Actual Play – The 3 Skov Ghost Job (1/7/2018)

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

Judd wrote up a great AP report here.

Here’s a copy of the post:

In which the gang smuggles 3 patriotic Skovlander ghosts from the Lost District to Ulf Ironborn.

t was Jay and Sean – Charming and Maud. The timing for them to be in a mission together was kind of perfect, as they had a disagreement last game and Maud had stormed off.

Duskwall again

Taking lead from Jay who continues to name background Skovlander children as Charming acts as a babysitter, I mentioned a child gets back late one night with his blazer torn. He boasts that Ulf Ironborn paid him a bushel of apples to sneak under a fence and open a door so Ulf’s gang could murder a city councilor.

The child goes on to say that Ulf has a smuggling job for them if they want it.

Before deciding on jobs Maud and Charming visit Lord Scurlock to ask about demons. They tried to get Scurlock to commit to saying that he was dead against demons but he was non-committal. The vampire lord of Doskovol says that he could help them but his best book on demonology was stolen by the Dimmer Sisters.

They decided to wait for Skannon whose skills would be necessary when infiltrate the Dimmer Sisters and took Ulf’s smuggling job.

The Job with text

The 3 Skov Ghost job was given to them by Ulf’s second-in-command, Havid. They were to take the Blackjack out past the Lightning Barrier into the Lost District and an agent would be waiting for them there with 3 ghosts. They were to smuggle the 3 ghosts past the Lightning Barrier to Ulf and his crew who would be waiting in the basement of a public house on the docks.

Maud and Charming was not pleased with the unknowns and they pushed, using dice to find out more. It caused them some stress but in the end they found out that the ghosts were going to be put into Skovlander War Frames, as used on Barghast Beach, the bloodiest engagement of the War and the battle that forged his gang. Ulf was planning on using the warframes to cement his gang’s place.

As jobs go it went smoothly but there were hitches. The ghosts weren’t ghosts; they were people – members of a Skov special forces unit who were hit with a location spell by an Imperial War Whisper. If they entered the city they’d be located by the Imperial Army; it was in their blood. When Maud tried to cut the spell it nearly attached itself to her but she fought it off.

After discussing it, they decided that Charming could kill them quickly with a knife, which he did and then they’d wait for the ghosts to separate with some help from Maude. This was represented by a 6-count clock along with a second 6-count clock to represent a pack of ghosts finding the crew. Given the bad rep of the Deathlands and the Lost District, I should’ve made the pack of ghosts finding the crew clock a 4-count but that is alright.

Charming killed the Skov patriots with a knife. They held hands and sang Skovlander soldier songs while he did it.

Another hitch, Ironhook convicts came down the beach towards the crew. Charming confronted them while Maud dealt with peeling the ghosts away from the newly dead’s bodies.

Smuggling jobs, like stealth jobs, are tricky as a GM. I want complications but I don’t want the players to feel like their employer effed them over. I want the players to be cool but I don’t want the job to be too easy. I want ways for the job to get complicated without the players being bad at smuggling. I felt like I found a good balance. There was a bunch of stress but it didn’t go entirely pear-shaped. Nothing caught on fire or exploded.

There were ghosts and lots of danger; the Deathlands felt dangerous, even if it was just across the river, within sight of the Lightning Barrier.

The Mechanics in White

At the end of this game the Wobbegong Crew became Tier 2.

Ulf Ironborn is in play. The Skovlander refugees are a good link to him and he thinks well of the Wobbegong Crew because of their anti-trafficking efforts despite the side they took during the war. Also, he is the first gang of a lower tier than the players, which is cool. They get to be mentors.

There was word around town that the Lampblacks thought the Hive looked weak when their warehouse got taken so easily by the Wobbegong Crew, so they tried to take some Hive turf for their own. Since then, the Lampblacks have entirely disappeared. No one has heard anything about them.

Blades on Air

Actual Play – Bladesmas (12/17/2017)

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

Judd made a great write up here:

Here’s a copy of hos post:

In which the gang takes turf from the Hive.

