Blades in the Dark: Guns

Assumed tech level may be black powder, but I want to do something a little different. Why? I have an idea that is more aligned with the setting, more aligned with the play experience in “Dishonored,” and I think easier to use with the Blades in the Dark mechanics.



An History of Plasm

Electroplasm, in its natural state, is super-gaseous. It is so sparse that it is beyond the dispersion of a gas. The concentration of life, and also of death, that characterizes an urban environment tends to concentrate it. Given time and ever-sifting sources of the weird energy, it builds up to dangerous levels over time, so a single death can manifest an electroplasmic echo known as a ghost.

Another way electroplasm can be rendered dangerous was discovered by Vilantia, a scholar working almost a century ago. He devised a method to distill electroplasm down to a plastic, almost a solid. The process was impractical until his student and successor, Kalmach, connected the process to the electroplasm manipulated by Bellweather Crematorium, and the Spirit Wardens that managed the facility.

Using their abundance (indeed, excess) of electroplasm combined with the distillation process, they created industrial levels of a material known as plasm. Subjected to a sharp shock, plasm reverts through its stages very quickly, instantly moving through liquid to gaseous and then rapidly dissipating. This process releases tremendous energy from the concentrate.

Evolving Technology

The military and bluecoats and aristocracy all expressed great interest in this new technology. At first single shot weapons, then later more sophisticated weapons emerged.

dishonored gun

While many private individuals still have single-shot pistols, military pistols have a double chamber so two bullets may be loaded at a time. More complex models can have up to six in a cylinder, though the preferred design has a port and cartridge system with four rounds. Some weapons are single action, a rare few are double action, none are automatic.

Rifles tend to use a cartridge system with four rounds and bolt action. Older models have a single shot with a breech reload.

Bullets are made of iron, which splinters in a satisfying way with a hit and also disrupts supernatural energy. The propulsion plasm gives a missile a chance to discomfit an incorporeal spirit, or punch a hole in a supernaturally resistant target.

dishonored bullets

Experience of Use

The finished shell has a ring of glowing blue behind the bullet. They only glow when they are in close proximity to living things, otherwise they fade to black. They are always cool to the touch, or bitingly cold in the chill.

When they fire, the bullets’ plume of mist is chill. It tightens the skin of all those it touches. The sound is glaringly loud as well, as the energy unpacks itself faster than the air can absorb it. Those inhaling the mist or feeling it in their nostrils find it tastes of blood.


Use of plasm is restricted to the military, the bluecoats, rail jacks, and licensed aristocracy. However, plenty of time has passed, and the secret of making it has drifted through the fetid pools of the underworld. For a price, any rogue can find a supplier of plasm weaponry.

There are many ways to gain illegal electroplasm (not least of which is ritual sacrifice.) There are also a number of methods of distillation, each more unpleasant than the last. However, in spite of numerous bluecoat raids and ongoing investigations into sources for illegal plasm, the trade bustles nicely. Especially now that the war is over, and the city has welcomed back its veterans, who are accustomed to having plasm weapons for self defense.

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Blades in the Dark custom stuff.

Because apparently I can’t help myself.

What if you want to play Blades in the Dark, but don’t want to commit to a campaign? What if you want to be in one or more one-shot games?

Here is a two page rules mod for how to play a GANG instead of a CREW. I would like to know what you think! I plan to try it out on Friday.

Players can choose a type of gang to play (which gives a single advantage, instead of having to choose a special ability.) They also choose what underboss to work for, which tips the GM off to what kind of missions they want to play. There is no long-term advancement for gangs, as they form and split and reform all the time; however, characters can gain reputation, which may help them start their own crew with the backing of the Crows! =)

Want to be Chosen by the Outsider like Corvo, or Doud, or Delilah? (That’s for playing supernatural characters based on the Dishonored video game.)

Delightful thoughts on agriculture, ectoplasm-induced insanity, and alchemy here.

Anyway, more toys for the sandbox.

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Another Blades in the Dark Adventure Summary!

We played Blades in the Dark online, with two new players. We made characters and the crew and played two heists in 3 hours.

