Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Bookstore, Winter or Spring (Bookhounds of London)

It seems like a long time since I've touched on Bookhounds of London, so for a change of pace in the next few posts I'm going to design a mini campaign for Bookhounds. Of the three potential campaign types, Sordid, Arabesque or Technicolor, I'm going to go for Technicolor. It's not my favorite; I prefer Arabesque, but I see this as a challenge rather than an indulgence.

Technicolor is B-movie stuff, and when I touched on it in a previous post I used the Hammer Horror Satanic Rites of Dracula as an example. Hammer had a love-hate relationship with the British censor; its box office success depended on gore and sex, not necessarily in that order, and to get people's attention it had to push the censors just about as far as it could. If nothing else, public spats with the censor were good publicity, and its films always seemed to find an audience even when, as happened in the later 1960s, it started recycling sets, costumes, even scenes from film to film.

So a Technicolor style game probably ought to concentrate on the immediate viscera. There must be ichor, and in quantity. If ever you've wanted to play around with zombies or alien beings, now's the time to do so. Mummies roaming the Underground, Vampires haunting Westminster, ghouls lurking in the seven great cemeteries of London; these are all concepts that would suit a Technicolor game.

A Technicolor game is also exactly the place you'd expect to find spooky, cobweb-drenched mansions and forgotten crypts, so let's start talking about the Bookstore itself, since you'll be spending a lot of time in its shadowy confines.

The Bookstore is the scenario hub. The characters all devote themselves to its wellbeing. Without the money they earn each month, they'd be out on the street. But it may be more than that. The characters may be, or become, psychologically dependent on the place. Institutionalized, in the same way long term convicts become so used to their prisons that they can't bear to leave.

But how to design it? Let's take some inspiration from another game altogether: Ars Magica.

Ars Magica is one of my all-time passions, but it's been a long time since I had a chance to play. One of the things that attracted me to that system was its emphasis on troupe-style gaming, and its willingness to make the wizard's Covenant, the place where they all lived, a vibrant part of the setting. Too often a castle is just a castle, but the Covenant was always more than that. In all the games I played and many of the ones I ran, the Covenant was as much a character as any of the actual players' characters. That's exactly the kind of atmosphere I want in this Bookstore.

In Ars, the Covenant can be in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter; that is, it can be just starting out, in the height of its powers, just beginning to show signs of age, and in near terminal decay. The decision to set the game in one particular season determines the tone of the campaign. But Ars isn't a horror game, so it can utilize the hope and confidence that comes with being at the height of your powers in Summer, or the preening arrogance of Autumn. Bookhounds is a horror game, and therefore doesn't suit either Summer or Autumn play types. I'm going to suggest that, in Bookhounds, the store is always either in Spring or Winter, never any other season.

What does this mean? Well, in Spring, you're just starting out. Like any new business, the store could collapse at any moment, for any number of reasons. 'The challenges are many, and the dull moments few,' says Ars about its Covenants. 'But if the trials and tests can be survived, the rewards are great.' This is a good style of game for new players to the system. It allows them to explore the setting and the rules without interference. It also means they have few resources. The shop's Credit Rating is probably low, and it has almost no important customers.

Whereas in Winter the Bookstore has seen out many decades, and may be on its last legs. It got its start long ago, possibly as early as the 1700s. If its walls could talk, they would scream, no doubt. This is the kind of place that has odd traditions, forgotten corners, and very dangerous secrets. It's probably on its way out, and may not survive to see 1940. But if it does go, it will be in a blaze of malignant glory. This is the kind of game for experienced players who know Bookhounds, and are happy to play with some of its concepts.

Now we come to the nuts and bolts. What ought this Bookstore be like?

Well, what does any store have? It has stock. It has an entrance, and probably more than one exit. It has furnishings and fittings. It has staff. It may or may not have a delivery van of some kind.  As this is a Bookstore it probably has a lending library. It may have a sideline that is not its main business but which earns a little money, like selling greeting cards, stamps, or other ephemera.

