The concept for our current crew is that they were cellmates in Ironhook and became tight-knit during their time there. They were all released within a few months of each other and decided to go into business together, as it were…
Shamble Lane Abbots
The former workers of a shuttered abattoir. They were slaughtering for shit wages, might as well stick to the same field and get paid.
First Job: There’s a pit fighter who won when they should have lost. What’s more, the results already went to press. Make sure no one does this again.
How do they make coin? Enforcing for the Ink Rakes
Cutter - Old-timer, has slit dozens of throats a day for decades
Hound - Rat-catcher with a trained weasel
Leech - Mechanic who’s skilled with the cattle bolt
Lurk - That person who’s just always there, and way too into the job
Slide - Saved months of pay for goods suits and fancy meals
Spider - Ink Rake liaison and intern
Whisper - Haruspex
When is Netflix gonna pick this up?
When I ran the game at TotalCon last February, the players came up with a crew of Shadows that were all ex-Imperial military, specifically they were a Special Forces style group of saboteurs called the North Hook Sappers. Baked into this concept was a certain amount of racism against Skovlanders, and this informed their faction choices (they weren’t fans of the Refugees or Ulf Ironborn).
The Ashy Hand / The Ashen Hand
Coalridge publicans, muscle-for-hire, and wannabe political activists. The pub is “The Ashen Hand,” and the completely separate (wink wink) criminal organization is “The Ashy Hand.”
How do they make coin? Extortion rackets, smash-and-grab jobs, and the occasional political fundraiser for Coalridge workers’ unions. (Certainly not from business at their crappy pub.)
First Job: Deal with (meaning “kill,” scare off," or otherwise “get rid of”) some Grinders who want to forcibly “invest” in the pub.
Cutter - Ex-boxer who frequented the pub so often they’re now part-owner
Hound - Charterhall University slacker slumming it in Coalridge
Leech - Disgraced surgeon and degenerate gambler who ran to the Hand for protection against debtors
Lurk - Out-of-work rat-catcher looking for other “vermin” to hunt
Slide - Disowned royal who wants to use the Hand to further their political career
Spider - Bartender that excels at manipulating desperate patrons for their own ends
Whisper - Squatter who’s been living in the basement for as long as anyone can remember
The Small Council of the True Heir
Fools believe that the Emperor is immortal and has ruled for a thousand years. We know better - we know that “Immortal Emperor” is a title passed from parent to child in a single bloodline reaching back to the cataclysm. But the current Immortal Emperor is a heretical usurper, and for the good of the Imperium he must be deposed in favour of the True Heir.
First Job: Ever since the usurper took the throne, the True Heir has been imprisoned in the ghost field, locked in an iron spirit mask that inhibits their terrible powers. A ghost key that gives access to the shadow-oubliette is kept within the Lord Governor’s stronghold on Whitecrown. Acquire it.
How do they make coin? The small council has connections amongst some of the oldest nobility of Akoros, and these people can be leveraged for coin; as patrons, clients, or targets for blackmail.
- Cutter - The Emperor’s Guard
- Hound - The Master of War
- Leech - The High Alchemist
- Lurk - The Master of Spies
- Slide - The Master of Coin
- Spider - The Chancellor
- Whisper - The High Priest
Joness Hall of Local Archaeology
Charterhall University is the great hope of Duskwall for the free and open transmission of knowledge to a populace mired in ignorance. Or at least, those ponces at Doskvol Academy keep all their research to themselves and it shouldn’t be tolerated. Either for selflessness or greed, you work to discover and secure lost artifacts before they can.
First Job: The Spirit Wardens discovered an artifact while patrolling the catacombs beneath Six Towers. The Academy is involved in the excavation. It belongs in your museum.
How Do They Make Coin? Funding from a ruthless administration that demands a return on investment.
Cutter - Two-fisted professor of history; plunderer extraordinaire.
Hound - Member of an ancient order of protectors with deep Duskwall heritage.