The Crew

The crew had two members. Wolfram Keel was a weathered, angry Hound who used to be a whaler. His people hail from the Dagger Isles. His refuge was his faith in the Forgotten Gods. His best friend was Casta, a bounty hunter.

Aldo Nyman was a trim, cleanshaven, guileless Skovlan. As a Slide, he came from a background of a bluecoat family, but he is drawn to find relief in luxuries. His best friend was Bazso Baz, leader of the Lampblack Crew.

They lair in the basement of an occult bookshop, Adelaide’s Phrenological Emporium. They are friends with the owner, Adelaide Phroaig, a noble who owns the bookshop just to annoy his parents. They have a gang of adepts led by Vincen, who hang out in the Emporium and also do odd jobs for the crew. They have a secure room hidden in the basement with their own library and vault, that has a secret door connecting to the underground sewer channels.

They are known for their daring, and their uncanny ability to duck the consequences for their constant overreaching and escalating. Part of their success can be traced to their relationship with Amancio, the heavily perfumed and effeminate fence who takes the heat off their loot and give them coin in exchange.

They are all-in allies with the Lampblacks, and bitter enemies of the Red Sashes. They also have a weird side relationship with the Dimmer Sisters, Ashley and Kay. Aldo hung on to some of his bluecoat contacts from back in the day, but he has enemies among the inspectors. Also, at some point they got crosswise to the Path of Echoes.

Heist One: Bring ‘Er Back Alive

In case anyone doubted the utter daring of this pair, they decided to step up to Baz’s challenge and get Klev, leader of the Red Sashes–ALIVE.

While the Red Sashes normally guard Klev as she circulates between the Larch Street drug den and the Vigor Lane drug den, Aldo investigated and found out she always gets drunk once a year on the anniversary of her first child’s death. The hospital where the child was treated is now a bar, and she closes the place out to drink herself senseless.

The crew basically bought the place out for one night, replacing the wait staff with their gang of adepts. Aldo prepared to impersonate Klev’s lead bodyguard, Withers, who he somewhat resembled. Wolfram lay in wait, and the adepts put goblin moss in Withers’ drink, so he had to go to the bathroom. Wolfram ambushed him and tore his throat open with a gaff hook, and Aldo smeared the blood on him.

Then the theatrics started. Wolfram, a known enemy of the Red Sashes, dragged “Withers” out and hurled him at the bodyguards, opening fire on Klev. The adepts were ready, and triggered a magical effect of disorientation and shadow deepening, so the bodyguards were slowed as they pounced at Wolfram.

The chase spilled out in the street, and they almost caught Wolfram before he barreled through a fence and sprinted into the alleyways where they dared not follow.

Meanwhile, Aldo imitated Withers and dragged the drunk and suffering Klev out the back way, increasing his forcefulness as she struggled to walk. She vomited and hallucinated, but he got her into the gondola and used his trance powder to put her out until they turned her over to Baz.


The rewards were rich, and the Red Sashes took a major hit. Aldo smoothed things over with the bluecoats and spread around misdirection about their role in the affair. Meanwhile Wolfram started an investigation into how illegal leviathan oil was shipped into the city, with an eye to cutting into the trade.

Heist Two: The Hog’s Head

Meanwhile, the Dimmer Sisters (Ashley and Kay) contacted the crew with a job. They wanted a birthday present, an actual head of a hog, packed with some very special gunpowder they could not buy. It was held by Captain Slevin Cree, of the leviathan hunter Lumberous. The rogues agreed at once, oddly eager to please the weird sisters.

Wolfram had the advantage of his time served on a whaling ship, and Aldo had the advantage of an excellent disguise kit and a supply of rancid grease to make him smell like he fit in. Together they boarded the ship, threading down into its guts to approach the captain’s quarters. They almost arrived when they met someone Wolfram once knew, on a former whaling post.

Her name was Shandra, and she served as the lead harpooner. A leviathan had claimed her arm years before, and she had a carved bone prosthetic covered in glyphs that she had activated by thrusting it into a living leviathan’s eye. She was surprised and curious to see Wolfram, but Aldo asserted himself, trying to distract her with charm. She was bored with him immediately, for he did not have the cloud of the clamoring dead woven through his shadow; he was an unimpressive killer.

