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Night's Black Agents: Countdown (demo encounter)


Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
OOC: The sign-up thread is here; this is a finite, one-encounter game demo designed to show how GUMSHOE works. We're using the pre-gen PCs located here that I wrote and Hypersmurf gloriously formatted. I have info on playing GUMSHOE in post #28 of the sign-up thread, but we'll address any rules as they come up.

Players currently include Mudbunny (Oliver Quinn, Irish explosives expert who's weeks away from retirement), Committed Hero (Hung Ke Lee, American hacker and adreneline junky), Walking Dad (Dr. Felix DuBois, French assassin and almost certainly not a serial killer), Kaodi (Mace Hunter, American con-man who would really prefer to keep secret the fact that he probably is responsible for killing Quinn's family). Hypersmurf is playing Gabriella Castellanos, Colombian sneak thief obsessed with Hung-Ke, and 71gamer is playing Persephone Cardiff, ice-cold analyst and mastermind.

Night's Black Agents is a glorious RPG by Ken Hite about super-spies vs vampires, basically the Bourne Conspiracy if Treadstone was being run by the undead. We're playing it straight here; no vampires, just good old-fashioned Super-Spy action.

OPENING SHOT: The sky is a gorgeous shade of blue. We're miles high, and the camera's looking down on an idyllic landscape of puffy white clouds and far-away terrain. The sun shines high in the sky overhead, a 737 airliner flies away from the camera at the top of the frame, the music swells, and --

Suddenly, something shoots past the camera at high speed, falling towards earth.

Not something. Someone. Two someones. MACE HUNTER and DR. FELIX DuBOIS plummet towards the ground, hair whipped back by the high wind, DuBois looking imperturbable and Hunter looking devastatingly handsome. Clearly, this image is going to be on the movie poster. Neither of them have on parachutes.

OOC: [mention=59043]Walking Dad[/mention], [MENTION=1231]Kaodi[/MENTION], what do you do?

The camera pans down. Below them and off to the east, five other sky-divers are getting away. It's reasonable to assume that they have something that Hunter and DuBois particularly want.
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The camera cuts to a close up of the two men cutting through the air. Mace Hunter sets his jaw slightly to one side as he thinks on the plan of attack. Turning his head towards DuBois he calls out with a wry smile, "Good thing we didn't waste any time with the parachutes; they might have gotten away if we had." With that he tucks his arms in straightens out in a full headlong dive towards their targets. Momentarily he drifts out of the shot.
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Mace's Google Glass (as hacked by Hung-Ke) are tracking the five falling bodies, and we see it from the camera's view. The close-up indicate that there are four shorter, swarthy thugs -- Latin American, most likely. They are in free-fall formation around a woman with long black hair, amazing bone structure, tall and agile and beautiful enough to grace the cover of a magazine. She has a mobile telephone in her hands, a telephone that your team particularly needs. She is completely ignoring the on-rushing ground as she attaches some sort of device to the phone.

Suddenly the cross-hairs and data feed on the glasses shorts out, fuzzes, disappears. Irritating, and bad timing.

...and the scene shifts to suggest why.


Dull, gray, grimy, filled with outdated computers and buzzing fluorescent lights. HUNG-KE LEE sits in front of a bank of computers, with OLIVER QUINN and PERSEPHONE CARDIFF across the room. There are two Russian goons in the room with guns drawn, and a heavily tattooed seven foot tall bald gorilla of a man -- looking a little bit like the mechanic Indiana Jones fights outside of the flying wing in Raiders of the Lost Arc -- has just buried a fire axe in the monitor besides Hung-Ke's head. Sparks fly everywhere in a burst of actinic light. "You die now!" suggests the bald man in a bad Russian accent as he works the axe free.

Hung-Ke's phone gives an audio update. "45 seconds to missile launch."

Hung-Ke, if you don't get the launch codes off of the phone that sky-diving woman has -- and if you don't get them in the next 45 seconds -- the not-as-decommissioned-as-you'd-think missile is going to launch a nuclear payload into Israel. That'd be bad. People are trying to stop you, you don't have the phone yet, and time is ticking down.

