If you were running a short campaign (3-5 sessions) of Blades, what adjustments would you make to the game and how you ran it? Why? In particular, I was thinking about:
- Are there any rules that you’d omit?
- How might the GM ensure that some part of the story, character arcs, etc. has a satisfying resolution for the players? As I understand it, the game discourages the GM from steering the game towards certain outcomes and instead encourages them to allow player goals, faction desires, etc. to create an interesting story. However, I’m concerned that these player/faction motivations won’t lead anywhere significant after 3-5 sessions so I’m wondering if the GM should steer the story more than they would for a longer campaign
For context, my players and I are new to Blades and this will be my first time GMing something that’s not a one-shot, one-page RPG. I’ve found posts about running Blades as a one-shot but they seem to trim out more than necessary for a micro campaign.
I think the best way is to create a Starting Situation that will escalate quickly and will require the Crew to act fast to assure their place or bolster their podition - maybe a faction is doomed and now everyone salvage any part of its operations they can. It is true that you are not supposed to plan what will happen, but you can still make things happen according to the course of play, especially if you create a good situation: the faction will turn against you if the Crew won’t help it etc. You might want to create some clocks that will help you speed things up and will create time-limits. Don’t forget you can always talk to the players at character and crew creation and say that the series is short so they must establish a short-term goal, or if you are helpless take some freedom from them and give them one (you can do it by using the Starting Situation).
The only thing I’d add to the great comment below is that I’d be pretty intentional about what factions you use for a short campaign/mini-series. There are scads of factions and some are great for some groups, not so great for others. Look at your crew composition and talk it over with your players. I’d also consider looking at keeping entanglements streamlined for the overarching intent of your campaign.
It occurs to me that I might find a way to make healing a little bit easier on the characters. If someone takes a really tough injury it might interfere with what they are working on. Perhaps there is a top-notch Physicker that owes your crew a big favor and is willing to lend their services during this job.
Good luck with your campaign. Let us know how it goes!
And I should clarify that the great comment I spoke of was from OpenAbyss, not my own. Geography was never my strong suit, especially on a webpage.
P.S. Welcome to the community, helloIamaduck!
Good advice above. Some more thoughts:
When it comes to faction clocks, make them short. A 4 clock might fill in 1 session, which is great. You want to see the results. Even a 6 clock probably takes 2-3 sessions to fill. That’s too long. Just make everything a 4 clock. Similarly, if anyone starts a long term project in downtime, let it be a 4 clock regardless of what it is.
Have NPCs react strongly. You don’t have time for the slow burn of gradually encroaching on someone’s territory, or needling people until they finally react. If the PCs do something annoying to a bigger faction, and they will, bring the hammer down hard for the sake of drama.
Don’t worry about claims too much. They’re there if you need them, but meh.
I think OpenAbyss has the best advice here, with picking a starting situation that’s going to escalate quickly. Maybe even set something up where the PCs have been in this situation for a while: i.e. for the War in Crow’s Foot, say “okay this is your third job for Bazso. What were the first two?” Cut to the goods.
Especially if you have a hard limit on number of sessions (i.e. exactly 5) rather than a semi-flexible limit (i.e. around 3-6), remind your players of it, and remind them that if they want to see anything in particular in the story, they should try and make it happen by then. Similarly, if they tell you anything here, let them get there. If they want to take out the Lampblacks, make sure they get to a final showdown with Bazso. If they want to confront their noble father, make sure they get there. Etc
Hope that helps!
Thank you for your replies – this is exactly what I had been looking for! The main idea I got out of it was, “escalate (the drama) quickly”. I’ve run two sessions with the group so far and I think it’s been working well despite a slower pace from the group learning the rules as we play and me stumbling with being a first time GM. The group seems excited by the world so far as well as the game mechanics. This advice – escalate quickly – and perhaps keeping initial campaigns short, also seems like it’d be good for any first time GM for any game.
That being said, I’m concerned the campaign won’t finish as strongly. I’m not seeing any strong player/crew goals yet and, as we’ve only done one score + downtime, I haven’t found many opportunities to prompt the players for more. The PCs have interesting backstories that could hook in but they’re not tied to the situation yet. As suggested, it feels like clocks could help here but I don’t know how to use them effectively yet.
I’ll report back when I get to the end of the campaign. Thanks again for your help! My biggest fear was that they wouldn’t be interested in playing more Blades or RPGs and I’m relieved at their excitement already. Even if the campaign doesn’t finish strongly, it seems like my group will be understanding and be interested in more.
Encourage your players to tie their PC’s backstory to the story by using questions like “have you experienced this thing before?”, “do you know this character?” and “You are really nasty to this criminal - did they do something to you in the past?”. Don’t be too bold, but make them comfortable “messing” with the narrative, making it more personal. This method should bring severals goals to the table. Furthermore, don’t forget to always Cut to the Action so playtime would focus on the significant parts of the story.
Congratulations on your success!