Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lady Blackbird AP

Hey, so where've I been? I told you I'd post stuff! Shut up, finals are Mon/Tue/Wed for me so I'm busy. But not too busy to type up some AP in order to procrastinate!

But wait, that says Lady Blackbird! I thought we were going to be playing Dungeon World! This was actually an idea I had sitting at the back of my mind the whole time, and I decided it was for the best. We haven't played for two whole months. We lost most of the momentum with the characters, plus I was iffy on going back to the Bloodstone Idol - if we were going to do Dungeon World, we'd make new characters with the Beta. This would have been the plan, BUT next Thursday the D&D Next Public Playtest goes live, and I REALLY want to play that, if for no other reason than to help shape the next edition. Everyone seemed pretty cool with the idea, so I pitched that instead of DW, we'd do a one-shot instead to tide us over to D&D Next. We tossed the game ideas back and forth a bit, but because Kenny had never played Lady Blackbird and Kris and Dan and I enjoyed it so much and it's been a whole year since we last played, we chose that. I tried to pass off the GMing duties so I could actually play one of these games for once, but no dice.
For reference:

So Lady Blackbird is a cool game. Unfortunately, to play at full capacity you need 5 players and a GM. We only have 3 players and a GM. Now, I did this last time too, but we didn't pick nearly as an eclectic mix of the characters. Last time we had Curtis as Kale Arkam, Kris as Cyrus Vance, and Daniel as Snargle, leaving Naomi Bishop and Lady Blackbird (the passengers) as NPCs while the group played the crew. This time...
Daniel as Cyrus Vance, an ex-Imperial soldier turned smuggler and soldier-of-fortune, Captain of The Owl! Secretly in love with Lady Blackbird, he's the leader of the group!
Kris as Naomi Bishop (aka Martin Bishop aka Chocolate Dip Strawberry Deluxe aka Bone Crusher aka the Bonenator aka Midnight Chocolate Justice), former pit-fighter and bodyguard to Lady Blackbird! He hates the empire and has the muscles to do something about it!
Aaaaand Kenny as Snargle, a goblin sky-sailor and pilot of The Owl! A shape (and race) shifting fungus creature, Snargle always has a joke up his sleeves!

So yeah, you probably noticed a couple oddities there. Kris didn't feel like playing a woman this time, but liked Naomi. We noticed that the sheet never actually specifies a gender aside from the name, so Kris decided that Naomi Bishop is a big burly black man with a girly name (and is ashamed of the name - he goes by Martin. The rest of the names came from Kenny over the course of the game). We made some decisions about goblins too. Kenny is a Warhammer 40k player, so if any of this looks familiar, it sorta is. Goblins are fungus creatures that reproduce via spores, able to generate from even a single spore. They have a pretty fast turnover rate, but when a goblin is near death most of its spores develop and consume the host goblin, absorbing his memories and rapidly maturing to full goblin-hood. We decided that the Snargle Kenny was playing was actually the fourth or fifth Snargle that had served on The Owl. In a curious twist of fate, when Kris asked how he became a crew member Kenny answered that Snargle had tried to steal the ship and that Cyrus was impressed enough to hire him on. This is curious because this is the EXACT SAME as what Curtis had said for Kale last time. This would've been seen as kinda unoriginal if Kenny had been there last time, but he hadn't, which just made this amazing coincidence. Anyway, so Goblins can shape-shift, and Kenny enjoyed the idea that that includes skin color, so he was constantly cycling through races. Every time he said something as Snargle he tossed a d6 to determine which of his many stereotype-laden accents he'd use (usually Asian, Jamaican, or British). A couple times I acuatally played this against him, which was fun. He also wears what is effectively an unstable-molecule suit (like the Fantastic 4) so he can mimic clothes too. There's only one drawback to his shapeshifting - if water touches him, he reverts back to basic goblin-form.
Cyrus was basically cut-and-dry in concept though, no crazy shifts there.

