Actual Play – Up to the Gills (9/13/2016)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Eric Fattig, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.7

War Stories

We began with Harland recounting his grand battles (which neither Hix nor Elke believed he was actually in), his grievous wound (Spectral Pneumonia), and the fate of the Dimmer Sisters (driven into the shadows).

Full Indoctrination

Feeling terrible that Vey was expelled Elke decided she would break and start fully indoctrinating all of their crew by allowing Nyryx and Hoxan to make spectral cocoons in all of them.

She set Stras and Jadvyga to begin the process…starting with Vey!

Wester and Lynthia, who came to the DSS from the Path of Echoes, feeling very much like they fighting for the crumbs objected that they should be indoctrinated as well, that they shouldn’t kept being treated like outsides, that they weren’t being — Harland cut that off with a steely glare. They would get the same perks as everyone else in the gang…in due time! The grumbling continued but they kept it to themselves.

A proposition for Corro Younghusband

One Harland was informed of Lomond’s fate, the Society set off to parlay that favor into a boon from the Hive.

They found Corro in a distillery filled with crates of barley and rye, which Corro tasted, could sense the rot, and told them that the batch was ruined, turning his attention to his approaching brother. The one that was supposed to have invented an alchemical sealant that would preserve goods indefinitely, but had yet to produce it!

As they approached Harland asked that Hix and Elke walk at his flank to support him, which Hix did just until she saw some remarkable copper coils that were doing a fantastic job of diffusing heat through the distillation process. Elke though stayed at his side, ready to defend him against his older brother (which also wasn’t precisely what Harland was going for, but it was better than nothing).

The Society approahced Corro, told them how they ended Lomond and ask that in turn, he put financial pressure oh Roslyn and The Gills (an apothecary shop they’ve had their eyes on ever since they knew the Dimmer Sisters owned it) to fold and hand over ownership to the society. Trading a favor already done for a favor to be done is tricky. Corro quickly picked up on the fact that he could just do nothing and his problems were already solved. To incentivise him to action, Elke threatened that Lomond could be informed that the Hive was behind his downfall if Corro didn’t work with them. His eyebrow twitched every so slightly and then he smiled. “This one has spunk, I like her.”

[Mechanically we were in a great scenario, as a group action led by Harland, they were making a Desperate Action. The result was a success but with a serious consequence, which I told directly to Harland]

You can see this in Corro’s eyes. He hates being threatened. He’s going to do this, but he’s also going to put a hit out on Elke.  Harland paled and immediately began backpedaling, he tried to placate Corro by assuring him that Elke was no threat, which in turn, of course, infuriated Elke! [This reduced the serious complication to a normal complication, which is that Corro believes the Society are amateurs and would not take them seriously or do business with them in the future].

Elke, unaware of the dangerous situation just diffussed pressed harder “No, we’re a team. We’re doing this together.” [Elke further resisted and reduced the threat to Level 1 harm: Shunned for Harland]. Corro showed looked sideways at Harland to tell him this wasn’t going to pass, but otherwise moved ahead, agreeing that The Gills would suddenly find old debts coming due and being a pickle unless they should agree to work for the Duskvol Spectral Society.

The Gills

Near the eeleries of Dunslough and because of that forever reeking of fish sits a stone and timber apothecary shop with soot filled windows. Out back withered trees form a copse frequented by all manner of scavengers manor which feast on the carrion and refuse that is always piled up there. The smells and dark windows, unappealing to most, are the Gills greatest asset however, as they allow the witches within to brew all manner of noxious essences without raising suspicion from the workers nearby.

Wrong Place, Wrong Warden

As they gallivanted to the Gills however, their attention was caught by the presence of copper-maksed wardens in the street inspecting citizens as they walked by. Some incident must have happened because they were on high alert, right where the crew was about to pull a score [Engagement roll: Rotten Luck, a third party interferes]. They told Scapa (who was going as their legal aid) to lay low and hatched a plan to distract the wardens.

