Devious in the Dark

I ran my first Blades in the Dark adventure last night and it was the proverbial blast.

The characters were three members of the same family, a pair of brother/sister twins of mixed Akorosi and Skovlan heritage and their cousin (mixed Akorosi/Iruvian), all former Imperial military and now running a small smuggling outfit out of Crowsfoot.

I decided to start with the classic “War in Crowsfoot” set up from the rulebook and Bazso Baz the Lampblack leader called them in for a nice chat.  He showed off a box of dirt grown carrots from the radiant farm that one of his contacts had procured for him, and enjoyed the gift of some nice whisky the smugglers (Hell Runner Corp) had brought for him.   Then he got down to business and invited them to join him against the Red Sashes, hoping that Pasha’s part Iruvian heritage wouldn’t get in the way of that.

“I’m suspicious of patriots,” Baz explained, “saw too many shitty things happen under flags during the war.”

Pasha assured him there’d be no problem and Baz sweetened the deal with a potential score – he’d got wind of a consignment of the narcotic dawnflower coming in aboard an Irvuvian ship two nights hence and destined for the Red Sashes.   If Hellrunner Corp could get hold of that the should sell it and keep half the money – Baz of course would take the other half as a finder’s fee.   He pointed out that he didn’t often offer carrots so they might be happy to take one while it was available.

So far so normal I guess.   Then Carioh, the Spider of the team, called up a flashback to the previous day.   Pasha had got him an introduction to Mylera, leader of the Red Sashes and a private interview in her office overlooking the training room of her sword academy.    The player asked if there was anything Mylera liked and I mentioned her love of art.   A Flashback-within-a-Flashback later and Carioh presented her with an exquisite Iruvian statuette – one of the Five Noble Djinn – which certainly got her attention.   No formal arrangement was reached (other than Mylera offering a casual non-hostility arrangement and asking pointedly for more of the same set of Djinn if they could be found) but it was clear that Hell Runner Corp weren’t planning to meekly go along with Baz and choose sides.

The plot got considerably thicker, and I was delighted by the character’s twisted strategy.

They had a friend who was a docker and pumped him for information about how incoming goods are treated.   They found out there was a new foreman who was a stickler for protocol but the local customs officer was as corrupt as any in Doskvol.  Offloaded goods should be stored until properly checked before being released but the corrupt customs guy often just rubber stamped things in exchange for a clanking backhander.

And then in what I consider a true masterstroke of playing both sides, Pasha in a subtle disguise playing up his Iruvian roots, went to meet the Fog Hounds in their favourite fighting pit in the Docks where he approached the rival smugglers with an offer.   He represented interests in Iruvia, he told them, who had decided the Red Sashes weren’t handling their merchandise properly.  He’d tip them off about where they could pick up some incoming dawnflower and they could distribute it as they wanted.   Margrette, leader of the Fog Hounds was interested, but Bear the big second-in-command was less impressed by how convenient all this seemed, and by Pasha’s reluctance to join them in some serious drinking.

Lacking suitable skills in Sway or Consort, Pasha’s player looked over the character sheet and took to heart the option to use any ability they could if they could justify it.   Bear, he said, clearly valued strength and courage above all things.   He invited him to a bout in the fighting pit.

One suitably punchy mini action scene later Pasha had beaten Bear to a standstill but not so much as to humiliate the man.   There were manly embraces between the combatants and the deal was done.  Pasha told the Fog Hounds where the consignment was coming in and when.

The next stage took place on the night of the consignment.   The team Slide arranged for the friendly docker to be assigned to the work gang and was the one unloading the small trunk of “personal items” that contained the narcotics.    As he made his way up the wharf a small hired steam ship full of drunken pedlars arrived at the wharf and started making a fuss about being unloaded.    The pedlars were the Hell Runner Corp’s cohort playing their role…    To add to the distraction, Pasha now decked out like a docker himself went and started pushing and shoving the drunks and a minor brawl broke out ending with Hix (one of the cohort) being dumped over the side and the drunks retreating with him yelling threats.

During that distraction the team Slide picked the lock on the trunk and removed the contents, replacing them with some low grade local narcotic worth marginally more than dried eel skins.

The friendly docker continued to place the re-locked box of crap in the holding warehouse and the team retreated to their HQ while the Fog Hounds shelled out some decent bribe money to the corrupt customs man to get to steal the worthless trunk.

The upshot of all this –

Hell Runner Corp are now in possession of a decent Score’s worth of narcotics

They are also in possession of a now cracked (a complication from the job) urn containing the ashes of Mylera’s late and beloved grandmother that was being shipped to her at her earnest request from Iruvia.      This, needless to say, makes the loss to the Red Sashes very personal.

The Red Sashes, because of the above two factors are now furiously hunting the Fog Hounds for the heist.

Carioh the leader of the Hell Runner Corp can act duly irritated with Baz for setting up a score that another crew clearly had better connections to.  He’s hoping this will make Baz feel obligated to help again (but as Baz said, carrots are a rare commodity and he is more familiar with sticks).

We played a little bit of Downtime and the team picked up the “gang trouble” Entanglement which was an easy one – Hix, the rover who had been dumped in the river and laughed at by the dockers went back to the Docks with his pals and beat the crap out of the man who had done the laughing.  Carioh had to give the team a dressing down and we ended up with a “Hix is pissed” clock for feeling unsupported by the boss.

*

I enjoyed the session greatly – particularly how devious the characters turned out to be.  What I’d imagined as a fairly simple heist job turned into a three party con that enriched the player characters’ crew and set the Red Sashes on a rival smuggling outfit.    I’ve never come across a set of rules that rewards play like this so effortlessly.

Session two next week and while I’ve got some basic ideas of what things may be around and happening I’m not going to plan too much – just enjoy the ride.

***

Finn Cullen’s first novel “A Step Beyond Context” is now available HERE.   A Regency drama/Cyberpunk thriller with dandies, rakes, Jillbots and jackbikes, sorcerers and mercenary units.

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