Actual Play – Score: The Cat and Candle (5/30/2016)

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

Drenched in blood, both theirs and that of the Lampblack Milos, the Duskvol Spectral Society staggered back to Hix and Harland’s apartment, only to find out the place has been tossed in their absence!

Stras was waiting for them with her blade at the ready in case the intruders returned. Though the place had been tossed it was pure vandalism, not a robbery. Harland found a flier tacked to his door, among a hundred other stuck similar fliers. No doubt it contained encrypted directions to another seance. He promptly folded it up to save for later [Entanglement: Unquiet Dead. Lucella wants Harland as her vessel, and both in living and in death, she is used to getting what she wants!]

Where to study the dead

Thanks to all the lovely folks on G+ and Twitter for helping me come up with some names for the school at which one studies wierd undead stuff. Originally the Department of Spectral Philosophy, I didn’t like that it sounded far too much like the Duskvol Spectral Society. So that’s a thing we can do, we can change stuff we don’t like. And we did. After several email discussions and many, many good ideas being thrown out there, we settled on the Morlan Hall of Unnatural Philosophy, or MorPhil for short. The story goes that Morlan Hall was built by two feuding brothers who after a major fight refused to talk to one another and each elected to build one half of the building with the faulty assumption that they would meet in the middle. Because of this there are split level floors, unexpected dead ends where hallways should be, cryptic paths between classrooms, and widely varying architectural style. On the north side facing Crows Foot the design is ostentatious and grand, on the south side facing into Charterhall it is subtle and elegant.

(Note: This idea comes from an actual urban legend about Dwinelle Hall on the UC Berkeley campus)

Architectural students from Sparkwright Tower are often sent to take notes on the building’s design, and like residents clogging up the tight corridors of a hospital, they are always getting in the way of the students taking classes there. Because of a church burning down some time ago and never being rebuilt, the Ecstasy of the Flesh, the Path of Echoes, and the Forgotten Gods all have secret societies which operate from within the wall of Morlan Hall.

We’re fairly certain that Morlan Hall is where all of the scoundrels met. Elke because she was taking classes there. Hix to study the architecture. And Harland sneaking in at night to partake in the forbidden gatherings of the Path of Echoes.

Question for Harland

To fill in some of the details we glossed over at the end of the first score and to get a sense of how much the cult following dominates Harland’s time I asked a few questions to follow up on their delivery of the Kardera ghosts.

What happened to Lucella Kardera when you delivered her? There was another acolyte, Naria, who was supposed to receive the spirit, but when she saw the terrible act of electroplasm penetrating the body and mind of Cricket, she fled the hall in terror. Lucelle now wanders Duskvol without a body.

Why does Lucella want you as a host Harland? Like the first glass of water after a thousand years of thirst, Harland was the first living human Lucella has had contact with in ages. She delighted in his heart, which still beat in his chest and in the blood that moved through his veins. She craved for his breath, that constant and fragile inhalation and exhalation required for life. He was her first and she wanted him back!

Who else did you peeve by missing out on the seance? The Hierophant, who performed the ceremony. Note, not the same as the Master of Secrets, who commissioned the DSS to move the spirits for them.

Making a Mark

Based on the information gathered last score, I wanted to make sure I had given the scoundrels enough leverage to push use but still put it in their hands what do do with that information. Irelen was a student in sparkright tower, obsessed with receiving high marks, and socially awkward enough that he had few if any friends. Roslyn worked at an apothecary shop and was a single mother raising four children, two of them old enough to work with her. In addition to their public life, both were also crones within the Dimmer Sister’s coven and had sufficient influence to make the Dimmer Sisters abandon the Cat and Candle if they opted to. Both seemed human and fallible, which was good enough for me.

The Spectral Society, in part because Hix never liked Irelen anyway, decided to frame him for plagiarism. Surely enough to cow any graduate student, even one loyal to the sisters. In order to do so they wanted an old paper of his that the could recreate and artificially age to make appear that it was previously written by a long dead student.

