Band of Blades AMA

Want to know why we picked a certain mechanic? What Zora likes to eat for breakfast? How we came up with the iconics?

Ask here. We’ll do our best to answer. There may be humor or snark depending on the question.



Two questions-

  1. How did you determine specific “Chosen” profiles? Any examples of chosen that were tested and discarded?

  2. Are any parts of Band of Blades open for hacking (specifically the campaign roles / actions)?

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– Yo @ebrunsell when you say “profiles” do you mean power sets, their divine favor, backstory or what?

They worked a lot like how we do most design. I wrote a first pass, we discussed, John LL edited, stuff got changed or added, we discussed, and we kind of polished through play iteration (forex the Horned One used to grant a shapeshifting power … wild!). Some stuff got trimmed back because it gave the wrong ideas about the world, some stuff was hard to understand when written in 15 words in that tiny space. But I don’t think we had any overall Chosen concepts that were outright discarded.

There ARE a few ideas we’re still polishing on the backburner ^_~ So you may see more Chosen/Broken in the future.

– Game’s not fully published yet (haha) so we don’t have an SRD or anything like that, and this Q may be a bit premature. Game rules aren’t copyrightable, but you may want to a) stay away from the trade dress (don’t copy the LOOK of the playbooks IE the art/fonts/borders etc) and b) don’t use world specific terms (Chosen/Lorekeeper etc). If you’re designing a thing and thinking of chopping up some GM responsibility and putting it into campaign roles—have at! I’m curious what folks would use it for.



-How much bigger will the full release be from the version currently available on DriveThru?

-What’s the origin of the playbook specific “resource” actions? What do you feel they add to the game? (I love them as a concept, just curious)

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– In terms of size? Vastly. The text-only page count clocked in around 450 pages. So about 3-4 times the size of the beta.

In terms of new mechanics … not a whole ton. We’ve changes a couple powers, and tightened up some stuff. The additional info is some core rules (about 50 pages) and a ton of examples, expounding on world and relationships and almost double the art of Scum and Villainy. It’s gonna be a BEEFY book. BoB is VERY different from blades, and it took a lot of words to explain stuff and help folks wrap their heads around it (hopefully) :smile:

– One of the things that we focused on in our design was efficiency and speed (I’m going somewhere bear with me). So you’ll note healing forex is faster to do on sheets (for when the marshal has to go through a dozen sheets etc).

The thing that makes specialists different than other classes is basically an ability. You can do a thing other’s cant. And in many ways that’s mimic’d with a push power. INITIALLY we tried just giving them the power (so the Heavy had Anchor) but stress tracks were short, and people would not use their cool thing in order to save stress for resists, or use their cool thing then get punished when they tried to resist. It wasn’t working.

So we gave them essentially a different track, that let them do their ONE COOL THING regularly. We didn’t want to make them ROLL to do their class thing, so it necessitated a bit of a translation.

One thing that @worldnamer and I believe is that actions are often in their own way powers. Having 3-skirmish is basically like having an ability called “Fighting Badass” or something. We were also struggling with a 4th Insight action and it kind of clicked together.

So we gave them an easy-to-spend, fast to use ability that’s got a compact ruleset in the back, and basically defines your role on the battlefield.

Hope that answers your Q!


Hopefully I don’t botch this up, but I noticed that the player group doesn’t progress up the “Tier” ladder like in default Blades of Dark, and it seems like there’s a lot of way to account for differences in Tier (bringing different resources on a mission, for instance). I was wondering generally about what led you to this design decision (and if I am interpreting it correctly) and if it had to do with an issue of managing “Threat Level” effectively in Blades in the Dark.

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@ErikTheBearik Blades always has a bigger fish. If you get to Tier 3, there are Tier 4/5 factions that will stomp on you for playing in their space. The types of jobs you do, and what your objectives are will often change drastically (you’re seldom a 4th tier faction doing smash-and-grabs). The game looks different-but stuff is still difficult. That wasn’t it.

