Downtime, Side-Jobs and Long Term Projects in Trophy Gold


I’m thinking that debts come due when a 4-part clock is filled in.

Cog 4

A delve into an Incursion is 3 parts and downtime (training, research, personal projects) are 1. So generally, an Incursion and a Downtime means a payment comes up.

A poor roll under certain circumstances might mean the players lose some time. This can be a tick on the clock.

Side-Thought I Set Aside

I was thinking that maybe players could spend 3 Hunt Tokens to erase a tick on the clock but I think the math on that doesn’t work. Spending Tokens that are worth 3 Coin if you cash them to hold that bill off is a good deal. So, for now, there is no way to stop that clock.

Quick Side Job Generator, roll 3d6

Inspired by Planarch Condex: Dark Heart of the Dreamer

If the clock above strikes and a treasure-hunter is short on Coin, they could take a side-job. Side-jobs are quick, bloody work dealing with kinstrife, assassination, bodyguarding and other shield-breaking wolf-work that no one else can or will do.

These jobs are 1 Coin.

I was going to have these jobs pay more but then the game would quickly be about freelancers in the city doing side-jobs (see also, every Planescape game ever) but if that is where the table wants to go, it’d be easy to turn a job into an Incursion.

The Gig

  1. Kill someone who is well guarded
  2. Kill
  3. Kill
  4. Bodyguard for someone dangerous people despise
  5. Steal something locked up and treasured
  6. Train mercenaries (explain what skill you have that is of use to sellswords)

The Money

  1. Local nobles
  2. Nobles
  3. Merchants
  4. Merchants
  5. Holy folk
  6. Wizards

A bit of color

  1. An ancient Kaldhurite artifact
  2. A pocket dimension
  3. Devils
  4. One of the Sisters
  5. Someone from their past
  6. That weird shit from the media you just ingested

Job still available?

  1. No, it got done.
  2. No, it was a total disaster and the faction offering the job is in deep shit.
  3. No, no one took the gig, so the faction went in-house for talent.
  4. Yes, it is available because the intrepid freelancers who tried it failed because it was way more complicated/difficult than it first seemed.
  5. Yes, it is still up for grabs.
  6. Yes, no one is touching it…what is going on?

I’d be tempted to roll up or choose 3 or so jobs. The tables are meant to be inspirational, meaning, don’t roll if you’ve got ideas or the fiction demands a certain job is out there.

Caravan Guard

It is a traditional side-gig for adventurers, delvers and treasure-hunters.

I’d have merchant houses have deals with the folks who hold debt over treasure hunters. So, for as long as you are a caravan guard your debt freezes. The debt-holders agree that in this wolf-age of broken shields, caravan guards are necessary to keep bandits at bay. The guards get their food paid for and can travel without their debt piling up.

If a guard has more than 6 debt, their debt-holders might not be patient forever. Though this could be a good way to return a treasure-hunter if they don’t have enough Coin to pay a debt.


Long Term Projects

Straight outta Doskvol, inspired by Blades in the Dark. Tell the table what you want to do, everyone discusses it and helps set a clock (or a series of clocks) and it is a modified Hunt roll.

dice-six-faces-six Take a light color die when you explain to the GM what you want to build, create or learn more about in the world and how you plan to make it happen.

dice-six-faces-six Take a light color die if you have a skill or piece of equipment that will help.

inverted-dice-6 Take a dark die if you are willing to risk mind and/or body to get this done.

1    You tick 1 on the clock but have attracted unwanted attention that will cause trouble later (maybe an option to drawn no attention but lose a tick?)

2-3  You tick 1 on the clock.

4-6  Tick 2 on the clock.


Breaking the Rules

I love in DCCRPG how players can ask to break the rules. When they do so, the GM explains the quest/adventure they’ll have to go on to attempt to do so.

For example if you wanted to make your Charisma score higher, you could break into the God of Beauty’s house and steal from the pool he drinks from every night before going to sleep. It is dangerous and maybe even unlikely but it is possible to get past the Beauty God’s guards, wards and traps to drink from the Beauty Pool gifted to Him from the Sun and Moon in hope that it doesn’t destroy your mortal frame and actually makes you more desirable.

What happens when the players look at their debt score and say, “How do we stop this shit?” prepared to burn the world down to make it happen?

That’ll be an interesting game.

Dice Icons are from Game

British Library. Histoire de France. Deuxième édition. British Library Flickr Collection.

British Library. Streifzüge in den Urwäldern von Mexico und Central-Amerika … Mit 76 Abbildungen, etc. British Library Flickr Collection.



The Lich Wars

The Liches

Why are they fighting? What are their goals? Can their goals be understood by our soft living brains?