Aldo upped his game, reading her as he did other people, but what he saw when he looked into her eyes unsettled him deeply. That pleased her, and she accepted his gift of awe and terror and respect. The unsteady rogues entered the captain’s quarters, eager to toss the place and be off before he returned.

The interior was decorated with a queen size bed with curtains, the walls done up in whalebone.

Flashback. Aldo and Wolfram got their adept leader Vincen to make a charm to help them find the hogshead. He started simple, with a hog tooth and leather and a bit of electroplasm. That didn’t work, so he upgraded to Second Death hogs; a forbidden practice where before the walls of electroplasm they used to stuff spirits into hogs and kill them. That didn’t work either, so they escalated to dark and unexplained means, but advised the rogues to toss the charm in the ocean and under no circumstances to bring it back to land.

Using the charm and Wolfram’s knowledge of whaler secrets, they found the hog head hidden above the bed. They stuffed the horrible thing in a bag and escaped with it. They left the unstable glass bottle charm on the captain’s pillow, not sure they could carry it with the hog head without it bursting.


The Dimmer Sisters cooed over their treat, and withdrew to enjoy it; the flesh was already tightening and cracking as soon as the head left the ship. Aldo retreated to the bath houses for a week or so of scrubbing and cleansing, and Wolfram stalked sailors, drawing ever closer to figuring out the illicit leviathan oil trade.

Then Wolfram’s best friend, the bounty hunter Casta, showed up. She was limping, using a crutch, and she needed help…

THIS JUST IN, a great blog post about the adventure by Jack Shear! G+ discussion.

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Blades in the Dark adventure summary!

We played Blades in the Dark. We made characters and ran two heists in 3:30. This is what happened.

The Crew

The crew had two members. Amireh Goli, a Hound. Her best friend was Oman the assassin, and she spent her recreational free time studying and worshiping the Forgotten Gods. She had a big mastiff named Ace as her hunting companion.

July Pendryn, the Lurk, was friends with Darmot (a bluecoat.) He spent his time and treasure on opium, determined to catch that damn dragon.

Together they formed a crew. When they still worked for the Crows, their job was to manage blackmailing select members of the Dunwall Council (who still hate and resent them) to find out about smuggling shipments (which they would then rip off once they made it past customs.) Word got around that they were a brutal pair, to those who were not immediately obedient to the blackmail demands. They made the gondoliers rich through their efforts, and still have many close ties with that group. Also, Goli’s contributions over the years have made friends among worshipers of the Forgotten Gods. Aside from their many enemies on the Dunwall Council, they also irritated sailors to no small degree, as they preyed on those who made it back to the “safety” of town with cargo.

Their time managing sensitive information and figuring out who is who in investigations made them very difficult to entangle with surprise obligations or target with the law. They also cultivated a gang of rooks that helped with their blackmail business.

Their lair was the Karras House, a half-flooded noble town-house on the canal. It is walled off and pretty much forgotten, but in the upper floor they made a cozy secret nest for a base of operations, guarded by Ace most of the time. One reason they chose that location was because the noble had many fine blueprints of prominent city buildings conveniently organized for the use of rogues.

The First Mission: Rip Off the Red Sashes

They started on the roof of the building next door, by the pulley the drug den used to dry their laundry. The laundry was a squalid addition on the fourth floor. The rogues were ready to make their move.

Flashback. Pendryn cased the joint, watching from the rooftops for a time. He detected a basement entry that got lots of traffic from cloaked figures day and night. What the hell; he decided to toss on a cloak and blend in, check it out from inside. He could have escalated still further, to try to pretend he had a reason to be there, but instead he kept a low profile. He overheard conversation in the basement, for the “to go” drug orders, that suggested the safe was on the third floor.

