Sunday, November 26, 2017

Night's Black Agents: Without a Hitch

So, when running games that hinge on planning and execution (which is any game that focus on spying, heists, capers, but really a lot of RPGs wind up requiring players to make and execute a plan), there's a temptation as the GM to throw a wrench into the works during the execution stage. Blades in the Dark actually takes this out of the GM's hands, more or less, by gliding right over planning and having the score start in medias res, with the trouble taken as read when things get going.

I'm of two minds. I like Blades because that kind of conflict is baked into the system, but what about more traditional set-ups where the players make and execute the plan? If the plan is solid, if it's not missing some key information that would make it untenable, shouldn't it work, all else equal? Particularly in games like Night's Black Agents where competence is assumed?

For my part, as a player, I don't mind when something goes pear-shaped because someone blew a roll (particularly if it's really a gamble, rather than something my character should really be good at), and I don't mind if things go sideways because there was information that we didn't have and missed. But I don't like it when GMs make things hard just to avoid them being easy, especially if the characters have used time and resources planning things out.

So in Night's Black Agents, my players do tend to plan things out, but they burn a lot of General Abilities and Investigative spends setting themselves up, and it seems wrong to alter things without giving them a clue or a roll or something.

All of this to say: Yesterday's game went pretty well for the players. Check it out.

The agents are in Belgrade again (last session is here). They're lying low, but they want to investigate the Tesla Museum again. They split up and hit the municipal records and the libraries (all except Ess, who goes around planting cameras to get street views of those buildings and the museum). The agents learn a few things.

First, they learn that security in all of these places has been increased, and the security folks are rough-looking individuals - not military, more like gangs. The tattoos on their hands and arms mark them as Hungarian mob...probably working for Vilmos Hajnal. The agents make liberal use of Disguise and manage to avoid their notice, and in the process, learn that there's a vault in the museum that was added in the 60s. Gambone figures he can crack it, given time, but he also doesn't know if it's been upgraded since (that's a long time, after all).

MacAteer puts on a disguise (his MOS) and scouts the museum. He sees that there's a central office that houses a staircase leading to the vault door, but it's right in the middle of the museum and requires a key-card (easy enough to spoof or steal). He also notes a new acting museum director - Mina Subotic. A quick photo with a thermal filter indicates she's not a vampire, but she's armed and capable, which makes them nervous.

Gambone contacts an old friend of his named Jonathan Waverly, a spy from MI6 back in the Cold War days, and asks about the vault. Waverly gets back to him the next day and says that based on his information, yes, the vault has indeed been updated every few years, and probably has a digital lock as well as the rather formidable mechanical security, and it's rigged with a chemical bomb to incinerate anything in it if tampered with. Gambone thanks him, and wonders if he's just gotten this guy killed.

Ess goes back to the museum (also in disguise) and finds the server room on the second floor, but has no Digital Intrusion so can't hack in. All he can do is get some data. From that, the agents learn that if the computer security is compromised, if a lock is forced, or if a key-card is spoofed, the place goes into lockdown.

The agents watch the museum for a few days, and note that none of the new security are vampires or brutes. They also note that, at night, only a half-dozen are on duty at any given time. That gives them a window. Parker goes to a diner where the men eat lunch and lifts a key-card, substituting it for a dummy (figuring it's better that one guy has a card that just doesn't work than trying to spoof or clone one). That night, after the day shifts leaves, they go in.

They enter through the employee entrance, MacAteer dressed in a uniform to give them an advance scout (the disguise won't hold up under scrutiny but it'll buy them a few seconds). They find four of the guards in the center room playing poker, but aren't sure where the last two are. They spread out around the room, hiding in the shadows, then rush the guys and hit them with tasers. They bind and gag them and stick them in the employee break room, and then find the last guy upstairs patrolling and take him out as well.

One guy left; the agents figure he's downstairs by the vault door. They open the door and immediately hear him say something in Serbian - a code phrase. Hanover, who speaks Serbian, responds correctly (it's a proverb; this is what Languages spends are for!), and they talk they guy into coming up to join the game...then zap him and bind him with the others.

And then down to the vault. Parker finds an access port for the computer lock, and Hanover hacks through it. Gambone gets to work (he's saved all of his Infiltration for this) and gets through. Inside the vault, the agents find a dusty old medical table, a combination TV/VCR, some video tapes, and some notebooks. They pack all of it up and get the hell out. Gambone leaves behind a timed charged; it'll set off the fire-chemicals in the room, but give them time to get clear.

They head back to the safe house...and next time, we'll find out what the stole, and what the response is going to be.