Need some help with a specific set-up

Hi. Long-time lurker looking to start running a campaign soon. I think I need some advice.
I turn to you all because I thought I was doing okay but kept hitting walls and am probably over-complicating these things. Please bear with me while I explain what I think I want to do, and feel free to offer any alternative suggestions! Any and all input from this community is greatly appreciated.

So, I’m kind of looking at the Tangletown Hustle situation to start, from Underground Maps & Passkeys. But I’m also branching off from the basic idea presented there and feeling kind of stuck. Here’s what I’m thinking. Mardin Gull used to run The Crows with his best buddy & right hand man - Strauss, who was Roric’s father. Something came between the two men and Mardin Gull was cast out from the gang he built, but allowed to keep The Leaky Bucket pub, right in the shadow of the Crow’s Nest tower. Poetic stuff, sure, but I’m hitting walls now. I don’t know if what I’ve got is crimey enough!

What are the man’s regrets? Does it involve a love triangle between himself, his partner, and the woman who would become Roric’s mother? Is the ‘Mardin was the real father’ twist too predictable? Is that whole thing too mushy for a bunch of dudes who normally play Starfinder and will most likely just want to fight people and destroy things?

So I’m kind of back to the drawing board I guess.
If you’re still with me, here’s where I’m at now.
This whole set-up situation is actually a giant flashback that took place one year ago. Mardin has several regrets, and he poured his heart out to strangers drinking in his pub last year on Doskvorn. The PCs are those strangers, and they’ve met up tonight on the one year anniversary of that fateful day when Mardin gave them his list of regrets. He asked for a few favors and told the PCs he’d reward them with the deed to The Leaky Bucket pub and the caverns beneath as a lair, including the vault as a bonus.

This is my sneaky way of trying to hook my player group on the fundamentals of Blades mechanics without giving them the ultimate tabula rasa of “what do you guys want to do in this world?” If I were a player I’d be into that but they’re all very used to published adventure paths and spoonfed situations. Which can also be fun and challenging, I’m not disparaging anybody. Basically I think I want to do what it says on pg. 202 and forgo crew creation. I like the idea of playing to find out what kind of crew this is, but I have a hard time envisioning what that would entail on my end. If anyone who has done it this way wants to chime in, I’d be very grateful.

I kind of want to do like a mini-campaign where, over the course of a few different types of scores, the players can cross off Mardin Gull’s list of regrets and the wrongs he wants set right. To that end we come back to the beginning, full circle, it’s been a year and they’re now a full-fledged crew, there to collect their Lair and start doing proper scores. Is this feasible? Is it over the top? Am I nuts? I need help with the list of regrets part for sure, with generating scores… I think need help in general!

You know your players, I guess and no approach is really wrong, but for me I would sit them down and start them off with “who are you and what do you want” instead of giving them this npc spiel they have no reason to care about.

  • Start with crew
  • Then go on to character
  • Establish who their rivals are in the fiction (from the crew building process)
  • Establish who their friends and enemies are (from the chargen process)
  • And that will give you an idea of what your Doskvol looks like

Now if you still want to play through this Gull stuff, you probably ought to tie one of the players to him.
Also, I would flip things a bit. The man had his criminal empire stolen from under him in your version of events.
He doesn’t have a list of wrongs to be righted, he has a list of rights to be wronged.

“And if you help me get my rightful place back and return here to the seat of our agreement in one years time, having completed my list, well, then I’ll reward you all handsomely and tell you the secret I’ve been holding against this day. A secret that could make kings of you.”

And that gives your group the chance to set up a double cross too :slight_smile:

That’s really smart. I knew I was overthinking it! He should totally want revenge. I guess ultimately it is a conversation up front. If they want to test the waters and not commit to a certain crew type up front then we could just jump into a situation like that. Otherwise I suppose I should just run the session zero stuff Rules As Written and let opportunities crop up more organically. That way they aren’t beholden to Crow’s Foot up front.

I think ultimately what I’m wrestling with is the whole Be Prepared To Improvise thing. I don’t want to fall flat or come up empty handed. I know I need to have some material fleshed out and ready to go, lazy GM style. I reckon I can get there by going through the factions and generating possible starting situations by district, and maybe looking through the contact lists on each core playbook for score opportunities there too.

You’re totally right, I think I was just hyper-focused on the idea of saving crew creation for later. And I do know these players, for better or worse they’re extremely dependent on a lot of light rail-roading in our Starfinder game. I’m hoping to put them slightly out of that comfort zone for a somewhat short campaign that ideally would wrap up in maybe ten sessions. So I guess I feel like it’s a special case, but even then maybe it’s the right move to just shove everyone into the deep end, and jump in feet first myself!

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I think you can have the best of both worlds here.

Pitch the first few sessions as a try-out, for you to get used to the way the game works and for them to soak into the setting.

Maybe even give them pregens and drop them into the middle of a score.

BTW, you can totally prep for Blades. Paradoxically, when I’ve run Blades and Blades adjacent games, I’ve done more material prep than I have done for most of my other games. It’s just the type of prep work is different - and most of it went away when I got a better idea of the shape of the game.

I prep cool ideas for situations, I prep entry and exit points, I prep npc motivations

Just don’t be so tied down by your prep work that you let it shape things.

So if you drop them into a score in media res, you can have prepped some situations that highlight the system:

  • They’re at a masquerade ball at the Iruvian Embassy and they need to identify and tag a guy wearing the Fox mask (how did they get in, are they disguised as guests or servants?)
  • They need to get to take a silver key off the Fox, how do they do that without being seen?
  • They need to get to the fifth floor, which is out of bounds to party guests, how do they sneak past the guards?
  • They use the key to open a sorcerously locked and trapped chest containing (what?) how do they defeat or bypass the weird room guards?
  • How do they escape?

So you can put down a “your disguises are useless” clock, “you’ve been spotted by security” clock, “the smoke demons shut down the fifth floor” clock, and have them do things like flashback to the week before the party when they broke in and stashed gear in unlikely places. Or flashback to seeking help from the Dimmer Sisters in exchange for capturing one of the smoke monsters (or whatever).

Anyway, I am probably rambling now, I am sure you’ve got this!

Thinking deeply about the relationships between different characters and factions IS great, but you need to tie it to the characters otherwise they have no buy in, and watching the GM roleplay 2 sides of a conversation you’re not involved in is never much fun.

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