Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Quick and Dirty: Kresnador Urban Okrug, Kresnador Krai, Russia

Quick & Dirty:  Kresnador Urban Okrug, Kresnador Krai, Russia

Description:  Kresnador is located on the Kuban River and is 92 miles northeast of Novorossyisk on the Black Sea. Kresnador Urban Okrug is the administrative center of the krai. Twenty-nine rural localities make up the krai. The Kuban River flows along the western edge of town and empties into the Krasnodarksoye Vodohkranilishche. European route E 592 enters the city from the north and travels south along the Krasnodarkskoye Vodorkranilishche to the east of the city, where the highway’s name changes.

The city is home to ten sports teams, including three football teams (American soccer) and one rugby union. Football fields can be found throughout the city. Tehre are several universities in the area, many focusing on scientific research, including seismicity. There are more than six theatres, a permanent circus, and the Kuban Cossak Choir. The largest splash fountain resides in Kresnador.

The city dates to the 18th century and was originally named for Catherine the Great and St. Catherine. After the October Revolution, the name was changed to support the Communist party.

Population:  744,995 (Athens, Greece or Columbia, South Carolina)
Conflict:  Government corruption, casino crime activities, and Russian gangs are all at play in this city.
1.        Krasnodars Circus:  This is a permanent circus and an official state circus. The circus is held in a round building near the heart of the city. The shows change with the season and sometimes include guest circuses, such as the Cirque du Soleil Russland.
2.        Krasnaya Street:  Translated as red (Communist), beautiful street, this area of town is the main arts and sight-seeing portion of the city. At one end is the Avrora movie theater and the other is the Central Concert Hall. A triumphal arch stands in the middle of the street.
3.        Kuban State University:  The university accepts up to 200 students per year from outside of Russia. This includes students from the USA, Great Britain, France, Greece, and Turkey. It is the only university in southern Russia to allow students from those specific countries. The university has three members of the Russian Academy of Science as lecturers. Research at the university is sold to the USA, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan. The largest amount of money produced by universities in the Krasnodar is from KubSU. Their work includes regional programs related to seismicity. Trips to the area of Gelendzhik and the Lago-Naki plateau by students to carry out experiments and field study is common.

Three Hooks: 
1.        Steel Hyperboloid Structure:  Located near the Krasnodars Circus, this tower was designed by Vladimir Shukhov. The building is a work of art and has no known current function. Lights adorn the structure and provide a beautiful visage at night. Vampires with mentalist powers can use this structure to boost their signal. A vampire with the ability to exert her will over the populace can increase the number of people they are able to affect. A vampire or even a human mentalist with mind speaking abilities can boost their range. In order to use the tower, vampires spend one point of Aberrance and is considered attuned to the tower. After attuning to the tower, all Vampiric Powers related to Awareness, Field Effects, Invisibility, Mental Attacks, Necromancy, Possession, and Voice operate at one level higher when touching the tower. Human mentalists must pass a difficult Stability test in order to attune to the tower. At the Director’s discretion, certain abilities and powers from Rough Magicks may also be affected by the tower.
2.        Casinos:  Krasnodar is home to several casinos. Like other casinos across the world, these attract criminal elements. The amount of crime in Krasnodar has decreased in the past five years and most of the crime performed is of a serious level, related to organized groups. Government corruption is only worsening due to the economic crisis building in Russia. The conspiracy can easily move their money through the various casinos in Krasnodar. Gun thugs and meat heads abound in an area such as this, lending to the high level of violent, serious criminal activity.

3.        MacKey’s Pub:  A British style pub near the All Saints Cemetery. This location may serve as solace for world weary travelers who just need a moment to catch their breath. The bar opened during the Bush family wars in the Middle East and quickly became a hang-out spot for burned spies looking to catch up with each other. The GRU quickly figured out it was being used by former Western spies and sent their own agents to infiltrate the place. The Western spies knew and did not care. They were enamored by a place that reminded them of home and provided fond memories of what life was like. As soon as the GRU were discovered by the regulars, a policy was put in place by the regulars to not discuss trade craft on-site. Sit-downs and meetings could be lined up, introductions could be made, but nothing official was to be discussed or allowed to occur in the pub. The GRU know they have been made, but maintain spies on staff, if for no other reason than to keep the spies who come here on their toes. MacKey’s Pub is open for late breakfast, lunch, dinner, and after hour drinks. It is likely a good place to find someone who knows someone or something you need.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quick and Dirty: Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Russia

Quick & Dirty:  Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Russia

Description:  Vladikavkaz is the capital city of the Republish of North Ossetia-Alania. It resides in the southeast of the republic, situations in the foothills of the Caucasus on the Terek River. It has one of the highest populations among the North Caucasus. The city is known for its factories and as a transportation center. The Georgian Military Highway (European route 117) connects it to George in the south, through the mountains. A rail line connects the city to Baku, Azerbaijan. Buses, trams, and trolleys cross the city, providing plenty of public transportation. The city structure is actually made up of six different rural localities.

Population:  311,693
Conflict:  The city has been the target of several bombings in the past 15 years. Targets have included mayors and military sites. The 58th Army is based in the Southern Military District as one of the four operational commands of Russian. Vladikavkaz and the surrounding localities are host to a motorized brigade and command brigade. The main base of the 58th Army is in Dzhava-Tskhinval, Tbilisi.

There is also the on again, off again, fighting with the Ingush people. Most of the fighting involving the Ingush people is due to fighting spilling over from the Chechen Republic. Due to this conflict, the area has become destabilized by corruption, high profile crimes, and government security forces murdering civilians.

1.       The North Caucasus:  Whether traveling to the Tsey Valley and the Skazka resort, the Tsminda Sameba Church (Gergeti Trinity Church) under the watchful eye of Mount Kabegi, or looking for the forgotten castle of a vampire lord, the North Caucasus provide many varied locations. The mountains also provide many local shop owners the opportunity to sell various gear needed to living or touring the mountains. Travel guides can be found in all of the towns and most are willing to take money from non-chartered sources in return for guiding foreigners through the mountains. These guides can also provide knowledge related to the comings and goings of the military and which roads have been closed via restrictions by the military.
2.       Prospekt Mira:  Cafes, restaurants, hotels, museums, galleries, and a statue of Lenin line Prospekt Mira. This is the central heart of the city of Vladikavkaz along the river. Agents looking to find other spies a likely to visit this area of town.
3.       Aleksandrovdkiy Grand Hotel:  The Aleksandrovdkiy is the most elegant, and thus most expensive, hotel in Vladikavkaz. Both the exterior and interior are done in antique styles. The hotel is within a 45 minute drive of the airport and a ten minute walk from the train station. Guests can relax in the bar or dine on traditional Russian fair in the restaurant. For those looking to enjoy a more cosmopolitan palette, other restaurants and a Starbucks are nearby. The hotel only has 30 rooms to rent.

Three Hooks:
1.       Fiagdon Valley:  Interesting locations within this area include an ancient cemetery in Dargavs, a restaurant named “Valley of the Sun,” and the small ex-mining town of Fiagdon. Nearly every place in the valley is worth visiting, outside of Fiagdon. The vampires control the town and have residences built inside the old mines. They have Renfields placed throughout the area, watching the roads and many restaurants nestled along the way. The Valley of the Sun is an obvious place for a trap and it is one! The entire staff are Renfields and eagerly await the arrival of anyone threatening their masters.
2.       Georgian Military Highway:  This highway connects Tbilisi, Georgia with Vladikavkaz, Russia. The highways is known for impatient drivers and the occasional random closing of the border post. The road is 130 miles long, crosses ridges and gorges, passes Mount Kazbek, a Georgian church, bottoms out in a canyon, and climbs up a pass to an altitude of 7815 feet. The road snakes along several rivers and past two medieval fortresses and a hydroelectric dam. This highway is an ideal location to place the home of the conspiracy. If not the home, then a definite outpost could be made of the Ananuri castle along the Aragvi River. Failing that, the highway is also a good means of traveling from Georgia to Russia. Vampires will who need to get from one to the other can travel by car or by boat. Agents on the run from the conspiracy could use the highway as a means of escape, but must beware the obviously controlled border crossing. Directors in need of a thriller chase sequence are encouraged to utilize this locale.
3.       Beslan School hostage crisis cemetery:  In September 2004, a three day hostage crisis occurred in the Beslan School. Over 1000 people were taken as hostages and more than two-thirds were children. Before the crisis was resolved, more than 380 people were dead, over half were children. The terrorists involved include Chechens and Ingushes. If local terrorists are related to the conspiracy, they may be using this cemetery as a meeting place or drop point. All flights into the Vladikavkaz International Airport fly over this location.

Author's Note:  This place has legs, lots of legs. If you are looking for an interesting place to set a game, I highly recommend looking into this area of the world. 

Beautiful scenery of the Georgian Military Highway


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Quick and Dirty: Apremont-Sur-Allier for Night's Black Agents or other modern conspiracy games


Description:  An area of forestry and farming comprising a small village and two hamlets situated by the west bank of the Allier River, some 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Bourges at the junction of the D100 with the D76 and D45 roads. The river forms the boundary between the commune and the department of Nièvre.

Population:  76

Conflict:  Absolutely none, unless you count the endless squabbling between the castle’s groundskeeper and the garden’s overseer. With a population of 76, there isn't much that can't be accomplished by simply ignoring one another.

1.       Floral Park:  The Floral Park is designed to allow the Allier trickle into a valley, creating pools of water, and it was all inspired by the famous “White Garden” of Vita Sackville-West of Sissinghurst, England. The grounds include buildings designed a Russian painter and architect, a small lake complete with gazebo in the middle, a quarry converted into a waterfall. The buildings are designed to reflect different national styles from around the world.
2.       Castle:  The castle sits on a bluff overlooking the Allier River. It dates from the 12th century, making it a century older than the church. The stables for the castle were originally a glass factory and now serve as a museum of the area. The property is so well maintained that the name plates of horses kept in the stables can still be read.
3.       Village:  The village consists only of buildings from or designed to match buildings of the regional style from the Middle Ages. Many residents of the area served as a quarry workers in the Middle Ages. The stones were used throughout the country in many religious buildings, such as the Orleans Cathedral.

Three Hooks:
1.       Apremont-Sur-Allier was designed by vampire hunters or by survivors of vampire attacks. The garden within the Floral Park contains exotic flora. This may be the only place in Europe to locate that ever hard-to-find bat thorn. The garden may also contain enough of specific plants or flowers to serve as a barrier to vampires. If the flora is not enough to keep vampires out, the waterways around the property will keep vampire who can’t cross running water at bay.
2.       Apremont-Sur-Allier’s tagline is “A magical place. . . where time has stopped.”  This may be a hint towards a crossover with TimeWatch or it could be advertising as cover for the vampires living here. After all, top hats and fancy capes just aren’t the haute couture anymore. With all of the stone buildings, the castle, the gardens, and a population count so low, everyone could be Renfields, Apremont-Sur-Allier could be the perfect place for an elder vampire to call home.
3.       The gazebo in the middle of the lake is actually an entrance to a vampire’s lair. During the reconstruction of the village between World War One and World War Two, a vampire built a lair in the bottom of a quarry. The quarry was then filled in with water, a gazebo built in the middle of the then lake, and an enclosed set of stairs built from the gazebo down to the lair.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Quick & Dirty: Tumaco, Columbia

These notes are designed using structure from Night's Black Agents. The idea is to provide a quick skeleton framework from which to draw if the team heads here for adventurous mayhem. 

Quick & Dirty:  Tumaco, Columbia
Description:  Tumaco is a port city and municipality in Columbia. It resides on the Pacific Ocean and is near the Ecuadoran border. The city is famous for its stilt city, having inspired painting by Cordoba. Much of the city is poor and the homes and streets reflect this state.

The jungle between Highway 10 in Columbia and Ecuador is so dense, no roads cross the border. The best one can do is catch a river boat from a Columbian city and take it to the Columbia River, hoping to find a village along the river with a driver and a working car. The historic backwardness of the municipality’s government is often attributed to the isolation of the area.

Tumaco’s economy is based on agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism. It is also the main Columbian oil port on the Pacific Ocean side of the country, second nationally after Covenas. The pipeline and port are increasingly used to transport and export Ecuadorian oil.

Population:  99,000 (Albany, NY or Berdsk, Russia)
Conflict:  Tumaco is in FARC-EP controlled territory. Any action taken by the Columbian army to crack down on FARC-EP is always met with a more strident response by the FARC-EP. If that is not enough for the Columbian army to contend with, right-wing groups such as Los Rastrojos drug gang and Guevarist group Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional are also active in the area.
1.        Mira River:  Much of the tourism centers around the mouth of this river, including the beautiful Playas de Milagros (beaches of Miracles). The local beaches are filled by day and at night, tourists retreat to nearby, newly built hotels to enjoy their evenings. The hotels are built to shield the view of the poor just a street away. However, they cannot block the view of the Batallon Fluvial Infanteria de Marina with its chain link fence and barb wire topper.
2.        The gangs and revolutionaries have a stranglehold on the local government. When and if they need something, they make a call and threaten whomever is on the other end. Need money? Call a successful person and inform them of their new insurance rate. Need the military to not be somewhere? Call a military leader and threaten their family. When their demands are not met, the gangs and revolutionaries pick a target and eliminate it. Crime here is three times the level of any other place in Columbia and these “vaccinations” are only the tip of the problem.
3.        The U.S. government pours millions of dollars into Columbia every year to help combat crime and improve living conditions. There are more Americans in Tumaco than one would expect. One simply must know where to find them.
Three Hooks: 
1.        The indigenous people of Tumaco are known for their early use of gold in the making of art. One of the smaller military groups controls a large collection of caves where gold veins may be found. Large bats are said to reside within those caves.
2.        Everything that floats through the Port of Tumaco has a price and the locals ensure they get their cut. The oil industry pays to ensure this wheel is well-oiled. Controls are in place at the marina to ensure oil ships are allowed in and out with ease. Without a payment, the marina is not likely to let other boats in or out. This is the only thing in Tumaco semi-controlled by the Columbian government. The gangs and revolutionaries stick to the jungles and related waterways as much as possible.
3.        American ex-pats do not seem to be harassed as much as the locals do by the gangs. Why is this? Is there an agreement between locals Anglos and the Afro-Columbians? Is there money flowing from the oil companies to the gangs to keep tourists coming to the city and keep the money flowing.

Belize City, Belize

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Quick & Dirty: Belize City, Belize

These notes are designed using structure from Night's Black Agents. The idea is to provide a quick skeleton framework from which to draw if the team heads here for adventurous mayhem. 

Quick & Dirty:  Belize City, Belize 

Description:  Largest city and capital of Belize. It resides at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, a tributary of the Belize River. The city is divided into a north and a south section, divided by Haulover Creek. The city is home to all major branches of the government.

Belize City is the country’s principal port, financial hub, and industrial hub. The majority of working Belizeans travel to work in downtown offices or nearby streets. Branches of all major banks within Belize and the Central Bank, as well as, nearly all insurance centers are found here.

Belize City has a constant flow of cruise ships in its ports. Flights to the city arrive daily from around the region and several times a week from major countries, such as the United States of America.  The government has worked hard over the past decade to increase the number of resorts where visitors can relax and spend their money. Most vacation styled adventure leads into the country, where crime rates are lower, fuel stations are fewer, and the roads become skinnier and worse condition.

Population:  70,000 (Appleton, WI or Paisley, Scotland)
Conflict:  Belize is the 6th most violent country in the world, according to the UN Office n Drugs and Crime with an average of 40 homicides per 100k residents. The majority of the homicides are committed on the south side of the city and are related to street gangs. Due to the amount of crime, Belizean law makers invoked a “declaration of crime infested areas” and allow law enforcement and security forces to conduct warrantless searches of personnel and property in “crime ridden” areas. The George Street Gang is currently the most powerful gang, but struggles to maintain their position versus four other gangs. They control the flow of cocaine through the country.
1.        Fort George:  This is the marina area for visiting cruise ships. It is located at the mouth of the Haulover Creek. The area also offers other water transportation, including water taxis, fishing boats, and smaller, personal water craft. Hotels line the coast, providing guests with a beautiful view of the bay. Small shops line the immediate streets, offering the usual tourist marketplaces.
2.        Battlefield Park:  A small green space with many concrete benches. It is often the site of political speeches and civil gatherings. Vendors dot the sidewalks and street corners, selling tropical fruits, hot homemade dishes, and the occasional trinkets.
3.        Ruins of Altun Ha:  “Rockstone Pond” was settled around 250 BC and ended near the 10th century. At one time, 10,000 Maya lived in and around this 25 square mile area. It is a 30 minute drive from Belize City and hard to get to without a guide to show you the way. A local bus line has a stop approximately two miles away. The ruins have two plazas surrounded by towering temples. The larger of the two plazas is the site of a mysterious tomb beneath a temple, the Temple of the Green Tomb. It was so named for the jade, jewelry and other remnants found here by archaeologists. The other temple was found to contain trade goods from the city of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico. Also of note, a 15 centimeter high, jade head of the Maya Sun God, Kinich Ahau, was found within the priests’ tombs.
Three Hooks: 
1.        George Street Gang members offloading goods from a boat. Are they working with the local conspiracy or up to nefarious activities of their own design?
2.        Tradecraft notices something going on in Battlefield Park – is this related to the conspiracy or just a clandestine meeting between Belize Special Branch and perhaps a cousin in the CIA?
3.        The jade head of Kinich Ahau may hold the secret to destroying victims. It is a sun god, after all.