Night’s Black Agents won two silver ENnie awards for Best Game and BestWriting, and was nominated for Best Rules, Best Interior Art and Product of the Year. Find out why!
Night’s Black Agents puts you in the role of a deadly secret agent, taking down the forces of darkness. Get it now from the Pelgrane Store.
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.
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.
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.
Listen to Ken Hite talk about Night’s Black Agents on the Fear the Boot podcast
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
With the release of Robin’s wonderful new story-explorer The Gaean Reach RPG, GUMSHOE extends its tendrils into one of the oldest and most reliable of dramatic forms: the revenge story. In that game, the player characters unite to destroy the indescribably vile Quandos Vorn in revenge for his prior cruelties to them. And just beforehand, the players (this is the really great bit) collaboratively describe Quandos Vorn’s vileness and determine his prior cruelties. The result? A fresh, involving take on a tale as old as Orestes, if not always quite so damp and naked. From Dumas’ Gothy Edmond Dantes to TV’s dreamy Oliver Queen, doughty heroes have sought revenge on Him (or Her, for Orestes) Who Done Them Wrong for millennia — and if Jack Vance’s SF is anything to go by (and indeed it should be) will continue to do so for millennia hence. So what about our own millennium right here? Why not adapt the brilliant story focus of The Gaean Reach RPG to another of your already beloved if not-quite-so-brilliantly-focused GUMSHOE RPGs? Why not, indeed?
Each possibility here introduces your game’s Quandos Vorn and gives a possible reason you want to get him, although the GM should begin with the good old “Why do you hate …?” and only prime the pump if player creativity seems temporarily throttled. Further possible Terrible Deeds appear, followed by the Quarry’s Masks (how he hides from you, possibly in plain sight) and Obstacles (what he can put between you and him) and then the game’s potential Taglines (things you do or say in play to get Tokens which you spend to pierce Masks and overcome Obstacles).
Night’s Black Agents: Chandler Vaughn
Chandler Vaughn is the guy who burned you. Or that’s one of his cover names. You aren’t actually sure he’s with the Agency any more. If he ever was. Maybe he was a double agent. You’re not even sure what he looks like now. Or looked like, then. But you know one thing: he burned you, and you’re going to bring him down.
Terrible Deeds: killed your partner, aided al-Qaeda in a (lot of) terrorist action, smuggled nukes, killed your family, perverted the Agency’s once-proud ideals into the Orwellian sham they are today, released the vampire virus, vampirized your partner, betrayed your country
Masks: cover identities, plastic surgery, can shapeshift, deniable dead drops, is a hive parasite that lives in many minds, cut-outs, brain-hacking, literal masks you know neat face-mask technology like in Mission: Impossible
Obstacles: billions of embezzled drug dollars for bribes, Russian mobsters, Iranian snipers, North Korean mentats with telekinesis, lots of pull with the corrupt helicopter-gunship-and-SWAT-team parts of the Agency, Renfields, secure immunity in isolated country, total surveillance of all computers
Taglines: Use the Night’s Black Agents Achievements, which are ideal for this sort of thing, as the source of Tokens, not of refreshes (except refreshes with Tokens, of course).
Mutant City Blues: “Quantum Born”
Not the least of “Quantum Born”‘s sins is to have a really lame pseudonym on the Internet. But he’s a mutant (“born of the quantum apocalypse that is ending your corrupt world system so-called”) and a terrorist and a murderer. At least.
Terrible Deeds: set off a bomb in the subway, killed your partner, leaked your case files all over the Internet and got a jillion hardened criminals set free on technicalities, killed your family, bio-engineered a worse version of the Quade virus for the most destructive possible power combos, provides foolproof schemes to other criminals and terrorists, hacked into a candy company’s mainframe and poisoned several thousand kids by altering its ingredient ordering software, is a serial killer among his other hangups
Masks: anonymous Internet existence with the Tor and the onion and such, hoodie and sunglasses, army of easily-gulled hipster anarchist wannabes to claim his identity, is blackmailing members of the force to cover his trail and feed him clues, shape-changing mutant power, is actually an AI given a computer analog of the Quade virus, surveillance-obscuring software, could literally be anyone at all
Obstacles: insanely devoted online love cult, not actually in your home country to say nothing of your actual jurisdiction, police red tape that says “it’s too personal with you and him,” super-powered goons paid big Bitcoin to hit you a lot, your own online history/credit report/everything ever, previous criminals you put away broken out (or legally freed!) by him, is protected from on high by government or corporations or a big seemingly cool charitable or progressive foundation, army of computer-controlled drones and makerbots
Taglines: Use Achievements, as above, or Taglines, as in Gaean Reach, or both, but sourced from either “gritty” comics dialogue or from police procedural TV shows.
