Actual Play – The Bloodletters (3/17/2015)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.6

Enjoying the fruits of labors, we recapped our last session, had some downtime, and then pulled our next score, getting in bed with Bazso Baz. All the while becoming contaminated with demon blood…

New Clients

3rd and 4th sons and daughters of the nobles with nothing better to do than get our tattoos and take our drugs.

Summary Entanglements

Since the days of the party there has been rumors going around about a dangerous gang murdered a bunch of Red Sashes and made a guy carry them all back in a wheelbarrow and forced him to write their demands in blood on the door. Didn’t happen but its a good story. As a result the Spirit Wardens have brought “the rookery” into Crow’s Foot at Heartbreak Square. An armored carriage with deathseeker crows that could fly and out of it. It will be easier for them to track us now. It’s guarded by two Bluecoats and and a masked Spirit Warden. This is in response to the massacre, but also of missing people that were last scene in Crow’s Foot.

Harrington has been released, arranged by Strangford (sometimes called Strathmill). We got a note that he was going to sea and we’d hear from him when he got back, and that he’s lying low for a while. We’ve got a week of supplies left. Hopefully he’ll be back before we run out!

Downtime Actions


  • Patched back up by Quellen. The moss removed from her wound, flushed out with mineral waters, sewed the wound back up and redresses it. The wound is stiff and achy, but so much better than it was.
  • Prowess Training with the crew to fight the Red Sashes (Skirmish raised)
  • Gains access to Keel Manor, by way of our nicer clothes, and using Anya Bowman to help us connect. She charmed the carriage driver (a dashing young man) and now we have access anytime we want it! In doing so though, Anja realized Arcy’s interest was personal, not just about the money. Social Access to Lord Keel (6/6). They know I’m Am (1/4).


  • Date 1: Nothing boring for them. The go to the devil dog fights! Where they hollow out dogs, possess them with spirits, and then let them fight to the death. Linea dresses down, incognito even. Linea shows her bloodthirsty side. They have gladiators fights to the death in Iruvia (and she’s into it). She’s something of a paradox. She’s very high ranking but her calling is this life.
  • Date 2: The Golden Plum. A gourmand restaurant in Six Towers know for it’s other pleasures in the back. Canter throws money around; making it rain! Linea really goes incognito here. Canter talks about the future in BIG ways “I’m gonna be a king. And a king’s gotta have a queen, right?”
  • Date 3: They get tattoos together. Linea has tattoos from all over the world! They get demon blood tattoos (devil’s bargain). (Corrupted by Demon Blood 1/4). Linea falls for Canter! They are now together!


  • Blasted Hand recovery with Quellen. (Burns that burn in the ghost field). At some point his hand is burning when he’s near where it happened by the brothel. The disturbance in the ghost field is what is drawing out the crows. When she looks at the wound it doesn’t look good. It bleeds void water and has become blackened.
  • Resolve Training by dressing in a new costume (shredded red garb, a single leviathan eye covering his left eye) mapping out places in the area that are attuned to the ghost field. He senses there is some spider webbing of ghost tendrils going everywhere, but they are coming from the basement of the tattoo parlor.
  • Continues developing his demonic pact with Setarra! He enters a room in Scurlock Manor that only opens with his ghost key… Edlund’s ritual chamber with a summoning pool. He unravels his hand and let’s it bleed into the water. We all notice that the craftsmanship of the pool is the same as the construction done below the basement. Here is the first place we see the ghost field, where it shows the violence we’ve done! We see Setarra in her true form and offers her hand to Oskarr.


We talked some on demonic corruption and who has the coolest tattoos and our plans for Lord Keel. Fun times.

Meeting with Baszo Baz

Our contact with Baszo was performed as a Social Plan, with Arcy as the point of contact with Baszo, and Oskkar in his new persona the Red Hand. He invited us to meet in his tavern, the Leaky Bucket. It’s been fixed up from it’s days of dereliction, but they left one leak in the roof to keep its character, and the outside still appears weathered and worn. The area has a lot of Skovlanders, many of them who look to be doing better than other refuges in Duskwall thanks to a hand up from the Lampblacks.

All along the streets Lampblacks, identified by their waxed coats and stovepipe hats, stood openly on corners, watching out for attacks, making no effort to conceal their truncheons and larger weapons.

We attended with Cyclops, Hix, and Bricks at our side. The bar was emptied out and prepared for us to meet; Baszo working behind the bar and many of his soldiers making plans around a map on a table. He invited us to the bar where he poured out four drinks of fine whiskey, and as Oskarr noticed, one empty pour for the Empty Vessel (the mirror behind the bar reflects several huge taxidermied heads and the arrangement is the sacred symbol of the Empty Vessel).

We toasted to the death of the Red Sashes. May it be swift and their suffering in the next life be long.

Sizing each other up

As soon as the drinks were poured, Baszo attempted to read us all and find out everything he could about us. Canter, being Canter though, made so much noise that he brought all the attention to himself, so Arcy could catch Baszo off guard. He started talking about how we’re the Bloodletters now, embracing the stories as truth!

With Canter’s cover Arcy waited for the opportunity to jump in and put pressure on Bazso to join with us…and take over the Crow’s Foot! Not the plan, but she got carried away. Oskarr backed her up with a supernatural fog that frosted over the mirror and in it was written the letters written by the Bloodletters. Even with all that, though, there were complications. [Five dice but I only got a 4! On a Desperate roll, that means a serious complication and reduced effect]…

First, he didn’t want to really buy in. Baszo was going to let us do all the leg work and then see how it goes for him before really committing his forces. Arcy countered that by cutting her hand and bleeding into her whiskey glass and then passing it to him to drink and do the same. Baszo was going to fold and agree to commit fully, but Oskarr pushed the drink toward him and made it non-negotiable. We drank each other’s blood, and because Oskarr was in the mix, it was tainted with demon blood! (Both Arcy and Baszo got are Corrupted by Demon Blood 1/4).

Second, one of his guys was secretly a spirit warden, and tried to head out to tell them about us, and all our dirty deeds. Canter, however was having none of that. He smelled a snitch early on, and when Arcy gave him a nod, he headed out to wait for the snitch to come out the back. Cyclops was waiting out back to cut him off, and when turned to face Canter, he shot him down… and the friend he burst out to warn him!

Canter found a Spirit Warden journal on him, walked back into the Leaky Bucket and dropped it on the counter! Boom!


Credits roll over violence

As the credits rolled for this episode, we saw montages of the the Lampblacks and the Bloodletters doing violence to the Red Sashes. There was a great shot of a red sash wrapping around one of the Bloodletters throats and a Lampblack sword cutting through it, followed by the Red Sashes force being overwhelmed.

Blades on Air


  • Kissed Fairly Passionately
  • “I’m gonna be a king. And a king’s gotta have a queen, right?”
  • She’s asking you to remove the boundary between the two of them so they are both hers.” … “Uh….. yes”
  • What does date number two with Setarra look like?
  • He will literally be summoning demons right in front of you and you’ll both be like “what do you even do here?”
  • No one’s going to read Oskarr, he’s a book full of gibberish.
  • There is a consequence of being friends with a snitches.
  • Canter “let the bodies hit floor” Haig.

What rocked

A discussion about what’s really going on with Canter, where we looked at his character and got a sense of how he fits in the world of Doksvol. A tough criminal. An unstable and violent individual.

Canter and Bazso amping each other other up. Lot’s of “yeah, yeah, yeah!”

The blood dropping into the whiskey glass has been part of the opening credits the whole time.

Canter timing his gunshot with the peal of thunder! Meanwhile, he was filled with doubt. What if I can’t prove this guy is a snitch? I know he is, but how hard will I have to ramp it all up to get this to fly.

Oskarr forcing the issue of drinking blood, and it being tainted with Setarra’s blood…

The snowballing of our [4-5] rolls made the fiction so much better. Just as it should. Drinking over each other’s blood. A Spirit Warden in the Lampblack’s midst. Killing an innocent man. So much good stuff.

Making up the “how sloppy” trait on the fly, and deciding among ourselves how it was going to work by using the game’s internal logic!

The Red Hand!

