Actual Play – Sealing the Deal (3/29/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Eric Fattig, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark

Sealing the Deal

We opened up this session in a butcher shop of the Billhooks. It was super not neutral ground, but it was the best Arquo could arrange to meet Corro. There they dropped the bomb. “We trashed your crew with ghosts, and we’ll do it again if you don’t back off now!” Or that was the gist of it.

Corro, who took all of this VERY personally was less interested in peace between their factions and more interested in his lying, cheating, ruinous brother. His conditions were first that they hand him over, then when that was refused, that they ostracized him from the crew, and finally when that was refused, he agreed to accept them doing a job for him in the future. He hated the deal, and only held off on having the Billhooks murder the three of them (Arquo, Jadvyga and Ro) because he still saw opportunity in them being alive, but it killed him to do it. [Mechanically there were several partial success and bad outcomes on Sway rolls, with each of the consequences being resisted, and finally ended with a Crit on a Command roll by Ro who gave the final offer at the end].

Flashback to the Bodies

We then flashed back to night before, Arquo told Jadvyga to run the engines as hot as she could to get them to docks where Arquo could offer the bodies up to Setarra. He didn’t tell them this is what he was doing, but was very clear they needed to make it there fast! Only one of them lived long enough however, the other bled out before the could make it. As they arrived at the pier, the faint tolling of the bell could still be heard. [They opted to just try and get their fast rather than administer care to either of the injured. Since they both took fatal harm, allowed them to set the risk (Controlled – Desperate) and based on that would roll a number of fortune dice to determine if they lived (1 for controlled, 2 for risky, 3 for desperate). Jadvyga pushed for desperate and got a crit! I rolled 4 dice (an extra one for a crit) and got a mixed result (5) so we elected that one of them lived long enough and the other died on the way there. Afterward I realized that I had essentially gone back to the old “roll for Effect” rules from QS3. Fun time!]

Arquo, out of character, asked Ro and Jadvyga to give him time alone, to meet his contact or some lie like that. Ro was happy to comply with but Jadvyga had to know what was going on. After they left she convinced him to double back and spy on Arquo to see what was happening. [At this point, it entered what felt like it could have been a PC vs. PC situation, so I did as the wise John advised and paused the game. We then discussed our interests as players (Adrienne really wanted them to see all this even if Arquo, her character was being clandestine). Then we set the resolution method, which in this case was using a standard action roll (Risky) but the risk was posed by Setarra noticing them, rather than Arquo, as Adrienne said his mind was elsewhere and he wouldn’t be paying attention. See page 41 of Blades for a more detailed guidelines]

As they crept along the pier the noticed a beautiful women from the Dagger Isles, maybe Elke’s older sister, step on to the boat and smile warmly at Arquo. As though he was a lover she hadn’t seen in ages and all that she wanted in this moment was for him to be near her. Or at least that is what Ro saw.

Jadvyga on the other hand felt the power of her ancestors blood running cold in her veins. She felt all the horrors that she had fled in Tycheros come to her and for the first time she saw, what she knew, had to be, a True Blood. Or at least that is what she knew them by. Black scales, shark eyes, looking over Arquo with clawed hands, embracing him like a lover she hadn’t seen in ages and all that she wanted in this moment was for him to be near her. Jadvyga feinted, and Ro was quick to administer care.

Setarra’s Satisfaction

Arquo, in that moment felt like all was right with the world. It didn’t matter that one of the Hive agents died along the way. Setarra’s smile was complete and enveloping. He had brought her a nearly dead man that she could feed the blood of demons and harvest over the eons. Not only that but he had consecrated the human in her name, simply the most thoughtful thing an mortal could do. Setarra’s delight brought a smile to Arquo’s face and her touch made his pain and weariness disappear. The embraced again and then she pushed the body into the water and it sunk immediately into the void below.

Setarra was sure that Arquo would bring him another offering very soon. She had ever confidence.

Payoff

Coin: 6 (Bazso took them off Ro’s hands. It’s not really his deal, but he could fine someone who wanted rare hunting cats)
Rep: 4 (Hitting the Hive!)
Heat: 4 (Smooth an contained, high profile target, on enemy turf)
Entanglement: Unquiet Dead (hasn’t materialized yet)

Downtime

Ro met up with his fiend Salia to see if she could help him get over the lingering terror that he still carried with him from the encounter with the ghosts in Charhallow. Salia was no doctor, but she she was happy to accompany him to the Vale. Ro enjoyed the flirting (and more) commonly practiced in the Vale, while Salia seemed only there for the conversation (and more) she could glean from the clientele. As an aside on Salia, after her breakup with Hix, she hit a downward spiral for a while, but seems to have come out of it with a new sense of purpose. She isn’t the casual party host any longer, she’s decided to take her natural talents of fishing secrets out of people and put it to real use. Salia is a little colder, a little less vulnerable, and a lot more driven than she was before Hix. A different person now; she’s getting business done! [Recovery + Indulge Vice]

Yadvyga, suffering from many maladies (sprained ankle, scratched cornea, and a gut wound) was in a bad way. Despite her trepidation about Arquo dealing with demons, she needed his help find find someone to take care of her. And despite his trepidation about taking her to see his racist family friend, Melvir was the only person he knew that could help her. Melvir’s reaction was predictable. He freaked out. He went on a tirade. He reached for his demonbane charms. But Arquo shut that down. All of it. He made it very clear that Melvir owed him this and that sawbones was going to tend to Jadvyga and then tend to Arquo, and he was going to shut up about it [Risky Command. Devil’s Bargain: Melvir sees Arquo not as his war buddy’s boy, but as a dangerous man to be reckoned with. Full success!]. They stayed through the night and much of the next day as Melvir worked away at mending both of them [Recovery, lot’s of Recovery].

