My group speaks a bunch of different languages. English, Malay and Chinese are all common languages in Malaysia, which is a pretty multi-ethnic country.

Now, all the RPGs that are brought in to Malaysia are English-language, so most gaming here tends to be in English anyway, although some GOKL gaming groups mix it up a bit (I recently sat in on an Ironclaw game where the GM and one of the players played out a conversation in Chinese to simulate two characters conversing in the Jadeclaw language, which was pretty cool). I like to think that our group’s multi-lingual nature gives us a broader appreciation of how different languages affect the way you look at the world and how they create bridges and barriers between people.

Which brings me to how languages are treated in Night’s Black Agents. This is a game about pursuing international vampire conspiracies, focused mainly on Europe. If you want a true James Bond experience, you need to visit exotic cities, mingle with beautiful people of various races and nationalities, and order vodka martinis in several different languages.

In other games, there are different ways of handling this. In D&D 3rd edition, you need a high Intelligence. In D&D 4th edition, you need to spend valuable feat slots. Of course, in both games, a little bit of magic solves the language problem. In Robin D. Laws’ classic Feng Shui, which emulates Hong Kong action movies, everyone speaks Cantonese*, no matter which country or time juncture they come from. In many other games, you need to spend valuable skill points. In Trail of Cthulhu, another GUMSHOE game, you gain one language for every point you put into the Languages ability.

In Night’s Black Agents, the author wants all your spies to be absolutely brilliant with languages. Everyone gets to be a hyper-linguist: you get two languages for free (English and one other). For the first point you put into the Languages ability, you get two more languages. After that, the game follows a law of growing returns. For the second point you put in, you get three more languages. Every point above that is worth four languages.

I think that this is terrific. It encourages our agents to run around Europe haggling with smugglers, seducing diplomats and cussing at vampires in all kinds of languages. Our current cast of Agents speaks English, Finnish, Swedish, Russian, Japanese, Romanian, Dutch, German, Serbo-Croat and Bosnian. They’ve bounced from England to Denmark to Sweden to Denmark to Sweden to Denmark to Sweden to Denmark again in the course of just the last three sessions, with a couple of team members making a little detour through France and Germany. And because of the game’s extremely liberal language allowance, most of the players probably have one or two unassigned languages to help the team handle the next country their conspiracy hunt will take them to.

This might not be such a big deal for some gamers. For others, it just means that your players will start posting random Google Translate queries for the location of the restroom on your Facebook page (I’m still not sure what all that Finnish and Swedish word salad is supposed to mean, guys). But I for one appreciate that this little piece of design makes our player characters that much more competent. It ties into the theme of GUMSHOE RPGs being about smart, capable and intelligent investigators who always have at least some useful skills, no matter what the situation. Even the toughest bruiser has as many Investigative Ability points as someone who’s meant to be an academic sort.

And it’s always fun to play an agent who can be suave in English, French, Russian and Arabic, all in one session.

- the Director

* with English subtitles.

Khairul Hisham, my good friend and player of Zlatan Kljujic, has published a write-up of his character's very personal journey through the Eurovision segment of our campaign. You can check it out on the Hishgraphics blog.

Having a player engage with the game so intensely is always a joy. Zlatan went wonderfully wild when faced with a vampire captive, and Hisham did a great job of portraying our revenge-driven Bosnian merc in the last three sessions.

Oh boy, now I've got quite a bar to reach for when I get around to my own write-up of the Eurovision Song Contest Job...

- the Director

Remember how I said that my group loved Delta Green? Delta Green rocks. Published in 1997, Delta Green is a Call of Cthulhu campaign fueled by technothriller intrigue and action against millennial cults, immortal Nazis, shadowy government conspiracies and indescribable alien horrors, with a creamy Lovecraftian centre. Given its interest in American UFO conspiracies, it was, of course, focused on American agents battling the darkness, and the comprehensive career list in the back of the book only covered the admittedly many “alphabet soup” agencies of the US Federal Government.