Perhaps most importantly it has character, a concept that's difficult to define but easy to spot. It's the difference between a Barnes and Noble, in which one store is always much like another, or a corner book barn, which is unique unto itself.

A Spring Bookstore doesn't have much of anything. There probably aren't any staff, except for the player characters. It won't have much stock, and its furnishings and fittings are second hand at best. I'm going to say that a Spring Bookstore has, at most, three things about it that are unique and interesting details worthy of description. Also, it probably doesn't have anything really weird about it. Weirdness is the kind of thing that grows over time, not unlike dry rot, and the whole point of a Spring game is that the store hasn't been open long.  Whereas a Winter Bookstore will have five things, since it's been around for decades if not a century or so. It will have many things that are odd about it. Probably also dry rot, but that's another topic altogether.

Ideally you'd get the players to cooperate here and think of a few of these details for themselves. In this example, I'm going to do all that groundwork. I'm also going to posit a Winter Bookstore, since that sounds more interesting to me.

This store has been around for many decades. Let's assume it was founded in 1803, by a French exile, Etienne du Bourg. He fled France during the Revolution, and spent some time in London working for Bonham's before branching out on his own. When he started his bookstore he returned to France several times, secretly, and brought back his own extensive collection of incunabula, which became the stock of his store. Though the store is now run by his thoroughly English heirs, it still retains the old name, du Bourg's. This is all borrowed (a little) from Madame Tussaud's, but what the heck. It works.

The building is classic Georgian architecture with all the Palladian neo-classic frippery that implies. This doesn't mean the business has a lot of money behind it. Its Credit Rating might be low, representing years of mismanagement and bad debts. The structure may look impressive, but be a leaky, damp pit in summer and a freezer in winter. Rats in the basement, mice in the closets, bats in the attic. All the joys of imminent financial disaster, wrapped in a cloak of genteel refinement.

So, about those five things:

History: M Etienne du Bourg, the founder of the business, took a leaf out of Jeremy Bentham's book and had himself mummified after his death in 1833. Unlike Bentham, du Bourg didn't mind so much about the cadaverous appearance of his mummified head, so his corpse - currently enshrined in his alchemical laboratory in the basement of the building - still has all its original parts. By tradition, the owners of the business meet once a year in the laboratory, on du Bourg's birthday. At that time the financial returns of the previous year are read out, and presented to the assembly for approval. The assembled drink to the health of the business and its founder, and the meeting concludes. By tradition the staff and invited guests can attend, but in recent years only the business' owner(s) have gone to the meeting. People do say that M du Bourg wanders his laboratory at night conducting experiments, but nobody's ever proved this one way or the other.

Stock: When M du Bourg recovered his library from Europe he brought with him his extensive collection of the works of Francois Honore-Balfour, Comte d'Erlette, including many rare pamphlets, autographed correspondence, and, of course, Cultes des Ghoules. According to the shop's records du Bourg had three copies of that book, including one described as 'in Cordwain binding,' which it has been alleged is a coded reference to one of the three bound in human skin by Honore-Balfour himself. Over the years many of these items have sold to collectors, while others have gone missing. Only one of the Cultes is supposed to have been sold, at auction in 1870, but nobody knows where the other two are. Legend has it that du Bourg hid the rest of his collection before his death, and successive generations have done their best to find it in hope of rescuing the business with a big sale.

Monster: Ever since its opening du Bourg's has always had a cat, and by tradition this has been a ginger tom, always with the name Maher-shalal-hashbaz. Cat after cat has made mincemeat out of the generations of rats and mice that infest du Bourg's. Recently people have noticed that the latest Mash is just a little more feisty and enthusiastic than its illustrious forbears. In fact it's a Mythos entity, or controlled by a Mythos entity, Keeper's choice as to which. Perhaps its friendly with some ghouls who live nearby and feed it sweetmeats when they visit to have a nosey through the library, or perhaps its a minion of Bast with powers of its own. It has no particular allegiance to the staff or shop, but it's not going to destroy its home on a whim. As to what Mash actually is, well, spoilt for choice really. Perhaps he's king of the cats or some shapechanged thing out of Ken Hite's Writes About Stuff series. Power level relatively low, no more that Health 8 and say 3 to 6 Magic.

