Blades in the Dark Advice Please?

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I played a bit of Blades in the Dark (wish I hadn't flaked, it was a good game with cool people all around), and have been playing Scum and Villain for an extended bit.

One of the things I've noticed between the two is that unlike PbtA, FitD can't just be fit to any concept. The original, Blades in the Dark, took a very specific concept - Heists - that needed a specific format to really shine in the RPG field. Heists are more concise than adventures and often have investigation and planning aspects. The structure fit this well, and flashbacks working into the wonderful Stress mechanic took care of the planning. Topping it with the Gang and it's own XP track and character sheet worked great.

But when you are in another genres, sometimes you don't have that fit. In S&V we're in the fourth session of a "smuggling heist" without an end in sight, which seems like it's been several different challenges that each should have being their own heist if the system was set up for it, which it isn't in terms of both the structure and the very needed downtime between. XP is already maxed, Stress is very low, and it just doesn't play right.

So while BitD has produced something fantastic, swapping in new genres need to honor the same concise heist + downtime format and not head into more extended adventures that might crop up in that genre.
 

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MarkB

Legend
I played a bit of Blades in the Dark (wish I hadn't flaked, it was a good game with cool people all around), and have been playing Scum and Villain for an extended bit.

One of the things I've noticed between the two is that unlike PbtA, FitD can't just be fit to any concept. The original, Blades in the Dark, took a very specific concept - Heists - that needed a specific format to really shine in the RPG field. Heists are more concise than adventures and often have investigation and planning aspects. The structure fit this well, and flashbacks working into the wonderful Stress mechanic took care of the planning. Topping it with the Gang and it's own XP track and character sheet worked great.

But when you are in another genres, sometimes you don't have that fit. In S&V we're in the fourth session of a "smuggling heist" without an end in sight, which seems like it's been several different challenges that each should have being their own heist if the system was set up for it, which it isn't in terms of both the structure and the very needed downtime between. XP is already maxed, Stress is very low, and it just doesn't play right.

So while BitD has produced something fantastic, swapping in new genres need to honor the same concise heist + downtime format and not head into more extended adventures that might crop up in that genre.
Very true. I haven't run into that specific issue in the couple of campaigns I've run, but when I first ran it I adapted it to be a Star Wars game and initially made the mistake of allowing a lot of missions across the wider galaxy instead of within a smaller area, which diluted much of the factional play and all-but-neutered the concept of heat and lying low.

If you're not sticking with the mission-downtime cycle and not building up connections within the local setting, you tend to miss out on a lot of the gameplay that the system is intended to support.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I played a bit of Blades in the Dark (wish I hadn't flaked, it was a good game with cool people all around), and have been playing Scum and Villain for an extended bit.

One of the things I've noticed between the two is that unlike PbtA, FitD can't just be fit to any concept. The original, Blades in the Dark, took a very specific concept - Heists - that needed a specific format to really shine in the RPG field. Heists are more concise than adventures and often have investigation and planning aspects. The structure fit this well, and flashbacks working into the wonderful Stress mechanic took care of the planning. Topping it with the Gang and it's own XP track and character sheet worked great.

But when you are in another genres, sometimes you don't have that fit. In S&V we're in the fourth session of a "smuggling heist" without an end in sight, which seems like it's been several different challenges that each should have being their own heist if the system was set up for it, which it isn't in terms of both the structure and the very needed downtime between. XP is already maxed, Stress is very low, and it just doesn't play right.

So while BitD has produced something fantastic, swapping in new genres need to honor the same concise heist + downtime format and not head into more extended adventures that might crop up in that genre.

I've found it's a bit more flexible toward genre and the like than many realize, but only if the cycle of play and the interaction between cycles is given some real attention.

Like just taking the core mechanics and slapping together some playbooks for Genre X isn't going to cut it. You have to address the Downtime--> Score dynamic. Some of the hacks I've seen do this quite well. Band of Blades sets up a military campaign where the players take on the roles of the commanders during what would be Downtime in Blades, for example. This keeps the pressure... designed with intention... in place, which is key to making the whole system work well.
 

But when you are in another genres, sometimes you don't have that fit. In S&V we're in the fourth session of a "smuggling heist" without an end in sight, which seems like it's been several different challenges that each should have being their own heist if the system was set up for it, which it isn't in terms of both the structure and the very needed downtime between. XP is already maxed, Stress is very low, and it just doesn't play right.
This might come across as more aggressive than I mean it to be, but having run SaV (and also kinda taken it apart and put it back together to make it work outside of the imo underwheling default setting), this feels like a bit of a general FitD GM misfire. I was guilty similar ones early on. One of the biggest mistakes I think a GM can make with FitD is zooming in too far, and dicing up the action too finely—basically tilting back into a trad playstyle and rhythm. I think for FitD to work you have to sort of get in and out fast, but make consequences really sting, so the whole thing is worthwhile. And then, in most (though maybe not all) cases back, do Downtime, then get back into the mix.

