Blood_splatterImprovising telling but subtle details on the fly is tricky, especially if the players catch you off-guard. They’ve suddenly flown to Iceland to follow a lead you hadn’t prepared, and now you’re scrambling not only to get back ahead of the Agents, but also get a handle on where the overall campaign is now going. With all that to think about, atmosphere and description suffer, and your NPCs become bland stick figures who meet the PCs in, I dunno, an office or somewhere.

Using motifs – ideas that recur in different forms throughout the campaign – can help with this. It’s the classic “constraints breed creativity” trick  – if you’ve got to somehow associate Random Icelandic Dude with blood in the players’ minds, that’ll give you a starting point to riff from and get you off the blank page of the mind. Maybe he’s a farmer, and he’s just slaughtered a lamb when the PCs arrive. He’s a surgeon. He’s wobbling and pale because he donated blood this morning. He’s got ketchup on his face. Anything that suggests blood works.

There are two other benefits using motifs. Firstly, they’re a device to add a feeling of cohesion and consistency to a work. Used properly, they make a campaign with a lot of side trails, dead ends and random weirdness seem more like an actual polished story in retrospect. More importantly (from the rat-bastard GM point of view, as opposed to the lit critic in me), motifs are great for retroactive revelations. If, later in the campaign, you need to reveal that the Icelandic farmer is a minion of Dracula, you can retroactively decide that the blood on his hands was human blood from the hitch-hikers he killed! That bat beating against the window at Hillingham House wasn’t a bit of spooky atmospheric description – it was Dracula himself, spying on the Agents! Every motif can be a trapdoor. Everyone’s a suspect.

Use motifs as modifiers –  instead of coming up with a new NPC/Location/Object, take an existing one from the Director’s Handbook and work the motif into your description. Associate one or two themes with each major faction in your campaign. You might push the Dracula-Blood connection, and reserve Rats for Edom’s spies and thieves.

 

Major motifs lifted straight from the novel:

Blood

Associations: Vitality/health/strength/lifeforce, family & lineage, hearts, passion, wine (through Jesus Christ), stains (guilt), injuries (‘shedding blood’ as a badge of honour).

People:

  • Visible scrapes, bandaged wounds (“cut myself shaving this morning, you see”)
  • Red jewellery or clothing (“in the Whitby gloom, her red scarf looks like blood gushing from her pale neck”)
  • Small bloodstains on collar, cuffs or shoes (“one of the kids had a nosebleed – the washing machine didn’t get it all out”)
  • Eating a rare, bloody steak (“my doctor says it’s bad for me, but who wants to live forever”)
  • Breath smells metallic (“she’s beautiful, but her breath turns your stomach when she gets close to you”)
  • Phobia of blood (“It makes me feel faint – please don’t make that Medic roll in here.”)
  • Drinking red wine (“a rare vintage, laid down by my grandfather”)
  • Cuts themselves while talking to the Agents (“she gets so pissed at you she knocks her glass off the table with an angry gesture. As she’s picking up the pieces, she cuts her finger open on a jagged fragment.”)

Locations:

  • Bloodstains on the ground in or near the location (“looks like someone had a fight outside the office last night – the ground’s dark with dried blood that wasn’t washed away by the morning’s rains”)
  • Dark red walls (“you can almost hear the decorator saying it’ll make the room feel warm and cosy. It makes you feel like you’re inside a hunk of raw meat.”)
  • Red stains or marks. (“The old pipes spit out rusty, reddish water.)
  • Inherited property. (“It’s been in my family for generations. This place is in my blood.”)
  • Sound like a distant heartbeat (“some piece of machinery in the basement’s making this rhythmic hammering noise, thump thump thump thump, and the vibrations go right up your spine and echo in your ribcage”)
  • Nearby medical facility (“there’s a blood donation van parked in the car park of the community centre across the street”)

Objects: 

  • Reddish colours, stains or markings (“the diary’s written in dark red ink”)
  • Bloodsucking things nearby (“after wading through the leech-infested marsh, you find the buried box”)
  • Emotional reactions (“your blood runs cold when you look at the portrait”)
  • Inherited object (“to think that Quincey Harker once wielded this knife! It fires up your blood!”)
  • Evocative hiding place (“you find the diary inside an old winepress in an outbuilding”)

Bats and Rats

Associations: Filth and disease, nocturnal predators and scavengers, hiding in holes and caves, unclean animals, eating insects

People:

  • Rat-like features (“she’s got very prominent front teeth, like a rodent”)
  • Skulking demeanour (“he’s in a corner of the bar, so well hidden you nearly miss him.”)
  • Gnawing or scavenging (“he starts burrowing through the piles of reports and letters on his desk. It looks like this guy’s a total packrat.”)
  • Disconcertingly good night vision (“even though you’re hidden in the dark shadow of the hedge, he looks right at you and sniffs the air, like he can smell you”)
  • Pet rat or bat (“I found it in the garden this morning. Poor thing was starving. I’m feeding it with an eye-dropper.”)
  • Taste for cheese. (“It’s an excellent variety of Edom. I’m sorry, Edam.”)