What could be improved

My mic was popping all session long. Sorry to our listeners!

Actual Play – Kids these days (2/9/16)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.5

Brightstone, the one clean speck in all of duskwall. Where the buildings are made of the white marble inlaid with silver, and the canals are scented with perfume.

Also the home of Lord Dunville who was hosting the Arkenvorn festival this year. A celebration where Duskwall’s finest gather to commemorate the founding of the Spirit Wardens….and where Duskwall’s finest scoundrels gathered to ply their demon blood tattoos on rich young dilettantes. Everyone wins!

Moments in high society

Canter, wearing a mask that looked like a deified version of his own face found Laenya, offended Captain Dunville (the lord’s son), and swept her away. Responding to the hosts etiquette with street savvy and casual insults, nearly (but not quite) getting us all kicked out of the party.

Lord Scurlock (the young lord that is) being announced at the party, dressed in crow’s feathers in the spirit of the ghost finding crows and drawing the attention of the entire crowd, then properly mingling while still keeping a distance and maneuvering into a position to observe the party, and himself recognizing his uncle and Setarra on one of the far landings even though they were protected by a supernatural veil causing all other eyes to glaze.

Arcy, awkwardly playing the part of a gossiping socialite and with Oskarr’s help to carry her voice, allowing lord Strathmill, her old captain that her mutiny failed against, to hear her speak about Harrington being locked up on “false charges”.


The centerpiece of the party (their party, not our party, that was down below and all about drugs and ink) was the commemorations of the creation of the Spirit Wardens (which were previously just called devil hunters) by the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh. As it turns out, the church isn’t just about Romanesque orgies (though there is that too) but instead really celebrating the sanctity of the living. Once dead, our ghosts are shadows of our form selves and that pervades them with a hunger to regain their humanity, despite it being forever lost.

As the ceremony was performed and the history of humankind’s triumph over demons was recounted Setarra, still invisible the to clouded eyes of mortals, emoted first amusement then outrage, but Oskarr realized later that was all an act. At the completion of the history, Dunville hull servants (yep, he’s got soulless peeps running around serving drinks, how good a guy could he be?) provided several spirits which had been bound in charms which were put inside a great chamber. The gaslights in the room went out and the chamber erupted in electromasmic fire, incinerating the spirits. After the show was complete, electric lights lit the room, symbolizing the advancement of humankind – and providing better light than their predecessors.

Below, with Duskwall’s Finest

After we had successfully acted the part of the upper crust attending a party (minus Canter, who antagonized our host but then thankfully the rest of the party canoodling with Leneya) we made our way down, deep below the mansion into the underground boat house.

[Mechanics point of order here: We killed it on this job. First we rolled an amazing engagement roll. Plenty of dice, easy 6. Second we used a teamwork move to set up the eventual buy with some scary stories and shit tons of dream powder].

Luckily no wardens, butlers, or other buzz kills were looming around the boat house so we were able to party with the young, naive and rich, and then after they were plied with both ample dream power to cloud their senses, and stories of terrifying and exotic wonders to arouse their ambition, we presented them with the exquisite tattoo patterns and the impossible colors (and sensations) of our unique ink (yes, fuckign leviathan blood, we are terrible, terrible people).

The hesitated for a moment but Canter made the sale by pretending to be affronted by their cowardness and prepared to leave. Eager to impress their new purveyor of delights they bought in…completely!  By the end of the night they were all talking about what their next tattoo would be!

Blades on Air

What Rocked

I loved the flashback to Arcy’s failed mutiny and her attempt to rally the sailors against the leviathan tainted Strathmill while the ship was under attack. It went poorly.

Canter just being a absolute fucker was awesome. Yeah, he nearly blew the mission just to prove a point, yeah it was asinine, but some day Captain Dunville will realize who was messing with him, and it will be great! Later him doubling down

The story Arcy told about Iruvian’ blades was one told to me by my father in a different context. I’m sure he was just as full of shit as Arcy was but it doesn’t make it any less of a great story. So happy I got a critical on that one.

Canter just pushing himself to the limit (in fact passing out and earning trauma)

Oskarr awkward exchange with Setarra that was totally one of those “if my husband/boyfriend/partner sees you here, he’s going to kill us!” looks.

Everyone’s costumes. Fucking Shiny!

What could have improved

Much as I like creating more complications for myself, I think I played Arcy too cool with Strathmill. Yeah, it will be cool when he starts investigating Harrington, but I should have just pulled the trigger and given him a tip that it was Arcy behind that Spirit Warden mask. It would have been cool to be in a desperate situation then rather than let one brew later.

really don’t like stepping on other people’s fun, and I think that is what I was doing (or at least potentially doing) when Arcy tried to dig her claws into Leneya. Yes, Arcy can’t stand Canter, but a) hurting him out of spite is just petty and b) Sean doesn’t want Adam to have less fun in the game because of our character’s revilary. I’m glad it was just information gathering. It’s going to stop at that.

Not enough time man, never enough. I wanted something more between Oskarr and Setarra. I wanted to to see Captain Dunville try again to best Canter. I wanted to see (as above) Arcy risk exposure due to her hatred of Strathmill. This game is so ripe with opportunities, I want see them all!


Actual Play – Licking our wounds (10/22/2015)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.3f-ish

After our showdown from last session, the Six Tower’s Gang needed some legit downtime!

Canter got himself a nice new coat from Dunridge & Sons and the spent time with his new lady friend, where we learned about childhood in Iruvia.

Arcy got patched up first by some street doc that gave her and infection and later by Quellin who actually helped her out. She then overindulged her sexual appetite and slept with Cyclops, which caused some trouble in the gang.

Oskar also had his wounds tended to by Quellin and then spent considerable time and money getting some amazing calligrapher to draw a new tattoo design and then getting an invite to party (an exceptional invite even) where we can start trying to hawk our wares to the richer clientele. Yay for finding us the next score!


We also ran into some trouble, entanglements if you will.

Lord Skurlock has been messing with the minds of our gang and without them even knowing it, they dug a cistern for the bodies of the demon blood corrupted people to float in. Covered in morter and brick dust, holding trowels in their hands they still didn’t know they did it.

Larose, our contact in the bluecoats let us know that Harrington was taken in for questioning and found to have contraband. He’s our supply of leviathan blood and a personal friend of Arcy’s. We’ve got a week before a magistrate sentences him to figure out who to pay off to get him out of there.

Bazso Bas has asked for a personal meeting with us. We want that right? That’s a good thing right?

Making Plans

For once Arcy and Canter agreed on something. In the short term we’re going to let Bazso Baz know that we’ll take care of the Red Sashes and he can focus on the Crows, knowing that sooner or later we’ll have our knives at his throat, or the other way around.

In the long term, we plan on rolling Lord Keel and taking him for all that he’s worth.

Blades on Air

Actual Play – This is OUR turf now! (9/17/2015)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.3f-ish

Following up from from our last session, John rolled us right into the consequences of our actions. In a brief recap, we took over a brothel and gambling den controlled by the Red Sashes. One of our final rolls to secure it resulted in a mixed success [5 on the die] so we got the place but doing so took time, which was all the Red Sashes needed to assemble their hit squad.

And bow howdy, did they ever. Spoiler, they don’t have the name Red Sashes for nothing!

Part one on air – Fight!

Part two on air – Duel of Wits! (wait, that’s a different game)

The Skinny

For those who don’t want to watch two hours of video, here’s what went down.

As we were wrapping up in the brothel the Red Sashes hit us. The electric lights flickered and went out, the roof top windows shattered and red sashes came flying down, a thick fog crept in through the broken glass, and the ghost of the dead bouncer suddenly rose and tried to possess Canter. All at once!

We were having none of that!

Canter shot fools left, right, and center. They may have been master swordsmen and trained in crazy scarf acrobatics, but that gave them no special resistance to his lead. Of the six of them, he dropped three. Bullets to the face!

