Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Guns for Hire: Night's Black Agents

The Guardian recently published an article about academic investigations into the murky world of hitmen, which I highly recommend. Though it naturally has a British focus, it's not unreasonable to extrapolate a similar situation across Europe. In brief, the study divides hitmen into four distinct groups:

  • The Dilettante. This killer is a complete novice, who until this point never had any criminal record. Circumstances - usually financial pressure - have forced this person to kill for cash. Like any novice, the dilettante is prone to mistakes, and may lose the will to carry through with the deed. Paul Cyrne, holder of the Guinness World Record for longest 24 hour underwater swimming, is one such. Penury persuaded him to fall in with Graham Birchwood's scheme to murder Birchwood's wife Sharon and collect the insurance payout. 
  • The Novice. This killer knows about as much as the dilettante when it comes to murder, but does have a criminal record. The novice has almost certainly participated in some kind of violent crime before taking up killing, but has never killed for cash before. The novice is very likely to leave some evidence behind at the scene of the crime.
  • The Journeyman. This is an experienced assassin with several kills to his credit. The journeyman knows enough to clean up after himself, but may make mistakes. When gangster David King aka Rolex Dave was gunned down outside a gym in 2003, his killers were of the journeymen type. Though the operation was meticulously planned and executed, the killers were traced because one of them left a plastic glove behind in the getaway vehicle. The palm print inside the glove led the police to one of the shooters, and after that tracing their movements before and after the attack was straightforward.
  • The Master. This is an experienced killer with an unknown number of kills to his credit. The master is identified as such because of the care taken in carrying out the attack, and the lack of evidence left behind. Glagow gang boss Frank McPhee's killer is identified as a master. McPhee was sniped at a distance by someone using a .22 rifle, and his killer has never been identified. 
It's remarkable how little cash is involved. A novice can be had for just £200, while a more experienced hand might cost as much as £15,000. As a point of comparison, you can buy a decent used car for something like £5,000, more or less.  

What does this say about the world of Night's Black Agents?

Well, for one thing, if gunmen can be had so easily, it's probably fair to say that assets of any sort can be classified in a similar system, and at a comparable price tag.  The dilettante/novice/journeyman/master model could as easily apply to hackers, for example, as to killers. Or thieves, or spies, or any other variation on the human asset theme.

That includes the kind of occult assets a conspyramid might do business with, as well as the sort the protagonists are going to be hiring. For there will be times when the players say 'this job doesn't need our direct involvement; we can contract it out. But to who, and how much?'

The conspyramid will be interested in disposable assets for all sorts of reasons, both organized and disorganized. By that I mean that there are times when the conspiracy deliberately sets out to hire outside help for a definite purpose - organized - and there are also times when elements inside the conspiracy hires outsiders for reasons of its own. This is most likely when, as per Double Tap, the conspiracy is breaking down and it's everyone for themselves. At that point a node under threat may well pay off a few contract killers to take out its immediate rivals. It's reasonable to assume that an organized effort is disinterested in anything less that Journeyman class, while a disorganized effort takes what it can get.

With all that in mind, consider the same classification, applied to occult assets:

  • Dilettante. This asset has no real knowledge of the nature of the conspiracy or horror in general, except for what it has seen in the movies. From a stats perspective, it's comparable with the Civilian in the main book, with Hand to Hand 4, Shooting 2 and slightly higher Health, also 4. This kind of asset it most often used by level 1 or 2 Nodes, and then only as fire-and-forget drones. However the advantage of the dilettante is twofold: first, it is usually desperate and thus willing to do anything. Second, it can turn up anywhere. The police and military stand out, but a civilian doesn't; often, a civilian with the right connections, or just the right key card, can get into any building, bypassing security. Can usually be bought for peanuts.
  • Novice. This asset has very limited knowledge of the conspiracy. It may or may not appreciate the true horror behind the mask; perhaps it accepts the conspiracy at face value, as a drug smuggling organization or whatever the conspiracy's selling itself as today. This asset has carried out operations in the past, and is eager to qualify for the inner circle. From a stats perspective it is comparable to Militia, though often with a specialty - like Driving - at 6. Unlike dilettante, the novice usually stands out, and lacks the dilettante's go-anywhere-do-anything quality. The novice makes up for this with slightly better skills. It can be bought cheaply, perhaps for a few thousand.
  • Journeyman. At this point and up, the asset is less and less likely to be human. The asset is aware of the conspiracy, and its true nature. It may be a feral, ghoul or Renfield that works outside of the conspiracy, either for cash or other rewards. It is careful not to get too close to the conspiracy, for fear of losing its independence, but at the same time it needs whatever the conspiracy is offering. This level of asset may, or may not, have had special training, perhaps as a government operative. It can be bought at a fairly high price.
  • Master. These independent operatives are almost certainly vampires, or possess equivalent power. They are aware of the nature of the conspiracy, and don't much care. Their primary concern is prolonging their own existence at a comfort level that they find soothing. The value of these assets is their experience and power, but the risk to the conspiracy is that, if the asset is not loyal, it might betray the conspiracy. This is especially likely if the asset's safety is in any way threatened, and at that point it might decide to forward that dossier of special information it's been gathering to whoever might be interested. For that reason the conspiracy prefers to keep Masters at arm's length, or further. The characters might not be so picky, but Masters have no loyalty to anyone, and can prove fickle allies. Masters can be hired at an exceptionally high price. 

1 comment:

  1. You should add likely Interpersonal abilities for dealing with each level. Certainly dilettantes could be persuaded with Negotiation or Reassurance, while a Novice might respond to Intimidation or Flattery.