Actual Play – Score: Anatomy 101 (5/17/2016)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Eric Fattig, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.6

Fresh off  the thrill of their first heist, the Spectral Society saw their first showering of filth lucre and the accolades they received for illicit corners of the city.

Rewards

Their client was a cult within the Path of Echos obsessed with ancient Akorosi. I looked at the way the Forgotten Gods are assembled and saw that while the faction is tier three, individual cults are tier two, which is similar to these historians at Charterhal University. Rep: 2

As their first job, and as one that was handed to them – both the seller and the client were already lined up, they just needed someone to move the product – we went back and forth between a small job and a standard score and decided to split the difference. Coin: 5

The Heat would have been contained, standard exposure, except for destroying the lightning cage and starting a fire on the Lady Devera. So many exceptions I know. but again, we decided to split the difference. Heat: 3

Entanglements

As we recapped the last session, and did rewards, I added small off camera scene to show the entanglements they ran into.

A shot of Slen in doorway of a cramped captains chambers on his way out, halted by a stern voice from within “the set fire to hull and destroyed our lightning cage. Make this right Slen. Make it right!” The scene cut to Slen looking for Hix first at Strathmill Hall where they first met, but then asking around campus and finding her teacher and academic sponsor Augus who looked disconcerted but not surprised that trouble might be brewing, “Yes, I know Ms. Stromfass.” [Mechanically, I got the Rivals result, so the Sailors wanted payment and are putting pressure on Hix’s contact (rival in this case) to get it. The could either pay for the damages and a new lightning cage (2 coin) or earn the Sailor’s ire. Again, I didn’t feel that the Lady Devera and her crew represented all of the sailors in this case, as they hadn’t harmed anyone else, so I stepped them down to Tier II. I realize I’ve done a lot of that, but I want to leave room for exploration within these factions, so I feel good about play a part of them now and giving them room to grow as they are interacted with more.]

Downtime

Harland skipped class to spend the day resting in bed and trying to clean up his singed brow. Stras came by that night to find out why he hadn’t been in school and they proceeded to go out drinking and cavorting, where upon Harland told her all about the previous night’s caper! [Recovery]

The next day Harland got a leaflet that had been dropped off to every dorm room in the area. He carefully folded it in the proscribed manner, held it up to the dim light and in it’s shadow, could see the meeting time and location of the next seance with the Path of Echoes. Maybe this would be his chance to raise up in ranks after his great service to the order. Instead, however he crumpled up the flier, tossed in a bin, and pulled the books on applied alchemy in hopes of making up for missing class [Insight training].

Hix‘s downtime picked up in class, when she saw Slen talking to Augus and he pointed to her, she walked out of class with the sailor. He told her that they had to do right by the captain, or there would be hell to pay. Hix pulled from her own coffers as well as some the crew had ferreted away to pay off Slen [-2 coin] and then took him out to go party with her. Specifically to Salia’s apartment, which is just a haze of bloodneedle and dream smoke all the time. Since she knew Slen and his crew were trying to dress like refined aristocrats, it was time for him to meet some of them. The sailor really wasn’t sure what was happening. Was Hix interested in him? Was she trying to get something out of him? It seemed however that she had no ulterior motive, so Hix, Slen, and Salia spend the evening getting high and swapping stories. [Vice indulgence]

The next day she also committed herself to study and visited Augus in his office to see if she could get the homework that she missed from walking out of class. He was incredibly disappointed with her for walking out of his class, especially after their recent falling out. He gave her the opportunity to “catch up” by working on a project [Side note: I like the idea of university studies that are tied into public works. Since Augus is part of the Foundation, which work along side with, though are always in competition with the Sparkwrights, his homework isn’t about studying principles, it’s about doing hard work on an existing project. In this case retrofitting decaying lightning towers around the city walls. Hix took the work, but still held her ground. She was going to pass his class despite their differences. [Insight training].

