Actual Play – The Calm Before the Storm (11/22/2016)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Eric Fattig, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.7.1

The big finale of last session… was also the big finale of this session, since we spent this session taking some much needed Downtime™ and finding out how Harland fared dodging Vond and the Path of Echoes.

Rest for the Wicked

Excited to have Hix back and relieved to be done with Arden the crew got to some much needed indulgences.

Arquo returned home, told his parents (Arcus and Remira) that he had a good job, one that would pay the bills, doing honest work. He’d be fixing things up and working in the kitchen of the Cat and Candle. He dropped a bag full of slugs on the table to show them it was already paying off [1 coin]. Arcus’ reaction was one of concern. That was way too much jingle to make spending a few days working at a cafe. And what would the Lampblacks have to say about this change in career? Or that was what he was thinking. What he said was “I’m proud of you son,” though his hesitation in responding betrayed his ruse. Remira was also concerned but for different reasons. If Arquo left the Lampblacks, she would have even less sway over them, and the chances that Bazso would ever pay for her daugther’s sacrifice would be even smaller. However, she saw the coin in the table and wasn’t going to ask twice where it came from. Tonight, rat stew. Tomorrow, eel livornese! [Indulge vice]

Elke went with Nyelle [a previously not discussed spirit trafficker who is contact on the Smuggler’s playsheet] to “clean up shop” at The Six Arms, a brothel they acquired after the showdown with the Red Sashes [Turf, which they took as payment for helping the Lampblacks]. There were some spectral pleasures being offered, none of which considered ethical by Elke. She wanted whole ghosts, not carved up spirit essences, and consensual exchanges, which meant the ghost got something out of it. Nor would the ghosts be confined in spirit bottles or lightning cages!

Nyelle was curious. If ghosts could be bargained with, than surely there were things they wanted to. Could a market work both ways? What would ghosts have to offer for goods and services? Knowledge of valuables they had when they were living? Protection services? Who knows. She didn’t know how this was going to work yet, but she was happy to help Elke set it up, as this stood to possibly increase her market.

The madam of The Six Arms had no idea how to accommodate this change but Elke left Wester and Lynthia there to keep the peace while she wasn’t present [We started a new six tick clock to stabilize spirit trade that Elke could work on in the future, but for now she’d have to leave some of the gang behind to secure it]. Whether they understood or not, the gang and Nyelle helped Elke put up wards, sanctify the space, and otherwise make it possible for spectral communion. Weird! [Indulging vice].

Jadvyga, delighted to have found Dudridge and Sons invited Roslyn Kellis to come try on dresses and gossip with her. We delved a bit into their past and found that while Jadvyga was a useful person for Roslyn to keep on retainer, the noble valued her friendship as well. There were few people she could really talk to without having to worry about her words coming back to haunt her. Elke came along with them, which meant the field of gossip was limited to things that were not about her; and later as Jadvyga discovered after much throat clearing by Elke, that were not about Hix, either! Malcolm noted that Jadvyga had the perfect figure to display some of their fine wares at an upcoming exhibit and if she wold succumb to trying on several other dresses he would be delighted to have her as a model at the next event [Indulge vice, Devil’s Bargain that Jadvyga agreed to model for Malcolm.]

Research continues

Refreshed by her time confounding people with spectrology, Elke paid Roslyn of the Gills a visit at her shop and interrupted her work to ask more about the Dimmer Sisters. Roslyn helped decipher their tombs but regularly interrupted herself asking how far the DSS was coming with getting Lauren (Roslyn’s daughter) an sponsor at Charterhall University. [New clock: Expecting Lauren to have a sponsor for admission 1/4].

With her help Elke determined that the Dimmer Sisters would drown someone nearly to death, and when their body was at it’s weakest three sisters would combine their might to wrench the soul out. It involved an electroplamsic chromatography in which the soul in vaporous form entered a mobile phase and was siphoned out into the water, where it could be collected and the body would be left unharmed. Or mostly unharmed. Sometimes people actually drowned, and then they just had a dead person and a ghost, which rang the bells as usual and defeated the whole purpose. [Long term project to determine how the Dimmer Sisters created hollows complete]

With that knowledge in hand, Elke began to devise a ritual that would protect the soul from this kind of separation. She envisioned a spectral force field that would insulate the soul from extraction. [2/8 Ticks in the ritual complete. What effect does the ritual create and how is it weird? Protects the soul from being removed while someone is alive. A shimmering field around those protected is visible to those attuning to the ghost field.]

Some revisions to our History

[Some revising needed. At this point I realized there were two things I wanted to discuss changing.

  1. I really didn’t want to bring another faction into the fold, so we revised Harland’s unexpected encounter at the Quinn’s Spirit Club to be with Edlund Scurlock instead of with the Wraiths.
  2. As per the “to be improved” section last game, we revised Arden’s affections for Elke to be familial instead of romantic.

Those issues addressed, we jumped back into the game.]

Harland’s Night Out with Scurlock

Some attention was needed in the affairs of Harland Younghusband!

At Quinn’s Harland bumped into a dashing gentleman in old timey clothes, complete with frills on the blouse and a brocade jacket. The man had been watching him for some time and when Harland finally made contact with him, asked if he could buy our favorite merchant’s son a drink.

