Paparo, has been abandoned by those supposed to care for it. Once bedecked with ornaments and liberally endowed with treasures, it has been ransacked in recent years, down to the last candlestick. Now it is an empty shell, four walls and a waterlogged roof.

If only the dead stayed quiet …

The Director should pick and choose which elements she feels are useful.

Ways in:

  • The Paparo Foundation shares responsibility for the Sacred Temple with the Municipality of Naples. One of the trustees of the Foundation, Emiliano Paparo, has recently been caught in an antiquities smuggling sting in France. The odd thing is, when arrested he had several vampire blocks on him, and according to the arresting officers he became very agitated when they were taken away.
  • An English firm, Canter Antiques and Salvage, has been caught with several artefacts belonging to the church, and the Carabinieri are pressing for the extradition of the head of the firm, Maggie Canter, to answer charges of theft and antiquity smuggling.
  • An important figure with connections either to the Church, historical study or spiritualism (the Psychic, Online Mystic, Medievalist, Enigmatic Monsignor), goes missing and is found, dazed and confused, several days later at the church. This person has no idea how they got there, or where they were during the missing time.

History of the Sacred Temple

The conservatory with attached church is dedicated to the liturgical celebration of the Presentation of Mary at the temple, as depicted in the Protoevangelium of James. The feast day celebrates the birth of Mary, destined to become the mother of Jesus. It was home to many wonders, including rich furnishings, tapestries, mosaic flooring, a Caravaggio painting, and over seven hundred altars.

All of these have been stolen. The worst damage came from a 1993 smash-and-grab raid, but there have been plenty of robberies since. A fire in 2012 and a ceiling collapse due to water damage in 2014 sealed the deal. Now there’s nothing left but the four walls and façade. Even the mosaic floor has been dug up and stolen, to decorate some mafia boss’ mansion.

  • Archaeology, Architecture, Law and Streetwise, Core: This is nothing new. Naples’ proud history and at least a third of its magnificent churches have been ransacked, particularly over the last two decades.
  • Architecture, Law, Streetwise, Cop Talk 1 point: the Sottosulolo tunnels run under the Temple, and there’s supposed to be an access point somewhere in the crypt. One of the raids on the church came from underground, Camorra thugs stealing altars and statues of the Virgin, only to be murdered as they emerged from the tunnels two streets away, presumably by rivals.
  • Archaeology, Architecture, 1 point: The layout of the main hall is distinctive, and among its peculiar signature points is a whispering gallery, with two parabolic dishes used to create the effect. Anything said in that church can be heard by anyone in the church. Nobody knows why the church was designed this way, except that it was at the specific instruction of the church’s three noble founders.
  • Vampirology, 1 point: After the 2012 fire, when damage assessors tried to work out whether the building could be saved, three so-called vampire skulls were found in the damaged crypt. Each had a brick stuffed in their mouths, to prevent them biting others. Preliminary study suggested all three were female. The skulls were stolen soon afterward, and have never resurfaced.

What Do They Want?

Supernatural

The Temple was once, and still is, home to three Strix, linked to the Paparo family by blood and custom. The Temple was built to honor them, and in exchange the Strix promoted and protected the Paparo. Time passed, rituals and honors were forgotten, and the Strix became angrier by the decade. The Temple’s recent misfortunes are a direct result of this fit of supernatural pique. The Strix want the Paparo destroyed.

Damned

The three Paparo noblewomen became damned vampires, and built the Temple in their own honor. They perverted the honors due to Mary, directing it to their own glory. However they were put down in the 1600s, their remains hidden in the crypts below the temple. Without their protection, the Temple faded, collapsing altogether in recent years. One of the Paparo has been resurrected, and is looking for her sisters. She wants her sisters back, and her Temple restored.

Alien

The Paparo women intended the Temple as a vampire/Renfield detection and imprisonment system, which is why those Architectural anomalies exist. They wanted to protect Naples, and encouraged their descendants to do the same. Edom has an architectural study of the Temple in its archives, for that reason. It featured in several Gladio operations, before its unofficial decommission in 1980.  The vampires want to completely deactivate the Temple, and discourage any further study.

Mutant

One of the Paparo family became afflicted, and the Temple was built as a home for that dissident family member. There are hidden secrets in the crypt that throw further light on that family history. The vampire abandoned the temple shortly after the War, but still considers it part of her territory and will be annoyed at any incursion.

Telluric

The worst of the damage can be traced to a 1980 start point: the Iripina Earthquake, November 23rd. It undermined the structure of the building, and caused a dispute between the Paparo Foundation and Naples Municipality over who had to pay to repair the Temple. It also awoke the vampire, possibly a Bride or a by-blow, imprisoned in the crypt. Since then it’s spent its time creating the Temple it wants to live in, and extending its control over the Neapolitan underworld by selling its antiquities (it considers the Temple its property).

Conflict: The Detti War

The Detti clan, part of the sprawling Camorra network that controls significant parts of Naples, has been part of the Conspiracy ever since that unfortunate raid via the Sottosulolo tunnels. The raiders fell foul of the vampires, which is why they were massacred shortly after exiting the tunnels. Their capitulation has, over the years, given the Detti new honors and success.

