The Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook covers the present-day Legacies of the main members of the Crew of Light – Billie Harker, Tabitha Holmwood, Thad Morris and the rest, the descendants of the original group who battled Dracula. However, Unredacted reveals the existence of several other members of this fellowship who, for reasons sinister or editorial, were excised from the narrative. Once the players discover the existence of Kate Reed or Inspector Cotford, might they not try to track down their present-day heirs?

Here’s the first in a short series covering some other Legacies…

 

Anna Marshall

She’s in her early 40s, but looks and dresses younger; she lives in departure lounges and hotel lobbies. Her accent is transatlantic; her personality buried with her conscience. If you ask, Anna says she works in public relations, but she won’t give you her card. She’s employed by a small firm, ReVu, that specializes in crisis management public relations. They’re the people you call when you’re a celebrity who was just caught with a dead prostitute, or a tech company who just broke democracy. ReVu has a portfolio of special assets – they’ve got private detectives and hackers to dig up dirt on your detractors, botnets and troll farms to spread disinformation, and lots of blackmail material. The firm exists in the same space as companies like Black Cube or Cambridge Analytica; it’s headquartered in London, and definitely wasn’t founded by any ex-spies.

Marshall’s role is handling the traditional press (she has lunch with the Tabloid Journalist, DH p. 134) regularly, and trades barbs on twitter with the Journalist (DH, p. 120), but she usually stays under the radar. She tells herself that any day now, she’s going to leave all this behind her, maybe move into the charity sector (maybe Heal The Children, p. 150), but she knows she’s made too many enemies to just walk away. Also, damningly, she’s good at this.

She has no idea of her ancestry, although she might recall seeing a photograph of her great-great-grandmother Kate Reed in her parents’ place. Optionally, she inherited a brooch like the Westenra Brooch (DH, p. 284). She sleepwalks, especially around mid-March.

Innocent: For certain values of ‘innocent’, obviously. ReVu might get hired by any well-connected Character or Node to deal with trouble caused by the Agents. Likely clients for Kate include either Holmwood (DH, p. 43/44), the Hungarian (DH, p. 94), maaaaaybe the Psychic (p. 96), the Art Forecaster (DH, p. 103), the Drug Boss (DH, p. 113), the Petroleum Executive (DH, p. 127) and a bunch of Nodes like Nox Therapeutics (DH, p. 163).

Anna’s conscience isn’t completely dead; if reminded that objective truth and genuine goodness still exist, she might be motivated to assist the Agents. Getting her to read Kate Reed’s Diary (DH, p. 272), showing her the true extent of Dracula’s evil, or just a hefty Interpersonal spend might convince her to help the Agents.

Another possibility: Marshall hires the Agents as freelancers to track down dirt on some political foe; if the Agents need ready cash, a simple little breaking-and-entering side job might appeal. From there, they can discover the truth about their employer.

Asset: ReVu is an Edom cut-out, possibly founded by a retired ex-Duke (a previous Timnah, DH p. 53) or the MI5 Deputy (DH, p. 95). The company handles cover-ups and media monitoring, and occasionally employs vampiric mind control to flip a witness or guarantee a story gets buried. Marshall’s too junior to know much about ReVu’s connections to the Secret Service, although she does know the higher-ups sometimes have urgent meetings at Ring (DH, p. 173) or Exeter (DH, p. 167). If she knew about the Reed file that marks her as a Legacy, she might flip on her employer.

Minion: Marshall’s family have been part of the Satanic Cult of Dracula (DH, p. 55) for generations; she was initiated as a priestess of Dracula at the age of 13, left alone in the Red Room (DH, p. 187) overnight to bathe in the psychic influence. ReVu covers up the cult’s excesses; once Dracula makes his move, the company may be ordered to expose or discredit Edom, distracting “D” with political pressure and scandals while the vampire breaks free. This version of Marshall is likely irredeemable (assuming she’s not a full-on vampire); she expects to be an immortal handmaiden of the Count once he takes over the world.

