This summer we’ve been playing Dusk City Outlaws (Scratchpad Publishing), run online by our friend Tim. This game had a very successful Kickstarter campaign back in early 2016, but I was not in a financial position to back it at any level. From the publisher’s description of the game premise:
Dusk City Outlaws is a tabletop roleplaying game for 3-6 players, set in the sprawling city of New Dunhaven. In this game, the players take on the roles of criminals on the wrong side of the law, collectively known as the Right Kind of People to those who run in outlaw circles. These criminals come together to form a crew, and take on a Job, a criminal enterprise brokered to them by a third party.
Each member of the crew is a member of one of the eight cartels that rule over the city’s criminal underworld. These cartels each have their own turf, their own specialties, their own motives, and their own methods, but they are all bound together by the Arrangement, an agreement that the cartels entered into to preserve themselves against too much infighting. In short, the cartels agree that they have enough enemies without warring with one another, and that they all want the same thing: to get rich. The cartels agree to respect each others’ turf, and while some bickering and fighting is allowed, large-scale conflict is forbidden, and revenge is frowned upon.
To maintain this peace, when someone from the cartels has a Job they want done, they call upon the crew, which has members from several cartels, to pull off the Job. Each cartel gets a cut of the take from that Job, and the crew gains some wealth, prestige, and influence, plus the promise of future Jobs from those brokers.
Once the Job has been assigned, the crew must come up with a plan, do the legwork to set it into motion, pull off the plan, and then survive long enough to get paid.
The creative team is sterling and the game evokes a lot of comparisons to Blades in the Dark (One Seven Design/Evil Hat Productions) which I will discuss once our current series is finished.
For now, I’m posting (and back-dating) the story of our adventures. It’s all a single job but we’ve been wallowing in the intrigue of our legwork scenes — another aspect I will discuss afterwards.
Episode 1: Character Creation and First Day Scene
We started by creating our cast:
- Pandora (played by Franck) is a grifter from the Vespers cartel.
- Violet (played by Edmund) is an assassin for hire, of the Wardens of the Night cartel.
- Emilia (played by me) is a basher, associated with the Mummers cartel.
Character creation is easy: you just pick a role and a cartel from the ready-made lists. But it did take us some time because this also included the rules overview and a conversation about our characters’ history. (Also, we play on Saturdays and everyone is ready for foolishness and chatting after a long work week.)
Our crew was briefed by a ranking member of the Circle, a cartel “composed of refugees from the collapse of the Vladov Empire, far across the sea, and the allies they have made since arriving in New Dunhaven.” [The inspiration is post-Russian Revolution, albeit in a fantasy setting.]
We need to steal the panels of the re-assembled Silver Chamber from Lady Malindra Van Der Greaves; she has obtained these long-thought destroyed relics from the capital of the collapsed Vladov Empire. The Silver Chamber had great significance to the the Church of the Silver Judge, the dominant religion in Dunhaven.
There are ten 4’x10’ silver panels, each needing two people to move; these used to cover the walls of the Silver Chamber and were believed lost at the time of the empire’s collapse. But they have recently reappeared in Dunhaven, somehow acquired by the wealthy and status-obsessed Lady Malindra. She collects precious cultural treasures from all over the world to display them in ostentatious but shallow exhibits for guests to admire.
Lady Malindra had the panels reassembled to recreate the Silver Chamber in her manor. She planned to hold a lavish unveiling party in one week, where guests would admire her other displays until she announced the new exhibit and opened access to the Silver Chamber.
The client offers bonuses for causing Lady Malindra maximum embarrassment by retrieving the panels during the party rather than ahead of it but before the guests could see the Silver Chamber; and for preserving the patina on the silver panels, witness to centuries of faith in the Silver Judge.
Day 1: Legwork Scene
Pandora speaks to Lady Florimel, a music teacher and match-maker who can introduce her to the Van Der Greaves family. She will be introduced to Malindra’s niece, young Charlotte when she comes for a piano lesson..
Violet goes to a Vladov contact, Pyotr Stolypin, to find out how the panels were brought into Dunhaven and to Lady Van Der Greaves’ manor. They meet at a park bench near a duck pond. He doesn’t know, but tells her to come back that evening when he’s had a chance to get a report he’s expecting. He expects they have arrived by sea but he’s trying to identify the shipping line.
Emilia investigates the schedule for the unveiling party, and particularly the plans for entertainment. She talks to Fabian Massimo, an aging impresario who often staffs Lady Malindra’s events. Fabian tells her that for a couple of hours, guests will tour rooms themed for various countries and eat hors d’oeuvre from that country’s cuisine. Then all guests will gather in the ballroom, Lady Malindra will give a speech, and reveal the Silver Chamber. The guests will then be taken to visit it in small groups.
The entertainment is mostly composed of a multitude of small groups hired to match room themes and act out brief pantomimes on a cycle. Fabian is frustrated with having to deal with so many small groups instead of one cohesive group, so Emilia convinces the impresario to hire her and her crew as managers.
From Fabian’s gossip, Emilia also learns that Malindra’s grandparents were really criminals who bought their title, and their name was simply Greaves.
To be continued…