Alternative stress track

Hey. I would like to modify a bit how stress work at my table. Here is what I’m considering.

First, when you look at how stress points are spent, they represent 3 things:

  1. how resourceful your character is (pushing yourself)
  2. how well the crew work together (assist)
  3. how well prepared the crew is (flashback)

To me calling them “prep points” is a better fit to the narrative. So let’s call them that.

Before the engagement roll, each player does a “prep roll”. Like indulging vice, you roll the lowest attribute, and you get that many prep points. You can improve the roll with COIN. So each scoundrel has 1-6 prep points, but it doesn’t cost a downtime activity.

The crew also have prep points. The prep roll is based on the crew tier. Those points can be spent for assists / flashbacks.

The GM might give a bonus/malus on the prep roll given the circumstances, but it might overlap a bit with the engagement roll.

Interesting. What drives you to try this out? As someone who spent tens of hours over the past year creating solutions to problems w/ Blades that it turned out it didn’t actual have - I always like to try and save someone else from the same fate :).


I would say that the narrative purposes of stress are twofold:

  1. Representing the personal effort a scoundrel puts into the score, be it from the hours of prep work they did, how they put that extra bit of concentration into picking that lock, or absorb a shot that should have taken them out of commission
  2. Mechanize the narrative of hard living criminals living large lives in their down time, even to their own detriment, becoming lost in their vices, and no longer being fit for the life

Modifying stress like this would by its nature greatly modify or remove the vice and trauma mechanics (and in turn XP) as well as removing the narratives of those mechanics. What narrative do you want this new mechanic to push?


One of the key aspects of the stress economy is paying for resistance. Stress allows players to prioritize between gaining advantages (as you noted) and fending off the consequences from unlucky rolls. This is incredibly important as a tool for survival and to give players some narrative control/consent. It also reinforces one of the main thematic questions of Blades (What will you pay to get what you want?). Removing that element will fundamentally change the game.


@Scaramouche you are right I forgot to mention the “resist consequence” part of stress, which is important - but goes into how resourceful the scoundrel is.

@paulgsilva good question! I think you and @Cochlearia are pointing in the right direction. Maybe I want to change that part because my downtime game feels rather mechanical, not narrative driven.

When my players are doing their downtime actions, indulging vice feels artificial and repetitive.

I like to to mix Free Play into downtime activities to negate that - it is where I present my players the changes in Duskwall, new threats, NPCs and score opportunities. Yes, in the end it is always the same roll, but they also interact with the setting in those instances.


If the issue is vice rolls feeling overly mechanical, I’m not sure changing them to a a series of rolls before the score would fix that problem


Indeed, that change might be misdirected, thanks for helping me pointing this out.


I totally hear you. I was having the same problem. Then some more experienced GMs gave me tips to make sure to build in rp to the downtime bits. They made sure to inject secrets and leads that made them fun. They helped me let each player get a personal spotlight for a few minutes each session.

I’m a fan of using vice rolls as a time to throw personal complications or hints for new scores at players.

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