The scenario (S)Entries from the Night’s Black Agents core rulebook is a quick and open-ended intro to the shadowy world of the undead. The players are hired to steal a laptop containing a dossier on the vampiric conspiracy; they steal the laptop, then get doublecrossed, forcing them to track down their former employer and steal the laptop a second time.

Adapting (S)Entries for GUMSHOE One-2-One is relatively simple. All the investigative elements map directly over – clues are clues. The trick is boiling the action sequences down into Challenges. You’ll need a copy of (S)Entries to follow these conversion notes.

 

The Lift

In the first action scene of the adventure, the player needs to sneak into the NATO base at Camp Butmir.

Challenge #1: Getting into the base

The simplest approach is to start with an Infiltration challenge to get in. An Advance means the player gets in easily and gets a bonus Filch die for the next challenge; a Hold means the player just gets in; a Setback means the player still gets in, but the alarm’s been raised and they’ll have to use Evasion to escape the base after grabbing the laptop. Note that the player still gets in even on a Setback – if the plot hinges on the player succeeding, then the player succeeds, but it might be a success with complications.

Challenge #2: Grabbing the Laptop

This is a binary challenge, with only Advance and Hold – steal the laptop undetected, or don’t steal it undetected. If the player’s spotted, run the third challenge. (S)Entries suggests lots of clever things the player might do to hide the theft (spying on the office with Electronic Surveillance, getting Lennart drunk with an Interpersonal Push) – reward clever tactics with bonuses to the roll.

Challenge #3: Escaping the Base

This is an Evasion challenge, with plenty of scope for Stunts. As it’s a challenge that the player only blunders into if they screwed up earlier, you don’t need to be generous with the rewards. An Advance might just mean getting away cleanly, a Hold means you get away with a Heat Problem, and a Setback means you escape but get both Heat and an Injury.

 

The Meet

In this scene, the bad guys ambush the player when she shows up to make the exchange. As written, it takes place out in the countryside, and they’ve got a sniper hidden in the hills. For a Solo Ops, consider switching to a more confined urban location. With only one player, you don’t need plenty of space for a firefight, and a lone player is going to be more cautious and paranoid about going out into the middle of nowhere than a group of players.

Assuming you go with the scene as written…

Challenge #1: Spotting the Sniper

This is a binary Sense Trouble challenge, at a high Difficulty. An Advance means the player spots the sniper and gets the option to flee; a Setback means the player goes right into the Fighting challenge.

Challenge #2: Car Chase

As we want to give the bad guys every chance of getting the laptop, a Hold or a Setback here means the player’s escape attempt is thwarted and the player’s car is knocked off the road or has a tire taken out by the sniper. A Setback means the player picks up an Injury. An Advance means the player gets away with no other benefit. It’s a Driving challenge, but with scope for a Shooting stunt.

Challenge #3: Anton’s Goons

This is a straight-up Fighting challenge; the main complication is that there might be a sniper with a bead on the player. In a multi-player game, that sniper shot might take out one of the player characters, but the rest could keep going. In a single-player game, instant-kills like that must be avoided. Model this by forcing the player to expend a valuable Stunt on countering the threat of the sniper – Evasion to dodge, Shooting to counter-snipe, Athletics to leap into cover.

An Advance means the player keeps the laptop; a Hold means the player loses the laptop, but keeps a goon to interrogate; a Setback has the player left for dead with a Serious Injury.

 

The Trail

This scene’s mostly investigative, and doesn’t require significant conversion. It’s a good scene to introduce the Network rules, letting the player bring in Contacts to help the search for Anton. Optionally, the final Surveillance might give the player an Edge for the final fight – or a Shadow problem on a Setback, penalising her when fighting the paymaster.

 

The Payoff

This is a two-stage or three-stage fight – taking out Anton and his remaining goons, then a battle against the paymaster. The paymaster challenge might use Cool instead of Fighting or Shooting if it’s a supernatural threat instead of a physical one.
The Laptop, when the player finally gets to hold onto it, is obviously a Continuity card.

See P. XX

a column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

A well-designed modular element for an RPG, whether we’re talking about a GMC, location, conspiracy, or occult tome, does more than extrapolate from an evocative premise. The text you write, explicitly or otherwise, indicates to the GM how it will be used in play.

Let’s look at roleplaying’s archetypal modular element, the one that has launched a thousand bestiaries, the creature. Or, if your core game prefers, monster, or foe, or alien life form.

In some cases the utility of a creature, or other modular element for that matter, goes without saying. That happens when the core activity of a game is so hard-wired to its modular elements that their function at the gaming table needs no further elaboration.

Take the venerable first mover and perennial market leader, Dungeons & Dragons. Its core activity is: fight monsters in fantastic environments.

(This greatly accounts for the enduring popularity of D&D and its stickiness as a concept. Not only does it have an exceptionally clear, easily enacted and highly repeatable core activity, it tells you this right in the brand name. Fantastic environment = Dungeon. Monsters = Dragon. It’s all right there.)

A well-wrought D&D creature design requires you to address its activity by showing the GM how it behaves in a fight, and how it interacts with its environment. In 5E, the stat block focuses on the former, and the descriptive text on the latter.

Different iterations of D&D have favored one over the other. The classic “Ecology of the X” magazine article format traditionally goes into way more extrapolative detail on a creature’s relationship to its environment than any DM can possibly put into play at the table. 4E, and its spiritual descendant 13th Age, focus much more on what the creature will do in a fight than in the broader world. A stat block might represent not a category of being, but a particular sort of orc or demon or pirate who attacks in a specific way, with its distinctive spell effect or weapon.

D&D casts such a shadow over trad RPG design that the very term “trad design” might mean “has a little D&D influence in it somewhere.”