Trail of Cthulhu: Kwan-Ho Wong
Or, sure, if you’d rather be torn apart by peculiarly intelligent wolves than poisoned by enormous purple centipedes, Gennadiy Voronin. He is a dealer in antiquities of a repellent aspect, and the lord of a criminal empire extending from Limehouse to Leningrad to Lhassa. He possesses perhaps the finest mind you’ve ever encountered, all the more terrifying because it is his brilliance that has led him to the Mythos …
Terrible Deeds: unleashed a shoggoth, killed your mentor horribly, stole your research and left you floundering and bankrupt, drove you mad and had you institutionalized in some charming colonial hellhole, denounced you to Stalin/Hitler, assassinated FDR, found the Ark of the Covenant first, raised a god or titan once and didn’t have the courtesy to die or go mad
Masks: master of an ancient serpent-man cannibal shapeshifting technique, is an identical twin, has never been photographed, wears an all-enveloping hooded robe at all times, mind-swapped or drug-enslaved pawns, plastic surgery, is (or commands) an ambulatory shoggoth, yellow mask
Obstacles: hideous and hideously-strong enforcer, Ahnenerbe or Black Ocean or NKVD favors, lives in an immense ruined temple to a Mythos entity, hyperspace gates for escapes, bribed or addicted officials in all countries, byakhee flocks, fanatical cultist followers, cannot die
Taglines: Gain a Token by suitable, effective, in character use of a properly Lovecraftian adjective.
Every now and again, I allude jokingly to my “patented one hour per paragraph production model.” This joke has the advantage of making Simon squirm and laugh hollowly, and the disadvantage of sometimes being true. Those little ability clues that I so thoughtlessly made standard in Hideous Creatures? Some of them, especially for the harder sciences, take — well, not an hour necessarily, but they take a good deal longer than just writing “Aunt Sandra thought she saw a bear but it smelled like a frog” or whatever. Visceral goo, easy; virtual science, hard.
Well, anyhow, I recently set what I hope to goodness is my all-time record for research-to-paragraph production, when I wrote up the “Calimani” paragraph in the “Castle Dracula” section of The Dracula Dossier. We can’t make it too easy to just “skip to the boss fight at the end,” after all, so I put in nine or so possible sites for Castle Dracula, of which the Calimani Mountains (a.k.a. the Kelemen Alps) in the eastern Carpathians are one. Why those Mountains (or Alps) in particular? Because they’ve been fingered by the wonderfully obsessive Dutch Dracula scholar Hans Corneel de Roos in his essay “The Dracula Maps” which is available only as an introductory section in his has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed photographically illustrated (and surprisingly minimally annotated) oversized book The Ultimate Dracula. (The cover, for those who disdain following clicky links, shows Dracula riding his coffin (complete with headlamps) through the skies over Transylvania.) So I (of course) bought it and when it showed up, pored over the FIFTY PAGE essay and carefully studied the SEVENTEEN main maps (the crucial ones being blown-up images of Austro-Hungarian military charts oh Thoth-Dionysos I love this book so much) and looked at the spot Corneel de Roos found in GoogleEarth then spent a bit of extra time tracing the “Mozile Draculi” label from one of those Austro-Hungarian military charts on a nearby hill, which turns out to actually read “Morile Draculi” meaning “Devil’s Mill” … or, of course, “Dracula’s Mill.” There’s also a nearby mountain called Dragusul, which doesn’t come from the same root at all but seems suggestive nonetheless.
