Actual Play – Thought Tendrils of a Forgotten God (2/14/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves  and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark, Rules v.8

Eric and family were sick so he had to miss our Valentine’s Day special. Oh the horrors!

Catching up where we left off

This game we started mid-score (where we left off last time) but added a complication [As a part of Jadvyga’s partial success on the last desperate action at he end of the game] which was that the drown powder was administered but worked to quickly. Arquo watched from the window below in horror as he saw the silhouettes of the figures inside shake and writhe in coughing fits as they suddenly started to “drown”. So much for waiting till the walked out in the street to do the job, he had to go back into the Hound’s Tooth to get them!

Elke’s devious plan

We don’t end up using Flashbacks all that often in our game. I think the reason why is that when presented with a situation, the crew normally has a some capacity to deal with it immediately. It may be desperate action, or it may make some assumptions about what resources are already available (gear as part of load, gangs, time to address the problem in the now, etc.) but usually they can (and do push forward). Not because they don’t want to spend the stress, but simply because they have fun scrambling to address whatever is in front of them now.

But this was situation where the resources they needed (time) wasn’t available and Elke had to figure out a way to already be in the Hound’s Tooth when Erin and Lannock were poisoned so she could quickly respond. Yay, flachback!

Kristov, my love

Outside the building, Elke spoke to Nyryx. He was in the body of a young boy from Charhallow, one of the many, many Haigs. It wasn’t his favorite body but after his recent experience, he was leery of taking over a body that he cared much about. Elke persuaded him to go possess one of the sex workers in the brothel and that she would follow shortly behind him and when she entered, the two of them would make for a private room.

Nyryx did a big of bargaining. Elke hadn’t usually given him explicit permission to possess others so he wanted to know how long he could stay in the body. Just for the job or could he get his kicks as well. Elke granted him until Smoke (the final hour of the day) to stay and so he enthusiastically agreed [Mechanically we were waffling between whether he would have 3 or 4 dice to attempt the possession and I decided it came down to how interested he was in doing it. Given leave to party in some new digs, he put in the extra effort and got 4 dice, not that they did him much good.]

When Elke entered she saw the same smokey room and in the center were three people who appeared to be having a dispute. A woman (Syra) was tugging on the hand of an attractive male courtesan (Kristov), who was resisting her advances. The young host was asking why Kristov wasn’t going with her. And he didn’t seem very happy about it! As soon as Elke entered Kristov/Nyryx [who she could identify easily because of Ghost Mind] gave here the “get me out of this” look. Though she was very uncomfortable in a brothel, seeing Nyryx in need helped her forget where she was and dive into action. She approached him rapidly, through some slugs down, and walked off with him. Leaving the host perplexed and the Syra infuriated! [Elke rolled her Lifestyle to pay for it. I offered her a Devil’s bargain to come in bold and assertive and leave a lasting impression on Syra, the woman who was trying to take Kristov/Nyryx upstairs, which she took. I called this a risky roll and she got a partial success. I opted for harm, which I would bring to the table shortly].

Delayed Action Harm

From within the small courtesan chambers Elke heard a horrible thump on the wall between her and their marks. Erin was rolling on the ground coughing and incapacitated, but Lannock was still struggling trying to get in one breath [Since Eric wasn’t there to roll for effect I decided that since Drown Powder was a Tier III item it had great effect on Erin (Tier II) but limited effect on Lannock (Tier IV)].

She was confused, expecting them to be dead already, but made for the room anyway. However, as she opened the curtains from her room a knife was thrust into her stomach [The harm I had been saving from before]. “It’s Commission Day. Kristov is mine!” Syra yelled as she tried to disembowel Elke. The young whisper leapt back and tangled Syra’s knife in the curtain [Resist with Prowess] and her sturdy Lampblack coat caught the rest of the blade’s force [Armor].

