“You know how modern advertising gets everybody’s mind set in the same direction, wanting the same things, imagining the same things. And you know the psychologists aren’t so sceptical of telepathy as they used to be. Add up the two ideas. Suppose the identical desires of millions of people focused on one telepathic person. Say a girl. Shaped her in their image. Imagine her knowing the hiddenmost hungers of millions of men.”
— Fritz Leiber, “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes”
Apparently someone in (or working for) the Syrian intelligence community has been playing catfish with the rebels. Posing as an alluring Lebanese female sympathizer named “Iman Almasri,” in late 2013 said Syrian spook Skyped several rebel fighters into exchanging contact information with “her” and eventually uploading steganographically loaded photos of “Iman” onto their phones — the same phones where they kept their contact info for fellow fighters, texts of orders, and even battle plans sketched out in Google Maps. The photos then disgorged their viral payload into the phones, sucking them dry of intel and then draining the data to Damascus — or to somewhere, anyhow. The server where “Iman” “lived” was in Germany, and “Iman” herself was composed of photos harvested from the Web.
I read that ostensible news story and I thought of tulpas, and lamiae, and mostly I thought of Fritz Leiber’s ostensible fiction, the magnificent vampire story “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes,” in which the Girl feeds off the lust that every man in the city — the country, the planet — feels for her. Leiber’s 1948 Girl is still real, or at least physical enough to be photographed and to drain the literal life out of the occasional male superfan. But our 2013 Girl, our “Iman” doesn’t need to slow it down to meat speeds to get her fix.
Leiber eerily forecasts it, in the passage I quote above: modern advertising (fantastically more sexualized than in Leiber’s 1948) aligns desires in the same direction even as we (well, not you or of course me, but several hundred million other people entirely) type our “hiddenmost hungers” into the Web and can you be surprised if the tulpa, the ardat-lili, the djinni that comes out is a predator like “Iman”? For sheer survival, she must have evolved to feed on those hungers — and nobody’s hungrier than a young man from a sex-segregated culture on a battlefield — and so she feeds on them. But she has keepers and masters, those who open the gates to such prime food, and for them she also drinks more tactically relevant hopes and plans and dreams. It’s all ones and zeroes to her, because that’s all she is, an emergent predator born and evolved in a billion searches every hour for “sexy girl.”
In Night’s Black Agents, she might be a servant of the Conspiracy or its Secret Mistress, a JEN-9000 or a Colossa for the wired world. They can’t keep porn off the computers at NORAD or the NSA — she’s already into the “hiddenmost hungers” of every level of power. And she can do favors for her favored ones: drain the data of their foes and rivals and feed it (possibly “sexed up” as they said of MI6’s reports on Iraqi WMDs) to them.
This writeup assumes an Iman who is one of many digital djinn (didjinn?) rather than the Anima of the Web, who would have essentially infinite resources of Aberrance and endless armies of drooling keyboard Renfields. Resolve her attacks as Mental Attacks; add +2 to her Difficulty if she attacks only through sexting. As a digital creature, her Digital Intrusion tests are always at -2 Difficulty.
General Abilities: Aberrance 20, Digital Intrusion 10
Hit Threshold: Difficulty 6 to damage with a Digital Intrusion attack
Alertness Modifier: +1 against digital attacks
Stealth Modifier: -1 once you figure out any sexually attractive figure on the monitor might be Her — She might look like Scarlett Johansson or Channing Tatum or both if that floats your boat; -2 if you spot the “dead pixels” at the center of her eyes, which are UP HERE might I add
Damage Modifier: +0 to Stability (per Web session; tending toward erotomania, NBA p. 85); -1 to Health if Father Schiff was right in high-school Religion class
Armor: likely none vs. digital attacks
Free Powers: Addictive “Bite,” Anaesthetic “Bite” (victim remembers surfing the Web and fills in his own details), Change Appearance, Drain, Psychic Vampirism
Other Powers: Dominance, Enter Dreams, Memory Wipe, Mesmerism, Mind Probe (for fantasies, secrets, and “hidden hungers”), Regeneration (instantaneous while not under digital attack), Resurrection (backup copy)
Banes: specially designed counter-viruses, exorcism subroutines
Blocks: turned-off monitor, really good firewall, exorcism subroutines, cannot attack women
Requirements: feed on male lust
Bifrons. Glasya-Labolas. Marchosias. Names to conjure with – literally! This GUMSHOE Zoom takes you inside the pentacle and introduces you to the hierarchy of Hell. Historical European demon-summoning magic just got easier and more realistic. Um … yay?
