[Lady Blackbird] The End…

Read the Intro, First Session Report, Second Session Report, Kale’s Second Session Report, Third Session Report, Kale’s Third Session Report and Kale’s Fourth Session Report.

Though we had planned to do this the last week of 2009, fate decreed it would be the first week of 2010 that would bring our Lady Blackbird game to a close. And boy, did it bring it to a close! We gathered around the Skype table and soared off into the Blue to find out the destiny of the crew and passengers of The Owl.

Rich, our GM, is going to write up his general recap, which I’ll link to here once it is up. What follows is all from Kale’s point of view.

I would suggest you go back and read the previous report to catch all the strings being tied-up here.

After the Pain

After the beating Kale took from Naomi, I went back to the Harping Monkey to drink my pain away. Later in the night a woman (picture Sigourney Weaver in Alien, dressed in a steampunky mechanic’s jumpsuit) sat next to me, placing a drink in front. “What the hell do you want, Noohla?” I asked. Noohla began asking slightly menacing questions of Kale: is all in place? have you done your part? is the plan in motion? Kale was in no mood for this kind of banter. I asked (a simple yes or no question!) if I had done everything to this point? Yes. Then all would be fine. She kept badgering, and saying that she wanted something in return: the elf girl Briaria. “You can have her and Naomi for all I care. I’ll tell you where you can find them if you want.” Noohla kept pushing Kale about the plan and how it all needed to be in order, that he had to take Lady Blackbird to Captain Flint. On and on.

After answering all the questions, Kale simply turned around on his stool, a pistol held in his hand, resting on his lap, pointed at Noohla. “Ok, now I want you to cut the bullshit and tell me why are you here. I don’t need Flint sending people to follow me.”

We went to the dice to see if I could intimidate Noohla. Rich wanted four successes, so I used my trait, tags and pool to roll 6 dice. I won the dice roll and successfully pulled a quite-but-crazy Steve Buscemi moment. “Take it easy,” she said, “I was just trying to get an edge for myself, that’s all. I’m here to give you the coordinates to reach Flint.” As I grabbed the encoded tag, I finished my drink, and hers, then leaned into her ear as I was walking past and told her, very quietly and matter-of-fact, “And Noohla, just because you’re my cousin don’t even think I wouldn’t kill you. Say hello to your mom.”

Back at the Owl

At some point later, Kale woke up in his quarters in the Owl feeling pressure on his chest. Groggily and hung-over, I opened my eyes to see the elf girl Briaria crouching on my chest, starting intently at my face. “Hello, Briaria. Would you mind getting off my chest?” She says that I know her, but she doesn’t know me. I tell her that I do know her name, and would tell her more if she got off my chest.

“I do not know you personally, but I know who you are. See, I was there when you were sold to Mother Six (the slaver/lanista that owned both her and Naomi).” Briaria chewed on this information for a bit while Kale drank down something liquid that may have been water but may not have been.

Briaria suddenly looks up at Kale and says, “I remember you… You sold me.”

Somewhere in the distance, there came the sound of an explosion.

The Confrontation

Getting the Owl ready for flight once the explosion hit, Kale sees Vance, Lady Blackbird and Naomi running like madmen towards the ship (being “followed” as it were by laser fire coming from the Imperial ship, The Hand of Sorrow, hovering in sub-orbital space above Nematron). Going to greet them at the loading ramp, Kale sees that Snargle has also joined them. And so has Javert. Without any warning, as Javert is coming up the ramp, Kale decides to kick him in the chest and bump him off the ship.

