Help me "get" Forged in the Dark.

Reynard

Legend
I picked up Band of Blades as inspirational reading for my "The Boys meets The Black Company" game, not intending to feel any pull to run it. But I was wrong. As I read through the thing, I find it intriguing and inspiring. But I also know that I don't "get" FitD games. So, I am asking those familiar with and fond of BitD and BoB to help me make sense of the thing.

Here's the first rule: no wall of text explanations. I won't read them and they won't help. Rather, I want to ask specific questions and get specific answers, one at a time, at my pace. If I ask a question that needs a very long response, rather than do that, tell me the right question for the first part of that response.

So I will start with this:

According to the book, the basic mode of play on a mission is:
GM sets the scene
Player says what they want to accomplish
Player says what action they want to use
GM decides on the position and severity
Player rolls the action (potentially getting bonus dice)
The dice tell what kind of success or failure occurs
The GM determines the consequences based on those results (which the player can buy off with stress)
Is that about right?
 

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Tutara

Explorer
Pretty much. There is a strong element of negotiation between player and GM throughout - a player can take stress to improve their effect or the number of dice they roll, or take a ‘devil’s bargain’ to boost their chances in exchange for a complication (‘The lock is old and rusty, but so is the door. It’s easier to pick but will make a lot of noise when opened’ for example).

Note that this negotiation is codified to an extent - players shouldn’t just be begging for an easier position, they need to give something towards making it happen (usually stress or consequences).
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I picked up Band of Blades as inspirational reading for my "The Boys meets The Black Company" game, not intending to feel any pull to run it. But I was wrong. As I read through the thing, I find it intriguing and inspiring. But I also know that I don't "get" FitD games. So, I am asking those familiar with and fond of BitD and BoB to help me make sense of the thing.

Here's the first rule: no wall of text explanations. I won't read them and they won't help. Rather, I want to ask specific questions and get specific answers, one at a time, at my pace. If I ask a question that needs a very long response, rather than do that, tell me the right question for the first part of that response.

So I will start with this:

According to the book, the basic mode of play on a mission is:
GM sets the scene
Player says what they want to accomplish
Player says what action they want to use
GM decides on the position and severity
Player rolls the action (potentially getting bonus dice)
The dice tell what kind of success or failure occurs
The GM determines the consequences based on those results (which the player can buy off with stress)
Is that about right?
Maybe. It could be right, but you need to always be applying the agenda and principles of play. If you aren't, and are instead ignoring them or replacing them, then the above has the same general steps but will end up not right.

The main thing to grok is that the GM's role in FitD is largely reactionary. You can't plan for what players are going to do, nor should you (outside of maybe some general case things to aid, like some stock scene complications and some stock ideas for consequences). So, don't. Follow. And always, always, always set scenes with an immediately threat looming. If you're setting a scene, it's because there needs to be some action taken to head something off. No neutral scenes.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
GM decides on the position and severity
Player rolls the action (potentially getting bonus dice)
The dice tell what kind of success or failure occurs
The GM determines the consequences based on those results (which the player can buy off with stress)
Is that about right?

Your summary sounds right. I’ve narrowed in on the steps above because I think these are where a good chunk of the GM’s work will be.

The big thing to do as a GM is to determine consequences. You always want to have something interesting happen. Learning how to do that is something that will get better with practice. Just know that the Position, combined with the die roll, is what determines if there’s a consequence, and if so how bad.

So set the scene. Establish the stakes. Telegraph the potential consequences. Then, depending on the roll, don’t be afraid to follow through. The player rolls a 1-3 when in a Desperate position? That’s a serious consequence. Don’t softball it. The player has options through playbook abilities, gear, or Resistance Rolls to lessen the severity.

Have the consequences flow from the fiction and establish a new situation. I think these are some of the key bits to GMing FitD games.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
The way I grokked onto the game is that rather than thinking about ‘my characters next Action” think of it as “lets negotiate what Outcome we want for this scene” - what can the players add to get it or the GM do to complicate it, and then let dice determine consequences.
 

Reynard

Legend
Thanks everyone.

I do feel like I am getting a little bit of contradictory advice in that it sounds like like I'm supposed to decide what happens (consequences) at the same time players are (outcomes). Can someone speak to what im mixing up there.

Let me give an example of how I think it is supposed to work:

Let's say I the mission is to load up on provisions from a village the Legion is passing by/through. The villagers of course don't want to give up their grain and pigs or whatever, so tensions are high.

