A leviathan hunter hack i built for a few sessions of play

The crew i’m GM’ing for a blades game built a backstory as wronged sailors, now turned assassins. This led to a conspiracy around a noble house and a series of events unfolding around the players as they investigated the established blood shortage aspect of the starting blades setup. As time went on it seemed an interesting idea to go back in time and build up a “one shot” to play through as some of the noble conspirators that were key to the conspiracy and “play to find out” what happend to ruin so many people’s lives in this journey.

To do this is hacked together several FitD games over a few days and built up a fairly simplistic hack for hunting leviathans. Nothing here is well tested (we’ve had one session so far) and likewise its not something i’m planning on expanding on further beyond a few more sessions of the current campaign to complete the story. That said i thought it would be interesting to put up here and see how others felt, maybe lift some of my ideas and play through your own hack if ever it came up.

Overview
Given the source material i decided to set the campaign in a “lost corner” of the world well away from established hunting grounds. The map i built was based on several “islands” many of which are actually sleeping leviathans; some populated with interesting peoples or lost civilizations. I pooled concepts from S&V (such as gambits), and tried out ideas such a crew being realised characters as they are in band of blades (the later proved too much work without some macros to handle adding and removing stress so dropped that). The core blades mechanics are there (as i’m not a paid sub of roll20 to build my own sheets) but expanded some aspects such as finesse for “helm” related activities etc. Below is what i’ve come up with and am using at the moment.

Resources

You have a number of resources at your disposal for using, some are burned up in the actions of the day others are used for missions to barter or trade.

  • Ingots : acquired sparingly from plunder missions or special missions these are very rare to come by representing a huge value of wealth beyond a “coin”
  • Supply : One supply a day and one per operation supply. Supply is often rewarded automatically upon completing a mission. They are specifically found on plunder and diplomacy missions though if running low
  • Ship Hull : The hulls of ships are continuously being damaged and repaired. Each ship and the main vessel have hull points that need monitoring in a delicate balance
  • Blood : used to power vessels (when refined) or traded with villages in diplomacy missions for supply or coin these units are useful but remember over 200 units of blood are required for a successful haul!
    Fuel : Bought and sold (or refined on factory ships) this is the only way to get around and is extremely rare to sell given the risk that poses.
  • People : Flesh doesn’t grow on trees but is the most expendable resource of them all, if you are privileged enough to not face the chopping block yourself.

Fleet
The game has a few extra layers with a Fleet consisting of a main vessel. Some types of “main vessel” or “base” were talked about such as “ice breakers” or “factory ships” (which i stole from @John_Harper & @stras one shot on hunting). In addition to a base ship akin to an aircraft carrier i built up a series of different ship types;

  • Scout Ship - A small and low staffed crew of scouts and sailors to research a location
  • Mining Ship - A heavily manned vessel for mining leviathan blood
  • Support Ship - A ship with labourers and workers to load and transport blood to the main vessel
  • Combat Ship - A ship solely focussed on killing, whether against villagers or the strange

Ships have different amounts of Hull, Blood Capacity, Fuel Capacity, & Crew Capacity to fit the role they are given. These allow for specific utilities and have a tier to themselves, which became important as they each could perform “Operations” (similar to missions in blades) each day on their own or as a group.

Crew
A ship’s complement has different types of crew for very specific jobs;

  • Scouts- Used to survey and assess locations, and handy at range but weak to most up close combat
  • Warriors - The brute force and muscle of the organisations
  • Ghosts - Whispers trained to handle the occult and the protectors of ships form occult incursions
  • Miners - Used to mine the blood from leviathans whilst sleeping and manage the “processing” of Leviathan parts of more active ones captured on the hunt
  • Labourers - The units used to repair and transport cargo from mining operations and the only reason anyone survives the journey on a long enough timeline
  • Sailors - The crew compliments of any ship and needed to steer their way into and out of danger

Note: These all had their own sheets tailored to their own skills rather than use tier (mostly because ships have tier and that didn’t work when moving crew around to suddenly drop two tiers). Likewise crew do not earn XP or take stress in this version as the time sink of managing that for a one shot was too high and really felt i would have to code macros to do that enmass if i did adopt the Band of Blades approach to crew. The crew are listed (including the dead) on a crew sheet for each ship as a number at present.

Operations

In lieu of the normal operations there are new operation types: These operations require a number of types of ship to be viable, typically one ship type but some special missions require more than one. Ships can perform one operation per day at the cost of one fuel tick and one supply. The types of operation include;

  • Scout - scout out a point of interest to learn more and gain an advantage on future missions here
  • Mining – a mission to drain blood from the a leviathan island.
  • Assault – Clear Leviathan Followers from a Leviathan island or mindlessly murder villages
  • Diplomacy – A mission to meet with village elders and arrange a trade or favour.
  • Transport - Move blood from a mining location ship or village to the main vessel (one additional fuel cost)
  • Repair - Repair a ship (self) or Repair another ship (requires labourers)

Special Missions

  • Recruitment – a mission to press gang recruits for the reserves (requires a ship for transport and attack) and escape without losing all forces
  • Plunder - Gather supply from an area, whether a hunting ground or location (requires a ship for transport and attack) and escape without losing all forces

Engagement

When a ship or group of ships enter into an operation you roll the sum of the tiers of the ships plus any bonuses given by taking these ships with you as defined on the fleet sheet (based on the type of ship each one had some form of bonus for their preferred operation)

In addition to the level of position you enter into the situation it also identifies the structural cost of the operation on your ships

  • 1-3 = 1d3+1 Damage to you ship[s]
  • 4/5 = 2 Damage to you ship[s]
  • 6 = 1d2-1 Damage to you ship[s]

This damage was to simulate the wear and tear of the use of ships on a job and given some operation have no PC’s i wanted to capture the same feel as band of blades when sending off units to fight without being there, and ultimately having some cost to battle. Also note the fuel and supply cost as taken at the point of engagement, regardless of how the operation pans out

Damage

If a ship is damaged to the point it completely loses all hull points it cannot sail, and is marooned on the location it was brought to zero hull . You have upto three days to heal a point of hull before the ship sinks . Another ship will have to spend a day repairing it as it cannot repair itself . A four tick clock is provided on the ship stats panel to denote healing ticks using the standard blades healing ticks. A ship with labourers rolls one die for 5 labourers on a ship that is healing itself or another ship .

Remaining crew must be transported to another ship or be lost with the ship if it is not repaired in time.

Rewards
Rewards vary from the type of operation, and honestly are still the least thought out part of the game given the lack of playtesting but came up with some basic ideas. The idea that a mission ALWAYS pays out one supply if successful was something i factored in to allow progression in this game but isn’t necessary i don’t think.

Note: Populated areas exist on the map and have a population, and a security. Also i added a special aspect to each city (like districts in the blades core rules) such as “-3d for recruitment roles here” to give each location on the map flavour and help me narrate the differences.

Plunder

3 supply per 100 adults in village

Recruitment

10 people per 100 adults in village ( max 60 people )

Diplomacy (roughly)
Bartering for things can be achieved during a diplomacy mission with the following base rates;
1 ingot for 1 blood
5 supply per ingot

Mining

Dice equal to the number of miners + 1 (up to the max capacity of the ship) in ticks of the blood clock, each full 4 tick clock = 1 unit of blood.

Note: a ship full of blood cannot carry more blood and needs to either spend a day transporting blood or have another ship do it (you can mine two days in a row to full capacity with another ship transporting blood)

Entanglements
This area of game i felt least happy with but in short the idea is that the entanglements would ALWAYS cost people; whether it was crew or labourers etc was still in flow but it seemed fair to lose crew regardless of the mission, obviously based on the entanglements roll in the open. I also came up with a few extras for missions like plunder where pirates could surface

Downtime
PC’s characters get the usual amount of downtime PER DAY but need to scope their downtime action accordingly (as blades it usually considered a week of activity). There is no concept of coin to buy extra downtime actions for PC characters given their frequency.

