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
by James Palmer
Dracula the Warlord – In life, Vlad Tepes was a man who would go to any end to win. In death, he’s worse. Being a vampire is only one part of his toolkit, and while he uses it, he’ll never become dependent on it. You pull a cross? He pulls a gun. You don’t invite him in? He blows your house up from outside. He loses his powers in day, when he is merely a centuries-old warlord who has mastered every weapon known to man, controls a small country, has his tendrils across Europe, and has a coterie of loyal-unto-death bodyguards around him.
Try making this explicit in game terms by giving him a Preparedness ability, like the Agents, ranked at 14-20 or so, and openly spending and rolling for it. That way Dracula always having a back-up plan or the right counter doesn’t feel so much like Director fiat, and Agents can plot multiple approaches, eventualities, and bluffs to try to outthink the master (by exhausting his pool.)
Showman – He’s watched every depiction of himself – his lair has a library of movies, TV, video games – and they’ve soaked into him. Sometimes he’s Bela Lugosi, sometimes he’s Gary Oldman, sometimes he’s Christopher Lee; you can never be sure what his real face is, or if he even has one anymore. Maybe he was Vlad Tepes in life, maybe he just liked his style, maybe he can’t remember anyway. He loves the grand speeches about his ancestry, regardless of whether they’re true or not.
He’s a giant ham, but he’s a ham like the Joker’s a ham. Everything amuses him, whether it’s making his minions shave their hair like a bat or laying out the corpses of an Agent’s family in an obscene tableau animated by necromancy. Life and death are jokes, and the punchline is always “The Aristocrats!”
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get the average group of players riled up, it’s an NPC who laughs at them. Whether it’s in pre-recorded videos, dream visions, or scrawled messages in blood, the Showman will taunt and tease the Agents across Europe. He favors keeping his favorite foes alive, because after all, he needs a truly appreciative audience, but he’ll strip everything away from them so that in the end, it’s just him and them on a bare stage.
[mirror] The Showman is highly likely to follow the real life Vlad Tepes’ habit of disguising himself to travel among his enemies. He may disguise himself as a friendly NPC (especially if he’s indistinguishable from human during the day) to accompany the group, be their secret patron, or even kidnap and take the shape of an Agent (if you have a compliant player) for a session or two.
Stalker – He’s driven by love, you see. That’s what the world just doesn’t understand. When he crawled back from the dead, it was for love. When he killed that family, it was for love. When he terrorizes and coerces and forces a woman into letting him turn her, it’s for love. Until he realizes that they’re not the One, and they become a hungry Bride trapped behind his walls …
This is the Dracula who turns and abandons Lucy, then fixates on Mina. He probably doesn’t have a grand plot; EDOM is using him, not the other way round – his unlife is one long routine of repeating the same pattern.
The Stalker is a grim parody of the “romantic vampire” that’s become so popular, the centuries-old creature of the night who fixates on teenage girls. Maybe he’s looking for the “reincarnated spirit” of the wife he “lost” – because he killed her. Maybe he just has a type. Maybe he sparkles in sunlight, an otherworldly, terrible glare that rips the sanity or souls out of onlookers. Whichever it is, finding a suitable victim makes for great bait in the Agents’ trap – if they’re willing to risk an innocent.
The Executive Megalomaniac – Dracula wanted to go to England because it exemplified the modernity of 1897; the sweeping, new power that was carrying the world on its back. Now he doesn’t care about England. He wants to go to Silicon Valley. Or Guangzhou. A fading mid-ranked power – that’s just a stepping stone, through control of the City. Dracula wants to rule the world.
The Executive wears tailored suits, long ago shaved that mustache, and prefers mesmerism and persuasion to extreme violence, though that’s always an option in a pinch. He loves technology, though he’s more an end user than a hacker (he has people for that) – trace him by running through the Apple Watch pre-order list for Bucharest. He’s absurdly mega-rich, on the scale that only several lifetimes of Swiss bank accounts and the kind of insider trading you can do by reading people’s dreams can manage.
For the Executive, try swapping his Vampyramid reactions with that of EDOMs. Dracula becomes the one reaching out to and trying to coopt the Agents – after all, why waste talented assets? – while EDOM is the paranoid, ruthless organization striking back (with its suborned vampiric minions) at any possible threat.
The Director’s Handbook, together with Dracula Unredacted, comprises The Dracula Dossier — an epic improvised, collaborative campaign for Night’s Black Agents, our award-winning vampire spy thriller RPG. Pre-order it in our webstore now.