To distract the Spirit Wardens and give his crew unfettered access to Roslyn, Hix distracted a rather bulrly worker while Harland slipped a vial or rage essence into his pocket. They got into an argument and when the fight finally escalated to the point where the Wardens had to take notice (they were doing their best to ignore it), the rage essence was revealed, suddenly becoming something the Wardens were very interested in finding out about…

Ugly Negotiations

…meanwhile, Elke entered The Gills, saw Roslyn and her two teenage children were all working with a customer. Elke continued to eye her menacingly but waited till the client (noticing the temperature had dropped several degrees since Elke entered) found his own way out of the shop. Roslyn sent her sun Micah into the back of the shop but her older daughter Lauren refused to move, she just continued to sift through a large tray of black seeds, pretending as though she was unaware of the situation.

Hix began with an offer, and while doing so Elke attuned to the Ghost Filed to see if there was anything laying in wait for her there.  Sure enough, the many charms which hung from the walls and ceiling were all placed in the shop to have a particular effect, a trap for anyone attuning to become mesmerized by the tinkling light and the distant whispers. The effect normally lasted long enough to deal with those attempting to manipulate the ghost field in the shop… except Elke was prepared with her find spirit mask as was able to identify the trap before looking at it too long.

Elke quickly removed her spirit mask of the Dagger Isles, and more than a little perturbed that she was almost just hypnotized, came into the conversation with Hix and Roslyn swinging threads of all manor! The Dimmer Sisters were go, there was no one to take care of Roslyn or her children, and though she hated the society (Elke in particular) she could not disagree that she would be safer with their protection. Reluctantly she consented and gave them over the shop, which the instantly emptied of it’s current coffers!

They also made Roslyn part of the gang, and told her that when her daughter was of age, the would see about getting her admission to Charterhall University if that was something she wanted. See, they are not all bad.

[I handled Roslyn like a 4 tick clock. Each action adding ticks to get her to give. The players kept rolling all sixes though, so the only real consequence she caused was the Devil’s Bargain they took of adding her to the gang. She loathes the society though, so that should be interesting].

One more bit of unfinished business

How could they say they “stick with their own” if they just let Vey out to dry. Like most entanglements, the Society decided to face this one head on, in this case by finding the head of admissions Thena Hellyers and entreating her to give Vey another chance. With some standard bribes [2 coin] and a whole lot of charm, they manged not only to get Vey granted back provisional admission (she is still under academic scrutiny) but also impressed professor Hellyers with their appreciation for performance art, and Elke earned an invitation to her own private art exhibit [Many thanks to Andrew Shields for the Blades in the Dark deck of NPCs, Thena was taken right from it, only with Baroness replaced by Professor].

Payoff

Coin: 6 (The Gills coffer’s depleted)
Heat: 3 (Contained, on hostile turf)
Rep: 1 (Technically the Dimmer Sisters are a Tier 1 gang now, though in hiding)

What Rocked

Seeing how teamwork work in a social situation is beautiful. I loved how each person couldn’t stand for a particular consequence and so they stepped up to resist, all the way until it was at a manageable level. In particular I love what this told me about the Younghusbands and their interactions. What Corro was willing to do, how Harland reacted in response, what finally ameliorated the older brother. Corro isn’t a good or bad person, he’s a scoundrel getting by in Doskvol, and I  love seeing how that plays off the group. When they agree with him and when the don’t!

Wow, the DSS can go low! Threatening to take away Roslyn’s livelihood and by extension her ability to provide for her children. That is some classic extortion rackets right there. Roslyn is no peach herself, having previously tried to do the same thing to the Society, but damn it was telling when took every advantage they had against her and laid it on the table. Brutal.

What could have improved

I should think more about “moves” that targets might take when they are responding to the Blades. It’s easy when the method is physical, their response my be to attack back, to flee to safer ground, to separate the Blades, or one of may other maneuvers we’ve seen so many times. When the battlefield is a social one though, I think the trick for me is really asking both myself and the players where the leverage is coming from. What do you have on them? What do they have on you? How can you put pressure on them to get what you want?

I think I should build those questions into Gather Information and other preemptive actions so that when the voices are raised and threats are made, we know how each side can actually push around the other.