The Danube Connection
Pregame Session Agenda
For the pregame session, we need to discuss Game Modes, fill up a group template , and create the characters.
Night’s Black Agents is “a vampire spy thriller.” Its default setting is a world of horror and shadows, with flashes of action. Its upbeat lands on the thrills and the flavor, with espionage and problem-solving on the downbeat to set up the action.
Not every spy thriller is the same. Some deal in black and white morality, others in shades of gray self-loathing. Some chart emotional damage more intently than they do bullet trajectories. Others try to mess with your mind, and let your adrenal glands take care of themselves.They play in different idioms, styles, or modes.
The game has a few possible modes of play to emphasize one or another idiom. They include optional rules and game elements and can be combined in any patterns the players desire.
The modes are:
Some spy stories privilege psychological damage and the cost of heroism: the Bourne trilogy of films, the TV series Alias and Callan, and the espionage novels of Graham Greene, for example. Horror drains your soul as much as they do your blood; you look into the abyss and see the abyss welcoming you in. In BURN mode games, psychological damage is more intense; the actions agents must take inevitably burn away their humanity. Your Stability is capped at 12, and degrades faster. Killing is never easy, and never free.
The default setting of Night’s Black Agents is a cinematic thriller. To instead recreate the gritty, lo-fi espionage world of Anthony Price or Charles McCarry, similiar to the TV series The Sandbaggers and Rubicon, or films like Three Days of the Condor, you can “de-power” the game into DUST mode by:
* Removing the MOS rules
* Removing the cherries for ratings of 8+ in most General abilities
* Capping Health at 10
* Restricting the Thriller Combat rules or eliminating them entirely
Many spy stories, especially in the modern era, present a “wilderness or mirrors,” a world of hidden agendas and shifting allegiances. They threaten personal identity and self-knowledge, mirroring those threats in betrayal and contests between corrupt opponents where the protagonist must trust only their own moral sense
-if they can remember it. This is the world of John Le Carré’s Smiley novels and Barry Eisler’s John Rain thrillers, of movies like Ronin and Spy Games and Mission: Impossible films, of TV shows like The Prisoner and MI-5.
In MIRROR mode games, your contacts and even your team are unreliable; your partners can help you with Trust, or destroy you with Betrayal. Unlike the other modes, MIRROR mode games encourage player vs. player story lines or active conflict.
Although more common in earlier spy fiction than now, some spy stories play for higher stakes. The characters derive their actions from a higher purpose than mere survival or “get the job done” ethics: patriotism, the search for knowledge, protection of the innocent, or even justified revenge. This is the world of James Bond and Jack Ryan, or Tim Powers’ novel Declare, of films like Taken, of TV shows like Burn Notice.
In STAKES mode games, your agents have Drives that urge them forward; this rule is highly recommended in games in any mode. In BURN mode, Drives can force the characters to sacrifice themselves; in MIRROR mode, conflicting agendas can escalate the drama. Even DUST mode agents often aim higher than just getting out from under the looming threat.