The Servant and the War

The game starts at around 56 minutes in if you want to skip the character burning and belief writing.

The Situation

Our scoundrels were not going to make it to the table tonight, so we went to the Burning Wheel Campaign Ideas and chose one. Sean got stuff ready so we could stream and he got it up in about fifteen minutes; it was a heroic effort.

Sean narrowed it down to 3 and he chose some of my favorites from the list. In the end we chose this one:

shoeless situation

BW campaign idea: You are a shoeless peasant. The armies of the dwarves, elves and humans will soon clash near your home. #burningwheel

Burning

Sean did a great job of walking through the lifepaths and teasing out the setting implications of his choices. Bina was a captive of war turned servant who married into the village, built around a tower at the crossroads. Bina has a husband who is a wheelwright and a lover who is a hunter. She has a 4 year old child. She serves the lord knight who rules this tower at the crossroads, where farmers from all over meet for market.

To the north are the mountains, ruled by dwarven princes. To the south is the ancient forest, ruled by elves. To the east is the capital, ruled by the human ducal council. The elves forbid anyone from going too far west.

I peeked at an old article, Elves at War, on the BW forum written by Luke.

burning battles

Wheel

Beliefs

  • Convince Deek to flee.
  • Keep Bodnar from raising the alarm.

Instincts

  • Keep Bodnar’s flagon full.

We got up and moving pretty fast. In that time we cleared up our expectations. Sean seemed to be expecting a fast and furious one-shot but I’m more into a long, slow burn with BW. I’m glad we cleared that up.

Sean definitely burned up a character who gave me plenty to work with but it was challenging. Bina is not a traditional fantasy novel protagonist and I liked that. As the situation demanded, she is a normal person swept up into an epic and dangerous event.

Deek Nandor – Bina’s husband, a wheelright

Nara – her 4 year old daughter

Sir Bodnar Butond – the knight in whose tower she serves

Vas – her hunter lover, tired of waiting, wants to run away with her

I prodded at Bina for a few hours. We rolled some dice, played out the consequences – did a Duel of Wits and learned how far Bina will go. We got to know the place, this lonely tower at the crossroads where farmers and shepherds brought their goods to market. We got to know the important people in Bina’s life a bit. I left Sean with a terrible choice, putting the life of the lord-knight directly into her hands.

We’ll find out what choice she makes next time.

 

Art

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The Two Armies” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1530. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/d576ac40-e6d6-0132-8b89-58d385a7bbd0

Edited by me using pixlr.

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The Wobbegong Crew: Do sharks have souls?

The Wobbegong Crew: Do sharks have souls?

 

sharksoul tweet

Link to tweet

 

This was an odd session. In Blades mechanical terms we had Free Play, then some Downtime and then some more Free Play. It was also an amazing session where we struggled to figure out what the gang was really about – our dreams of a better world, the worst of our trauma or just the money.

The first round of Free Play saw the group heading to Lord Scurlock’s manor to drop off the book they stole during last game’s job. There was tension in the gang. Maud wasn’t sure if the payment was in Coin or if they were going to be paid in Scurlock’s expertise in demonology and his ability to read the ancient book. Skannon wasn’t having that; if they did they job they should get paid, he thought.

A young man (I pictured him at 17 years old or so) answered the door, a bit high and bleeding from the neck but seeming not to notice. They recognized him as the son of the Lord Governor.

Scurlock paid the crew 3 Coin that was manifested by 3 antique coins about the size of an adult hand. He told them that how they dealt with the young man was up to them and that he would be watching to see what choice they made. He paid Skannon while staring him down.  When confronted with an ancient vampire lord who is a one-man-Tier-3-gang Skannon didn’t blink. In the end, they took the bleeding young man with them and Maud even went to some risk to break Scurlock’s arcane hold on him.

There was a rift in the group on how they should handle the situation. That conflict ran into the next bit of Free Play. Sean checked in with Pete to make sure he was cool with their characters conflicting, which was really nice. I’ve seen that turn ugly in the past.

