Actual Play – A New Path (11/1/2016)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Eric Fattig, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.7.1

“Let’s go out to a nice place for dinner on our anniversary.”

“Sure, but let’s keep our regular Blades game as well.”

“Okay”

[I will not attribute the speakers but we are both such nerds!]

Flashback to the night in Scurlock Manor

Last session I really didn’t know what Scurlock was up to when Elke called on him. I mean he had a starting clock but we were up to eight downtimes now so surely he was past that. In between games I rolled him some fortune rolls to see how he was doing and sure enough he did finish that first clock, and a second eight-tick clock, and was working on a third.

The room appointed to Elke was decidedly boring. Portraits on the walls, old books that were popular reading fifty years ago on the desk, two wrought-iron candlesticks that would make a serviceable, if heavy club,  but really, nothing of import. She could not sleep though, so was not particularly startled when a servile knock was wrapped on her door. Mr. Jefferies apologized for the late hour but asked if Ms. Salkaran would be disposed to join Master Scurlock in the observatory.

Hating herself for it Elke was too curios to resist, and so joined him, outfitted in a heavy wool coat provided by Mr. Jefferies. Inside the outbuilding beside his manor Scurlock greeted her. This was the only building with electric lights (the rest of the house still had gas lights) and even they seemed to operate on ancient wiring, frequently dimming and then growing brighter on their own accord. A moment before midnight, Scurlock asked if he could show Elke something fascinating, and with her permission, he flipped heavy breakers to turn off all the lights in the room, whispered some arcane words, and then slowly as if spilled ink was spreading through the fibers of a wood pulp page, the darkness overhead was replaced by a skyline full of stars.

Scurlock warned against looking straight up, into the epicenter, for if Elke did, the demon of sky and stars would know her mind. Heeding this warning but otherwise taking in everything she could and doing her best to remember as much of it as possible, Elke realized these weren’t the constellations she was used to seeing the void sea, or at least it mostly wasn’t. For one thing there were just more of them, so many more stars, but also, the formed different shapes, or the same shapes but in different places in the “sky”.

After a moment of speaking about these stars, many of them lost or faded so dim that we can no longer see them, Scurlock flipped the breakers once more, the electric lights slowly came to life and the star map receded. Scurlock told Elke that he was working on project that perhaps only she, as Salkaran would understand, and that if she wished to join him in working on it, it might benefit her as well. He produced a bronze mask, clearly one that once belonged to a Spirit Warden, or perhaps a facsimile of one, and said that he sought to know who they were, to unveil them. Elke was silent for a long time, and then he asked her to think on it. We cut the scene with Elke struggling between her hatred of Scurlock and her fascination with this potential knowledge.

Harland on the Run

Before starting Harland’s scene we had to ask what would happen back in the Opera House. Would Vond trust the ghosts that returned with news that Harland had turned against her? And if so, what would she do. The person who had the greatest sway at that point was Geraldine. She knew Harland’s plans and could either keep quiet, or perhaps even defend him, or she could turn on him and give everything to Vond. [I asked Eric to pick a number of dice between 0 and 5 that represented her loyalty, then make a fortune roll. After a bit of discussion we decided that Geraldine was opportunistic and only had one die of loyalty. He rolled and got a 1…]. Geraldine spilled EVERYTHING!

Only knowing that thing were pretty bad, Harland headed back to his workshop, where he quickly refilled his breast pocket container with his own personal tinctures. He scrambled furiously through the lab, reached out across a filled with precise alchemical tools and and from across it drew…a pick axe!

He was heading to the Dimmer Sisters abandoned manor, he was going to dig up the mask of the Hierophant so that he could actually take his place, but doing so alone would be dangerous.

Harland crept, quietly as he could, into the dorms to find Stras. And he found her, only she was having a screaming match with Grace at the time. From inside her room he could hear her “Just tell me what you know, and I’ll tell him when I see him!”

“First off, my information goes directly to Harland only. And second, you think I’m giving this away? He’s going to pay me for this!”

The argument continued but Harland wasn’t here to hear it. He slinked away into the darkness.

A New Order

On his own, with trusty pick axe in hand, Harland dug into the burnt out remains of the Dimmer Sister’s old home. Clearly already ransacked several times, Harland wasn’t sure someone else hadn’t beaten him to it. There were however, several offerings that had been left outside. Food, mementos, scented herbs, and other small gifts that had been left in the garden. Fools praying to dead gods.

