Green Flyers – Sphinx

November 19, 2019

Continuing our next look at the options for Blades in the Dark in the Card Catalog, we hit the second Playbook that I knew would be happening – The Whisper.  Blades in the Dark’s setting has a lot of magical and “spooky” components as the Ghost field that permeates the world after the cataclysm a thousand years ago broke the gates of death. Combined with the “demons” that stalk the world, GMs and Players have a lot of flexibility to play a more Victorian Gaslight Ghost style compared to the electropunk style we have alluded to in Cricket though Thistle began to slide in that direction.  This is also going to be a use of the Iruvian background, which is another part of the world building that isn’t fully defined and so has the wide open spaces for players and GMs to fill in. Now, we will turn the attention to Sphinx, the mysterious Iruvian in the Green Flyers. 

Design Notes

The Whisper is the Playbook that is immediately tied to and works with the Ghost Field and Spirits.  There are some other Playbooks, like Vampires and the Spirit possessed inanimate “Hulls”, that are expressly spirits in other forms, but the Whisper is the one you will most likely encounter. Whispers, even more than Spiders, are about knowledge.  They know the secrets of the spirits, but also earn XP when they use knowledge. The Sphinx character will allow us as well to explore the Iruvian Heritage and maybe describe a little different corner of the Doskvol world. 

  • Playbook – Whisper. Blades in the Dark is set in a world where ghosts and demons roam, the shattering of the gates of Death a thousand years ago breaking the normal cycles of life and death.  The prevalence of those ghosts means a Whisper is well met in any Crew even if any Scoundrel may Attune. 
  • Heritage – Iruvian. The Iruvian’s are a powerful and idiosyncratic minority in the Empire.  They come from a separate Island continent and have the reputation of bein their own people.  Legend says that the Eternal Emperor received the gift of knowledge of life unending from the Iruvians and that is why they are given more leeway in keeping their own traditions. While a Whisper may be of any background, I wanted to use a broad range of Backgrounds, and Iruvia won out to be the Whisper while the Dagger Islands will give us our Slide next week. 
  • Background – Noble. I want to work a little more in the Gothic storytelling traditions with Sphinx, and that means that I need a bit of remove.  With a Noble background, Sphinx could be fallen or even a secret Scoundrel and also lets me look at the world through that lens where Cricket and Thistle both are more on the punk or electropunk side of the Blades setting. 
  • Action Dots – Unsurprisingly, a Whisper has two Action Dots in Attune to begin and one in Study.  Attune is the Action that is most tied to the ghost zone and interacting with Spirits before we look to the Whisper’s Special Abilities.   To give some breadth for Sphinx’s ability, I will put an Action Dot in both Prowl for the ability to sneak and Finesse for the fine actions that may come up, possibly quietly and surprisingly slipping a knife into someone if needed.  The final two will be split between Consort and Sway to show her ability to subtly manipulate people and otherwise get her way with both Spirits and humans. If you recall Attributes, this means that Thena will have 1 Insight, 2 Prowess, and 3 Resolve top begin. 
  • Special Ability – Iron Will. This was the hardest of the choices to make because all of the Whisper’s options are tempting, but an image came to my mind with Sphinx in her Spirit Mask and diaphanous gown being utterly nonplussed by a raging spirit so Iron Will won out.  The Special Armor based ability may be used to avoid effects from the arcane while a more mad scientist style Whisper could use Strange Methods to have benefits to invention and crafting. It is hard to really talk too much about it without just copying the pages out of the book, and this is not the place to do that! Suffice it to say that Whispers have a great deal of options because they function in the expanded world of the Ghost Zone.    
  • Contacts – The Playbooks come loaded with stock contacts to choose from for ease of play, and while an enterprising GM could likely make their own or work with the Players to make new ones, for our purposes I’ll stick with the listed options. The friend or close acquaintance is Flint, the Spirit Trafficker. Who helps her procure rare spirits while Nyryx has a burning desire to repay Sphinx from being trapped and nearly destroyed early in her time here.  
  • Vice – Luxury. Coming from a Noble line and being used to the better things, Thena looks for release in Luxury and particularly in the Theatre.  The thrill of the show, and of the audience together seeing the story unfold relieves Thena’s soul and the excitement that comes from the unique catharsis only provided in a Theatre keeps Thena grounded. She is immediate recognized as a ptron by Maestro Helleren and I suspect her particular skills may yet be needed by the theatre some time in the near future. 
  • Finishing Touches – Thena Basran was another name from the examples of the book, as is Sphinx.  The Spirit Mask Thena uses will look like the head of a Sphinx, hence her name which I will say is a type of demon more common in Iruvia.  For her Appearance, Loose Silks conceal a slim and poised form in the diaphanous folds of the Robe combined with the mask gives us a perfectly creepy and also recognizable Whisper concept. 