Maud gathered info to find out what the hell happened to the Lampblacks. It turned out they hit a gambling den that belonged to the Hive after seeing the Wobbegong Crew take the Hive’s warehouse with little to no consequence. All of the Lampblack’s lieutenants were found dead and burned in a drug den that was destroyed by a fire. The Bluecoats wrote it off as a spark-related death.

But they’d heard that Bazso Baz was still alive in a drug den in Dunslough. It was too late in the evening in the real world to start a score. They decided to go visit Bazso – more Free Play.

When they found Bazso in the worst slum in Doskvol he was a broken man – hooked on spark. I thought of him, mechanically, as a character who retired with nothing saved up. The Hive had left him alive as a cautionary tale.

Once again the characters were divided. Maud wanted to leave him be but build up his family and personal network to help him regain what he had lost.

Charming wanted to pick him up, splash some water on him and get him back into form or just use him as a resource.

While Charming and Maud were debating, Skannon ghost veiled in and slit Bazso’s throat.

Skannon the Crow

Skannon a.k.a. The Crow got a 3rd trauma this game. He is teetering on the brink. The Crow wants to take the Hive’s offer, to prove to them that they can make money with the Wobbegong Crew in their pay without human trafficking.

Hence the title of the blog post. We are going to find out in the upcoming sessions what the gang is going to become.

Art

Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/90707285/>;.
The Corliss Bevel-Gear-Cutting Machine. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2004678678/>;.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Wm. Hawes in front of jewelry store with intricate clock.” The New York Public Library Digital Collectionshttp://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-69ca-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Grand View, City and Canal, Syracuse, N.Y.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-5eee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
 The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The transportation problem. The Baxter boat “City of New York,” the fastest steamer tried on the Erie Canal” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1825. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7e54-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “For years he had been quietly filling his stocking.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1913. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/6c65dc92-8494-939f-e040-e00a180677f1

The Wobbegong Crew and the Daemonic Lexicon Volume III

In which the gang burgles the library in the haunted manor of the Dimmer Sisters to steal a book about demons, written by the Emperor before the Cataclysm, for Lord Scurlock, the book’s original owner.

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47e3-c709-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w (1)

The Gang

Charming was separated from the group as a kind of front door diversion and that made framing scenes and going back and forth tricky. This felt like it was right up Skannon’s alley and it made me squirrelly when Pete’s dice would bite him. I’ll write more about that below. Maud had infiltrated the sisters’ ectoplasm-powered psychic network, giving her a strong hand-hold.

The Job with text

The players got to Tier II and the Dimmer Sisters are also Tier II. For once, they weren’t punching up but squaring off with an equal. I’m glad that my Handlinger-inspired descriptions of the Dimmer Sisters and their pairs of floating upright psychic witch enforcers in black lace veils and matching funereal dresses had the desired effect; the players were freaked out by them.

I’m also glad I waited until after the session that came after this one to write this up. I had this feeling that the session was too easy but everyone was stressed to the gills. Rock on.

In the end, they stole the book and got out without losing anyone. The Dimmer Sisters know damn well who did it. The gang’s Faction Status with the Dimmer Sisters is now at a precarious -2.

The Mechanics in White

Folks kept failing Risky Standard conflicts (we call them Whiskey Standard) and I kept exercising the option to escalate them to Desperate. I’m not sure if that was the best way to go. Maybe I should have started to dole out some Harm.

Something to think about. I might go back, watch the session and make another blog post about this with links to moments of play.

 

Art

Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/90707285/>;.
The Corliss Bevel-Gear-Cutting Machine. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2004678678/>;.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Wm. Hawes in front of jewelry store with intricate clock.” The New York Public Library Digital Collectionshttp://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-69ca-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Grand View, City and Canal, Syracuse, N.Y.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-5eee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
 The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The transportation problem. The Baxter boat “City of New York,” the fastest steamer tried on the Erie Canal” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1825. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7e54-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Front cover” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1550. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-c709-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Wobbegong Crew: The 3 Skov Ghost Job

In which the gang smuggles 3 patriotic Skovlander ghosts from the Lost District to Ulf Ironborn.

