Gotham - Forged in the Dark - Playbook Ideas (+)

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
So, thanks to my munificent amounts of spare time, I'm going to undertake a BitD hack. Inspired by another hack for 80's Marvel Villains, I'm going to do a hack for the Batman mythos. The basic idea will be the same, gangs of villains running scores and dodging the long arm of the law in a Gotham populated by all the crime families and super villains we all love. I'm aiming for a pretty gritty feel, but perhaps not quite as gritty as Blades.

We have a great community of players here, so I'm going to post a series of threads wherein we can spitball ideas for the different moving parts of the hack. Provided we get enough interest and posts of course. I'd like to start with playbooks, but first a quick word about my thoughts on the project.

1. I'm going to stick pretty close to Blades with a lot of reskinning rather than wholesale changes.
2. Scum and Villainy will provide the base actions, which will undergo some changes, obviously.
3. Minions and Holds will probably get expanded to accommodate a wide range of possible super villain secret lairs and tastes
4. Jobs will target more than one resource, tentatively Cash, Tech, and Arcana
5. Those resources roughly index the three paths to power - innate powers, gadgets/science, the mystic arts (and advance both the PCS and their lair)
6. Special talents and abilities are where the super powers and gadgets will be handled

So, playbooks. I'd like to have the standard 10-12 and I'd like each of them to roughly index a particular kind of villain. Using common Supers vocab is fine, so I'd call the big hitty fellow a Tank until I think of a better term. So far I'm thinking Tank, Mad Scientist, Industrialist, Shadow, and Tech guy (so Luke Cage, Riddler, Lex Luthor, Catwoman and Micro from the Punisher). If it ends being more or less than 10 I'm cool, I just want to cover all the templates. So if you were playing a small time Batman villain, what kind of character templates would you be looking for?

Feel free to chime in with general advice and ideas as well since this is the first thread. I'll track those and add to the intro each time I post a new thread.
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I don't have enough BitD experience to contribute (all theoretical unfortunately), but I'm eagerly interested in following this conversation.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
To brainstorm some Playbook ideas, I’d look at some of Batman’s rogues’ gallery and then think about what playbook they’d be.

So I’ll throw out a few and see what you think. I’ll start with the playbook ideas that you mentioned.

  • Tank- Killer Croc
  • Mad Scientist- Scarecrow
  • Industrialist- Lex Luhor (kind of funny Batman doesn’t really have one of these that I can think of off the top if my head- they’re always more crime bosses)
  • Shadow- Catwoman
  • Tech Guy- Mr. Freeze? Deadshot?

So I think those are a good start, although Tech Guy and Shadow may be a bit broad (which isn’t a bad thing). If we look at a few of his other big villains, then some more ideas may present themselves.

  • Joker
  • Ra’s Al Ghul
  • Two-Face
  • Penguin
  • Man-Bat
  • Riddler
  • Bane
  • Clayface
  • Poison Ivy
  • Lady Shiva

Based on these, a few ideas kind of jump out:
  • Monster
  • Madman
  • Mastermind/ Schemer (or maybe these are separate?)
  • Expert/Weapon Master

I think which you decide to use will depend on how you view the playbooks...are they based on a narrative role or more about the role they play on the team? For example, is Mr. Freeze a Tech Guy because he uses his suit and gun? Or is he more of a Monster because he’s become a lost soul?

I don't think there can be only one possibility or that the answers need to be uniform, but I think that’s how you have to look at it in order to shape your list.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I recently came across Princess World:Frontier Kingdoms a Blades in the Dark Hack inspired by Princess Cartoons, its awesome I so want to play a She-Ra inspired game now:) (its quite a bit different to standard BITD, doesnt have Playbooks and has a fluffier tone)

Anyway for Batman Playbooks I’d look a his Rogues thus

1 Masterminds - Riddler, Clock King
2 Trickster - Joker, Cluemaster
3 Ninja - Catwoman, Hush, League of Shadows, Catman, Sensei, Lady Shiva
4 Kingpin - Penguin, Twoface, Talia Al-Ghul (Tactical moves using their henchman)
5 Gunslinger - Victor Zzass, Deadshot, KGBeast, Hush, Killer Frost*
6 Gadgeteer - Firefly, Dr Freeze
7 Mad Scientist - Hugo Strange, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow
8 Tank - Bane, Solomon Grundy, Killer Croc, Man-Bat
9 Mystic - Gentleman Ghost, Faust
10 Controller - Poison Ivy
11 Shapechanger - Clayface
12 *
I’m not sure where to put Ras Al-Ghul

Edit: Ive decided to put Scarecrow in with the Mad Scientist sinces he’s really a ‘mind controller’ like Mad Hatter.
Not sure what to put in 12, its open to any villains I cant think of fitting elsewhere.
* I’ve included Killer Frost under Gunslinger, I think for Batman superpowered villains should be fit into the other playbooks despite their extra powers, or is she more a Controller?
 
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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
  • Industrialist- Lex Luhor (kind of funny Batman doesn’t really have one of these that I can think of off the top if my head- they’re always more crime bosses).

I’d put Lex Luthor as a Mastermind, I suppose the closest I can think of for Batmans villains is Tommy Elliot. Maybe Rupert Thorn and the other Crime Bosses. Then of course theres the Court of Owls
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Cool, I had many of the same ideas. I'm going to take a stab at adding a "what you do" tag to each one and some thoughts on mechanical targets. For anyone not familiar with Scum and Villainy, here are the actions (which are subject to change, but they're closer than Blades). I already swapped Spooky for Attune, and Pilot for Helm. I'm not sold on doctor, but we'll see.

Insight - Doctor, Hack, Rig, Study
Prowess - Pilot, Skulk, Scrap, Scramble
Resolve - Spooky, Command, Consort, Sway

My take on playbooks so far, tip of the cap to the ideas upstream:

Mastermind - Cunning plans and misdirection are your bag. Targets: engagement roll, command, sway, synergy. Examples - Penguin, Riddler, Lex Luthor

Gadgeteer - If you build it, it will work. Armies of drones, power armour, freeze rays? All check. Targets: rig and hack, crazy tech and traps - Examples: Clock King, Mad Hatter

Mad Scientist - If you sew people together, make radioactive spiders, or have tanks of your own clones, this is you. Targets Doctor, Study, chemicals, strange science. Examples: Mr Freeze, Hugo Strange

Ghost - Infiltration, stealth, general sneakin'. Targets: Skulk, Scranble, security systems. Examples: Catwoman

Gunslinger/Mercenary - Have gun will travel. Shootin;, throwing', whuppin', you do it all. Targets: Scrap, Command, weapons.

Psycho - your best skill is always being the craziest person in the room. Targets: Resolve to soak stress, not being fashed about naught. Examples: Joker

Mystic - Master of the Dark Arts, Hell, the Undead, that's you. Targets: Spooky, magical of weirdness of all kinds. Examples: Gentleman Ghost, Faust

Mentalist - Mind control, fear, telepathy, illusion, 5e Psionics. Targets: command, sway, spooky, mental attacks of all kinds. Examples: Killian, Scarecrow

Tank - Jayzus, look at the size of that fella. Looks like a fighta. You're about the crumpin' and looming. Targets: Scrap (vs groups) feats of strength, various hard to damage type abilities. Examples: Bane, Solomon Grundy, Killer Croc

Ninja - this could be mystic, ghost or mercenary, but everyone likes ninjas. Cool martial arts, moving unseen, puffs of smoke to disappear in. Targets: Scrap, Skulk, nunchuks. Examples: Lady Shiva, League of Shadows

Freak - If you talk to your petunias or have other wacky inborn powers. Targets: control and shapechange type stuff, extra ability to realize a complicated power at the expense of action points. Examples: Poison Ivy, Clayface

A lot of Batman's foes could be built using more than one playbook depending on what aspect you wanted to highlight. PCs will be to take some special abilities from other playbooks, so that's fine, it's really the starting ability and Xp trigger that's the key character creation choice and the key mechanic to define the playbook.

I'm no longer sold on Industriaist. I think that could fit under mastermind. Where possible, I've consolidated ideas, with the exception of ninja, which I like too much to dilute I think.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Number of Playbooks:
  • Blades in the Dark: 7
  • Scum & Villainy: 7
  • Band of Blades: 7
The pattern suggests about 6-8 playbooks, so I would focus on paring down the playbooks to about 7 broad archetypes. Also, you could maybe replace "spooky" with "weird" or even "crazy" for Batman.

I would not necessarily focus on the archetypes that the super villains represent because they are often more solo acts (with minions) and not cooperative gangs.

You could also focus on gangs in Gotham before Batman. I would probably be more interested in that. How did your gang degrade Gotham to the point that it even needed bat-themed caped crusaders?
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
The playbooks are going to be able to support super and non-super versions of the same character concept, and the plan is to pare the list down, yeah. Mystic and Mentalist can probably merge, as can Ninja and Ghost. Psycho might be surplus to needs as its own playbook and poof we're down to 8. I wanted to get a comprehensive list of ideas before I start merging though, just to make sure I haven't missed anything.

