Tips for running [Lady Blackbird]?

edited October 2012 in Play Advice
So myself and a fellow S-Ger from CT will be attending Burning Con '12, and we will both be running Lady Blackbird. Any helpful suggestions for fitting it into a 4-hour con slot/running it in general? How about a two hour slot, what do you do differently to jack up the pacing? (For clarity, this will be my first experience with Lady Blackbird.) Thanks!


  • I've run it twice at cons, although I believe I had 5 hour slots, and each time managed to get the party to Uriah Flint's fortress and... let's just say, resolved the conflicts that arose from that arrival.

    My off-the-top on-my-break suggestions: Your main built-in points are going to escaping the brig, refueling the Owl, finding the secret to navigating the remnants, and then getting to the remnants and navigating them before you arrive at the fortress itself. There's plenty of room for diversions along the way, mind you. Kale might end up stealing something of Lady Blackbird's, for example, because, hey, shiny. Snargle might cut a deal with a fellow goblin passing as a human trying to gain passage. The Count that Lady Blackbird was arranged to marry in the first place might show up if she blows her cover at some point. A sky squid attack is almost mandatory. Etc, etc.

    More later!
  • Just think "How till they fail?" about everything they do. That will make you come up with obstacles on the fly.

    I would say that Lady Blackbird is not really the game for one-shots. It can work as an introduction to the game though. But I will happily stand corrected, if anyone think otherwise. :)
  • edited October 2012
    "We'll, it looks like the slot's just about over. Vance, were you ever going to mention that you were Uriah all along?"
  • Because the plot is only an outline, I like to aggressively ask questions of the players and reincorporate their answers. Honestly, I use a ton of AW/MH MC techniques, including disclaiming decision making, indicating future badness, and so on. I also ran it once with partial successes (you need two successes to punch through the door, three to do it without breaking your hand), which was fun but probably upped our play duration a bit.

    And hey, I am ALSO running LB at Burning Con (although now I'm sort of wishing I had gone for Murderous Ghosts seeing as there will be at least two other LB games). I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I signed up for a two hour slot. Don't know how that's going to work. Anyway, see you there!
  • I would say that Lady Blackbird is not really the game for one-shots.
    Why not? I think its pick-up-and-play mechanics, insta-plot and in media res start make it the game for one-shots. (OK, and also Fiasco).

  • So, the game is full of little hints of setting, splashes of color, hidden in the characters, the GM section, the section on how to set difficulties (You would be amazed how many people are surprised when I tell them Uriah Flint is a master sorcerer and a Flameblood! It's right there in the "Obstacles and Difficulties" section!), and the example additional tags (Bloodhunters! Ghostbloods, Voidbloods, Dreambloods, and more!) and so on. Read these before play. Right down any and all of them that sound awesome to you, and be sure to incorporate them. If it's awesome to you, you'll come off as enthusiastic when you bring it up in play, and that really helps a game out. Like, whenever I run Count Carlowe, the guy Natasha was arranged to marry, he's almost always a Ghostblood because that shit is creepy. When the players are at Nightport, they'll usually run into at least one Goblin who's learned the art of mimicing shapes, and at least one weird sky-squid cultist who happens to be seeking passage, and probably a Bloodhunter patrol who will recognize Lady Blackbird as a Storm Blood, and since there's a sizeable bounty out on her, ask her a few inconvenient questions. (Or to a lesser extent, Vance as a Warpblood, which is an awesome way to offer an opportunity to flashback to Vance's life as an Imperial and why he's no longer one as a refreshment scene)

    Also, if you've got less than five players, my personal preference for running is that it works a lot better if you don't have a subordinate character as a PC when the character in charge of them is an NPC. It's a lot more interesting to me to leave the important decisions in the hands of the PCs than having them go to an NPC for orders.
  • I would say that Lady Blackbird is not really the game for one-shots.
    Why not? I think its pick-up-and-play mechanics, insta-plot and in media res start make it the game for one-shots. (OK, and also Fiasco).
    Yes, the archetypes as handouts, the mechanic that's printed on the archetype sheet, all that is perfect for a one-shot. However, I feel that the story should be played over a few sessions and that the game shouldn't be forced with hard scene framing, so the GM can "finish" the story.