The Gang

It was Jay and Sean – Charming and Maud. The timing for them to be in a mission together was kind of perfect, as they had a disagreement last game and Maud had stormed off.

Duskwall again

Taking lead from Jay who continues to name background Skovlander children as Charming acts as a babysitter, I mentioned a child gets back late one night with his blazer torn. He boasts that Ulf Ironborn paid him a bushel of apples to sneak under a fence and open a door so Ulf’s gang could murder a city councilor.

The child goes on to say that Ulf has a smuggling job for them if they want it.

Before deciding on jobs Maud and Charming visit Lord Scurlock to ask about demons. They tried to get Scurlock to commit to saying that he was dead against demons but he was non-committal. The vampire lord of Doskovol says that he could help them but his best book on demonology was stolen by the Dimmer Sisters.

They decided to wait for Skannon whose skills would be necessary when infiltrate the Dimmer Sisters and took Ulf’s smuggling job.

The Job with text

The 3 Skov Ghost job was given to them by Ulf’s second-in-command, Havid. They were to take the Blackjack out past the Lightning Barrier into the Lost District and an agent would be waiting for them there with 3 ghosts. They were to smuggle the 3 ghosts past the Lightning Barrier to Ulf and his crew who would be waiting in the basement of a public house on the docks.

Maud and Charming was not pleased with the unknowns and they pushed, using dice to find out more. It caused them some stress but in the end they found out that the ghosts were going to be put into Skovlander War Frames, as used on Barghast Beach, the bloodiest engagement of the War and the battle that forged his gang. Ulf was planning on using the warframes to cement his gang’s place.

As jobs go it went smoothly but there were hitches. The ghosts weren’t ghosts; they were people – members of a Skov special forces unit who were hit with a location spell by an Imperial War Whisper. If they entered the city they’d be located by the Imperial Army; it was in their blood. When Maud tried to cut the spell it nearly attached itself to her but she fought it off.

After discussing it, they decided that Charming could kill them quickly with a knife, which he did and then they’d wait for the ghosts to separate with some help from Maude. This was represented by a 6-count clock along with a second 6-count clock to represent a pack of ghosts finding the crew. Given the bad rep of the Deathlands and the Lost District, I should’ve made the pack of ghosts finding the crew clock a 4-count but that is alright.

Charming killed the Skov patriots with a knife. They held hands and sang Skovlander soldier songs while he did it.

Another hitch, Ironhook convicts came down the beach towards the crew. Charming confronted them while Maud dealt with peeling the ghosts away from the newly dead’s bodies.

Smuggling jobs, like stealth jobs, are tricky as a GM. I want complications but I don’t want the players to feel like their employer effed them over. I want the players to be cool but I don’t want the job to be too easy. I want ways for the job to get complicated without the players being bad at smuggling. I felt like I found a good balance. There was a bunch of stress but it didn’t go entirely pear-shaped. Nothing caught on fire or exploded.

There were ghosts and lots of danger; the Deathlands felt dangerous, even if it was just across the river, within sight of the Lightning Barrier.

The Mechanics in White

At the end of this game the Wobbegong Crew became Tier 2.

Ulf Ironborn is in play. The Skovlander refugees are a good link to him and he thinks well of the Wobbegong Crew because of their anti-trafficking efforts despite the side they took during the war. Also, he is the first gang of a lower tier than the players, which is cool. They get to be mentors.

There was word around town that the Lampblacks thought the Hive looked weak when their warehouse got taken so easily by the Wobbegong Crew, so they tried to take some Hive turf for their own. Since then, the Lampblacks have entirely disappeared. No one has heard anything about them.

 

Art

Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/90707285/>;.
The Corliss Bevel-Gear-Cutting Machine. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2004678678/>;.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Wm. Hawes in front of jewelry store with intricate clock.” The New York Public Library Digital Collectionshttp://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-69ca-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Grand View, City and Canal, Syracuse, N.Y.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-5eee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
 The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The transportation problem. The Baxter boat “City of New York,” the fastest steamer tried on the Erie Canal” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1825. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7e54-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Wobbegong Crew: The Haunted Warehouse Job

In which the gang takes turf from the Hive.

