In which we meet Clave who gets out of Ironhook in time to do his first job with the crew just in time to put on Ironhook overalls on and pretend to be convicts in order to break in to a Leviathan Ship with a secret science-cult in its depths.
Jason and Sean were back with us playing Maud and Charming, the gang’s Whisper and Cutter. Mad Jay joined us with Clave “The Wrench” Davaa, the crew’s new Leech. Clave was on the engineering team that did upkeep on the Imperial Army’s first War Hulls back in the war but was put into Ironhook after lashing out against his C.O.
The Unity War, specifically being involved in the battle at Barghast Bay is the magnetic force that brings the group together.
There was this nice player moment where Mad Jay had Clave say something cool and Jason’s Charming said, “I missed you, mate.”
It gave Clave context in the group and was a welcoming move and creative decision.
I was having trouble finding a grip on the game and getting things moving and had one vague idea for a job. I spent more effort describing the folder the job’s intel was in than the job itself because let’s face it, the job was vague.
The Hive offered info on a science-cult on a Leviathan ship, the Dunvil Rover, that was their largest client in human trafficking. Nothing to steal, no one to kill, just info to do with as you will on a former client who might lash out now that their line on fresh humans is dried up.
There was a moment when I realized this might be just too damned vague and let them know that if this job wasn’t juicy enough, they could always take some turf.
In the end, they took the job that ended with a Leviathan ship on fire in the harbor – The Usual Suspects-style. The Heat on this job was astronomical – the worst ecological disaster in Duskwall history.
An NPC named Cricket really came to life, so much so that Sean might play him for a while while Maude takes jail-time to deal with the crew’s Heat.
The game starts at around 56 minutes in if you want to skip the character burning and belief writing.
Our scoundrels were not going to make it to the table tonight, so we went to the Burning Wheel Campaign Ideas and chose one. Sean got stuff ready so we could stream and he got it up in about fifteen minutes; it was a heroic effort.
Sean narrowed it down to 3 and he chose some of my favorites from the list. In the end we chose this one:
BW campaign idea: You are a shoeless peasant. The armies of the dwarves, elves and humans will soon clash near your home. #burningwheel
Sean did a great job of walking through the lifepaths and teasing out the setting implications of his choices. Bina was a captive of war turned servant who married into the village, built around a tower at the crossroads. Bina has a husband who is a wheelwright and a lover who is a hunter. She has a 4 year old child. She serves the lord knight who rules this tower at the crossroads, where farmers from all over meet for market.
To the north are the mountains, ruled by dwarven princes. To the south is the ancient forest, ruled by elves. To the east is the capital, ruled by the human ducal council. The elves forbid anyone from going too far west.
I peeked at an old article, Elves at War, on the BW forum written by Luke.
Convince Deek to flee.
Keep Bodnar from raising the alarm.
Keep Bodnar’s flagon full.
We got up and moving pretty fast. In that time we cleared up our expectations. Sean seemed to be expecting a fast and furious one-shot but I’m more into a long, slow burn with BW. I’m glad we cleared that up.
Sean definitely burned up a character who gave me plenty to work with but it was challenging. Bina is not a traditional fantasy novel protagonist and I liked that. As the situation demanded, she is a normal person swept up into an epic and dangerous event.
Deek Nandor – Bina’s husband, a wheelright
Nara – her 4 year old daughter
Sir Bodnar Butond – the knight in whose tower she serves
Vas – her hunter lover, tired of waiting, wants to run away with her
I prodded at Bina for a few hours. We rolled some dice, played out the consequences – did a Duel of Wits and learned how far Bina will go. We got to know the place, this lonely tower at the crossroads where farmers and shepherds brought their goods to market. We got to know the important people in Bina’s life a bit. I left Sean with a terrible choice, putting the life of the lord-knight directly into her hands.
This was an odd session. In Blades mechanical terms we had Free Play, then some Downtime and then some more Free Play. It was also an amazing session where we struggled to figure out what the gang was really about – our dreams of a better world, the worst of our trauma or just the money.
The first round of Free Play saw the group heading to Lord Scurlock’s manor to drop off the book they stole during last game’s job. There was tension in the gang. Maud wasn’t sure if the payment was in Coin or if they were going to be paid in Scurlock’s expertise in demonology and his ability to read the ancient book. Skannon wasn’t having that; if they did they job they should get paid, he thought.
A young man (I pictured him at 17 years old or so) answered the door, a bit high and bleeding from the neck but seeming not to notice. They recognized him as the son of the Lord Governor.
Scurlock paid the crew 3 Coin that was manifested by 3 antique coins about the size of an adult hand. He told them that how they dealt with the young man was up to them and that he would be watching to see what choice they made. He paid Skannon while staring him down. When confronted with an ancient vampire lord who is a one-man-Tier-3-gang Skannon didn’t blink. In the end, they took the bleeding young man with them and Maud even went to some risk to break Scurlock’s arcane hold on him.
There was a rift in the group on how they should handle the situation. That conflict ran into the next bit of Free Play. Sean checked in with Pete to make sure he was cool with their characters conflicting, which was really nice. I’ve seen that turn ugly in the past.
Maud gathered info to find out what the hell happened to the Lampblacks. It turned out they hit a gambling den that belonged to the Hive after seeing the Wobbegong Crew take the Hive’s warehouse with little to no consequence. All of the Lampblack’s lieutenants were found dead and burned in a drug den that was destroyed by a fire. The Bluecoats wrote it off as a spark-related death.
But they’d heard that Bazso Baz was still alive in a drug den in Dunslough. It was too late in the evening in the real world to start a score. They decided to go visit Bazso – more Free Play.
When they found Bazso in the worst slum in Doskvol he was a broken man – hooked on spark. I thought of him, mechanically, as a character who retired with nothing saved up. The Hive had left him alive as a cautionary tale.
