Every three months or so there is a gathering or roleplayers who come together at a hobby store and hold a mini-convention. This is Go Play.
Go Play is free and freely encouraged. The gaming area is free, the GMs are volunteers, the organizers donate nothing outside of time and enthusiasm. It’s a great day out for players and it’s a great opportunity for people to get to know others outside of their gaming groups. I love to play and, if required, run a game.
Running a game at Go Play means you’ll get at least one or more new players to work with. Meeting new people and working with them to create a story keeps me fresh. It forces new pathways for collaborative storytelling and it gives me an excuse to try out something different. something that wouldn’t fly with my regular groups or something we just don’t have time to try. For this event, I’m running something I’ve wanted to try but haven’t yet…
In case you aren’t aware, Night’s Black Agents is a setting where the players are super-spies of the James Bond, Jason Bourne, Michael Weston variety who, for one reason or another, have uncovered a conspiracy orchestrated by vampires. How deep the conspiracy runs and what you do about it is the game writ large and, simplicity of the premise is tantalising in potential as well as foreboding in execution. After all , vampires are popular in various ways and also done to death.
In an attempt to live up to the potential and avoid the stereotype I’ve decided to rely upon a series that has already accomplished it and largely borrow/crib/cheat/fan-fiction that which worked. My favourite series* involving vampires: Ultraviolet.
…not the movie with Mila Jovovich.
The British TV series that ran for an incredible, and entirely too short, six episodes before disappearing under wailing/gnashing of fans around the world.
Ultraviolet has vampires engaged in conspiracy, the protagonists work for a secret agency and the story is open-ended. So, that’s what I’ll run: Season Two Episode One of Ultraviolet. However…
I’ve yet to run a game of Night’s Black Agents or any of the other games that uses the GUMSHOE system. I like the plausible premise of games; investigation and deduction. But what is daunting to me is the sheer amount of knowledge and research required to deliver a game like this.
The GUMSHOE system is this:
- Characters have general skills that are used for dice-based tests like shooting and driving where the possibility of failure is real and interesting to play out.
- Characters also have a suite of investigative skills that operate with no dice at all.
- Instead, if you have just one point in an investigative skill and you enter a scene where a clue could be found using that skill, you are good enough just to do that.
- The most you’ll have to do is spend a point from the investigative skill and then you’ve got the clue.
For a player, that’s simple. Turn up, spend a point (if necessary) get clue and then make a deduction based off the clues collected throughout the game. For a GM it’s pretty good too in that your players won’t miss the critical clue that launches them into the next scene, keeping the game in motion.
But for me, I need to first write a mystery and then create clues that:
1: Won’t give the whole thing away after the first 20 minutes
2: Not make it so vague that nobody gets the point within 3.5 hours (the length of a Go Play game)
3: Make the clues accurate/realistic for verisimilitude while…
4: Not having a degree in Forensics, Accounting, Computer Science or other skill sets that demands a bit more than watching the odd episode of CSI.
And that’s just a GUMSHOE game! Night’s Black Agents can do “Mystery of the Week” but in service to a larger conspiracy throughout many games. I would have a vague idea adapted during the game to meet player expectations, but this is dependent on the clues making sense from the get-go!
Fortunately there are some tools for Night’s Black Agents that are designed not to make the chore daunting. And I’m sure there will be moments which need improvisation. It wouldn’t be roleplay otherwise. Finally, Night’s Black Agents writer, Kenneth Hite, says that you don’t need a breadcrumb trail of detailed clues to deliver a thriller mystery.
So let’s find out if I’m up for that task.
I’m going to try to document the process in the hopes that I’ll be successful and make the process of running the game more accessible to those as daunted as I.
*In TV/Movies. Books is a tougher category.