Solo Skald |||

Blades in the Dark Solo - Season 2 - Part 1

My mind hasn’t really left Blades in the Dark since the conclusion of my prior solo playthrough for The Pincers. So I want to dig into it again, albeit with some updates.

Adjusting to keep things fresh

In my previous campaign, I had several principles guiding me throughout. Here’s what I have in mind this time around:

  1. Use third-party material liberally. This will of course include the Gaslamp Oracles by my friend Eskur but also potentially Fractured Unity, which I backed on Kickstarter, Underground Maps & Passkeys from the Blades in the Dark Discord, and more.
  2. Start with a single scoundrel working alone. I’ll add more when required and form a crew when it seems to make sense, likely when I have three scoundrels (subject to change).
  3. Use the same version of Doskvol as prior to maintain continuity. This means some changes in the City Council, Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh, the Path of Echoes, and the Reconciled.
  4. As before, play BitD my way”. I may simplify or change certain mechanics, just like I’m doing above with crew formation, for example.

That said, I did learn some lessons in my previous campaign:

  • Focus on different factions. While the Council and Church may have shifted somewhat, I don’t intend to put them at the center of this narrative (certainly not at first).
  • Bring in more spark-craft and demonology. Last time focused heavily on standard thieving as well as ghosts and political machinations, but I want more of a weird science feel this time. In this setting, that explicitly pulls on threads of superstition and magic.
  • Expand the game with crafting, rituals, new abilities & factions, and more. (Some of this might get published separately but we’ll see where that goes.)

With that second lesson in mind, I reviewed page 200 in the book. This is a short article by Andrew Shields titled, Ancient Magic, Modern Science: Gothic Storytelling in Duskwall.” A couple of choice bits from that article:

Electroplasm fuels the technology and energizes the supernatural… The power of Gothic storytelling… comes in the uneasy clash of a rational, intellectual, scientific worldview, and a superstitious, emotional, magical worldview. Electroplasm has that built in.

This will, I think, represent the central thematic conflict in this campaign.

I also intend to continue experimenting with how I lay out and present the sessions here on the blog. That may even change between sessions, unlike before when I attempted to keep things as consistent as I could.

Starting Scoundrel

Because of the focus on weird science, I know for sure that the initial character will use the Leech playbook.

The world is built on industry, and the underworld is no different. Leeches are the scoundrels who distill the drugs, refine the arcane essences, build the bombs, bandage the wounds, and forge the tools of the criminal trades — and knowing how to make things also means knowing how to break them.

His heritage is Akorosi, and he comes from a family of Sparkwrights. For his background, he needs practical skill and perhaps a little bit of theoretical grounding. Therefore, he has a Trade background as a repair technician at the Ironworks in Coalridge.

Based on that, I assign his action dots as follows:

  • Study (from heritage)
  • Consort (from background)
  • Skirmish (growing up tough)
  • Survey (ambitious)

That Trade background leads directly to his starting special ability, Artificer, so he’ll start with one design known (see below).

Looking over the possible contacts, I decide that Stazia (an apothecary) was a childhood friend, but Jul (a blood dealer) is a rival and former co-worker.

Going a little darker than last time, or at least a little grittier, I choose Pleasure: Drugs” for his vice. He frequents The Devil’s Tooth, a tavern in Nightmarket known for catering to psychonauts run by Mistress Kember.

With all this, it’s time for the basics.

  • Name: Arvus
  • Alias: Zap
  • Look: Barrel-chested. Stern face. Leather work apron.

Initial design

In the core book, page 224 lays out a procedure for this.

What type of creation is it, and what does it do?

Spark-craft Heat Ray. Point it at a metal object that will get extremely hot, past the boiling point of water.

What’s the minimum quality level of this item?

2, based on the similarity to a pistol in Quality and burning brand in Force.

What rare, strange, or adverse aspect of this design has kept it in obscurity?

Perhaps a difficult to find component, or perhaps some entanglement with demons. We’ll combine them and say it requires part of a demon’s body as a focusing lens, crystal, or similar.

What drawbacks does this item have?

Based on the above-described component, it is Rare (need part of a fire demon).

This all suggests something about Arvus’s first heist: getting that demon part.

Score: Demon Disfiguring

Given where Arvus is employed, he can target the Ironworks (run by the Sparkwrights and located in Coalridge). I’m definitely taking inspiration from the Blackrock Foundry raid in World of Warcraft by envisioning a foundry powered by a captive fire demon.

Arvus wants to keep this design for himself, exploiting his position as a repair artificer” at the Ironworks. He can get into the foundry with a demon-powered forge by lying that he has a repair ticket. That’s all Blades wants for the job to get started.

  • Plan: Deception
  • Advantages: Luck, Boldness, Vulnerability
  • Disadvantages: Sparkwrights tier

This suggests some possible complications, too.