Shop: Though the building is large, in recent years the management has stopped using some of the upper floor rooms because of damp problems. At least, that's the excuse management have offered for why several upper floor rooms are permanently locked. But locked they are, and it's more than anyone's job is worth to open them again. Odd noises are heard up there at times, and at night people have reported seeing lights in those deserted rooms. Perhaps it's the secret meeting place of some kind of cult, or perhaps it's haunted. Perhaps it once was the meeting place of a cult, and that's why it's haunted. The only way to know for sure is to go and see.

Staff: Most of the staff are probably player characters, but du Bourg's has been around for a long time. Long enough to accumulate some very curious hangers-on; ancient, crumbling wrecks who dodder from room to room like something out of Titus Groan. Perhaps they know a little Idiosyncratic Magic, or perhaps they just drink all the tea and eat all the biscuits. However Mister Bourg, as he is known, is by far the most senior, and the keeper of all the shop's traditions. Though he may not be the Bourg that actually owns the shop - that role ought to be reserved for a player - he certainly behaves as though he is, and he knows everything there is to know about the place. In the first few sessions he ought to be a fount of knowledge, if not the voice of the Keeper, but as time goes on and the players start showing signs of independence, he'll probably become a minor villain of sorts. If the players decide to sack him, the shops Credit Rating immediately drops by 1, and they'll have earned an enemy for life. Such as it is; someone as aged as Mister Bourg surely can't live that much longer? 

That's enough to be getting on with. By now you should have a clear idea of what du Bourg's is like, how it operates, and the kind of stories it can generate. Note that I've deliberately not mentioned its location. It could be anywhere in London. That's for the Keeper and players to decide for themselves. I've also not gone too deeply into subjects like the bookshop stock or its Credit Rating. Again, that's something best decided by Keeper and players together.


Sunday, 20 March 2016

80 Million and a Spelling Error: Hacking (Night's Black Agents)

When I was just starting out as a low level employee for a financial institution I shall not name, a senior staff member was caught with his fingers in the electronic till. He rigged the system so that, every so often, dormant accounts or trust funds would deposit a trifling amount of money in his personal account. It was never much more than a few dollars, even cents, at a time, but spread over many accounts and over a long period of time those small sums added up to one big payout. He was caught when he went to lunch one day and forgot to lock his machine. Someone came into his office to drop something off, noticed the suspicious activity on his monitor, and passed it on to the higher-ups. It became a police matter very soon after that.

I was reminded of him when I read about the $80 million heist carried out electronically via the Bangladesh Bank. His scheme wasn't original, but it paid off big time, and he would have gotten clean away had he not made a very simple mistake, the kind of error we all make every day. Not quite cautious enough, not quite careful or suspicious enough, and it's game over. It's stories like these that have me paying cash rather than electronic POS whenever I can.

If you haven't already read this one: sophisticated criminals ripped off the central bank of Bangladesh, breaching its systems and then sending requests for money transfer to the US Fed, where Bangladesh Bank had billions stored. Several transfers took place, only for the whole thing to come crashing to a halt when someone misspelled the word Foundation as Fandation on one of the request forms. If that request had gone through the gang - and given the level of preparation it probably was a gang - would have made off with at least a billion, and probably more, since there's no reason to think they would have stopped until Bangladesh's accounts were empty. An IT expert who publicly voiced suspicion that apathetic bank officials had, at the very least, contributed to the caper through their negligence has gone missing. The bank's governor resigned; apparently his employees failed to tell him what had happened, and he only found out about the heist when it hit the papers. Though the bank has said it expects to recover some of the money it seems likely that the bandits will make a clean getaway. Most of it went to casinos in the Philippines, presumably so it could be efficiently laundered, and as a consequence the Philippines may once again be blacklisted by the Money Laundering Task Force. This is all the more important for the Philippines because there are elections coming in May; this kind of news is the last thing the ruling Liberal party needs. At least $30 million in cash ended up in the hands of an ethnic Chinese in Manila, but as for the rest, it could be anywhere.