Vecna: traditional lich, concentrating on undeath and secrets known for having an artifact hand and eye

  1. Wizard Cultists missing an eye and/or hand
  2. Floating undead eyes
  3. Swarm of crawling undead hands
  4. Corrupt priests who know your secrets
  5. The Hand and/or The Eye, adorned like reliquaries watched over by the lich-spawn apprentices
  6. Death Knight Praetorian Guard

Acerak: demilich turned stranger and stranger through traversing the far realms while his bejeweled skull mouldered in a horrific tomb

  1. Traps
  2. Illusions within illusions
  3. False treasures behind a secret door hiding the True secret door
  4. Alien tentacle beasts from the Far Realms
  5. Undead beasts with magical gems embedded in flesh and bone
  6. Castle-sized floating gem-fortress shaped like a skull (subtle!)

The Lich Queen: immortal leader of the Githyanki state, sending armies bolstered by red dragon winged cavalry into all the worlds from her capital city built on the body of a dead god in the Astral Plane

  1. Warriors with Silver Swords
  2. Warlock Courtiers with Silver and Obsidian Teeth
  3. Red Dragon Air Cavalry
  4. Gate-Fort under construction
  5. Crystal Psionic Battery in a recently requisitioned mule drawn cart
  6. Githyanki Rangers hunting Illithid

Minor Players

  1. All undead adventuring party (Vampire fighter, ghoul thief, revenant wizard, Spawn of Kyuss Priest) led by Kaz
  2. Local Vampire Lord(s) here to treat with Kaz
  3. Local monks enthralled by Githzarai unorthodox ideas on chaos and free will
  4. Githzarai fighting tournament
  5. Black winged angels watching from a distance
  6. Paladins in black armor helping refugees, offering prayers over the dead

Kaz: vampire rival of Vecna’s, leading a small platoon of ghouls, revenants and vampires

Githzerai Monks: ancient rivals of the Githyanki, monks who find solace in the chaos of their monasteries floating in the chaos of Limbo

Raven Queen: goddess of death and winter, often sends her black winged paladins to planes where these forces are warring to make sure the state of death isn’t damaged too terribly

Roll 6d6 (choose which 6 or go for it and roll all 8)

Arcane forces, unleashed in a battle have damaged:

  1. Time
  2. Weather Patterns
  3. Death
  4. Gravity
  5. Memory
  6. Dreams

For now, the upper hand is held by:

  1. Vecna
  2. Acerak
  3. The Lich Queen
  4. A ducal army
  5. Ragtag adventurers
  6. Stalemate

The last battle was a:

  1. Bloody slaughter
  2. Long brutal siege
  3. Feint within a feint
  4. Series of otherworldly storms
  5. Landing action as one of the armies made its way through a gate
  6. Vicious attack in order to gain control of a vital piece of geography

The Ghoul’s Hungry Throne  is:

  1. Pledging their teeth and axes to Vecna
  2. Rallying to Acerak
  3. Treating with the Lich Queen
  4. Entertaining offers from all armies
  5. Using the chaos to grab more territory
  6. Fortifying its position and declaring neutrality

The three armies are sending scouts and preparing to attack in order gain control of a:

  1. Castle
  2. Bridge
  3. Gate
  4. City
  5. Dungeon
  6. Unknown, what the fuck are these undead wizards trying to gain here?


Surrendering to Fate in Trophy Gold chargen

When you are done making a character in Trophy you are looking upon a creature at the start of a journey. That journey might lead to the Quietlands, it might lead them to changing into a beast for other adventurers to hunt and kill or it might lead to them changing the world with blood and gold.

Their path will be paved with cunning, gold and fate. May the more merciful Sisters guide you.

If you surrender to the fates and let the Sisters, both merciful and cruel, put your background, skills and gear into place you are allowed to take a Gift from the Sisters.

To be more clear, if you entirely roll your character without choosing anything. That said, maybe this rule is changed. Maybe if you roll your character you can choose from the Fates table but if you choose your character you must roll on the Fates table.

Let me know how it works for your table, please.

There are questions; they need not be answered now. Daydream about them. The answers might come to you in the midst of grand adventures or a grand shower or just a very pleasant hike.


Choose your gift (or roll 2d6, one at a time, reading them in order if you can’t decide):

Strange Pets

Who (or what odd chance of fate) brought you back such an amazing pet from strange, faraway lands?


Dragonel, fully grown, size of a hawk said to be what the snake people used instead of hawks


Mimic, domesticated


Underpanther cub, adorable right now with its little claws and tentacles


Spider the size of a barn-cat.


Wyvern hatchling, size of a puppy, just got done eating its own shell and hungry for more – will get big enough to ride some day


Rooster, fighting, grateful to you after it was saved from a brutal life in the pits

Wizardless Familiars

Why did they choose you when their wizards passed?


Bat, dramatic


Cat, sarcastic but affectionate


Dog, loyal


Owl, vicious


Raven, cunning


Toad, pragmatic


Did you find the weapon or was it willed to you be an adventurous elder?


Sword from the Mage Wars, can knock spells out of the air.


Dragonfang dagger, if you touch it to gold it heats up without burning wielder.


Merfolk Trident, relic from when the undersea’s kingdoms laid siege to land-folk; if you put it in a puddle of water it will point towards the nearest ocean.


The People’s Bow, offers an extra dark die when aiming arrows at those who say they rule over others.


The End of Knights, a mystical six-shooter from another world with 2d6 bullets.