On the first day of Bladesmas my scoundrels gave to me a spectre in a dead tree….

We had Maude, Charming and Skannon tonight. With 3 PC’s, we are tending to wait until we’ve got a full crew before playing lately. I liked the way having different characters in different jobs changed the way we’d approach each job or which job we’d take when offered a few.

Duskwall again

The Five Faces of the Moon – The teahouse Skannon often frequents when he pays for company.

Liz Lomond – reporter who brought the Hive’s human trafficking into the light.

Edlund – the “kindly” Bluecoat who always comes to talk the gang into taking a less bloody route.

Jol – the Bluecoat who took a crowbar to the Blackjack, the crew’s main boat.

Djera Maha and Karth Orris – leaders of The Hiven, NPC’s named in the book.

Narcus Comber – Hive’s Lawyer – the man Charming stole a watch from back in the early days, back before their HQ had a door and the barrister just walked in

Azin, Kimiya, Orkiden, Yass – Whispers with the Red Sashes – ladies who can go from frightening witches to doting grandmothers in the spin of a penny.

Barghast Bay – the bloodiest engagement in the War is where this gang was forged and is mentioned often.

Jonah – a mischievous Skovlander child who mistreated Skannon’s dining room table. Jason is often dropping the names of children during the game as we see Charming trying to be a baby-sitter.

The Job with text

As per their peace agreement with the Red Sashes, they returned the Upper Deck, turf taken during the war, but the Red Sashes had to aid them in taking a warehouse from the Hive. They took it using magic, knowing that the arcane arts and ectoplasmic sciences are weak points in the Hive’s arsenal.

The sent the fermenting mass of ghosts from the bilge of the Upper Deck, which had been used by some long gone gang as a place to stow bodies, into the Hive’s warehouse and managed to control it, keeping the situation from becoming a cannibalistic mess. The group made their rolls for the most part and utilized a weakness in the Hive, an unwillingness to utilize ghosts and sorcery. A roll demanded a complication, and so the warehouse is now forever haunted.

As a result, the Hive offered Maud and Skannon jobs and had a talk with Charming about why they did what they did. They offered Maud an estate in Six Towers with a view of the Scurlock Manor and offered Skannon his family’s ancestral ship, now docked just within the Lightning Barrier.

Now the group has a haunted warehouse full of Skovlander refugees as turf. Good stuff.

The Mechanics in White

The mechanics brought an entanglement in which the Bluecoats took out their anger on the Blackjack. I also consider the NPC’s mentioned in the faction section as part of the mechanics. The personalities and links between gangs and factions is well wrought.  Pluck one string and it causes ripples throughout Doskovol.

Blades on Air

Actual Play – After the Demon Disaster (11/5/2017)

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

In which the team deals with the fallout from failing the Coalridge Demon job…starting in the stark white cells of the Spirit Wardens. Judd made a great write up here:

Judd’s Write up

It was fun starting the game off with Maude and Charming being held by the Spirit Wardens while Skannon was at the HQ, having entirely missed the Coalridge Demon job. Cutting between these 3 different points of view for the first hour was satisfying.

I liked how those opening minutes colored the downtime – from Charming adopting a demonic persona in his fight career, taking on the name Atreus (the demon they failed to kill in last session’s job), how Maude is suspected of being a snitch because she was caught by the Spirit Wardens and Skannon getting invited to the Doskvol University to hear Professor “Bakoros” speak.

We only got to some downtime but it was great to be back in Duskwall with these scoundrels.

The Mechanics in White

I’m getting a better and better grasp on the way limited success and failures work and how to best deal with them in a given situation.

Something I love about the Blades in the Dark book is whenever I look at it I come away inspired. I had to glance at it today when I wanted the Spirit Wardens to knock on the Wobbegong Crew’s door. Would it be a masked Spirit Warden? Do they have a mouth-piece, someone who is seen without a mask? Professor “Bakoros” was there waiting for me.