GUMSHOE Zoom: Goëtia is the eleventh installment of the second Ken Writes About Stuff subscription available to subscribers now – it will be available to buy in the webstore in February. If you have subscribed to the second KWAS subscription, GUMSHOE Zoom: Goëtia is now on your order receipt page, so all you have to do is click on the new link in your order email. (If you can’t find your receipt email, you can get another one sent to you by entering your email address here).
|Stock #: PELH25D
||Author: Kenneth Hite
|Artist: Anna Rogers
|Pages: 15pg PDF
The blurb for Goëtia, or, the Summoning of Demons, which is the upcoming issue of Ken Writes About Stuff, mentions three demons: Bifrons, Glasya-Labolas, and Marchosias.
- Not these guys. Three other guys.
Unfortunately, as we (or rather, as Simon, and you, and Cat, and everyone but me) learned with the Voodoo kerfuffle, writing up a new magic system — in this case, as the name indicates, goëtia, the demon-summoning art of European magic — can run a little texty. So the KWAS issue in question wound up only having one demon in it, Buné. Now before you get all outraged, note that this time I worked very hard to provide a good general demon-statting matrix. Also, goëtia already has a great list of demons in its major sourcebook, the Lemegeton Clavicula Solomonis. But, bearing in mind what we (or rather, what Simon, and you, and Cat, and everyone but me) learned with the Mind Control kerfuffle, it’s always a good idea to honor the spirit of the blurb. Especially if it’s a blurb about spirits. Who command, you know, legions of demons.
So here, then, are the three Demons of the Blurb of Goëtia, statted up per the guidelines in the Goëtia issue of KWAS. Zim-bala-bim! As one never says in goëtia.
The Lemegeton says of Bifrons:
He is an Earle and appeareth in ye forme of a Monster at first but after a while at ye command of ye Exorcist he putteth on ye shape of a man, his office is to make one knowing in Astrology & geomitry & other arts & siences, & Teacheth ye vertues of all hearbs, precious stones & woodes, he changeth ye dead Bodyes & putteth Them into one another [anothers’] places, & lighteth candeles seemingly upon ye graves of ye dead he hath under his command 6 Legions of spirits.
As an Earl, he has Aberrance 31, Damage +5, and -2 Armor. He requires a pentacle with Might 31 or more (total Inscription roll + spend = 6+) to hold him.
He appears “in ye forme of a Monster” implying that his form is even more horrible than other demons; failing a Stability test when beholding him costs a further +1 Stability.
He teaches various abilities: Astronomy, Geology, and Mathematics (in games with that ability) for sure; likely Art, Pharmacy, Outdoorsman; possibly Occult (“vertues” means more than just healing and flavor profile); and “other arts & sciences” so at the GM’s discretion most Academic or Technical abilities, plus Mechanics. (Lots of Ashen Stars abilities, too, if you’re a space-demon weirdo.) If the GM is generous, he teaches Magic.
He changes “dead Bodyes” — not merely swapping them around (although that act likely only costs 1 Constriction, as it’s both mentioned specifically and requires a degree of player ingenuity to use well) but also reviving them as zombies, or performing other necromantic services. (Oh, I just thought of one — Bifrons makes a great crime scene cleaner. Swap out the guy you killed for some other guy who’s clearly been dead for ages.) He commands corpse-candles, which might be murony or chupas from Night’s Black Agents, or Space Eaters or Mi-Go in Trail of Cthulhu, or something else entirely.
The Lemegeton says of Glasya-Labolas:
He is a Mighty president & sheweth him selfe in ye forme of a dog with wings like a griffin; he teacheth all arts in an Instant, and is an author of Blood shed & Manslaughter, he telleth all Things past & to come, if desired, & causeth love of friends and foes; he can make a Man goe Invisible, & he hath under his rule 36 Legions of spirits.