So what does this story tell us about what it takes to be a hacker in Night's Black Agents?

To begin with, as discussed in last week's post on black baggers, you have to know a lot about human nature and how organizations work. Whoever did this had to know how Bangladesh Bank operated. They probably studied the habits of bank employees for some time before making a move, both in the real world and via keylogger virus or similar on their work machines. They knew when to strike, and how, for maximum impact.

This has been the case since time immemorial, which in computer terms goes back all the way to last week Tuesday. I have on my bookshelf Secrets of a Super Hacker by someone writing under the pseudonym Knightmare. It's hopelessly out of date from a technical perspective - if ever I want to know how to cut up an 8 inch floppy, Knightmare has me covered - but its lessons on interpersonal interaction and information finding are still very relevant. One chapter's devoted to social engineering, another to reverse social engineering, and he spends a remarkable amount of time discussing the joys of dumpster diving and how information found in the trash can help you pillage companies' accounts.

Speaking of, I wonder what Bangladesh Bank did with its trash. Even today banks generate so much paper, reams of physical data. You'd like to think it was all shredded, pulped or otherwise rendered unreadable. But maybe not; after all, Kapersky Labs has a very beautiful interactive map that claims Bangladesh is, at time of writing, the 41st most attacked country in the world. These things don't happen by chance. That same map says Russia is #1 - not an award to be proud of, hope those nuclear silos are doing just fine - Vietnam is #3, the US is #2, and most of Europe seems to be hovering in the 10s and 20s. Apart from Norway, Sweden and Finland, which are #133, #87 and #149. Come on, guys, Finland's not that bad. I know some great Finns. Don't be shy. Bear in mind this is real time data, so by the time you read this everything will have changed, with the possible exception of the top 2.

Incidentally, Kapersky, I notice Bermuda doesn't even feature on the map. Way to hurt my feelings, fellas.

So we're looking at Bureaucracy, Human Terrain, and probably Reassurance to reflect social engineering, and Urban Survival for those dumpster diving expeditions. The hacker is an urban animal; no hiking through the piney woods and living off fresh caught fish or beef jerky for this bunch. A decent Infiltration pool might also be helpful, for breaking into installations and making off with the contents of the shredder. With enough dedication almost anything can be pieced back together. It isn't about whether it can be done, but rather if it's worth the effort. Research is a must, as is Traffic Analysis. Depending on whether or not the hacker makes a dishonest crust by, say, fleecing banks in Bangladesh, or catching those who do, points in Streetwise or Criminology might be in order.

While the hacker is probably the least athletically inclined of all the Night's Black Agents types, it would be a very foolish player who didn't put some points in self defense. However pools in Mechanics and Surveillance are more likely. You're the one who watches, not the one who goes in with a cosh and a black bag.

With all that in mind, consider this example:


One sentence: Former Nollywood actor and con artist shooting for the big leagues.

Investigative: Accounting 1, Bureaucracy 1, Bullshit Detector 3, Cryptography 1, Data Recovery 2, Electronic Surveillance 2, Human Terrain 2, High Society 1, Research 1, Traffic Analysis 1, Reassurance 2, Languages 2, Streetwise 1, Urban Survival 1

General: Athletics 8, Cover 10, Digital Intrusion 15, Disguise 6, Health 8, Infiltration 10, Mechanics 4, Network 15, Shooting 8 (base 14, with special weapons training), Stability 7, Surveillance 5, Sense Trouble 1.

MOS: Digital Intrusion (silly not to, really).

Cherries: Athletics (Parkour), Digital Intrusion (cracker's cryptid), Infiltration (open sesame), with special weapons training in the AK47. I picture this as an actor's conceit, for when Kayo decides to relive his glory days in Mafia Soldiers or the like.

