Lady Blackbird SRD (2009)

Tales from the Wide Blue Yonder: Chapter 1

Writing, layout & art

John Harper


Clinton R. Nixon, James V. West, Luke Crane, Vincent Baker, Jonathan Walton, Judd Karlman, Jason Morningstar, Fred Hicks, Rob Donoghue, Leonard Balsera, Ben Lehman, Mark Causey, Brandon Amancio, Joss Whedon, Hayao Miyazaki, Reiko Kodama


Adam Chevrier, Shannon East, Naydanka Huamani, Sage LaTorra, Paul Riddle




This document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 license.

Lady Blackbird is on the run from an arranged marriage to Count Carlowe.

She hired a smuggler skyship, The Owl, to take her from her palace on the Imperial world of Ilysium to the far reaches of the Remnants, so she could be with her once secret lover, the pirate king Uriah Flint.

However—Just before reaching the halfway point of Haven, The Owl was pursued and captured by the Imperial cruiser Hand of Sorrow, under charges of flying a false flag.

Even now Lady Blackbird, her bodyguard, and the crew of The Owl are detained in the brig, while the commander of the cruiser, Captain Hollas, runs the smuggler ship’s registry over the wireless. It’s only a matter of time before they discover the outstanding warrants and learn that The Owl is owned by none other than the infamous outcast Cyrus Vance.

How will Lady Blackbird and the others escape the Hand of Sorrow?

What dangers lie in their path?

Will they be able to find the secret lair of the pirate king? if they do, will Uriah Flint accept Lady Blackbird as his bride? by the time they get there, will she want him to?

The Wide Blue

Shattered worlds circling a dimming star

Adrift in the Blue

The worlds of the Wild Blue float in a sky of breathable gases circling a small, cold star. Scholars believe that the star is made from pure Essence—the strange energy that sorcerers channel for their magic. This “solar system” is much smaller than you might think—it takes about six weeks to cross from one side to the other on a standard sky ship. Most of the worlds of the Empire are so closely positioned that it takes only a day or two to travel from one to another.

The Lower Depths

The heavier gases form a dense layer of fog below the “sky” of the Wild Blue. This fog is corrosive —people need to wear gas-masks to breathe and most airship hulls will start to corrode after a single exposure. Pirates and other criminals sometimes use the lower depths to evade Imperial patrols and launch raids from hiding. Unfortunately, the depths are home to sky squid and other monstrous things….


Male: Abel, Artemis, August, Eli, Giovanni, Ivan, Jack, Jefferson, Jonas, Leo, Logan, Malachi, Mario, Micah, Nahum, Noah, Orlence, Oscar, Samuel, Silas, Victor, Vlad, Wester
Female: Alice, Ardent, Ashlyn, Caess, Clare, Elena, Eveline, Fiona, Grace, Hannah, Hazel, Hester, Isabel, Krista, Jezebel, Leah, Lucile, Lydia, Seraphina, Sonya, Sophie, Veronica, Violet
Surnames: Bell, Bowen, Canter, Carson, Cross, Harwood, Hollas, Hunter, Kalra, Keel, Moreau, Morgan, Porter, Pickett, Quinn, Sidhu, Soto, Torrez, Vakharia, Walker, Winter, Wright
Noble Houses: Ash, Blackbird, Firefly, Mooncloud, Nightsong, Snow, Twilight, Whitethorn.


The capitol world of the Empire, home to the great noble houses. Ilysium is rich and decadent, attended by servants, slaves, and the elite bodyguards of the nobility.


The staging world of the Imperial Sky Fleet. From here, expeditions are launched into the colonial expanse and all across the Wild Blue. Olympia is also home to the finest brewers and distillers in the Empire.


The most prominent of the Free Worlds. Here, in the sprawling city hubs, the Trade Union tries to impose some order on the bickering clans and factions of the Free Peoples. Slavery is outlawed here, so many ex-slaves make Haven their home.


