The other RPG campaign I played in more-or-less regularly with the Gamers of Kuala Lumpur crew is Night's Black Agents where we played an group of international freelance agents with contacts with various countries' espionage network who were embroiled in a plot to take over the world. With dogs. Who might be sentient vampires. Also, an infectious hemovirus pathogen.
Here are all the drawings I made for various actual play reports I wrote for the campaign on this blog.
These were our pets and early warning system, the two Abrahams.
The team was knee deep in it at Eurovision 2013.
The logo for the pharmaceutical multinational up to no good.
Sami Härkönen plays Street Fighter in a biker bar.
Sami and Zlatan on undercover surveillance at Titan Park, Bucharest.
The Inish R-Team opposition team, with hemovirus-enhanced operatives.
Nikolai safely escorts Vin Cesarescu to where Sami and Zlatan are having some shish kebab for lunch.
The Devil's Husband has an actual vampire for a wife.
The artist in question might not have been in his or her right mind, but in context this was true.
Last time on Night's Black Agents: Jacob Novazembla, Nikolai Kaidanovsky, Sami Härkönen, Brendan, Shiina "Misha" Mikado and Zlatan Kljujic were finally reunited at the heavily fortified ranch of King Valentin the "Devil's Husband" after extracting his love, the Romani vampire Vienna "Vin" Cesarescu from the deadly R-Team, Inish Medical's special operations team. Leaving Faris Barrar and his men stranded in Bucharest, Romania, they fled across the Bulgarian border and the Danube river near Ruse and Shtraklevo.
Day 05 Monday: Very Early Morning
It was late after midnight after everyone had some hours of catching up, rest and planning.
Since Vin needed the Inish serum to function in daytime without adverse effects from the sun and going on a bloodlust, Nikolai - a former Russian GRU operative who was also a medical doctor - went immediately to work at the ranch's lab trying to analyse the vial she entrusted them with. She kept the other one, rationing it for herself.
Misha, who had arrived earlier with Brendan, told them that Julia, the cousin of Georgeta Andrea Grigore, their anti-human trafficking activist contact in Bucharest, was being held there - reminding them that King Valentin was still a human trafficking scum. They cannot rely on Valentin's help and would need to leave as soon as possible. But to where? Options include Stockholm (their allies from the Eurovision mission) and Novosibirsk (Nikolai's GRU allies), and how would they get Juila out as well.
Sami and Zlatan planned to take the Niva to scout the surrounding towns the next morning while the others would protect Nikolai and reconnoiter the ranch, looking for assets and exploits.
Zlatan used a burner cellular phone to call his former colleague Rosa Martinez in Munich. She was an American field office manager for Case Protection Services, a private military contractor Zlatan used to work for in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda. She agreed to do a favour for him: to send a surveillance team over the border into Austria. If Farris Barrar and his team reached their safehouse in Vienna, Zlatan wanted to know. Zlatan told her, "Do not engage them whatever they do."
"What are you working on, Zlatan?"
"It's big. You'll know it soon. Thanks." The Bosnian wheel artist sent her contact instructions and hung up. Fatigue took its toll and he fell asleep.
Previously in Bucharest, Nikolai Kaidanovsky, Sami Härkönen, Shiina "Misha" Mikado and Zlatan Kljujic were joined by the cleaner only known as Brendan. Their recent recruit, the French thief Marcel Clouseau was lost to the bite of thousands of vampire puppies and a well-placed thermobaric warhead near Lake Titan.
Nikolai, who was about to extract their ally Vienna "Vin" Cesarescu, suddenly found things at the Sunrise Hotel to be chaotic. Face to face with the lethal R-Team, Inish Medical's operatives sent to East Europe for a job, Vin's quick thinking saved Nikolai telling the others that he was a member of Julian Dragani's police cadre on their pay. But he found himself in a car fleeing the hotel with the driver Gregor, Faris Barrar, Mr. Chow and other members of Inish Medical's R-Team operatives.
The agents' tacnet still active, they began planning.
Misha and Brendan were to go directly to their teammate Jacob Novazembla (because their players were absent) who was with the Romani criminal cartel lord King Valentin, awaiting the retrieval of his love, Vin.
Sami and the visibly shaken Zlatan (at 0 Stability Points) still wearing their puce jogging suits and helmets drove their Lada Niva pacing the R-Team's vehicle as they headed away from city centre.