Once again the characters were divided. Maud wanted to leave him be but build up his family and personal network to help him regain what he had lost.
Charming wanted to pick him up, splash some water on him and get him back into form or just use him as a resource.
While Charming and Maud were debating, Skannon ghost veiled in and slit Bazso’s throat.
Skannon a.k.a. The Crow got a 3rd trauma this game. He is teetering on the brink. The Crow wants to take the Hive’s offer, to prove to them that they can make money with the Wobbegong Crew in their pay without human trafficking.
Hence the title of the blog post. We are going to find out in the upcoming sessions what the gang is going to become.
In which the gang burgles the library in the haunted manor of the Dimmer Sisters to steal a book about demons, written by the Emperor before the Cataclysm, for Lord Scurlock, the book’s original owner.
Charming was separated from the group as a kind of front door diversion and that made framing scenes and going back and forth tricky. This felt like it was right up Skannon’s alley and it made me squirrelly when Pete’s dice would bite him. I’ll write more about that below. Maud had infiltrated the sisters’ ectoplasm-powered psychic network, giving her a strong hand-hold.
The players got to Tier II and the Dimmer Sisters are also Tier II. For once, they weren’t punching up but squaring off with an equal. I’m glad that my Handlinger-inspired descriptions of the Dimmer Sisters and their pairs of floating upright psychic witch enforcers in black lace veils and matching funereal dresses had the desired effect; the players were freaked out by them.
I’m also glad I waited until after the session that came after this one to write this up. I had this feeling that the session was too easy but everyone was stressed to the gills. Rock on.
In the end, they stole the book and got out without losing anyone. The Dimmer Sisters know damn well who did it. The gang’s Faction Status with the Dimmer Sisters is now at a precarious -2.
Folks kept failing Risky Standard conflicts (we call them Whiskey Standard) and I kept exercising the option to escalate them to Desperate. I’m not sure if that was the best way to go. Maybe I should have started to dole out some Harm.
Something to think about. I might go back, watch the session and make another blog post about this with links to moments of play.
In which the gang smuggles 3 patriotic Skovlander ghosts from the Lost District to Ulf Ironborn.
It was Jay and Sean – Charming and Maud. The timing for them to be in a mission together was kind of perfect, as they had a disagreement last game and Maud had stormed off.
Taking lead from Jay who continues to name background Skovlander children as Charming acts as a babysitter, I mentioned a child gets back late one night with his blazer torn. He boasts that Ulf Ironborn paid him a bushel of apples to sneak under a fence and open a door so Ulf’s gang could murder a city councilor.
The child goes on to say that Ulf has a smuggling job for them if they want it.
Before deciding on jobs Maud and Charming visit Lord Scurlock to ask about demons. They tried to get Scurlock to commit to saying that he was dead against demons but he was non-committal. The vampire lord of Doskovol says that he could help them but his best book on demonology was stolen by the Dimmer Sisters.
They decided to wait for Skannon whose skills would be necessary when infiltrate the Dimmer Sisters and took Ulf’s smuggling job.
The 3 Skov Ghost job was given to them by Ulf’s second-in-command, Havid. They were to take the Blackjack out past the Lightning Barrier into the Lost District and an agent would be waiting for them there with 3 ghosts. They were to smuggle the 3 ghosts past the Lightning Barrier to Ulf and his crew who would be waiting in the basement of a public house on the docks.
Maud and Charming was not pleased with the unknowns and they pushed, using dice to find out more. It caused them some stress but in the end they found out that the ghosts were going to be put into Skovlander War Frames, as used on Barghast Beach, the bloodiest engagement of the War and the battle that forged his gang. Ulf was planning on using the warframes to cement his gang’s place.
As jobs go it went smoothly but there were hitches. The ghosts weren’t ghosts; they were people – members of a Skov special forces unit who were hit with a location spell by an Imperial War Whisper. If they entered the city they’d be located by the Imperial Army; it was in their blood. When Maud tried to cut the spell it nearly attached itself to her but she fought it off.
After discussing it, they decided that Charming could kill them quickly with a knife, which he did and then they’d wait for the ghosts to separate with some help from Maude. This was represented by a 6-count clock along with a second 6-count clock to represent a pack of ghosts finding the crew. Given the bad rep of the Deathlands and the Lost District, I should’ve made the pack of ghosts finding the crew clock a 4-count but that is alright.
Charming killed the Skov patriots with a knife. They held hands and sang Skovlander soldier songs while he did it.
Another hitch, Ironhook convicts came down the beach towards the crew. Charming confronted them while Maud dealt with peeling the ghosts away from the newly dead’s bodies.
Smuggling jobs, like stealth jobs, are tricky as a GM. I want complications but I don’t want the players to feel like their employer effed them over. I want the players to be cool but I don’t want the job to be too easy. I want ways for the job to get complicated without the players being bad at smuggling. I felt like I found a good balance. There was a bunch of stress but it didn’t go entirely pear-shaped. Nothing caught on fire or exploded.
There were ghosts and lots of danger; the Deathlands felt dangerous, even if it was just across the river, within sight of the Lightning Barrier.
At the end of this game the Wobbegong Crew became Tier 2.
Ulf Ironborn is in play. The Skovlander refugees are a good link to him and he thinks well of the Wobbegong Crew because of their anti-trafficking efforts despite the side they took during the war. Also, he is the first gang of a lower tier than the players, which is cool. They get to be mentors.
There was word around town that the Lampblacks thought the Hive looked weak when their warehouse got taken so easily by the Wobbegong Crew, so they tried to take some Hive turf for their own. Since then, the Lampblacks have entirely disappeared. No one has heard anything about them.