an official supplement for InSpectres by Scott Knipe

NIGHTWATCH
Keeping You Safe All Through The Night

 

news crews | correspondents | dice | ego | ego trips
assignments | editorials | ratings | budgets | tools of the trade
InSpectres | ward 13

 

MISSION STATEMENT
As the esteemed scholar Howard Phillips Lovecraft once said, "the greatest fear of man is the fear of the Unknown." It is with that single thought in mind that NIGHTWATCH was founded. Should man live in fear of that which goes "bump in the night?" Should he cower beneath his sheets when the thunder booms and the lightning flares? Should he fear for his child's wellbeing after night has fallen? Certainly not. That is why we at NIGHTWATCH seek to make the Unknown known. We go where others will not. We do what others can not. We boldly throw back the shadows and put a face to the terrors that dwell within.

Even if that face is not so terrible as we first imagined.

NIGHTWATCH is designed to supplement the InSpectres role-playing game; you will need to be familiar with that game to play this one. It's meant as a send-up of popular culture, TV, and the media. Hopefully it's entertaining too.

If you're not sure what you're in for, just imagine a world where the supernatural exists. A world where the paranormal is a daily nuisance for mankind, an inconvenience that polite people simply don't talk about. Then imagine how the media would react to that.

This is your world, because you are a NIGHTWATCH correspondent. NIGHTWATCH is one of the highest rated shows in syndication, with large audiences in most major markets nationwide. A strange mishmash of the nightly news and a reality TV program, its popularity hinges on its controversial features; NIGHTWATCH tells the truth about the dirty little secret that is the paranormal, even if that truth casts the bogeymen in a positive light. That's your job: find something supernatural and get the skinny on it, producing entertaining TV in the process. No problem, right? Ha, then you try shoving a boom mike in a werewolf's face while getting it to pose for a tight close-up.

Oh, and as if that weren't bad enough, don't forget to check the Ratings in the morning.

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NEWS CREWS
InSpectres has Franchises, NIGHTWATCH has News Crews. While the two are essentially the same, there are some important differences. Most notably, a News Crew is a totally self-sufficient entity, unlike a Franchise, which requires upkeep and overhead. Aside from their equipment (see 'Tools of the Trade') and any seed money they may need for an investigation, the money a News Crew makes is its own.

That's not to say, however, that all is fine-and-dandy in the land of NIGHTWATCH. Here, Ratings are all important. Your News Crew will be expected to maintain a certain quality of work, measured by the Ratings their segments get. Get good Ratings, and you'll reap the rewards: High Pay-Days, promotions, plum assignments, maybe even a budget! Fail to maintain that level of work and you'll find yourself back at the bottom again.

Before play begins, you will have to decide the level to which your News Crew has risen. The better your Crew, the more dice you will have to begin the game. On the other hand, you will also have to earn better Ratings more often to maintain your status. A 15-die "Action Team" is a fair choice (although I prefer starting from the bottom and working my way up).

  • Freelancers: 10 or less dice (you and your buddies borrow your mom's camcorder for weekend investigations).
  • Action Team: 11-19 dice (you're under contract to NIGHTWATCH to provide 15 minutes of fully produced TV per week, minimum).
  • Feature Team: 20-35 dice (you're under contract to NIGHTWATCH to provide 30 minutes of fully produced TV per week, minimum).

Once you've made the executive decision as to which News Crew you'll be starting with, you get to allocate your Guild Dice to your Guild Memberships. These are the same as InSpectres Cards, but being that NIGHTWATCH and InSpectres are (ahem) professional rivals, we've chosen to call these something different. If that confuses you, then feel free to call them whatever you want.

Actor's Guild

Guild of Technical Workers

Writer's Guild

R&R (Rest and Relaxation)

Guild Memberships function just like the Gym Membership Cards, Library Cards and Credit Cards used in the normal InSpectres rules.

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CORRESPONDENTS
NIGHTWATCH Correspondents are created just like InSpectres Agents, by allocating 10 points to the four Skills.

The Skills, although identical to those described in InSpectres, occasionally have special uses in NIGHTWATCH. These functions are described below.