What do you and Quinn do?
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
The camera cuts to a close up of the two men cutting through the air. Mace Hunter sets his jaw slightly to one side as he thinks on the plan of attack. Turning his head towards DuBois he calls out with a wry smile, "Good thing we didn't waste any time with the parachutes; they might have gotten away if we had." With that he tucks his arms in straightens out in a full headlong dive towards their targets. Momentarily he drifts out of the shot.
OOC: Kaodi, here's how general abilities work. Decide how many points you want to spend, roll a d6, add 'em, and try to reach a 4. That number may rise or lower if the task is particularly hard or easy. On 2 points spent you usually only fail on a 1, and a 3 spend is usually an automatic success. I'm fine with you deciding your spend, rolling a die on your own, and posting the results.

In this case, make an Athletics check to close the ground between you and the skydivers.

Also: this is perfect. Good post, there.


Community Supporter
The camera in the launch room zooms in on Oliver's right shoe as he slowly slips it off and slides it towards the two gun-wielding goons, aiming for a spot between the two of them. (Athletics; spend of 2; 1D6+2 = 4)

Oliver has a beatific smile on his face as he calls out to Hung "Hey...you know how I swore I would never make a shoe-bomb..."

The camera zooms in on the dark interior of the shoe, which is broken by a series of faint red flashes. (Explosives; spend of 3; 1d6+3=9)

OOC: The bomb in the shoe is designed to be a flash-bang type explosive, with the wavelength of the flash in a range which is filtered out by the glasses that Hung and Oliver are wearing. Do I have to spend a point of Chemistry for this, or can I use Network to make up a contact from his experience in the IRA who can make the proper type of glasses.
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
OOC: Bad guys are generally going to go at the bottom of the round.
Mudbunny, spending a point of Chemistry for that protection would be entirely appropriate (and really clever!) Go ahead and do that.
71gamer, Persephone is over by the thick glass doors leading into the launch room. So, speaking of which...

The air shakes with the force of Ashcan's flash-bang, and the glasses worn by your strike team darken instantly to block out the worst of the dazzle. Enough noise from the explosion comes through the encrypted earbuds to make Mace Hunter and Dr DuBois wince. Ashcan looks down at his stocking foot and the shredded remains of his favorite shoes, and it's hard not to have a few regrets. Ah, well. Only a few weeks 'til retirement and all this will be behind him.

It's worse for your foes in any case. The two Russian goons stagger backwards, swearing creatively and clutching at their eyes. They have guns out, but they're waving them around blindly (by definition). One shouts "Sergei! Where are you, so we don't shoot you?"

The bruiser growls "over here," and grins at Hung-Ke with what remains of his teeth. "You and me, little typing boy. We will dance." He hefts the axe.

Meanwhile, Persephone is covering the heavy glass doors leading into this room. An elevator at the end of the hall, visible through the glass wall, goes "BING." The doors slide open and three more thugs step out. One catches your eye. It's Viktor Eschenko, Russian arms dealer and the architect of this particular deal. You've crossed paths before. Persephone, he's going to be very displeased with you.

"Ah, Cardiff." His voice is flat and annoyed, his Russian accent clipped with barely controlled fury. "So like you British to show up where you are not wanted." He raises a heavy caliber pistol, fires, and the glass immediately in front of Persephone's head bursts into a crazy fractured starburst of impact. His aim was both casual and perfect. The glass may not be bulletproof, but it is bullet-resistant -- at least for the first shot. Persephone is spattered by glass fragments but remains uninjured.

What does Persephone do?




Mace Hunter and Dr DuBois boarded the airplane surreptitiously, hot on the trail of Gregori Vilnich. This information dealer set up the deal which sold the warhead and the launch codes to Eschenko, and his encrypted phone is where he stores every bit of information he gets. The plan was simple: steal the phone, transmit the launch Abort codes, load in a virus, and slip the phone back all without him noticing. Vilnich sat down next to an utterly gorgeous woman, however, and was quickly drawn into conversation. By the time the plane was in the air, Vilnich had slipped off into a nap and the woman had gotten up to use the bathroom. Perfect timing. Problem is, Vilnich wasn't sleeping, he was dead -- and that woman just blew open an emergency exit and, along with her four bodyguards and the phone in question, leapt through the exit into the swirling emptiness outside.

There was nothing to do but follow her.


Mace Hunter folds in his arms and dives towards his targets. The four bodyguards see him coming and fumble for firearms, although they're clearly not as experienced at sky-diving as Mace and the good Doctor are. Spinning in the air, they point their guns, but Mace and DuBois may be able to act first...