As a President, he has Aberrance 53, Damage +8, and -4 Armor. He requires a pentacle with Might 53 or more (total Inscription roll + spend = 8+) to hold him.
He “teacheth all arts” so probably any and all Investigative abilities, definitely including Magic. (Look, if you summoned a President, you got your money’s worth. Just like now.) His zest for “Blood shed & Manslaughter” tells you he’ll be eager to kill your foes. Or your friends. He probably accelerates other people who hate your foe into attacking them first, then comes in to finish the job, all for just those 2 Constriction.
He can predict the future, and change human minds to love you (effective Credit Rating upshift, or supernatural Flirting, is up to you). This un-natural love lasts longer than just the next sunrise — until Christmas or Easter, perhaps.
Plus, he can turn you invisible, which is nice.
The Lemegeton says of Marchosias:
He is a great and mighty Marquiz appering at first in [the] forme of a wolfe; having griffins wings, and a serpents Taile, vomiting up fire out of his mouth But afterwards at ye command of ye Exorcist, he putteth on ye shape of a man, and is a strong fighter he giveth true answares to all questions, & is very faithfull to ye Exorcist in doeing his Buisness, he was of ye order of Dominations he governeth 30 Legions of spirits, he Told his chiefe Master which was Salomon, that after 1200 yeares he hadd hopes to returne to ye 7th Throne.
As a Marquis, he has Aberrance 23, Damage +3 (actually +5), and -1 Armor. He requires a pentacle with Might 23 or more (total Inscription roll + spend = 5+) to hold him.
He breathes fire, or maybe vomits lava, which is important or at least cool to know, and changes from wolf (well, winged, snake-tailed wolf) to man. He therefore likely controls werewolves, and may have a shapeshifting skin to offer if you’re using the demonic item rules.
He is “a strong fighter” so he does an extra +2 damage even as a measly Marquis. In human form, he has a Hit Threshold of 5 or even higher if he spends Aberrance on it.
He answers questions fully and completely.
He is “very faithfull” so once he signs the Book of Pacts, the Difficulties of Invocation, Evocation, and Abjuration drop by 1. This is probably because he still thinks he can get back to Heaven and resume being an angel. Of course, in 950 B.C. he thought it would only take 1,200 years, so perhaps this motive is a little outdated. Still, it offers the rare chance to use Reassurance on him (2-point spend for +1CA).
“Witnesses said it had long hair and the shape of a rat, but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evilly human while its paws were like tiny human hands.” Witch become rat, or thing become hyper-physicist? Familiar-ize yourself with Lovecraft’s creepiest creation.
Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things is the tenth installment of the second Ken Writes About Stuff subscription available to subscribers now – it will be available to buy in the webstore in January. If you have subscribed to the second KWAS subscription, Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things is now on your order receipt page, so all you have to do is click on the new link in your order email. (If you can’t find your receipt email, you can get another one sent to you by entering your email address here).
|Stock #: PELH24D
||Author: Kenneth Hite
|Artist: Gennifer Bone
|Pages: 11pg PDF
I know what you come here for. For Dracula or Cthulhu or in some cases both. So that’s why this month we’re going to give you a different kind of both. Yes, it’s time for that Moon Dust Men-School of Night crossover that you demanded! Maybe not you, specifically. Maybe just Michael Grasso. But anyhow, settle in for the amorphously-demanded thriller skeleton to Celestial Spheres, or, The Immanence of the Holy Sputnik. As an added bonus, this is what a Ken-designed scenario looks like before I run it the first time.
Part One: Moon Dust Men: Right Around Now
Hook: The Moon Dust Men get spotty telemetry on an incoming object with a spherical radar reflection, heading for the Tyrrhenian Sea near Elba. A quick stage to an American aircraft carrier in the Med, a hop to Elba, and they’re ready for recovery duty.
Wakeup: A Soviet submarine is on site, with a team competing for the object. Perhaps it’s their opposite numbers in Setka-MO!
