Cthulhu City, our new Trail of Cthulhu setting about a monstrous, mythos-haunted city adapts the Night’s Black Agents Heat mechanics to model Suspicion. Think of Suspicion as a slow simmer compared to Heat’s flash-fry. Rising Heat means police SWAT teams chasing you through the streets and airports shutting down; rising Suspicion implies police detectives knocking at your door in the middle of the night, or mysterious figures sabotaging your car to stop you leaving.
If your Night’s Black Agents game involves the characters spending extended time behind enemy lines, you may want to use these Suspicion mechanics in stead of Heat. Maybe they’re in a vampire-controlled city in Eastern Europe or maybe you’re running a historical Edom scenario with the Agents operating being the Iron Curtain, or a post-apocalyptic fantasy where greedy, sociopathic, inhuman monsters rule the world.
(Hat tip to “Nooch” over on rpg.net for requesting this adaptation.)
While in occupied territory, investigations into strange events and other vampire hunting activity may draw unwanted attention. This is measured in Suspicion. The entire group of Agents has one Suspicion score in common; they are each other’s known associates. The group’s Suspicion begins at 0.
The groups’ Suspicion only rises once per game session; use the highest Suspicion gain incurred in the session.
Criminal acts, especially assault or murder, are the most common route to increased Suspicion, but showing undue knowledge of the supernatural or the Conspiracy also draws unwanted attention. Anything that raises Heat boosts Suspicion, but so do actions like:
- purchasing large amounts of garlic or UV lamps
- acquiring occult books
- associating with other suspects
- trespassing in vampire-controlled areas
- possession of a foreign passport or legal-but-suspicious equipment like bugging devices
- forbidden web searches
- travelling by night
- having no visible source of financial support
Precautions: The agents can avoid increases in their Suspicion by ensuring that the city authorities do not connect the suspicious events with the hunters. Such precautions usually require spends from abilities. For example:
- Make extra spends of Negotiation, Intimidation or Reassurance to convince witnesses not to mention the agents’ presence to the authorities
- Spend Cop Talk to convince police to look the other way
- Spend Evidence Collection or Forensics to wipe away fingerprints and sanitise a crime scene
- Hide incriminating notes with Cryptography
- Make untraceable home-made explosives with Chemistry instead of purchasing them on the black market
- Use Disguise or Infiltration to avoid unfriendly eyes
Averted Suspicion can come back to burn the agents if circumstances warrant. If a witness comes forward later, or new evidence comes to light, or the investigators’ deceptions are penetrated, the Agents can gain Suspicion for older actions. Old Suspicion gains are automatically reduced by 1 point, representing the authorities’ lack of urgency in prosecuting old offences.
There are three ways to lose Suspicion.
- Wait It Out: Low levels of Suspicion diminish over time. If the agents’ Suspicion score is 2 or less, then reduce it by one point after a game session in which they avoid adding to their Suspicion. Suspicion scores of 3 or more do not diminish over time.
- Buy It Off: Good standing and friends in high places can avert the attention of the authorities. The agents may reduce their Suspicion by one if, as a group, they spend Cop Talk, Reassurance, High Society or Tradecraft points equal to the number of agents multiplied by their current Suspicion score. For example, if four agents have a Suspicion score of 3, then they could reduce that score to 2 by spending 12 points from the listed Investigative Abilities.
These points don’t have to be spent all at once; the agents can put a few points aside after every game session until they have enough to buy down their Suspicion. However, if the agents gain any more Suspicion, then points allocated but unspent are lost.
- Make A Deal: Various powerful patrons can intercede on the investigators’ behalf to shield them from the authorities.
Effects of Suspicion
Increased Scrutiny: As Suspicion rises, so does scrutiny of the Agents. At low levels of Suspicion, that’s largely cosmetic – mysterious figures watching them from across the street, threatening letters shoved through their door. It escalates through surveillance (phone tapping, bugs, intercepted emails, mysterious figures following them) and harassment (associates and contacts get arrested and questioned) until the agents themselves get arrested and questioned on suspicion of being vampire hunters.
Increased Watchfulness: Generally increased security – more guards, more alarms, more supernatural guardians.
Blowback: Rising Suspicion may also draw blowback from whatever Vampyramid you’re using.
Suspicion acquired by different Covers is tracked separately; however, if a Cover is blown, then double the Suspicion attached to that cover and add it to the agents’ total.