So last night was freaking amazing! My kind of game for sure.

So last night was freaking amazing! My kind of game for sure.

So last night was freaking amazing! My kind of game for sure.

One thing that worked admirably was the combination of flashback and Devil’s Bargain.

A couple in the group was most enamoured with the TV Show Penny Dreadful, so much so that the Hound named his character Lord Malcolm and the Whisper Miss Vanessa. There was a scene in the initial occult plan (they had gathered info to the effect that  Rory had been murdered by a creature, some sort of vampiric entity), where the missing detail was being chased…

The trio decended below the tatoo palour in the Canal district, scouring the Leviathan Blood drug den looking for traces of the vampire.

Sir Malcolm on point was pushing for a stalk roll in a desperate situation, as piles of blood-soaked bodies and keening cries closed in on the group. Vanessa helped with her Summon ability via flashback tarot card reading, to foretell the vampire in to the crypts beneath the tattoo palour. Skannon the Lurk has set a trap, blending in with his shadow essence and lurking to spring his ambush.

I was upfront with the characters and players that yes, the Master was here, and he wants something from them. I offered a Devil’s Bargain to Malcolm if we was willing (with Vanessa) to give us a flashback scene right here and now, to a dark secret they shared with the Vampiric creature.

Of course he took it, and prior to the stalk action, we had a wonderful debauched scene of longing and regret involving Sir Malcolms lost daughter and her best friend Vanessa. It was freaking genius.

Session 2 for The Other Hand

Session 2 for The Other Hand

Session 2 for The Other Hand

This was a short session because one player wasn’t feeling it. I think they felt the game lied to them a little; “I thought it was going to be about doing sweet heists, but it’s really about these complex political machinations and betraying people, and I’m not really sure I’m in the mood for that. I feel like everything I do is going to wind up with everyone turning on me and I don’t like that”

So after some discussion, they mostly sat back while Xaro and Carmen took center stage. Since they’d received some aid from the Weeping Lady in the previous session, Carmen went and gathered information at a Weeping Lady-run flophouse to see if they needed any favors done. Xaro told everyone he was going to see what Baszo Baz was planning, and instead went and snooped around the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh.

Meeting back up at their lair, they decided to help the Weeping Lady smuggle in one of their acolytes from another city, who was stowing away on an incoming freight train. They decided to go with the Social Plan, using a customs inspector as the social connection.

Carmen demonstrated the power of Elite Shadows, as she used Command, and had them break into the inspector’s house and kidnap him. I had it be a controlled situation; Sloane’s shadows were in their element, and the customs inspectors had no reason to suspect this attack was coming. Sloane (the NPC leader of the shadows) convinced the PCs to disguise themselves as Lampblacks; he was still out for revenge, since the Lampblacks had tried to kill him in the previous session.

So they got him, and took him to a quiet spot under a bridge. Carmen called in her extortionist friend Grace, who helped Xaro break this poor customs inspector. The roll was risky not because there was any real risk of failure, but because they were in a public space and someone might walk in at any time.

But the players were rolling like crazy today, and completely got the guy to let them take whatever they wanted off the train, because “Baszo Baz is real unhappy with you”.

We ended the session after they succeeded at taking no heat, and their complication was #4, “The Little Guy”

I decided that the guy they had smuggled in, (Dygnen, a ghost summoner), wanted their help getting set up.

We ended there!

Played out first session using the quick-start last night.

Played out first session using the quick-start last night.

Played out first session using the quick-start last night. Overall it went well and everybody had a good time. I’m hoping they’ll be up for tackling their second score next week.


* Character and gang creation was good, everything is in place to help people make interesting/colorful characters. I’m dying to get my hands on the other crew playbooks!

* Filling in the details of “our” Duskwall during play was a great pleasure, thanks to the evocative setting prompts laid in everywhere.

* They chose to assassinate Baszo Baz in order to impress the Red Sashes, so that was their first score and the meat of our session.

* Really enjoyed the way variable Position impacts the dice mechanic and puts escalation in the hands of the players. I was worried that this would unnecessarily mechanize the contextual difficulty of *World games, but there is satisfaction to be had in determining a Position.

* Everyone loved the way flashbacks could get folded into the plan, and how it made them constantly assess the current situation, searching for opportunities to exploit. The most memorable came from the acquisition of fireworks (to be used for a distraction during the assassination attempt), and ended with the murder of the fireworks peddler (Devil’s Bargain on a Desperate roll).

* There’s a pleasing mechanical input->output aspect to the gameplay. There are a lot of terms and resources to juggle, which got a little confusing at times, but resource management has some very tasty hooks that tie nicely into the narrative.

* Downtime was short yet satisfying. 


* The “choose a Plan and dive in” approach worked as advertised at first, in the way it allowed us to go right to the score after deciding one detail (for us it was Deception: distract Baz and his bodyguards so we can kill him), but the brakes came on every time we had to count dice for Actions and Effects. It felt like the time we gained from not over-planning was lost to figuring out how many dice to roll in each instance,  then again each time Position was escalated.

* One contributor to the above was always feeling like we needed to come up with a Devil’s Bargain. In re-reading the rules I see that a DB’s are optional, but I think it would help to have their optional nature emphasized and/or mechanized. Because the dice mechanics are so crucial, it seems like PCs bent on success are going to want a Devil’s Bargain every single time in order to know all of their options. I love it as an interesting choice, but I would like to see some pointers or explicit rules about when a Devil’s Bargain is or is not available, because it a) slows down the action, and b) can be exhausting to keep coming up with them. The old 7-9 problem.