The Detti have become so successful, in fact, that they have tried to expand by incorporating a Nigerian drug gang, an offshoot of the Neo Black Movement. This brand new alliance fractured as soon as the Nigerians realized the Detti were in bed with vampires, as the Nigerians hate vampires like poison. Blood soon flowed, and many of the street battles center on the Temple. That’s where the Detti meet their vampire paymasters, and that’s what the Nigerians want to destroy once and for all. Streetwise or Network spends forges a relationship with the Nigerians, that can get the agents in on the ground floor on the next raid on the Detti.


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.

An adventure seed for Night’s Black Agents, by Adam Gauntlett

The Agents are hired for a simple babysitting gig in Monaco, playground of the idle rich, and find themselves in the Conspiracy’s crosshairs.

What Came Before

A group of hackers hoping to make a big score cracked a billionaire’s superyacht Wi-Fi system. The hackers downloaded everything they could get their hands on, thinking that there would have to be something in all that worthy of blackmail. Then, to add sauce to the roast, they locked up the ship’s systems and demanded a ransom in bitcoin.

The hackers got more than they bargained for, as the superyacht is owned and operated by a major Conspiracy asset. The asset was on board at the time, conducting delicate negotiations with a would-be business partner. The deal was ruined, and the asset is outraged.

The hackers realized they were in over their heads. The new plan is to hire some bodyguards – the Agents – while some very intense negotiations take place. Then they’ll run for it – or so they hope.

Monaco

The Principauté de Monaco microstate is on the French Riviera, with France on three sides and the Mediterranean on the other. This constitutional monarchy is currently governed by Prince Albert II of the House of Grimaldi, a Genoese dynasty that has ruled Monaco since the 1200s. Art, culture, high-stakes gambling, the famous Grand Prix, tax assistance, a balmy climate, and everything else a multi-millionaire could possibly ask for; Monaco has it all, in a package about the size of New York City’s Central Park..

Though technically ten wards, Monaco is often thought of as four quarters: Monaco-Ville, La Condamime (which includes Port Hercule), Monte Carlo, home to the famous casino, and 1970s newcomer Fontvielle, made from reclaimed land.

Population

A little under 40,000 people. The Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California could accommodate all of Monaco twice over.

The native Monegasques, all 5,000 of them, are outnumbered in their own country; over a quarter of the population is French, with strong minority populations of Italians, British, Belgians, Germans, Swiss and US nationals. The official language is French, but English is widely spoken. The local language, Monegasque, is little used.

Special

Social norms are rigidly enforced, and tourists may be prosecuted if they walk around without a shirt on. Would-be residents need to deposit at least €300,000 in a Monaco bank account before the government will issue a residency permit. Meanwhile the wealthy drop their usual paranoia and drive around in open-top vehicles, with expensive jewelry on display, certain they will never be robbed or molested.

The Agents’ base Heat, usually 1, is 2 in Monaco due to stringent security protocols.

Further, any Heat-gaining action gains 1 extra Heat if that action involves overt lethal or potentially lethal violence. Getting into a fistfight is one thing, but guns or explosions provokes a rapid response.

Gambling and Spending Excessive Funds gains no Heat. Monaco’s seen it all before.

Thrilling Elements

As per European Tourist City, with the following additions unique to Monaco:

  • A-list celebrity, Hollywood star or similar, walking with her personal assistant or driving in a very expensive open-top car.
  • Major racing event. The streets are packed with competitors and cheering crowds. The Monte Carlo Rally takes place in January each year, the Historic Grand Prix of Monaco is held every two years, two weeks before the Formula One, and the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco, one of motorsport’s Triple Crown events, takes place each year in May. Setup for each event takes six weeks and demolition three, so even without the race itself the streets are impacted before and after the event.
  • Coastal roads with hairpin bends; the least mistake will send your car crashing to its doom. All the more troubling, then, that so many petrol-heads in expensive cars seem keen to reenact the Bond-Onatopp chase from GoldenEye.
  • Confusing, narrow little streets surrounded on all sides by concrete, glass, and the occasional Belle Epoque masterpiece not yet destined for a date with a wrecking ball. Cramped, for Chase purposes.

Adventures in Babysitting

The Agents are brought in by a ‘Ndrangheta fixer, who puts them in a room with Maxim Ivanov, leader of the hack team.

The meeting takes place in the penthouse suite of a luxury Fontvielle apartment building, with an ocean view, three beds, two baths, living room and terrace. This, Maxim explains, will be their base of operations for the next few days.

He wants them to take care of Viktor Morizov. Viktor is to be treated with every possible courtesy, but he is not to be left alone nor is he allowed to leave the apartment. The job’s supposed to last from today, Friday, through to 9am next Monday. Anything Viktor wants, Viktor gets. So long as he never leaves.

Maxim gives them a burner phone to contact him, and five thousand Euro for expenses. It’s not a lot, not in a place like Monaco, but it should last a weekend.

Viktor Morizov: Civilian with high Digital Intrusion and Electronic Surveillance pools. Viktor’s a terrified twenty year old manchild. He speaks Russian, German and atrocious English, and behaves like a hick – which, to be fair, he is.

A Criminology, Research or Streetwise spend discovers Viktor’s criminal history. Viktor is linked with the Russian government sponsored group APT28, also known as Fancy Bear. Viktor, along with a handful of others, is supposed to have broken ranks and left the group in order to make money for himself.