If you’re curious, the key insight in de Roos’ essay is that Stoker gives a (mistakenly swapped) latitude and longitude for the nearest border crossing in his Notes, and mentions a nearby location called “Izvorul” which might well be the mountain Izvorul Calimanii or “Heart of the Kelemen” which might well have been the random desolate peak Stoker picked to use as Dracula’s mountain home. And yes I have Stoker’s Notes too.
And then I boiled the whole megillah down to the “Calimani” description but in my defense I think that turned into a little more like two or even three paragraphs.
But wait! There’s more! On an entirely unrelated search — well, not entirely unrelated, as it’s still about Dracula — I found another essay by the indefatigable Corneel de Roos. This one deals with the 1901 Icelandic translation of Dracula (titled Makt Myrkranna, meaning “Powers of Darkness”), which sent Dracula scholarship into a tizzy in 1986 when Stoker’s preface to it was rediscovered, said tizzy emanating from Stoker’s clear reference in that preface to Jack the Ripper. What’s the connection? asked any number of Dracula critics and at least two novels (one with a great title) and one very silly book of ostensible nonfiction which of course I own why would you even ask such a question it’s like you don’t even know me.
So anyhow that Icelandic translation, by one Valdimar Ásmundsson (who died in 1902, the year after it came out, no that’s not suspicious at all) was recently republished in 2011 — and only our redoubtable Dutchman has bothered to translate it or Googlefish it at least to find out if Jack the Ripper shows up in the book. So in his 2014 essay “Makt Myrkranna: Mother of All Dracula Modifications?” C. de Roos reveals that Ásmundsson — possibly with Stoker’s assistance and nigh-certainly with his permission — radically changed the plot! Dracula is now head of an evil conspiracy of rich bastards, financial-conspirator-Satanists who carried out the Thames Torso Murders among other outrages (and likely committed the Ripper killings after Dracula left the scene in a cloud of dust).
Reading this essay gave me: some possible names for the Brides of Dracula, lots more creepy Europeans, a new detective (Barrington, to go with Stoker’s un-used Cotford) and best of all, a lovely extra thread to spin out as a potential conspiracy. I barely prevented myself from adding Iceland as a new location.
All that, I confidently suspect, will nurture many new paragraphs indeed. So as long as I can keep Hans Corneel de Roos from publishing any more ground-breaking essays, we should be able to wrap this thing up (only a bit bloated with extra Satanism and keen Romanian mountains) by Halloween.
The GUMSHOE Preparedness ability, which lets you test to see if you happen to already have the crucial bit of equipment you want, lets you skip the aggravation of equipment shopping with an on-the-spot moment of creativity in play.
Although the book definitions of Preparedness refer specifically to gear, GMs may find it plot-forwarding to expand it cover in-the-moment revelations of other prior planning.
Do the investigators need a car to pick you up in a desolate spot in the woods? A player can make this happen by a) supplying a credible retroactive explanation of how she arranged it, and b) scoring a Preparedness success.
- “Naturally I tampered with the elevator as we stepped out of it.”
- “Might I have set the sick bay diagnostic bot to sedate anyone with transferant DNA?”
- “I had time to put flowerpots on the fire escape, right?”
You might combine ordinary Preparedness (having a piece of gear) with the planning to have it in the right place, already doing its job.
“Well, of course I brought along a webcam and set it up by the door to catch video of anyone leaving after we came in.”
If Preparedness as planning seems to give a greater advantage than simply having a particular item on hand, increase the Difficulty above the baseline of 4. If it substitutes an anti-climactic moment for an exciting one, make it exorbitantly expensive. Or better yet, let the players have their moment of coolness and competence and find another, unrelated crisis to throw at them soon afterwards.
If not, don’t make it cost more just for abstract world logic reasons. As always, GUMSHOE cares more about emulation than simulation.
Night’s Black Agents GMs might rule that instances of Preparedness as planning involving the intercession of a GM character also require the expenditure of at least 1 Network point. Or maybe you charge the Network point only if the agents try to squeeze an additional benefit from having the character on the scene.