Unlike other worlds, Nightport does not rotate, which means one face is always in darkness. It is on this side that pirates and smugglers have built a hidden port city in which to carry out their nefarious dealings. This hive of scum and villainy is a dangerous place, but almost anything may be bought or sold there, including secrets.

The Remnants

A swirling maelstrom of spinning world-shards. The Remnants are almost impossible to navigate, even for the best airship pilots. It’s said that the pirate king, Uriah Flint, keeps his secret fortress somewhere deep within the Remnants and only those who know the secret of the true course can ever reach it.

Rules Summary

Rolling the Dice

When you try to overcome an obstacle, you roll dice. Start with one die. Add a die if you have a trait that can help you. If that trait has any tags that apply, add another die for each tag. Finally, add any number of dice from your personal pool of dice (your pool starts with 7 dice).

Roll all the dice you’ve gathered. Each die that shows 4 or higher is a hit. You need hits equal to the difficulty level (usually 3) to pass the obstacle.

Levels: 2 easy—3 difficult—4 challenging—5 extreme

If you pass, discard all the dice you rolled (including any pool dice you used). Don’t worry, you can get your pool dice back.

If you don’t pass, you don’t yet achieve your goal. But, you get to keep the pool dice you rolled and add another die to your pool. The GM will escalate the situation in some way and you might be able to try again.


When events warrant or especially when you fail a roll, the GM may impose a condition on your character: Injured, Dead, Tired, Angry, Lost, Hunted, or Trapped. When you take a condition, mark its box and say how it comes about. [Note: The “dead” condition just means “presumed dead” unless you say otherwise.]


If your character is in a position to help another character, you can give them a die from your pool. Say what your character does to help. If the roll fails, you get your pool die back. If it succeeds, your die is lost.


When you hit a Key, you can do one of two things:

  • Take an experience point (XP)
  • Add a die to your pool (up to a max of 10)

If you go into danger because of your key, you get 2 XP or 2 pool dice (or 1 XP and 1 pool die). When you have accumulated 5 XP, you earn an advance. You can spend an advance on one of the following:

  • Add a new Trait (based on something you learned during play or on some past experience that has come to light)
  • Add a tag to an existing trait
  • Add a new Key (you can never have the same key twice)
  • Learn a Secret (if you have the means to)

You can hold on to advances if you want, and spend them at any time, even in the middle of a battle!

Each key also has a buyoff. If the buyoff condition occurs, you have the option of removing the Key and earning two advances.


You can refresh your pool back to 7 dice by having a refreshment scene with another character. You may also remove a condition or regain the use of a Secret, depending on the details of the scene. A refreshment scene is a good time to ask questions (in character) so the other player can show off aspects of his or her PC—“Why did you choose this life?”—“What do you think of the Lady?”—“Why did you take this job?” etc. Refreshment scenes can be flashbacks, too.

Natasha Syri • Lady Blackbird

An Imperial noble, in disguise, escaping an arranged marriage so she can be with her lover


Imperial Noble

Etiquette, Dance, Educated, History, Science, Wealth, Connections, House Blackbird

Master Sorcerer

Spellcaster, Channeling, Stormblood, Wind, Lightning, [Fly], [Blast], [Sense]


Run, Fencing, Rapier, Duels, Shooting, [Pistol], [Acrobatics]


Charisma, Presence, Command, Nobles, Servants, [Soldiers]


Deception, Misdirection, Disguise, Codes, [Sneak], [Hide]

Tags in [brackets] are qualities you don’t have yet. You can buy them with advances. See the Rules Summary below, under Keys.


Key of the Paragon

As a noble, you’re a cut above the common man. Hit your key when you demonstrate your superiority or when your noble traits overcome a problem. Buyoff: Disown your noble heritage.

Key of the Mission

You must escape the Empire and rendezvous with your once secret lover, the Pirate King Uriah Flint, whom you haven’t seen in six years. Hit your key when you take action to complete the mission. Buyoff: Give up on your mission.

Key of the Impostor

You are in disguise, passing yourself off as commoner. Hit your key when you perform well enough to fool someone with your disguise. Buyoff: Reveal your true identity to someone you fooled.