If iwere doing this scene in a trad game, I would establish for myself beforehand that there is a group of tough led by a deserter that are going to resist the Legion stealing their stuff and conscription the able bodied young men.

In BoB am I still doing that as part of my scene setting, or am I supposed to invent those sorts of things only in response to actions and roll results. If the former, I am still not sure how the GMs job significantly departs from other ways of playing in which you give players lots of room to choose their goals and approaches.
 

In BoB am I still doing that as part of my scene setting, or am I supposed to invent those sorts of things only in response to actions and roll results. If the former, I am still not sure how the GMs job significantly departs from other ways of playing in which you give players lots of room to choose their goals and approaches.

In my experience you might be starting a given scene or encounter in what you're saying is not a significant departure from a trad approach. The biggest difference is how things proceed from there, which is much more improvisational, and often much faster-to-resolve.

-The range of outcomes based on a PC's chosen action, and then roll, is extremely broad. In a trad approach it might be pretty binary—the PCs convince the toughs, or they don't. The matrix of different options and roll results in FitD mean that way more kinds of things could result. A miss on a desperate action might mean that not only do the toughs attack, but more of them show up to flank the PCs.

-Once you resolve the first action, the outcome determines what happens next, not some preplanned plot trigger or victory/fail condition you've set up. So let's say you offered the rolling player a Devil's Bargain that, no matter how they roll, the deserter leading those toughs is going to want to duel them. Or a different bargain, that he's going to become their enemy for the foreseeable future. If the player takes the bargain, and gets the associated bonus on their roll, that will set up both immediate and lasting consequences. Maybe in the resulting duel the player rolls a success with consequence that means they beat the deserter in a manner that's so extreme they gain a lasting rep for brutality among the civilian population. Or if the bargain is that the deserter is now an enemy, a future missed roll could mean he's ratted your unit out to the undead army's scouts, and they try to ambush you.

Some might say that establishing the deserter-led group of toughs in the first place isn't a pure FitD play loop, and that you'd want to let something like that appear based on rolls. But I think occasional trad-style setups are fine, especially early in a session or mission, as long as you let things take a more improvisational direction for the rest of it. And in the case of Blades in the Dark or Scum and Villainy, you might start the score with a situation like you described—a clear sub-goal and obstacle—based on the results of the Engagement roll (the roll that's meant to start you in media res, basically, partway through the score).

Btw, I'm very excited that you're giving BoB a close read. I would say, though, that I find that one among the more difficult FitD games to really understand or use. Even Blades in the Dark was a little wriggly for me. It wasn't until I read Scum and Villainy, and started viewing all of the mechanics through a pulpy, fast-paced Star Wars lens that it really clicked for me. Not saying you should put down BoB at all. Just noting that I think I'd have a really tough time GMing it, since it doesn't seem to allow for as much flexibility when improvising and reacting, which is almost all you're doing as a FitD GM. I'd be constantly worried about running it off the rails (since that game is definitely on rails, at a macro level) or violating the tone and premise, in a way that I wouldn't with most other FitD games.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Thanks everyone.

I do feel like I am getting a little bit of contradictory advice in that it sounds like like I'm supposed to decide what happens (consequences) at the same time players are (outcomes). Can someone speak to what im mixing up there.

Let me give an example of how I think it is supposed to work:

Let's say I the mission is to load up on provisions from a village the Legion is passing by/through. The villagers of course don't want to give up their grain and pigs or whatever, so tensions are high.
Well, one, the players are going to tell you what the mission is, and how they're approaching it, and then the engagement roll will say how it's supposed to open. This is the hard shift stuff, because it's very different from D&D preplanning or prep or even GM says improv. The GM is reactive here -- they have to wait for the players to tell them what they're doing, how their doing it, and then the engagement roll to see how it's going when you start in media res.
If iwere doing this scene in a trad game, I would establish for myself beforehand that there is a group of tough led by a deserter that are going to resist the Legion stealing their stuff and conscription the able bodied young men.