One of the first things we do in hacks is figure out what purpose do mechanics serve. In Blades the core conceit is that Tier is a thing you’re fighting to gain, it provides a vision of what a gang of that scale looks like, and gives the players pushback from existing social forces. It lets you figure out where in the city you land.

In a military campaign none of that is useful really. You shouldn’t be trying to “grow” your army (that’s both kind of an odd message I’m not super interested in, and sort of a resource management game that is a bit at odds with the story/design principles). Armies take a long time to draft, equip and train. That’s not the point of a horror story. Here threat gives the players some vague idea of what they’re getting into when they try to engage a monstrosity, and provides the GM with cues on how common or complex an obstacle should be.

The military-industrial complex is a beast, and this game isn’t about capitalism and resource management so much (there’s a tiny bit of that in the quartermaster—we do acknowledge it). It’s a horror game about some really impressive people (The Legion) who are some of the best equipped and scariest folks (Threat 2 for specialists) are still being ultimately limited by the fact that they are very human—in the face of some truly scary things. It’s a dark fantasy story - which means it’s really a horror story in many ways. :slight_smile:

The way to deal with horror isn’t usually by just getting more troops (lesson 1 of zombie apocalypse stories), or vastly higher Tier organizations (like entire nations) would have solved the problem already.

It was just a way to model what we wanted out of the setting.


Hey Stras, since this is an AMA I feel compelled to ask, will you entertain requests to convert settings/games to Forged in the Dark? If not, would you be happy to provide comment/feedback/advice on such conversions?

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@OnyxCourage It’s an AMA though it’s Band specific. :slight_smile: I’ll answer this for now.

No. And maybe.

Believe me that when I tell you that being a designer is a full time job. And I have a day job. I don’t have spare time really, and I have a list of games I want to make in queue a mile long—so derailing won’t likely happen (I think our project plan goes till 5 years from now hahaha).

Maybe on the second question because I read 2-5 games a month. It’s a combination of finding free time, and whether something catches my fancy (there’s seriously no way to predict what does). In general I’m VASTLY less interested in existing IPs (this is X movie but as a game! You play the actual characters!) and more in things that are loosely relate to stuff but with someone’s personal spin on them (this is an indiana-jonesey style pulpy action-adventure, but I’m doing it in my hometown). People have cool stories to tell, and I’m way more interested in someone’s take on cyberpunk/industrial-fantasy/whatever than an exact conversion of a specific game/property to use a d6-blades-like-die-pool.

That said, there are amazing and super talented people out there who read and playtest games. These forums are probably going to have many of them reading them. You should definitely post your stuff and listen to what folks say :slight_smile:


Thanks for the response. I don’t really know what I meant by profile either - I just enjoy hearing about design choices and thought processes.

As for BoB mechanics, I ran with the specialist action as a way to add expertise and heritage/racial traits. A character can choose to have one special action (e.g. Elven traits) and select 2 tags from that action. They get one “free” push yourself per rating, but it only applies to the tag.

As a modern example, the Driver might also have expertise in interrogation and the psychic Hitter may have limited remote viewing ability.

I also have an itch to use the campaign roles / actions to create an illumimati style game…

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Thanks Stras, that’s a great answer. I love what you did in S&V and Band of Blades is equally compelling so far. Plus they both feel like different types of games rather than Blades reskins - nothing wrong with Blades reskins, but I like that they are their own thing, too.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is, I support your choice to continue designing your own stuff rather than hack other IP, given how busy you are. Please keep doing that!

Personally, I’m a bit torn between hacking IPs I love for (mostly) me and my friends to play, and coming up with my own mash up of stuff I like that might go further. Maybe one will morph into the other, I don’t know. Either way, your advice above is appreciated. Cheers!


I always love to home brew some of the setting in blades kind games, are you going to give some advise for that in the rule book?