Right there in the NPC’s section on page 296 was Bakoros, the pseudonym of their academic face. I loved the idea of this kindly old professor knocking on the door of this Imperial SWAT Ghostbusters. Skannon, with his noble family background, suave air and scientific curiosity was the perfect scoundrel to meet him. When Pete told me that he almost stabbed the professor and sacrificed him to the Witch Matron on her altar, I was in shock. He decided not to do that but what a shockingly different game that would’ve been.

Duskwall again We saw the inside of the Doskvol Academy, a Spirit Warden safehouse/interrogation chamber and the manor of a group of rich cultists whose members include the prestigious Rowan family (and who knows how many others?).

We know that the Hive are at war with the Unseen, who are trying to infiltrate the Spirit Wardens. We’re getting embroiled in rivalries way above the Crows, Lampblacks, Red Sashes and Billhooks. Good stuff!

There is an odd, almost grudging respect towards the Spirit Wardens from the crew that I found fascinating.

Quess, the maid in service to the Witch Matron’s Brightstone Temple.

I picture Quess as being played by Lydia Night, lead singer of the Regrettes, shown below in their video for Seashore.


Timoth Rowan, the teacher’s assistant Skannon took out for drinks to get more information about why ghosts attach themselves to a certain place from their lives, gaining 5 ticks on that long-term project.

Timoth is going to be a blend of every beleaguered grad student Pete and I knew from our days in Ithaca, N.Y.

Atreus, up and coming Pankration heavyweight who moves like a middle-weight and is drawing strange uptown high society folk to his fights. He wears a demon mask and totally isn’t Thaddeus “Charming” Thimbleford, Cutter for the Wobbegong Crew. That idea is just preposterous!


Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>;.
The Corliss Bevel-Gear-Cutting Machine. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>;.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Wm. Hawes in front of jewelry store with intricate clock.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Grand View, City and Canal, Syracuse, N.Y.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880.
 The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The transportation problem. The Baxter boat “City of New York,” the fastest steamer tried on the Erie Canal” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1825.

Actual Play – The Coalridge Demon Job (9/24/2017)

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

In which Maude’s guild leads to our doom.

This game was such a good one that I completely flubbed it up and didn’t save the video before it expired on Twitch. My lamentations know no end.

However, fortuantely Judd wrote up this great actual play post here:

I’m also (call it broken link paranoia) going to copy/paste his write up here as well!

Wobbegong Crew: the Coalridge Demon Job

In which the Wobbegong Crew try to set Maude’s demonic mistake right, angering the Hive and the Lampblacks in the process and brutally fail in the mines under Coalridge.

The Gang

In the end this game happened because Maude failed some rolls and turned Coalridge into a charnel house. Sean decided that Maude had a conscience, which is a gutsy and fun decision. My favorite parts of this game were when the players made decisions for their characters that gave the situations and supernatural setting stuff real weight.

Maude deciding that she had to own up to her mistakes and ask the gang to do a job to make it right.

Willoughby and Charming acting scared when meeting Roric’s ghost.

It is one thing to have a Heavy-Metal-Album-Cover Demon unleash hell in a city district and having a ghost smoking a cigarette but Sean, Rob and Jay’s decisions gave it all real weight and feeling. It was inspiring.

Everyone had moments where they shined and the group is getting better at playing off one another. From Charming making brutal use of Willoughby’s truth-hearing to the way Willoughby managed to be the only person to escape.

Rob’s write-up of the game is well worth reading over on G+.

Duskwall again

We learned a bunch about Duskwall tonight. From the warehouse where the Hive sells people and their brutal security teams to the fact that if you sacrifice the right people on the Saint of Witch’s altar you can rummage around in the dead bodies and pull out weapons.

Lucella: accountant for the Hive – sacrificed to the Saint of Witches

Atreus: The Saint of Witches blood-thirsty son, now roaming free in Coalridge.