Previously, Nikolai Kaidanovsky, Sami Härkönen, Shiina "Misha" Mikado and Zlatan Kljujic were joined by the French thief Marcel Clouseau in Bucharest who once dealt with Inish Medical before their exile fro Romania. (Clouseau has been relegated to a non-player character as his player had moved out of town.)
At midnight, the agents met up with the freelance cleaner Brendan, who had worked with Misha and MI6 before in Eastern European black ops. Plenty of codewords were exchanged at the cafe between Misha and Brendan before trustworthiness was established. In the end though no one could tell if a codeword was being used.
Brendan said, "Thank you, I'll leave now."
Misha paused for a second then asked, "Is that a code phrase or are you actually leaving?"
DAY 04 Sunday
Sami and Zlatan prepared to support Clouseau's undercover dog-catching job at the Harmony Wings apartment building near Lake Titan. Zlatan bought them all a Toblerone bar each in case they need to defend themselves against evil, mind-controlling vampire doggies down in the park. Meanwhile Sami prepared their gear. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just some GoPro cameras, scooter helmets, jogging suits, firearms, quadrotor drones, remote listening devices, improvised explosive devices and one RPO-A Shmel rocket launcher with a thermobaric warhead.
Never know when one would come in handy against vampire dogs.
"This place looks worse than the first season of The Wire," Zlatan told Sami when they saw the condition of Harmony Wings. It was still dark when Clouseau and the other two hirelings Petru and Drago were met by Doctor Ana of Keller Training at the park. She led them through the trees by the decrepit 20-story building. It looked older than it was. It smelled worse than it looked. Other apartment blocks stood out among the trees of the park in the distance. Lake Titan was within eyeshot of the block. Connected to Harmony Wings by a pavement was an even worse looking building: the abandoned public swimming pool, its windows darkened by what appeared be extreme mildew.
Previously, the Agents completed a week-long mission at Inish Medical, a multinational medical corporation that was using the haemocanis serum derived from blood of certain East European dog breeds to give vampiric abilities to their subjects. Inish appeared to have larger, more diabolical plans for the serum application. It was up to them to discover what.
The Agents began a new mission: to gather intel on Romania. Inish took interest in criminal underworld in Bucharest, who helped them acquire special breeds of dogs in Romania before the Heimdall debacle.
They also had a secondary mission: to extract their ally Vienna "Vin" Cesarescu from Inish's task force - the R-Team - that had a job to do in Romania. Vin was a Romani woman who displayed vampiric symptoms and abilities even before Inish abducted her and forced her to work for them. R-Team would be arriving in Bucharest on Saturday.
DAY 01 Thursday
King Valentin's Lair
Jacob Novazembla, freshly bitten by Vin several days ago during the Inish mission, had arrived a day earlier at the sea port of Constanța on a solo assignment to King Valentin a.k.a The Devil's Husband, a leader of a Romanian criminal organisation. (Jacob's player was absent, so he was relegated to the role of an NPC.) King Valentin's distrust of Jacob was alleviated when he sniffed his odour. When Jacob refused his insistence, King Valentin's men grabbed him and pulled down his pants for a visual confirmation. Valentin dropped his own pants as well to show what they both had in common.
Vampiric bite mark at the nether regions, caused by Vin. "The smell is unmistakable," Valentin remarked.
Then, still pantless, he embraced Jacob with glee and growled happily, "WE ARE BROTHERS!"
Valentin agreed to help the Agents.
Jacob wished his pants were back on.
I missed the last two Night's Black Agents RPG sessions.
Since inflitrating the freighter Heimdall in the Irish Sea, Nikolai Kaidanovsky, Sami Harkonen, Shiina "Misha" Mikado, Zlatan Kljulic and Abraham von Helsing the Russian borzoi hound (all wearing keffiyehs - even Abe) escaped and sank the ship killing the vampire hounds in the cargo compartment. They abducted the surviving technician Jones who told them everything he knew about the Emartech Pharmaceuticals' and Inish Medical Group's plans to use the haemocanis parasite-infected blood from Eastern Europe dogs for nefarious purposes. Before returning to London, Jones had to take a walk with Zlatan because he knew too much and could identify the agents.
