If you hang around my social media presence (or Ken’s, whose twitterings are to mine as Dracula is to a small fruit bat), you may have seen this funky diagram floating around.


It’s a map of every (or nearly every) node in the Dracula Dossier and the connections between them. I ostensibly built it as a proof of concept to show that you can start anywhere in the campaign and theoretically fight your way through that chain of clues all the way to Dracula, but mainly because I had gone a bit mad from cross-referencing annotations, which is why it looks like something you’d find in Renfield’s cell.

(It’s done, by the way, in Scapple, a very simple mind-mapping program. There are doubtless other more powerful and/or cheaper apps that do the same thing – I know people who use Campaign Cartographer – but Scapple was both easy and already on my machine, so I went for the lazy option. There’s a free trial of Scapple if you want to play with these maps – and it even exports straight into Scrivener for all your Edom-fanfic needs.)

That crazy mish-mash of a chart is utterly useless as a reference, of course, but mapping the nodes visually can be a handy tool for the harried Director. Here, for example, is a snapshot of a campaign that’s just started.


Discovered Clues
The players have decided to investigate annotation CU120. That annotation references the Jewelled Dagger, the Satanic Cult, Carfax, and Dracula’s safehouse network. Last session, the players began by using their contacts in Sothebys to research the provenance of the dagger. They then poked around Carfax and the old safehouse network, where they ran into the MI5 Agent and got warned to stay away from matters that don’t concern them (Make Inquiries on the Edom response pyramid). Unperturbed, they guessed that there might be hidden, unmapped tunnels leading to the cellars of the old Carfax building, and spend Network points to obtain ground-penetrating radar gear from the Seismologist.

So, what’s likely to happen this session? What should the Director prepare for? They haven’t followed up on the Satanic Cult lead yet, but if they do, the Psychic will probably come into play as an occult expert or the heir to the cult. If the Agents question him, he’ll point them at Coldfall House.

The Seismologist is currently just a background character who provided them with useful gear (dropping “canon” NPCs in as Network contacts is a fantastic way to enmesh the players in the world of the Dossier), but as soon as they realise he knows something about Operation Edom, he can point them to his old work colleague, the Retired Computer Boffin.

The Mole Hunt Who’s Who

Here’s a map of who-knew-who (or who was “supposed” to know who) during the 1977 mole hunt.

1970 Mole Hunt


You’ve got Cushing right in the middle, as the liaison between Five and Six. He’s got all his contacts and experts in London on the left side of the map, and the ongoing mess in Romania on the right. (Look at the Sculptor, off on her own unconnected to any other node – she’s a wild card in the investigation, a backchannel to connect any other two nodes.)

Plot 201

You can use these maps to plot different facets of the investigation. For example, say one of your players is really excited by the prospect of black magic, of forbidden tomes and underworld sorcery, and another one wants to get into the investigation of the war on terror and keep things relatively low-key and gritty. By pulling a selection of appropriate nodes into a map, you can find places where these two spheres of interest intersect, so both players get what they want out of the campaign. Here, I’ve grabbed a bunch of campaign elements that I know pertain to either the occult or terrorism, and smeared them across a canvas to see what suggests itself.


Right away, we’ve got a clear line of inquiry that runs from the DIFC Tasker through Holmwood and the British intelligence establishment through the Black Site stuff in Bucharest and into Al-Qaeda in Rum. We can hook in some occult elements along the way – maybe AQIR have gotten hold of an earthquake device (presumably, the one left behind by “Van Sloan’s” team in 1940. And that Spirit Board, sitting in the middle of the map – it’s tantilisingly close to the “Black Light” Black Site. The idea of interrogating people from beyond the grave could be fun, and reminds me of the Dead House in Munich.

We also have a bunch of smaller clusters or wholly unconnected nodes. Has the Archaeologist uncovered the Scholomance? Is the Caldwell Foundation operating out of the British Library? What’s the deal with the Bookseller?

Plot 202

Here’s a more evolved version of the same map, and the Satanic Cult comes to the fore.


You can see how they’re pulling the strings on both sides of the war on terror. Through Philip Holmwood (Minion version) they can influence Edom’s choice of targets. Through the Tour Guide, they’ve put the Medievalist (now an AQIR sympathiser) in touch with the Bookseller who supplied the Earthquake Device. The Caldwell Foundation is carrying out its own investigation, using the Psychic as a double agent – but the Cult are making arrangements to flip the Psychic by providing him with his longed-for copy of Le Dragon Noir. Maybe if the Agents can intercept the Smuggler, they can stop their plan and keep the Psychic on the side of the angels.

