Actual Play – The Harpers (4/6/2015)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Dale Horstman, and Matt Klein
System: Blades in the Dark, Quick Start Kit edition

Last night we spun up the quick start kit of Blades and made some scoundrels.

The Harpers

Timoth “Quill” Kinclaith (Matt), an ex-military Skovlan man who realized he and his older brother were fighting on the wrong side. Previously part of a noble Skovlan family, he’s now been disowned by his dear mother for changing sides in the unity war. In Duskwall on account of Roslyn Kellis, an Akoros noble an friend of the Kinclaith family that had urged them to change sides years ago. Roslyn took Quill and his brother Edlun in and introduced them a few of her “business” associates. [Lurk]

Edlun Kinclaith (Karen), is Timoth’s older brother and the only one who can call him Timoth (he insists everyone else call him Quill). Where Quill is tall and unkempt, Edlun looks like he is still a professional soldier. Close cut hair, polished armor, and a fine pair of pistols at his side. He is every part the capable scoundrel.  When they arrived Roslyn introduced Edlun to Casta, a bounty hunter and the two of them did a job together. Casta was quite impressed with how well Edlun took to the streets of Duskwall, and truth be told if it weren’t for Edlun the whole thing would have fell through. [Hound]

Raheem Almar (Dale), is a dark skinned man from Iruvia who used to be a deathlands scavenger and now traffics in all things unusual in nature. He carries with him the fingerbone of Hoxan, his dead mentor, now a rogue spirit (vengeful, clever, and destructive). [Whisper]

Jorus Brogan (Sean), nephew of Roslyn Kellis is from the poorer mercantile Brogan family that Roslyn married out of. While Brogan textiles operates in the Crow’s Foot as a legitimate business, back taxes, tariffs and competitors has driven the family business into the ground. Jorus says the real money is in swindling investors, but his career as a scoundrel is relatively recent, so, it’s not like he would really know. One leg up he does have is that the Brogan family has long been a legitimate front for Bazso Baz’s illicit dealings, and the two of them have come to trust in one another. You know, as much as two soundrels can. [Slide]

Note: I made a character as part of our gang but as per the rules he never came into play. Should another player take over as GM, I’d get to play Brogan then.

The Harpers (Thieves) had hidden out right under the noses of The Crows in Crow’s Foot. They have a secret lair inside Brogan’s Textiles and from their plan their heists and the deliver the goods to Amancio, their fence. Though initially doing jobs fed to them by Roslyn, after putting out a fire that threatened one of The Crow’s stash houses, Lyssa (then only 2nd in command of The Crows) gave them a job, and so far has been very impressed with how professional they timeliness and work is. [Thieves]

IMG_4505In the House of Bazso Baz

With a name like that I have a hard time not imagining an Arabian Pirate dressed in flowing white linen clothes and his arms wrapped in gold bands accentuating his muscle. His chest still strong but his belly showing both the slowing of his metabolism and the easier life he now leads.

“You’ve come well recommended. I know my friend Jorus runs with you, and more important Lyssa says that even though you’re a small piss ant crew, you carry yourselves professional and do a clean job and don’t ask too many questions. It just so happens I’ve got a job. Are you with me?”

Bazso let that hang in the air for a bit before adding “…or are you against me?”

Naturally the Harpers wanted to know just what the job was. Knocking over an Opium den called The Red Lamp in the north shore (called the silkshore) of Crow’s Foot. Anyone that is anyone knows that is way outside of the Sashes’ normal turf, so it’s a baller move just that they have.

“I want you to get some crates out of that building, you’ll need a cart to carry them all. The contents are fragile. You bring them back to me in one piece and I split the profits with you 70/30. You break them all and you get nothing by my satisfaction in knowing you fucked over the the Red Sashes. This is my turf those fuckers are on.”

Everyone in that room knew damn well it was not the Lampblack’s turf at all, but nobody was going to argue that point with Bazso Baz. Bazso had been drawing a crude map of the Crow’s Foot in a small sand garden designed for that purpose. The scoundrels turned from him and without offering an answer they started drawing on the map and making a plan. After some time of this, while Bazso just watched them attentively, and  waited for an answer.

Quill and Edlan did a good cop bad cop routine, arguing with each other for a bit. Edland said “we always do even splits, 50/50 or it’s nothing”. Quill tried to calm him (or at least pretended to) and said “We we’ve gotta be reasonable. This is our first time working with the Lampblacks, we’re paying for a future profitable relationship.” He turned to Bazso and offered “We’ll do it for 40%”.

[Our first roll of the game. Dale grabbed his 1D from Sway. He took 1D as a helping die from Karen (who was playing the Eldan pressuring for more) and 1D for the Devils Bargain that Bazso was going to send someone to watch over them. We called this Risky, with the danger being that they’d offend Bazso and become his enemy. Result was a 5 –  The danger manifests, they might be on the Lampblack’s shit list. Quill slipped out of Bazso’s anger by playing this off as typical negotiations. He rolled resistance with Finesse and got a 6, opting to take 1 stress and stay in Bazso’s good favor. For effect he rolled a 5 and got a partial effect. I ruled this would make for 1 extra coin at the end of the score]

“40 is what I pay people I know. I have…extra expenses… when I work with new people. 35.”

Quill reach across to shake his hand and felt it nearly crushed by the bigger man’s vice grip.

As they walked out of Bazso’s office, the noticed the incense lighter that had been there the whole time and listening in stepped in stride alongside them. “I’m Birch, I’m here to make sure you all do the job as planned.” He did not say “And don’t try to doublecross my boss” as it was implicit!

Casing the Joint

[Here I think I jumped the gun a bit as a GM. So eager to use the planning mechanic of  “pick a plan, then fill in the detail” that I think I robbed the players of time to get a good grasp on what they wanted to do. More on this under what could be improved below.]

Raheem and Edlum noticed one prominent figure going in and out of the Red Lamp on a regular basis. He walked with a confident swagger hand had a very fine blade at his side. Hanging from the ornate pommel was a red sash. The followed the man (Cross) as he did his round and the sent the signal to Quill on the roof when he’d be clear to get a good look at the building. As the last moment when they were following him Cross spun and turn around, having forgotten something. Edlum just played it cool though and rolled a cigarette, which Cross bummed one off of him and walked on, none the wiser. [Raheem led a group action: Risky move. Faced the danger, absorbed it with stress, a setup move to Quill who took their effect dice on his roll]

On the rooftops quill danced around to get a good vantage point. Everything was in his favor, the coast was clear [Controller situation] but he just couldn’t spy the service entrance they wanted to use. [1-3 A flaw in the plan, Risky move to try it]. Quill shimmied down between two buildings and got closer, but just then he noticed that Birch was below spotting him. Birch, who everyone knew was a Lampblack…right next to a Red Sashes den…out in the open. Just as one of the guards was about to spot Birch, Quill grabbed a shingle from the room of the building he was on now and flung it into the ally, distracting the guard long enough for Birch to notice him and get scarce. Sadly, what Quill realized was the service entrance was actually the beach and that all good that came in and out were from the waterfront. They’d need to get a boat [Risky move. Danger faced. Absorbed with Stress. Effect was diminished].

IMG_4504Cut to the chase

[We were running out of time and I really wanted to get to the end of session stuff, so we compressed it all down to one action to get in and out with the goods]

We cut to Kinclaith brothers carrying the goods out and onto a boat. Just as they were about to set it down one of the crates cracked open and an alchemicaly sealed vial of spirit essence rolled out. From a distance, Raheem who was look out channeled the essence to lift up, and the bottled floated in mid air just long enough that Edlan could safely retrieve it and shove it back in the crate before the made off. Sadly it turned out their little boat was big enough for all the goods and they had to leave some of it behind. [Mechanically they got the good but danger manifested (bottle rolling out), resisted with Finesse to catch it, but aided by Rahaeem. Effect was partial, why they cold only hold most of the goods].

After the party there’s the after party

Good given to Bazso Baz, it was time to celebrate.

Edlum went on a shopping spree, buying himself the nice things that remind him of his life as a noble. Quill spent a night with the Prichard Twins.

