Sunday, 27 August 2017

Twisting Christie (GUMSHOE All)

When constructing a mystery scenario - say for BubbleGumshoe - the Director/Keeper will want to keep the players on their toes. Everyone loves a plot twist. It's practically mandatory. The problem is, how to keep players from guessing the twist halfway through?

In some settings, guessing the twist is half the fun. The Dracula Dossier, for instance, provides three possible ways for any person, place or thing to develop; as an innocent, or unconnected plot point, as an Edom-friendly plot point, or as Dracula's puppet. That way the Director can adjust things on the fly, and account for unwise player mutterings like, 'God, we would be so, so hosed if the Journalist turned out to be one of Dracula's minions.' The twist is baked in.

That said, the Dracula Dossier is huge. Over 360 pages of unrelenting evil. When writing your own stuff, you may not want to spend time making sure every single person, place or thing the players might encounter has three different aspects. So what to do?

Author Karen Woodward has this to say about mystery maven Agatha Christie:

Christie often (though not always) had three distinct threads interwoven throughout most of her plots. Let's call these the A story, the B story and the C story.

A Story --> the murder (the whodunit)

B Story --> a romance

C Story --> a touch of evil

The A story is the main story, the story of the murder. The B story is a subplot that includes one of the main characters in a romance. The C story is another subplot, one about a character who has malign intentions toward one of the other characters. These intentions aren't related to the murder--perhaps this is suspected but, in the end, the 'touch of evil' character will not be intimately connected with it.

In Death In The Clouds, for example, the A plot is the murder of blackmailer and moneylender Madame Giselle. The B plot is the romance between ingĂ©nue Jane Grey and dentist Norman Gale. The C plot revolves around crime novelist Mister Clancy, who may or may not be the murderer. 

Yet a typical scenario often has only an A plot: one clear objective, which the agents or investigators have to shoot for or die in the attempt. Seldom is there a B plot, and almost never a C. However the disentanglement of A from B and C is what makes the twist a twist. It's because the reader can't be sure that A won't turn into C at the last minute, or vice versa, that the denouement becomes a denouement, and not just a rubber mask removal.

Now, it's unreasonable to have a romance B plot in every single scenario. Christie liked them, but you're trying to get a plot out every other week, where she's aiming to get a novel out every six months or so. Equally, in a TV series where there's a romance subplot, the romance isn't part of every single episode. Flirting, yes, but not the full-blown will-they-won't-they stuff. The audience gets tired if you return to the same plot points in every scenario, whether it's romance or some other thing.

However a B plot that adds some non-threatening drama is perfectly reasonable. Even better if it includes something the characters can relate to, but what that thing is will depend largely on the setting. In Bookhounds of London, the obvious target is the store itself. In Dreamhounds of Paris, it could be a proposed art showing, possibly even the 1938 Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme. In settings where there are character hooks baked into the setting - like Night's Black Agents with its Sources of Stability - there are other possibilities.

With that in mind, and using a Bookhounds scenario idea I've described in the past, let's do some brainstorming and see where the B and C plots might be.

Lucy Ainsworth is the second daughter of wealthy shipping magnate Peter Ainsworth. Her eldest sister is married to minor nobility, and lives in Kensington. She and her younger sister Elanor still live in the family home in Wimbledon; both parents are dead.

Years of simmering hatred and jealousy have turned Lucy into a werewolf. She sees herself as the guardian of the Ainsworth legacy, defending it - and the Wimbledon house she and her sister Elanor share - against intruders. So far her activities haven't attracted attention, but her restraint is slipping. Sooner or later something will happen that will shatter their peaceful home life for good.

So the A plot is Lucy, and what to do about the ravening werewolf she's become. We're now looking for B and C plots that can be tied into A.

B is meant to be the non-threatening plot. It may or may not be the cheerful plot. When Christie plots her B level romances, they don't always end well. C is the touch of evil plot, the character that draws focus away from the real villain. C may or may not be a threat, but C certainly looks like a threat.

Since this is Bookhounds, the store is in play. There may be other, character-related hooks that are equally viable, but when writing for a group not your own you can't guarantee those hooks are there or, if they are, whether they're useful.

So let's make the B plot store-relevant. If the store is actually in Wimbledon, even better, though again when writing for a group not your own you can't order things the way you'd like them.

The main plot is about jealousy and rage, so it would be good if the B plot could also be about jealousy and rage. This helps tie everything together, thematically, reinforcing the scenario's central concept.

