Grade the Forged in the Dark System

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

  • I love it.

    Votes: 24 26.1%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 16 17.4%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 14 15.2%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 5 5.4%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 2 2.2%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 26 28.3%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 5 5.4%

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
When I first came across the idea of playbooks I didnt like them, they seemed too prescriptive, too focussed on summarising missions rather than roleplaying through them. After playing a few I found the approach could be fun, Blades in the Dark scores with its tightly bound setting works.

Then I discovered Princess World Frontier Kingdoms which while based on BitD doesnt have playbooks and is about fluffy and flamboyant magical princesses - it was a revelation about just how flexible the system could be.

Its a pretty good system, but I still prefer FATE Accelerated (clocks are just stress tracks)
 

log in or register to remove this ad

grankless

Adventurer
I really like BitD and many FitD games. I’ve enjoyed playing the few times I’ve had the chance. The ubiquity of clocks is fantastic. The flashback mechanic is inspired. Explicitly setting stakes ahead of time is great. Though I do prefer the newer idea from Legends in the Mist about starting the turn with a soft move, giving the PC the option of reacting or ignoring, then following up with a hard move (if applicable).

But, as a fan of rules-light games, I think there’s a lot of fat that could be trimmed. There’s just way too much there and a lot of it’s redundant or superfluous. Too many mechanics, too many subsystems, too much to track. It could be cut way, way back and only be made stronger for the cuts.
You'd probably love CASE & SOUL by Briar Sovereign and Bloodstone by Matteo Sciutteri - great explorations on trimmed down FitD.
 

Vael

Legend
I've read through Blades and Scum and Villainy, and liked both, but ended up just stealing the clock for my Star Wars campaign using Fate Condensed rules.

I do worry that playbooks are too prescriptive and defined, but I still find the system intriguing.
 

I've read through Blades and Scum and Villainy, and liked both, but ended up just stealing the clock for my Star Wars campaign using Fate Condensed rules.

I do worry that playbooks are too prescriptive and defined, but I still find the system intriguing.
I haven't found the Playbooks to be very closed or prescriptive. Blades in the Dark was actually originally designed without Playbooks. So Harper actually allows you to take as many Special Abilities outside of your Playbook as you like when he runs it and its an easy bit of Homebrew to take. They were actually only split to help organize a big list of Special Abilities.

The two big impacts are just the Starting Items and the Playbook-specific XP Trigger. The set of Starting Items - these are most impactful early on but you can acquire more things as the game progresses. The XP trigger that rewards following your Modus Operandi (Use Violence or Coercion). And Scum & Villainy has another of that Playbook unique special ability you get when you start.

So unlike Masks or several Powered by the Apocalypse games where the Playbook sets up a narrative arc, the BitD playbooks are mostly just that modus operandi. Which most games already incentivize just by having your PC good at certain skills - of course I want to roll the skill that I get a +3 instead of the one with a -1 to solve my issues! I found the player is pretty open to how they interact and struggle with vice and trauma.
 
Last edited:

Is that based on the comic series? Because that was a doozy.

Clocks are probably the best part of the general mechanics, but they're really just round versions of a linear tracker - it's the widespread use of them rather than the concept itself that's original. I actually played with a guy who actively disliked them because he was never taught how to read analog clocks as a kid (a surprisingly common problem IME) and the shape/name alone was off-putting for me. The minute we turned them in conventional linear trackers he stopped complaining.
This tracks with my experience, but I made them into specifically Countdowns. Was very satisfying to my monkey brain.
 


I've read through Blades and Scum and Villainy, and liked both, but ended up just stealing the clock for my Star Wars campaign using Fate Condensed rules.

I do worry that playbooks are too prescriptive and defined, but I still find the system intriguing.