The Sun-Killer, a knife made of a dense material none can identify, extinguishes all light within sight when it is taken out of its sheath.


Did you bind it or has it been bound to your family for generations?


Devil Tutor, the GM will tell you the 3 skills the Devil tutor can best offer advice on and teach. Once it has taught all of the skills once it is dismissed back to the Hells


Fire Sprite, a tiny adorable piece of fire that will follow your command. If it starts a fire that goes out of control it will leap into the fire and become an angry Fire Elemental, free from the binding


Earth Plop, a tiny piece of animate earth that will follow your command. If it begins an avalanche it will embody the avalanche as an angry Earth Elemental, free from the binding


Water Spritz, a tiny animate piece of water that will follow your commands. If it finds its way to the ocean it is free; it will remember you


Air Gust, a tiny animate bit of wind that will follow your commands. If it is asked to change the weather, it will take control of that weather as an air elemental and be free of the binding


Simalcrum, a tiny version of you that communicates in a series of squeaks and grunts

Spells from the Arch-Mage’s Tome

Did you know the Arch-Mage or one of their students?


Wish, every time you cast it your Ruin goes up by 1. This Ruin increase is special in that it can never be taken away


Storm the Bone Gates, for when your comrade is dead and you want to venture into the Quietlands to retrieve them


Dragon’s Breath, allows the caster to breath dragon-fire – any Ruin accrued while this spell is cast can be paid off in gold, 2 gold for 1 Ruin


Summoner’s Trinity, the Calling, Summoning and Binding that allows any adept who has a True Name in hand to call a Power to them


Shall Not Pass, stops anyone in front of the wizard from getting past them for as long as they live, only dispelled when the wizard either falls or turns and runs


Speak to Tome, allows caster and all who hold their robe or staff to talk to a book as if it was a person; personality of tomes are said to come from both the text and the author

Holy Icons

How did you get the attention of one of the Sisters?


The Five-Headed Matron, made from the holy gems of her five consorts


The Endless Serpent, ouroboros of ancient serpent-folk make, metals not known to the modern smith


The Arch-Mage, made of bits of the Arch-Mage’s own scrolls


The Winter Queen, made of crow’s feathers, owl pellets and snow that never melts


The Spring Queen, made of corn husks, wildflowers and honeycomb


The All-Mother, made of spider-silk, volcanic glass and glowing fungus



Dice Icons are from Game

Travel in Trophy Gold

By the time of the Respite, no magi living knew how to effect that mastery which Preema had enjoined; but anyway the Road was still holding safe three centuries after laying the greatwork, then as now.

from [ancestral eidetic memory] of the magi of the Ashëan Enclave

– Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson


Essentially, it is a slightly tweaked Hunt roll.

There’s a new way to earn an extra die:

dice-six-faces-six Take 1 light colored die for traveling the Olde Kaldhur Roads, built with the well crafted masonry that conduct the powerful energies that charge the arcane wards.

dice-six-faces-sixDon’t forget to earn one for exploring and asking questions and another for having the right skill and/or gear. Prepare for your journey! Ask questions about items on the map and what you’ve heard. Engage. The road is dangerous.

The Olde Kaldhur Roads are broken and were made with cities, dams, rivers, and lakes that are no longer there. Traveling to cities and villages should be difficult and demand travel onto newer and less protected paths and roads.

1 Hunt Token = 1 safe night in a place where the players can rest and get either access to water or safety from the elements or safety from wandering beasts

3 Hunt Tokens= either 1 safe night with access to water, safety from both elements and beasts or you find a well trod path or a landmark that will lead you to a village or city if you are lost.

Roll the dice. If your highest die is a:

1. Lose one token and encounter something terrible, it has the jump on you

2. ⬇️

3.Encounter something terrible but it hasn’t detected you yet

4. ⬇️

5. Take 1 token and encounter something terrible but you can choose the ground where the meeting will take place

6. Take 1 token, the road is clear and birds are singing

When you draw a map for travel leave plenty of white space. The map is not a finished product. It is a work in progress. Add some awesome stuff because you think it sounds cool without an idea of what it means just yet. Rivers, roads, mountains, big bodies of water and dangerous wastelands offer restraints to movement and are valuable.

If you draw in some Olde Kaldhur Roads, they shouldn’t make sense to today’s geography and should be as broken as the ancient Kaldhur Empire.

Untested Vague Idea: Don’t give your map to the players. Describe it to them and ask them to draw their own. Cartographers can be wrong. If they get lost it is more adventure-fuel.

Keep your map and flesh it out as you daydream and fill in some of the white spaces during prep. Don’t feel like you have to fill in all of the white spaces.

Dice Icons are from Game

Death in Trophy Gold

If a character reached 6 Ruin because of physical limitations of mortal flesh, an incarnation of Death will come to take their soul to the Quietlands beyond the Bone Gates.

Quietlands Guide, Lesser

Description: Quietlands guides often change their look based on the culture of the deceased. Sometimes they are a ghoul riding a rotting polar bear, an angel with a thousand eyes and 8 wings or even an old fashioned skeleton in black robes and a scythe.

