Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Horror, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

2024 Character Creation Challenge Day 21: Night’s Black Agents

Welcome to Day 21 of the 2024 #CharacterCreationChallenge and today we will be using a Horror/Espionage based roleplaying game called Night’s Black Agents. I had picked this up in the same DriveThruRPG sale that had Boot Hill and several other games that I had been wanting to get my hands on. I had also seen this game mentioned on some of the gaming blogs that I read so I thought I’d check it out at the discounted price that was offered. Yes I do buy a lot of games when they are on sale since I am a bargain hunter.

This game is using something called the Gumshoe system, that I’ve never used. I hope that the book explains the system enough for me to create a character. In the universe of this game, your character is a secret agent (or ex-secret agent) that discovers that vampires are real and are attempting to rule the world. Sounds interesting. The PDF is 236 pages long. The character creation steps start on page 9. The character sheet is only one page in length.

The rules state that the character creation process is broken down into four broad steps. Choose one or more backgrounds, choose your investigative abilities, choose general abilities and building your personality and dossier. A player has build points for the different sections.

After looking over the different backgrounds for the first step, I selected Bagman. This is basically a courier what handles the money and gets it from point A to point B. This guy was an American OTIF agent monitoring SWIFT transactions in Switzerland. I wrote down the Investigative Abilities and General Abilities that slated for the background.

Selecting the investigative abilities is the next step. These are abilities that do not fail. The amount of build points is determined by the number of players in the game. (Boy, they must believe that our gaming schedules can all coordinate) For the purpose of this build I’m going to pretend that we have four players involved for a total of 22 investigative build points. Oh, I’m already down 6 points to pay for my background package. I like that the rules explain that if you don’t use all of the build points now, you can use them in-game to add a skill that your character always had, but hadn’t been seen until now. The RAW advises that having a variety of 1-point skills are better than having a few specialties. I looked over the descriptions and wrote some down spending my remaining 16 points.

Third step is to select the general abilities. I have 70 points to spend on these (with some already coming from the background at a cost of 18 points, so 52 is the actual starting point). The general abilities do have a possibility of failure unlike the investigative abilities. The rules advise me to put many points into a few different abilities because you spend these points during the game. I also followed some of the other advice the book gave on these including a good athletics (to make the character harder to hit).

OK, last step. Building a personality and dossier. This is broken down into three smaller parts. Picking a sources of stability, the character’s drive and the character’s trust. This is also where we pick the name for the character (pulling up the random name generator and it gives us… Kendall Barker). Ken’s sources of stability are what keep him sane when the life of an espionage agent hunting vampires gets too stressful. If these sources get threatened or taken away, the character can’t refresh his stability. I can see this being part of the horror aspect of RPGs that I hardly get. These sources of stability should connect with the character’s drive or motivation for doing what they do. Since this isn’t a mechanical part of the game, sometimes I trip over this, especially when I’m under a time-limit like I am right now. Screw it, Ken’s partner was killed by vampires (which is how he found out about them) and he’s trying to find the particular vampire that caused the death. The symbol is his partner’s badge, the solace is the partner’s widowed wife and the solace is the motorboat that his partner once owned. OK, onto something called trust. You get something called trust points (5 of them) and you assign 3 points to an other agent (is this supposed to be another member of the party? Yea, I think it is). Another agent gets 0 points (i.e. you don’t trust them) and then the remaining get 1 point each. I can tell the other players who I chose or I can keep it a secret. I’m still not understanding this gaming currency. I think it adds to a dice pool, maybe? I’m really confused by the wording. I guess I’d have to see it in play to see if I really understand this. Since I really don’t have a group of friends around a table to experiment this with, I guess we’ll skip this part. And I think this is the end of the process. Write up a background on how Ken got into the espionage business. We know he got out when his partner was killed. So I’m done? I still don’t know the health score or some other items. I’m confused, but here is the character sheet.


I had to laugh that one of the abilities was “Bullshit Detector”. I know that I get a lot of use out of that in real life.

The investigative steps seemed a little straightforward, but I’d still have to see it in play before I really decided if I understood this gumshoe system. I wonder if this is just a settings book and not the actual core rules? I can’t find a gumshoe core rules on DriveThruRPG. I guess the original game was a crime drama if I’m understanding correctly. There is a ‘discovering of information’ portion of the game and then a ‘confronting/escaping the opposition’ portion. Is this a game that acts like an episode of CSI? I really wish there had been a “core mechanic is…” page where I could get a good idea. Until I understand more, I can’t say if I’d play or do more with this game.

Additional Notes:

I had a couple of readers reach out to me on Mastodon regarding my attempt to make a Fantasy Hero character. The phrase used was “Congratulations, you have now been exposed to the wonder that is Champions/Hero, or as I like to put it ‘the greatest programming language in all of RPGs.'” In the USENET days there were competitions to see who could design a single power to destroy the planet with the least number of points. Others would use the system to describe a toaster using only game power descriptors. They would do everything but play the game as an RPG. There were a lot of comparisons to GURPS (just as I had come to the same conclusion) and there were a lot of “You couldn’t pay me to play the Heroes system again” comments. I’m glad to know that I wasn’t the only one who had his eyes bleeding from the game.

Coming Up Next:

Barbarians of Lemuria

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