Oskarr got to shine in the Whisper Anime version of Blades in the Dark. In the spirit world, shit looks pretty epic. He wrested control over the bouncer’s ghost from another whisper, eating the electrical feedback in doing so. With that ghost he possessed one of the Red Sashes. +1 to the Six Towers Gang. -1 to those fuckers! He stole the other whispers tempest and used the fog to form it into a ice spike that impaled (and killed) one of the Red Sashes. He got on the roof top and called to Setarra across the ink black sea and used her power to brand the other whisper and banish him from our turf.  Oh, and he did all this while keeping the ghost of Silver in check!

Arcy did a lot of being choked, slashed, and stabbed. She also called the gang into action and pummeled a dude who already had a broken leg.

The Aftermath

With one of their men alive (if only barely) and one possessed, we send the dead back in a wheelbarrow (aww, our old delivery wagon), pushed by the possessed man. Arcy whispered in the ear of the broken man to tell Mylera that she can either accept her losses and know this territory is now save in our hands, or she can come at us and fight a war on two sides.

And there was much rejoicing, sort of

After the fight, and important divide was made. Arcy wanted to go drinking with her “boys” but that explicitly did not include Canter, who she does not like because she cannot control. An argument broke out between them about who was going drinking together, but really it was about who was in control of the gang, whether these ex-sailors were still sailors at heart or if they had thrown off the shackles of their previous lives. It was a tense moment between Arcy and Canter, like watching mom and dad fight. Good stuff there!

What rocked

John did a fantastic job of hitting us with enough all at once that we had to scramble to survive. He pointed out that with very competent characters, if you dole out one bit of trouble at a time, sometimes they can resolve each one before the next one hits and it feels really anticlimactic. Also, with everything going down at once, we all had plenty to do. It was really a great fight and I liked that the Red Sashes weren’t push overs. They wen’t down, but not easily at all.

Oh man, Arcy and Canter at each other’s throats! This will be the doom our crew I just know it. On the plus side, I was compared to Idris Elba, so I can’t really complain. I really enjoy that Adam and I can go at it pretty hard against each other, but the whole time be able to step back and discuss whats happening in our character’s heads and in the narrative.

I enjoyed making use of our gang. It was really cool to see the Fine Thugs in action. In part because it’s fun to have the weight of a Tier 1 gang to throw around, and in part because the fighting styles were so different. The Sashes were master swordsmen, our men were brutes. I mean, the cam in with cleaver and club vs. blade and sash. And despite outnumbering the Sashes three to one, they still would have lost if not for support from the rest of us. Some savage motherfuckers!

I really enjoyed getting to use Battleborn. I realize, I haven’t used any of my playbook abilities until now (more on that below) so it was cool to have it come out in a meaningful way in the fight.

I love, love, that when Canter was shot the thing that just enraged him wasn’t the wound, but that his coat was ruined. That was fucking great.

By the demons of the ink black sea, Oskarr is terrifying. Twice Stras just narrated in his own devil’s bargains. Once when saying he was using demon blood tattoo ink (what, our whisper has been using? that is bad) to fuel his magic, and once when he called upon Setarra (pulling her from Lord Skurlock’s binding) to do his bidding. Plus all the crazy anime visuals were so awesome.

I like hard core mode (if you opt to take stress instead of a consequence, you have to decide that before you roll the dice) a lot. It made saying “ill resist that” much more dicey, which was great.

What could have improved

I didn’t really realize this until this game but my two playbook moves are both reactive, vs. the others who moves are a activated by the characters taking actions. They are all narrowly defined actions (making a desperate move, commanding a ghost, etc), but those narrow situations come up often both because players are good at getting their characters in those narrow situations and because as the audience to our own game we all want to see those moves come up. We want to see Canter with his crazy reflexes shoot a dude before Arcy can say shit. We want to see Oskarr use crazy tempest powers to make ice spikes and impale fools. The moves Arcy has are Resolute (which allows her to heal faster) and Battleborn (which give her armor). Both of these we based on the background that she is tough as nails and survived being throw off an iron steamship and swam out of he ink black sea to the shores of Duskwall. But neither (until this session) have come into play yet.

This is a pretty common case with defensive abilities, so it isn’t an easy thing to changed, or necessarily even should be addressed. Looking at the other Cutter abilities, they are all proactive, so I think was just a case of me going a little overkill on the “must be really tough”.

For us the PVP mechanics were sufficient, but I do think there is ambiguity in the rules when one player takes an action another wants to resist, or when two players take contested actions. We ran into both of these in game (Arcy trying to resist Canter shooting one of the Red Sashes and Arcy and Canter fighting over who would go drinking with who). I think both were handled to everyone’s satisfaction, but it was on John to be on his toes and think of a method to adjudicate it. I think baking a little bit more of that into the mechanics would both encourage players to go at each other (a good thing) and also let them know in advance how conflicts between them would be resolved (also a good thing).

Actual Play – Extended Downtime (8/12/2015)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.3f

Our first game on Twitch was a bit, erm, twitchy. The Skype to Twitch feed keep dropping and our connections were a bit dodgy, lagging up or disconnecting all together. The end result was that we weren’t able to record all of the show, but what we got is available on Adam’s Twitch feed.


Last session we left off finishing the score (selling demon blood infected bodies to Lord Scurlock) but hadn’t finished the downtime, so that’s where we started up.

Arcy Keel does not truck with Bluecoats. When Marlane finished a bout down at the docks and started removing her wraps, she told Arcy about Sinda and Raif, the Bluecoats who picked her up and gave her the shakedown. Marlane did good. She got their names and didn’t give up a thing. Arcy nodded as she heard the story and then cocked her head toward the exit. Marlane started re-wrapping her hands.

Sudden, overpowering force is how you hunt leviathans. Creatures that are so massive and mighty, that if they realized how weak we all are, they would just break art the lightning fields and destroy Duskwall in one fell swoop. Arcy took the same approach with the Blue.

Together with Marlane they started stalking the two of them through Crow’s Foot, asking around a taverns and pubs they might frequent. Resistant at first, eventually Arcy went into a few places she was known at [Devils Bargain] and got the lead they needed. “Oh yeah, they just left, you can catch them if you go now.”

And catch them we did. Just as they were entering Night Market, Arcy. Marlane, Cyclops and his fine thugs jumped them in the ally. A few blows were exchanged, but quickly they were held fast by Marlane and Cyclops as Arcy held her naval saber at Sinda’s throat.

“That part of the docks you’ve been poking around. You’re not going to poke around there any more!” That was was the gist of it at least. When the realized this was just a shake down, and nobody was dying as long as they played nice, Raif eventually produced a charcoal sketch for Arcy to see. Not quite a wanted poster, more a “person of interest”. It was Arcy herself, only younger in appearance. Still not putting two and two together, Arcy wondered if Julian had been hiring out the Bluecoats to help him search for her. [One action spent to reduce heat]

blades_smoker_02Canter Haig was looking for some talent. He asked around and found an old Skovlander named Brogan who didn’t talk much and had apparently seen it all. He brooked little bullshit, but also didn’t judge. Just Canter’s type. As our new artist was inking Canter (a skeletal hand clawing at his ribs) they shared a moment, “I ate a man.” “Yeah, okay, I’ve seen stuff too. Yeah. Cool.” (I’ll let you guess who was who).

Once the bond was formed, Canter started insinuating that he might have an offer for someone with the right talent and a total lack of scruples. He didn’t come out and say “we have leviathan blood we want you to ink people with” but he did a good job of making it clear that we had something pretty special, and in doing so got Brogan hooked! [One action spent to gain an asset]

Oskar Scurlock poured time and money, oh so much money, into figuring out a way to make demon ink out of demon blood. He worked with our witch friend Quellin, but paranoid, he never let her see the complete process. Finally, after many sleepless nights and many visits down to the parlor (Cyclops and his crew had wised up a bit and were not pretty sure who was going to turn and who as good) to collect the test subjects he needed, Oskar had a formulate that worked!

The refined product, a pearlescent liquid that shimmered with the inky blackness of the sea, the purple hues of mid-morning, and the magenta incandescence of electroplasmic lightning. Beautiful. [Two actions spent on long term projects]

Arcy, at 3am, dragged herself out of bed with Marlane, put her clothes back on, and made the dreaded trip to Whitecrown. A terrible mixer of strong alcohol, confidence from her encounter with the bluecoats, and guilt for leaving her husband alone was surging through her. She was still drunk and it was impairing her decision making, or at least that is the bullshit excuse she would use later. She’d find Julian, tell him to end this stupid search for her, and then put an end to that chapter of her life. The chapter that included her son and daughter.