Defining Quirks: (1) Carries an antique umbrella (2) At least three phones (3) Sleeps with the lights on

Investigative Abilities: High Society, Traffic Analysis, Negotiation

General Abilities: Network 15

“They say much of blood and bloom, and of others which I comprehend not, though I guess what they mean; but nevertheless they tell us all things which we want to know.”

— Abraham Van Helsing, in Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Through the persons of writer-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the BBC (and its pals at Netflix) has vouchsafed to us in this year of our Lord 2020 yet another tilt at the Dracula windmill, this time in a three-episode limited series. (Hereafter, “D2020“. Also hereafter, spoilers.) The specific merits of this iteration aside (which include a rich, Hammer-inspired camera palette and a credibly terrifying Dracula when he shuts up) it also — as with every version of Dracula, or of Dracula — provides a fair few gameable spins on the myth, and on vampires. For example, the bite of D2020 Dracula creates revenants (they look like zombies, but probably use mostly Feral stats (NBA, p. 150)); only a few of his victims survive Infection with enough personality to become true self-willed vampires themselves. The many, many boxes and crates (and habitrails, and fridges) of ferals work very effectively on screen, and likely works well at the table — it makes those warehouse fights more interesting, that’s for sure.

So let’s settle in and dip our fingers in the BBC’s goblet, shall we?

Dracula, hungry for learning

New Power: Drain Knowledge

When Dracula drinks any blood from a human in D2020, he knows their name and something of their background almost immediately. When he drains them, he picks up their entire knowledge base, possibly even including physical skills. (In episode 3, he complains of the taste of a physicist and a professional tennis player.) His language patterns shift, and he even (briefly) picks up a meaningless exercise habit from modern Londoners. Even by smell, he can detect members of a familiar bloodline and something about them.

Vampires with Drain Knowledge gain immediate, surface knowledge of any human whose blood they taste. A big sip (at least 1 Health) gives them the equivalent of a 0-point spend, or a few minutes’ Google search: name, background, emotional state, family connections, etc. Bigger drinks burrow deeper, uncovering closely held secrets; when the amount of Health consumed equals the target’s Stability (or kills the target), the vampire knows every aspect of the target’s thoughts and memories, including buried traumas or brainwashed secrets. (An Agent can resist giving up a secret with a successful Stability test against a Difficulty equal to 4+ their lost Health.) Even a quick gulp (2+ Health drained) provides language and social skills that allow the vampire to briefly blend into the target’s society (the equivalent of 1 point in High Society or Reassurance or another relevant Interpersonal ability); completely draining a suitable target provides technical skills if needed (e.g., a Transylvanian warlord can suddenly use Skype). As a rule of thumb, each point of Health drained past the first provides the equivalent of 1 point in an ability.

In D2020, this seems like a free (almost unavoidable) power; if the vampire can control it, it costs 1 point of Aberrance per target or per scene.

Node: The Jonathan Harker Foundation

The third episode also shares a liter or two of DNA with The Dracula Dossier, not least its covert vampirological operation. In D2020, this secretive medical charity operates out of (and beneath) Cholmely House, a crumbling Victorian building in Whitby near the Abbey ruins. Named for the dead fiancée of Mina Murray, built on the infrastructure of the nuns’ order at the Hospital of St. Joseph and Ste. Mary (DH, p. 230), and backed by mysterious financiers, it conducts hematological research and searches for the body of Dracula, presumed lost at sea with the Demeter. Its staff includes doctors and mercenaries, and its facilities include a glass-walled prison with a remote-controlled sun roof.

EDOM: Obviously, this was the first version of the vampire prison, before EDOM built the holding facilities on HMS Proserpine. In some campaigns, this might be the only vampire prison, or a staging area for Proserpine transfers (DH, p. 178). This also fits a much smaller version of EDOM (even Dustier or more Mirrored than on EFM p. 58), one that has to contract out mercenaries (via a shell corporation) for security instead of depending on the SAS’ E Squadrons. Either way, its guards use the Special Operations Soldiers stats (NBA, p. 70).

