Monday, August 31, 2015

EVIL GANG OF ELEVEN: Blades in the Dark Actual Play 8/29/2015

I believe +Andrew Shields mentioned players feeling fatigued by rules changes in his last AP; I know my wife protested new skills and rules when I converted everyone to the Gencon rules, and I get it, not everyone nerds out about rules. (But whyyyyy not.)

I think my solution is just to constantly pull new people into RPGs, so last Saturday I ran the starting scenario for two friends, after a nice steak and potatoes dinner.

The Crew

  • Etheline 'True Blue' Booker, a former lightening-oil merchant turned Leech.
  • Carlos 'The Cutter' Penalton, an underworld killer grown into a proper Hound.
Etheline had lovers as her vice. Her parents had died young, and her best friend Jul (a blood dealer) had gotten her into this way of living; lovers made her feel less alone, for a while. Carlos was into weird things, all he'd tell was that 'it involves shellfish.' His father thieved around the docks of Duskwall, always into small-time shit that would never let him stop working. Carlos, naturally, aimed higher. He trusted Etheline as much as he had to, which drew semi-joking protest from Etheline's player, as these players are engaged in real life.

Their crew, the Evil Gang of Eleven, was known for being strange. Strangely honest, as it turned out. The players put lots of dots in different skills - they rarely had more than one dot in anything, but their resistances were quite good, especially in Prowess.

They started out talking to Baz, or being threatened by him. The Evil Gang, not quite living up to their name, just wanted to be left alone, to stay out of the gang war. Baz made it increasingly clear this would not be allowed, staring into his whiskey snifter and flatly delivering promises of retribution if they stayed in the district.

So, they had their first flashback, with True Blue making a portable, crossbow-type device that would track Baz within the room, fire remotely, and kill him. The wireless ran off little shards of the same ghost embedded in the devices. The crew had a workshop and fine gear in their lair, so, why the hell not. It's not my job to keep Baz alive, and she took 2 stress to roll, hit the roll with a 6, so, the device was in the room. They kindly let Baz know, and that they were leaving. 

"It'll be interesting to hear your plans to get out of my headquarters alive." Baz droned. They Wrecked the door to his office to trap him in, and I started a hidden 5-clock for 'Baz Escapes' - I told them I was creating the clock, I just didn't tell them the size. Didn't want them to know when he'd escape. I wanted to see if they'd mis-time this remote murdering device. 

The Wrecking wasn't without consequence, which was noise and attracting attention.

"So who in the Lampblacks is your best friend, who are you closest to?" I asked.

That turned out to be a fellow named Steve, who came down the corridor asking about the noise. Etheline tried to Consort/Sway him (same skill rating in both), telling Steve exactly what happened and that they meant no hard feelings (remote kill-device aside), they just wanted to leave. Strangely honest. They weren't picking sides, they were leaving. She flubbed the roll, and Steve began to think they'd killed Baz, which Carlos didn't try to contradict. Steve fled, firing a gun in the floor to attract his fellows.

A 4-segment clock started up, 'Lampblacks arrive in force,' and the two debated whether to just kill Baz. They decided to do so - I should note, they were aware of some Red Sashes job around this, but hadn't taken that, truly wanting to stay neutral. They just figured with Baz dead, the Lampblacks would be thrown into disarray, and wouldn't come after them. So, they triggered the device, Baz died, and they resolved to rob his office, like proper scoundrels. 

I asked about where they were, and Carlos' player filled me in: on the 3rd floor of a building, with a nearby fire escape leading down to street level. First floor was a bar, second, a gambling den, and the third was garrisons and Lampblack offices. Shite oil lamps everywhere, befouling the air, because Lampblacks. Baz' office window was a short climb from the fire escape, and True Blue made it over safely thanks to climbing gear, though she took longer than she wanted. By now the Lampblacks were 1 tick from arriving in force. 

True Blue passed Carlos the Cutter several bottles of grain alcohol 'whiskey,' which were turned to molotovs. She went to work on a safe in the office, failing to get it open. The Lampblacks' thugs arrived, Steve at the front, and Carlos lobbed fire at them and shot into them. The Lampblacks fired back, but the Hound's resistance roll was high and he dodged cleanly into cover. A devil's bargain meant the fire would spread.

Etheline cracked the safe, finding 4 coin in jewels and a ledger written in some cipher. Smoke from the fire crept in and threatened to wound her, but her Leech's Fortitude soaked that damage. Carlos shot down the remaining Lampblack squad, though he could hear more tramping up through the smoke. The two booked it, Prowling past the sentries checking fire escapes and other routes out of the building. 

