Hey folks!

Hey folks!

Hey folks!

I did an actual play report for my first swing at Scum & Villainy. This is mostly written to players not familiar with Blades, but I have a short discussion of my technique for faction selection during crew creation that may be of interest to this community.

Originally shared by AD Kohler

Scum and Villainy – Actual Play and Impressions

I ran a session of Scum and Villainy at the monthly Indie Game Day event at my FLGS. A few people expressed interest in seeing an AP write up, so here it is!

The Crew

I had five players for this session. They choose the Stardancer as their ship/crew, which is sort of the “Firefly” play model.

The characters, their playbooks, heritage, and backgrounds were as follows

The Scoundrel: “Roulette” (Chasler Drex)(M) – Manufactured/Syndicate background. Has history with new syndicate “Onyx Twilight” with a presence on Warren. They did plastic surgery to remove the markings that betray him as manufactured.

The Stitch: “Gardener” (Teegan Gree)(F) – Wanderer/Military. A combat medic found who meaning in the service. Obsessed with orchids

The Pilot: “Ace” (Fox Hex)(M) – Spacer/Military. Old military pilot in one of the Hegemony’s fleets.

The Mechanic: “Quirk” (Lotus Indigo)(A) – Imperial/Academic. “Black sheep” of an Imperial family looking for independence in the backwater Procyon sector.

The Muscle: “Cyborg” (Orrin Hatch)(M) – Manufactured/Military. Last surviving member of a unit of synthesized super soldiers, looking for clues what happened to his crèche/unit.

Scenario Prep/GM Decisions

I used the default starting position for the Stardancer crew, which (minor spoilers!) begins with them hired to deliver a valuable artifact to a buyer on the city-moon of Warren, only to find their contact dead and find themselves being pursued by multiple factions willing to kill to get the artifact.

As much as it seems like that gives away, it is very much up to the GM to decide the details.

The players have an artifact called the Aleph Key. It’s up to the GM what this is and why people want it. My initial conception was that it amounts to an Ur (precursor race) mental video recorder. While that doesn’t seem super relevant, the recordings reveal the locations of a number of Ur sites on (following the name of the device) world of Aleph. The Lost Legion is a faction I am interested in, and decided arbitrarily that they have reason to believe that there are weapons to be found there (like a capital ship scale psychic cannon).

I decided the concerned factions that the PCs might brush up against:

The Ashen Knives: Taking a cue from the Actual Play series on Youtube, I decided that Aya (a contact on the Muscle sheet) is here leading a gang of Ashen Knives assassins. The Ashen Knives were simply hired to get the item. But as our muscle has Aya as a rival, this adds a personal stake.

Lost Legion: Has intel on what the Aleph key is, and that there may be Ur tech weaponry on Aleph that may assist them.

House Malklaith: Is not certain what the artifact is, but has enough control over Warren (the city-moon where the adventure takes place) to have noticed factions making moves and sends a platoon of soldiers and kicks up the system police to investigate.

Original Buyer: It is unknown who the original buyer was. He may have been working indirectly for the Yaru or the Cult of the Seekers, or may have been an opportunist or an agent of a faction yet to come on stage.

Session Summary

The crew set down on Warren to drop off the artifact. Their buyer is to meet them at a seedy bar in a crowded district. Roulette, Gardener, and Ace when directly to meet buyer while Cyborg kept an eye at the bar and Quirk providing remote support with the drone from the ship.

Things go south from there. Roulette notices the buyer is slumped over in his booth, with a pool of blood growing on the table. Ace notices a group of watchers (Lost Legion). Cyborg notices the system cops come in (2 trigger-happy cops and one keen detective).

Ace, Cyborg, and Roulette contend with the chasers making an opportunity for Gardener to exit with the case. Ace and Cyborg manage to peel away but Roulette gets nabbed by the suspicious detective.

Outside, Gardner notices that she is being chased by a group of assassins. Cyborg takes one pursuing assassin down and notes that he was one of Aya’s thugs.

