Sunday, 9 April 2017

Forensic Architecture (Night's Black Agents, Dracula Dossier)

A London-based firm, Forensic Architecture, will give evidence in a German court in a case concerning the shooting death of a victim of the National Socialist Underground terror group.

The dead man, Halit Yozgat, was killed with two shots to the head while working in an internet café he managed. A German espionage agent, Andreas Temme, happened to be in the café at the time, but claims that he paid up and left without noticing that Yozgat had been shot dead, his corpse lying behind the counter.

Forensic Architecture's role will be to demonstrate whether or not Temme's story - that he was there when shots were fired but did not hear them, nor did he notice the blood spatter or the body when he walked out - is credible. The alleged involvement of government agents or authorities in the so-called Bosphorus Serial Murders becomes much more believable if Temme's story is cracked by Forensic Architecture.   

So what is forensic architecture, the discipline and the organization?

At its base, forensic science deals with the application of scientific principles in uncovering evidence during the course of an investigation. There are many kinds of forensic disciplines - anthropology, entomology, accounting - but forensic architecture is a new idea.

Eyal Weizman is its creator. An architect by training, Israeli-born Weizman has led the European Research Council funded group Forensic Architecture since 2011. His team of lawyers, filmmakers, architects, scholars, designers and scientists have worked on investigations ranging from the use of arsenic, globally, to the role of the voice in law, shifting sunlight, and Mengele's skull. It tracked the Left-To-Die migrant boat, an incident which led to the death of sixty three people. It's modelled drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It's studied the Gaza conflict and attacks in Syria.

In its own words:
Forensic Architecture is ... an emergent field we have developed at Goldsmiths [University, London]. It refers to the production and presentation of architectural evidence - buildings and larger environments, and their media representations.
As contemporary conflicts increasingly take place within urban areas, homes and neighborhoods become targets and most civilian casualties occur within cities and buildings. Urban battlefields have become dense data and media environments, generating information that is shared on social and mainstream media. Many violations, undertaken within cities and buildings, are now caught on camera and are made available almost instantly. The premise of FA is that  analyzing IHL [International Humanitarian Law] and HR [Human Rights] violations must involve modelling dynamic events as they unfold in space and time and creating navigable 3D models of environments undergoing conflict, as well as the creation of filmic animations , and interactive cartographies on the urban or architectural scale.
Did a missile level that hospital? It can be virtually rebuilt, and the damage tracked in real time through the social media accounts of everyone who was inside at the time. Did a ship full of dying migrants drift through the Med? Its passage, and the passage of every other vessel that might or did in fact come into contact with it, can be traced.

This is the autopsy of the Urbis.

If you want to see Weizman in action, I recommend the documentary The Architecture of Violence, available on YouTube and prepared by Al Jazeera English. He's also the author of numerous books on forensics, and I'm tempted to seek them out.

But if we were to talk gamification, what role could Forensic Architecture, or a group like it, play?

In Night's Black Agents or Esoterrorists the Forensic Architecture team is an excellent source of player characters. Here you have a group of people from any number of disciplines and all walks of life, working together on some of the most esoteric - and fascinating - examinations of violence and its effect on the wider world. It's a no-brainer. 

Moreover it has an extensive history with human rights groups, NGOs and governments all over the planet. Today its people may be in Germany, tomorrow some war zone halfway across the planet, next week unpicking climate change data in the Canadian Arctic. Its people could be anywhere, at any time, and with excellent academic credentials. Player characters dream of that level of access and credibility.

In Dracula Dossier the options get even more interesting. As mentioned last week, the Edom Basic Field Manual posits the option that the characters work for Edom and the Dossier falls into the hands of a group that starts investigating or opposing Edom.
Who has the Dossier? Who's trying to break Edom? The answer to that question might change over the course of the campaign as the threat escalates ... Rogues ... a group of burned spies, ex criminals and shady black-ops types who have a grudge against vampires ... Rogues are an excellent starting Opposition, but once the player characters eliminate two or three of the original group ... have a bigger bad guy faction take the Dossier ... Non-State Actors ...
So in this version of events, a small group of Rogues - say, trying to investigate the activities of a neo-Nazi group only to discover there are bigger fish to fry - come into possession of the Dossier. They do what they can, but their limited resources and manpower mean they're knocked out of the game quickly. However despite Edom's best efforts the Dossier isn't recovered.

Then one of Edom's prior operations comes under close scrutiny from a suspiciously well-informed Forensic Architecture. According to the media Forensic Architecture was brought on board by relatives of someone who died in that operation. As Keeper, it shouldn't be difficult to find someone who fits that description. If anything you're usually spoilt for choice; civilian casualties are par for the course in the average op, and of course the bodybagged McGuffin doesn't have to be a civilian.

The question then becomes, does Forensic Architecture have the Dossier? If so, is it working on its own behalf, or is it being funded by one of the many Government or NGO factions it's worked with in the past? Its partner list is long and varied; any of them might be the front for a Conspiracy group. Heal The Children is an obvious choice, but as Keeper you can easily design your own fictional partner to infect Forensic Architecture.

Forensic Architecture doesn't have mooks at its disposal, though it's fair to say it knows a lot of people with unusual skill sets if it needs a helping hand. The problem isn't Forensic Architecture's material strength but its political muscle and visibility. If its people vanish in a puff of napalm, that's front page news internationally. If its people drop off the face of the earth, there are many groups out there who will want to know why, making Heat gain potentially intolerable for publicity-shy Edom.

As a Node, a group like Forensic Architecture is probably Level 3 or 4. It has international reach, and its skills and reputation mean it can easily cover up evidence of vampire activity. A Cleaning operation on an international scale; now there's something the Conspiracy would like to have in its pocket.

That's all for now. Enjoy!

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