So, for downtime, Carlos overindulged his vice, leading to an extra entanglement roll. Etheline repaired her armor (Fortitude) and began a long-term clock to unlock the ledger cipher. I put it at a 4-clock, and she began to tinker together something to programatically crack this (and only this) cipher. Sadly, not a Turing Machine. Carlos worked to reduce heat on the crew - I forgot to ask how, sadly.

The entanglements rolled were interesting: one only applied to crews with a gang, so they dodged a bullet, but the other was that a rival gang which had reason had come to cause problems, and the crew could pay them off or deal with it. They resolved to deal, so the next session will start with more antagonistic Lampblacks, probably remembering how the Evil Gang of Eleven killed off Steve.


  • Steve is dead
  • Baz is dead
  • Lampblacks start a 4-clock, 'Recover from Baz' assassination'
  • Some small faction of the Lampblacks is already going after the crew

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blades in the Dark Actual Play: The Perpetrators Episode 1&2

So I ran a game for people away from the internet, and things went well. The group formed up as The Perpetrators, a savvy crew with a dockside lair and a gang of rooks. 

The Perpetrators: Savvy rogues with a boathouse/docks and a gang of rooks. Naturally, everyone steals.
  • Polonia Templeton, 'Tick Tock.' Cutter. Bat Charity Obsessed. Ghost fighter.
  • Veleris Dunvil. Whisper, best friends with a possessing ghost. Storm-caller.
  • Thorn. Hound. Name only shared with best friend, not the crew. Killer and tinkerer.
  • Rowan 'Echo' Booker, Lurk and observer. Fan of scouting, skulking.
  • Ashlynn Hellyers, Slide. Ambiguous gender, ambiguous in general. 

Session 1

The group met Baszo Baz, our ambassador to the world of Blades in the Dark, decided not to kill him, thanks largely to Hellyers, who picked Baz as a best friend. 

They lied their way into a Red Sashes building, a run-down mansion filled with faux noble partiers and duelists. The crew presented themselves as a lightening-oil delivery, sowed chaos and confusion till the place was being evacuated, killed a few guards, blew up a few mechanical spiderlings running on splinters of old souls. They planted a witchy, ominous totem, fulfilling Baz' request, and we called it before getting to downtime, as it was late. 

The Slide's face would stick out in the minds of the guards, but otherwise there weren't a great many consequences, other than picking one side in a gang war. 

The Great Migration

Some folks moved away but continue to play, remotely. I took everyone's starter character sheets, thankfully emailed to me, and converted them to the Gencon rules. I am personally a big fan of the shorter skill list, and the one coming out soon, seen here, are even more fucking awesome. The whole 'fancy training is a playbook thing, rather than a seldom-used skill' change is sweet. Stitch and Invoke have gone that way - you can see it in the Whisper playbook with the Occultist special move. 

Session 2

I started out explaining a little bit about downtime activities and entanglement. Since it had been a while, and some folks had lost their stressed and used character sheets, I was fine with hand-waving damage and stress, focusing more on the long-term projects and other downtime choices. No one had particular ideas for projects or the like, so I'll probably put my mind to it before the next session, just to offer some suggestions. 

I rolled for entanglements, and found out that another, more powerful crew had asked the Perpetrators for a favor - to spy on the Lampblacks. So the Crows had gotten something over the PCs. We started again with the crew meeting with Baz, getting paid from their last job and getting wind of new possibilities. Baz wanted a noble kidnapped - one Melinda Holcombe, who never stayed in one place. She was driven about in double-decker carriages all day and night, changing carriages rather than stopping, dining and meeting other eccentric nobles on her collection of conveyances, dubbed the Moveable Feast.

The players seemed to think this mad noblewoman would be tough, and chose instead Sean Nitter's excellent Gaddoc Station score

As an aside, I have to work on asking tight, specific questions. Often I ask really opened-ended details ('who has been here before, what was it like'). Some people like this, some people get flustered and have nothing. But Gaddoc (and what Dungeon World and others actually suggests, what I need to work on) forced me to ask specific questions.  

So the patron is obvious. The crew learns / the players decide the score is lucrative, dangerous, and illegal. We talk about drugs, but decide they're not quite dangerous enough, and go with a kind of weapon-like thing. A portal to the Void, we decide, a convenient place to throw bodies or undesirables, as long as nothing comes out. Baz getting this will (somehow) further a revolutionary's plans, so there's a consequences to tie in later on.

