For the start of this session we handled the downtime we put off last week, which involved a lot of healing (as usual) and also some ‘levelling up’ of the crew since they’d filled their experience track. They decided to go for some extra Vault space to keep their Coin, and the Secure option to protect their lair. Which, given what I had planned, was probably sensible.
For their payoff from last session, they take the items that had taken from the train robbery and sell them to Lord Scurlock. I should really start ticking some of his faction clocks and figure out what will happen when he completes his plans.
They had picked up a bit of Heat from their train robbery last session, but nothing too serious and their Entanglements check just got ‘Gang Trouble’ yet again. I really need to come up with a better list of events. I decided to keep things simple and have them lose a couple of points of Rep from the trouble their Gang was getting into.
The rest of downtime was spent reducing heat, healing, and indulging their Vice. Dominus went to an expensive restaurant and indulged in a huge meal, Spid went for some cage fighting, and Tamasis decided to go for something else.
I’m going to go and watch some goats have sex.Tamasis – on her plans for indulging her Vice
One point of discussion I did raise was on the topic of Heat. In Blades in the Dark, this tracks how infamous the gang is, and therefore the chance of getting into trouble with the Blue Coats. The crew have generally managed to keep this very low, sometimes spending a couple of downtime sessions to reduce it. Since they now all have a couple of characters each, the effective cost of downtime has been reduced.
This has basically meant it isn’t really coming into play – which also means that some aspects of the game, such as wanted levels and incarceration are unlikely to be explored. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but I wanted to know if the players felt they were missing out, or if reduction of Heat was too easy. The decision was that they felt it was okay as it was, and they didn’t really want any more complications. They might try to limit themselves to one Heat reduction per downtime though.
I had a number of possible scenarios prepared for this session, but the players seemed keen to grab some extra turf, in particular the ancient graveyard which the cult of the Shrouded Queen held, which would give them an Offertory. So rather than giving them some choices they didn’t seem to need, I just let them go with that.
As it happens, I did have a vague idea to push them in that direction, so played that as well. One of their gang, Igor, came back with a poster he’d found put up on the door of their theatre, which stated “The Hand That Has Fallen”, with their cult’s symbol crossed out (their cult name is The Hand That Is Rising). With hints that it was the Shrouded Queen that had done this, their minds were set.
With a couple new Lurk characters introduced (because two of their existing characters were still too injured to really take part), it was decided to make a frontal assault on the place.
Joining the crew we had Saya, a young girl with a stuffed bunny and somewhat crazed personality who hails from the mysterious isle of Tycheros, and her brother Thurston.
The Offertory is an ancient graveyard that dates to before the Cataclysm. It is now a small and heavily overgrown park and claimed by the cult known as the Shrouded Queen. There is a statuette of their goddess near the park’s centre, standing in the middle of an old dried up pool covered in dark stains. Nearby is a well kept bell, probably used as a warning to summon the Blue Coats the cult are keeping regularly paid.
There are also about half a dozen Hollows – living people lacking a soul – roaming amongst the graves and acting as guards. The cultists go there to make sacrifices and commune with their goddess. They are known to sometimes ritually slay one of their members and raise them as a spirit champion after bathing them in blood.
The Hound Rufus begins the assault by getting into position and lining up a shot on the high priestess as she performs the ritual. He makes an Engagement check – and gets a Critical!. Things are going to go well.
There are five cultists in all, hooded in dark robes and their priestess has a goat with her which she drags into the dark stained pool. Discarding her robes, she stands there with the goat in one hand and a knife in the other, whilst the cultists chant praises to their Queen. She slits the goat’s throat, blood spraying over her body and into the pool, as the voices of the cult raise in ecstasy – and then her face explodes as a bullet rips through it, spraying the stature in brains, an eyeball landing on its face.
The body of the priestess topples backwards, and the goat drops to the ground spilling its blood into the pool. At that point Saya leaps out of the undergrowth, crying out “I reject you!” in an attempt to immitate the voice of their goddess but as a young girl it comes out somewhat too high pitched to be effective.
I allow everyone to make their first action as Controlled, due to their success on the engagement check, and Saya’s knife disembowels one cultist and cuts another badly. Spid at that point downs his Rage Essence Vial and steps out from behind the gravestones swinging his heavy spiked chain, wrapping it around the neck of one cultist and ripping his head off.
“Oh! Cool!” says Thurston, throwing a knife into the throat of the last cultist, leaving him to stagger back and fall gurgling to the ground.
At this point there are various dark shapes moving out of the darkness – the hulks have come to investigate. Rufus shoots a couple in their heads, taking them down, but gets a 5, so we decide a suitable complication is that his rifle has jammed, so he spends the next few seconds trying to fix it.
The temperature in the graveyard suddenly drops considerably, and the bodies laying in the pool start to suddenly bleed out rapidly, filling the dry pool with their blood. At this point Saya has a flashback, which due to its complexity I decide is worth 2 stress. Previously, she had Prowled in (6) and Tinkered (4) with the pool to make sure it wouldn’t fill. She rolled well enough, but I decided there would be a complication that she wasn’t aware of at the time – the Shrouded Queen had noticed her.
As the hulks move in, Saya leaps on top of the statue to get away from them, and Thurston and Spid start taking them down. They roll well, so Thurston shoots one in the head with a pistol, and Spid continues to rip them apart with his spiked chain. In the process he takes a Devil’s Bargain, and adds a few more disfiguring facial scars to his collection.
With Saya on the statue, she feels it go cold and a voice says “I know who you are, you have been here before…“, as the Queen tries to possess her. She resists, gaining only 1 stress, but leaps back onto the ground as a Hollow is closing in. From somewhere (I count it as a heavy weapon) she produces a man-trap, and manages to lay it down to entrap the creature.
The two siblings decide to high tail it out of there at this point, since Spid is running out of enemy targets and is still in a berserk rage. Rufus shoots the final Hollow, and the graveyard goes quiet. Deathseeker crows begin to circle above, and the crew grab what they can and leave.
The loot from the score isn’t great, but they’ve managed to lay claim to some new territory which will provide them with some bonuses. However, it was hardly a subtle score and they killed several people, so they gain 6 Heat from it. Rolling for Entanglements, they get Gang Trouble / Questioning again (though in hindsight, I think I rolled on the wrong column, which was ironic given the discussion at the start of the session that nothing exciting ever came of it). I decide to play it as one of Skarlett’s women gets picked up of the street by a strange gentleman who asked her lots of questions about the crew, and she came back very shaken and pale looking. The crew guess that it was probably the vampire Gerard Ustok come back looking for the goods that they stole.
Some of the new traps around their lair are tripped one night, though there is no sign of who tried to break in.
We complete downtime (with Heat being reduced), with most people now being healed up and recovered from their stress. What happens next will need to wait for next session.
It was another fun session, which went quite smoothly, both in terms of how the mechanics played out, and how well the players did. There were no bad dice rolls to screw things up, and they came up with reasonable plans which weren’t too complicated.
I tried to use quite a bit of descriptive flavour text as well, more so than I usually do, which I think matched the mood of the session, and the role playing from some of the players was a bit… worrying at times. But nothing that the group isn’t used to.