Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Lure of Travel (Night's Black Agents)

Let's say you're plotting out a scene in Night's Black Agents, or another Gumshoe setting, and you're looking for ideas. Inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest of places, and in this case it comes to you courtesy of the Guardian's Food section, and its Top Ten list of train station restaurants.

Right away there are intriguing possibilities. At least four of the choices have been around since the early 1900s, which means from a Gumshoe point of view that they're just as suitable for Bookhounds of London, Dreamhounds of Paris, or Trail of Cthulhu in the default 1930s setting, as well as anything current, for example Mutant City Blues. But these are train station scenes, and that means they have Spy Thriller written all over them right from the get-go, probably using a special pen supplied by Q. Let's hope it doesn't explode.

Any of them could make for an interesting scene, but I decided to go with the To Treno Sto Rouf, in Athens.

Rouf is a little to the west of the center of Athens. Rouf Station isn't the main station in Athens; that honor goes to Larissa. Rouf is a suburban substation, through which you may have to pass to get to Larissa. The Piraeus-Athens line, for example, passes through Rouf.

Rouf was built in order to ease congestion at the main terminal, but it has a secondary function: urban regeneration. The hope was that a new station would encourage investment in the down-at-heel suburb. It's built on an artificial hill, with excellent views of the Acropolis.

Tro Treno Sto Rouf is, by all accounts, a brilliant innovation. Five carriages, plus an open air bar, make up the restaurant proper. One carriage is dedicated to theatrical performances, another to music, the so-called new wagon holds art fairs, and the rest is the main bar/restaurant area. The wagons are train carriages re purposed. One comes from the Simplon Orient Express, the other is a World War Two troop carriage, and so on.

Already you can get a sense for the kind of scenes you could put here. It's a mix of ancient and modern, set in a location that's rough around the edges but not drowning in crime, with a bird's eye view of the most majestic and classic landmark in Athens, the Acropolis. With the regular music and art shows, there's a sense that the crowd is probably young, bohemian, with enough money to have a good time. But with all those carriages, there's probably also plenty of quiet corners, places where someone could hold a quick meeting without being disturbed, or dose someone with sedatives prior to a swift abduction. Plus, it's a train station, so if need be the characters can relocate somewhere else relatively easily.

In the strictly metaphorical sense, train stations are symbolic of lover's meetings, or lovers parted; the start of a great journey, or a great tragedy. But you can also have wild gunfights, if you want. It might be a beginning, an ending, or possibly a way station, probably in a long chase scene of some kind. Rarely is it an objective in and of itself; it's something you end up in, not something you strive to get to.

With all that in mind, let's brainstorm a possible series of scenes to be set at To Treno.

The scenes will assume that the protagonists are in Athens for some reason of their own, and some of the details will be deliberately obscure. If this were part of a larger project, a campaign say, then there would be more detail. However since the intention here is to create something you can use in your own game, which presumably has its own plot and important characters that you can slot into this scene, I'm not going to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel; not when you have perfectly good wheels of your own to use.

The cast includes: Important NPC (Neutral), or INN. This character has vital skills, or vital information. The INN may be someone in the characters' Network, who has already been established. Otherwise the INN is a technical support type, possibly a hacker or someone who might get illicit access to classified information. Neutral in this instance means the INN isn't affiliated with the Conspiracy. The INN knows who the characters are.

Mafia Bruiser, in this case a small-time Godfather of the Night, Nikitas, whose crew specializes in kidnapping for ransom. He's been hired by a Conspiracy asset to kidnap the INN. The reasons for this are going to vary depending on the nature of your game, but the short version is that the INN has data which the Conspiracy wants for itself. Nikitas has a ten-strong team, including two attractive people who act as bait for the trap (good at Infiltration, Filch, would have pools in Flirting and Flattery if had access to Investigative abilities), a medic/Dr Feelgood who provides the chemical distraction as well as general patch-up skills, a skilled wheel artist, and a half dozen dudes with guns/knives/halitosis. Nikitas is probably the best hand to hand fighter in the group, but one of the others can be better than him with a gun.

Minor Conspiracy Asset, detailed to watch over the operation and make sure everything goes according to plan. The MCA isn't supposed to interfere, but it isn't supposed to get caught either. The MCA may or may not be a supernatural entity. The MB doesn't know about the MCA.

The Fly in the Soup: an Adzeh smuggled itself out of Ghana, piggybacking on a drug cartel's smuggling operation in order to get its host out of the country and into Greece. It has the Body Jumping ability, which is lucky for it, as its current host is a stick-thin vagrant hanging around outside To Treno. As its current body is about to expire, it's time to find a new one. Luckily it has all kinds of choices available, but as Fate would have it, the Adzeh is going to pick on one of the following: one of the MB's crew, the INN, or possibly one of the protagonists. This last option could be a lot of fun, but you might want to prepare the player beforehand; nobody likes having control of their character taken away. Once possessed, the Adzeh will want to assess the situation before doing anything rash. Alternatively its sudden intervention might cause real problems in a chase scene, or other dramatic moment. The Adzeh's nominally a free agent, but is easily dominated by a stronger personality; the MCA, for instance.

The action opens at To Treno. The INN has asked to meet the protagonists at the New Wagon. The exact reason for this will vary depending on the nature of the game, but the most likely option is that the INN wants to sell or pass on the valuable intel that the MB has been hired to protect.

The protagonists arrive at the New Wagon and see the INN chatting with the MB's two attractive lures. The INN is clearly smitten, but the lures are not at all happy to see the characters show up. The INN suggests moving on to the Wagon Bar, but before that happens he hides a small data stick in one of the exhibits (behind a picture frame, say). Notice may spot this, especially if it's considered a Core clue. The INN thinks he's being clever, making sure that nobody can Filch the data out of his pocket. The data's encrypted, and the INN knows the password. The INN isn't suspicious of the lures, but the INN doesn't want them around when talking business.

As the group passes from one carriage to the other, they may Notice a small commotion outside, below To Treno. A vagrant has collapsed in the street. Some good Samaritans are trying to provide aid, but if anyone's so altruistic as to go to help, they find that not only is the vagrant dead, he's been dead for days. The Fly is now free and looking for targets.

Up in the Wagon Bar, the INN is trying to negotiate with the protagonists. The lures have followed them in, as unobtrusively as possible, and one of them tries to slip one of Dr Feelgood's concoctions into the INN's drink. Ordinarily they wouldn't try anything so brazen with people like the protagonists standing around, but they're under orders from MB to get this done quick. If one of the protagonists Noticed the data stick trick, then so did one of the lures, so perhaps one lure is still in the New Wagon trying to get the stick while the other is in the Bar.

If all goes according to plan, the INN collapses under the influence of Dr Feelgood's prescription. Or possibly the INN collapses because the Adzeh struck, but whichever it is, the INN goes down. There's a commotion in the bar. Dr Feelgood approaches, identifies himself as a physician, and tries to render aid. He has a few of the MB's goons with him too, in case things go south. The idea is to hustle the INN outside, get him to a nearby car, and drive off. If that doesn't work, Plan B is to get the INN to the train and take him to Larissa, from where they get a car as before.

From this point things develop into a Chase scene, and probably move out of To Treno. What happens next is up to you and your players.

I hope you find this useful! Enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment