It’s our first Roll20 session of the new year, so we are back to our Blades in the Dark game, following the actions of the cult The Hand That Is Rising. I’m still not quite used to the rules for this game, so there was a lot of making stuff up and just winging whatever seemed right. Over the break, I had sketched out the map of their hunting grounds, and added some detail to the locations. They’re also colour coded by difficulty, to give the group a better idea of some of their options.
Some time ago, the crew had raided the Bridge Theatre and kicked out some cultists there who were hiring the place from the Fog Hounds. They’d woken some spirits of actors who had committed suicide here a long time ago, and now the upper floors of the place were haunted. However, the Fog Hounds were still using the lower levels to store some of their contraband before moving it elsewhere in the city.
The crew decided that now was the time to take ownership of the theatre for good, and add it to their turf. Rufus begins by scouting out the place with the help of his kestrel Ozymandius. He decides to take a Devil’s Bargain, which we decide is the sight of his bird circling above a place is considered an ill-omen by the locals, since something bad always seems to happen shortly afterwards. He gets a 5, so a success with a consequence. He spots four thugs who seem to be acting as guards, whilst a number of young kids are being used to load/unload a couple of barges. The consequence is that they’ve spotted the bird and are expecting trouble, though Rufus isn’t aware of this.
Some planning follows – this is something that the group has fun doing, so I see no need to try and force them to stop. They don’t need to go into a lot of detail, and they don’t, but there’s discussion of what approach they’re planning on taking, and what they might do when they get there. In the end it is decided to try and make use of the ghosts inside the theatre, so Tamasis leads the way using an Occult plan. In order to really help spook out the corporeal inhabitants, they pay a coin to a local musician who they blindfold and lead in, having him play some ghostly music.
Inside, the theatre is dark, but with her spirit mask Tamasis can see there are ghostly forms on the stage (which is still wrecked from the fight the crew had here last time). As they move inside, the ghosts brighten in intensity and turn their attention on the crew, becoming visible to everyone as the temperature of the room suddenly drops.
There is a need to make a resistance roll here to not become panicked, which they all do. I decide that the musician (who we call Dandelion) stands his ground, but is probably open to something happening to him later. The group present flowers and cheer for the actors, encouraging them to start acting out their play. There were a few minor use of flashbacks, but it was all zero cost because it fitted in with what they had planned earlier.
This is a play that nobody has seen for decades, because all information on it was lost after the actors committed suicide after their first disastrous performance. As the lead actress begins to sing, the crew begin to realise why it got such scathing reviews. The singing is bad, the plot is thin and the acting is abysmal. The crew need to pretend that they enjoy it though – which calls for a Consort roll for them all – they get a 6, and convince the ghosts that they enjoyed it.
Dandelion is playing along as well – though he appears to have become possessed during the performance and is now stuck playing the same tune over and over. They convince the actors (with help from Tamasis who successfully Attunes to them) that there are theatre critics down below, and so the ghosts decide to take their (obviously now successful) play down to them. Rufus uses a flashback to produce some ‘ghostly’ looking sheets for them to wear to add to the effect of scaring the gang below, but to be honest it wasn’t entirely necessary.
There is the sound of screams and shouts from the docks beneath the theatre, and by the time the crew get down the thugs have become possessed, and the kids seem to have already made off with the boats. The kids had actually scarpered as soon as the noises started up above, leaving the thugs stranded. Led by the musician, they walk off the edge of the dock into the canal, swimming downstream – the sound of ghostly music fading into the darkness.
Rufus runs up to the street, and with Ozymandius follows the gang. They managed to make it to the far side of the canal, and up some steps, marching off into the streets of Six Towers. At least nobody got killed this time.
The crew gain control of the Bridge Theatre, giving them their first Turf and gaining enough reputation (3) to max themselves out. This is where the poor layout of the rules caused some confusion, since I couldn’t locate what happens at this point (it’s not described either under the chapter on the Crew, nor in the Payoff section). I incorrectly assumed this meant that they would now go out to Tier 1. Since then, I’ve found the rules under “The Faction Game” (not at all obvious), so they will actually have to pay some Coin first if they want to raise their Tier.
They gained 6 Coin though, one of which they payed to The Circle of Flame. They also decided to pay one of their friends, a healer who they had been leaning on a lot for healing and was beginning to get grumpy. They gained a bit of heat, and I also gave Rufus a new rival – Dandelion. He’s not sure what the hell happened that night, but is convinced it wasn’t good after waking up the following day with some whisper driving a ghost out of him.
The Fog Hounds now definitely don’t like the cult, and are in a much weakened state. There could be some war brewing here shortly.
We finished the session off with some Downtime, mostly with more healing. They sacrificed their notes on the play to their goddess (who likes to consume knowledge), and Rufus made use of their Worship vice to relieve his stress.
Gaining some turf has also made their gang a bit happier, which was getting upset because the cult hadn’t been expanded as much as they wanted (the result of an earlier Gang Trouble result).
The results of their Entanglements this time had been another The Usual Suspects result. This time Rue’s friend Jul had been picked up, and caused a bit more heat for them. The results of the Entanglements seems to be very boring – possibly I need to come up with another way of handling this.
I still haven’t got my head around the task resolution system, and it doesn’t feel like it’s quite working right. I much prefer a simple one-dimensional “roll over target number” mechanic. Possibly I should have been taking into account that they were up against a higher Tier opponent, but I don’t have it clear in my head how it’s all meant to work.
The players seemed to have fun though, and it’s relatively light on the planning side for me, so I’m going to continue running things and try to figure out a bit more on how the mechanics should be working.