That said, FitD games usually have interesting situations that a PC or entire group can fall into during Downtime, when a non-mission, free play scene suddenly blows up into one or more bad news encounters, and now you're heading into the next mission low on Stress or other resources. When that happens organically, and occasionally, I found that it can be really fun and memorable. But those really have to be super rare exceptions, imo. And in general, a GM that doesn't use the Engagement roll to cut to the chase for a job, and then let the job end (whatever the lingering aftermath), is I think not really playing to the system's strengths, and possibly breaking it a little. I say that, again, as someone who kinda broke things early on. FitD is my favorite system right now, but I think it's also very temperamental.


So while BitD has produced something fantastic, swapping in new genres need to honor the same concise heist + downtime format and not head into more extended adventures that might crop up in that genre.

Though I agree with @hawkeyefan that FitD is more flexible than some folks give it credit for, so long as you stick to certain play loops, I agree with you that it's that it's a lot more restrictive than PbtA. But I also think that the emphasis on Blades as a heist game—and, by association, other FitD games kind of settling into heist-y modes and genres—is a little overblown. I think Blades does heists better than a ton of other games, but I don't think that's its real strength, which is creating a kind of pressure-cooker where every decision and roll you make could have tangible, mechanically supported consequences on your character and their environment. Where PbtA games usually have a more general sense of consequences, FitD games are often loaded up with buttons and levers that make those consequences concrete. Heat, Stress, Rep, Faction Status, Money, etc. You piss off a faction because of a roll or a Devil's Bargain and that change in status is quantified, including whether they're merely pissed or at war with you, whereas in another game you really don't know how hard you have to push a faction before it starts sending people to kill you.

Those mechanics, and how they make your actions more clearly consequential and setting changing, are what I think makes FitD shine, when it does. That's not going to work for every genre or narrative, but still a decent number of them. I'm running a lightly hacked version of Wicked Ones right now, and that game's take on FitD is doing a good job at sword and sorcery.
 

niklinna

satisfied?
Though I agree with @hawkeyefan that FitD is more flexible than some folks give it credit for, so long as you stick to certain play loops, I agree with you that it's that it's a lot more restrictive than PbtA. But I also think that the emphasis on Blades as a heist game—and, by association, other FitD games kind of settling into heist-y modes and genres—is a little overblown. I think Blades does heists better than a ton of other games, but I don't think that's its real strength, which is creating a kind of pressure-cooker where every decision and roll you make could have tangible, mechanically supported consequences on your character and their environment. Where PbtA games usually have a more general sense of consequences, FitD games are often loaded up with buttons and levers that make those consequences concrete. Heat, Stress, Rep, Faction Status, Money, etc. You piss off a faction because of a roll or a Devil's Bargain and that change in status is quantified, including whether they're merely pissed or at war with you, whereas in another game you really don't know how hard you have to push a faction before it starts sending people to kill you.
Most of our scores when I played Blades in the Dark with @Manbearcat, @Campbell, @kenada, and @AbdulAlhazred were not heists. We did some murders, some social scores, some run-the-gauntlet trials, some put-the-upstart-in-their place scores, some tame-the-eldritch-horror scores, and more. But just sneaking in and stealing a thing? Only a few times.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Stitch isn't a hall of fame playbook name, but, like, it's fine. It really doesn't matter. I ran Scum and Villainy for about a year, and it's not like Muscle or Stitch are in-setting terms that you use. The term Stitch just doesn't come up after character creation.

But also, to say this endemic to FitD/PbtA? C'mon dude. RPGs of all kinds are filled with class names that some folks will see as corny, or even just lazily offensive. Barbarian, Shaman, etc. The generalization you're shooting for here isn't working.
You seem to be missing the point of my criticism in order to dismiss it rather than engage with it or just scroll past.

Cleric is a bad name, because most people don’t know before coming to D&D what It means and it doesn’t directly describe something. Priest would be a good name, because everyone knows that a priest is an ordained person who intercedes between the divine and the mortal, so it describes the class.

What the hells is a Stitch? Genuinely, without reading the playbook description I’d be completely at a loss. It doesn’t describe a kind of person in any existing context.
Also inconsistent in their semantics.

