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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Blades by the Docks: Episode 1


You can watch this right here.
You can check out the Blades in the Dark RPG here.

Nadja: A month or two ago I was watching a panel from a convention. The panel of DMs included Chris Perkins, Matt Mercer and a few other people. I didn't really like the panel, but I did like Nadja Otikor, one of the featured DMs.

She is very new to the game and I thought it was really interesting that she just jumped right into running an online game. That takes a lot of moxy and I heartily approve. I think it would be interesting to watch a newer DM and see how she runs things.

Blades in the Dark RPG: I was set to watch her run MissCliks: Prophecy, but as I was getting ready I saw that she had a new show airing right now! I decided to watch that instead.That being this.

This group is not playing D&D, they are playing John Harper's Blades in the Dark, an "industrial-fantasy" RPG game. The players play criminals in a seedy fantasy city full of gangs and factions. There are steam trains and gas lights alongside demons and mysticism.

Nadja has a nice-looking map on the screen that gives us some details. The two factions important to this session:
  1. The Lampblacks: Shady thugs who hire the adventurers.
  2. The Red Sashes: They run a "sword school." It's a front for selling a drug called black lotus.
The Party

(Nathan) Finn: Street Tough.
(Mads) Rem Daeva: She has 4 black eyes and weird powers.
(Omni) Nuri: She has pale skin and dark hair.
(Tony) Zul: Arabic Ne'er-do-well.

We start off with the characters in an office meeting with a burly fellow named Bazzo Baz, leader of the Lampblacks.

Bazzo wants the group to take turf from the Red Sashes. They have high class drug dens and sell a lot of black lotus.

Rem flat-out tells Bazzo she's going to keep the drugs, which doesn't go over well. The group will be paid "1 coin" which is apparently an abstract way of keeping track of money.

Omni is pretty hilarious and Mads is very helpful. She helps the DM find rules stuff a number of times.

Double Dealing

The group leaves the meeting and begins to scheme. They are talking about trying to make a deal with the Red Sashes to turn against the Lampblacks.

I am wondering if this is something not anticipated by Nadja. Maybe this game isn't as 'set' a D&D is. It seems more abstract and fluid.

In my experience, the natural instinct is to block the players here because if the group goes down a path you didn't prepare for, you might feel like you won't be able to fill the session or that the session will suck.

I think that in most cases you can go their way and make it work. You don't want to "block" the group when their idea could potentially make for an awesome, unpredictable session.

The group wants to give the Sashes info in exchange for drugs. They want to steal the drugs and frame the Lampblacks

Nuri points out that if things go wrong, she has grenades. Awesome.

Mads is really on the ball. She has all the rules handy and can find stuff in a second.

The group heads to Black Hole Sun, the black lotus den run by the Red Sashes. The group is going to meet with two important NPCs:
  • Mylara: She runs the Red Sashes.
  • Talitha: She runs Black Hole Sun.
Mylara is talking with Talitha, Mylara runs the red sashes.

Rem walks up to Talitha and makes a roll. In this game, you roll 2d6. I don't think you add them together. Result: 1, 1.

We get hung up on rules confusion. A viewer in the chat gives us the solution. How handy. Basically, she can nullify the bad result by taking "stress," which gives her an abstract punishment.

Rem tells the Red Sashes that the Blacklamps hired them. Rem offers to give the drugs to the Blacklamp and to taint the supply. Wow.. great idea.

Zul violates Talitha's personal space and drinks her tea.

The deal is made, though it is not on solid ground. It's time for phase 2 of our scheme - tainting the drugs.

Black Lotus

Nuri knows a guy - a "psychonaut." He's hooked on dreamsmoke. She meets him in a bar and has a very amusing car crash of an encounter and eventually she realizes she actually already has the drugs on her character sheet, which is very funny.

Nuri takes her drug that she already had to a lab for some tainting. She rolls bad and starts a fire. There's a few minutes of rules confusion. Ultimately it is determined that there actually is no fire and she successfully laces the drugs.

The group goes back to the Red Sashes and they agree to work together for one week. Rem wants to shake her hand, but Mylara is wary. It becomes more and more obvious that Rem is up to something. She makes a roll to convince her to shake hands. She rolls 4 dice, 3 of which are 6's.

This is a massive success and I don't understand what the effect exactly is. A subtle electric charge goes through Mylara. Because of the good roll, Mylara (leader of the Red Sashes) is a permanent contact/ally.

From there I had a hard time following what was happening. The game is very abstract and there's a lot of jumping around in time.

Rem seduces an office worker but gets caught by his boss.

We stop there and Nadja hands out XP. Giving out XP is done individually in this game so it takes a few minutes. Nathan literally did nothing so he gets 0 XP.


I like all of the people on this show and it feels like once they get a handle on the rules, this will be fun to watch. It got a bit confusing as it went, but the people are funny enough that it was still entertaining. They all seem comfortable with each other and laugh a lot, which goes a very long way in making a show worth watching.

Leadership: The group dynamic is still being worked out. Sometimes, you get a group of players that are all tentative - they wait for someone else to take the lead. In this group, Mads sensed that happening and stepped up as leader.

That was good, but from that moment on she drove the action and only Omni contributed. It was a little odd to me that in some instances, the group didn't come to a consensus on their plans. People just did things without any discussion or consultation.

Blades in the Dark RPG: The game itself seems pretty cool. I don't get the system at all and it was very jarring to let the players create their own flashback. Creating your own flashback is potentially awesome, but it seems like it will take practice to get right. It feels like it could come off "convenient," like a TV show making up backstory to explain an implausible thing that happens right after.

I think if you're running this game, you should have a list of 'stock' NPCs to pull from. It's hard to come up with names and memorable NPCs on the spot.

All Stars: I always get a kick out of watching these shows and putting together "all star teams" in my head. I'd definitely want to see Omni play in a group with some of my other favorites like Jonah from Force Grey, Shattercock and Grimo from Twits & Crits and Anna from Dice, Camera, Action.

It looks like this show will be airing each Monday so you might want to check it out. This episode should be archived on Twitch for a while, at least.   

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