Here be spoilers…
Here be spoilers…
In which the team deals with the fallout from failing the Coalridge Demon job.
It was fun starting the game off with Maude and Charming being held by the Spirit Wardens while Skannon was at the HQ, having entirely missed the Coalridge Demon job. Cutting between these 3 different points of view for the first hour was satisfying.
I liked how those opening minutes colored the downtime – from Charming adopting a demonic persona in his fight career, taking on the name Atreus (the demon they failed to kill in last session’s job), how Maude is suspected of being a snitch because she was caught by the Spirit Wardens and Skannon getting invited to the Doskvol University to hear Professor “Bakoros” speak.
We only got to some downtime but it was great to be back in Duskwall with these scoundrels.
I’m getting a better and better grasp on the way limited success and failures work and how to best deal with them in a given situation.
Something I love about the Blades in the Dark book is whenever I look at it I come away inspired. I had to glance at it today when I wanted the Spirit Wardens to knock on the Wobbegong Crew’s door. Would it be a masked Spirit Warden? Do they have a mouth-piece, someone who is seen without a mask? Professor “Bakoros” was there waiting for me.
Right there in the NPC’s section on page 296 was Bakoros, the pseudonym of their academic face. I loved the idea of this kindly old professor knocking on the door of this Imperial SWAT Ghostbusters. Skannon, with his noble family background, suave air and scientific curiosity was the perfect scoundrel to meet him. When Pete told me that he almost stabbed the professor and sacrificed him to the Witch Matron on her altar, I was in shock. He decided not to do that but what a shockingly different game that would’ve been.
We saw the inside of the Doskvol Academy, a Spirit Warden safehouse/interrogation chamber and the manor of a group of rich cultists whose members include the prestigious Rowan family (and who knows how many others?).
We know that the Hive are at war with the Unseen, who are trying to infiltrate the Spirit Wardens. We’re getting embroiled in rivalries way above the Crows, Lampblacks, Red Sashes and Billhooks. Good stuff!
There is an odd, almost grudging respect towards the Spirit Wardens from the crew that I found fascinating.
Quess, the maid in service to the Witch Matron’s Brightstone Temple.
I picture Quess as being played by Lydia Night, lead singer of the Regrettes, shown below in their video for Seashore.
Timoth Rowan, the teacher’s assistant Skannon took out for drinks to get more information about why ghosts attach themselves to a certain place from their lives, gaining 5 ticks on that long-term project.
Timoth is going to be a blend of every beleaguered grad student Pete and I knew from our days in Ithaca, N.Y.
Atreus, up and coming Pankration heavyweight who moves like a middle-weight and is drawing strange uptown high society folk to his fights. He wears a demon mask and totally isn’t Thaddeus “Charming” Thimbleford, Cutter for the Wobbegong Crew. That idea is just preposterous!
It is true that some people get out of prison with the skills necessary to serve on a BEM ship and that one of our founding captains served time. That said, we have plenty of explorers who just got out of military service, university and even a few lately who just got out of cryo-sleep from an antique generation ship!
Our crews are diverse and our mutiny index is far below average in the sector.
After 20 accredited missions you will get shares in your own ship with a group of freelancers whose skill-sets and emotional intelligence and cultural backgrounds compliment yours. Our algorithm is so good that the Perimeter agencies investigated us to make sure we weren’t using an illegal AI!
When our founders left their jobs as freelance spacers on other people’s ships, they crunched the sociological data and found that most spacers either quit after 5 missions or stay for 20+ with an incredibly high rate of mutiny and dissatisfaction. We wanted to find a way to change spacer culture and the way we’re doing that is by giving our explorers the chance to own ships and hire other freelancers.
That is great. Many of our most valued alumni serve less than 20 missions. Once you serve 5 you are a part of our Beowulf Society with access to a network of spacers, freelancers and starship captains all over the sector.
Different people take different amounts of time. Our fastest explorer got it done in just 5 years and is now on an Admiral Hayla Muhkerjee, Vice-President of Explorer Resources.
The average is around 7 years, earning freelance rates far above average in the sector. We’ve had a few people earn their shares in their Beowulf ship and with the money they’ve saved purchase a second ship all their own!
