Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Black Fish (Night's Black Agents)

Back in January when talking about piracy I mentioned a rule I have for character backgrounds: keep it to one descriptive sentence. This week I'm going to talk about how to make that description interesting, and in the process provide a scenario seed for Night's Black Agents.

This Guardian article about illegal fishing and the people who fight it is worth a read. Briefly: though there are laws which are meant to prevent or ameliorate environmental damage through over-fishing, these laws are routinely ignored and the authorities are over-stretched. There's enough money in the trade to attract organized crime; the same people who smuggle drugs across the sea are keenly interested in the millions of euro available for, say, sending tuna and other delicacies to Asia. An environmentalist named Van der Werf has organized a self-appointed marine protection detail to counter this, the Black Fish.

The Fish are ordinary people who use equipment available on the open market to track, identify and record evidence concerning illegal fishermen and the boats they use. Van der Werf uses tactics perfected by the Royal Observer Corps during the Second World War, and unleashes dozens of observers with one task: gather information, however you can. Selfie sticks, drones, social engineering, the works. If it's not recorded, as Van der Werf is quick to point out, it might as well not have happened; the main focus is on gathering enough credible information to secure a conviction.

All of which sounds like an excellent introduction for a Night's Black Agent operative. This template could easily fit the Investigator, Analyst or Asset Handler. Turned on its head, it could also be made to fit a Mule.

The point being this: that when you rely on real world concepts to design your character, it adds to the game. Anyone can be an Analyst who studied the Mafia before becoming a vampire hunter. What does that mean, really? Studied the Mafia doing what, exactly? Now you know what: studied the trade in illegal fishing off the coast of Italy, particularly Sicily. In so doing, Interpol relied on your evidence to prosecute a human trafficking ring, and that's where things got seriously weird.

Or, in once sentence: I was a member of an ecological group investigating illegal fishing in Sicily, who stumbled onto the larger conspiracy when a human trafficking ring was exposed.

Alternatively, for the Mule: I was a Sicilian fisherman who worked with the Mafia as part of an illegal seafood harvesting ring, who angered the wrong people when a human trafficking operation went south.

A character archetype like this one is probably going to have a decent Driving or Piloting pool, but there are all kinds of options. Electronic Surveillance is a natural fit, as is Infiltration, Outdoor Survival, Streetwise, Conceal and Bullshit Detector.  Flying drones is a bit of an odd one, and could fit in either Piloting or Driving; Driving specifically says it covers remote control vehicles, but under the circumstances Piloting seems the more obvious choice.

Now, about that scenario seed ...

This takes place off the coast of Sciacca, a port town with a medieval past. Among other things, it's famous as the epicenter of what's called the Mediterranean Scene, which according to the internet is a Sicilian Black Metal movement. The Hook is this: an eco-warrior group - fictional, the Sea Foxes - which had been cooperating with the local authorities, is suddenly brought low when three of its members are gruesomely murdered in the same night, with signs that indicate to a Vampirologist that something otherworldly may have been behind it. What happened?

The Node operating in Sciacca, a smuggling ring, is feuding with a rival Node, as per Double Tap. The rival thought it would be amusing to start a fight on the smuggler Node's turf, but things got out of hand when its scheme to disrupt things at a Black Metal concert and beat up a few eco-warriors, thus making the eco warriors think that the smugglers were retaliating for squealing to the coast guard, resulted in three deaths and the unintended creation of a feral vampire.

This feral, previously Dutch agitator and anarchist Van den Zwolle, is completely out of control and running on almost zero Stability. [Therefore there's a very small chance to reason with what's left of his personality, which could save a protagonist in a desperate situation.] Van den Zwolle, the former leader of the Sea Foxes, is tracking down his former friends and vampirizing them, with a view to eventually taking out the smuggler Node in a bloody confrontation.

Naturally this isn't what the rival Node intended, but it's keeping very quiet lest this whole mess be revealed to be its fault. Meanwhile both the smuggler Node and the protagonists will want to track down the ferals and eliminate them before things really get out of hand. Van den Zwolle isn't acting rationally or carefully, but he's a cunning devil who's determined not to go gentle into that sanguinary night ...


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