Secret of Stormblood

As long as you can speak, you can channel magical power and do Sorcery. You have the Master Sorcerer trait and the Stormblood tag.

Secret of Inner Focus

Once per session, you can re-roll a failure when doing Sorcery.

Naomi Bishop

Former pit-fighter and bodyguard to Lady Blackbird



Combat Tested, Brutal, Living Weapon, Fast, Hard, [Strong], [Bone-breaking], [Scary Look]


Awareness, Threats, Defend, Disarm, Restrain, Carry, Delay, [Security], [First Aid]


Sneak, Hide, Run, Tough, Endure, Scrounge, Nobles, [Hatred], [Iron Will]


Insightful, Aware, Coiled, Liars, Traps, [Danger], [Sense Motives]

Tags in [brackets] are qualities you don’t have yet. You can buy them with advances. See the Rules Summary below, under Keys.


Key of the Guardian

You are Lady Blackbird’s loyal defender. Hit your key when you make a decision influenced by Lady Blackbird or protect her from harm. Buyoff: Sever your relationship with the Lady.

Key of Vengeance

The Empire enslaved you and made you kill for sport. You will have your revenge on them and watch their cities burn. Hit your key when you strike a blow against the Empire (especially by killing an Imperial). Buyoff: Forgive them for what they did to you.

Key of the Warrior

You crave the crash and roar of battle, the tougher the better. Hit your key when you do battle with worthy or superior foes. Buyoff: Pass up an opportunity for a good fight.

Secret of Destruction

You can break things with your bare hands as if you were swinging a sledgehammer. It’s scary.

Secret of the Bodyguard

Once per session, you can re-roll a failure when protecting someone.

Cyrus Vance

An ex-Imperial soldier turned smuggler and soldier-of-fortune, Captain of The Owl


Ex-Imperial Soldier

Tactics, Command, Soldiers, Rank, Connections, Maps, Imperial War Ships


Haggle, Deception, Sneak, Hide, Camouflage, Forgery, Pilot, Navigation, [Repair], [Gunnery]


Tough, Run, Scrounge, Endure, Creepy Stare, Intimidate, [Medic]


Battle-Hardened, Shooting, Two-Gun Style, Pistol, Fencing, Sword, [Brawl], [Hail of Lead]


Key of the Commander

You are accustomed to giving orders and having them obeyed. Hit your trait when you come up with a plan and give orders to make it happen. Buyoff: Acknowledge someone else as the leader.

Key of Hidden Longing

You are completely enthralled by Lady Blackbird, but you don’t want her to know it. Hit your key when you make a decision based on this secret affection or when you somehow show it indirectly. Buyoff: Give up on your secret desire or make it public.

Key of the Outcast

You got exiled from the Empire. Hit your key when your outcast status causes you trouble or is important in a scene. Buyoff: Regain your former standing or join a new group.

Secret of Leadership

Once per session, you can give someone else a chance to re-roll a failed roll, by giving them orders, advice, or setting a good example.

Secret of Warpblood

Once per session, you can teleport yourself or someone you’re touching

Kale Arkam

A burglar and petty sorcerer, first mate and mechanic of The Owl



Quiet, Sneak, Hide, Dextrous, Locks, Perceptive, Traps, Darkness, [Alarms] , [Distractions]


Quick, Dirty Fighting, Tumbler, Escape, Contortionist, [Sleight of Hand], [Acrobatics], [Dagger]

Petty Magic (use one spell tag at a time)

Light spell, Dark spell, Jump spell, Shatter Spell, [Channeling], [Spellcaster]


Repair, Engines, Efficiency, Spare Parts, Sabotage, [Enhancements], [Ship Weapons]


Key of Greed

You like the shiny things. Hit your key when you steal something cool or score a big payoff. Buyoff: Swear off stealing forever.

Key of the Mission

You must safely deliver Lady Blackbird to the Pirate King Uriah Flint, so she can marry him. Hit your key when you take action to complete the mission. Buyoff: Give up the mission.