The original 1894 Operation Edom brief, key memos, secret military maps of Transylvania, précis of reports from Balkan battlefronts and German academies alike, and plans for the next century’s battle for control of the Un-Dead — these are the Hawkins Papers.
The handouts that make up the Hawkins Papers are as improvisational as the rest of the Dracula Dossier campaign. Drop them into your game as needed, and let the players decide how to interpret them and what conclusions to draw. Maps, reports, private correspondence, newspaper columns, business cards, and period photographs add historic flavour, and modern-day realism, to your Dracula Dossier campaign.
The Hawkins Papers also includes The Hawkins Annex – for the Director’s eyes only, this invaluable reference lists a description of each of the more than 30 handouts. It suggests likely places for the Agents to find the handout, as well as a Director-friendly breakdown of what clues are available in the handout, pointers to entries in the Director’s Handbook, and other people or groups that could be associated with the document.
Status: In Development
Karloff reviewed the backer-PDF copy of the Dracula Dossier. You can find the full review here. Thanks, Karloff!
“This improvisational Night’s Black Agents campaign setting, complete with the unredacted print copy of Stoker’s first edition Dracula and a massive Director’s Handbook, is beyond huge. It’s one thing to write up Stoker’s Dracula with little ‘Dracula’s a great big meanie’ notes in the margins; after all, Stoker’s done the heavy lifting there. It’s something else altogether to take that text, all those marginal notes, and a hundred other things besides, turning it all into a 364-page document complete with supporting characters, locations, rival agencies, and Dracula’s many possible conspyramids and plots. I’ll give you my conclusion right up front: if you have any interest in the Night’s Black Agents setting whatsoever, this is a must-buy.”
“Meanwhile, let me offer my personal thanks, not to the authors – though they deserve every plaudit – but to my fellow Kickstarter backers. Thanks to your funding, something wonderful has been created.”
Karloff goes on,
“If you’re any kind of student of Stoker, you’ll find layer upon layer of meaning here, and each layer translates to yet another node, or character, location, item, plot thread. Imagine trying to put all that together, yourself. Then be grateful someone else did it for you.”
“Should you go to Carfax, for example, there are several different ways the Director could play it, many different items or supporting characters you might find there, and many different consequences. What this means in play is that the characters can never be sure what they’re going to discover, nor can they take anything for granted. It also means that the Director can play this several times, maybe with the same group, and it will never play out the same way twice.”
“I’d recommend a new Director buy this even if that Director never plays it as written. It’s a masterclass in how the game is constructed, and how it can be played.”
Thirteen – each has a number. Each asked to tell something strange – order of numbers makes the story complete – at the end the Count comes in.
— Bram Stoker, Notes for Dracula
For a change, this isn’t something we left out of the Dracula Dossier. No, instead it’s something you can put into the Dracula Dossier – 13 Icons, very much like the 13 Icons in that other excellent game. Refresh your memory of how we insert Icons and Relationship rolls into Night’s Black Agents, if you care to.
No agent can have (or should want) more than 1 Relationship point with Dracula. Defending a Positive relationship with Dracula is left as an exercise for the player and Director, but keep in mind that being loved by (or as he thinks of it, “property of”) Dracula is, if anything, perhaps even more dangerous than being hated by him.
Some of the Icons have possible factions: e.g., individual Dukes of Edom, or agencies of the Romanian government. When you take a Relationship with such an Icon, pick a faction if you wish. If that faction has an enemy within the Icon (the SRI and the SIE, for example) a Relationship Roll of 5 means your faction’s enemy shows up in the story: to do you dirt (but not actually whack you), try to get you to switch sides, get intel on its opponent, etc. Your relationship with your faction’s enemy is always Conflicted. However, balancing this potential irritation, your faction values your support more because it’s challenged more often: you can refresh 1 Relationship point in an Icon with a faction once per session.
Most large bureaucracies have plentiful factions, so feel free to introduce them where I haven’t: MI5, like the CIA, doubtless has its own bureaucratic siege warfare. Or even sub-factionalize the factions I do provide: the Vatican has rival cardinals, wayward bishops, and weird medieval bureaucracies that somehow no one can quite control.
Factions also make great nodes for a Conspyramid. Just saying.