I mean, in classic D&D "fighter" is presumably used in the sense of one who fights (as opposed to boxer); and then the one who uses magic is called a "magic-user". So why is the one who prays not called a "pray-er"? Or "prayer user"? Rather than the weirdly culturally/historically specific "cleric"?
That isn’t inconsistent, you’re just focused on something that isn’t a concern of the naming convention. Basically as if there were an alchemist and assassin and so you criticize the fact that the guardian doesn’t start with an “a”.

As above, cleric sucks because most people don’t know what it is. If it was Priest, it would be exactly the same type of name as Figter and Wizard, each of which are essentially “job titles”.

Stitch, or stuff like some games have basically an emotion as a class name, just isn’t…the name of an archetype or type of character or person.

It’s like “Face”, without the benefit of broad familiarity. And Face would be a bad name too, just not quite as bad. Both sound like excessively genre-savvy try hard speak.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
From my scant experience, consequences are the trickiest part of BitD games. You roll very few dice, so consequences will be everpresent. I guess we rolled too much, even in situations that could perhaps have been automatically successful. From more traditional RPGs we're used to using rolls, especially perception, lore, and contact rolls, as a random input mechanism, a sort of excuse for the GM to go into exposition mode. And this is how I ended up using it in Candela Obscura; a failure or consequence lets the GM grab the action and direct it in interesting directions, removing some narrative control from the players. So consequences were actually often good, they were just not intended. Once we got to this stage, it worked out pretty well.
 
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MarkB

Legend
From my scant experience, consequences are the trickiest part of BitD games. You roll very few dice, so consequences will be everpresent. I guess we rolled too much, even in situations that could perhaps have been automatically successful. From more traditional RPGs we're used to using rolls, especially perception, lore, and contact rolls, as a random input mechanism, a sort of excuse for the GM to go into exposition mode. And this is how I ended up using it in Candela Obscura; a failure or consequence lets the GM grab the action and direct it in interesting directions, removing some narrative control from the players. So consequences were actually often good, they were just not intended. Once we got to this stage, it worked out pretty well.
One thing I've seen from inexperienced players is a tendency to not catch onto the game's allowance to rewrite a scene's reality - once the GM starts describing a consequence, they just go ahead and accept it. But usually there is an option to choose to negate or mitigate a consequence, either through spending stress or expending armour from your load allowance, and getting used to playing with the trade-offs of that will allow players to go more boldly into dangerous rolls knowing that they have options even if they fail.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
A question about the RAW of BitD. If you fail (a roll of 1-3), does that mean you just fail, or is this a fail AND a consequence? I don't own the rules, and the impression out GM gave me was that if you made a Devil's Bargain you suffer a consequence when you fail, otherwise you don't and just fail. Both Candela Obscura (which doesn't have the devil's bargain at all) and Princess World - Frontier Kingdoms have consequences when you fail. In Candela Obscura I read this as if you're always doing a Devil's Bargain (without the extra die) and thus suffer on a failure, but this impression might be wrong.
One thing I've seen from inexperienced players is a tendency to not catch onto the game's allowance to rewrite a scene's reality - once the GM starts describing a consequence, they just go ahead and accept it. But usually there is an option to choose to negate or mitigate a consequence, either through spending stress or expending armour from your load allowance, and getting used to playing with the trade-offs of that will allow players to go more boldly into dangerous rolls knowing that they have options even if they fail.
Rolling to resist consequences in the low-risk situations I was talking about seems excessive. I get it that its important in more dire circumstances.
 

MarkB

Legend
A question about the RAW of BitD. If you fail (a roll of 1-3), does that mean you just fail, or is this a fail AND a consequence? I don't own the rules, and the impression out GM gave me was that if you made a Devil's Bargain you suffer a consequence when you fail, otherwise you don't and just fail. Both Candela Obscura (which doesn't have the devil's bargain at all) and Princess World - Frontier Kingdoms have consequences when you fail. In Candela Obscura I read this as if you're always doing a Devil's Bargain (without the extra die) and thus suffer on a failure, but this impression might be wrong.
On any result below 6 there are consequences. From the Candela Obscura free player materials:

ROLL RESULTS​
On a 1-3, the roll is a failure. Usually, you don’t accomplish what you wanted, and there are consequences.​
On a 4-5, the roll is a mixed success. You accomplish what you wanted, but it comes at a cost.​
On a 6, the roll is a full success. You get what you wanted without complication.​
On multiple 6s, the roll is a critical success. You get what you wanted, and something extra.​

It's the same in Blades in the Dark.

The way I tend to visualise it is that you're rolling for both yourself and the opposition / the environment. On a 1-3 the opposition or environment succeed and deal consequences to you, while you don't do anything to them. On a 4-5, you both succeed. And on a 6 you succeed and the opposition or environment fail.
 

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