Actual Play – The Trouble with Aunt Thistle (7/25/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Eric Fattig, Nadja Otikor, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark

Note: I fell way behind on my AP reports so these are written many moons later based off my notes. The accuracy will likely vary greatly! Also, this is just transcribed from my notes. Things may be out of order!

Extra, Extra! Headlines in the Doskvol Gazette

Ghost train arrives in Doskvol! A train creeped into Gaddoc station last night in the hour of Coal without a soul on it! (Living or dead!)

Doskvol Spectral Society: Gifted Students or Spirit Traffickers? The Charterhall student organization suspected of trafficking rogue spirits as well as operating criminal holdings. Two business in their names, the Six Arms, and The Gills have been shutdown as this investigation continues!

City Council member assassination attempt thwarted! The culprit already in custody! In the dead of night, Derret Hawkeyes, a Skovlander terrorist, attempted to murder Lord Strangford in his own manor. Thanks to the quick action of the inspectors Hawkeyes was quickly fond and brought into custody!

Chief Scholar of the Archive of Echos Comprised by Sorcery! Lord Penderyn, appointed archive by the Emperor himself, found consorting with rogue spirits in attempts to perform the highest act of apostasy, the raising of the dead!

A new home for the Doskvol Spectral Society

Charterhall, unaware that the story was going to break, made an offer to the society that they take up an old owned by the school but currently unused, the Devil Hunter’s Hall. Thena Hellyers made the offer personally and thought it would be best of their contraptions and experiments weren’t present for all the other students to accidentally encounter (Harland and all his traps!) and for them to be able to hold meetings on their own (Too many sailors and known criminals meeting them on campus!) and they could help keep out the squatters that invariably kept showing back up in the hall and had to be chased off.

The Hall, originally called North Hook Hall and changed to the Devil Hunter’s Hall when the Spirit Wardens took it over, and and since they moved to Bellweather, it has only been used on occasion, and it’s passed through several hands until eventually gifted to the school, who were now leasing it out to the Society!

The deal didn’t come entirely without strings however. The Society needed to clean up this bad press they just got. Thena also wanted help with a hush, hush Charterhall matter. A collection of porcelain statues on loan from the Ankhayet family in U’Duasha had been stolen. As it was an open secret that the society did know many underworld figures, she hoped they could help her get them back. There was a sizable reward for their return [10 coin] and a lot of ill will if they didn’t do the job [-1 faction status if they turned her down].

A guest arrives at the Six Arms

Nadja joined us this session and brought in a new character Lulabelle, who often goes by Onye. She is a Severosi exchange student studying at Charterhall, who is also possessed by her aunt Thistle. Thistle doesn’t so much take control of Lulabelle as she does offer very loud opinions about everything she does.

We found her in the Six Arms, talking to a very well dressed patron named Orlan, who seemed equally enchanted with as with her aunt, who thoroughly disapproved him, as Orlan was possessed by a charlatan, flatterer, and con man (Nyryx). While chatting with Orlan, the proprietors arrived and started having a gang meeting right in front of her (Elke has been out of touch for a while and assumed everyone still in the building was part of the gang)!

Society Business

Elke announced both the new digs they would be moving into…and that as a matter of keeping peace with the Lampblacks, one of their members, if they were willing, would have to leave the Lampblacks. Wester, who had just had a huge fight with Ring, almost instantly volunteered. He said he was wanted here anymore and only wanted to go upstairs to have a private moment with Ring before he left, only Elke wouldn’t let him. She wanted to chaperone the meeting, and rather that be infantilized by someone mediating his breakup with Ring, he just stormed out.

They also got to talking about the stolen art, and how they would recover it, when Lulabelle raised her hand meekly and said “I’m not sure I’m supposed to be here… but also, I do know a guy named Harker, who is in Ironhook and knows a lot of fences on both sides of the prison gates.”

After the “how did she get in here?” business was settled, the Society offered to take her in, though they weren’t sure what the spirit cocoons would do to her aunt, and Lulabelle thought maybe it best not to jump into things, though she would help them.

The Score

Harker (vain, paranoid, volatile) had a bad history with Lulabelle. He had set her up to meet members of the Empty Vessel, and the deal went south, ending in them taking out retributions on him. Due to this he was not at all interested in helping his former friend, but Slides have a way of squeezing just a little bit more out of people, even their enemies. [Finding the art 1/4]

She learned from him that the person who moves high end art in Doskvol is named Cosmos. They know who is moving what, how much they are paying, and how it’s secured. Cosmos, in turn told them the only places something like those statues could be hidden is deep underground, someplace the wouldn’t be found by sorcerous Irruvians, as those statues were of the four demon princes Inixis, Khayat, Khuset, and Serekh. [Finding the art 2/4]

What rocked

Nadja was awesome playing both Lulabelle and Thistle and it was really fun to have a new player in the game adding a new perspective into the mix (including the “what the hell are you all on about?”. So good.

I had a good time with those news headlines. Each of them represented a faction (or factions) advancing their clocks and the fall out from them. They also presented some possible scores if the society was interested. A little derivative to use the paper as means of disseminating information, but in this case, it allowed me to cover large swaths of Doskvol with a single source.

What could have improved

I felt like I misread Nadja’s intention with Thistle. Originally I thought she was a justification for joining the Society (i.e. “I have this problem only they can solve”) an so, in order to onboard her has fast as possible, I immediately offered up the possibility of them solving that problem, which I realized later, was an integral part of her character. I think I steamrolled past what would have been a lot of fun to build up to. It could have been Lulabelle learning about the society and finally telling them about her aunt and then deciding what to do about her, if anything. Instead I started it letting the other players know and it was quickly offered that they could exorcise her immediately. She declined and we moved on but I did feel like I was stealing some of her thunder.