CLANG. We're all stuck here in the brig of the Hand of Sorrow. It's a sealed room with, like, a bulkhead door with the wheel and everything, and the floor is about ankle-deep full of water. Goblin-proofing, you know. Anyway, it takes a bit but they decide their plan of action to get out. Some of the options included Naomi blowing the door down or Naomi blowing out the small porthole and Snargle crawling along the outside of the ship and coming in another side, but they decide instead that Naomi will lift Snargle out of the water and, now free to shift, modified his voice to that of Captain Hollas of the Hand of Sorrow, more or less saying "you idiots locked me in here too, now let me out!" It took a roll of deception to make it work (mostly since I wanted Kenny to do a real roll, this was his first), but they convinced the guard to open the door to check it out. As he opened the door...well, Naomi's fist vaporized his head. CRACK. The body fell in the water and started tainting it dark red. Snargle shifted into the form of the now-dead guard and was sent off to scout. He went down the hall and passed by two other soldiers, who asked him why he wasn't guarding the prisoners. He bluffed about him being relieved and was able to continue on. He started looking about in the ship for where the hanger would be.
Cut back to the group hanging around in the brig waiting for Snargle to return with some intel. In the course of things, the bulkhead door has been torn off of the cell. Unfortunately for them, those two soldiers are coming by and Naomi poorly sets the door back on as they come in and call after the replacement Snargle had named. With no answer, they come in and see the lamely replaced door. They rush over to it and the prisoners say it had just been like that and the guard just stepped out. It doesn't work as the soldiers see the blood in the water and the headless body. They're drawing weapons, one a sword and the other a gun when actions happen. Cyrus and Naomi pick targets - Cyrus aims for sword guy and Naomi bull-rushes the gun guy. Cyrus goes first with his roll, succeeding at drawing his two pistols, quick draw style, and placing one shot in the head and one in the heart. Naomi actually fails the roll, getting shot in the arm and missing the guy. However, he manages to jump up and push off the wall and body slam straight into the guy, pinning him, and then he proceeds to beat the head to a pulp until it's pretty much not there. Yes, there are a lot of heads being destroyed in this session. They toss 'em into the cell (now overflowing with bloody water), and Kris hefts up the bulkhead door and starts carrying it with him. Yes, he's carrying the goddamn door. Why not? They leave the cell, and after a moment of arguing "Wait, did Snargle go left or right" with the NPCs (look, I was goading Daniel into stepping up as leader, which he DID, so mission accomplished). Oh, and for a moment Lady Blackbird took Naomi to the side and secretly used her lightning magic to cauterize his bullet wound. He still has the injured tag.
Snap back to Snargle. We decide that he's found his way to the mess hall. He goes over and tries to talk to one of the officers, and one thing leads to another (he posed as a new-recruit Jamaican-accented guy and failed his check, so it turns out they didn't pick up any Jamaicans in the last recruitment) and the officer sprays him with the small squirt bottles that all the officers in the Imperium carry to combat the goblin threat. Snargle, surrounded by an entire mess hall that knows he's a target, does some sweet maneuvering out of there (which I allowed through a slight reinterpretation of the Pilot trait). He finds his way to the kitchen by accident since it was the nearest path and, with sirens and alarms going off around him, shifts into chef attire. Or what Snargle THINKS is chef attire. Turns out in this military they don't where the traditional chef clothes. He bluffs his way out of it before the ones with the meat cleavers get to him and he backs out of the room and finds a closet to hide in.
Cut to the rest of the gang. Yeah, I know this is a lot of time of Snargle off on his own but everyone seemed engaged enough even when they weren't there (which is excellent). Anyway, so the gang DID pick the correct direction and had gotten to a cross-point when they see the alarm go off in front of them and hear the running of many boots down a nearby corridor while "Prisoner Escape!" blares over the intercom. They dash off down the right path and find themselves at a dead end with a door. They enter and find the armory. They seal up the door and wedge it shut with the other door that Naomi's been carrying. They all grab weapons - Kale a rifle, Lady Blackbird a pistol, and Naomi sticks to no-guns. Because there are way too many guys out there, Naomi tries to find a spot on a wall where he could blow through (Juggernaut-style) and get out. He blasts through a portion of a wall and...finds a closet with Snargle in it. A bit of "Wow. How did YOU get here?" goes on, and Cyrus makes fun of Snargle for being incompetent ("You didn't try impersonating a Jamaican recruit, did you? Seriously? And you STILL haven't found the hanger?") but they find a hatch down to the cellar of the ship. With bullets randomly coming through the wedged door and one wizzing by Cyrus' head, they descend and seal the hatch.
Now they're all in a wine cellar. Yup. They debate about ways out and try throwing around blame for how they ended up down here, but end up thinking the only solution is to fight out. Naomi pushes Lady Blackbird back away from the fighting (while Snargle is cowering) and has Kale use his Jump spell to get him high enough to smash through one of the guys. Now there are a bunch of guys up there, ~9 (though I announced no numbers), and Cyrus and Naomi look to each other and have Kale send them both up at the same time. They each lay out an attack set: I told them that the difficulty was equal to the number of guys they wanted to kill. Get too ambitious and you'll either lose too many pool die or possibly fail, not enough and there are still guys shooting at you. They each chose 5, the general maximum. And they both SUCCEED, though one of them got a helping dice from Kale. Snarlge tried to help too by grabbing Lady Blackbird's pistol and shooting a few times himself, but failure meant the gun busted. BLAM BLAM BLAM SMASH BLAM CRACK SMASH POW BLAM BLAM BLAM. Daniel had spent an advance to add the Hail of Lead tag - totally worth it.
So, pile of dead guys. Good times. They go out and find a map on one of the bodies. They follow it to get to the hanger, where The Owl is maglocked and two guards flank a gangplank onto the ship. Snargle decides to mimic Captain Hollas of the Hand of Sorrow to get them to release the maglocks. The guards are suspicious but call up to the balcony that the captain wants the ship released when the real Captain Hollas steps into view on the balcony and calls back "I said to do what now?!" And the classic "He's the fake! No he's the fake!" happens, with Snargle barely failing a roll and taking a gut shot. Naomi wrenches one of the doors off and shotputs it up to the balcony, succeeding ANOTHER ridiculously hard roll to take the whole thing down, crumbling Captain Hollas into a mass of rubble, where he is crushed. Some quick fighting results in Cyrus taking down the guys on the ground and hitting Naomi through the leg. He still tears everyone a new one. Under a rain of bullets from the survivors on the balcony and newcomers to the ground level, Kale, Snargle, the Lady and Cyrus get aboard. Naomi tries to pry off the maglocks but can't manage it. He calls out Lady Blackbird, who he has blast the whole area with lightning, killing most of the soldiers and disabling the maglocks, but revealing herself to be a member of a prominent noble family and not who she says she is. They get aboard and escape, but are going to have to stop off in Haven to resupply and refuel, and who knows what awaits them there? And I'm sure everyone is going to have some tough questions for the Lady... Next time, on Lady Blackbird!