Flashback. Goli trailed a prominent duelist who laired at the drug den, following at a discreet distance. Her target, Belinda Sliven, went into a tavern where the faction leaders of the Dockers hung out, and spotted Goli. Seeing her fine blade, Sliven assumed she wanted a duel; Goli obliged, and they went to the alley and had it out. Goli managed to score a victory against Sliven, even though her armor was badly scored, but in the process she skewered the duelist pretty painfully. Since Sliven’s vigilance inspired the duelists and kept them sharp and alert and organized, they are pretty lax while she’s having a long lie-down with a lot of wine to restore her lost blood. Half of them are high, and the overall situation should be less alert.

Pendryn took point with his specialized climbing gear, getting them across the pully and into the laundry. They stealthed down the stairs, past a drowsing opium-addled duelist. Only one of the rooms on this floor had bars on the windows, so they headed straight there, with Pendryn looking around carefully for traps with his night-vision goggles.

Unfortunately, as they slipped into the room, a magical defense activated; the bear-skin rug on the floor had runes flash in its eyes, and the door to the room slammed loudly behind them!

Flashback. Goli checked on the blueprints for this building, and also did some research into arcane possibilities. She purchased a sphere that was supposed to shatter and “EMP” any magical trap. This means she owes the local purveyor of magical goods a favor.

Goli hurled the sphere to the ground, where it cracked and crackled, but didn’t do much to stop the bear trap; she stamped at it until its eyes broke instead.

Meanwhile Pendryn was searching for the safe and its protections. He realized the safe was IN THE PICTURE of the duelist that took up much of the back wall. He had to reach INTO the painting to get at the safe, but of course it was trapped. He reached in to disarm the trap, yanking his hands out as the surface tried to cut them off, barely succeeding in a shower of blue sparks.

There was a stirring outside as the Red Sashes grew increasingly suspicious that there might be intruders, so now things were desperate. Pendryn reached in and worked feverishly at the safe as the back curtain in the painting shifted, revealing a shadow with glowing eyes, then glowing teeth! He managed to rip the safe open, plunge his hands in, and yank out two long lock-boxes, and it was time to go.

Goli bashed the door open, and the two rogues raced to the end of the hall and pounded out the window. They split up, with her drawing attention while he made the getaway with the goods.

He used his special climbing gear to get down, and almost broke his ankle, but hung in there grimly and shrugged it off. Pursued, he fled through the gate. He ran through the immediate neighborhood as the Red Sashes raised hue and cry, their allies the dockers pouring out of buildings to help catch the thieves. Pendryn headed for the rooftops, then the building was surrounded. He used his magical ink to disappear, rapidly switched clothes, and hefted the boxes out in a rucksack as they searched for the thief. They never saw his face.

Meanwhile, Goli was hard pressed by duelists at her heels. They cornered her, and she pivoted and shot one in the face, killing her instantly; that cooled their ardor somewhat.

Flashback. Of COURSE they would be fleeing on foot afterwards. So she arranged for a gondolier buddy to be waiting at a designated point. If she can get there, she can escape on the water.

She made it to the rooftops, where a gang of dockers almost saw her face; to avoid that, she dropped back down to street level, and as she was approaching the dock, a deadly duelist stood in her path. He swirled his pancho over his shoulder, ready to fight her, and she shot him dead bang and raced past his corpse, making it to the canal and the gondola, escaping into the night.


They fixed their armor, and both were fantastically lucky as they cleared all the stress from the mission by praying at lost shrines and chasing the dragon in its haze of breath.

Meanwhile, Pendryn had a problem. The thing in the painting was pursuing him, in his dreams and in any nearby paint (even the flaking paint on the tavern wall.) Out of money, he arranged for the gang to run a low-level bujo on a local Whisper, Valasia Surraliana, a blind grandmotherly woman. She painted sigils on his flesh that burned and itched. That took care of most of the problem, and furthermore, she took a shine to him.

For the rest, Goli made it her personal project, and used his fine spirit stone to help, along with supplications and rituals to the Forgotten Gods. Her efforts helped shake the attention of the Pursuer in Oils.

Unfortunately, as they were taking care of this various business, their good friend Privan, the Gondola Admiral, needed some help. Vylor, a Red Sash duelist, was beating and killing gondolier pilots. Privan was in no position to start something with the beligerant gang, so he would arrange to be drinking with them, along with some of his most prominent operators. During that time, he asked them to take care of Vylor, see to it he was in no position to hurt anyone else any more. He would not offer payment, not between friends, but Vylor’s dueling gear and jewelry were expensive and rare. Privan would fence it for them, no questions asked. Were they up for it?

