Thursday, 29 October 2015

Brainstorming a Night's Black Agents campaign

Well, I'm currently ill in bed with man flu, and consequently left to my own devices for a change. It is the inevitability of living in European climates that winter brings with it illnesses of all kinds. Travelling on planes and trains where said diseases are at liberty to circulate in the human population only adds to the chances of being struck down. Still, it has given me some more opportunity to read the Zalozhniy Quartet, the first campaign book to be published for the Night's Black Agents RPG from Pelgrane Press, which has been somewhat eclipsed by the recent excitement over Kenneth Hite's Dracula Dossier.

I'm still not convinced by the Zalozhniy Quartet, but can't really put my finger on what it is. In many respects, the structure is one that appeals to me, as it does feel like a sandbox, my favourite type of RPG setting these days.There are some railroad plot elements in one of the chapters, and by that I mean the writer is making some big assumptions about what the PCs will do, which may or may not prove to be the case. I think the GM still has to do quite a bit of work on this campaign to ready it for use with experienced players, but by the looks of it, it does make use of all the different mechanics in NBA. What it is not is a complete set of adventures - much is left to the GM to decide what he wants it to be.

This, plus the fact that I'm currently reading Archangel, by Robert Harris, has got me thinking about writing an NBA campaign from scratch - eventually. Here I've taken some inspiration from the Transylvania Chronicles, which appeared in support of the old Dark Ages Vampire line in the 1990s, and which I still keep in fond hope I'll get to run it one day.

Essentially, this would be an episodic campaign, beginning in the 1940s, right after the end of WW2. Players would be working for the British secret intelligence services initially, but could go anywhere with it after that. The starting player characters would all have had wartime experience of some kind, for example with SOE or Royal Marine commandos, so I might work up some alternative background packages to the ones in the core rulebook, at least for 1940s agents. Some skills, like Digital Intrusion, would not be available, of course. The character sheet might end up looking like a hybrid between NBA and Trail of Cthulhu.

Each section of the plot would be separated by a number of years. Protagonists would age considerably over the course of the campaign, and some might need to be replaced eventually, if they get to retirement age of course.

I would anticipate at least five years between chapters, possibly more, so the campaign might need rules for how characters change during that time. For example, there should be opportunity to add more points to Network during downtime, as it is assumed agents would be working on other assignments that are not part of the focus of the campaign.

The opening chapter begins in London in 1947 but can travel in a number of directions after that...

In terms of possible backgrounds for characters, I may use the list from World War Cthulhu, but alter them for NBA. As most if not all agents in 1947 would have seen some kind of active service in WW2, this would work well.

Addendum - the core rules include a Martini Straight Up mode for agents that are still working for their parent agency. In addition, Double Tap has rules for generating WW2 era agents on page 118. This should suffice for agents in the late Forties and through the Fifties.

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