Endurance: 6


  1. Cleave a soul with a magical weapon.
  2. Cut a magical tether that no mortal weapon can touch.
  3. Cut a deal for more time as long as it means more souls for the Guide.
  4. Raise the recent dead to cover their retreat into the Quietlands with the soul.
  5. Offer the soul one last good-bye to someone important from their life.
  6. Tell mortals a detail about their eventual deaths.

Defenses: No mortal weapon can harm them.

Weakness: Summoning circles can entrap them if you can trick them into it.

Holy relics have strong effects on them.

What if the characters drive away death?

The Quietlands will come for them. It is only a matter of time.

The dead character’s Ruin is still 6. Their souls are in their bodies and they can move around but the clock is ticking. If they are called upon to make any Ruin rolls they either fall to dust, their soul evaporating into the universe like water into a stormcloud or they will become a vicious undead monster, losing control of their character as they become a NPC.

If the character can find the right lore, they can fashion themselves into a sentient undead character, setting their Ruin to 1. How do they do this?


Maybe they perform the Lich-Rites. Now their Ruin is bound up in their ability to devour spells. When they need to lower their Ruin, the only way is to devour spells. Each spell they remove from a living or dead skull or ripping them off the written page. These spells are stored in their decaying bones, able to be cast by them for a price. When they cast them, their Ruin will increase.

If they reach 6 Ruin again their bodies will turn to dust and only a jeweled skull will remain as they turn into a villainous Demi-Lich, bringing horror to some tomb.

Other Rites

Blood Rites, Ghoul Rites, and many others haunt the shelves of dusty libraries across the loom of the world and new rites are born every so often.

Sometimes a character hell-bent on vengeance will not attach to any rites, turning into a spite-filled Revenant, turning to the Quietlands after bloody justice is wrought.

Quietlands Storm

Description: A stormcloud in the shape of a  roaring skull.

Endurance: 9


  1. Ghosts slip into the living world to offer dire warnings.
  2. Rain cold hell down on the countryside
  3. Lightning strikes anything built by the dead character since they perished.
  4. Wind rips the soul from the character’s rotting shell
  5. The dead rise to bring the lost soul into the Quietlands
  6. Cause spells to act in odd and unexpected ways

Defenses: No mortal weapon can harm them.

Weakness: Powerful holy sites can slow the storm down for a time.

There is a black diamond in the eye of the storm. Plucking it from the skull will cause the storm to abate but the storm will attempt to possess any who hold the diamond.

The Quiet One

If the Quietlands Storm is somehow defeated, the Quiet One will venture forth before the year is over. You’ll know when it happens. Words will cease to be heard, holy statues will cry blood, temple and church roofs will fall on the heads of the faithful and a generation of children will be born as hungry ghouls.

How do Undead Exist if the Quiet One is coming?

I’m glad you asked.

In the Quietlands everyone’s tomb is waiting, prepared and silent. Yours is there. In order to stop death from seeking a lost soul, you must venture into the Quietlands, find your tomb and leave a living soul in its depths. There are few guides qualified to lead adventurers to their own tomb and fewer maps but for every lich-queen or vampire lord is someone who knows how to get this fell task done.

5 Cases in Doskvol

We just finished up our Blades in the Dark – Bluecoats campaign (playlist embedded at the bottom of the post). We rocked 5 cases  in 18 sessions – The Ghoul Case, the Wizard’s Jar Case, the Unity Case, Roric’s War and The Last Case. The cases touched on all of my favorite bits and pieces of Doskvol factions and history (except for The Foundation and Tangletown – missed those). I’m putting my BitD book on the shelf very satisfied (but definitely interested in getting back to Doskvol).

bluecoat banner

I wasn’t sure how to prep for a case when I first started. I knew I wanted concrete facts in the cases but what I found is with crime cases, like with any bit of world-building it helps to have white spots on the map and make peace with the fact that players are going to find bits of the case that I had never planned for. I wanted a shape to the case with hard and fast facts but with space for everyone, including me, to discover new things about the crime.

I knew I wanted each case to revolve around some part of Doskvol history. The Undying Emperor’s immortality, the Unity War, the lightning fence, Roric’s murder as a domino effect for the factions going to war and finally back to the Emperor.

The Ghoul Case

Here’s the brainstorming e-mail I first sent to players who weren’t in the game:

Friends who have walked the streets of Doskvol,
In a few weeks I’m going to start GMing a streaming Blades game with a few friends (Stras and Lauren) in which they will be playing a Severosi Investigator and a Doskovol local Bluecoat who will be investigating a new drug hitting the market.

I’m not so much about the whodunnit as about having this drug end up touching the rich and the powerful in Doskovol.

Our inspirations are The Wire and True Detective. We’re using the awesome Bluecoats crew book in which the turf map is more of an investigative map.

I’d make this a forum post but I don’t want Lauren or Stras to see it.

Here’s my idea:

The drug allows the user to exit their body as a ghost and come back after a while. The first doses might just be a party trick and a fun recreational trip for rich folk.