It was time to stake out Inish. They rendezvous with Jacob Novazembla - who had returned from Italy - at their headquarters, while Misha had to forego the mission to visit her daughter. Before heading to Brentford in Ealing, Sami put Abe in the care of his dog handler contact out in the country.
The entire town of Brentford was under the thumb of Inish Medical. The Inish headquarters complex was a large building overlooking a golf course. A lot of the localtown services were contracted to Inish, such as security, medical and waste disposal. Information out of the town was monitored and filtered by Inish.
The founder of Inish Medical, Donal Inish, had died in a helicopter crash many years ago, leaving a wife. Among the confirmed vampires at Inish were Farris Barrar the Vice President of Safety who was the one that Misha saw tear the small-time mob boss Gary Camon into pieces. They also suspected one Mister Chow of being a vampire as well.
Jacob's contact at Blackberry Benny Snowden informed him that Inish was installing hardware and software in their servers that would allow encrypted communications for important employees via brand new Blackberry 10s. Jacob would infiltrate the heart of Inish Medical as "Rory Winston" one of the Blackberry employees tasked with installing and configuring the new gear. His real mission is to install a back door to their secured servers which the agents would be able to access.
Jacob, as Rory, got in easily enough. He was chaperoned by Anise, a beautiful Inish employee. While Jacob charmed the IT team over the course of five days, Nikolai, Sami and Zlatan stayed in B&Bs in town monitoring the situation. The IT team loved Jacob. They even went on a pub crawl that led to a brawl with some football hooligans, which the IT team later said they'd enjoyed! Jacob also learnt that Jessica Ellis, Zlatan's failed date (to put it lightly) and former Emartech employee from the Cardiff mission, was an informal security consultant there as well.
It was during the fifth day that Jacob, escorted by Anise, bumped into Vienna "Vin" Cesarescu, the vampire who was once their prisoner. She had been a member of the Camon Gang who was abducted by Inish Medical after the murder of Gary Camon and destruction of the group. Vin looked pale and anaemic.
In the deserted hallway, Vin hypnotised Anise, clouding her mind while she pleaded Jacob for help. She would meet him in the Rehabilitation Clinic level of the headquarters the next morning.
AND NOW THE CONCLUSION!
Day 06: The Penultimate Day
Information From Vienna
The Rehab Clinic took an entire ground floor of the Inish headquarters. It faced the golf course, although there was a security moat that prevented golfers from entering the facility grounds. Sami and Zlatan took up a reconnaissance position from within the bushes in the golf course. Encrypted comms allowed them radio contact with each other. Once in a while, golf balls would zip near their heads dangerously.
GOKL returned to playing the modern age vampire conspiracy game Night's Black Agents after a brief hiatus. Darren - Eclipse Phase's infomorph DANAI - joined us as a burnt Russian agent Nikolai Kaidanovsky, a medical doctor. (No, Darren had not seen Pacific Rim.)
The Story So Far
The agents had been investigating Emartech Pharmaceuticals, the corporation which was experimenting and mass producing a certain type of blood. This blood had been tainted with a mutated mycoplasma haemocanis virus and had been used as a possible biological agent. In Sweden, the group had recently encountered a white supremacist terrorist group whose members were infused with this blood to wreak havoc during Eurovision 2013. The blood gave their operatives superhuman powers.
The previous session was not blogged about here. Why? Because I failed a roll during an impromptu seduction scene on the head of human resources of Emartech in Cardiff, Wales. And Misha had to bail Zlatan out of the hotel causing both IDs to be burnt. It was an embarassment. Sami and Misha was calling for Zlatan to have a "Walk with Zlatan" all the way driving back to London.
Elsewhere, the Russian, Kaidanovsky, had been investigating old Soviet experiments on extrasensory perception from the 1980s when he received a burn notice from his superior. The General informed him that a Norwegian container ship Heimdall was en route from Sweden to Wales. This mysterious cargo had been hastily taken out of Sweden and sent to Emartech in Cardiff. He was told to meet up with freelance agents in London who had discovered documents pertaining to his investigation while they were in Sweden.
The team, upon arriving in London, received an online dead drop communique from Hagar Thurson, their Swedish ally, telling them to expect Nikolai at the airport.
