Long time reader, first time caller. I’m four sessions in to GMing my first game of Blades, and my Whisper is having a crisis of purpose.
He’s frustrated that Attune is “all he’s good at” (which I know isn’t the point), but specifically feels that all he can do with it is summon ghosts and command them (he took Compel) - this is of course cool / dangerous, but he keeps fragging the other PC’s with ghost fear from his summonings.
He wants to do more stuff with Attune, and my attempts to get him to try other things with it have gone unheeded. The other players are frustrated, and now he’s defensive as a result, so it’s time for a 1-on-1 to work it out.
What other effects do you all permit your Whispers to generate with vanilla Attune during a Score? Offense, defense, whatever. What works at your tables?
Thanks in advance.
The way I think about Attune is that you’re tapping into the ghost field, which is a shadow dimension tied to our own, but it retains scars of what is now gone; also given the electroplasmic nature if ghosts, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to say its effects could be electric in nature. This is to say, it might help to think of attuning like using the force–the most visible effect is telekinesis, but it also guides people, allows them to sense each other, astrally project. What do you think your player could do with being keyed into an electric shadow dimension?
If you want something more specific, here’s some potential ideas:
- Channel electricity
- Explode bullets in the chamber
- Sense others even when obscured
- Locate people or items from across the city
- View echoes of the past
- Overload nearby lightbulbs
- Cause a local blackout
- Electrically charge nearby bits of metal
- Manipulate electroplasm from a distance
Don’t forget that ghosts aren’t only active in the city when your Whisper calls them. If you have a player who chose a Whisper playbook, that’s a sign that your game should bend to include more weird elements.
Try adding obstacles like an insane ghost appearing as a threat, or some vital clue can be found by analyzing a ghost echo, or the crew needing to fight off a hull whose armor plating is too tough for most of their weapons, or a dangerous escape where you remind the player that their character can try to open a Spirit door. These all create moments where the Whisper gets to shine. Now they can save their friends from the Ghost terror/other weird stuff that the world has thrown at them.
Having a Whisper is also a sign to the world that your crew can handle Weird jobs. Try offering them scores that showcase that part of the setting.
My advice is on page 170.
“Channel electroplasmic energy through your body,” is a use they might be overlooking.
I worry about the phrase “all he can do is summon ghosts and command them.” I mean… dude. If that doesn’t sound powerfully awesome to him, I think he took the wrong ability.
To reinforce and add on to what others have said:
You need to have Ghost NPCs be big players in the world, and in your encounters and Scores. In a world like this, every Faction of any size or worth is gonna have a Whisper and a presence in the Ghost-world. And they’re gonna have Ghosts either under their service or on their side (as well as against them). Some bigger than others. There could even be Ghost Factions that have flesh-and-blood Whispers to a have a presence in the material world. Why not? Intertwine the two worlds more. More opportunities will arise for your Whisper to have the spotlight.
Specific actions I’ve had players do (or attempt): view the past, scry/view the distant-present, view the possibilities of the future (we talked it over in group about how time isn’t really a thing or at least it’s different in the ghost world), manipulate “tech” powered by the ghost field (turn out lights, shut down motors, open “powered” locks), perform an exorcism, willingly be possessed, convince a ghost to possess someone else, temporarily empower a mundane weapon to effect ghosts, communicate long distances (a “sending”), attract a specific ghost, track/find specific mortals (if they have a sample of their hair or blood or personal belonging), create Illusions, the list just goes on and on.
We had a Cult campaign so we really dug into it. Now, these suggestions might not be right for every table/Crew, but as focused as we were on the Ghost field and the Weird, this was the kind of stuff that we all came to together. Which brings me to my final suggestion:
Talk about this with your group. Have them tell you things that should be possible too.
Also, they can go looking for scores that use those abilities more to their advantages. There are people who have ghostly security systems who feel pretty safe in Doskvol and a solid crew with a good Whisper is going to have a leg up on jobs taking those people’s stuff/turf.
You don’t have to make jobs that play to your crew. The crew can go looking for jobs that play to their strengths. The occult community is pretty small and rarified among the scoundrel community.
Thank you for the input, I’ll read through p. 170 again myself.
The problem is actually the opposite - he thinks summoning / controlling ghosts is the best thing ever, and wants to do it constantly. I tend to agree that that is pretty great, and if that’s his character then let’s do it. However, the other PC’s (and their players) are pissed that they keep getting hit with ghost fear from his summons, so now it’s a player v. player conflict I’m trying to defuse.
All in a day’s work - I love this game to death!
Agreed - the trouble is the rest of the Crew is avoiding anything supernatural like the plague right now, because they keep blowing Resistance rolls vs. ghost fear, so I need to find a way to work it in to whatever else they’re doing, probably. There really isn’t any escaping ghosts in the Dusk, after all.
