Help me "get" Forged in the Dark.

MarkB

Legend
Um, no. The GM should not be considering stress available at any point. The system works out well such that stress handles itself
See, you say that, but you don't really support it with evidence. Stress doesn't handle itself as well in very small groups in my experience, and to just shrug and say "well, the rules don't say I need to care about that" seems disingenuous.

Taking account of available stress may not be in the GM's job description according to the book, but I like to run a game that's fun for players, and a player whose character is constantly accumulating traumas probably isn't having all that good a time.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
See, you say that, but you don't really support it with evidence. Stress doesn't handle itself as well in very small groups in my experience, and to just shrug and say "well, the rules don't say I need to care about that" seems disingenuous.

Taking account of available stress may not be in the GM's job description according to the book, but I like to run a game that's fun for players, and a player whose character is constantly accumulating traumas probably isn't having all that good a time.
If your GM is the type that feels they need to manage play around PC stress totals, this already suggests that there's also an idea of what an "adventure" looks like, and this will be a self-sustaining prophecy. It is, however, not necessary. Do what the game tells you, and don't bring in outside assumptions, and it works just fine.

Again, the books for FitD games do way more to explicitly telling you how to play them than almost any other game out there. They do not, even once, mention that you should adjust play for number of players or that you should pay attention to the stress pools in how you GM the game. They do the opposite, in fact. The assumption here seems to be that this is an oversight by an otherwise brilliantly put together bit of design, fully integrated across it's entire loop and extensively playtested, and that you need to actually have experience in running other games to know how to fill in this blank and do it properly. I absolutely disagree this is the case.
 

MarkB

Legend
If your GM is the type that feels they need to manage play around PC stress totals, this already suggests that there's also an idea of what an "adventure" looks like, and this will be a self-sustaining prophecy. It is, however, not necessary. Do what the game tells you, and don't bring in outside assumptions, and it works just fine.

Again, the books for FitD games do way more to explicitly telling you how to play them than almost any other game out there. They do not, even once, mention that you should adjust play for number of players or that you should pay attention to the stress pools in how you GM the game. They do the opposite, in fact. The assumption here seems to be that this is an oversight by an otherwise brilliantly put together bit of design, fully integrated across it's entire loop and extensively playtested, and that you need to actually have experience in running other games to know how to fill in this blank and do it properly. I absolutely disagree this is the case.
I'm not speaking from experience with other games. I'm speaking from experience playing Blades in the Dark and running Scum & Villainy, and from the blindingly-obvious mathematical reality that managing stress becomes significantly more difficult with only two players.

You keep stating that you disagree, but you keep not addressing the actual substance of the points being made. Instead, you wave around the game's guidelines like they're an article of faith.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm not speaking from experience with other games. I'm speaking from experience playing Blades in the Dark and running Scum & Villainy, and from the blindingly-obvious mathematical reality that managing stress becomes significantly more difficult with only two players.

You keep stating that you disagree, but you keep not addressing the actual substance of the points being made. Instead, you wave around the game's guidelines like they're an article of faith.
I did, though. You responded by trying to insist that I prove how something doesn't have to be true instead of supporting your claim it was.


But, sure. The strong form of the argument you're putting forward is that a PC has some amount of stress X. So 2 PCs would have 2X stress if pooled together. This is the "obvious math," I think, that 2X is bigger than X (or that 4X is bigger than 2X). Sure, but the rest of your argument supposes there is some average cost to a mission, let's call that Y. If Y is bigger than the pool of X, you contend this is a problem. You further contend that Y is necessarily bigger than 2X such that the GM has to monitor it closely and adjust ganeplay so that Y is less than 2X. And that this is not necessary for larger numbers of PCs.

I disagree that Y is even an intended thing under the rules, and have supported this by showing that no such thing exists in any form in the rules. You say this is ne failing to support my argument, but the reverse is true.

The weak form of your argument is that GMs should be oaying attention to the value of Y so that it doesn't exceed the pool of X (so not fixed, but constantly massaged) to maintain a good game. And that this gets harder with a smaller pool of X. To which I've actually shown this to be contraindicated by the rules text.

So, the weak form is right out and the string form is on you to show there's some expectation of stress cost Y that's intended or a natural outcome of play. I've run for 2, 3, 4 and 5 and I never once paid attention to how much stress the PCs and had no resultant issues. That's the players' job to manage, not mine, and so long as I'm following the agenda and principles if play, and following the fiction, there's zero issue. We play to find out what happens.


Underlying both your and @Fenris-77's arguments is tge requirement that the GM curate the experience. This is not necessary, and, in my opinion, not the intended result (given it's not once mentioned). If you like it curated, then by all means go for it, but this is neither a requirement of the game nor a natural outcome of it.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Can I just clarify that (usually, anyway) the only way the GM knows in advance that the ship is crewed by droids is if the PCs found it out as part of their preparation?

