Lady Blackbird with Linguists!

edited August 2010 in Actual Play
Today my housemate and several peers from my department got together to play Lady Blackbird. We had fun! I think most of the group had never really played a story game before (including a person who had never really gamed at all before), but everyone got really into it.

Our GM was my friend, class-, and housemate Oliver. We played at my house, which worked out lovely (we have great windows that let in a lot of sunlight). The characters were…

Lady Blackbird, who was played by Lauren, who is new to roleplaying. A juxtaposition of whimsy (Uriah Flint met her at an event in support of saving cute animals; they share this interest) and some amount of snobbery (constantly going at it with Vance).

Naomi Bishop, who was played by Bern. She played her as a quiet presence, but she had a strong impact on our enemies (including a scene where she idly pulled the bolts out of the siding of a hallway in the Hand of Sorrow to assist in an intimidation effort). Took out a whole column of troops by herself while the rest of the crew stood on in wonderment.

Captain Cyrus Vance
, who was played by Heather, who has played D&D and some trad games before. She was really excited about the fill-in-the-blanks aspect of the game and got really into making up interesting plans, background, and supporting details for us to play with.

Kale Arkam, who was played by me. I played up his ruthlessness and magical talent, and by the end of the session had bought myself the Spellcasting tag as well as discovering that I was Voidblooded!

Snargle, who was an NPC. He sounded like Jar-Jar Binks and was mostly just a background element, but he did play poker with some guards as a distraction and successfully gained the Secret of the Remnants.

First, a disclaimer: I don't remember everyone's actions as clearly as I do my own, so the detail is sort of focused on me. That was hardly the case during the game. Vance was a valiant and stubborn captain, and is hereby granted the MVP for this session.

We started off in our cell aboard the Hand of Sorrow next to a group of guards playing poker. Our gear was piled up neatly next to the card table. Kale quietly picked the lock while Lady Blackbird bet the guards that Snargle could beat them at poker. They agreed to let him play so long as he could get himself out of the cage. He stretched up, tall and narrow, and much to their amazement stepped right out of the cage.

"A deal's a deal!" the angry guard captain said, pulling up a chair for Snargle (who proceeded to cheat and generally be a nuisance while Vance and Arkam opened the cage door and snuck over to their gear). Vance and Arkam pulled guns on the crew and forced them into the cage, tied and bound and bereft of their portable wireless. Arkam helped himself to their valuables, in tune with his Key of Greed.

After that we made our way through the halls of the Hand of Sorrow. A column of six or so guards and the chief of security approached, so we disguised the Lady Blackbird and her bodyguard as crewmen and had them stand out in the open while Snargle, Arkam, and Vance hid in side hallways. A gunshot from Arkam started the fight and a whirlwind of fists and feet from Bishop ended it.

The chief of security was a wizened old man, who we intimidated into giving us information about the layout of the ship. Bishop casually pulled rivets out of the plating in the hallway, prompting the old man to give Vance the information that was requested. Bishop had inadvertently opened up a way into the ventilation system of the ship, so Snargle and Arkam went through the ducts to try and scout ahead.

After Bishop pried the lock off of the hanger bay door and Arkam kicked the shit out of a group of engineers overseeing the refueling apparatus and docking arm, the party was safely aboard their ship. Due to an engine malfunction they couldn't get away at first, and Captain Hollis of the Hand of Sorrow marched out onto the catwalks to stare at the menacingly. Arkam and Vance looked at each other and gulped, but before anything could happen The Owl was released from the docking arm, causing it to plummet into the upper reaches of the Deep Blue. Kale managed to fire up the engine, and all was mostly well.

We gained a bit of distance from the Hand of Sorrow then, and then made our way to the upper air. Due to an engine leak, a sky squid came upon us, seeking the magic-emitting engine of The Owl. Vance took to the turret and shot off one of its tentacles while Arkam gave the engine a bit of a boost, and Snargle had us on our way.

We decided to head to Nightport then, to try and gain the Secret of the Remnants. Lady Blackbird said she had an uncle on the day side of the planet, so that's where we headed. Once on… Dayport we found the Lady's uncle and stowed our ship in his barn. He was a disgraced nobleman, living off the land after his country abandoned him. We feasted at his house, borrowed horses, and set off for Nightport, where we hoped to find Jonas, an old associate of Vance's who had ties all over the city.

We got there and bargained with Jonas for knowledge of a navigator who could get us through the Remnants. We agreed to help him out with a ruthless business rival, and set off to Jezebel's Brothel ("I don't want to punch hookers, man!"). We got there and Lady Blackbird and Vance faced off, both wanting to take the lead. Lady Blackbird charmed the good captain with her feminine wiles (allowing him to hit the Key of Hidden Longing!) and then silenced the crowd with a gust of magical wind (which Arkam used as a chance to steal a vintage bottle of Olympian Scotch, once again hitting the Key of Greed). Admist whispers of "Stormblood… she's a Stormblood!", we began our parlay with Jezebel.