The Archaeologist is still off to the side, not really linked into the main plot. That’s fine – I can drop hints and foreshadowing relating to him that might never pay off, or I can bring him onstage later on if the campaign’s heading for a big setpiece involving the Scholomance or Zalmoxis. Similarly, I’ve left the Enigmatic Monsignor floating – I’m suddenly taken with the idea that the Black Site Interrogator’s off-the-books dabbling in necromancy have plunged him into religious terror, and the Agents could flip him by posing as priests and reawakening his lapsed faith. (Glancing at his writeup, I note that Ken has serendipitously given him an older brother in the priesthood – I might retask the Enigmatic Monsigor for that role).

Note the Arms Runner’s connection to Leutner Fabrichen and from there to the Syrian General. If the players get bogged down, I can have them run into the Arms Runner, giving them another avenue of investigation that’ll lead back to my main plot.

The other key map to your campaign, of course, is the Conspyramid. As you play through, keep building the Conspyramid from the bottom up as a tool for pacing. For example, here’s how part of the Conspyramid might look in this case.

Partial Conspyramid

I’ve added the Romanian Ministry of, er, Cult-ure as a Level 3 node to bridge the gap between the Tour Guide/Bookseller and the Cult itself.

(The upcoming Dracula Deck of cards works great for this sort of visualisation, too, if you don’t want to spend hours entering every node into Scapple again after forgetting to save the first two times, he muttered bitterly. Here’s a Scapple document containing every single node, also available in XML.)

EF cover_350The upcoming Edom Files, yet another part of the I-can-justifiably-use-the-word-epic-at-this-point epic Dracula Dossier series, is an anthology of eight missions, ranging from 1877’s Stoker: First Blood to the present-day Harker Intrusion . These missions can be used as one-shots with or without reference to the larger Dossier series, or as Flashbacks within a regular Dossier campaign, or – for the truly heroic – as part of a century-spanning Unto the Fourth Generation or Fields of Edom game.

One of the nice things about having an anthology of historical scenarios in a game about immortal monsters is that you can play with horrors in the past and reasonably expect them to survive into the present, making those historical missions more than just backstory.  If Edom fails to kill Carmilla in 1948, during The Carmilla Sanction, then she’s still around in 2016 to menace your Agents. That hellish mountain lair in First Blood is still there in the present day. For each scenario, we’ve included an encounter – a person, place, object, node or ravening monster – that might survive into a contemporary campaign.

In fact, due to a slight miscommunication, we nearly included two for the Carmilla Sanction. Ken’s NPC works better in the book for sinister plot purposes, so here, rescued from the cutting room floor, is another encounter tied to that mission.

Object: The Vordenburg Diary

Appearance: A handwritten manuscript from the late 17th century, written in a mix of Latin and German, that describes the occult research of a Baron Vordenburg, who was troubled by vampires when living in Moravia (present-day eastern Czech republic).

Supposed History: Baron Vordenburg – the younger baron, the one who shows up in Carmilla – described how his ancestor was a lover of Countess Karnstein, and when she became a vampire, he studied the curse and resolved to leave notes on how to find her tomb and destroy her when she rose again. The Baron’s notes may have been part of the bundle of papers in the possession of Le Fanu when he wrote his novel; Carmilla may have removed them to her new fortress, where they fell into the hands of Edom or the occupying Russian forces.

Major Item: The book contains detailed observations on vampire physiology by Vordenburg – observations that can only be the result of extensive experimentation on captured subjects. It discusses methods of dispatch, feeding cycles, the relationship between the vampire and its tomb, and lists several vampiric creatures destroyed by the Baron. For good measure, the Baron has also transcribed key sections of other texts (like Le Dragon Noir, DH p. 273, and reading it gives a 6-point pool that can be spent on Vampirology, Diagnosis or Occult Studies – or on general ability tests when fighting a vampire. Close reading with History also turns up links to other vampire hunters (possibly the Vatican, the Hospital of St. Joseph & Ste. Mary, DH p. 230, or the Fortified Monastery of St. Peter, DH p. 144).

One small downside – the book was written after Carmilla implanted post-hypnotic suggestions in the Baron’s mind and blood, and reading the original diary (but not a copy or scan) exposes the reader to the vampire’s influence. Call for a Difficulty 6 Stability test on reading the book; failing doesn’t cost the reader any Stability, but opens up a psychic connection. Cue dreams, nocturnal visitations, and an obsession with anagrams. If Carmilla’s still active, then she starts targeting the reader as her next victim. If she was destroyed, then she possesses the reader (if female and of a suitable age) or someone close at hand (a Solace, maybe), slowly conditioning her victim to seek out another vampire and return Carmilla to un-death in a new body. Diagnosis spots the signs of possession.