As has become traditional, let's end this with a scenario seed:

A not for profit has announced a competition, the Shreddathon Challenge, to see who can be the first to piece together five sets of shredded documents, with $50,000 going to the winner. One team, the Hatfall Brigade, was coming very close to this goal with its specially designed computer program, but just as the final pieces were coming together three of the five programmers were brutally murdered, and the program was stolen. Shortly afterward the hacking community discovers that the not for profit hosting the challenge only ever existed in cyberspace; its backers have disappeared. What happened to the team, and what was the Shreddathon Challenge really all about?

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Breaking and Entering: Hatton Garden & Black Baggers (Night's Black Agents)

In the wake of the famous Hatton Garden heist, let's talk about infiltration and the role of the Black Bagger in Night's Black Agents.

For those not familiar with what journalists are calling the Crime of the Century, in brief: in April 2015 a gang of career criminals and pensioners made off with, at minimum, a little over $20 million in jewels, gold and other valuables in a clever and meticulously planned raid on an underground safety deposit facility at Hatton Garden, well known as a center of London's jewelry trade. The burglary took place over Easter bank holiday weekend, when the neighborhood was basically shut down, bar a few CCTV and passers-by. They got in via a lift shaft, drilled through into the vault, and carried the loot off in wheelie bins. It wasn't until five days had passed that the police got involved - though they were aware the alarm had been triggered long before -  by which time it was far too late to do anything about it.

It's worth noting that although estimates are a minimum of $20 million, the actual total could be in excess of $280 million. Most of the depositors went to Hatton Garden because they thought it was safe, but more importantly, discreet; anything could have been down in the vault, and probably was. The security company that managed the vault has since gone out of business. Neighbors heard the drilling, but thought it was roadworks, and while the police did get an automatic alarm, it was given a low priority grade which meant nobody was dispatched to see what was going on.

All in all, a triumph of Britishness over efficiency, while the criminals themselves, also impeccably British, have since been collared and are in the dock.

So, what do you need to be an infiltration expert?

To begin with, technical knowledge. It takes skill to operate a drill. A decent Mechanics pool is a must, in addition to Infiltration, and Architecture is a good pick. Reasonable physical health is also advisable, though you wouldn't know it from the Hatton Garden criminals, who all seem to be on death's door for one reason or another. That means Athletics, though possibly not on the scale of The Amazing Yen.

Extensive planning is crucial, which means a fair sized Preparedness pool for those moments when everything seems to be going wrong on a scale not usually seen outside of Invisible Inc. Or you could just go mad and actually plan out a scheme from soup to nuts. Not something I'd recommend, but it takes all sorts.

More important, though, seems to be an understanding of human nature and how organizations work. The Hatton Garden raid took place at exactly the right time, and there's every reason to think the missing Basil might be an ex-policeman, which might explain how the crooks could be so confident that there would be no immediate response to the alarm. That suggests Urban Survival, Bureaucracy and Human Terrain, in addition to the expected Streetwise.

Criminals of this sort are often described as charming, which isn't that surprising if you think about it. Much like hacking or detective work, infiltration often requires significant social engineering. You need to be able to talk your way to the target, or to information that gets you closer to the target. That in turn suggests Flattery, Flirting, Reassurance, and possibly also Disguise, though that last isn't strictly necessary.

Where the Hatton Garden mob seems to have let itself down is in its lack of Electronic Surveillance knowledge. The thieves all sat around in the pub yakking about the crime, and the police listened in. CCTV footage was carefully examined for each least hint of the robbery, which allowed the police to work out who did what when. That, and overconfidence, is why they're in the dock now. Except of course for Basil, that alleged ex-policeman, who probably also knew how the police would go about tracking the criminals down.

With that in mind, here's an example of the kind of Bagger build I'm talking about:


One sentence: A former Flying Squad operative who became a little too fond of the high life.

Investigative: Architecture 3, Bureaucracy 2, Cop Talk 1, Data Recovery 1, Electronic Surveillance 2, Flattery 2, Human Terrain 2, Interrogation 1, Law 1, Photography 2, Reassurance 2, Streetwise 1, Tradecraft 2, Urban Survival 1

General: Athletics 14, Conceal 2, Cover 10, Digital Intrusion 2, Gambling 10, Health 8, Infiltration 8, Mechanics 10, Network 15, Preparedness 8, Stability 8, Shooting 6, Weapons 4.