The station is quarantined by bluecoats. Echo scopes it out and finds a handy way in, for those willing to climb and roof-hop. Her nemesis, a bluecoat, get suspicious seeing her in the crowd near the station. Ashlynn, kitted up as a bluecoat, discovers the station has a crowd of 15-20 hollows and a train full of terrified civilians in it. Veleris tries to scout one of his ghostly friends into the place, but receives only visions of passengers using the water closet - what one must endure, working with unclassy ghosts. Tick Tock procures a stolen, hot lightening-hook. Thorn forgoes preparatory acts as the Bluecoats are beginning to suspect the crew is up to something.

The PCs sneak and climb into the place, all weighed down by climbing gear to avoid mishaps as they enter the large, enclosed rail station and find themselves on the roof of the train. As they attempt to lockpick and disarm the rooftop hatch, Echo is poisoned (a 4-clock countdown) and a rival gang begins to enter, covering the Perpetrators with weapons but holding fire, momentarily.

In a more empty train car, the PCs plan their next step, an 8-clock ticks as the hollows try to break in, and Nail Comber approaches the PCs. He assumes they're with the Red Sashes and there to rescue him and take the Void portal. Veleris can feel the weight of emptiness, the crushing horror of it, and his Wizard Eyes leak horrible visions into Ashlynn's mind. Despite this, the Slide masterfully convinces Comber to turn over the portal and wait for them in the train's engine compartment. The he/she can no longer perceive Hollows, as she/he sees only souls and spirits clearly.

Veleris concentrates and sends a decoy of the Void portal off with Nails, and the Hollows are distracted, confused. The PCs flee into a Duskwall subway tunnel (that's right! subways!) and the Other Gang pursue. A series of traps and ambushes later, the other gang is vanquished, and the Perpetrators are soon sitting before Baz again. 

I ask about the entanglement, and the Slide's player suggests they double-cross the Crows, letting Baz in on it. Baz rewards them richly, chortling about how soon the Red Sashes and the Crows will bow before him, all thanks to the crew! And the crew, somewhat uncomfortable, nods along. For now. 

Future Consequences

  1. Revolutionaries and Baz connected somehow, as revolutionaries benefited from this job succeeding.
  2. The whisper sent off a possessing ghost 'friend' to attack the gang. So whispers can do this. One from the Other Gang attempted this against Veleris as well, to no particular effect.
  3. Nail Comber - dead, alive? 
  4. Baz has a damn Void Portal. The Red Sashes will be getting desperate.
  5. The crew double-crosses the Crows. 
  6. The Red Sashes still know Ashlynn's face.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Antigencon Blades in the Dark Actual Play

So I was joined by Slade and Jeroen for my Antigencon game at 2pm, we played 'til about 5:45, so, a good long session for me. From +Andrew Shields pre-gen characters, Slade played Lullaby, a Hound. Jeroen reprised his role as The Doctor, whom he played as in one of Andrew's earlier games. I believe they both played in that game, so the system introduction was already handled by the players or Andrew, or both. Jeroen had a copy of the rules up and assisted me when my knowledge of BitD was unclear, which was awesome. Slade used Google Draw to sketch out the countdown clocks, which was also super helpful.

My prep consisted of imagining the Lampblacks' HQ, the Red Sashes HQ, and writing down a few clocks for the Lampblacks, two of which I actually used. I wrote out a few potential jobs from Bazso Baz, none of which I used, and read through the jobs list in the rules quickstart, also unused.

We created their crew, named at the end of the session. The Purple Skulls had a gang of Shadow-Adepts, thanks to a crew playbook special ability, and a vault in their hidden lair.

Baz began the session by offering them work, in his office. Or, were the rogues there to kill him, working for the Red Sashes? They were! We flashed back to why they were in Bazso's office. Lullaby had taken up a sniper position near where Baz and his entourage were traveling; Doc was set up with an outdoor clinic nearby, working on some screaming patient. (To the character's credit, the Doctor does have one dot in Stitch.) Their Adept gang chanted and summoned something horrible, which chased the gang off, hungrily following for help/food, thanks to a devil's bargain. Lullaby shot Baz, intending to wound but doing significant damage, filling half of a 'Baz Dies' 6-clock. The Doctor quickly offered to stitch the wounded Baz up, I believe agreeing to a bargain that an underling would be suspicious. Doc succeeded with consequences and Baz was comatose when the two were summoned to help him again - too much poison delivered by the Doctor, on the sly. They didn't want to kill Baz yet, as they were hired to get intel from him first.

Baz was one clock tick from death, and got another 4-segment clock, "Baz Talks." But first, security. Lullaby brought 3 items, looking like quite a civilian, but her partner hauled in 5 items, triggering Lampblack security searching him. To be fair, I warned them. Sway helped get them through, but a Southern-accented guard, Aldo, followed the rogues. Doc gave Baz antivenom, which removed a clock tick from "Baz Dies," and used some horrible electrifying device to awaken Baz. Lullaby lured Aldo in and slit his throat, but not before the guard tried to wing her and scream out (though Lullaby's Prowess allowed her to resist all this).