We went to the dice and Rich decided this was a task the needed five successes. I used my trait and tags, then hit my Key of the Mission and my Key of Fraternity to get a total of 8 dice. I rolled… and failed miserably, getting only one success. But wait! I used Kale’s Secret of Reflexes, which allows me to reroll any grace, dexterity or reflex-based action, and boom, I got 6 successes! Rich narrated how as Javert was about to enter the Owl, I kicked him in the chest yet he held on to my boot, smiling menacingly. Then, as the ship begins to lift up, I do a little flip of my foot, and the boot comes off my leg, and Javert falls on his back, the Owl rising quickly. To add insult to injury, I looked down at him, flipped him the finger and said, “Tell Flint the deal’s off. F**k you!” And with that I burned my Key of the Mission.

And this is where the shit hit the fan.

Vance pulls a gun on me, pointed barely an inch from chest and demands to know what happened. I tell him that I just gave him and Lady Blackbird a happy life. Vance does not get what I’m talking about and keeps asking the same questions over and over: what did I do, what happened, what is going on? Finally I have to spell it out for him.

“I’ve been working for Captain Flint to make sure Lady Blackbird makes it to him. It was no big deal because we both had the same goal, you and I. You needed money so accepted her contract, and I needed money and accepted my mission. It was all fine until you started acting all weak around these women and loosing control of your ship and forgetting what the mission was!

“What were we hired to do, Vance? Were we not hired to take Lady Blackbird to Captain Flint? (“A simple yes or no question,” interjected Naomi) Now, let me ask you a question, Lady, and I’d like an honest answer. Do you have any kind of feelings for my friend over here?”

She shifted a bit before answering. “Cyrus and I slept together last night.”

“And Vance, brother, are you or are you not in love with Lady Blackbird? And know before you answer that I staked my life on what I perceived to be a yes.”

Lady Blackbird’s eyes focus on Vance as he takes a few moments to answer, but finally says, “Yes, I am in love with her.”

“Then why the fuck would you go and take her to Captain Flint, a man she doesn’t love? She’s playing you, double-crossing you. She’s probably in league with him on something. I don’t know. You may not see it, but I just gave you a chance at something. Grab her and go somewhere else.”

Lady Blackbird threw a tantrum, Vance said some stuff, but I didn’t hear anything beyond, “I’m still fulfilling the mission and taking her to Captain Flint.”

“Then I want no part in this.” I tossed them the encoded tag and when Snargle put the ship down, I stepped off the Owl and left them to their own devices, probably unaware of the sacrifice I had made and how they had just squandered it.


In some dark, dingy bar, Kale Arkam barely holds himself sitting up at the bar, a menagerie of empty bottles and glasses in front of him. Two figures enter the bar and sit to each side of him: Noohla and Javert. He looks at them both from the corner of his eyes, and goes back to the drink he’s been giving his full attention at the moment.

The bar is seen from the outside.

A shot rings out.

Two figures completely in shadow are seen leaving the bar.

There’s a lot to unpack about the last scene, what happened and how we all felt as players, so I’ll tackle that in another post. I’ll leave you with Rich’s description as tweeted by him right after the game:


  1. I’d love to hear a bit of the nuts-and-bolts of how the whole Skype thing worked out. I’ve been strongly considering doing some gaming via Skype, due to the dearth of face-to-face gaming available in my local area, and I’m curious as to the “how” of it all, and the quality of the experience.


  2. Dark and awesome. I think the great thing about how the Captain was played, was that the character never realized the cost of this ridiculous escapade. How much damage done to Nematron, how much damage to the crew, how much to Arkham.

    In the end, the Captain was smitten, blinded by the Lady, and drowning in whatever plans she had at the moment (and oh, how often they changed.)

    As to the “how” of it all, Skype works pretty well for some games, and did work well for this one. The online dice roller kept us honest, especially in this rules light game. Our biggest problems were -getting people to show up, and -getting a stable internet connection out of a few players.

    Being able to type side-comments in the chat box kept the audio background down, by the way. And Rich used it as a good way to keep a log of useful information in front of everyone too.


  3. Thanks for posting, Daniel. It’s helpful to get a written account of your perspective. Arnold, thanks also to you for sharing a bit of your take on it.

