Biggest Rules Mistakes for New Players

I love BitD. Reading through the rules, I was genuinely excited to try them out. The rules seem very consciously designed to reinforce a style of play in some ways.

However, whether someone is completely new to gaming, has played Apocalypse World but not BitD, or somewhere in between, its easy to have a misconception of the rules or overlook some mechanic’s implications for play.

What are some of the things you’d point out to newbies to keep in mind while playing BitD?

The big one I know is that everyone needs to remember that consequences do not always equal damage, even in physical conflicts.

What else?

  1. The position/effect matrix degrades elegantly. That is, don’t obsess over controlled or great effect if you’re not there yet. If someone jumps the gun and goes right for the dice, call it risky/standard and get a move on.
  2. You don’t need to categorize the crew’s plan (little p) with the Plans (big P) outlined on the crew sheets. It doesn’t matter if it’s Infiltration or Deception - as soon as you know that the plan is to sneak into the carriage house using servants’ clothes, go to engagement.
  3. Don’t wimp out on consequences because things are hard. You’ll set precedents that will be difficult to roll back once the crew is higher Tier and has more dice all around.
  1. It’ll take some time, and the advice in point one is good, above, but make sure your players approach actions with a sense of what they want to accomplish. Similarly, you should have a grab bag of interesting consequences to throw their way should they not net a full success, and I highly suggest you get in the habit of telling your players what they are very explicitly before they roll. “If you don’t get a full success here, you’ll leave evidence behind.”

  2. Jumping off of that, you’ll want to get in the habit of reminding your players that they have other mechanical options at their disposal. Some players will need to be reminded frequently that they can do a Flashback, Push Themselves for dice, make a Devil’s Bargain, Resist narrative consequences, etc. before they internalize it.


Rules wise I found there arn’t big mistakes one can make. In one of my groups the GM got sometimes confused with engagement rolls, action rolls and fortune rolls. It took a bit of time, and then it was sorted out.

In the game I’m running I found the biggest ‘mistake’ is forgetting about something. There’s quite a lot going on in the game, just take it slow. There’s some great advice in the book as well. Introduce all the mechanics step by step. Make sure you give the players opportunity to explore flashbacks, remind them about the power of resistance rolls, stop them from planning to much, discuss devil bargains openly on the table (ask your players, if they can come up with one, too)
And most importantly let everything flow from the fiction. Ask the players how they do something, and what the goal of the action is. I found it a lot easier coming up with consequences and devils bargains if you’re emerged in the fiction. If you know exactly how the PCs are engaging in an action it suddenly becomes a lot easier for you as a MC.


This is fantastic advice, but can cause players to try to weasel out of taking action if its “desperate”. You can help by guiding them to action through offering alternatives. Or by encouraging them with reminder that desperate actions are how to get xp


Some more misc. advice:

  1. Slow your roll and spend plenty of game time in downtime.

  2. Remember that downtime and freeplay can be dangerous too. If players put themselves in a dangerous spot or entanglement pop off, follow them to their natural (and exciting) conclusion.

  3. Put a player in charge of noting when everyone earns xp for desperate actions. Put another in charge of the crew sheet, and one more in charge of the rules book.

  4. If your crew doesn’t want to interact much with turf or hunting grounds, don’t force it.

  5. Don’t be afraid to offer scores without combat or accute physical danger beyond capture. The game supports social scores, too (quite well, in fact).

  6. Riding off that, remind players from the get go that THEY decide the score, not you. You only provide opportunities.


Great thread, and great advice. I am adding two thoughts:

  1. Take notes. Sure, you’ve started a clock and everyone can see it, but take notes on it and what has effected it. Take notes on everything. Or maybe I’m just getting old. LOL.
  2. My biggest mistake is being too nice to the characters, forgetting that they can resist or later just heal. I’m not fully using consequences to the story’s advantage.

I will remphasize the avoiding being too nice. The first time they have a consequence during a Risky or Desperate situation and it makes sense, say a terrible thing that occurs. Wait a beat & then remind them, “or does it really go down that way?” Then reiterate the Resist rules.

This was one of the biggest differences I had to get used to relative to all the other games I’ve run. You can go for the throat as a GM & the rogues can take it in stride so long as everyone is cognizant of their resources and options.


