To revitalize this blog and as it would be kind of sad if the Actual Play got lost in the streams of G+ I present the actual play of my latest Google Hangout RPG Session of Blades in the Dark.
Blades in the Dark is the new Kickstarter project by John Harper in which the players get to play a crew of daring scoundrels trying to form a criminal Empire in a haunted city.
I ran first attempt on Blades in the Dark at Friday 20.03.
This is my attempt of writing an actual play about what happened. The events are reconstructed from my memory and may thereby have some inaccuracies.
The players & arrangements
I started motivating some players to give the Quickstart of Blade in the Dark a try.
Usually Friday is my D&D5 day. As the D&D5 group had to pause I decided to offer Blades in the Dark as a „fill-in“.
Two players from the D&D5 group joined, one friend of mine and another player whom I didn’t knew from before.
Three of them had read the rules at least once, one didn’t finish reading them.
One player extracted the character sheets and made them fillable. Certain pages of the QS got extracted as well.
As it served for a fillin it was meant to be a Oneshot.
Meals & Setup
I prepared some bread and soda mix.
I had all the one page PDFs plus QS open in FoxIt and the PDF open on my tablet. Which I used a lot to page through the sides. One player prepared a shared (Google Docs) document to keep track of different infos.
For clocks, as I got no proficiency in drawing tools, I just used the notation „<short description> x/x“ in Hangout chat.
I asked the players to spent some thought on what they want to play, but left the actual creation up to the beginning of the session.
Estimate vs. Reality
I estimated roughly an hour for Crew and Char creation, we ended up needing almost two hours. It still was fun, I believe.
As we figured that the crew might provide a good outline we started with the creation of the Crew. Its been clear that it would be Thieves and that they are placed in Crow’s Foot with Lyssa being the warden. Given that she murdered Roric she’d been described as ‚driven‘.
Some of the first things crystal clear was that they would like to have their lair in an abandoned museum. A secret lair in its cellar. The crew should have a renown of being „strange“. Basically almost being suspected to be cultists, using ghost and, well, being strange.
The name got rather quickly decided to be „Die Chronisten“ (the chroniclers). The special ability chosen was „Alpha“.
The contact would be Fitz the collector, as it seems fit to a group of occult thieves living in a museum.
The lair got outfitted with a workshop and a library.
Assigning the factions stand took quite some time and there was some discussion what the factions are actually about. For Tier 2 I noted that Red Sashes, Lampblacks and The Crows would be the most relevant.
Faction choice ended up as follows:
Tier 1 The Forgotten Gods +1 Inspectors: +1 The Lost: +1 Deathlands Scavengers +1
Fog Hounds: -1 Rail Jacks: -1 Ulf Ironborn: -1 The Eels -1
Tier 2 The Red Sashes +1 The Lampblacks -1
Tier 3 Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh +1 Spirit Wardens -1
Questions & Remarks
Is it possible on Tier 1 to get a faction standing at +2 or higher and would it be possible for one player to basically negate the standing another player has been set?
With the Crew assets we noticed that some stuff, basically all that’s been in the grey, wasn’t explained. So we weren’t sure if it could be taken, if there would be prerequisite to e.g. taking the Elite Shadows and what exactly the stuff does mechanically.
There was as well some insecurity regarding the crew effects. Apart from that I could tell them that they really should consider Resources.
The crew were made of:
Edlun Strathmill – Whisperer (Academic, Skovlan, luxuries)
Ring „Preacher“ Morrison – Cutter (Underworld, Akoros, ?)
Daphnia Dalmore – Slide (Noble, Dagger Isles, luxuries)
Pill – Hound ((Bluecoat, Akoros, ?)
We had some discussion regarding the different origins. Specially the aspect that Edlun should come from Tycheros got some discussion about demons and how Tycherosi were welcomed. We started from some players more on the side of „demon folk almost getting burned at sight“ towards of „they get at least a bit discriminated.“ as well some questions what demons actually are. I knew about ghosts, but had no real concept how demons are different. In the end it was decided that Skovlan might be more fitting and easy to go with.
The player of Daphnia noticed Baz among the contact options and after some discussion who he is decided to take him on friend level on an instant. Edlun went for Nyryx a possessor ghost.
Char Creation for four characters went a bit faster then the Crew creation.
I decided to go for the opening and chose that they’ll have a meeting with Mylera who’ll assign them to steal a special picture from the Lampblacks. The thing special about the picture was that it was done using ectoplasma as part of the ink, in the process of creation, and was thereby not only a fine piece of art but as well unique.
We played the encounter and conversation with Mylera with Daphnia having the lead in the conversation. They ended up as agreeing to do the score.
Mylera revealed that she believed that the painting was stored in the vault of the Lampblacks HQ. The HQ was basically a defunct lighthouse and the vault was in a vault in a grotto underneath it.
There was a natural tendency to try to haggle for a better price. Something I found difficult to play as the actual price is determined by a roll in the end. Basically I played Mylera playing a hard ball of they’ll getting paid what they getting paid and that its a good chance for a pretty new crew.
In hindsight I may could have highlighted the option for the players to do flashbacks and change the whole reason why they were there.
The characters went back and it was discussed how it should be approached. They gathered some information regarding the vault and decided in the end to abduct on of the two day shift vault guards.
Oh my. It was less planning then in a SR nightmare but way to many for my taste. I didn’t manage to sell the „Just select a method, take the spot and go“ aspect enough.
Another plunder of mine was that I first believed that there was a roll needed for Gather information which isn’t.
The plan was set in motion. First the Cutter went trailing the victim to the bar where it would be snatched by the Slide, who’ll take it to the Whisperer where he would get taken out and possessed by the ghost friend of the Whisper. The then possessed guard should go and actually steal the picture from the Lampblacks for them.
The plan to get the guard went as planned, actually even better then planned. He ended up stripped to the chair ready for the Whisperer to enact the sinister plan.
The Whisperer started to bide the ghost into the poor mans soul yet even though it was a controlled situation things didn’t went as planned. The body resisted and the Whisperer tried to push harder, risking to faint on a failed tempt.
Again it didn’t went as planned, the feet of the Whisperer went weak and he was on the verge of collapsing, loosing controlled.
The Slide acted first, drawing out her perfume to revitalize her friend. Yet the perfume didn’t as much returned the Whisperer to live but evoked memories of his former live in the ghost, who decided to chose another victim for his possession, crawling back out his half way in, heading for the Slide.
The Cutter picked the Whisperer up and attempted to smack him back to consciousness. Holding him up, hands reaching, he recognized it might do worse then good.
In the meanwhile the Slide decided to adapt the plan, spraying the original victim with the perfume which not only convinced the ghost to return to the body as he was supposed to but the stink brought the Whisperer back to his feet.
The questioning of the guard revealed that the painting wasn’t actually in the Grotto but in Baz sleeping room located at the second floor of the lighthouse. Which was close to the top.
The first action was planned to set the guard up by the help of two players for the third. The rules only mention a two step setup. Is it possible to collect multiple dice doing multiple setups?
Apart from that it was my favorite scene of the evening.
The clocks I set weren’t as big (0/6 for the guard, 0/4 to possess him, 0/2 to save the Whisperer) but worked and the botches made it very interesting.
I decided for the „Its actually in the tower“ twist on the fly, as it hadn’t had another twist planned. Though I have to admit that I was indeed very afraid that they went through with having the guard do the actual stealing as I wasn’t sure how that should have been handled.
The player of the Hound wasn’t sadly as included. Partly to me failing to explain the feature of the system more clearly. (He likely assumed his character had no fitting skills)
By the end of the scene it was about 11:30pm.
Given the new information they’ve obtained they made a infiltration plan. Entry point was the back of the lighthouse.
The most of the crew would climb it from the sea side while the Slide was set to distract Baz.