So: one of the store's rivals, fed up at the store's perceived success, hires Chester Riley, an amateur actor down on his luck, to do them foul. Chester, who thinks he's a master of disguise, keeps coming back to the store again and again to cause trouble. Maybe this time he'll make himself obnoxious while customers are in the shop. Or loudly argue with the staff about the price of a book. Or say he wants to return a book, since it was damaged when he bought it and he wants his money back. Of course he's doing that in front of a crowd of would-be customers.

In order to deal with the B plot the characters need to work out who Chester is, and why he's doing what he's doing.

Note that the B plot has little relevance to the main plot. It's a distraction, a thing the characters don't have to worry about too much, but can't entirely ignore since it does affect their lives and livelihood.

It could have been different, of course. Given the relationship between Lucy, Elanor, and anyone who pays any kind of attention to Eloise, a romance B plot is doable. The difficulty is how to involve the characters. Either they have to be the object of someone's affection, or they have to willingly pursue it. Willingly pursue is fun, if a player can be persuaded, but the Keeper can't rely on that every time. Alternatively Elanor - or possibly Lucy - might develop a fixation, but then you run the risk of it being short-lived if the player decides to negate the idea.

That, and ideally you want to involve all the players, otherwise one character's getting a lot of spotlight time for no other reason than that the plot says they must. You want to avoid 'the plot says, therefore you must' as often as you can, whether for B plots or any other reason.

One further possibility is to have an NPC be the lover and an NPC - presumably Elanor - be the object of affection. However that means two NPCs are basically having their own plot with no player input. Again, this is something to be avoided if at all possible.

Onward to C.

The C plot is the touch of evil plot. It needs to feature someone, or thing, that seems to be a threat but in fact is not. Since this is a horror game, that C plot probably needs to feature something supernatural-ish - heavy on the ish.

It also needs to be relevant to the main plot, unlike the B plot. The B plot can afford to be a little oddball, and so long as it affects the characters it doesn't matter if it isn't 100% plot relevant. In the same sense, the romance between Jane Grey and Norman Gale isn't 100% plot relevant, though the reader becomes invested anyway.

So we need a touch of evil character who is related to the A plot but not a central part of it. We already have a maddened werewolf and her trapped sister. We also have another sister, married, who lives in Kensington. We haven't specified who the sister married.

Let's say that the sister married Algernon Parker, a no-good snake in the grass who married sister Helen for her money. Thanks to unwise speculation that money's almost gone, though you'd never know it to look at their lifestyle. Algernon knows that Lucy and Elanor are still sitting on the bulk of their trust funds, and thinks that, if they wrote wills at all, they probably left everything to their sibling. After all, why wouldn't they?

Algernon's scheme is to get rid of Lucy and Elanor, so Helen can inherit the lot. However he wasn't counting on Lucy's unique condition. He has become aware of it, thanks to an unlucky encounter with Lucy on the Common, and is secretly worried he too might be infected after Lucy bit him. So he's resorting to magical means, and reading every grimoire and tome he can get his hands on - in part to find a cure, and in part to get rid of Lucy once and for all.

This may or may not bring him into the players' orbit, as he's bound to need Bookhounds. However so long as he keeps lurking in the background, possibly arranging fiendish traps to get rid of the Ainsworth sisters or chaining himself up at night to prevent disaster when he transforms, the players are bound to suspect him.

Which means they may not suspect Lucy - until it's too late.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Ripped from the Headlines: The Iron Toothed Vampire (Night's Black Agents, Dracula Dossier, Esoterrorists)

Hundreds of Glasgow schoolchildren gather at the Necropolis each night. Two kids have been murdered, and eaten, by a vampire, and they're determined to bring the monster to justice. Their weapons may be feeble - a collection of sticks and knives - but their fervor is very real.

A cry goes up: "There's the vampire!" The schoolchildren scatter, screaming.

Thus a legend is born: the Iron Toothed Vampire of the Gorbals.

It gets its genesis from a comic book, Dark Mysteries. Comics like these were rarer than hen's teeth in Glasgow in the 1950s, and whoever had it must have enjoyed bragging rights. For whatever reason, that particular tale caught hold. It probably started small, with a couple kids chatting. Then more took up the tale, and more. Then the rumor goes round that, not only does it exist, it's killed.

It's one small step from that to patrolling the cemetery looking for the thing.

I can bear personal witness to this. Not that long ago, a tsunami swamped Bermuda. You won't have heard of it, but it's true. No, it didn't come from the Triangle. It came from Thailand.