All of the Icons are Ambiguous or Villainous, with the exception of Dracula (who is only Villainous) and the Slayer (who is Heroic or Ambiguous). In some campaigns (especially Stakes mode games) ECHELON, Five, The Circus, The Cross, The Company, or Der Reichsadler might also be Heroic.
A given Director might switch these around to suit her specific version of the Dracula Dossier, or switch her version of the Dracula Dossier around to emphasize the Icons her players pick as Relationships. Feel free, in other words, to swap in Icons like Queen Tera, Lilith, the Red Horse (the Turks), or any other key players in your game.
This is the original vampire project, nestled within MI6. You were marked for recruitment, or left under a cloud, or learned too much, or helped too little.
Factions: Individual Dukes, Dr. Drawes
Like Quincey Morris in Munich, a Bride has gotten a special taste for you.
Factions: Individual Brides; perhaps Lilith, Alraune, or Elizabeth Báthory
You have a relationship with one of Europe’s mafias, perhaps even the Mafia or the Mafiya. You may be a fixer respected by all, or an ex-investigator hated by all; a former brother, or an escaped target.
Factions: Russian Mafiya bratva, Cosa Nostra, ’Ndrangheta, Camorra, a Triad, Chechen Obshina, Romanian mafia clan
You are inside the head of the folks who have eyes and ears everywhere. Were you a programmer or a monitor for the surveillance state, or do they have a special reason to follow your activities?
Factions: NSA, NRO, NGA, GCHQ, DIFC, ASD (Australia), CSE (Canada), GCSB (New Zealand)
MI5, the Security Service of the United Kingdom, responsible for domestic intelligence, counter-terrorism, and counter-espionage. And in theory, responsible for uncovering rogue century-old operations within MI6.
MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom, responsible for foreign intelligence operations. Your relationship with the Service is not with Edom; you may not even know they exist – or the Circus may have burned you for insisting that Edom did exist.
Factions: Secretariat (military), Requirements and Production (analysis), Security and Public Affairs (internal affairs, mole hunting), Operations (clandestine service), Information Operations (psychological warfare, press manipulation), the Intrusives (DH, p. 293)
You have a relationship with someone with a relationship with God. You may be able to get “Indulgences” and illicit sacramental Hosts, or you may be marked for martyrdom for the good of the flock.
Factions: The Vatican, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church
The Central Intelligence Agency, known as “the Cousins” to the Circus and Five, has plenty of hands out, and plenty of handouts, for anybody and everybody. You took a hand, once, or bit it.
Factions: Directorate of Analysis (“armchairs”), Directorate of Operations (“cowboys”), the CIA vampire program (“Find Forever”)
British intelligence originally intended to aim its vampiric weapon at the Russians, its opponent in the Great Game – and the Russians haven’t forgotten it. The enemy of your enemy is your friend … or possibly your even worse enemy.
Factions: FSB, SVR, GRU, TE (“Special Expedition”) anti-vampire program surviving from 1801 (DH, p. 76)
The national animal of Romania is a small, solitary predator that somehow survives disasters that doom larger species. Sounds about right. You have a “guy in Bucharest” or a “contact in the Palace” or a bunch of signed Securitate pay stubs.
Factions: SIE, SRI, Romanian Armed Forces, Romanian Police, Control Body of the Prime Minister, individual cabinet ministries or oligarchs
Officially called the “Bundesadler” now (except in Greece, and probably Spain and Portugal, and maybe Italy …) the black eagle has been the symbol of Germany for longer than Dracula has been alive. You have fallen under the eagle’s wings … or escaped its talons.
Factions: BND, BfV, Deutsche Bank, Projekt Draugr or other surviving Nazi vampire program (Villainous only)
This Icon hunts vampires, most likely more intensely and dangerously (or incorrectly) than you’d like. It’s an ideal placeholder Icon for a Legacy such as a dhampir Mina Harker, an undiscovered Van Helsing scion, or a badass Morris descendant like Carmilla Rojas. The Slayer may think of you as a protégé, as a weapon … or as bait.
Factions: Individual Legacies, Sayeret Aluka (DH, p. 75), Schola Allatio (DH, p. 77), Caldwell Foundation (DH, p. 160), Echipa Mortii (DH, p. 149; also Villainous)
The King of Vampires knows who you are! Don’t you feel special?
“I think that Varna is not familiar to any of us …”
— Van Helsing
In my defense, not a lot of stuff happens in Varna. I mean, in the novel. Lots of stuff happens in Varna, including a disastrous Crusade in 1444 that killed the King of Poland and nearly killed Vlad Tepes’ brother Mircea.