    I’m not able to unpack my perspective yet. But I’m paying attention, and it helps to get some more clarity about what you guys experienced.


  4. Thanks for posting this, Daniel. I agree with above posters, seeing inside Arkam’s head is nice after playing with you. Arkam had quite interesting viewpoints on events. I’ll have my AP up soon, but its been tough to digest all that happened and how it ended.

    As for playing via Skype, GMS, the oddest part of it is finding a groove with the group. Since it is audio only (Skype only does video for two), there are no cues for who talks when. I do not recommend Skype pick-up games based on experience. As for game systems that work well over Skype, if you are interested in more conventional games, you should peek at all the cool toys and people over on fouruglymonsters.com. Those guys play some great virtual tabletop games.

    Me? I prefer lighter games with more scene sharing and less die rolling because it works faster and I do not want to sit in front of a computer playing a virtual tabletop game for four to six hours. So the light games seem to give a good semblance of story in a shorter amount of time.

    For system heavy games, one approach I find intriguing is one where the players all use a virtual tabletop like Fantasy Grounds or MapTools and everything typed into the VT is official game chatter and they use Skype or Ventrilo as the OOC chatter. That way the group can take the text log of the adventure and post it as AP. I like talking too much for that method, but it is kinda neat.
    .-= Rich Rogers´s last blog… [Savage Worlds Shaintar] Death in Shale =-.


  5. @Arnold
    I wish Chuck would drop by, because that was my impression as well, that Vance was so caught up in the details that he forgot to think of himself while that’s all Kale was doing, even if it didn’t seem like it.


  6. @Mick Bradley
    I’m not calling you out.
    That said, I am both looking forward to Naomi’s POV on the final events. And more importantly, your unpacking of what happened with you at the end. I mean, you yelled at me, dude! That’s some powerful emotion stemming from the game, and I think it needs to be addressed.


  7. You’re approaching Shabbat and my Internet connection is still coming and going intermittently. It’ll be tomorrow night or Sunday before a good opportunity to dialogue occurs.

    But my yelling at you and Arnold was passion-fueled, not anger-fueled. We are friends. You’ll get my best and trustingly honest input when the time comes.


  8. Arnold :
    the Captain … never realized the cost of this ridiculous escapade. How much damage done to Nematron, how much damage to the crew, how much to Arkham.
    In the end, the Captain was smitten, blinded by the Lady, and drowning in whatever plans she had at the moment (and oh, how often they changed.)

    @Arnold: In my opinion the ‘cost of the ridiculous escapade’ was something you inferred, and was never a part of the established fiction. I still can’t understand how the death of a slave and pit-fighter mogul upsets the balance of society on Nematron so drastically, and how we become the cold-hearted thoughtless bad-guys because we destroyed some sort of delicate social order merely by giving a vile woman her comeuppance. It’s valid for you to suggest these things, yes. But as it was never actually established in play, it can’t be taken as actuality. So SNARGLE can believe the things I quoted above, but I think you were talking as Arnold, right?

    Furthermore, all damage to Arkham and all hints of the Lady’s supposedly manipulative/devious/capricious nature were assumptions that were brought up in the fiction but were never explored. We don’t know any of the things you are suggesting are givens, because we never addressed those questions in play.


  9. @Daniel M. Perez
    Yeah, a post from your POV would be awesome.

    (Me, I’m still chuckling over here at the assumption that I’d somehow prefer “conventional” or “system heavy” games.)


  10. “Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

    Here’s an exercise. What truths about Snargle and Arkham were explored and resolved by our ending, and what can we take from the fiction that occurred?

    For the purposes of this exercise, the epilogues presented by Daniel and Arnold don’t count, because they were not part of the actual-play fiction. Furthermore, to support the notion that the ending was satisfying, we ought to explore whether people think that’s still true if the epilogues are taken out, because if our actual-play ending was satisfying, we didn’t need the epilogues, right?

