Actual Play – Out of a jail cell, into Scurlock manor (10/25/2016)

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

For being a “downtime” session, this game was intense. I love the Spectral Society so much! Eric wasn’t well so he couldn’t make the game but we didn’t finish downtime, so we’ll see Harland’s actions next week!

All the Arrests!

Starting off the session I had two entanglements to resolve and hey, look how fun these were:

The Usual Suspects. The Bluecoats grab someone in the periphery of your crew. One player volunteers a friend or vice purveyor as the person most likely to be taken. Make a fortune roll to find out how well they resist questioning, or pay the Bluecoats off with 2 coin

This result was hilarious because instantly all three of us agreed it had to be Andrel Rowan. He’s the consummate fuck up, and had probably been blabbing his mouth about robbing Magistrate Clelland. Thank the forgotten gods word about the missing journal hasn’t gotten around yet!

Interrogation. The Bluecoats round up one of the PCs, to question them about the crew’s crimes. Tell them what they want to know or resist with your Resolve to avoid jail time and exposing the crew to warrants for their arrest, or pay them off with 3 coin.

This one was a little more immediate. The raid on the Red Sashes Dueling School was a very loud and very obvious event. As the repeated thrum from Bellweather Crematorium rung out and the deathseeker crows began flying to Crow’s Foot, soon the Bluecoats showed up in force. The fight was over, the Red Sashes had been routed, but the Bluecoats were arresting everyone they could catch!

Arquo, once he heard the sounds of their whistles and the beatings of their truncheons bolted for the Society’s boat in the canals below. Elke, watching the vaporous form of Nyryx filled with a burning electroplasmic round, could not move, and consequently hardly resisted when the Bluecoats threw her in manacles. She did, however make one passionate command to Nyryx to “Flee”. He didn’t have the energy or the will himself to do anything, so Elke channeled some of her own essence into him to give him strength. Not liking any one in Sprit Mask or anyone doing anything with ghosts the Bluecoats quickly bludgeoned Elke and dragged her off. As she left though she saw the form of Nyryx wafting down through the floor into the levels below. [Desperate Command to act as Help of Nyryx who has Harm 3 and cannot perform actions without Help].

Lockup

The prisoners were all processed with a similar level of apathy and cruelty. Shoved, shouted at, and generally mistreated, they were forced into a wagon, then into the station, and finally into a cell. When it was all said and done Elke sat in a room with three Lampblacks, a Red Sash, and a Docker, all staring daggers at each other. Muttering threats to each other should anyone have the stupid idea of saying anything at all happened.

When Elke did get pulled out and taken in for interrogation it was familiar faces. LaRose who she knew to be a greedy bastard that liked to take and take and take. And Frost, an investigator that Hix was slowly forming a bond with. Together they worked her over but she dodged their questions, claimed to be a confused college student with no understanding of how she ended up in a Lampblack Coat or what she was doing with a spirit mask or any of the other illegal items on her person. [Resist with Resolve]

Her stonewalling worked, at least for a while. They weren’t going to let her go, but they would poke at the edges to see if anything came loose from the others arrested before circling back around to her.

Posting Bail

After the first round of questions though Elke stopped LaRose, who she knew would be keen to get a payoff, and asked him if he could send a message to someone to post her bail. Hix was being held hostage by the Grinders, Harland was off dealing with the Path of Echoes, Nyryx was nearly destroyed, everyone she knew was either gone or in trouble of their own!

So, in a moment of desperation, she addressed herself by full name and lineage to the man who she believes killed her grandmother, Lord Scurlock. Damn! [Risky Sway. We started a 4 tick clock called Scurlock has leverage on Elke, and put two ticks on it, one for the roll and a second as a Devils Bargain for referencing her family name].

By using Scurlock’s name, she also suddenly convinced the Bluecoats that they were a lot less interested in her, and much more show on their own shoes or perhaps their fingernails. [Reduce Heat, because she used Scurlocks name, it added a tick to Scurlock having leverage on her 3/4]

Meeting Lord Scurlock

Some time later a very nervous Bluecoat pulled her out of her cell and put her in an armored carriage. He told her to shut up when she asked questions and for a long time he just left her their. Sometime after a small chest was placed on top of the carriage and a driver began driving it away from the station, through Doskvol, into Six Towers, and eventually to a large manor house. The driver, who also didn’t want to answer questions, dismounted, rang the giant knocker at the gate and then after a few nervous moments bolted, leaving Elke alone, locked in an iron bound carriage.

