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Grade the Forged in the Dark System

How do you feel about the Forged in the Dark System?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 27 27.6%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 16 16.3%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 16 16.3%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 5 5.1%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 2 2.0%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 27 27.6%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 5 5.1%

Starfox

Hero
I only read this thread to page 2, so I might have missed some wise words.

I played BitD for about four months, but only around five sessions. In most sessions we manage two scores. This is an amazingly quick story progression. And this is what I love most about BitD - the low preparation, the engagement roll putting the protagonists right into the action, and how easy it is to improvise. I don't mind they playbooks, they are much like DnD classes and I can live with those. Its not perfect, but it speeds up things by limiting choices at character creation and progression.

I have GMed Princess World - Frontier Kingdoms which is a BitD hack, and I love it. It does away with the playbooks, which slows down character administration. What is most important to me is that it shows that the system does not need to be in a crapsack world. Princess World is bright and sparkly, but can still challenge both PCs and players.
 

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Starfox

Hero
On the issue of planning, the we have run it is that we do a rough planning together between GM and players. The players describe their smooth planned action (yes in BitD we are all about heists), the GM tells us what is reasonable and what is not, and the plan is adjusted. Then we make the engagement roll, and it is the GMs job to throw complications at us.

I will give our favorite heist as an example. We're shadows (thieves) and only two players this session, a hunter and a lurk. Us players dreamt up that there are occasional carnivals in Duskvol (we're in the Silkshore district) and on one of the floats, a mcguffin is on display that we want to steal. So the lurk enters the interior of the float before it is launched. There she loosens the strings holding the mcguffin (the GM decided it was a sword). The hunter hides on a nearby rooftop and shoots a slingshot at the sword, causing it to fall to the ground. The lurk replaces it with a cheap copy we had made in advance. This scenario was almost completely made up by us players, but the GM rode along with us and added complications along the way - in the end it didn't happen exactly like this, but we did get away with the sword.

For the second score on the same session, we get a supernatural event. A ghost turns up in our hideout and demands we give the sword to its faction. We had already sold the sword, and thus had to steal it again. This was the GM improvising based on a random event, which was much more significant than normal as we had collected a bunch of heat.

Both these scores were played in a session of about 4 hours, which is absolutely amazing to me who is used to either of these scenarios taking at least one session in a game like DnD.

Edit: Hunter should be Hound.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
Both these scores were played in a session of about 4 hours, which is absolutely amazing to me who is used to either of these scenarios taking at least one session in a game like DnD.
It’s amazing how much faster things go when the game removes the need for players to hyper detail their plans up front. I love flashbacks so much I port them into every game I run.
 
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Starfox

Hero
[...] The players need to be focused on and responsible for that. The GM needs to be focused on and responsible for that. No wanking around. If you want to just wank around in Free Play, then Blades in the Dark is not the game for you. It is structured the way it is for a reason.
I admit you are right in principle. BitD games work best with a tight focus. But that doesn't mean you HAVE to play with a tight focus. In my Princess Kingdoms game, the PC kingdom is sponsored by the Sparkle Union, which is basically the Chaotic Good faction - poor, undisciplined, but with lots of spunk and initiative. So the PCs kingdom was party-crashed by a gang of 5 Sparkle Union princesses. Thanks to ChatGPT for helping me make them interesting. What followed was basically very unstructured free play/score whose main effect was to introduce these characters for the future. This meant risks and rewards were very low, there was some one-upmanship but no real conflict as everybody is in the same faction.

My point here is that BitD can play outside its own comfort zone. Princess Kingdoms is in no way dark and spooky, it is bright and crazy instead. And this affair (score in Princess Kingdom terms) was more of a recap episode. Ok, not much of BitDs mechanics were involved, but the basic structure worked.
 

