With the wounds of their last encounter barely closed, the Disciples of the Depths set their eyes on clearing the Docks of their competition. Will Veleris the Hound, Vand the Whisper and Miss Ruby the Spider be able to send a Priest of Ecstasy to their God once the stars are right?
Blades in the Dark is a game of heists and bastardy set in a haunted industrial city, and is a product of John Harper’s fevered mind. Check it out.
Well, the Liberation Industries team took to the world and character creation section of our Karma in the Dark game with characteristic gusto. The full recording of this technologically hobbled session is still available through the Whimsy and Metaphor Twitch, and should surface on our Youtube pretty soon. But for those in the Too Long, Didn’t Listen camp… I’m going to do a few quick blog posts here to summarize the results, and whet your appetites for when the next live sessions air.
Welcome to Metro East
Now Karma offers us some downright robust world building tools; though the game’s elevator pitch is probably “Blades Powered Shadowrun” its got a lot more going for it than that, and can basically handle all of your magic cyberpunk needs. It lets you build a world with a strong focus on privilege, and the exact avenues that power is expressed in that dystopia.
Naturally, we decided to set our game in Sydney, Australia. Or at least, what’s left of it.
Power is influenced by three factors in Karma, chosen by the players at the start of the campaign. Our group chose Metatype as one factor in a nod to classic Shadowrun; elves and humans have an easier time negotiating society than their goblinoid cousins. The other two factors we chose were Bloodline and Property, with family ties to the Oligarch Clans offering a measure of protection, and a citizen’s social clout strongly resting on how much capital they can bring to bear.
With that in place, we have a distinctly neo-feudal city.
Glittering Heights, Murky Depths
Even before the magical Outbreak hit, Metro East was not doing so well. With its lower levels subsiding in ever greater floodwaters and further growth choked by geographical restrictions, the skyline grew desperately taller, clawing for the sky even as the building’s foundations were swallowed by the sea. The city grew upwards in layers, like a mad termite mound.
Then the Outbreak struck, and the world changed completely. With the return of magic to the world, technology that had been the lifeblood of a globalised economy – wireless communication, positioning satellites, even long distance radio – went silent in the face of a global magical susurrus. Technology had to be rebuilt in shielded, wired form, and cities were left to fend for themselves. It is a metropolis of text-fed terminals, flickering hologram billboards, and murky phone booths with gnarled nerve-jack leads swinging in the ever present storm winds.
The crash was eighty years ago, and only now are we returning to the globalised world that was lost. So far, even the great corporations have been unable to challenge the primacy of the City States, but with more ships arriving in Metro East from abroad every day, that may be set to change.
It is a city of great divisions. Industry is driven by intensive, exploitative aquaculture and risky ocean mining, offset by a ravenous urge for respect that has manifested in a cutting edge fashion scene. The Oligarchs maintain their hold through monopolies on the most alarming magic – they say the rites of divination that keep them ahead of their rivals are unspeakably horrid – and access to the best medical care. They have developed a taste for flaunting their elegant, tailored bioware, the symbol of their coveted longevity, with the fashion for gauzy, revealing garments that display humanity’s augmented peak. For the kelp-fed poor, crude cyberware can be the difference between life and death, but social pressure often drives it to be covered; given the harsh weather, the working classes make their way in shrouds and bulky raincoats through the torrid, waterlogged industrial quarters. Life expectancy gets lower the deeper you go.
Metro East is viewed by outsiders as both an enclave of vain upstarts, and a pit of desperate criminal savagery… and both of these statements are true.
Tune in next week, and we’ll take a look at some of the City’s movers and shakers, at least in the tumbledown neighbourhood our characters inhabit. If you have any questions, drop a comment, or have a look at Cass K Designs; this game comes thoroughly recommended!
Hey hey imaginary listeners!
We are taking the Liberation Industries magic into the modern age with the help of Whimsy and Metaphor, and taking our teeth to Cass K’s fantastic Shadowrun/Blades in the Dark hybrid, Karma in the Dark!
The show will be airing on Twitch at 7pm tomorrow (Sunday 1st April), Australian Eastern Standard Time. The first session will be mostly world creation, but for the die-hards among you I look forward to seeing you there!
Apologies for the accidental hiatus we have been on for the first half of the month, imaginary listeners.
Due to the terrors of house moving we have been without a reliable internet connection here at Liberation Industries, but with that reestablished and things settling back to a modicum of sanity, we should have your usual transmissions flying out later in the week.
We’re gonna be doing our darndest to have you all caught up by the end of the month, as frankly leaving bandwidth fallow feels… wrong, somehow. So for now, just this.