Inside Harland tore the place about until he found the bolt hole that the a few of the Dimmer Sisters used to escape during the final raid. It led into the canals, and from there, could have done anywhere. Inside however, he found where the Hierophant was held, and although it did not have his mask, while there they did afford him pen and paper, and on them he wrote several sermons. Quite provocative ones at that. Change a few choice words, add epmhasis here, remove it there, and he’d had the start of some very rousing speeches [Long term project to create a Path of Echos splinter cult, 2/8 ticks complete].

Arquo the Handy

It seems like ever since he arrived, Arquo has been the go to criminal. He’s ever so helpful! Harland found him at his parents house, re-boarding up a window that had previously been boarded up, the boards had been stolen, and he was boarding it again. Harland surprised him and there was a horrible crack as the hammer which was meant for a metal spike instead clattered into the board instead, narrowly missing Arquo’s fingers.

Flashback to the earlier days in the Path of Echoes, back when they still met in the secret basement rooms in Morlan Hall, and before Vond had moved them to the Opera House. As she changed the direction of the order Harland first tried to suss out who were on board with her xenophobic ideology and who just wanted to do witch-y seances and make out while possessed.  His subtle questions were rebuffed as the students didn’t want to say anything that might get them in trouble, but when he began to give them Vond’s orders, he was quick to tell who jumped to attention and who hung around in the back. Syra was ready to do dirty work, Thistle, Tesslyn, and Lizete, all three friends, were trying as hard as they could not to be noticed [1 stress Flashback. Devil’s Bargain that one of the students, Syra, would take notice of him and what he was doing, and would remember it later. Controlled Study with a mixed outcome. Tried again with Command, also a Mixed outcome, succeed but but in a Risky situation.]

With their names and descriptions, Harland and Arquo split up to go find them. Harland went to a study lounge where he knew Tesslyn often frequented and though he found him, Tesslyn was surrounded by others. While Harland waited in the shadows for the others to disperse, or for Tesslyn to head out on his own, he was surprised by a chipper voice coming from behind him.

“Hi Harland. What are you up to?” It was Syra. She was smiling. Syra was always enthusiastic and quick to smile. This was normal enough.

Harland tried to dodge her questions, so she changed from the inquisitive to the imperative. “Let’s go see Vond together Harland.” Still smiling.

And when that didn’t work she put a dagger in his back and said, still smiling, “Let’s go.” [Remember that “in a risky situation”]

Harland, his hands shaking, nervously told her that he need to take a restorative to calm his nerves, then with her permission imbibed his tonic, and moment later spun around to thrash the acolyte. He failed utterly, and she plunged her blade into his abdomen. However, the alchemically enhanced muscles in his body spit the blade out and she watched in horror as his skin sealed itself back up. Syra saw what happened and fled. The act of healing the wound so quickly drained the normal boost Harland’s concoction would normally grant, and left him to fatigued to give chase. [Failure on a risky roll resulting in harm as well as loss of an opportunity. Harm resisted with Battleborn, which comes as a result of Harland’s alchemy].

After this Skrimish, however, Harland persisted and with Arquo’s help rounded of all three friends. They were interested but still needed some convincing as defying Vond was probably worse than a death sentence! [4/8 ticks on creating his own cult].

Missed Connections

Harland thanked Arquo for his aid and asked him for one more favor, to deliver a message to Elke that if she needed him she should leave a red carnation on her windowsill and that when he came he would knock three times. It was too risky for them to meet any other way.

Arquo came to deliver this strange message when he found Elke looking absolutely wretched. She was still nauseated [Harm 1] herself and ravenously hungry as a result of carrying Nyryx within her soul chamber. Nyryx was mostly non-responsive but he seemed averse to anything that would cause further exposure. Leaving her apartment or certainly leaving Elke!

Arquo gave the message, which Elke dismissed as nonsense, but shortly after an arrival of a tincture from Quellen as well as six fried eel sandwiches came [1 Coin spent for a Recovery action. Harm healed].

Healing the Haunt

Instead of doing any of the carnation nonsense (which Arquo mistakenly took for a romantic gesture), Elke told Arquo (the second time he came back, the first time she was too sick and her tiny apartment filled with too many weird things) to help him find Harland directly. They tracked him down to a laboratory. Not his lab mind you, but another that he was using.  When Elke entered she sprung a tripwire and a vial was flung across the room at her. It bounced off her chest and fell harmlessly to the floor. Elke the called out to Harland and told him that he needed to use thinner glass, that apothecary grade glass is specifically hardened to be shatter proof under all but the most intense of forces.

Harland showed himself from the corner in which he was hiding and greeted Elke with great fondness. He had heard about her arrest, and Scurlock, and Nyryx and was genuinely concerned (that same concern, again Arquo mistook for romantic affection). Elke asked if he could help her. Nyryx was still hurt and needed to feed on the life force of someone to recover.

