Night's Black Agents
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Basic Information

Night's Black Agents is a roleplaying game about espionage and vampires. Players are burned spies and assets: people at the edges of the intelligence community, possibly ones who have been disavowed by their former government employers. In the first session or two of a typical campaign, the PCs discover that vampires exist, and if they try to bring this information to their old bosses, they learn that organization has been infiltrated and suborned by the undead.

The game uses the GUMSHOE system which assumes a high degree of competence for PCs, including automatic success at any clue-gathering investigative ability, and the ability to guarantee success on die rolls of critical importance that fall within a character's specialty. Well, guaranteed success against a standard human target. Vampires are another matter entirely. There's no single vampire definition or stat block in the game. Instead the GM section is a toolbox for building whatever sort of vampire (and related supernatural monsters) the GM is inclined to populate their world with. Vampires might be powered by satan, genetic engineering, or an ancient curse, or they may be shipwrecked aliens. Players never know what to expect, and need to use surveillance and spycraft to figure out the monsters weaknesses if they want missions to end in success. If things suddenly go pear-shaped, that's when you break out the chase scene rules. Abort! Meet up later at the safe house!

With all that open-ended toolboxiness, there's not much of an official setting. Instead the book gives real world information about various spy agencies, technologies, and cities, and then a big brainstorm of possible ways to weave the undead into it all. Mechanics and tools aplenty are included to help players make sense of it all, including the excellent Adversary Map where players build one of those cork boards with photos of the suspects and connecting bits of string to tie them together — and then get bonuses during missions based on how good a job they did connecting the pieces.

The Dracula Dossier

While the default NBA campaign is all toolbox, no cannon, there is one particular published campaign worth mentioning. It's actually this arcanist's favorite published RPG scenario of all time, mostly because of how radically different it is from most such campaigns. This is the Dracula Dossier. It's a campaign in two books.

The first book is Dracula Unredacted. It's the entire text of Bram Stoker's famous novel, Dracula. This is a special unredacted version, because within this version of the setting, it wasn't truly a novel. In the real world, Bram's brother George Stoker was part of the government of the United Kingdom. So in this campaign, Stoker's novel is actually the after-action report of the office of naval intelligence's failed attempt to recruit a vampire in the 1890s. This version of the novel has a bunch of extra stuff in it. Some of that extra content is material from Stoker's early drafts and notes, such as an exciting chapter where Quincey Morris has a run-in with what may be werewolves. In the margins of the book are three sets of hand-written notes from three generations of British operatives struggling to identify, defeat or recruit the undead: behind enemy lines in world war 2, during the 1970s mole-hunt crisis in London, and during anti-terrorist actions in the MiddleEast 2011. The idea is that this book, used as a prop, falls into the player character's hands some time in the first or second session of the campaign. It may be a hot potato macguffin that MI-6 or Dracula wants to recover, or it may just be an unending source of leads and ideas for the PCs whenever they hit a brick wall.1

The second book, the Director's Handbook, is a GM's book that covers every character, location, prop, theme and organization mentioned in the novel (including those three generations of foot-notes). To keep the mystery alive (and match the toolbox approach of the main RPG rulebook), every topic has at least three contradictory entries. Often this is a "cold" entry, an "active" entry and a "conspiracy" entry. Cold leads have been dead or disused since the turn of the century. Active sites tend to be used or monitored by the current secret British Vampire (or anti-vampire) program. Conspiracy nodes are part of Dracula's globe-spanning network of minions and victims. Whenever the PCs head to a place (or express interest in an element) you can flip to the corresponding page, quickly read three or more possible takes on the idea, and choose the best one for your game. Was Van Helsing an agent of German Intelligence who intentionally sabotaged the English efforts? Whatever happened to that specific green-grocery he had shipping that particular breed of garlic? What part did Dracula play in the multiple fascist revolutions in Romania during WWII? Has Dracula set his sights on infiltrating the United Nations? Is the British Vampire Program a forgotten relic of the past, or a successful ongoing secret war? The Director's Handbook gives you several great options to answer any of these questions, or may inspire you to come up with your own answers for them as well.


1. RPG Rulebook: Night's Black Agents by Kenneth Hite
2. Campaign Setting: Dracula Dossier by Bram Stoker, Kenneth Hite, and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

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