Quirk takes note of the devolving situation and steals a rental car in maintenance bay at the starport. This required a little mechanical “massaging” from Quirk.

Gardener, relying on her urban combat training, gets out of the crowd by scampering up to the maglev rail. Bad timing finds a maglev train hurtling at her! Quirk comes racing by and Gardener dives off the rail to a hard landing, and burns herself on a manifold. The case goes skittering off the roadside. A local urchin boy grabs the case and goes fleeing into an old abandoned building.

Back at the bar, Roulette is having trouble with the detective. He makes up a story about how he is a bounty hunter (and produces false papers to this effect) and paints a picture of his contact as his mark who his rivals (the unidentified Lost Legion members who went chasing after Gardener) were rival bounty hunters who killed his bounty. That story flies and they let him off the hook. But he is way behind the rest of the group and has to hold a local motorist at gunpoint and steals her car (with attendant boost in the crew’s heat.)

Seeing that the kid with the case has gone into the cavernous old building, Quirk whirls around and takes their car into the structure. Unfortunately, the building seems to be built on an old, unstable honeycomb structure and the decking gives way, leaving Quirk and Gardener in a precarious position as their car is stopped on a piece of collapsing flooring that may give way any second.

Quirk and Gardener escape the car just as it plummets into the basement on the ancient building, but they can hear that the damaged structural members creaking, and look up to see a poor family living in rooms at the top of the now crumpling stairs.

Ace and Cyborg manage to corner the urchin and make him surrender the case. However, they hear the groaning of the building structure from Quirk’s vehicle. The kid gasps, knowing that his family lives in some rooms nearby.

The group comes together to evacuate the family before the structure collapses.

As it collapses, they flee into the alley to find themselves flanked by Aya (Cyborg’s old assassin nemesis) and her gang of Ashen Knife guild assassins. Cyborg faces off with Aya after Ace takes down one of the thugs and Gardener flees with the case. Cyborg takes down Aya as the rest of the group piles into the car that Roulette stole. Quirk was injured in the altercation, but seems more shell-shocked than the minor injuries suggest.

Arriving at the port, the group finds House Malklaith guards interdicting their ship. Gardener uses her medical credentials to get Quirk past the guard, and Cyborg, Ace, and Roulette sneak in to the hanger through a maintenance access.

After the group departs the port (“Job over”), they decide to check out what is in the case that is worth all this trouble. What they find is a cylinder covered with runes, an Ur artifact! Quirk and Cyborg attune to the artifact, which gives them visions of an ancient world, sans any vison of its occupants. With care and deliberation, however, it can be used to locate the sites that the visions portray.

Their contact, Citani, arranges an alternate buyer, the Yaru (a guild concerned with creating force-grown clones). Though they really need this payday, they wonder what the Yaru need with this object.

After offloading the artifact, the crew settles in for a little relaxation with their favorite pastimes. Gardener temporarily takes leave of the group as she finds that a rare flower is available on a nearby world for her collection (this is an instance of “overindulging in your vice”). Cyborg investigates his family background and others look into why the Yaru wanted the artifact.

Notes: Faction Selection

The default assumption is that during crew creation, the GM will choose a number of factions that the crew made friends or foes with along the way. I’m way to wishy-washy to decide all of that ahead of time and I am the sort of GM who likes players to chart their own course (and in so doing, let me know what sort of game they are interested in). So I flagged a few factions I find interesting in each of the three major categories (Hegemony, Criminal, or Weird) and three major dispositions: choice/”on the bubble” (as in step 3 of crew creation), or friendly or enemy (both of which crop up in each of steps 5 and 6).

Using this method, I gave the characters a choice of Hegemony, Criminal, or Weird at each step, so I only had to outline 2-4 factions for each choice.

For step 3, we determined that the crew is on good terms with the Starsmiths Guild, and owes them a favor.

