I´ve run 2 short campaigns and 2 oneshots of blades in the dark.
My problem is that between the different groups there have been some players that participated in all of them. This results in Duskwall becoming stagnant if I keep using the same starting situation.
Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, I would just think up something new but my creativity is a bit stuck.
Does anybody have any interesting starting situations that I can use?
I´ve run 2 short campaigns and 2 oneshots of blades in the dark.
Here’s a formula: find something one faction really wants that another faction won’t give them and put the crew in the middle.
In my current game, the crew are Shadows specialising in espionage and stealing secrets. So I created a starting situation where one of their allies (the Gray Cloaks) want them to steal information (an occult book) from their other ally (the Wraiths).
The Gray Cloaks heard a rumour the Wraiths have an artefact that shows where the leviathans have gone, and they’re making arrangements to sell it to Strangford. Strangford needs this map to survive and will destroy the Wraiths to get it or, if absolutely necessary, pay them enough to Tier up.
Starting scene is the Gray Cloaks demanding, as a favour, the PCs confirm the rumour is true and steal this artefact if it is. The Gray Cloaks want Strangford’s downfall at all costs, including using the PCs friendship with the elusive Wraiths. If they refuse, their faction status will drop -1 or -2 with the Gray Cloaks depending how they do it. Plus the Gray Cloaks will go to war on the Wraiths to get it anyway, weakening both the PCs allies as they fight.
I tied in the PCs enemies closely, so weakened allies will let the PCs enemies get stronger. The Dimmer Sisters will have more opportunities to expand in Silk Shore and the spirit trade while the Wraiths go to ground. And Ulf Ironborn will bite into Six Towers and maybe tier up while the Gray Cloaks are distracted hunting the Wraiths.
Obviously, the Wraiths are highly paranoid and secretive, so when the PCs first meet they will accuse the PCs of working against them. Depending how the PCs handle this whole situation, this could also mean losing faction status with them.
As things progressed, I had Ulf firebombing the crew’s favourite contact, Dimmer Sisters tracking down the crew’s hideout with possessed locals, academic middlemen arranging contact between the Wraiths and buyers while experimenting on forgotten gods, Strangford tearing up the city hunting down the Wraiths, an alternate buyer for the artefact that would pay the Wraiths and weaken Strangford, etc.
Blades is beautifully easy for this. You use the Faction chart and the initial gang-turf setup situation, add 1 clock per active relevant faction, and then spend an hour brainstorming. Like this:
The new Crew are Smugglers. They decide that they do most of their work by water, so they make an initial deal with the Gondoliers, and pay them 1 Coin. (Gondoliers +1) Now because they’re seen working pleasantly with the Gondoliers, the Spirit Wardens don’t like them (-2), or maybe if the players don’t like the sound of that one, the Spirit Wardens and the Red Sashes find them annoying (-1 each).
One of the PCs is a Slide with friends at the Iruvian Consulate.
Okay, so what’s the initial situation? The Gondoliers like them, the Spirit Wardens and Red Sashes don’t, and the Iruvian Consulate likes one of them. Okay, so the Iruvian Consulate wants them to do something, and they figure it’s a good idea if the Gondoliers are positive about it too. Since the players were nervous about the Spirit Wardens hating them, the Red Sashes don’t like this job. Why?
Red Sashes started as a school of Iruvian martial arts, right? Okay, so maybe the Consulate thinks the Red Sashes are dangerous to the Iruvian government, fomenting rebellion from afar, etc. So the Consulate wants the gang to move a bunch of historic military equipment for an official martial display before the Lord Governor. The Red Sashes want to steal this to make the Consulate look bad and to get their hands on the equipment. The equipment includes (not that anyone has bothered to tell the PCs this) a sword that once belonged to a major Iruvian folk hero of a couple generations back – which of course has a kind of arcane connection to that folk hero, embedded in the blade.
So the PCs are smuggling arcane weapons on behalf of a foreign power using the help of the Gondoliers who don’t know that this is what they’re doing (neither do the PCs). The Red Sashes want to stop them and take the stuff to use against the Iruvian government, overtly or otherwise. The Spirit Wardens are sniffing around for weird occult connections and lo and behold there are some.
Welcome to the starting situation. Whatever the PCs do, all those factions are going to create and/or tick Clocks.
The big trick is to make sure that you have 3 principal factions in play, and create Clocks as needed to account for their desires.
The next step is to create the NPCs who the PCs deal with, directly or indirectly: the Red Sashes operative who wants to move up the ladder and thinks this score is her ticket; the Gondolier who’s secretly sleeping with a Spirit Warden; etc. Add Clocks for all these people, making sure those Clocks have nothing directly to do with the PCs but do sort of “bear on” the relevant issues, and DO NOT start ticking those Clocks until after the first episode when those NPCs get introduced.
Within 2 sessions you’ll have 15 balls in the air and the PCs will be behind the 8-ball (to mix metaphors).
Thank you for both replies, I actually think that I did most of what you suggested but stupid as i was i kept tying it into the ongoing war in crows foot, which was never resolved and kept the city from evolving. It really helped to have somebody remind me of how to start the game.
I hear you. I started my current campaign with 2 strong plotlines I was sure would drive the thing. So far the PCs have steered WAAAY far from either of them. Fortunately the whole Faction thing is so convenient that it didn’t take long for whatever they did to prompt interesting things. At last count the Docks are under martial law because the Bluecoats are trying to look useful when they know the collar for the Charterhall Outrage is going to the Inspectors… exactly none of which has anything to do with any of the stuff I was setting up at the start. Still, it seems to work!