Elke spend her time doing ghosty things. First, she let Nyryx possess her. Smooth just like inhaling dream powder and letting it seep into you. Then they discussed EXACTLY WHY IT FELT SO TERRIBLE TO HAVE VORD IN HER! As Nyryx tried to explain that it’s all about balancing the spiritual humors and first aligning yourself with the specter that will cohabitate with you, Elke yelled at him (out loud, so really at herself from the out side experience) that no, that wasn’t what it was like at all. The whole time being shushed in the library as she was looking up texts about possession that all described it as a violation of the soul, a transgression of the undead upon the body! [Working the long term project: Understanding of Possession].

(Note: we did a little flashback to the end of the score where the ghosts were delivered by waxy of exhuming Vord Kardera from Elke and forcing it to possess Cricket, who embraced the spirit with loving arms, but was clearly overwhelmed by the process).

And all that studying eventually turned into playing around. The payment from the Path of Echos came primarily in the list of superfluous ingredients that Elke said they needed to carry the ghost. Ingredients which she now played with delightfully! Nyryx was interested in these, but she sent him off. She wanted to have fun with these eel membrane wrapped knuckle bones on her own! [Vice indulgence]

Cleaning up the Neighborhood

In Hix and Hardland’s apartment – which Elke had earlier wandered into after a haze of playing with arcane toys and passed out in – the three scoundrels plotted on what to do next. Elke thought there wasn’t a next. They did a job, made some money, and all was well now, yeah? Hix on the other hand had plans for other good that could be moved in and out of the school. Harland, being ever civic minded presented the notion of scarring off some of the rougher folk that inhabit local establishments, especially the Cat & Candle, a late night student cafe, which was clearly claimed by someone other than the proprietor them self, as know one would willingly have such disreputable patrons.

[This was the moment where I said “cool… just a sec all” and then scanned through the list of factions… hmm, they are looking for turf. A coffee shop is a great place to move products to all kinds of people. Also, this one has lots of books, and strange artifacts in it, so maybe a good place for arcane arts as well. All the gangs that I really have a firm grasp on are in Crow’s Foot, and I didn’t think it would make sense for any of them control this cafe. I then looked at the gangs they already had faction status with (see “to be improved below”) but didn’t see any that fit the bill. I skipped around looking at a few potential candidates, and then I saw them…those beautiful cloistered sisters who may be part spider half-vampire who knows what… The Dimmer Sisters. Yeah, they have nearly cornered the market in spirit trade, so it totally makes sense to bring them into the story. As soon as they get wind of the Doskvol Spectral Society, they will be threatened by them anyway, so why not set up some friction now. ]

Harland suggested that we go talk to these ruffians, ask them kindly but persuasively to leave the premises, and if that didn’t work, only then resort to fisticuffs. [A social plan]. The other two had doubts both about the ability to just persuade these folks to leave and about Harland’s so called fisticuffs. (Of note, though Harland is a cutter, his appearance is that of a merchant tradesman, he certainty doesn’t look dangerous).

[We looked at Social Plan and saw that the detail was a social connection, which they didn’t have so it seemed like a good time to gather information. I said something along the lines of “Okay, you’re not really sure who is in control here. You can go to talk to someone, but without knowing who you’re dealing with, you may just be wasting your time. How do you want to figure out who your social connection will be. And to my great delight they opted to do so by asking the Lampblacks. Yeah, nothing at all could go wrong there. I love it]

Using the logic that all criminals know all other criminals (not entirely unsound in Doskvol), the scoundrels decided to ask the Lampblacks if they knew who was in charge at the Cat & Candle.

A Bloody Mess

When they arrived at the Leaky Bucket, it was raining hard but despite that huddle of half a dozen men and women, all dressed in waxed coats were standing around, in heated conversation. Only minimally protected the overhanging roof from the Bucket, it was obvious from any passing by that this was a war band, just about to do violence. Elka asked if any of them knew where Cross was, and the seemed annoyed at the distraction “He’s inside, but it’s not a good time to talk to him.” The band was all clearly armed, speaking of vengeance, and making plans for murder.