A short while later though, the door to the carriage opened and a single pale hand with long perfect fingers reached inside to help Elke step down from the carriage. As though she was touching something that had just died, Elke gingerly took his hand and exited the carriage to find a tall man, perhaps in his mid thirties, with prominent Akorosi features, awaiting her.

Edlund Scurlock introduced himself and Elke could hardly help herself form feeling like he was the kindest, most noble man she had ever seen [Insight resistance to break eye contact with him and look down]. Reluctantly she allowed him to escort her, along with his porter carrying her belongings, into the manor. It was then when she realized that the artifact was also in that crate, and how disastrous it would be if he got his hands on it. Nervous as all get out, she tried to finagle a way to get away from him but it was too late. The were inside and and he had noticed something about the chest, it resonated in a way that gain his attention.

Elke bluffed and said that it had her spirit mask, one she had made herself, and eventually consented to show it to him, but he insisted it be later, after she was fed and and dry.

Aquro trying to keep it all together

Meanwhile Arquo had returned to the Cat & Candle with the other Society members and saw that they were all disarrayed. All of their leaders were gone and they didn’t know what to do. Ogre spoke with him, asking for his advice and he tried to keep them calm and on point. When he told them that he saw Elke get arrested though, Ogre called for all the society members to empty out their pockets and put everything of worth on the table so they could bail her out.

As the assembled their coffers, Arquo drank from Vey’s flask and took a moment to calm his nerves and bandages his wounds [Recovery action].

Dressed in one of Harland’s shirts (his was covered in blood) Arquo offered to take the payment to bail out Elke. On the way out he gave the DSS some tips on how to keep it together until she got back!

An evening in Scurlock Manor

Still ever the gentleman, Edlund shared a delicious mean with her, then gave her private quarters to sleep the night, and finally during the night his servants laundered (and in the case of her recent lampblack coat, tailored to fit) all of her clothing.

In the morning he fed her once more, read her demeanor again (still hateful of him) and asked to see her spirit mask creation. She had to open the chest (for fear of accidentally touching the circlet), so that she could find her spirit mask safely, and Scurlock nearly saw all of its contents, but she slammed it close quickly after pulling out her spirit mask. Clearly acting strangely, though he didn’t press the matter then. [Risky Finesse, Mixed result with a consequence that he saw the artifact.  Resistance roll to avoid him seeing it, ending in stressing her out]. He handled the mask and appreciated it’s craftsmanship, then handed it back with a smile.

She left in his carriage, distraught, promising herself next time she would be prepared and she would end him [Trauma taken: Reckless].

Bailing out the Wrong Society Member

When Arquo arrived at the station, Elke had already left, but just mentioning her name caused a ripple of unease to spread through the station, which he attributed to her great power. Hearing her name though Rowan popped up and made some noise [This was a hilarious moment where I asked the players if they wanted to see how Rowan did on his own, and pointed out that he had exactly zero dice in keeping his shit together].

Somewhat confused and disappointed, Arquo didn’t want to let the Society down, so he paid some “administrative fees” and sprung Rowan…just in time! On the way bay Rowan told Arquo all about the DSS, at least from his perspective:

“They’re terrifying and they have this demon that they put inside you and it burns a hole in your soul and it hasn’t happened to me yet, but it happened to my friend Drav and when he got back he was beaten almost to death. You don’t ever want to cross them and once you join there’s no going back and maybe you should be glad you have another coat you can wear. I’m just sayin'”

Arquo, who had heard a much different story at the Cat & Candle too this with a grain of salt, but he did believe the part about them being dangerous.

