Culture Shock GM’ing BoB for 1st time


TL;DR: BoB’s lack of Hit Points and “fiction-first” combat resolution is throwing me for a loop; am I making a huge mistake if I bump up the Legion to ~100 as well as increase the # of enemies the PCs fight to give me, the GM, more margin for error to freely kill off and maim characters?


I’m going to GM BoB for the 1st time for my gaming group. We are all D&D veterans, but none have ever played any RPG system outside D&D. I’ve DM’d D&D campaigns before, but wrapping my head around BoB mechanics has been a huge culture shock. In particular, I’m concerned about: managing how many enemies to throw at PCs in a mission; when/how many enemies to kill off after a PC makes a shoot/skirmish roll; how many deaths the PCs should suffer in a mission.

The descriptions of the Undead troops give a very wide range of enemies, eg 6-12 Rotters, plus a “few” Crows, and maybe an Elite or two as well at higher levels. Given that the PCs are only 5 per mission, they are down by scale considerably and I feel there is very little margin for GM error.

I have some secondary worries as well: (A) how to run our sessions virtually as we are not meeting in-person yet; (B) the committed group is just 2 players. Our 3rd player has intermittent availability and I’m not sure about our 4th player’s interest. What hacks have you used if only 2 players + a GM can play more often than not? Should the GM take a Legion Role and run Specialists as NPCs?

One of the ways I want to mitigate many of these worries is to bump up the numbers on all sides considerably. IE allow my players to each run a Specialist and then add up to 5 other Legionnaires (usually Rookies) who would be played by me and/or the PCs.

This would mean bumping up the Legion’s cap size beyond 30. On the baddie side, this means throwing more foes at them per mission. With more bodies on all sides, and no measurable Hit Points on anyone, I’ll have much more leeway to ascribe damage to either side when describing roll Effects or devising obstacles.

Mechanically, I’ll have to fudge the post-mission Morale penalty for Legionnaire deaths, but I‘m more comfortable doing this fudge than trial-and-erroring damage during missions. This’ll also help manage the 2ndary missions, where it seems you can lose a significant handful of Legionnaires by chance and fiat.

I also really like this thematically: more bodies in a fight feels more like a theatre of war than a mere 5 Legionnaires. I feel there’s no material difference between a Legion of 30 and a Legion of 14 (the auto-campaign fail trigger) - neither quantity can expect to hold a Keep against an army of hundreds or thousands of Undead. A Legion of ~100 fighters feels more like a broken regiment that still matters and is still capable of field/siege defence operations, especially if I imagine that the full fighting strength of the Legion before Ettermark Fields was approx 400.

I mean - even Shreya’s 1st mission. How are only 5 characters meant to plant explosives on a massive stone bridge at the same time as hold off a wave of Undead? If they lose just 2 bodies, that’s a massive loss in manpower to complete the task. Is this mission ‘meant‘ to be a failure more often than not? Or a TPK suicide mission?

What do people think?? How much will I break the game if this happens (or, more realistically, how much more homebrewing might this decision trap me into)?

I’m so excited about this story, world, and themes, I just really want to get this right for my players.

Thanks for reading my long-winded post. :slight_smile:

Hi Lucan, welcome to the Legion.

TLDR . it’s your game, you do what you want. But it won’t be the same game.

And you got it wrong for the numbers of Legionnaires on mission, so read further.

It’s normal to be worried that everything will fall apart and everybody will die. It’s part of the BoB experience. Go and check this thread: you will see that two different campaigns reached Skydagger Keep, with very different results – but they reached it:

Now some details:

  • The approximate numbers of enemies is given in the book, also there are some indications in the mission generation chapter. Stick to that at the beginning.

  • “Given that the PCs are only 5 per mission”: well, not exactly. Normally on a mission you have 2 or 3 Specialists PLUS a full squad of 5 (some squad members can be PC too). So you’re probably at scale with a “normal undead group”. Or there are ways to mitigate that.

  • Your (A) is a problem for most people, but Roll20 for character sheets and rolls + Discord for voice and chat is mostly enough.

