Sketch of Generic Power Rules for Blades in the Dark


I'm feeling really presumptuous now, working outside my experience. I've only played a few sessions of BitD, but I am considering it for my Greyhawk campaign as it moves into the baroque. My players are used to games like DnD where spells/powers play a very important feature, and I am considering how to integrate this into BitD in a future game, likely several years in the future. So one of these nights, I got inspired and wrote the skeleton of a power system. Sleep is overrated. :) This is the why. Lets not discuss the why so much, some will think this is not BitD at all and that's ok and a personal preference.

No on to the how. Powers are special abilities that are much more open than most. The things you can do with powers are linked to the usual actions. For example, if you have the Fire power, you can use with Attune to communicate with, summon, or dismiss fire creatures, you can use Hunt or Skirmish too make fire attacks, Tinker to shape fires or use fire as a tool, and so on. This refers back to the normal actions of BitD.

The abilities of each power-action combination are divided into four classes, from easy to super expensive. As an optional rule, these effect can be tier-gated, so you only get access to the stronger abilities at higher tier.
  1. Free: Can be used anytime. This generally replaces a mundane tool.
  2. Equipment: You have to tick off an item use each time you use this power. This is often a fine, potent attack and similar good equipment options
  3. Push: You must push to use this ability. This is area attacks and effects that are normally impossible, such as temporary flight or a short teleport.
  4. Trauma: These effect use upp all your willpower, and have appropriately powerful effect, often able to escape (but not complete) a score or create some permanent effect like a gate. The GM may allow these to be used as long-time projects.
The power descriptions are pretty open, there are no specific spells. I have a large table with standard effects that most powers have at each of these costs. So Attune combined with most powers can summon and dismiss critters appropriate for that power, Tinker will work with objects based on you choice of power, and so on. This creates diminishing returns: if you buy multiple powers there will be overlap. Each individual power has a list of exceptions, that explain, replace, or modify these generic effects. For example, the attacks from mind power can only damage sentient creatures.

Power Playbooks
To pick a power, you have to have it as a special ability in your playbook. This creates the need for new playbooks that allow powers. My thought is to have power books for different magic traditions, like wizard, cleric, warlock, and so on. There is a price for power. Each power tradition forces you to start with a specific trauma condition, which generally restricts your use of powers. So "A wizard must speak out loud and gesture to use powers. Their powers are recoded in tomes called spellbooks, and a wizard gradually loses their powers if they can't access this book." Each power playbook also has a list of special equipment that generally helps power use, and a list of which specific powers that power playbook can pick.

Naturally all of this would be modified for a specific setting, especially the power playbooks; there are no technomancers in my Greyhawk campaign, and many actions would be inappropriate for some settings. Remove power from Hunt and Skirmish, and your setting's powers become a lot less flashy.

My main worry at this moment is that the push powers are too cheap. With dramatic effects like these, you are likely to push anyway, so the cost is basically negleble. I may change to cost to 2 willpower, without giving the push benefit and allowing a normal, but is still up in the air.

Further Reading
I put all of this on a wiki page if you want to dive into it. BitD Powers@Starfox's Wiki. As I said, this is a sketch, and I expect to polish it alot.

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Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
BitD "heists" (for whatever flavor they are) are shorter than D&D adventures. Making them longer isn't really an option without also adjusting the amount of Stress a character has and the amount recovered as a downtime action. Blade's strict structure, with enforced downtime after each outing, doesn't always fit the plot-style or player-expectations in all genres either.

Part of the specialness of BitD is leaning heavily on the factions and Heat, which means wide travel can dilute that. For example in I'm a Scum and Villainy game, which is FitD, and Heat is by system and we can just travel elsewhere to let it cool down.

FitD also focuses on some collective, such as the crew or ship or something. Finally, some of the mechanics like Flashbacks and Devil's Bargains are fantastic in some genres and just "oh, okay" in others.

In short, Blades is focused on narrow area, concise action within it, structured play with required downtimes for the mechanics to work. It requires the PCs to be all part of something (organization, etc) larger than themselves. This doesn't always fit all DM styles nor genres.

EDIT: None of this is putting down Blade in the Dark. It's just that it's more bespoke than big tent, catering very well to a narrower set of genre choices instead of trying to be everything for everybody. Good system, just want to make sure that if hacking it to cover other genres you go in with eyes open about the strengths of the mechanics as well as what things outside it's chosen genre it hasn't been built to cover.
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Yay! Thanks for commenting!
And now, of course, I am gonna argue. :)

I'm all for the flashback and work as a team rules, that's a big part of why I am looking at BitD. That, faster pacing, and less prep work which allows greater player freedom as its easier for the GM to improvise. What I am not looking for is starting as low scum, so I may start teams at tier 2 or 3. And I am likely to have a plot planned that happens every 3 sessions or so. Candela Obscura is basically BitD without the downtime rules, and we're using that for now. Later i expect to move on to Princess World- Frontier Kingdoms that has downtime rules. But is all for my table and not so relevant to the power rules.
In short, Blades is focused on narrow area, concise action within it, structured play with required downtimes for the mechanics to work. It requires the PCs to be all part of something (organization, etc) larger than themselves. This doesn't always fit all DM styles nor genres.
I tried to play along with this by making powers much like equipment rather than spells. A pretty heavy cost per use insure not every action even if you have powers will be using powers. At the same time, there are few enough rolls in a typical score that you won't run out of resources. But I will freely admit I am far from sure about calibrating the costs.

Which is worth more, equipment or willpower? As is, I'm saying that 1 item can power a medium power while 2 willpower gives a push and a major power. I am starting to think it is too cheap to give a push AND a power for those 2 willpower. I am considering making the price for a major power 1 wp, which is where the question which is worth most, items or willpower points. My current idea is that a medium power cost EITHER a wp or an item, whereas a major power costs either one wp or one of each. I will need to get a feeling for this by playing.
Part of the specialness of BitD is leaning heavily on the factions and Heat, which means wide travel can dilute that.
For my own table I don't think people will want to transport out of the danger zone, but I see that it can be a problem. I've gated most travel powers to either be local or extremely costly, but I'll look over that again. The long-range travel powers are greater powers, which cost all your willpower and give you a trauma condition, which is a damn high price for anything.


You may want to check out Galaxies in Peril. It’s a super hero version of Forged in the Dark. It handles powers in a pretty interesting way. Very loose and freeform. That may help you with your goals.


You might find some inspiration in the Tales From Mauxferry Season 1 Session 0. They use the BitD system, but base it in a D&D campaign world they have played for a long while.


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