Actual Play – Lady Blackbird (3/29/2012)

GM: Rich Rogers
Players: Sean Nittner, Ryan Macklin, and Jeremy Qualls
System: Lady Blackbird

Rich wanted to introduce his friend Jeremy to Lady Blackbird, Skype gaming, and indie games in general. He rounded up a few peeps and ran us one fine game of Lady Blackbird. Our cast included Snargle, Bishop, and Kale, notably neither of the “leader” characters Vance or the Lady herself.

The game, as always was fun. We broke out of our cells, fought off guards and got the Owl off the Hand of Sorrow, but only barely. She was low on fuel, busted and leaking, and the lady herself had been shot during the escape. We were free, but still in dire straights.

The game included a normal amount of cool action bits, as you expected, and ended with two very cool, and unexpected refresh scenes. The first was between Bishop and Kale. She had put the lady in his protection while she fended off the bulk of the guards. Despite giving them cover, the lady got hurt, shot even, and Bishop was furious. The Refresh scene started with her pressing her forearm into Kale’s throat and asking “what kind of man would let a lady (we have very polarized gender roles in this game, see below) take a bullet before he did?” The result was a discussion of his life, how he was never trusted, never got the upper and and learned to look out for himself.

The second refresh was initiated by Snargle. When Bishop found the lady injured she lost her composure and called her “Lady Blackbird”, revealing her identity to the crew of the Owl. Snargle, when they were safe and flying into a small port to get supplies revealed to Bishop that the Blackbirds had killed his people many years ago. He was in fact very old and had seen their cruelty and couldn’t be a part of his. Bishop and the Lady would not be traveling with them any further than the next port. Bishop countered that all she had ever known was violence, to kill or be killed (and she killed a awful lot), and the Lady was the first, and only, truly good person she had ever met.  What started as discussion about the lady ended up being a discussion about how people had been changed by violence. In Snargle’s case he abhorred it, where as Bishop believed it was the only way to show strength. Good stuff there.

Thoughts on the game

Rich did a great job describing the setting. He made it very Space 1889. White walls, sharp uniforms, and a strong division between men and women. Lady Blackbird and Naomi Bishop were in fact the only two women aboard the Hand of Sorrow, because the Empire did not allow women to serve in the navy. An interesting twist in the typical Firefly-esk Steampunk interpretation of the Wild Blue.

Snargle failing to intimidate the guards by getting his own femur stuck in his throat and coughing when he meant to screech like, like, like one of these (see below) was hilarious:

We did have one kind of stall out early on where we had some different understanding of what was going on, where some of us were preparing to move and others thought we were waiting for the guards to come. It worked out fine, but did have some confusion. It got me thinking, Rich had done a great job of describing the situation, but I think it would have been good for him to describe the momentum as well, e.g. “Cool, sounds like you guys are breaking out, how are you going to do that?”

Rich was a great a asking questions about how we got there, what we had seen and what things looked like. It really fleshed out the scenes.

I really enjoyed some of the characters working outside their element. Kale in a fight, Naomi trying to negotiate with the trade federation prisoners, etc. It really felt like these were the kinds of things that Vance and Blackbird would have done of they were present, but as they had other things to do (like being NPCs) it was put on us.

There was a lot of fun to playing the low status characters. It was like seeing the “downstairs” side of things, while the important people were often off camera.

Having hands like sledge hammers is awesome. Just saying.