Every now and again, I allude jokingly to my “patented one hour per paragraph production model.” This joke has the advantage of making Simon squirm and laugh hollowly, and the disadvantage of sometimes being true. Those little ability clues that I so thoughtlessly made standard in Hideous Creatures? Some of them, especially for the harder sciences, take — well, not an hour necessarily, but they take a good deal longer than just writing “Aunt Sandra thought she saw a bear but it smelled like a frog” or whatever. Visceral goo, easy; virtual science, hard.
Well, anyhow, I recently set what I hope to goodness is my all-time record for research-to-paragraph production, when I wrote up the “Calimani” paragraph in the “Castle Dracula” section of The Dracula Dossier. We can’t make it too easy to just “skip to the boss fight at the end,” after all, so I put in nine or so possible sites for Castle Dracula, of which the Calimani Mountains (a.k.a. the Kelemen Alps) in the eastern Carpathians are one. Why those Mountains (or Alps) in particular? Because they’ve been fingered by the wonderfully obsessive Dutch Dracula scholar Hans Corneel de Roos in his essay “The Dracula Maps” which is available only as an introductory section in his has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed photographically illustrated (and surprisingly minimally annotated) oversized book The Ultimate Dracula. (The cover, for those who disdain following clicky links, shows Dracula riding his coffin (complete with headlamps) through the skies over Transylvania.) So I (of course) bought it and when it showed up, pored over the FIFTY PAGE essay and carefully studied the SEVENTEEN main maps (the crucial ones being blown-up images of Austro-Hungarian military charts oh Thoth-Dionysos I love this book so much) and looked at the spot Corneel de Roos found in GoogleEarth then spent a bit of extra time tracing the “Mozile Draculi” label from one of those Austro-Hungarian military charts on a nearby hill, which turns out to actually read “Morile Draculi” meaning “Devil’s Mill” … or, of course, “Dracula’s Mill.” There’s also a nearby mountain called Dragusul, which doesn’t come from the same root at all but seems suggestive nonetheless.
If you’re curious, the key insight in de Roos’ essay is that Stoker gives a (mistakenly swapped) latitude and longitude for the nearest border crossing in his Notes, and mentions a nearby location called “Izvorul” which might well be the mountain Izvorul Calimanii or “Heart of the Kelemen” which might well have been the random desolate peak Stoker picked to use as Dracula’s mountain home. And yes I have Stoker’s Notes too.
And then I boiled the whole megillah down to the “Calimani” description but in my defense I think that turned into a little more like two or even three paragraphs.
But wait! There’s more! On an entirely unrelated search — well, not entirely unrelated, as it’s still about Dracula — I found another essay by the indefatigable Corneel de Roos. This one deals with the 1901 Icelandic translation of Dracula (titled Makt Myrkranna, meaning “Powers of Darkness”), which sent Dracula scholarship into a tizzy in 1986 when Stoker’s preface to it was rediscovered, said tizzy emanating from Stoker’s clear reference in that preface to Jack the Ripper. What’s the connection? asked any number of Dracula critics and at least two novels (one with a great title) and one very silly book of ostensible nonfiction which of course I own why would you even ask such a question it’s like you don’t even know me.
So anyhow that Icelandic translation, by one Valdimar Ásmundsson (who died in 1902, the year after it came out, no that’s not suspicious at all) was recently republished in 2011 — and only our redoubtable Dutchman has bothered to translate it or Googlefish it at least to find out if Jack the Ripper shows up in the book. So in his 2014 essay “Makt Myrkranna: Mother of All Dracula Modifications?” C. de Roos reveals that Ásmundsson — possibly with Stoker’s assistance and nigh-certainly with his permission — radically changed the plot! Dracula is now head of an evil conspiracy of rich bastards, financial-conspirator-Satanists who carried out the Thames Torso Murders among other outrages (and likely committed the Ripper killings after Dracula left the scene in a cloud of dust).
Reading this essay gave me: some possible names for the Brides of Dracula, lots more creepy Europeans, a new detective (Barrington, to go with Stoker’s un-used Cotford) and best of all, a lovely extra thread to spin out as a potential conspiracy. I barely prevented myself from adding Iceland as a new location.
All that, I confidently suspect, will nurture many new paragraphs indeed. So as long as I can keep Hans Corneel de Roos from publishing any more ground-breaking essays, we should be able to wrap this thing up (only a bit bloated with extra Satanism and keen Romanian mountains) by Halloween.
And so the time has begun for teases of Dracula Dossier content. Not least because the time is being taken up writing Dracula Dossier content instead of “Call of Chicago” content for See p. XX, but be that as it may. (If you’re wondering what The Dracula Dossier might be with all this content of a sudden, here’s the link.) Those of you fortunate ones who remember The Armitage Files will recognize this as a close variant of its “Artifact and Tome” format, in which a device might turn up in any one of many ontological states.