But this was a one shot, so no next time! The game was fun. Here's some feedback I got:
* Kenny: It was pretty sweet, a definite step outside my usual genre, but enjoyable. Strange to play a character who doesn't like violence. The shifting was very cool though. What really would have helped would have been something visual. I enjoy how in gridded combat you always know where you are in relation to others. Wish I had gotten even one advance though.
Me: I agree, that's the main benefit of the grid. I guess I really shouldn't blow off that "Make Maps, Leave Blanks" principle, should I? I guess even though it doesn't matter to me, it helps others. Note to self: buy index cards. Also, I did love the cool goblin-lore and abilities you came up with. And as for the advance, I think you could have marked it a bunch more times than you did, I think you might be used to the GM telling you when to mark XP and not just taking it when you think you hit a key. I'll try to remind you of that in the future.
* Kris: Definitely fun to play a meathead for once since Dan is always the brute. I enjoyed challenging Dan for the leadership since he has actual incentive to be the leader. There was a weird spot near the end though when I was trying to pry off those maglocks - none of my traits applied and only a couple tags did, despite it being something my character would obviously be good at. Needed a "Make a Strength check!" to happen.
Me: Yes, that struck me as strange too. I'm questioning if maybe I was just supposed to say "you do it" or provide something else to challenge you with as a conflict rather than the prying, which was more of a task than a challenge. I think that could be a remnant of our D&D mindset. Not sure how I would handle this. But yes, I enjoyed the tension between Naomi and Vance. Thanks for pushing him to hit Key of the Commander a few times. I also liked this as a proof of how the genderbends can totally work on these characters (though it gets stranger with the romances).
* Daniel: Not used to playing  leader at all, that took a bit of getting used to. Felt like a badass with the guns though. Only really ever used the Warrior trait though, none of the others.
Me: Fair enough, you did. That's sort of my fault, though if you'd gone with Snargle or something you likely could have used Ex-Imperial or Smuggler as well. I guess that's just how it fell out. The whole thing was basically one long, tense action setpiece for you guys, I think if we went further your other traits would have come up, especially at Haven, or maybe at Nightport if you visited there. Kind wish you'd used the Secret of Warpblood. You used the Secret of Leadership at the perfect time though, very climactic (it was in that final scene).
* Me: I thought it went well, but I don't think as well as the previous time. I think I spent too much time wandering the Hand of Sorrow with them, should have given them the hanger sooner, but it played out well. More visuals, alternate means of doing things, but in general a lot of it was built by them. It was extremely enjoyable in that regard - DAMN easy to GM when you just turn 3/4 of the questions back on the asker. Also very fond of how the dice rolls and pool usage came out. At the end, Snargle had only just emptied, Naomi had just emptied, and Cyrus only had two. It was just excellent timing for the end of the action.

So that was Lady Blackbird, take 2. It was fun. Next week (hopefully next Saturday) we'll be playing D&D Next and I'll be done with finals! Unfortunately it doesn't look like Dan will be able to make it, but most of us will, so hey. Maybe Curtis will sub in.

This Week: Battleship, AotP, DW2.2, D&D Next annotations and AP.
Next Week: Men in Black III maybe, AotP, D&D Next, Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb review.
 Cheers folks.

End Recording,

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