When the two returned the crew was pretty universally disappointed that it was Rowan he brought back instead of Elke, but there was nothing to be done for that. Seeing that they were still a bit shell shocked Arquo suggested that they go back to doing their normal activities until the leaders return [And being a gang that is both Loyal and Independent, they set about doing just that]. Bazran grab his truncheon, Vey pulled out her school sash, and the went out to patrol the streets of Charterhall and keep them safe for students!

Meet the Parents

The Society seemed to be doing alright but it wasn’t his home. He couldn’t go back to Lampblack headquarters, at least not without facing Bazso, so Aqruo did what he always did when he was lost, he went home.

Arquo’s parents were old lamplighters, back from when the lit gas lights and before Bazso took over and they became a gang. They were poor and depended on Arquo both for money, but also for taking care of their own unfinished business [Arquo’s vice is Obligation to his parents]. His sister was a Lampblack who died in the war. In it was her ghost the one that Elke summoned the ghost of from outside the Red Sashes to distract the Spirit Wardens (though Arquo didn’t know this). After she died his parents leaned on him for even more.

His father Arcus, who believes in hard working paying off eventually, was trying to end the war. He had been working with Roric of the Crows to keep things peaceful in Crow’s Foot, but after Roric died his hold slipped as well. His mother Ramira however wanted justice for he daughter. After she died Bazso should have taken care of the family, that was his job, and he let them slip through the crack.

Arquo couldn’t pay their rent but he did give them the good news that he killed Mylera Klev that night, the woman who killed their daughter, so vengeance was had at the least [Woah, this was such and amazing twist. I love how Adrienne picked up all these disconnected pieces and put them into Arquo’s backstory to make it feel like he’s always been part of the world]. Over the next few hours he told them the entire story of how they defeated the red sashes [Indulge Vice with a Devil’s Bargain of telling them about the scary ghost shit that Elke did and all the other gory details].

Returning the Ring

Elke desperately wanted to get the ring back to Bazso as soon as possible so he didn’t notice it was missing and send someone after her. Also, she wanted to be on his good side so she could study it later! She bundled it up and strapped it to her chest and the covered that with a sweater and her newly tailored rain slicker coat.

With Jadvyga at her side, she headed out to the Crow’s Foot in search of Arquo. He had told Bazran where to find him if they needed him, and Elke needed him. The found his parents place, which was in the basement level below the street, with cellar windows showing dim yellow gaslights below.

When they arrived Arcus and Ramira both game sideways glances at Arquo. Two college girls knocking at his door? Soon though, when they heard that Elke wanted to make a delivery to Bazso, Arcus put on his own coat and said he would escort her (as he know from his son’s tale that it wouldn’t be safe for Arquo).

Arquo left the up the door where Shrift was on guard. She knew Arquo was in shit with Bazso, but also thought he was pretty damn awesome for killing Mylera, so they chatted while Elke, Arcus and Jadvyga were allowed in.

Soon after, when it was clear that she was safe, Elke dismissed her various chaperones, returned the ring to Bazso and ask if she could learn more about it. He agreed, but wanted her to understand it first, and that understanding only came at the bottom of a bottle. We had a lovely montage of them drinking whiskey, handing up the taxidermied animal heads he had recovered from the leaky bucket, and talking about death, and what really happens, and what if there was a place you could go after to find peace. Bazso didn’t want to leave this world, only to come back three days later as a monster. Nor did he want his body destroyed to prevent the same. [Long term project to gain access to the Empty Vessel]

Saving Nyryx

Elke had asked Aquro to meet her back at the Cat and Candle later. He wasn’t sure what to make of that. Was this young woman in college interested in him? Well yes, and possibly romantically as well, but for the right now, she needed someone who could help her track down Nyryx. She could attune to the ghost field but he knew Crow’s Foot and she thought they would need both. Together they set off after him and after many hours found that below the dueling school, the levels kept going down. Down below the basement and below the canals, below the subbasement, and into strange cellars and hallways and finally down further on rickety old wooden steps and into an ancient rail tunnel, unused but still liked with track. [Mechanically I had them do a group action where Elke was using Attune and Arquo was using Hunt, but I realize now that I should have handled that by having Aqruo do a setup action with Hunt rather than have two different actions rolled in a single group action].