Rather than fight the woman she just turned to Kristov giving him a look of “okay, I guess this is what’s happening” and then back to Syra and said “He’s all yours!” Syra, seeing that she didn’t catch them in a state of undress and that Kristov was indeed waiting for her, begrudgingly lowered the knife and awkwardly squeezed through the narrow door to trade places with Elke. As the curtain feel there was an muffled voice from within “Kristov, my love…”

Drowning Alive

When Elke entered the room she saw Erin rolling around, blue in the face and coughing uncontrollably. Lannock however looked at her with mad bulging eyes. He groped toward her and fell down, then clambered back up and began crawling her way on all fours. Trying to to speak but unable, he simply coughed and oozed foam from his mouth.  Elke recoiled in horror, trying to press herself back into the corner as far as she could.

Seeing the silhouette of this action and realizing that they would never make it down to the street, Aquo climbed up the side of the wall and did so hastily enough that a loud clattering was heard within [Risky Prowl with a Devil’s Bargain to start an Alert Clock 1/4]. When he made it to the window and saw Lannock almost upon Elke, he drew his knife and dove on top of the old man and deftly slit his throat. White foam frothed forth along with the blood and Lannock rolled onto his back, dead.

The bell tolling was punctuated with a shot firing. In his dying breath Lannock drew his pistol and shot Aquo at point blank range right in the center mass! [Arquo, because Lannock was a tough old bastard was merely going to have great effect, but Adrienne wanted him dead on the spot so she pushed to Desperate/Extreme effect and rolled a partial success. He died, but dished out Level 3 harm as he went down. I also added two ticks on the Alert clock 3/4]. Arquo leapt out of the way and let his improvised rope cuirass take the brunt of the blow [Resist with Prowess and using Armor], turning a near fatal wound into merely a grazing shot!

Elke continued to watch in horror as he moved to Erin and choked the last bit of life out of her. Slowly and with great focus and care.

Calling up the Empty Vessel

Elke brought out the corroded silver circlet and very carefully placed it upon Lannocks head. She then attuned to force the ghost back into the body to do her bidding. Yet unformed and unprepared to be wrenched out of the body and then forced back in, Lannock’s ghost was malformed and instantly bent on vengeance against his killer, who he watched choke Erin to death on the floor beside him. [Desperate Attune due to the Circlet (it’s always desperate working with that thing) with a partial success]. She used the circlet but in forcing the spirit back into the body felt the backlash of the Empty Vessel that rocked her mind and overwhelmed her with the haunting cries of the dead. Only her steely resolve kept her from succumbing but still she saw nightmares all around [Level 3 Harm – Catatonic reduced to Level 2 – Waking Nightmares].

She then called his name and Lannock’s ghost was under her command, but when it had the chance, it would lash out at Arquo. Lannock stood up and stared forward with dead eyes. However when Arquo finished his work with Erin he could swear that just for a second the eyes flashed down to the pistol lying on the ground at Lannock’s feet. [Controlled Command. Partial Success]

Then, Elke tried to do something that had never been done. Again! She Attuned to Circlet once more and commanded to absorb a second spirit, and hold control over both of them at once! The Empty Vessel, exposed in this act offered Elke a terrible possibility to open her mind to it, or reject it, which of course she did, and it once again unleashed it’s wrath upon her but she deflected it’s psychic energy out from her causing it to disperse through the building and touch everyone inside with it’s glorious visage [Elke was going to take Level 3 Harm just for trying to use it, resisted with resolve and instead of doing Level 2 Harm, it did Level 1 Harm to everyone in the building]. Arquo, already impaired and at such close range took the brunt of assault and was also struck with Elke’s Screams of the Dead! [He already had both of his Level 1 Harm boxes filled in and so he had to take it as Level 2. Adrienne could have rolled resolve to stress but she wanted to go for!].

Once circlet. Two ghosts. Many, many maddened souls.

Delivering the Product

Lannock and Erin’s bodies, led by Elke and Arquo walked out of the Hound’s Tooth amid a sea of chaos. The patrons and proprietors alike were writhing in pain, screaming at mirrors, and reliving the deaths of those who had passed before.

When the stepped into the gondola, Ogre, who had been waiting the in boat and heard the screams from the brothel, and saw the stilted walk of Lannock and Eric along with their dead eyes shimming in the night, became suddenly interested in his belt buckle and fiddling with the finicky boat motor.

“Where is Harland?” Elke asked. She proceeded to get more and more upset (which just scared Ogre even more) when he couldn’t tell her, only that Harland wasn’t around so he came to drive them.