Minor Item: As above, but the Baron’s notes aren’t half so comprehensive, and there’s a lot more extraneous material about lesbianism. A cruel Director might make the notes on vampirism actively misleading or dangerous – maybe Carmilla deliberately had Vordenburg write the diary as misinformation, and it points towards some location or relic that Carmilla desires. A Vampirology spend spots the errors; if the players don’t make a spend, then give them a clue pointing to a trap laid by Carmilla.

Fraudulent: It’s a fake, written by Carmilla herself in the 1930s. The book contains no useful information, but it’s still got the hypnotic curse. She wrote it as a trap for Edom; optionally, it might be the key to the 1977 mole hunt, and the mole is some woman possessed by the spirit of Carmilla. Check out the library file on the book with Research to find out who read it last, and hence determine who’s secretly Carmilla – maybe the Balkans Specialist (DH p. 91) or the Sculptor (DH p. 100) or Lucy Blythe (DH p. 41). Perhaps there are several psychic doubles of Carmilla running around.

Connections: Doubtless Van Helsing (DH p. 31) and the Hungarian’s grandfather (DH p. 94) were contacts of one Vordenberg or another. The Former Gehlen Org (DH p. 82) might know what became of any Vordenberg Legacies that are still alive.


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.


EEF cover_350ight desperate missions against the Un-Dead!

From the mountains of Bulgaria to the streets of Berlin

From the Russo-Turkish war to the War on Terror

From 1877 to the present day 

For the Dead Travel Fast

Operation Edom is the top-secret section of MI6 dedicated to thwarting and, ultimately, controlling the Un-Dead. Open the Edom archives and read the sealed files to learn the true shape of the 20th century.

  • Stoker: First Blood (1877): In this prequel to Dracula, British adventurers exploring the Balkans thwart a vampiric horror.
  • The Carmilla Sanction (1948): As the Soviets seal off Vienna, an Edom hit team hunt the notorious vampire Carmilla – but can they find her among all the decoys she’s created?
  • Blood Coda (1971): A Romanian ballet company defects to the West, but there’s a vampire hidden among the dancers. Hunt her down before the curtain rises.
  • Day of the Wehrwolf (1981): A prisoner exchange for a captured Edom officer leads the Agents into a race against time to stop the bombing of Radio Free Europe.
  • The Slayer Elite (1980): A mysterious employer hires a team of elite mercenaries to carry out an operation in England. Their target: Edom.
  • Four Days of the Bat (1989): Edom investigates an attack on one of their hidden stations, while outside the Berlin Wall falls and the Soviet Union collapses.
  • The Moldavian Candidate (2005): A long-cold Edom case file is the key to thwarting a Conspiracy plan to assassinate the American vice president and escalate the war on terror.
  • The Harker Intrusion (201-): An entry vector to the main Dracula Dossier campaign, giving one way for a team of Agents to acquire the stolen Dossier.

The Edom Files is part of the Dracula Dossier series. It stands alone as a compendium of one-shot adventures, but combine it with the Director’s Handbook to flash back into Edom’s history, or play through it all as a century-spanning epic!

Status: In development

Edom Field Guide cover mockup_350Drink from the chalice, and join the ranks of the unseen immortals.

You’re on the inside now.

You know what must be done to defend Queen and Country, to defend everything we’ve built, everything we stand for. You deserve access to the innermost sanctum, and this is your key – the EDOM FIELD MANUAL. It will tell you everything you need to know about Operation Edom – what we do, how we do it, and what we’re working towards. It will also teach you how to handle our special assets, and how to put them down if they go rogue.

For more than a century, the top-secret operation within MI6 codenamed ‘Edom’ has defended the United Kingdom from the machinations of the Un-Dead. This book describes the operation’s history, methods, and tradecraft, initiating you into the innermost secrets of the British vampire program.
For players – create your own Edom officers and hunt vampires with the sanction and backing of the British government! Immerse yourself in the clandestine world with eyes-only documents and briefings. Call on Dukes for aid and counsel, gather intel with the aid of Edom’s networks of informants, and gear up with specialised anti-vampire weapons and tactics. Use the Fields of Edom campaign frame to play the spies hunting for the stolen Dracula Dossier, or defy your masters and complete the original mission by taking Dracula down for good.
For Directors – Build your own Edom with a guide to the operation’s structure and methods. Two dozen non-player characters give you a supporting cast for Edom-centred games. Explore Edom’s secret history and render its shadowy present in vivid detail. Advice and campaign options help you bring the operation to a thrilling conclusion – or a bloody catastrophe.
So watch for the cup-and-blaze mark and the hand signal. Keep your kukri close, and remember your training. Four generations of agents have passed the cup on to you – do not falter at the last!
The Edom Field Manual stands alone as a guide to a vampire hunting program. Combine it with the other books in the Dracula Dossier series for insight into Edom its machinations.