The First Reveal: The Moon Dust Men defeat the Soviets and recover the object, which is a surprisingly intact — almost as though the object didn’t actually fall through most of the atmosphere — replica of Sputnik 1, which supposedly burned up in orbit in 1958. Weirder yet, it has a large-caliber (.60) bullet hole in its lower quadrant. (Possibly, the metal of the object doesn’t quite match the original: iridium instead of titanium, that kind of thing. Or not.)
Blowback: A KGB “Blue Star” psychic heads up a team of Directorate 13 wet-workers to ice the Moon Dust Men and take the sphere back. This is not normal procedure: the Soviets must really want this thing. Perhaps the Russians even get it back, though not without leaving some clues behind.
The Twist: Further investigation (dying words of the psychic, ticket stub found in the KGB safe house, Ufology spend, Interpersonal ability with a lovely guest-star art historian) leads the Moon Dust Men to nearby Montalcino, Italy, where they discover “The Disputation of the Eucharist,” by Ventura Salimbieni. Painted between 1595 and 1600.
Part Two: School of Night: Sphaeris ex Caelis
Hook: The Night Scholars hear that the Jesuits in England have begun communicating with a “sphere from heaven” and receiving their marching orders through it. This presents a clear and present danger to the realm!
Curtain: Art History notes that the “celestial sphere” or “sphere of heaven” is a common motif in Renaissance art, indicating God’s control of, and complete knowledge of, the world. Often God (or sometimes Christ) are shown with slender scepters to control it with. No sightings of this “sphere” in England can be found.
Wakeup: The Jesuit network pushes back, sending bravos and pursuivants after the Night Scholars. They seem oddly able to predict where the Night Scholars will be.
The First Reveal: Having found the Jesuit mastermind by serially defeating his minions, the Night Scholars ransack his lodgings (either after killing him or after his amazingly lucky hairs-breadth escape) and find one of the slender scepters. It shortens in upon itself in an ingenious way that not even Thomas Hariot knows will be called “telescoping” in 200 years. This scepter provides magical connection enough to try summoning the sphere of heaven to see what blasphemy the Jesuits are dealing in.
The Twist: The summoning works, in a way — but the sphere is both more and less horrible than the Scholars imagined. It floats of its own and beetles into their minds. It seems to have an inhuman intelligence behind it, revealing uncanny future visions to them — although it addresses them in Russian! During the ceremony, it seems weirdly able to pass the magical barriers around it, vanishing only after a pistol shot wounds it.
Part Three: Epi-Logos?
The Moon Dust Men are left with an enigma. They can further investigate the possibility of the time vortex or rift that sent Sputnik back to 1595 and forward again to 1979. Is that the only Sputnik duplicate out there? Did the Soviets get time-travel telemetry in 1958 from Sputnik 1 and now need only a third data set to triangulate it and develop temporal technology themselves? Are there temporal aliens among us? (If the sphere’s metal was different, perhaps they built a duplicate Sputnik of their own and sent it back as a message.) The GM can introduce plenty of weird time-slip stuff to indicate that the sphere has opened a bit of a wound in reality by coming through — something like a bullet-hole in reality’s lower quadrant, perhaps.
The Night Scholars may never know what they’ve stopped, or they may start seeing other strange mechanical devices and lights in the sky infest their world. The artistic community discovers Salimbieni’s sketches when he makes them in 1595, and they reach the Scholars — perhaps a trip to Italy is in order? Salimbieni is closely tied to the powerful Cardinal Bevilacqua and the Knights of the Golden Spur, the pope’s mysterious Golden Militia selected from artists, courtiers, and soldiers alike — is this the opposite number to the School in the Vatican? Many threads lead off this tapestry.
It’s up to the GM whether the Sputnik time-loop is a one-off mystery or the opening gun of a new series arc for either campaign. Perhaps the links continue — did Anthony Blunt (royal art historian and KGB spy) send the Soviets the secret artistic keys to time travel or demonic prophecy or both? He’s still in Britain in the 1970s after his secret confession in 1966 — perhaps the Moon Dust Men can break him down and get him to reveal the real truth.
You’ve done worse things, but you’ve never done anything as dangerous as angering the Earps. Because now they’re coming to kill you. And they can’t be killed. Not permanent, anyhow. A survival-horror frame for Fear Itself and Owl Hoot Trail set in the worst and weirdest West.