OOC: Mace, you can probably snap off a shot if you want to. It's a little harder than normal. Persephone, you have what we call a wealth of targets. What's your plan?

By the way, you guys have the skill Preparedness, and this lets you pull gear out of nowhere. Since Persephone has it with 8+ points, she can narrate a flashback to have some unexpected plan in place.

Eschenko, incidentally, only spent 1 point of shooting and rolled a 5. The glass absorbed this damage, though.
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Committed Hero

He can trash all the monitors he wants, thinks Hung-Ke to himself. I only need one - plus a CPU. But first....

The gravity knife - warm from being so close to his forearm - slips out of its harness, and the blade locks into place as it rests in his palm for as long as he needs to aim.

OOC: 3 Weapons points to throw the knife at the axe-wielder.
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"Simplemente un buen tiroteo en el Sky High Corral, eh, muchachos?" shouts Mace as he wraps his hand around his pistol and flips open the snap with his thumb. "Draw steady, arm straight, and pop!" he says to himself as he draws and fires at the nearest thug.

OOC: Google Translate is a little clumsy but using it can add a little extra flavour, I think. Spending 4 Shooting points: 1d6+4=5 . Looks like I needed 'em. Also, how much detail is expected in order to make use of something like Technothriller Monologue?.
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
One of the four bodyguards takes Mace's slug in the throat. The impact knocks him into a backwards somersault, corkscrewing a spiral of blood as he stops free-falling and starts plummeting uncontrollably. The other three exchange a look, and one says, "¿En serio? El hecho de que nosotros somos él cosas de América del Sur somos los vaqueros mexicanos."

Subtitles appear: "Seriously? The guy thinks everyone from South American is a Mexican cowboy."

Then they start firing towards the spy. Two of their shots go wild, but the third puts a bullet neatly into Mace's left thigh. Pain arcs through Mace's body as he falls closer.

He can now see that the woman has a device clipped to the bottom of the phone. She's cloning it, de-encrypting it, or both. Her eyes lock with Mace's and a brief, radiant smile flashes across her face. Deep brown eyes, high cheekbones, maybe a little too skinny. She moves like a model, and she also moves like someone who's had espionage training. Judging from your tradecraft, from France, you suspect.


The knife buries itself in Sergei's shoulder. He grunts, scowls, and doesn't even take the time to remove it. Instead he slugs Hung-Ke in the stomach with the haft of the axe, grabs him by the throat, and lifts him up out of the chair so that he's on tip-toes.

"You win prize," he grates into Hung-Ke's face. "Before I was to kill you. Now I will chop off hands, make you watch, and THEN kill you." He slams Hung-Ke against the wall hard enough to shake down plaster, although the knife still in him makes him wince. He wheels around and brings Hung-Ke with him, still holding him by the throat. With his good hand he flips the fire axe in a full 360 before catching it. "How you say in America? 'Batter up.'"

Across the room, shots ring out as both blinded thugs shoot wildly at Quinn and Persephone. Both miss. Bullets bury themselves with metallic thuds in delicate electronics.

Hung-Ke's phone chirps, the voice that of a well-known feature actress Hung-Ke dated last year. "40 seconds," it says sweetly.

OOC: Still to go this round: Dr. DuBois and Persephone.

Rules trivia: guns do 1d6+1 dmg (more at point blank range), weapons do d6, hand-to-hand does d6-1. Go ahead and roll your damage yourself if you hit someone. You can do a few more points with called shots, which also raises the number you need to roll to hit; announce (or at least decide on) called shots before you roll your die.

Another bit of rules trivia. See the top of your sheet where it says Trust? As long as you're in communication with one of those agents, you can give them a point of trust. It gives them +1 on the roll they're about to make. Due to the nature of PbP, I'll let you do that retroactively after someone has missed by 1, if you need to.

Back to the game: Mace takes a measly 3 points of damage to his Health. H-K hit Sergei for 5 points, enough to get his attention. Sergei spent 2 points of Weapons and rolled a 4, easily hitting H-K for 4 points of damage. He's currently using H-K as a mook shield, however, which makes Sergei harder for anyone but H-K to hit.
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
OOC: Last post edited to include Mace's actions.

Also, how much detail is expected in order to make use of something like Technothriller Monologue?.