They pick up Nikolai in their Lada Niva and interrogated him as Zlatan drove around London. Abraham van Helsing, the surviving borzoi hound, sniffed Nikolai and gave him his thumbs up, though he did not have any proper thumbs. Although Nikolai kept calling Russia the Soviet Union for some reason, they cleared him to join the team.
When informed of the Heimdall, the agents realised that this was the ship that was en route to Cardiff port that the NGO there - an Emartech dupe - was supposed to protest against when it docked. Zlatan thought they should intercept and try to find out what's on the ship before they entered UK waters. If it was meant for Emartech, then there might be a clue to the haemocanis virus-infected blood that had been going around Europe.
The team thought to call their hacker Jacob (whose player Macx was absent - and left his PC visiting his Point of Stability in Italy) to hack the AIS database to track the course of the Heimdall, but Sami did it immediately via the Marine Traffic website. (Actually Sami's player Ivan did it on his tablet during the game and provided live AIS tracking of ships in the Celtic Sea, which was pretty freaking cool. Night's Black Agent is definitely a game where players need to use mobile devices as live props on the fly.)
Misha discovered where her British Intelligence handler Emilia Sanderson kept a rigid inflatable boat away from prying eyes and clandestinely "borrowed" it as well as other nautical gear from its dock for the group's seagoing caper.
In the meantime, Zlatan shopped around for weapons and tactical gear. He found some Balkan gunrunners running MP-7s outside London. They might have been Balkans but Zlatan wasn't sure. They might have been from Peoria for all he knew. On the way back to base, a police car attempted to intercept him. But Zlatan employed his Afghanistan War driving skills to weave through the night traffic and lose the cops.
Everyone wore Arabic keffiyeh, night vision goggles and a kerchief over their mouth - even Abe the dog. Zlatan thought the keffiyeh made everyone look like hipsters.
So some time after midnight, when the Heimdall was 10 miles from the UK shores, the hipster pirates of the Celtic Sea fouled up the container ship's propellers by dumping a steel cable mesh netting onto the path of the ship. They infiltrated over the side and onto the Heimdall, leaving Nikolai and Abe to guard the boat which was tethered to the larger ship by cables.
Sami with an MP7 and Misha with a sword stormed the bridge while Zlatan covered them with his starlight scoped-sniper rifle. Sami's fluency in Arabic convinced them that they were some sort of unlikely modern day Barbary Pirates - even if Misha looked very obviously an Asian woman. The captain told them that the cargo they obviously wanted was below deck and was guard by two Welshmen. Zlatan smashed their radio before proceeding.
They raided the cargo bay and discovered a structure made for medical experiments, constructed from two cargo containers. Powerful UV floodlights shone upon it. The first Welshman, Jones, immediately saw that they had been boarded and yelled to his partner the second Welshman also named Jones. The second Jones quickly slammed the med bay's door shut from within. Zlatan shot the first Jones in the chest before melting off the med bay's door lock with liberal application of thermite.
The team swept into the container, weapons aimed and in full intimidation mode. The compartment had biological lab equipment and a computer terminal. Another locked, heavier class of security door led into a much more secure clean room. The second Jones surrendered and told them that they had absolutely no idea what they're dealing with.
Sami pulled up the CCTV feed from inside the clean room on the terminal.
Within were a series of cages. Within each cage was a dog. Wild dogs.Their eyes were red and bloodshot. As soon as the team activated the monitor, every dog - all of them unmoving and maintaning the same waiting stance - turned to look at the camera as if they knew they were being watched. It was unsettling. Why were these being delivered to Emartech Pharmaceuticals in Cardiff?
Stay tuned for the next exciting session of Night's Black Agents.
And thus ends the Eurovision Song Contest Job where the company investigates a white supremacist terror group in Malmö, Sweden. This arc of the game took four sessions and in the final session, things go south for the group and then some. A game campaign recap can be found here, followed by descriptions of certain scenes that led us to the finale.
A thematic change in the game is that the players discovered that the Lampir-blood boosted terrorists were not merely from a fringe group, but part of the consipracy that led to the top levels of the Försvarsdepartementet (Ministry of Defence), who was trying to bring down the Socialdepartementet (Ministry of Health and Social Services) who had become our allies in Sweden. Therefore, we were not just running our operation in neutral territory, but in a country that was steadily becoming an enemy terrority.
The party split up between Jacob, Misha, Rose with borzoi hound Abraham Lincoln; and Sami, Zlatan, David with the other borzoi hound Abraham Van Helsing.