Leech - Professor of Alchemy with a knack for drugs and poisons.
Lurk - Blue-collar groundskeeper fascinated by Duskwall history.
Slide - Department administrator/funding liaison and child of a struggling noble house.
Spider - Librarian assistant with emphasis on lost artifacts.
Whisper - Occult professor; secret double agent within the Spirit Wardens.
I love these as seeds for an AP game. Even if you say “these character concepts are only inspirational; feel free to come up with your own” it still does so much to establish a theme you can explore for a full campaign.
Riffing on Eli’s theme above…
Morlan Hall of Unnatural Philosophy is an old and storied college within Charterhall University. However, times are tough and the competition for funding and students within the university is absolutely cut-throat. You are the senior staff of Morlan Hall - it is your task to restore this ancient college to its former glory.
How do they make coin? From grants, philanthropic donations, and student fees. Gain patrons amongst the wealthy, promote your academic prowess widely, and attract more students.
First Job: You have word that a rival college is about to publish research that could make leviathan oil production vastly more efficient and profitable - and would make that college famous throughout the Imperium. Make the research disappear.
- Cutter - Groundskeeper
- Hound - Professor of Zoology
- Leech - Professor of Unnatural Sciences
- Lurk - Head Librarian
- Slide - Professor of Fine Arts
- Spider - Professor of Law
- Whisper - Professor of Arcane Philosophy
The Farmer’s Cooperative
“Nothing’s free and everyone has to eat.” The Farmer’s Cooperative is an agricultural business that uses extortion and sabotage to beat out their competitors. Every calorie consumed on Coalsdottir Avenue passes through the Cooperative’s hands, and they have plans to expand their business into the rest of the city.
How do they make coin? Grasshopper meal fed with fish offal is sold to the masses as Fargus Protein Meal. For customers with a little more coin, the Coop has fish sauce and “mixed renders”, a salty oil rendered from a variety of animals (best to not ask which ones). Competitors are treated to sabotage and violence.
First Job: Rumor has it that the Gondoliers feed themselves from secret lamprey pools hidden somewhere deep within the canals. Time to diversify your holdings.
- Cutter - Bagman, fee collector, responsible for running off other soup carts.
- Hound - A master of animal procurement for the Protein Dispensaries.
- Leech - Head chef and health inspector.
- Lurk - Chief of anti-competitive operations and sabotage.
- Slide - Spokesman and head of marketing.
- Spider - Human Resources
- Whisper - Keeper of the Secret Ingredients
The Spirit Wardens may ultimately be responsible for the disposal of all corpses in the City of Doskvol, but they have neither the numbers nor the time to personally oversee the transportation of every corpse to Bellwether Crematorium. Instead, the Wardens subcontract the transportation of the dead to small licensed businesses called “funeral carriages”. Civilians give these black carriages wide berth which makes the businesses a perfect front for smugglers, provided the Spirit Wardens don’t find out…
How do they make coin? By filling their coffins with contraband! Whether it’s 9 stone of quicksilver, the corpse of a rival, or newly forged military firearms, the Vultures are ready to take it to your chosen destination.
First Job: While your Funerary Carriage has the right look, your corpse disposal license is an obvious forgery. It’s time to capture a legitimate license from another business, through bribery, violence or heist.
Cutter - Footman. Always ready to jump off the back of the carriage to intimidate anyone who tries to stop your cart.
Hound - Rides shotgun with the Driver.
Leech - Wainwright. Maintains your carriages and fashions them with hidden compartments.
Lurk - Driver.
Slide - Funeral Chaplain. Always ready with a prayer and a distraction when times get tough.
Spider - Funeral Director. Arranges deliveries, keeps the licenses in order.
Whisper - Mortician. Keeps the corpses quiet and the Spirit Wardens ignorant.
The Night Parade
They say that anything can be found in Nightmarket, but who cares if you don’t know where to look?