Or at least that was the plan. On the way their she was stopped by Bluecoats. In her bedraggled attire and with her faltering steps clearly she did not belong in the Whitecrown district. Belligerently she told them to get their hands off her, she was a Arcy Bloody Keel! The younger guard was reaching for his truncheon when the veteran Bluecoat held him back. “Ah, lady Keel, we’re so sorry to have stopped you. Do you need any assistance making your way back home?” In a drunken drawl she muttered “You’re right you’re sorry, and no I don’t need any fucking help.”

Before she even knocked on the door, it cracked open before her (perhaps she had been a bit loud coming through the gate as well), and Mr. Pool, a servant of incredible caliber greeted Arcy and through soothing platitudes and humble deference honed by ages of service, guided her into a guest room… where she passed out from fatigue.

In the morning, Arcy saw a beautiful dress, one of he own, laid out on the chase beside the bed, along with an assortment of tea, biscuits, and coffee. She held the sleeve of the dress for a moment and then realized she was staining it just by touching it with her fouled fingers. She pounded the coffee down and made her way to the main quarters. From the hall she could hear the sounds of breakfast. Of her husband and children formally and politely eating. She wanted to join then, but like the dress, in this state, she was just foul their lives with her touch. Instead, she made her way through the kitchen and sent a servant to fetch Master Keel, and send him to pantry to meet her.

This was supposed to be easy. Tell Julian to stop looking for her and just let her “die” as she reportedly had on the Nightbreaker many moons ago. Only it wasn’t that easy. People knew she was still alive. Fuck. Especially Julian’s father, Lord Keel. Double fuck. And the lord would not allow a black mark (read Arcy) to stain the family’s good name. Julian had to find Arcy and turn her over to the authorities, or his father would cut him and the children, off from their inheritance. Triple fuck.

Arcy put her greasy hand on Julian’s clean face and held him for a moment. “Don’t worry Julian. I’ll take care of this.” The looked as though they might kiss, and then she was gone…

…back to Scurlock manor, where she droped the sum of her savings onto a table and offered to be the client for the Six Towers Gang’s next score. The mark was Lord Keel. She was all ready to arm up with Canter, Oskar, and the rest of their crew. She was angry, confused, and ready to do violence. Oskarr said “bad plan, come back to me when you have another one.” Canter said “no way, that’s not how we make money. You want to support your husband, how about we make a bunch of money and then you can tell his father to fuck off. I’m out.” Not what she was expecting [One action to indulge vice, Overindulging and rolled an entanglement: Unquiet dead]

Canter also indulged his love for bling but did it off screen [One action to indulge vice].

The Score

Arcy was  still sore about her husband, and more about her crew’s lack of willingness to help her, but if they were going to make crazy money, it was time to do it already. Near the tattoo parlor were a few other businesses owned by the Red Sashes. Thankfully, as their attentions are fixed on warring with the Lampblacks, those businesses were not well defended.

We went in with main force. Walked into the brothel like we potential customers and then clobbered the bouncer and put a blade to the money changer’s throat. He first told us that Bazso Baz could fucking rot in hell before he’d give this place up. When we corrected him that we didn’t work for Bazso and were in fact the Six Towers Gang, his response, like the Bluecoats from the night before was “The Six Towers who?”

Oskar, wearing his spirit mask, repeated the “Six Towers Gang” in a ghostly voice that resonated through the building and into our bones. Apparently that wasn’t enough to create any recognition though. Acry hesitated for a moment, contemplating putting six cuts in the moneychangers chest, but Canter acted first. He put a bullet in the brain pan of bouncer and announced that we were the Six Towers Gang, and all they needed to know was that they were working for us now.  [Having adequate hold + rep, we did a job to raise our tier (from 0 to 1) by taking the turf of another faction whose hold was threatened].

What rocked

This session was a reversal from the normal format. We spent nearly the entire session focusing on downtime and did our score in 15 minutes. This was in part because we had some pretty juicy downtime scenes to play out, and because we wanted to see how it would work. John wanted to spend more time in the Downtime, which meant we took more actions being taken (Consort to find the Bluecoats, Sway to bring Brogan in, etc) and the stress and complications that come with those. It also meant we did our score in a single Skirmish roll to get in and break down their defenses.

What we saw was that Blades inherently has the ability to zoom in and out as necessary. The greater focus on something the more rolls made, the more stress and complications generated. The more you zoom out, the more a single roll can affect your entire outcome. We only got a 5 on our Skirmish action, so the entire score took longer than expected and gave the Red Sashes time to arm up and prepare retribution.

Oh man, those scenes were so juice. I loved Brogan. I loved Julian’s plight. I loved that my own gang turned me down. There was a part when Arcy told Canter to “remember that time you wanted to sell demon blood infected humans and I didn’t think it was a good idea?” It was going to be a question about gangs having each other’s backs, but Canter cut Arcy off saying “yeah, don’t worry about it, I forgive you, water under the bridge.” It was brilliant and made Arcy’s blood boil. <3

What could have improved

We had some technical hiccups. My laptop died and I had to switch to my desktop. The Skype to Twitch feed, yadda, yadda, yadda. So, I don’t think the link above includes the entire episode. Oh well, shit like that happens.

As a player I was a bit slow on the uptake. John was showing me (with the sketch the Bluecoats had and with people recognizing Arcy instead of being shocked she was alive) that nobody bought the whole “I got thrown off the side of the Nightbreaker and was presumed dead” bit.  So, in that moment when Arcy was at a loss, that’s mostly because Sean was at a loss. There was this moment of cognitive dissonance when I realized “oh wait, we envision the world as two different things.” For the purposes of a cohesive narrative, Arcy being wrong was no problem, but I probably should have stepped back for a sec to make sure John and I had the same understanding of what was going on in the world. A minor speed bump really, but worth noting in the future.


Actual Play – Not quite dead, I call it an opportunity (5/12/2015)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.3

Yay, back in Duskwall. This AP report will be less detailed than the prior both because it isn’t intended to teach the new rules (they were still in development at the time and not released) and because your faithful actual play poster has waited almost a month and the details aren’t quite a fresh in his mind.


Six Towers Gang (revised)

Blades on Air

That said, if you want to see the entire session in all it’s glory, Jonh has it posted on his youtube channel:

Recap of last session

What does it mean to claim turf? How has our crew grown?

  1. We have hold (2), which puts us close to raising one tier
  2. We have a base of operations (the tattoo parlor) to pedal our drugs
  3. We have Cyclops an the Fine Thugs who will work as our muscle until they decide it’s better to be working for themselves.
  4. We also advanced some and acquired:
    1. Oskarr’s friend Quellin, the Witch. She specializes in converting leviathan blood into ectoplasm and compounds. So we can start refining the blood ourselves. She is doing the refining in her own place.

Impromptu recap of our long term goals

  • Arcy – Get back her ship and go Leviathan Hunting
  • Oskarr – Get all the magic trinkets he can muster
  • Canter – Fuck that shit, my only just will be to spend that money….

Effects of Leviathan Blood

What happens when you just serve raw leviathan blood to every junkie that shows up for it? It’s unknown and nobody was particularly worried about finding out before the sales begin.

Fortune Roll: 2 – Poor outcome.

Supply Chain

  • Harrington (the quartermaster of the Nightbreaker) delivers large batches via boat to Skurlock manner.
  • We store most of it there.
  • Every day, Arcy carries a pony key (a day’s worth) down to the shop.

A week later

The count has been right so far. No reprisals yet, or attention from the blue coats. But we also haven’t set up a front yet, so it’s just Canter’s ugly prison tats.

Arcy arrives with the key and catches Cyclops and one of his people carrying a body down stairs. Arcy stares him down and Cyclops, though he’s the kind of guy to hold a grudge, decides today isn’t the time.

Cyclops looks down sheepishly “It’s not our fault.”

Arcy asks “How many are down there?”

