Actual Play – Time to pay up Kinclaith! (12/14/2016)

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

A bit of data nerding

Due to holiday plans this was our last game of the year. My bet is it will be my last RPG of the year as well. That will make 92 RPG game sessions in 2016. Of all the shitty things about 2016, gaming wasn’t one of them. That is one game every 3.97 days, which beats my nearly 10 year average of one game every 4.69 days. Put another way, I beat my average of 78 games a year by 14 game sessions. Woots!

I owe a lot of that to conventions (lots of different games in a short period of time) and being in four campaign games this year: Kingmaker, Bloodletters, Land of 10,000 Gods, and Doskvol Spectral Society.

I’m reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore right now and the protagonist is nerding out over some data modeling which I think is pretty awesome. It’s super vain (I’m super vain) but I’d love to do some data modeling to see what patterns I follow. Some would be obvious (lots of games during cons) but it would be cool to see how frequently I try different games or how often I play GM vs. GM-less games, and of games that are GM’ed, how often I’m a player.

I also wonder about how changes in my life have affected my gaming. My guess is that I played less during my divorce and more since I’ve moved to Oakland. I think I also have a trend of playing a single game really hard (reach Torchbearer and Blades in the Dark) when it’s still in development, but I wonder if that constitutes a spike in my gaming or just a change in the particular systems I play. It would take take a lot of data back-filling to figure out what those patterns really look like though.

Here are the stats I have:

  • Actual Play reports since 5/30/2007: 743
  • Most played games: Burning Wheel (77), Legend of the Five Rings (58), Pathfinder (58), Blades in the Dark (54), Torchbearer (51), Dresden Files RPG (42), Apocalypse World (37), Primetime Adventures (36), Dungeon World (24), Burning Empires (18), Fiasco (18).
  • Number of different systems played (estimated because my accounting hasn’t always been perfect): 160, which means I’ve tried a new game system every 21.79 days. Every three weeks? That seems improbable, but if anything that variety comes from attending cons.

So, that’s interesting stuff. I’d love to be a twitch streamer like skinnyghost but my day job probably isn’t going anywhere any time soon. But now, to the game…

Sorting out some ritual details

Before starting the game proper we flashed back a bit to Elke’s discovery of the ritual to create Hollows (thanks to Bazso and Elke having late night philosophy and whiskey sessions together).

What does the ritual do and how is it weird?

Animate the dead by controlling their spirits before they have left the body. The bodies do not recover however, and continue to decay over time.

What must I do to perform the ritual, and what is its price?

Blood transference from the ritual caster along with the burning of tobacco, herbs, and bloodneedle. After the ghost leaves the body, the whisper can no longer command them (ever). Cost: 3 stress

What new belief or fear does knowledge of this ritual and its attendant occult forces instill in you?

Until the ghost leaves the body, a person is still a person

So yeah… as long as she doesn’t mind losing control after the ghost leaves the body, Elke can make zombies… without the circlet of the Empty Vessel.

Ghost Hound in a Bottle

Where we left off last session, the crew had stepped into a pile of trouble as Cavelle was intended to wreak havoc but instead was being chewed on by a shadow spirit wolf with burning red ember eyes.

Not expecting this per se, but assuming that Cavelle might get out of control and need to be pacified, Hix had come prepared with a bomb. A very special sort of bomb that would blaze brightly in the ghost field and momentarily blind any that could see it (including ghosts and those who were attuning).

[We handled this as a flashback to downtime and used the crafting rules. I had to make a judgement call as to whether or not this was a standard item, or something that Hix would need a formula for, and decided that it could be a standard item (see below for more thoughts on this) that was based off the smoke bomb, but bumped up in tier due to it’s electroplasmic nature:

Bombs (spark-craft)
Drawback (Conspicuous).
Ghost Flash (Tier: III/ Quatity created: 1): Creates a bright flash in the ghost field. Momentarily stunning ghosts and any whispers attuned.

Hix knew this would cause the attention of any local Spirit Wardens but opted to do it anyway [Devils bargain to start a clock “Attention of the Spirit Wardens 1/4”]. She primed the heavy canister and the wires that wrapped it began to blow and spark indicating the fuse was set. Hix rolled it across the street and then called for Elke to look away. The boom was so loud an echo of it could be heard in the physical plane! The ghosts, both ghosts were rattled and vibrating uncontrollably, but also ever attuned whisper in a three block radius knew something big just happened [Desperate setup move. Serious complication: Filling in the next three ticks on the Spirit Warden clock 4/4]. The shouts of Bluecoats were heard close by!