At the end of every market day in Diamond Square, a small troupe of musicians, dancers, actors, mimes and stage magicians come together and perform an impromptu show that ends with a parade out of the square and into the back alleys of Nightmarket. Civilians are encouraged to participate, and once in the parade are subtly asked about their “desires”. As the parade tours the streets of Nightmarket, the entertainers point their customers to the drug-dens, brothels, and illicit manufacturers that they need in exchange for a cut of the action from the shops they recommend. The Parade serves as camouflage against the Bluecoats and allows for business to be conducted out in the open.
How do they make coin? By connecting people with needs with people with means and taking a cut of the action.
First Job: A small coalition of businesses are no longer paying your fees for “customer introductions”. Show them why the Parade is to be feared.
Cutter- Strongman. Flamboyant performers and intimidating security professionals.
Hound- Marksman. Good for a stunt to keep the attention of the crowd while less reputable businessmen get the real work done. Security in a pinch.
Leech- Concessions. Whether innocent or illicit, the concessions stands will hook you up.
Lurk- Juggler. These masters of sleight-of-hand make certain that money and product are handled with subtlety and care.
Slide- Clown. These people may look like fools, but the Clowns are the literal faces of the carnival and masters of misdirection.
Spider-Ringmaster. Keeps the performers happy and the acts in tip-top shape. Sets the agenda for performances.
Whisper-“Stage” Magician. So convincing you’d swear they were performing “real” magic.
With all the violence on the streets of Doskvol, there is always demand for tools to wage war more efficiently. As a group of Imperial soldiers learned, there is always someone willing to buy what the military gave them for free. It started with some ammo cartridges that were written off as defective, but now is a sizeable operation supplying most of the gangs in the City with weapons – ran by a bunch of officers.
How do they make coin? By directing “missing” and “defective” weapons straight into the black market.
First Job: The Lampblacks need some extra firepower to gain the upper hand over the Red Sashes. But their rival gang isn’t the only problem that prevents the Quartermasters from making a lucrative deal. Lyssa, the leader of the Crows, doesn’t want either of the sides of conflict to overwhelm the other, forbidding the crew from interfering. But can she stop an experienced group of smugglers in cahoots with the Army?
Cutter: A former member of the Military Police, dishonorably discharged for being dirty.
Hound: They used to protect supply trains during the Unity War. Now they guard supply runs into the City they used to fight for.
Leech: A bomb expert, who can craft convincing duds resembling real ammunition and ordnance.
Lurk: A decorated war hero, who sneaked through enemy trenches to blow up an artillery nest. But you can’t eat medals and their soldier’s pay remained pitiful, so they found an another source of income.
Slide: A slimy corporal, who used to supply half of their unit with contraband. Demoted and court-martialed several times, it’s a mystery how they’re still in the Army (for those who read The Heroes, this is pretty much Corporal Tunny).
Spider: A freshly retired captain, beloved by their subordinates and respected by superiors. They’re considered an exemplar of a dutiful officer.
Whisper: They used to dispose of the spirits of departed friendlies and enemies alike. At least for the record. A ghost can fetch a nice price on the black market, after all.
[quote=“Gantolandon, post:20, topic:530”]
With all the violence on the streets of Doskvol, there is always demand for tools to wage war more efficiently. As a group of Imperial soldiers learned…[/quote]
Nice! Inspired by the Peaky Blinders we had a former military unit as a crew in our Wobegong Crew game and it was really fun.
You wouldn’t know it from their fancy reputations, but most Iruvians (like most people everywhere in the Shattered Isles) are peasants. The lowly masses rarely travel out of their native Iruvian cities, let alone to distant Duskwall. But those who do make it this far from home find it very easy to pass themselves off as exotic high-born nobles.
How do they make coin? Selling low-quality drugs and cheap junk to gullible locals after packaging it as authentic Iruvian finery.
First job: Plant a set of forged pedigrees among the records at the Iruvian Consulate.
Cutter: Expelled from a martial arts school, nonetheless pretending to be a master sword artist.
