Monday, 5 September 2016

So What is Tinman Working On? (Night's Black Agents, Dracula Dossier)

Fans of the Dracula Dossier know that Edom's Tinman, aka Duke Teman, a former Royal Navy and SBS vet who acts as Q to this vampire-obsessed intelligence agency, is working on all kinds of peculiar technology to assist agents in the field. The question is, what?

So for a brief glimpse behind the curtain:

VR Helmets, slang term: Cowls This concept is based on technology being developed for the US Navy. Each Cowl comes with an Augmented Video Display which acts as a heads-up display, or HUD, when activated. The HUD allows the user to access information real-time concerning the target and its surroundings. Due to its bulk and fragility, Tinman issues this only to Chaplains. In game terms the Cowl gives the user a dedicated 3 point pool in various Academic skills, the intent being to supplement a combat-trained specialist's knowledge bank with other, less deadly abilities, like Architecture, History, Geology and so on. Requesting this counts as a Difficulty 5 Bureaucracy test.

UAV Swarm, slang term: Batcatchers. This is two or more drones working autonomously together to complete a task. This way, one operator can command several different drones at once, each working together and sending their reports back to the operator. Batcatchers are most commonly deployed to search an area efficiently. Swarms have been used as scouts; when Edom moves a live SBA Container, it might deploy Batcatchers ahead of the unit carrying the Container. While Batcatcher sensors are not always sufficient to detect vampires, they're very good at picking up Renfields and less gifted OPFOR. Again, this is a Difficulty 5 Bureaucracy test.

Blunt Impact Projectile, slang term: Poppers. The intent of the original design was to reduce lethality while at the same time increasing stopping power. These large rounds, about the size of a golf ball and fired from a shotgun-like device, aren't supposed to penetrate; instead, on impact the soft nose collapses, spreading the kinetic blow across a larger area. A human target finds this very painful. Tinman realized that a BIP could be used to deliver a Vampire Block or Dread, say juniper, hemlock or rowan, reducing the enemy's effectiveness. Each round does +0 damage. The likelihood of death is minimal, and that's the point. While the intent when meeting an SBA in the field is usually to eliminate rather than capture, there are times when capture is the preferable option. In game, if hit by Poppers laced with an appropriate payload and reduced to 0 Health, a Vampire needs to make a Difficulty 4 Aberrance check. Failure means it loses the next 4 actions; this penalty can be bought off by paying 3 Aberrance per action. Some combat reports indicate that SBA ferocity has increased after being hit by Poppers. In game terms, on a natural 6 on the Aberrance test the SBA regains an amount of Aberrance equal to the amount of Health lost to Poppers that round, and automatically moves to the first combat rank if it wasn't already there. Getting Poppers is a Difficulty 4 Bureaucracy test.

Acoustic Batty: Slang Term Batfink, also Bogus. This scheme is based on an old 1960s CIA project, Acoustic Kitty. The intent was to surgically implant a receiver and microphone in a cat, then let it wander around picking up intel from the Soviets. The program went wrong almost from the start, and the CIA spent over $20 million trying to deal with Kitty's many problems. Finally when time came to put plan into action the test subject wandered across the street and was squashed flat by a taxicab. Tinman, always a sucker for a complicated and technical scheme, revived the program but with a different kind of test subject. So far Acoustic Batty is working just as well as you'd expect, and is not currently deployed. Tinman's considering a different approach. Bats die all the time; suppose agents were somehow able to smuggle a dead bat into somebody's lair, complete with mike and recorder/transmitter? Surely it would escape detection? So far nobody's been able to persuade Tinman that smuggling a fake dead bat, or even a real one, is a non-starter. Bureaucracy does not apply, as this isn't field-ready. Though if the Agents want to volunteer their services Tinman would be grateful ...

Operation Starshine, aka The Dead Goats Society. This is a scheme that has been bubbling away for decades, long before the current Tinman took the post. It's either based on or the inspiration for The Stargate Project run by the US Army at Fort Meade, depending on who you talk to. The intent of the project is to develop psychic warriors who can kill at a glance, hence the slang term Dead Goats Society. The project is based on known extra-sensory powers deployed by SBAs, the theory being that the Seward Serum, in combination with surgical and cybernetic enhancement, ought to be able to create people capable of extraordinary psychic abilities or to expand the potential of existing psychics. For a time Edom had a research project on the go at Reading University, UK, in cooperation with its Science and Technology Center, but this never came to anything and the project was eventually halted. The current Tinman returns to this line of research from time to time, but has never been able to make any significant advances.

Water Bottle Camera, aka Glug. See also Spondulick. Miniature cameras posing as something else have a long espionage history; the CIA used to use a tiny camera disguised as a packet of cigarettes in the 1960s. However with miniaturization and SD cards considerably more data and better pictures can be had, and Tinman often issues these mini-cams disguised as ordinary commercial water bottles to field agents. Fun fact: SBAs whose images don't show up on film or in mirrors also don't show up on the mini cam. Of course the agent won't know this until she gets a look at the data on the SD card. A variant of this is an SD card installed in a fake coin, aka Spondulick. Again, the CIA used a similar trick in the 1960s but Tinman reverted to this old standard because some SBAs are addicted to old currency, specifically gold coins. Using these makes transfer of important information from agent to handler much easier - in theory, anyway. Getting these is a Bureaucracy 3 test.

Data Recovery Stick / USB Delivery System, aka Idiot Stick. Tinman, working with Prince, has come up with two Edom-specific USB devices. The first is used for data recovery. Inexpert computer users think that once a file is deleted it's gone forever, but this isn't so. Tinman's USB comes with specially designed software to search the HD and recover specific files, using a selection of SBA-related keyword finders to gather the most relevant deleted files. In game terms, it gives the user a dedicated 2-point pool Data Recovery. The second device is a USB laden with keystroke logger malware, the intent being to covertly deliver this to the target so as to pick up passwords and other data. Sometimes this is as simple as scattering a bunch of USBs on site, or in someone's pocket; it's amazing what people are prepared to stick into their machines without a thought for what might happen next. In game terms this acts as a dedicated 2-point pool Digital Intrusion. Getting these is a Bureaucracy 4 test.

Mobile Camera Gun, aka Popcorn. This is a bulky device that resembles a paintball weapon, but it fires small motion-activated cameras. These have inbuilt batteries with a life of 10 hours, and broadcast via Wi-Fi to the user's computer. Range is relatively short, but the cameras can piggyback on existing unsecured wi fi networks. The cameras attach to whichever smooth surface they're fired at; theoretically the user could go round and retrieve them, but in practice they tend to be fire and forget devices. The intent is to cover an area with cameras to aid infiltration efforts, which is why they're shot from a weapon; the user could be in a building across the street and fire at the roof, or through an open window. Tinman fell in love with the idea after reading about it in a novel, but the working model is even more finicky that you might think. Weapons check difficulty 7 to successfully deploy, otherwise the cameras tend to break on impact or fall off the target. However once deployed the cameras count as a dedicated 2-point Infiltration pool so long as someone's monitoring the feed. Fun fact: as they're motion-sensitive the cameras can detect NBA movement even if the NBA is otherwise unseeable by cameras alone, but interpreting this data can be tricky as motion-sensitive can also mean 'the camera moved a little bit.' Bureaucracy difficulty 4 to obtain.

That's it for now. Enjoy!

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