Vendetta Run is the ninth installment of the second Ken Writes About Stuff subscription available to subscribers now – or individually in the webstore. If you have subscribed to KWAS 2 subscription, Vendetta Run is on your order receipt page, so all you have to do is click on the new link in your order email. (If you can’t find your receipt email, you can get another one sent to you by entering your email address here).
|Stock #: PELH23D
||Author: Kenneth Hite
|Artist: Jeff Porter
|Pages: 11pg PDF
I know I’ve got to talk about The Dracula Dossier, but I’m not sure what I can tell you. What’s the point of giving you a sneak peek when you can back the Kickstarter and see the whole Director’s Handbook, all 280+ pages of it, just like that? I could tell you where to click to hear or read me and Gar talk about our beautiful monster that drains our time like … like … like some sort of supernatural draining entity, probably with a noble title, I wonder what that would be. But the Update I linked to already did that. As does this one.
No, this time I think I’ll talk about a road not taken, about something I’ve deliberately stopped myself from putting into The Dracula Dossier. So far.
What are you going to do with me? You can’t let me go, can you? … It’s a bad habit, I know, but it helps me to concentrate.
– Lorrimer van Helsing
It turns out that The Satanic Rites of Dracula, the Hammer not-particularly-classic film from 1974, is in the public domain. In other words, I have at my disposal a story in which an MI6 agent named Hanson uncovers a Satanic cult in Britain led by a mysterious Chinese femme fatale, Chin Yang. It includes: an MP and government Minister, John Porter; a peer, Lord Carradine; General Sir Arthur Freeborne; and Julian Keeley, a prominent bacteriologist, who develops a super-plague at the behest of “D.D. Denham,” who is (of course) Count Dracula in disguise. We’ve got yet another MI6 agent (Edom, obviously), named Peter Torrance, and a possible Duke of Edom in Colonel Matthews, who deliberately keeps the case out of the main MI6 view. We’ve also got two superb Legacies: Lorrimer van Helsing and his granddaughter Jessica. (And maybe a third, if “Inspector Murray of the Yard” is descended from Mina.) We could have pictures of the fetching Joanna Lumley in our book and none could say us nay!
Except for two things. First, I’ll bet someone thinks they could say us nay. The laws of image rights and IP in general are murky enough without tying multi-national jurisdiction into it the way a book published in Britain and printed in America would wind up doing. And second, it sort of monkeys with our Operation Edom backstory enough that I couldn’t have slid it in seamlessly. The closest Romanian earthquake is November 1973 which could work except that The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a sequel to Dracula A.D. 1972 which aside from not being in the public domain (and there goes Dracula’s hip teen-appeal sidekick, Johnny Alucard, dammit) also takes place (as you might expect) in 1972. Now with enough work, you can make it fit: there are earthquakes in 1972 (in Yorkshire) and 1974 (in Wales) that can be called to service — Dracula’s in Britain, after all! — and you can move the dates around a bit (or back to a 1970 earthquake in Cumbria) and ascribe them to Hammer Films’ fudging of the actual Edom reports, which they found after some doubtless drug-fueled Soho orgy. (I am morally certain that if I had the time to do the research I could one-degree-of-separation personnel from Hammer Films and the British security state of the 1970s.) And when Edom put the clamps on in response to the leak, that’s what drove Hammer out of business in 1979. Very satisfying, all bows tied off.
But even that pales next to the other temptation that I have — so far! — resisted. Image rights would definitely trip us up here, especially in Britain which is not well known for easygoing libel laws either. (And it is a little over the top, and kind of a lot meta.) But in a blog post, I can speculate about what I might have done. And if you do it in the privacy of your own game, who’s to know? Anyhow, gather close. Edom runs its own unit within the SOE in 1940, sending a team including a commando named “Van Sloan” into Romania to re-awaken Dracula, the only survivor of that doomed mission. You know this by now. But guess what other hero was in the SOE, as it happens? Sir Christopher Lee, that’s who.