But the GM might have thought of "some/most/all of the crew are droids" as a possible complication which could be used as appropriate if the situation calls for it?
Pretty much. The GM can have some details in mind, so that he can provide extra detail and colour without having to make it up on the spot, but he should be flexible and ready to adapt.

For instance, if they're having trouble finding away to get aboard, and a player declares a flashback to having arranged an encounter with one of the crew and pickpocketed his access card, you should go with that and abandon the idea that there are only droids on board.
I don't think you have to police your own thoughts and general/casual prep—if you think of some neat stuff, go ahead and use it, either in a current/upcoming session or one further down the line. Just don't go super deep with prepping anything in particular, and be ready to drop or change those ideas in a heartbeat.
I would add: the difference between framing and resolution is quite important.

There's nothing wrong with introducing a scene - You've been watching from your hiding space in the docking bay for over an hour now, and the only crew you've seen come and go are droids - or with making a "soft move" to introduce a rumour or similar information - Everyone you've spoken to says that the Century Bird is crewed entirely by rogue droids. That's part of how you, as GM, provide fictional context for the players to declare their actions.

But the GM's "private" or unrevealed conception of the fiction is not a limit on action resolution. Which is key to @MarkB's point. You can't just say "no" to the sort of thing he describes because, in your mind, there are only droids on board. But of course, if the resolution of the flashback goes poorly (ie bad dice rolls) then you can use your ideas to help flesh out the consequences (eg the human "crew member" with the access card was really a stowaway who had stolen an access card from a worker at a human-staffed maintenance yard, and so using it here and now turns out to have triggered alarms rather than smoothly opening the way in . . .).
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't have experience with BitD (or other FitD systems) and so am only tentatively stepping into this discussion about number of players and stress. But my understanding of @Ovinomancer's position is this: stress is a player-side resource, to be managed by the players; if there are two players and two PCs (and hence fewer stress boxes at the table than might be more typical), the onus is on the players to have regard to that in their play; this will include declaring actions that make sense for a two-person crew (like looking for jobs that two people can pull off; and pulling out when one of them is getting stressed); and that the mechanics and techniques of play, if properly followed by the GM, will make that approach by the players entirely feasible (ie there is no pre-established "the adventure" which the two PCs must complete before they extricate themselves into a recovery phase).

Ovinomancer, have I got your right(-ish)?

Also: I don't know if it's relevant that in Agon, Harper does discuss party size. He gives some advice for two-hero play. It's fairly generic, and from memory really speaks to players rather than GMs, who prepare islands just the same.
 

Reynard

Legend
I don't think this argument is going to help me much, other than to underscore that different people run FitD games differently-- which is useful at least in that it gives me permission to not feel like I have to do it one particular way. But otherwise I feel like it is becoming a distraction.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I don't think this argument is going to help me much, other than to underscore that different people run FitD games differently-- which is useful at least in that it gives me permission to not feel like I have to do it one particular way. But otherwise I feel like it is becoming a distraction.
Sure, disregard it then. My suggestion that you do not have to worry about stress at all stands, though.
 

MarkB

Legend
I don't think this argument is going to help me much, other than to underscore that different people run FitD games differently-- which is useful at least in that it gives me permission to not feel like I have to do it one particular way. But otherwise I feel like it is becoming a distraction.
Fair enough. We're just going around and around at this point, so no point in continuing.
 

Reynard

Legend
A question about campaign structure. Note: this probably isn't relevant to Band of Blades but seems relevant to Scum and Villainy.

The book suggests a campaign length of 12 or so jobs. Is that intended to be a hard limit (and therefore built into mechanics like xp) or is a "campaign" more like a season of a TV show. Is it not possible or practical to play FitD games for longer periods than a quarter?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
A question about campaign structure. Note: this probably isn't relevant to Band of Blades but seems relevant to Scum and Villainy.

The book suggests a campaign length of 12 or so jobs. Is that intended to be a hard limit (and therefore built into mechanics like xp) or is a "campaign" more like a season of a TV show. Is it not possible or practical to play FitD games for longer periods than a quarter?

I think that’s more like a “season” than a hard limit. I don’t think most FitD games have as long a lifespan as some years-ling campaigns of D&D and the like, but I’ve been involved in three campaigns of good length. Well beyond 12 sessions.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
A question about campaign structure. Note: this probably isn't relevant to Band of Blades but seems relevant to Scum and Villainy.

The book suggests a campaign length of 12 or so jobs. Is that intended to be a hard limit (and therefore built into mechanics like xp) or is a "campaign" more like a season of a TV show. Is it not possible or practical to play FitD games for longer periods than a quarter?
One of the holes in Blades is that, at a certain point in the advancement, the math starts to break down and PCs can mostly swamp the system. This takes quite awhile, though, much more than 12 sessions. PCs will likely be earning an advance every 2-3 session, depending on play. You need like 10 or so advances for the system to start wobbling. 5-6 action bumps and 5 or so playbook advances.