    Note that I have only played it once on a convention (we stopped after we were about to leave Hand of Sorrow), talked with others who lead the game at conventions, and read it myself a few times. But because the GM should ask questions most of the times, I got the feeling that the players should control the pace. And because they control it, it will be hard to estimate the amount of time that it takes to come to the end, whatever the end may be.

    I'm normally all about hard scene framing. I once played a campaign that normally takes 1,5-3 years to finish in five sessions (and I also added stuff!). But it would be wrong in Lady Blackbird.
  • I agree that Lady Blackbird is a little too open-ended for a one-shot (although it could be modified to be more "tight").

    When I ran it as a one-shot, I modified it, making for a messy starting situation, and a more tightly linked set of Keys which put the characters at odds with one another. If you're interested, whisper me and I could send it to you (or post it).
  • When I ran it as a one-shot, I modified it, making for a messy starting situation, and a more tightly linked set of Keys which put the characters at odds with one another.
    I.... I almost have to ask. Messier than starting in the brig of an Imperial ship, surrounded by marines, with your ship impounded, its several outstanding warrants moments from being discovered? And the characters are already... pretty at odds. I mean, you would be hard-pressed to name any two characters who don't have some conflict of interest built right in. Kale and Snargle, maybe, depending on how they're being played.
  • I follow that, Ben. That's pretty messy!

    What's less obvious, though, is what happens if they succeed in escaping from the Hand of Sorrow. Now it's very open-ended: other than a continuing chase by the Imperials, the story can now go in all sorts of different directions. There's this vague goal of finding Uriah Flint (I say vague because he might be just around the corner, or because he might be impossible find, or anywhere in-between), but there's no guidance on what happens once you get there. Either the GM (and/or group) comes up with something brilliant, or... not.

    So, if the one-shot is all about escaping from the Hand, the game supports you pretty well. If escaping from the Hand is just the first part of the scenario... what happens next is very open-ended.

    That open-endedness is a deliberate feature of the game, of course, and I appreciate that. I just wanted something more focused for a one-shot.
  • Aim for getting out of the Hand of Sorrow, that works best in the con games I've run of it. You'll get a ton of mileage out of that.
  • Read my essay Playing Lady Blackbird, it should put you on track.

    A 4 hour slot is enough to play a complete story. I would hesitate at 2 hours, unless it specifically was a demo and no one expected a coherent story arc. It takes a while for the players to get up to speed on the rules.
  • At cons I never sweat about 'completing' the adventure. I just move things along at the pace the players want to go. It is always easy to contrive a cliffhanger ending when the end of the time slot nears. Honestly, I've seen groups that get off the Hand in less than a hour of play, and others that stay there for 3 or 4 hours of game time. It's a honking big ship.
  • edited October 2012
    I would say something big to keep in mind is if you have players that haven't played before
    you need to explain the refresh scenes to them, i have run this at cons twice and neither time did they use one

    that said I don't think i will be running a different system at Cons anymore just take the blackbird system hack it and your done, I really enjoy blackbird as a one-shot game

    edit: John_Powell is on the ball always leave with a cliffhanger
  • Indeed, there are already over a dozen LB hacks out there, so it seemed a likely match for a con one-shot. Honestly, I wouldn't be running anything as it's my very first con ever, but it is a requirement at The Burning Con that everyone run a game. Thanks for all the advice, folks, keep it comin'!
  • Yes, I deliberately leave "refreshment scenes" out of my one-shot hack. (Although if you have a smaller group or a quieter, more introspective style of play, they could fit in just fine.)

    I also leave out XP. Players may still advance by buying off Keys, but hitting Keys always just gives you Pool dice.
  • Yeah, call for refresh scenes. Use them to ask interesting questions. "So, maybe you're thinking about how to win Lady Blackbird's heart, and it triggers a flashback to the time you first met? What was it about her that made you fall in love?" "How about a scene where Kale and Naomi happen to be eating breakfast at the same time? You guys don't know eachother too well, I gather, so what do they end up talking about?" Don't forget you can use the refresh scenes, in addition to the refreshing the pool, to "recharge" one of those 'once per session' Secrets. That's important for con games and something a lot of people miss. It also allows you to be a lot more indiscriminate about warpblooding around or lucky breaks left and right, which is only a good thing in my book.
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