The Blades Know What You Did In The Dark
  • The Blades Know What You Did In The Dark

    Set in the industrial city of Doskvol, Blades in the Dark starts the players as ground level criminals in a world where magic and technology rub shoulders in an uneasy fashion. Significant narrative work has gone into to bringing Doskvol, and its criminal gangs to life and the setting feels like a wild blend of Dishonoured, Peaky Blinders and Stalingrad.

    Character creation is quick and easy. After picking your character archetype, it's just a matter of filling in the requisite playbook. All your skills and special abilities are laid out in front of you. Each character starts with a certain level of stress and trauma, representing their physical and mental breaking points. Your playbook also lists your vices, to be indulged at the end of the game to reduce your stress.

    Once you have picked characters, it's time to pick your style of crew. Are you shadowy assassins or swaggering bravos? Advancing your crew is one of the primary motivations within the game. You plan scores so you can gain assets, assets let you upgrade your crew , upgrades let you pull off bigger scores, and eventually you go from having nothing but your lair, to controlling a swathe of the city.

    Success or failure while out on the job is determined by rolling dice from an accrued dice pool. The GM decides if the actions you want to take are controlled, risky or desperate, which affects the potential consequences of the roll. You gather up a dice pool based on your traits and circumstances and roll, with only the highest dice counting. 1-3 things have gone badly, 4-5 you succeed with a consequence, and on a 6 you’ve managed whatever mischief you were making.

    If the players want to accomplish anything large-scale, the GM creates a "Clock" containing up to 10 sections. With each successful roll, the players fill in a section, moving closer to completing their task. The problem is that many of the game's mechanics only activate if there is a clock running. This leads to the GM starting a clock for nearly every player action and keeping track of all those clocks is a logistical nightmare.

    Should you be caught out in a situation your character was unprepared for, you can take a hit to your stress to perform an Ocean's Eleven-style flashback showing how you planned for this situation all along. The downside to this mechanic is that it can be surprisingly easy to be rolling 4/5 dice at most challenges. Succeeding at everything seems incredible to begin with, but it quickly loses its shine and begins to interfere with the "fiction first" style of gameplay.

    Overall Blades in the Dark is a patchwork of fantastic ideas and overly forgiving mechanics. It starts you at the very bottom of a grim and gritty world and then makes it surprisingly easy to float to the top without ever taking a scratch.

    contributed by John McCloy
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Oreot -
      You should be taking lots of scratches and debilitation, have you played this? I'm no expert, played a short campaign and it was no carefree joyride. [Edit]: Also, clocks can have different amounts of segments and are only for tracking long term projects, they need not apply to every situation. Not saying it is a perfect game but it never felt easy, on the contrary the game is designed to be a pressure cooker, things go off the rails fast and your resources are never enough.
    1. Olfactatron's Avatar
      Olfactatron -
      Wow, you have not played this at all. Easy to rise to the top? Take a look at the requirements to get out of Tier II. You need more money than you can even *have*. So how do you do it? You have to subordinate your entire crew to a patron who now literally owns your ass.
    1. Stunning Serendipity's Avatar
      Stunning Serendipity -
      This sounds like a review by someone who has not actually played the game, and if the characters have an easy time, the GM is not following their agenda & principles.

      Either way, the paragraph concerning clocks is factually wrong ("many of the game's mechanics only activate if there is a clock running" - which ones?), and more importantly, clocks are one of the most useful GMing tools Blades offers and are one of the things I would easily export to other games, just because they're so awesome. They're not a logistical nightmare, they are a simplified way of tracking progress and danger.

      And if you think rolling a 4/5 on most challenges is an easy win, you must not have seen the consequence table. A 4/5 on a Desperate roll means that you succeed, but you take one to several consequences of the form severe harm (maybe deadly harm), a serious complication, and limited effect. Sure, you can resist these consequences to make them slightly less bad (- but not eliminate them altogether!), but that costs stress, which you only have so much of.
      This game is about succeeding at a serious cost (usually), and the scoundrels should not come out of situations all shiny, happy, and unscathed.
    1. MTylerJones's Avatar
      MTylerJones -
      I'm not convinced it so easy to be rolling four or five dice for most challenges. I've only played once, but we were luck to be able to roll three.
    1. Daniel Vulikh's Avatar
      Daniel Vulikh -
      As the other commenters mentioned, it is almost impossible to complete a score unscathed. You will almost always finish with some level of harm, a hit to your rep, or some other consequence that will coma back to bite you in the ass. Also not mentioned is that after every score you calculate heat accrued, which can make the crew's life a lot harder. There's also standing with other crews in the city, which can easily plunge you into all out war, full of ways to get killed or at least seriously harmed. All in all the game is rarely easy, but success is very rewarding. Completing a run feels GOOD. Try the game. It's a lot of fun.
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