But in the novel, Dracula ships his coffins to London via Herr Leutner of Varna, and then fakes out the hunters by booking a ship for Varna but going on to Galatz in Romania. Lord Godalming and co. arrive in Varna via the Orient Express, and stay at the Odessus Hotel, named after the original Greek settlement on the site. Although the hunters have identified another of Dracula’s agents in the city, a broker named Ristics, they leave him and Varna behind.
Which is what I did when I mapped out the Director’s Handbook for the Dracula Dossier. Although we put in Herr Leutner, we skipped Varna itself. I blame Dracula, master of the bait-and-switch-Black-Sea-ports. Here, in another of our continuing (and continuing) series “Things We Left Out of The Director’s Handbook for The Dracula Dossier,” is a Quick and Dirty look at Varna, the Summer Capital of Bulgaria.
Varna is Bulgaria’s third-largest city. Its Black Sea beaches and hot springs have made it a resort town since the 7th century BCE, and tourism keeps it one of the most prosperous cities in Eastern Europe. It sits below 350m terraces, at the mouth of Lake Varna, still a center of industry, shipbuilding, and chemical works. The 2 km long Asparuhov Bridge (a 46 m high suicide magnet) connects the rest of Varna with the Asparuhovo borough on the south side of the Lake.
365,000 (about the size of Tampa), swells to 600,000 during summer vacation season (much like Tampa).
Varna’s relative prosperity tends to mute its social conflicts; even the 2013 anti-austerity riots across Bulgaria remained peaceful protests in Varna. One major concern is Varna’s increasing population of undocumented foreigners, initially mostly Turks but recently Ukrainian refugees from the war. There are possibly as many as 300,000 such in the city (which would put the city’s size in summer at 900,000). About 1% of Varna’s population are Roma, almost entirely living in three impoverished ghettos (Maksuda, Rozova Dolina, and Chengene Kula).
A vigilante group of former Bulgarian marines, the Varna Seals, expelled foreign mafias in 2007-2009; some suggest this is merely to clear the lucrative tourist-and-waterfront ground for the Mutri, the Bulgarian mafia. Varna is a major transshipment point for traffickers in slaves and drugs, fueling a red-light district and party zone in resorts all along the Black Sea coast.
Monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship: Towering 110 m above the northwestern part of the city, this 11,000-tonne brutalist concrete monstrosity resembles an immense extended wing, 11-meter high bas-reliefs of Red Army soldiers facing gigantic Bulgarian maidens across a wide 305-step staircase up the side of Turna Tepe. Abandoned since the fall of Communism, it remains a haunt of graffiti artists and urban explorers drawn by the rumors of a nuclear bunker deep within the hill.
Sea Garden: The oldest and largest landscaped park in Varna, begun in 1862 and expanded ever since. It currently hosts not just gardens, but fountains, greenhouses, a grove of trees planted by cosmonauts, the Varna Zoo, Varna Aquarium (including a dolphinarium), the Varna Naval Museum, a water park and amusement park, and casinos, promenades, nightclubs, and boardwalk attractions.
Varna Archaeological Museum: Just southeast of the city center in a Neo-Renaissance building, the Varna Archaeological Museum (est. 1888) holds exhibits from all periods of Bulgarian history: ancient Thracian weapons, Byzantine jewelry, and 19th century icons. Its pride and joy is the collection of pectorals, diadems, beads, and rings of the “Gold of Varna” excavated in 1972-1973 from the Varna Necropolis 4 km west of the city, and dated to ca. 4500 BCE.
- In March 2015, Dr. Valeri Yotov of the Varna Archaeological Museum excavated a “giant skeleton” buried under the Roman fortress wall of Odessus, dating to the late 4th or early 5th century CE. This ongoing excavation began near the St. Nikolay Church when workers rehabilitating the sewer system uncovered an ancient Greek pot (5th century BCE). The dig along the Odessus wall expanded into the Varna Hole, a pit dug in 1984 for the excavation of a department store but abandoned in 1989, and now used for parking.
- In 1992, a group of karate enthusiasts from the elite “Tihina” Division of the Bulgarian marines founded the TIM Group, beginning as a “security company” doing debt recovery for Bulgarian banks, and rapidly expanding into (according to the US State Department) smuggling, auto theft, prostitution, gambling, and narcotics. Since then, TIM has expanded into a maze of secretive holding companies controlling grain, airlines, fishing, oil refineries, and (according to many) Varna’s mayor and politics.
