Blades in the Dark Solo playthrough of my headhunter veteran, Mardian “Gunner” Booth.
Part I here.
Gunner has set up a blockade for the Girthy Esme, an armored carriage transporting the fabled Mask of a Thousand Faces. He was sneaking, deceiving, and tinkering around the carriage, looking for a way in. After he was unsuccessful, things started unfolding in a way that suited his headhunter life: prone on a rooftop, with a cigar in his mouth and a sizzling rifle in his hands.
Rooftops, showdowns, and uninvited guests
The rifleman’s body slumps forward like a sack of grain, the crowd panics, and two officers duck behind the carriage. The shot echoes throughout Shade Street, followed by reinforcement whistles. The horses rear and twist, and the driver runs off into an alleyway. The Devil’s Bargain I took blew my position immediately, but I waited, one sweat droplet breaking its way, for a Bluecoat to peek.
And soon enough, the impatient copper spares a glance, Gunner pulls the trigger, and the bullet hits the carriage doors. The previous tinkering paid off with a huge electric blast that caught the officer in the face. Even though this is Gunner’s regular Tuesday, I rolled a 4, which means a complication jabs us. The “Reinforcement Arrives” clock starts ticking.
I decide to relocate and roll for Prowl as Gunner parkours across rooftops. The gameplay position is risky, the effect is normal, and the dice show a 5.
“C’mon”, I close my eyes in frustration.
During the last jump, Gunner lands on a fragile tile, his foot breaking through the roof.
A family of four, who were enjoying a modest supper beneath, screamed in unison. The father spilled the soup, the mother murmured a prayer, and the dog ran into the cupboard. Three times this has already happened this week, and one ought to think to put up a sign or something.
“Careful scoundrels; tiles are treacherous like your ex.”
I try to resist the consequence with Armor, but my Loadout is full, so I cannot. With heavy sighs and Gunner’s curses, I jot down a level two harm: Fractured Leg. Finally, he slumps behind a dormer, binds a plank around his shin, and reloads his rifle.
With a better angle on the Bluecoats’ frantic faces, Gunner takes a puff from his painkiller-infused cigar. As soon as the smoke shrouded him, he took a shot. It banged ominously and pierced the officer’s chest, splashing red like a wicked color balloon at a birthday party. I wondered what his last thoughts were behind the dwindling eyes, and who would repay his obvious card debt.
I say obvious because when the bullet tore his uniform, it sent cards flying from his pocket like confetti.
“Second down”, Gunner mutters. I didn’t want to be a buzzkill, so I kept quiet about the roll; it was a 4.
“Over there!”, the reinforcement yells as they clamber five rooftops away. The consequences are never far behind.
• • •
The Blue Four, as scoundrels call them, are your regular first-wave reinforcements in Crow’s Foot: two panting gunmen, battling their heavy armor and cloak; two exhausted riflemen, wiping sweat from their eyebrows. If things get serious, then the city spares some elites. Otherwise, they’d be sending patrols every two minutes with this crime rate.
“Hiya fellas”, Gunner greets them with a two-finger salute, his beloved Mercy resting on his lap.
“Take a minute, sip some water.”
One officer leans against his knees, another blows his nose, and the third takes a couple of breaths, then raises his rifle. The fourth managed to insult Gunner’s hardworking mother and tell him an interesting fact about Ironhook Prison.
“See, that’s totally uncalled for”, Gunners says, pointing with a cigar. “And by the way, I wouldn’t point that shite at me.”
They look at each other, and four metal barrels now stare back at Gunner.
“It’s not shit, it’s the newest Colt”, one says.
A cornered rat with a bandaged leg, they thought, what can he possibly do?
In a fourth-wall-breaking moment, Gunner looks at the panning camera, winks, and wedges the cigar between his teeth.
“Sumfthin’ badashh”, he answers the question.
The 12-bullet clip goes in with a satisfying click as he opens a suppressive fire.
The rooftop lights up and plays a sweet melody of clings and clangs, its beauty only slightly ruined by men’s yells for cover. This extraordinary feat costs us two Stress; we are now at seven out of nine. The tiles, chimney, and gutter take the brunt of the hit. One rifleman’s helmet is blown away by a bullet; another one is wounded in the shoulder. On the street below, the charred-faced officer peeks behind the carriage, encouraged by the rooftop showdown. Gunner’s demonic eye spots him, and in a dazzling flourish worthy of Max Payne, he puts a bullet right into Bluecoat’s squinting eye.
“Three”, Gunner mutters and starts
• • •
In every given chase, there’s usually a problem, and if you are unlucky or particularly daring, there are two or three. First, the suppressive fire didn’t give Gunner as much time as he would have hoped. The second is his fractured leg, which makes him look hilariously dangerous: a battle-tested scoundrel, limping his way across rooftops. The above word ‘running’ was written in excitement and should be scrapped. The third problem, however, took the form of a wild thief who wasn’t limping at all, darting towards the carriage. She was half Gunner’s age, twice as quick, and had vastly better hygiene.
“Oh no, no, no! No, you wouldn’t dare!” Gunner yells at her but then quickly ducks as the Blue Four open fire behind him.
“I swear, I can’t earn an honest livin’ in this town,” he grumbles while reloading. The unwritten rule says that the third problem always outshines the first two.
Gunner aims at the girl, but her acrobatics are impervious. She is a burglar kitten, born and raised on wobbly walls, slippery roofs, and darkened alleyways. No sooner than her feet touch the brick, she’s off into the air again, the brown clay split by a late bullet. Gunner’s demonic eye glows bright red, focused, hunting, and valuable seconds pass. He shoots again, but the thief is already two paces away. He shoots, but only air greets the bullets.
“Are you for real?”, he yells and turns, looking for a way down. Finding a pulley nearby, he grabs the rope, shoots the mechanism, and gives a finger to the Blue Four.
I sip my tea and scan the character sheet. My fractured leg gives me a movement penalty, and Shocked will trigger pain when I touch the carriage doors. The wise thing to do is to relent, disappear into the shadows, and then track the vehicle. We can invoke contacts and scour the underground. We can let her take the carriage, do the heavy driving, and then hunt her down like a stray cat. But Gunner wouldn’t forgive me, not after he’d bled. His pride cannot bear it. And if he finds out I named the wild thief Maxime like he’s unrequited love, I’d have an exclusive date with Mercy.
So I do what every hardcore gamer does: push for luck, gamble the odds, and forget to pee before the last showdown.