So why an Earthquake Device? Because there is a weird sub-theme in Stoker’s novel concerning volcanism, earthquakes, and other sorts of tectonic Gothic mayhem … including a full-on volcanic eruption that Stoker cut from the final version of the novel. For some reason. And when I started researching this book, I uncovered huge earthquakes in Romania — in the Carpathians, even — in 1893, 1940, and 1977. Exactly and specifically the earlier time frames the campaign refers to. There’s a lot more that I found out, but you’ll have to wait for the Big One to see it thrust up to the surface.
For now, I give you …
The Earthquake Device
Appearance: This object resembles a set of pistons held together by a ring around a central shaft. It rests on a set of splayed feet, allowing the central shaft to rise and fall when fed electrical power. Leads for a truck battery are visible in a recess on the side of the ring. On the ring and the bottom of the central shaft appear tiny symbols and words in another language: Serbo-Croatian, perhaps? An Investigative use of Mechanics can tell that this device was not mass-produced, but it may not be unique.
Supposed History: Agents with Occult Studies (or Fringe Science, if the campaign uses that possible version of the ability) or a 1-point Mechanics spend recognize this device as a version of Nikola Tesla’s oscillator. In 1893, Tesla patented a machine intended as a steam-driven electrical generator, but soon realized that its regular oscillations actually tuned themselves to the resonant frequency of the building – or country – it operated within. During one test in 1898, so the story goes, he accidentally triggered an earthquake centered on his laboratory, and had to demolish the prototype with a sledgehammer before the whole building came down around his ears.
Major Item: This device, as Tesla feared, can actually trigger earthquakes. Edom bought or stole a prototype from Tesla’s laboratory (or Morris brought one over from America) and used it to awaken Dracula in 1893 – and to trigger the volcano that put him back to sleep a year later. This specific device was issued to the 1940 Edom team in Romania; Edom (or Dracula’s mole within Edom) may also have used it (or another like it) to awaken Dracula (or leave a false seismic trail) in 1977. By now, the British government has far more sophisticated truck-mounted (or satellite-mounted) earthquake machines, which explains why the agents can misappropriate this one.
To operate the earthquake machine requires a continuous supply of electricity for three days (three truck batteries is sufficient) and a successful Difficulty 6 Mechanics test each day. The severity of the earthquake that results depends on the tectonic instability of the machine’s location. Getting out of the earthquake zone with the machine may be a bigger challenge than starting the earthquake in the first place!
[[DA]] In a campaign emphasizing the sorcerous, necromantic aspects of Dracula, the device is actually a Seal of Agares, a demon given power over earthquakes. The tiny symbols are the Name of Agares and certain geomantic emblems; the strange words UUSUR and ITAR channel Agares’ power into an earthquake. A 1-point Occult Studies spend (or a 1-point Research spend in a well-stocked occult library; or a 2-point Research spend and a good Internet connection; or a 0-point spend of Occult Studies while consulting Le Dragon Noir) recognizes all of the above.
To activate the earthquake device requires a simple battery discharge (Difficulty 3 Mechanics test, replacing the traditional lightning-strike), a supply of blood (at least 4 Health) decanted into the “pistons” each night, a specialized pentacle containing the Seal and the caster, three nights of spell casting, and a successful Difficulty 7 Stability test each night. The severity of the earthquake that results depends on the amount of blood sacrificed, and perhaps on the tectonic instability of the Seal’s location. Dracula can cast the spell more rapidly, if he needs to.
The specific spell is not available online; discovering it requires a week’s Research (3 point spend) or two days’ Occult Studies (2 point spend) in a well-stocked occult library, or access to Le Dragon Noir. With a 1-point Occult Studies spend, an agent knows that the spell is in Le Dragon Noir. The Director may well rule that only Le Dragon Noir (and possibly an Edom field manual somewhere) has the spell, and no amount of research outside the Scholomance can uncover it.
Minor Item: The device is actually a field seismometer dating back to 1893, used by the Harker team to find Castle Dracula by triangulating on temblors. Its design is more rugged and portable than a standard Milne seismograph. The central shaft holds the heavy pendulum; the other “pistons” hold mercury bubbles (viewed through a glass underneath the piston cap) and a battery: the “battery leads” are actually intended to connect to a telegraph key and line. A 1-point Geology spend recognizes it for what it is, and can even “read” it, although without a telegraph hookup, its output is less useful.
Fraudulent: The object is a fake “Tesla” device built by the mole to send Edom on a wild goose chase through the worlds of seismology: there is no direct connection between Dracula and earthquakes, except for the coincidence of his awakening and the 1893 quakes, and perhaps of the 1940 quake knocking Harker’s Kukri loose from his chest.
If the Director would like to keep the Dracula-earthquake connection alive, the device might still be authentic, but was left out in the Romanian countryside long enough to get broken and rusted beyond repair.
