Eighth, maybe, session of Scum and Villainy was last night, featuring guest star MadJay Brown! He built a Xeno Speaker with inside connections with super evil space vampires who run a big fancy annual auction. And also eat people to live forever.
A few new things cropped up this session:
- Because of Jay’s guest appearance, we finally got to spool out the Xeno rules! The Speaker seems exceptionally well suited to being Xeno. In S&V, if you’re a Xeno you work out some cool alien power set that costs you 0, 1 or 2 stress to use, but you have to trade out the playbook starting power for it. Well, the Speaker’s playbook power is a downtime effect, and he wasn’t gonna be around for downtime soooo…
Our cool alien race are infovores, capable of perceiving information itself with their alien sense. So this is the power set we made:
0 Stress: you can perceive the types of information contained in anything.
1 Stress: you are a fine hacking rig. Nobody knows you’re actually hacking when you’re doing this.
2 Stress: you can hack Urbot minds as if they were regular computers.
- I got to really leverage the “higher tier” effects by pitting the crew against some very, very bad apples: Vignerions, a Tier 3 weird faction, immortal space vampires who just know and see more than anyone else. The crew also fucked up their Engagement roll, a solid ONE, and entered their job at desperate/limited effect.
This was great because they had to dig deep and use their tools as aggressively as possible. Many, many more “set up” flashback scenes. Many more abuses of the Mystic’s “run up your stress, whatevs, and ignore it with a Gambit” combined with the Scoundrel’s “spend Gambit all you want because I’m making shittons of it now.” It’s so bad! And so good.
Most of the game was spent making desperate rolls and either pushing for effect or flashing back to setup scenes. Expensive, super dangerous, everyone ended up right against the edge of trauma, and our poor Xeno snapped under the pressure.
Another good consequence of doing this was that it brought the necessity of upgrading their crew tier back into focus. They’ve got the money, they’ve got an advance in hand. IIRC they’re still thinking about whether to do that.
This setup also let me bring the first Tier 3 factions into the fiction. They’re both super weird. In addition to the space vampire Vignerions, the actual client for the job was The Agony. So now the players know about Way creatures, which is a whole new bit of background to chew on.
There were a couple hiccups, too, brought about by charging after a higher-tier enemy. The big one was that since nearly everything defaulted to limited effects, my normal stakes-setting mental habits didn’t really work for me. It felt, at first, more like me setting a Regular, Great, and Super Great result set. With some discipline I was able to reel that back in: “well normally a regular effect would look like X, so until you shift for effect all you’re getting is less than X.” And sometimes I’d lose myself inside that brainstorming. I know I lost the thread more than once and had to restart.
Even after eight sessions, everyone’s still fighting the urge to plan shit out in some detail. But! We had some outstanding 2-stress flashbacks that were both totally gonzo and super effective in-the-moment. My favorite was the Mystic revealing (!) that he’d been seducing the Vignerions’ security chief leading up to the gig, so the chief would let them pass unmolested at a vital moment. So perfect, and crazy, and why the fuck not? This crew is good at their job. But those creative habits are really distinct to the Blades/Scum experience.
I’m loving asymmetrical racing clocks more all the time. As pictured below, very early on my Devil’s Bargain was “let’s start a clock: the Vignerions discover your bullshit.” Great, just putting the clock on the table is the bargain! No dots, no worries. I knew later they’d close in on a final challenge, and I’d plan on making a shorter clock for that. Like, that feels good, you know? Haha the bad guys have to grind out 8 slices and we only have to grind out 6. Buuut their final countdown clock didn’t show up until the Vignerions’ clock was already at 4. It’s all kind of sleight of hand but I think it works. The final scene actually came down to both clocks filling at once, which is so perfect. Now they’ve got a very scary enemy but they still got away.
It was overall a pretty satisfying session. Jahmal is always so great to have at a table, and he’s guest starred often enough that he can fall right into step with the rest of my Tuesday regulars.