Dusk City Outlaws – Part 5

Continuing with our Dusk City Outlaws adventure. See Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

Day 6: Planning Scene

The crew is having a picnic at a park overlooking the approaches to the Van Der Greaves estate, using bits of food to represent a map of the estate. 

Timeline:

  • From dawn — House preps start
  • Noon — Entertainers, decorators and caterers set up the ground floor rooms 
  • Sometime in the afternoon or evening — Church protest starts outside
  • 6 pm — Expert examination by Manfred Willoughby
  • After that, Violet steals antidote from room 21 on second floor
  • 7 pm — Guests start arriving and explore
  • Pandora arrives fashionably late.
  • Between 7 and 9:30 pm is our time to cut through the floor from the basement and steal the panels; Warden team moves them to the cart. Friendly entertainers are located in nearby rooms. 
  • 9 pm — Speech and announcement
  • We need to be gone by 9:30 pm with the panels. Delivery is in a warehouse in the slum district.
  • 9:30 pm — Unveiling, guests start being admitted to the Silver Chamber in small groups
  • 11 pm — Party ends

Night 6: Legwork Scene

Violet dresses up as the Bandit King and stages a failed assassination attempt on Lady Malindra in her manor. (Our first official Drama scene!) First she incapacitates a lone guard patrolling outside and hides his unconscious body — badly — in the bushes. Then she makes her way inside and meets a squad of five more guards on the stairs to the second floor, who clearly recognize “Gabriel Vega”. Violet taunts them then runs away, smashing through a window. The guards ring the alarm bell and give pursuit. A running fight follows, in which the guards only succeed in grabbing “the famed Gabriel Vega’s” hat.

Pandora secures access to the party as the companion of an elderly noblewoman, then checks in with her Spider contact. Desiree confirms that Charles Montesque has picked up on the rumours about Gabriel Vega and the protests, but she also mentions more rumours about the Archpriest Galenna Altair’s visit to Dunhaven to demand that Lady Malindra return the panels of the Silver Chamber to the Church or face charges of heresy. Needless to say, cancelling the party would affect the crew’s plan.

Emilia goes to some society columnists and entertainment critiques and gets the newspapers to publish scathing articles on the affair. The articles, jeering that Lady Malindra will have to cancel her party and submit to the Archpriest, are calculated to goad Malindra into digging her heels. 

This works, but now the Archpriest threatens to excommunicate any guests who show up, and will bring a squad of knights militant with her. A lot of concerned guests cancel their plans to attend, as do Lysa of Rotwood and Manfred Willoughby.

Day 7: Legwork Scene

Emilia visits a magus she knows to get three matched talismans that will allow the crew to communicate during the job, but at the price of a painful brand appearing on Emilia’s skin (1 penalty die). When turned on or off, it takes at least 5 minutes before it can be switched back.

Pandora acquires some knock-out powder, just in case.

(Violet passes on legwork.)

Night 7: The Heist

Archpriest Altair shows up at the front gate with her knights militant, a scribe officiously writing the names of all who enter the manor, and an unruly mob protesting the event. Two squads of the City Watch are keeping a wary eye on things.

Inside, the party is much more sparsely attended than expected; Pandora mingles with the thinned crowd. 

Under cover of her supervisory job, Emilia goes to Lady Malindra’s study and picks the locks to the door and the desk. Violet joins her and switches the antidote to the alchemical veil for the fake she got from Naomi.

Next, Emilia sets up in the cellar to pierce through the floor of the Silver Chamber. It’s quiet in there and everything seems to be as expected, so she climbs in to get the panels. 

Meanwhile on the ground floor, the crowd is beginning to get angrier, switching from throwing rotten fruit to small rocks. Pandora also notices Charles Montesque strolling through the house among the guests, and Charlotte staying as far away as possible from the front of the house and the mob.

Emilia starts dissolving the glue holding the panels, pulling them off the wall, and disguising them using the temporary lacquer to disguise them as wood panels.  