- At the western end of Lake Varna, the industrial city of Devnya is home to a tradition of vampire slayers recorded in 1888 by the Czech historian and diplomat Constantin Jirecek. These vampirdzhiya, or dzhadzhiya (who were dhampirs and often valkodlatsi or werewolves as well), carried icons through graveyards, sheepfolds, and other suspicious locations, waiting for the image to tremble. Then, they would either dig up the vampire (if material) and stake it with hawthorn and burn it, or (if in spirit form) seal it into a bottle which could be burned at leisure.
Before we plunge into the endless deluge of “Dracula Dossier bits we couldn’t fit in anywhere else”, let us pause on the brink and consider the utility of pyramids. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Night’s Black Agents offers two pyramid diagrams to help the Gamemaster. The Conspyramid is the organizational chart of bad guys that the player characters beat up until they drop clues to the next level; the Vampyramid lists threat-appropriate responses by the bad guys. (They’re both in this handy bundle of resources).
By default, the two Pyramids are only loosely linked. You might have, say, the ever-popular Russian Mafia gang as a Conspyramid node, and have Probing Attack by hired goon as an option on the Vampyramid, but the two aren’t necessarily associated. After all, it’s an international conspiracy and Night’s Black Agents is usually a jet-setting game. The Russian Mafia might be the go-to hired goons in Eastern Europe, but if the player characters fly off to Tokyo, you might want to probe them with some Yakuza instead.
Now, what if you’re running a campaign that doesn’t involve international travel?
What if it’s all in one city, battling hipster locovore vampires?
What if you’re playing Mutant City Blues instead, and the campaign involves the slow, methodical takedown of a big criminal outfit, ala the Wire?
(What if, hypothetically, you’d just binge-watched Daredevil on Netflix?)
In this setup, each node in the Conspyramid has a corresponding response in the Vampyramid. So, the Skinsky gang node in the Conspyramid lines up with the Probing Attack response. CPC Properties Offers a Payoff. The Conspiracy’s pet journalist in the City Newspaper is the one who plants the Frame Agent story, and so forth.
You don’t have to stick to the default Vampyramid responses either – think about interesting things your Conspyramid nodes could do to strike back at the player characters. For example, bad guys in the City Hospital could abduct injured or sick contacts or Solaces of the player characters; the Thing in the Morgue might Dig Up Dirt, resurrecting problems from the backstories of the PCs.
Tying Vampyramid responses to Conspyramid nodes means that responses aren’t necessarily one-shots. In a regular NBA game, if a Probing Attack fails, the Conspiracy automatically escalates to the next level or response (Hard Feint). In this setup, the Conspiracy can keep trying Probing Attacks as long as the Skinsky Gang are available. Similarly, the player characters can head off potential threats through decisive action. If they take down Welldone Holdings, then the Conspiracy can’t Freeze Their Accounts.
Keeping the action to a single city makes for a claustrophobic, intimately bloody chess match between player characters and Conspiracy bosses. Contacts and Solace are much more in the line of fire in this style of play, so Vampyramid actions that target them can be more common than in regular NBA globe-trotting play.
(And yes, The Dracula Dossier offers two new Vampyramids, one for the comparatively genteel Edom conspiracy, and the other for medieval warlord carnage, Dracula-style, but I swore that I’d hold off on the Dossier tie-in articles for another month…)
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.
Check out Nook Harper’s alternate Night’s Black Agents setting over on the Illuminerdy. Thanks, Nook!
“Cu è surdu, orbu e taci, campa cent’anni ‘mpaci”
“He who is deaf, blind, and silent will live a hundred years in peace”
Released for Free RPG Day 2015 – exclusively through retailers on 20th June 2015.
This adventure will be also be available for download as part of the 13th Age Monthly and KWAS subscriptions in July.
TWO QUICK-START ADVENTURES ONE BOOK
Night’s Black Agents
Once, you were a spy. From Moscow to Melbourne, London to Lagos, you worked behind the scenes. Black operations. Deniable missions. Surgical strikes. Now, you know there’s a secret behind all the secrets. You know who’s really pulling the strings.
Vampires. The actual, no-kidding bloodsucking undead.
When you found out, they destroyed you. Wiped out your old networks, blackened your name, left you broken and burned.