Starfox

Hero
The reason why the players should be aware of clocks in FitD is because the players aren't just driving their own actions, they're driving the actions of the opposition and the world around them with their actions. [...] This doesn't tend to apply to faction clocks because, while the outcome of players' scores may affect some of those clocks, they tick in the background during downtime, and the players cannot directly influence or mitigate them, so the need to be making informed decisions doesn't really apply to these clocks.
One aspect of visible clocks is that they make the situation more real. Anything that has an actual game mechanic for it somehow becomes more real in my experience. So if the GM has a "Skyscraper launches like a rocket into space" clock ticking, letting the players know this makes this dramatic, which triggering a secret clock to the same effect feels arbitrary. Now, GMs usually do toss arbitrary stuff at players, but in BitD you mostly do so in smaller doses and with the player's participation in the Free Game segment. Having a major event like this happen without a clock feels like you lose some drama. Even i the PCs don't know the skyscraper is being turned into a rocket, the tension is palpable. Maybe the GM only releases what the clock is all about at a certain thick? This segues naturally into what thefutilist said.
Well I’ve been thinking about this mostly through the lens of Apocalypse World and I think I’ve found my problem with visible clocks.

As a player I think you want fuzziness in how consequences will play out.

I’m not a huge fan of this framing but there’s at least two kinds of escalation in stories.

The thing the character did failed to work, now what?

And a series of escalations by someone else, which can be framed as ‘even now?’


I don’’t care about mutants

Ok but there’s this guy called Isle who really seems to have a problem with them

Yeah so what

Alright but now this guy called Isle is loading up on guns

Yeah so what

Now this Isle guy, he’s saying you need to banish the mutants from the holding

Yeah so what

The Hardholder has refused to hand over the mutants and Isle claims he’s going to attack but it’s still really only the mutants he wants

Yeah so what

Ok Isle has taken over the holding and true to his word he’s not unleashing a reign of terror on everyone but some of this men have dragged the mutant Squidface out and squid face is crying and his lips are quivering and they look as if they’re going to kill him

Hmm. I go and shoot Isle’s men in the face. (for whatever reason), it could be far more complex than ‘just’, oh I care about mutants now, when the consequences are being brought home.

So that’s one very good reason you don’t want a clock.

The other is incidental conflicts of priorities. So one tick above is:

Now this Isle guy, he’s saying you need to banish the mutants from the holding

I may not care about the mutants but Isle can naughty word off if he thinks he can just walk into the Holding.

So that’s another reason you might not want to see the clock.

Does that make any sense?

Another way to do this is naturally to keep the clock hidden and instead narrate the escalating tension like you do here, thefutilist. What it most certainly is is more work and more time at the table, so I'd reserve this for the main clock of the entire campaign rather than just any background clock. But I do think this has the most dramatic effect.
 
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MintRabbit

Explorer
I really love taking apart Forged in the Dark games and figuring out what makes them tick, kind of like rooting around in the guts of a car. In some games it's kind of difficult for me to see exactly how all of the different pieces of the game interact, but I don't usually have that problem with FitD games, and I think that's because the designers also like taking apart the game and figuring out what works and what doesn't.

Examples:
  • Gambits in Scum & Villainy showed me how to give the players tools that make success more likely in certain situations.
  • Slams in Slugblaster showed me how to change Harm to make it work in a less gritty genre, especially when your characters aren't suited for grim endings.
  • The Theory roll in External Containment Bureau showed me how to take pieces of other game systems (in this case, Brindlewood games) and make them work for FitD.
  • Masks in Brinkwood re-contextualized the Crew sheets of Blades and showed me how you can give the players the opportunity to try something new every session without necessarily having to pick up a new character.
  • The way Pacts change significant parts of your character sheet in Moth-Light showed me how you can use the same system to tell stories that vary quite a bit in genre.
 

I really love taking apart Forged in the Dark games and figuring out what makes them tick, kind of like rooting around in the guts of a car. In some games it's kind of difficult for me to see exactly how all of the different pieces of the game interact, but I don't usually have that problem with FitD games, and I think that's because the designers also like taking apart the game and figuring out what works and what doesn't.

Is there an FitD mechanic that's mostly unique to a given game that you think doesn't work well? For example, I love almost everything about Blades, but I think Entanglements are pretty awkward, repetitive, and sort of anti-RP (which leads into people potentially treating their downtime actions as purely bookkeeping).

A mechanic that I really loved in play was how Paramours work in Court of Blades—you can reduce the intensity of your relationship in exchange for stuff like bonuses on Engagement rolls, and there are specific Entanglements based on how close you are at a given point.
 


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