I was sitting with my friends a few weeks ago, talking about our Blades in the Dark games. A cool thing about talking about Blades, especially with a friend who is GMing is that you not only talk about the cool things that happened but you ask how they handled it within the rules. There are so many choices for dealing with the same outcome with partial successes, harm and clocks.
Something that is a job in one game could be a downtime action in another. A wound that would kill a character in one game is shrugged off for stress in another.
Charlotte shared her cheat sheet with me; Janaki and I were dazzled by it.
The group’s tithing house-rule jumped out at me.
TITHING RULES: Six segment clock for tithing entanglements
Add together tiers of factions tithing to the crew. Can choose to take up to that in coin per downtime, but each coin taken marks a tick on the entanglement clock. When the clock fills, roll entanglement.
What do I like about it? It embodies mo’ money, mo’ problems through simple game mechanics. It makes the gang’s life more complicated; they get more coin but there is a price.
Another interesting thing about this is it causes the gang to be invested in another gang’s growth. They directly profit from a smaller gang advancing in Tier.
Tithing house-rules by Charlotte, Jim, Aaron and Nikki
In which the Wobbegong Crew try to set Maude’s demonic mistake right, angering the Hive and the Lampblacks in the process and brutally fail in the mines under Coalridge.
In the end this game happened because Maude failed some rolls and turned Coalridge into a charnel house. Sean decided that Maude had a conscience, which is a gutsy and fun decision. My favorite parts of this game were when the players made decisions for their characters that gave the situations and supernatural setting stuff real weight.
Maude deciding that she had to own up to her mistakes and ask the gang to do a job to make it right.
Willoughby and Charming acting scared when meeting Roric’s ghost.
It is one thing to have a Heavy-Metal-Album-Cover Demon unleash hell in a city district and having a ghost smoking a cigarette but Sean, Rob and Jay’s decisions gave it all real weight and feeling. It was inspiring.
Everyone had moments where they shined and the group is getting better at playing off one another. From Charming making brutal use of Willoughby’s truth-hearing to the way Willoughby managed to be the only person to escape.
We learned a bunch about Duskwall tonight. From the warehouse where the Hive sells people and their brutal security teams to the fact that if you sacrifice the right people on the Saint of Witch’s altar you can rummage around in the dead bodies and pull out weapons.
Lucella: accountant for the Hive – sacrificed to the Saint of Witches
Atreus: The Saint of Witches blood-thirsty son, now roaming free in Coalridge.
We were going to do a job concerning the hostage they had and using that leverage to broker peace between the Red Sashes and the Lampblacks but Maude had a problem. She had unleashed a demon into Coalridge and the word I used to describe the quarantined district was charnel house. It was weighing on Maude’s mind.
Charming and Willoughby agreed to put the hostage job aside and help Maude try to put this demon back in the bottle. Charming grabbed 2 people from a Hive-owned warehouse where they stored slaves, or as the Hive calls them, Product. He grabbed a guard and an accountant.
Willoughby found a coin-generating job to do in Coalridge, finding out that a factory foreman had a vault with treasure in still in the deserted district. It was a way to make some money on the endeavor. They never got to it.
Maude took the 2 human-traffickers from the Hive and killed the one still alive. The Saint of Witches put weapons inside them. It was squicky! Killing someone in a fight is one thing but killing an accountant who is chained up, even one who helps the slave trade was uncomfortable for all of us. It wasn’t over the line but it was close.
The failed their engagement roll and ended up in the crossfire between the Spirit Wardens and the demon and its cultists. Turns out the cultists were Lampblacks.
It was a total disaster. They prowled into position. Willoughby provided a distraction, acting like a scared citizen. After that it was a disaster. Charming broke against the demon in an assault – he trauma’d out. Maude tried to channel the demon’s mother’s voice. She failed to contain that much energy and vomited blood.
Willoughby wanted to grab Charming and bounce but she rolled a 5. She got out but Charming stayed.
I don’t keep track of the players’ stress; they do that. When Charming trauma’d out it was a surprise to me. The stress mounted slowly and surely. The scoundrel’s grind is brutal.