We’re not dead yet, listeners. We just don’t exist.
Happy New Years imaginary listeners!
We break in 2018 with an episode of Nick Wedig’s scarcity driven space western, Longshot! Is this an ill omen? Maybe! But more importantly, will the residents of Journey’s End find out who murdered Sheriff Torkelson – and enough to eat for that matter – before dwindling resources finish them off?
Nick Wedig continues to make fantastic Creative Commons games. Check them out over at Teapot Dome Games!
Season’s Greeting listeners! For our holiday horror special, here comes another slippery caper of Blades in the Dark!
With the terror of famine hovering like the ever present Doskvol fog, the Disciples of the Depths spring into action in what may be the biggest canned food scam the city has ever seen. After all, it is much easier to be faithful with a full belly, and if those nobles aren’t in a giving spirit yet then perhaps they need some convincing…
Will Miss Ruby the Spider, Vand the Whisper and Veleris the Hound be able to push some good-natured nuns out of the pickled eel racket?
Well, we certainly played a lot of it. There’s probably 45 or so hours stacked up in our backlog so far, so you would have thought we’d have picked up some Wisdom renown.
In short, we probably didn’t, and we’re the same dysfunctional freaks we started as. But here’s a few things for those who might be interested in WtF Second Edition who put their trust in internet weirdos.
Slice of Life
This may be our default means of playing, but the updated pack creation, Wolf Blood and Lunacy mechanisms play into this really beautifully. Your werewolf pack is, by default, part of a much larger community… which makes it real hard to take the Murderhobo route, as was seen in Payment in Kind. With Lunacy being less of the Masquerade protection it used to be, you can’t rely on people forgetting your carnage, and even PCs seem less willing to kill an enemy if its one that can fish up embarrassing childhood stories about them.
Tactical Nuclear Gauru
Yeah, the huge regenerative capacity of the war form has been a sticking point for some posters online, but in my mind it combines the best of the wuxia second wind trope and a weird game of mutually assured destruction. Lets just say that the advantage isn’t as huge as it seems once you fight people who actually have an idea how Uratha tick, which incidentally includes the ubiquitous swarms of spirits, the Azlu and Beshilu, and those oh-so-buff Predator Kings. Oh, and… any group willing to pin down a giant and devour them Lilliput style. Ouch.
Also, a well built Rahu is murder incarnate. Grandpappy Fever was no pushover, but sometimes your bonuses do lead to seventeen successes…
This led to some fun moments of nudist comedy, but once the pack got to a balanced level it seemed to become less important. Perhaps a default “hit a breaking point and gain Conditions” would have been better, with Flesh-Locked and Spirit-Locked being the dramatic failures in either direction. I think the Harmony gauge is a relic from previous edition, but like all elements of the CoD toolbox, you can discard whatever you like. Which leads us to…
Conditions, Conditions, Conditions
These are great. Print the deck, and for any extreme occurrence, you have something tangible for the player to nurse. Love ’em, best thing God Machine did.
… is something I don’t think I said once in all 29 episodes. Basically, we put a slightly modified Down and Dirty Combat system up front and center, as… well, Werewolf, to our minds, shouldn’t feel like an Errol Flynn thrust-parry-riposte-dodge-lock-break-taunt-repeat routine. You’re rolling at the same time as your opponent because you are crashing into each other at speed with each trying to tear something vital out of the other. We let defense count, as it pays to have a guard up, but otherwise we never used the turn-based combat system.
This Story is True
I quite like this little recurring phrase in the book, as it really drives home the fact that most of the Werewolf tribes’ founding mythology is… hearsay at best. In the end we kinda doubled down on this, with most tribes claiming their totem as the eldest, giving contrary information, and extolling the grand cosmic importance of the refreshments table. This played into our new players insecurities, and it took a long time for the pack to shake the idea that Destroyer Wolf wasn’t a Pure totem. I also took some liberties with tribal backgrounds, but more importantly with their current human manifestations: Jonah’s Ivory Claws present themselves more like the Bene Gesserit than neo-nazis, the modern Blood Talons are mostly ex-military burnouts, and… well, it wasn’t much of a stretch to make the Hunters in Darkness completely nuts.
After all, just because your god is still up and lumbering around the Deep Shadow doesn’t mean they’re sane.
We love Werewolf. That’s probably pretty obvious, but it is a rock solid toolbox for your middle-crunch gamer. If you wan’t to run a game that explores family, community, and the slow disintegration of a dying warrior clade, you can do a lot worse than this one.
Keep on rocking listeners.