It would be pretty trivial, I think, to play the game pre-Batman. Take Gotham the show as the base model, and take the costumed heroes off the faction chart, plus maybe remove some of the costumed foes). |The rest of what I'm envisioning is about exactly what you want. I'm planning to buff the variety in the downtime to really highlight building a criminal empire, and I was planning on a timeline that was Captain Gordon and Commissioner Loeb, so the GCPD could still be as immensely corrupt.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Using or updating the existing BitD playbooks would not be too difficult due to how broadly they are modeled after criminal archetypes.

  • Cutter ("dangerous and intimidating fighter") -> Enforcer/Heavy/Muscle
  • Hound ("deadly sharpshooter and tracker") -> Hitman/Assassin
  • Leech ("saboteur and technician") -> Tinkerer/Bomber/Mechanic
  • Lurk ("stealthy infiltrator and burglar") -> Burglar/Cat/Ghost
  • Slide ("subtle manipulator and spy") -> Trickster/Charlatan/Swindler
  • Spider ("devious mastermind") -> Mastermind/Brains
  • Whisper ("arcane adept and channeler") -> Freak/Weirdo
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That is true, but I also wanted to model some archetypes from the Batman mythos as well. The match is close, for sure, which is why I was excited about using BitD for it in the first place. Your list above does look good though, I was just soliciting ideas to see what else might work, or what kind of tinkering could be done.

I think the real change will be in the abilities, which is where most of the power modelling will happen. There I was going to use the SaV approach, where a Xenos can replace the starting ability with a Xenos ability. The same could be done to add more superpower feeling elements to the playbooks, giving the players a knob to twist for the super-ness of their character. I'll also likely add in some ability to grow powers through experience, probably with additional abilities that buff existing abilities somehow. I'm still working on that part.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Thing is though that many of the classic Batman villains still fall in these archetypes.

Sure, Clayface is a supervillain who can change shape and becoming an imposing, brutish "monster," but at the heart of his character, he's an actor who uses his shape-shifting as a disguise artist. The Riddler, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Dr. Hugo Strange, Clock King, R'as al Ghul, and Penguin, are typically depicted either as Spiders, Leeches, or Slides. Basically as "smart people" or people who specialize in playing head games. The villains still roughly follow criminal archetypes, "but with powers..."
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Yup, I completely get where you're coming from. As part of the hack I wanted to explore playbook construction. I'm going to borrow from the Blades ones heavily regardless, and may end up just reskinning them and adding powers via a different mechanic. However, a personal interest for me is taking the rules apart and putting them back together to really get a feel for the balance and moving parts, so even if I just reskin, I'm going to spend some time making some as well.

I'm essentially portmanteau-ing Blades and Scum and Villainy, Blades for the basic templates, and SaV for the actions and some of the ranged combat stuff plus the Xenos mechanic. That's the base anyway.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I don't want to complicate things for you, but if you are interested in exploring playbook construction, then maybe you should look into Ironsworn, which is free on DriveThruRPG. It's not Forged in the Dark. It's similarly "inspired by the Apocalypse World Engine," but it has similar principles. But it deconstructs playbooks into abilities that players can select at character creation and while leveling. So you could possibly apply its ideas to a DC super-villain style Forged in the Dark game.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Don't worry about complications at all. I'm open to any and all ideas. I am pretty firm on using FitD for this hack though. That said, I'll take a look at Ironsworn anyway. First, because I was considering deconstructed playbooks for this project as an option, and second I have another project, something fantasy-urban, and I'm looking for mechanics for that as well. Provisionally it going to be PbtA, but I'll take a look at anything.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Yup, I'll take a look for sure. I'm reading a lot of different Supers games for inspiration. Currently that's Masks and Capes, Cowls, and Villains Foul, both of which seem excellent so far.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Using or updating the existing BitD playbooks would not be too difficult due to how broadly they are modeled after criminal archetypes.