I think it's important to look at everything about FitD, playbooks included, in the context of the campaign not running as long as a lot of trad games. Certainly not as a forever campaign or part of a setting you come back to over and over with new characters. So if a playbook seems prescriptive, that's not something you need to wrestle with for years to come. You play Blades in something like 20 sessions max, or fewer for a lot of other FitD games, and you're done. You got the Blades experience, curated as it might seem, and it's on to the next game.

But even in the context of a single campaign, a playbook is only one axis upon which you define your character. The other, maybe just as important, is your Crew type. A Cutter in an Assassins crew is likely going to feel and develop very differently from one in a Cult or Smugglers crew. Not every FitD game has those two axes, but a lot do, and in theory that's one of Harper's main innovations—the character sheet for your party.

Finally, playbooks are just fun. They really are. As someone who spent a whole lot of time hating the idea of classes of any kind, I was really surprised how much I've come to love a lot of playbooks in FitD (not to mention in PbtA games, or less narrative stuff, like Heart and Spire). When done right, playbooks keep play dynamic and help you set up personal and dramatic stakes right away, and don't feel limiting at all.
 

Slightly steering off topic but I am interested in more talk of Clocks. Have you guys experienced over-using Clocks?

When I read the official Cowboy Bebop rpg, I found it all too clock focused. Every action's success or failure ticks one clock or another. It felt too much disconnection from the fiction when usually I want some more description. Since reading that I am more thoughtful when GMing and in my own design work on how frequent to use a Clock vs narrative impact. I kind of want to run Cowboy Bebop just to see how it is in play.

Has anyone else felt the same?
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I haven't played any of the other FitD games but I love Blades in the Dark. It was an eye-opener game that has engendered new ideas and cemented existing concepts that I reuse in many other games (or take better advantage of similar mechanics in other games).

I love the structure of the downtime actions, the idea of flashbacks, the restricted and structured categories of consequences, the playbook approach... I especially love how the mechanics match the themes and intended style of the game - that by itself is huge!

...but the core action resolution system itself; it's not my favourite. I find it bland, unexciting, and both as a player and a GM, I struggle with improvisation of consequences, devil's bargain bring another layer of looking for thing to go wrong etc. I dislike the combat mechanics where it feels that players create their own harm. The system encourages a "procedural" play where scenes play as they are created. I've also found that the whole "play your character like a stolen car" deal leads to reckless actions that are neither good for long-term campaigns nor for group cohesion.

I'm neutral about clocks.

So I'm hesitating between a "it's all right" and "pretty good" grade. The themes, setting and premise are excellent, the system is fitting but altogether so-so, but the game as a whole has forever changed the way I perceive and play RPG, and that's not something I can say about a lot of games.
 

Slightly steering off topic but I am interested in more talk of Clocks. Have you guys experienced over-using Clocks?

When I read the official Cowboy Bebop rpg, I found it all too clock focused. Every action's success or failure ticks one clock or another. It felt too much disconnection from the fiction when usually I want some more description. Since reading that I am more thoughtful when GMing and in my own design work on how frequent to use a Clock vs narrative impact. I kind of want to run Cowboy Bebop just to see how it is in play.

Has anyone else felt the same?

I've definitely seen what I think is overuse of clocks in play. This isn't the same as what you're talking about re: Cowboy Bebop (though I agree, I thought the same when I read it), but I remember a Blades scene where my character was facing off against a single guard, after sneak-killing another. The GM used a clock for the guard, but he was also higher Tier. The combo meant we were basically in a trad fight, where I didn't have any options except to keep chipping away at his HP, essentially.

Granted, I think HP-like clocks can be really useful in some cases, especially in something like Wicked Ones or Band of Blades, to represent an enemy that's more like a "boss" or whatever. And when I ran Scum and Villainy set in Star Wars, I really loved how a clock could represent a Jedi's ability to defend themself, which you could take down in different ways, before they're actually exposed to damage or some other consequence. But I made sure to not throw clocks on every tough enemy or situation. Otherwise, everything becomes a slog, and you can start piling up consequences in bizarre ways.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top