Solo Skald |||

Blades in the Dark Solo - The Pincers - Part 9

After a short break to clear my head (and play some solo Call of Cthulhu), time to look at the Pincers again.

Entanglement: Unquiet Dead

A rogue spirit is drawn to you,” but I don’t think we’ve killed anyone yet. (How is that possible? Are we even playing Blades?)

Wicker can deal with it himself, but who is it and why? Rather than just a random ghost, is this actually Preceptor Dunvil’s spirit? 2d (uncertain) => 3, no.

That’s mildly surprising; maybe it should have been 3d or maybe Kinclaith didn’t leave any loose ends. So perhaps we’re facing a ghost from a previous job of some sort. A few rolls on random tables, and:

We’re on a bright, lively street where folks are engaged in leisure, outside a drug den. This makes sense: it’s probably that blood we smelled when tracking down Laudius.

The ghost is destructive. Despite the atmosphere, we feel a chill as frost starts appearing on our clothes. Talitha freezes for a moment; Wicker does not as he resists with Resolve: 3d => 6, 0 stress.

Wait, did Flint do this to us? 3d (probably) => 5 yes, but he lost control of it and now it has an extra trait: Poltergeist, its electroplasmic discharges are more powerful. This is a Desperate situation. Since we’re not out on a job, we don’t have full kit. Do we at least have a spiritbane charm? 2d => 6, yes!

Wicker will attune to banish the dangerous spirit. This charm will increase his effect from Standard to Great, but he has a psychic burn which reduces the effect back to Standard. As a Devil’s Bargain: regardless of what happens on the roll, Flint shows up to interfere on the next score. 3d => 4, mixed success. The ghost disappears in a flash of electricity and ice shards. Wicker takes level 3 harm, but he resists it with Prowess (ducking to avoid the worst of the explosion), rolling 3d => 4 and taking 2 stress.

Talitha comes out of her panic fugue to see him take level 2 harm Ice-shocked”.

Score: Lay the Hurt Down

We’re really going to need some coin to go hire Morrison? Who’s got a job for us?

A spy or informant, connected to a crew contact.

Our only crew contact right now is Corville Macallum, a rival. So somebody has information for us. What’s the work? Rob or strong-arm.”

This seems like sending him a message. Or do they want something worse to happen to him? 2d (uncertain) => 5, yes but don’t kill him. He needs to learn.

Not our usual style, but okay. As a twist, a dangerous gang uses the location”. Which district are we in? The Docks (one of the poorest districts). Which gangs operate here? The Grinders, the Dockers… definitely the Fog Hounds. They’re perfect. We need to watch out or they’ll be trouble.

Talitha decides to find out where he visits by hunting him. We aren’t in our usual hunting grounds, so she’ll push herself for +1d, thus 2d => 5, standard info.

He’s known to visit a bakery (random roll) here in the Docks. This has to be a front for a smuggling operation (the Fog Hounds). The bakery itself is probably not the safest spot for our score, so we’ll hit him from the street before he goes in (while he still has his coin). The bakery itself is in on a private, gated little corner - that’s a lot of security. Again, we’ll do so just outside where the guards won’t interfere.

☞ Engagement

That’s the detail we need for an assault plan: the location is just outside the Fog Hounds’ secured turf (smuggling front). Since we’re on the street, this is a good opportunity to bring in Telda to help. We already said Flint would interfere, though, which cancels that out in terms of the roll.

3d => 5, Risky setup.

☞ Score

We’re outside this guarded building with a bakery where Corville will be meeting his Fog Hounds contacts (thus keeping the narrative focused).

A baker about to put bread in the oven finds himself in the presence of a spirited imp.

Potential complications include the Bluecoats or Fog Hounds showing up, danger to Petra, accidentally killing Corville, or someone else trying some other score at the same time.

As noted, the score starts off in a Risky position with Telda helping out. She’s going to try to distract him for just long enough that we can waylay him.

What do we know about this woman? She’s poor, vulnerable, and has been begging on the streets for a long time. A few rolls: she’s scarred and striking, plus concerned with gossip - just right for an informant who’ll distract our dandy! She wears a knit cap and a long scarf as she steps out of the dancing shadows, with the sounds of laughter and music drifting out of a pub down the way.