In 2004 a terrible disaster took the lives of a quarter million people, most of them in Thailand. A year later, there was a documentary about the event. Bermudians watched it. Two of them sat outside, near Salt Rock Grill in Somerset, and idly commented that the gleam of water on the horizon looked just a little like what they thought a tsunami-created water wall might look like.

A few hours later our neighbors from Dockyard were deposited on our doorstep by the local police, convinced beyond reason that water would swamp everything at low level. Since we are on a hill, the police figured people would be safe.

Oddly enough, there was no ocean wave of death.

Nobody thought to ask how long it took a tsunami wave to hit, once it's sighted from shore. The police never called the weather service, or any other agency tasked with monitoring this kind of thing. They just scooped people up and dropped them somewhere that might be safe.

I suppose I should be grateful most of them aren't armed.

When the Esoterrorists talks about how the Membrane can be shattered by people spreading cryptorumors to create what amounts to a supernatural effect, the Iron Toothed Vampire is what it's talking about.

To add a little bit of gamification, with all the above in mind:

In 1954 Edom has a problem. It's self-inflicted: the Glasgow site at which it has been holding a biological test subject proves less secure than hoped, and the test subject escapes.

It's spotted by local children when it tries to hide in the Southern Necropolis, and then something interesting happens.

Edom still isn't sure of the proximate cause, but for whatever reason children by the dozens - the hundreds - join the hunt. At the same time the psychic listening posts set up to monitor activity - and by extension, Dracula - go off like klaxons. This causes an inordinate amount of public concern, outcry, and attention-grabbing media.

By the time the dust settles, the entity is contained, and the children given sound spankings and sent to bed, the Dukes are in conference. After all, it was just one minor outbreak, the sort of thing that has happened often enough before without this kind of reaction. What caused the psychic trauma? Will it happen again? Can it be created - can Dracula fake out the listening post system with false reports?

To begin with, the Glasgow operation is shut down. Clearly security is too lax; somewhere else shall be found for these experiments.

However the next few decades see an unprecedented interest in child psychology, as investigators from Edom monitor the children who participated in the Iron Toothed Vampire hunt. The initial theory is that one or more of them is, or was, a psychic sensitive, and the excitement caused by the vampire story caused a sudden burst of psychic energy, which in turn affected and influenced all the others.

In spite of this attractive theory the investigators are never able to narrow down the patient zero of this outbreak. Instead they have what come to be called the Gorbals Ten: children, now grandparents, who might or might not have had sufficient ability to create the effect. In some cases, whatever they may have had is thought to have dissipated with puberty. In others, the jury is still out. In any case those ten, and their offspring, are still monitored closely, just to be sure.

So when Ronald Morrison dies by his own hand in a very suggestive manner - he apparently stakes himself to death, using the remains of a wooden chair - Edom is quick to respond. The agents go up to Glasgow in sunny January - average rainfall 148.2 inches - to see what's what.

Did Morrison kill himself? If so, did he choose that particular method for a reason? What of the remaining Nine - are they at risk?

Are children gathering at the Southern Necropolis again, and if so, why?


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Dry As Dust (Night's Black Agents)

I was going to talk about something else, but then a question popped up on Ken & Robin's podcast about Dust mode in Night's Black Agents.

It occurred to me that I've been working on just that very thing for a writing project I'd like to see come to fruition, so with that in mind:

Dust Mode

[REDACTED] is written with Dust mode in mind.
Dust tends to be less cinematic than the standard setting. Characters are still badass, but they’re not Jason Bourne badass. Death is an ever-present reminder that mistakes may be forgivable but are also fatal. The vampires and their human allies tend to be much more challenging in open combat.
Dust tends to work well with Mirror mode, that shifting morass of ever-changing loyalties which makes heavy use of the Trust and Betrayal mechanics described on pages 40-41 of the main book.
The following rules modifications are required for [REDACTED's] Dust mode:
·         Remove the MOS rules.
·         Remove Cherry benefits that result in automatic success.
·         Keep Cherry benefits that do not imply automatic success, eg Medical School of Hard Knocks with its bonus point in Diagnosis.
·         Cap Health at 10.
·         Keep the Thriller Combat rules.
·         Use the Guns Kill rules given on page 63 of the main book.
The Thriller Combat rules make combats more interesting, as do Cherries like Martial Arts. Equally the Athletics Cherry gives access to Parkour, which allows for better chase scenes.
The point being that simply having access to those rules does not imply automatic success; just because a character is experienced in Parkour doesn’t mean she won’t screw up the vault.
However the MOS rules and Cherries like Infiltration’s Open Sesame do allow automatic success, and therefore should not be used if the Director intends to play this setting in Dust mode.
There are some grey area Cherries, and the Director should make a judgement call as to whether to use them. Gambling’s Luck of the Devil Cherry, for example, allows the player to make a dice roll at the beginning of the session and decide when to use it. Technically this could allow an automatic success, or an automatic failure.
The Director must decide whether this benefit is applicable in Dust mode. In my Dust games I allow it, on the basis that the Cherry does not necessarily result in automatic success or failure; the Difficulty of the test still needs to be taken into account.  
If Mirror mode is to be used then players assign Trust as usual.
It sometimes happens in Mirror games that the Betrayer reveals that they’ve been working for ‘the other side’ all along, where the other side is often an intelligence agency. In the example in the main book, Beatrice tells her companions Jack and Luc that she’s been working for the DGSE, the French external intelligence agency, all along.
In this setting, it’s also possible that the Betrayer is working for one of the players in this high-stakes game, like [YOU BETTER BELIEVE THAT'S REDACTED]. The Director should consider carefully whether to allow this; it may be that aligning with one of the in-game agencies allows the player greater access to in-game secrets.
That said, it’s perfectly in keeping with Mirror mode to have a character announce she’s been bought off by one of the in-game agencies. If the Director wishes to allow it, by all means do so.

Why, Bob? Why?
Ultimately the point behind Dust mode is that it's gritty, more realistic, potentially more fatal. In Anthony Price's novels combat is rare, but when it happens somebody dies. In Price's war novels, like Hour of the Donkey, there's death by the bucketload; an entire unit is wiped out in the first few pages of Donkey. 
So the Thriller Combat rules have their uses. True, they add cinema, but they also increase the stakes, particularly if the Guns Kill rules are used. Plus, the players love Thriller Combat, possibly because it gives them the illusion of control. Never take away anything the players love. It's much better to destroy the things they love, preferably with as much drama and fanfare as possible. Try to arrange a brass band, possibly a few elephants. Elephants add class to every occasion.
That said, the MOS rules can be a problem because they allow the players to eliminate serious threats without rolling dice or spending points. One automatic success later, and the encounter that the Director thought would be challenging is reduced to a brief cameo moment, starring 'pink brain mist' in tonight's climactic scene. For much the same reason, Cherries that give automatic success are also difficult to deal with. Preparedness can be particularly annoying, but there are plenty of others.
Players become more concerned if they know they have to spend points to guarantee success, because their points pools are finite. Sure, at the beginning of the session they have pools for days, and can take on any foe, but they know and you know that, at the midway point, things change. The center cannot hold
To quote LBJ - or possibly John Wayne or Teddy Roosevelt - if you grab them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow. 
Inject anxiety into the equation. Make the players question whether they can hold out long enough. Once they start thinking they might not have enough oomph for yet another gunfight, they'll do their best to avoid another gunfight.

Finally, a word about the Guns Kill rules.

It's one thing to see those rules in print, something else again when the first player drops from, say, 5 Health to -6 in a single shot. The first time something like that happens, prepare for falling jaws to splinter floorboards. Assume Health 10, and two shooters, both of whom hit the target. On an average roll of 4+, the target is in serious trouble. If the total is much more than that - if one rolls 4, the other 6, say, or 2 5s - then the target is already on -6 Health, possibly in the first round of combat.

If that doesn't cause the players to rethink their John Woo ways, nothing will.


Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Facility (RPG Any. GUMSHOE)

The agents gather their forces and prepare to strike. The opposition won't know what hit them - or at least, that's the idea. But what are the agents assaulting, and how difficult will their task be?

Any organized group, whatever its objective, has assets of one kind or another. Often these assets are brick-and-mortar buildings, facilities whose efforts assist the group's goals. For the purpose of this discussion I'm going to use Esoterrorists as an example, but the concepts discussed here could apply across the board. It doesn't matter whether Vampires or Cultists are behind the latest threat to humanity; certain characteristics are shared.

The purpose of this segment is to give you, the Keeper/Director, some basic vocabulary to describe these facilities to the players. This will be particularly useful if you have to do this on the fly, without much prior preparation. This will most often happen in an improvisational game, in which the characters are likely to go off-script in search of adventure.

So what are these facilities?

  • Manufacture,
  • Collect,
  • Distribute, or
  • Analyze.
A manufacturing facility makes something, a collection facility stores it, a distribution hub delivers it, and an analyzing facility investigates.

