Actual Play – Jedi Blackbird (2/20/2017)

GM: Adrienne Mueller
Players: James Lawton, Steph Bucks, and Sean Nittner
System: Jedi Blackbird (powered by Lady Blackbird)

Knowing I was going to be home along for a week, Adrienne invited me over to hangout out with her friends Steph and Jeff, eat yummy bagels, play with Jame’s cool VR rig (I was WRECKING those pylons!), and play Jedi Blackbird, John Aegard’s hack of Lady Blackbird. It was so much fun!

Opening Scroll

Here’s the opening scroll for the game.

Three Jedi

Though Franter looked like a cool character (and someone who would know the area) we were all really excited about the relationships between the Jedi. Chani is secretly Ordo’s master, Vaud and Cade were master and padawan. That made for all sorts of fun strings to pull on each other. We also had an all alien crew: Ithorian, Mon Calamari, and Omwati which was a fun departure from the typical human-centric Star Wars stories.

We also interjected a bit of tension between the Jedi. Chani didn’t want anyone to know about his affiliation with Ordo. Vaud was perturbed that she was called to this task as she didn’t feel that Cade was ready to go out on a mission, but she wasn’t going to let anyone else know that. Cade started off pushing his luck, breaking things on their landing and kept hiding the bills from Vaud and Chanil. Overall, we all had some shame we were trying to cover up.

We also got into an early discussion about why Jedi are so prone to falling falling to the dark side. The Jedi order is a little like preaching abstinence. It only works until it doesn’t and then there is no place for you. Don’t fear, don’t hate, don’t feel! And once you give into one of those, justifiably human (or any other species) emotions, there is only one place to go.

Our misadventures

Three republic Jedi stick out like a sore thumb in Outer Rim space but in particular we:

  • Used Jedi mind tricks on Bokka the Bold (eat that one Luke!)
  • Intimidated the landing authorities
  • Sort of crash landed ship (all was fine except that blasted volcanic vent that fried our shield generator… who even uses volcanic vents any more?!?)
  • Talked with the natives and were taken for rubes, but nevertheless found out where Ordo was hiding.
  • Intimidated some of the natives and hired them on to join our team.
  • Procured speeders and weren’t cheated in the process!
  • Dodged rust worm clouds and micro metal shards that floated in the ambient atmosphere.
  • Re-asserted leadership over Riggs, the Rodean leader of the toughs we hired.
  • Force lifted the giant seal off Ordo’s front door.

And controverted a very sympathetic Jedi who had turned to the dark side and just wanted all of us to come along with him… cue lightsaber battle and Rust Worm taming!

What Rocked

As always, one of the most rewarding part of Blackbird games are the reflection scenes. In them we learned about Cades desire to overthrow evil and Chani’s doubts. “Tell me about your character” = Healing is one of the smartest parts of this game. In fact, it’s probably worth noting that John’s frequently (always?) makes games with interesting recovery mechanics:

  • Lady Blackbird = Reflection scenes
  • Agon = Sporting competitions
  • Blades in the Dark = Indulging vice

Good stuff!

Steph is a huge Star Wars fan but hadn’t played a lot of roleplaying games…which was AWESOME. Her instincts were always to get in trouble and then find out what happens. She played Cade like he was a stolen car (speaking of which, where did those droid parts go?) and it was so fun to play off her great ideas for fixing problems (usually by causing more!) Steph reminded me how much I love sharing this hobby with people who are new to it.

Adrienne killed it with this game. From the first moment she mentioned “Rust Worm” I was hooked. And her portrayal of NPCs was so good. Adrienne I have to make you do all the voices for my NPCs in games. And the complications we ran into were so good. I kept having times when I threw a bunch of dice into the pool and succeeded and then thought… oh damn, I bet Adrinne would have made this cooler if I failed instead!

James and I had this “who’s in charge” tension running for a lot of the game, which I liked playing off of as well. My character Vaud was resentful about being on this mission, and she played it up a lot. Chani on the other hand was used to getting what he asked for, and so we had this alpha Jedi thing going for a while. Yes! Also his secret with Ordo, and the dark secret he was hiding. All the feels!

