I ran a session of Blades in the Dark at the Greater Kansas City Role Playing Game Day. I had three players:
- Andrel Rowan. Leech. (Shawn)
- Phin Farros. Lurk. (Brendan)
- Don Coup. Spider. (Jordon)
All three were Severosian, strangers in a strange land. They may or may not have the ultimate goal of wiping out factions and burning the city down, eventually “cleansing” it by dropping the electroplasmic walls. Also, Rowan and Farros might have once been merchants who were deprived of their livelihood by unreasonable taxes unfairly enforced. In any case, they now formed a crew of thieves.
We had a leisurely pace for making characters and the crew, and played less than 4 hours, but we had two rollicking heists and two downtimes and supplemental planning–we covered a lot of ground.
Skovlanders Are a Problem
Ulf Ironborn and his Skovlander ne’er do wells strutted around Three Steeple Square like they owned the public space and all adjacent businesses and residences. This was adjacent to Adelaide Phroaig’s mansion, with its yacht launch area, which was next to the secret lair under the house. The Horsemen (my name for the crew, as they are all Severosian,) determined they’d get rid of the Skovlanders and take over the Three Steeple Square area for its own good.
The overall plan was to target them on the night of their Fire Festival, where they burned figures in effigy for some bizarre cultural reason (no one cares enough to figure the event out.) Arrange for them to escalate their misbehavior, and have the bluecoats primed to take them down; evidence that they are stealing from nobles, maybe a painting in the fire or something. Details. Let’s not get too far ahead.
Farros was frenemies with Roslyn Kellis, a noblewoman. She was totally into collecting the study miniatures of horse sculptures, and she had stables for purebreed champion horses. Maybe it could seem the Skovlanders stole from her.
To further assist in the framing, they wanted some Skovlander cultural items. Asking around, they found that a ship was returning from Skovland with General Swiftly, a brutal Akorosian conqueror with a ship hold stuffed with rebel loot from the recently concluded war of Skovlander insurgence. And they needed some Coin on hand to fund the effort.
As an enthusiastic effort before beginning properly, Rowan made identity-blurring collars they could wear to reduce chance of identification during mischief.
The General’s Ship
Farros stole them a fishing boat, knifing a fisherman and dumping him overboard. Rowan and Coup rowed out, so Farros could save his strength. They missed the timing or angle, because as they approached the big ship steaming into the harbor, the harbor patrol was also closing in. The small boat was tossed in the big ship’s wake, but got close enough for Farros to use his climbing gear to get up to a porthole on the deck below the main deck, and enter as the longboat rode the wake swells further back out of the way.
They weren’t worried about General Swiftly’s whisper, Tellisaand; Rowan’s friend Stazia was the apothecary who supplied Telisaand with her trance powder, and she could arrange for an addictive and overpowering dose for the night in question. All Rowan had to do was escort Stazia to one of her Forgotten Gods worships, and get her home in one piece even though she was likely to be out of her head. He readily agreed.
They had acquired blueprints of the ship, and knew where the main hold security would be. As Farros headed that direction in his shadow cloak, Coup produced a firebomb he got for the mission. He hurled it up towards the deck, but that was too high; it did smash through the porthole and set some poor soul on fire, then catching on other flammables, causing quite a consternation aboard the ship.
Farros found the door to the ship’s central reinforced hold. As a guard left, he slipped in behind the guard. Their earlier inquiries with various bribeable dock workers and bluecoats revealed that the swords (the main treasure of the expedition) were not in the booby-trapped weapon racks and crates. They were wrapped in the middle of big bolts of fabric, making them difficult to find and even more difficult to steal.
Since the Horsemen knew this ahead of time, their leech, Rowan, made a big batch of spray designed to discorporate cloth and leave everything else unharmed. His speedy execution meant it would give off a huge rush of air and a mighty stink, but that was a small price to pay.
Only two guards were left in the central hold, so Farros acted quickly and sprayed down a pile of bolts of cloth. He retrieved two swords and a black walking stick, resisting the horrible fumes that downed the guards who rushed to intervene. In no time he was back through the ship, out the window, hanging by his climbing gear until the others could apply tremendous sacrificial muscle strength and energy to get the boat in position to pick him up. As the harbor patrol boarded the beleaguered ship, they drifted away, and escaped into the city with their loot.
When they got home, there was magical writing on the wall with water, an address. Discomfited, they ignored it for the moment. Later Farros went out and found the address was for a long-abandoned orphanage in Seven Shallows, an unpleasant slum; he got the creeps, and returned, not investigating further.
They sold one of the swords for six Coin, keeping the other to frame the Skovlanders. Coup investigated the black stick, and had a dizzying sense it was drawing vitality from him. Coup did some further research, finding that it was the scepter for the Galamin Family of Skovlander aristocrats, whose successors insisted they consorted with demons. The stick was in the portrait of Scaliat IV.
Their various activities lowered stress, built supplies, and mitigated the heat clinging to their activities with the uncomfortable and disapproving scrutiny of the authorities.
Now that they had a beautiful ancestral sword suitable for framing Skovlanders, it was time for the next stage of their plan–frame the Skovlanders for robbing an aristocratic residence.
Coup was tickled with the idea of actually making a public monument, whether it was initially possible or not. He spent his entire take from the ship heist to buy a modest block of granite infused with leviathan blood, from some god-forsaken spot out far beyond the walls. It took time for Salia, the information broker, to help him find it. He was delighted when it was in hand. They could use the block as a smaller test statue for the big monument, and in the meantime, they could use it for wilier purposes.
Rowan was involved in recruiting four of Ulf’s Skovlanders for an evening of fetch-and-carry, moving the granite on a litter. He hired Sven, Barth, Alex, and Johan. He also had to arrange for excellent clothes for Coup and decent clothes for the servants, and Farros paid for the clothes out of sheer delight at their naughty plan.
They all worked together around a lone candle to craft the perfect invitation to provoke Kellis to respond to their philanthropic effort, and they achieved outstanding success; an appointment for the following week.
Statues of Rosalind Kellis
While Coup was walking in the front with his Skovlander bearers and dealing with the butler and soliciter and eventually Kellis herself, Rowan set up a block and tackle on the roof and lowered Farros in.
Coup pitched the idea of a statue infused with ghost energy. Kellis enthused over the plan, wanting it in a public place to keep the peasantry demoralized and overshadowed, the steed modeled after her own prize stallion Abraxis. While the solicitor worked on paperwork and Coup shared drinks with the haughty noblewoman, the Skovlanders were escorted out to a side gallery, out of the way.
Farros knew she would do this, as he consulted a maid that Kellis had a brutally carnal relationship with before tossing her aside once the maid grew stale. Bitter, the maid recounted that’s where the guests would be put. As Ferros and Rowan examined the blueprints, they realized there was a secret door to another gallery. If they robbed a few items from the adjacent gallery, and left the secret door open a crack, the theft would be blamed on the unsupervised Skovlanders!
As Farros crept through the shadowy house, he passed a painting that disgorged an invisible ghost dog that caught his scent. Moving fast and trying to outpace the ghost sentry, Farros climbed down into the gallery and stole two of the horse miniature statues, as well as cutting out two horse portraits. (Rows of portraits showed the lineage on both sides of Abraxis, showcased in a huge painting of a mighty stallion.) Now they had material to frame Ulf’s gang, and also some extra to liquidate into sweet Coin.
Coup’s conversation with Kellis was getting personal and potentially steamy; he excused himself, only managing to do so gracefully by promising to meet next week for sherbet. As he was heading out with his sullen Skovlanders, Farros raced through the halls upstairs, the ghost dog closing in fast. He barely managed to dodge it and make it to the cable and extraction as the dog’s spectral baying resounded through the house. They all managed to get away clean.
Coup was more committed to actually making a monument in a public place than ever before. He began the search for artists as the rest of the crew worked to reduce stress and heat.
Rowan had a terrible dream of an albino creature forcing him to speak out in favor of killing a demon. He finished his research on the scepter and discovered it was created by a demon with an affinity for stone, with the power to kill other demons. Like, for example, the water demon that contacted them as soon as they got the scepter.
As this was a one-shot session, we’ll never know what happens next. However, it was a great game!