But when they start to run out they’ll start cutting the stuff with waterd down leviathan’s blood because a quick scan would reveal that it is an unknown distillation of demon’s blood and hey, leviathans are demons so who cares? Demons are demons, right?

Wrong. Those trips will go very poorly, creating a tentacled monstrosity of a ghost. The mix only works if the 3 demons are from different affinities. The leviathans’ blood will fuck that balance right up.

This drug is based on the delicate chemical mix the Immortal Emperor used to sever his soul from his body and become immortal while still keeping his will. The first batches of the drug were potent because it was made from different demons, of different elemental affinities the emperor caged out the the world. Someone bled 3 different ancient, caged demons, mixed the blood, did some ectoplasmic process to it that when injected into a living human severs their ghost from their body while leaving the body intact.

The Emperor isn’t going to say what the drug is but wants to know who the fuck is taking it. The Master Warden, Lord Governor or one of the older families might know what it is and will try to take it to become immortal and eventually replace the emperor.

There was a batch years ago that hit the city and then disappeared (maybe Scurlock or the Dimmer Sisters have it now). This batch is to tie the whole thing to the Bluecoat character with a scoundrel background, whose 0 tier crew tried to get involved with this original shipment and got in way over their heads, leading to the gang getting destroyed.

The more recent batch will be from a Severosi supplier who grabbed the blood from 3 bound demons out in the world where only Severosi could go but 3 different kinds of demons could be bled in the city if someone was smart and connected enough to figure out how to get that blood.

Maybe Tycherosi blood could be used with more modern ectoplasmic brewing?

Too complicated?

I’m thinking that I’ll link the Red Sash/Lampblack war will be about this drug.

Here’s the timeline:

847 years ago, the Immortal Emperor and his Whispers imprison every demon they can lay their swords to and perfect a formula to sever one’s soul from their body, leaving only their will.

They hide the formula in a place deep and dark, far from any settlement or city.

12 years ago, some asshole finds the formula but can barely make sense of it – heads towards civilization and it is a long trip.

10 years ago, the formula hits the streets of Doskovol and scoundrels decide it is a drug and try to sell it. Powerful underworld figures descend and snatch it up and kill any rumors of its existence.

Now, the Emperor has received evidence that the formula has hit the streets, that it is his based on his formula and decrees an Imperial Mandate in order to find all evidence of his drug, anyone who sold it and anyone who took it.

Am I over-thinking this?

Too much?

Thoughts and suggestions appreciated.

Some of this got tossed or changed or ignored. the timeline more or less remained intact, give or take.

What I learned is that an investigative case is like any world-building. Having a foundation of prep can helpful but don’t forget to leave white space on the map. The players will look into leads and corners of the case that I never considered. Sometimes I’d realize that an NPC was tied into this mess later on. The details of the case, the direct whodunnit remains the same but some details can shift around.

This case was directly inspired from re-watching the first season of True Detective after the third season came out. I wanted my cases on Doskvol to be relevant to the current going’s on but also linked to bits of history. This one was linked to the Undying Emperor becoming immortal. The next one would be linked to putting up the lightning fence.

The Wizard’s Jar Case

I didn’t write a brainstorm e-mail for this one, which surprises me. I wonder if I just knew that Sean or John (who were included in the other brainstorming e-mails) might be called in to play a visiting Spirit Warden.

It was a weird case with an antagonist I really enjoyed. I wanted someone whose job was destroyed by the lightning fence in the same way that lampblacks were turned to crime by the coming of eletryc lights. What was Doskvol like before the fences went up?

John came in as a Spirit Warden; it felt like when FBI agents stopped by Baltimore PD in The Wire.

The founding family’s towers were already established in the last case; it was cool to think of them as where warding stones were kept, that the city huddled under those towers to keep them safe from ghosts and monsters that might saunter out of the Deathlands. But now we have the much more reliable Lightning Fence and the Ward-Keepers were rendered useless.

Also in this case I pulled in the Archive of Echoes, an easily forgettable line that both setting gurus, Stras and John had forgotten about.

Next up, the next big sign-post in Doskvol’s history – the Unity War, especially how the war ended, with the Queen of Skovlan and her consort being killed by an assassin.

Who was that assassin? Were they still alive? Who trained them?

The Unity Case

Here’s the pitch:

The Game’s Intro

The Lord Governor calls the team in because a colleague of his, retired military, has called in a favor. This lady was counter-insurgency during the Unity War and she was responsible for putting the spy in place who eventually ended the war by killing the King and Queen. She thought the assassin was dead but a few men were killed in a shoot-out last night and he thinks it was her killer.

The Who and the Why
It, in fact, is her assassin. She’s in Doskvol because this is where the best Skov resistance is currently being mounted. Ulf Ironborn and the Grinders are the best Skov resistance fighters that are left (yeah, there isn’t much left). The shoot-out happened when she tried to meet Ulf and an attempt was made on Ulf’s life by the Billhooks and the assassin had to shoot his way out.

Why is this assassin trying to contact the resistance?