For example, the driver of the car costs 0 Network if you only have him take you out of the woods, as per the original framing of the Preparedness use. But if you then ask him to accompany you into the motel, to make sure you don’t get jumped by a pack of Renfields on the way in, you have to fork over some Network points to mark his transition from passive background character to source of active, ongoing, risky assistance.
Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite puts you in the role of a skilled intelligence operative fighting a shadow war against vampires in post-Cold War Europe. Play a dangerous human weapon, a sly charmer, an unstoppable transporter, a precise demolitions expert, or whatever fictional spy you’ve always dreamed of being — and start putting those bloodsuckers in the ground where they belong. Purchase Night’s Black Agents in the Pelgrane Shop.
In the latest episode of their submersible podcast, Ken and Robin talk sunken Dunwich, Gulina Karimova, professionalism, and saving Anne Boleyn.
Jonathan Hicks of Farsight Blogger fame has posted a great review of Dust and Mirrors, new original music for Night’s Black Agents by James Semple and his crack composing team. Jonathan says,
“The themes on this album have an excellent atmosphere to them that suit the Night’s Black Agents game perfectly. I’m incredibly impressed with this album, not just as a decent soundtrack for a great game but also as a great selection of music from some incredibly talented people. I can see this getting some serious airtime during my special ops-themed campaigns”.
He also says,
“The music itself reflects both of the genres the game represents exceptionally well. The high-energy and action-orientated spy genre merges well with the dark, brooding danger of the horror in the world and you could quite easily use this music in a general spy- or special ops-themed game or a stand-alone horror one.”
You can read the full review on RPG.net here.
Dust and Mirrors – music for Night’s Black Agents
“I was delighted to be asked to write original music for Night’s Black Agents. The game is truly a masterpiece backed up by some incredible research and it just oozes atmosphere. Superspies vs Vampires? What’s not to like?
For this project I assembled a crack team of amazing composers who each brought something unique to the table. Everyone was very inspired by the source material and that really comes across. I consider myself honoured to be surrounded by so much talent here.
The music itself is made up of tracks which are each designed to work for specific situations but also can be played together as an album for a general mood of tension, action and horror. I hope this creates the perfect mood for your games!”
- James Semple
Dust and Mirrors contains the following tracks, specifically composed for Night’s Black Agents:
1. Main Theme
Mysterious and dramatic music sets the scene for the game ahead!
Hidden surveillance and gathering evidence during dark hours of the night.
3. The Brief
A meeting, telephone call, email or letter is the catalyst for a series of events where danger lurks in the shadows.
An overall sense of dread envelopes you when you discreetly enter the state-of-the-art facility.
A moment to reflect where secret agents become ambivalent when their duty to the mission conflicts with their consciences.
A dangerous chase in a network of power and crime.
7. Suit Up
The final battle approaches, and only you have what it takes.
8. Urban Parkour
Desperate pursuit across rooftops in a city where death is on the line.
9. Purging The Demon
A desperate struggle between human and vampire.
Heavyweight direct brute force is sometimes the agents’ only recourse.
Conspiracy theories take a horrific turn after uncovering an ancient and dangerous secret society.
12. Covert Ops
Behind enemy lines sometimes subterfuge is the best approach.
13. The Great Escape
Confrontation is futile, all you can do now is run for your life. How will you get out of this one?
Emotionally draining circumstance of being trapped in a fiercely unpleasant and smelly environment.
15. An Eye For An Eye
An all out horror piece where the character is alone, vulnerable and miles away from any other human being.
The unfortunate and unforeseen event of meeting with blood-thirsty Vampires.
The true nature and power of the Vampires is revealed. Few can stand against it!
You can feel them watching, waiting patiently for you to come out of your hiding place.
A final reflective moment when the agents examine the life they lead and the choices they have made.
|Stock #: PELGN04D
||Author: James A Semple
|Artist: George Cotronis
||Format: MP3 tracks
The following materials are available for use by all agents. If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Special Activities Division through PERISCOPE NORWAY channels.
Maybe you heard that Night’s Black Agents, the supernatural spy-thriller game by Kenneth Hite, scored two silver ENnie awards at Gen Con; and that its new expansion Double Tap sold out at the show.