When they entered the bucket, the saw a macabre scene. A man was laid out on a large oak table, his entrails clearly spilling out of his belly. He was pinned down by other Lampblacks, trying to keep him form hurting himself more while they waited impatiently for the sawbones to arrive. Cross was holding once his arms with his only good arm and telling him to hold on. When the three young students saw this they were first filled with revulsion at the sight and smell of this vicious sword wound, them perhaps with surprise that anyone could survive it.

Cross said it was indeed a bad time, but Harland wasn’t about to let someone just die in front of him. He rolled up his sleeves, pulled out his tinkering tools, which at least included some needle and thread, and said that he was a student, he could help. Sure, not a med student, but a student just the same.

Hix also said she would lend a hand to assist him, and Elke started trying to remember medicine taught to her on the Dagger Isles, all the while looking like she knew was she was doing. “Quick, someone boil some water, get clean rags, elevate his legs!”

[For me this was a really exciting moment. Sure they were all students, but none of them were medical students. The process was ostensibly a simple one: shove all the bits that were on the outside back inside and then sew him up, but by the Forgotten Gods of Restless Graves, that isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds! Trying to finesse the intestines back inside certainty made sense, but without any medical training, doing so was a desperate action. Also, even if they succeeded this wound was very bad, so I said it would be reduced effect. That is pretty harrowing. Even if they got a six, it would mean he was alive but only barely, still that made a lot of sense given the situation… and my scoundrels… oh my amazing scoundrels, they were so awesome. Also Teamwork rocks!].

We started with anatomy and surgery lessons for Elke. She recalled all the instructions she could. None of them were about sword wounds or disemboweling, but students have to learn to fake it pretty early on, so she was talking the talk and being as helpful as she could. As it turns out, her advice was insightful enough that Harland and Hix knew to keep the wound clean, so it would just get infected afterwards. [Mechanically she did a 2 stress flashback to her earlier schooling and used study as a setup action for the team, to give them improved effect, changing it from reduced to standard].

With reasonable tools and knowledge at hand, Harland and Hix went about re-emboweling poor Milos [Harland leading the group action]. Though he kept his composure during the surgery, this was the first time Harland had seen such grievous wounds and as soon as the surgery was over he sat down and just vomited all over himself, looking intelligent but weak in the eyes of the Lampblacks [Devils Bargain]. In the process they realized that a blood transfusion was necessary. [Result of 5 on the Desperate Action. Success but with Serious Harm, it was going to be a septic arterial wound, but…] Realizing that Hix as just going to thrust a dirty needle into her arm, Elke jumped it to at least clean the needle and constrict her arm to prevent her from bleeding out [In this case Elke was using the teamwork protect a teammate action, to reduce the harm by making a resistance roll herself. This was really important both because Hix would be resisting with prowess, which was terrible, and instead Elke resisted with Insight which was much better, and because it let them spread the pain around a little. Hix took the harm and Elke took the stress. In this case Hix took a harm 2 “infected (rather than septic) arterial wound” and Elke handled the stress like the confident student she claimed to be (0 stress taken)].

At one point during the surgery, the Bellweather Crematorium bell rang and they were all sure they lost Milos, then a moment later he gasped and with great relief they continued operating. Off in the distance, a Red Sash walked out of a brothel quite pleased with himself right up until he realized he was surrounded by six Lampblacks… who then broke his skull open on the cobblestones of Crow’s Food.

Covered in blood, gathering information. Like you do

Harland was nursing a stout beer he could not actually drink. He was covered in blood and vomit and other viscera. Hix, was holding her arm gingerly and feeling quite woozy from the blood loss. Elke was cleaning up, but it was a bit hopeless, they were all drenched in blood, either Milos or Hix’s, it didn’t really matter. Cross sat with them and after thanking them for saving Milos, asked what they came for [I had them roll to gather information, not because Cross wouldn’t happily give it to them at this point, but because I didn’t really know how much the Lampblacks knew about the Dimmer Sisters. Result was a 5, standard information].

Cross isn’t a big fan of the sisters. Once they sent one of their men to them because he was possessed. When he came back the ghost was gone but he was a shell of his former self. Afraid of everything and so timid he was worse than useless, he was now a liability to the gang. That said, he did have two names for them. Roslyn and Irelen (information on both of them below). He knew the former from personal interaction. She works at an apothecary shop in Charterhall and she was the one that he worked with last time. The other he only knew by name, Irelen, however Hix recognized the name, he was in one of her engineering classes. A quiet, eccentric, strange fellow. Fits right in!

