A more narrative act 3: what is a score?

Coming up to what feels like the third act of my blades in the dark campaign where the crew is looking towards tier 3 as probably a retirement ending point, there are lots of story threads hanging waiting to be knotted together. A couple of things are happening:

  1. There are so many repercussions waiting to fall on the group that this is all I am using the entanglements for so I asked the group to swap out their special ability which allowed them to choose a specific entanglement as these were becoming quite heavily narratively specific.
  2. Some free scenes and repercussions are so big in act 3 of any story that they tend to take over from scores which are more of an act one and two structure. So I’m starting to think creatively about what constitutes as a score and about the players’ agency.

My question is whether anybody has found this same need and leaning towards reincorporation when the end of the campaigns is in sight, and if this has caused any complications in what constitutes a score?

The main issue is that when free scenes and entanglements expand to fill whole sessions and take up resources like stress and harm then the characters needs downtime but when is it allowed when they are not initiating clear “scores”?

The obvious definition is when the team decides on an objective with a payoff and follows through. Sometimes a player a missing from a session so only the partial group does a score and I could see this extended down to the point that one could have a single player score. Perhaps that extrapolates too much. But for the sake of argument if a single player can initiate a score, then an extended free scene that ends up with risk and resources been expended should be considered a score especially if there is a reasonable payoff or the chance of one.

We are just coming into this region so I am very much aware that blades in the dark is all about player agency so I am attempting to only set up hooks and mergers of story threads that will be engaging and to allow them to make choices but it feels like a slightly firmer hand is needed to tie things up at all - this definitely matches my experience of improv marathons where the first two acts (18 hours) can be setup to allow players to expand scenes and initiate plots as they wish but the last act (9 hours) is driven much more by the caller who sets up the scenes. And indeed the last few scenes will be by often quite didactic to insure a conclusion.

Perhaps there is no need for a conclusion in a blades in the dark campaign but when so much has been character-driven and introduced so many plot elements and fascinating characters with emotional ties to the players, it feels like it would be underwhelming to just finish on on a score (no matter how good a payoff) and leave most of the threads hanging. I’m not saying that everything has to be tied up in a neat bow but it would be good if at least something from each characters’ arc could be completed, and that needs more steering than in the early game.

i think.


It sounds like you have a good handle on it to me. Personally my only concern about what constitutes a score would be the economy of downtime actions. As you say, if they’re spending resources like stress and harm on extended freeplay sequences then they will eventually run out of fuel.

If my group had finished a session that was full of action rolls and resistances and consequences like harm, I wouldn’t hesitate to retroactively call that “a score” and give them heat, downtime actions, etc. In other words, you might need to wing it a bit and sprinkle in downtime based on gut feeling. This is straying outside the core structure of the game, of course, but as you said - the end game or the third act often calls for a different approach.

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I agree with timdenee. As far as I remember there is no clear definition of what constitutes a score and what not. And I don’t think there should be. BitD gives you all the flexibility you want. But I can see that it’s sometimes a tough call. I also remember discussing this topic in another thread as I’ve made similar experiences in the past.

-Did it turn out to be a huge drain on resources despite not being a score? Then think of a way to allow for a Downtime anyway, or a way to fit in a smaller, less risk-heavy score that can be followed up by Downtime.
-Did they do something that should result in Heat despite being outside a score? Give them heat.
-Did it result in a huge boon for the PCs despite not being a score? Ok. Why not. They desrve it.
-Did it turn into something big and dangerous despite not having all the PCs involved, perhaps only one PC involved? You can still allow that PC to take downtime actions, but follow it up with their “moment to shine” for other players, give them also an opportunity.
-If a single PC wants to do a score by himself, consider whether you make it less risky so he can manage well, or if it’s as risky as if the entire party had to deal with the obstacles.

See if you can bring the many subplots and loose ends together in one big score; or have the big showndown score followed by several entanglements that finish each subplot. Or, who is to say the final score has to be the big showdown, anyway?

What one of my GMs once did (albeit in a different game) was to build a huge showdown dungeon crawl with different “chapters” where each player got their moment to shine and display their skills and confront a part of their personality/ past, and brought it all together in the final scene.