Doskvol Dalliances: Session 1

My new Blades in the Dark streamed campaign launched this weekend! The video is at the end of the post, but I’ll summarize things here.

Doskvol, by John Harper, based on “Shipping on the Clyde (1881)” by John Atkinson Grimshaw

First, we ran through safety tools. We talked about the CATS method: Concept, Aim, Tone, and Subject Matter. Lines & Veils were established before the game, though we mentioned them briefly here, as well as the use of X/N/O cards. Nothing in the game should be treated as more important than the safety and comfort of the people playing it.

Character creation proceeded pretty quickly. Most of them had taken a stab at it already, so we fleshed out a few things and ended up with two Whispers (a witch who goes by “Eiz” and a former Void Sea navigator named “Ovmalia”), a Leech (disgraced physicker calling themselves “Rhodes”), and a Hound (a former deathlands outrider known as “Char”). A fifth player will join us next week and we’ll deal with their character at that time.

Crew creation took longer. They knew they wanted to be Shadows, and that was about it. Originally, they’d planned on taking a Smuggler special ability, Ghost Passage, to be immune to ghost possession and have the ability to “carry” a passenger ghost. However, since non-consensual possession was already listed as a Veil for this group, it had less utility. In the end, they created “Rhodes & Company”, a group of Shadows with a strange but professional reputation with a hidden lair in the old rail yards of Coalridge and hunting grounds in a vertical Nightmarket bazaar with a preference for espionage and the Synchronized special ability. This allows them to count multiple 6s from different rolls as a critical success when performing a group action.

I set them up for a very small initial score: smugglers calling themselves the Fog Hounds wanted assistance moving a cache of weapons upriver for the Deathlands Scavengers. Specifically, they’d pay the crew 4 coin to make sure the Bluecoats’ canal patrols would be inoperable or otherwise unable to interfere with the operation. They chose to go up on the bridge between Coalridge and Ironhook Prison, dropping some buoyant magnetic caltrops on the water to prevent the patrols from being able to pass underneath.

However, the Engagement Roll put them in a desperate position as the score started: two Bluecoats were up on the bridge and attempted to stop the Leech (Rhodes) from dropping the caltrops! Char, the Hound, distracted the Bluecoats with his rifle & hunting pet (a deathlands cougar) while Eiz, formerly a seamstress, added to the chaos by spilling a load of dirty laundry she was carrying across into the melee. Rhodes clipped a rope to the bridge and rappelled down almost to the river’s surface, scattering the floating caltrops that would clog up propellers. But the rappel gear malfunctioned and they were stuck. Ovmalia attuned to the ghost field and plunged the bridge into darkness momentarily to give Rhodes some cover while they tinkered with it all and scrambled back up.

In the follow-up phase, they earned 4 coin due to the “small job” and picked up 5 rep due to working against the Bluecoats who are 3 tiers above them. They earned 4 heat, though: 2 from the standard exposure, +1 for hostile turf (I treat every place that isn’t their hunting grounds or their lair surroundings as “hostile”), and +1 for the devil’s bargain that led to the darkness on the bridge. While they later cleared the heat in downtime actions, the Entanglements roll happens before that. They’ll find out that result when we start the next session.

Most of the downtime revolved around reducing heat in various ways or long-term projects. Rhodes wants to learn how to gain favor personally with the Circle of Flame, a secret society of antiquarians & scholars, and Char wants to learn how to grow some deathlands plants inside the city (which he smokes as his vice).

Lessons Learned

This was the first time I’d actually run Blades in the Dark, so I still needed to get into the right habits and procedures. That’ll go more smoothly next time, certainly. Also, I’d avoided streaming on my own channel for a while due to past technical & logistical issues, but this time we had minimal problems and I felt really good about that.

However, I do want to improve the quality of my audio by reducing the noise in my own microphone and remembering to use the music & ambience I have set up in Roll20.

Also, during the downtime phase, I forgot to deal with the crew’s experience towards advancement and to have the players do so for themselves. We covered it offline later, though I want this to be part of the session.

Since our games are intended to last about three hours, I’d like to break it up in thirds between “free play”, score, and downtime, at least roughly speaking. For now, I want to keep scores simple: this allows for greater exploration of each action or complication, as well as lots of opportunity for the players to explore their characters in free play and long-term projects.

If this sounds fun to you, come hang out with us on Saturdays at 7pm US Central on my Twitch channel! Or if you just want to watch it, here you go…

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