Advanced Blades

Since what they wanted to do was acquire an asset, in this case a fine forgery of a treatise we treated the preparation as a downtime action [1 coin was spent] but we also played it out as where the paper would come from…and who would forge it were both fun tie ins for our scoundrels rivals. [Note: all of this was done because I told them that Irelen was likely well prepared to defend the authenticity of his paper and they would only have 1D on their Engagement roll against him just by making accusations, further because he had the Dimmer Sisters to back him on this, that would be reduced to 0D for their larger tier size]

Augus Mendelson and Grace

Pale and still somewhat dazed from blood loss, Hix caught Augus in the lecturn hall to distract him while Harland and Elke snuck into his office to steal one of Irelen’s papers. Hix annoyed her already flummoxed professor when she showed to both have not finished the retrofitting project and so far as he could tell, she was high in bloodneedle (which wasn’t the case, but he knows she has a fondness for it and assumed that her pallor and dazed demeanor was caused by intoxication rather than injury). [They gained 1D for using their contact in a downtime action and another 1D as a Devil’s Bargain that August would remember this conversation because of his frustration with Hix, starting a 4 segment clock “Augus knows you framed Irelen” and filling in one of the ticks. Filled 1/4]

Augus pushed past Hix, “If all you’ve got for me are inebriated excuses, get out of my way Stromfass” and into his office, just as Elke and Harland were sneaking out of the back door.

Too have such a forgery made however they would need an expert hand that could pose as a former student. Harland called upon Grace [also his rival], who had a long standing relationship of manipulating him to do her bidding with threats of revealing his true activities to his parents and now brother. For all her cruelty Grace has a magnificent hand and managed not only to draft an excellent forgery, use a name of a student appropriate to the time, age the paper, but also include the professor’s marks such that they would have matched Augus’ predecessor.

[Also, we realized Augus needs a last name. So midway through he became Mendelson]

The Cat and Candle

Charterhall exists inside the old town districts of Dosvol. The reason why lightning towers, now nearly all unlit, circle its perimeter is because, long ago, that was the border of the city, before it expanded outward, and then reseeded back to it’s current size (we expanded from it, but we started with this info from listening to John talk about the city as he was drawing maps

Currently only one of the towers in Charterhall is “lit” and that is Sparkwright Tower, a great electroplasmic charge scorching the sky at all times as a symbol of the school’s innovation and contribution to the city. Most of the buildings though were worn down or entirely crumbled and built on top of. Underground canals led into flooded remains of buildings, passages existed that led through the ruins that were built on top of. One citizen’s burnt out remains was another scoundrels hidden stash.

The Cat and Candle existed at the gate of one of these old walls. An old building that was once a regal estate, abandoned by the wealthy who had sought out Brightstone, Six Towers, or even Whitecrown. Now it had been taken over as a tavern, it’s common rooms divided by thick wooden walls to serve as bulwarks against the noise and distractions of other students as well as to allow privacy to its guests. Because Nathan had linked it the Blades Community I started doodling the Cat and Candle based on the Victorian house plans. I started with one of their blueprints and then just started adding in changes that happened over time as and it was converted from a home to a cafe.

Cat and Candle

One feature of the Cat and Candle: In honor of it’s namesake, just below the ceiling hangs a iron lattice to support hundreds of candles and basins to collect their drippings. The effect is to provide a soft dim light pervasive throughout the cafe.

The Score – Irelen’s Thumbscrews

The Spectral Society arrived at the Cat and Candle and noticed some unfriendly elements immediately. A short, balding man, who was chasing some students out with threats of dire fates should they return. People with suspicious glances, and furtive conversations.

Ignoring all of this they sidled up to Irelen who was in a private booth and before his bouncer could show them the door, produced the “original” version of his paper and because making suggestions about how bad it could be for someone’s academic career if such a thing got out. Harland and Hix pushed, while Elke sat back a bit looking spooky and keeping an eye out for trouble. And trouble she kept at bay!

[Hix and Harland worked together to sway Irelen. Even though he was on his own turf had more backing they they did, and knew there would be punishment to face from the Sisters, they were also hitting him where it really hurt. We compared several factors, bounced back and forth a few times and settled ironically on a risky action with standard effect. The result was a success with consequences, which was fitting, as I elected two options: complication and ending up in a desperate position].