Viktor has an external hard drive containing all the data the team stole. Treat this as a 4-point dedicated pool, Vampirology, and anything and everything to do with the Conspiracy asset and its links to other Nodes. The other hackers have been sent out of Monaco. Viktor’s here to sit on the data, and the Agents are here to make sure he doesn’t run.

Maxim Ivanov: Former Military Intelligence operative who thinks he has everything under control. A Criminology, Research or Streetwise spend discovers Maxim’s former life as an OMON special police operative in Moscow; he has several awards for bravery. He quit two years ago.

Maxim’s Plan:  Maxim has resigned himself to sacrificing Viktor and the data. However he wants to sacrifice Viktor on his own terms, so he’s trying to get as many bidders as possible, with this inducement: if you want the data I stole, pay me, and I’ll tell you where the guy who has it is.

This means it’s not just the Conspiracy the Agents have to worry about. Maxim’s contacting anyone he thinks will pay. Director’s choice as to who that might be, or what forces they might have at their disposal.

Maxim doesn’t care what happens to the Agents. Ideally he’ll cut them loose with a hefty payday, if all goes well. However he hired people he doesn’t care about because that way, if things go wrong, he doesn’t have to feel too badly about the corpses he’s leaving in his wake.

Except for Viktor, of course. Tough luck for the kid.

The Building

The penthouse is well-stocked with the basics, and has a massive flatscreen television with a Blue-Ray player and a huge library of movies. The owner, if anyone bothers to find out, is a midlevel Hollywood exec who comes to Monaco for a few weeks in the year in festival season, and rents it through an agent when it’s vacant. The other apartments in the building are likewise owned by absentee landlords, rented short-term to well-heeled tourists.

The building’s moderately secure, with concierge and security cameras throughout; Infiltration Difficulty 4 to break in. There is maid service. As this is the penthouse suite there are no neighbors on this level. Directly beneath are two vacant apartments, an owner-occupied apartment, (Aimee Charron, a very well-heeled socialite who ‘works’ as a personal assistant), and a tourist apartment currently occupied by a German gay couple, the Fenstermachers, here to gamble and have a good time. The rest of this six story building is occupied by about two score people total.

Avenues of Attack

Maxim’s plan goes belly-up shortly after he puts his advert on the dark web. The Conspiracy asset snatches Maxim off the street, and tortures him until he gives up Viktor’s location. This takes a while.

The Conspiracy asset also goes after the other hackers, hiding outside Monaco, and grabs them up one by one. Viktor’s in touch with them via social media, and some of the snatches are spectacular enough to make the news. As each happens, Viktor gets more and more despondent.

Meanwhile other would-be buyers gather in Monaco. They know they have to act quickly if they want the data. They can’t get hold of Maxim, so they do the next best thing: they buy the Agents’ location from the ‘Ndrangheta fixer who set all this up. It takes them time to find the right fixer and make a deal.

The Agents may discover this through Tradecraft, Streetwise, Digital Intrusion as an investigative ability to find the dark web advert, or similar. If they find out quickly, they can pick up as much as 2 pool points Preparedness, to use during their escape. If they don’t find out, then they lose 2 pool points Preparedness, since the first sign of trouble is probably when some goon puts his boot through the penthouse door.

Running Away From Home

Viktor becomes increasingly miserable as time passes. His friends are all dead or dying, Maxim is nowhere to be seen, and he’s surrounded by people he doesn’t know or trust.

If the Agents use Shrink, Reassurance or similar on Viktor then this scene does not happen. If they did not, Viktor tries to escape.

Viktor reaches out via his online connections to find someone who will help him. His attempts are intercepted by one of the data buyers, but Viktor doesn’t realize this. Digital Intrusion as an investigative spend spots Viktor’s attempts to find help, or traces his attempts after the fact.

Then he uses the pharmaceuticals in the penthouse’s medicine cabinet to whip up a quick knockout cocktail, to use on the Agents. He gets this to them however he can; maybe in their drinks, maybe in takeout food.

The homemade drug cocktail can be detected with 1 point Chemistry or Medic as an investigative spend, and purged in one round with 1 point Diagnosis.

Those who ingest it need to make a Difficulty 6 Health test. Success means they act as if Hurt for the next 6 rounds. Failure means they act as if Seriously Wounded for the next 6 rounds and Hurt for 6 rounds after that. This may provoke Consciousness checks.

Then Viktor makes a run for it. He thinks he’s arranged to meet friends at a coffee shop ten minutes’ walk away, but in fact the data buyers hired an extraction team to snatch him.

The Grand Finale

The Agents can hold out, or run for it.

Holding out isn’t helpful. Maxim’s not coming. His plan backfired, and he’s spilling his guts. Eventually the Conspiracy asset or the data buyers will get into the penthouse.

The Conspiracy asset prefers heavy tactics; bust in, bust heads, get out, use lawyers with buckets of money to cover the damage. The data buyers are more discreet, and may attempt negotiation. However they all want the same thing: Viktor, and his data.

The difference is, the Conspiracy asset doesn’t care whether Viktor lives or dies, and considers the Agents acceptable collateral damage. Also the Fenstermachers, Aimee Charron, the maids, and pretty much anyone and anyone else that gets in the way.