I enjoyed one specifically Mon Calamari affectation that I made up, which pressing the tips of my fingers into a surface so hard that Vaud’s somewhat slimy skin formed a suction on the surface, so when she pulled her fingers away, there was the sound of 10 tiny suction cups being ripped away. That’s how I did intense 🙂

John Aegard’s adaptation for Star Wars is top notch! If you want a one shot Star Wars game or to introduce someone to gaming that like Star Wars, or if you’re a fan of Lady Blackbird, or if you just like good games, I recommend it highly.

What could have improved

We got a little close on time at the end so the final confrontation with Vaud was a little shorter than I think it would have been if there was more time, but we still had some great moments. Lightsaber disarms. Force Lightning! RUST WORM TAMING!



Actual Play – Lady Blackbird (10/20/2013)

GM: Ajit George
Players: Sean Nittner (Naomi Bishop), Jason Morningstar (Lady Blackbird), Daniel Levine (Kale Arkam), James Stuart (Cyrus Vance), and Kristin Firth (Snargle)
System: Lady Blackbird

Game Description

Lady Blackbird is on the run from an arranged marriage to Count Carlowe. She hired a smuggler skyship, The Owl, to take her from her palace on the Imperial world of Ilysium to the far reaches of the Remnants, so she could be with her once secret lover: the pirate king Uriah Flint.

HOWEVER, just before reaching the halfway point of Haven, The Owl was pursued and captured by the Imperial cruiser Hand of Sorrow, under charges of flying
a false flag.

EVEN NOW, Lady Blackbird, her bodyguard, and the crew of The Owl are detained in the brig, while the Imperial commander runs the smuggler ship’s registry
over the wireless. It’s only a matter of time before they discover the outstanding warrants and learn that The Owl is owned by none other than the infamous outcast, Cyrus Vance.

How will Lady Blackbird and the others escape the Hand of Sorrow? What dangers lie in their path? Will they be able to find the secret lair of the pirate king? if they do, will Uriah Flint accept Lady Blackbird as his bride? By the time they get there, will she want him to?

Walking Tall

Jason, Kristin, and I showed up at Ajit’s full table, expecting we would never get in. Of the players though, three of them were priority four, and we were all three or lower this session so, like that, we ousted 60% of the table. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits about it though, there were lots of great gaming prospects Sunday morning.

Though I had a lot of fun hanging out with James on Friday, this was my first chance to game with him, as well as the first time I met Daniel. Suffice to say we had a table of awesome peeps.

Highlights of the game

Jason pushed really hard as Lady Blackbird and as a player. He’s just so good. He started by giving Naomi (my character) all of these impossible orders… you know like, take out those five guards, but don’t kill any of them! He also pushed as a player, putting his character in danger and constantly complicating her own life and that of those around her.

James played Vance as a pick-your-gender-pronoun killer. He got tangled up with ladies and men, and it always ended in disaster. Why did Captain Hollis want Vance so bad? Yep, it was a lover’s quarrel!

Ajit had some simply brilliant set pieces. The jail in the opening scene was a gumball machine full of spheres, each of them with a single prisoner in them! The final scene was at a royal ball, with a glass floor overlooking an arena battle below!

Reincorporation. Ajit kept bringing back all these ideas that we developed throughout the game. Uriah Flint has the most amazing and spangle covered boots. Goblins were too poor to pass up work and often were no better off that slaves. All these things that we introduced were folded back into the game.

Kale and Naomi had a fling aboard the owl. She told him it meant nothing, but it did. When it was time for them to part ways on Haven it was Kale and Naomi’s affection for each other that kept the group together. In the final showdown Naomi was forced to choose whether she would save the Lady Blackbird or her new love Kale. I scratched that Key of the Guardian right off my right off my sheet and wrote in Key of Love.

The Lady died because of that choice. Which is all kinds of crazy. Count Carlowe ran her through with his sword. Cyrus bested him in battle but then instead of killing him, reached down and teleported himself and Natasha aboard the Owl (which was crashing through the ceiling of the party) to try and save her life. We didn’t fail many rolls in this game (even challenging ones), but Cyrus failed this one… and the Natasha died in his arms. Fuck yeah.

