The Porcelain Dolls Session 03: February 17 2016

Note: Originally posted to the Blades in the Dark Google+ Community in April 2016.

Downtime actions for the Playing Both Sides Job:

Constance goes up to the roof of the Leaky Bucket for some alone time. Yanth Agog speaks to her and gives her the task of following Boots for the night. She catches up with him at Spogg’s, where he’s firmly ensconced in a card game. Some Bluecoats show up, a prickly sergeant and the three officers from the night of the previous heist. The sergeant makes a show of goading Boots, but Constance steps in. There’s a tense moment, but the sergeant decides to go bother someone else. When the sergeant is out of earshot for a moment, his subordinates greet Constance respectfully.

Shade emerges from a week-long binge of debauchery to discover that the situation between the Lampblacks and the Red Sashes has not yet escalated, but things are very tenuous.

Thorn goes off to deal with family business until further notice.

Turf Claim #1 – The Drop:

The group decides that they need to expand, and that they should control the entirety of their little island. Boots has an idea to start cleaning up The Drop (and later on, all of Crow’s Foot), in order to attract a wealthier class of residents, which they could then rob. To that end, they begin investigating the Lampblacks’ operation in their immediate area. The Lampblacks deal in, among other things, a low-end drug known locally as Tar, which is taken by smearing on one’s tongue. Shade conducts a ritual of his own devising to become invisible (he’s actually warping the Ghost Field, wrapping it around him like a cloak), in order to Survey the dealers. It mostly goes well, but stepping into the Ghost Field is dangerous, and colder than he expected. He risks frostbite to get an accurate picture of the dealers’ comings and goings. Meanwhile, Boots attempts to Consort with the dealers as just a local face in the crowd. This doesn’t go as well, and they figure out he’s up to something in the process. Constance goes after the users, shaking them down for information using Command. This goes as expected.

Armed with their information, they make their plans to Assault the dealers. They will approach them first and deliver an ultimatum: They have three days to cease operations on the island. Then, whoever’s left will be killed. Constance goes to see Lyssa, and informs her of the group’s intentions. Lyssa mentions that this will indirectly result in a loss of income for the Crows, so the group should have some plans to make themselves profitable. Constance agrees to do a job for the Crows.

The next day, they approach the dealers, in full costume (the white masks they wear make them look like porcelain dolls), and tell them they have three days to get out. This gets mixed reactions, mostly amusement. Three days later, they make good on their threat. They start close to home, with a group of thugs hanging out on the northeast corner. The dealers are ready for them, but the fight very quickly goes in favor of the Dolls. Constance in particular is a sight to behold, causing massive amounts of carnage with her primary weapon, a converted anchor, while Boots provides covering fire. Shade uses his vials of electroplasm to quickly dispose of the bodies after the fight. Constance takes a hit defending Boots.

They move on to the second group, who deal Tar out of the park on the west side of the island. Again, they make short work of them, but Constance takes another hit.

It’s about this time that reinforcements arrive over the bridge from the southern end of the Marble Street Bridge. The group goes to meet them, at which point Constance calls for a halt, and Commands them to side with the Dolls instead. Some of the group stand down, but the leader attacks. Constance again rises to the occasion, and Shade attempts to Sway the remaining two thugs to join them. Another one stands down, but the last attempts to flee and warn Baszo. Boots barely manages to pull of a snapshot to bring him down.

The payoff is another 2 Rep, but no coin. However, they gain their first point of Turf, and can confidently claim that they control their island (for now). However, the operation brought a lot of Heat (narrowly managing to avoid gaining a Wanted level), and as a result the crew caught the attention of the Inspectors, and Constance has to hand over 3 Coin to Lyssa to make the investigation go away.

Downtime actions for Turf Claim #1:

The crew spend the next downtime cycle attempting to reduce Heat and Stress. I rule that the crew has access to the three thugs they managed to win over from the Lampblacks, but until they can pay for the Cohort upgrade, they’re just background color, carrying out low-level tasks for Constance until she feels she trusts them enough with real work. If she wants to use them on a trial basis, she can Acquire them as an Asset temporarily.

Notes:

As jobs go, this one was very simple, a straight-up combat. It was represented mechanically by a series of clocks, one for each group of enemies. Constance’s scale bonus went a long way to leveling the playing field, but they took a few hits in the process. It also served to illustrate why straight-up combat doesn’t happen more often, because they got up to 8 Heat and had a difficult time dealing with it elegantly afterward.

Thorn’s player unfortunately had to drop out of the game due to a conflicting work schedule. He’ll be missed, but Thorn himself is still around somewhere, and may show up as an NPC in the future. Fortunately, the score/downtime structure makes it fairly easy to drop people in and out as necessary. We end up exploring this further in later sessions, as each of my other three players eventually bring in an alternate PC, and I come up with what I think are some fairly decent house rules for dealing with that.

I’m using Evernote to organize my stuff, and so far it’s working quite well. I have two notebooks: One is public, and contains my session writeups (which is what these posts are based on), as well as notes for various NPCs and locations that the PCs have encountered. I also have a private notebook which has all my behind the scenes stuff. There’s a note for the current job (whatever it happens to be), and one for ongoing long term-clocks and NPC plans. The most important one is called Lingering Questions, where I jot down all the loose ends I inevitably find myself with when running a game (“There’s an ongoing investigation into the death of Sgt. Galloway. The Inspectors aren’t convinced it was an accident.”). My prep consists mainly of going through this for interesting things to throw at the players. It’s been exceedingly helpful for providing a sense of continuity and consequence for the players.

We have a whiteboard hung up on the wall that I’ve been using for the clocks, and that worked just fine, but later on I worked out an even better solution. More about that later.

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