There was something about Blades in the Dark that captured my imagination when I read it last year. Apart from a couple of games, it has not become part of our regular repertoire, so when the opportunity to take part in the 24 Hour RPG came up, Blades was my first choice to run at the event.
It’s an annual event; I did RuneQuest Borderlands for 24 hours last year. It takes place the week after GROGMEET which affects the number of people available to participate. Neil and Will were great players and between them they gradually brought their characters to life in the world of Duskvol: starting as lucky chancers in the thrall of Bazo Baz, to finally becoming the Kings of Crowsfoot, seizing the turf from under the noses of The Lamp Blacks.
Donations to Mind are still being accepted at the Just Giving site. Thanks to the generous support of the GROGSQUAD we have helped the event burst through its target of £1500.
Five highlights and a fumble …
The Dark Needles
The players created a created a ‘Shadows’ crew as it was the best fit for their characters’ Playbooks (a Lurk and Slide). The most satisfying element of the day was seeing the crew grow its resources during the long session. Their lair was beneath a shop that sold fine Iruvian cloth, needles and thimbles had a number of upgrades. Once the crew began building up their capacity by upgrading and investing in long term projects (such as mapping the underground network of tunnels beneath Crowsfoot) it spurned them on to become more ambitious and take on more audacious scores.
Blades … allows mechanics and imagination work really well together in the crew creation rules.
To keep things simple, I limited the hunting grounds to a single district: Crowsfoot, where the three factions of The Crows, Lamp Blacks and Red Sashes, are on the brink of a gang war. One of the highlights of the 12 hour session was seeing the loyalties and allegiances shift from score to score. The players were smart in how they played the factions off each other and developed relationships when it was expedient.
I was more confident this time with some of the core mechanics of the game. There’s a structure to the game that imposes some discipline to provide focus for the action. On the previous occasions I’ve played, I found it stifling and the moments of Freeplay and Downtime seemed to merge into each other. I was more strict with it this time as the nature of the session allowed more space to impose a rhythm to Freeplay, Score and Downtime.
In previous games I’d ignored the ‘Fortune Rolls’ that are made at the start of each score.
This sets the level of the situation. Depending on the outcome of the roll, the score can be Controlled, Risky or Desperate, with each stage representing increasing danger.
This time the Fortune Rolls added an exciting dimension to the scores mechanically and contributed to the narrative in the game world. Thanks to meticulous planning they were able to stage an audience with the leader of The Crows and pull off an audacious trick on her, while their attempt to shake-down a barber and steal some action from his gambling outfit was Desperate as there was an unexpected encounter waiting for them.
Once a rhythm is established Fortune Rolls work really well.
The use of the ‘Flash Back’ device was stunning in all of the scores completed by The Dark Needles. They were used sparingly, just they allowed the game to keep moving without the need for endless planning. For example, they forged a pardon to boost an assassin from prison, as the Blue Coat constable was about to study the paperwork, they flashed back to a moment the night before when one of the Skulks from the crew, swapped his eye-glasses. Neil rolled a triple critical.
The extra dice added to the scene meant that there was another critical. The constable, embarrassed that he was unable to read the document fully, released the prisoner.
It was so easy. That was only the beginning of their problems.
A cast of Thousands
Before and during the event, I was receiving numbers from members of the GROGSQUAD who were making donations. At the back of Blades in the Dark there are a number of tables that allow you to create NPCs and situations at random during the game.
Roethe Hellyers was an emaciated, annoying, ruthless assassin who bargained with The Needles, they reunited him with his daughter, so he became an asset of the crew, until he met a tragic end (Andrew Cowie).
“Twelves” was Baz Bazo’s beautiful capo and handler of The Needles who met them in the dark corners of The Leaky Bucket to give them scores. (Lee Carnell)
‘Wicker’ was an assassin preparing an ambush for Roethe in league with Twelves. The Dark Needles stole him away before he could make an attack. (Matt the Clownfist!)
Vond ‘Rooster’ Coleburn was an accomplished fence who was offered to The Needles as a contact in return for favours.(Andrew Clark)
The Birch and Thorn were leaders of the sword academy of the Red sashes (Ty Callaghan-Jones and Per Boden)
Vey Hellyer or ‘Thistle’ was Roethe’s daughter. (Rick Knott)
Hix Haron or ‘Ogre’ was a Cutter, employed by Baz Bazo as an assassin to kill Lyssa (the leader of The Crows) when Roethe ‘disappeared’. (Glen Robinson)
Crowl Sevoy a Crow who flipped to the Lamp Blacks following the death of Roric: a valuable source of information (Andrew Jones)
Rustol was Lyssa’s personal bodyguard. In a flashback, The Needles commanded Roethe to abduct his only son. (Mike Watson)
Skannon Harvon was the barber who ran a cock-fighting operation between the hours of Smoke and Ash. (Mike Hobbs)
Wester Dalmore appeared as an assistant alchemist for the Red Sashes producing spark-bombs for the explosive finale (Chris Miles)
Skinner was the faithful Skulk who aided in the final raid of The Crow’s lair (Daily Dwarf)
All of you who pledged appeared in the game, if you haven’t seen your character on Twitter or elsewhere, let me know and I’ll tell you who you were. Thanks for taking part and donating, it’s really appreciated.
The organisers also were very accommodating and willing to allow me run to adjust the format and run the game for 12 hours. The time zipped by and my only regret was not playing for longer. This was one of my most satisfying moments as a GamesMaster this year: collaborating with the players to construct adventure on the fly and producing unforgettable dramatic scenes. Fantastic.