Ajit called for a ton of flashback scenes which was great. We saw Natasha and Naomi before they left, arguing like sisters about whether or not she should marry the count. We saw Naomi booking passage for two passengers, no questions asked. All of these moments built the characters and the world around them. Natasha’s younger brother Tima was staged to marry Carlowe’s sister in what was clearly now a power grab (the Carlowe family wanted to be joined with the Blackbirds and they didn’t care what it took to make it happen).

Jason introduced Naomi’s tantamount role in the of Chezka, Tima’s bodyguard. Naomi had to convince Chezka to help them save Tima from this marriage, but to convince him, she would have to best him in a match of martial prowess…on the dance floor. I got describe the dance as starting off stilted, with each of them trying to act as the lead. But as their struggle continued they became in sync with each other and instead of countering each other’s moves they were exaggerating them and building off of them. Soon the dance escalated to something fierce; a mixture of flamenco dance intensity and martial arts. It led to aerials and finally step, counter step, step, counter step, our arms moving like serpents interlocking, till the dance reached it’s crescendo with an inside turn where Naomi cradled Chezka in her arms. Or so it looked, his right arm was actually twisted behind his back, held fast, but appearing to all as the embrace of dancers, not combatants.

Kristin got the award as best Snargle ever. She was the moral compass, she was the humor, but she was also the confounding creature that gave us all pause, unable to parse the information we had just received. Together with her companions Bargle and Gargle (and oh so many more), Snargle flew the ship to safety and kept us all from killing each other.

The reveals…oh the reveals. “I’m Lady Blackbird of house Blackbird”. Yeah, that one is expected. “I’m Cyrus Twilight of house Twilight” was not. So much fun.

There were a lot of refreshment scenes which was great mechanically because it allowed us to keep refreshing our personal pools, but it was really great for the fiction because we got to see all of our character’s relationships develop.


Thoughts on this game

Ajit had some really strong techniques here, that I’ll be sure to steal when I run the game in the future.

Have Jason it a game. It will be better for it. Or at least more dire.

I’ve played Naomi twice now and loved her. Snargle as well. Time for me to take a Cyrus or Natasha. See how holding the reins, instead of bucking them, feels again.

Actual Play – Lady Blackbird (3/29/2012)

GM: Rich Rogers
Players: Sean Nittner, Ryan Macklin, and Jeremy Qualls
System: Lady Blackbird

Rich wanted to introduce his friend Jeremy to Lady Blackbird, Skype gaming, and indie games in general. He rounded up a few peeps and ran us one fine game of Lady Blackbird. Our cast included Snargle, Bishop, and Kale, notably neither of the “leader” characters Vance or the Lady herself.

The game, as always was fun. We broke out of our cells, fought off guards and got the Owl off the Hand of Sorrow, but only barely. She was low on fuel, busted and leaking, and the lady herself had been shot during the escape. We were free, but still in dire straights.

The game included a normal amount of cool action bits, as you expected, and ended with two very cool, and unexpected refresh scenes. The first was between Bishop and Kale. She had put the lady in his protection while she fended off the bulk of the guards. Despite giving them cover, the lady got hurt, shot even, and Bishop was furious. The Refresh scene started with her pressing her forearm into Kale’s throat and asking “what kind of man would let a lady (we have very polarized gender roles in this game, see below) take a bullet before he did?” The result was a discussion of his life, how he was never trusted, never got the upper and and learned to look out for himself.

The second refresh was initiated by Snargle. When Bishop found the lady injured she lost her composure and called her “Lady Blackbird”, revealing her identity to the crew of the Owl. Snargle, when they were safe and flying into a small port to get supplies revealed to Bishop that the Blackbirds had killed his people many years ago. He was in fact very old and had seen their cruelty and couldn’t be a part of his. Bishop and the Lady would not be traveling with them any further than the next port. Bishop countered that all she had ever known was violence, to kill or be killed (and she killed a awful lot), and the Lady was the first, and only, truly good person she had ever met.  What started as discussion about the lady ended up being a discussion about how people had been changed by violence. In Snargle’s case he abhorred it, where as Bishop believed it was the only way to show strength. Good stuff there.