For step 5, we determined that the Cobalt Syndicate are fast friends with the crew, but they really screwed over the Nightspeakers.

For step 6, we learned that their go-to info broker Citani has an in with the Cult of the Seekers, but is on the outs with The Agony.

For those interested, here are the factions I am letting the players pick from:

Choice (Step 3):

Criminal: Ashen Knives, Lost Legion, The Maelstrom, Scarlet Wolves

Hegemony: 51st Legion, Starless Veil, Starsmiths Guild

Weird: Acolytes of Brashkadesh, Sah’iir, Vigilance

Friendly (Steps 5 and 6):

Criminal: Cobalt Syndicate, Echo Wave Riders, Vorex

Hegemony: Concordiat Knights, Cult of the Seekers

Weird: Ghosts, Conclave 01, Mendicants, Suneaters

Enemy (Steps 5 and 6):

Criminal: Wreckers, plus any not chosen from the choice list above (Ashen Knives, Lost Legion, The Maelstrom, Scarlet Wolves)

Hegemony: Church of Stellar Flame, Guild of Engineers, House Malklaith, Yaru (Makers Guild)

Weird: The Agony, Ashtari Cult, Nightspeakers, Vignerons

My preference here is that players choose at least one from each category. The crew ended up with these faction relations:

Step 3 – Customize your Ship: The Starsmiths Guild helped the crew out, and Owes them One.

Step 5 – Assign Upgrades: The crew is on really good terms with the Cobalt Syndicate, and really screwed over the Nightspeakers (a cross between tomb raider and the Sith).

Step 6 – Contact Relations: Their friend Citani is on good terms with the Cult of the Seekers, but is on the bad side of The Agony.

As you can see, my players opted more towards the Weird end to the pool. That, coupled with the multiple instances of “manufactured” heritage and the final buyer for the Aleph Key possibly working for the Yaru has skewed the interests of the group towards factions that specialize in bioengineered life forms. This promises to give the campaign a bit of a “Blade Runner” feel.

Thoughts and Impressions

This “escape the planetary city” scenario bears some resemblance to ones I have run for Traveller and Bulldogs (Fate Core edition) in recent years. At a basic level, the feel of the scenario in the three game systems aren’t widely divergent, but there are some differences in feel and responsibility that might be worth noting.

The most immediate difference in threat to the characters. Fate Core is by far the most forgiving, It’s actively challenging to give the PCs a condition, much less “taken out” (and note that “taken out” is not “dead”). On the other end of the spectrum, Traveller will kill PCs dead if they entertain fights where they are outgunned.

Scum & Villainy occupies sort of a middle ground. Any fight with lethal weapon carries with it the threat of PC death, but with the Resistance Roll mechanic, that threat is never realized. But PCs can accumulate enough stress to accumulate traumas, which is the approximate equivalent of being taken out and suffering a severe consequence in Fate Core. My initial impression was that accumulating stress was slow enough that you might not see a trauma for several sessions. But poor Quirk suffered a trauma in a single session. Overall, I like the “middle ground” that Scum & Villainy occupies here.

Traveller is largely setting-driven. Though it still requires the GM to think on their feet, you largely work within the confines of the what the map and UPPs tell you your surroundings are like.

Bulldogs is more pre-plotted. Though you still pull from aspects to make obstacles for the players, if you need a place to have certain characteristics, the GM puts the action there. The setting is what the GM decides, not the last place the PCs were on the starmap.

Scum & Villainy seems setting-driven improvisational, but the most valuable setting component of the S&V setting is the factions. The selection of worlds is somewhat small compared to the vast expanse that Traveller’s OTU and procedural generation offers, so it won’t offer the same sort of wide-reaching exploration and world-building that Traveller does.

In contrast to Bulldogs, the biggest distinction may be the alien species. The interest in spending time to generate content at the table to create a xeno character in S&V went about like I expected. If you want a game where the PCs are a menagerie of strange and wondrous aliens, Bulldogs may be more to your liking.