Let’s consider this as a bonus to the effect of Talitha’s prowl as she gets into position to set up an ambush. So that makes it Risky / Great, 2d => 6, she does it! Corville never sees it coming…

…until Talitha puts a blade to his throat and hisses in his ear, your money or your blood - I’ll have one or both!” We’re still in a Risky position. He could put up a fight or someone else could try to intervene. It’s not particularly likely that he’ll just lay down and whimper, so the effect of the command will be Standard. Even as an intimidation, it’s still springing a trap, so Talitha gets +1d from Ambush. She’ll also take a Devil’s Bargain of +1 Heat for an extra die, with observant eyes peering down from darkened windows. 2d => 4, she does it with a complication. He pulls out his purse, hands shaking, just in time for Flint to step out from the door, placing us in a Desperate position.

Telda has already gotten out of sight, but Wicker is here for backup. He’ll just summon up a spirit and Talitha will act when Corville panics. Simple, right? Well, first he needs to ensure there’s a spirit floating around here. He’d know for sure (Ghost Mind), so we’ll use the district’s Occult Influence for a fortune roll. 2d => 6, we’re in business.

But this attune will be at Desperate / Standard: if this goes bad, or Flint doesn’t freeze, he could get a shot in or the ghost could even turn violent. Remember, Wicker isn’t ordering it at all, just provoking an appearance. Normally, this roll would be at 2d, but his harm has him at -1d. He’ll use his fine spirit mask (decorated with feathers from his home in the Dagger Isles) to improve his position to Risky, plus a Devil’s Bargain: the mask will catch some of the ghost field energy and become unusable for the rest of the job. That gets us back to 2d => 3, and things go badly.

Just as the spirit appears, Flint (sensing the trap) shoots Talitha for level 2 harm. She’ll mark armor to bring it down to level 1, and resist with Prowess, 4d => 4, taking 2 stress as she spins to dodge the shot but taking no harm as it grazes her armor.

Everyone freezes for a moment as the ghost appears, and the dancing shadows clutch at the coats of the living.

Talitha resists with Resolve, including an extra die because she knew this was coming as part of the plan. 2d => 4, 2 more stress. If she takes another two, she’ll take another trauma!

The situation is slightly improved now and she has the advantage as she skirmishes with Flint. Risky / Standard, 1d => 4, she does it but…

Talitha kicks out Flint’s knee, but Corville moves when she wasn’t expecting and the blade plunges into his neck. His lifeblood spurts onto the pavement, a bell tolls somewhere, and there is shouting.

The client said not to kill him. Her viciousness said otherwise.

Wicker rushes up, grabs the purse from Corville’s body, and hurries her away before Flint can recover. There will be consequences.

☞ Payoff, etc

2 Rep + 3 for Brightstone Citizenry (tier IV) = 5 Rep.

As a standard score, this pays 6 coin. No tithing to the Unseen, as this isn’t their district - this is Fog Hounds territory and we’re not paying them. 2 each to the crew, Talitha, and Wicker.

This job created 2 Heat for standard exposure (the 1 from the Devil’s Bargain was already marked), +1 for a well-connected target, and +2 for killing… so +5 Heat total. This marks the Pincers up a Wanted level as Murder” is added to their rap sheet.

So with 3 Wanted levels, 3d => 6, Cooperation. We don’t have any +3 factions right now (the Reconciled are at +2), so we avoid problems in the moment.

Downtime

Talitha needs to indulge her vice pretty quickly. She’s close to the edge, and the bottle will ease her nerves. 1d => 3 stress relieved.

As a favor back to Wicker, who let her take extra coin on a few jobs when she was injured, she’ll go track down a physicker to come attend her colleague. As the crew is Tier I, 1d => 3 implying quality 0. Wicker coughs up 2 coin to upgrade to quality 1 and fetch Morriston.

When she tracks down the physicker, he’s gambling. Still struggling with that family, his choices are likely making things worse. This is where the 2 coin come in, as she gets him out of there and makes him even with the gambling den.

Now Wicker can recover, 1d => 5, meaning his progress clock is 2/4. That’s good, but the ice shock and psychic burn will take more time and alchemical attention. A second round, 1d => 4, 2 ticks complete the clock. The psychic burn drops off completely and the ice shock is down to level 1.

Maybe the crew should think about bringing Morriston on more permanently.

In terms of experience, the crew gets an advancement (which they’ll save for a cohort), Talitha gets a playbook advancement (taking a veteran ability, the Cutter’s Savage”), and Wicker takes a dot in Skirmish.

Up next Call of Cthulhu Solo - Alone Against the Dark - Part 1 Blades in the Dark Solo - The Pincers - Part 10
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