Violet sneaks through the house and down to the entrance of the tunnels to bring in her team of Night Wardens. But in the middle of moving the panels from the cellar to the cart, Montesque wanders in and witnesses panels being switched on the cart. He flashes a badge and asks what is going on. 

Violet steps out from behind Montesque and stabs him, saying: “I’m sorry, my friend, but this is the cost of interfering with Gabriel Vega! Surrender, my friend, and you may live…” 

Montesque steps back and reveals a hand crossbow. “Right back at you!” He lets loose a bolt, even as the rest of the Wardens hurry to get the rest of the panels. 

To be continued…

Dusk City Outlaws – Part 4

Continuing with our Dusk City Outlaws adventure. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Day 4: Planning Scene

The crew meets at a theater where Emilia works, up on a catwalk above the scene while the place is deserted, with a bottle of wine and a round of cheese.

How do we circumvent the alchemical mist? There are no windows. Maybe the secret tunnels connect, but that’s a long shot. The entertainers will be using the ramp to the cellars to their staging area. The room right above the Silver Chamber will be open to the guests, with entertainers and finger food trays.

  • What to do about the guards?
  • What do we want our helpful entertainers to do?
  • Where do we want the unhelpful ones to be?
  • What do we want to use the secret tunnels for?
  • How do we want to use the rumours we created about the Bandit King and the protesters? (That latter one is probably true-ish, though.)
  • What do we want to do about Lysa of Rotwood?
  • Can we make further use of Janos Zakharin?

Emilia knows Manfred Willoughby’s place of business, an office next to the Koslova Museum of Vladov History and Culture. Its security is minimal and any items of value left with him for appraisal are normally stored in the museum’s vault.

Night 4: Legwork Scene

Violet heads for the secret tunnels to update the crew’s map of the tunnels. She and Emilia come through the sewers and successfully map out the tunnels, coming up on a wine rack blocking the secret door — which, using alchemical acid and glue, they turn into a movable facade for the tunnel entrance.

Pandora once again uses her Mother Teresa persona, rounds up the faithful and organizes a protest that will take place later at the Van Der Greaves manor. 

Emilia checks with her underworld contacts about Lady Malindra’s guards and learns that all three shifts will be on duty at the same time for the party. The captain has been working for a long time and is somewhat irritated with her because she makes his life difficult then is mad because he does what she ordered him to. The guards are well paid but the employer is annoying. For small things, they are probably bribeable, but no one is likely to take large risks. 

Day 5: Legwork Scene

Emilia goes to visit Carmen Sanza, a fence specializing in objets d’art, to ask about Manfred Willoughby’s reputation. He’s a fussy, delicate man, very thin, balding, with glasses concealing one glass eye. He’s fussy and prickly but truly an expert, and if he confirms the authenticity of the panels at the unveiling, their credibility will be unassailable. Lady Malindra hopes to impress him in order to be chosen to host the Galleria Historica traveling art show, as Willoughby is on the board that chooses participants.

Pandora reaches out to her Spider contact, whom she regularly supplies with “specialized consumables”, to learn about Charles Montesque. Spiders are no great friends with Crown agents. Montesque started investigating groups of mummers interfering with City Watch actions around Janos Zakharin, then the burglary of Naomi Lee’s shop attracted his attention and he connected the dots with Lady Malindra’s event. The Spider promises to alert Pandora if Montesque makes waves, such as requisitioning a squad, etc..

Violet dresses up as Gabriel Vega and visits alchemists, asking about horrific ingestible poisons. She drops by Naomi Lee to ask details about the antidote to the alchemical veil so she can prepare a fake. When she reaches the district, Violet sees a group of citizens who have organized an Endless Dawn volunteer watch; she recognizes among them the Endless Dawn provocateur — and friend of the real Gabriel Vega — Tabitha Saldano. They are upset that “poor Naomi was robbed and the City Watch did nothing.”

Violet easily sneaks past the group and into Naomi’s house, returning most of the stolen items to the alchemist except for the key reagents. Naomi offers a fake antidote but asks Violet to stop breaking in and to not involve her any further about this job. 

