Actual Play – Death to the Red Sashes (5/4/2016)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.6

Last session ended with a great cliffhanger: Oskarr opening a ghost door into Setarra’s pool, engraved in the same manner as the pool in our tattoo parlor basement. Setarra reaching out to grab hold of us…and presumably transport us through her dark realm.

Gang Advancement

We had some discussion about what crew upgrade we could take and opted for a veteran move Blood Brothers, which is a pretty damn sweet move if you have Thugs, can then also make them Rooks, and with a future crew upgrade, can make them fine Rook/Thugs

Blood Brothers

And who said we don’t game the system!

Reflection

Note: this is a lot of vain let-me-tell-you-about-my-character thoughts. Feel free to skip to the next section if the style of buttons on Arcy’s coat doesn’t float your boat.

We cut just just before she took hold of us and I’m really glad we did. It gave me a lot of time to think about Arcy’s reaction. She’s encountered demons before, but only in the form of leviathans deep in the void sea. Never up close like this. Also, she’s just been in flat out denial about what the leviathan blood they have been selling addicts has been doing to them, notably corrupting them and turning them into some kind of half-alive demon-human hybrids.

So what would Arcy do when all that denial became impossible, when she had to confront the fact that yes, we are dealing with demons, that we are granting them hold on humanity, and worst of all that Oskarr has been personally consorting with one. My first thought is go for a sword and start hacking. But…how well could that possibly work. Not only does Setarra have her bested in all forms of physical conflict in addition to supernatural powers of terror and transportation, but, she’s also done this once before. She’s learned that a man she trusted consorted with demons and tried to fight it. She lost her children, her husband, her job, her freedom, and almost her life. Would she be so ready to make the same mistake again?

So what were her choices? Fighting seemed futile and contrary. Running seemed nearly as bad. I mean, it would make some sense from the character’s perspective, but I think it would have been a giant refusal to the part of the world that Stras has created. Arcy reels back, and we’re back to square one, fighting over the principle of the thing rather than seeing what happens. So, much like Arcy, I decided to take a deep breath, and just see what happens. Arcy, a mortal, is filled with supernatural dread in the face of demon. Let’s let that dread take over for long enough that she has to go along with the plan.

Arcy KeelI also thought a bit more about her appearance. I’ve know she was a tall, muscular, black woman from the get go, but I hadn’t thought much about what she wears or how she carries herself, and then I found this image and it sealed the deal for me. Thinking about that make me wonder what an ex-naval officer who still cleaved to her old life would dress in:

Dress: A high collar double breasted naval officers coat that is in tatters. the sleeves are removed showing torn hemming, the epaulettes have also been removed, cut off by with short stubs remaining. Once round golden buttons has been replaced by long wooden toggles. The coat is heavy, reinforced with thin metal bands sewn into the breast, back, and frock. Beneath it she normally wears a simple halter top and trousers.

Yay, I’m glad I had the time to think on it before we started the game!

On a Magic Carpet Ride

“Woah, I’ve already got a girlfriend.” – Cainter Haig, as a shark eyed demon pulls him into her otherworld dimension.

Setarra grabbed us. Arcy scowled. Canter caviled. Oskarr smiled. And – whoosh – we were off!

Setarra pulled us under the water (mind you the water that only appeared a few inches deep, but for her connected to a whole underwater squidly dimension) and pulled us deep, deep down. We glided through the water at incredible speed, feeling as though our lungs would burst at the pressure of staying down so long. As we moved, something massive passed by us and, like a massive iron steamship, forced us away in it’s continual wake. A leviathan perhaps? Arcy didn’t look to close.

The entire process was a traumatic one, but Oskarr was shielding Arcy and Canter from the worst of it. [Mechanically we all had to make a resistance roll to endure the passage, but Oskarr made it for us]. As we went deeper on her world, we saw these distant lights glowing and then fading. As it turned out they were closer than we expected, because the light was actually these massive floating stone eggs that pulsed gently from within. The eggs were wrapped in a scintillating chain made of metal we had never seen before, which anchored them to the sandy rock bottom beneath. On the ocean floor, were other, smaller figures. Men and women slowly leaking a black blood fluid that floated up and through the porous membranes of the eggs above. As Setarra passed the eggs, she exerted and invisible force that pushed them aside slightly and we caught a better glimpse of the corpses below, not quite dead, with blacks scales visible beneath their decomposing flesh.

Then, when we couldn’t not possibly hold our breath a moment longer we were thrust out of the pool beneath our tattoo parlor and slid across the floor in a torrent of void sea. When we gathered our senses Oskarr was standing beside the pool, completely dry and Setarra was gone. Arcy and Canter however were soaking wet and gasping for air.

Arcy’s reaction – Was that real? Yes it was real, because clearly we just went from Scurlock Manner to the tattoo parlor in a matter of moments. If that was real, that means Oskarr is consorting with a demon. And if that is the case, how can she ever trust him again?

Oskarr’s reaction – Nothing has changed. This is why I’m in the gang, to take care of the things nobody else wants to. That was the demon that raised me. You can trust me just as much as you did yesterday.

Cantor’s reaction – Witch boy, my guns are wet. I’m going to go throw up now. Figure this shit out.