Second Heist: Paint the Sashes Red

Goli started the heist on the second floor of a building across the canal from where Vylor was drinking that night. Pendryn started out in the alley by the tavern, nearby; once he was dead, they would need the jewels.

Flashback. Goli trailed him, a dangerous man, to find out where he would be tonight. She found out he would be drinking here, but his honed instincts detected a shadow, so he is cautious.

Vylor stepped out of the tavern, along with four of his best friends. Still, from across the canal, Goli shot him twice and killed him dead.

Flashback. How to get access to the body? Dress as a doctor, of course! So Pendryn brought that disguise with him.

Pendryn tried to get to the body, as a doctor, but the distraught friends rightly noted he was past all help. Pendryn did not push the issue, but faded back into the crowd of rubbernecks, then thought hard; the coroner wagon would come, to take the body to the Crematorium. He could break in en route! He raced off to find an appropriate rooftop to get on the carriage.

Meanwhile Goli approached the scene, and hailed a cab as the coroner wagon showed up and loaded the corpse into it. She followed at a discreet distance as Pendryn dropped onto the wagon, not quite as well positioned as he could hope, but close enough a short run got him in position.

Pendryn slid down to the back, and made short work of the lock with his tools; then he heard the muttering of a bluecoat inside! They put a police man in with the body! He was discouraged, not willing to kill a cop over the jewels, but unsure he could disable him quickly and get the goods. He climbed back on the roof of the cab.

Flashback. Pendryn found out who would be on the corpse cart duty that week from his bluecoat friend, and approached the guy. But the bluecoat was immediately suspicious, so Pendryn let it go, not making the offer to have him pull down a side street and look the other way. Oh well.

They made it to the crematorium, where the Spirit Wardens took charge of the body. Hidden atop the wagon, Pendryn noticed the body still had its expensive dueling blades and pistols, but not the necklace, rings, and other jewels. Now there were two potential targets; the suddenly wealthy bluecoat, or the body and its weapons.

Neither rogue had the stomach for raiding the Crematorium, so they focused on the bluecoats. As the rich bluecoat climbed up on the buckboard, he saw a shadow of Pendryn, and got down and searched; Pendryn hid under the carriage, pulling himself up, ignoring the pain. The bluecoats drove on, and Pendryn managed to climb around and back up to the side while it drove. He still did not want to kill a bluecoat.

Goli had no such qualms about killing. She pulled a gun on the cabbie, who left without a word, and raced the cab around to get ahead of the coroner wagon. Her positioning was not great, but she cut them off and ordered the bluecoats to stand and deliver. They didn’t look convinced, so she shot one through the arm. The bluecoat made a break for it, driving the wagon forward in a frenzy of panic and agony!

By this point the rogues had enough. Goli let them pass, and Pendryn dropped off the carriage. They headed home, dispirited and no wealthier.


Fortunately, some gifts came in from families of Vylor’s victims, so they weren’t totally empty handed. Without the extra coin to blow on the very best opium, Pendryn shrugged off some stress, but not much.

Goli spent some time working the streets, spreading rumors, hiding evidence, and generally pointing the law away from their recent efforts.

Meanwhile, her good friend the spy approached her to cash in one of the favors she owes him…

And that was the session!

G+ discussion. 

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Into Odd Vornheim

It’s a mash-up. The Arcanum War is over, and the characters are all veterans of that war. They have come to Vornheim, because that’s one of the places where the ancient treaties and vows between fey and humans still hold–a place that was not swept up in the firestorm of the Arcanum War.

They are going to petition the Baroness Titania of Scrodd to grant them a charter. She controls access to the Barrowmaze, a burial ground on the highlands to the east of Vornheim, where its human nobility have been buried for millenia. The Baroness recently advertised that she will issue charters for expeditions, and purchase whatever grave goods they retrieve. The characters hope to be expedition leaders, not torch-bearers or mercenaries; in order to be considered, they must gift her with a piece of arcana.

