The Blackfingers: Episode 0

Photo of a gaming table with a large map of Duskvol and several copies of Blades in the Dark.

Map is from https://www.patreon.com/ryandunleavy


With the conclusion of the 7th Sea game, we’ve started a Blades in the Dark game with the same crew, but I’m a player this time.

We are already in over our heads.

The Blackfingers don’t really view themselves as a GANG, per se. They’re just a group of former university students who got their hands on a press and have found there’s money to be made in pamphleteering and penny sheets. Their little gossip and fashion rag has become tremendously popular in Charterhall, and with that success has come opportunity and attention.

The prominent members of the Blackfingers are:

Jack Fingers – A Skovlan Leech responsible for keeping the press working. He is explicitly neither the source of the gang’s name, nor the leader, but every assumes he is both.

Isadora “Izumi” Stanbury, of those Stanbury’s, the family of Lawyers. With the natural talents of a Slide, she was on the track for success when an indiscretion put her on the fast track for Ironhook. The family stepped in and put all of the blame on her partner, but then washed their hands of her.

Luca Skleros is a cutter from Severos who found her way to Duskvol after some…problems…back home. She was roped in to help the gang when their first pamphlet angered a haberdasher enough to send some folks to rough them up.

Achilles Lynch – Spider and youngest son of a prominent merchant family, he has a deep intellectual interest in the flow of information but must balance this against family obligations.

Their as-yet-unnamed pamphlet is mostly focused on gossip and fashion, but even so has angered the Ink Rakes (and mildly annoyed the University) but they have great support from the citizens of Charterhall who enjoy the colorful rag.

Play began with the gang broke and lacking anything valuable to print. After some discussion, it was brought up that Vinzini had just finished his latest season of hat designs, and was going to be presenting them at the mill to begin production ASAP. If the gang could get a scoop on that, it would sell like mad.

So, the group managed to sneak in, posing as foremen. A distraction by a bomb-throwing associate gave the Slide plenty of time to take notes (and, it turned out, to pinch one of the hats1 and for the Leech to make off with some interesting looking chemicals. In fact, the hard part ended up being the fact that if their distraction caused too much damage, the hats would not go to market, and the scoop would be worthless. Thankfully the Cutter stepped up and ran the fire brigades with military discipline, and everything cleared out well.

In the aftermath, the crew made a few bucks, but generated a little bit more heat than the job might normally cause (what with the stolen hat and OH YES, THE FIRE). Downtime was mostly clearing heat and training.

Ok, so since this was episode zero, we went through chargen, a first job and a first round of downtime in one go, so it was all a little condensed. For all that, our GM (not me) did a wonderful job of making sure we hit all the critical mechanical notes to get everyone up to speed on it. The table was largely unfamiliar with Blades so it was all in all a really interesting experience. Some impressions.

  • There are two ways to do playbook-style chargen: Pick a playbook and build from there, or build an idea then try to find a playbook that matches. I think the second method is better, but it is unquestionably harder (or perhaps more precisely, less well supported).
  • This really drove home to me how much a crew needs a purpose or a gimmick. The game is so open ended and potentially player driven that it feels like a waste to just be generically criminal. That may be my problem – I suspect the game excels at generically criminal (and drives it to evolve) but it was a bit of a speed bump as we discussed potential crews.
  • I ended up playing the Spider. I would complain about typecasting, but it was my choice because – in the absence of a strong idea to the contrary – whatever book I play is going to get played like a spider, so I went with it.
  • But tellingly, now that we’ve played even a little, I have my head around some solid non-masterminds character ideas, so I am totally ready for jail time.
  • In deciding our relationships we discovered the University was not on the faction list. So we fixed that.
  • Yet another hands on realization of something I’d previously only gotten intellectually – A job could be driven almost entirely by Devil’s Bargains, and that would be awesome.
  • The players really, really like the load rules.
  • They also very much liked devil’s bargains and flashbacks, though they’re a bit skeptical of the XP model as abusable by someone opting to play towards it (and I can’t fault them – that’s 100% true)
  • I had not realized how effectively the downtime move to reduce heat was. Since my Spider has 3 dots of Consort (yay Hawkers), I cleared out all of our trouble from the night’s job without hassle.
  • I have a knee jerk sense that if you’re helping on a desperate roll, you should also get XP, since you’re also on the hook for consequences, but I haven’t really thought that through yet.
  • We spent a lot of time waffling between whether we were Hawkers or Smugglers, since “The News” is a weird sort of product, and not a 100% match with the assumptions of the setting (which skew chemically).
  • A thing I’ve noticed: The very big fans of BitD conversationally drop the names of gangs and NPCs like they’re common parlance, and it’s clear that buy in is tied very closely to that level of buy in to the setting. It is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Amber DRPG, where the roster of NPCs was a known, shared list but it was built right into the game that these NPCs were different in everyone’s game. That was really powerful in Amber, and it’s good to see that idea (faces – who knew?) built into the setting from the getgo, and I will certainly build on this for some stuff I’m working on.

Anyway, first real session is in 2 weeks. I’m pretty jazzed.

  1. Her vice is fashion, so who can blame her for grabbing a one of a kind design?. ↩︎

3 thoughts on “The Blackfingers: Episode 0

    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      It’s a little self-referential. The idea that settings are made out of faces is something that we’ve sort of taken as a given since the Baltimore writeup for the Dresden Files. However, Blades is definitely a serious upgrade on the concept.

      Reply
  1. Myles Corcoran

    Your group’s choice of seditious pamphleteers is inspired. I’m reading the game at the minute and found myself wondering how to make a sympathetic crew. Drug dealers and murderers don’t appeal to me overmuch, but clearly there’s multiple ways to make a crew.

    Reply

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