The Job with text

We were going to do a job concerning the hostage they had and using that leverage to broker peace between the Red Sashes and the Lampblacks but Maude had a problem. She had unleashed a demon into Coalridge and the word I used to describe the quarantined district was charnel house. It was weighing on Maude’s mind.

Charming and Willoughby agreed to put the hostage job aside and help Maude try to put this demon back in the bottle. Charming grabbed 2 people from a Hive-owned warehouse where they stored slaves, or as the Hive calls them, Product. He grabbed a guard and an accountant.

Willoughby found a coin-generating job to do in Coalridge, finding out that a factory foreman had a vault with treasure in still in the deserted district. It was a way to make some money on the endeavor. They never got to it.

Maude took the 2 human-traffickers from the Hive and killed the one still alive. The Saint of Witches put weapons inside them. It was squicky! Killing someone in a fight is one thing but killing an accountant who is chained up, even one who helps the slave trade was uncomfortable for all of us. It wasn’t over the line but it was close.

The failed their engagement roll and ended up in the crossfire between the Spirit Wardens and the demon and its cultists. Turns out the cultists were Lampblacks.

It was a total disaster. They prowled into position. Willoughby provided a distraction, acting like a scared citizen. After that it was a disaster. Charming broke against the demon in an assault – he trauma’d out. Maude tried to channel the demon’s mother’s voice. She failed to contain that much energy and vomited blood.

Willoughby wanted to grab Charming and bounce but she rolled a 5. She got out but Charming stayed.

The Mechanics in White

I don’t keep track of the players’ stress; they do that. When Charming trauma’d out it was a surprise to me. The stress mounted slowly and surely. The scoundrel’s grind is brutal.

Demons are no joke.

I liked the way it all shook out. I can’t wait to see what happens next.



Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>;.
The Corliss Bevel-Gear-Cutting Machine. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>;.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Wm. Hawes in front of jewelry store with intricate clock.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Grand View, City and Canal, Syracuse, N.Y.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880.

Actual Play – The Roric Job, Part 2 (9/17/2017)

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

Trying to beat the Dimmer Sisters the punch and finding Roric. Not without ghost field troubles!

Be sure to check out the 11 minute mark of part 2, where I say “umm, and uhh” about a thousand times.

Blades on Air

Actual Play – The Alas Poor Roric Job, Part 1 (8/6/2017)

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

Taken from Judd Karlman’s writeup:

In which a child of the Goat Matron is unleashed on Coalridge, the Hive’s link into the Lampblack/Red Sashes War is delved into and Rorick’s Ghost is hunted through the under-canals and back-alleys of Crow’s Foot.

It was Maude and Skannon this time around. It is interesting to see what kind of jobs interest different combinations of scoundrels, based on their skills and inclinations.

Skannon used his downtime to heal up after getting stabbed in the Upper Deck Job and he did some spying on the Hive. He saw them loan mercs to the Lampblacks, evening out the war. It was as if the Hive want the war to go on longer. He caught site of a mysterious Dagger Island woman with a bad-ass platoon of Hive Mercenaries as her personal bodyguards.

Maude used her downtime to also heal up as she was still ghost-touched, also from the same previous job. She also took a new vice, as her obligations vice wasn’t finding traction in play. Another big deal, her Attune went to 3 in the midst of dealing with the Dimmer Sisters. I liked how Sean described it, with Maude realizing that there was more to this ghost-stuff than simply binding and banishing.

Downtime actions were limited because the Wobbegong Crew is at war with the Red Sashes after stealing turf from them.


Roric, he’s in the book and I’ve got ideas about him. John did a neat job setting up a cool web around Roric and his death. I’m excited that they are hunting down his ghost. In a way he’s the keystone to the starting situation. He was the one who kept the peace between the Lampblacks and the Red Sashes before Lyssa, his second-in-command stabbed him in the back and threw his body into the canal.

Bricks, the barber who healed up Skannon, who works under a Hive-owned brothel.