While they were talking the war band, which included Tick Tock, returned. They were clearly scraped up and battered, but none of the injuries were serious. When they saw that Milos was well enough to drink a shot of Bazso’s top shelf whiskey, there was much rejoicing!

Payoff

We decided that although small, this should be counted as a score it of its own. They had a target (the Dimmer Sisters) and they faced adversity (patching up Milos) to get dirt on them. So yeah, rewards and complications accordingly.

  • Coin: 2 – Minor Job (The Lampblacks would have paid their surgeon, so now they pay the DSS instead! In the form of both silver bits and drugs (with the hope of them finding a market to sell them at inside the university).
  • Rep: 2 – Target was the Dimmer Sisters (Tier II)
  • Heat: 2 – Word tends to get out about these things.  They earned a new reputation and there are plenty of loose lips in the Leaky Bucket. (Contained, standard exposure).
  • Entanglements – Unquiet Dead. Ooh, a fun one. I think Harland missing that seance means Lucella Kardera didn’t get a body to live in. Or that didn’t get a body of her choice. I’ll have to think on what kind of trouble this territorial ghost (or perhaps Vond the Destroyer) might cause for them.
  • Downtime – This is the only we’re going to skip. Beacause this score was really to gather information for a turf claim, we’re going to roll right into that score next session.

Places, People, Things, and Organizations

I think I’ll keep including this header (like the “what rocked” standard) at the end of the AP posts so long as their are NPC or places that pop up which we want to keep track of. I have and ever so slight inclination to start up an Obsidian Portal campaign but for not at least I’ll keep the info in here and if there is desire we can always copy/paste from these reports to get the wiki started.

Note: some of these are still off screen. They may not come to the surface or even be real (it’s not really real until it happens on screen) but they are ideas I’ve been having during my own personal downtime.

Master Sten Dallicore (Updated) – Slen is now socializing with Salia. How will that end up? She likes to gossip and he’s not very savvy. I think to worm his way into her world, he’s going to have to give up some secrets. Secrets Lord Scurlock wouldn’t be happy about getting out.

Cricket (Updated) – Now possessed by Vond Kardera. The intent of the Path of Echo students and professors was to gain knowledge from the ancient spirit about one of the Forgotten Gods (rivals in the Department of Spectral Philosophy). The effect however is that she is now filled with wrath for the enemies (or perceived enemies) of Akoros. Looking at our current republican candidate, I have some thoughts about what powerful people driven by hate might do, or at least how they might start their reign of terror and destruction.

Elke’s Understanding Possession Track – Once complete she’s going to get the full skinning on possession (from page 7 in Quickstart 6) but also opening up the possibility of doing something about the trauma that comes from possession (either speeding it up, slowing it down, or helping people cope with it) or being more aware of possessed people around her (able to detect them, or able to detect them without using her spirit mask, etc). There are just a couple of ideas, but I’ll curious to see where Karen goes with it and I think once the project is complete, we’ll make an advanced move to go along with it that Elke could take.

Path of Echoes Student Club – Held a seance that Harland was supposed to attend where Cricket was elevated from from initiate to adept (moving so quickly up the ranks) for her offering to host the ancient ghost inside her. Further they gained wisdom and knowledge from the ghost, and now there are rumors a flutter:

  • If you’re a true Akorosi, you’ll wear the immortal emperor’s sigil proud on your chest, over your heart.
  • Do not trust the Skovlanders in the Doksvol. They may have bent knee, but in their hearts they still plot for the downfall of the empire.
  • If the Path of Echoes can show everyone in Dokvol who their true enemies are, we’ll be able to come out of the shadows and will be elevated for our service to the emperor.

Milos – Has level 3 harm. Owes his life to Harland and knows it.