But you’re still alive. You’ve found allies, others like you. And you’re going to kill the dead.
In THE HARKER INTRUSION, A mysterious tip-off sends you to Morocco. There’s a journalist there. She knows too much, and won’t see the dawn unless you save her. With six pregenerated player characters and a quick-start version of the award-winning NIGHTS BLACK AGENTS rules, this adventure has everything you need to go hunting vampires…
You set off with a fair wind behind you and the blessings of the Icons lighting your way. You hoped for an easy voyage.
That was before the unnatural storm shipwrecked you.
That was before a gigantic living dungeon rose out of the ocean and vomited a swarm of monsters.
That was before everything went wrong.
Now you’ve got to – quite literally – salvage the situation. Reunite your crew, repair the ship, plumb the mysteries of this strange island, and escape before the living dungeon returns. You’re right on the precipice of doom here, in AT LAND’S EDGE.
13th Age is a d20 game of battle, treasure, group storytelling and heroic adventure. This introduction to the game includes pre-generated characters and a full adventure for the GM and 3-6 players.
|Stock #: PEL13AN01
|Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
|Artist: Chris Huth, Jeff Porter
||Pages: 40 Page PDF
In Bram Stoker’s original Notes for Dracula, we find the following cryptic line:
Lawyer – (Sortes Virgilianae) conveyance of body
Stoker originally thought perhaps the “lawyer” character Peter Hawkins, mostly written out of the book, would perform the sortes Virgilianae, literally the “Virgilian lots,” to find out how his new client would work out. Both pagan Romans (who thought poets divinely inspired) and medieval and early modern Christians (who found a prophecy of Jesus in Virgil’s fourth Eclogue) considered Virgil a prophet. The sortes Virgilianae thus refers to a form of bibliomancy in which the querent randomly opens a copy of Virgil’s Aeneid (or sometimes the complete works of Virgil) to receive prophetic guidance on some venture.
- Sortes Virgilianae Virgilianae *INCEPTION sound*
The “conveyance of body” seems like Stoker’s legalistic joke on the dual meaning of “conveyance”: both transportation and transfer of property rights. Anyhow, the phrase points us at Book VI; line 530 of the Aeneid (Dryden’s translation):
“My boat conveys no living bodies o’er”
Which pretty neatly prefigures the doomed Demeter’s voyage from Whitby, which is why I put it right back in Dracula Unredacted.
Later on in the Notes, Stoker suggests maybe Harker performs sortes Virgilianae in Dracula’s library, or discovers that Dracula has been using this medieval magic system, or perhaps Seward does it while feeling blue and neurotic. Eventually Stoker tossed the whole idea. But you don’t have to!
The Bibliomancy Option
Either in your Dracula Dossier game or in a Bookhounds of London campaign it can be creepy fun to introduce a bibliomantic element. The trick, of course, is to pre-load the prophecy. Go to one of the many searchable Aeneids on the Internet and search for the thing you want to show up in the next session.
Gutenberg has the whole poem on one page, and you can search for word fragments (searching on “blood” finds “bloody”); Bartleby has line numbers if you value such things or want to add a numbers-code feeling, but the poem pages are broken up by books so you can use only whole-word searches from the main page.
Or genuinely randomize it: Roll a d12 to select the Book and then a d2000 (d20, d100) to pick the Line (count a 20 result on the d20 as 0). In Dryden’s translation, no Book is longer than 1400 lines, so prepare to re-roll that first die a lot. If you’re more digitally minded, John Clayton’s Two random lines from Virgil does just that, but does not yet support a search.
Then, when the characters decide to sort out a sortilege, you can spring the right creepy line on them. Or, you can read the whole poem looking for naturally awesome couplets like this (Book II; lines 212-213):
“Reveal the secrets of the guilty state,
And justly punish whom I justly hate!”
And then come up with a neat scene that tag can retrospectively be seen to have predicted. Characters that bring about or otherwise invoke that prophecy can claim an Achievement-style 3-point refresh, if you’re feeling generous.
The following perhaps-magic item can appear in either sort of campaign, but it’s written up for the Dracula Dossier.
Appearance: An copy of Virgil’s Aeneid, in Latin and Dryden’s English translation, on facing pages, with numbered lines. Octavo, bound in pale yellow buckram, published by “Faelix Press, London, 1864.” It gives every appearance of heavy use; many pages are marked with pinpricks or brownish ink checks. It is autographed on the frontispiece, “From C. to ‘Mr. P.H., the onlie begetter.’”