Athletics: Pretty self-explanatory. This is very useful for lugging around heavy video-production equipment. Also, it is representative of your general physical appearance�important if you plan on appearing on-screen (modified by the Actor's Guild).

Academia: Great for digging through archived documents, whether they be paper, microfiche, or videotape. Useful for finding stock footage for productions, as well as to make sure you're topics are fresh and original (modified by the Writer's Guild).

Technology: Essential for all aspects of video post-production, as well as in-field operation of production equipment (modified by the Guild of Technical Workers).

Contacts: Important not only in conducting interviews, but also for directing personnel while filming in the field.

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DICE
Whenever an agent is called upon to perform a difficult or dangerous feat, he or she must roll a number of six-sided dice equal to the appropriate skill (Athletics, Academia, Investigation or Technology) and take the highest number showing as his or her result:

  • 6: Brilliant success!
  • 5: Plain ol'vanilla success.
  • 4: Barely sucessful, often with a humorous outcome
  • 3: Unsuccessful, sorry Charlie
  • 2: Oops. Unsuccessful again.
  • 1: Really, really terrible failure.

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EGO
Ego is a trait peculiar to NIGHTWATCH correspondents. On one hand, it represents a correspondent's self-assuredness; on the other, it is a measure of his arrogant belief that only he can get the job done. Starting Ego is based on the level of your News Crew: Freelancers start with 1 point, Action Teams start with 2, Feature Teams have 3, and Studio Teams get 4. Beyond that the only sure-fire way to obtain Ego is to demonstrate sagacity and leadership through the Editorial process (see "Assignments"). Ego can not exceed 5.

Ego is a double-edged sword. When involved in a situation where the correspondent can exercise obvious authority (any situation where he is truly and honestly the most capable person for the job), he can use his Ego just like he would Guild dice (gaining a number of extra dice per session equal to his Ego). Conversely, when confronted with a situation where the correspondent would want to be in control but obviously is not, he may suffer an Ego Trip (see hereafter).

The Correspondent with the highest Ego in a Crew is regarded (at least by his NIGHTWATCH employers) as the "producer" of that team. This honorary title provides certain peripheral benefits, the greatest of which is that he gets to make the Post-Production roll at the end of the game (regardless of who has the highest Technical Skill in the group). Additionally, the producer will always be sought out as a liaison when dealing with NIGHTWATCH executives and authorities in the private sector.

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EGO TRIPS
An ego can be like Stress; sometimes it gets the better of you. Not that it's entirely bad; ambition can get you to the top, but it can also knock you off it. Whenever a Correspondent comes up against something that challenges his control of a situation, he must roll a number of dice equal to his Ego. Note that unlike Stress, the situation that triggers this roll is irrelevant; a Correspondent is just as likely to suffer an Ego Trip because his assistant didn't get him a decaf mocha latte as he is from a stubborn vampire refusing to cooperate for a shoot. After rolling the dice, take the LOWEST and compare it to the results below.

  • 6: You're amused; gain one Cool
  • 5: You maintain control of the situation
  • 4: You're flustered�-1 die to your next roll
  • 3: You're aggravated�-1 die on all rolls until you use some R&R
  • 2: You're beside yourself�-2 dice on your next roll, and -1 after that until you recoup it with some R&R
  • 1: You're completely crushed and depression sets in. Lose one die to all die rolls for each die rolled until you get a little R&R.

Strangely enough, Correspondents never roll for Stress. Their Egos are more than enough for them to deal with.

Ego Trip penalties can be relieved through R&R just like PTO removes Stress. Cool works the same for an Ego Trip as it does for Stress.

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ASSIGNMENTS
The only thing a NIGHTWATCH news crew has to do is produce television. Freelancers must find their own stories, and will be lucky if a few scant seconds of their actual work shows up on screen. News Teams under contract (Action Teams and Feature Teams) are required to produce a certain amount of TV weekly (15 minutes and 30 minutes respectively). Of course, these segments seldom air in their entirety (NIGHTWATCH is only an hour long, after all), but the requirements are the same nonetheless. The motivation to do good work is high; the longer a piece airs, the better the ratings it is likely to garner; the better the ratings, the better the pay and the chance of promotion. More than once have careers been ruined by some upstart Freelancers who somehow manage to bump established veterans right off of a newscast.