Roslyn – A servant of the Dimmer Sisters. She cleans instruments and apparatus at the Nail and Bottle (a dusty apothecary shop) in Charterhall. Roslyn has four children that she has raised herself, two of them are old enough that they are apprenticed to her, but young enough that they test her patience daily. Roslyn an elliptical orb tattoo on her forehead, which allows the Dimmer Sisters to see through her eyes when they choose to. In the back of the Nail and Bottle she secretly works on an alchemical concoctions that will mask spirit presence from the watchful eyes of Spirit Wardens.

Irelen – A student working on the Farros project at Sparkright Tower, Irelen bears a spider tattoo on his throat which allows the Dimmer sisters to always find him, as well as send instructions. Irelen is a poor conversationalist. He answers questions with other questions and often changes subjects abruptly and uncomfortably. He’s determined to do incredibly well in his classes, often taking spark or bloodneedle to give him the energy needed to study late into the night. He has a large collection of commonplace spiders that roam free in his small loft, one might call it an infestation.

Lampblacks – Now 3/4 through knowing that the Duskvol Spectral Society is up to creepy ghost shit.

Corro Younghusband – Though not detailed above, Corro is Harland’s older brother and the one running the family business now. He wants Harland to graduate so they have a respectably “educated” member of the family, but can’t wait for it to happen already. Harland is only in his third year but he’s already getting pressure to graduate. [Nothing actionable has happened here, but next time I need a complication, I think this is a clock that could be started].

Stras (Updated) – Now in the know about Harland’s exploits she’s on the lookout for trouble coming his way or new opportunities for profit. She may reveal too much though in attempts to help him out. I’m curious how that will end up.

Nyryx (Updated) – I’d like to figure this ghost out. So far he’s been a mentor figure but that can’t be all there is too him. From the write up he likes to inhabit prostitutes. I think his needs will focus around sensual pleasures and power over people, but we’ll see where this goes.

The Cat and Candle – A coffee house that is open late to serve the need of studying students. The service, at least at first, is non existent. Pots of tea and coffee sit on the stove unattended. Students are expected to serve themselves and then be greeted with after they are already seated. Cozy nooks and crannies for private discussions and study, a stone hearth surrounded by old heavy timber construction. The ceiling has a latticework of iron candelabras overhead. There are basins to catch the dripping wax and candles are the primary source of light in the cafe. The building has several wards carved into the door and window frames to keep out unwanted spirits. They are ineffectual of course.

Quotes

“I’m not very good with secrets!” – Harland, after revealing that he told Stras everything.

What Rocked

We retroactively decided that the crematorium bell went off during the surgery, but it didn’t matter, that made for an awesome and hilarious moment in the game.

I love starting with  group that is very naive and letting them stay that way for a little bit. At tier 0 you’re really not on anyone’s radar yet. I’m sure they will eventually make some enemies and things will get more serious but I’m so happy that their current concerns are passing tests and paying tuition. I hope to keep academia as a focal point of the game, at least as long as it makes sense.

Fly by the seat of your pants surgery is BEST surgery. I didn’t really have any idea of what would happen when the entered the Leaky Bucket. I just knew that the Lampblacks and the Red Sashes are at war, and that war is brutal and people get hurt. So yeah, why not a dying man on a table. Watching them not only step up to help, but so wonderfully use ALL of the teamwork actions was super, super fun.

Elke not realizing that they were criminals or that this is their life now is great. I think she’s still in denial. It’s so much fun to play through this transition from civilian to scoundrel!

I was happy that after the fact we realized that it made sense to call the activity of the session a score. The did some killer shit and I’m really glad that we had a way to both reward the scoundrels, and add new complications!

What could be improved

Upon further consideration, I could have used the Grinders instead of the Dimmer Sisters, which I think would have been a better call. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sisters, I’m just trying to keep the player’s choices meaningful and follow Paul Tevis’ rule about conservation of NPCs (short version: if there is ever an existing NPC that could fill a role, use them instead of creating a new one). The scoundrels already have negative faction status with the Grinders (from crew creation) and this would be a nice way to make that rivalry relevant.

For my own mental map and because I was restless I drew up a few doodles of the Cat and Candle as well as the relative faction status.

DSS_doodles_1