Status: In development

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Things that were left out of the Dracula Dossier due to lack of room


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A Secret History Unearthed. A Legendary Horror Walks Again.

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

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

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

  • Conspiracy nodes, eerie locations and vampiric beasts
  • More than 60 supporting characters in vampiric, heroic, or in-between versions
  • Different versions of the real Mina Harker, Abraham van Helsing, and the other stars of Stoker’s novel — and their modern-day successors, descendants, and survivors — who can drive the story in any direction the players look.ZZ_Spread pages 186_187 (Carfax)

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

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

If you survive.


Buy the Director’s Handbook in PDF or print now


Authors: Kenneth Hite, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan Stock #: PELGN05
Artists: Stefano Azzalin, Francesca Baerald, Gennifer Bone, Jeff Brown, Tyler Clark, Dennis Detwiller, Nyra Drakae, Dean Engelhardt, Melissa Gay, Brittany Heiner, Jérôme Huguenin, Chris Huth, Christian Knutsson, Anna Kryczkowska, Erica Leveque, David Lewis Johnson, Pat Loboyko, Rich Longmore, Amanda Makepeace, Juha Makkonen, Angelus Nex (Tina X Filic), Olivia Ongai, Margaret Organ-Kean, Nathan Paoletta, Jen Estirdalin Pattison, Brittany Pezzillo, Jeff Porter, Danielle Sands, Biddy Seiveno, Patricia Smith, Ernanda Souza, Marc Steinmann, Ashley Vanchu, Alicia Vogel, Britney Winthrope Contributors: Heather Albano, Paul Baldowski, Kennon Bauman, Walt Ciechenowski, Justin Farquhar, Elsa S. Henry, Carol Johnson, Marissa Kelly, Shoshana Kessock, Shawn Merwin, James Palmer, Nathan Paoletta, Will Plant, Wes Schneider, Christopher Sniezak, Phil Vecchione
Cartographers: Olivia Catroppa, Chris Huth, Will Jobst, Gill Pearce, Joachim de Ravenbel, Simon Rogers, Ralf Schemmann Format: 368 page, full colour hardback


Director's Handbook_front_cover_350The macro level of a Dracula Dossier campaign emerges from the Conspyramid and Vampyramid charts, as well as the instructions in the opening section, How To Use This Book. Those charts are the framework for your story – as in any Night’s Black Agents game, the aim is to shoot your way up that Conspyramid, level by level, while dodging the antagonist reactions dictated by the matching level on the Vampyramid. Each conspiracy node points to another, and another, until everything closes in on Dracula. So, the players identify a Conspiracy node, or NPC, or location. That gets slotted into the Director’s Conspyramid on an empty slot at an appropriate Level (either the lowest available slot, or one connected to the previous node that gave the clue pointing to this one). They investigate that node, beat it up until another clue falls out, and follow that clue to the next node. Drop in an available Vampyramid response whenever the Conspiracy gets annoyed, and repeat until Dracula drops dead. Again.

Individual scenes require a little more improvisation. The first step – once the players have decided what clue they’re following up on, either from Dracula Unredacted or a previous scene – is to flip to the appropriate writeup in the Director’s Handbook and decide which variant to use. Is this NPC an Innocent, a spy agency Asset, or a Minion of Dracula? Is this location Hot or Cold?

As a rule of thumb, go for more innocents and red herrings early in the campaign, go for more Assets in England or when they’re closing in on Edom, and go for more Minions in the latter stages of the campaign or when in Romania. You could even mechanise if you were so inclined.


1-3: Innocent/Cold

4-5: Asset/Hot

6+: Minion/Hot

+1 if the PCs are following a strong lead

+1 if it’s the middle of the campaign/+2 if its the endgame

Each writeup lists one or more abilities that gets a clue, and that clue points to another NPC/Node/Object/Location. Use that structure as the spine, around which you improvise a scene.