Night 5: Legwork Scene

Pandora pours some fuel over the flame of outrage among the faithful; a riot is brewing.

Emilia sees a costume-maker about making some useful quick-change reversible outfits. [Will serve as advantage dice on Disguise later on.]

Violet hires some helpers from her cartel to come in through the tunnels and help move the heavy panels to the cart.

To be continued…

Dusk City Outlaws – Part 3

Continuing with our Dusk City Outlaws adventure. See Part 1 and Part 2.

Day 3: Legwork Scene

Violet sets out to intercept Naomi Lee as she heads out to Lady Malindra’s to clean the panels. Coincidentally, the City Watch are out in significant numbers in the neighborhood to show law-abiding citizens that they are being protected. Violet meets the alchemist right in the foyer of her own home and convinces her that one way or another, she will not do the job for Lady Malindra today. With a mix of threat and coaxing, Violet stages robbery and vandalism then Naomi runs out the front door, yelling “Thieves! I’ve been robbed!” while Violet hightails it.

From her spot at a nearby cafe, Emilia sees a plainclothes individual flash a badge to the City Watch sergeant and take over the investigation.

Emilia had already arranged (spends one Influence) for one of Naomi’s legitimate clients, Bishop Milo Opus, to need to visit her this morning for special incense, so the Bishop shows up just in time to witness the robbery and to distract the agent of the Crown from questioning Naomi too closely. Mother Teresa (Pandora) is at the bishop’s side, demure. Emilia is eavesdropping on conversations.

Despite Emilia signalling Naomi to stretch things out, the alchemist assures Bishop Opus that it will take her very little time to prepare some incense. Charles Montesque, the Crown investigator simply observes the events without intervening. 

After Naomi has finished and the City Watch leaves, however, the investigator approaches Naomi to ask her some questions. They sit at the same cafe where Emilia is observing, but Montesque’s questions turn out to be more about the Silver Chamber than the theft until he mentions how “convenient” it was that the specific reagents were stolen or destroyed. Soon, Naomi rolls over and gives up Violet. 

Pandora, as Mother Teresa, stays with Bishop Opus and tries to gauge his opinion of Lysa of Rotwood and her blessing of the Silver Chamber. Once again, “Mother Teresa” stresses the agitation of her flock over the events, portraying them as ready to take forceful action. The bishop sighs, agreeing with her objections; he says he already spoke to Lysa of Rotwood about this and she resisted his gentle pressure; beyond this, he doesn’t really have the authority to forbid a blessing. He promises to try again.

A bit later after the bishop has moved on to other work, his aide tells Pandora in confidence that Lysa received a large bribe from Lady Malindra to conduct the blessing.

Night 3: Legwork Scene

Emilia gets a carpenter and stagecrafter to build a cart with the exact dimensions of the Silver Chamber panels which can be rapidly taken apart and reassembled. She intends for the panels to be disguised as the cart itself rather than in a cart. 

Violet prepares a disguise and spreads a rumour in Oakheart, where the Van Der Greaves estate is located, that a new player (Gabriel Vega, the Bandit King) is in town and planning to assassinate Lady Malindra. She learns about secret tunnels under the manor; they are no longer used and have been boarded up but they connect with oversized sewers.

Pandora meets Lady Florimel and Charlotte Van Der Greaves under the pretense of attending a piano recital to warn her about another rumour, that commoners who are faithful of the Church are planning a demonstration to protest Lady Malindra’s unveiling of the SIlver Chamber panels. Emilia organises a small group of protestors in Oakhurst to provide verisimilitude. Pandora puts the fear of the unruly mob into Charlotte, who now plans to talk to her aunt about endangering the family.

Then Charles Montesque, the Crown investigator, shows up to check on the small protest, but doesn’t seem to spot Emilia though he studies the group as they eventually disperse peacefully. 

To be continued…

Dusk City Outlaws – Part 2

Continuing with our Dusk City Outlaws adventure. See Part 1.