Hound: Your pet falcon escaped from a royal rookery. You, also homeless, found and befriended it.
Leech: Formerly a humble tinsmith, now a manufacturer of purported Iruvian valuables.
Lurk: In Iruvia, household servants are trained to be as silent as possible. This skill has many applications.
Slide: Claims to be a visiting noble, despite a history as a mere streetwalker.
Spider: The locals believe Iruvia is ruled by demons. How simple it is, then, to pass yourself off as some kind of infernal overlord.
Whisper: Turns out Iruvia is ruled by demons. You were sacrificed to one. You survived and escaped, forever changed by the experience.
My only problem with this amazing crew is that I’d have trouble as the GM sticking it to them because I’d be rooting for them so much and it plays into some conservative narratives about immigrants. Not that there shouldn’t be Iruvian crews…but…ya know?
An adjunct to a forgotten unit in the lowest branch of the most overlooked department of the Ministry of Preservation. You have a dingy subterranean office (mouldy wallpaper, an old desk, a small potbellied stove) in the sewerage tunnels of Doskvol. For a small stipend, it’s your job to go out and catch pests in the tunnels, canals, and subterranean warrens beneath the city. Rats are the least of your worries.
How do they make coin? The Ministry’s monthly stipend is a pittance, it doesn’t even cover the cost to keep the office’s single electroplasmic lightbulb on. But there’s all sorts of buried treasure and opportunities for coin down there, in the dark - and plenty of buyers for some of the rarer and more dangerous creatures you’ll encounter.
First job: Guests have been going missing when they use the bathroom in the Golden Plum. The owners think it’s something down the lavatory - time to suit up and head down there.
Cutter: Ratpuncher. All kinds of muscle gets left for dead in the sewers and the canals. Sometimes the Ratcatchers pull one in still-breathing, nurse them back to life and give them a job. At least it beats being dead.
Hound: Ratsniffer. Those caught poaching on Whitecrown Island are given a choice - five years with the Ratcatchers, or ten years in Ironhook. Unfortunately for you, you chose the Ratcatchers.
Leech: You’re the weirdest one in the whole squad - you volunteered for this, not out of desperation but for easy access to new lab-rats, figurative and literal.
Lurk: A sewer-urchin, born and raised down here. Without you these topsiders would get lost within hours.
Slide: The Pied Piper. It’s not all wrestling beasts and netting horrors - the city’s best-kept secrets wash up down here, and you’ve got just the angle to make the most of them. The best confidence artists feel at home when they’re up to their waist in shit.
Spider: Head of Department. There’s a game of thrones up top where nobles and politicians vie for influence, favour, and power. You used to be within reach of the golden ring, but you made a wrong move and got busted way, way down - filing paperwork for a Ratcatcher squad in the darkness below Doskvol. The good news is, the only direction to go from here is up.
Whisper: Ratspeaker. Sometimes Gondolier initiates don’t work out, for one reason or another - but there are darker, smellier waterways where such rejects can put their skills to use.
Ratcatchers, I love these rejects. The idea of the lowest arm of the Ministry of Preservation becoming a gang is amazing.
Order of the Shield
The real Order of the Shield is a groups of knights that supposedly existed in Doskvol around the time the Cataclysm has struck. They helped to evacuate the outskirts of the city, fought ghosts and looters, maintained order among the refugees. Unable to maintain their numbers, they disbanded. The only proof they ever existed is a memorial plaque on one of the houses in Charterhall.
This changed recently, after a rich nobleman tried to recreate the order to combat crime in the city. He grew bored with playing a vigilante pretty soon, but he had managed to bring enough people that the organization could continue to function in his absence. Minor nobles far enough in the succession order to be virtually penniless, bastards and disinherited, ordinary citizens with delusions of grandeur – they saw a chance to get some recognition and maybe money too. Most of them left after the founder stopped paying, but some were more tenacious.