Most Productions follow a basic sequence of events.

  • Video Resume (First time the players get together, or upon introducing a new character)
  • Preliminary Training/Rest & Relaxation (Add to your Guild Die Pools)
  • The Scoop (find a story, or be assigned one by NIGHTWATCH)
  • Pre-Production (research the events surrounding your story, prepare for the assignment travel to the location, and do some preliminary investigation)
  • Principal Shooting (start out with some establishing shots, get some interviews with locals/witnesses/experts, and finish off your piece by tracking down the subject of your story and obtaining your "money shot")
  • Post-Production (edit footage, mix sound, and loop dialogue�make your Post-Production roll)
  • Check the Ratings (the ratings are in�receive payment, buy equipment, pay of R&R, and add to personal development)
  • Enhanced Training (add to personal training)

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VIDEO RESUME
Those dot-commers over at InSpectres have their little starting interviews, but we here at NIGHTWATCH are on the cutting edge of everything. We assess all potential correspondents by way of a Video Resume. This gives us an opportunity to observe the potential correspondent through the medium in which he'll be working - the camera lens and television screen. What he does with this Resume is up to him; we applaud and encourage individual creativity. Why wait�get to work on it right now!

Obviously, most players will not really create a video of themselves applying for a position at NIGHTWATCH (although they're more than welcome to do so if they wish). Instead, they should take a seat where everyone in the group can clearly see them, and then speak candidly for a few minutes about why their Correspondent would be an asset to the NIGHTWATCH team. This has no real effect on game play, but it gives them an opportunity to introduce their characters to the others. They can be as creative about this as they want, incorporating whatever "production values" they see fit (and can safely engineer). Once everyone has done that, they should go about the task of creating their News Crew.

PRELIMINARY TRAINING/R&R
This is the same as the Preliminary Training/Paid Time Off phase of InSpectres Jobs.

THE SCOOP
This is part of the story where you determine what it is you're going to investigate. Sometimes ideas will present themselves, either through local news media (although, hopefully you can scoop them) or through other sources. Contracted Crews, and Freelancers who just happen to be in the right spot at the right time, will sometimes be assigned stories (these stories are mandatory, and should be followed up in a timely fashion to keep in the good graces of the NIGHTWATCH producers). Mostly, though, the players will decide what kinds of assignments they pursue; they select a spook or haunt they think will make for a good story, research where they can find that particular thing, and then (with video equipment in hand) head off to produce their TV segment. In case you missed it, I'll repeat: The players are free to decide the objective of the game, and the GM's role is to help them realize it in an entertaining fashion.

PRE-PRODUCTION
Pre-Production follows right along after The Scoop. At this point your characters should be thinking in terms of what this whole thing will look like on film (they might even create storyboards, or some kind of teleplay to help coordinate efforts among the crew). You should be researching whatever materials you can, preparing your equipment, and arriving on location. You should also do some basic investigation into your story before starting to shoot footage�it'll benefit you in the long run.

PRINCIPAL SHOOTING
At this point you should begin shooting your piece. You'll start by getting some establishing shots - footage of the surroundings that helps to establish time and location. Then you should try to arrange and tape some interviews with locals, witnesses, topical experts, and /or anyone else of interest (even just a few sound bites will do the trick). Finally, you should go get your "money shot", the piece of footage that's going to make or break your segment. The key here is drama; if you can create real, compelling television at this point, you can make up for any mistakes and mishaps that have gone before. Remember, though, that NIGHTWATCH does not exploit its subject matter; it only wants the truth.

POST-PRODUCTION
Once you've got all of your footage in the can, you move on to Post-Production. Occasionally you may need to go back and re-shoot footage, or sometimes a shot you just have to have occurs to you after the fact, but for the most part you'll be in your studio at this point. Freelancers might not have much in the way of post-production equipment (don't worry, if you're footage is good, NIGHTWATCH will do something with it), but contracted Crews will usually have access to editing, mixing, and looping equipment. This is an important phase of the game; a strong Post-Production session can make terrible footage look good - and good footage great - but mismanagement at this stage can also ruin everything.