When he leads her down there are a pile of people down there, less than a dozen. Their skin has begun sloughing off and reveals black scales beneath. From the pile there is a tiny bit of moaning and movement. The old has been there almost as week… so they aren’t dead.

“Tonight we’re hauling these bodies out of here.”

A whisper problem

“We’ve got some not quite corpses that our product has been not quite killing.”

Oskarr has someone, a friend, who can help us refine the product so this doesn’t happen any more. We don’t want to lose customers when this gets out.

In the mean time Oskarr, has plans for the bodies.

Lets turn this setback into an opportunity

Canter suggests we make use of this, find someone who wants the bodies and sell them. We have some serious “what the fuck” conversations, but decide the damage is done and it’s better to sell the bodies then pay someone to dump them.

Oskrar goes and finds us a buyer. Has to make a decision about whether to sell to Satara (that will benefit him personally) or Scurlock (who actually has money)… and chooses the later.

His communication is in the form of a psychic dead drop to his ancestor.

Checking out the “product”

Oskarr Inspects the bodies, but on his way, notices the spirit memory of Arcy going to sea and leaving her husband behind… and then not coming back… and his loneliness.

And then suddenly he’s there, around the corner. Oskarr pulled down his spirit mask and looked around to the corner to see what he found. Julian Keel (Arcy’s husband) and several bodyguards dressed as though nobles, are in the streets looking for Arcy. They catch a glimpse of Oskarr watching them [John advanced the Keel alert clock]. Something is strange enough that they will come back here looking again. The don’t give him chance, but they talk among themselves and are suspicious.

How are these bodies?

Oskarr walked in and suddenly everyone else had something to do, like trimming their nails, or cleaning that corner over there. Anything to not draw the attention of the Whisper. Which worked fine as Oskarr didn’t care about them at all. He went downstairs, let his spirit mask climb on spider legs out of its pack and over his face, and looked at the bodies, and in doing so left his mark on them [Devil’s Bargain]

As he reaches out there is a something else there. Looking out into a yawning chasm and staring into the eye of the Leviathan. He pushed forward and made contact with the demon presence and gave it/them the command to follow. Oskcarr threw a coat on one of them, and it shambled forward. “It’ll do.”

Arcy trying to dissuade Canter

“I’ve seen what happens to people who come in contact with the Leviathans. They eyes rotted out, their arms turned to tentacles, their fingernails grew in both directions and burst out of their knuckles, bloody and black. We don’t want to mess with this. I know you want to get rich, but if we fuck with Leviathans, you won’t be worried about money, you’ll be worried about having teeth.”

“If I don’t have money, I can’t get a dentist. Besides, people gotta be responsible for their own choices. I’m not going to get high on this garbage…you leave your wallet in my house, it’s my wallet now.”

That was pretty much the gist of that conversation. [Mechanically Adam had the choice of deciding if canter could be swayed or if Arcy would have to escalate further. We all agreed that right now we were just bullshitting and something was going to have to actually happen before Canter would take Arcy seriously].

The work that is done in the meanwhile

As they talked, the were also working, getting their operation looking presentable and adding some actual security protocols to the mix.

  • Let’s deliver the drugs topically through the needles. You can get the tatt’s or the special tatts. We need need a space and talent [supply]
  • Let’s train our guys to cover our tracks, and prevent it from being so obvious [secure]

[Either of these options required spending a coin from our downtime]

Arcy and Canter call in Cyclops to go over the new protocols. “Cyclops, we need your help to make this run better.” [Giving him more responsibility and authority was our Devil’s Bargain].

At first Cyclops just didn’t get it. He listened but wasn’t comprehending. “Let’s tell it to you one more time…” [Poor roll, escalating from Controlled to Risky]

Arcy doesn’t have patience for this bullshit, but Canter convinces Arcy to take a softer touch and present this as an opportunity. “I know it’s complicated, but you can get it, you’re a smart man…” Canter re-establishes the hierarchy. [We have security now. Improved by quality].

Meeting Lord Skurlock…

…to sell him half demon duded in our basement.

When Oskarr returned, please as punch with himself for controlling this shambling thing (that wreaks of the dead sea), Canter refused to indulge him and acted as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

Arcy on the other has lots to say. “Don’t bring that thing in here. Don’t let it touch anything we’re touching.” Oskarr refutes that he needs to show off the merchandise, and as they start to argue, the floor starts rumbling a portcullis from downstairs opens slowly and shakes the entire building… Lord Scurlock is arriving.


Scurlock arrived in old school creeping fashion. Gas lanterns went out, wind swept through, doors creaked open, and then he was there, backlit by the fire.

Without breaking stride, he walked behind Canter (who was sitting in his chair) and stood behind him and looked to Oskarr to see what he had to offer. We showed him the “merchandise” and began to deal.

Acry told him what it was, where it came from, but Scurlock interrupted with the captain’s name “Strangford” and asks Arcy what she thinks he should do with them.

“Burn them.”

Canter jumped up, realized that Arcy was souring the deal, and cut her off “That sounds like a woman with no money in the bank.” He assures Scurlock that Arcy won’t be a problem…and that Canter will be responsible for Arcy [That was our Devil’s Bargain].

Canter pulls it off, and impresses himself upon Scurlock as a man in charge. Though he’s a daunting figure, Canter is unfazed when Scurlock shakes his hand. Word will spread that we’re doing work with him [The “Great Effect”, +2 Rep].

Arcy swallows her pride and shakes his hand as well, then Oskarr’s and slips away with the leviathan tainted creature in tow.

Closing line

Oskarr turns to Arcy just as Sculock leaves and mentions casually “oh yeah, your husband is looking for you.”


Rolling Heat – 0 Heat generated (for selling not quite dead things from our basement)

Development – 2 Coin (would have been more but we had some operational costs, giving Cyclops a raise and losing on sales while we moved the bodies)

Entanglement – Usual suspects. Bluecoats pick up someone who can rat us out. They made the mistake of picking up Marlane who hates the Bluecoats and is loyal to Arcy. Not only does she not talk, she gets the names and badge numbers of the guys looking into it. Sinda and Raif. They need to go down.

Thoughts on this game

What a fantastic time we had. I love this crew.

The resistance rolls in QS3 is are much smoother/faster than they were in QS2 and a appreciate the reduced number of rolls and the reduced wiff factor.

Some of the most powerful abilities are the ones that trigger off dice. For instance “Desperate” improving your result and subjecting you to danger is just all kinds of awesome.  Similarly having a quality bonus really make a big deal.

I dig that murder now automatically bumps up heat. You don’t do murder without someone noticing.

When we were beefing up the security (putting Cyclops in charge) and making a “downtime” move during the score, I’m glad there was a mechanical provision for that (spend a coin). That needs to be codified in the rules for sure so that when groups go into “Kingdom Building Mode” they have a cost but aren’t shut down completely.




Actual Play – Six Towers Gang (3/2/2015)

blades_overlay_bloodletters_titleGM: John Harper
Players: Stras Acimovic, Adam Koebel, and Sean Nittner
System: Blades in the Dark, playtest draft Beta 07

John Harper, in preparation for for the Blades in the Dark Kickstarter, has recruited a few scoundrels to play in demo games for some actual play footage for the game. Would I play in it? Fuck yeah I would!

The Six Towers gang

Here’s our motley crew of scoundrels! John has written them up beautifully here.

Oskar “Witch Boy” Scurlock (Stras), the inheritor of the Scurlock manor in Six Towers, as well as the Scurlock family haunts. Raised by ghosts, spirits, and Setarra, a demon. Oskar is weird, but no doubt he’s got more experience with the occult than anyone twice his age. Our lair is in his family manor. Spooky as fuck, but people leave it alone. Oskar supplies our lair and magical protections. [Playbook: Whisper]

Acry Keel (Sean) was XO of the steamship Nightbreaker. When she realized her captain was consorting with Leviathans she led a mutiny against him that failed. She was cut down and thrown off the ship at sea. Arcy is tough. She survived and now makes her way in the underworld by siphoning Leviathan Blood from her old contacts on the Nightbreaker that are still loyal to her. Arcy supplies the product and muscle. [Playbook: Cutter]

Canter Haig (Adam), the corner boy. Canter knows the business. He doesn’t give a shit about ghosts or steamships, he cares about sales. Bringing in the coin. Canter knows how to find a corner, set up shop, and start slinging goods. He moves with a confident swagger than some realize is bullshit, but respect just the same. Canter supplies our know how and connections. [Playbook: Lurk]

The Six Tower Gang is our presumptuous name for ourselves; a crew of peddlers moving product. In our case the product is unrefined Leviathan Blood, smuggled up to our lair in Scurlock manor and then pawned to whoever is interested. So far the Dimmer Sisters, but we know our client base has to be expanded if we want to stay in business. [Playbook: Hawkers]

Blades on Air

Here’s the Google Hangout of us playing (in two parts). Watch us make goofy voices and do violence!