Spirit Warden Problems

Upstairs and outside we heard some distant shouts as well as hooves on cobblestones (notably horse, rather than goat hooves). When we came up the stairs we found the door to the basement had been hastily bricked over, but no mortor was used. As Arcy pushed it open the bricks clattered down and the makeshift concealment was destroyed. The lights were all out in the parlor and the windows shuttered. Outside we could see a powerful electric spotlight being shined into windows, and we could hear people, presumably Bluecoats and Spirit Wardens shouting orders at each other as well as citizens complaining.

Before the lights got to us, we saw Cyclops run through the shadows and hastily in the building. Surprised to see us there he told us that after that asshole Rothe went and challenged the Red Sashes, he told everyone else to lay low until we were ready to attack. He wasn’t sure what was going on outside, but it didn’t look good.

Considering the options of going back through the demon pool or bolting on foot, we opted for the method that might not show ups as a giant red flashing light to spirit wardens scanning the ghost field.

The gear up montage

We had a quick scenes of us gearing up for the hit, which included to flashbacks to downtime actions [mechanically we spent coin to make them happen]. Some of the highlights

  • Canter strapping on his guns. Filling a wax sealed oilskin bag with ammunition.
  • Arcy tightening a bladed metal vambrace to her forearm, sheathing her sword, and shoving newly acquired alchemical bombs into her coat.
  • Oskarr preparing a ritual involving the albino deathseeker crow first pinned to a board and later consumed whole.

You know, all the normal stuff.

I’m In Your Base, Killing Your Dudes

And then the violence happened.

Carried by Setarra through her infernal realm, Canter, Oskarr, Arcy, Cyclops, and Rothe sprang up inside the Red Sashes dojo, right out of their drinking pool. As a surprised and shocked student ladling out a cup of water was suddenly looking down the barrel of Carnter’s pistol, Arcy dropped the fine quality ball of alchemically produced silence, and Canter pulled the trigger.

Queue silent film of a slaughter. Rothe was deadly and precise. Canter was blasting away. Arcy was up close and brutal. Oskcarr was preparing his ritual. It went nearly as smooth as could be hoped for, with the slight small flub that our gang of thugs outside (who while now rooks, aren’t shadows, so they don’t know a lot about staying quiet), but that was overcome with quick murdering.

We opened the carriage house gates, which surely would have made a horrible creaking sound if not for the supernatural silence and then let in Rothe’s killers, our thugs, and all the the Lampblacks. Some highlights of the slaughter:

  • Rothe uninviting Canter to tea after he shot at one of the fencing masters that Rothe was trying to duel.
  • Oskarr discovering a forbidden god “She Who Slays in Darkness” that protected the manor, and gaining her full attention [all four ticks on a clock filled up]
  • Flashing back to Cricked making a map of people’s coming and goings so we knew where to hit them.
  • Bazso Baz swinging a military greatsword to clear the path, then using it to bar a door, then opening the door when we were all ready to attack.
  • Canter walking through the fight putting lead in fools that were trying to have a sword fight (even when that put him in a precarious situation).
  • Arcy calling out Mylera Klev to fight one on one, then tackling her down the stairs and staring her down…followed by the inevitable.
  • Canter grabbing his crotch and taking a shot at Mylera. A fatal shot at that, but one that didn’t kill her till she was all the way in his face and wrapped up in a giant red curtain, her iruvian charm hanging cold against his face.
  • Oskarr saving Canter from being stabbed a dozen times while wrapped up, by summoning and explosive tempest that knocked the sashes asunder.
  • She Who Slays in Darkness manifesting and putting her hand on Oskarr’s shoulder.
She Who Slays In Darkness by @DarkLavendrVoid

She Who Slays In Darkness by @DarkLavendrVoid

Arcy and Canter at an impasse

Of course Arcy and Canter were of different minds about what to do with Mylera. I thought it might have been the moment when Arcy left the crew. Johh called it in game. She could have tried to protect Mylera, to honor the deal she made… but instead she bowed to the inevitable and gave Canter a perfect set up, “Oh Mylera, one more thing.”

In a lot of ways that was great. It gave Canter all the rope he needed to hang himself with when it comes to Linea, and I’m excited to see that go down. On the other hand I think it represent Arcy just breaking as a person. Becoming weaker and enduring what she hates rather than doing something about it. It was really an extension of going along with Oskarr plan to use Setarra to transport us. She just didn’t have the energy to fight any more, which is a shame.

I’m still going over it in my head. Should she have stopped him? What would have happened? Would it still have been fun for all at the table (or in this case on the stream)? While I ponder on that, consider that I think of Arcy and Canter as Farid and Emma from Compromised Beliefs.

burningwheel7

Blades on Air

What Rocked

I think you could classify it as: Option D, All of the Above!

Some great lines were “Arcy finished the fight, Canter begins the slaughter.” and “You say Devil’s Bargain, Osckar says “Hello!”.

We crime’d pretty damn hard. We claimed turf (a cover operation) and destroyed another faction! We also go dropped down to a tier 1 gang ourselves. I’m glad the war was over fast!

Our competition of who got to play Rothe’s servants, and later his horse. We could totally play the “Master Kinclaith” show all night long!

Rosario Dawson. Enough said.

What could have improved

As mentioned above, I’m still agonizing some of the decision to be complicit in Mylera’s murder. We ta’led a lot after the game. For hours really about all kind of stuff, but one of the things is “what the hell is going on in Arcy’s mind.” And the closest analogy I could give was Seth Bullock protecting a man from the angry mob, even though he knew the man was guilt and would be hung (opening scene of Deadwood). The internal struggle of having beliefs and values and then constantly failing to uphold them is an ugly one.