I think the Wester, Ring, Lizzette story is one that’s mostly in my head. It’s love triangle that is horribly tragic, but it’s also just with NPCs, so I’m just not sure there is any interest in it. Consequently, I’ve had all of those NPCs act pretty irrationally without it making much sense. I think I should either drop their personal story line, make it more explicit what’s happening with them, or both.


Actual Play – The Benthic Zone Job (7/23/2017)

GM: Judd Karlman
Players: Jason Bowell, Pete Cornell, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark
Crew: The Wobbegong Crew

Taken from Judd Karlman’s writeup:

In which Skannon serves tough time for the gang in Ironhook, Charming get’s stitched up and Maud digs in the arcane muck for dirt on Mr. Pritchard. We had time for the gang to go on a good old fashioned smuggling job for the Billhooks – The Benthic Zone Job.

The Wobbegong Crew

Skannon/The Crow: Crow went to jail, served 3 weeks. The dice told us it was a tough 3 weeks and Skannon came away with a new trauma, Cold. He also came out with an iron hook tattoo on his left forearm.

Having incarceration as part of the game is interesting. When Pete rolled poorly, it made for an interesting moment. I didn’t want to narrate a difficult time in prison. When he was dropped off to the Bluecoats by the friendly sergeant (mentioned below) when Edlun walked away I said, “He is the last friendly face you see for 3 weeks…”

The only in-prison scenes we saw were his meeting with Torvul to pitch the smuggling job and the tattoo artist who offered to put an Ironhook tattoo on him to commemorate his time. “You can put the tattoo anywhere you want…you’ve had a rough time of it. Where do you want your iron hook if ya want one?”

I was listening to the video and besides realizing that I need to set up my mic and stop saying, “Um/Uh,” so much I also loved how much the crew showed emotional support for Skannon when he returned from a tough 3 weeks in prison. It helped give the decision real weight. Suddenly, it meant something.

Charming: Our Cutter got stitched up and managed not to kill anyone. He tried to bark down a Bluecoat captain but the dice weren’t with him and the Blackjack, the crew’s trusty boat, got a hole punched in its hull. It was a chill night for the Wobeggong’s Cutter, who still has level 2 harm, Stitched Up Bullet-wounds.

Maud: She did some work on becoming the Goat Matron’s high priestess and tried to dig up some dirt on their handler with the Hive, Mr. Pritchard.

Maud grabbed a body pff the docks from the Fog Hound job and carved it up on the altar, giving her a vision from the Saint of Witches in which she was in an office on the top-side levels of the hotel watching Hive warehouses used to traffick in Skovlander children were burning. Mr. Pritchard was nearby, his cigarette fell out of his mouth into a nearby puddle. Behind them were local Brightstone socialites with goat masks and daggers.

Sean also inserted into the fiction that the Saint of Witches, the Goat Matron will be angry about the human trafficking, her being a mother and all. Nicely done.

Other Doskvol Notables

Tarvul: The leader of the Billhooks is in jail and he had a scene with Skannon when he was incarcerated, offering a smuggling job to be delivered to his son. Played by the love child of Liam Neeson and Brian Blessed but old. /inside joke

The Pirate’s Cove: A ghost infested haven from waves and storms, surrounded by hungry ghosts. Sean pointed out that they know now that a crew of Bluecoats are under the water there and could be grabbed later to be dug up against the Hive if need be.

The Blue Gull: The ship that dropped a shipment of pistols and powder to the crew.

Edlun: The Bluecoat sergeant who went in to the gang’s HQ and asked them to hand over someone to be taken to prison rather than sending in the boys with shotguns and billy clubs. I got the idea for him in a G+ thread and thought I’d use him if this entanglement ever came up.


Charming got a clock during the mess with the Bluecoat ship.

Captain Bragg seeks out Charming.

What does that mean now that we know that Bragg is dead…or is he dead? Huh.

I also started keeping track of a few clocks that I’ll keep privately, just managing where different gangs are in their various struggles and ambitions. One of the things I really like about the factions is that they are all in motion.

The Job

A good ole fashioned smuggling job in the Benthic Zone. I loved it. It got complicated due to an unfortunate roll from their engineer, Kyle. But jobs always get complicated.

The gang accidentally interrupted a deal between the Hive, aboard the Fog Hound, and the Bluecoats, aboard a barge that was supposed to be in the shop for repairs. A small cannon hit the Blackjack below the waterline when Charming’s barked orders weren’t heeded and his Command roll (Desperate Position/Great Effect) turned sour. When things got messy, the Hive’s mercenaries cleaned it up, killing everyone aboard Bluecoat ship and sinking it while the Blackjack limped away.

Skannon got to be stealthy and deadly when he went aboard and killed the Bluecoat officer who ordered the shelling of the Blackjack. It showed how Skannon was now cold, how his time in prison has changed him.

The job was fast; we got it done in less than an hour, jumped right in with both feet.

They delivered pistols and powder to the Billhooks, who made it clear that they were going to use this new gear to give magistrates a very difficult time in the coming week.

When they got back to their HQ, a courier was there, delivering 2 extra COIN on top of the 8 COIN made from the job. Inside was a note from the Hive about silence being golden.