At this point one character (usually the "Producer") must make a Technology roll to see how good the Crew's Post-Production is; the outcome of this roll can have important effects on the next phase. The equipment you have access to modifies your roll accordingly: No real equipment - remove the best 3 dice; some editing software and a computer - remove the best 2 dice; a College-level studio - remove the best die; a professional television studio - no modifier.

CHECK THE RATINGS & ENHANCED TRAINING
Now you get to see the fruits of your labor. If you did well, and with a little luck on your side, the Ratings will be there for you. With that you can raise your Crew's Guild Dice, get paid, buy some new equipment, take some R&R, squirrel away some funds, or blow it to improve your Skills.

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EDITORIALS
Editorials are similar to InSpectres' Confessionals, but with a slightly different effect on game play. At any scene break a player (and only one) may choose to give an Editorial. This should be a bit of extemporaneous speaking that follows roughly the format of a Nightly News Editorial. In it, you should comment on the subject of the investigation and give some direction as to how you think the investigation should be handled. Your main purpose, like with any good Editorial, is to convince others of your viewpoint. In the following scene, any player can receive a one die bonus when trying to solve a problem or deal with a situation, so long as they are doing so in the way that is suggested in your Editorial. Each player can only receive one bonus die per scene per Editorial, and they do not have to accept the benefit of the die, even if they are following your directions. You can not receive a bonus die during a scene prefaced by your own Editorial.

Keep track of how many characters use the bonus die afforded them during each scene. At the end of the session, calculate how many bonus dice were used in each scene. The character whose Editorial resulted in the most bonus dice being used gains one point of Ego. If there is a tie, make a Contacts roll to see who gets it.

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RATINGS
Success in NIGHTWATCH is measured by one thing: Ratings. Ratings simply measure viewing audience, and a number of factors go into them; the quality of the product, other channels' attempts at counter-programming, the night of the week, and even a little luck all contribute to a show's final Rating. NIGHTWATCH is particularly hampered, since it airs late at night in most markets.

In game terms, two factors determine the Rating a segment gets: The Post-Production roll, and the GM Demographic. The Post-Production Roll is obvious; it will be a number between 1 and 6. The GM Demographic is a little more open-ended; it should be based upon the players' roleplaying, their preparation and efficiency during the Production, and how "cool" their segment would look if it were real. The GM can assign pretty much any number he wants, but a number between 1 and 3 is usually plenty (this could sometimes be higher if circumstances warrant it, such as ratings stunts, live broadcasts, etc.).

Once the Rating is determined, you compare it to your Crew's score. If the Rating exceeds your current Crew score, the difference yields your Payment Dice. Payment Dice are handled the same here as in InSpectres.

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BUDGETS
Action Teams and Feature Teams sometimes gain the benefit of a Budget. Usually this means that the players get a number of Payment Dice equal to their Crew score to use towards their investigation, subject to the following limitations.

  • Services, equipment, property, or other expenses incurred during an investigation, must be listed on an Expense Report. At the conclusion of an assignment, NIGHTWATCH accountants will review the Expense Report. Any items not approved by Accounting will have their value deducted from that Crew's Payment for that assignment (and possibly from future assignments, if any debt remains). Property and equipment reverts to the Correspondents' possession once their debt is alleviated.
  • Merchandise or property purchased with Budget funds and approved by Accounting becomes the sole property of NIGHTWATCH. The Correspondents may have free use of this stuff, but it does not belong to them and can be taken away at any time.

If, during the course of an investigation, you need cold hard cash for some reason (bribes, hotel rooms, etc.), but don't wish to blow a whole Payment Die, you can convert that die into real money. Roll one die; that's how many hundreds of dollars you can get from it. Payment Dice are not nearly as valuable when broken down this way, but it does give you some seed money for those little expenditures you can't seem to avoid.

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TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Every News Crew needs the proper equipment to be effective. Often in the course of an investigation, equipment will need to be upgraded or replaced. This section helps you deal with that problem.

