Blades In The Dark
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  1. #1

    Blades In The Dark

    I've been a little surprised to not see more chatter about Blades In The Dark on these forums, so I figured I'd get the ball rolling.

    I bought Blades after giving Dungeon World a try and following up on some other Powered By The Apocalypse material. After watching some actual play on youtube I was intrigued enough to buy the book and bully my play group into giving it a try.

    We're about eleven sessions in and last night one of my most skeptical players said, "You know, I might almost like this game more than D&D."

    High praise indeed!

    I've been playing rpg's for over thirty years, with the vast majority of that time spent with D&D in all it's various editions. I like 5E. A lot. But over time I've come to see it morph more and more into a board game with role play elements. I still love it, and it does what it does very well, and of course I know that I, as DM, have a lot to do with how much role play is involved in the game. But I do find the abundance of rules minutia pushing it further and further away from really interesting role play.

    So BitD has been a huge breath of fresh air, and I'll be taking the lessons I've learned from it back to my D&D game. I'm constantly impressed by the way even character creation pushes story and role play to the forefront. Plot hooks seem to present themselves at every turn, and I see my players truly immersed in the world in a way I haven't seen in a long, long time.

    The mechanics/rules do come with a bit of a learning curve, and I've had a lot of questions for the guys on the Blades google+ boards, but now that I've got the hang of it, it's a joy to run! Combat is light years faster than D&D, and social rolls actually mean something, often times forking NPC interactions into entirely new and interesting plot hooks that just seem to develop on their own.

    I don't want to beat the comparison between Blades and D&D into the ground. That's not my intention at all. Mainly what I'd like to do is encourage others to give BitD a try. I honestly think it's one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had and I hope to get the word out. It's made me a better GM, that's for sure. It'd be worth it if that's all I got out of it. But more than that, the setting is rich, fascinating, and well developed. It's loaded with interesting NPC's and factions, several of whom will come front loaded into characters upon creation giving instant enemies and allies. The idea of the crew as it's own "character" that advances is new to me and my players, and they've had great fun cooperatively deciding how their crew advances. It's really quite elegant.

    Enough gushing. I hope some of you give this great game a whirl. I'd also be interested in reading the experiences of others running/playing Blades.
    XP Campbell gave XP for this post

  2. #2
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    I've ran a few one-shots, but I'm curious about how the rules for a prolonged campaign work. How are your players managing Stress, both short- and long-term? Are they finding the Crew advancement fulfilling and useful? I've heard some chatter that the Downtime rules can be a bit clunky; how has that been going for you?

  3. #3
    On these boards, I think @Manbearcat has played a bit of BitD. Maybe @Campbell also.

    Quote Originally Posted by cthulhu42 View Post
    I don't want to beat the comparison between Blades and D&D into the ground. That's not my intention at all. Mainly what I'd like to do is encourage others to give BitD a try. I honestly think it's one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had and I hope to get the word out. It's made me a better GM, that's for sure. It'd be worth it if that's all I got out of it.
    I think there are a lot of RPG systems that are underappreciated and worth talking more about. That's why I keep posting about my play experiences with Prince Valiant, Classic Traveller, etc!

    Unfortunately I've not played any BitD and not much DW either, so don't have heaps to offer on this occasion. I am hoping to play some DW, maybe next year.

  4. #4
    I can't find the old post by chao and I that went very in-depth into Blades, unfortunately. I'm sure a solid effort to search should find it.

    I'm currently running a very intermittent Wild West hack of Blades rifted off of Red Dead Redemption (after considering a Space hack) retrofitting the Duskvol map and refluffing all of the gangs/power players therein.

    I'd be glad to run DW for you live over Skype @pemerton with a couple of your buddies if we could find a way to bridge the 14 hour time difference!

  5. #5
    @Manbearcat, @cthulhu42, I think this might be the thread: Blades in the Dark Actual Play. It was started by @Campbell.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    I've ran a few one-shots, but I'm curious about how the rules for a prolonged campaign work. How are your players managing Stress, both short- and long-term? Are they finding the Crew advancement fulfilling and useful? I've heard some chatter that the Downtime rules can be a bit clunky; how has that been going for you?
    The linked ďactual game playĒ thread does a pretty good job of outlining the game but Iíll answer your questions anyway for the sake of another perspective.

    If you really want to see the game in action I would strongly suggest looking up Roll Play Blades on youtube in which the creator of thr gamer, John Harper, runs a group through some twenty-one sessions. Not only will this give you a very good idea of how the game shakes out over extended play, itís tremendously entertaining Harper gives what I consider a master class in the art of Gming, and the players themselves are wonderful. I literally got a little misty eyed during some scenes. To put it another way, itís about 80 hours of gameplay and Iíve watched the whole thing twice. It also helped a great deal in parsing some of the more abstract elements of the game that I was having some issues with.

