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Tabletop Game / The Dracula Dossier

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The Dracula Dossier is an improvisational campaign for Night's Black Agents, written by Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. It uses Robin Laws' GUMSHOE system.

During the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), British Intelligence learned that vampires were real. In the late 1800s, spymaster Peter Hawkins formed Operation Edom – a covert organization within the Naval Intelligence Division, intended to bring a vampire to England as an Intelligence asset.

Un-Dead Transylvanian counts don't play second fiddle to anyone. Dracula accepted Edom's offer, broke free of his handlers, and started his own plans. Outsiders learned of the vampire's presence, and hunted him back to Europe, where he was reported destroyed. As part of the ensuing cover-up, Bram Stoker was ordered to release a heavily-censored version of his after-action report as a novel.

But one copy of the unredacted manuscript remained in Edom's files. On three occasions, it was taken out by agents who added their own notes about Edom's continuing quest for a controlled vampiric asset, whether Dracula or someone else. Now the legendary Dracula Dossier has fallen into the hands of your player-characters. Can they hunt down and destroy Dracula where others have failed, or will they be destroyed by either Dracula or Edom?

The campaign has two core books. Dracula Unredacted is the “Dossier” of the title, an expanded version of the novel (bringing in elements from Stoker's original notes, the short story “Dracula's Guest”, and the Icelandic edition Makt Myrkranna) with over 250 added notes by Edom intelligence analysts. The Director's Handbook is a compendium of locations, items, and NPCs ready to add into a game, many of which are linked to those annotations in Unredacted. It also contains suggested campaign frameworks and dramatic finales.

The Director's Handbook won the 2016 ENnie Awards for Product of the Year and Best Writing, and was the runner-up for Adventure of the Year. The Hawkins Papers, a collection of PDF handouts for use in a Dracula Dossier game, won for Best Supplement.

The Dracula Dossier contains examples of:

  • AB Negative: One annotation in Unredacted theorizes that one of the first changes in vampiric transformation is changing the proto-vamp's blood type to AB+ (universal recipient), meaning Lucy could have survived multiple un-typed transfusions if Dracula hadn't finished her off.
  • Black Site: Several of Edom's bases qualify for this trope.
  • Captured Super-Entity: Edom's plans for Dracula, after the attempt to ask him nicely for an alliance backfired badly, is to figure out a way to capture him and manipulate him as a super-weapon against enemies of the Crown.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Edom does not order your characters killed if they come too close to the truth, they “issue an indulgence” for them.
  • Double Speak: The Edom Field Manual talks about how agents should handle and deploy Special Biological Assets (SBAs), which are described as precisely targeted bioweapons capable of killing a single target or small group without risk of the infection spreading. SBAs are actually vampires working for Edom.
  • Fiction as Cover-Up: The whole premise of the campaign.
  • Hand Signals: E Squadron (the military back-up force for Edom) has made an addition to the usual military tactical hand signs — index finger and pinkie extended and pointing down, two middle fingers curled up toward the palm with the thumb holding them closed, means "Vampire".
  • Holy Burns Evil: One option for the setting states that vampires are only affected by religious artifacts from their era or earlier. If the Director is going with Dracula = Vlad Tepes, that means finding a crucifix made and blessed before 1476, or a Host consecrated by a pre-Tridentine Rite.
  • Kill It with Fire: Sometimes, an Edom team can't extract with their "Special Biological Asset", so they're issued three packets just in case. Use packet A and packet B to seal the SBA container (pronounced "vampire's coffin"), then spread the thermite in packet C evenly over the lid and ignite.
  • Kukris Are Kool: Edom issues carbon-fiber kukris to field agents. They aren't quite as sharp as a steel one, but still sharp enough to decapitate a vampire, and can be carried through metal detectors without tripping the alarm.
  • Legacy Character: Both Edom and Dracula keep an eye on any known descendants of the 1890's team, and refer to them as Legacies – a Harker Legacy is a descendant of Mina and Jonathan Harker, a Holmwood Legacy is a descendant of Arthur Holmwood/Lord Godalming.
  • Meaningful Name: More like Meaningful Code Name — the three Edom annotators mentioned above are only known by the names of three actors who played Van Helsing in Dracula movies ("Van Sloan", "Cushing", and "Hopkins").
  • Our Vampires Are Different: In addition to the default supernatural explanation of vampirism, the Director's Handbook provides writeups for Telluric Vampires, inspired by the scientific lectures Van Helsing kept adding to his discussions of vampire lore. These vampires have several similarities to supernatural ones, but also have some important differences:
    • Wooden stakes have no effect, but stakes made from conductive materials ground out a vampire's telluric energies and paralyze it.
    • Garlic, wild roses, and some other plants absorb the telluric signature of the location where they're grown. Vampires are only repelled by these plants if they're grown somewhere other than the vampire's native soil. Dracula could have been held off by good English garlic, but Lucy Westenra would have been immune to it.
    • Telluric vampires are vulnerable to weapons made from meteoric iron (if the Widmanstatten lines are intact) or moon rocks.
    • Telluric vampires cast reflections in mirrors, and can be photographed.
  • Players Are Geniuses: If you don't have at least one player willing to read a novel-length player handout note  multiple times to hunt for clues, you'll have problems running this campaign.
  • Public Domain Character: Everyone from Stoker's novel, just for starters.
  • The Renfield: The campaign uses that name for both the original bug-eating maniac at Seward's asylum and any human given limited vampiric abilities by Dracula or another vampire.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: Dracula (under a pseudonym) takes over a Satanic cult during his stay in England.
  • Super Serum: Seward Serum, Edom's preferred combat drug, is derived from vampire blood and gives users many of the same abilities as a Renfield would have. Plus making them more susceptible to Dracula's mind control, since the blood in question came from one of his victims.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: Allicin-based anti-vampire weaponry is known, but your player-characters can't just grab some out of a weapon stash because allicin breaks down over time.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: The Director (GM) may set some of the ground rules, but the course of the campaign depends on which notes in Unredacted the players decide to follow up on. One group might chase Van Helsing's apparent links to the German vampire program, while another backtracks Quincey Morris to South America and a third traces the descendants of Dracula's Satanic cult.