Trouble was the inspectors came knocking, wanting a cut, and when they were refused, the heat increased!

Much palm greasting was done. Quill, now acquainted with Bazso Baz wine and dined him and improved the relationship between the two gangs. Edlum used our connection with Roslyn to get the heat off of us [Slipper] and Raheem started researching the Ghost Fumes the stole (of course he kept a bottle for himself). We he uncorked it he instantly remembered his first day in the steam ships going out to hunt a leviathan… only he had never been on a steam ship, and the memory was that of a dead man! [2 of 8 segments along the way of understanding the Spirit wine ghost fumes]

What rocked

The character creation was great fun. The Kinclaith brothers were great, and although I didn’t play Jorus, I was really happy how all our characters were connected via NPCs. The gang creation was a ton of fun as well. The options were cool and it made it easy for us to envision where they existed in the world.

The starting situation (fragile peace broken) and prompt (Bazso Baz offering a job) made it easy to kick off the game. I really liked our starting scene and the problems (and opportunities) it immediately presented.

The ability to take stress to resist bad outcomes goes a long way to our scoundrels being bad ass. I really like that you can decide to either stuff an ill effect or freak out about it a little as it just barely doesn’t happen.

Vices. Oh, vices make the scoundrel. So much good stuff there.

What could have improved

I got a little flustered when they actually went on for the score. I was trying to make it streamline but I think I just needed to relax a bit. It started with saying we want to case the joint. I asked how and they said they would look for access points, where guards were, etc. I figured that sounded like Secure. Dale was going to try it but realized he had nothing in secure, so wanted to know if there was something else he could do instead to help Matt try it (who did have a dot in Secure). We talked a bit and he decided to watch the guard and follow them around to see what was up. Cool, that’s Stalk, no problem. Initially it was going to be a guard, but then they mentioned a character they had made up when making some bluster in front of Bazso Baz. An fat guy who walked around giving people nips off his flask. And they would hold the guy who sold him rum at knife point and make them give the fat man poisoned rum. I thought, cool, that sounds like a flashback. But in all of that we got confused about what it was all for, since the Gather Information attempt was to find a point of entry for an infiltration.

We worked it out but I was flipping through the pages trying to find the flashback rules, which I couldn’t do quickly enough to stat in the conversation, and kept falling behind. All the ideas were good but they were coming to fast for me, and I was trying to keep it to a simple action or two, especially because…

The die mechanic was less smooth that I remembered when playing. We kept doing things that I thought should have effect rolls (how much do you haggle Bazso Baz down, how big of an opening to you provide Quill to case the joint, etc) and we kept getting 4/5 results on the risky table which mean danger was presenting itself every time. That meant three rolls, all woven between the fiction. We did it all, but at times it felt awkward and Matt was cursing the 5 result. Damn you 5, we need a 6!

I couldn’t find the Advancement & Coin page (Page 20 of the quick start in case you’re dumb like me) I think because it came before the Starting the game page (page 26) and I had mental block that it couldn’t be before it. So, when we were doing downtime I was having a really hard time remember what order things went it and what rewards folks got. It worked, it was just more clunky than I wanted it to be.

Most of this stuff I think will improve with system mastery. I want to play again!

2 thoughts on “Actual Play – The Harpers (4/6/2015)”

  1. I’ve noticed some “4/5 fatique” as well, Sean. It’s something that can happen in AW, too.

    I’m thinking about modifying the 4/5 result on a Risky move to this:

    “4/5: You do it but the danger manifests or your effect is reduced (-1 level).”

    So if it’s a simple obstacle you can just take a reduced effect rather than dealing with a danger (and rolling resistance). How’s that sound to you?

  2. Yeah, I think that would be a strong option, particularly because it reduced the number of times you’ll need to make three rolls.

    Example 1: Action roll that is binary (no effect roll needed). 4/5 -> Danger presents itself. Effect roll is made for resistance.

    Example 2: Action roll that requires and effect roll. 4/5 -> Effect roll is made (reduced).

    There would still be cases to roll Action, Effect, and Effect for resistance, but they would come up less frequently.

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