Demons are no joke.
I liked the way it all shook out. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
In which the Hellspawn steal a briefcase from an Imperial Agent, talk to the Dimmer Sisters about some lost muscle and learn more about the demon.
I had nearly forgotten that in the first job in the rush of fire and larceny the Hellspawn had stolen a second painting, one that was not requested to be stolen by their employer. Helles decided to look it over; they thought that perhaps it was somehow arcane. Dev said he was using Attune and I asked him how Helles was doing that which led to his cool description. Helles had a cup of water that she was using like a magnifying glass over the tapestry. She rolled and failed, drawn into the depths of the tapestry, depicting an ancient siege.
He discovered Naria, who had been muscle for the Dimmer Sisters but had become trapped in this tapestry. Helles was not able to bring them both out.
They met with the Dimmer Sisters when Helles looked into the tapestry they stole during the last job. She discovered that the demon was using the tapestry to gain access to their dreams and that there was a long-lost Dimmer Sister trapped within it. The Dimmer Sisters want their sister back but are leery of having that kind of Tycherosi magic in their manor. They’ve offered their help on a future job should the Hellspawn find a way to free Naria, who was lost on a job in the Veil Social Club 40 years ago.
The Hellspawn’s reaction to the Dimmer Sisters was starstruck awe. They had cool matching black dresses with black lace on the trim, mystique and poise. “I hope the Dimmer Sisters like us.” I described Roslyn,the Dimmer Sisters go-to gang member for outside-the-house dealings as a young Whoopi Goldberg with black lipstick on. I’m not sure why but that is what I saw when I pictured her.
Una completed a long term job about learning more about the demon. She learned that he’s known as The Serpent and was the power-behind-the-throne for the Goat King, whose siege is depicted in their stolen tapestry. She knows that well-to-do Tycherosi worship the Serpent in weekly rituals.
They took this job as penance because the Demon was pissed at them but also kind of impressed with their moxy. They’d be paid but there was no question. The job had to be done or the Demon would be pissed.
An Imperial Agent was coming to Doskvol via train and picking up a briefcase. They were to steal this briefcase. They did not know exactly where the briefcase was to be picked up. The crew set up around the likely exits of Gaddoc Station and rolled a 6 on the Engagement roll. The agent walked up to Helles and threw her a silver. “Go get me a cab and there will be another in it for you if the cab looks tidy. There’s a good lass…”
Flashback to Una securing a cab a few days ago and she is there to pick him up. He finds her Tycherosi heritage a charming exotic touch to the trip and asks to be taken to the Doskvol Academy. I explained to Dev and Laura that they’d have trouble following across the Great Bridge into Whitecrown. Flashback to Vestine, hidden in the trunk of the goat-drawn cab. The agent came back to the cab with the briefcase chained to his wrist.
They took a side-road route through the Docks and once they were in an abandoned area of warehouses dosed the agent with trance powder, threw a cloak over his head, cut the chain from his wrist, set another case in its place rigged with a fire oil trap and convinced him that a Bluecoat broke the robbery up before it could go down and the cab-driver had been driven off in the process.
It was the smoothest job I have ever seen. There were very few rolls (2 or 3…maybe too few?) and because they hit their engagement so well, I had that first roll to dose him with trance powder be Controlled, Great. I just didn’t think the agent would have any reason to doubt anything they were doing to get him into position.
Back in the safety of their cave HQ, they wanted to see what was in the briefcase and studied it carefully before doing so. They discovered that the case was fine but the papers had the Seal of the Undying Emperor, meaning that whoever broke said seal would send information back to the Imperial Court – but exactly what information was unclear. They decided to leave the seal unbroken.
The Demon paid them 6 Coin, letting them know that this payment included taxes for property and personnel damage previously incurred (setting the club on fire and killing the waiter). The Hellspawn thought that was pretty fair.
Before the game started I explained how the fictional positioning in Action Rolls worked.
After the job, I showed them the Turf map on the Crew Sheet. “Your next job could be just what you pick up from around town, in which case I’ll offer 2 or 3 jobs and you can pick one or you could go to the Demon or the Dimmer Sisters and see if they’ve got any work for you. Or you could pick up some turf, which means taking something from another gang because you are all rats in a barrel.”
The primary interest was around stealing a Gambling Den from the Crows or taking Turf from the Dunslough Pigs, a Tier 0 gang created during character creation; the Pigs are the gang they stole their cave HQ from. They decided that taking on the Crows was not wise at this point. They’re going to take a barn on an eel farm next week, occupied by the Pigs, used for god-only-knows-what.
I liked that the turf gave us a reason to talk about setting stuff a bit. Suddenly, Lyssa having just betrayed Roric had a direct impact on them because her unsteady hand meant this was more ripe for the taking than it otherwise would’ve been. The turf map gave the setting info context.
Una said, “I think taking on a more experienced gang, led by someone who is willing to kill her own friends, not to mention a group of young thieves in a small gang who take her shit, is not a wise move at this point.”
These Dunslough kids are smart for a pack of scoundrels.
NOTE: I haven’t written about the adorable free play with the characters bickering and poking fun like a group of sisters but I felt like I over-wrote this AP as it was. More on that later…
In which the Hellspawn, Tycherosi prison orphans who operate out of a cave in Dunslough, accept their first job – stealing a piece of art in a social club.
In which Janaki and I game with our neighbors, Dev and Laura. Yay, face to face game. Having neighbors who are friends in NYC is a rare treat. It is nice to have a face to face game again.
Helles “Bell” Tycherosi, the Spider, from whom the gang gets their name, the leader. Her older brother is Twelves, who is serving time in Ironhook but is allowed visitors and is the gang’s mentor. She has crystal faceted eyes due to her Tycherosi heritage.
Una “Bricks” Tycherosi, the Cutter, a pugilist who fights in pits all over Doskvol. She has goat horns on her head due to her Tycherosi heritage.
Kestine “Thistle” Tychero, the Leech, inventor of alchemical birth control. She has rows of shark teeth in her mouth due to her Tycherosi heritage.
The job was fun but I felt like it didn’t allow a moment for everyone to stretch their wings and be cool. I was vexed and tense.
Relax, Judd! You are among friends.
I looked over the jobs chart and saw something about stealing and replacing a piece of art. I noticed that there was a Tycherosi owner of a social club. I liked that option because the crew had to debate about it a bit. Would they rob a Tycherosi? I like those moments, especially in the first games, where the gang can decide their boundaries and codes of conduct.
The crew got into the social club on a fight night, under the auspices of being there to support Una, there to fight her pugilist friend, Marlane.
I loved what the players were doing and their choices. I asked for a roll for the Leech to fool a waiter and there should have been no roll there. It led to cool stuff, though, so I should chill out a bit.
When Kestine was sneaking around on the second floor of the social club she saw a young rich kid getting worked over by Aldo, a bookie with the Crows. Later they he was unconscious while the second floored burned because of Una’s alchemical fire. Helles saved him and now they are kind of courting. Una and Kestine gives her shit for that. The rich kid’s name is Milos Strangford.
The job ended with the Veil on fire, the art stowed away and the Spider in her under-garments.
I’ll call that a successful first session.
I did a bunch of escalating instead of Harm. I’m not sure if those were wise choices.
We jumped right to downtime and in order to lower their Heat, they went back and killed a waiter who they’d left alive. The Cutter and the Leech grabbed him and knifed him on his way back from work so he couldn’t identify them. Ruthless!
Dev wanted to get something to help with the Train Job and he tried to acquire an asset, which is really difficult as a Tier 0 gang.
I remembered to roll Entanglements after the Downtime was over. I got Demonic Notice/Show of Force. There was a bunch of talk about the owner of the Veil, a Tycherosi who is said to have a snake’s body for his lower half. The gang was doubtful that he really had a snake’s body or even if he was really Tycherosi at all.
The Demonic Notice began to take shape. He’s a demon and now that they’ve damaged his place, he wants them to do a job for him. They have to steal a attache case from an Imperial Agent leaving the city on a train. The next job is a train job.
Next game – more on how to get more dice for each roll. More Devil’s Bargains. More Harm. Better clocks. More relaxed Judd.