  • Security guards and other workers
  • Arcane wards keeping the demon in
  • Whisper demon-keeper
  • Demon itself

2d ⇒ 4, Risky

Into the Foundry

Inserting a metal rod into a forge Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

Getting into the place itself is easy enough: he has legitimate access. Likely, several of the laborers even know him from prior repair visits. But accessing the furnace itself requires a daring action” by Consorting with them.

  • Obstacle: Local workers
  • Danger: Getting stopped before accessing the furnace
  • Action: Consort (these are people he knows in this context)
  • Position: Risky (from engagement roll)
  • Effect: Standard
  • Bonus: Devil’s Bargain (the demon is riled up and angry)

2d ⇒ 6, he does it.

The workers let Arvus through without trouble. After all, he does this all the time, so why bother asking him to see his paperwork (that he might not actually have).

Now he’ll need to Tinker with the furnace to get access to the demon itself.

  • Obstacle: Safety mechanisms
  • Danger: Demon breaks out
  • Action: Tinker
  • Position: Risky
  • Effect: Standard
  • Bonus: Push (+2 Stress)

3d ⇒ 5, he does it but there's a consequence.

I decide to represent the danger as Arvus ending up in a Desperate position and start a new danger clock with 4 segments called Fire Demon Gets Loose” with two ticks on it.

So he’s got access to this demon and needs to make a deal with it to get a part of its body. Maybe if it breaks off some chunk or even a tooth, he will let it out past the mechanisms and wards. But convincing it would require some additional leverage and of course he’s prepared for this. This Flashback will cost 0 stress because of that of course” bit.

Emeline

Some time ago, he prepared by making friends with this Whisper (named Emeline) who acts as sort of the handler for the demon. I decide this means Gathering Information to understand the demon’s desires, personality, etc.

  • Action: Consort (fortune roll)
  • Bonus: Devil’s Bargain (+1 Heat as investigators might wonder about this conversation)

2d ⇒ 4, standard information

While we haven’t formed a crew yet, I think the fiction of Heat applies regardless and so it’ll just get tracked separately.

After rolling on a few tables, I decide that the demon has a humanoid form with elemental features, bony protrusions, and desires revenge. (It might even deserve it?)

So back to the present, with this leverage, Arvus offers this deal: break off one of those bony bits and I’ll let you out to get revenge on all the other folks in here. (That’s pretty cold, I’d say!)

  • Obstacle: Convincing the demon
  • Danger: Whisper notices
  • Action: Sway
  • Position: Risky (leverage reduces it from Desperate)
  • Effect: Standard
  • Bonus: Push (+2 Stress)

1d ⇒ 2, things go badly.

Of course that danger clock fills up. The demon is loose, wreaking havoc and killing indiscriminately. Arvus’s co-workers (we probably shouldn’t call them friends) die horribly.

But he resists the consequence! Before the demon can get out of the furnace, he realizes it’s getting out and slams down the safety interlocks. This is an Insight roll (because that’s the attribute for Tinker).

3d ⇒ 6 ⇒ 0 stress

This doesn’t change the result of the roll itself: Arvus didn’t get what he wanted, and the demon is angered. Instead, the artificer calls over Emeline (the demon-keeper). He’ll bring her in on this deal, but what will she want in return? I’ll use the Gaslamp Oracles again.

  • Motivation: Companionship
  • Personality: Compassionate, Earnest, Submissive
  • Impression: Elegant
  • Action / Theme: Coerce Death

I decide to reroll the Motivation and this time we get Love. The oracle is telling me to go in a direction I really did not expect: Emeline has a thing for Arvus and wants a date. Given the circumstances, he’ll agree, and as a result Emeline threats the demon with permanent banishment.

Fortune (Sparkwright Tier - 1): 3d ⇒ 6,6, crit!

Arvus ends up with the body part, a translucent bit of something like bone, and the demon settles down in fear.

Payoff

Since the crew isn’t formed yet, no Rep will accrue. But the extra bits of the demon will go for 2 Coin.

As noted, Heat still applies fictionally and will eventually carry over to the crew when we have it. That will add up to 2 Heat total (+1 from the Sparkwrights as a high-tier target and +1 from a Devil’s Bargain). With a Wanted level of 0, our Entanglement is either Gang Trouble or Usual Suspects. We don’t have a cohort and the latter doesn’t make fictional sense, so no Entanglement for now.

Downtime

Arvus can get started on his Crafting project now. He’s using the Ironworks as his workshop, so for now we’ll treat that as Tier 4 It’s not clear how long this will remain available to him, but on the other hand he doesn’t have the backing and other resources of a crew either.

Tinker: 2d ⇒ 6

This is Tier+1, so we have a Tier 5 Heat Ray. That’s well in excess of the minimum quality level of 2 we established earlier.

For his other action, Arvus will Reduce Heat by Consorting with Ironworks folks. When they’re at the pub, he’ll talk about how the challenge of working with these demons and sometimes you have to get a little rough.

Consort: 1d ⇒ 1

Heat is back down to 1.

Next time:

  • Create Emeline
  • Document demonic forces
  • Subsequent job
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