One more thing that happened in the murky area that exists between setting and mechanics. The job occurred outside of the lightning barrier. The engagement roll started with the crew out at sea, packing crates and barrels into their hold with the waves battering both boats. For whatever reason I didn’t want to start with the gang figuring out how to get past the lightning barrier.

I e-mailed the group and asked about that and we went back and forth about it a bit. Pete came up with a cool idea:

If I may: Dropping the Wall every time a ship needs to cross it seems like an invitation for disaster. What if all ships are equipped with Tesla or Faraday Cages to disperse the lightning as they breach. That way every time a ship breaches, it pings the two towers nearest it and that becomes a matter of record.

For clarity: when the lightning barrier fluctuates due to a ship breech, the disruption in current triggers a switch on a counting machine. That is what I meant by ping. I didn’t want you all to think that anything more complex than a difference engine was at work here.

It is funny that the way discussions are structured in the game is seeping in to our e-mail conversations about the game.


The pressure the game exerts through heat prompted Pete to volunteer Skannon go to jail in order to alleviate the crew’s heat. That decision left its mark on the character and the campaign. The heat is on again and we’ll have a rough round of entanglements to start the next session.

They jostled some stashed money around so they could go up to Tier 1, giving Skannon 1 die to roll (rather than 0 dice, which is roll 2, take the lower result) while incarcerated. Yeah, while in prison the only thing that you have is your gang’s rep. Harsh.

Throwaway comments on how NPC’s kept walking into the HQ led to us spending the crew’s advance on heightened security – a door and living quarters in the flooded and abandoned hotel under Brightstone where they meet up.

Blades on Air

What Rocked

This is from Sean.

Judd did a great job of giving us a real smuggling gig (better than I do with the Spectral Society). There are plenty of people that want things in and out of the city, and this was a great opportunity to be part of that business!

Actual Play – The cost of freedom (7/18/2017)

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

Note: I fell way behind on my AP reports so these are written many moons later based off my notes. The accuracy will likely vary greatly! Also, this is just transcribed from my notes. Things may be out of order!

Pondering before the Game

As part of season three, and part of setting up a new starting situation I looked at the Societies status with other factions to decide who would take actions that would affect them. Here’s how they looked:

Hive -1
Circle of Flame -1
Ink Rakes -1
Bluecoats -2
Grinders -2
Billhooks -2

This looked to me like it was mostly smaller gangs that had really issues with them, and that it wouldn’t be hard at all for them to get the Bluecoats to apply some pressure. Since the Society often played the “we’re just students” card, the gangs would work at hurting that credibility by exposing some of their actions. I’d figure out more details later, but right now I saw some folks who were willing to go out of their way to take from the DSS.

On the other hand, they also had powerful friends:

Leviathan Hunters +1
Deathlands Scavengers +1
City Council +1
Gondoliers +2
Charterhall University +2
Lampblacks +3

My default would be to have the Lampblacks offer up some opportunities, however I’ve leaned on old Baszo a lot, and wanted to see Charterhall get more involved with their students. I was thinking about their lair, a study hall on campus and how a) they’ve grown to big for it, and b) they never use it (the Cat and Candle has really become the place they meet), so I got thinking about how the college would react to having a bunch of criminals traipsing through the library and the study hall. Several professors already tried to kick them out and failed, so what to do now… promote them! More below.

Back to Doskvol and all it’s terrors

Elke went to check in on Danwood. He had been continuing her research while she was in Bellweather, though she didn’t know that, nor to what extent. Outside Morlan Hall she found two people, clearly not students “standing guard” over the entrance. Frog and Bug were two-slug henchmen anyone could hire to twist an arm, or in this case, pick at their fingernails and make snide remarks to students who passed by. Elke sized the up immediately but didn’t find out exactly what they were doing there till she met with Danwood.

His office was a mess, the very image of an academic on the edge of a break through. Sheaves of paper covering every surface, books stacked up in every corner, plates of half eaten dinners decomposing, and at the center of the maelstrom, Danwood. His red beard seemed to gained some grey hairs in her absence, his faced was knotted up from spending hours reading arcane books by candlelight, his fingertips were stained with ink, and his eyes were bloodshot and feverish.

The professor had Elke’s work out all over the office and she could tell he had been making some progress, though looking at it form a different direction than she had. While her studies were pure spectrology, Danwood was looking into the charters and histories of other organizations that had delved into similar research.

The knowledge currently keeping him up at night? A hunch that the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh had developed a ritual by which a human could “elevate” themselves into the undying form a demon. He had no idea of the ritual worked, but he had some insights into what it involved, and it terrified him. Enough so that he hired Frog and Bug to be his bodyguards as he swore he had noticed people watching him strangely as of late, and feared the Church might aware of his investigation into them.

Elke, undeterred by the bunch of hedonists, encouraged him to keep looking into it, and then told him about her experience in Bellweather, asked for her research into the reanimation of the dead to give to them [Reduce Heat] and said she wanted to focus on learning about the trauma that spirits suffer leaving the body, and how they might slow, stop, or reverse it.


Hix asked Jadvyga about what happened to Arquo in the Deathlands and asked her for help designing a sparkcraft skull cap that would protect is wearer from the fear they normally suffer in the presence of powerful ghosts. [Crafting: Design 2/8 ticks complete]

Jadvyga then took Elke shopping along with Roslyn Kellis (her chatty noble friend). While out they probed and Roslyn admitted what they already knew, that she was Lady Drake, a member of the Circle of Flame, and by them thwarting (read: possessing) Sukur, they stopped his assassination attempt on her. She agreed to speak to the Circle about on behalf of he DSS and ask them to overlook the affair in the lost district, if the Society could help them recover the Hand of Kotar.