The maid their way slowly through Crows Foot and to the docks. Just across the main channel they saw the check points where Spirit Wardens and Blue Coats watch for good passing in and out of the docks. Arquo, beleaguered as he was offered to distract the Spirit Warden so Elke could pass safely. When he tried to get out of the boat Lannock lunged forward to grapple him and pull him into the water below, but Aquro jumped out of the way and Elke once more seized control of the spirit, demading that it hold fast!

When he approached the warden Arquo told the truth, or some version of it. There was a building in Crows Foot called the Hounds Tooth and people were going crazy inside it. The plea resonated with the Spirit Warden but instead of leaving his post, he fetched a Bluecoat, Henner, to deliver the message. [Sway with Limited Effect, the Spirit Warden was distracted, but not gone]. Arquo pressed harder and got up in the face of the Warden and then knocked away the Bluecoat who tried to pull him back. He screamed that there was madness in that place! [Risky sway for standard effect, Partial success meant he had Henner on his tail!]

The Warden opted to look into this disturbance on his own as Arquo, who had used his name [+1 Heat, Devil’s Bargain] to get the Warden’s attention, fled from Henner! [+2 Heat, Serious Consequence]

Unobstructed, Elke and Ogre pulled the gondola up to a small dock with stairs leading up to the street, instructed Erin and Lannock to walk into the large headquarters of the North Hook Company, go to Lannocks Office, and await the crows, which they had been keeping ahead of. Getting there banged the boat up some, damn Harland was the only one who knew how to make it steer straight! [Controlled Finesse. Partial success]

A terrible realization. A mad dash!

After the deed was done Arquo was still fleeing Henner and that is when Elke realized that she had left Nyryx behind, having suffered the same psychic attacks as everyone else in the brothel and a Spirit Warden had been sent to investigate it. What would happen to him!?!

Elke suddenly told Ogre to gun the boat back to the brothel but when he revved the engine too quickly the boat took on water and the engine was flooded, it took Ogre a moment just to get it to start up again [Risky Finesse, -1D because the boat is finicky, bad outcome. The boat took more harm, was as now impaired and because time was running out they were in a desperate position].

They debated running but Elke knew it was still faster to race through the canals of Crows Foot that it was the streets. Arquo had circled back around by this point and he jumped off the street down into the boat, just as Ogre got the engine started and floored it to get to the Hound’s Tooth. They were making good time but as they entered the channel between districts, out of nowhere a giant steamer came plowing through and smashed right into to gondola and smashed it to smithereens [Desperate Finesse, bad outcome. The ship too severe harm and the opportunity was lost!].

Floundering in the water all looked lost but Arquo helped Elke get out of the water [Protect against the loss of opportunity]. Elke staggered out. She was wet and gasping and out of breath. She could try to run but it was still so far away and so much time had been lost. Instead she decided to dig deep, took the giant key ring from her belt and found the ancient ghost key her mother gave her years ago. She attuned to the key and envisioned Nyryx in her mind. She lifted the key to a door and all the electricity pulsing through the nearby lights burst forth and arced around he door as Elke thrust the key into the keyhole. Lighting sparked everywhere and Elke channeled all her will to open a portal into the ghost field and pull Nyryx through it!

When it opened there was scream as Nyryx flew out and bust into Elke’s chest (in her spirit cocoon) and then something monstrously large came flying out after it. A giant spectral centipede like creature with multiple sets of wings attached to each of its segments, a gaping maw in the front and a barbed hook at it’s end. It also screeched as it emerged but then flew off into the night. Elke staggered back and held Nyryx inside, sensing that the passage through the ghost field stripped away his psychic harm [Desperate Attune. Critical Result, Great effect used to heal Nyryx (as opposed to shutting the door before something else came out)].

The next morning

Terrified and confused Arquo went home, followed by Ogre who was just too overwhelmed by what had just happened. In the morning Elke appeared with hot morning buns and offered them up to Arquo and his family (and Ogre too). She tried to just leave the buns but Ramira forced Arquo out into the street to follow her… and we saw the two walk away into the dark rainy morning of Doskvol. Maybe there is some romance in this story after all.