A weak glow coming off a swirling vapor saturated the ground in front of them. Beside it was the spent electrplasmic shell, finally burnt out. Elke ran to it but she was startled and surprised when a vaporous creature that was all claws and fangs came flying at her. Arquo dove and knocker her out of the path [Protect action, the third he’s taken to protect Elke from danger!]

Elke realized it was Nyryx and that he was feral and desperately in need of something. She commanded him to put himself together but it was impossible, so she commanded him again to “Stop”, which he did, but only because of her force of will. Then she brought him into herself and felt as though he was ripping her apart from the inside [Risky attune roll with mixed result. Result was 2 Harm, resisted down to level 1: Nauseated].

Knowing that he needed to feed on life force, and that he needed it desperately soon, Elke and Arquo raced back up to the surface, tracked down a homeless man in an alley and expelled Nyryx so that he could feed. The man bolted once he saw something spectral happening, but Arquo tackled him and, terrified himself, held up on top of him just in time for Feral-Nyryx to dive inside of him and then slicing him apart from the inside, a hundred razor blade cuts erupting all over him.

As the bell tolled again, Arquo finally throw the body to the side of him, and once again his shirt (well, Harland’s shirt) was soaked in blood. This was not what he was expecting, and he was pretty sure it wasn’t right. But that’s a conversation for another time. [Downtime Action, Recovery for Nyryx, reduded from Level 3 to Level 2 Harm].

Elke took Nyryx back into her again. Crying, trembling, sick, an exhausted she leaned into Arquo, who was also a mess, and the meandered out of the alley together, leaving the eviscerated body of some stranger behind.

Fin.

What Rocked

I love that Elke called on Scurlock to help her. It was so deliciously painful.

I love the moments beween Arquo and his family. So great to see people just interacting like people.

Rescuing Nyryx was brutal but so amazing. Hardest “Recovery” action ever.

I love that Elke used the fear of Scurlock to reduce Bluecoat interest in her and thus reducing heat.

It was so fun to tell this distorted version of the truth from Rowan’s perspective. So good.

I love that Elke got to keep the Lampblack coat. Now that it had been tailored to her, Bazso told her to hold onto it “It’s just a coat.”

I love Arquo’s parents not being sure what was up with Elke and Jadvyga showing up… and that there might actually be a spark between Elke and Arquo.

So much good stuff.

What could have improved

I should have had Elke take an action to win Bazso over, and based on how well she did set the number of ticks on the clock until he let her have access to the circlet again.

I handled the group action (Hunt/Attune) wrong. See above.

I probably should have had Scurlock use some more superpowers in the form of “you suddenly want to confess all your sins to this man who can absolve you” or something like that. Elke would have probably resisted them all, but he had the position and should have pressed it more.

We should figure out what “leverage” Scurlock has so when that clock fills, it’s got punch!

I realized I didn’t consult the book to look at Scurlock’s descriptors before portraying him. He’s enigmatic, cold, arcane, old-fashioned. I played up the enigmatic and old-fashioned for sure, but certainly not cold. In fact, he was very gracious, in an overly formal way. I think that is okay though, Scurlock in general may not be the same as Scurlock with a true member of the Salkaran line.

There is a certain bandwidth threshold I’m concerned about. In my head right now the Society has pressure from the Grinders (to get Hix back), are on Vond’s hit list (so much Revenge needed here), and is about to face to serious heat from a Leviathan Captain who is missing his journal. It’s all happening at once, but just in terms of keeping all our marbles straight I need to find a way to make each of those threats into something tangible so they aren’t just looming problems, but specific actions. Some things for me to ponder?

  • Which Leviathan Hunter captain did they steal from? Strangford? Linea? What would they do in response? How would Charterhall University reaction as an institution?
  • How will the Grinders apply pressure for them to recover Arden Keel and the Imperial Musket? What happens to Hix if they delay?
  • What will Vond do now that she knows the insurrectionist was her second in command? She craves destruction. Will she physically/spiritually attack Haland immediately or is there another way for her to play this? How much does he actually threaten her? What are her options now? What do the other members like Skinner, the Master of Secrets, and the many, many ghosts want?