Thoughts on the game

Rich did a great job describing the setting. He made it very Space 1889. White walls, sharp uniforms, and a strong division between men and women. Lady Blackbird and Naomi Bishop were in fact the only two women aboard the Hand of Sorrow, because the Empire did not allow women to serve in the navy. An interesting twist in the typical Firefly-esk Steampunk interpretation of the Wild Blue.

Snargle failing to intimidate the guards by getting his own femur stuck in his throat and coughing when he meant to screech like, like, like one of these (see below) was hilarious:

We did have one kind of stall out early on where we had some different understanding of what was going on, where some of us were preparing to move and others thought we were waiting for the guards to come. It worked out fine, but did have some confusion. It got me thinking, Rich had done a great job of describing the situation, but I think it would have been good for him to describe the momentum as well, e.g. “Cool, sounds like you guys are breaking out, how are you going to do that?”

Rich was a great a asking questions about how we got there, what we had seen and what things looked like. It really fleshed out the scenes.

I really enjoyed some of the characters working outside their element. Kale in a fight, Naomi trying to negotiate with the trade federation prisoners, etc. It really felt like these were the kinds of things that Vance and Blackbird would have done of they were present, but as they had other things to do (like being NPCs) it was put on us.

There was a lot of fun to playing the low status characters. It was like seeing the “downstairs” side of things, while the important people were often off camera.

Having hands like sledge hammers is awesome. Just saying.


Actual Play – Lady Blackbird (6/3/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean, Travis, Steve and Fattig
System: Lady Blackbird

This game is hot ( It’s got a LOT going for it.

  • It’s free.
  • It’s a complete adventure and system on about a 16 page PDF. The rules fit on about half a page. You could go from download to play in 30 minutes.
  • The game is gushing with cool imagery. Firefly, Final Fantasy, Star Wars. This game has it in spades.
  • The characters are wicked awesome. A goblin shapeshifting pilot, An ex-pit fighter bodyguard! These guys are just so much fun to play.
  • The mechanics are inspired. John took some of the best from The Shadow of Yesterday, Fate, Mouse Guard and put them together in a fun, awesome system. The refresh mechanic, which is engaging like the Agon refresh, is pulled from The Shadow of Yesterday.
  • The game is beautiful. I mean just click on the link above and bask in the splendor of it.
  • The setting, while sparse, is evocative. John is fantastic in his ability (this is evident in Agon on as well) to employ existing knowledge from the nerd collective mind and add a few flourishes to focus and hone that into something that is both reminiscent of so many old favorites and a beautiful creation in its own right. Cyrus Vance is Malcolm Reynolds, he’s Han Solo, but he’s also Cyrus Vance, soldier-of-fortune.
  • The situation is fantastic. You’re in the frying pan about to be dumped in the fire. Things are bad and they are going to get worse. Which means everyone one is going to start moving as soon as the game starts.
  • It’s damn fun. Sometimes a game as a ton of cool elements in it and feels like it should be fun but for some reason that fun isn’t easy to reach. I’ve played games of DitV where at least someone at the table didn’t get what the Dogs were about. I’ve pitched the Shab-al-hiri roach a number of times and felt like people were intimidated (even if they didn’t say so) but the content. I was one of those people. But this game is easy to jump into and fully engage. It’s a whole mess of fun.
  • And I know I mentioned it already, but the with all this, the game is free!
  • For me though, this game did something above and beyond being a great thrill ride. It inspired me. I’ve had a couple very successful con games. Games that are still talked about years later: Office Waste, Exalted Unplugged, and most recently Flagship Atlantis. Looking at this game and looking back on those, I really think I could remake them in a game like this. Here’s hoping that happens.

What rocked

I think I just listed it.

What could have been improved

We only had four players and Lady Blackbird wasn’t present. I’d like to see her present.

I think there is more to mine out of the refresh scenes than I did. I want to try it again with more poignant questions, like “how much is doing this job really worth to you?” My refresh scene was pretty tame.