Ships get downtime equal to the tier of their ship to perform actions;

Additional Repairs : Can attempt to fill a repair clock (once) in a downtime action

Recrew : Refill the ship from the units of personnel on the main vessel (must be nearby)

Move : Can travel a short distance as a downtime action

Remaining downtime actions can be used on the main vessel

Train : A four tick clock can be started to train reserves (press ganged or otherwise)

Repair : The main vessel can be repaired by itself using the labourers on board the vessel (1d per 5 people)

Refine : Turn 6 stacks of blood (1 tick) into three ticks of fuel (distribute as needed across fleet)

Factions
As a final note i didn’t make factions for this game as it was supposed to be a one shot now turned a mini campaign for the end of the season of this blades campaign but i would suggest considering building up a faction sheet of villages and pirates perhaps. This is something i might do if we keep playing plast week two.

Board
Having built all of this the game board looked like below with leviathan mining sites marked in red, and villages/cities marked in black. Others exist hiden to players who could find them using diplomacy missions.

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This is REALLY cool! Thanks for sharing all your work.

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Wow, really neat. You could say they were Forged in the Fleet!

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Thanks for taking a gander and the RT. I want to tidy it up; tier and rep progression for ships, factions, ghost ships and rules for operations on leviathans that are awake. I’m going to see if i can barter with a friend to make some macros but at the moment the band of blades level of managing crew is out of scope for this version.

I’ll probably release a PDF of the mechanics with some tweaks to the stats (helm being a finesse operation for example) and some abilities to add to ships and fleet for crew advancement. After one play session its hardly well tested but think there’s something here under the surface!

I’ll also have to upload all the token tables and rollable tables for entanglements (hmmm maybe a macro could make these?)

I LOVE IT! I think i may have to use that title when i put out a pdf for it after we’ve had a full run of sessions

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Some additional Notes:
Cities
As is visible on the map a number of villages, settlements and cities were constructed for the play test. I used the faction sheet provided in the blades game to build up a series of populated places, with a more “big picture” approach. I also reworked the Tier system to allow a GM or player to eyeball the populations size; X denoting 1000 people. The sheets themselves worked well with the ability to also add militia, navy units [if any exist] (i added one dominant navy to the world) and pirate fleets roaming the map. Cities of a larger size had various benefits such as repair abilities and other services provided you haven’t attacked them. Likewise i used the status system of blades to monitor the state of behaviour. It would probably be worth noting enemies and allies as well so word could slowly spread (good, bad or ugly) about the fleets behaviour in the area.

Navies and Pirates
I realised a fleet will lose a ship at some point so added Navy and Pirate vessels to the game as a way for the fleet to either buy, allie with or commandeer vessels, with either coin, supply or violence. Pirate vessels roam the seas and have their own goals similar to factions in duskvol, and Navy vessels combat these threats in areas they protect (often a small area of the map). I also factored in the idea that should the fleet start pressganging people, and raiding villages for supplies this would eventually build up a clock to them becoming considered pirates themselves.

Points of Interest
I added some points of interest, almost all of which required the fleet to locate them during free play or diplomacy missions. This was going to be hidden missions with requirements and HUGE rewards. Although these never got a play test they included rewards such as relics, lots of refined blood, fuel or supply as well as other more novel resources. The idea being there is a real incentive to work with the locals and find these hidden locations.

Attrition
It became clear to me that unlike the other games using forged in the dark this game was much more of a rogue-like (sorry i said it) and a battle of attrition. I started to see this as much more of a band of blades style game but with less of a predefined goal (other than collecting blood) … In theory if you kept refining blood into fuel and mining you could go forever but the balancing would require that to be very hard to do. I think the play testers really need to focus on the big picture and less on character development. I considered a score system similar to BoB but never got there.

I think this will be my final entry on the ideas for this for a while as the play testing has ended but will also write up how the playtest went and the feedback i got. If anyone is interested in expanding this i might be interested in a play test but would really need a group that knew this going in and wanted to help shape it. Moreover i think it needs a group that likes BoB rather than blades in the dark as the game really lends itself to less focus on character development (although there is tons of space for that) and more on the fleet surviving day to day.