Will there be a special print edition or some goodies we can order once it’s released? Would love to get something special for this game :slight_smile:

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Hi Stras, couple of questions:

  1. What was the thought process behind the Chosen and Broken included in the first campaign? Have you sketched the other Chosen and Broken out yet?

  2. I recall hearing about a hack where who was Broken was flipped (so there’d be Chosen versions of Elenassa, Vlasim, etc as well as Broken Alanna, Horned One and Zora). I can’t remember, were you working on that? If so, is that going to be an option for the first campaign?

  3. What made you choose to make BoB a Forged in the Dark hack? What made the hack challenging?

  4. Will the origins of the Cinder King ever be revealed in a future campaign, or is that just supposed to be background we’re in the dark on?

  5. Speaking of - the Crown of True Fire - what’s the deal with that? To which god does this artifact belong?

  6. Apropos of nothing, do the Dar have a patron deity?


@aRkeoN Chapter 11 in the book is our hacking chapter. We do have some advice for making your own maps and how to drift some of the setting there.

There will be a print edition (books almost done being laid out) but I don’t know that we’ll have a special edition. That kind of fanciness usually comes from kickstarters, and since this is tied to the original blades kickstarter we didn’t feel right running a whole new one. Who knows … we will have shirts and other rad merch, and I know I’m getting a tattoo of one of the squad logos ^_~ So merch opportunities abound. We’ll see what folks are interested in! (I want some squad stickers for my laptop)

@Duan You always ask the best questions :slight_smile: I’m happy to see you on these forums friend!

Q1. John said that it’s usually gods of war that survive, and he asked what a world looked like if the gods of healing and seasons had to go to war. I wrote some mythology and we derived some characters from that.

So we DO actually have additional sketched out Chosen/Broken. One Broken (that’s f-ing terrifying) that you haven’t seen yet but is mostly done is Binder (also known as Shadow Binder) who used to be Nyx, Panyar goddess of the moon. There might be some ghosty horror involved.

We have the Twins (one of whom is Chosen, one of whom is Broken) and we have one of the Orite Chosen (who are a touch cowardly, and hiding from Breaker) who grants troops alchemicals on every mission.

I hope that whets your appetite :slight_smile:

Q2. Yes, my friend Alice (also known as TafKat) was working on that. I’ll check in and see how that’s going (I know she had one or two done I believe).

Q3. Well. Wow. This is a much deeper question than I expected here.

So, for a long time, I just thought I liked dark fantasy. Most of my fantasy stories are tinged with horror. I never really questioned it. Love reading the fiction of it, love writing and telling stories about it.

Most fantasy these days is heroic fantasy or dungeon fantasy—which I want to be clear I’m not judging. It’s just not quite my favorite flavor. I’ve told these (dark fantasy) kinds of stories in 100 systems, but when I said “hey, I’ve always wanted to sort of do my take on the dark fantasy genre” my design partner (@worldnamer) said “ok, there’s 100 different fantasy games, what makes this one special”.

So I had a lot of things to say. I found out (hilariously I realized this just recently) that I grew up listening to very different fairy tales. East european fairy tales. Where people bargained souls, and not everyone makes it to the end. Where the supernatural is full of people with powers that look normal, but live in the mountains, and enemies have serpents coiled in their chest among 3 hearts. A lot of what you’re seeing in BoB is personal stories encoded in game format.

Chosen and how reliquaries work? Come from me being squicked out when I saw a saints hand in a gauntlet as a kid. A lot of the cultures are references to places my family lived.

I grew up listening to my grandparents talking about WW2. So these aren’t stories of heroes at the heads of shining armies playing well understood probabilities. This is multi-cultural units, making retreats, making heroic efforts and caring for each other in a war torn setting with little hope of victory, but just enough that they don’t give up.

It’s kind of a personal narrative encoded in a game :slight_smile: It’s also totally ok if nobody gets this and everyone just has cool adventures in a Black Company-like setting. A game can be deeply meaningful to me, and also just fun for everyone else.

