Sources of Stability
See also Night's Black Agents p. 35-37
This is a non-human representation of something or someone you value: a religious medal or crucifix, your country’s flag or your father’s dog tag, a picture of your innocent niece or a voice mail from your dead wife. Seeing it or handling it — a few minutes of meditation or reverence — reminds you of why you fight, why you must stay intact. If you do so during an operation, you may immediately refresh 1 pool point of Stability; you may do this only once per session. If you lose your Symbol, you lose 1 rating point of Stability at the end of the operation if it remains lost. Some Symbols cannot be so lost; if you rally at the sight of the Union Jack, you lose no rating points of Stability if someone burns a British flag. If, however, you used a flag patch from your mate’s uniform as your Symbol, you would lose the point if it got stolen. The Symbol should ideally be connected somehow to your Drive, if only in your agent’s own mind. If your Symbol is ever proven valueless — you uncover proof that Jesus was a vampire, your country is behind the undead menace, your dead wife faked her death to go over to the other side — you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability.
This is the person you seek out for human contact, to make the pain and stress recede for the time being: your current girlfriend, a friendly bartender, your old handler. A name and identifying phrase are sufficient. You may not use fellow agents on your team; they go through the same stresses you do and remind you of the horrors you confront. It’s permissible, but risky, for multiple agents to lean on the same folks as members of their support network. Relying on others is a source of strength, but also of danger. Once you come to the attention of monstrous conspiracies, they may use your loved ones against you. They may corrupt them, turn them to evil or inhumanity, or take the tried and true route of subjecting them to horrible tortures. If you can spend six hours — of talk, quiet companionship, sex and sleep, athletic training, or other normal human interaction — with your Solace during an operation, you may immediately refresh 2 pool points of Stability; you may do this only once per session. This time must be safe from violent or supernatural interruption. If you spend at least a day of such interaction with your Solace between operations, you may fully refresh your Stability pool. Again, this time must be safe from violent or supernatural interruption. If your Solace ever betrays or rejects you, you immediately lose 2 rating points of Stability. If your Solace is ever turned by a vampire or killed, you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability.
This is the person and place you would flee to without thinking: your old trainer’s cabin in the Alps, your mother’s house in Scotland, your best friend’s apartment in Paris, a beachfront condo in Ibiza you’ve bought under another name. Simply knowing that such a refuge exists gives you hope that you can some day escape the shadowy world in which you dwell. At the end of any session in which your place of Safety remains inviolate, you may refresh 1 pool point of Stability. It is very poor tradecraft to actually flee to your place of Safety. Even if the vampires, hostile intelligence and security services, or other conspiracies don’t already have the place wired, your flight there would put your would-be refuge in their crosshairs. In the very unlikely instance that you get there unobserved, you can refresh your whole Stability pool there, as well. If your place of Safety has an owner or caretaker, you can activate them as a free contact (without spending any Network points) with a rating of 6. You can only activate this contact once during the entire life of your character. If your place of Safety ever turns you out, or its owner (e.g., your old trainer, your mother, your best friend) betrays you, you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability. If enemies destroy your place of Safety or its owner, you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability.
Replacing Sources of Stability
You can, if you wish, rebuild your Stability rating using experience points after losing a Source of Stability. Once you spend any experience rebuilding your Stability, you may replace the lost Source with another of the same type: if the opposition killed your girlfriend (your previous Solace), you can meet another girl and find Solace in her arms, or find Solace confessing to a priest instead. The Director should work this new ideal or NPC into the story, probably with a brief scene or two centered on this new relationship. You can never replace a Symbol that has proven valueless or a destroyed place of Safety during the campaign. You can still, however, replace a lost Symbol (a burned photograph of your son) with another (a new photo of him, downloaded off his Facebook page and onto your phone).
See also Night's Black Agents p. 81-87
When an incident challenges your grip on yourself, make a Stability test against a Difficulty Number of 4. As with any other test of a General ability, you are always permitted to spend Stability points to provide a bonus to your roll. However, it’s never a good bet to spend more points than you stand to lose if you fail. You can “spend yourself negative,” if you think you absolutely have to resist that vampire, although you cannot voluntarily reduce your Stability pool below -11.
If you fail, you either suffer some negative result (usually, giving in to a vampire or to your own mental illness) or lose a number of points from your Stability pool, in addition to any points spent on the test itself. A test that carries a potential loss of, e.g., 3 points is called a 3-point Stability test, and so on. The severity of the loss depends on the situation. Stability tests in pitch blackness are made at Difficulty 5 (see Darkness, p. 52); the Director may assess other environmental or situational penalties.
Here are two Stability tests in action:
Your current Stability is 8. While staking out a dismal warehouse on the outskirts of Gdansk, you see a cadaverous figure the color of bleached bone materialize in the warehouse’s dim interior. You must make a Stability test against the standard Difficulty of 4. Confident that this mere glimpse of a creature constitutes only a minor brush with destabilizing weirdness, you elect to spend only 1 point to bolster your roll. Alas, you roll a 1, for a result of 2, two lower than the Difficulty Number. Having failed, you suffer a Stability loss of 3. (“You see a supernatural creature from a distance.”) Having spent 1 point on your bonus and lost another 3 to the failure, your new Stability pool value is 4.