Key of Fraternity

You are sworn to Captain Vance in a bond of brotherhood. Hit your key when your character is influenced by Vance or when you show how deep your bond is. Buyoff: Sever the relationship

Secret of Concealment

No matter how thoroughly you’re searched, you always have a few key items with you. You can produce any common, simple item at a moment’s notice.

Secret of Reflexes

Once per session, you can re-roll a failure when doing anything involving grace, dexterity, or quick reflexes.


A goblin sky-sailor and pilot of The Owl



Daring, Steady, Maneuvering, Evasion, Tricky flying, Navigation, Maps, Atmospherics. [The Owl], [Battle], [Ramming]

Sky Sailor

Gunnery, Aim, Maintenance, Observation, Signals, Empire, Pirates, Free Worlds, Haven, [Repair], [Connections]


Warp shape, Glide, Nightvision, Agile, Quick, Tumbler, Teeth & Claws, [Mimic Shape], [Reckless], [Connections]


Crafty, Sneaky, Distractions, Bluff, Languages, Trade Speak, [Sharp], [Disguise]


Key of the Daredevil

You thrive in dangerous situations. Hit your key when you do something cool that is risky or reckless (especially piloting stunts). Buyoff: Be very very careful.

Key of Conscience

You don’t like to see anyone suffer, even enemies. Hit your key when you help someone who is in trouble or when you change someone’s life for the better Buyoff: Ignore a request for help.

Key of Banter

You have a knack for snappy comments. Hit your key when Snargle says something that makes the other players laugh or when you explain something using your pilot techno jargon. Buyoff: Everyone groans at one of your comments.

Secret of Shape Warping

As a goblin, you can change your shape, growing shorter, taller, fatter, thinner, or changing your skin color, at will.

Secret of the Lucky Break

Once per session, you can keep your pool dice when you succeed (so go ahead and use ‘em all).

The Owl

An old but reliable skyship, outfitted for smuggling

Sky Hauler C9 Refit

The Owl was once a Sky Hauler C9 cargo ship but has since been extensively customized by Cyrus and Kale. It has a smaller cargo area and four passenger berths in the reclaimed space. It also has hidden smuggling compartments scattered throughout the vessel.

The Owl is an old ship, but it can hold its own with more modern vessels thanks to its custom engines and supercharged steam drive. Snargle has also made several unique adjustments to the controls to allow the large ship to maneuver like a much smaller craft.

Unfortunately, all of these modifications put a lot of strain on the old girl. Kale keeps the ship running day to day, but when it’s put under a lot of stress (as it often is) things can go awry—broken pipes, vented steam, leaking fluids, and worse.

Still, The Owl is not just a skyship, it’s a home to its crew. They gather around the beat-up old wooden dinner table in the galley every night and thank the four winds that fortune saw fit to bless them with such a fine craft.


Length: 48 meters
Crew: 2–3
Berths: 6 (2 crew, 4 passenger)
Cargo Capacity: 30,000 pounds (6 cargo pods)

  • Tri-Valve Reciprocal Steam Drive
  • (2) Twin-Coil Induction Thrusters

Cruise Speed: 160 knots
Flank Speed: 310 knots under boost
Weapons: Top-mounted external gun turret
Wireless: Midrange Multi-Band with Signal Mask

  • Short-Range Sonar
  • Atmosphere/Pressure Analyzer

Hull: Treated to resist corrosion in the lower depths for up to 4 hours.

[GM: You can inflict conditions on The Owl as events warrant. It begins play with the Need Fuel condition marked. Potential conditions are Need Fuel, Need Supplies, Busted & Leaking, Slowed, Crippled]

Running the Game

Tips, tricks, and advice for the GM

Listen & Ask Questions, Don’t Plan

When you’re the GM, don’t try to plan what will happen. Instead, ask questions—lots and lots and make them pointed toward the things you’re interested in. Like, Cyrus gives Naomi an order within earshot of Lady Blackbird, but the Lady’s player doesn’t register it right away. Naomi goes to follow the order. So I ask Lady Blackbird’s player, “How do you react when the Captain orders your bodyguard around? Is that okay with you?” And then, when it’s totally not okay, “What do you say to him? What do you say to Naomi?” and a few more like that and everyone is yelling at each other and rolling dice to impose their will.