Leaving Monaco is tricky. The microstate is very small, but it’s one of the most heavily surveilled places in the world. The OPFOR can track the Agents’ movements, and intercept them before they get far. Consider this a Thrilling Chase at minimum, possibly an Extended Chase if you want this to track across France to some hideout of the Agents’ choosing.

What happens next is up to the Agents …


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.

A Dreamhounds of Paris scenario seed by Adam Gauntlett

In which the Surrealists must decide whether a friend is worth going to the wall for.

This scenario, and the character of Achille Flamant, is inspired by stories that first appeared in Leonard Merrick’s A Chair on the Boulevard, published 1921, available via Project Gutenberg.

A Card Arrives

Each Surrealist receives a cabinet card, a photographic portrait card with personal information on the reverse, usually given to introduce someone. The photograph is an uninspired copy of Man Ray’s work, and the reverse has the following inscribed:

Monsieur Achille Flamant, Artist

Forewarns you of the

Death of His Career

The Internment will take place at the

Café of the Broken Heart

On December 31st.

Valedictory N.B. – A sympathetic costume. Victuals will be appreciated. 7 p.m.

The characters recognize the name. Achille Flamant is the son of a rentier, a bourgeoisie who lives on his investments, who has subsidized his son’s artistic adventures. The father’s patience has run out. Now the boy must go to work as a secretary for one of his father’s friends.

Flamant is not a strong talent, and never has been. Andre Breton expelled him from the movement some time ago, accusing him of sympathizing with capitalists and desiring material success, rather than artistic merit. This is true, as far as it goes; Flamant’s father insists on material success, and Achille is too weak-willed to resist. There were some who regretted it, as Achille is a pleasant young man, but no amount of pleasantry excuses lack of talent. There is no silk purse to be made out of this sow’s ear.

The Café of the Broken Heart, near the Cemetery of Montmartre, is a homely little place with an impressive collection of funerary art, photographs of funeral parades, and ephemera that (Cthulhu Mythos, 1 point clue) is reminiscent of ghoulish found object art. It is owned and operated by M. Pitou, a man of exceeding height and mournful expression, who is himself part ghoul – a fact known to very few.

Attendance Is Not Mandatory

Dreamhounds who do not attend move straight to the House of Suicides scene. Their lack of attendance drives Flamant to despair, and he relinquishes his artistic ambitions, and his life, altogether. This creates the dreamscape Rue Sombre, where Flamant’s dream finally dies. The next time they see him will be at the House of Suicides, now a permanent Dreamlands locale, with Flamant swinging from the rafters with the rest of the Putrefacto.

An Evening at the Broken Heart

A scattering of surrealists and fringe members show up, bearing food, mostly out of curiosity. Potential instability loss 3, fraternizing with an expelled surrealist. Salvador Dali is the only one of the core group who attends, mostly out of curiosity, and if the Dreamhounds weren’t there his attendance would be very brief – assuming Dali is not being played by one of the group.

Dali suspects that something’s up with Flamant. “He seems almost … inspired, tonight. I doubt he’ll ever be a talent, but this threat hanging over him fans the flame – such a little spark, it is.”

Flamant’s behavior at the gathering is serene, a new calmness having taken possession of him. He is dressed in his best, and spends much of the evening making presents of his possessions, giving away his favorite books, art, and other things. Those with Evidence Collection, Medicine or similar might guess that Flamant contemplates suicide, and is preparing for the end.

  1. Pitou has a secret. He can trace his bloodline to Nicholas Flamel, who guards the oneiric gate to the Dreamlands that exists in Paris’ catacombs. There is an entrance to the catacombs in the Café cellar, and for the last few weeks Flamant, who knows the secret, has been begging Pitou for an introduction. Tonight Pitou gives way, and guides Flamant through the catacombs to the gate. Flamant manages to persuade Flamel to let him through, and from there Flamant creates the Rue Sombre, and the House of Suicides.

The Dreamhounds might overhear Flamant talking to M. Pitou, see them sneaking down to the catacomb entrance, or know through Occult, Cthulhu Mythos, Dream Lore or similar that the connection exists. If so, they can follow the two as they go to see Flamel. Otherwise the next encounter with Flamant will be in dreams, at the Rue Sombre. They will be drawn to their friend’s last spark of genius, though they arrive as things are at their worst.

The Dreamhounds may be able to influence the situation, if they realize Flamant contemplates suicide. Card Reading, preferably with a rosy outcome for Flamant, helps his state of mind. Inflating his opinion of his art, Seduction, or similar, helps. He’ll still go to the Rue Sombre, but with a better frame of mind to resist temptation.

The Rue Sombre

At the end of the evening, Flamant goes with M. Pitou to Flamel’s oneiric gate. It’s Flamant’s first visit, and in his current state he has only one response to the sudden change in his circumstances: he creates a quiet, moonlit Parisian street, at one end of which is a house that is being rebuilt. There is no door, the roof is off, and the rafters have been exposed. This is the House of Suicides.

From each rafter hangs a corpse. They are similar to Putrefacto, in that it requires a Difficulty 4 Health rolls to go near them. Those who fail suffer +2 to all Difficulty checks thereafter in the scene. However unlike the usual type, they are not dressed like priests or authority figures, nor do they have donkeys. They are dressed exactly as Flamant is dressed, and they have his father’s voice. [Putrefacto N=P+2].