    In my experience of ten or eleven sessions I feel like Blades handles a lengthy campaign just fine. In, fact, given itís focus on role-play, my groups characters are some of the most fleshed out and ďrealĒ characters Iíve seen in a long time.

    Mechanically everything seems to be on course. As far as stress goes, it took a couple of sessions for my players to really grasp how to utilize it, but now that they have theyíre very comfortable with balancing it. Iíve got two players with single traumas each, one of which was self inflicted after the player accepted a bargain from a demon and headed down the Path of the Forgotten God.

    In short, none of them are currently at too much risk of having to retire due to trauma.

    Crew Advancement: I think this is actually one of the mechanical features of the game that the players enjoy the most. As you probably already know, the crew is itís own entity and has itís own ďcharacterĒ sheet. It gains experience when the players do certain things and advances according to the playerís collective desire. Itís a bit like some video games where you get to trick out your lair with cool features.

    The players absolutely dig it and itís fun to watch them decide among themselves which upgrades theyíll choose when the crew advances. Personally I think itís very well implemented and it adds another layer to the game. I donít know if this is a unique game design idea for an rpg, but itís new to us and it really adds a lot to the game.

    Downtime Rules: Clunky? I donít think thatís a fair term to use. Most of the time they actually work quite well, and it generally goes pretty quickly. First you do payoff and rep gain from the score, then figure out how much Heat the crew has acquired due to their illegal activities. Then thereís an entanglement. Then, downtime activities. Each crew member gets two free downtime activities with the option to buy more with either coin or rep. These activities include indulging their respective vices in order to clear stress, acquiring an asset, working on a long term project, recovering from harm, reduce heat, or train.

    All of those post-score steps can be either role-played out at length or hand waved depending upon how interesting or important they are.

    Sometimes entanglements can be a bit tricky. For example, you might get an entanglement that doesnít really apply to the crew. But with a little imagination itís usually pretty easy to work out. Also sometimes entanglements can be a bit overwhelming. During our last game the crew had just completed a pretty difficult score. They were beaten up pretty bad and just wanted to lick their wounds. But they rolled a pretty bad entanglement that suddenly had an opposing faction knocking on their door wanting a piece of their action. They are now at war with that faction.

    But this is by design. The game purposely pushes back from all directions and makes the PCís fight for every inch. Itís a hard world they live in.

    Sometimes Iíll delay an entanglement if it makes sense in the fiction. I suppose you could even skip one here or there if you were feeling generous, but so far I havenít.

    One thing Iíd say is that Iíve been pretty generous with score payout. My crew usually nets about 8 to 12 coin per score and they spend it as fast as they get it. Thereís always something to spend coin on, especially if you accrue a lot of stress or wounds.

    So no, I personally donít find downtime clunky. In fact, it serves to push the story forweard in new and interesting ways. For example, I hadnít planned on the crew going to war with an opposing faction, but the entanglement rules pushed events in that direction. It was ultimately the PCís choice to go to war (they could have paid the other faction off), so they get the feeling of steering their own fates, and I benefit from a whole new story line!

    And that, I think is where Blades really shines. The rules themselves push the story forward. I donít do a whole lot of prep work for our sessions because I know that the game will provide hooks and plots and conflict and interesting NPCís. Iíve been keeping a list of potential plot hooks that now numbers eighteen items, any of which I can introduce whenever I need to. And many of those hooks are related to fctions and NPCís that are doing their own things in the background which gives the sense of a breathing, living, world spider webbed with intrigue. Iíve got about a half dozen clocks going on that relate to the PCís and every session they get a little closer to being filled. The PCís donít know it, but that bounty hunter is getting awfully close to tracking down the PC who is an escaped slave. The Red Sashes want to know who framed their man and caused his murder, and that clock is filling. The Grinders want to know who assassinated their leader, and sooner or later that chicken will come home to roost.

    Iíll give one more quick example of how Blades pushes the story: The crew is involved with a faction that is at odds with a very dangerous vampire named Lord Scurlock. So they are at odds with him too. The faction that the crew is on good terms with has a healer friend named Quellyn.

    About four sessions in we had a new player join us. During character creation one of the things the player will do is choose two NPCís from a list provided on their character sheet. One of those NPCís is an enemy, one is an ally.

    So this new player gets to that step of character creation and looks over his list (which I had not even looked at; I had no idea who was on his list) and chooses Lord Scurlock as an ally and Quellyn as an enemy! He had no prior knowledge of any of the preceding sessions. It was pure chance! But oh my gosh, itís been a hoot watching him tread the line between the two factions! Heís ducking Quellyn and doing his level best to keep his relationship with Scurlock a secret. Itís been wonderful to watch and a joy to role-play, and I didnít have a thing to do with it!

    Sorry for the length of this reply, but I hope that answered your questions and maybe shed a little more light on this great game.
    XP pemerton, Campbell, Gradine, hawkeyefan, darkbard gave XP for this post

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