Enough to be awesome. It doesn't have to be actual gun jargon -- a good gun-related catch line or one-liner will be a fine substitute, as will a cool explanation of what you're doing with your firearms. If you write something, look at it askance and think "that's lame," then it probably isn't good enough.
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
OOC: I'm a mook?!

Hell no. You're one of the marquee stars! Sergei doesn't know that, though. Poor bastard. In rules terms, normally the target of Mook Shield can't do anything except get shot painfully by his own allies. You can, though. So can Persephone if she's accurate enough. Sergei's going to be really surprised.


First Post
Persephone shakes the glass out of her hair and draws two pistols, "hands off, Ivan" and fires two shots at Sergei, hopefully missing Hung.

OOC: Need to look up rolls, he's the threat in the room so I'm going big, 1d6+1+3=__ and 1d6+1+3=__, that's two shots with 3 point spend each and a +1 from trust (hopefully he trusts me as I am shooting past him as mook shield)...

1d6+4=5, 1d6+4=10

that's 3x3 gun spend, leaving me with 1 pt.

persephone then sprints, closing the gap between her and Sergei, hoping she can figure out something, anything to do to hurt this guy so Hung can get back to work.
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Then they start firing towards the spy. Two of their shots go wild, but the third puts a bullet neatly into Mace's left thigh. Pain arcs through Mace's body as he falls closer.

The accurate thug smirks... then his eyes go wide behind his goggles as the camera pans to reveal the hitherto-unnoticed Gabriella Castellanos knifing in from an oblique angle to collide with him in midair.

She shows brilliant white teeth while wrapping an arm around him, and leans close to shout in his ear.

"I APPROVE ON GENERAL PRINCIPLE..." she says, nodding upwards at Mace, "... BUT I'M AFRAID I NEED HIM ALIVE RIGHT NOW!"

And snakes her free hand down to yank the man's ripcord, pushing herself clear...

OOC: Filch check? 3 point spend gives... ooh! A 9!

(Do you want some Athletics or Infiltration to show up from off-camera?)

Also, would Data Recovery be an appropriate Investigative Spend for more clarity on what Mme l'Espionne's current activities portend?
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
If Persephone has a reputation for being ice cold and pragmatic, she just proved it. Twin shots ring out in the closed space. Her first bullet is fired through Hung-Ke, blood blossoming out of his side as the bullet pierces him before tumbling and ripping through Sergei's midsection. The huge man stumbles backwards in surprise and drops the hacker to the filthy tile floor. That turns out to be a big mistake. Persephone's second bullet takes Sergei center mass. The Russian wobbles back and forth on legs like tree trunks, eyes glazing, blood dribbling out of his nose and the corner of his mouth. He drops the axe and one hand scrabbles for the knife in his shoulder, trying to get it out before Persephone closes the distance between them..

"35 seconds," chirps the phone.

Meanwhile, in free fall, the accurate thug's parachute deploys with a WHOOMP! Uninjured, the small man shoots upwards and out of the fight. Faint gunfire directed towards Gabriela can barely be heard over the roaring wind, and if a bullet even comes close she never notices it. Gabriella glances over at the woman. Definitely too skinny, she realizes, in a way that's artfully hidden by good make-up and superb tailoring. You could cut yourself on those cheekbones. A small green LED blinks on the bottom of the device she has attached to the phone. The design is unfamiliar but it's almost certainly decrypting the phone, slurping the data, and re-encrypting it on the mirrored data drive in the process. Any second now she'll have a secure copy of the data for herself, and a phone that's been de-encrypted. No telling what she'd do then, but if Gabriella was in her shoes, the answer would either be "toss the phone one way and dive the other," assuming you'd go after the more vulnerable target, or "pull her rip cord and wave bye-bye."

It suddenly occurs to Mace that the quantity of available parachutes in play has dropped from five to four. It also occurs to him that Gabriella is probably aware of this fact and doesn't give a damn. Based on her irrational and betrayed annoyance after their brief, torrid affair, Mace honestly wouldn't be surprised if Gabriella was cutting down the number of available parachutes on purpose.

The two remaining thugs turn their gazes towards Dr. DuBois...

OOC: 71gamer, the +1 trust only applies to the first shot, but that's no problem. Hung-Ke takes four points of health damage from the mook shield. It's still probably worth it. H-K now has 2 points of health. You'll probably want to keep him above 0, but Persephone has a few points of Medic, enough to keep him on his feet if worst comes to worst.

H-K, however, may be the teensiest bit irked.