Because she has a secret. She has the Queen of Skovlan, the 9 year old daughter of the king and queen who they kept secret from the world during the war. They agreed to be killed so they could end the war and save their daughter to fight another day.

She is looking to drop the kid off with Ulf because the Ironborn’s dedication to the Skov throne is legendary.

The What

The Handler is riddled with guilt. She is the only agent of her’s who survived the war and yeah, she ended the war but still, everyone else she put in harm’s way is dead. She’s a hot mess and honestly just wants to find her only surviving agent and allow her to retire to safety.

The Handler’s also a smart operator and can help them maneuver around the Imperial government if they decide to go that route (and if the handler doesn’t vice herself to death).

They can go to the bar and talk to the people who saw the shooting. It is a Skov bar and they managed to keep Ulf’s name out of the whole thing when the Bluecoats came through and did a half-ass job interrogating them.

They could also talk to the Billhooks, who are far more dangerous than the Lampblacks. They could also talk to the Billhook’s leader who is in Ironhook.

The assassin was a Crow’s Foot orphan, so her records are sketchy at best. Her kid-brother was Roric, so if they figure that out before she finds out that Lyssa killed Roric (clock will be ticking) they can stake out Lyssa and try to catch her that way.

She is a super-bad-ass spy-assassin, definitely taking inspiration from Killing Eve. 

More of this stayed relevant and I had clocks in my notes. I made the queen a bit younger, toying with the idea of making her much older but in the end I’m glad she was young. There weren’t many children in this campaign.

Stras and Lauren really gave the assassin a wide berth, giving her a real mystique. Maybe it was something I did in describing her and her ability to do violence. I thought about giving her some arcane edge, some kind of weird ghost field shit, storing ghosts with relevant skills and memories in her head but I liked the idea of a highly trained killer. It kept the case grounded and kept a handle on the Whisper Effect.

What is the Whisper Effect?

The Whisper Effect is how Blades in the Dark games turn from gritty crime games to epic fantasy as the Whispers push harder on the boundaries of magic and arcane science in the setting. On one hand, I love it and after running a few campaigns in this system and setting, I think I’ve got a better handle on this stuff than I had in the past but gritty is fun too.

The Roric War

The Hive and the Unseen divvy up the gangs and crews of Doskvol in order to make war on one another. Roric’s death is often seen as the spark that lit this fire.

I’ve got a jamboard with the gangs who have been divvied up on either side and some clocks. I’m not clear why the Silver Nails would be on the Hive’s side – thinking on that. Could be the Hive realized they needed more muscle and threw a ton of money at them. Or maybe I’ll find it more interesting to keep them neutral and see who can successfully woo them.

The Skov gangs are still up for grabs. Neither side took them in because they didn’t want to have to smooth over the racism within their factions in order to get gangs to work with them.

The Red Sashes and the Lampblacks are sitting this out because they just finished up a costly war but as things get grim, each side will put terrible pressure on these gangs to join, especially as they each try to profit from the chaos.

I’m thinking that this might be the next case after the Unity Case – An Imperial Mandate to chill this war out after a fight in Gaddoc station led to important Imperial shipments being damaged and/or delayed.

I’m thinking that the Bluecoats tend towards neutral on this but there might be precincts bought to one side or the other as the war drags on. I’ll also add a map to the jamboard, maybe figure out which districts will be controlled by which side and which are total battle zones where foot soldiers are vying for control.

Clocks include:

The Hive Successfully Court Lord Scurlock 6 part

They know they need someone to lead their arcane efforts if they are going to succeed; this will likely mean Scurlock is brought into the Hive as a full partner. Once he’s on board they can begin a long clock to try and figure out who the Unseen actually are.

The Lost Decimated 4 part
The Foghounds Decimated 4 Part

Both are Tier 1 gangs and seen as weak links, easy targets for the other side.

Hive’s prized Dagger Isle galleon burned to the water line 8 part clock
This is a bigger, more ambitious operation for the Unseen.

Unseen Safe House Uncovered 8 part clock
This is the Hive’s ambitious operation.


First, a prominent building 4 part
Second, a city block, 6 part
Third, a district burns, 8 part

First to purchase an Iruvian War Hull

Hive 8 part
Unseen 12 part

I figure this is an easier clock for the Hive because of their smuggling background. The Iruvians are curious to see their new tech in action.

Spirit Wardens are overwhelmed by all this death 6 part
Feral ghosts hunting in the streets, what a mess.

Thoughts appreciated.

Looking at these notes, this was when I hit my stride and figured out what I needed to have down. I wrote about it a bit more in this blog post.

Dividing up the gangs into two sides under the Unseen and the Hive was so easy it almost seemed as if John Harper designed the death of Roric to escalate to this all along, a testament to how much I enjoy taking Doskvol’s setting info (factions and their clocks) and making it my own.

As a case, it was a bit odd. I was asking them to be more street diplomats than investigators. If I were to do this one again I would’ve had the top brass putting more pressure on them to make fruitless arrests, the Doskvol version of “drugs on the table” from The Wire. As it was, they had a pass to pursue the case however they wanted.

