The Cat Lady Score

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After the fall out from the last Blades in the Dark score with Spid and Dominus, another two cultists join the gang to cover for them. Spid and Dominus are both recovering from heavy wounds, so are probably going to need several sessions before they’re ready to be active again.

Fortunately, character generation in Blades is really quick, with only a few options needing to be selected. The hardest bit is often finding a suitable portrait for your character.

The job to rob the bookshop had been taken by another group, leaving the crew with the choice of expanding their turf, or doing a job for Lord Scurlock to kidnap an old woman he says is a witch.

I don’t want the players to be able to do every possible score that they have the option of – this is something I tried to do in my low magic Pathfinder game, but it was harder to pull off because their was rarely reason to have more than a night or two of downtime between adventures, and without a game mechanic to force them to take downtime, they didn’t. I’m assuming a score takes about a week to play out (once you include preparation and research), and downtime lasts a couple of weeks. This gives a reasonable rate of time passing, so opportunities can open up and also be passed by.

In this case I rolled randomly to see which of the two remaining scores were still options. The bookshop one can always be modified and brought back later.

Again, the problem I had with running Blades in the Dark was the very artificial way in which an adventure is meant to be run. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter – we had fun after all – but it seems like an issue that the primary mechanic which defines the game doesn’t really work. Normally the move from investigation and planning in a game, to actual execution of those plans is quite seamless. Blades makes it less so. Maybe there’s a way of running it that I’m not getting, and I want to have another read through the rules over Christmas to have another go at understanding it.

So the investigation for this score began with several of the crew heading down to Charhollow to try and find information on the witch known as Mrs Anna Oppentham. Lord Scurlock wanted her kidnapped and brought to him quietly, which given how the crew’s previous scores had gone, he had his doubts about their ability to pull off.

Entering a local pub, Rufus (the crew’s new Hound) took up careful position to keep an eye on things, then Tamasis entered, her face obscured by a sack cloth. Her intent was to draw attention to herself as a mystic, and she definitely succeeded in doing that. Then Skarlett (their new Slide) entered, and managed to insert herself into the conversations amongst the men and women here, talking about Tamasis, and also asking about other witches. The name of Mrs Anna was brought up, as was the statement that she had predicted that a masked woman would appear and cause trouble.

Skarlett found out that Mrs Oppentham was regarded as a witch, and she told fortunes and put curses and blessings on people. She lived alone in a house with her cats. Skarlett at this point started getting paranoid – the witch seemed to have precognition, in which case any plan they came up with to kidnap her she was going to know about before hand and be able to defend against it.

In my head, this was a big overestimation of her capabilities. I assumed (after all, there aren’t any hard and fast rules in Blades) that her abilities were limited to specific events, and she definitely wouldn’t be able to predict what was going to happen tonight. But I didn’t let the players know that.

Rufus later staked out her house, which was a mostly bordered up terrace house on the bank of a canal. He failed to spot any cats, but his kestrel hunting pet was spooked several times by something.

In the end, after much discussion, they decided to head up to the house, knock on the door, and try to persuade her to come with them quietly. Tamasis spotted a ghostly cat lurking outside the house (the reason Rufus had not seen any from his position on the roof top opposite – her cats were quite dead). Entering, the house looked like an abandoned mess, but an old woman’s voice from upstairs told them to come up.

Making their way upstairs, they came face to face with a cat – though its eyes glowed red, and its lines seemed too angular for a natural creature. It was a Hull – a mechanical device into which a spirit had been placed.

The witch herself was on the landing, dressed in nightclothes with a robe wrapped around her. After some introductions, they asked her to come with them to see their patron, but she refused – he could come here just like everyone else.

So Skarlett tried to sway her, and took a devil’s bargain – the mechanical cat leapt onto her shoulder, digging its claws deeply in, but Skarlett was able to bear the pain and continue. The act of the cat seemingly taking to her was enough to make the witch look favourably on Skarlett. I figured that this was a desperate situation, since there was a good chance of it going badly (they never looked to see what was upstairs in the attic), but she got a success with a consequence. What could go wrong in a house full of ghostly cats?

At the thought of their ‘mother’ leaving them, the cats decided to manifest, possibly terrifying the crew – but they all took the stress to stand their ground (but feeling somewhat shaken), and so Mrs Oppentham was persuaded to go with them quietly. For once, they managed a to complete their score without killing anyone.

Lord Scurlock was more than pleased, but never said what his plans were for the witch. She wasn’t seen again though.

The session ended on some downtime, mostly some healing up and trying to reduce their heat. A couple of long term outcomes were that their entanglements led to their cohort starting to get restless because nothing had been done to further the cause of their goddess for a while – one tick on a 4-clock. Also, a lot of use had been made of the Sarge’s physiker friend, so I started another 4-clock there on how long before he expects a big favour back in return.

I’m planning on taking a break from running this in December, or at least until after Christmas, so there will be a few weeks before the campaign progresses any further. The nice thing about Blades is that the amount of preparation I’m needing to do for sessions is considerably less than for a game like Pathfinder. Much of it is down to the simplicity of the rules. Part of it though is that I’m writing far simpler scenarios because I haven’t figured out yet how to fit a complex plot involving multiple investigations into a Score. I may try to figure out how to do that over the break.

Samuel Penn