Actual Play – Roric Returns (6/18/2016)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Virgil Daniel, Gary Mengle, Joe Zantek, Paul Arezina
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.6

Third and final slot of Blades at Origins. Such a blast to run but because I’ve gotten so far in actual play reports, we’re getting the highlights I can remember from my notes!

  • Hamish, the Skovlan ex-soldier had no home and no prospects after the Unity War. He was staying with an Apothecary named Satisa and they went from landlord and renter to lovers after facing an altercation together. Malista an evangelical priestess of the Path of Echoes began preaching (read: shouting) outside of Satisa’s shop driving customers away and causing a fright. Melissa spouted that the Emperor’s lands were only meant for the Akorosi, and the filthy immigrants from Skovlan had no place here. Together Hamish and Stasia drove her off but not before finding that she was acting behalf of Vond Kardera, a powerful and ancient ghost of a naval captain that claims to have served under the Emperor herself! [Leech]
  • The titanic right hand of the Crows gang leader Roric, Walls was affectionately named because he absolutely could not be gone through. As a tall man with a deep voice and few words, many including Roric took Walls for an imbecile, when infact was was quite astute and was happy to allow folks to underestimate him. When Roric was found dead in the canals, his second in command Lyssa took over the gang and in effort to cement her hold she put a bounty on Roric’s killer. Claiming that he knew Roric best, Lyssa sent Walls to find any witnesses who might know Roric’s killer and bring them directly to her, and not to listen to any excuses or lies they might tell Walls. [Cutter]
  • Savannah, another Skovlader, found a place for herself in Crows Foot among the Lampblacks when she helped out Bazso Baz. He felt affectionately for one of his crew named Clave, but worried he would appear weak or to be taking favorites if he took Clave as a lover. Savannah helped smooth the ripples over with the crew, and Bazso owed her for her help. [Slide]
  • The women who went by Ms. Nobody certainly used to be a somebody. A trader in fine Iruvian spices and fabrics to be sure, based on all she knew about them. But also one conversant in spirit trafficking and moving other illicit goods [Spider]

2016-06-18 23.28.57The Score

Seeking reward for Lyssa, and hopping they could get the Crows and the Lampblacks to team up against the Red Sashes (who have some personal grievances with our scoundrels as well due to some orders of Irruvian spirit essences that never made it to their final destination).

Walls offered to lead up the search for Roric’s killer, which Lyssa was fully behind because she neither knew that he had made new friends, nor that he was half as smart as he really was.

Knowing that the zealot Malista was connected with the Path of Echos, and could help them, our Blades disguised themselves and conned her and her two Hollow attendants into summoning Roric’s ghost. The process required three living creatures to attune to the ghost field. One to summon, one to speak, and one to listen. Although Ms. Nobody was familiar with spectrology, the third member of their ritual (the Hollows watched over but could not contribute) was Savanah, who was just making it up as she went along.

The summoning disaster culminated in Malista being drowned in the same place that Roric died, the other Hollows being grievously injured, and Walls being possessed by his former boss and friend. Once inside Roric was quick to tell all of them that it was Lyssa who slit his throat and pushed him into the canal but now that he had a new body, he was going to take back control of the Crows!

What could go wrong?

What Rocked

How cool is it when you used to be muscle for your boss, you are now literally muscle (and skin and bones and organs) for your boss! I would have loved to see how all of that turned out in a follow up game!

What could be improved

I forget the details here but I think I required too many steps to get the job done. To find Roric’s host they wanted someone familiar with them, but since Malista was an enemy, they had to figure out a way to trick her into helping them. However the trick involved finding someone else (Andrel?) to set up the meet. It was all good heist stuff but I felt like I was calling for too many rolls to frequently. I think it’s important to remember to keep saying yes until you think something really interesting might happen should the scoundrel’s fail!

[Note: in this discussion, I’m speaking only about gender presentation, not gender assigned at birth. So when I say men I’m referring to cis men, trans men, and male presenting individuals of any gender].

This isn’t about this game in particular, but I’ve noticed a trend regarding the gender of of my Blades in the Dark players: it skews pretty heavily towards men. At Origins the other games I played in featured people that used she/her or they/them pronouns, but Blades was all he/him. Looking back at my AP reports shows that my home games have a pretty good gender balance, but in other Blades games I ran at cons, it’s been much of the same as it was at Origins. Frustrating.

I talked to Kristin Firth, Bill White, and Kira Magrann about this a fair bit after my games to figure out why my Blades audience skews so strongly toward male players. The action of the game is strongly associated with male power fantasies: sneaking, thieving, murdering, skulduggery, and the rest. And while these actions can be performed by anyone, media tells us over and over that these are actions taken by men (Ocean’s Eleven, The Departed, The Godfather, Heat, Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, James Bond, etc). And the real tragedy is that Blades does have a really good gender balance in it. If you look at the major characters, many (maybe most) of them are women, non-binary, or otherwise not men. Mylera Klev is a master duelist who leads the Red Sashes. Lyssa just murdered her way to the top of the Crows, Arcy Keel is a brutal ex-Leviathan Hunter, The Dimmer Sisters are dominating the spirit trade, Lady Drake is a magistrate on the payroll of criminals, Brynna Skyrkallan is the resident diplomat of Skovlan, and the list goes on.

My next Blades project, which I’m going to work on with Kira will be to offer a short playset, score, or other ready-for-play component that will specifically be queer, non-normative, or otherwise designed or a broader audience. Current idea (thanks Kristin) is Women in Ironhook Prison (The Wire + Orange Is The New Black). I like it but I’m going to keep brainstorming.

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