 Fight for what you…want to take

None of this “beliefs” shit. Blades do jobs. We knew off the bat there were holes in our operation. Giant gaping ones. From the onset we knew we wanted to:

  • Equip a factory to refine the Leviathan Blood so it could be used in Electroplasmic Disintegration and other savory prospects.
  • Find new clients in need of our product
  • Set up a turf to hawk our wares.

The last was by far the most immediate concern, and we knew just the Lurk to find us a place to set up shop.

Gather Information

Blades_gatherWe kicked this off with Canter on point. His primary contact is Petra, a childhood friend who grep up on the streets like him but managed to get a clerk position in the city. She processes criminals so is often in the know.

Canter headed down to the city hall to catch her during lunch. It’s a place of odd juxtapositions. Plenty of Bluecoats working, civil servants doing their jobs, but also a constant influx of criminals being processed, visiting each other, coming for legal advice, or in their best case, being released. In this crowd Canter fit right in. Though most of the Bluecoats recognized him only one made a point of giving him a stiff shoulder in the chest as they passed each other going through a doorway.

Yeah, he could have started beef, but it wasn’t worth it.

Lunch with Petra was fruitful, but not without complications. We’re looking for new territory to move into so Canter pressed her to find out about people just brought in, thinking we could swoop in to claim their turf before anyone else did. Canter had a regular line with Petra; he’d make some vague allusions that if she just helped him out of some unspecified bind with certain information, it would be enough to help him get out of the life and set himself straight. It was never a promise, just a hope he let live in her.

Talking this close to a bunch of Bluecoats isn’t without risk however. Even though most of them couldn’t give a shit what he was saying there was always that odd chance that someone was paying attention, and by the end of the conversation someone in some office was tacking a red piece of yarn from one picture to another.

Blades_controlled[Mechanically, Adam rolled Canter’s sway to manipulate Petra. Since she was his favored contact, giving information that wasn’t any particular risk to her, to a friend she trusted, we considered this a Controlled situation. Adam rolled three dice, 1D for his Sway, 1D for his shared background with Petra, and 1D for the Devil’s Bargain that a Bluecoat would overhear the conversation and we’d get +1 Heat. His result was 6: You do it to full effect.

So we’d get what we want, but how good would the information be? Canter rolled for Effect. In this case we chose influence as he was pushing her for information. He rolled 1D for his influence and another 1D for their shared background. His result was 3. Weak: A single nugget of information, leaving much more to learn.]

She had info, but it wasn’t good. The Red Sashes and the Lampblacks are always fighting, but a day ago it got ugly and Bazso Baz, the leader of the Lampblacks had two of the Sashes killed in one of their safehouses at the bottom of a tattoo parlor by the docks. Petra warned Canter away from it though, it was going to be contested territory, he should just wait a week or so to find something easier to hit…

Cut to us breaking in

We’re all standing there at the street side end of a dead end ally. The ally so narrow you’ve got to walk sideways to get down it. At the opposite end was a dingy tattoo parlor which looked vacant. No lights on. Door closed.

We alluded to a conversation that Arcy and Canter would have had before the approach about how you take a place by just calling it yours and doing business there, or so said Canter. Arcy knew she was a bit out of her depth, but just didn’t get the concept of claiming a space (rightfully or not) without letting everyone effected know you took it. I mean, lines of control have gotta be clear.

Blades_planning_short[Mechanically speaking when the crew is planning for something, all you need to do is decide your method and then supply a detail. We selected “Deception” with the detail that we were carrying inventory in like we belonged there. ]

Who’s on point?

Arcy is! She hefted a barrel of Leviathan Blood on her shoulder and squeezed down the ally. At the end of it a one eyed sailor was guarding the door. She shoved the barrel into his chest and started barking orders like she owned the place. “Open that door. Carry this barrel. Get moving sailor or I’m going to put you in the sweatbox.” Not quite the kind of swagger Canter had in mind.

Meanwhile Oskar was trying to stay out of sight. Every time he’d go by a lamp it would start fizzling and sputtering. He did his best to stay in the shadows, and there he found someone, or something waiting for him. Setarra, his demon mentor manifested and told him there was something inside the parlor that she needed. Something that belonged to the Scurlock family. Would he get it for her? Of course he would.

[John had Stras start a clock with eight segments called Setarra’s favor. This represented a project starting that Oskar could work on]

Bluster and Bravado paid off, but there was a catch. Cyclops opened the door for Arcy and let her into the parlor, but then set down the barrel and tried to toss her down the steps to the dark basement below!

Blades_desperate[Arcy tried to push her weigh in using Command. She rolled 2D for her command, 1D for her shared background (Labor), and 1D for a Devil’s Bargain that by using a specific seaman language, this guy would recognize her, or at least her previous station, and she’d stand out to him in the future. My result is a 6, which is great, but this was a Desperate gamble (there were threats below that we didn’t know about).  Result of a 6: You do it but suffer the effect of the danger. Hence getting in, but not without trouble. I marked one advancement blade on the Desperate Rolls section on my sheet]

Cyclops didn’t know who he was messing with. He grabbed Arcy by the collar but instantly Canter was up in his face for fucking with his friend. The distraction was enough for Arcy to grab his hand, squeeze it into the sharp talismans she wore around her next and then when he flinched, pull it off her, twist his arm and send him crashing into the parlor, knocking over a tray of needles and bottles of ink.

[Suffering it’s effect meant Arcy had to resist him, in this case his effect was Force. I rolled 2D for her force, 1D for help from Canter (which cost him 1 stress to offer) and 1D for the shared background. Result was a 6, the effect was resisted, but she took 1 stress to overcome it. This didn’t go as smoothly as Arcy had hoped it would.]

Whispers down below

Three of them. Four when Oskar got in the mix. What we didn’t know, and why getting in was a Desperate move, was that three Lamprey Whispers were in the basement, interrogating the ghosts of the two dead Red Sashes.


To be better prepared for this Oskar (who was now on point) flashed back to the day before when he had show up knowing the Sashes would have left ghosts behind. He had a chance to commune with the ghosts in advance and insulated that if they helped him out, he’d do the same for them.

[This was text book impractical and obscure preparation. Stras marked 2 stress on Oskar’s sheet]

Flash forward

Like a shadow himself Oskar slipped down the stairs to the basement, past the Lamprey Whisper Cross who was guarding the stairs, but also translating the moans of the ghosts being interrogated ghosts.

Oskar donned his spirit mask so he could attune to the ghosts and learn from them what was going on here. Silver was asking them questions, but Emeline, who was just holding them in place sensed something was amis. She looked around but was distracted by shouts from above. Arcy yelling that she was coming down with a gun, and people didn’t want to get shot the should just come up peacefully.

Blades_risky[Stras rolled attune to communicate with the ghosts. We decided in play that this was a Risky move because Whispers could detect other Whispers performing magic in their vicinity. That was something new, but once decided, became president. He rolled 2D from attune plus 1D from Arcy offering help with her creating a distraction above. The result was a 4/5: You do it but suffer the effect of the danger. John started a countdown with four segments and filled the first two in. Once all four were complete they would detect Oskar, but for now they were just suspicious.

Arcy took 1 stress for helping Oskar out, she was putting herself on the line after all]

In a private ghost tongue that only Oskar could understand (it just sounded line moans to the other Whispers) they ghosts told Oskar that these Lamprey were asking them questions about who killed them and when it happened. Most importantly though, and the one thing the ghosts had been holding out on, was where the Red Sashes had been getting their supply of spirit essence from.