Type: Bravos (or Vigilantes)
How do they make coin? After their funds dried up, the Order started to operate more like a common gang with each passing day. They take a voluntary tax from the shopkeepers in the territory they protect and are very upset when someone calls this a protection racket. The illicit goods they confiscate used to be delivered to the Bluecoats, now they keep everything except the most dangerous and illegal stuff.
First job: The war in the Crow’s Foot is a blessing in disguise. The Lampblacks and the Red Sashes are vulnerable and, after Roric’s death, the Crows do nothing to stop them from slaughtering each other. Rumor has it that both gangs will battle in a few days… a perfect occasion to either wait in hiding and defeat the victors, taking the credit for eliminating both groups, or go after their assets when they are slaughtering each other.
Cutter: As a fencing instructor for rich fops, they earned some money but very little respect. They joined the Order and discovered they like to be feared. The earnings may be worse, but seeing the face thugs make when they realize they had bitten more than they can chew is a reward in itself.
Hound: A former minder. Their master’s son liked partying a bit too much; they frequently had to find the spoiled brat in a drug den of their choosing and drag him back to his father. After their employer died, they lost their job and decided to use their talents elsewhere. Secretly they hope to once again find their quarry doped just to slit the ungrateful bastard’s throat.
Leech: Used to study medicine, pressured by their parents. They dropped out to join the Order, convinced they have found their true calling. Now it no longer looks like a good idea, but the alternative is facing their parents and admitting their mistake.
Lurk: A nobleman’s bastard, who was mercifully allowed to live with their blood family. Tormented by their blood brothers and disliked by the nobleman’s wife, they learned to be unseen very quickly. The Order is their chance to become independent; the alternative is living with their family forever.
Slide: A child of a butler and a cook who pretends to be an impoverished Skovlan nobleman even to their crew. Being a part of the Order gives them enough legitimacy to pass, at least unless they flaunt their “birthright” too much.
Spider: Joining the Order, when it could still pose as a respectable organization, was their way to avoid being sent to the front. With their patron and funds gone, they assumed leadership. They see the Order becoming just another criminal gang and they don’t mind: you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, after all.
Whisper: A researcher of the Order’s history and perhaps the last person who believes they still are a force of good. Their problems are a temporary setback; as soon as the city realizes their usefulness, the recruits and funds will start coming again.
The Rascals of Ruby Street
A small band of second and third children of lesser noble families. Swashbucklers and bravos, mucking it with the lower classes looking for excitement and adventure. They follow a fairly arbitrary “code of honour”, which changes with the whims of their leadership. They keep their HQ in an abandoned mansion in Six Towers (the property still belonging to a family member of one of the core members of the crew), though as the name suggests the members grew up in Brightstone.
How do they make coin? Extortion
First Job: “Convince” a few local merchants to pay them money to “keep the ruffians away.”
- Cutter - Duelist or disgraced ex-officer-in-training
- Hound - Grew up hunting for sport
- Leech - Educated as a physiker at the University. Or child of a wealthy industrialist
- Lurk - Her mother forced her to become a dancer, a ballerina. She has found other uses for her acrobatic skills
- Slide - A charming young man, or alluring young woman, of obviously excellent breeding. Learned from early days that they could get whatever they wanted if they just played their cards right.
- Spider - Though their family isn’t the richest or most powerful, their mother taught them the fine art of dealing in backroom connections and favours.
- Whisper - Child of cultist parents (they’re not high in the ranks of their cult, but the Whisper is nominally a member, too. Whether they actively believe in the cult…)
Favourite Contact Morlan Vale, a lieutenant of the Bluecoats and nephew to Captain Vale, the Quartermaster. +2 Relations with the Bluecoats, -2 Relations with Greycloaks (or possibly Inspectors?)
Special: They all grew up on the streets of Brightstone. They are especially friendly with a number of the Bluecoats in the district, and do not suffer the -1d engagement roll penalty due to heavy Bluecoat patrols, as long as their target is not a noble or someone of particular power or influence. However, they stand out like a sore thumb in the poorer districts, which might invite trouble…