The Last Case

A Floater in the Canal
A dead cultist is pulled from the canal and when the Bluecoats find papers on the body that look like plans to assassinate the Undying Emperor; an Imperial Mandate is issued immediately and Inspector Maia Tui and Sergeant Drav Aran are called in.

It is a few weeks before the Undying Emperor is going to arrive in Doskvol to drum up support for his upcoming war in Iruvia. He sends the Captain of his Quicksilver Guard to watch over the case and make sure the cult is crushed.

On one hand, I want a stone-cold whodunnit. Stras has mentioned that he wanted a murder case and this is kinda a murder case.

The murder is a set-up. The conspiracy to kill the Undying Emperor is all throughout his Quicksilver Guard, including the Captain(inspired entirely by Sean’s upcoming supplement, Broken Crown).

The conspiracy discovered this cult and supported it in order to have the perfect red herring. The cult was supported by a very well-to-do family in Doskvol who want to see the Undying Emperor fall so they could divert attention from the actual conspiracy at work as they put together pieces they have worked at for generations into place.

The cultist was killed by an Imperial Whisper-Assassin and part of the conspiracy who scrubbed the ghost (or maybe just futzed with it to cause it to go incomprehensibly feral faster).

Can they uncover that this is a ruse?
Can they uncover the conspiracy and see how far up it goes?
Will they warn the Undying Emperor and keep to the status quo or will they let him die or will they help him get killed and change the world?

Dreams of Kotar
Maia Tui took damage when she Attuned to a hand depression created by the Hand of Kotar during the current gang war. She took level 2 harm, Spirit Burns. I have no idea what that means. I have a vague idea that Kotar was kind of a Spellcasting Rogue/Grey Mouser-like pal of the Undying Emperor’s back when he was a powerful sorcerer.

I’m very tempted to have the healing of that wound bring about a vivid dream sequence in which Lauren and Stras play out a rollicking fantasy adventure about the then-mortal Undying Emperor and Kotar being played by Stras and Lauren – showing how the breaking of the world happened.

I’m not exactly sure how I’d do that. Thinking on that a bit.

Thoughts appreciated.

I wrote this before Roric’s War ended and changed things or even folded some of these ideas into things that happened in that arc. I had this odd idea of stopping the game and playing some World of Dungeons with Stras and Lauren with Lauren as Kotar and Stras as the Undying Emperor but that felt wrong. Kotar and the Emperor ended up being a fairly short dream sequence, rather than hijacking a whole session using an entirely different rules set (a gambit I’m glad I didn’t use because it makes me distinctly uncomfortable).

When the Undying Emperor showed up in town, I had ideas and images in my head from previous useful daydreaming.

The way the Last Case shook out was satisfying. In a way it was an odd choice. We didn’t end on a decision, more of a decision to walk towards making a decision. It was understated and I dig it.


The Real XP are the Friends You Made Along the Way

I’ve seen this cycle before, where online acquaintances become friends through gaming. It continues to be delightful and surprising. Lauren and Stras have become friends, dear friends and that is really nice.

It isn’t clear to me how gaming does that. Meeting with them every other week (give or take) during these past months has been amazing. It was a crazy year for me, the biggest shift of my adult life – moving from NYC to upstate with a huge career change. Meeting up with Stras and Lauren online as a kind of consistent social touchstone was important.

Gandalf in the Midfield

Stras and I were chatting between games and for some reason we ended up talking about soccer and playing midfield and gaming. Midfield is about doing a little bit of everything, about stepping up and making the big stop or big shot when needed but mostly supporting your fellow players and making them look good.

Without Stras’ system mastery this game would not have happened. Having a player who knows the system and the setting cold was a huge boon. Having Stras play the Doskvol-born cop and Lauren play the Severosi immigrant trying to figure out this corrupt, alien landscape was the way to go.

This isn’t even mentioning Stras’ OBS expertise that allowed the game to be streamed and recorded.


Playing cops is complicated. I can easily see how a Bluecoats campaign could used to say really shitty things behind the facade of fantasy.

Sometimes I’d have NPC’s say so.

I want the players to be able to have a shot at accomplishing whatever they attempt but what happens when the game goes beyond what can be done with a badge. I didn’t think they could change any real corruption within the system. The only reason it worked is because I think Lauren and Stras and I agreed on the politics of it all.


Streaming changes the dynamics of the game. I don’t want the game to change but it just does. We had a lovely dozen or so people who would join us in chat and that was really nice. They were engaged and into it. The last bit of the game was entirely changed by an amazing person in chat who deftly reminded me that a key death at the end of the campaign would’ve caused the bells at Bellweather Crematorium to ring. That wasn’t the only bit of  lore chat remembered and reminded us about.

Once I couldn’t think of an entanglement and someone in our chat came up with an amazing idea. I like being able to model that kind of thing and hopefully, take some of the anxiety and mystique out of not coming up with a cool idea on command. It happens and it isn’t the end of the world. I am thrilled that not only the amazing and dynamic choices we all made were recorded but also the messy stuff, the mistakes and the occasional blanks. Gaming isn’t perfect and that is okay.