In BoB am I still doing that as part of my scene setting, or am I supposed to invent those sorts of things only in response to actions and roll results. If the former, I am still not sure how the GMs job significantly departs from other ways of playing in which you give players lots of room to choose their goals and approaches.
No, because once you open the scene, the players get to say how they're going to try and deal with it. And you, as GM, don't have "no" authority over those actions. Well, I mean, we're talking about non-bad-faith declarations, that aren't violating the principles of play for the players (like, "I find the solution to win in the toilet!"). Instead, you challenge them, and if they players succeed, what they're trying happens, or happens and you level a cost. If they fail, you level the consequence. The success level and consequence level are determined by position and effect (or whatever BoB calls these).
 

innerdude

Legend
I've noted before that the biggest thing that made PbtA / FitD style games "click" for me was playing Ironsworn solo. As both player and GM for the same character, the mindset of "taking things as they come" and extrapolating from established fiction in the moment, rather than prestructuring events like I would in a trad game, all came together like magic. I just got it.

Yes, you're still drawing on the fiction of the setting, and making judgement calls as the GM, but to make the experience fun and compelling, you have to radically put aside the notion that anything you've thought of in the "GM brain" side of the equation is actually true until the game and its mechanics make it true.

The fiction may revise in ways that are totally unexpected---but still true to the game world and the results of your character action declaration.

From my reading of Court of Blades, the main things FitD layers on top of this is the ability for the players to exert even more control over consequences by trading off position for effect, and then letting the scenes play out and see how it goes.
 

innerdude

Legend
*Edit: I love Ovinomancer's post just before this, talking about how the score is set up. He's exactly right, in that the players are setting the scene, and it's assumed by principles of the game that what they say is true.

As a GM you're very, very rarely going to outright declare something is a hard and fast truth that doesn't evolve from player declarations and action resolution. The players don't get complete freedom over the setting, per se, but in many cases things they say become "truths" about the game world, and that's 100% intended by RAW.
 

Reynard

Legend
Well, one, the players are going to tell you what the mission is, and how they're approaching it, and then the engagement roll will say how it's supposed to open. This is the hard shift stuff, because it's very different from D&D preplanning or prep or even GM says improv. The GM is reactive here -- they have to wait for the players to tell them what they're doing, how their doing it, and then the engagement roll to see how it's going when you start in media res.
I didn't get the bolded impression from reading the mission section. The way I understood it, there are multiple (preferably 3) missions on the table, defined by the GM (possibly designed, possibly the result of rolls), and the players (technically, one player) decides which mission is the main mission, which is secondary and ignores the 3rd. For the main mission, the engagement roll determines the state at the beginning of actual play by determining the outcome and consequences of the PCs engaging (natch) the first obstacle. basically, a way to establish the in media res circumstances.

Did I misread?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I do feel like I am getting a little bit of contradictory advice in that it sounds like like I'm supposed to decide what happens (consequences) at the same time players are (outcomes). Can someone speak to what im mixing up there.

I think perhaps the confusion is about the goal of an action, compared to the outcome. So any time a player rolls, they should state what they hope to achieve. The GM should make what’s at risk clear. So before a roll is made, we have a good idea of what happens on a Success (the PC achieves their stated goal) and what happens on a Failure (the danger manifests). On a result of 4-5, it’s a Success With Consequence, which means the PC achieves their goal, but also suffers a consequence of some sort.

In BoB am I still doing that as part of my scene setting, or am I supposed to invent those sorts of things only in response to actions and roll results. If the former, I am still not sure how the GMs job significantly departs from other ways of playing in which you give players lots of room to choose their goals and approaches.

I think @Grendel_Khan offered a good take on this. I’ll add that the answer is both. The players are going to select the mission (and the side mission, if I recall), so the players are going to decide if they’re going to try and requisition from the town, or scout the ravine to see if it’s a shortcut. Whatever mission they choose, there are going to be obstacles in their way.

When a mission begins, the GM needs to establish an initial obstacle for the characters to face. If the players decided to requisition goods from the town, the idea that some townsfolk may have a problem with that fits perfectly, so yes, I think you could introduce this as an obstacle.

You might consider to establish this in bits and pieces, across a few rolls. So maybe a couple of angry townsfolk mention how angry Hagnar will be when he finds out. You’ve now established a kind of threat, and then you can have Hagnar arrive as a Consequence. Once he arrives, the townsfolk may get bolder. Maybe Hagnar’s just a firebrand type of guy who can whip up a mob. Maybe he’s a deserter and a capable fighter. You can establish these things in play rather than ahead of time, if it makes sense to do so. In this way, you’re starting with just an idea of a threat and then building it up through play.