These represent Flamant’s current state of mind, and were accidentally created by him as part of the House of Suicides. Their role is to persuade Flamant to join them, swinging from the rafters, and there is a rope set aside for him as well as a chair to reach it. If successful, Flamant becomes a Putrefacto, and the House of Suicides becomes a permanent presence in the Dreamscape, perhaps threatening other artists.

This becomes a Dreamscaping battle between the Putrefacto and the Dreamhounds, with Flamant as the prize. Whenever the Dreamhounds try to prevent Flamant’s suicide, either through blatant Dreamscaping or by General abilities augmented with Dreamscaping, the Putrefacto use their Strangle ability, but this is an altered version from the norm: they use their hangman’s nooses, swinging them round a Dreamhound’s neck and dragging them up to hang.

Outside the House, ghasts gather, peeping in through the windows. They can’t believe their luck – so many edibles, just hanging there for the taking. As the Dreamhounds battle, the ghasts chatter among themselves in ghastly echo of the party at the Café only a short time before. One imitates Dali, or some other prominent party guest, making sarcastic comments about the Dreamhounds’ progress or lack thereof. The ghasts will not engage in combat; they’re far too cowardly for that.

If the House of Suicides becomes permanent, ghasts haunt it always, creeping from somber chamber to somber chamber, snacking every so often and commenting on the lackluster qualities of the lives prematurely snuffed out at the end of a rope.

If the Dreamhounds managed to raise Flamant’s spirits at the party at the Café, then the Difficulty of all tests in this scene is reduced by -2. Otherwise Difficulty is standard, unless the Dreamhound failed the Putrefacto test, in which case it is higher.

The Dreamhounds may decide to abandon Flamant to his fate. After all, it’s his lack of talent that got him here; whatever happens next is his own doing. In that event the House of Suicides becomes permanent, and adds to its collection of corpses whenever it can. Whenever it adds more corpses than the building can hold, the building expands. Given time, its many halls and rooms may spread over a vast distance. It is as capable of killing Dreamlands residents as artists, and a truly massive House might contain all manner of strangled curiosities.

If Flamant is saved, his artistic career is at an end and he suffers dream-death. A shadow of his artistic self is cast adrift, wandering the Dreamlands, and if that shadow ever dies in dream then it becomes a Putrefacto. His mortal form forgets the Dreamlands, and goes to work as a secretary. The Dreamhounds may be able to sponge the price of a meal off him now and again, in memory of former happiness.

Achille Flamant

Physical: slight, fair, perpetually strokes a bare lip in hope it will encourage his moustache.

General: Art-Making 4, Athletics 3, Fleeing 6, Health 5, Instability 2, Sanity 3. For purposes of this scenario only he has Dreamscaping 10, used involuntarily to create the House of Suicides, but he cannot spend that pool on any other dream-scape.

A Bookhounds of London adventure seed by Adam Gauntlett

The Bookhounds are asked whether or not some broadside ballads found by a builder really belonged to famed diarist Samuel Pepys, only to discover that the ballads might get them killed.

Broadside Ballads

This information is a 0 point spend, Bibliography, History, Library Use or similar:

So called because they are printed on broadside sheets, these single-page narrative poems tell gossipy stories, spread political news, and promulgate scurrilous lies. Broadsides are early children of the printing press, popular from the 16th century, and reach their apogee in the 18th century. They’re cheap to make and easy to distribute, and though they’re very disposable some collectors prize them. Samuel Pepys was one.

Also a 0 point:

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was Chief Secretary of the Navy and a Member of Parliament, but he’s most famous for his Diaries, which tell a colloquial tale of London life during the Restoration. His book collection is justly famous, and was donated to Magdalene College, Cambridge, after his death. He once lived in a house on Axe Yard, near Downing Street; the exact address is unknown.

This information is a 1 point spend:

Pepys had a passion for order and conformity. He wanted a definite aesthetic look for his collection, and to achieve it he cut down ballads to the appropriate size for his albums, arranging his finds in identical album sets. He obsessively catalogued everything he collected, and his broadside collection was given to Magdalene College, along with the rest of his library.

Also a 1 point:

The Pepys Club, founded 1903 by a small group of Garrick Club members, is the best place to find out odd and obscure facts about the life of Samuel Pepys. Cultivating a member, say through a 2 point Flattery spend or similar, creates a 2-point dedicated pool concerning the life, times and loves of Samuel Pepys.

Bob Chapman’s Lucky Find

Bob’s a builder, a subcontractor for Bentley’s, a general contracting firm. While on the job – a renovation at Axe Yard, in Westminster – he ‘recovered’ some items from the rubble skip, including this old bag with funny papers in it. Is it worth anything?

Assess Honesty (0 point): Bob’s not lying, exactly, but he’s being very careful with the truth. He did get it from the Axe Yard job site, but not from the skip. It was hidden behind the wall he was meant to be repairing, and one careless swing with the sledgehammer revealed the hidden alcove. He knows his boss, Mr. Bentley, would take it for himself, if he knew about it. Bob admits as much, if pressed.

