The Contraband: Six Shakespeare Actors Play Blades | Streaming Show Announcement

greetings blades, bladettes, and bladelikes! we’re starting a ten-week run of our blades game THE CONTRABAND with Ghostlight RPGs this Friday at 8pm ET, and would absolutely love to see folks from the community there! The Ghostlight link will take you to their twitch!

check out our video intro here, featuring @timdenee’s fantastic Doskvol maps:

As it says on the tin, we’re running a game with a bunch of my Shakespeare actor friends, which allows us to delve uniquely into the diction and grime of the world – it’s been hilarious and moving and deep so far. We’re also hoping to release the episodes on VOD on Youtube and as podcasts.

Another unique thing is that I’ve been writing an original score for the game… I posted some of it on a previous post but am developing more and getting some live cello for some of the tracks.

The crew are smugglers, and they expressed a lot of interest in politics so I homebrewed a huge rework of Doskvol’s politics :bank:, with a royal family called the House of Sapphires :crown: and a hybrid House of Lords/House of Common’s called the King’s Assembly (or, colloquially, the Aviary :bird:). The crew is good friends with a group of anarchists called the People’s Explosive Party :boom: (or Shortfusers), and with a secretive middle-class organization called the Friends of Fa’er Nesse :church: trying to bring wanted political thinkers into the City. Also the crew is developing a smuggling organization bringing quicksilver from a Railjack :train: lab to an acting troupe called the Velvet Patchworks :crazy_face: who also moonlight as distributors.

It’s been a delight so far and we’re stoked to begin streaming. Say hi in the chat if you stop by!


I’ll be there! Uh, I’m curious though: this post says 8pm, and the youtube video description says 7pm. Which is it?

Looking forward to seeing you there!

And oh dag, thou art keen-eyed! It is 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central. Ghostlight is run out of KC so we often get mixed up. Thank you for following up!

Very nice, sounds great. Looking forward to it!

Hey all! We had a wild first night — a switch between Streamlabs OBS user accounts led to a nuclear level event of destruction to our overlay, which meant we were delayed by an hour. But we will be on time for this Friday’s show.

Meanwhile here’s the YouTube link of session 1 for any interested :slight_smile:


Missed the livestream but watched the recording on YouTube and loved it. Will definitely be tuning in for more!

Our second week really hit its stride (in my opinion)! We had a downtime full of hilarious improvised scenes, blackmailed a corrupt cop, and started a score stealing some bewitched paintings from a cult in Tangletown. Our Slide was reached out to by some horrible god/spirit of the Tides! How fun!


I noticed y’all don’t use position/effect too much, if at all. Is that a conscious decision to streamline the action or is there another reason?

Yeah good eye! There are a few reasons.

  1. Most of the rolls in these first two sessions have been risky – until the end of session 2 they haven’t encountered much that’s desperate or high effect.

  2. I often don’t declare position and effect. The book suggests assuming ‘risky’ and ‘standard’, so I often leave it at that unless there’s a major discrepancy. Controlled rolls seem easy to me to identify since it’s usually when scores are quieter.

  3. I very often forget to designate desperate rolls. We do discuss them more in-depth post session and will sometimes pass out XP afterwards (which I know is not exactly rulebook). I am trying to make sure that high-octane sequences don’t feel too bogged down by too much adjudication. But I want to use ‘desperate position’ a bit more.

We definitely discuss it – I just often get caught up in the fiction and don’t want to slow it down. I want to make sure to be more clear in the future so that I give players the chance to trade position for effect, though. Anything you’ve found helpful in-game?

Assuming things are risky standard is a great go-to move. Even just saying so lets everyone be on the same page, on the off chance they want to push for greater effect, or are using a fine item that may boost their effect.

I also tend to have the active player’s character sheet in front of me, that helps me remember harm penalties as well as items or clocks I can use as Devil’s Bargains or complications.

One thing I’ve noticed is that players often don’t mind their position so long as they are getting standard effect. The moment I say something is limited or zero effect, they’ll want to swap position/effect, push, etc. to make sure they can get what they want all in one roll.

I’ve also highlighted moments where I think a different action might augment their position and effect. Players tend to get pretty comfortable using 2 or 3 actions for their character and tend to shy away from 0 or 1 point actions. But if I say something like “Hmm, y’know this person has spent their life around actors, Sway will only get you limited effect. If you wanna back up and try consort and be genuine with them, that will be standard.”

I find the whole conversation aspect around position and effect really helps democratize the story telling and put less pressure on the GM. The players say what happens when they succeed, the GM says what happens when there’s a consequence, and both get to communicate what they want the stakes to be. I think that’s where the system shines.

But I’ve also never tried streaming this game, or run it with 5 players so… hope this is helpful!

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These are all great thoughts! It’s definitely a new challenge to manage 5 players – we added a 5th player going from playing on our own to streaming and it’s certainly somewhat overwhelming, though I love the character dynamic. And I would hope to establish a language with the players where I don’t always have to explicitly state position and effect – though I think I need to push more into being clear about it before I can reach that level of subtlety. The crew will likely face some tough foes on Friday; that’ll force me to be a bit explicit.

This kind of nuance is certainly one of the things I’m hoping to improve as we play more. :slight_smile: I do love the game’s nods towards a more democratic system. I’ll definitely take some of these suggestions into account! Thanks, Michael!

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You’re welcome. Please reach out here if you have any other questions, concerns, etc. We’re a very helpful community :slight_smile:

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Have fun!

For what its worth, I had a hashtag on twitter, #wilhelmshagspyr, about what Shakespeare plays would look like in the haunted world of Doskvol.

Oooh I love it! Particularly enamoured of your take on King Lyr. I kind of want to make a gang with that relationship as a premise. Imagine Goneril and Regan as bloodthirsty lieutenants and Cordelia as the one who wants to make the family business legitimate :smile:

As the only person who thought Sons of Anarchy was weaker when it got away from its Hamlet roots - I dig this idea!

Loving the show, all the characters are fleshed out really well - that dream sequence in episode 6 was intense!

Our second season starts tonight!

Winter has fallen on Doskvol. Lyssa, leader of the Crows, is locked up in Ironhook Prison, and Ruthus Enjim, chairman of the Ministry of Preservation, has left the city after a gang of smugglers uncovered ghostfield experimentation in a deathlands research facility.

Now, a lucrative partnership with a wealthy, well-equipped criminal organization called Collective is bringing coin hand over fist to our smuggler crew—but their new friends harbor a sickening secret.

Here’s our new intro!

Our second season, which pitted our crew of smugglers against a high-class new-money human trafficking organization called the Collective, finished last night. We’re essentially leaning into the system’s ability to serve long-form improv, and particularly enjoyed pushing the crew into lots of inter-character conflict. I also think our foray into the Lost District in Episode 6 could certainly be of interest to folks looking for weird demon ideas.