For example, if the PCs are investigating the MI5 Deputy (DH p. 95). The Director decides that the Deputy is still an active Edom Asset; the listed abilities there are Diagnosis and Tradecraft (as well as Notice and Research, but those are for going the other way, pointing the players towards appropriate entries in Dracula Unredacted). Diagnosis sounds fun – maybe the Agents have to sneak into a hospital and question the Deputy while he’s undergoing an MRI scan. A fight scene around a giant magnet could be interesting if, say, a Conspiracy minion shows up…

If inspiration hasn’t struck, consider the following prompts for complications or intrigue:

For Innocent NPCs

  • How do the Agents approach the NPC? (How would you react to half-a-dozen suspicious criminal types showing up on your doorstep?)
  • Do the Agents meet the NPC at home, or work, or some other location? What’s the place like?
  • What are the Agents interrupting when they arrive?
  • Does the NPC have a reason to hide what he or she knows? Does the NPC know the value of the information?
  • When did the NPC last talk about this topic? With whom?
  • Do the players actually need to talk to the NPC, or is this a heist more than an interrogation?
  • Have the NPC treat the PCs as heavily armed genies – what would you do if a bunch of heavily armed criminals offered you a favour in exchange for information?
  • Who else is nearby? Who’s watching? What about animals?
  • Does this scene need to be complicated? Is it better to just give the players the clue and zoom onto a more exciting encounter?
  • Why hasn’t the NPC acted on the information? Why are they still innocent?
  • How can I get this NPC into a fight with the Agents? A chase?
  • What motifs or images can I work into this scene? Blood? Death, disease and decay? Immortality or unnatural youth? The burden of history? Terrorism and the surveillance state? Volcanoes and the secrets of the earth? Sunset or sunrise? Dreams? Diaries and letters? Brides? Bats?
  • Is Dracula nearby?

For Asset NPCs

As above, plus…

  • What’s the NPCs’ escape route from this situation?
  • Public places make for safer meeting places. Pick an Establishing Shot location (p. 254) and have the PCs meet the NPC there. Look at that writeup for ideas.
  • What usual item or precaution has the NPC got hidden around his or her home?
  • Was the Asset briefed on how to deal with people asking about the Dracula Dossier? If so, what’s their standard operating procedure? Stall? Point the PCs to a trap? Turn the tables on them, and pump them for information? Lie and sell the PCs on a false story?
  • What does the intelligence agency want from the PCs, if anything? Does the Asset NPC share that desire?
  • Is the Asset recording the conversation? Is the location bugged?
  • Who wants the Asset dead?
  • How often is the NPC in contact with his or her intelligence agency? How do they communicate?
  • How long will it take the Asset to report this contact with the player characters?
  • What would it take to flip the Asset? Does the Asset want to be bought out?

For Minion NPCs

As above, plus…

  • Is this Minion aware of the true nature of the Conspiracy, or do they think they’re working for something more mundanely malignant? Or is the NPC a lone madman, caught up in the psychic turbulence of the Count?
  • Is the Minion planning on luring the PCs into a trap, in which case he or she meets them somewhere private or dangerous, or trying to deflect them away, in which case a public meeting place is more appropriate?
  • Is this an action scene, where the PCs are threatened? Or is the goal to disturb or confuse them? (Am I planning on eating bugs, or eating them?)
  • How will the NPC use the Agents to advance the Conspiracy’s goals, or curry favour with the Conspiracy?
  • What’s the worst thing the NPC has done for Dracula?
  • What omen or weirdness telegraphs the NPC’s corruption? Is the corruption physical or spiritual?

One final point – in any improvised campaign, especially a stupendously huge and complex one like the Dracula Dossier, it’s inevitable that you’re going to make mistakes. You’ll let the wrong information slip, or you’ll forget some telling detail. (It’s especially likely that you’ll contradict the Annotations at some point, as the players can cross-check those at their leisure after the game session). If you do make a mistake, you’ve got a get-out-of-jail free card you can use to solve almost any error: mind control.

The error that the players picked up on wasn’t a screw-up – it was a subtle clue to Dracula’s involvement, so you can congratulate them on picking up on it. Of course, now that they’ve seen through Dracula’s attempts to cover his tracks, you’re obliged to hit them with another antagonist reaction from the Vampyramid…

I had Intentions of writing this post on the Monday of Gencon itself, when it was due. That’s the sort of stupid idea you have after six days of little sleep and absurd heat. Plus, we had a Pelgrane planning meeting, where we discussed awesome things to come, and how we’re going to celebrate the 10th anniversary of GUMSHOE.

Between panels and selling books, I ran a few demos, including another run-through of my toy 13th Age demo, Midnight in the Bazaar. I’ve run it at multiple cons, and it’s done yeoman service. The text of it is below, although in all those multitudinous demos at many cons, I’ve never played it quite as written. The trick to 13th Age demos is to grab the players’ One Unique Things and run with them.