Thanks again for any kind words and please feel free to drop ideas in if you think of something.

Play Test Notes:

Disclaimer: This group was really playing this as a way to expand their backstory and was originally a blades in the dark group. I think, having reflected on this, that this was a mistake and should have searched for BoB group that wanted to try something like this and set sail on a merry adventure.

Conclusion (incase you don’t want to read the whole thing)
Its now clear it the group need a “big picture” view with less focus on character level interactions; engagements can be as many as ships you have (if brave enough to send every ship out on their own) and if players split up or want to be on several missions it can slow down gameplay to a crawl. I liked how BoB had several “Modes” of play, and think this method also needs defining better; quartermaster etc (clocks, so many clocks).

The crew i had focussed heavily on the characters they had chosen at the beginning and as such i felt we dove too deeply into their story over the fleet’s narrative. The idea of a “Lore Keeper” really appeals (probably just because of seeing Jenn work her magic and do such a great job in acutal play’s playtest which i highly recommend) but these kind of defined roles weren’t really laid out clearly for the players in this playtest and think this lack of structure hurt the event.

Feedback was very mixed and sadly negative in some ways. I possibly failed as a GM to convey the game well or as with any hack there was a lot of rules and actions to adapt to and that can be overwhelming especially for a group of blades players rather than a BoB group.

Session 1:
The first session was mostly free play with one visit to an island. I had given every island/ village a series of hidden factors… This one had a -3 d to recruitment operations which popped up during play after the captain decided to demand the village give up people to go with them shifting a free play into a recruitment “battle” pretty quickly. I had put a caveat that the villagers were cultists and would cause trouble if taken in the GM notes and they started to see that come to fruition in the next session!

The idea of keeping track of numbers was something i did, rather than give that role to a person playing which in hindsight was a mistake. Just as the roles in BoB has specific tasks someone should have been more aware of the fact their numbers were very low (a starting requirement of the game is being at 30% capacity when you start)

We got one mission completed and repositioned the ships for another day having succesfully accepted the new “recruits” to work on the ship. I have all new recruits come in as reservists who can then be trained in a specialisation during downtime.

Things went pretty smoothly all considered.

Session 2
Session two the team were extremely low on supply and didn’t really managed to handle that well (so would have ran out of supply next session if there had of been one). They opted to start a second mining operation with one ship, leaving one of the two ships they had mining last session to carry on. We also had a fleet level entanglement of demonic incursion aboard the vessel, spilling bugs and zombies for want of a better word (think blood flies from dishonoured) on the main vessel.

The group ran an assault mission (straight out of blades) on the zombies, whilst a few took on a smaller role in the mining operation on the new island)… Sadly for them the new mining operation rolled REALLY poorly and pretty much as doomed from the start. Creatures came out of every corner and wiped out most of their warrirors leading to a retreat and heavy losses.

The assault mission however went much better, although in true movie esk fashion out of the 13 that went in only the PC’s survived. This although rough, felt right given the nature of the style of game i wanted out of this hack; “how long can your fleet survive”

Sadly at this point at least one of the crew wasn’t enjoying play, didn’t like playing multiple characters and loudly exclaimed the game was “boring” [which stung a little given the time i’d put in] and thus the group decided not to play anymore. Back to blades

Final Notes
I’d love to find a group to do a few play sessions of this hack, with the promise of building up some more robust elements over time… Roles for senior staff, the idea of playing one main mission and a handful of secondary missions with no PC’s on it (ALA BoB) realising splitting up the PC’s is a nightmare to manage. Otherwise i fear this game will go gentle into that sweet void sea, sinking like a boat left behind. I might build some blades style sheets in a PDF should anyone want to have a go with their own crew and considered making a set of sheets for Roll20 but think i need a paid sub for that (which i don’t have at this time)

Anyways for now good hunting and happy sailing everyone, may your haul be bloody and the nobles be fat on the meat that grinds below!

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