I like these solutions, and I’ve suggested something similar, but because the Crew is still Tier 0 most of their downtime and Coin go to healing and staying alive. I think he may just need to be cool with the summoning until he can create such a solution, so as not to be a jerk to the other players.
Blowing resistance rolls vs fear…what does that mean?
They’re taking a bunch of stress?
Correct. Mostly bad luck, but IIRC all the PCs have at least one Trauma, some have two, and they’re only on their fourth Score as a Tier 0 Crew. Maybe 25% of the incidents of characters filling their Stress tracks were caused by the sudden appearance of a ghost summoned by the Whisper. So it’s partially a player conflict issue and partially an in-character problem.
It would kind of suck to do so now, but perhaps you need to reconsider the kinds of Consequences your Whisper is incurring for bothering ghosts so much? Make the Consequences stiffer could shift their interest in using the Action in other ways.
By our table’s reckoning, ghosts DO NOT like being unwillingly drawn into the Material world, to be forced to do a mortals bidding.
Doing so too regularly, or asking too much, can give you a bad reputation amongst the unliving, degrading Position on any check with them (until a clock is filled to make things right). Not to mention the possibility of them inflicting psychological Harm, or outright turning in the Whisper after their Compelled task is done, or trying to possess the Whisper or their Allies.
Hmmm… maybe they’re resisting when they don’t really need to? When the Whisper is doing something with a ghost, they can choose to freeze up – close their eyes, wait for it to go away – instead of resisting and taking stress.
If the Whisper is constantly summoning and using ghosts in the middle of the action, then yeah, that’s kind of a dick move and there are ways they can operate without constantly scaring their crewmates.
This mostly seems like a player problem rather than an issue with the character, but to answer the question; in our games most of the whisper characters’ utility comes from looking into the ghost field, which has become a sort of Assassin’s Creed “Eagle Vision” type power (Or in Batman games “detective mode”).
Being able to detect ghosts and demons with a high degree of accuracy is pretty useful, especially since electricity is powered by demon blood (so they can find circuits for the Lurk to tinker with), but not completely game-breaking, since things like walls and regular folk don’t have enough spiritual definition to be seen with any accuracy, so you can’t walk around with it turned on, or use it in a fight unless you want to walk into things like walls and people’s blades.
Narrative wise, as the GM I love it; we established early on that you can only see other whispers when they’re using their powers, so you get some great moments when the building they’ve been sneaking around suddenly lights up with ghost activity, and the whisper becomes aware that suddenly a multitude of other whispers/cultists/spirit-wardens are staring back at them.
That’s a good point - I reread pg. 14 again and that makes more sense now. Would the “consequence” then be that the PC freezes with fear for a period of time, rather than taking say, Level 1 Harm: Scared? I want ghosts to remain a force to be reckoned with, but I’m guess I’m still getting the hang of whether seeing a ghost should mean taking Harm or Resisting?
Read through all of these and everyone has good advice. Here are my few thoughts.
I usually end up playing a whisper hybrid character. I’ve played around 12-14 characters through the last few years since beginning to play this system because the ‘astral’ is a major part of the world. But I also usually never resist the consequences, unless they interfere too much or don’t fit the fiction of how my character would react. I enjoy playing with consequences too much.
Another thing to point out is if you have only had 4 sessions and some of the crew have traumas, could be a mixture of both harsh consequences and poor rolls. But playing into traumas earns more XP so most of the time at my tables, I see characters go for one within the first few sessions.
Armor and special armor: they might want their next advance to be one of these if they keep making similar decisions. Or have them take the Whisper ability ‘Iron Will’ which means they immune to the fear supernatural can cause upon sight. I will have to say that it is usually unspoken at our tables that when you compel an entity you can interact with it decently unless you rolled poor of which a slight fear or harm may be resisted due to that consequence of the dice roll.
Another tip for the GM, watch stress on all characters through the session. I purposefully look around sheets during gameplay as I can play into little things on their sheets such as a special item they described, a contact, trauma, Vice, etc. but it mainly helps me track stress and ‘spread’ the load so to speak for them. If someone seems to be getting all the rolls (or stress) I will ask another character what they are doing within the described scene.
All in all it can be as simple as everyone learning their character’s limits. Things are tough as a Tier 0 crew, but there are also some things that can be changed to enhance the experience. Hope this helps!
Freezing up and holding still while the ghost is nearby is sufficient. You don’t need to inflict harm unless the ghost is specifically targeting them.
Freezing up, being paralyzed, etc, is a great harm that I don’t use nearly enough. I typically go straight for psychological harm, but preventing a player from acting is a very good alternative.
Perfect, I think that addresses that part of my group’s issue in just the way I was looking for. Thanks!