    Everyone, including all you folks who are following this via our reports, is invited to converse and participate.


  11. I suck at being subtle. Passive-aggro sometimes, yes, but rarely subtle. It’s not an accusation, because no one has done anything ‘wrong’. But it is a way to explore my ongoing lack of grokkage over what you guys found satisfying about the play experience.

    So, yeah, I still don’t get it. It boggles my mind. I admit that. I figured I would frame the question this way in the hope that we could explore it constructively. I have no hidden agenda, subtle or otherwise. I have no trap set up ready to spring on anyone once a particular phrase gets introduced into conversation. I am fully prepared – and hoping – to learn some stuff about how it satisfied you guys, framed in terms of the ‘myth is truth’ paradigm.


  12. @Mick
    The constrains of replying from my iTouch as the bus approeached made that come off far more accusatory than intended. My apologies.

    Taking Kale’s epilogue is no biggie as it doesn’t really develop the character, only provides a buckle for the belt. As far as during the game, Kale, to me, had one question to answer: would he choose his friend or the mission? This is supported by two keys so it always stuck out as being THE issue for the character. 

    Did I explore that question in game? Yes, I believe I did. Did I explore it fully and deeply? Not as much as I would’ve liked, no, probably my own fault due to the sessions I missed. 

    At the end Kale dealt with and resolved his issue, deciding that he would choose his friend over the mission, and this was played out in front of everyone. That Kale didn’t get to explore his link with all the other characters is frankly irrelevant as that wasn’t what his question was about. 

    I can understand perfectly if you feel you were “cockblocked” at the end and you didn’t get to play out Naomi’s final scene, whatever that may have been, and for whatever part is my responsibility I can say I’m sorry. But I will continue to object the implication that we didn’t complete a story, that we didn’t reach an ending, and that it wasn’t a great game.  


  13. Yes I think we completed a story, but I do not think we complete the story. I am bad at writing and have many thoughts on this but am not able to put them down in this format. But I will say that micks write up was along the lines of what I think.



  14. Honestly, this is not about Naomi or any notion of her not getting her final scene – she’ll get her final scene, and hopefully many scenes before the final scene.

    What it IS about is exploring your mind. I accept everything you have said about Kale’s arc and your main question being satisfactorily answered. I’m not implying anything to the contrary because your satisfaction with the end is an objective fact – how could I possibly dispute it? I never have tried. I am contending that I was not satisfied, but I’ve never said you were wrong to feel like you were satisfied.

    Anyhow, so as I accept that you feel like you got your main question answered and that Kale chose friendship over his mission, I’m wondering still … what truth you think has been explored when essentially, after you say you chose your friend over your mission, you then immediately abandoned your friend to fulfill HIS mission simply because he apparently failed to appreciate your gesture? What do you think that says about the nature of the friendship? Did you consider having Kale remain at his friend’s side no matter what, even though you totally disagree with his choices?

    I am in no way saying you SHOULD have chosen the other option. You have every right to choose whatever you wanted. But I’m a guy who delves into the truths of the universe (as well as the truths of myself and my friends) by engaging in character-driven meaningful choice roleplaying. I want to learn more about what Kale was thinking and by extension what you were thinking through Kale.

    So, please go beyond the fact that you satisfactorily answered your friendship vs. mission question and let’s ask why, after choosing friendship, would you immediately abandon that friendship out of – what appeared to me as – pique?


  15. @Mick Bradley
    Ok, we’re getting somewhere finally.
    I’ll be honest, man, I don’t know I set out to explore the human condition when playing Kale. I don’t know I set out to do that with any character. It can and has happened, but I can’t tell you that it is my out-of-the-gate goal.

    That said, I can tell you precisely what was going through my/Kale’s mind during the last scene:

    “This weak, fucking fool will not follow his feelings after I have all but guaranteed my life being forfeit so he could.”