Later Elke, Hix, and Harland visited the Lampblacks to make amends for their loss. Baszo was his normal charming self, but he told Elke that if she wanted to make him loosing a member right, she’d have to do the same, so she agreed to give up one of the Society to join the Lampblacks.

Elke began her own investigation into the Church of Ecstasy to find out what they are up to [Long Term Project]

The Gills brought them in 5 coins selling it’s wares.

What Rocked

Elke had two great conversations this game, first with Danwood (panicked) and the with Bazso (calculated negotiations).

What could have improved

My memory on this was hazy, and the notes didn’t make complete sense, so this AP report has a few holes in it. Did Hix turn on Lyssa? I don’t even remember them knowing each other!

I didn’t quite piece together what the factions would be up to (I needed to give them some new clocks or reconcile completed ones) so we still didn’t get the full effect of the time passing this session.

I’m not quite sure where I was/am going with the Hand of Kotar. Corro sent it to Sukur, who gave it to the Reconciled to teach him how to use it (though he never got the chance), but now the Circle wants, but Sukur was a member and he had it. So where it is now. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?  It just feels a little like it’s a hot potato that I’ve moved arbitrarily rather than really basing it on the players actions. I feel like I need to stop in these moments, ask myself what’s going on in the minds of the NPCs so I know how they will react, and then follow the players actions. I know that’s like GMing advice 101 but in this particular case, I’ve gotten myself a little mixed up and because of that I’ve been sewing confusion at the table as well.

Actual Play – Season Three (7/11/2017)

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

Note: I fell way behind on my AP reports so these are written many moons later based off my notes. The accuracy will likely vary greatly! Also, this is just transcribed from my notes. Things may be out of order!

This game kicked off our “Season 3”. Not coincidentally, it’s also when they became Tier 3, which had several implications for the crew. We progressed the timeline significantly to account for them securing the hold in the lost district as well as the crew growing in numbers.

Payoff (from the last score)

  • Turf: Sukur’s old estate, a lightning field protected manor in the Deathlands.
  • Coin: 4 (They could have plundered much more but that would have imperiled the claim)
  • Rep: 3 (At the time, Circle of the Flame was one Tier higher than them)
  • Faction status: Circle of the Flame -1, Roric +1 (Yep, Roric gets a faction, he represents others…)
  • Heat: 3
  • Entanglements: Gang Trouble. The Spectral Defenders (wild) through a crazy seance that got out of hand.


Elke, after months of captivity in Bellweather, and finally breaking through Maury that she could be more use to them on the outside than in a cell, was released on paroll, and given mission to find the interloper trying to infiltrate the Spirit Wardens.

Jadvyga had to go out on the Nightbreaker and prove that the amulet prevents someone from having their soul forcibly removed. She did this by standing on the deck of the ship as they faced the Eater of Dreams. In order to survive Jadvyga swore oaths to the Leviathan Hunters so they would protect her. (Clock: Promises due to the Leviathan Hunters 1/4)

Harland was released from Ironhook, not the same man he was. Brie came out as a member of the True Path, traumatized as well. She quickly joined the crew. Thought not a student, that was at this point a trivial formality.

Hix had been running the Spectral Society (as everyone else was gone) by delegating all decisions to the student patrol. Ogre had been stepping in to run things, intercepting  bad news before it got to her, and taking care of it the best he could. Stras, missing Harland also grew restless as the crew had changed. Instead of leading the crew she dedicated herself to finishing the work for Oilweather, scribing his stories of the Severosi and spreading the word of his classes to bring students into his lectures (Long term project: 8/8 ticks complete!)

Harland attended the lecture and found Hix at the back of the hall, sending encouraging nods to Oilweather. The reunited and returned to the Cat and Candle. With the help of Thena Hellyers (the dean) Harland reasserted himself as an associate professor but agrees to do take part in a fundraiser for the school (Devil’s Bargain). Harland is appointed an office in Morlan Hall… all the other staff are terrified of him.

Elke returns to the Cat and Candle as Hix and Harland argue over seating assignments for the fundraiser. She showed up, said hi, then immediately passed out for 18 hours. When she woke she caught up with everyone. They talked about places to live now that they were out. Somewhat randomly they heard from Bazran that Setarra showed up at the Cat and Candle once (though he didn’t know it was her) and took one of their chipped mugs.

Gang Trouble: It turned out Thistle, Ring, and Lynthia were all fighting with each other. Rather than find out what it was about, Elke yelled at them all to stop fighting, and the was the end of it (for now…)

Elke also setup a business model for the ethical trafficking of spirits, allowing them to serve the patrons of the Six Arms without being chopped up or otherwise exploited. The started offering seances as well as matching up ghost and human desires for services. The Whispers keeping the ghost inline and turning the Six Arms into an invitation only club to keep the clients on the level. Nyryx was put in charge, and he focused on adding his own personal touch (read: lots of hot sex) to the place.

Jadvyga was the last to return (from her time on the Nightbringer) and they held up a sign they painted for her and said “We made a sign!” It was adorable. She came back with presents for everyone!

When the crew was restored…the stories started coming out. Both Elke and Jadvyga blame themselves for Arquo’s death, they should have never let him get caught up with Setarra.

New Members of the Crew

  • Brie, recidivist, member of the True Path.
  • Anselm, Stormchaser.
  • Irlelen, returned to school by joining.
  • Lyra, Rosalind’s, struggling to keep up with the life.
  • Various soldiers from Sukur’s estate.
  • More students.
  • Friends from Ironhook (Rail Jacks, Deathlands Scavengers, Ex-Hive members)

Actual Play – DSS: Storm Chasers! (7/3/2017)

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

Note that applies to the next six months of Actual Play reports: I fell way behind on my AP reports so these are written many moons later based off my notes. The accuracy will likely vary greatly! Also, this is just transcribed from my notes. Things may be out of order!

Arquo’s energies blasted to the void, the crew had to figure out what to do without him.

  • Wend took over as Ro’s vice purveyor (providing a hot bath and other luxuries available a lord’s manor)
  • Wester and Thistle (Spectral Defenders) repaired the Hive’s boat which had been damaged on their way into the manor.
  • Ro told the guards at the entrance Anselm and Katya that they were outside the gate because they are Storm Chasers (as per the lightning storms that just struck), which worked a little too well. Anselm became fascinated and wanted to know all about it from Ro!

NPCs Present:

  • Griggs, (chief Whisper of the Gondoliers, strange, ruthless, haunted). Told the crew she wanted this manor (and really all of the lost district) restored to the providence of the Gondoliers.
  • Roric (Ghost, ex-leader of the Crows, calculating, secretive, sophisticated). Looking out for himself and not keen to break his deal with Corro, but willing to turn on Sukur if the offer is right! Using the Circle of Flame as a stepping stone into Doskvol politics and the Hive to re-establish temporal power.
  • Bedford (reconciled ghost possessing Lord Wentworh, a guest of Sukur, enigmatic, cavalier, territorial)


Wend patches up Ro and Jadvyga (Recovery)

Student Patrol acted like things were normal in Doskvol (Reduce Heat)

The Gills brought 3 coin in for the Crew!

The Score: Taking turf in the Lost District!

The Spectral Society parlayed with Roric to get him on their side. They wanted Sukurs manor to claim as their own and were offering his body. The would destroy the ghost that possessed him and let Roric take up shop inside if he let them run the district.

Agreed in their purpose, they met with Sukur, distracted Wentworth/Bedford long enough to get Sukur alone and then attacked Lady Sukur (the ghost that possessed him) and destroyed her. Roric took up shop in his body and the DSS took up shop in the Lost District.

What Rocked

Storm Chasers!

Steam baths!

The Double cross!

What could have improved

Man, I really over extended my “muahhahahaaaa” level master plan. I had some idea about Corro blackmailing Grigs to help him get Roric out of the city so as to prevent Djera from being distracted by him and at the same time giving Sukur the Hand of Kotar so that he could join the Circle of the Flame in exchange for killing Karth Orris (Corro’s rival).

It was bad for a couple reasons. First, some of these motivations don’t make sense. Does Corro care of Djera is distracted by Roric? Why? What does her focus serve him? He’s not a team player so the “good of the Hive” really doesn’t add up. Second, how did he blackmail Griggs, and what was she even doing in this in the first place? I put her and Roric together as unlikely bedfellows (he needed a Spirit Well that she had access too, but what did she get from him? It came across as her just wanting to help him, which may be believable, but why? Helpfulness isn’t one of her known characteristics). When motivations don’t make sense to me, I lose track of how to play the NPC and in this game all of them were pretty much open to the crew’s plans because they didn’t have clear goals of their own.

Second, and this one took me several sessions to dial back from, at some point I started moving clocks for the high tier factions in Doskvol (Hive, Reconciled, Ministry of Preservation, Leviathan Hunters, City Council, etc). The Society had touched these organizations so I started asking what they were up to and settled on a major play for seats on the council. Due to all the internal rivalry, other factions realize there will be an opening soon and they are trying to position their leaders to take it. That’s all fine and cool and great, but it isn’t the focus of the Spectral Society game. By dwelling on those dynamics I moved the spotlight away from where it should have been.



Actual Play – Leave the bottle; take the hook. (7/2/2017)

GM: Judd Karlman
Players: Jason Bowell, Pete Cornell, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark
Crew: The Wobbegong Crew

Taken from Judd Karlman’s writeup:

In which the gang lets off steam, trains in the Pig Pit, studies a demon-goddess’ altar, gets some artifact trinkets back from the Billhooks, and made contact with a barrister representing mercantile interests (and stole his watch).

The Wobbegong Crew

Muad, the gang’s Whisper joined the group; Charming knew her from the Unity War; they fought together on Barghast Beach, one of the bloodiest engagements of the war. I’ve known Sean for years and I’m excited to finally be able to game with him.

Skannon’s nickname is The Crow and that is what we called him for most of the game.

Charming hasn’t met a problem that a proper assault wouldn’t solve.

Willoughby was out indulging in her vice (as Rob couldn’t make it due to work responsibilities).

Doskvol Notables

I was surprised at how many places and people we generated through downtime.

  • Bug – Billhook, saved by Wobeggong Crew from prison barge who keister’d one of the Goat-Matron’s idol children
  • The Goat Matron, Saint of Witches, and her 13 Young – altar/engine, connected to an ancient demon-goddess and her brood
  • Grine – pub-owner being tortured by Coran after having stolen from the Billhooks
  • House of 11 Pleasures – brothel and tea-house owned by The Hive
  • The Pig Pit – a fighting pit run by the Billhooks where Charming works out
  • Phin Rowan, Barrister with Rowan, Dunvil and Welker – property and acquisitions lawyer
  • Queen Bee’s Nest – pub in Nightmarket where the gang dropped off a message to The Hive.


Clocks are hitting the table and I’m also looking at the clocks in the book that go with each faction, particularly clocks for The Hive, the Bluecoats and the Billhooks but also thinking about the coming gang-war between the Red Sashes and the Lampblacks as fun background noise.

Cog 4

Blue Coats Hunt Down Shannon, 0 of 4

Cog 8 complete

Learn the True Nature of the Artifacts, 8 of 8

Maude completed the clock, letting her know all about the Goat-Matron’s altar and the names of the Saint of Witches’ children.

attune 666


Three 6’s on the attune role when learning about the blood altar to a goat-headed witch-saint. LOVE IT.

Cog 1 of 6

Maud Becomes High Priestess of the Goat Matron, 1 of 6

Cog 3 of 4

The Hive Seeks Recompense from Charming, 3 of 4

This last one is like throwing a grenade into the game after the fuse is just about gone. Charming got his time-piece by menacing the mercantile conglomerate’s barrister but he’ll have to pay the price for it eventually. See below for more on this interaction.


Jay had asked that we spend more time in-character this game and get to know our characters a bit. I welcomed that suggestion and tried to step sideways to the mechanics and encourage free play as much as possible. This meant that Downtime took a while and we didn’t get to the Job but that is okay. I feel like we fleshed out the gang and breathed some life into our Duskwall.

Sean joined us and he knows this game backwards and forwards. We would’ve done fine with downtime on our own but he helped us realize the importance of teamwork, even during downtime along with a thousand other details he informed us of quickly, rather us looking it up.

Sean gave us good pointers. I think we used a bit more teamwork than we would have in our downtime.

I’m going to read up on Stress & Trauma and Consequences & Harm. I feel like I’m not comfortable with the link between those mechanics and Action Rolls. I need to refresh.

I’ d like to look at one scene in particular:

[I’ll have the youtube video set to this scene later]

Charming wanted the barrister’s time-piece. Crow wanted Charming to chill so that the gang could secure The Hive as a source of lucrative jobs. It was a tense moment. Sean jumped in as a rules moderator, letting us know our options. Jay and Pete checked in one with another throughout. It was good stuff and a clock was created out of it. I liked how they both stayed respectful towards each other’s characters; there was affection between Charming and Crow even as they disagreed that was nice.

Those moments are tricky. I don’t want a fractured gang messed up by infighting but some friction is fun.


It is an odd thing to have a video record of a game. It was surprisingly fun having a dozen or so folks (mostly friends and online friendly acquaintances) in chat, cheering the game on. Thank you to everyone who watched, thanks to the Actual Play Team for hosting our game and thanks to Sean for walking us through this process.

Actual Play – Sword Kids (6/17/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Morgan Ellis, Mike Olson, Austin Lemke, and Kevin Lemke
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: Doskvol Riots

In which we learn that every once in a while, with perhaps a bit if GM encouragement, Blades might actually try to make a difference and make things better in Doskvol. They’ll do it by kidnapping rich people’s (adult) children and holding them ransom, but they’ll do it to make a difference!

In my Doskvol Riots score there is an option for what kind of score you want to do which reads:

Creating Change. You believe in the cause. Who do you care about and how have they suffered? Who needs to go down for things to change? What will you do to them? Ask the  Creating Change. You believe in the cause. Who do you care about and how have they suffered? Who needs to go down for things to change? What will you do to them? Ask the GM how they are prepared for you. 

Before this game everyone who read that option said some variation of “hah, as if!” and them moved onto one of the other two more self interested options (Smoke Screen and Supplying one Side). However when Mike Olson was deciding which option to take (we pass the sheet around the table allowing people to make choices and then others to answer the question in italics) he actually considered choosing that option and with a bit of a nudge he went for it!

The Situation

The Coalridge Minors have been trying to form a union for years, and union breakers (like our crew here, the Sword Kids) have been making sure that didn’t happen. Under the employment of Foreman Slane, they’ve been leg breaking and fire making to keep would be organizers from… organizing.

But that changed when Bell Brogan, a noble who gave up her life of luxury to join the coal miners and organizing them to throw off the shackles of their cruel employers, started causing trouble for Foreman Slane. To shut them down Slane had the Sword Kids light fighter to a building known to house many of the coal miners. Few were hurt in the fire it (it was lit while everyone was at work) but all of these families lost their homes and their possessions. Slane meant it as a message, to turn the tide of dissidence, but his actions were only fuel on the fire!

Meanwhile, Slanes employer, Laudius Bowmore arrived on Coalridge announcing a relief effort to help all the now homeless members of Coalridge. He and his family were also going to host a town hall to hear all of their grievances. The Sword Kids however, knew this was all for show. The Bowmore’s didn’t care about the people, they just wanted to quell the rioting. They would make empty promises that would never be filled, and once again convince the miners that their best option was to go back to work, accept what meager scraps could be offered to them, and in all other ways accept a worse life than they had before.

The Sword Kids

Bell, who was actually part of a noble family, grew up with Adric Keel, another noble whose parents never expected anything of him, but who wanted to make a difference. Much to his parents dismay, Adric joined the Bluecoats, and because of his lineage, was instantly appoint as a watch commander. Because he didn’t spend much time on the street, it took him a while to realize that the Bluecoats were just criminals with a chain and a fancy coat. And when he tried to expose the corruption he found it went all the way to the top. He also found out that the squeaky wheel gets the grease hammer. He was kicked off the force and disowned by his parents for being such a disgrace.

Adric, who had been given the name “Blue” by every criminal on the street who still thought he was a Bluecoat at heart hooked up with his drug dealers (hey, he might want to make a change, but that doesn’t make him an angel) Timoth, who in turn brought along two Skovlanders, who smuggled the drugs, Skannon and Brace. This sad lot had all been beaten up by Doskvol in one way or another. Brace was a Skov refugee that got gang pressed onto the Nightbreaker, Lord Strangford’s notoriously dangerous to crew Leviathan Hunter. Skannon, who had fought beside Brace in the Unity War, signed on voluntarily to get him off the ship, but needed both Blue and Timioth’s help to do it.

Since then, the Sword Kids had fallen in with Foreman Slane, doing work Adric never thought he would, until it went to far and they turned against their employer.

The Score

To make a difference they would:

  • Convince Bell she needed to lay low (a Flashback once they realized that assassins were hired to remove her)
  • Break into the Bowmore’s estate in Coalridge (they only stayed there when making a civil gesture or when their family home was undergoing repairs)
  • Poison and kidnap the Bowmore children (who were 17 and 19 and first put up a formidable resistance in the form of a sword fight)
  • Convince the housekeeper not only that she should stay quiet but she remembered Adric from when he was young, and that “I didn’t set out to do crime” but now crime was the only way to make thinks better, and that she should help them escape the house with the two paralyzed Bowmore’s in tow.
  • Create a fantastic explosion as a diversion to distract the rioters outside and sneak to a boat which they had waiting nearby to sneak away with the price.

What Rocked

I really liked the use of clocks in this game. We had several tensions rising around the people being mollified, Bell being assassinated, and, Bell who they called a friend, learning that the started the fire. I was particularly impressed that when the “Assassinate Bell” clock was 3/4 full, Timoth called for that flashback to warn her that they were about to do something dangerous and that she should watch her back. It caused all kinds of tensions between them (she wanted to lead the resistance) but with a lot of work they won her over and knocked that clock down and kept her alive.

There was some really morally grey areas here, but I wanted the players to decide where the stood. This was the first group I’ve seen that actually said they wanted to do some good, and it was great watching them try despite how hard it was. And even then, poisoning a noble’s children and kidnapping them, it’s hardly behavior that you can excuse, but to them it was for a greater good. I wouldn’t call the Sword Kids “good” people, but having the discussions they did in game (and in character) was really wonderful.

The crew’s name came as this off handed comment. Something like “Do all you kids have swords?” and then it just turned into, yeah, we’re the Sword Kids. And boom, crew name!

What could have improved

I felt like I got really good hooks in the game for Adric/Blue, and towards the end for Timoth, but not so much for Skannon and Brace. I think it’s an easy crutch for me in a con game to grab onto one character’s heritage or background and play off that, when I should really be doing a better job of incorporating them all in.

Actual Play – The Nail and Bottle (6/16/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Pamela Alexander, John Alexander, Clark Valentine, and Jeff Kosko
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: Doskvol Riots

Skovlan Refugees are rioting because the brigade watched as their homes went up in flames. What will our scoundrels do about it? Claim turf in the midst of the carnage!

My notes for this game are scattered, so we have a bunch of puzzle pieces here, which might just all fit together (or might not):

  • Bazso Baz, secretly a lover, wants to retire. Gone missing after the fire.
  • Flint, used to move spectral product together with our Whisper Echo.
  • LaRose the Bluecoat, a smug cur who loves to feel superior.
  • The Nail and Bottle, used to belong to the Lampblacks, now run by the Bluecoats.
  • Target: Casslyn Slane, a minor noble assigned to be watch commander of a Bluecoat regiment, trying to advance up the ranks and get out of this crappy job.
  • Melvir, used to run the Nail and Bottle Drav Maroden, friend of the crews. Used to run the Nail & Bottle, now run by Drav Maroden, a Bluecoat.
  • Echo rallied up a group of cultists (Vestine, Orlan, Kelyrn, and Wicker) and together they assaulted the Bluecoats in the Nail and Bottle.
  • The Nail and Bottle was barricaded because of the riots. People killing each other in the streets and the Bluecoats doing nothing about it except saving their own skins.
  • The job was smooth, our cutter got a job as a bouncer. Our Skovlan hound went in as bait (he knew he’d get picked on, which they used pretense for starting the fight). Our slide sneaked in the back with our Whisper.
  • It all went down in a bloodbath, but eventually Casslyn was slain and the Nail & Bottle was theirs for the taking!

What Rocked

It was freaking awesome to game with John, Pamela, Clark, and Jeff. I know my notes are spotty, but I do remember vividly how well they portrayed their characters.

What could have improved

Dang, not only did I not take pictures of my notes, I also lost most of them, so I had to put this together mostly from memory. I’m still digging for those index cards!

Actual Play – The Church Job (6/15/2017)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Carl Schnurr, Rob Donoghue, Chad Patterson, Aaron Sturgill
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: Doskvol Riots

I brought the riots to Origins and a riot we had. The Spirit Wardens, everyone’s favorite bogeymen, had burned a witch to break the will of the conscripted Leviathan Hunters, and it had of course, gone horribly wrong.

Elsabeth, a student at Charterhall had been speaking on behalf of the rights of Doskvol citizens and revealing the injustices inflicted upon the citizenry, particular those forced to sail the void sea. When normal methods of silencing her failed, the Spirits Wardens escalated to dire measures and they used the Heart of Kotar, an artifact that was presumed missing, to light a fire that would utterly destroy a demon engulfed in it, and burned Elsabeth on top of it, under the auspices of her being a demon herself.

When this happened the citizens were pushed too far and with Kolin as their leader, took to rioting in the streets of Brightstone, surrounding The Sanctorium, watching the fire that burned not 100 yards from it’s doors.

And my scoundrels used that as a smokescreen to sneak into the Sanctorum from the canals below, make off with the Bank of the Dead (material property taken from the dead), and zip line out of a belfry just as the bombs that Kolin and his crew planted went off!

What Rocked

This was my most Leverage-style of Blades games I’ve run. Rob really figured out how to make flashbacks and his Spider’s forsight work in awesome ways. The did the church job and they did it with style.

A fun twist that we didn’t end up using, but I liked just the same, was that the Lampblacks were working with the Leviathan Hunters to press gang citizens by taking the drunkest (and often the worst customers) and getting them on the ships after they’ve passed out.

What could have improved

Because they were so good at evading people we had very little NPC interaction, which is where I think my strengths lie. Most of the challenges were against the environment, or the encroaching threats. The challenges were solid, but they felt but their nature, less interesting that those with people involved.

Related to that, though the riots are meant to be central to the score (and they were certainly the impetus for the score happening in the first place) they felt far away from the action. There is some sense to that though, the players chose the “smoke screen” option, and they allowed the riots to run unimpinged and they robbed the church while everyone inside was distracted.

Actual Play – One Last Job (6/14/2017)

GM: Mark Diaz Truman
Players: Sarah Richardson, Liz Chaipraditkul, Brendan Conway, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark
Score: One Last Job

Mark reached out just before Origins about trying out a on shot Score at Origins. Karen and I were pretty intrigued, always curious what folks are doing with Blades!

Marks setup was a very cool one (in fact, I’d like to bottle it up in a one page score if he’s interested). We were all hardened criminals who had a powerful crew, but we got sold out by one of our own and served a long time in Ironhook. Now that we’re out all our old resources have dried up, been acquired by others, or otherwise turned against us. All we have is each each other and a healthy appetite for revenge against the one that sold us all down the river.

Mechanically to show this Mark did two cool things.

  1. He asked us all questions about our crew and about the person who sold us out. In this we developed both our crew background and our future score.
  2. He told us all to take one trauma for being in Ironhook and then offered us all extra action dots and special abilities at the cost of additional trauma, which I think is a really eloquent way of depicting progression in a Blades game. By the end of character creation all but one of us were teetering on the edge of of being lost to our vices. We were a cold, vicious, unstable lot!

Mark also let us play with the advanced playbooks, so Karen play a vampire named Skannon Rockport, the product of a botched job by my Whisper. When Cross, a Skovlan woman died in Ironhook, Una forced her soul into the body of someone who was about to get out, one Aldo Vale! Aldo is an Akrosi man, and though Skannon is in full control of the body, Aldo’s thoughts and personality kept bubbling to the surface. Skannon continued to go by her old alias Cross, even when in Aldo’s body. The challenges she faced returning to his old home life and trying to desperate her memories from his were amazing.

We figured out that our crew mate Vond was too stupid to ever come up with a scheme like this, but that she had made a deal with Lord Strangford to deliver a demon to him, and part of that deal was also giving us all up. Because of this, and because of my mad love/hate relationship with Strangford, I decided to play Una Stanford, the lord’s disowned daughter. So good!

What Rocked

Mark had us figure out what our actual score would be build-a-bear style by going around and having each of us gather some information about the score (robbing Vond) and thus also detailing the world. This was really smart because by the end the whole setup felt much more personal and real, and our goal was super clear. It also let us establish that Vond was completely a puppet of the demon now, and thus we had to decide if we wanted to ally with the demon, avoid it’s notice, or openly defy it. Take a guess what a horribly traumatized group would do.

Being the bad asses that we were, this game was full of a ton of flashbacks that made every step we made make sense. Even when we botched a roll and ran into trouble, the flashbacks showed how it was part of the plan, or how we were prepared for it. I love that mechanic in general, but with this group we made it really sing.

Despite being some really hardened people, I loved our crew’s loyalty to each other. We’re all we had left!

Mark’s depictions of NPCs is so great. Our old caretaker was earnest in want to take care of us, but being to beat up and too far out of the game to really do any help. Vond was earnest in being completely out of her depths with the deal she arranged. She was a de facto cult leader but had no idea what her cult was all on about. It was Fight Club where she was Ed Norton/The Narrator and the Demon was Brad Pitt/Tyler Durden.

The radiant plans that emitted a sedative in the air… how fucking cool is that!

Mark’s demons are way the heck scarier than mine. I mean, really damn scary. *shudder*

“She was so simple when she came to me, You think you can take her from me. Do not change what I’ve made!”

What could have improved

Though I loved my relationship with Cross (the Whisper that saved her spirit by doing a botched possession) because of our seating arrangement and because of being the “weird” one I had some trouble figuring out bonds with other characters. I intentionally framed some of my scenes with Rail and Skinner, but overall didn’t feel like I made as strong of bonds as I could have. When Brendan used the the Mastermind ability to LITERALLY take a bullet for me, I was delighted as all heck, but wished I had a scene before that where we established our ties to each other more.