Elke seized the opportunity to command the spirit [via Compel] to enter her spirit jar as her captive. This was a daunting task [By default zero effect level due to being outclassed in both Quality (The guardian was Tier 4) and Scale (A monstrous beast)] only possible because of the secret rituals they had performed [Anointed special ability granting potency vs. Supernatural +1 effect], the distraction caused by Hix [Set up action +1 effect] and Elke pushing herself to the very limit [Push for +1 effect]. She called upon all her might and before the spirit could fully regained it’s senses, lightning hooked it right into her spirit bottle! [Full success, great effect!]

From inside Irimina watched this all with horror and disgust.

Breaking and Entering

The Society members vaulted over the low wall, raced across the grounds and made it to the heavy oaken front door they found it locked! Behind them the sound of commotion drawing near grew louder.

Jadvyga quickly pulled out her fine lock picks and began to fidget with the lock. It was a heavy and sturdy light with massive tumblers her delicate picks had difficulty turning. Knowing they were close, she used force to turn the tumbler even though it mean destroying her beautiful picks [Desperate Finesse with Limited Effect. Partial success: Serious complication that the picks were destroyed. Limited effect meant the door was open, but everyone in the house heard the commotion and had time to prepare]

As Elke stormed forward she halted and came up short when she saw the thin edge of a long blade just in front of her. It was so close to her face it was nearly impossible to focus on the tip itself. But the man standing behind it, dressed all in pearlescent white leather with silver accents and holding the blade without a hint of wavering, was very clear indeed.

Negotiations

While Roathe may have been ready to slice open throats, the Spirit Wardens could be heard approaching and Elke was holding their spirit guardian in a jar! That was enough to gain entrance into the Kinclaith family and after that the Society “on behalf of Charterhall Univesity” told the Kicaiths about their long standing debt which Irimina and Rothe’s father had pledged to pay in support of the fine university.

[A question came up about how solid this claim was, so we made a Fortune roll for Charterhall and got a 6. The Society had a signed agreement from Kincliath senior!]

While they were struggling with other expenses (assassinating rival nobles isn’t cheap!) eventually Irimina agreed to give the last of her family treasures (a bejeweled necklace) to cover the past and present debts if there was statue made of her and her brother and noble patrons of the school! Hix, Elke, and Jadvyga eargerly agreed, took the necklace and made their way out back before the Spirit Warden’s bullied pasted Roathe to gain entrance to the house.

On their way our Irimina insisted that the hound spirit (which Elke had at one point sneaked off to investigate the house to find out more about and realized it was some how connected to an entitiy named She Who Slays in Darkness) be released, so Elke, begrudgingly, left the spirit jar on their back lawn as they fled!

What Rocked

I paid a lot of attention to the tier difference between the Society and the Kinclaiths. As Brightstone residents (even struggling ones) I put them at a strong tier 4 (from the 7.1 rules). In most cases this reduced the effect level to limited. This was partially ameliorated by the crew’s Anointed ability which always granted potency when dealing with supernatural threats, but when they were breaking into the house, or attempting to persuade the Kinclaith siblings, they started with limited effect. What that led to was a lot of setup actions and pushing for effect… which was really cool!

I had a lot of fun playing the Kinclaiths. At one point Stras was mentioned and instantly Roathe wanted an excuse to duel her. Jadvyga jumped in front of that bullet however, and they arranged a “sporting” duel to be arranged at some future date. Irimina, haunted by visions one minute, lucid and conniving another, was also a delight to plan. Thanks Rollplay!

Things that could have improved

My instinct to let Hix make the bomb outright rather than probe deeper into it came from two pressures. One of them was that the entire reason for the bomb was that Adrienne wanted a Hix-style way of doing a setup action to aid Elke. I didn’t want to deny Adrienne of that ability. The other wanted to stay “in the action” and not play out the flashbacks so much that we forgot the immediate threat. I think this was me putting artificial pressure on myself to “keep the action moving”

Instead of deciding outright that a ghost bomb was a normal item, I think I should have thrown this back to the players and asked “do you think this was a normal thing that anyone can buy or make?” and if not asked Hix to either spend additional coin for flashbacks to invent the formula, or ask that she select another way to help. I think this can be ameliorated pretty well though by asking this question next session and letting Adrienne decide if this is something she’d like Hix to be able to do again, and then going from there.

I also really should have made the Spirit Wardens showing be more of a problem. As is, the Society used it a pressure on Roathe and Irimina, which is just fine, but I should have called for them to take some action to shift that attention away from themselves. Really I just should have put them face to face with a Spirit Warden and see what they did, rather than always having them “just around the corner”.

While I was depicting the Kinclaiths as being hostile to intruders in their home and aloof in general, what I failed to depict (because I didn’t stop to think about it) was their respect and fear of Elke for caging their guardian spirit. The Society was able to use it as bargaining chip while persuading Irimina to pay her family’s debts, but she kept this air or “fine, fine, I’ll do it for appearances” rather than “holy crap, you’re really holding a blade to my throat”.

My plan is to replay the last scene where Irimina demanded that Elke let the hound spirit free and see how that scene plays out.