VIDEO EQUIPMENT

Camcorder: This is a basic piece of equipment that most families have laying around somewhere. It uses a standard VHS format and has an internal microphone. It either has or can be outfitted with a small lighting device, which is about as useful as a tiny flashlight.
Payment Dice Cost: 1

DV Camcorder: This style of camcorder is becoming more popular, and can be found in many households. It uses a Digital Video format, which means it can be integrated directly into a computer with editing software, allowing for a more sophisticated Post-Production.
Payment Dice Cost: 2

Broadcast Quality Field Camera: This is the bulky hand-held camera seen in use by professional news crews. It uses the Digital Video format, incorporates a steadi-cam for a smoother picture, and has a number of other features that help create professional looking footage.
Payment Dice Cost: 4

Broadcast Quality Studio Camera: This is a bulky, mounted camera of the sort used in a TV studio. It is ideal for studio work, such as taping Editorials, or in-studio interviews, but is impractical for field work (although it could be transported to a location with great effort).
Payment Dice Cost: 10

 

SOUND EQUIPMENT

Hand-held Microphone: You always see reporters shoving these in peoples' faces. They're not cheap, but they are necessary.
Payment Dice Cost: 1

Boom Microphone: This is basically a microphone on a pole. It's most often used when trying to record sound, but you don't want the microphone visible in the shot. It's also useful when trying to record sound but you don't want to get too close to your subject. The boom is adjustable, up to 15 feet in length.
Payment Dice Cost: 2

Long Range Microphone: This mike can only be added to a Broadcast Quality camera. It effectively records sound from up to 50 feet away as though it were right in front of the subject's face (of course, it records background noise too). This is still a good tool to have around, especially when you don't want to be close to your subject at all.
Payment Dice Cost: 3

 

LIGHTING EQUIPMENT

Flashlight: This is your basic lighting device. It's portable and you can get them anywhere. Not really good for video shoots, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have.
Payment Dice Cost: 0

Spotlight: Not really a video production tool, but useful for investigations nonetheless. A spotlight will illuminate an area much better than several flashlights, although the person wielding it must be careful not to blind the cameraman.
Payment Dice Cost: 1

Field Lighting Kit: This portable lighting kit can be set up and torn down relatively quickly, and provides the necessary lighting to create a professional looking product. It basically consists of three lights, light stands, and reflecting covers.
Payment Dice Cost: 1

Studio Lighting Rig: This is a full studio lighting kit. It's not portable at all; it's actually part of the studio.
Payment Dice Cost: 4

 

POST-PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT

Video Cassette Recorder: This is the most basic piece of editing equipment you can have; two of these hooked together will let you do some very rudimentary cutting of footage (so long as it's VHS videotape). Luckily, these are pretty cheap and can be found nearly anywhere.
Payment Dice Cost: 0

Editing Board: Useful for editing VHS format footage, this board will allow you to manipulate your images in all sorts of ways to create a professional looking product.
Payment Dice Cost: 2

Mixing Board: The mixing board allows you to add and remove sound. Don't underestimate the usefulness of this tool; it can spell the difference between an amateur product and a professional-looking piece.
Payment Dice Cost: 2

Looping Board: This piece of equipment allows you to re-record dialogue and sync it up to the video footage. Not used too much in legitimate news reporting, but still useful for creating a dramatic product.
Payment Dice Cost: 2

Personal Computer: Every News Crew should have a PC, if only for internet access. Ideally, though, it should become a piece of production equipment. The cost listed is for a decent computer able to support editing software.
Payment Dice Cost: 2

Editing Software: This is the software package you need to manipulate digital video on a computer. The beauty of this is that, for amateur crews, this software and a good computer can do editing, mixing, and looping of footage.
Payment Dice Cost: 1

 

EXTRAS

Portable Satellite Uplink: Used primarily by Feature News Crews, this nifty device allows you to broadcast to NIGHTWATCH studios live. It is extremely bulky, requiring time to set up and tear down, but nothing gets Ratings like a LIVE feed.
Payment Dice Cost: 10

NIGHTWATCH News Van: If you feel like advertising your presence, there's nothing like the NIGHTWATCH van. It carries you and your equipment to where ever you're going, and is sure to cause a stir when you get there.
Payment Dice Cost: 10

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