Sunday, 6 December 2015

Messing with the Protagonists (Night's Black Agents, Dracula Dossier)

I'm playing through the Dracula Dossier with some friends of mine, and I thought that the Directors out there might like to know about a surprise I recently pulled on their unsuspecting IT expert.

This is a fella who does IT in real life, at a fairly high level, so he's up to date on most technical issues. His character has a very high Digital Intrusion pool, and is the one everyone turns to when Electronic Surveillance is needed. His standard response to data management is to back everything up, as often as possible, on as many devices as possible.

Now, to kick things off we started with the scenario in the main book, (S)Entries, which asks the protagonists to recover a laptop belonging to an important NATO officer. This they did, without a hitch. They proceeded to search through the data before handing it over to their contact, and the IT bod also cloned and copied it everywhere. He wanted as many copies as possible, on as many devices as possible.

Among the files on the laptop were four scanned pages of the Dracula Dossier. I let the players pick which four pages. The presumption was that someone (they hadn't met Harker yet) had passed on the Dossier pages to the NATO officer, as part of a scheme to enlist the NATO man's help. The Dossier pages were presumed to be Harker's bona-fides. That scenario led them on to several unconnected adventures which I shan't detail here.

Eventually they recovered the original Dossier, and the IT bod promptly started copying it, scanning it, whatever he could think of, so long as he had an electronic version of it somewhere. No doubt, as a canny player, he was expecting me to try to steal the Dossier at some point. However no matter what he tried he couldn't get a scan. I pointed him to page 200 of the Unredacted Dracula, and that explanation seemed to satisfy him. He believed he couldn't scan the Dossier, so he stopped trying. I think he'd forgotten about the scans in the NATO packet.

Then when things were a bit quieter he settled in with his laptop to see if he could find out what had gone wrong, and at that point with his extensive IT abilities it wasn't long before he discovered the truth.

Now, at this point I have to confess that my background is not IT, and what little I do know about hacking and viruses is at the layman level. I'm interested, certainly, and I pay attention to developments, but I couldn't write a worm to save my life. Not that I'd have to, I suppose; I could always just buy one, off of that dark net everyone's babbling about these days.

The scans in the NATO officer's folders weren't your standard .pdfs. They were .exe files, their purpose being to release a memory-resident virus onto the home system. It is encrypted with polymorphic code, making it very difficult to detect. However the mutating engine can, if the virus is traced, betray its GCHQ origins to a knowledgeable hacktivist like our IT friend.

The virus has two functions. First, if ever someone tries to scan and read Dossier files on an infected machine, those files immediately become unreadable. Second, it alerts the virus originator that a scan has been attempted, and advises the originator of the infected machine's location, current IP address, the works.

Remember, he'd been copying the NATO files everywhere, to any device the protagonists had that would take the data.

Oh dear.

The virus can be removed with a Difficulty 7 Digital Intrusion check. A success of 5 or better, but not 7, makes the protagonist think that the virus has been removed, when it really hasn't. The scan-destroying function is eliminated, but unfortunately for the protagonist the routine that lets the virus contact home is still active, and is now permanently switched on.

Failure on the DI check means that the virus' last act is to destroy the infected hard drive.

The protagonist spent so many DI pool points that success was pretty much guaranteed, and his next act - to be dealt with in an upcoming session - is to have a go at the PNC, to see if he can find out who did this to him. This should be interesting! Time for a Thriller Digital Intrusion contest, methinks ...

More later!

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