Noggs the Knife, an old ghost from under the Upper Deck, killed in a gang war 60 years ago.

Pigsfoot, the old name of Crow’s Foot, back back from the Crows were the ruling gang.

Thirsty Ghost, an old pub in Crow’s foot where Roric had a cache of weapons and clothes.

Flint, Maude’s friend, a spirit trafficker. I’m not sure why I described him as the caretaker of an alley filled with forgotten gods’ altars but I did and it has stuck. He was with Maude when she failed a succession of rolls that led to her accidentally summoning one of the Ghost Matron’s children in a church to the Forgotten Gods in Coalridge. He dragged her out of there once the demon-goat-thing made its way out of the bleeding walls.

The Job

We exchange e-mails between games. I mentioned that in the Upper Deck job they had taken the leader of the Red Sashes, Mylera Klev’s little brother and now she wants to make a deal for peace or his return or something. We were thinking that tonight was going to be the Hostage Job but that didn’t pan out with only two players at the table.

Several Lampblacks have refused to leave the little brother’s side, not wanting their gang to lose their space in that leverage.

Since Pete and Sean were going to be at the game, Sean suggested an occult job and I suggested Roric’s ghost had a bounty on it – one bounty by Lyssa and another bounty by a mystery bidder who was doubling the coin offered by Lyssa.

Skannon said, “It must be Roric’s lover…who else would be motivated to pay so much?” I did my best to keep a poker face when Pete said that.

They hunted Roric’s ghost down through Crow’s Foot while the Dimmer Sisters, the Gondoliers and some moonlighting Railjacks all hunted too. I set up a clock for each of them. Sean suggested that their clocks be less than the Wobbegong clock, since they were all higher tier gangs. Those kinds of mechanical suggestions are invaluable. The crew had an 8-part clock and the rest of the rival ghost-hunters had 6-part clocks.

Maude and Skannon left Maude’s new ghost friend, Noggs, to be eaten by a pair of Dimmer Sisters to get away from a conflict with them, a pair of young ladies in widow’s garb and black veils, floating a few feet off the ground. Maude could see that they weren’t possessed by a single ghost, but were a pair of women in a network of women, run by a council of ghosts in a complicated web.

To find Roric’s trail when it had run cold, Maude hacked the network, a Desperate roll. It was cool have that be a success and show a bit behind the scenes of the Dimmer Sisters’ operations.

We ended there, with Skannon leading them through back alleys to where Rorick, possessing an old woman, had picked up a brace of pistols and a cloak.

To be continued in a few weeks. I have family obligations next week.


I was happy to be rolling on a more chill entanglements table this week. The Bluecoats took Kyle in and questioned him, adding +1 Heat because they saw through a lie he told.

I felt like I was asking for better die rolls this week. In the last job I made a bunch of mistakes, having people roll dice like to-hit rolls, which led to unsatisfying results. The clocks were set up well for this job but the job was also just more dynamic. Hunting a ghost through the streets while other arcane powers strive to get there first is pretty cool. The fiction being flavorful led to an easier time setting up consequences.

This is the first job we’ve stopped mid-game. It felt like an easy stop-point. I remember right where they were, tracking the body Roric has possessed while the Dimmer Sisters close on in.

Sean’s Thoughts on this Game

Clearly I have impulse control issues. When a strange demon offers me candy, I say yes. I see this both in Arcy and in Maud (which I was/am attempting to play as very different people). At the core of each of them I want to play a real person, but I keep finding myself taking Faustian bargains and then wondering what the hell I was thinking. In part but what sounds like a great idea in the moment, turns out to be a terrible one.

In Arcy’s case, she’s become complicit with it, and when in doubt, escalates. She’s done some pretty grotesque things not because she had to, but because I felt like the character needed to keep one upping herself to stay relevant and hold onto her status in the crew (and to some degree at the table). I’m okay with the path Arcy went in but I’m not doing it again with Maud. She’s made some of the same mistakes but I’ve decided that she knows enough to understand they were mistakes, and the burden she’s going to bear is trying to make up for them, rather than just stacking more atrocities on top of her past. This is a bit challenging for me because I don’t want to be risk-averse myself, but the character really doesn’t want to kill one demon just by letting two more out of the bottle, so we’ll see if there is a path for her.