Night 1: Legwork Scene

A letter appears under Violet’s door. Janos Zakharin, an exile from Vladov, is consulting for Lady Malindra as an “expert” on reconstruction of the Silver Chamber. He had a reputation as a tyrant back in the Vladov Empire before its fall and he is hated as a traitor by the Vladov community and the Circle in Dunhaven. Pyotr has found some evidence that Zakharin may have had the panels stored in Dunhaven for a good while. Zakharin is an older man with long white hair coming to a widow’s peak and a haughty manner even though he is 

Pandora gathers the gossip among high society, learns the names of a few notable guests, including Lysa of Rotwood, a priest of the Silver Judge, who will be blessing the new exhibit; and Manfred Willoughby, an art historian who will be certifying the authenticity of the panels, and get one hour of private viewing before everyone else on the day of the unveiling. 

Emilia checks out the entertainers that have been hired for Lady Malindra’s party, trying to establish who can be bribed into covering for the crew. Pandora and Violet come along for backup. Emilia gets a good sense of who is going to be helpful, including a few Vladov refugees; she finds four that are going to be particularly useful, and four that are going to be difficult. They are all dressed in different uniforms matching the theme of the location where they are posted.
Violet cases Janos Zhakharin’s warehouse in unclaimed territory on the waterfront. Emilia helps her by playing drunk to distract the guards. Violet sneaks in and finds a rather empty warehouse but she does find ledger books in a small office, showing evidence that a lot of Vladov artefacts, including the panels, were held here while Zakharin gradually sold them off. Zakharin is in the process of shutting down his operation here.

Day 2: Planning Scene

The crew meets at Pandora’s cozy apartment. Pandora is interested in creating a decoy plot that will be leaked to the Van Der Greaves, possibly framing Lysa of Rotwood as wanting to publicly accuse Lady Malindra. The crew agrees that they will need to investigate Lysa of Rotwood and her motivations.

Violet wants to confront Janos Zakharin and apply pressure (blackmail or threat) to get information from him. 

Pandora creates a detailed fake identity as a priest of the Silver Judge, which will make her less conspicuous among slums and commoner districts. Rotwood itself is a slum.

Emilia has been to the Van Der Greaves estate before so she remembers the layout and some of the security measures. There should be two groups of five guards milling about the estate, and six more guarding the Silver Chamber. There is also an alchemical mist veiling the entrance to the Silver Chamber and causing anyone crossing it to become sluggish for five hours unless they get the antidote, which Lady Malindra keeps in a locked drawer in her study. 

Night 2: Legwork Scene

Pandora visits Lysa of Rotwood as Mother Teresa, a small parish priest relating her flock’s concerns with Lady Malindra’s acquisition of the Silver Chamber. They meet in Rotwood at Lysa’s church after her service. Lysa reacts with anger, she seems to have faced the question several times before,

Violet acquires a sharp Vladov knife, then goes to case Zakharin’s manor, with Emilia as lookout outside, busking. There are five guards on duty about the estate, which Emilia distracts with a troupe of actors staging an impromptu play — but a passing City Watch sergeant does notice that Emilia is purposely distracting the estate guards. 

Violet successfully sneaks in and rifles through Zakharin’s papers in his study. She finds that he has been getting threats from the Circle, no longer veiled but pretty open, and he’s preparing to leave the city. He doesn’t seem to have any connection with the Church of the Silver Judge. Violet leaves the knife and some blood on Zakharin’s desk.

She also finds some information about the strong adhesive that was used to secure the panels. The panels were brought in in two bulky boxes, nothing particular about them. The panels are coated with natural silver that was allowed to get a patina that is considered important by the Church. Lady Malindra has hired an alchemist, Naomi Lee, to strip the tarnish and seal the shiny silver under a permanent lacquer, the very next day.

Emilia knows Naomi Lee and tries to convince her to skip town for a few days rather than execute the commission, but in vain; this would be too hard on the alchemist’s career. But Lee does supply just the right compound to dissolve the adhesive, and agrees to mix up some coating that will disguise the panels.

To be continued…

Dusk City Outlaws – Part 1

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.)

The Job

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…