For example, this year I had four wonderful players who came up with:

  • I’m the ambitious daughter of the Dwarf Lord (6th 3rd in line for the throne)
  • I’ve got Seven Evil Exes from my time studying at the Diabolist’s Academy
  • I’m always fashionably dressed, no matter what the situation
  • I’m a spy for the Blue Dragon (I may be misremembering this one, but the player definitely had a Positive Relationship with the Three).

(I may have also completely forgotten the line in the adventure where the PCs are all supposed to have a 1-point relationship with the Emperor. Sunday of Gencon – don’t stop there, it’s bat country.)

With that set, I dropped the initial hook entirely, and instead had the Dwarf noble attending a wedding at Glitterhaegen where the groom got kidnapped by some of the Seven Evil Exes, so the party had to chase after the kidnappers and rescue the poor fellow. The wedding covered the two “social” OUTs, and I just reskinned the Diabolist foes described below to match how the player described the Evil Exes. Pigeons from Hell, for example, became a breath weapon attack.

For Icon rolls, the only 5s and 6s were a double 6 for the Dwarf Lord and a 6 for the Three. I gave away a magic item for the Dwarf Lord roll – I don’t generally like giving items for Icon rolls, but it’s fine for a quick demo. I promised to work the Three benefit into the game, and had a fantastic opportunity to do so when one of the players described the Bazaar as being guarded by lizard men, so I was able to hint at a plot by the Black Dragon to infiltrate Glitterhaegen with his lizard mercenaries, and let the player spend that benefit to recruit some lizard men scouts to help him find the missing groom.

13th Age - The Three

Midnight in the Bazaar

A 45 minute (or less) 13th Age demo

The characters have finally tracked down the vile instigator of the evils that have befallen the city of Glitterhaegen. Now, they’re about to confront him in the great marketplace just as he puts his scheme into motion.

Character Creation

The pregenerated characters have their ability scores, attacks and spells pre-selected, as well as brief notes on how each power works. What they don’t have are:

  • Full Icon Relationships
  • Backgrounds
  • One Unique Things

For Icon Relationships, all the characters have a 1-point positive relationship with the Emperor – they’re a band of adventurers and troubleshooters with a good reputation.

Each player now chooses their remaining Icons. Use these as a guideline to pick the nature of the bad guy. If there’s a clear majority for one villain, then the bad guy works for him and uses the appropriate theming and mooks.



What’s Going On?

A mysterious foe has done something evil in the city. The nature of the threat depends on who the bad guy’s working for:

  • Lich King: There’s a necromancer in town, the Grey Rat, stirring up the catacombs and awakening the dead. The characters have spent weeks crawling through dungeons and hunting zombies. The necromancer seems to be concentrating on the tombs of the wealthy families.
    • The Grey Rat’s secretly interrogating the dead; he’s searching for the location of the fabled Bank of the Dead, a secret treasury managed by undead merchants who rise once a century to make long-term investments.
  • Orc Lord: An orc army approaches from the west, and there’s a Traitor in the city, trying to weaken Glitterhagen’s defences before the siege begins. Many have already fled the city.
    • The Traitor is secretly a pirate captain – by sparking panic, he’s forcing all the rich nobles to flee by ship, and his pirate armada’s going to sweep in and loot the laden refugee ships
  • Diabolist: The characters were hired to investigate a spate of possessions and strange events, and they’ve learned that the one thing all the victims had in common was that they bargained with a mysterious merchant – a Soul Broker – in the marketplace.
    • All those souls are going to get used in a ritual to invoke a demon of greed.

Now, the characters are on the verge of tracking down their foe in the Grand Bazaar.

Scene Setup

Ask a player who got a 5 or 6 on an Icon roll how their Icon ally helped them find the villain. (If no-one got an appropriate 5 or 6, then go for the most suitable background and ask the player how they tracked down the villain).

If you can, use the other 5s or 6s now – maybe hand out a +1 weapon or some other benefit. Put any outstanding 5s and 6s in front of the players and explain that they can use them in the game if they can think of something suitably cool.

Next, go around the table, focusing on players who didn’t get Icon benefits, and flesh the scene out with leading questions.

  • The Bazaar is a huge open-air market square. Lots of booths and tents. What’s the biggest landmark in the Bazaar?
  • How do you arrive in the Bazaar? Are you going for speed or stealth as you pursue your quarry?
  • Something’s happening in the Bazaar that’s going to be an obstacle. What is it?
  • The guard in the Bazaar are unusual in some way. How so?
  • You’ve got a bad feeling about this. What’s worrying you?