Irelen, a faithful servant, but not an academic cutthroat was caught entirely off guard by these accusations. We had established previously that Irelen had an unhealthy affinity for spiders, and previously saw one crawling casually on his shoulder. [They made this so personal however, Irelen has no recourse but to seek his patron’s help, a Devil’s Bargain that started a 4 tick clock “Dimmer Sisters protect their Spiders”. Filled 1/4]. Now we saw, in his panic, as he began to sweat and scratch furiously at his thick tangle of hair, that a much larger wolf spider followed by two of it’s brood freed itself of the nest made in Irelen’s hair and began moving with great speed along the edge of the wooden booth. Elke, noticing something was not right about this spider (something in addition to the fact that it lived on Irelen’s scalp) lunged out quickly to mash the arachnid under her hand and held it there, while staring daggers at the panicked student. [Mechanically, she resisted the desperate position they were about to be in once the wolf spider delivered a message using Prowess to smash it]. With no support coming from the Sisters, Irelen folded, asked to be let out of the booth (they were trapping him in) and told the sturdy bald man that they were leaving. All of them were leaving! The gruff man however was not quite ready to follow those orders. The patrons and followers of the Dimmer Sisters left, but not all of them left [complication they’ll have to deal with later].

Payoff, Heat, and Entanglements

Once cleared out the server, a strapping young man who could read the signs well enough to know who his new bosses were, asked them if they’d like anything from the menu, or anything else for that matter (showing that he knew they were in charge). Elke told him she wanted her own special tea brewed and the rest began deciding how they would like to start redecorating! More candles!

Given the option to have free drinks on the house [0 coin], tax the sales [2 coin] or empty the coffers into their pockets [4 coin], the Doskvol Spectral Society decided they wanted to be loved more than the were feared and left the business operation in tact, only selecting a private booth to be their own [o coin].

Scaring off the Dimmer Sisters was definitely something that would get them noticed! [2 Rep].

The job itself went very smooth and there was no violence or even outbursts involved, but the Dimmer Sisters are well connected and will certainly not take this lightly. [1 Heat for a Smooth and Quiet Job + 1 Heat for a well connected target. Total Heat 6].

What suspicion did they raise? Apparently a tip off to the Spirit Wardens that illegal spirit essences were being housed on premises. We made a nod to this when the brawny server was helping Hix put on the Scholar’s Eve debate (see Downtime below) and told one of the other servers who was about to pull a wine amphora off a shelf “no, not that one, that one is special, it stays right there.” [This was a near impossible result, but I think it will be a great one to show the dangers of just being people in Duskvol. Their Heat was up to 6 and I rolled a 6 on the Entanglements table: Arrest. Should be exciting next session]


Elke spent more time with her weird stuff, playing with trinkets and baubles dedicated to forbidden gods, ancient spirits, and mythical demons. [Indulging Vice]. She also continued her investigation of the properties of possession [Long term project] as well as how the Dimmer Sisters use their Spiders [Coin spent for another long per project].

Hix wanted to show that the Doskvol Spectral Society was legitimate enterprise by hosting a Scholar’s Eve at the Cat and Candle. A night of trivial, lectures, and debate. A lively discussion about which of the Morlan brothers was in the right broke out and as usual it was only resolved by much inhalation of dream smoke and agreeing to disagree! The spent from the crews coffers to make this a huge event and Hix did a great job welcoming new patrons [Hix performed the consort action to make sure everyone was having a good time and got a 6, the then spent all the coin needed to get a crit on their Reduce Heat action, which reduced their heat from 6 to 1, and it was further reduced to 0 because of their “Flying Below the Radar” move]. As far as the Blue Coats are concerned the DSS isn’t even worth their time to look into, just a bunch of college kids. Unfortunately, Spirit Wardens already had a tip off that illegal spirit essence was in the Cat and Candle and are planning a raid. I wonder where they could have heard that from…]. During the preparation for the party, Hix also started making drafts for the renovation of old lightning towers. Maybe, just maybe she’ll have the work ready for professor Mendelson before professor Farros steals all the resources out from underneath him for her researching into theoretical electroplasmic tunnelling! [working on a long term project].

Harland. Poor Harland. A bit too slow on the ball. Once things were secure with the Cat and Candle, Harland took a look at the flier that had been left for him, decoded it, and found it there was another seance…which happened a few days ago. Crushed and wanting to make it up to the Path of Echoes he went to that sub basement in Morlan Hall. An old storage room that had been repurposed to provide a hidden ritual space for the Hierophant and Master of Secrets.

