Reviews

nba cover

Night’s Black Agents won two silver ENnie awards for Best Game and BestWriting, and was nominated for Best Rules, Best Interior Art and Product of the Year. Find out why!

Night’s Black Agents puts you in the role of a deadly secret agent, taking down the forces of darkness. Get it now from the Pelgrane Store.

Bring your favorite high-octane spy thrillers to the table with Night’s Black Agents from legendary designer Kenneth Hite (Trail of Cthulhu). Have friends who love console shooters? This is the tabletop RPG for them! Access the eyes-only Resources page for blank agent dossiers, quick-reference sheets, a 20-minute demo and more — but sweep for tracking devices first.

The Cold War is over. Bush’s War is winding down.

You were a shadowy soldier in those fights, trained to move through the secret world: deniable and deadly.

 

ENnies 2013 silverThen you got out, or you got shut out, or you got burned out. You didn’t come in from the cold. Instead, you found your own entrances into Europe’s clandestine networks of power and crime. You did a few ops, and you asked even fewer questions. Who gave you that job in Prague? Who paid for your silence in that Swiss account? You told yourself it didn’t matter.

It turned out to matter a lot. Because it turned out you were working for vampires.

Vampires exist. What can they do? Who do they own? Where is safe? You don’t know those answers yet. So you’d better start asking questions. You have to trace the bloodsuckers’ operations, penetrate their networks, follow their trail, and target their weak points. Because if you don’t hunt them, they will hunt you. And they will kill you.

Or worse.

Night’s Black Agents brings the GUMSHOE engine to the spy thriller genre, combining the propulsive paranoia of movies like Ronin and The Bourne Identity with supernatural horror straight out of Bram Stoker. Investigation is crucial, but it never slows down the action, which explodes with expanded options for bone-crunching combat, high-tech tradecraft, and adrenaline-fueled chases.

Updating classic Gothic terrors for the postmodern age, Night’s Black Agents presents thoroughly modular monstrosity: GMs can build their own vampires, mashup their own minions, kitbash their own conspiracies to suit their personal sense of style and story. Rules options let you set the level of betrayal, grit, and action in your game. Riff from the worked examples or mix and match vampiric abilities, agendas, and assets for a completely custom sanguinary spy saga.

The included hook adventure gets the campaign going; the included city setting shows you what might be clotting in Marseilles’ veins even now. Rack silver bullets in your Glock, twist a UV bulb into your Maglite, and keep watching the mirrors … and pray you’ve got your vampire stories straight.

Designer’s blog entries.

An interview with the publisher.

Listen to Ken Hite talk about Night’s Black Agents on the Fear the Boot podcast

Review Hightlights

Read all the reviews here.

As good as the toolkits that Night’s Black Agents provides are, the rules and advice deliver on the game and genre that they promise. Whether it is blood pumping action or heart stopping shocks, Night’s Black Agents is probably best shaken, and definitely has the “Vampire Spy Thriller” staked. – Matthew Pook

Vampires and spies – once you’re past the initial surprise, you’ll see that they work tremendously well in tandem. Well, I think they do, and I think the book’s an absolute knockout. – Sidney Roundwood

 

NBA CD front coverJonathan Hicks of Farsight Blogger fame has posted a great review of Dust and Mirrors, new original music for Night’s Black Agents by James Semple and his crack composing team. Jonathan says,

“The themes on this album have an excellent atmosphere to them that suit the Night’s Black Agents game perfectly. I’m incredibly impressed with this album, not just as a decent soundtrack for a great game but also as a great selection of music from some incredibly talented people. I can see this getting some serious airtime during my special ops-themed campaigns”.

He also says,

“The music itself reflects both of the genres the game represents exceptionally well. The high-energy and action-orientated spy genre merges well with the dark, brooding danger of the horror in the world and you could quite easily use this music in a general spy- or special ops-themed game or a stand-alone horror one.”

You can read the full review on RPG.net here.

A review of five-ENnie-nominated Night’s Black Agents by Charlie White on Intwischa

If you want to feel like a badass, get this book. If you’re sick of Twilight, get this book. If you want compelling player-versus-player that doesn’t ruin campaigns or friendships, get this book.

Hell, if you like roleplaying games, get this book. It thoroughly deserves its spot as a nominee for Best RPG of the Year, and I’m very much looking forward to giving it a try.