Why are there expeditions to the Barrowmaze now? Well, the torque applied to the world’s fabric when the fey went to war with the humans caused it to thin out and unravel here and there. Undeath has swelled into the world, and now some of those in the Barrowmaze are restless. The Baroness represents the noble house responsible for their repose, and she chooses to execute that responsibility by chartering teams to go in and forcibly re-seat the dead who are not resting. Her experts assure her that objects with magic or wealth could be conduits to the unrest, and should be removed at once for safekeeping; she is paying an appropriate amount for returned grave goods.

Tonight, the characters hoping to get a charter to lead expeditions into the Barrowmaze must win the Baroness over with a gift of an arcanum, and project competence.

It may not be easy.

Anyway, I think it’s cool that I’m stitching together Into the Odd, Vornheim, and Barrowmaze with my home-brew fey/human war. Weird industrial revolution meets the vow-haunted superstitions of Vornheim in the shadow of an impossibly sprawling burial ground. Works for me.

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State of the Game Night

I’ve been trying hard to keep my focus. We’ve got a long-running fantasy game set in a town where the characters have put down roots, and they want to continue exploring that; they are invested. So it stays in the rotation. Also, my Edge City game has been undergoing a transformation from a sandbox to a less stressful “monster of the week” style format, and that’s just now showcasing the new style. Those that play in Edge City really love it, and I don’t want to let that go.

I am determined to keep those two as the main games in the rotation. They both run on the home-brew Masks game system, which my players really like (and have stated in response to my questioning that they want to stick with). I am committed to getting both games 10 play sessions in the year, and then we’ll see if we can do more than that. When you’ve got players happy with a setting and system and how the game is going, you don’t just throw that away! (I keep reminding myself of this.)

But! But! But!

I’m working on Axes and Anvils, another great game. One of my players will be guest game master the second half of April and the first half of May, running it so I can see the game from another point of view (that of player.) After that, another player will run some Blades in the Dark for us, for 2-4 weeks (we’ll see how it goes.)

After that we’ll likely fall back to touching base with new arcs for the two main campaigns, but I’m really feeling an itch to showcase Silent Legions. Kevin Crawford is amazing, and… I can’t believe I’m even going to say this, but… I want to run this game rules as written. Maybe I’m fatigued with design, or maybe he’s that good. I have the hard cover paper copy of the book headed my way, and for the first time in maybe forever I would potentially be running a game out of its book and not house-ruling the hell out of it or adapting it to another system. (Though my players would probably be as happy or happier if I converted it to Masks, which is a possibility.)

We took 6 months off from Edge City to do various other games last year, like InSpectres and Axes and Anvils and the Chill playtest and so on. I don’t want to let so much time slip in between arcs going forward. So, we’ll stay committed to Dweredell and Edge City, and prioritize playtesting for Axes and Anvils, and see what other shiny toys we can play with in between times.

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Online gaming.

For years I thought it was the internet connection in the house that made it impossible to do G+ hangouts and the like. Now I have a new computer, and it can do hangouts just fine. For the first time in my online social life on G+ and with a blog, I can game online.

This underscores how odd it is that I follow the OSR, but have not played B/X this century. I have never played Dungeon Crawl Classics, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or other retro clones. I did an online quasi-Labyrinth Lord game on G+ play by post in Wampus. That’s it.

So as I look around for games to join in, that’s a weird kind of nervousness. I’ve designed lots of games, but the OSR is not a thing I’ve logged any actual play time in.

I want to play in some games before running my own, just to see how others handle things I haven’t even thought of yet. When I’ve got some experience, I expect to run a game in Fictive Hack, in the World Between, in the great independent city of Setine.

My base concept is there will be a fence/fixer. He has a rough network of specialists and criminals. When he has a job, he brings people together and sends them out. That way if I end up with a number of repeat players it could spin off into a campaign, but I could also have my fence in the background for pick-up sessions.

So. Been a long time coming, and it’s neat that the time is here. I’ve got a web cam and a headset with a boom mike, so I can respond when opportunity arises. This could be pretty exciting stuff.

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