  • Cutter ("dangerous and intimidating fighter") -> Enforcer/Heavy/Muscle
  • Hound ("deadly sharpshooter and tracker") -> Hitman/Assassin
  • Leech ("saboteur and technician") -> Tinkerer/Bomber/Mechanic
  • Lurk ("stealthy infiltrator and burglar") -> Burglar/Cat/Ghost
  • Slide ("subtle manipulator and spy") -> Trickster/Charlatan/Swindler
  • Spider ("devious mastermind") -> Mastermind/Brains
  • Whisper ("arcane adept and channeler") -> Freak/Weirdo

I think that a lot of the abilities would likely map from the closest match among the BitD playbooks. So the Tank would be the games version of a Cutter, for sure. Similar to how Scum and Villainy has the Muscle, or Band of Blades has the Heavy.

But each of those also has some differences from the Cutter, suitable to the setting. This is why I thought a good way to start would be to look at the existing characters and thinking about what kinds of “buckets” they’d fall into.

And I think that most characters could likely be created using more than one of the playbooks, for sure.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I think the real change will be in the abilities, which is where most of the power modelling will happen. There I was going to use the SaV approach, where a Xenos can replace the starting ability with a Xenos ability. The same could be done to add more superpower feeling elements to the playbooks, giving the players a knob to twist for the super-ness of their character. I'll also likely add in some ability to grow powers through experience, probably with additional abilities that buff existing abilities somehow. I'm still working on that part.

This is where I hit my most significant snag when I was tinkering with this. How exactly to handle powers? Would it be solely as playbook abilities? Or would I graft on a whole new module to help with that? I think either approach could work, but each has its drawbacks. I was going with a more broad supers approach, so that probably made it worse for my project, but I think this will be a significant element.

I’ll have to go over the Xenos aspect of S&V and see how that could work. It might be a good starting point for you, for sure.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
What villains can be created with what playbook is even more open when you account for the rookie power level and the flexibility provided by veteran upgrades. Maybe it would be easiest to start with Blades playbooks and Scum and Villainy actions and see what would need to be modded.

From an actions standpoint, I'll hold firm for now just swapping Helm for Pilot/Drive and Attune for Spooky. The details of those changes will keep for later.

Here's what the translation from Blades to SaV looks like for actions:
Blades
Insight - Hunt, Study, Survey, Tinker
Prowess - Finesse, Prowl, Skirmish, Wreck
Resolve - Attune, Command, Consort, Sway
Scum and Villainy
Insight - Doctor, Hack, Rig, Study
Prowess - Pilot (Finesse?), Skulk, Scrap, Scramble
Resolve - Spooky, Command, Consort, Sway

Finesse would cover both Pilot and physical sleight of hand stuff, so maybe that goes back in. I like Hunt a lot, so maybe that goes in instead of something else, or tailing and ambush goes under Skulk or Scramble. I think the effects of BitD's Survey get folded into Study to make room for Hack. Wreck I just pulled, figuring Brute abilities can cover some of that ground.

So, playbook one, Cutter or Mercenary/Tank

Stating Actions - Scrap 2, Command 1

Abilities - I'd like to add starting abilities from SaV, which can only chosen at CC and would help define the character. This would be a place to seperate, say, Tanks from Mercs. The ability called Unstoppable from SaV would be my pick for Tanks and Wrecking Crew for Mercs

Unstoppable:
You can push yourself to do one of the following: perform a feat of physical force that verges on the superhuman—engage a small gang on equal footing in close combat. When you push yourself to activate this ability, you still get one of the normal benefits of pushing yourself (+1d, +1 effect,
etc.) in addition to the special ability. A superhuman feat is one a regular person could not do
unassisted, such as tearing apart metal handcuffs. If you engage a small gang on equal footing, you have equal scale.

Wrecking Crew:
Your strength and ferocity are infamous. When striking in melee, you gain +1d. Whenever you spend a gambit in combat, you also gain +1 effect on that action. (edit - I'd add ranged combat)

From the Cutter list, I'd remove Ghost Fighter and add Backup (An ally’s push costs 1 stress (not 2) on any action you set up or assist.)
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
This is where I hit my most significant snag when I was tinkering with this. How exactly to handle powers? Would it be solely as playbook abilities? Or would I graft on a whole new module to help with that? I think either approach could work, but each has its drawbacks. I was going with a more broad supers approach, so that probably made it worse for my project, but I think this will be a significant element.

I’ll have to go over the Xenos aspect of S&V and see how that could work. It might be a good starting point for you, for sure.
One way to go is to add powers as a fourth action type, that get bought with the same points. So a starting character would have to sacrifice skills for powers (also perhaps an extra actions point to spend on CC). Adding in the above starting abilities helps there too. Using the Xenos idea to swap the starting ability (which BitD doesn't use as a mechanic) for a more power-y power would also work.
 

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