Actual Play – We’re the Specialists (6/26/2015)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Johnstone Metzger, Nate Marcel, Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, and Kurt Ellison
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickstart 3 Rules
Score: Gaddoc Rail Station

Yay, Go Play NW! A wonderful place to see good friends, make new ones, and find out what dastardly deeds they will do.

Inspiration for this game came from recently reading Perdido Street Station and thinking New Crobuzon would be an awesome setting for Blades. Then thinking “Hell no”, I’m not going to try off a full re-skin a couple weeks before Go Play while I’m also flooded with Kickstarter work.

Thankfully the Shattered Isles is a rich and evocative place, already containing Gaddoc Rail Station. With a big of New Crobuzon vibe (though not many specifics) tinkling around in the back of my head, and some info from John about Gaddoc, I put together a one page scenario, a love letter for the whole group:

The Score: Gaddoc Rail

The Score - Gaddoc Rail


Thanks to John Harper for giving me the In Design files and setting background to make this, and thanks to Karen Twelves for editing and proofing it.

The adventure premise is made with a one shot adventure in mind. It’s set contemporary with the the War in Crows Foot (part of the Quick Start) with the premise that one (or all) of the gangs in Crow’s Foot want some package that is arriving in Gaddoc Station, and one of the gang bosses have hired the PCs to get it. The adventure starts in media res when everything had gone to shit, because nobody left the station after the Argonaut came in.

What are the scoundrels after? Who else wants it? Why has nobody come out of the station since last night? All of that is determined by making a few choices about the patron, the score, and the complications. I learned in my first game that allowing the selection of multiple choices (in the Score category) is a bad idea because it prompts too many questions, so I made some revisions (see below) to streamline that. Also, there is a hidden question to the GM “What’s going on in the station?” that I didn’t initially put on the sheet, but I’ve added it now.

Our Score

Spirit essence, distilled from many rogue spirits and compressed into some kind of spirit well. The scoundrels really didn’t want to know more and were content to know that Lyssa would pay good coin for it.



What Rocked

Nate Marcel drawing a picture of Enx Onomon and his “Finger” shaped war staff on his character tent. Damn, it’s awesome to play with artists.

Orlan the Axe just being all about business. The solution didn’t haven’t to be “run up, stab someone, and take the loot”, but that was his default, and it more than three steps were involved he got wary.

Flint, the ghost monkey, raking out some poor fool’s eyes. Damn, that critter was violent!

Finding out that Lewitt, a Bluecoat were doing something really shady and off book. Realizing everyone on guard was getting nervous because something was taking too long, and then driving their carriage right up to the front door, hopping out and saying “Lewitt sent us, we’re the specialists!” It was perfect. Best use of command skill I’ve seen in a while. Though some might argue that was deceive, if you had heard Johnstone, you would have snapped to attention as well!

Finger’s arm being sucked into the gravity well of the soul box, and then it getting wrenched out…. different. In the moment I said it was their but had been contaminated by the spirit essence within, an evil hand gimmick. Not terrible, but I think the arm just being gone would have been better. Or possibly gone in the physical world, but still present in the spirit realm.

Flashbacks, resistance rolls, and effect ratings really working well to propel the story. Risky situations becoming desperate are fantastic.

What could have improved

Early on the scoundrels had a disagreement over what to do. I opted to handle it like John did in our Six Towers game where I first asked the players “Is this something your character could be convinced of?” and then when they said it was a possibility, going to dice, and making the players make resistance rolls to resist the effect. Not a bad plan, but the execution was, erm, intelligent. Wilhelm’s character Chakka suggested leaving the station to go get some information she deemed vital. Finger and Orlan (played by Nate and Johnstone) objected, so I asked them if we should go to dice or if their character wouldn’t budge.

We went to dice and called the argument risky. Time was a factor (a clock) and spending too much of it arguing could sour the deal with Lyssa. Wilhelm rolled and succeeded, so I told all the players if they wanted to stay put, they would have to make a Resolve resistance roll. Chakka picked Frog to go with her… and all the mechanics kind of ground to a halt. Kurt, who was playing Frog, hadn’t been part of the conversation, or of the decision to go to dice with it, so he was suffering the consequences or terms he hadn’t agreed to in advance. He rolled resistance, took the stress (a lot of it) and Frog sent Chakka off alone. We made it work, but I really should have gotten everyone’s buy in before hitting the dice.

There was some confusion about what has to be a group action that everyone takes part in (sneaking the whole crew into a place) and what can optionally be a group action if more that one person wants to try some thing (in this case carrying a very heavy box down to the end of the train before the Bluecoats arrive).

The players selected all three options (valuable, dangerous, and illicit) and while it’s predictable and fun that they would do so, it meant answering too many questions. I changed the option after that game to say that the score was already valuable, dangerous, and illicit. The choice they had to make was what was it especially so. The other question left off was to the GM, asking what was happening in Gaddoc Rail. I added that as well.

Here’s the updated adventure PDF: Gaddoc Rail Station

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