Thanks to Vance's intimidation efforts, Jezebel agreed never to bother with Jonas again, lest we return. Bishop attempted to free some of the…, er, callgirls ("No, Cyril, when they're dead they're just hookers!"), which caused a scene that we solved with some molotov cocktails previously made by the Lady Blackbird. Having set fire to the joint, Arkam pocketed what he could and the crew rushed back to Jonas' bar. They learned the name of the Navigator, Vlad Q--

At that point a neat red hole appeared on the barman's head. We turned to see a posse of bandits, complete with poncho and sombrero, pointing weapons at us.

"This is for burning down our homes, you bastards!" they shouted, opening fire. We then noticed that the whole of Nightport had become… significantly warmer in hue. Looks like our fire had gone out of control! Lady Blackbird used her skills as a sorcerer to bring back the spirit of Jonas, who gave us the full name of the Navigator--Vlad Quinn. We fought our way out of the bar, Captain Vance going into a rage over his fallen friend. We made it back to our horses and raced out of town. Arkam remembered that the Mechanic's Guild was in Nightport, where he trained (no wonder so many mechanics are burglars!). The crew traveled to the guild hall, found out where Quinn lived, and made their way to his fortified compound at the edge of town.

After some hesitant dealings, Quinn made himself known. The crew convinced him to teach Snargle the Secret of the Remnants, but first we had some angry townsfolk to lose. We grabbed Quinn and took him back to Dayport, to the farm where Lady Blackbird's uncle lived. After two days of training, Snargle was ready to go. In that time Arkam practiced his magic with Lady Blackbird, who helped him realize his potential as a Voidblood!

At this point we were out of time. Snargle got us through the Remnants into the pirate Uriah Flint's territory, where we found his stolen imperial cruiser (about 3/4 of which was a ship similar to the Hand of Sorrow; the rest was all custom bits and bulbous addons that Flint must have added). Much to our surprise, our visual sensors showed that Flint's ship was aflame in several locations, and was flying the colors of the Empire!

Stay tuned for part two!


The game worked out really nicely. I love the mechanics, and our GM pulled a few story gaming tricks out of his bag that really made things sing (Let it Ride, the Mountain Witch trick, generally good scene and spotlight control). I really like Keys a whole bunch and want to play with them even more (I should maybe start a mini-campaign of The Shadow of Yesterday!).

Everyone knew what they were doing and we were up and running within ten minutes of sitting down. We had skill levels ranging from complete newcomer to veteran, and everybody grasped the system and agenda rapidly.

So I finally got to play Lady Blackbird! Good job John, the game is a great amount of fun. Looking forward to playing/seeing some of your other projects!


  • Posted By: framweardthe Mountain Witch trick
    I don't want to derail the thread, but when you feel like it, could you elaborate on this for us not in the know? Thanks.
  • Posted By: hans otterson
    I don't want to derail the thread, but when you feel like it, could you elaborate on this for us not in the know? Thanks.
    It's also known as fishing. The StoryCodex has a nice write-up here:
  • Shall I describe it further, or does the link answer your question?
  • Thanks for sharing the AP! I love the addition of Dayport and the Lady's uncle. That will go in my LB bag of tricks.
  • Sure! I'll share the second part as soon as we have the second session.
  • Excellent AP! How did your GM implement Let It Ride in the Blackbird framework?
  • Ho, I've never seen the StoryCodex before. That's just what I've been looking for!

    I wonder how many groups come up with the "guards playing poker" thing. My group did the same thing. Differences were my group, spurred on by Naomi, sabotaged the Hand of Sorrow's engines and one of the Sorrow's "Fire Ships" - autopilot fire-and-forget kamikaze bomb ships the Imperium uses in battle. We spent pretty much the whole 2 & a half hour session on the Sorrow, ending after they escaped (Snargle jumping onto the dropping Owl, barely holding on with his claws & teeth, and Natasha learning to fly just in time to rescue Naomi), the Sorrow's engines failing, sinking towards the lower depths, lifeboats streaming off of it.

    Another cool bit, in a refreshment scene:
    Naomi: so, Snargle, of your twelve brothers and thirteen sisters...
    Snargle: oh yes
    Naomi: only a few of them are free from the enslavement of the Imperium?
    Snargle: oh yes, we are quite fortunate that three of us are completely free.

    John, do you have any advice on:
    - how much xp we should be giving out? Sometimes I felt like I was giving it out almost every sentence out of someone's mouth. Everybody advanced around 3 times, I think, in the 2.5 hours. Does that sound about right?
    - PvP: Kale (who now had the gadget key along with the greed key) got distracted in a storeroom on the Sorrow and Natasha wanted to get moving, so she tried using her wind power to force him out of the room. I had them agree to stakes, take turns adding dice from their pools until they both stood pat, and do an opposed roll, which ended in a push, so neither got what they wanted. (Then Cyrus barked an order and Kale snapped to attention.)

    We all had great fun, btw - I have mixed feelings about earning xp for roleplaying which I went off on another thread - but fun fun fun, we all loved it. Mostly D&D players, including one who's given up on D&D because he can't stand the pacing and "helpful" advice from friends. You've saved roleplaying for him.
  • Oh, and Snargle surprised me by getting a huge amount of screen time in our run; he escaped from the cell (Kale was afraid of triggering the alarm), he sabotaged the Sorrow's engine and the autopilot on the fire ship, he got made by a lieutenant on the Sorrow and had to have his ass saved by Naomi, he saved a Sorrow crewmember from falling to his death...
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