As Canter and Arcy came down the stairs, Oskar’s spirit mask conveyed that information to us as well, but discovery and investigation was over. It was time for…

Murder One

Canter didn’t bother with trying to scare the Lampreys he just gunned the fuckers down. Acry should have been there at his side but a combination of the icy chill from entering a basement with ghosts present and the surprise that he just opened up immediately meant she was to slow to be of much help. Oskar didn’t have a gun, but he did summon a small gust of wind that broke the line of salt which caged the spirits and having two angry ghosts harry them, distracted our enemies. “Should have used ghost dust” – Oskar, besmirching the Lamprey Whispers for going cheep and using salt to bind the ghosts and making call back to our earlier teasing him for his expensive tastes in occult paraphernalia.

Cross, prepared for intruders dashed across the room, skipping from one shadow to the next and almost had his blade to Canter’s throat, but the Lurk was faster on the draw and filled him with lead.

Blades_effect[Adam Led a group action, in this case a firefight, ah no, an execution! To do that he rolled 1D for Murder, 1D for having a shared background with the target, and 1D for help from Oskar (Which cost Oskar 1 stress). His result was a 6: You do it and avoid the danger. or you may choose to overreach and increase your level of effect but suffer an effect from the danger. Adam opted to overreach (why Cross got a chance to cut Canter) to improve his effect roll.

Since Canter was leading an action that meant that Oskar and Arcy both had to participate. Since neither one of them had murder, their rolls were crap, both getting 1-3 results, and so Canter took 2 stress (one from each of them) to make up for their slow reactions.

For effect, Adam rolled 2D from Force, 1D from having a shared background and 1D from help from Arcy (after an initial hesitation, she did start firing). His result was a 6, but because he had over exerted, that was bumped up to a Critical: Your effect is extreme—beyond what you would expect given the situation. Everyone was fucking dead.

However, since he overexerted, Canter also had to roll to resist the effect of our enemy (Cross, doing force by way of dagger in the face). He rolled and got another Critical. Effect resisted. No stress.]

Blades_afterlifeElectrical Afterlife

When the guns stopped firing is when the fireworks really began. One of the ghosts dove into Cross’s dead body, destroyed the spirit within, and possessed him.

Another dove into Silver’s body, but her spirit fought back and destroyed the ghost.

Both of these actions caused any remaining lights in the basement to shatter, electrical arcs to spark, hoarfrost to form on our skin, and terrible noises to channel up through the stairwell into the street.

All dead but us, Oskar went about electroplasmicly disintegrating the bodies of Silver and Emeline. Cross had a ghost in him, he was now a vampire. Free to go I guess. Arcy poured some of the Leviathan Blood on the bodies, which Canter chastised her for as wasting their “product” and Oskar channeled the blood, refined it using himself as a conduit and destroyed the bodies.

Business as usual

Above Cyclops had fled. In his place however, was a small line forming. They had witnessed all of the horrific sights and sounds from the basement above. At the front of them was a thin woman with a sallow face. Her arm shook some as she hunched over and scratched the back of her neck “Are you open?”

“Yes, yes we are.”

Fuck yeah, we’ve got corner!

End of Game

Operation complete and session at an end (successful one at that) we then turned to the end of game mechanics. Heat, Development, Entanglements, Vices, and Downtime.


We had one heat from a Devil’s Bargain Adam took earlier when getting information from Petra. Then we maid our Heat roll. We figured the mission was 2D (Under Control. Medium Exposure) because we had scouted a good opportunity and though there was violence it was quick and in basement where nobody would care if they did hear. We added +1D because killing was involved, but did not subtract -2D for being on our turf, since as of the time of the session it was our turf. Not yet at least. Our result was a 4/5: The crew takes 1 Heat.

Total Heat is 2.

When Heat goes to five, Entanglement rolls get more serious. When it goes to eight, it resets and both Wanted and Renown levels go up. It’s not worth nothing that intentionally taking jobs that grant you more heat is a good way for boosting your Renown!


Sweet, time for the money to roll in! How much did this little operation of ours profit us. We took 1D for our crew’s resources, and 1D four our level three faction status with the Dimmer Sisters (they’d be sending business our way for sure). Our result was 4/5: Your crew gains 1 Hold and 2 Coin and roll an entanglement, below.

A crew starts with 3 Coin and the Lair can only store 4 until you have taken the vault advancement, which we haven’t, so we’re one coin over what we can hold onto. Oh well, I guess we’ve gotta spend some of that!


Doing jobs tends to ruffle someones feathers. I rolled on the Entanglements charge (for Heat 1 to 4) and got 1: Unquiet Dead. The rogue spirit of a past victim finds its way to you. Pay 1 Coin to a Whisper or Rail Jack to exorcise it, or deal with it yourself.

A few days later, in Scurlock manor, Canter woke from his sleep to see his breath frosting in front of him. The ghost of Silver, thought destroyed, was coming for vengeance. Just as she was about to put her ethereal hands around Canter’s throat Oskar appeared and threw a spirit anchor threw her. The bauble passed through her but as it did, it latched onto her essence and dragged her with it to the wall.

Someone has a means of surviving disintegration? Hell yeah Oskar was going to find out what that was all about!


Sweet, sweet vice.

Oskar knew this ordeal with the tattooing equipment wasn’t at an end. When he followed Seratta’s instructions to place the supplies in a room he found strange things there. A dentist chair covered in a tarp, an old razor blade. If this was the site of some ritual, it simply would not due! He started placing the orders for the appropriate accouterments to meet his standards. Gold dust, candles, a tattoo artist, rare paintings. All necessary, and all expensive.

Stras rolled a 4/5: You clear 2 Stress. (chart below) but that wasn’t nearly enough (he had 7). He spent the two coin we made to bump that up to a Critical: You clear 6 Stress. Some expensive artwork later and Oskar felt at ease, well, more at ease.

Canter went to get himself some bling. The boots off of Cross were nice, but he needed something with a bit more flash. A velvet cape would be just right.

Adam rolled a 4/5: You clear 2 Stress. Canter only had 3 stress to start with so he was content with that.

Acry went out drinking, whoring, and fighting. Possibly in that order. She had been sleeping in the tattoo parlor to keep it safe, and being by the docks is just no good for her. Slumming it was Marlane was going to happen, and it happened big. Big enough for the Lampblacks to take notice and wonder if our crew was as professional and capable as they had previously thought.

I rolled a 4/5: You clear 2 Stress as well. I pushed that up to a 6: You clear 4 Stress by overindulging and getting a Bad Rep. You let word get around about your vice problem. Lose one status level with your least understanding faction connection until you assure them that you’re reliable. Mark the status box with a slash to show the temporary reduction.


Blades_assetsAll that time brawling down at the docs wasn’t for nothing either. Arcy used it to round up a crew of muscle to watch over the parlor. We know the Red Sashes are coming for it and we’ll need some heavies to help us hold it. Here first pick of the lot was Cyclops. She had already beaten him down once and those things then to stick around.  John offered up the Devils Bargain that she could find a capable crew, but they’d be likely to look out for themselves in the long run, and after a time wonder why they weren’t running the corner themselves. I gladly took that one, with both Sean and Arcy in full knowledge of the type of crew she was assembling.  Arcy has no dots in Supply, but I took 1D for our shared background, and 1D for the Devil’s Bargain. Result was 6: You acquire a Fine Asset. Not just a group of thugs. A fine group of thugs. And enterprising to boot!

Oskar was fascinated by Silver’s power to survive, and was going to make it his! He rolled his Attune and spirit-melded with Silver, half letting her possess him in order to understand her secrets. It had something to do with shells and layers of protection. He got part of the way there, but more work will need to be done with her. Hopefully before she goes batshit crazy.

Blades_workJohh said this was a pretty involved secret and had Stras create an 8 segment clock. Stras rolled 2D for Attune plus 1D for having a shared background with silver. His result was a 6: Advance the clock by 4 Segments. Nice, Oskar was half way there!