So to take an Esoterror cell devoted to weakening the membrane by any means necessary, that group has means by which it collects material to further its cause, makes that material, distributes it, or tries to find new ways to make, distribute or collect it. For purposes of this example it doesn't really matter what that material is - it's a pure McGuffin.

What do all these facilities have in common? They need:
  • Security, and,
  • Monitoring.
Someone has to keep the facility maintained and safe from prying eyes. This may mean a simple padlock on an important door, or a full-fledged electronic surveillance system. Also, someone has to monitor what's going on, whether the facility is doing as it should.

For purposes of gamification, the Security and Monitoring aspects of any facility ought to be given a basic rating, Low, Medium, or High. This determines the Difficulty of any given test against or within the facility.

So for example: this Collection facility has Low Security and Low Monitoring. It isn't very important to the grand design, or the cell doesn't have the resources to look after this and its other facilities too. This implies that any attempt to Infiltrate the facility, use Digital Intrusion to crack its online database, or really to attempt any test, is, at most, 3, assuming the Gumshoe default of Difficulty 4 for all tests.  

This implies that the Collection facility has only the most basic of security. Maybe there's a guard at the door, or a few badly placed, cheapo cameras. It also implies that the characters may be able to infiltrate the facility without being seen, and if they leave without blowing the place up or burning it down, their actions may not be noticed by the cell for some time, if ever. 

Thus Low = Difficulty 3, Medium = Difficulty 4, and High = Difficulty 5.

This doesn't just affect Difficulty. In Gumshoe, it also affects Investigative ability spends. A Low Security, Medium Monitoring facility implies:
  • 0 point clues for anything involving Security, say Electronic Surveillance, and
  • 1 point clues for anything involving Monitoring, say, Bureaucracy.  
The point being that a Low Security environment, say, is lax in all areas. The security cameras aren't properly positioned, the guards are rent-a-cops, the fences have holes in them. This isn't the time to make the agents spend points on Military Science to work out guard patterns. Whereas a Medium Monitoring environment has some functioning safeguards, so it shouldn't be a walk in the park when your forensic Accountant goes through its books.

High Security or Monitoring, on the other hand, implies extraordinary safeguards. That in turn suggests that more than one point, or perhaps a combination of points from different abilities, are needed.

It's unreasonable to assume that there's a wide spread between Security and Monitoring. A High Monitoring facility would never have Low Security. Nobody in their right mind puts the most important thing they own in a cardboard box by the side of the road. So a High Monitoring facility will have at least Medium Security. Similarly a Low Security facility is only ever going to have Medium Monitoring, and so on.

If you extend the gamification to transport between facilities, then there's an argument for saying there can be a wide spread between Security and Monitoring, for a very brief period while the McGuffins are in transport. However even then a wide spread isn't really likely. You don't see banks transporting cash in a tuk-tuk

OK, all that's the bare bones approach. So what happens when you want to go into more detail?

First, take a moment to think about what it is you're trying to describe. Security and Monitoring are common factors, granted. However there are other factors unique to the kind of facility you're designing. For example:

A Collection facility gathers McGuffins. What does it need?

It needs:
  • Space, in which to safely store the McGuffins.
  • Materials that are important to the McGuffins.
  • Transport for the McGuffins.
Let's say the McGuffins are delicate, and need to be in a temperature controlled environment. This may be the case if the McGuffins are antiques, or bacteria, or high-end computer equipment. Then the facility needs Materials, equipment to maintain temperature, power for that equipment, and probably some kind of electronic monitoring system to ensure the equipment doesn't fail, or, if it does, that the appropriate monitoring body is immediately alerted.

This in turn suggests significant investment - some kind of HVAC, distribution vents, means to control waste runoff from the equipment, some kind of monitoring station either automated or with human personnel. This only gets more important if the facility is somewhere that complicates that process - if, say, this temperature controlled environment has to exist within a tropical biosphere.

Say that the Esoterror cell is operating a facility similar to InGen's Jurassic Park in Isla Nublar, Costa Rica. That environment is fairly harsh: hot, humid, probably lots of salt in the atmosphere since it's an island, subject to intense storms. It's reasonable to assume that any complex technical facility in that environment wages a constant battle against corrosion, and that providing even basic aircon is more difficult there than it would be, say, in Texas.

However it couldn't exist at all if it wasn't close to Costa Rica. Politically stable, with a democratic government since 1948, and economically developed, it permits the transport network a would-be InGen needs to move all the construction equipment, scientific McGuffins and other things required to create the facility in the first place.