* Similarly, we rolled Effect too many times, not realizing it was optional until I went back to re-read the rules. Again, it might be worth emphasizing the fact that it’s optional, with maybe examples of when and when not to roll Effect. Add in the fact the Effect rolls also have a DB, and you can see why we felt bogged down in places.

* I can tell that for us, PC and Crew Advancement will work better at the end of a session rather than the beginning, because it gives the players concrete rewards for whatever dramatic and Stress-full Score they just pulled off, while it’s still fresh in their memories. I think I might house-rule a thing where whoever recaps “last week’s episode” at the start of a session gets a playbook tick, or something like that. And rotate that from session to session.

* Super-minor: I would like to see category headings for each of the faction sets on the Crew sheet so new players don’t have to figure it out by deduction: Criminal, Municipal, Industrial, Religious/Occult, or the like.

I know some of our problems had to do with learning a new system and not getting into a groove with it yet. The good thing is that we were gripped enough by what DID work for us that I want to keep at it until things click.

In any case, as a backer I’m grateful to have been handed such a substantial quick-start, and I really appreciate the obvious hard work and care John has put into this dark, bladed baby.

Just finished running my first session with the quick start!

Just finished running my first session with the quick start!

Just finished running my first session with the quick start!

Character creation was a breeze. Wound up with: Xoan the Slide, a former advisor to a demon lord; Carmen the Cutter, a Tycheroi stevedore with a forked tongue; and Asher the Lurk, a wreck diver from the Dagger Isles.

They called themselves The Other Hand.

The Other Hand wound up immediately siding with Baz and agreeing to go raid the Red Sashes’ vault. The first roll of the game was Asher’s player Gathering Information for the heist with Discern. With a result of 4, they asked “What does Baz want us to do with the money we get?” which is kind of a weird question, maybe? Anyway, I said he wanted them to bring him all of it, and then he’d pay them from it. They were like “Yeah, right”.

So they then started to plan, and I was like “This game doesn’t want you to do any pre-planning except deciding which of these five plan types you’re doing”. So they chose the Infiltration plan, with a tended garden stream as the entry point, and Asher took point. The first obstacle was a locked grate where the stream flowed out of the monastery proper. Their player immediately called for a flashback scene and used Supply to get some keys off of their good friend Frake. They got a 1-3, so they knew the Red Sashes were planning an ambush behind the door.

The fiction got a little confusing here. Asher decided to abandon this line of attack, but instead sneak into the building and leave some doors unlocked in order to divert the attention of any Red Sashes on guard. So it seemed like they were acting as though the Red Sashes were planning on ambushing them, even though they wound up abandoning the angle of attack? I basically treated it like they upgraded to a risky move.

Once the heist got rolling, the teamwork moves worked like a charm. The players passed point around like nobody’s business. I was unclear whether players not on point could make rolls other than backup rolls, and in what situation that might happen.

Anyway, Carmen and Asher raided the vault while Xoan wound up embroiled (due to devil’s bargains) in a theological debate with a Servant of the Ecstasy of the Flesh in the Red Sashes’ courtyard. Carmen tried to set a fire to help Xoan escape, rolled poorly, and left him to deal with the result. Asher stayed behind and used climbing gear to get Xoan out.

So here I think I made a mistake. I was thinking “No planning during a score!” and immediately cut to them attempting to bilk Baz out of the contents of the vault. I was thinking of it as an extension of the same score, but I think it should have been a separate score, using the Deception Plan. Anyway, Xoan took point, and immediately decided to take the desperate action of saying “Sorry, we didn’t get anything” and using a flashback to declare that their elite gang of shadows was hiding the loot.

I said the danger was Baz figured out their plan and had sent goons to intercept their haul. Of course, when they got a 5 on the roll, that became a problem, as the danger (they lose the money) and the effect (they get the money) directly contradicted. So I changed the effect to “Sloane (the leader of the shadows) dies fighting off the Lampblack goons”. Which Xoan soaked.

So yeah they got away with stuff, and wound up with only 1 heat to show for it.


People were confused by the Effect rules; they were giving themselves the stress AND filling segments when rolling effect, instead of just filling segments. Maybe an “or” between the two would make it clearer that you don’t do both options?

I’m assuming Renown/Wanted actually have mechanical effect in the full game, so not worried about that.

Heavy armor lets you avoid the effects of 3 separate physical attacks, yeah?

One player filled stress and ticked a Trauma during the first session. Is that normal? Also,  I’m reading it right that you can have your stress gauge entirely filled. It’s just when you take more than that that you have to take Trauma, right?

Blades in the Dark Hangout Game: Episode 1

Blades in the Dark Hangout Game: Episode 1

Blades in the Dark Hangout Game: Episode 1

I recorded a demo game of Blades in the Dark with Adam Koebel, Sean Nittner, and Stras Acimovic. Check out the adventures of Canter, Arcy, and Oskar as they set up their demon-blood trafficking business down at the docks.

There’s a link in the video description to the character and crew sheets we used for the game session.

I plan to do a few more of these to promote the game during the kickstarter run, so be on the lookout for more.