I ca hear you asking, “Can I try this amazing-sounding game at PAX?” and “Is this an opportunity for me to get my first-person shooter console-loving friends into tabletop RPGs?” YES YOU CAN, and YES IT IS.
Peter Darley is GMing Night’s Black Agents at Indie RPGs on Demand, Washington State Convention Center room #305/306 on these days and times:
- Friday, 1PM-6PM
- Saturday, 11AM-4PM and 5PM-10PM
- Sunday, 1PM-6PM
I’m serious about the FPS thing, by the way. Night’s Black Agents lets you play a badass Jason Bourne or Ziva David style covert operative, going up against a sinister vampire conspiracy in exotic locations across the world. Using high-tech weapons, networks of contacts and cool spy gear, you can evade, outwit and destroy your foes in exciting cinematic ways.
Drag your friends to Indie RPGs on Demand and try this game! You won’t be sorry.
With all the Conspiracies, the intrigue, the danger, it’s hard to know what exactly is and isn’t on your side. When every shadow from the back alleys of Bucharest to the back benches of the parliament could hide an inhuman enemy, it’s hard to tell what solid ground you can stand on. What can you depend on? Can you make a difference? Trust no one and nothing except the silver bullets in your Glock. To make a difference, aim true.
Even then, sometimes that first shot isn’t a killer. Sometimes you need a double tap.
Double Tap: The Night’s Black Agents Expansion Book includes:
- Sample clues, special spend benefits, and a model Tactical Fact-Finding Benefit for each Investigative ability, along with information, tips, and best practices from cloning a cell phone to hosting a seance to the slang of spycraft!
- For the General abilities, lists of sample clues if they can be used investigatively and more key information and best practices. A new optional Mastery rule keeps your dice hot on every roll — plus over 25 new Cherries!
- 20 new maneuvers, from Alibi to Thrown Clear by the Blast, plus 60 Achievements to add flavor, focus, and flexibility to your play.
- Adaptive Tradecraft and the Cartagena Rules let you low-tech your way out of trouble — and high-action your way back into it!
- More spytech for any mode, from custom face masks to RFID sniffers to jetpacks to EMP weapons — and the “Q Rule” for that laser watch you’ve always wanted!
- Because you demanded it — a big list of guns, customized for 22 clandestine, military, and police groups from SEAL Team Six to the Swiss Guard. Plus eight Gun Cherries — never waste another 6! — and lots more gun gadgets from the CornerShot to UV-emitting bullets to net grenades!
- New rules for adapting the acclaimed night’s black agents Thriller Chase rules to contests of hacking, sneaking, and tracking — plus Manhunt rules for agents hunting monstrous masterminds.
- For Directors, 26 Cameos give you living, breathing NPCs complete with their own clues, and 26 Establishing Shots give you exciting settings to put them — and your agents — into.
- Discover the horrific secrets of the chupa, the ekimmu, the homunculus, and the penanggalan — and recoil from the nosferatu, a complete vampire build straddling the line between biotech and blasphemy. A complete list of vampiric powers lets you build your own bloodsuckers faster than ever.
- Finally, the Suspyramid models war within a Conspiracy, tips for solo-agent play let you lay on the Burn, and variant builds send your campaign to the Victorian Era, WWII, or the depths of the Cold War!
So consider this the next level, a higher pay grade and higher-than-double-0 clearance. It’s time to take the fight to the Conspiracy.
This time, it’s not just a headshot. Better go for the double tap.
|Stock #: PELGN03
||Author: Kenneth Hite, John Adamus, Will Hindmarch, Kevin Kulp, Christian Lindke, James Palmer, Will Plant & Rob Wieland
|Artist: Alessandro Alaia, David Lewis Johnson, Phil Reeves
||Pages: 128pg Perfect Bound
For over a century, we have known only part of the story of Dracula — the part Bram Stoker was allowed to tell. Now, the whole tale can be revealed. In 1893, the secret services of three nations played a dangerous game to contact and control the perfect asset — the ultimate weapon — Count Dracula.
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.
Status: In Development