The Slide talked comfortably with Baz in a sauna using her fine jewelry as an fine asset to convince him to not go back to the tower for the evening. It went first rather abyssal for Baz is rather sharp, yet upon promising that even given the bad standing her crew would run a score for his, no questions asked, she managed that the crows may attempt to rob him of the picture and maybe even murder him,.. like Roric who had it coming. They decided to leash out against the crows and spent the night together.
The crew scaled the Tower. First went the Cutter with almost no problems. Second the Hound and the Whisperer followed. The Hound did manage to proceed going up but dropped some stones, alerting some of the watchers down there. They managed to arrive the top unnoticed.
Up at the tower the Whisperer managed to overcome the security like a virtuoso. Not only disabling all the runes, ectoplasmatic security and opening the door but finding the painting behind some curtains.
The painting got wrapped in those curtains.
A dead crow got placed in the room and the scoundrels escaped back to the museum.
If the danger is something can it be overcome by a effect roll? We noticed the possibility just there and it got used.
Apart from that I offered several devils bargains. The „do a job for the Lampblacks“ was one. Offering devils bargains was really fun and I did it some more. Though it needed clarification that they are always optional. I am not sure if it was right to offer the bargain after the roll, yet the result was pretty cool.
The player of the Hound was really confused by the „you can chose the approach of how to scale the tower by your own.“ even though I tried to explain it the best I could I think I could have done better. He ended up scaling up using a faint approach.
It was until the Hound climbed up that we noticed the difference in the group approaches. Up to then we only used either overcome or followup.
I got to „draw“ several clocks (like in text using x/x terminology). Which was fun on the one hand, but confusing at the other. Specially as scaling the tower only landed a 4/6. I haven’t dared to to do a 0/8 clock or higher. Like for the whole adventure.
The Slides action was iirc the only „not group action“.
Back at their lair it was decided what to do with the painting. Should it really go to the Red Sashes with that kinda aggressive leader? NAH!
The group proceeded to use their workbench, the library they got and all assets they got to desperately try to attempt a fake that would pass.
The result was descent enough to trick Mylara at least at first.
It was very late (half past midnight) and there was some discussion whether ot not to do it. I decided to go with it and offered a 0/6 clock on a desperate attempt to fake it. Low clock mainly to have a chance to do it in one go and not going into project stuff.
They managed to fake it, but only to get a 4/6 at the clock. So I thought it was fit that they would be able to hand it to the Red Sashes and that it would only late be discovered to be a fake.
The group had a blast at good rolls and that the attempt didn’t went down to a disaster.
We decided to go through all the wrap up steps.
The Heat roll was favorable after the player with the worst dice luck rolled they got no heat at all.
The Development roll was a critical success, 3 coins and 2 hold. It was felt that it was a rather meager outcome. Specially as the characters didn’t got any personal coins for them self. So in the end they took one starting coin and everyone got 1 coin.
The attempt to acquire a new asset failed.
No doctor was needed.
The stress got reduced to zero for all but the Whisperer (I think).
The crew progress was done and 3 progress bars filled. Side job was understood rather literally as a sidequest. ^^;
The char progress was done. The Cutter and Hound were left a bit progress left as fights and kills were avoided. Which I felt was a bit harsh. The fourth condition „Express your relationship to the crew“ left us totally puzzled. I think only the Slide got to get an XP from that one as her devils bargain did kinda cross the crew.
Regarding the faction standings we noted,…
-1 with the crows for basically the Crew, well, was at least to the Lampblacks obviously and as well to the Red Sashes hurting them.
-1 with the Lampblacks cause even though they don’t faced opposition by Baz it was clear they did it.
+1 with the Red Sashes for doing the job -1 for they will discover its a fake
We had two setting discussions.
I stated that there is short distance communication but no phones. We discussed if it would be possible to do phones using ghost (on the Dagger Isles they surely do XD) and who’d do it. In the end we ended on more or less no phones,.. well at least they didn’t got relevant.
Some ruleset difficulty.
It was a bit counter intuitive that fine asset stuff only factors into the effect rolls.