Actual Play – Keeper of the Flame (9/6/2016)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Eric Fattig, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.7

Wrecking lives is thirsty work. After a score, the DSS kicked up their boots and got some much needed R&R. Oh wait, no, they just got deeper into trouble, like scoundrels do.

Downtime

Elke indulged her own whims looking Bazran’s missing eye to see if she could create a phantom organ that would suffice in it’s place. She was sure that she had heard about such things in the Dagger Isles. If only she could find the right tomb or ritual. Soon she lost track of her original goal and starting looking into all manner of spectral solutions to missing appendages. You know, for fun. Unfortunately Vey kept pestering her about wanting to really be initiated into the gang, so she sent her off to go round up a few more ghosts to join them. Vey set of as best as she could… [Indulge Vice]

Hix steeled herself to go work with Augus again and complete the tower retrofitting project. Her professor has a way of getting things out of her however, and in their workings Hix inadvertently let slip details that might tie her back to the disappearance of Irelen (Augus learns about Irelen 3/4 ticks filled). In proving her dedication (one might even say her obsession) Hix went further to complete the project and August would have ever imagined. She:

  • Stole leviathan blood stock from professor Una Farros to improve their supplied (Devils Bargain, Una Farros now an enemy).
  • Partook in the tower consecration ritual where she found out one of the Foundation’s secrets, that the brick a living body into each tower and then suffocate them in motor, biding their ghost to tower, which serves as the refracting mechanism in the ghost field, polarizing the tower and keeping other ghosts at bay.
  • Opened her mind to the Keeper of the Flame, a Forgotten God, which Augus and the other Foundation adherents made supplication to as part of the ritual. The Keeper entered into Hix through the necrotic flesh in her arm and it’s fire coursed through her, bridling her arm in a crimson flame. Her mind open she could see it’s madness and it’s beauty, and bound herself to it as an agent of it’s will. Consecrating her limbs in leviathan blood, she sealed the dead man into the tower and dedicated it to her new god.
  • Extended the power of the lightning tower creating a very small pocket just outside the city that only Hix and August know of. Outside the city wall, but still protected by the lightning barrier! [Long term project 8/8 ticks complete]
Keeper of the Flame
Sign: Coils of Flaming Thorns, Consecration: Bathing or anointing in Leviathan blood, Desire: Deception

Jadvyga meanwhile began looking for a patron to gain admission to Charterhall University. She identified Professor Una Farrows, head of Sparkwright Tower, who she admires because she follows her own initiative to try wild and difficult projects. Jadvyga got an interview with her and sought to prove to Una that she’s smarter than all the other students and worth being allowed in. Una seemed quite intrigued, but wanted more proof of her ability and her dedication before she would be allowed admission.

Elke, still rattled by her experiences with the spirit wardens, decided she needed solace in someone (or something) that could understand how hard it is to be alone in Doskvol, with her family so far away in the Dagger Isles. On a boat in the docks she dripped blood into the void water below and saw a vision of Setarra, rising up form the water, illuminating hidden strange vessels that clung to the sea floor as she passed them. When she arrived Setarra she was the queen of compassion, very understanding of all of Elke’s struggles and how could really relate to her. [Indulge Vice]
Setarra, Demon of the Depths
Affinity: The Void Sea, Desire: Freeing her Kin, Demeanor: Accepting of the unknown.
Hix furthered her long term project of making Frost a positive contact. She went to see Jeren and him at the Bluecoat bar. Frost clearly didn’t like how free much Jeren gossiped and didn’t feel comfortable talking in his presence, but drank just the same, and eventually deep in his drink played darts with Hix and talked to her about what a disappointment he was to his family (all criminals). [Long term project 2/8 ticks]
Jadvyga, alerted to Hix missing her treatment with Riven Montgomery Beaumont, tended to Hix’s arm and through much application of sage (so much sage) and other ingredients, flushed out the final toxins and restored Hix to full heath [Recover complete!]. The arm is better and Hix is in awe of Jadvyga’s abilities, which she told Elke over and over and over!
Hix followed up with Frost, continuing to give him information which led him away investigating the Spectral Society [Reduce Heat]

Gang Trouble

Trying really had to do what Elke asked her Vey started going through brothels in Charhallow asking around “Any ghosts want to join us, we take care of our own. Any ghosts?” Connected with spectral interactions and other unsavory behaviors, Vey was brought in by the Charterhall school board and expelled for conduct unbefitting of a university student. Crushed!

Harland Returns

His halbard caked in blood and being used to help him stand, Harland walked into the Cat & Candle, coughed a ghastly cough [Level 2 Harm: Spectral Pneumonia], and addressed his crew “It’s done. The Dimmer Sisters are gone.”

[End of the Downtime, we rolled fortune rolls for both Path of Echoes and the Dimmer Sisters. Harland, who was “lost” at the war, took a Devils Bargain of suffering an ugly wound to ramp up the Path’s dice pool and got a crit on the fortune roll, ending the war. The Path of Echoes took 5/8 ticks though, so they suffered losses as well, the Hierophant was captured by the Dimmer Sisters before they fled below the city…]

What Rocked

Not one, but TWO major supernatural entities surfaced this game. And frankly kind of out of the blue (or in Setarra’s case, the black). I had no inclination for Hix to get in so deep with Augus or the Foundation but she kept pushing, offering to do more, and accepting their crazy shit. I flipped to the advanced permissions page and asked “do you open your mind to the thought tendrils of a forgotten god?” and the answer was yes. Hot damn.

Similarly with Setarra, I really had to resist this old urge to have powerful creatures had unknown agendas. Setarra is a contact and it’s way more interesting if she has desires that others can choose to aid or oppose (or subvert) instead of making her totally mysterious. The fact that Elke just wanted someone to hold her and tell her it was okay was so awesome. And that she’s got a bond to Setarra but a hatred for Scurlock makes it even more exciting.

Oh wow, do I love using downtime to track NPC gangs. It is probably one of the best parts about making the world come alive in Blades. I don’t have to figure out what happens when, I just start clocks for crews to get things they want and then roll their progress. It means the world keeps changing dynamically, but without me having to be some kind of mastermind or decide these things arbitrarily. It’s the same as fronts on AW, but far more concrete.

I love the internal tension between the crew about what they are really about, and if they are criminals. That is even better now because they get to mark experience when the discussion comes up. In particular, Hix’s hatred of ghosts, Harlands fear of them, and Elke’s desire for peace with them is just fantastic.

Edit: John pointed out there is a piece missing in the story above. Augus Mendelson, who teaches in Sparkwright tower, who calls himself a Sparkwright, is secretly part of the Foundation. Ostensibly re-lighting the tower was a Sparkwright job, but Augus managed to get his own team (including Hix) there, as it was the tower itself that needed the work. A new soul had to be deposited. This tension between the Sparkwrights and the Foundation has been a throughline for Hix’s career and her apprenticeship to Augus, a dark path she just keeps walking further and further down… which I love!

What could have improved

Since all of Elke’s connections are inhuman (dead grandmother she talks about, Nyryx the ghost, Scurlock the vampire, Setarra the demon), I have a hard time coming up with interesting complications in her life. Thankfully she’s really become attached to the Spectral Society, so when something goes wrong (like Vey getting expelled or Bazran losing and eye), those things touch her, but I’d like to think I could be just as “human” with a ghost or a vampire. I find myself asking what does Nyryx want? What happens when the do cross paths with Scurlock? I’d like all those NPCs to have just as much depth as Corro or Salia or Augus, who all feel like very real and fallible people to me.

I’m really looking forward to the Bluecoat rules or write ups. At the moment I think of the Bluecoats like corrupt cops, which, while probably true, doesn’t really do them justice. There is more there. What do they seek? Maintaining the status quo? Maybe, but that isn’t sustainable. Personal elevation? Catching certain criminals? Fame? Glory? Wealth? Yeah, all things I can ascribe myself but I’m interested to see the Inspector Chester Campbells and the Sergeant Moss characters as they take form in the doc.

Right now we have Lomond, LaRose, Frost, Jeren, and Sargent Brannon Coleburn. Each of them have some agenda but aren’t really fleshed out human beings. I want to build up some more structure for them to interact with because I think that will be the creative constraints needed to make them real.