Bob Chapman, Lucky Builder: Athletics 6, Fleeing 6, Health 4, Scuffling 4; Architecture 1, Craft (Bricklaying) 1. Tall, slim, shock of curly black hair, eager as a puppy. “Well I’ll be blowed!”

Broadsides: This collection doesn’t conform to the Pepys standard. Pepys cut his sheets down to fit inside a leatherbound book approximately 340 by 358 mm, usually about 70 mm thick. Most of Bob’s find are older broadsides, which would have gone into Volume 1 of Pepys’ bound books. Bob’s find is unbound, uncut, stuffed loosely inside a battered leather folder. They could be papers Pepys didn’t bother to put into his main collection, but it’s difficult to imagine why, since Pepys was an obsessive collector. Condition’s not good, not after several centuries stuffed inside a damp wall alcove, but the ballads are interesting. Some are quite scurrilous tales about prancers [highwaymen], lascivious pricklouse [tailor, pejorative], roaring boys, and rigges [wanton women] playing with correl [toy dildoes]. Law (0 point): It’s just on the edge of prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act, but it would have been tame stuff for Pepys’ generation.

Document Analysis, Evidence Collection 0 point: Some of the sheets have been annotated, whether by Pepys or someone else is anyone’s guess. Still, if it could be proved it was Pepys, the price goes up. Not that Bob realizes this …

Document Analysis, Evidence Collection 1 point: The paper’s genuine and of the period. There’s odd insect pattern damage on some of the sheets, as if a collection of small spiders got caught between the pages and decayed there. No solid matter, just liquefied imprints on the paper.

Bargain gets it from Bob, cheaply. No spend, no broadsides. Filch gets the most interesting sheets, without Bob noticing.

Axe Yard

If the Hounds go to Axe Yard, they find the house Bob’s working on. Some of the twenty-five houses on this lane have already been swallowed up by the Government for offices, but the general outline of the Yard can still be seen. Nobody’s sure which of these would have been Pepys’ ‘poor little house.’

Streetwise or Sense Trouble Difficulty 5 notices a beggar hanging round near the skip, a pasty gent in ragged clothing, who retreats as soon as someone notices him. In a Fleeing contest his parting trick is to vanish down a drain or sewer outlet, leaving his clothes behind. There’s an odd, wet residue on the skip near where he stood – and a tiny, spidery creature that runs off quick.

Bentley’s Drama

However the negotiation with Bob goes, Bentley’s finds out about it, somehow. If Bob sold the papers, it’s because Bob talked too freely at the pub. If Bob didn’t sell, it’s because he blabbed to his foreman, bragging about how he’d get rich from his find.

Mr. Bentley is outraged. He thinks the Hounds put one over on Bob, and stole property that rightfully belongs to Bentley’s. Mr. Bentley is a devotee of the Pepys Club; one of the reasons he took this job was so he could work at Axe Yard. If Bob didn’t sell to the Hounds then Mr. Bentley now has the broadsides, and accuses the Hounds of stealing the best ones, when they inspected the bundle. If the Hounds have the broadsides, then he demands their return.

Mr. Bentley: Athletics 3, Filch 3, Health 6; Architecture 3 (Restoration era). Melancholic, pipe smoker, unkind to animals, especially cats. “Dear me! My solicitor will be here any second, and then you’ll be for it!”

If things get unpleasant. Mr. Bentley knows a lot of builders willing to do him a favor. Treat them as Rough Lads for combat purposes.

Further Examination

Several of the broadsides deal with Mythos subjects, in particular a series called ‘The Beggar’s Daughters.’ This is the most insect-stained and annotated set of broadsides, and there are four of them, all variations on the same theme. A pale, blind beggar has four daughters, all of whom wish to marry. They go out in search of swains, but their chosen beloved – the gallant young knight, the gentleman’s son, the merchant and the publican – are horrified on their wedding night, when they discover their pretty maids are not what they seem. The scenes at the church during the wedding are gruesome, but water damage makes the worst bits unreadable. Study confers 1 Mythos, concerning Eihort and its Brood.

Whoever collected this was making a study of variant Beggars in different broadsides, and drew a map on the back of one of them. The Knowledge realizes these are streets near the Hoop & Toy pub, Kensington. The Hoop & Toy, built 1760, is said to be haunted by five specters; priests, according to the legend. Their crypt, in the Hoop & Toy’s basement, was long forgotten until rediscovered, and destroyed, during the construction of the Circle underground tunnel in the 1870s. The ghosts wander eternally, looking for a way back to the church they once served. Occult spends can work out where the ghosts are most often seen, and what they look like – pale, nondescript people, with skin like wax. They leave a strange, wet residue wherever they go. The basement of the Hoop & Toy, it’s said, is alive with peculiar spiders.

The map on the broadside shows a church, where the Hoop & Toy currently stands.

The Ghastly Brood

Eihort’s strange children are the ‘ghosts’ at the Hoop & Toy. The crypt that the underground workers disturbed all those years ago once belonged to a blasphemous church which held strange ceremonies in its crypt, in honor of the Pale Beast. Those who wished to learn hideous secrets sought to parley with the creature, but Eihort is only interested in its Bargain, and spreading its Brood.