MOS: Infiltration. The cherries Swiss Army Prep (Mechanics), Luck of the Devil (Gambling) and In the Nick of Time (Preparedness) work well together, creating a situation in which Basil has a plan for everything, even when there is no plan.

Let's close off with a scenario seed.

The papers are calling it the Crime of the Century. Sophisticated thieves have broken into a safety deposit vault and made off with the contents, which happen to include something the Conspiracy is very interested in and would rather not have lost. Heat is rising, as assassins and police converge on every possible hiding place, port of departure, and haven. All the usual criminal safe houses are off limits, and the body count is rising rapidly. Everyone wants to know what happened to the loot, and until that question gets an answer corpses will keep piling up.

One of the black baggers reaches out to your protagonists through a trusted contact. This thief wants safe passage out of the city, and is willing to pay a high price. Can they get the black bagger out alive, when the undead and the cops are breathing down everyone's neck? And what really did happen to that artefact the crooks are supposed to have stolen, anyway?

That's it for now. Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Keeper of the Keys (Night's Black Agents, Bookhounds of London)

I'm going to have a certain sinister tour guide show up in my Dracula Dossier campaign, and I've decided his role is butler to one of the significant antagonists. It occurred to me that this would be a good opportunity to discuss butlers and domestics in general, since although they're staples of this kind of fiction their role, particularly in the modern day, is poorly understood.

In the Victorian period, a butler would be a senior domestic, if not the senior domestic, in an upper middle class or plain old upper class household. This is a managerial post, in that while the butler may have a specific domestic role to perform within the house, his major function is actually to supervise everyone else. There isn't a single part of the household's operation that he - and in the Victorian period it is almost always he - would not have a hand in. One of his more important functions is keeper of the keys; he knows how to get into every door, pantry or cellar, and frequently it is he who locks the house at night and opens it in the morning. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons why crooked butlers are such a staple of early detective fiction. Someone who can get into and out of any room is perfectly suited for the role of burglar, or murderer.

Otherwise, a butler's role is fluid, and may depend on the house's peculiarities or habits. A house of this type forms its personality over generations. There is a way that Things are Done, and it's the butler's task to ensure that those Things keep being Done in that way from now until the end of time. Carson, the mainstay of Downton Abbey, is a traditionalist for a reason. It's not just his nature. It's his job.

One thing a butler of this period tends not to get involved in is the running of the estate, as opposed to the house. The house is usually only one part of a larger whole, and it's the estate steward who presides over that whole. However the steward does not outrank the butler. In most cases, the two would barely have a reason to interact.

Socially the butler is at the top of a very complex chain, and expects deference and respect from everyone beneath him on that chain. Which is understandable, since a good butler has worked many years, if not decades, to get to that point, and is as senior as you can possibly get, in managerial terms. There is no training for his job; he has had to learn from the bottom up, the equivalent of earning a Field Marshal's baton after joining as an enlisted man. A good butler is worth his weight in gold, and his employers recognize that fact. They will do almost anything to keep him, and if a butler leaves a house it's a minor scandal in itself. Everyone is going to want to know why.

This kind of position is a vocation more than a job. People who aren't born in domestic service don't often aim to become one, but for those who do, it's the summit of their career.

In game terms, a Victorian butler would definitely have Bureaucracy, High Society, and a Preparedness pool or the equivalent. Depending on the nature of his role within the house he may have unexpected talents. A butler used to dealing with correspondence, for example, may have a talent for Forgery, developed after many years of signing people's names to documents.

A modern butler is a different animal. The role is significantly expanded, if anything, from its Victorian roots. No longer are butlers limited to looking after the house and servants. The butler is more of a major domo, in that he or she - and it is much more often she, these days - looks after almost every aspect of the client's existence. The role may involve light cooking, balancing chequebooks or credit card statements, keeping diaries, handling public relations and marketing, managing property portfolios, and generally looking after a significant part of the client's life both personal and professional.

