Despite the advice I gave three weeks ago during my games at Origins, I decided to write up a score sheet for Go Play instead of riffing off the characters created. Why? because I wanted to see if I could turn my Academia setting into some good solid criming!
And what’s more, I wanted to see what Blades looks like when the score isn’t to get one over on someone else (or at least not just that) but to pull your own asses out of the fire. Introducing the score: Charterhall University.
Before they made characters, I had the players read the score sheet and pick options. And the most amazing thing happened. I think it was Johnstone who read this line:
The Noble Order of Crows, or the NOC, is an institution which claims it’s origins date back to the Emperor’s gift of Deathseaker Crows to Bellweather Crematorium in year 492. They are a benefit society pledged to elevate the status of their members and of the Doskvol devil hunters.
The only difference was that when he read “devil hunters” he read it as “Devil Hunters” and asked “What’s that? Our sports team?”
Yes. Yes it is!
[Note: devil is a generic term for anything supernatural. Demons, ghosts, etc. The term devil hunter was used loosely for anyone who fought these creatures after the cataclysm. The members eventually codified themselves into an order and became the Spirit Wardens, but the term still carries its original connotation (which is what I had been intending). However that same connotation also makes it the perfect name for a sports team!]
So the Noble Order of Crows is a booster club for the Devil Hunters! Setarra’s ichor-stained blessing, it doesn’t get better than this!
Once we knew this we also knew many other things such as:
- The crew would be closely tied to the team, namely their captain, manager, accountant, and physician.
- The Devil Hunter’s greatest rivals had to be from Whitecrow Academy… a team whose name both reflected the great leviathan steamships that graduates might one day captain and a chimeric image that showed humanities arrogant belief that they could form the world around them: The Hippokrakens!
- The collegiate sport of of Doskvol is street rugby played all throughout the city and varying wildly based on whether it was played in the cramped alleys of Crow’s Foot or the wide open and smoothly paved streets of Brightstone.
The other choices really fell in line after that:
What foul deeds have you been accused of? What incident just caused horrible exposure? How are you connected? Doping their team with rage essence. Which of course was true, but that wasn’t the real crime. The real crime was that they won a championship game against the Hippokrakens when they the match was fixed for them to lose. A lot of people lost money on that match. The wrong people! The Noble Order was implicated because they were the ones who supplied the drugs to both teams, not that any word of Whitecrown students taking performances enhancements had been mentioned.
Who has brought charges against you? Lady Drake, a magistrate the the payroll of criminals, who was burned bad by this deal. She had made the arrangements for them to throw the match but rather than bind herself by ghost contract with Moon, merely shook on it with Vondrian the Snake. What deal did you previously have with Drake? How was it broken? What does she really want? As established, they had arranged to fix the games. All above board by Doksvol standards. What wasn’t so obvious though was that Lady Drake’s reasons for getting her hands dirty with academic affairs was that she that she had hit her own glass ceiling in life. She found that no matter what deals she brokered, she would never be allowed into the Whitecrown elite. However, if she negotiated just right, she stood a chance of getting her son enrolled in Whitecrown Academy aid if he could get into the circles of nobility…that would be good enough.
Crisis breeds change. What new opportunity has arisen? Blackmail. If they were going down, they were going to take Wester Strangford, captain of the Hippokrakens and son of Lord Strangford down with them! Who could you implicate in your crimes? What do you have on them? Wester, in addition to using the NOC for their teams medicinals and arranging matches with them, was also once in a personal bind. A summer fling that he thought nothing of turned out to be a social predator who attempted to leverage their dalliance into a springboard to the next echelon of society. Panicking and uncertain he hired of his father’s assassins to remove Lenia Dunville, a personal threat and then used the NOC to cover it up as an accident. Wester and Moon were bound by a ghost contract that neither of them would ever speak of the matter. An oath the now desperate crew was considering breaking if they needed to!
Vondrian, the Snake [Slide]. A professor in the Morland Hall of Unnatural Philosophy as well as the Devil Hunter’s accountant, Vondrian dressed in all black, closeted himself away in musty halls, waxed his moustache, and shook on many deals he had no intention of keeping. He balanced the books and ensured the team always had the resources they needed.
Moon [Spider]. The official fixer for the team, Moon was connected with the various betting circles ruled by powerful gangs such as the Hive and the Unseen. Known for being a man of his word, Moon’s arcane bonds [Ghost Contracts] terrified many into either keeping their word as well or going around Moon and negotiating with Vondrian, as Lady Drake had done.
Rowan Bird “Peep”, the team captain [Lurk]. Peep was known for their speed and affability. A good captain who watched over their team and [thanks to Ghost Veil] was impossible to catch!