Connections: The Former Gehlen Org and Van Sloan know of the device’s existence, as does the Old Seismologist. The object itself might be in Van Sloan’s house, or in a neglected corner of the HMS Proserpine, Ring, or the Citta della Scienza Museum.
As I once more turn my hopeful eye upon The Dracula Dossier, digging back into things vampiric and espionagical, it occurs to me that it might be fun to wonder just who we talk about when we talk about Dracula. In The Dracula Dossier, every player knows going in that the Big Bad up on Level 6 of the Conspyramid is Dracula – making him a lowly puppet might have the advantage of novelty, but vitiates the whole point of using Dracula in the first place. But who, in the first place, Dracula is – that, we can leave mysterious.
These seven possible candidates might show up as just such Director’s options in The Dracula Dossier, most likely built out a bit from these skeletal outlines. Which one shows up in your game – well, that’s why they call it a mystery, isn’t it?
Vlad III Tepes
Vlad the Impaler, the historical voivode (closer to prince than count) of Wallachia, is the most usual of suspects. Even Bram Stoker’s great-grandson Dacre pins the Impaler and the Count together, following in the footsteps of Francis Ford Coppola and the historians Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu, among others. In Vlad’s favor: his name actually was “Dracula,” and he signed it that way. He did like death and bloodshed, whether in battle or on a field of impaled boyars. He had an “unworthy brother,” like the Count. He also fits Van Helsing’s description of the Count: “He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land.” As against the identification: Not only is it too obvious, but too many details of Dracula’s life (his Szekely blood, for instance) don’t match Vlad’s – while the most, er, pointed detail of Vlad’s life (the hundreds of thousands of impalements) don’t show up in Dracula’s reminiscences or Van Helsing’s research.
One thing Dracula is sure of: he is Hungarian, a descendant of Attila, not Romanian. He is also voivode of Transylvania, not of Wallachia. And who was the greatest of the Hungarian voivodes of Transylvania? Janos Hunyadi (1385-1456), that’s who. Like Dracula (and Vlad) he “crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground,” at Belgrade in 1456. In the fairly confused reminiscence of his lineage (which might, of course, reflect either Harker’s distracted note-taking or deliberate disinformation by Stoker), Dracula’s career fits that of Hunyadi at least as well as it does that of Vlad. Fun fact: Hunyadi’s son Matthias Corvinus became King of Hungary, and later betrayed and imprisoned Vlad in Visegrad.
By Chapter 25, Van Helsing has given up on Vlad’s era and decided that the Count must be: “that other of his race … in a later age.” In their biography of Vlad, McNally and Florescu run down the descendants of the Draculesti line, about fourteen in all. While Mircea II had exceptional physical prowess, Alexandru II enjoyed a good impalement, and Radu Mihnea was rich and extravagant, in the Night’s Black Agents “Linea Dracula” campaign frame I went with John Dracula, who received a patent of nobility from Emperor Ferdinand I in 1535. Intriguingly, the coat of arms he (and his brother Ladislas, another possible candidate) received was that of the Bathory family: a wolf’s jaw with three teeth. Stephen Bathory commanded Vlad in the 1476 war against the Turks that briefly restored his throne; a connection between the Balkans’ two great vampire lineages was too good to pass up. Also, John and Ladislas (like the Count) were Hungarians, descended from Janos Hunyadi through their mother. I picked John over the elder Ladislas mostly because of John’s near-complete obscurity: he had a son (Georg) but no recorded date of death.
Finally we have Nicolaus Olahus, who served (from 1553 to 1568) as archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary, for that “blasphemous vampire Curia” vibe so common amongst Protestant (or atheist) film-makers. He described himself as “ex sanguine Draculae” (“of the blood of Dracula”), which is just about perfect and echoes the Count’s own word choice to boot. He was an adviser to kings and emperors, ideal soil for that medieval Conspyramid to root itself, and although Hungarian by nationality he researched the ancient past of Romania, another field pregnant with possible game hooks.
We now leave the fields of recorded history for the realm of secret history. It is well known that F.W. Murnau, the director of Nosferatu, pirated Stoker’s novel for his plot. But what if his research turned up the original story that Stoker concealed – and its German connection? Murnau, of course, was wired into the Berlin occult underground – the producer and designer of the film, Albin Grau, was a member of the Saturnian Brotherhood and a student of alchemy and magic. Through his occult mentor Aleister Crowley, Grau could have turned up British intelligence records of the Dracula operation, and made his film using the real name of the Count, Graf Orlok. The German (or “Saxon”) population of Transylvania goes back to the Teutonic Knights, who built castles there in the 13th century – including in Dracula’s home ground of Bistritz and Borgo Pass. If “Dracula” is German by blood, that complicates the story nicely. This theory also provides a lovely secret-service explanation for every print of Nosferatu (but one) being hunted down and destroyed — ostensibly to defend Florence Stoker’s copyright.