What made the setting so relatable? Delta Green was set in the contemporary world, but with a layer of paranormal weirdness. Take any city, any country as a campaign setting, then sprinkle with UFO sightings, conspiracy theories and urban legends. It’s the richest campaign world of all.

Then, in 1999, Delta Green: Countdown came out and exploded the borders of the game. The Countdown sourcebook added many new horrors to the campaign world, but more importantly, it added new conspiracies and monstrosities in the UK and Russia, and expanded the character generation options allowing for player characters from across the world, from the Argentine Federal Police to VEVAK in Iran (sadly, no Malaysian agencies were included).

Today, Night’s Black Agents is the worthy successor to the Delta Green campaign.

Ken Hite has created a role-playing game that assumes by default that our heroes are going to speak multiple languages, cross seven borders in the course of six sessions, and hunt supernatural masterminds all the way from Saint Petersburg to Tunis.

We’re not just talking about standalone adventures in different locations, we’re talking about an interconnected international conspiracy that the Director gets to create, adding nodes and sub-nodes that can cover half a dozen countries, easily. Black helicopters in NATO bases. Shadowy masters who manipulate the European Commission into banning chemicals deadly to vampires. Russian Mafiya gangs that control huge swaths of Eastern Europe.

The rulebook provides flexible rules that help the Director to quickly and easily construct the Conspyramid, a structure that serves as a campaign map of wealth, blood and violence. And it’s easily expandable. On a whim, I decided that our campaign should take a detour to Eurovision 2013. And just like that, I linked the existing conspiracy nodes on my campaign map to Copenhagen, Malmö and Stockholm.

The game encourages you to make it big and international, but it also encourages you to zoom in and do loving, breath-taking research about cities, civil societies and criminal groups in foreign lands. It’s a game that wants you to add a Living Planet Guide to your gaming collection as a sourcebook (Kenneth Hite used the Western Europe and Eastern Europe guides, I use the Scandinavia guide). It makes me want to travel, I tell you.

And this vital, exciting campaign world appeals to my players. We are Gamers of KL, a multi-ethnic and multi-national bunch. One of my players is Canadian. Many of our group have been to Europe, the USA, and various Asian countries. We welcome the chance to broaden our minds about the world, and to dream big action-packed dreams about it.

And I think you will, too.

- the Director
Sessions: 6
Countries visited: 7
Covers blown: 7
Heat: 2
Highest Heat level: 4
Infiltrations: 6
Foot chases: 3
Car chases: 0
Fights: 4
Shots fired: 8
Vampires destroyed: 1
Conspyramid Nodes discovered: 4
Conspyramid Nodes destroyed: 0
XP awarded: 12

- the Director
Something I wanted to point out to my players, based on a discussion with Ivan:

Don't feel obligated to spend all your Cover and Network points right away on covers and contacts that you think up for your character. Not yet.

You can assume you have lots of irrelevant covers too, just for flavour. You only need to spend points on the ones that have to pass a security screening, during the actual session.

Same goes for Network contacts. You might have lots of irrelevant idiots you know all over the place. Just spend points on the ones who will actually end up being useful for operations.

If you've created cover identities and network contacts already, you can take back the points from them first. They only come into play once you actually draw upon them to use against the enemy. That's when the number of points on them becomes an issue. Don't worry, I'm flexible when it comes to this kind of thing.

- the Director
Sessions: 5
Countries visited: 6
Covers blown: 5
Heat: 3
Highest Heat level: 4
Infiltrations: 6
Foot chases: 3
Car chases: 0
Fights: 3
Shots fired: 0
Vampires destroyed: 0
Conspyramid Nodes discovered: 4
Conspyramid Nodes destroyed: 0

- the Director
Today I learned to edit vector silhouettes. Whee! I like these temporary portraits so much that I may keep them in place even after I source some proper portraits for our Agents and other Persons of Interest.

A couple of session reports, and we'll be ready for launch. I feel excited.

- the Director
Welcome to our game! Enter freely and of your own will, and leave some of the happiness you bring.

This site will feature updates on both the in-game action and the behind-the-scenes work that creates our Night's Black Agents campaign.

- the Director