Velens Vedat [Leech]. Doctor Vedat? Associate Professor Vedat? Sure, something like that. Faculty Sponsor and Bloodletter Vedat. Yep, those things for sure! Velens was both the one who patched up the injured members of the team and they were the ones to administer the proper dosage of pharmaceuticals! Also, the biggest fan of the team there was.
How it Went Down
We opened on Peep and Velens walking to the Cat and Candle, the night after the game. The Devil Hutners had celebrated with great vigor the night before and were not likely to all be found sleeping it off at the Cat. Peep expected to join their fellow teammates enjoying a strong cup of Esme’s Severosi coffee. Instead they came around the corner to see Bluecoats throwing their teammates in chains and hauling them off. On in particular, Syra, was putting up a fight, and getting clobbered for her efforts by officer Larose.
Velens, realizing that if Peep was seen they would probably get hauled off too, urged Peep to stay behind while they found out what was happening. They rushed ahead and harried officer Larose so that he would stop twisting Syra’s arm even further!
Inside Moon had been working in the private library when the bluecoats stormed in. He cracked open the door to listen in on the Bluecoats as they made the arrest. He overheard them saying in hushed tones that Lady Drake wanted this bust quiet and quick. And that she was mad, very mad. They spoke much louder as the roughed up the Devil Hunters. “You’ve charged with the felonious act of using and distributing forbidden narcotics. You Devil loving finks!”
Hatching a plan
Together, Moon, Velens, and Peep arrived at Vondrian’s desk in Strathmill Hall and rang in chorus “we’ve got a problem!” Though Vondrian deferred that this was just part of business (and in doing so revealed that he went around Mood’s back), they agreed something had to be done.
The would use their leverage on Wester to make him take care of Lady Drake. As Moon set up the meeting, Vondrian met with Velens and asked him to investigate a way to make the consequences for breaking Moon’s ghost contract less deadly and more deadly as well. Velen’s toiled away in his laboratory but found that when he began burning a lock of Moon’s hair to distill from it the spectral humors and bonds he had made, all of the spirit essences, shaved off bits of ghost’s rotten souls, suddenly became very intent. Bottles rattled and faces appeared within them. He had never felt so vulnerable in his own workspace! [Desperate action to try and tinker with the contract. He rolled as six, but I had the threats ready if needed!]
Good old Fashioned Blackmail
Wester, three of his fellow street rugby players, and one hooded figure who looked like he just stepped out of a filming of Assassin’s Creed, arrived in a gondola to the sunken opera house (Setarra, I use that place a lot!) to meet the Noble Order of Crows. Wester and his teammates stepped out but the shadow figure remained, still and silent in the back of the gondola.
Captain to captain Peep and Wester talked. It was a combination of familiarity, feigned professional rivalry, and real personal resentment for getting him involved and implying that they would rat him out. Peep, however was super cheerful. They spelled out two possible futures. One where Lady Drake brought them all in and eventually Wester’s secrets were found out. The other, where Wester “took care” of Lady Drake and they all lived happily ever after. Which one did he want?
Wester looked to the robed figure in his gondola and said “my father pays him a fortune, might as well put him to use”.
The more we got into the game, the more staged everything felt. The NOC wasn’t just working with the Wester and the Hippokrakens, they were conspiring with them. They fixed games together, they metered out drugs together, they even did crime together. The only real animosity between them came from the school spirit and pride that fans evoked, their class disparity, and the adrenaline that was build up during an actual game. Other than that, they could have been bar mates!
Oh it was so delicious playing Wester. We all knew he was a pretentious ass but he was also a good team captain, a shrewd negotiator, and someone they had a mutual bond of self destruction with. In another story he would be the villain, in Blades, he was just another scoundrel playing his own angle.
Our original crime that Wester and the NOC were complicit in was kind of terrible “woman as object that can be disposed of when they are a problem” scenario. If felt very one sided. I was really happy that as a group we revised that and made Lenia a social climber, one that was playing Wester until he panicked and overreacted. I was really happy we gave her some agency and personal drive.
What could be improved
I’m wondering if I should explicitly state that the NOC support a sports team or just leave it to the group? For us that instantly brought the game into focus, but I could see another group not wanting to have a score that was about college sports. More to ponder.
The Irons in the Fire sections is a bit weak. Blackmail and Expose the Corruption are pretty much the same option. One last job also has the inherent problem that it shifts the focus away the the threat at hand and ask the crew to come up with a whole new score. Great if that can be derived from the answers to previous questions, but a lot of work if the group wants to think of something new.
The name the Noble Order of Crows sounded all great to me…until I realized we already have a crew call the Crows. Not good. So I need to think of a new name that is befitting of a benefit society and of Doskvol. Sources of inspirations that I was working from included The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, etc. I really liked tying it to the Emperor gifting the Deathseeker Crows to the city. What do you call the people who tend to crows? Corvid Caretakers?