Friday, January 11, 2013

Night's Black Agents - Game Notes

I'm running my first session of Night's Black Agents on Sunday. I had meant to take a bunch of notes before today, and then I didn't because I had other things going on, and then I caught a cold (AGAIN DAMMIT), so here we are.

If you're going to play in said game, don't highlight the stuff below. If you're not, which is most of you, g'head, and tell me what you think.

OK, so first off, I want to design my vampires. I don't want to do supernatural or damned, because I do that kind of thing all the time and I'd like a more horror/sci-fi vibe to go with my spy game. So that leads me to aliens. One thing I always liked about the movie Species was the notion that hostile aliens "invade" not with big metal ships, but with data. So let's do that. 

Ooh, also. One of the cities given some love in the NBA book is Belgrade. Want to know what's there? The Nikola Tesla Museum. Want to know what he did (well, one thing)? He posited that his Tesla coils could be used to receive transmissions from other goddamn planets. Yes.

So the vampire's Origins are Alien. Good. Spread. I want them to "infect" people, but the way they do that is by killing people and consuming a "cocktail" of bodily fluids: blood, lymph, and CSF. They then "cook" that mixture within their bodies for a half-hour, and spit it back into the corpse of the victim. It only works for that particular body (you can take someone's cocktail and then spit it into a different corpse), though that probably has some kind of effect, maybe makes a monstrosity that kills vampires. I'll deal with that later. 

Oh, wait, "Spread" refers to "how far have vampires spread." Well, let's say that Tesla received the message in 1940, close to the end of his life. He interpreted the message and then got to work on what he thought was a way to remix and alter bodily fluids to improve longevity. He wound up, in the process, becoming the first vampire. The mixture was imperfect, in his case, because it was injected into a living body (his). This accounts for a lot of the behaviors and sensitivities toward the end of his life (though he was always brilliant, and always strange). So Tesla "died" in 1943, but what really happened was that the American government froze his assets and used Thomas Edison to discredit him and otherwise screw with his reputation. 

Tesla fled back to Serbia and started rebuilding his resources, but without much of his research, he was at a loss as to how to make more vampires. He turned his attention toward getting his equipment shipped from America, and managed that in 1952. With the much more relaxed security in Yugoslavia, he gained access to his notes and learned how to transform corpses into vampires. He then slowly began to build a power base throughout Eastern Europe. 

At present, there are fewer than 20 vampires in the world, most of them in Eastern Europe. Because a vampire retains its pre-death memories, however, all Tesla's people need is a half-hour alone with a person to kill them and turn them. I think I'd also like to have half-vampires or slaves or something. Hmm. Maybe an existing vampire can "infect" a corpse, making it a short-term servant. Hell, I'll make those more like traditional vampires - sensitive to sunlight to the point that they blister, need to feed on human blood (or lymph or CSF, blood's just easier to get to). 

OK, moving on. Variations and Divisions, I think we've covered. But let's us have some terms. "Vampires," for my purposes, are the second-tier creatures. They're what happens when a higher-up infects a corpse, dead no more than five hours (or longer if kept cold so rot doesn't set in, likewise, shorter under warmer conditions - this might explain why they've kept to Eastern Europe rather than, say, Spain). The higher-ups are "puppeteers", at least until I find something I like better. So only 20 puppeteers, but as many vampires at any given time as necessary. I'll say a vampire lasts only a few nights without fresh blood, and only a few months with. 

Life and Death: Puppeteers are functionally living humans. They eat, drink, excrete, and are capable of reproduction. All of their bodily fluids carries weird alien DNA that can be revealed with a test (and Diagnosis or Chemistry) once the PCs learn how. An x-ray will also reveal them, as they have tentacles that curl up under the tongue, causing a slight change in vocal quality post-infection. The tentacles can whip out and pierce human bone, allowing for the collection of lymph and CSF (and blood, but again, that's not hard). 

Killing a puppeteer can be done via conventional means (shoot it, burn it) but they're highly resistant to damage and can stimulate cell growth by absorbing genetic material and rewriting it (that is, drinking fluids). Beheading them kills instantly. 

Vampires are corpses, and at first they'll be room temperature. Once the PCs figure this out, they'll be able to correct it for short periods. They're stronger and faster than people and have higher Health, but they can't repair damaged tissue. They require fresh blood every few days or else their muscles lock up and they die. They don't have heartbeats (or rather, they do but they're slow and irregular) and they don't eat normal food. 

Humanity: Obviously, neither critter was ever human. Puppeteers can access human memories but what they don't have a good grip on is theory of mind, so they're lousy at guessing what other people know. 

Cure: No cure. Sorry. 

OK. Now it's just a matter of filling out the sheets. The vampire worksheet is easy; these guys don't have much in the way of vampire powers beyond raw strength and speed, but they don't have a lot of weaknesses, either. 

The Conspyramid is a little more work. Tesla's at the top, obviously. I don't want him at the museum anymore - he's gone through all the data there and memorized it. However, he keeps a "lab" there for the purposes of making more vampires, so I'll put that at level 3. Since three of my five players have "I Never Left" as their Drives, and since we're doing a game with some Mirrors influences (no one wanted Dust, we all liked Burn, Mirrors and Stakes better so I'm incorporating aspects of all of them), I think I'll put a puppeteer at the German BSI. That's actually perfect; they cover security technology and that puts a mole in Glen's organization. Her name is Renate Bauer. She's definitely a source of protection for the conspiracy. 

We need money and we would need blood, but these aren't traditional vampires. I think, actually, that what we need in place of blood is medical supplies (for extracting the cocktail, keeping bodies cold, transporting them to Belgrade so that the museum curator can change them, etc.). So we'll say that Tasse Medical Supply, based in Marseilles (since it's detailed in the book) is in on it. The CEO is a puppeteer, and the nature of the corporation means that he can obtain fresh bodies and keep them on ice for conversion into vampires. Simon Thibault is his name. He deals directly with Renate and has been investigated by the French Police Nationale (so Michelle's character can be involved). 

Now, for money, we've got a good start in (S)Entries, which I enjoyed reading and I'm going to use for our first op. It takes us through Belgrade, which is good because I want to introduce the city but not give the characters a reason to stay. So the Paymaster needs to be elsewhere. Let's do Zagreb, and let's make him a Renfield: Davor Klobucar. If the characters telegraph that they're coming, then he's already a vampire when they get there. If not, he's still Renfield and has a security team. 

OK, but I still need some nodes in my pyramid. I'll do those later; I've got enough to run the first game and I'm crashing out.