Also ask questions like:

  • “Does anything break when you do this crazy maneuver?”
  • “The fire probably spreads out of control doesn’t it?”
  • “That sounds like a bold plan. What’s the first step?”
  • “Do the two of you end up somewhere quiet together? Does something happen between you?”

“Do you know anything about the Crimson Sky rebels? What are they like? Is it normal for them to be this far into the Empire?”

Keep that going at a steady pace and the game flies along pretty well. Part of the job of the GM is listening to what the players say, catching it, turning it around and looking at it, and seeing if there’s anything else to be done with it.

The GM’s jobs: listen and reincorporate, play the NPCs with gusto, create interesting obstacles, and impose conditions as events warrant (especially when rolls fail).

Say Yes, Look For the Obstacles

By default, characters can accomplish anything covered by their traits. They’re competent and effective people, in other words. It’s no fun to ask for a roll when there’s no cool obstacle in the way. Just say yes to the action, listen, and ask questions as usual. But also, be on the look out for the opportunity to create obstacles as the action develops. Because you’re asking leading questions and listening closely, they’ll be all over the place, so it won’t be too hard to spot them.

Obstacles can be people (pirates, goblins, imperials, citizens, nobles), weather, monsters (sky squid, flying eels), situations (fires, falling, being shot at, chases, escapes) or anything else you can imagine.

If a character tries something not covered by their traits, that’s an obstacle right there: lack of experience and training. Lots of fun things can go wrong when you don’t know what you’re doing! So go ahead and call for rolls there. Also, players will sometimes try things they’re bad at so they can fail and add dice to their pool. It’s a fine move for them and it gives you the chance to create more trouble, so everyone wins.


Some people feel better when there are hard limits. If you need them, you can use these.

  • Maximum number of tags on one trait: 12
  • Maximum number of keys per character: 5
  • Maximum number of secrets per character: 4

Using limits will naturally give players some harder choices to make, so only use them if you encounter an issue that will be solved with limits or if the players request them.

Obstacles & Difficulties

Escape the Brig

The cells in the Hand of Sorrow brig are walled in steel with heavy iron locks on the doors.
Obstacles: Pick the lock: 3. Trick a marine guard: 3. (Bishop only—Smash the door open: Automatic. Smash the door open quietly: 5) Sneak through the ship: 4. Fight crew: 3. Fight marines: 4. Fight a lot of marines: 5 (or higher).
Escalation: Alarm goes off. More marines appear. The Owl is jettisoned to stop your escape. Someone gets separated from the group (Lost and/or Trapped).

Bounty Hunter Ambush

Unless they keep a low profile, the actions of The Owl will eventually draw attention from bounty hunters looking to cash in on the warrants for Vance or the reward for Lady Blackbird.
Obstacles: Fight back when ambushed: 5. Flee: 3. Try to bargain with them: 4. Pull a dirty trick to turn the tables: 3.
Escalation: Someone is grabbed and held at gunpoint (Trapped).

Skyship Battle

You always want to be above your enemy in a skyship battle—unless your vessel is equipped to go into the Lower Depths…
Obstacles: Maneuver for a clear shot: 3. Maneuver against a smaller, faster ship: 4. Maneuver to boarding action: 4. Fire on enemy ship: 3. Fire on a smaller, faster ship: 4. Avoid enemy fire: 3. Avoid a lot of enemy fire: 4-5.
Escalation: The Owl is hit and loses control (Busted & Leaking, Slowed). More enemy ships appear. You’re driven into a storm by enemy action. The fight attracts a sky squid.