Michael Wolf over at Stargazer’s World has written a detailed and balanced review of Kenneth Hite’s newest GUMSHOE offering, Night’s Black Agents. You can read the full review here.

It’s very well written, basically allows you to run or play in every spy thriller subgenre with vampires or not, and it adds a lot to the Gumshoe system without feeling too complicated. If you are interested in spy games you should definitely check this game out, I doubt you’ll find anything better anytime soon.

Two wider geek-media huzzahs for Pelgrane core games hit this week, and by some kind of odd coincidence, they both feature interviews with me.

Andrew Girdwood of Geek Native shares the news of how you can get Trail of Cthulhu for 55% off at DriveThruRPG if you haven’t bought it yet, and asks me all manner of questions including “What music goes well with Trail of Cthulhu?” You know I plugged James Semple’s amazing soundtracks, but click through to see what else I suggested.

Ed Grabianowski, meanwhile, gives Night’s Black Agents a very flattering review at io9.com (“Filled with innovative features that help create a unique gaming experience”) and asks me, among other things, about playtest highlights I didn’t mention in the “DVD Commentary” sections in the book. Find out where the giant stone vampire head was, here.

In the course of a roundup of his Dragonmeet 2012 experiences, Sidney Roundwood offers a brief response to Night’s Black Agents:

Vampires and spies – once you’re past the initial surprise, you’ll see that they work tremendously well in tandem. Well, I think they do, and I think the book’s an absolute knockout.

After that starter, the main. The Iron Reviewer himself, Matthew Pook, takes a long, long look at Night’s Black Agents in his most recent Reviews From R’lyeh, and comes away well pleased:

As good as the toolkits that Night’s Black Agents provides are, the rules and advice deliver on the game and genre that they promise. Whether it is blood pumping action or heart stopping shocks, Night’s Black Agents is probably best shaken, and definitely has the “Vampire Spy Thriller” staked.

Check both posts out!

 

Fantastic review of Kenneth Hite’s newest GUMSHOE masterpiece, Night’s Black Agents, over at Age of Ravens. Lowell Francis has written a detailed and balanced review which goes over everything from layout design to a chapter by chapter overview. Well worth a read for any considering NBA for their collection.

I liked last year’s preliminary version of Night’s Black Agents, and this confirms and extends that. It’s a brilliantly assembled volume with amazing layout and compelling writing. It’s certainly my favorite of the line.

You can read the full review here.

[Ed: Read Andrew’s review of Night’s Black Agent’s and GUMSHOE here]

Night’s Black Agents pits super spies against vampires in a covert war. My Review of the [REDACTED] edition covers the game in general, while this article contains a worked example of a vampire that I have cooked up using the rules.

This is my first attempt at creating a vampire. In lieu of creativity of my own, I’ve used ideas from the text and cribbed from a number of different sources to create this; these sources are listed after the game stats. I have started with the Alien category as it fit best with my grab bag of ideas.

Alien

The vampires came from the stars; the first lay frozen and dormant inside a meteorite that travelled across space for uncountable years. Entry into the Earth’s atmosphere burnt off the outer shell of rock and provided the warmth needed to wake it from its hibernation. Emerging from its impact crater, the tarry, viscous biped hunts. Tracking and killing a human, it gorges on its blood, deftly guts the corpse, to finally climb into the cavity it has created in its new host body. Within a few hours the vicious belly wounds have closed over and it is ready to infect the nearest city with more of its kind.

The vampires metabolisms are similar to cold blooded creatures: When they are cold their body works slower, when they are hot they burn energy much faster and operate well beyond human capabilities. Their theft of human bodies is twofold: It is camouflage in the human world, and it protection from direct exposure to the environment. The hosts brain and any organs visible (e.g. eyes, skin, etc) from outside the body are left intact. The vampire binds itself to the brain to process the environment around it (for language etc) and to draw from its hosts memories.

The vampire must drink human blood to maintain the organs of the body it has stolen and to get energy. Without a ready supply of blood the creature will retreat to colder environments to slow its metabolism. In warmer climates the vampires prefer to take fit, thin bodies to make it easier to regulate their temperature. In colder climates they prefer heavier hosts.

In the event that it is starved of blood the host’s hair and teeth falls out, skin, tongue and eyes dry out. Eventually the blood deprived remains will be start to decay and the vampire must leave.