CIA: Or the Russians, or the Chinese, or whomever. Some other agency runs the Harker Foundation, tasked to steal a march on EDOM by trawling the seas off Whitby for lost vampires — either prisoners escaping from Proserpine, or vampirized sailors from the Demeter crawling anoxically over the bottom of the North Sea. Or perhaps, as speculated on DH p. 178, Whitby is one of the magical gates to England, so anyone looking to snare a vampire does well to set up shop here. Either way, they have to keep things to one building and use deniable mercs to avoid MI5 or EDOM noticing.

Conspiracy: Boy, Dracula got ahold of a WiFi-enabled tablet pretty easily in that show, didn’t he? What looks like an idiot plot is actually the action of Dracula’s sleeper agents, left behind in Whitby to infiltrate just such a facility. He funds it through cut-outs, and allows it to operate on the “keep your enemies closer” school of thought, and as a way to release useful blood samples or lore into the British medical stream.

Connections: At one point, the Foundation canonically has a Vial of Blood (only a single tube rather than the jar on DH p. 284), and a Legacy (Zoë Helsing instead of Dr. Jacqueline Seward (DH, p. 47) but you can switch those out). Given the number of vampiric revenants lying around (nine in Highgate Cemetery alone), the Foundation may have synthesized any of the Seward Serum (DH, p. 51), Serum V (DH, p. 162), Blomberg Serum (DH, p. 282), or Luria Formula (DH, p. 114). If it’s EDOM, it’s part of Dr. Drawes’ operation (DH, p. 50); it may also employ the Pharmaceutical Researcher (DH, p. 128). Its charity work could overlap or partner with Heal the Children (DH, p. 150). Its mysterious backer might be the venture capital group (or government black budget) behind Nox Therapeutics (DH, p. 162), which might have memos or (apparently) even regular Skype session logs documenting their connection. Since we know it runs human trials on the surface, its tunnels potentially even hold Camp Midnight (DH, p. 252) or the British (or private-sector) equivalent. Given its connections to the Budapest hospital, the Hungarian (DH, p. 94) likely knows enough to set Agents (or the Journalist; DH, p. 120) on its trail.


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.

by Steven Hammond

Gen Con was a blast this year. I played a few games, talked to people I only see at Gen Con, and spent several hours helping out in the Pelgrane Booth. I had fun chatting with all the GUMSHOE and Black Book fans that stopped by. If you picked up a flyer in Indy, the discount codes on it will work until October 1. If you missed Gen Con, we love you too. The discount code WeDontAllFitInIndy will give you 20% off a 1-year Player subscription and it’s also good until October 1, 2019.

Summer wasn’t all play though. A couple of interns joined us and we cranked through the GM tools to get them ready for beta testing, which launched this week.

What are the GM Tools? They are a set of tools designed to help the GM offer a more immersive experience. Modeled after the GM matrices in the back of most GUMSHOE games, they

  • Help the GM keep track of characters’ ability ratings and pools, updating in real time as points are spent.
  • Remind the GM of character connections like Sources of Stability, Bonds and Network contacts.
  • Show the GM who’s been getting spotlight time recently, helping to keep the fun moving around the table.

Below is a short video that shows how the GM tools work in play.

 

The Tools currently support Trail of Cthulhu (and Bookhounds of London), Night’s Black Agents (and the Dracula Dossier), and The Fall of DELTA GREEN. The Yellow King RPG is coming soon with support for Shock and Injury Cards — we still have a couple tricky things to work out there.

Participating in the beta is easy. All Player level subscribers have access to the GM Tools via the “Campaigns” link on the left. Click that, then click “New Campaign” at the top menu to get started. Now you can invite anybody you want to play with. Anybody with a Free account can use the Play mode features when connected to a campaign.

Anybody who provides helpful feedback during the beta will get a free 1-year upgrade to the GM level. You can use our contact form to submit feedback. We are not only looking for bugs and usability issues, we are also looking for feedback on parts you like and new features you’d like to see added.

Take a look at the video and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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

Buy print edition now

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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…

 

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