Hypersmurf, I'd normally have you make an infiltration roll to close in like that, but you did the graphic design on the character sheets; you get a pass! One thug and one parachute, removed from action. In a game, this is a point where a player might spend an interpersonal point from an ability; if that thug showed up later in the adventure (and let's face it, he'd have to), there'd be some sort of professional bond between Gabriella and the thug that could always come in handy.

Hyp, spend that Data Recovery point. Normally you wouldn't need to to just understand what she's doing, but the spend gave you options and tactical information beyond the normal.

Walking Dad, what does DuBois do?
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Walking Dad

First Post
Close up on Du Bois' face, showing cold eyes and a smirk that doesn't reach the eyes. The camera follows his slender hands to his hidden back holsters, showing him drawing his twin silenced pistols. The silencers made no real sense in this situation, but he didn't planned for using him in free fall as he prepared for the day.

He points them at the last two thugs, judging the trajectory, the distance and the terminal velocity speed as he fires both of them at once.

The camera shows the interior on one of the guns. The ignition explodes the bullet forward as it spins through the barrel, leaving the silencer slightly rotating with only a hint of a flash, cutting through the air and toward the heart of one on the thugs. The other thug is show with a spray of blood exploding from his throat, one hand clutching his neck. Back cut on the French assassin, still falling and his twin pistols leaving a trail of smoke in the air.

OOC: spending 3 shooting and two athletics on Twin pistols. Using the remaining shoot points, 2 on the easier target, 3 on the second, harder one.
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
OOC: I know who's seen Wanted! Walking Dad, normally when you attack go ahead and roll your attacks. I rolled for you in this case, and using both pistols paid off (as it did for Persephone a minute ago.)

The two remaining bodyguards turn their gazes towards Dr. DuBois -- they're both Peruvian of native Indio extraction, Dr. DuBois would guess, based on their stature and distinctive cranial shape -- and for at least one of them Dr. DuBois is the last thing he sees. The dull thump of bullets hitting flesh carries over the screaming wind. One immediately clutches his throat as crimson sprays outward, and his previously controlled free-fall becomes awkward and wild. His pistol slides from his hand and falls into the air. Droplets of blood spatter against Gabriella. The other thug has a chest wound but is somehow still alive, face grimacing with pain. He spins in the air, panic rising, glancing at the woman he guards...

...and despite his wound, placid competence returns to his face. Hmm, notes Dr. DuBois. That's odd.

*BING!* beeps the device on the phone that the woman holds. She pulls it off the bottom of Vilnich's stolen cell and tucks the device into her jacket. "I would love to stay and chat," she shouts over the wind, and to Mace her voice is like warm honey. "But I have places to be. I don't think we'll meet again. This has been a... how do you say it? A blast." She smiles and her hands move incredibly quickly. She throws Vilnich's de-encrypted cell phone off to the right side of the frame -- the camera lingers on it for a second as it tumbles away through space, only visible as it's tracked through the teams' glasses -- and pulls something from her jacket. "Literally." She flattens her arms to her side and dives off at an angle to the left, out of frame, in the opposite direction from the discarded cell phone. You have a choice. Go after the cell phone, go after her, or stay here and grab one of the three available parachutes?

Oh, that thing she pulled out of her jacket and left behind? A live grenade, hanging in mid-air, about to go off next to Gabriella and Mace. If it does, the undamaged parachutes aren't the only thing you can kiss goodbye.

What do you do?

OOC: Back at the launch facility, Quinn, Persephone and H-K can go as well. Sergei is moving a little slowly at the minute, two unnamed thugs are still flash-blinded, and Eschenko and his men need to get into the room where you are. Your actions will come first.

Rules note: In GUMSHOE, just having an investigative ability gets you clues. Sometimes you have to tell the GM you're using that ability ("I have evidence collection, so I'm going to check the scene for fingerprints and DNA evidence"). Sometimes the GM tells you. In this case, DuBois's medical knowledge pinpoints those bodyguards as Peruvian. Mace's tradecraft indicated that the woman was probably trained by French intelligence, although she doesn't particularly look French. In the course of the longer adventure, those things would likely become relevant.

I think the smoothest game play happens when the GM remembers that the PCs are utterly competent super-spies and stops stressing about keeping that kind of information secret. Hands down, that was the biggest leap I had to take when first running GUMSHOE.
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