A quick note on Advancement, while this Card Catalog is going to let us stop at a starting character, I want to note that Blades in the Dark provides an interesting way to advance with XP.  Every advancement in each category costs the same, but you earn XP not only through the triggers on your sheet, but when you make a roll in a Desperate position – the more adversity you are under the faster you advance.  The Adversity based XP must be allotted to the Attribute track where it happens, so making a Desperate roll with Prowl means you get to mark Prowess XP, while the other XP triggers may be allocated between them or for Special Ability advancement.  

Story Notes

Thena Basran still has not gotten used to the misty and wet northern lands.  The black sands still haunted her dreams and the obsidian mountains betrayed how much she missed home. The Basran were well respected in Iruvia, claiming nobility from the Immortal Emperor’s own grant when they shared the secrets of defeating Death with him a thousand years back. It was from Iruvia and the pleasing volcanic warmth that Thena sought only to return but until such time as the Iruvian Embassy would allow it, she suffered through the streets of Doskvol’s wet and miserable existence.   

With the warm red glow of the volcanos, the Basrani were a not unknown family in Iruvia.  Minor nobles, for sure, and never likely to see one of their own ascend, but a family with great knowledge of the Ghost Field.  The respect shown the Basrani for their ability to quell spirits and, they told themselves, the Empire’s entire field of Spectrology came from their forebearers. The secrets of the demons that now stalked the land were also their province, and so they were the family looked to often by those more powerful  for answers about the cracks in the world and what came through them.  

Thena saw her father get an answer wrong. Perfection is an impossible standard, but the Basrani were expected to keep it and when her father did not, it took every scrap of influence her parents had to instead be sent away to study the Spectrology of the Empire in Doskvol. From the warm embrace of the Iruvian sands, to the dank and damp streets of Doskvol where the Basrani Rituals would brand them outsiders as brightly as their skin and hair set them apart.  The respect shown Iruvians was not as common in that far flung outpost. 

The Basrani were still nobles, but the Iruvian Embassy kept close track of Thena’s parents.  They were skating on the thinest of obsidian sheets and even the functionaries knew it. Thena was left away from home, away from all she knew, with a talent to see the Ghost Field and knowledge of the demons in a faraway land.  The theatre let her escape from her own mind for hours at a time and live in the worlds that they showed her providing a catharsis, a purgation, that she did not experience in the streets. Little surprise that she turned to the thrill of the underworld.  She was no fool, though, as she wrapped herself in an Iruvian silk that was a dark blue that would almost shimmer but instead shift to an inky black as it moved hiding her body and then her face. Her spirit mask reflected the Sphinxes of Iruvian – Demons of the Earth who shared their forms with those of animals from before the cataclysm.  

She has made a small name for herself before Cricket found her.  The Flyers needed a Whisper as any smugglers who want to go beyond the wall know … and he had determined Sphinx’s identity.  A conversation in a box at the Spiregarden would not have been enough, but he came speaking Hadrathi. Those lilting sounds and eliding consonants were music to her ears, and Cricket’s offer was considered, accepted, and now the Flyers count as one of their own the enigmatic Sphinx. 

Sphinx Playbook Here

Fillable PDF Sheet from ad1066. 

Green Flyers & Blades in the Dark Overview Here

Blades in the Dark is an Evil Hats Production Publication in association with One Seven Design.  Blades in the Dark is Copyright 2017 John Harper © This is a fan work and not meant or intended to infringe on the copyright of the work; no claim of ownership is intended or implied.  All work product quoted and referenced is for review and analysis. Please visit Blades in the Dark for more information on Blades in the Dark and the Forged in the Dark series using the Blades System Resource Document under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License 
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