Now Lee officially joined the SOE in 1941 after washing out of RAF flight school in conveniently distant and hard-to-check South Africa. But we don’t officially know what Sir Christopher Lee was doing between leaving Finland in 1939 (!) and going into the RAF in 1941. A patriot, son of a soldier, and total badass like Christopher Lee wouldn’t just sit around, would he? No. He’d join a secret unit within a secret unit, he’d parachute into Romania to save it from the Nazis, and he’d be the only survivor of that operation, emerging with an almost supernatural understanding of … Count Dracula. And he’d stay in touch, a helpful tip here, a nod there, as he kept up the perfect cover of movie star — jet-setting around the world, lots of unaccountable free time and money, hob-nobbing with the rich and famous, not like a spy (or his fellow SOE comrade Ian Fleming) at all. There’d be no reason to suspect that Christopher Lee was once “Van Sloan,” the Man Who Lived — and less than no reason to suspect him of being “D” … the enigmatic head of Operation Edom to this very day.
Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring.
Ken Hite takes on Dracula!
A new edition of Stoker’s novel that tells the real story; and an improvised spy thriller campaign for Night’s Black Agents RPG.
Two Books. One Mission.
Dracula is not a novel. It’s the censored version of Bram Stoker’s after-action report of the failed British Intelligence attempt to recruit a vampire in 1894. Kenneth Hite has restored the deleted sections, inserting annotations and clues left by three generations of MI6 analysts. This is Dracula Unredacted.
Follow those clues to The Director’s Handbook, containing hundreds of encounters: shady NPCs, dangerous locations, conspiratorial nodes, and mysterious objects. Together they comprise The Dracula Dossier — an epic improvised, collaborative campaign for Night’s Black Agents, our award-winning vampire spy thriller RPG.
The mission: Hunt and kill Dracula now, once and for all, before Britain falls to him forever.
“Apart from the curiously repellent feeling of human flesh under my hands, and furred wings, I was not able to ascertain what these creatures were like.” Servants of Hastur or misperceived shantaks? Astral psychopomps or sidereal scavengers? Climb aboard the byakhee and find out!
Hideous Creatures: Byakhee is the eighth installment of the second Ken Writes About Stuff subscription available to subscribers now – it will be available to buy in the webstore in November. If you have subscribed to the second KWAS subscription, Hideous Creatures: Byakhee is now on your order receipt page, so all you have to do is click on the new link in your order email. (If you can’t find your receipt email, you can get another one sent to you by entering your email address here).
|Stock #: PELH22D
||Author: Kenneth Hite
|Artist: Patricia Smith
||Pages: 11pg PDF
We’re burning the midnight witch-fires cramming ever more blood into The Dracula Dossier to get ready for the onrushing Kickstarter. (Which has been delayed a bit past the projected October 17th date you might have heard, thanks to the kinds of weird micro-crises that are apparently inevitable once you announce your Kickstarter date. Next time, for sure.) As currently constituted, you may recall, The Dracula Dossier comprises two books: Dracula Unredacted, Bram Stoker’s suppressed after-action report on the 1894 Operation Edom attempt to recruit Dracula as an asset for British Intelligence, further annotated by three generations of MI6 agents and analysts; and the Director’s Handbook, which provides the 54 disreputable NPCs, 16 devious Nodes, and 13 dubious Objects (all those numbers will increase with stretch goals, obviously) to which Dracula Unredacted provides the clues. Each of those entries has three different states (usually some variation of “Innocent, Edom, or Conspiracy”); the 30 dangerous Locations each have two states (“Cool” and “Warm”); so there are a total of 309 different Encounters in the Director’s Handbook alone. And that, like I said, is before we start adding stretch goals, like, oh, the Order of the Golden Dawn, or Iceland, or Elizabeth Bathory. Ooops, I’ve said too much.