    My/Kale’s impression of Vance’s feelings towards Kale were that as the adventure/mission went on, Kale mattered less and less to Vance. Yes, we had some inside joke moments and exchanges that showed we had a history (and props to Chuck on our very first session for picking up and running along with when I spoke with overt familiarity at Vance – we truly clicked right from the start), but as time went on, as Lady Blackbird became a more central figure in his life, Kale felt tossed aside as has every best friend in history when his best bud gets the hots for a gal.

    Should Kale have stayed with Vance at the end, especially because the Key that he remained with was the Key of Fraternity? Maybe. But just maybe. All I thought about was of the wasted opportunity Vance and Lady Blackbird were just tossing aside, and that there was no way I was going to show up in front of Captain Flint after I had given him the proverbial finger and had tried to sabotage the mission for which he had contracted me, delivering Lady Blackbird. So no, in my mind Kale loved Vance like a brother, truly, but not enough to commit suicide, especially when he decided to not trust me that I was acting in his best interest. Seriously, I felt Vance treated Kale with the same mistrust that Naomi had during that last scene, and that made me wonder, am I really willing to risk my life for this asshole? And the answer was No.

    Kale also had some anger seething in him from his fight with Naomi the night before, and also for Lady Blackbird for reasons that never got to be aired in-game. That all combined and was topped with a cherry by Vance’s attitude. For Kale, at that moment, it got to be too much. And I think that was a very valid response.


  16. Okay, cool. Excellent. Thank you.

    If my internet stays alive I’ll write more later, maybe, to honor your effort. But you rock. This is fruitful stuff.


  17. I’m surprised that made any sense considering I wrote it half asleep. I look forward to your reply.

    I love that a week and a half later, we’re still talking about and unpacking this.


  18. I think I was just hoping to get you to uncork about the ‘why’ of Kale’s choice to leave, because before that most of the focus was centered on the choice to give Vance and the Lady a future together.

    Now that you’ve laid it out I am, in a strange sense, satisfied. Now I have a catharsis to Kale’s departure that resonates with me, and thus I can move on.

    I don’t like Kale’s choice, personally. I think it’s sad, because we’d have had your back with Flint, one way or another. Even Naomi. it would have made for a kick-ass bit of drama to go into it together, in spite of our hurt feelings, misunderstandings, mistrusts, etc. But that’s not the point. I at least understand it now, and can resonate with it as a story element.

    And you didn’t OWE me any of this unpacking, so I really appreciate it.


  19. @Mick
    I like that you got me to uncork, so thanks.

    All that I have said still standing, did I like that Kale left? No. If anything I’m a bit disappointed that no one, especially Vance, fought me on that. I know Naomi said something, but it didn’t register with me/Kale.

    There was also an artificial constrain applying force: that this would be my last session due to school. That forced me to take things to a climax and I think may have kept others from pushing in a direction where otherwise we would’ve said “we’ll pick this up next session.” I know that I held myself back from tacking an action that would’ve kept us up a bit longer (pulling a gun pointed at Lady Blackbird and recreating the end of Reservoir Dogs). It’s a shame because it would have forced some really dramatic confrontations, but that’s that. I can also tell you that at that moment, Kale did *not* feel like anyone in the ship had his back, let alone against Flint (aside from the fact that he’s a player character), so leaving looked like a really good option then and there. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.

    Who knows, maybe along the way to meet Flint we’ll find out what really happened to Kale. 😉


  20. for my part in that moment, Vance = mal reynolds, in that “stubborn as a mule” way. He’s thinking was “you have not been telling me everything, your my right hand man who I trust and you have been going behind my back, now you leaving? fine! I dont need you, you backstabbing bastard!”


  21. @Chuck Hedden
    Which is a 100% valid response and perfectly in tune with how you had been playing Vance to that point. It just wasn’t articulated out loud so we could react to it in-game, much like I left some stuff unsaid as well. Live and learn.


Comments are closed.