It’s easy, then, to lose track of what you’re doing by applying D&D assumptions to the creation of creatures for other games. Making an adversary useful and easily playable in another rules set requires you to step back and consider the core activity you’re writing toward.

GUMSHOE games all have slightly different core activities, all of which can be expressed including the verb investigate.

  • Intrepid volunteers investigate the cosmic secrets of the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • At the behest of a benevolent conspiracy, trained professionals investigate an occult conspiracy to tear apart the world.
  • Ordinary people investigate their way out of horrific situations.
  • Burned spies on the run investigate the vampire conspiracy intent on destroying them.
  • A freelance starship crew investigates interstellar mysteries.

To design a GUMSHOE creature requires not just a focus on the tropes and themes of the setting—an eldritch abomination, a psychically invasive modern horror, an alien life form—but the creature’s role in the investigative action.

GUMSHOE’s emphasis on structure helps you do this. If you look at the scenario format, you can see that a creature might be:

  1. central to the scenario’s key mystery
  2. a secondary obstacle adding challenge and suspense along the way

In case 1, the creature is either the source of the mystery, or adjacent to the source. The PCs have to interact with it in some way to bring the case to a close. That’s your:

  • salt vampire feeding on the crew of the mining outpost
  • resurrected sorcerer bumping off anyone who uncovers his secret
  • ghost taking vengeance on its killer’s descendants

Many instances of case 2 fall into the broader category GUMSHOE calls Antagonist Reactions. When the heroes start poking around, the primary villain sends some lesser creatures to harry them. Secondary creatures might also be keyed to specific investigative scenes, as guardians or obstacles the characters must overcome before gathering clues. Examples include:

  • the gargoyles the corrupt priest sends to trash your studio
  • the mutated dogs in the abandoned lab
  • the faceless homunculus hitman known only as Mrs. Blank

Your description of a GUMSHOE creature might suggest ways it can appear in either role. When writing up Mrs. Blank, you could indicate how she acts when the PCs are tracking her through her trail of victims, and then what she does when she shows up at the behest of the vamp conspiracy to treat the agents to some silencer music.

Accompanying any core activity is a game’s default identity, the description of a typical PC group: ordinary people, trained professionals, burned spies, starship crew, or whatever. Take that into account also as you design your creature. Show the GM how to get the characters into contact with your entity. In other words, your description needs at least one plot hook demonstrating its introduction into play.

Super easy, again, in D&D: unless you say otherwise, the creature occupies the fantastic environment, ready to defend itself when adventurers show up to fight it.

The more specialized the default identity, the more guidance GMs need getting your creature into their games.

Let’s say you’ve designed a ghost that materializes out of printer’s ink. What motivates the typical group for this game to confront it? The answer differs if the PCs are ordinary people (Fear Itself), burned spies (Night’s Black Agents) or security pros who respond to assignments from their handlers (The Esoterrorists, Fall of Delta Green.) The question in the first two examples is “Why do the PCs care?” In the last case, it’s “Why do their handlers care?”

Keep these essential questions in mind as you first envision your creature, and again as you revise your text. You’ll probably spot passages that explore a rabbit hole of iterative detail but don’t figure into a GM’s key concerns:

  1. What does it do in my scenario?
  2. What does that scenario look like?
  3. Why and how do the PCs encounter it?

by Adam Gauntlett

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

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

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

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

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

How to do this?

First, use your camera.

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

KARLO: [groans]

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

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

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

KARLO: Better get ready to duck, huh?

Or from any perspective.

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

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

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

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

Second, cheat.

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

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

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

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

Finally, choose your words with thrills in mind.

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

Consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Night’s Black Agents player characters are highly trained super-spies, veterans of dozens of covert operations, ready to use guile and lethal force to overcome any obstacle.

Night’s Black Agents players are even tougher.

Ready yourself for the inevitable conflict with our Director’s Screen, keeping your notes and maps hidden until that final dramatic reveal. On one side, stunning artwork; on the other, vital reference tables for your eyes only.

Accompanying the screen is the practical Resource Guide, containing

  • Initiation Scenes to kick off your campaign
  • New Monsters and enemy Operatives to bolster the ranks of the Conspiracy
  • Combat Options and Thriller Scene rules for when you need to zoom in on the action
  • Mission Skeletons and Location Plans to help build your adventures!
Stock #: PELGN15 Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Artists: Marisa Erven, Jérôme Huguenin, Heather Landry, Georgia Roan, Jorge Fernández Sanz, and Karolina Węgrzyn Format: 4-panel full-colour GM screen, 56-page resource guide

Pre-order

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

At least, not at the start.

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

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

 

Friends in High Places

Agency

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

Penalties: -1 per Heat card in your hand.

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

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

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

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

or the Agency demand a favour in return

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

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

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

Stunt? No.

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

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

 

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

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

They, too, could easily find a place.

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

Select Operations Support Group

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

1stGXI

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

CIA Program GRIDFIRE

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

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

FBI Talent Resource Office

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

FBI Mutant Screening Centre

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

Brightlane Services

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


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

Limited edition with bookplate

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

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

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

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

 

Buy the limited edition

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

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

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

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

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

Or worse.

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

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

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

Designer’s blog entries

An interview with the publisher

Free downloads and resources for Night’s Black Agents

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

 

 

Review Highlights

Read all the reviews here.

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

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

 

Limited edition with bookplate

A Secret History Unearthed. A Legendary Horror Walks Again.

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

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

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

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

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

ZZ_Spread pages 186_187 (Carfax)

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

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

If you survive.

 

Buy the limited edition

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

 

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

Limited edition without dust jacket

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

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

Limited edition with dust jacket and bookplate

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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