This sort of butler has probably had formal training of some kind. There are various schools which offer it, some more respected than others, but one key thing to bear in mind is that the butler probably didn't start life as a domestic or child of a domestic. They would have come into the role from another profession, and that might have been almost anything. If you, as Keeper, want a butler to have been a solider, musician, journalist or what-have-you, there's no reason not to.

The client list has expanded significantly as well. No longer are they exclusively upper class, from generations of landed gentry. Now it might be a celebrity, a hotel chain, an executive, a cruise ship line, and so on.

The butler's role may be dependent as much on social mores as on need for a trained servant. In the Middle East, for example, the client may ask for a female butler, since the butler's duties will involve looking after female members of the family. In China, the role may be more geared towards property management and public relations, since the job involves looking after apartment blocks, yachts and aircraft.

While the traditional attire is formal wear, this is less and less common. Smart business or smart casual is the more likely dress code. In America, this may be polo shirts and slacks, while in Indonesia it might be a sarong, and so on.

The most important difference between the modern and the Victorian version is that a modern butler is not a traditionalist. There are no rituals formed over generations, nor is the way Things are Done in this house of particular importance. Rather, the butler maintains standards. Those standards are going to vary from place to place. A butler in Hollywood is going to have a very different idea of the nature of the profession than one in Beijing, or in London. Moreover the modern butler is going to travel, and be used to travel. There's no such thing as a job for life with one family any more. This year, Paris; next year, who knows?

Finally, a modern butler is probably going to be significantly more wealthy than his Victorian counterpart.  People pay a high premium for that kind of service. In return, absolute discretion is a must. In the age of always-on media the butler is in a unique position to spill all kinds of beans. It's the butler's job to keep his or her mouth shut, a silent Twitter feed, and an innocuous or nonexistent Facebook profile. Seen but not heard takes on a whole new meaning.

In game terms, a butler of this type will have a similar skill set to the Victorian model, but with some additions. Electronic Surveillance and Data Recovery is very likely, as is Accounting and Languages. Flattery is probably a must, for dealing with celebrities and the like. While a butler is less likely to be involved in up close and personal combat than most, it's possible that, as part of his role as security head, that the butler has a pool in Shooting or Hand-to-Hand. Depending on the work environment the butler may also know something about piloting a ship, a plane, or be an expert driver.

Finally, how about a scenario seed?

This takes place nominally in London, though it could be adapted for other settings. There is a house in a very exclusive and expensive district that is hardly ever occupied, not unlike those Bishop's Avenue mansions mentioned in a previous post. Miss Tyler is the butler in charge of this and several other properties scattered across Europe, allegedly for a Middle Eastern family paranoid to the nth degree about its privacy. Occasionally the daughters of the family arrive for a long weekend, or couple of weeks, and when that happens their long luxury vehicle with its tinted windows cruises out and back like a tiger on the hunt.

Miss Tyler's role, apart from looking after the house, is to secure entertainment - and snacks - for the daughters, who may or may not be from the Middle East. A hijab can be an excellent disguise, after all. She delegates this to Steve, the house man and pretty boy, who cruises the nightspots looking for talent when he knows that the daughters are due. The problem is that Steve's party lifestyle has engendered one too many bad habits, and he's gotten a little too sloppy in his procedures. One of the entertainment has escaped from the carefully crafted dungeon underneath the property, and now it's Miss Tyler's job to deal with the problem. Probably also Steve, if it comes to it.

The protagonists get involved when they discover, or have their attention drawn to, Steve's last victim but one, whose corpse ended up in a landfill. Clues found at that scene lead to Steve, but by the time the protagonists catch up with him Miss Tyler is already involved. If the protagonists can rescue the latest entertainment they could get enough information (and evidence) to shut the whole operation down. But what happens when the daughters turn up expecting their usual weekend's fun?

That's enough for now. Enjoy!