Because the vampires are effectively cold blooded, and are dormant when cold, the vampires buy up cool stores to house mooks without having to find enough blood to keep them alive at once. More established bases can remotely defrost batches of low level vampires.

Vampires high in the conspyramid travel in freezer cars in trains and boats to move undetected around Europe and later the world.

Goals

This vampire is driven by it’s alien biology to infect a planet, and breed the next generation of alien spores that will be sent on to consume other planets.

It builds a network of vampires and henchmen to achieve two goals: produce as many vampire spawn as possible, and to acquire the appropriate technology (produced from first principles where needed) to launch the next generation onto the next iteration of the cycle.

Game Statistics

Most of the vampires the agents will encounter in a temperate climate will use the following:

General Abilities Aberrance 12, Hand-To-Hand 10, Health 10
Hit Threshold 5
Alertness Modifier +2
Stealth Modifier +1
Damage Modifier 0 (Claws [see other powers], Extended Canines), -1 (Fist, kick, head-butt)
Armor Tar-like anatomy: -2 against melee weapons; firearms and projectiles do half damage. Car crashes and falls do 1 point of damage. The host body is numb to pain but the organism within is not*. No damage taken from cold environments.
Free Powers Darkvision, Drain
Other Powers Extend host fingers into claws (perforates the epidermis, and requires healing via Regeneration or Drain), Infection (Must kill and gut target first. On a 1pt Aberrance spend the vampire can discard its current body and transfer itself to the victim, on a 2pt Aberrance spend it may seperate a portion of itself into a new create that will incubate within the victim), Spider Climb (requires extending claws, same caveat applies), Vampiric Speed, Regeneration (takes a couple of minutes).
Banes Fire (does normal damage)**.
Requirements Drink blood, maintain body temperature.

Notes:

* When the vampire falls below 0 Health (e.g is Hurt) it does not need to make a consciousness roll due to not feeling any pain in the host body. However as the damage is debilitating to the host, the standard penalties for being Hurt still apply. When Seriously Wounded no consciousness roll must be made, but health does continue to drop. If -12 is reached, the host body is too badly damaged and the vampire must abandon it.

** When in particularly hot environments (furnaces, burning buildings, etc) the vampire sweats profusely. While these vampires are not explicitly hurt by sunlight, if enough time is spent in the sun its metabolism will increase.

Sources

I’ve taken ideas from a number of sources including:

  • The BBC’s Frozen Planetseries. There are two aspects:
    • Wooly Bear Caterpillers can freeze completely solid over winter to hibernate, and then thaw out to continue the work of eating enough to finally transform into a moth. It takes several summer seasons for the caterpillar to finally transform. This is the central idea for this vampire.
    • There is a kind of weasel that lives in the frozen north and hunts tiny voles through the tunnels that the voles construct in the snow. The weasel is narrow enough to fit anywhere the vole can. Once it kills the vole it drags it back to a nest it has made within the warrens. Not only does the weasel eat the vole, but it tears off all the fur from the hide to make a nest with so that it won’t freeze. Stealing the body of its prey and using it to survive in the environment is taken from this.
  • H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour out of Space. This is a story about a different kind of vampire from the stars. I’ve just lifted the detail about the alien traveling between the stars in meteors.
  • Jack the Ripper: Gory details about how the creature steals bodies and its lifecycle.
  • John Carpenter’s The Thing, The episode of The X-Files called Ice (itself a homage to The Thing), and the Valyen from Christopher Moeller’s Iron Empires / Burning Empires: small details about and tone about body invading and mimicking alien menaces.

This article originally appeared on A Lazy Sequence.

Andrew Brehaut at The Lazy Sequence has given a detailed and very positive review of the [REDACTED] Edition of Night’s Black Agents, Kenneth Hite’s new GUMSHOE vampire/spy thriller. You can read the full review here.

Hite and Pelgrane have put together another game that tugs at my attention and screams ‘Play Me Now’… I found the text an enjoyable read; even in what should be dry material, Hite has managed to keep the text fast moving and entertaining.

Our first review of Night’s Black Agents, by Rick Neal.

If you like scary vampires, if you like espionage games, if you’re looking for a dark, modern game of horror investigation, I heartily recommend you pick up this book