On the first day of Bladesmas my scoundrels gave to me a spectre in a dead tree….

The Gang

We had Maude, Charming and Skannon tonight. With 3 PC’s, we are tending to wait until we’ve got a full crew before playing lately. I liked the way having different characters in different jobs changed the way we’d approach each job or which job we’d take when offered a few.

Duskwall again

The Five Faces of the Moon – The teahouse Skannon often frequents when he pays for company.

Liz Lomond – reporter who brought the Hive’s human trafficking into the light.

Edlund – the “kindly” Bluecoat who always comes to talk the gang into taking a less bloody route.

Jol – the Bluecoat who took a crowbar to the Blackjack, the crew’s main boat.

Djera Maha and Karth Orris – leaders of The Hiven, NPC’s named in the book.

Narcus Comber – Hive’s Lawyer – the man Charming stole a watch from back in the early days, back before their HQ had a door and the barrister just walked in

Azin, Kimiya, Orkiden, Yass – Whispers with the Red Sashes – ladies who can go from frightening witches to doting grandmothers in the spin of a penny.

Barghast Bay – the bloodiest engagement in the War is where this gang was forged and is mentioned often.

Jonah – a mischievous Skovlander child who mistreated Skannon’s dining room table. Jason is often dropping the names of children during the game as we see Charming trying to be a baby-sitter.

The Job with text

As per their peace agreement with the Red Sashes, they returned the Upper Deck, turf taken during the war, but the Red Sashes had to aid them in taking a warehouse from the Hive. They took it using magic, knowing that the arcane arts and ectoplasmic sciences are weak points in the Hive’s arsenal.

The sent the fermenting mass of ghosts from the bilge of the Upper Deck, which had been used by some long gone gang as a place to stow bodies, into the Hive’s warehouse and managed to control it, keeping the situation from becoming a cannibalistic mess. The group made their rolls for the most part and utilized a weakness in the Hive, an unwillingness to utilize ghosts and sorcery. A roll demanded a complication, and so the warehouse is now forever haunted.

As a result, the Hive offered Maud and Skannon jobs and had a talk with Charming about why they did what they did. They offered Maud an estate in Six Towers with a view of the Scurlock Manor and offered Skannon his family’s ancestral ship, now docked just within the Lightning Barrier.

Now the group has a haunted warehouse full of Skovlander refugees as turf. Good stuff.

The Mechanics in White

The mechanics brought an entanglement in which the Bluecoats took out their anger on the Blackjack. I also consider the NPC’s mentioned in the faction section as part of the mechanics. The personalities and links between gangs and factions is well wrought.  Pluck one string and it causes ripples throughout Doskovol.

 

Art

Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/90707285/>;.
The Corliss Bevel-Gear-Cutting Machine. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2004678678/>;.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Wm. Hawes in front of jewelry store with intricate clock.” The New York Public Library Digital Collectionshttp://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-69ca-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Grand View, City and Canal, Syracuse, N.Y.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-5eee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
 The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The transportation problem. The Baxter boat “City of New York,” the fastest steamer tried on the Erie Canal” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1825. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7e54-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Wobbengong Crew Downtime After the Coalridge Demon Disaster

In which the team deals with the fallout from failing the Coalridge Demon job.

The Gang

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.

The Mechanics in White

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.

Duskwall again 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.

Quess

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!

 

 

Art

Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/90707285/>;.
The Corliss Bevel-Gear-Cutting Machine. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2004678678/>;.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Wm. Hawes in front of jewelry store with intricate clock.” The New York Public Library Digital Collectionshttp://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-69ca-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Grand View, City and Canal, Syracuse, N.Y.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-5eee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
 The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The transportation problem. The Baxter boat “City of New York,” the fastest steamer tried on the Erie Canal” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1825. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7e54-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99