Elke flexed back and from out of her mouth Nyryx flew. Now she could see him in his true spectral form and could see the concern he carried. “You don’t get to leave me” she told him, partly a request, partly a command. “I won’t ever leave you Elke. It’s my duty to protect you should another Scurlock every appear.” Elke almost corrected him but then realized that he was very intentional in what he said, Nyryx believed that Scurlock was gone…and his own sanity rested upon that assurance!


  • 4 Rep (Target: Ministry of Preservation, oh shit!)
  • 9 Coin (3 of it tithed to Charterhall University)
  • 7 Heat (+3 more gained during the score due to devil’s bargains… damn, wanted again!)
  • Entanglement rolled: Usual suspects

What Rocked

Wow, I thought last session was intense! Elke’s discovery about Nyryx and the things that she would do to save him. Her budding romance with Arquo. Harland not being there when he needed to be and the ship sinking in the bottom of a channel. Unleashing the thought tendrils of the Empty Vessel on the entire Hound’s Tooth. Lannock clawing his way to Elke and Arquo leaping on him to save her. Lannocks lingering hate. All this stuff was so much fun.

At the end I had Elke make a fortune roll for Erin and Lannock to see how well the did arriving at their appointed places and acting like dead people the were. She got a mixed result which had to fun effects. The first was that Erin got a lot of strange looks as she entered the building. Clearly Lannock (who they had wrapped a scarf around his neck to conceal his slit throat) belonged here but she didn’t. Also their ghosts, their ghost are just wrong and someone, probably a Spirit Warden is going to have to deal with that mess!

In particular I loved being able to bring a little bit of what’s going on with the Empty Vessel and what’s going on with Nyryx to the foreground (hopefully) without overshadowing the PCs daring actions!

We had just a little bit of romance on Valentine’s Day. Two people walking through the rainy streets of the Dusk eating morning buns sounds about as romantic as our game might ever get!

Being able to use the map (even though I fudged something and moved something around to make this work) to actually make Doskwall come alive was really fun. Bazso had in mind that if they died at the Hound’s Tooth and the bodies were moved fast enough the Deathseeker crows would never falter on their way to the North Hook company. And the DSS made it work!

Their poor boat. Really, really, really, trashed that night.

I get a ghost wyrm in Doskvol. I get a ghost wyrm in Doskvol. Sean sings a jaunty tune. And no, I have no idea what it is yet, but if you’ve ready Perdido Street Station and you remember the slakemoths, that’s what I have in mind.

What could have improved

I realize all my Spirit Wardens are the same. Tall, looming, commanding. I mean, it’s fine, they are like Stormtroopers, but I want them to be people too. Hmm, that makes me wonder… what if they aren’t?

No Eric this session due to sickness, but he was back for the next game and oh, the trouble the got into then!



4 thoughts on “Actual Play – Thought Tendrils of a Forgotten God (2/14/2017)”

  1. – I really liked the delayed consequences for partial successes. Ramped up tension and allowed more options for our consequences to bite us.

    – I’m also so tickled by budding Arquo/Elke romance. And we’re Blades in Doskvol. It’s going to be thwarted. It’s going to be thwarted so hard.

    – I’ve still got mixed feelings about this sort of XP system. It’s seems mercenary to force your characters into specific behaviors for XP, but it’s also nice to have your motivations codified. I think I’m getting more used to it.

    Favourite Bits:
    – Warm buns scene with Elke at the end!
    – Oh God, the Door.
    – Water coming out of Lannock’s neck because of the drowning poison.
    – When Karen/Elke realized Nyrix was still in the brothel. Such a moment of ‘Oh shit!’, just when we thought we good breathe easy.

    1. Yes, that door was so good. I did not know what a ghost key did until that moment, but now I know that was totally the right thing!

      I’m going to make the XP triggers even worse/better for you right now Adrienne. If you want, we can change your trigger! Like, instead of getting XP when You addressed a challenge with tracking or violence. we could give you the XP trigger from a different playbook!

      Because XP triggers are just keys, and we can do some Advanced Blades hacking and change those if you want. We can even emulate how you give up one trigger in the form of a downtime action, or being lost for a session where you play a different character.

      1. That sounds great! Though I’m happy with tracking/violence with Arquo for now. (I’m hoping to develop his vengeful side. Baszo, beware.)

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