Alternatively, you could just introduce this deserter and his gang as an obstacle to face right away. You just want to make sure that you’re ready to introduce other consequences if needed. I think the Engagement roll and the nature of the mission are big factors here.
 

Reynard

Legend
The players don't get complete freedom over the setting, per se, but in many cases things they say become "truths" about the game world, and that's 100% intended by RAW.
I haven't read the whole book yet but I haven't gotten that impression. So far it seems like the players decide what they do and how they do it, the dice decide the results, and the GM interprets the results into the fiction. Or I am as confused as ever.
 

innerdude

Legend
I think @Grendel_Khan offered a good take on this. I’ll add that the answer is both. The players are going to select the mission (and the side mission, if I recall), so the players are going to decide if they’re going to try and requisition from the town, or scout the ravine to see if it’s a shortcut. Whatever mission they choose, there are going to be obstacles in their way.

When a mission begins, the GM needs to establish an initial obstacle for the characters to face. If the players decided to requisition goods from the town, the idea that some townsfolk may have a problem with that fits perfectly, so yes, I think you could introduce this as an obstacle.

You might consider to establish this in bits and pieces, across a few rolls. So maybe a couple of angry townsfolk mention how angry Hagnar will be when he finds out. You’ve now established a kind of threat, and then you can have Hagnar arrive as a Consequence. Once he arrives, the townsfolk may get bolder. Maybe Hagnar’s just a firebrand type of guy who can whip up a mob. Maybe he’s a deserter and a capable fighter. You can establish these things in play rather than ahead of time . . . .

@Reynard -- this advice from @hawkeyefan is pure gold in terms of approach.
 


hawkeyefan

Legend
I didn't get the bolded impression from reading the mission section. The way I understood it, there are multiple (preferably 3) missions on the table, defined by the GM (possibly designed, possibly the result of rolls), and the players (technically, one player) decides which mission is the main mission, which is secondary and ignores the 3rd. For the main mission, the engagement roll determines the state at the beginning of actual play by determining the outcome and consequences of the PCs engaging (natch) the first obstacle. basically, a way to establish the in media res circumstances.

Did I misread?

No, this is an area where Band of Blades differs from Blades in the Dark and many other FitD games. The mission selection is narrowed down to a few choices presented by the GM. Then the player who’s acting as the Commander (I think that’s the legion role) decides which will be the Primary mission and which will be secondary. Any others are ignored, with possible consequences.

The missions are determined randomly. Although depending on the location ofthe Legion, there are also Special Missions specific to that location that can come up.

In standard Blades and many other FitD games, this is not quite how it works. The GM may suggest sometype of score, ormore than one, but the players are also free to come up with their own ideas.
 

Reynard

Legend
Separately:

It appears that some traditionally GM tasks are divided up amongst players in the Campaign Phase roles. Is that a fair description of how Campaign Phase is supposed to work?

More generally, what are folks experiences with the defined decision making roles in play. Do groups have a hard time with the Commander(?) telling you which mission you are going on and the Marshall(?) telling you which character you get to play?
 

innerdude

Legend
Well, one, the players are going to tell you what the mission is, and how they're approaching it, and then the engagement roll will say how it's supposed to open. This is the hard shift stuff, because it's very different from D&D preplanning or prep or even GM says improv. The GM is reactive here -- they have to wait for the players to tell them what they're doing, how their doing it, and then the engagement roll to see how it's going when you start in . . . once you open the scene, the players get to say how they're going to try and deal with it. And you, as GM, don't have "no" authority over those actions. Well, I mean, we're talking about non-bad-faith declarations, that aren't violating the principles of play for the players (like, "I find the solution to win in the toilet!"). Instead, you challenge them, and if they players succeed, what they're trying happens, or happens and you level a cost. If they fail, you level the consequence.

This is also golden advice. Especially the bold part. You'll find lots of new areas where previously as a GM, you might have prepped something ahead of time that would negate the players' intended course of action. In PbtA / FitD, in most cases your job as GM is to adjust the fiction to account for the players' intentions, but then bring the hammer in terms of consequences if they fail.
 

Reynard

Legend
In standard Blades and many other FitD games, this is not quite how it works. The GM may suggest sometype of score, ormore than one, but the players are also free to come up with their own ideas.
Gotcha. That sounds familiar from reading Blades in the Dark. I wonder if that means that Band is in fact a better choice for me to slide in, because it seems like is hold on to a few more trad ideas?
 

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