And there it is, all 18 episodes embedded below.



Making Cloroshaw

Step 1: Visit the Medieval City Generator Page

Step 2: Add some numbers and letters. Paste pic.

Cloroshaw Labelled

Step 3: I’d like us to make some stuff up. We’ll need some structure.

A .The Griffon Gate
Six things the hill-folk might be bringing through the Griffon Gate

  1. herd of sheep
  2. griffon eggs
  3. captured bandits
  4. a tithe
  5. soon to be wedded couple
  6. holy relic in a sarcophagus

B. The Dragon Gate
Six things the merchant princes’ caravans might be bringing through the Dragon Gate

  1. enough caravan guards to take over the city (not that they’d never do such a thing)
  2. herd of horses
  3. rolls of fine fabric in vibrant hues
  4. statue from a faraway kingdom
  5. meat of odd creatures in crates with shaved ice
  6. baskets of exotic fruit in all manner of colors, smooth and spiky rinds

C. The Lion Gate
Six things the duke’s vassals might be gossiping about while they wait to get through the Lion Gate

  1. the weather is the Duke’s fault for not making the right offering last month
  2. how uppity the merchant princes have been getting lately
  3. the war in a nearby kingdom
  4. protection from hill-folk raids
  5. taxes is there a witch causing the cattle to act funny
  6. will the apple brandy be ready for the festival

1. The Market
Six things you didn’t expect to find in the market

  1. genuine unicorn horn
  2. an actual prophet offering to tell you your future
  3. an infamous book, thought lost, clearly stolen
  4. a comedy duo performing for tips
  5. famous bard, down on their luck
  6. a map of this city but all of the landmarks have different names

Six things you always expect to find in the market

  1. local dish, prepared perfectly
  2. pickpockets
  3. spice traders
  4. polished brass, overpriced
  5. wool
  6. outrageous haggling, performative

2. Eastside
Six types of muggers in Eastside

  1. knights
  2. squires
  3. caravan guards
  4. actual Eastside criminal with a knife
  5. Priests of the god of Thieves, practicing their religion, and giving their thefts to the poor
  6. sorcerer, using illusions to cover their crime

Six games children play in Eastside

  1. Knucklebones with real crypt knuckles
  2. Race to the Canal
  3. Round (a complex game involving a drawn circle, two teams, and sticks)
  4. Game of Dares, involving spooky places throughout the city
  5. Flips (a game using stones of two colors, a small grid, and movement along lines)
  6. Wights (involves one kid riding on the shoulders of another chasing a bunch of other children who are turned undead)

3. Lairside
Six dragon shrines you’ll see in Lairside

  1. The Hill Worm, vanquished by the hill-folks ancestral hero or just sleeping?
  2. Kurikameo the Gold, father of all dragons, who the nobles leave trinkets to so that he may increase their hoards
  3. The Star Wyrm, which is essentially the Milky Way made dragon
  4. The Green Beast, said to have eaten all of the lions that once ruled the forest
  5. Ur-Mother, said to be the dragon who birthed the world
  6. Shrine of the Earth’s Roar, a dimly lit building where you can hear the rumblings of the dragon that lives beneath all things

4. Highside
Six highborn folk you might see conspiring in Highside

  1. knight bought off by the merchant-princes
  2. Lady learning illegal sorcery
  3. noble with only his name left, his family fortune exhausted.
  4. prince on pilgrimage, slumming it in the city
  5. most attractive of the Duke’s sons, second-to-last to inherit, tentatively promised to the temple
  6. _not-so-secret artist (who has other secrets)

5. Pride Keep
Six reasons people are petitioning the duke

  1. bring the duke’s justice to a hillfolk clan for raiding local farms
  2. reduce the gate fees for passing in to and out of the city
  3. tear down one of the dragon shrines in favor of a new temple
  4. repair the griffon road
  5. demand the church brings local sorcerer to trial on witchcraft charges
  6. consolidate a large estate that was split apart by quarreling heirs.

There is a violent tussle on the streets of Cloroshaw, who shows up to break it up?

  1. mercenary caravan guards moonlighting as local law until their merchant leaves town
  2. squire of a powerful knight who can’t be troubled to show up
  3. mob of angry locals with shovels and rocks
  4. actual city guard, amazingly enough, no one expects them to show
  5. ducal house guard – lethal, brutal and simple in their decisions
  6. one of the duke’s children, doing their best to bring ham-handed high justice to the situation

How long does it take for them to get there?

  • Eastside, roll 2d6 and take the lowest
  • The Market, roll 1d6
  • Lairside, roll 2d6
  • Highside, roll 3d6
  • Pride Keep, roll 4d6
  1. never
  2. the next day
  3. 4 hours
  4. 1 hour
  5. 5 minutes
  6. immediately

Step 4: I’m going to show it to some friends and fill it out. If you do the same, post the results in the comments or a link to your post…

Step 5: Edit in what friends came up with.

Thank you, Stras, John, J.C. and Dev