Baz talked, spilling details of a safe in the warehouse HQ, designed in broad strokes by my players. Then he accidentally triggered a security device. One bargain meant that Baz would remember Doc vividly, which Jeroen happily accepted before slitting Bazso's throat. The two abseiled down the side of the warehouse as guards ran to the office. Jeroen flashed back to the Doc getting a device from the Adept gang, a spirit anchor with bound spirit(s) and a clockwork breaking mechanism. When broken, spirits escaped. In retrospect I should've charged him a stress or two (he even asked! my mistake), but this expanded a "Patrols Searching" clock from 4 to 6 segments.

The climb was seen by a few Bluecoats, raising the rogues' heat.

Into the second floor a spirit bomb went, into the first floor went our rogues, searching for the Lampblacks' vault. Finding it quickly, the rogues took all they could carry without making prowls/battles desperate (so, 6 items worth each). Since that's technically heavy, perhaps I should've capped it at 5, but at least I didn't give them portable holes. The two Finessed their way out in a manner reminiscent of the old Slip skill, just before the "Patrols Searching" clock could fill up.

They had killed Baz, stolen documents and coin from his vault. The Red Sashes paid 6 coin and lavished praise. The rogues had to pay off Bluecoats coming to make an arrest for their high-profile murder, and an Inspector casefile was opened on the Purple Skulls.

Lullaby, a great aider of the Doctor, had taken 7 stress, and overindulged her vice, drinking. She spoke of her work, drunk and heavily armed, and was asked to never return by terrified civilians. She began gathering information about good sniper spots for their next job, finding places to make carefully controlled shots. The Doctor asked his drug dealer friend Bril to reduce heat by selling drugs to Lampblacks, and deciphered some Lampblack documents, finding a vulnerable business to take over: receiving illicit relics from Deathlands Scavengers employed by the Lampblacks. The two began receiving and decoding wireless transmissions from the scavengers.

The two intercepted a supply run from the Lampblacks to the scavengers, a car full of supplies. Their Adepts put in physical labor, digging a ditch to stop the car, but digging it such that the car didn't see anything until it was too late. Daphne and Vey got out, rifle and spirit goggles at the ready, respectively. The Doctor stood to get their attention, disguised as a madman whisper surviving alone. This let Lullaby get a controlled shot off on Daphne, who died, but not before shooting the Doctor (devil's bargain). Doc staggered through this, resisting it down to a graze, and Sway'd Vey into running off, but not before Daphne possessed him, riding in his flesh back to Duskwall.

There was time for one downtime move, as the scavs returned to Duskwall. The Doctors reduced stress, letting Daphne send a message to some old friends, and Lullaby and her killer bud Oman slew Bluecoats to reduce the crew's heat.

Supply lines cut, the scavengers returned to Duskwall, meeting the rogues, as the Purple Skulls directed them to the meetup via wireless. Pool, head of the scavs, was skeptical, till Sway and Lullaby shooting a spun coin from the air convinced him to work for the two. They had stolen the original documents on Pool and his mates, used by the Lampblacks to blackmail them, and now the blackmailer had simply changed. Thanks to a bargain, Pool would always try to worm out of this crap arrangement - he wasn't in love with working the Deathlands, having lost an eye and most of a hand to them.

Lampblacks burst in, a 6-clock worth - actually, thanks to a flashback, Lullaby found out in advance and signaled Doc to wrap up. Everyone left, though the Doctor kited the Lampblacks into a fight, them all referring to their sketch of his face, dictated by Bazso's shade. Lullaby shot two of the four gangers, the rest fleeing. One of Daphne's old lovers almost found the Doctor, but the Doc tamped down on her before she could yell through his mouth.

We wrapped up with a long-term clock for the Doctor, 'Get rid of Daphne' with 3 segments left unfilled. Lullaby acquired some poor quality ammunition, likely good for fireworks next to her electroplasms-laced ammunition. Her friend, Oman, was arrested for questioning, but the crew bribed him to freedom.

Hanging Threads:
Inspector's files
Lampblack lieutenant who knew these two were suspect
Bazso's ghost remembers the Doctor quite well - used, but will come up again
Daphne haunting the Doctor
Daphne's love looking for her ghost
Lullaby finding a new purveyor of vice
Lullaby's friend Oman was picked up by bluecoats, they probably took some nice kit
Deathlands scavs now work for the crew

Overall, it was fantastic.