Supposed History: This was the copy of the Aeneid used by Peter Hawkins to cast the sortes Virgilianae during the 1894 operation. Art History suggests the inscription is a literary joke, after the dedication of Shakespeare’s Sonnets to “Mr. W.H., the onlie begetter.” The inscription implies that “P.H.” created Edom, and hints that his real initials are W.H. “C.” might be “Cyprian” Bridge, Director of Naval Intelligence, or the not yet officially on the clandestine books Captain Mansfield Smith-Cumming, or someone else entirely.
Major Item: The book allows the accurate casting of sortes Virgilianae, with a proper knife (the Jeweled Dagger (p. XX) or something from the Knife Set (p. XX) perhaps). Riffling through the book and striking a page at random reveals a line or two of Virgil that provide prophetic insight or warning into (usually) the next session’s events. (This lets the Director think a little about how best to work the prophecy in.) During that session, each forewarned agent gains 1 pool point that can be assigned retroactively to either Sense Trouble or Preparedness.
Minor Item: This is indeed Hawkins’ desk copy of Virgil, but it only provides possible leads to Hawkins’ identity or that of his mysterious supervisors in the murky prehistory of British intelligence. Whether either clue points to the current “D” or anywhere else in Edom is up to the Director.
Fraudulent: It’s an authentic 1864 edition of Virgil, but has no connection to Hawkins or to Edom.
Connections: Could turn up in the library at Ring (p. XX) or the Korea Club (p. XX), in the Exeter house (p. XX), or if meant as a clue to the real “Hawkins,” on a dead GMC, with his finger pointing to lines 870-871 of Book II:
“Make haste to save the poor remaining crew,
And give this useless corpse a long adieu.”
In The Dracula Dossier, one of my favorite campaign frames — inserted at Simon’s insistence, and written mostly by Gareth — is “Unto the Fourth Generation,” in which you play the whole saga of Operation Edom from 1894 to 1940 to 1977 to now. That’s right, you begin as the original 1894 heroic band — the cast of Dracula.
- It looks like Mina has found some sort of dossier.
Sadly, space considerations prevent us from inserting full-on character sheets for the original 1894 band into the Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook. (It’s a quarter of a million words long, people.) But perhaps we’ll mock up some lovely Victorian Night’s Black Agents character sheets and put the following pre-gen stats into them as a freebie PDF for backers and buyers. Until then, here are the numbers raw, as Van Helsing might say.
N.B: These builds use the Victorian agent builds from Double Tap. They also feature 20 Investigative points per character (assuming a party of 5 or more agents) and 60 General build points per character (assuming mostly civilians, not yet trained badass vampire hunters). For the same reason, these pre-gens don’t receive free points in Streetwise, Tradecraft, Network, or Cover. They show “float points,” indicating build points unassigned at the start: assign those as you need them in play. Each character gets a dramatic 3 rating in their individual specialty; some character abilities are a tiny stretch (Mina’s skill at shorthand probably wouldn’t really convey Cryptography ability) in order to make sure all the abilities are covered.