After the destruction of the church Eihort no longer visits its Fane, but its Brood remain. They use it as a kind of meeting place, where hundreds of thousands of Brood gather in the basement to mingle, and share secrets. Seeing this massive wave of Brood in one place is a Stability 5 challenge, possibly going as high as Stability 7 if the Brood attack.

The Brood are very interested in the broadsides, for one of several reasons:

  • They want to establish a final link with those of the Brood whose physical form became imprinted in the broadside paper.
  • They want to see if humans are still interested in making a Bargain with Eihort, as they did before.
  • They want to prevent anyone from finding the location of the Fane.

They will seek out the Beggar’s Daughters broadsides, injuring or killing the ones who have them, as needed.

The Last Word

It’s impossible to determine beyond question whether the broadsides, and their annotations, are Pepys’. However it’s a nice find, and counts as 1 point book stock, History (Restoration London).

Though Pepys was superstitious, he’s not known for being anything other than conventionally superstitious. Charms for luck, or against disease, yes. Rollicking battles against the Mythos, no. Still, they had peculiar notions in Pepys’ day. Perhaps that library at Magdalen is worth a visit, to see what Pepys really did believe …

The basement of the Hoop & Toy is a Fane, a place of power, and can be drawn on by necromancers and would-be magical power places. See Rough Magicks for further details. If not using Rough Magicks, assume the place provides 1 point of Magic potential/year, and can be used as a Megapolisomantic lever. Of course, the Brood will have something to say about that …

Bob the brickie would never bargain with Eihort, but Mr. Bentley might.

An adventure hook for The Esoterrorists, by Adam Gauntlett

Who, or what, killed Larry and Paula Charters aboard the Nautilus Cruise Line ship Festival Allure?

Incident Report

Friday 8th June, Death (suspicious): Larry Charters, found in Ocean View stateroom, apparent suicide (overdose, prescription medication). Death (homicide) Paula Charters, found in Apollo Deck Sports Park 0340 hours, violent assault. Incident passed to local authorities, Bahamas, for further investigation.

This report, with a copy of security footage taken on the night of the incident and other evidence, is forwarded to Ordo Veritatis by an unnamed whistleblower, presumably one of the Festival Allure’s crew. After some initial study, the information is added to OPERATION VENICE BEACH casefile and assigned to the agents for follow-up.

The security footage (video, no audio) shows the approach to the Apollo Sports Deck, 0252 hours to 0259 hours. The sports deck, and its approaches, is off-limits to staff and passengers after 2000 hours, and the doors that lead there have keycard only access exterior, with emergency push-bar exit on the interior side. Judging by the footage, the door used was propped open, which suggests planning.

The footage shows Paula Charters entering the approach at 0252 hours. At that time she shows no panic or alarm. She carries an open bottle of champagne and two glasses, and by her gait and behavior is probably intoxicated. At 0257 she is alerted by an unknown event, possibly a noise, and looks behind her. Whatever she sees causes her to run, and she leaves shot at 0258. At 0259 the feed is cut off.

Initial report from the Bahamian forensics team indicates Paula died from repeated sharp force trauma, chop wounds, delivered by an implement similar to a kitchen cleaver. All such implements found in the Festival Allure’s kitchens have been taken for examination.

Reports from the Festival Allure’s security team suggest the likely avenue of investigation is the husband, a chef in a New Orleans restaurant, who, it is suggested, committed suicide after killing his wife in a drunken rage. No weapon has been found; the security team thinks it was thrown overboard from the couple’s Ocean View stateroom. Core clue, Electronic Surveillance:  if so, there ought to be footage of Larry Charters returning from the Sports Deck to his stateroom after 0259, but there is not.

Finally, there is a brief section of footage shot by persons unknown, taken by a UV smartphone camera. It shows the same section of approach corridor Paula ran down. There are trace signs of some substance that shows up in UV light all along the corridor, as if someone covered in that substance ran down it, touching walls and door handles as they went. There’s not enough here to determine what that substance is.

The agents’ backstory is that they are Federal agents carrying out preliminary investigation to determine whether Larry Charters can be linked to a string of offences in Louisiana and Texas.

Bajan Sharp

The agents may use Cop Talk, or Bureaucracy, to lean on the Bahaman Police via the American Embassy.

Larry suffered bruising indicative of a struggle before he died. It is likely he was force-fed the pills. The pills used were not his prescription nor his wife’s; the pills belong to an Ocean View passenger two staterooms away, who was unaware they were missing.  The injuries done to Paula indicate a left-handed attacker with considerable upper body strength. Larry was right-handed. Both Larry and Paula have trace elements of an unknown substance on their bodies, which can be seen under UV light. The substance has been sent to local labs for testing, but the Bahaman Government is very keen to end the investigation as soon as possible. It doesn’t want to upset Nautilus Cruise Line; tourism dollars are at stake. The Government will brush all this under the rug and ensure the lab ‘loses’ its samples, unless the agents intervene. If saved and sent to the OV for analysis, the report comes back within 24 hours: fungal substance, indicative of Glistening infestation.

Potential ally: Michael Digson, honest cop, wiry, greying, suspicious dark eyes, Athletics 8, Scuffling 6, Surveillance 6.