The main distinguishing feature of the Forged in the Dark system (and its close cousin PbtA) is the “yes but” philosophy is baked-in. Fate Core has this a little (it allows you to read “fail” as “succeed with cost”), but Fate relies more on aspects to complicate the characters’ lives. In Scum & Villainy, players will routinely make rolls that succeed with consequences. It’s really incumbent on the GM to be at the top of their game to throw interesting complications at the characters during the game. This is both fun and demanding, and I think the game could use more resources to generate things that go wrong. A “screw up” menu, if you will.

Scum & Villainy, solidly in the “playbook” and “John Harper” tradition, seems like it would be superlative in the quick-gen/one-shot space. For one-shot scenarios in Traveller or Bulldogs, it’s advisable to have pregens ready, and then, they will lack being informed by player preferences. In play, it took me about an hour and a half to get the PCs and ship generated and briefed on the rules, and about 3 hours to play the starter scenario (with downtime game play at the end).

Had a pretty awesome first game.

Had a pretty awesome first game.

Had a pretty awesome first game. I have played twice and everybody else was new. So I ran the game and I have to say everybody jumped right in from the start. Like where do you all meet to plan, Seven Bones, a gambling den. Have you heard of any interesting scores? Player looks at the faction sheet. Did you guys hear about that weird craft the Dockers scavenged? Word is the Imperials are going to take it soon. So players jump into gathering info, find the drydock, and start the score! Players got to scavenge the craft, found a small quantity of Leviathans blood, a set of optics for seeing underwater, and plans for the specialized engine.

Went into another score afterwards to steal the spirit of the Wraith’s favorite fence which they used to blackmail the poor guy. So now they have their first claim!

Great game John Harper

I’ve made peace with the fact that this campaign is probably orders of magnitude more high-octane than your typical…

I’ve made peace with the fact that this campaign is probably orders of magnitude more high-octane than your typical…

I’ve made peace with the fact that this campaign is probably orders of magnitude more high-octane than your typical BitD game. The crew is still racking up trauma and careening towards a fearful reckoning, but they’re just so damn brazen! I can’t help but go along with their wild ideas.

Originally shared by Eli Kurtz

Score #06: An Explosive Comeback

Just days ago, the crew of the Electrick EEK got out of prison, finally recovered from some nasty wounds, and then killed a person in vengeance for both those hardships. Big events threaten to change the landscape of the Docks, rivals are pressing in from every side, and the crew’s got more targets than backs to paint them on. So what do they decide to do?

Remind everyone that they are the most daring and reckless skiff racers to ever touch the water in this accursed city.


Watch the Goat Caper pt.1! The gang needs to fix a goat race to get Bluefoot out from under some loan sharks.

Watch the Goat Caper pt.1! The gang needs to fix a goat race to get Bluefoot out from under some loan sharks.

Watch the Goat Caper pt.1! The gang needs to fix a goat race to get Bluefoot out from under some loan sharks.



Spacebound and Down: A Star Wars Story

Spacebound and Down: A Star Wars Story

Spacebound and Down: A Star Wars Story

Black Sun hires the Porg Chop Express to run a juvenile rancor from Jakku to Tatooine before that shoulder-padded bastard Dash Rendar does the same for Crimson Dawn.

All the players were really into it. Once I mentioned Dash Rendar, Kass Nanto the Muscle jumped at the idea and started incorporating Sally Field’s lines from Smokey and the Bandit into how Dash had jilted her once. She actually spent a cred right then and there to sic bounty hunters on Rendar (acquire asset, gets a 6) – unleashing the indefatigable duo of 4-LOM and Buford T. Zuckuss.

I ran the race with this idea of accumulating Lead, like a tug-of-war clock. The Porg Chop started in the hole, but if they pushed their position to desperate as they made their hyperspace hops they could catch up. I gave them a choice whether to arc around the inner rim (safer, slower) or cut through the Core (more Imperials would notice their Wanted Level 2). They chose the Core, obviously.