Jonathan Harker, Solicitor and Free-Climber
Human Terrain 1, Languages 1 (German, Latin), Law 3, Research 1, Bullshit Detector 1, Bureaucracy 1, Middle Class 2, Interrogation 1, Negotiation 1, Reassurance 1, Notice 1, Outdoor Survival 2 (4 Investigative float points)
Athletics 8, Conceal 4, Driving 1, Health 6, Infiltration 2, Network 7, Riding 1, Sense Trouble 5, Stability 6, Weapons 5 (23 General float points)
Wilhelmina Murray, Instinctive Analyst with a Tasty Neck
Accounting 1, Criminology 1, Languages 1 (French), Research 2, Below Stairs 1, Bullshit Detector 2, Bureaucracy 1, Cryptography 1, Flattery 1, High Society 1, Middle Class 1, Reassurance 3, Notice 1, Traffic Analysis 2 (2 Investigative float points)
Athletics 5, Health 7, Medic 2, Network 8, Preparedness 6, Sense Trouble 8, Shrink 5, Stability 8, Surveillance 3 (16 General float points)
Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Polymathic Vampire Slayer
Art History 1, Criminology 1, Diagnosis 2, Human Terrain 1, Languages 3 (English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latin), Law 1, Occult Studies 1, Research 1, Vampirology 3, Bullshit Detector 1, Middle Class 1, Astronomy 1, Forensic Pathology 1, Geology 1, Outdoor Survival 1, Pharmacy 1 (0 Investigative float points)
Athletics 4, Driving 1, Health 4, Hypnosis 8, Infiltration 4, Mechanics 2, Medic 8, Network 10, Preparedness 6, Sense Trouble 6, Shrink 4, Stability 4, Weapons 4 (3 General float points)
Dr. Jack Seward, Mad Doctor and Fifth Wheel
Accounting 1, Criminology 1, Diagnosis 3, Languages 1 (Latin), Research 1, Bullshit Detector 2, Bureaucracy 1, Flirting 0, Middle Class 1, Reassurance 1, Working Class 1, Chemistry 1, Forensic Pathology 2, Outdoor Survival 1, Pharmacy 1, Urban Survival 1 (2 Investigative float points)
Athletics 6, Driving 1, Hand-to-Hand 5, Health 8, Infiltration 2, Mechanics 3, Medic 8, Network 5, Shrink 10, Stability 5, Weapons 4 (10 General float points)
The Hon. Arthur Holmwood, Wealthy Aristocrat and Steam-Engine Enthusiast
Architecture 1, Art History 1, History 1, Human Terrain 1, Languages 2 (French, Greek, Latin), Military Science 1, Cop Talk 1, Flattery 1, Flirting 2, High Society 3, Intimidation 2, Reassurance 1, Notice 1, Outdoor Survival 2 (1 Investigative float point)
Athletics 5, Driving 2, Gambling 3, Hand-to-Hand 5, Health 5, Infiltration 3, Mechanics 3, Network 9, Piloting 2, Preparedness 4, Riding 4, Sense Trouble 4, Shooting 6, Stability 5, Surveillance 3, Weapons 5 (0 General float points)
Quincey Morris, Texan Adventurer Who Brings Both a Gun and a Knife to a Knife-Fight
Human Terrain 1, Languages 1 (Spanish), Military Science 2, Bullshit Detector 1, Cop Talk 1, Flattery 1, Flirting 1, High Society 1, Intimidation 1, Middle Class 2, Reassurance 1, Tradecraft 1, Geology 1, Notice 2, Outdoor Survival 3 (1 Investigative float point)
Athletics 8, Driving 2, Explosive Devices 2, Gambling 2, Hand-to-Hand 4, Health 6, Infiltration 3, Mechanics 3, Medic 2, Preparedness 4, Riding 5, Sense Trouble 4, Shooting 8, Stability 5, Surveillance 4, Weapons 6 (0 General float points)
Kate Reed, Girl Reporter Not Appearing in this Novel
Accounting 1, Art History 1, Human Terrain 1, Languages 1 (French), Research 3, Bullshit Detector 3, Flattery 1, Flirting 1, High Society 1, Interrogation 1, Middle Class 1, Notice 2, Telegraphy 1, Urban Survival 1 (2 Investigative float points)
Athletics 5, Conceal 3, Cover 4, Disguise 4, Driving 2, Health 6, Infiltration 3, Network 7, Preparedness 4, Riding 2, Sense Trouble 6, Stability 7, Surveillance 8 (9 General float points)
Inspector George Cotford, Deleted Detective of Scotland Yard
Criminology 2, Human Terrain 1, Law 1, Bullshit Detector 2, Cop Talk 3, Interrogation 3, Intimidation 2, Middle Class 1, Streetwise 2, Working Class 1, Notice 2, Urban Survival 1 (0 Investigative float points)
Athletics 6, Conceal 4, Driving 2, Hand-to-Hand 4, Health 7, Preparedness 4, Sense Trouble 8, Shooting 4, Stability 8, Surveillance 6, Weapons 6 (9 General float points)
Francis Aytown, Sensitive Artist Airbrushed Out of the Picture
Archaeology 1, Art History 3, Languages 2 (French, German, Italian), Bullshit Detector 1, Flattery 1, High Society 1, Middle Class 1, Negotiation 1, Reassurance 1, Streetwise 1, Working Class 1, Chemistry 1, Forgery 2, Photography 2 (2 Investigative float points)
Art (Painting) 8, Athletics 5, Conceal 5, Disguise 6, Explosive Devices 2, Filch 2, Health 5, Mechanics 4, Network 5, Sense Trouble 8, Stability 5 (12 General float points)