Attractive men in bars wanting to buy Harland drinks. Yes, please! After a few drinks Harland had given up a lot of personal information, but obtained nearly nearly none from the handsome man. In fact he had a hard time looking into his eyes directly, but that wasn’t so bad, there were lots of other nice parts of him to look at. A strong jaw, high cheekbones, a hawkish face with lustrous black hair, and skin so very full of life. Pretty as he was, Harland didn’t get the sense that his drinking fellow was going to make another move, too old fashion to take someone home on the first date, so Harland left him his calling card and made is way to other affairs.

Meanwhile Nyryx thought Harland was completely losing it, having conversations with no one at all and being distracted by drinking while he was supposed to be laying low.

Founding the Cult of Harland

Free of distraction Harland and Nyryx were able to start putting his plan into action sending the few proto members of his cult who were loyal to him to go spread the word, gather supplies, and find a venue to congregate in, while Harland evaded Vond. The made off with high hopes for a Path of Echoes that wasn’t ruled by Vond’s spectral fist. [Long term project to create a splinter cult completed. 2/4 ticks put on the clock to change vice from Faith to Obligation, with his new cult as his purveyors]. Nyryx offered to go assist them, which Harland accepted, unaware of the cost [Devil’s Bargain that Nyryx would consume some of the culstist that he possesed which would heal Nyryx’s final Level 1 Harm but also leave the cultist permanently changed].

Vond’s short attention span

[After Harland’s previous consort action to lay low (from a few sessions ago) we had to decide how well the ruse worked. He had evaded her assassins, but once he resurfaced would she resume her attacks or would she have turned her attention back to making vessels for her kin? We made a fortune role and decided that her eagerness to find Harland was reduced down to two dice due to other pressing concerns and Harland’s evasion. Result: Poor (1-3). I guess Harland has a bit of time to breathe before Vond or her minions show up again.]

Turning in his Coat

Arquo had just finished bathing and was inspecting the large bruise on his shoulder that was still purple, when his father Arcus and family friend Steiner entered. “Bazso wants to see you Arquo, I’ll go with you”. [Indulging vice]

They went to The Old Rasp, one of the Lampblack gambling dens that was still operational after the war. Arquo entered with his coat already folded over his arm. The meeting with Bazso was short and civil. Arquo wanted to move onto honest living and Bazso knew the Society was anything but that, but let him go anyway. “You left the army because it wasn’t right for you. You’re leaving us now. I hope things work out better for with with the society.” Which was equal parts encouragement and disappointment. Knowing that you don’t leave the Lampblacks without it getting a beating first, Arquo set down the jacket and braced himself for a pummeling. [Desperate sway, Devil’s Bargain to accept a beating. Complete success!]

As Arquo left he told everyone that if Major Crane comes looking for him, send them to his home. No foreboding at all…

The Grand Reunion

Arquo staggered in with a black eye and a cracked ribs. Harland arrived with a haggard I-haven’t-slept-in-three-days look on his face, and the gang was reunited. There was much rejoicing, telling of tales (“I got arrested!” “I was held captive!” “I had assassins come after me!”) and suddenly the realization that they had missed a week of school!

As they frantically worked to catch up, in a quiet moment, Elke told Hix about meeting Scurlock, and about how angry she was that she couldn’t kill him. Hix, who had usually been the shoulder to cry on, wasn’t having it. She told Elke she would have another chance and this time she wouldn’t fail [vicious trauma, ouch!]

What Rocked

Wow, the Spectral Society really has been through hell and back again. They’ve scraped their way through so far, but demons and devils be damned, they still have so much more in store!

I love that Elke is insistent on teaching people to respect and work with ghosts, when most of Dosovol reacts to ghosts as you would to a powder keg with the fuse lit. Valuable, possibly. Dangerous, yes. Fascinating, for many. But certainly not something you can become friends with. As a GM I’m not really sure what this is going to look like. Ghosts are mad and terrible. But not all of them are. Some are reconciled. Some are new and haven’t lost their humanity yet. Maybe Elke can find some peace with them.

Giving up the coat. Wow, that scene was rough. I’m so sorry for Arquo. He really thinks that he’s found a better life. All the pain he has in store…

Scurlock and Harland flirting was delightful. I love that it ended because Scurlock was too old fashioned to bed Harland on the first date. But Harland did leave his calling card and I’m sure Edlund will use it!

I continue to be delighted with our group and their flexibility to talk about issues out of character, find a solution, and then dive back in to play them out. Karen, Adrienne, and Eric, you all are wonderful!

Jadvyga is going to be a fashion model! Arquo drop a sack of slugs on his parents dinner table. Elke set up a spirit connection in The Six Arms. My crew indulges their vices in the coolest ways!

What could have improved

I’m still working on getting all the various threats and entanglements worked into the game without making it so overwhelming that the crew can’t do anything but dig themselves out of holes. It’s not that I don’t love having lots of problems on the table, it’s just a matter of having enough time in the game session to do them all justice. Currently we’re looking at:

  • Vond’s hunt for the heretic Harland.
  • First Mate Kamelin Prichard of the Ironmast and the faculty of Charterhall University looking for Captain Abram Booker’s log book.
  • Major Crane and his retinue of well paid Bluecoats searching for Arquo, who they believe kidnapped Arden Keel.

All three of these are high tier factions (III and IV) that want things from the Society which is either impossible or fatal to provide!

Additionally, I’m working on introducing more University based scores and relationships as we want to see the society as students as well. So yeah, he’s looking at the kitchen sink!