Milo had the rancor and its keeper/veterinarian (“Oh no, I’m an animal enthusiast!”) Malakili put on the Express. Malakili was played by my worst Dom Deluise impression. We never found out why he wore that stupid leather hat. He’d be around to both not help and to tempt Kass with pharmaceuticals.

Then I sprung the Entanglement I’d rolled last game. Their hyperdrive cuts out. Crash the Mechanic gets it patched up fairly quickly, but 1) I start a “She’ll Hold Together” clock and 2) they lose another tick of Lead. This clock’s a possible consequence of any failed Helm rolls and it kept Dorifto the Pilot and Crash working together.

You Sumbitches Couldn’t Close an Umbrella

After several hyperspace hops (Jakku -> Corellia -> Vandor), they caught up to Dash Rendar in an ice field. Vandor’s Imperial garrison launches fighters. 4-LOM and Zuckuss were in hot pursuit, somehow having lost at least one of their stabilizers along the way.

Kass doesn’t wait for Dorifto to close before she opens fire. She eats shit on her roll and Leebo, Dash’s droid co-pilot, shoots up the Express. The rancor starts to wake up, there’s a hull breach in the cargo hold, and they’re in a dogfight in an ice field. It doesn’t look great, but then, like a friendly semi truck convoy, the sixes come to the rescue.

Crash tackles the hull breach first and crits, fixing quietly and insuring that

Akkol Cha the Mystic has a controlled position as he soothes the rancor back to sleep with the Force, all while

Dorifto makes the Imperials look like a bunch of inept state troopers.

Akkol Cha seizes on the idea of soothing the rancor with the Force and reverses it, reaching out to wake the rancor inside Dash Rendar’s hold. Kass adds her nascent abilities to the roll and they crit again:

“Leebo, that wasn’t laser fire! We hit something – and I never hit somethings! Go back and check it out!”

Dash’s Outrider leaps into hyperspace and is not seen for the rest of the session.

Double or Nothing

After that, the handoff at Jabba’s palace goes smoothly and the crew head to Mos Eisley for some downtime – and to wait for Dash Rendar in case the scoundrel shows up. The Porg Chop Express goes to +3 status with Black Sun, which would technically trigger the endgame and they have enough cred to boost their crew quality to tier 2. The idea of a big finale doesn’t feel wrong to me, but I’m not sure it’s time just yet?

In the end I mostly ignored the Lead clock. The players were going full throttle without me needing to track it. The “She’ll Hold Together” clock was the main source of stress, as different characters took turns resisting the ticks on the 4-segment clock as those early 4-5 results piled up. I think that worked well. Buford T. Zuckuss is the best Star Wars pun we’ll ever have and has taken the crown from Casey Fucking Dewback.

After an unplanned hiatus, the crew of the Electrick EEK is back!

After an unplanned hiatus, the crew of the Electrick EEK is back!

After an unplanned hiatus, the crew of the Electrick EEK is back! And what a reunion. The choices the players made for their characters this time reminded me of the most dramatic moments of Peaky Blinders. They had a choice to get back to their identity as canal racers or lean into a life of crime. Come see what they chose…

Originally shared by Eli Kurtz

Score #05: Cruel Vengeance

CW: In the final third of this session, there is a scene of fairly graphic torture and murder

After a month of lying low, things look bad for the crew of the Electrick EEK and for the Dockers union efforts they support. Benji Overstreet endured a month of strict house arrests and grueling Bluecoat “interviews” to give Clank and Johnathan Black time to recover from the wounds they suffered in the last session. In that time, the union effort has been all but squashed: its leaders portrayed as traitors, its strikes broken by Bluecoats, and the jobs it sought to create frozen by vindictive factory owners.

After so much time twiddling thumbs and with so much progress lost, what’s the crew of the EEK to do? As it turns out, they set themselves upon a path of revenge.