Locations:

  • Visible mouse hole in the skirting board (“You can’t help but notice a small hole behind the desk, littered with chewed scraps of paper”)
  • Mouse droppings on a surface (“the kitchen hasn’t been cleaned in years. Mouse droppings and worse in the cabinets.”)
  • Scratching in the walls (“you try to sleep, but there’s a mouse running around the walls near your bed. It sounds like it’s trying to claw its way inside your skull.”)
  • Rats crawling over garbage. (“There’s a back door in a garbage-strewn alley. Rats look up at you with brazen curiosity as you pass, utterly unafraid of you.”)
  • Animal brought in to keep the rats down (positive spin: “a small terrier bounds into the room, something tiny and furry caught in its jaws. It shakes its head violently and there’s an audible snap a the rat’s neck breaks. The dog drops the body at your feet.” Negative: “a white cat, more like a furry rugby ball than anything else, snores lazily on the couch, ignoring the mice darting across the floor”).
  • Bats crashing into windows or beating against them is a classic, and always good for a jump scare. Players are a cowardly and superstitious lot.

Objects: 

  • Stored with rat poison (“you find the gun under the sink, behind some black bin bags and a box of rat poison”)
  • Unusual interest from bats (“as you leave the graveyard, you see a huge number of bats settling in the nearby tree. Suddenly, there’s a thump as one of them flies low and slams into your briefcase, as if it knows what’s inside.”)
  • Animal tooth marks on the object. (“The coffin’s been chewed by rats.”)
  • Animalistic decorations (“you can’t find a printer’s name or publisher on the book, suggesting it was privately printed. There’s a little symbol on the spine that might be stylised bat.”)
  • Evoke animal imagery when describing it. (“Thick grubby electrical wires, like a cluster of rat tails,run into a brass port on the underside of the machine.”)

Mirrors

Associations: Illusions, trickery and sleight of hand; deception; vanity and the ravages of age, espionage and double agents (‘wilderness of mirrors’), parallels and counter-examples, reversals.

People:

  • Seen first in a mirror (“he stops to look in his reflection in a shop window”)
  • Mirror shades (“the border guard is wearing mirrored sunglasses”)
  • Has a hand-mirror or very shiny surface to hand (“he has the annoying, childish habit of angling his watch face to catch rays of sunlight and bouncing them around the walls and into your eyes”)
  • Dopplegangers & duplicates (“you see an older, heavyset man with thick brows, wearing overalls. It’s only when you get closer that you realise it’s a different man. It’s not the Russian.”)
  • Mirroring body language (“she leans forward, copying your stance. Psych 101, creates a feeling of shared experience and promotes bonding and trust. Damnably effective when you look like she does, too.”)
  • Shadow duplicate of Agent (“The name’s Hayward. You must remember me. I was the year behind you at Cambridge, you know, and was on the Bucharest desk after you too. Our paths diverged after that, of course – I never left the Service.”)

Locations:

  • Prominent mirror in room (“the lobby’s huge, but the full-length mirror running down one wall makes it feel like you could meet an aircraft carrier here for coffee without inconveniencing anyone”)
  • Reflected or symmetrical structure (“her office is in the east wing, just across the quad. The only building is a copy of itself, so much so that when you look across the courtyard, you see three figures much like yourselves in the corridor opposite.”)
  • Still, reflective water (“The pond outside Carfax Abbey is long gone, but water pools on the Meath road in much the same place, reflecting the wintry skies.”)
  • Broken mirror or glass. (“The windows around the back are all cracked. Looking for a place to peer in, you’re momentarily arrested by the sight of your own reflected eye staring back at you.”)
  • Silvered or glassy surface. (“It’s art,” she says doubtfully.”The owners like it.”)
  • CCTV Cameras (“The security post has a bank of monitors showing all the feeds. You can see yourselves crouched in the corridor outside the post.”)

Objects:

  • Fake or duplicate item in same place (“he collects 19th century maps, so it’s only after sorting through a dozen Austro-Hungarian surveys of the mountains do you find the annotated version you seek.”)
  • Hidden behind a mirror (“searching the bathroom, you find a syringe behind the mirrored door of the medicine cabinet”)
  • Copy of original document (“the original files are gone, but you dig up a photocopy.”)
  • Wrapped in silver foil (“the inner crate is lined with some tin-foil-like substance, interleaved with swatches of ballistic cloth”)
  • Image of Agent or key NPC (“A sketch of your own face stares out at you from the first page. It must be a sketch of your great-grandmother. The resemblance is uncanny.”)