Security: Deliver The WOW

Guest Security Supervisor Dennis Anand and his team will only cooperate on sufferance; they work for Nautilus, and Nautilus wants this kept out of the media and as far away as possible from the US Federal Government. This is because the Government is considering changes to the Death on the High Seas Act that would be very disadvantageous to cruise lines, and Nautilus doesn’t want to give Federal agents any ammunition that a Congressman or Senator might use to harm them. Agents with Law realize this and can use it to Intimidate Anand. Without this, the security team nod politely and do very little.

Anand and his team stick to the Nautilus-approved story, that Larry killed Paula and then himself. Larry must have fixed things so they could get onto the Sports Deck after hours, probably using a wedge to keep the door open.

Evidence Collection, Cop Talk or similar notices that one of Anand’s team is missing. Security Guard Jennifer Yang is listed sick, though she isn’t in her cabin nor is she in the medical bay. Anand makes any excuse he can to explain away her absence, no matter how absurd. “Oh, you just missed her – she was here a minute ago,” even though there’s no way she could leave the room without the agents seeing her. Yang was the guard who first discovered Paula’s body. She ought to have submitted a written report, but that report is missing, as is all security camera footage for the Sports Deck approach.

Opposition: Dennis Anand, Glistening Slave, Athletics 6, Health 3, Infiltration 4 (increases to 8 with Master Access keycard), Scuffling 6, Shooting 6. Not all Anand’s team are Glistening Slaves, and can be persuaded not to follow his instructions, but only if Anand behaves erratically, or if significant pressure – Reassurance, Intimidation – is applied.

Ready To Take A Chance Again

The agents may try talking to the passengers, particularly those on the Ocean View deck where the Charters’ were staying. Reassurance, Flattery and possibly Flirting work best. Intimidation also works, but the passengers complain to ship staff, who pass on complaints to Security Supervisor Anand.

According to the passengers, the Charters’ were a happy couple who were having a good time. Paula attracted a lot of attention, particularly from one of the bartenders at the Tequila Bar. Larry liked playing on the Sports Deck mini golf course.

The pills used to kill Larry were taken from Fiona Nilsson’s Ocean View suite. She says she saw one of the Tequila Bar’s bartenders hanging around on the Ocean View deck, where he had no business being. She doesn’t know his name.

Tequila Sunrise & Whistleblower

The agents may follow up the bartender angle, or may try tracing Jennifer Yang.

The bartender, Richard ‘Ricky’ Ryan, has a sexual assault record. He’s worked for three different cruise lines and was fired from each, one step ahead of criminal charges. Law knows that cruise lines are quick to share information about criminal or sharp practice from guests, but never share employee records, allowing bad actors to skip from line to line without consequence. He works his regular shift at the Tequila Bar and, after hours, chases guests who catch his eye. Ryan is a Glistening Slave. He still has the cleaver he used to kill Paula.

Ricky Ryan, if Interrogated, admits he killed Paula and then Larry. His story makes very little sense; there’s no way he could have known Fiona Nilsson had the pills he needed to kill Larry, nor does he have the access needed to get past the card key system and into their staterooms. Yet Ryan has a Master Access keycard [Director: given him by Anand].

Opposition: Ricky Ryan, Glistening Slave, Athletics 8, Health 6, Infiltration 4 (increases to 8 with Master Access keycard), Scuffling 8, Shooting 4. When armed with cleaver, Damage +0.

Jennifer Yang is held in an unoccupied interior stateroom, portside, no porthole. She can be traced by following Anand, persuading uninfected security officers to talk, by using Data Retrieval to check which doors Anand has most often used his security card to access, or similar clever agent schemes.

Yang is being infected with Glistening, but the infection hasn’t progressed far and can be cured with a Difficulty 5 Medic test or a Chemistry spend. If found and cured, she says she’s distrusted Anand’s judgment for some time. She’s been conducting an investigation of her own, and is convinced that this can all be traced back to the disappearance of another passenger, Emily Alanis, eight months ago. Alanis was written off as a suicide who jumped overboard, but Yang thinks Alanis is still here. “I could hear her voice in my head.”

Agents who cross-reference the name Emily Alanis with other Esoterror incidents finds that Alanis was involved in Operation QUEEN PAWN, in which a Glistening outbreak was discovered in Tampa Bay, the home port of Nautilus Cruise Lines.

Sessile

The Sessile, formerly Emily Alanis, is hiding down in the bowels of the ship, close to the HVAC system supply. Almost all the ship’s HVAC engineers are Slaves, and defend the Sessile if necessary. The Sessile spreads its spore puffs via the air conditioning ducts, but has only been doing so for a few days. It knew it could potentially reach the entire ship and crew this way, but wasn’t sure it would work. Its preferred method is the old-fashioned way, by touch. However it is reaching the end of its cycle and needs a new host. It wanted to suborn one of the passengers, someone who could go missing without too much fuss.

The whole incident arose because of Ricky. He was supposed to spread the infection through his job at Tequila Sunrise, but his natural inclination led him to chase Paula, with catastrophic results. The Sessile coached him on what to do next. The Sessile wants to get rid of Ricky, but daren’t do so now, when everyone’s watching.

If not stopped, the Sessile can spread Glistening infection points along the liner’s route, and everywhere the passengers visit or call home.

Veil-out may potentially involve quarantining the Festival Allure, which allows the OV to thoroughly disinfect the ship and its passengers.

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