Actual Play – The Upper Deck (7/30/2017)

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

Taken from Judd Karlman’s writeup:

In which the Wobbegong Crew pay to avoid prison, learn that the Red Sashes snitched, witness the beginning of a serious rift in the Billhooks and take Red Sash turf for their own.

The Wobbegong Crew

Charming: He was separated from the rest of the crew for most of the job and managed not to kill anyone. In his downtime, he did some healing and some stress relief with his buddy, Sawtooth.

Skannon: Our stealthy scoundrel took a beating this game, getting a 2nd trauma, Haunted, after he ghost cloak’d his way through the floor to avoid an irate Red Sash and nearly destroyed the ghost ward in the lower decks.

The dice were not kind to Pete tonight but Skannon was still awesome.

Maude: She led the charge into the Pig Pit during downtime. She started and completed a short clock to ally with the Lampblacks and hit a big crit to notice a big rift between Erin and Coran, putting together that Erin’s lover is the leader of the Red Sashes. Good stuff.

Another big moment was using a ghost to take out a flare meant to alert the Red Sashes and summon a war crew. Muade had a helluva night.


The Billhooks: Tension in the Billhooks gang is written in but today we learned a bunch about how that is shaking out. The group tripped over the tensions between Erin and Coran, both vying for control as the gang while Coran’s father/Erin’s brother serves time in Ironhook Prison.

Black Dust Pub: We met Edlun again in Duskwall’s version of a cop bar in Coalridge. This time the gang met with him to lower their heat. Edlun gave a good speech to a rookie about how the Bluecoats are just another gang. “Our job isn’t justice; our job is peace.”

I like Edlun more and more.

Morlan: One of the Billhooks saved by the Wobbegong’s in their first job. He accompanied them into the Black Dust Pub as a go-between.

The Upper Deck: This is the drug den the Red Sashes owned, taken by the Wobbegong with Lampblack help. It is a scuttled ship on the docks whose lower decks are flooded. There are buildings built on top of the ship.

The 5 Faces of the Moon: A Brightstone drug den with fine hash and dreamsmoke.

The Leaky Bucket: This is where the gang planned the job with the Lampblacks. Sean mentioned it and it worked. Is it in the book? Not sure.



I started the job with a 4 part clock for the guards surrendering and that was a poor judgment. I changed it to a 6 part clock, making the job less easy (but still not that bad).

The Billhooks Civil War (6 tick). Oh, it is coming and it will be bloody.

Upper Deck’s Ghosts Come for Skannon (6 tick). This was part of a Devil’s Bargain. I’m feeling odd about these because I haven’t seen one of these clocks go off yet but I know the players are watching them and they are exerting pressure in some way. I might have to make these somehow more urgent or worded better. I’ll keep an eye out.

The Job

The Entanglement Roll that started the gang was rolled with 0 dice. That means I roll 2d6 and take the lower. Once again I rolled double 6’s, a result that calls for someone in the crew to go to jail. They paid Edlun coin to keep their crew out of prison and tossed in an extra coin to find out who snitched.

It was the Red Sashes.

The job was born. Good job, entanglement. I rolled to see how the war between the Lampblack and the Red Sashes was going. The Red Sashes rolled 6 and the Lampblacks rolled a 2. It wasn’t looking good for the Lampblacks; they were taking a beating and had taken heavy losses. The Lampblacks were ready for an ally.

I described the Upper Deck to the group and they were into taking it. 2 guards at the gang-plank and 3 more on the old, beat-up, grounded ship.

