Scum & Villainy

Well, what was intended to be a one-shot shakeout session of Scum & Villainy looks like it’ll become ongoing play here.

It’s pretty cool and maybe a bit more accessible than straight Blades in the Dark for us. Some of that, I think, is that formally a S&V campaign starts by playing out a not-job that kind of frames up the ship type you’ve chosen. I went with the Stardancer campaign, which is all about smuggling and blockade running. I guess that’s the Firefly mode of the game? Millennium Falcon?

Because the action doesn’t start with all the job framework (no Engagement roll, no approach or details), the game starts out like a conventional RPG. I think that’s a good place for my Tuesday players in any case.

I haven’t run BitD since a middling release during the Kickstarter, but I mostly remembered how things work. For whatever reason, the cognitive load of the game wasn’t as bad this time. I still feel like it’s more work to constantly be evaluating position and effect than it is evaluating fictional triggers, PbtA style, but I suspect that’s a matter of habit and practice. And I figured out, after our go at Blades, that mostly I can bleed off Devil’s Bargain costs into clocks or heat if they want a bargain and nothing clever comes to mind. But I could feel all the places where the game puts a lot onto the GM’s shoulders: position, effect, consequences, which clocks to put out, what to offer via bargains. All that stuff is constantly called on during play, and the game provides quite a lot less of the work already done because there aren’t specific Moves with curated results.

Really, it ran just fine. Engaging with the system’s various widgets and options seemed fun for the players. The various XP tracks are fun to play with. Downtime worked out just fine, especially this early in our play. And I super-love the end of session XP thing, which constantly entices the players to build on their heritage and background stuff, or to make their vices into real problems during play. I think that’s straight Blades but it’s still such an easy and elegant way to go.

If I have a quibble/concern at all, it’s how the baked-in campaign setting (which is, I think, the killer app of the Forged in the Dark games I’ve seen so far) is scattered across systems and chapters in such a way that it’s hard to really understand it all. Like, I want to give my players some authorial control, but when I did they invariably contradicted something that would come up a few scenes later. Our Mystic, for example, came up with his own cult setup and declared that all mystics belong to this cult. Then later, of course, we discovered there are not only other cults, but other canonical Way users. That’s probably on me as facilitator to really get the whole setting/situation into my head.

I’ll also say that, of the setting stuff I’ve read through so far, I’ve really enjoyed what the entries serve up. And I like how easy it was to generate the deeper details of their first Job just by virtue of which factions had status ratings.

We have a Mystic, a Scoundrel and a Muscle. It looks like they’ve mostly got things covered for doing hands-on starwarzy action work. Oh! I did put together a one-sheet list of the various packaged builds that are mentioned in the book but not on the character sheets. I think that was pretty helpful, probably shaved 30 minutes off setup. Setup was still in the 45 minute range tho, mostly due to haggling over the various ship choices. Probably inevitable.

So, yeah. Fun game, looking forward to more plays. The crew has the Aleph Key in hand, know what it does, and are already tangled up with a couple factions that want in on it. I feel like if I know how the whole game works, I’ll have a better sense of what can be left out or left in my hands at a one-shot table.

6 thoughts on “Scum & Villainy

  1. I kind of regret agreeing to make my own group’s S&V game default Star Wars because I have to keep an eye out for those ingrained setting landmines. Our ship choice took all of about 15 seconds, though. Smugglers FTW.

    Glad it worked for you, though! I like Blades a lot – probably one of the most influential games on my own style besides Fate and Burning Empires.

  2. I didn’t feel any setting bleed from Star Wars influences when we played. The specific campaign color is pretty distinct from the movie plots and setting, at least.

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