But, no, there's no hard limits on sessions. On the other hand, there's a reasonable chance that a crew crashes and burns -- the system absolutely puts enough pressure on the crew for this to happen. That's part of the fun, though, you play to find out what happens. I know some players that have burned down three Blades in the Dark games and had the most fun doing it.
 

Reynard

Legend
One of the holes in Blades is that, at a certain point in the advancement, the math starts to break down and PCs can mostly swamp the system. This takes quite awhile, though, much more than 12 sessions. PCs will likely be earning an advance every 2-3 session, depending on play. You need like 10 or so advances for the system to start wobbling. 5-6 action bumps and 5 or so playbook advances.

But, no, there's no hard limits on sessions. On the other hand, there's a reasonable chance that a crew crashes and burns -- the system absolutely puts enough pressure on the crew for this to happen. That's part of the fun, though, you play to find out what happens. I know some players that have burned down three Blades in the Dark games and had the most fun doing it.
Scum and Villainy seems more open to "fun" as a play goal, which I infer to mean the GM shouldn't be using dire, deadly consequences regularly. That's why the note in the book that says it isn't for long term play (it uses the term "beyond the scope of these rules") felt a little off.
 

Reynard

Legend
One thing I am not a huge fan of is how setting specific the rulebooks are. I feel like Scum and Villainy in particular could have dispensed entirely with the setting, or just had an example or three.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Scum and Villainy seems more open to "fun" as a play goal, which I infer to mean the GM shouldn't be using dire, deadly consequences regularly. That's why the note in the book that says it isn't for long term play (it uses the term "beyond the scope of these rules") felt a little off.
"Fun" is something all play has, really, if it's what people want to play. I think you mean a bit lighter, and I think there that it's more a matter of how you flavor the adversity. I mean, look at the source material for the setting tropes -- the characters there certainly have some serious setbacks and adversity. Firefly is almost exactly what a FitD game is supposed to deliver and the suffering applied to the PCs in that show was certainly coming to a middle. But it's not "maiming, and brutality" it someone that the PCs care about put under serious threat and pressure. So tone is a big deal. Letting off the gas, though, will result in some lackluster outcomes. This is probably the largest single hurdle to overcome as a GM of these games -- you are not neutral, and you are rarely ever the source of good news. Your job is to put these characters through the wringer. You're a fan of the PCs, and that really means wanting to see what they do under pressure. No one is a fan of John McClaine getting donuts and watching TV. They're a fan of John McClaine when he's beaten, bloody, down to his last bullet, and against desperate odds. That's what "be a fan of the PCs" means. It means you want to put them in those moments and see what they do. This not-adversarial-but-source-of-adversity position as the GM is different than how you usually get encouraged to run more Trad games, like 5e. It's a different mindset.

This is part of why I say don't worry about PC side things. That's theirs. Your job is to put them in a bad spot, see what develops from there. If they fail, they fail, the game still goes on to seeing what they do about failure. If they get beat up real bad, that's fine, we get to see what they do now. If the stress out, get a trauma (or whatever the specific version of play calls it), and fail, no big, we're here to see what they then do about that.
 

MarkB

Legend
One thing I am not a huge fan of is how setting specific the rulebooks are. I feel like Scum and Villainy in particular could have dispensed entirely with the setting, or just had an example or three.
That is both a feature and an issue of the system. The long term gameplay loop relies on detailed interactions and relationships with the various factions, and the Heat system requires you to be tooling around just a few star systems, or you can easily outrun the consequences.


I've run a Star Wars hack of S&V, but it was a lot of work detailing out a reasonable selection of factions and locations, even with copious existing lore to draw upon.

I'd definitely recommend running at least a few sessions using the default setting, so you can get a handle on how factions, contacts and relationship-building works, before trying to build a custom setting.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
If you posit some sort of system spanning govt (like the Empire) the Heat is easier to keep relevant. Or a galaxy police. Something like that.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'd definitely recommend running at least a few sessions using the default setting, so you can get a handle on how factions, contacts and relationship-building works, before trying to build a custom setting.
Sure, that's my plan. I'm just commenting on how it feels.

But the games also seem to inspire and invite homebrewing (which is probably why there are so many FitD games/hacks out there). I am already trying to figure out how to do a "The Boys" inspired game with it but know I need some solid experience to begin with.
 


Reynard

Legend
Am I asking for trouble if I do this with 5 players? Long story short was I made my initial pitches one potential player was unavailable so I gave his seat to someone else. He is now available again and wants to play, but that would take the PCs from 4 to 5. He's a good player, and game for anything so he is valuable to have at the table. What are the consequences of too many PCs in Scum and Villainy or FitD in general?
 

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