Team one would guard Romany singer Milla Cesarescu - lead singer and social activist of the band Half Kingdom - in her Malmö hotel room before the contest from attacks that her security detail will not be prepared to deal with. Team two would rendezvous with Snorre Dahlquist, the Health Ministry Special Agent, to visit the late (no thanks to Zlatan) Dr. Ishmael Sjöberg's house in Blackeberg, near Stockholm.
Three game highlights followed.
This is not a full actual play report of the recent Night's Black Agents session gamemastered by Kai, but it highlights one of the reasons why I roleplay. One of the many descriptions of a tabletop RPG is a cooperative storytelling game where the gamemaster (GM) sets up a story and referees in-story conflicts and their outcomes. At the same time, players act accordingly as characters in that story and also provide foil for the GM to feed information and story points back at the players in a dramatically satisfactory way, if possible.
In a way, we are reading a spy novel or watching a spy movie as we are developing it together.
Here's what happened which involved me playing the Bosnian wheel artist Zlatan Kljujic:
But First, A Campaign Recap
Here's what happened beforehand during the first three game sessions of the "Eurovision Song Contest Job":
Sami Härkönen obtained two borzoi hounds which he trained and renamed Abraham Van Helsing and Abraham Lincoln.
The agents received information from Rose of the Camon Gang that they'd found a relative of Vin, their Romany hitter who displayed vampiric characteristics. This cousin is one Milla Cesarescu, a singer for a Romany punk band Half Kingdom who would be participating in Eurovision Song Contest 2013 in Malmö. Milla had publicly announced that she was going to unmask racist elements in the Swedish government and upon arriving at Malmö, Jacob, Sami, Abraham van Helsing discovered that a white supremacist terror group had targeted her.
Meanwhile Misha, Abraham Lincoln and a new addition to the company, the cleaner and medical examiner David Verdasco who stayed back in London to monitor the remnants of the Camon Gang witnessed the slaughter of Gary Camon and his men by an unknown group who displayed superhuman strength. The gang's terrified survivors, Rose and Mister Grey, joined up with the agents, informed them that Vin had been taken and wanted their help to leave the country.
Back in Sweden, while Jacob and his media contact Ebba Östberg investigated Milla, discovering that one of the terrorists named Mikko Mikkel-Mikkelsen displayed superhuman strength and limited mind control abilities. Sami and Abraham van Helsing shadowed Mikko while gaining a shadow themselves, one Snorre Dahlquist, a special agent for the Swedish Ministry of Health. Thanks to Sami, Snorre - who had also been investigating the terrorists as well - became an ally.
As Misha and David smuggled Grey and Rose out of England, Snorre, Sami and Zlatan tracked Mikko to a cottage in the woods near Nybro. In the cellar, viewed with a endoscope, Zlatan discovered Nova Lind, the aging mentor of Half Kingdom who disappeared some years ago, strapped to a chair being drained of blood, which is used to give the terrorists the superhuman strength.
Zlatan of course had made his mind up what these creatures are.
But Second, A Zlatan Recap
The second part of Night's Black Agents game run by Kai continued two weeks later with everyone present, namely Shiina "Misha" Mikado the Japanese grifter and heavy hitter, Jacob Novazembla the Dutch hacker, Sami Härkönen the Finnish grunt and Zlatan Kljujic the Bosnian driver! The spy stuff adventure in London continues from the last episode.
I did not have the time to produce a play report in my own words, so here's Kai's diligently written report (with bonus GM's Commentary in italics.)
Maulidurrasul, a national holiday, fell on a Thursday, and the GOKL guys invited me to play the new GUMSHOE system RPG Night's Black Agents. The venue was at Doug's new place which was not 3 klicks way from me along a straight road. I was happy to join them.
Night's Black Agents allow players to roleplay spies in a contemporary setting... where vampires exist in the shadows, and some of them call the shots.
The group consisted of Shiina "Misha" Mikado the Japanese grifter and heavy hitter, Jacob Novazembla the Dutch hacker, Sami Härkönen the Finnish grunt and me, Zlatan Kljujic the Bosnian driver. We had been called to the Stafford London, a hotel at Saint James's Place, which was across the way from Buckingham Palace by Air Marshal Morgan Prince of the British Ministry of Defence.
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