Parlay with Scoundrels

To find the secret path to the lair of the Pirate King in the remnants, you’ll have to deal with a whole host of unsavory characters.
Obstacles: Find an underworld den: 3. Show you’re not someone to mess with: 3. Arrange a fair deal: 4. Arrange a deal that goes in your favor: 5. Spot their devious lies: 4.
Escalation: The scoundrels decide to simply take what they want from you. You’re sold out. You were followed to the meet!

Sky Squid Attack

While passing through the lower depths, your engines attract a hungry sky squid. Its tentacles close around The Owl
Obstacles: Escape from tentacles: 5. Attack Squid: 3. Maneuver in squid ink: 4. Avoid harm from squid attacks (crushing, smashing, biting, thunderous song): 3.
Escalation: Squid calls other squid with its song. Squid blood attracts other monster(s). Pulled further into the depths (Lost). Crash into rocks/debris/hidden world (Busted & Leaking or Crippled).

Fight a Sorcerer

Uriah Flint is a flameblood and a master sorcerer. Not that anyone would need to fight him, though. I mean, why would that happen?
Obstacles: Dodge blasts of magical fire: 3. Attack Flint through his magical defenses: 5. Endure the heat and smoke as the fight wears on: 3.
Escalation: The fires spread out of control. You drop your weapons when they get too hot to hold.

New Traits & Tags


Trustworthy, Reliable, Fearless, Reckless, Ruthless, Underhanded, Dangerous, Deadly, Cruel, Unpredictable, Heroic, Honorable, Compassionate


Gunnery, Aim, Maintenance, Damage Control, Observation, Signals, The Owl, Cargo, Supplies, First Aid, Boarding Action

Sky Pirate

Vicious, Hack & Slash, Cutlass, Knife, Shooting, Boomstick, Gunner, Boarding Action, Crew, Loot, Capture, Drink, Hardy, Treacherous, Intimidating, Contacts, Underworld


Curious, Aware, Nimble, Hardy, Ancient Lore, Languages, Ruins, Monsters, Myths, Maps


Fly, Possess, Insubstantial, Control Technology, Electrical, Dominate, Terrify, Sneak, Overload


Brave, Daring, Heroic, Rescue, Falling, Fire, Reckless, Explosions, Escapes, Outnumbered, Underdog

New Keys & Secrets

The Key of the Traveler

You love exploring new places and meeting new people. Hit your key when you share an interesting detail about a person, place, or thing or when you go somewhere exciting and new. Buyoff: Pass up the opportunity to see something new.

The Key of the Broker

You like to make deals and trade favors. Hit your key when you bargain, make a new contact, or exchange a favor. Buyoff: Cut yourself off from your network of contacts.

The Key of the Tinkerer

You just can’t leave it alone. Hit your key when you modify, improve, repair, or patch some tech. Buyoff: Pass up the opportunity to mess around with technology.

The Key of the Pirate

You pillage, raid, and terrorize the Wild Blue. Hit your key when you impress someone with your piratical nature or do something to add to your reputation. Buyoff: Turn over a new leaf and go straight.

The Key of the Vow

You have a vow of personal behavior that you have sworn not to break. Hit your key when your vow significantly impacts your decisions. Buyoff: Break your vow.

The Secret of the True Course

You know how to navigate the Remnants. Requires: You need to learn the navigation codes from someone who has the secret.

The Secret of the Explorer

You’ve been all over the Blue, seen a lot of strange things. Once per session, you can re-roll a failure when you’re dealing with local customs or strange places. Requires: You’ve traveled from one side of the Blue to the other.

The Secret of the Sky Song

You know how to call sky squid. Requires: You’ve trained with a master of the Sky Song or have been dream-linked to a sky squid.

The Secret of the Shootist

You’re deadly with a firearm (or two). Once per session, you can re-roll a failure when you’re shooting. Requires: You’ve been in a lot of gunfights or are learning from someone who has.

The Secret of Rank

You hold a rank in an organization, military, or guild and have the associated responsibilities and privileges. Requires: Promotion in the organization or excellent forgeries of papers indicating the same.