Unlit and cold the room appeared unoccupied at first, but the moment Harland entered it he felt a icy chill go down his spine and goosebumps begin to prickle his flesh. His breath frosted over in front of him but instead of dissipating as it normally would in the cold, it began to take shape. As he continued to breath, albeit shallow short breaths now, the frost took the form of a stern woman in an ancient naval uniform. When the frost has formed alway the way down to her hand, he recognized as ring on her finger with the emblem of the Immortal Emperor on it. She reached out to grab his hand and despite the horrible chill, he could distinctly feel cold metal sticking to his skin where the ring touched him.

[As this was happening I told eric that in the presence of ghosts, without a whisper or rail jack or electroplasmic field to contain them, most people were just out of their depths and that their natural impulses drove them to either flee wildly or stand stricken in terror. Like other effects though, this could be resisted… which he did, but rolled poorly enough that he filled up his stress and was taken out of the scene and gained a trauma. He chose Paranoid. Good choice!]

Though ultimately under the ghost’s power, he could not be possessed by it, and so was able to hold his own and find out that Lucella wanted to return the old order and the might of the emperor to Doskvol, starting with the expulsion of the empire’s enemies, the Skovlanders (Remember, Lucella died long before the last unity war when Skovlan was defeated. Even learning that they were, she doesn’t trust them). She asked for his assistance and wrapped him in her icy embrace. Before he could answer though his primordial brain took over and said this was all too much. He fainted and collapsed on the floor. His shallow breath insufficient to give Lucella form!

[Because Harlan didn’t get a chance to take his downtime actions, we all agreed that next session we’ll flash back to before he entered the basement to give him his two actions, and what luck, clearing stress doesn’t have to be one of them!]

Storm Clouds on the Horizon

Next session we’ve got a missing Harland, an arrest, and more personal retribution from the Dimmer Sisters and their Spiders. Should be good times!

What Rocked

I just love that the scoundrels still don’t see themselves as the bad guys. I hope they never do. They’ve got this youthful innocence about them, even when they are blackmailing a fellow student and crushing his dreams. Irelen nearly cried in front of them, and the brushed it off as the unfortunate fate of cheaters…already believing their own lies. What wonderful Blades.

Though it pained me to cut Harlan’s downtime short, I loved the scene with Lucella. She does and doesn’t represent the Path of Echos, so even though she’s “taken him out”, he’s among friends, right? How bad can that be?

Making the map of the Cat and Candle was so much fun. It’s great to have these downtime activities to do when I’m thinking about the game. Similarly I’ve been advancing the clocks of other factions and it’s been great to see which ones the Doskvol Spectral Society has aided and which ones they have interfered with. Blades makes off screen work fun!

Elka mashing that wolf spider without breaking eye contact with Irelen. Awesome!

Augus thinking Hix was high when she was actually just very short on blood. So much fun, and Adrienne rolled with it so well. Even when I reminded her of how painful the injury was. She just smiled and took it in.

Our first Trauma. Woot!

The plan to blackmail Irelen was just masterful. I also love that it brought in Grace. I can’t wait for her to make another appearance on her own terms! So many clocks have started ticking!

An arrest? Damn, let’s see if the society can pull together the bribe money or if someone is ending up in Ironhook!

A Scholar’s Eve party to reduce heat? How fucking cool is that? I just love how much the players continue to incorporate the academic environment they are from into so many of their actions. If it were just me, they’d probably already be mugging rich guys on the street for loose change, but no, they are getting involved with the school’s factions, taking over a late night student cafe, blackmailing other students with threats of academic misconduct. So much good stuff here.

What could be improved

During downtime I should have an action roll made to get Irelen’s paper from Augus’ office unnoticed. Depending on how they wanted to handle it I could see a sway roll from Hix or a Prowl teamwork action from.

I should have also called for some action to buy time with Irelen. I decided the engagement roll would cover that, but really that should have just meant he had no special preparation to respond to being blackmailed with, it wouldn’t mean that his brute squad wouldn’t still vet anyone that wanted to sit at his table. I think two things were lost by skipping this. One, we didn’t get any sense of how dangerous the Dimmer Sister’s were and two, it made the operation as a whole feel a bit simple.  I certainly don’t want to come up with gratuitous obstacles but it seems like entry into someone else’s turf should prove a challenge.

I was wracking my brain trying to think of what the basement in Morlan hall should look like. What would it be filled with. My brain totally froze and I ended up making it more “ritual sacrifice” than the “musty storeroom” it should have been. The silly part is that all I had to do was look at page 73 of the quickstart to get a whole list of ideas to spin off of. Just scanning the narrow columns now I already have a few ideas that would have worked great.