The villain’s somewhere in the Bazaar, moving through the crowds. The characters arrive and hunt for him, using whatever tools or clues they’ve established. After a few minutes’ hunting, they spot the villain approaching an ornate purple tent. As they move to stop him…

A Note On Timing

Intro, Character Setup, Basics – 15 minutes

Lead into first fight – 5 minutes

First fight – 15 minutes

Lead into second fight – 5 minutes

Second fight – 10 minutes

The Grey Rat (Lich King villain): The ground of the bazaar suddenly collapses. The old city catacombs run under the bazaar – they run under everywhere – and undead creatures swarm out. The Grey Rat scurries down into the catacombs. To get to him, the characters must fight through the skeletal horde.

Bazaar Fight

3 PCs 4 PCs 5 PCs 6 PCs
Skeleton Warriors 2 2 3 3
Decrepit Skeletons 5 10 10 15

Skeleton Warriors

2nd Level Troop [UNDEAD]

Initiative +8

Vulnerability: Holy

Spear +8 vs. AC – 6 damage

Resist Weapons 16+



PD 14 HP 26

MD 11


Decrepit Skeletons

1nd Level Mook [UNDEAD]

Initiative +6

Vulnerability: Holy

Spear +6 vs. AC – 3 damage

Resist Weapons 16+

AC 16

PD 14 HP 7 (mook)

MD 10

Once the undead are defeated (or bypassed), the characters can search the tent and find a map of the catacombs, clearly drawn by interrogating the dead. He’s pinpointed the location of the Bank of the Dead beneath the city. It’s located directly beneath the Well of Foresight, and there’s an old tradition that various trading houses throw copies of their annual reports down the well.

The characters then pursue the villain into the catacombs, following him to the vault of the Bank of the Dead. There are lots of coffins containing slumbering bank-liches, and lots of gold. The characters can either battle the villain and his Decrepit Skeleton horde, or else change the most recent financial reports to awaken the Dread Bankers.

Bank Fight

3 PCs 4 PCs 5 PCs 6 PCs
Grey Rat 1 1 1 1
Decrepit Skeletons 0 5 10 15

Grey Rat

2nd Level Triple-Strength Caster [Humanoid]

Initiative +7

Staff +7 vs AC – 15 damage

C: Death Curse +7 vs. PD (all nearby foes) – 7 damage, creates one Decrepit Skeleton per hit

Ratform (1/battle) – turn into a rat. Turns into a rat, avoiding one attack and disengaging.

AC 18

PD 12 HP 70

MD 16

The Traitor (Orc Lord villain): Suddenly, orcs emerge from the purple tent and start hacking and slashing. Most of the orcs are illusions, but there are a few orc warriors who are real and solid. The Traitor pops into the tent and flees through the sewers.

3 PCs 4 PCs 5 PCs 6 PCs
Orc Berserkers 2 2 3 3
Illusionary Orcs 5 10 10 15

Orc Berserkers


2nd Level Troop [Humanoid]


Initiative +5


Greataxe +7 vs. AC – 8 damage

Dangerous: Crit range increases by 3 unless staggered

AC 16

PD 15 HP 30

MD 13


Illusionary Orcs

1nd Level Mook [Illusion]

Initiative +3


Axe +6 vs. AC – 6 damage

Illusion: A partially damaged illusion is destroyed


PD14 HP7 (mook)



The orc attack starts a panic in the market. People hurry down to the docks towards the ships, and the great exodus begins. It’s clear that anyone who has a ship to go to is leaving the city.

The Traitor ran into a sewer entrance. Pursuing him through the sewers, the characters find their way to an exit on a waterside warehouse. There, they see a ship departing, its sails filled by a magical wind. The traitor’s standing at the tiller. The characters need to leap on board or otherwise stop the ship from leaving the harbor, or else the Traitor will send in his pirate fleet!

The Pirate Captain

2nd Level Triple-Strength Wrecker [Humanoid]

Initiative +8

Cutlass +7 vs AC (2 attacks) – 13 damage

Natural even hit: Swashbuckle! The captain moves, making the target vulnerable until they move to counter.

Miss: 6 damage

Ring of Illusion: When the captain is staggered, he adopts the illusion of one of the player characters.

AC 18

PD 16 HP 90

MD 12

The Soul Broker (Diabolist villain): The Soul Broker ducks into a strange curiosity shop down a side street – but when the characters try to follow him, the purple tent comes to life and attacks. Demonic imps pour of it, while the tent itself flails at them with viciously sharp tentpegs and whipping guy-ropes.