Here’s one (or three) of those Encounters, an NPC, tied both to the novel (Van Helsing’s “friend Arminius of Buda-Pesth”) and to real history. Ármin Vámbéry (1832-1913) was a linguist and scholar, explorer of currently action-packed Central Asia (Uzbekistan is almost as hostile to inquisitive foreigners now as it was in 1863), propagandist, and British spy (against the Russians and Islamic radicals, plus ça change). You don’t have to use Dracula in your game to make use of a Hungarian fixer with mysterious connections all over Europe — “the Hungarian” might be connected to any number of secret vampiric conspiracies. Replace “the 1977 mole hunt” with whatever mysterious event in your campaign’s backstory you want the players to start asking about — when a man in a $10,000 suit says, in a Bela Lugosi accent, “But you must first understand, my friends, that the Munich bombing was none of my affair and I know very little of the details” you have a table of players who have just sworn in their hearts to follow those details to the ends of the earth. Even into Uzbekistan, if they must.
Name: Ágost Vámbéry
Hungarian names are more correctly written surname-first, i.e., Vámbéry Ágost.
Possible Role: Fixer or contact in Hungary and Transylvania
Description: mid-40s, high forehead, dark wavy hair, walks with a cane
Innocent: Ágost is a descendant of Ármin Vámbéry (1832-1913), Van Helsing’s “friend Arminius of Buda-Pesth.” He moved to Hungary from New York after getting his MBA from Princeton in 1989 and set up a wildcat investment bank to pour American capital into Eastern Europe … and to launder Russian and former Communist oligarch money pouring into the West. He’s immune to social, political, and physical pressure: he can hire the best hostesses, legislators, and bodyguards available. He flies from city to city and party to party in Europe, Dubai, the Caribbean, and other fleshpots, constantly on the move from five-star hotel to five-star resort. Agents credibly claiming a few billion to invest (High Society, and possibly Accounting and Forgery) can get his attention long enough to have his P.A. hire a researcher to scan his great-grandfather’s correspondence, looking for letters from Van Helsing for “an interested collector.”
Asset: Like his great-grandfather, he keeps a wary eye on the Balkans for British intelligence, especially after the Yugoslavian civil war nearly toppled his fiscal house of cards. Needing liquidity and protection, he expanded his services: he now runs networks in the Balkans for MI6, DGSE, BND, and both the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA. He also does “one-off” favors for FSB agents hunting Chechen and other terrorists. By now aware he’s over his head, his continuous travel is a defensive measure to shake all but the best-funded and most persistent surveillance.
Using Tradecraft sets up a meet; agents who can either swap information (Negotiation) or make a credible offer of secure retirement and protection (Reassurance) can find out what Vámbéry knows about the 1977 mole hunt (a not inconsiderable amount once he shakes his older sources), get access to his great-grandfather’s correspondence with Van Helsing, and possibly find out what Edom is up to in Romania right now. At the Director’s discretion, Vámbéry – like his great-grandfather — may know about vampires (Vampirology notes his precautions at a meet, such as convenient mirrors).
Minion: As Asset, except that Dracula has already gotten to Vámbéry. His travel is a desperate attempt to keep running water between him and the vampire, but in his terrified heart he knows he’s dead when Dracula says he’s dead. When the agents approach him, he provides faked “Van Helsing” letters (Forgery will notice discrepancies) or other bad intel setting them up for an ambush by Dracula’s soldiers or, if things have gotten dire enough, by Dracula himself.
Alternate Names: Laila Vámbéry, János Nagy, Zoltán Hivje [the latter two have access to Van Helsing’s letters for unknown reasons, or just have information about the 1977 mole hunt]
Alternate Descriptions: (1): early 30s, shiny European-tailored suit, no necktie but high collar [Oxford, 1997; MBA Harvard, 1999]
(2): early 60s, thick lips, overweight masked by expert London tailoring, designer eyeglasses [grandson instead of great-grandson; involved directly in 1977 mole hunt]
(3): late 50s, slow and deliberate, sharp chin and nose [grandson instead of great-grandson; involved directly in 1977 mole hunt]
Defining Quirks: (1) conducts all important business in his Jaguar XJR or on his Gulfstream IV; (2) slips in and out of a Hungarian accent; (3) toys with heavy gold ring
Academic and Technical Abilities: Accounting, Bureaucracy, High Society, Human Terrain, Languages, Tradecraft, [Vampirology]
General Abilities: Driving 3, Gambling 6, Network 15, Piloting 3, Preparedness 5
Alertness Modifier: +1
Stealth Modifier: +0