Equally, satisfying those needs may give the agents clues as to the facility's purpose and importance. In Greg Rucka's Queen and Country, when the agency needs to work out whether or not a particular building, out in the middle of nowhere, is or is not a chemical weapons plant, the two things that give it away, from satellite imagery alone, are an abundance of guards, and high waste heat from the machinery it uses to produce its McGuffins. Satisfying needs meant that the facility gave its true nature away. 

A Distribution facility's needs are similar, but not the same. It needs:
  • Space,
  • Materials, and
  • Transport.
But its need hierarchy is different.

If you were to map out a Collection facility's needs, its priority list would be Materials, then Space, then Transport. It absolutely needs to keep the McGuffins safe and viable, so it absolutely needs Materials. It needs Space, but that isn't as important as Materials, since it's reasonable to presume the McGuffins aren't staying forever. Finally, it needs transport links, but that isn't as important to it as the other two needs in the hierarchy.

So a Collection facility could be: out in an allegedly abandoned military base or missile silo. In a warehouse on the outskirts of a small town. In an old freighter anchored offshore. All these places are relatively remote and low-key, but they satisfy the need hierarchy. They offer Materials first and foremost, then Space, then Transport.

Whereas a Distribution facility's need hierarchy is: Transport, Materials, Space. Its purpose is to distribute, so it absolutely needs transport links to help it distribute. It needs to keep the McGuffins safe and viable for the limited time the McGuffins are within its care, so it needs Materials. It doesn't need Space as much as it needs the other two things, since the McGuffins aren't staying very long.

So a Distribution facility could be: a warehouse in a suburb near a major city. Container yards at or near a major port. Slaughterhouses on or near an important railway hub. A hotel at or near an airport. All these places are near the one thing it needs most, but in turn it means that the facility isn't as low-key. It needs some kind of profile, if only to blend in with everything else around it. Abandoned, decaying, marked with hazard warning signs - these are things you don't associate with important transport links. If it's a hotel right next to JFK airport in New York, it probably doesn't look like the hotel from Psycho

You can assign a needs hierarchy to all the facility types. Manufacturing needs Space, Materials, Transport. An Analyzing facility needs Transport, Space, Materials. With this needs hierarchy comes the first indication of what a facility is actually like, which in turn helps you design it quickly.

All that said, let's consider an Esoterror Manufacturing facility. Let's also presume that this facility is important but not vital to the cell, so it has Medium Security and Monitoring.

Say for the sake of plot that this particular facility is involved in food production, that it makes chicken nuggets which are infected with a biological agent that, in a percentage of the population, results in a disease which causes brain death. This allows the newly dead brains to be taken over by an Outer Dark entity.

It's manufacturing, so it needs Space, Materials, Transport. Space in this instance implies a lot of space - after all, there are a lot of chickens - and given the nature of the facility there's a lot of waste disposal too, and equipment for processing - the Materials part of the equation. There will be some kind of loading bay or shipping point - the Transport. There's also a small amount of the McGuffin on site. There would be more if this was a High Monitoring or Security site, but we've already decided this is Medium.

When the McGuffins are transported out of the facility, Security drops by one level, from Medium to Low. This in turn suggests that if the agents choose to hit the transport rather than the facility, their odds of success improve.

Assuming there's anything here that might provoke a Stability or Sanity loss, then that loss is probably not enough to drive anyone crazy, but enough to be a concern. Minor, not major; if it were major, the facility would be more important to the cell, and have High levels of Security, Monitoring, or both.

Medium Security implies plenty of locked doors, some kind of electronic alarm system, maybe a minor Outer Dark entity on site depending on how pulp you intend to play it. Medium Monitoring implies that if something happens to the facility the cell will respond reasonably quickly. Within a day if that something is overt, like explosives or a fire, within a week if it's just a break-in.  It also implies that there are resources on site that the agents might want to look at - filing cabinets, computer databases, midlevel management to interrogate. Difficulty for all tests within the facility is 4. Investigative Ability spends are at least 1 point.

Already you have a fairly clear picture of the facility, and thus what the agents can hope to get from the facility. You also know, for gamification purposes, the Difficulty for all tests, and the point spend. Those are the most important things you'll need to know before running any scene within the facility. 

Of course, you'll want to go into more detail for truly important, campaign-relevant facilities. This is just for those emergency moments, when the need arises and you haven't anything planned. Take a breath, consider your options, and ...