Other motifs from the novel: Revenants and the Un-Dead, Superstitions vs. Technology, Stories Told Indirectly

 

 

BermudaAdam Gauntlett (aka Karloff), the author of Dulce et Decorum Est, Soldiers of Pen and Ink and a number of Trail of Cthulhu adventures, is creating fiction and RPG material over on his new Patreon page. As well as Pelgrane Press, Adam has written for the Escapist Magazine, Chaosium, Miskatonic River, Pagan Publishing and Atlas Games, among others. You can find his work online at the Escapist, or you can check out his blog Ephemera. To celebrate the launch of his Patreon, Adam has very kindly given us a sneak preview of the kind of work he’ll be creating for his Patreon supporters: Welcome to ‘D-Notice’, in which the shadowy world of British intelligence comes a little too close to the otherworldly.

Download the free preview of ‘D-Notice’ here, and get more exclusive fiction and RPG content from Adam Gauntlett over on his Patreon page here.

 

INosferatuShadow_350n THE THRILL OF DRACULA, Kenneth Hite takes apart Dracula — the novel, the movies, the myth, even the history — into his component pieces: characters, tropes, symbols, story beats, effects. With those pieces, Ken shows you how to build new yet mythic stories about the King of the Vampires or about your own creatures of the night, tuned for thriller adventure, cosmic horror, or even intense personal drama. This standalone book suitable for all fans of games, storytelling, and Dracula will be delivered in PDF, Kindle, and ePub formats.

And now, in 31 DAYS OF DRACTOBER: Kenneth Hite takes you on a tour through the cinema de Dracula! Every day, he looks at one film version of the legendary story, from the classic NOSFERATU to the, um, less than immortal DRACULA 3000. Hit the Hammer highlights, the Lugosi limelights, and more — with advice on adapting any or all of them for your own vampire games. These “coming attractions” of THE THRILL OF DRACULA started playing on October 1st, on this very blog-theater – you can catch ’em all here.

Status: In development

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

The_Dracula_Dossier web logo

This Halloween, a legendary horror walks again – do your customers have what it takes to face the Lord of the Undead himself?

DRACULA DOSSIER PRE-RELEASE RETAIL BUNDLE: Act now to get the full Dracula Dossier kit at a 20% discount with a limited edition print — details below!

What Is The Dracula Dossier?

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 and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have 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 Dracula Dossier follows in the fully improvisational path of the award-winning Armitage Files campaign, and provides the Director with everything she needs to run a fully improvised, sandbox campaign.

The mission: Hunt and kill Dracula now, once and for all, before Britain falls to him forever.

Dracula Dossier Pre-Release Retail Bundle

The 50 retailers to pre-order the Dracula Dossier bundle get:

Director's Handbook_front_cover_1501 x Director’s Handbook

A 368-page, full colour hardback book, packed with everything GMs need to run an improvisational Night’s Black Agents roleplaying campaign to hunt and kill Dracula:

  • Conspiracy nodes, fully mapped locations, and horrific foes.
  • More than 60 supporting characters, with vampiric, heroic, or ambiguous versions.
  • Alternate versions of Mina Harker, Abraham van Helsing, and the other characters in Stoker’s classic novel.

1 x Dracula UnredactedDracula_Unredacted_front_cover_150

This new edition of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula adds new letters and recordings, diary entries long thought lost, and documents suppressed by Her Majesty’s Government—until now. Discover the true events behind the legend, from the first tentative contact between British intelligence and the undead, to the werewolf of Walpurgisnacht, to the cataclysmic disappearance of Dracula in volcanic fire, read the story you’ve known for years … for the first time.

 

Nights_Black_Agents_Cover_1502 x Night’s Black Agents core rulebook

The award-winning Night’s Black Agents roleplaying game brings the GUMSHOE engine to the spy thriller genre, with a vampiric twist. Combining the propulsive paranoia of movies like The Bourne Identity and Mission: Impossible with supernatural horror, Night’s Black Agents is a thrilling game of investigation and high-octane action, with expanded options for bone-crunching combat, high-tech tradecraft, and adrenaline-fueled chases.

1 Dracula's Castle_350x Dracula Dossier Castle Dracula 8.5″ x 11″ print

Get this beautiful print of Jeff Brown’s Castle Dracula with your retailer bundle.

If you are signed up to the Bits and Mortar program, give your pre-order customers the PDFs now!

Retailers: pre-order through your distributor now!

Customers: tell your retailer to pre-order now!

Resources imageDownloads

Articles

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

Interviews

Free previews

Social media resources

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.

Roll

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…

Portrait of Dracula_400by 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.

 

 

 

Goetic-org-chart-texture_350The 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.10 - 1893_4 - Quake Clippings Montage_400

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.

 

Stock #: PELGN10D Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Kenneth Hite
Artist: Dean Englehardt
Pages: 89pg PDF

 

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