Both Harlan and Hix has really involved close friends and allies (Stras and Augus in particular but Grace and Salia have also made appearances). I want to do more with Elke’s contacts (Nyryx and Scurlock). I’ve got a few ideas for Edlund, but I’m just not coming up with anything for Nyryx. I suppose it’s fine to wait until she decides to engage with him (he’s her close friend) but I’d like to think this very sensual spirit is off possessing people and getting into trouble all on his own as well. I’m not even looking for problems to give the crew, just more character out of those NPCs. I’ll keep thinking on it and see what the players think (yay for having more brains than just mine).

3 thoughts on “Actual Play – Score: The Cat and Candle (5/30/2016)”

  1. – Love the details on Sparkwright Tower and the Cat & Candle! Also, whoa holy shit – arrest!? Can’t wait for next session!

    – I also like that we see ourselves as the good guys – but I, Adrienne, felt like such a jerk re Irelen. Poor guy! Part of me hopes we get to pick on some more bad baddies soon.

    – I’m sure Hix’ll get plenty of other opportunities to sway Augus, Sean. Swaying Augus is an important part of her career development.

    – You may have a hard time bringing Scurlock in directly – Elke’s got that “I will kill him on sight.” blood-oath. On the other hand – why not? How could that scene not be rad?

    – I still don’t think I could run this. I know some of the moves (treating the acquisition of an asset prep as a downtime action) are advanced and thus not necessary, but I really don’t feel like I have a grasp on these rolls. When to employ: rolling your tier, resistance rolls, GM fortunate rolls; also estimating the magnitude of effect one is after. When you run it it seems seamless, but I wish I had more insight into the mechanics. Downtime seems straightforward. It’s how and when things get rolled pre-score and during the score that I don’t really get. (Thus, in some ways it’s comforting that you’re second-guessing yourself about what the engagement roll covers and what not. Personally though, I was cool with having a more low-key score. We’d already had the little set-up score with the Lampblacks as a prelude to acquiring this turf anyway.)

    – I like the clocks. But there are many clocks. Is it really okay if they never get full? If Augus never finds out about our cheating? I guess even a partly-filled clock influences the game; so it’s not like there are no consequences. Eg I definitely made the call not to involve Augus in Scholar’s Eve because I didn’t want to advance that clock.

    – I feel a little bad that Harland got saddled with a trauma when Eric was trying to initiate a recovery scene with his vice to lower his stress. But I’m pretty sure Eric is loving it, so, you know, it’s all good.

    Favourite Bits:

    – Also, definitely that cold, smashing of the wolf-spider. Elke also chimed in with a “He’s dead.” at the most perfect, off-putting moment in our gambit with Irelen.

    – The cups available at the Cat & Candle were ‘fine, delicate and chipped’ or ‘hardy, thick and chipped’.

    – The intimidating back and forth with Harland. (And Eric referring to ‘Spider on Spider’ action – though Elke’s the one who faced the real deal.)

    – The spider tatoo on Irelen’s neck moving. Very creepy. Very cool. Also Harland’s breath ‘giving the ghost substance from which to form’ was such a great image.

    – Elke’s cigraette case with her own tea blend that she carries with her. Of course.

    – Great to see Eric really having to weigh whether he wanted to have a super cool trait unlocked, but then be obliged to help champion this mad ghost’s cause.

    1. Yeah, I’m happy to have Scurlock show up either because you’ve actively sought him out or because you’re actively messing with his business (so far you’ve only toughed the edges of it).

      As far as all the clocks running, I really like having a lot in the balance because it means at some point you’ll have the choice of watch one bad thing to come to fruition or start another bad thing on its way (it’s like doing balance transfers of debt, sooner or later they come due). Also, by having lots of clocks we keep any one of them from being all consuming. My feeling about the “one bad thing we have to stop” is that it’s a little bit boring and there many interesting choices, since every choice has to be to stop it. But when there are three or four or seven or eight bad things, then it becomes a matter of weighing one bad thing against the other, which I think is far more fun.

      And yeah, I agree, Augus may never find out about the forgery. He’s at 1/4 ticks, but I’m not going to advance that clock unless something in the fiction pushes it forward. Irelen hates you guys with a fiery passion, but he’s going to his base of power (Dimmer Sisters) and to his academic adviser (Una Farros) long before he goes to Augus.

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