They decided they would stealth across the water onto the ship while Charming dealt with the gang-plank bouncers. Dice hit the table and things got complicated. Skannon took trauma and everyone took stress. It was a rough job and it could have been much, much more rough if Maude hadn’t nullified the S.O.S. flare, if Charming hadn’t beaten down the last door, if Skannnon hadn’t weaved the ward back together.

It was good stuff, solid teamwork. Now the team has a drug den on the docks, a grounded schooner that is also haunted – as it was used as a meat locker for enemies by a long dead gang. That is a juicy piece of turf, a nice new part of the Wobbegong mythology.

EDIT: Re-thinking the Upper Deck Job is a blog post in which I think about this job and how I would’ve done the engagement roll differently if I could go back.

The Mechanics

The Scoundrel’s Grind is in effect and the players are feeling it. They were careful to grab turf without killing anyone.

I need to make an Action Roll cheat sheet for myself, just something fast and easy to get an idea of what kind of consequences I can offer for the various types of failures and consequences for success-with-a-price results.

Having a rule mentor at the table is a tremendous help. I had Jim and Aaron when I was playing Burning Wheel and Sean is invaluable for getting all of the moving pieces that make up Blades in the Dark.

Sean’s Review

Judd mentions in this post how it’s easy for a stealth or smuggling job to quickly turn into an assault job. I’ve suffered the same challenge, which is essentially how to create complications and twists in a stealth job that aren’t “they discover you and now you have to fight”. To that end I think I want to start brainstorming the kind of complications that you can use on sneaking jobs that add to the tension without changing it to another kind of job. I’ll start with some ideas, but if you think of more, please add them to the contents:

  • Being discovered by a bystander or someone who works for your target that isn’t loyal, but is self interested. They want to be paid off, to come along, for you to do something for them, else you’ll have to silence them another way.
  • The place you’re going into is different than you expected. Environmental hazards: traps, ghosts, swimming, tight crawl spaces, deathlands ash, a maze, snakes, poisonous gasses, locked doors, dimensional portals.
  • The people you’re trying to blend in with or avoid do things you’re not prepared for: drugs, passwords, supplication to a demon, wearing fancy or distinct clothes, dancing, socializing, holding a meeting, interacting with another crew (possibly an enemy crew), friendly contests, moving to an unexpected place.
  • Something holds you up and can’t come with: Gear lost, party split, silence prevents communication, niggling doubt, some time bomb you’re aware of, another concern that distracts you, or that you have to choose between.

More? I’m sure there are tons. Help me brainstorm more so that next time I’m GMing and someone gets a partial success or bad outcome when Prowling, I have some idea for complications.

Also worth noting I accidentally didn’t save the VOD in time (as word to the wise, Twitch only keeps non-affiliate videos up for 14 days. Make your highlights soon!) so the video for this session is sadly lost in the archives of Twitch ephemera.

On a person character notes, I had some great luck tonight. I rolled a critical success on a Study roll to find out what Erin and Coran were up to, and realized that the reason the Billhooks didn’t want to fight the Red Sashes was that Erin and Mylera Klev were secretly lovers. Thus the starting of the Billhooks civil war! (No ticks on it yet, but we know it’s brewing). I also loved using Compel to force a ghost to fly up and burn out a flare before it could go off in the air. That felt like it was the difference between ending the job and it turning into something even bigger!

Getting Mylera’s little brother as a captive. Dang, that’s going to spin some heads!

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

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

Taken from Judd Karlman’s writeup:

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

The Wobbegong Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Doskvol Notables

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

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

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

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


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

Captain Bragg seeks out Charming.

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

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

The Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Blades on Air

What Rocked

This is from Sean.

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

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

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

Taken from Judd Karlman’s writeup:

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

The Wobbegong Crew

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

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

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

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

Doskvol Notables

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

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


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

Cog 4

Blue Coats Hunt Down Shannon, 0 of 4

Cog 8 complete

Learn the True Nature of the Artifacts, 8 of 8

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

attune 666


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

Cog 1 of 6

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

Cog 3 of 4

The Hive Seeks Recompense from Charming, 3 of 4

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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