Hey there! First time actual play post. It's also super late at night, so I apologize for the writing quality. Love the system and game, and the way in which each start unfurls in such different directions. Variations on a theme is the essence of creativity, Douglas Hofstadter would add here.
We start in flashback. Natasha hiring the crew. Natasha did really well with having no idea how much to pay a smuggler ship, and agreeing to all sorts of ridiculous fees piled on by Snargle, and then we smash cut from the crew's reassurances of safety right to in the brig. All the "what are we going to do" was cut off nicely by Naomi wrenching the door open, and off they go: Snargle sabotaging the engines, Kale and Naomi sneaking and battering their way to the hangar, a disguised Natasha taking her prisoner Cyrus towards the control deck. "No, no, it's fine, keep your hand on my chest like that. Makes it look more convincing."
One of the techniques I've grown to love using is disclaiming difficulty level back onto the PCs. "Slipping out from that air vent and disabling all the guards before they can raise the alarm? Difficulty 5. But take 'Injured', and it's only a 3." or letting them set the difficulty, with the understanding the higher it's set, the better the results.
Huge fires in the hangar as fuel drums explode. The Hand of Sorrow wrenching from side to side (sending Natasha and Cyrus crashing into each other without even prompting). A showdown between Cyrus and Captain Hollas, in that we start to learn why Cyrus abandoned the empire. Play the title screen as Kale, lugging a huge chest full of who knows what, gets onto the Owl just as it zips off into the skies.
(Some things I'm curious about: how fast are people's Hand of Sorrow escapes? They usually end up about 60 minutes for me, and I worry I'm wasting too much time there in a single-session game. They're always fun, grippy action scenes. But I always end up rushing at the end, and I worry if shifting to faster escapes helps.)
Before we started refreshing, I really like the small, everybody's together feel of the Owl. So when we came back, (borrowing a technique from here), we had everybody at the dining table, telling stories of what they knew about Uriah Flint. The indignity of Natasha Syri over hearing that Uriah Flint has an entire island full of women: priceless.
The first set of refreshment scenes revolves around Natasha's identity, and Kale wrestling with the moral quandary of the enormous reward on their passenger once he realizes the true value of their passenger, the daguerrotype of Lady Eva Blackbird and her father stolen from her (trivially) locked chest. He resists at first, but a few minutes later, Kale's player just leans a little over, says quietly that he's crossing off the Key of Mission and Fraternity, and sending out the transmission as soon as he can. Nobody else at the table notices.
So cut to Nightport. Naomi has heard that ex-slaves are always welcome with Uriah, so she and Snargle are meeting up with old friends of hers, and by meeting, we mean, Naomi getting into bloody fights, while Snargle loses his shirt betting on her. Cyrus and Natasha are trying to find somebody to send a message to Uriah Flint, when the room's suddenly a lot emptier, and the Bloodhounds and the apparition of Count Carlowe the Ghostblood enter (also a borrow from on here). It doesn't matter to the count she doesn't love him. Their union, with such a puissant woman, will revitalize the power of the houses, weakened by inbreeding. When she refuses, that's when he dives into her mind. She both spent an almost full pool of dice, and bought three (!) tags for Master Sorceror just to fend this off, which I think means that Count Carlowe is properly scary. After facing down his attempt to mentally dominate her, Cyrus does the gentlemanly thing and warps her...right back to Kale.
Kale? Kale's counting his thirty pieces of silver, when he opens the chest he stole from the hand of sorrow. I ask him what's in there, and it's a four foot long tentacle of skysquid. The song starts to ring in his head...and she's close. She wants to hear you. Sing to her, Kale. Sing to her.
Suffice it to say, Cyrus gets a lot of good lines/moments in getting his ass kicked by four Bloodhunters, and Snargle and the rest of the crew show up, leading a rioting Nightport crowd, both offended by the presence of imperials, and then terrified of the skysquid ripping through the town.
When we get everybody back on board, Cyrus, who's figured it out, is convalescing from his wounds, inviting Kale in. "Come closer." "Uh, I don't want to Captain." "My throat's sore, I can't speak so loud.. Come closer." and then grabs Kale's shirt, yanks him over, and cuts off his ear. "You're lucky it's not your heart."
We have one last refreshment scene, as the two of them part, Cyrus unable to convince her to not go to Uriah Flint, to stay away from him: Natasha, on the deck, as I ask her to recount when she first meant Uriah. Cyrus, in his bed, recounting when he deserted the Empire.
There's always I think, one big puzzle: who is Uriah Flint? I want the players to discover it, but I also have a bit of a rule of thumb: Take however charming Cyrus is being, and add just a little jot, and that's how sympathetic Uriah should be. So Uriah's all fire and passion and charm as he thrills Lady Blackbird at the ball by telling her that if she's looking for excitement, just watch as he steals the jewels of the Dawnblood's estate right out from his nose, and to meet him on the rooftop a few minutes later.
At the heart of the Remnants lies a treasure beyond all imagining...a small, warm star. Snargle finds his home as a pirate. Kale is deafened by how loud the voice of the squid is. Cyrus refuses to let Natasha see Uriah alone, and the two of them war for her affection...Uriah promising her everything, his hand, love, power, that the two of them will form a magical union, powerful enough to destroy the empire. He offers his old rival Cyrus the generosity of taking his crew and leaving. Surprise! Cyrus isn't going to do that. Flames roar.
And Cyrus and Natasha fail all the rolls.
Kale's skysquid rips open a hole in his castle. The Owl hovers, the few seconds it has before the other pirate ships shooting it down, and Cyrus and Natasha, both flung across the room by the power of Uriah Flint, his power far too much for them to handle, far apart. I offer Cyrus a choice: go to Natasha and accept the consequences, or get away on the Owl while you can. He leaves. Lady Blackbird is taken away into the dungeons, to be used to help harness the power of the new star, and The Owl flies out of the Remnants...for now.
And that's that. Other than Snargle, this was not the happy ending, and set up huge future conflict, which was nice. Everybody had a great time (and I'm going to send along to my players to have them add their thoughts), but really, the things I want to take going forward: let the players tell stories. I kind of want to experiment with having a more structured set of interludes, where each interlude starts with somebody telling in flashback a wild tale from their past, and using that as fuel for the refreshments. My other big goal is to just to run a single session game snappy enough such that Uriah doesn't feel like a rush job at the end: we hit some really good notes, but I want to give that whole area of the world two hours, rather than thirty minutes.
Thanks for reading! As always, thanks John for writing an awesome game.
PS: I also have the actual play from my Lady Blackbird superhero hack, about the children/legacies of the premier super hero team in the world, trying to pick up the pieces five years after their team was destroyed, the city they were sworn to protect devastated. But I'm close enough to having a releasable draft of that, so that'll just be here to tease.