Your Obsession, a phobia of white things caused by your experiences in Norway, may force you to flee. You make a Stability test to remain on watch, again at a Difficulty of 4. Putting 2 points into the test, you roll another 1, for a result of 3, another failure. You turn and run, but you lose no additional Stability for failing, only the 2 points you spent on the test. Your new Stability pool value is 2.
If multiple horrific stimuli occur during one scene, you make a single roll, based on the highest potential Stability loss.
You and your friend Daniel are in the Bunhill Fields cemetery in London on acloudy afternoon looking for genealogical data on a suspected vampire. Suddenly, a pack of rats swarms from an open grave and attacks you both with unnatural ferocity and strength. You blaze away with your Glock, driving off the creatures, but not before they devour Daniel in front of your eyes, biting through his skull and slurping the insides like it was an eggshell. You make a single 8-point Stability test, the most severe of several pertaining to the incident. (“Seeing a friend killed in a gruesome manner.”)
In burn mode games, even experienced agents still suffer from the cruelties of the covert life. In other games, agents with significant field or military experience have become inured to the stimuli on the table marked with the icon; such agents don’t bother making Stability checks for those. Even in nonburn games, civilians or desk jockeys may still have to make these checks.
Like Health, your Stability pool can drop below 0.
- If your Stability ranges from 0 to –5, you are Shaken. You can still do your job, but seem distracted. You can’t spend points from the pools of your Investigative abilities. Difficulty Numbers for all General abilities increase by 1.
- If your Stability ranges from –6 to –11, you are Shattered. You acquire a mental illness, which stays with you even after your Stability pool is restored to normal. (See below for more.) You also continue to suffer the ill effects of being Shaken. Furthermore, you permanently lose 1 point from your Stability rating. The only way to get it back is to purchase it again with build points.
- When your Stability reaches –12 or less, you are Incurably Insane. You may commit one last crazy act, which must either be self-destructively heroic or self-destructively destructive. Or you may choose merely to gibber and drool. Assuming you survive your permanent journey to the shores of madness, your character is quietly shipped off to a discreet Swiss sanitarium (or gathered up by the Agency for “retirement”), never to be seen again. Time to create a new character.
|You see a fresh corpse; you witness a killing||1|
|A human opponent attacks you with evident intent to do serious harm||2|
|You experience a strong unnatural sensation such as intense déjà vu, “missing time,” or hallucinations||2|
|You witness acts of torture A human opponent attacks you with evident intent to kill||2|
|You kill someone in a fight||3|
|You see a particularly grisly murder or accident scene||3|
|You see a supernatural creature from a distance||3|
|You witness an obviously unnatural, but not necessarily threatening, omen or magical effect — a wall covered in horrible insects, a talking cat, or a bleeding window||3|
|You learn that one of your Network contacts has been violently killed||3|
|You see hundreds of corpses; you witness a large battle||4|
|You see a supernatural creature up close||4|
|You spend a week in solitary confinement||4|
|You learn that a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability has been violently killed||4|
|You discover the corpse of one of your Network contacts||4|
|You discover the corpse of a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability||5|
|You are attacked by a supernatural creature, or by a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability||5|
|You witness a clearly supernatural or impossible killing||5|
|You witness or experience an obviously unnatural, and threatening, omen or magical effect — a cold hand clutches your heart, a swarm of bees pours out of your mouth||5|
|You kill someone in cold blood; you torture someone||5|
|You see one of your Network contacts killed||5|
|You see a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability killed||6|
|You are tortured for an hour or longer||6|
|You discover that you have committed cannibalism||6|
|You are possessed by some outside force, but conscious while it operates your body unspeakably||7|
|You speak with someone you know well who you know to be dead||7|
|You are attacked by a single gigantic supernatural creature or by a horde of supernatural creatures||7|
|You see a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability killed in a particularly gruesome manner or in a way you are helpless to avert||8|
|You kill a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability||8|
If you suggest a spend for your agent, and the Director and other players agree that the result was especially impressive, you may roll one die and refresh that many Stability points to reflect your agent’s restored confidence in herself.
Use of the Shrink ability permits limited recovery of Stability points in the course of a session (see p. 85).
In campaigns where the teammates’ personal lives or beliefs are a matter of background detail only, an agent’s Stability automatically refreshes between adventures. If you have an Addictive Disorder (see p. 84), you can refresh 2 points of Stability by engaging in your addiction between operations.
Sources of Stability and Refreshes
In campaigns using Sources of Stability, the agent can restore a limited amount of Stability during each session of play: 1 point by drawing strength from your Symbol, and 2 points for a six-hour interaction with his Solace. At the end of the session, you refresh 1 point if your place of Safety remains inviolate.
Spending a day with your Solace refreshes your Stability fully between operations. If your Solace is missing, dead, far away, or otherwise unavailable, you cannot refresh Stability at this time.
- This mechanic is currently considered to be “probationary” and is subject to adjustment.
- Ripped & adapted from Night's Black Agents.