Canter, like Arcy didn’t want to do all the work himself. He looked for some other corner boys to act as scouts, lookouts, runners, and to be on the count. Not dice though, looks like Canter will be peddling our wares himself for a bit longer.

Canter has no dots in supply so Adam just rolled 1D for a shared background. His result was a 1-3: The asset isn’t available right now. Had he succeeded he would have acquired a gang of Shadows.

Since gangs acquired this way are temporary “one use” the implication is that they will stick around for a single job. In the case of Arcy’s thugs, probably long enough to fend off (or try to fend off) the Red Sashes once. Getting these gangs permanently requires taking them as a Crew advancement (more on that below).

NPC Downtime

Behind the scenes, the GM also advances the NPCs. Duskwall is a living breathing place, and more is going on than the crew necessarily knows about.


Normally advancement doesn’t happen until the stat of the next session, it’s a way to help everyone recap the game before. Since we were running a demo game however, we wanted to include that as well.

Both crew and characters advance!

Oskar: No doubt, we all thought he spent hims time taking actions from the Book category. Stras selected to have him study in the Book category as well. Two ticks for that.

Arcy: Definately Blades for her, though for her study I chose Mask, as she’s trying to learn to act more like Canter.

Canter: Blades all the way for him. Murder One (the joke there being that Canter had one dot in Murder and will never raise it).

We all took one advancement tick for Effects.

Playbook questions

Here were our playbook questions for Cutter, Lurk, and Whisper. The answers were mostly HELL YES!

Crew Advancement

Blades_advancment_hawkersThought our Rooks, supplier, and contacts didn’t see much screen time this game, the organization as a whole advanced. We did after all have new turf and new clientele.

The answers for us were yes (we now have a channel for our product), yes (we took new turf), yes (this was a special case where John asked Stras if Setarra was a client and by getting the tattoo equipment for her, Oskar was doing a side job that might hurt the crew later… so yeah to that as well), and yes (we managed to piss off the Red Sashes, a Tier 1 Crew compared to our measly Tier 0).

Additional each of our character got 1 Coin as our share of profits which we could either keep on hand or put away in our stash for retirement. Retire-what? Yeah, fuck that shit. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.

And that was it for the game. Good times!

What Rocked

Blades_viceI love, love, love that indulging vice is the healing mechanic in the game. John is well known for having awesome healing mechanics. In Agon you recover by having a competition among each other, challenging one another to wrestling matches, poetry recitals, and foot races. Perfect for the Greek-heroes-of-yore in the setting. In Lady Blackbird you reflect with your crew members, tell them about yourself and learn something of them. You know that scene at the end of Serenity where Mal tells River about how you need to love your ship and if you do she’ll love you back.  That is how space cowboys recover. In Blades, you recover by doing vice. Indulging your whims for drugs or fancy things or whatever weakness you have. And it’s a constant in the game, even if your character is the leader of a tier four gang and ruling the criminal underworld in Duskwall, they still need their fix.

What’s particularly ingenious is that indulging your vice is essentially a cost-less reward. You can do it for free at no detriment to your character’s health, social standing, or wealth. But to make it really worthwhile (i.e. to recover more stress) you’re encouraged to either overspend (using up Coin from the crew’s hold or your own) or overindulge (let your vice get the better of you). I love it.

Blades_dbDevil’s Bargain is probably the best single mechanic in the game. I say this because it’s so universal both in it’s application in Blades, but also in it’s potential utility in any other game. What’s so brilliant about the DB is that it’s a deal you make, and it happens regardless of the roll results. So, if you accept an extra die in order to put yourself in a little more pressure, that pressure is real and there, regardless of how well you do.

Compare this to the “raises” mechanic of Roll and Keep games like 7th Sea and L5R. In those games you can increase your difficulty in something by trying to get something extra. In principle is the same idea as DB but in reverse. Where raises fail me however is that they are dependent on the die roll, and it’s all or nothing. So your inclined to throw every resource you’ve got at the die roll (Void points/Action dice, special abilities, help, etc) as you don’t want to miss out on not only the advanced benefit of the raise, but also the base level success of the roll.

By severing the connection between outcome and results, it means we’ve got all sorts of tasty fall out from the roll. You can succeed and get what you wanted with a hitch, or you can fail and have additional complications, or you can reject the Devil’s Bargain all together and try it on your own merit without the bonus die. It’s pretty fucking brilliant.

Blades_planningFuck Planning. Fuck it so hard! I absolutely loathe planning sessions, and yet, I find myself just as susceptible to doing them and any one else. You’re trying to figure out all the variables so that your plan succeeds and more importantly (I think) you don’t question your own character’s authenticity. If you’re supposed to be this bad ass rogue, and then you get caught by a dumb trap and have no backup plan, well you’re not a bad ass rogue then are you?

The planning and flashback mechanics let you preserve the veneer of a plan without having to spend often fruitless minutes or hours actually planning. You pick a general method and supply a specific detail. Then you go!

In our session it involved about 30 seconds of discussion “We’re going in like we own the place. That’s infiltration, wait, no, that’s Deception.” I don’t think we even expressly stated our method (in this case it was means of deception), but it was clear. We were acting like we owned the place and everyone there worked for us.

Flashbacks are also integral because regardless of how cool we are, there is that possibility of being caught off guard, and our characters are intended to be better scoundrels that we are. There is a cost so the mechanic isn’t abused, but that’s all part of the game!

Playing without a net

A little exert (incomplete) of the GM best practices.

Just a few of the Blades Best Practices.

There was so much we just made up as the game progressed.  Can Whispers detect other Whispers plying their trade in the area? Yes. Now that’s fact. Is Oskar working for Seratta as a client? It mean Stras got to mark another Playbook Advancement so fuck yeah! Can crafty or powerful ghosts survive electroplasmic disintegration? I guess they can. Which means our whisper can learn to do the same? Does Leviathan Blood double as a drug? Hell yes it does!

These weren’t things we new going into the game, but all of us, John included, were open to possibilities. We went with choices that made sense in the moment, and that we understood would shape play in the future. We were literally world building in play. Hell yeah!

Blades_clocksClocks, Clocks, Clocks. Progress clocks are a fantastic way of tracking progress in a concrete. way. Any time a goal or outcome doesn’t seem like it should be resolved with a single action, put a clock on it. Let folks work towards it!

In the case of our game we had:

  • An 8 segment clock called Seratta’s Favor that Oskar made one tick on for recovering the Scurlock tattoo gun and inks from the parlor.
  • A 4 segment clock to discover Oskar in the shadows, which the Lamprey Whispers got 2 ticks on when they senses Oskar’s presence.
  • An 8 segment clock to discover Silvers secret of eluding disintegration, that Oskar got 4 ticks on during his Downtime action.
  • An 8 segment clock to research mystic tatoo inks discovered in the parlor. No ticks on this one yet, but we’ll start on that soon enough I’m sure.

A clock I didn’t start this game, but really want to is:

  • Commandeer the Nightbreaker!

What could have improved

There were several conversations between Canter and Acry that we alluded to but never ended up happening. Specifically Canter critiquing Arcy on her lack of subtlety and jumping to violence too quickly. I also would have liked to have that conversation about “wasting the product”. Given that Silver came back as an unquiet dead, maybe Arcy didn’t use enough!

I think it is implicit that these are good downtime conversations because there is a character Playbook Advancement “Express your relationship to the crew. Why are you here?”. Arcy didn’t get that one this session and I think it was because she didn’t have a chance to have that talk afterward. This isn’t an issue with the game, more that I think we were just running short on time and wanted to get in all the of the mechanical effects in a single session for the demo video.

The assumption that all of the Lamprey (Cross, Silver, and Emeline) were from and Underground background because they were Blades seems like an over simplification to me. Since Blade PCs can be of any background it makes sense that NPCs should be as well. Also, when picking a background it should say something about the character. Like Petra (Canter’s friend), it made total sense that they were old friends who grew up on the street, so they’d both have a Underworld background. In the case of the Lampreys though, Silver had some pretty sophisticated magical knowledge, I could see her as an Academic. Was Cross a Bluecoat doing jobs on the side? I think varying up those background would make for more diverse NPCs and is any easy way to give them a sense of belonging in the setting, rather than being just another criminal.