Complications multiply even more wonderfully if the connection to Romania is entirely fictional. Stoker’s Notes reveal that he initially wanted to set his novel (by which, of course, I mean “reveal that the original British Secret Service report set the action”) in Styria, a province of Austria famous for both literary and historical vampire infestations. (LeFanu sets Carmilla in Styria.) Stoker’s original draft used the transparent pseudonym “Count Wampyr” for the vampire’s name, clearly indicating that he was covering up the real title. If Florence Stoker hadn’t published “Dracula’s Guest,” a chapter redacted from the original novel, in 1914, we might never know the vampire’s family name. In that tale, “Countess Dolingen of Gratz in Styria” has been buried with an iron stake through her and the epitaph (in Russian) “The Dead Travel Fast.” If she is one of the Count’s brides, that makes Dracula actually Count Dolingen. The common initials also hint at a cover story, which is pretty nice.
Our final possibility offers a wonderful linkage between Night’s Black Agents and Trail of Cthulhu. In 1924, Charles Dexter Ward visits “a Baron Ferenczy” east of Rakus in Transylvania. His castle “was on a crag in the dark wooded mountains, and the region was so shunned by the country folk that normal people could not help feeling ill at ease. Moreover, the Baron was not a person likely to appeal to correct and conservative New England gentlefolk. His aspect and manners had idiosyncrasies, and his age was so great as to be disquieting.” A-hem. Count Dracula is a necromancer, schooled at the Scholomance: “Baron Ferenczy” turns out to be Edward Hutchinson, a necromancer of Salem, Massachusetts. Unless, of course, both “Ferenczy” and “Hutchinson” are pseudonyms; he signs himself first with “Nephren-Ka nai Hadoth” – in other words, Nyarlathotep. That said … if Count Dracula is actually Nyarlathotep, you’re going to need a lot more garlic. And some more agents, most likely.
Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws talk worldbuilding, creating interesting female pregens for con games and freeforms, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and time-traveling health care in a brand new episode of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.
Four Generations of EDOM
For years, it has been a legend. Somewhere in the dusty archives of MI6 is the complete version of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula — the unredacted version. The full story revealed clear pointers to the sources and methods the Service used in Operation EDOM, an 1893 mission that sent a bold agent deep into the Balkans to awaken and then terminate a very dangerous asset indeed.
But the termination didn’t take. In 1940, desperate to stop Hitler’s march through Europe, the Service reactivated EDOM, and reanimated their Transylvanian asset. Once more, they found they had bitten off more than they could chew, and in the chaos of wartime Romania they put him to sleep. Or so they thought.
In 1977, MI6 discovered that they weren’t the only players in this game. Their asset had left his own sleepers behind in Moscow and Romania — and in London — and inside MI6. The Service had to reopen EDOM, awaken Dracula again, to find his agents in their own ranks — or so they said. Perhaps that reawakening was the sleeper’s doing, too. Perhaps the Count never slept, not as the Service thought.
In 2011, looking for a terror great enough to fight terror, MI6 once more reached for EDOM. Once more, Dracula reached back. That’s how you found the EDOM case file: the Dracula Dossier.
Three Generations of Intel
The edition of Dracula you found is more than complete — it’s annotated. MI6 analysts and EDOM field men kept notes in the margins of their priceless copies of Stoker’s work, notes from 1940, from 1977, and from 2011. Notes collated into one master case file, a file that vanished in 2011. The file you found. This is the dossier you must decipher to find the secrets of EDOM, to reveal who betrayed the 1893 operation, to discover who in MI6 still serves Count Dracula today.
And then, you must follow those clues to end the story once and for all, to close EDOM forever. You must find, hunt, and kill Dracula, the king of the vampires.
Your Generation of Horror
The Dracula Dossier follows in the fully improvisational path of the award-winning Armitage Files campaign. Players follow up leads in the margins of Dracula Unredacted, chasing down the real characters from Stoker’s novel, their descendants in the present, and the British agents caught in the backblast.
Combine these leads and notes with pre-prepared elements such as conspiracy nodes, eerie locations, and vampiric beasts. The dossier contains over 40 supporting characters in vampiric, heroic, or in-between versions. Different versions of the real Mina Harker, Abraham van Helsing, and the other stars of Stoker’s novel — and their modern-day successors, descendants, and survivors — can drive the story in any direction the players look.
Players choose which leads to track, which scarlet trail to follow. The Director, using the clear step-by-step techniques in this book, improvises a suitably blood-soaked thriller in response to their choices. Clear advice to players and Directors on improvisation, with extensive examples and guidelines, helps you set the scene. Together, you will read and write your own unique version of the Dracula Dossier …
if you survive.
Status: In Development