Later, Arquo sent out the student patrol, with Ro as their captain to, in fact, patrol the streets and walk people safely through Charterhall [Reduce Heat]

Ro, during the patrol and on his own, spent some time honing his own skills [Training Insight and Playbook]

Jadvyga pulled Ro aside and finally steeled herself to tell him what she really saw. The True Blood. A real demon. The think her people had made horrible sacrifices to excise from their lands. The thing she though she escaped coming to Akoros. And there was one. A real one. HERE! Sneaking into Dandwood’s library, which was easy to do because he was consumed with trying to figure out all of Elke’s notes and continue her research alone, the lifted some of the forbidden tomes and began researching means of identifying demonic corruption [Long Term Project 3/6].

Nobody really wanted to do it, but after the fight with the Hive, someone had to take care of Scapa, who was now (after the fight) casting disturbing shadows wherever she went. Reluctantly they asked Nyryx to teach her how to possess a living creature so that she could  slake her thirst for life essence. We’re sure this will go well [Recovery for Cohorts]

Arquo seeing the crew was running well, enlisted Jadvyga and Ro to the task of finding Major Crane, a man Arquo knew was hunting him regarding the disappearance of Arden Keel. They made some headway and saw him entering the Keel family home in Brightstone with the family. They didn’t fit in at all though, so they left quickly, before Bluecoats arrived to ask what it was they were doing. [Gather information…stakeout style!]

Exhausted and finding no nourishment with his family, Arquo calmed his own nerves by supplicating himself to Setarra and telling her that he would offer up Major Crane as her second sacrifice. [Indulge Vice].

What Rocked

Eric’s reveal about the Tycherosi feeling from demons and having to do horrible things to banish them was wonderful. I love that the crew is so concerned with Arquo’s well being and with the decisions that he’s making, but still following him!

Once Adrienne told me what was stressing Arquo out in the conversation with Corro (see below) I did get in some pretty good digs at making him feel overwhelmed with responsibility.

Arquo got in some pretty good digs of his own talking to Ro and Jadvyga “I want you to work with me because I know that neither of you are squeamish about killing…”

Bringing back rolling for effect (even though it was unintentional) was fun. I felt a little bad that after a crit they still didn’t both live, but sometimes the dice fail you.

The hilarious decision of what to do with the hunting cats, finally deciding that Ro would use his connection with Bazso to get rid of them. That tension between Bazso and Arquo just keeps building!

I was really glad to bring Salia back into the story in a positive way. She had some hard times but she’s bounced back. And she’s got some help now, leverage over some people and some influence!

What could have improved

During the conversation with Corro, Arquo got stressed out (took trauma) but for the life of us, we couldn’t figure out how he would be taken out of the scene. So we let him play it out, and then of course when were doing the flashback, he was still there because it was before then. I just felt like I wasn’t interrogating the scene enough as the mechanical results should always be able to be represented in the fiction if you has enough questions about it. We ended on Corro really putting the pressure on Arquo to be a good leader (since all the other leaders were gone) and that him allowing Harland back was a stupid idea. We also had him “miss a scene” by returning home and getting zero satisfaction out of speaking with his parents because they were judging him, didn’t understand what mattered to him, and generally felt like they didn’t understand him. It worked in a manner of sorts.

I also had to really wonder why Corro wouldn’t just kill them all on the spot (in the middle of the discussion when things were going poorly and they weren’t budging). Frankly it would have made sense, but I pulled back because I realized that I was the one who said they should meet with the Hive if they wanted to negotiate a truce, I was the one that framed the scene in the Billhooks butcher shop, and I was the one pushing for some pretty terrible choices. Offering up anyone of those things is totally my job, but demanding them all and giving the ultimatum of “if not, a bunch of dudes try to kill your characters” was bad form. I’m not really thrilled with how I framed that scene, but I’m also not really thrilled with the Hive’s reaction to accept reprisals from a lower tier gang. In the end, I think Corro needs to have an angle (a reason he wants them alive and operating) for that to make sense, and maybe we’ll find out he does when the do a score for him.

The whole thing with Major Crane made re realize I have been doing a piss poor job of keeping up with all the factions in Doskvol. By now Arquo should have faced more pressure to lay low or be caught by him (he did kidnap a wealthy families son in front of the Major who recognized him afterall). Also, there is a leviathan hunter’s journal still floating around… though I think in that case they just got wise that the DSS didn’t have it any more and moved on to find it.

My energy level wasn’t great during the game and took a steep turn for the worse in the last hour. I think that’s why for me I felt like I wasn’t painting the world with a haunted brush as much as I’d like.

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