Actual Play – Surprise visit for Scurlock (3/7/2017)

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

Arquo and Elke conspired to steal grant money from the Sparkwrights for their own undead experimentation and investigation. However, they decided that Harland and his ties to the Hive might be necessary to seal the deal, so they shelved the grant proposal and decided for a much more sensible course of action, visiting Scurlock to ask him to kill Vond for them. Sensible, right?

However, they realized that they didn’t know where or how to find the old man, so they turned to…

Summoning Setarra

On a rainy day at the docks, the camera zoomed past hundred of ships, and thousands of people working, cavorting, and performing ritual adulation, to find Elke and Arquo standing at the end of pier. The young whisper tired to cut her hand and drip blood into the water without Arquo noticing, but in her haste, she not only cut herself deeper than intended she also winced visibly enough that the Hound caught on tow what she was doing.

Without any other ideas for how do deceive him, Elke told Arquo that she was indeed using her blood to summon a “friend” and them proceed to beckon a demon. Moments later a nimble sailing ship slipped into the dock, and was tied off by a woman from the Dagger Isles. Copper skin, wavy hair, and full figured, she was everything that Elke might one day grow into. When introduced she gave a name that Arquo instantly forgot, but he pressed to clarify [Resisting her illusion] and eventually was given her name. In full and without guile, such that he could call it again, should he wish.

Traveling through Setarra’s Realm

At their request, and with a warning that they would not enjoy the experience, Setarra took both Arquo and Elke through the void sea water to a pool in the underground canal dock of Scurlock’s abode. On they way their they saw luminous orbs glowing like stars, but upon closer inspection, revealed dark figures inside moving slugishly. Around the orbs were silver chains which both held them fast and were anchored to the ground below. Where they touched the ground, half alive bodies, which were partially transformed into fish like creatures, seeped black blood, which floated up and into the orbs.

One of them, Arquo recognized as Ruby, a Lampblack that the society revealed as snitch so many moons ago. He wordlessly called to Aqruo, all the hound could do was hold on to Setarra’s hand for fear of being lost in this place forever [Supernatural dread].

A Deal with Scurlock

Setarra told them they would be safe from Lord Scurlock so long as they stayed in the pool she brought them in.  When Scurlock entered the room it was from far above and he had several stories of stairs to descend before he would make it to them, so Aqruo stepped out of the pool, onto the stone dock and to the waterside where he put a floating candle, with plans to later pick it up and track it back so he could find Scurlock manor again.

When he stood up from  placing the floating boat candle, Scurlock was beside him and asked him, ever so politely, asked what the stranger was doing in his domicile. Though a plea from Elke did prevent Scurlock from taking any visible action Arquo, as he turned he released a ghost from his command and it possessed Arquo so quickly and smoothly that nobody, including Arquo, noticed!

From in the safety of Setarra’s pool Elke told Scurlock about Vond and convinced him to work against her, even destroy her, provided that Elke both aid him in his reconnaissance of the Spirit Wardens and work with him to defeat Vond.

Return to Darkness

As they returned through the void sea, the ghost which possessed Arquo, upon brushing against one of the luminous orbs was burned away from inside Arquo, and they heard it’s screams as it was destroyed (turned out to be a bad plan for yee old ghosty). It was all Arquo could do to hold on and make it through the journey. When he arrived however, he was changed by the experience. Unhinged and [Unstable].

What Rocked

Going to Setarra to gain access to Scurlock is just magical. I mean, of course she knows how to get to his home and of course she can offer them a way there, but oh, the ride!

There was a moment when Arquo reached out to grab Elke’s hand when he got back in the pool and when he held it he felt safe. Only a moment later he realized it was Setarra’s instead.

To that end, Setarra’s entire appearance was meant to seduce Arquo. She appeared like a more mature Elke, vibrating with power. We all got a kick out of Arquo falling for her Allure. He had pierced her illusion, at least enough to get her name if not see her true form, and that intrigued her!

Scurlock and Elke also had a discussion of Arquo’s fate. The Lord offered to furnish his family well, should Arquo sign on as his manservant (an intentionally archaic term). They of course didn’t take the offer. But it was fun watching Scurlock try to gain more leverage over Elke. And was foiled!

Oh, I just loved it when Elke tried to summon Setarra but fumbled it. First it was a comical moment, but then an endearing one when she was really honest with Arquo.

I also loved it that she decided to go to Scurlock, even though she hates him. It’s the classic Spectral Society move to pit their enemies against each other, but in this case, it was really personal for Elke.

What could have improved

As a GM I love playing characters who are buffoons, who are incredibly vain, or comically bad at what they do. Low status characters are my favorite. Sometimes the PCs mock them, sometimes they sympathize, sometimes they even elevate them, but no matter what I never risk that they will fail to deliver on who I imagine them to be.

High status characters are just the opposite for me. I very much dislike both saying that a character is powerful and showing that they are powerful. The first feels false and insubstantial, the second feels vain and narcissistic (of me as a GM, not of the character). I think my best “powerful” characters are the ones that I don’t think too much about. People that just do things which we later look back at and thing “that person is terrifying”. When I try to force it though, I usually feel like I’m either propping them up and being mysterious about how “oooh, dangerous” they must be, or I’m overdoing it by showing them display powerful actions just to show off that they can do it. I dislike both.

So in this game I had two of the most powerful character in the fiction (Setarra and Scurlock) to depict. I think I did a passable job, mostly because Karen and Adrienne were great and played up to their fear and deference for them, so a light touch was all I needed. Still, I’d like a quick signifier to indicate that a character is dangerous, powerful, or deadly without relying on me saying they are so, or making a gratuitous display to prove it. An idea comes to mind that John does sometimes which is to tell PCs rumors they have heard, whether they choose to believe in them or not. Pondering.

One thought on “Actual Play – Surprise visit for Scurlock (3/7/2017)”

  1. I hear what you’re saying about low status vs high status characters, but Scurlock certainly seems terrifyingly powerful to me. He’s his own high tier. Most of the things we try to do have very limited effect. He shed some sort of specter that not even Elke could see.

    I was happy to have Arquo end up losing his cool and be terrified underwater, but it made me realize how sometimes it’s hard for me to remember to allow my campaign characters to fail.

    Possession can be a rough deal for a player. It’s very nice this game allows the option to resist compulsions to do things.

    Favourite Bits:
    Also Elke’s anxiety about Arquo seeing her do shady stuff. Loved it.
    – What we found under the water.
    – Elke’s declaration that Arquo was her man. (And dragging him off to get ritualed!)
    – The gentle pressure of the ghost inside Arquo when he was possessed. Nicely-handled, Sean!
    Also Arquo finding Setarra’s hand in his instead of Elke’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *