Actual Play – Corpse Killers (6/28/2015)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Mark Levad, Tony Dowler, Joe England, Soren Ludwig
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickstart 3 Rules
Score: Gaddoc Rail Station

Gaddoc, session 3!

First off there is something very satisfying about running the same adventure over and over. The details of the world come into greater focus. Sure, ever wall is made of crumbling brick, and every ally is dark and slick. But knowing that Rigney hides rogues in his back office in exchange for services, and that Larose is a black lotus puffing bluecoat, and that the Argonaut is so long her caboose hangs out of the end of the station, well, that stuff makes Duskwall come alive.

Thought all of the characters had their own connections as usual, Tony’s character Aldo “Dog” Lomond really cemented them in the fiction. The Lomond family has worked for generations in Coalridge ostensibly as miners, but actually running protection rackets. Recently Ulf Ironborn has begun eating up Lomond territory and the two families have become bitter rivals.

IMG_4773So… when it was a question of what other game was involved? Of course it was the Ironborn. When we had meaning “hey, you know me, and I know you” interactions, of course they were with other coal miners who might fucking hate each others guts when it came to turf disputes, but both knew one another’s families, and didn’t have any intention of siding with a fucking demon vessel just come alive!

Oh yeah, the “score” in this game was a mummified bodied with pre-cataclysmic runes inscribed all over it. The body could house a demon inside it and was undetectable as such. The demon, normally trapped, had of course broken out and now used the corpse as it’s own….to rend the flesh of humans looking for enough power to break free of it’s bonds. Funsies.

What Rocked

The aforementioned family rivalry was great. Personal connections between the PCs and the NPCs is awesome.

Drav “Key” Penderyn being a security specialist working in academia opened up a whole new world of Duskwall, and new questions. So what does personal security look like? How do universities protect themselves from Blades? What are the politic of Duskwall academia like? How do you get on the outs? Good stuff.

IMG_4772Dobo’s relationship with Satarra was messed up. He hadn’t always been Dobo. Maybe someone else could be Dobo for him instead? I kept wondering if he would try to put Satarra in the corpse, as a way to contain her. To bad we didn’t have enough time.

The fight with the corpse demon was brutal. I’ve never seen so many desperate rolls. Raven and Dog tried to intimidate the crowd with the corpse of that had <redacted so as to not offend reader’s sensibility> but when it came alive and groped for them with inhuman strength, it was our blades who were terrified. Inside the car it was Dobo’s job to contain the demon, but he could not complete the ritual and it overpowered him. The academic Key had to leap in, way outside of anything he even remotely knew, and wrap the spirit bane necklace around the corpses neck before it tore open Dobo’s chest. Damn, that was a rough fight (thanks to clocks, btw).

On the note of clocks, advancing a clock as a complication is a great way to show “you did it, but the world is alive and others are in motion too”.

First crew to be named in play!

I totally stole “a demon wreaking havok on the train” idea from John Harper, who ran the scenario the day before with a chain demon that had himself a little massacre on the train as well. That an my players saying there was an ancient corpse that held a demon. Why do people ship all this crazy shit into Duskwall!!?!?!!

What could have improved

IMG_4774As much as I loved the Lomond v. Ironborn fued, I think focusing on that meant leaving out a lot of other stuff. We didn’t see much of Satarra, or of Key’s connection to Rosiland, or Raven’s rivalry and love affair with Casta. There is a lot more I’d like to have explored with these rogues.

Actual Play – The door (6/27/2015)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Christoph Sapinsky, Lisa Sapinsky, William Lee, Dave Weinstein
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickstart 3 Rules
Score: Gaddoc Rail Station

Game two of Gaddoc Rail! I cleaned up the rules a bit (added some explicit questions for the GM, and cleaned up the Score questions). It worked well, very well.

What was the score? This question interests me because the players get a chance to do some world building. The get to decide what’s so illegal and valuable and dangerous that they would risk time in Ironhook (or worse to get it). So what was it? A door. A port really, that allowed anything to step through it and pass through electroplasmic lightning. Holy crap!

Owning such a thing could allow a mass scale invasion of any city by ghosts. It could also allow entry into buildings thought secured by lightning towers. For a small time criminal like Baszo Baz it would mean riches, for a Skovlander looking to be free of the Imperium it would mean a revolution!

IMG_4770A Slide…finally

So far every game I’ve run has had a cutter and a whisper. Then a hound or a lurk or another cutter. This is the first time I’ve seen a Slide though. It surprises me they aren’t more popular given that you’d think the Slide wold be…popular.

Christoph fought a bit of an uphill battle trying to be super sly with a whole crew that was more about breaking and entering and more breaking, but he got to do it. And in doing so actually kept a lot of people from getting hurt unnecessarily, which I thought was pretty awesome.

The got in, they got out, and “Darling” covered their tracks, but left a few heartstrings behind himself.

What Rocked

Lady Axe, spirit bane wrapped around her blade, scattered a half dozen ghosts, thought one of them made it’s way into her. First possession in one of my games!

The aforementioned suaveness of Darling, which created the necessary distraction and bought the necessary time for them to find the “Door”.

The two Skovlanders, one a patriot, the other a turncoat, both being on the outs with the consulate, and then making matters worse by giving the score to the Lampblacks and later getting drunk and yelling outside the doors of the embassy that they had done it!

This no-nothing two-bit henchman named Potch inadvertently became their despised nemesis. We had a flashback scene where our lurk was lurking about to overhear some information. The controlled situation went poorly and escalated to a interaction with Potch, the lieutenant who had the information they needed but was holding out to get something for himself. That controlled situation also went poorly and escalated to Lady Axe joining the flashback to get up in his grill. We ended the adventure with him being the drop and the Blades refusing to hand it over to him, demanding they hand it directly to Baz themselves. That night Lady Axe woke just in time to hear some Bluecoats stomping up her stairs from an anonymous tip. She was out the window just in time!

IMG_4771A lot of heat was generated from this job, and that heat meant the entanglement roll was rough. The woman Darling seduced, the conductor of the Argonaut was brought in and interrogated. Dropping a hefty three coin, they paid for her escape. The could have let her rot, but feelings. Also, maybe should finger them. Maybe.

The Hooded Fox was their lair, they had a room always reserved for them, because they took care of the tavern owner, Rigney.

What could have improved

I was super disappointed with “Possessed” as harm. The way the harm rules work, it is very easy for someone to heal three ticks (which is the most deadly harm there is) in downtime. In fact, if you’re willing to throw coin at it, it’s pretty much impossible to fail. This took the “Oh, now Lady Axe has someone riding shotgun in her noggin, I wonder how that’s going to work” question out of the equation. Smoke the whisper banished it.

In retrospect I’d slow way down and say “how?” As in “you want to get the ghost out, how will you do it?” And then once it’s out, what then? Prepared for elecroplasmic incineration? Also, I think instead of treating it as Harm, I’d just say it’s something that is now true. No dice penalties, but there is someone else pushing buttons up there. Instead of handling removing it as healing, I’d handle it as a long term project. That at least would buy a bit of time for it to be played out.

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