3 PCs 4 PCs 5 PCs 6 PCs
The Tent 1 1 1 1
Demon Imps 0 5 10 15

The Tent

2nd Level Triple-Strength Blocker [Construct]

Initiative +5

Ropes +7 vs. AC – 7 damage

Natural 16+: Target is grabbed

Engulf +7 vs. PD (grabbed targets only) – engulfed victim takes 10 ongoing damage

AC 18

PD 16 HP 90

MD 12

Demon Imps

1st level Mook [Demon]

Initiative +5

Claws +6 vs. AC – 4 damage

Mockery: If a character misses an attack on an imp, he takes 3 damage

AC 16

PD 11 HP 7 (mook)

MD 16

The curiosity shop is larger on the inside than on the outside, as the dimensions inside stretch absurdly. After blundering through aisles lined with strange things, the characters find their way onto the roof, where the Soul Broker’s engaged in a strange ritual with a flock of doves and a dozen glowing glass baubles. Each bauble contains a soul, and the broker argues that the rich nobles and spoiled brats whose souls he obtained had already damned themselves through greed. By incarnating them as birds, he’s giving them a chance to earn redemption – and the characters won’t stop him!

The characters must defeat the mad diabolist and his pigeons from hell.

Soul Broker

2nd Level Triple-Strength Caster [Humanoid]

Initiative +7

Staff +7 vs AC – 15 damage

C: Madness +7 vs. MD – 14 damage, and target is Confused (save ends)

Pigeons from Hell – free +7 vs AC attack on all nearby foes, 5 damage

AC 18

PD 12 HP 70

MD 16

Robin Laws’ multi-award-winning Hillfolk is a great game in its own right, but its DramaSystem engine includes a toolkit for describing and dissecting characters that can be used in other games. One of these tools is the concept of dramatic poles.

To quote Robin: Driving any compelling dramatic character in
any story form is an internal contradiction. The character is torn between two opposed dramatic poles. Each pole suggests a choice of identities for the character, each at war with the other. Events in the story pull the character from one pole to the next. Were your character’s story to conclude, her final scenes would once and for all establish one of the identities as the dominant one… In many cases, you can conceive your dramatic poles as your desire, on one hand, and, on the other, the character trait that makes you least likely to attain it.”

In 13th Age, the player characters have relationships with one or more Icons – rulers and other powerful NPCs who shape the world from behind the scenes. As a relationship can be Positive, Negative or Conflicted, a well-designed Icon is always divided on some level. Even the most heroic Icon needs a little hint of darkness; even the vilest villain needs some redeeming quality. In the Dragon Empire setting, for example, the Lich King may be an undead tyrant who wants to conquer the lands of the living and restore his lost empire, but he still thinks of himself as the rightful ruler and has some sense of obligation towards his prospective ‘subjects’. The Priestess may be the mystic champion of all the Gods of Light, a shining vessel for their blazing kindness, but her overwhelming niceness might be hiding a secret agenda.

A well-designed Icon, therefore, is torn between two dramatic poles – usually, one that might draw the player characters to serve or support that Icon, and another that makes the Icon seem suspicious, dangerous or destructive. Evil Icons flip that around, so they’ve got one pole that makes them villainous and ghastly, and another that doesn’t redeem them, but makes them more nuanced and interesting than straight villains.

For the default Icons, I usually go with the pairs of poles below. Your own interpretations may differ, of course – and if you’re creating your own Icons, then you may find these helpful as inspiration.

Archmage: Benevolence versus Hubris – is the Archmage building a utopia, or a house of cards?

13th Age icon symbolsCrusader: Necessity versus Humanity – what does it profit a man to raze Hell to the ground, but still lose his soul?

Diabolist: Power versus Self-Interest – does the Diabolist have the courage of her convictions, or it all just a game?

Dwarf King: Tradition versus Friendship – can the dwarves move past the grudges and debts of their ancestors?

Elf Queen: High versus Wood versus Dark (yep, three poles) – which aspect of Elvendom holds sway?

Emperor: Law versus Truth – can the Emperor save the Empire from the intrigues and double-dealing of his courtiers and governors

Great Gold Wyrm: Heroism versus Sanity – mainly for the Wyrm’s followers, when does divine inspiration become indistinguishable from madness

High Druid: Nature versus Humanity (the concept that of Icon – and its followers – being pulled between elemental forces and humanity shows up a lot in my games).

Lich King: Death versus Obligation – what do the dead owe the living, and vice versa?

Orc Lord: Destruction versus Destiny – is the Orc Lord a disaster, or an opportunity?

Priestess: Divinity versus Humanity – can a mortal embody the gods and remind human?

Prince of Shadows: Anarchy versus Civilisation – what’s beneath the Prince’s mask?

The Three: Hunger versus Intrigue versus Malice (three poles again) – which head of the Three is dominant?

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.

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