Harland had another possibility, but it wasn’t an easy one. He, after pledging his undying loyalty to Vond, had been taken by her out to the deathlands to a Spirit Well, where he knew the ghosts could go to feed off the energy there and recover. Unfortunately, the only way he got their safely was with Vond’s protection. Doing so again would require a cadre of whispers warding the ghosts off, or perhaps someone with access to a lighting tower that could project the lighting field to envelop a path to the well.

This plan was considered and then summarily rejected. Or at least postponed until there were resources brought to bear to make it possible.

Instead seeing that Elke was very distraught about killing someone to feed Nyryx, and not being quite as squeamish about murder himself, Harland offered to take Nyryx himself and to help the ghost. Elke tried to eject Nyryx but he clung to her like a child being pulled into a room for a spanking. It required them to get very close, for Elke to force him out, and for Harland to inhale him deeply. The wild jerking and throbbing, the hands on Elke’s hips to brace her, and the closeness of their mouths… none of it was lost on Arquo.

Another Attempt

Harland first tried to find another person on the street the could accost and feed to Nyryx, but each time he found someone there were others that he thought were too close by. Maybe it was his paranoia, maybe not, he couldn’t be sure. [Controlled Hunt, failed. Trying another method]. Instead he took his alchemical enchantment, went into a bar, and got into a fight. After beating someone up he dragged them into the alley behind the bar [Controlled Skirmish, mixed out come, complication] and was about to feed him to Nyryx when the hairs on the back his neck went up and he noticed blue mist forming from the electrical lights in the street and itself crackling with electricity.

Shoal, an Akorosi ghost in league with Vond, came to take Harland’s life! As lighting crackled around it, Harland drew a blade that he had crafted for the purpose of fighting specters. He cut his hand and the blood, in thin rivulets trickled down a channel carved into the blade. As the ghost descended full of wrath, because of Nyryx’ presence he was not afraid, and with his blase he cut into the vaporous form. Where it touched his blood, the blood ignited into a red flame which burned the ghost horribly, destroying it on the spot [Skirmish, with great effect due to Ghost Fighter, a Fine Blade, and Not to Be Trifled With. Devils Bargain, +1 Heat]. Several from within the pub saw this display of burning blood and crackling electricity… and many would tell the story of it afterward!

Ghost dispatched and victim at hand, Harland fed Nyryx allowing him to recover further [Recovery Action].

Protection from Soul Removal

Back at Strathmill Hall, Elke poured over tomes to learn more about protecting the soul. [More ticks on that Long Term Project].

Gaming in Style

Did I mention we mixed our anniversary and gaming. So good.

What Rocked

Oh, the misunderstandings of Arquo were so good. I loved the crush on Elke that is budding for him.

Dang, two attempts on Harland, both thwarted but both close calls. So much for downtime!

Harland being so paranoid… and being right!

Harland not talking to Stras…when Grace had information for him even!

The real distress that Elke had over killing someone. What has she done? What has she become?

All the hate Elke has for Scurlock…and all the fascination she has with his projects. The way he drove her crazy using her family name.

Wow, Elke really cares about Nyryx. I’ve always thought that ghost must have some hidden agenda or something about him that Elke would abhor, but now, I don’t know. I think even if he does have some terrible secret, he’d try to change it for her. She’s brought him back from the brink. He’s sill hurt [Harm 1] but he’s in possession (hah!) of his faculties now, and that means so much to him.

A new splinter cult, for real? That is so cool. After the game Karen and I were talking and it might actually make a lot of sense for the gang to change from smugglers to a cult.

On Monday night I started asking all those questions I had been pondering from the end of last game. From those I came up with Scurlocks projects, what the Leviathan Hunter captain Abram Booker was up to (decided against using Strangford as that was just too close to home) and what the Path of Echoes were doing. Rolling up some random traits for characters, filling in some clocks, and thinking a bit through their goals helped so much. It was so great to have a game that offered me those tools so I didn’t have to do all the work myself. Plus, rolling on charts is fun!

We played most of this game at Grand Lake Kitchen while celebrating our anniversary! Gaming with friends and family that I love while eating wonderful food and exchanging gifts…what could possibly be better?

What could be improved

When we get to next game I need to start asking Elke the Ritual questions. Should have done it this session. I think she’s far enough into the process of protecting a soul, that the first two questions should be asked.

What is up with Harland’s blood alchemy. Next session we’re going to get the skinny on that too! He said it was human blood that powered it all. Who’s blood and how does it have these effects on him and on ghosts?