Finally got round to playing session #2 of #AFistfullofDarkness.

Finally got round to playing session #2 of #AFistfullofDarkness.

Finally got round to playing session #2 of #AFistfullofDarkness. From our first session, the players (a Gamble, a Shot and a Totem) before we even set foot in a score, managed to murder a wealthy mine owner because they didn’t agree with him keeping slaves. They lured him out to Mourning Woods by seducing him with the Gamble, and then killed him.

They then proceeded with the score; saving the Miners trapped in the Mudwater Hellstone mine. Someone had struck a deal with a demon lord and started a ritual to release him from the netherrealm (or where ever it is that demons come from). We tested out the Dungeon generator rules, but after session 1 I all but abandoned it in favour of the more Blades-esc style score. Some things I liked about the dungeon generator was that it gave clear objectives, loot from dead enemies, and gave a score type that wasn’t against another person, but against whatever is in the “dungeon”. What I didn’t like was that each enemy (or group of enemies) was given a clock level difficulty to “overcome” it (with the difficulty of the clock remaining the same regardless of how you approached the situation; my players came upon a sleeping 12-clock shadow demon and spent a very large chunk of time sneaking past it by filling said clock and lost almost all their Grit in doing so). So after we closed for the session, I decided to abandon the enemy clocks and go for a more blades style enemy system for session 2.

Session 2 began with the players entering the ritual chamber, where a staff was sealed into a stone, had a pentagram of blood at its base, and was shooting a lazer into the air, generating a portal that a massive demon was coming through. After evading a large fire demon, and finding a large lorry with a drill on it’s front, the players managed to destroy the staff and seal the portal, as well as rescue the survivors in the cave. Removing the clocks for enemies made this a much smoother experience and was a lot less taxing on the player’s Grit pools.

Next session the players have to deal with the new “They find the body” clock, as I decided to roll Security clock in the payoff section of the score. That’s another thing I love, these values for law, chaos, wealth etc in a town are awesome plot hooks!

All in all we’ve been having a blast playing!



Hi! This is the recording of the first session for a new campaign of Blades we started in my channel. It was full of action and tension and the system worked beautifully. It’s in Spanish, but I though it may be of interest to some people here. Thanks!

Originally shared by Hijos Del Rol

Hijos de Doskvol Episodio 1 Parte 1 (Blades in the Dark)






maybe someone can understand Italian Lenguage, so here my “Blades behind the Enemy Lines”, crossover between Blades and Inglorious Bastards.





Writeup from our third session is linked — what follows here is my notes as a GM.

Writeup from our third session is linked — what follows here is my notes as a GM.

Writeup from our third session is linked — what follows here is my notes as a GM. This was, FWIW, about three hours of play plus some downtime played out over email.

Three sessions in and it feels like the game is really starting to click. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was the first session in which I really embraced the sandbox. I randomly rolled up a score which I linked to one of the PC’s background, but once we got to the table the crew decided they needed to expand their wine business.

So they scouted out locations and I handed them the Gray Cloaks, mostly because they were in Six Towers. This meshed nicely with the crew’s connection to Lord Scurlock. Obviously, the webwork of relations between the factions is what makes this particular sandbox hum — there’s enough there so that your imagination is likely to catch on one detail or another.

From there they could have gone in hard and violent or tried subterfuge, but in the end they decided negotiation was the best approach. OK; I could have treated that as the entrance point for a social score but instead I decided to roleplay it and when one of the characters suggested that the Gray Cloaks might have been set up, I ran with it. That’s where Phin’s betrayal came from.

Once I decided what Phin’s current situation was, the characters came up with the rest and the unexpectedly violent showdown at the restaurant happened, um, unnaturally.

The switch from “someone shows up and hires you” to “what do you want to do in the world” was great. The first two sessions were important for learning rules and figuring out who the characters were, but we’re in high gear now and it feels more natural. If the characters want to look for work, it’ll be readily available, but if they want to do other things that’s easy too.