This is my experience, too. I’ve found that BitD works best if both successes and consequences are significant, most of the time.


I want to add one point which is pretty obvious but took us some time to figure out:

Don’t choose playbooks because of Special Abilities but because of XP Triggers (and maybe items). Note that the number of Veteran Abilities is not limited and it’s ok if everyone of your abilities is not from your original playbook, even the very first one.


When you make a check on a project clock or do something during downtime use that as an excuse to inhabit the world for a moment and role-play it out a little bit, even if just for a minute or two. The game is rules-dense (which I love) but as with many rules-dense gamesI find if we don’t take a moment to get into our scroundrel’s shoes while we check in boxes it can feel a bit like accounting.


But before you go looting other people’s playbooks maybe check with them. One of the nice things about playbooks is having a nice clear niche that you don’t share with other characters. Some players might want you to stay off their lawn.


When I run, I go the other way. I actively emphasise the playbooks are a trick, that they don’t define characters or limit what special abilities can be taken. So all Special Abilities are free game. For example, I like to colour Veteran as characters revealing skills they learned sometime in their past.


Yes, to both of you @Werlynn and @watergoesred: Sometimes it’s overwhelming to have to choose from such a long list of abilities. Especially if you did not read upfront. If a player has only a fuzzy picture of his character I tend to advise to pick a playbook as a kind of preset image including special ability. BUT: If you already have strong image of your PC and you just don’t find a fitting ability AND you did some reading … aaah, sweet freedom.
We had one great session where the spider of the group chose “A little something on the side” as his first ability. That was a strong message from session 0 what this guy will be about. The table loved it even if the crew had no advantage out of it.
So, als usual: it depends :slight_smile:

  • I keep forgetting that you take stress if you don’t indulge your vice at all during downtime.
  • Remind players that everyone can attune, not just the whisper
  • +1D for gather info and 1 free downtime action for scores of the preferred type and in your hunting grounds
  • Gather information is not a downtime action
  • During crew creation when buying Upgrades, don’t forgot about the Upgrades on page 95 available to all crew types

The guys from the Austrian RPG podcast “3W6” misunderstand the the consequence “end up in a risky/desperate” situation. Basically they thought, anytime you failed you have the choice to try again with your position degraded one step. Generally I think there is a lot to be misunderstood about the basic action roll mechanics of effect, position, consequence, resistance, etc. I also saw people taking the chapter on judging position and effect using potency, scale and quality way to literal and mathematical.

EDIT: Don’t forget about the negative effect harm has on a character’s rolls!


I always forget to account for harm…


playbooks are XP Triggers and people you know. But given the right LTP even those change :stuck_out_tongue: :wink:

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Hey Joe, I’m just getting into BitD (albeit the Scum & Villainy hack) and this part of the game is tricky for me. Can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘literal and mechanical’ regarding potency, scale, and quality in a session? I’ve been thinking it impacts the Fortune rolls, Gather Info rolls, or Effect depending on the context. But, now I’m thinking I might have been reading that too literally. Thanks!


I try to consider it before describing the obstacle. If there’s armed people, and they’re T1, there’s a few thugs with shitty pistols. If they’re T4 there’s ten armored and disciplined guards with repeating rifles instead :scream_cat:

That way you don’t have to think about that stuff so much later, it’ll feel more natural that the obstacle is this or that level of toughness to overcome.

If you feel you’ve been too hard or soft you can always compensate later with some other aspect.

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Hey Pagliacci,

I guess what I mean by that is, don’t let those rules overwhelm you.

Nine out of ten rolls, the position and effect will be obvious. Start with risky/standard as your baseline and adjust it a little according to your gut feeling. But every now and then it’s a little tricky to decide or there is a bit of a discussion about the position and effect. When you’re unsure or when there is disagreement at the table you can take a step back and really analyze the situation with potency, scale and quality in mind.

For me personally, I use these terms mostly when I’m justifying to a player why their position/effect is really poor. And for supernatural and sparkcrafty things where the fantasy aspect makes it hard to make a fair judgement otherwise.

To sum up: Don’t overcomplicate, don’t slow down the game unnecessarily, go with your gut.

Hope this helps