Saturday, 7 November 2015

Nodes, Glorious Nodes pt 2: Unusual Suspects (Night's Black Agents)

When designing a Node, one of the questions the Director has to ask is what role this Node has in the ongoing conspiracy. Another question, well worth asking, is how can the Director make this Node unusual? Jaded players will soon become weary with the Too Big To Fail Evil Bank scenario, or the Subverted Paramilitary Force. Some Node types will seem so obvious that they might as well have We Are Extremely Naughty tattooed on their employees' foreheads. Also, they'll have too many Capital Letters, but that's a different problem altogether. The question is, how to come out of left field and surprise the players with something new and interesting?

With that in mind, let's discuss some Node concepts that might just catch your players off-guard.

  • The Biker Gang. While this is a close cousin of the paramilitary force, it does have some characteristics of its own well worth addressing. Take Putin's furry friends the Night Wolves, for example. These cheerful Cossacks take it as an article of faith that wherever they go, they take Russia with them. They're big fans of Stalin, have ridden with Putin himself, and have fought in the Crimea. In short, it's as much a political organization as it is a biker movement, and with 5,000 members in the fold, it has a fair amount of clout. Or consider that well-known glee club, the Hell's Angels. It's got chapters all over the world, and its membership has been accused of involvement in narcotics smuggling, as well as violent crimes too numerous to mention. In short, a Conspiracy-led biker gang has all kinds of potential benefits. It can be used as muscle, to smuggle goods across borders, as political activists, or just as good old-fashioned first with the most cavalry. 
  • Food suppliers. There's a lot of money in milk, as Parmalat proved. This Italian dairy products supplier managed to burn through eight billion Euro in a complex financial fraud and money laundering scheme, before its castle in the sky crumbled. At one point it claimed it had an account with four billion tucked away in the Caymans, a fiction that soon unraveled. In the Conspiracy, a front like this could be used to cover up all kinds of financial tricks. Or you could hit the headlines the old fashioned way, by selling tainted product. In 2013 it was revealed that many meat suppliers in Europe had been selling horse meat and calling it beef. One of the companies, a French supplier named Spanghero, had been getting its 'beef' direct from Romania, which opens up all kinds of intriguing possibilities. Leaving aside whether or not you happen to like horsemeat, the bigger issue was that horses, particularly race horses, can be given medication like Phenylbutazone which can lead to fatal liver degeneration in humans, when combined with other medication. Why should vampires taint the human food chain? For all sorts of reasons, not least of which might be improving the taste, but this plot point might work better with Mutant or Alien vampire types. 
  • Cleaners. Nobody cleans their own property any more; they outsource. Whether it's a high-end corporation buying itself some peace of mind, or a domestic service that handles individual tenancies, there's a lot of people out there who'd rather pay someone else to dust than lift a finger. But in so doing they invite strangers into their homes or place of work, strangers with no loyalty to them, just to the paycheck. How better to insert spies into someone's organization? Or to disguise a forensic clean-up operation, tasked with making potential crime scenes go away? Probably best left as a low-level Node, but an extremely useful one in a pinch. Concepts allied with the Cleaners include car and limo rental services, as well as more formal outfits like domestic service trainers
  • Construction companies. If you think there's money in milk, you should see the bottom line of companies like McAlpine's. Not only are there fortunes to be made, those fortunes can be made all over the world. Need a hospital here, a road network there? Not a problem. Plus, since a typical international construction chain will work for just about anyone, the company's well used to dealing diplomatically with all sorts of people. This is another Node that can make large amounts of money seem legitimate, or just bury it in paper losses incurred abroad. However its main use is in building things. Want a hidden vault, an underground bunker under your decaying mansion, or just to make an inconvenient archaeological site disappear? Get the builders in, and you'll soon see your problems vanish under a ton of concrete.
That's it for the moment. I hope you found this useful! Enjoy.

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