What was challenging? Hooh. Horror. Horror is tough. Some stuff I knew instinctively how to run, but not how to hand that off to someone and not just say “play Dread, it’s pretty great”. Figuring out how to do logistics and morale without making it too complicated or tedious. Give enough choice to commanders, but not just throw them on a map and say “go”. There were a lot of puzzle pieces we tried a bunch of stuff with.

Q4. Yes. Definitely a lot more will be revealed. Some of that will obviously come out in future campaigns, but we actually have a small campaign with specific characters we’re playing/working on that may have more to say about this (it’s follows the adventures of the Bannerguard). I promise we won’t leave you hanging.

Q5. It’s related to what the Old Empire studied more recently, and things the Living God found out a long time ago. If it belongs to anyone, it belongs to the answer to question six. ^_~

Q6. Sort of. I guess we’ll have to agree that yes, it is a deity since it created a Chosen, which by definition makes it such. Yep. Dar has a deity. Whether it’s a patron is a bit fuzzy. I mean they have a Chosen out there right now. I think you might know him. Has a crown of true fire? That one.


I feel like I’ve missed something - are you planning to release more than one campaigns in the BoB setting? I was sure the only planned one is the “running from the western front to the mountains before winter is coming and what comes after” from the beta.
Can you tell us more about the format of the campaign in the book and if any other BoB product is planned right now?

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Hi Stras, played in your Sunday morning Band of Blades game at Big Bad Con 2018 (I was the Heavy who was butting heads with / wildly insubordinate to the Officer) and considered it a highlight of the con - thanks for running it!

My home group is excited for BoB and we’re considering starting a game of it when we wrap up our Burning Wheel campaign, but wondering whether we ought to wait a bit longer given the upcoming release of the book. Do you know if there will be any intermediate releases of the text to Blades backers / DriveThru buyers before the Q3 print release, now that layout is happening? Or is it all coming out as one print-ready package for a GenCon release sort of thing?

Also: thanks again for being the person who made the RPG I’ve desperately wanted since I was a teenager statting up The Black Company characters in AD&D2E :slight_smile:

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Hi @stras, thanks!

I’m going to more fully reply, but I have to - funnily enough - head out to my Band of Blades game :smiley:

I just wanted to say I’m glad you mentioned Binder, because the Broken of Nyx is supposed to make a cameo in my game tonight, and it’s nice to see I’m on a similar wavelength at least (in that I’m planning on giving her a ghostly theme)… can’t wait to see what you come up with and how much I’m going to have to retcon :wink:

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@The_Time The core book will have the first campaign (what you describe as running to the mountains). It’s already a big beefy book atm, so we can’t really add a ton to it.

But we’re pretty up front with the fact that we have additional materials we’re working on (we have a 2nd and 3rd campaign planned). There’s rules for scoring in the first game so you have a starting point for followup campaigns.

We’re definitely planning more! Bear in mind that the core book isn’t out yet, and the format of anything following will depend on how well it does. But I’m certain we’ll at least release PDFs :slight_smile:

Right now the thing we have the most figured out is a second release which should have the 2nd campaign, some extra chosen (2) and broken (2), a few new heritages (including Dar), and two non-legion playbooks (Mercy and Alchemist).

We have some loose notes for things past that (like the Bannerguard) but nothing concrete.


Hey @KindledSky – I want you to know I had an ABSOLUTE BLAST at that game (it was one of my con highlights) to the point where I may have thought about asking sean for all your contact info to see if we could continue the game online or something :slight_smile: Your group was amazing and running for you folks was effortless.

To answer your actual question (instead of just gushing) we should be releasing the book PDF before the actual physical copy release. I’ve talked to Sean and it’s likely going to be sans art, but it should have the full text, and that should be out probably around the start of May.

And you’re super welcome—it’s been a white whale of mine, so I’m glad we did a good job for folks :slight_smile: You can only make games your own group enjoys, and then hope others do (haha).