How to be a spy: next session we will go over how sucess might look a little different in NBA than you are used to. We will also go over a quick primer on how to destroy vampire networks.
Please take time to read some rules or the handout. It will really help you enjoy the game. You don’t have to polish off the whole thing, but it will help.
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. Having come into possession of the truth, you are squarely in the crosshairs because you alone have the power to KILL DRACULA FOR GOOD!
Your assignment (if you can) is to watch an ensemble movie. Like:
Watch the characters. The movie lets us all know why they are involved. (It’s never the money) . we know their job in the heist, (driver, confidence man, acrobat, lockpick) but more importantly, we know what kind of person they are and why they are in the heist. Even minor comic relief characters have this clearly laid out. “I’m in the heist to assert dominance over the college roommate who did me wrong.” “I’m in the heist because everyone thinks I’m over the hill and I have to prove them wrong” " I’m in the heist to reconnect with my ex. " all the goals are immediately relevant, focused on emotional goals, and have every little to do with the procedural goal of money.
They manage to communicate all this without relaying a ton of back story. They also communicate this without too much screen time. Look at how much time is spent on the heist and how much time is spent setting up the emotional goals. Look at how even minor characters are fun and interesting even with limited screen time.
Everybody In the movie is a bad-ass that is really good at their specialty. But notice; Their specialty is almost incidental.
Come to the first session with your character concept. You must not have a job in mind. * we will work that out in the first session.
Come up with: an Over the Hill operative who stays in the life to keep in touch with old contacts. Sometimes he works with his friends, sometimes, he has to spy on them. A contract to operate against a friend is a joy because it’s a reunion. (I lifted this straight from RED, but the concept still works fine and won’t seem forced at the table) He could be a hacker, a sniper, a thief, whatever. The job doesn’t matter.
You are going to be in this person’s skin for a while so put some effort in to this.
answer the following questions:
Which nation and intelligence service did you come from?
Why are you (a shadow operative of some stripe) no longer working for your government?
Why haven’t you moved on to civilian life? (“I could never have a desk job” is LAZY!)
You have connections to innocent people who live outside the shadows. Who are they and what emotional needs do they fulfill?
What are your mannerisms that set you apart?
Is your character one who “learns a lesson” to overcome challenges? (the dramatic hero) Ocean goes through a big arc as he tries to make up with his ex-wife and get her back. Brad has to become suspicious of the one man he trusts and betray him to take over the operation. Matt has to face his fears and prove himself as a thief. Julia has to overcome her distrust of her ex and learn love is more important than security.
If so, what are your problems and what character flaws are preventing you from reaching your potential?
Is your character someone that asserts order on the world through being themselves? (The Iconic hero) (Jason Statham, and Seth Green in The Itallian Job don’t change, they overcome obstacles by becoming more themselves.)
What is the iconic style you bring to the table (that won’t get old in 2 sessions)?
When an FBI analyst learns too much and can’t trust anyone in their own government, why are you one of the people they call?
How “Night’s Black Agents” plays
Here are some Tips provided by the game designer to help you see what the game is like and how your agents can survive.
You Can Win
Yes, this is a game of horror, in which your agent might well be slaughtered, exsanguinated, or buried in a Slovakian cement factory. That will definitely happen if you do nothing, so you might as well do something. Take the initiative: pick the most appealing offense and execute it. Will something horrible happen? Of course it will — it’s a horror game! Something horrible will happen no matter what your plan is. At best, you’ll find one that requires desperation and daring, and might still cost you your lives. But no fun whatsoever will happen unless you choose something to do and do it. So be bold and seize the initiative. Pick the type of terrifying risk you’re most able to confront and go after it with both hands. Who knows? Maybe you’ll surprise the Director, if not the opposition. As in any game, the Director will allow any halfway credible approach you come up with a good chance of success, and will place nasty obstacles in your way to make your success more exciting. Pick something quickly, grit your teeth, and send your agent into that cement factory.
Put it in Drive
If you still find yourself unable to justify some near-suicidal plan, think of your Drive. Come up with some reason to Drive yourself into danger, and maybe pick up a nice refresh for doing it along the way. Look to your Drive as a source of action and inspiration, and use it to decide which near-suicidal plan is right for your agent.
With Great Ability Scores
Comes Great Responsibility Nobody wants to watch a movie where Bond doesn’t seduce the girl, or Jason Bourne doesn’t beat the crap out of some mooks, or Ethan Hunt doesn’t wear that cool face mask. You’ve got the same responsibility to your audience, and to your team. If you’re stuck for an approach or a plan, think about how to use your spotlight abilities to make what you want to happen, happen. If you haven’t used your MOS yet, figure out somewhere you can use it for a guaranteed win. Look at your best ability scores, both Investigative and General. Play those high numbers right, and you play to win; and better yet, to a win where you look cool. Got a wet worker with Shooting 15? What gets easier with a sniper involved? Got a black bagger with Infiltration 14? Maybe the plan should involve a break-in. Think of it like you’re writing an episode of an ensemble caper show like Leverage: the hitter’s gotta hit, the hacker’s gotta hack, the shooter’s gotta shoot.
When Stuck, Get More Intel
If you are legitimately stuck, and not just rejecting perfectly viable courses of action, don’t just stick close to home hashing over your options. Whenever you get stuck, get out and gather more information. Ask yourself what you need to know in order to formulate a plan. Then figure out how to get that information, and go out and get it.
Follow the Money
Nobody works for vampires for their health. Even if the hard core of the conspiracy is bonded in heretical Cathar baptism, somebody has to pay for all the robes and chalices. Hit bagmen, and obvious sources of income like rich scumbags, casinos, or drug rings. Comb financial records to find suspiciously well-off civil servants; find out who actually bought that medieval icon or Etruscan tomb amulet. Even if vampires don’t cast shadows, their money does.
HUMINT is Key
Many groups are reluctant to use their Interpersonal abilities, figuring that they can get into less trouble by sticking purely to physical clues, or by downloading data in a well-lit hotel room. This is a disastrous mistake. Talking to assets, witnesses, experts, and informants is by far the best way of gaining intel about the situation. With information, access, and assets, you can find that coveted way in that will set up a kill shot for you. Remember to use Investigative Networking (see p. 32) in a pinch if you’re stuck.
Build Your Own Network
Agents have Network pools and the ability to create assets for a reason: to give you the tactical flexibility and strategic depth your enemies already have. Use those qualities to the utmost: think “who could help me here” and build, buy, or break that person. In the best-case scenario, you have lots more eyes on the opposition, feeding you lots more intel. In the worst-case (or most cynical) scenario, your network becomes a string of Judas goats: when the vampires take out your assets, they leave more clues for you to follow.
Keep Moving Forward
Expect to find only one major clue per scene. Although you shouldn’t be too quick to abandon a scene for the next one, most groups make the opposite mistake, returning endlessly to the same few places or witnesses, hoping to scrape more info out of them. If you find a clue that leads you somewhere else — go there! Chances are, once you’re there, you’ll find another clue, that will in turn lead you to a new scene, with a further clue that takes you to a third scene, and so on. Unsuccessful groups endlessly resniff the same ground. Successful ones follow a trail, just like successful secret agents.
Leave Room to Maneuver
This is not a game of micro-managing your time or resources; it’s a thriller. Between the Preparedness ability and the In the Nick of Time cherry (see p. 33), you can assume you’ve done something right, when you should have done it. If you drill down and insist on playing out every minute of your op, you will only bore and irritate the Director, and you won’t leave room for any changeup on your part. This has bad consequences both for your agent and for your fun. Don’t worry about shooting ahead to the good stuff: you can always retroactively use Investigative abilities during the fight or the chase if need be. Take an overview: determine what you need to accomplish, and in broad strokes, how you can accomplish it. Then let the Director color in the scary and the dangerous part.
Remember, You’re the
When you created an agent, you cast a character — a hero — in a story. A story about a badass who fights vampires. Sure, some people curl up into a ball and whine that vampires don’t exist. Those people are called “non-player characters.” Or “lunch.” Paralysis is boring. When you create your agent, or develop her personality during play, think about realistic ways to portray her as proactive and resourceful and dangerous — as, in a word, badass — even in the face of bloody horror. Players in horror games — and spy games! — often make the mistake of thinking solely about how realistic their responses are. Instead, make interesting choices and then find a way to make them seem plausible. An interesting choice is one that keeps your agent moving fast, kicking tail, and looking good.
Always Know Where the Exit Is
Sometimes what you needed to find out is that you can’t hit them there. Not yet, anyway. You don’t get extra experience points for finishing the dungeon: you can call a mission suddenly gone deadly a “probing raid” or a “reconnaissance in force” and live to fight again another night. Don’t count on the Director’s kindness to leave your agent alive: do your part to get him out of the fire. You can count on the Director to give you more clues, more intel, after your agent runs Traffic Analysis on the hornet’s nest his near-suicidal assault stirred up, or uses High Society to find out which Hungarian financier shows up to the conference with a bodyguard — or a bullet wound — all of a sudden.