  • Your (B) is a more serious problem. I advise to have the 2 players be the Commander and Quartermaster, and the GM do the Marshal’s paperwork. Having only 2 players will increase the difficulty and limit Rookies’ progression, so I advise erring on the side of “less enemies and obstacles”, at least until you have found your marks. It is possible to run the Specialists as NPCs (there is a thread on that subject on this forum), but in order to benefit from the stress and capabilities the normal way is to have your players play Specialists, if you have only two.

  • “allow my players to each run a Specialist and then add up to 5 other Legionnaires (usually Rookies) who would be played by me and/or the PCs.”: in fact, this is just the normal way of playing the game so you’re good here.

  • It does’t mean that you have to bump the total Legion numbers. You have six squads, you can recruit when you have lost some Rookies.

  • How to decide damage? (this seems to be a problem for you).
    It is in fact pretty straightforward. You start from the basic damage, due to the position. Then you add or subtract any difference in Threat and Scale – staying attentive to the fiction. See page 226 for injuries on the squad.
    Same for damage on enemies. If you’re not sure, start from Standard effect. Add or subtract any difference in Threat and Scale, and advantages from Pushing, Setups, Potency, special abilities. For large groups don’t count the exact numbers of enemies killed. For powerful enemies go with a clock. See the exemple of fights on page 238-245 to get a better idea. It’s normal to be a bit lost. It’s one of the most difficult part to understand properly. See also this discussion: many questions, many answers

Hope that helps and don’t hesitate to ask more questions.

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I was very recently in the position you’re in now.

Read the whole book, and listen to some AP, it will help a lot: (iirc this one includes the first shreya mission)

For two players you have two issues: the total stress available to players on missions, and the rate of promotion for rookies and soldiers.
I had only two players for my session on the weekend, one maxxed their stress, the other took trauma.

For stress you could give PCs one or two ticks of Hardened for free, to give them bigger stress pools.

Or to mitigate both stress and promotion rate at the same time you could have each player control two PCs each on missions.


If you are playing remotely anyway, you could also fill the third player slot with someone online. Might want to ask around on the forum, reddit, discord, etc.

Thanks for all the advice! All will be deeply considered.

Listening to the Crit podcast was immensely reassuring, inspiring, and frustrating.

Its reassuring that its easier to jump into the action and get going, set the scene, let the narrative start to flow.

Its inspiring to see how the GM comes up with really interesting consequences for rolls - some good ideas for the mission.

Once the baddies showed up… it was frustrating seeing just how free-flowing & inconsistent the action & effects were. The playthrough had so many Marvel-esque cinematics, which is cool but equally undermines the ‘Game of Thrones’-style realism that I felt I’m asked to channel. When listening to the fight against the Horror, I find it jarring for the GM to rule that a roll of 4/5 does 2-clock damage (out of a 6-clock health for it, so 33% damage) but offered that a 6 flat (not even a critical) would do 100% damage and kill it outright. I can see how the combat ignored describing individual zombies entirely (and kinda ignored rookies too, esp at the end) and just described them in very aggregate terms for the sake of a scene, but I felt the attacks of the zombie wave on the Rookie “line” felt handwaved-away…one roll, and then that’s it. How the PC survived the explosion…very very Hollywood. I dunno. It worked for the table, and sounded fun but it ended up very different fun than the ‘gritty realism’ I envisioned. I’m still not sure I know how to make those kind of decisions at the table. I’ll have to look up more play-throughs or maybe just give it a shot…

Well, what FitD games are not: they definitely are not “blow by blow” combat games.

The gritty realism? It will come when you will have to kill up to four Rookies on a 4/5 on a Risky group roll against an Infamous…


The “gritty realism” vs “hollywood action” is decided solely by you and the players.
FitD games can be as dramatic and “marvel thor movie cinematic” as you want to, or you can go the “Ironclad” (great movie for BoB btw, check it out) route.
I am currently running “grimdark” fantasy hack and describing combat resolutions with swords piercing bodies and getting stuck in them (nice consequence of a 4/5 btw) is grim enough…
So it is up to your imagination pretty much. As long as the fiction stays the same “power level” and “style” then it is good and predictable for the players. They know they cannot jump over the house and that a knife stab can cause seriously crappy wound…that might get infected on another lousy roll etc…


I just listened to it again, and yes that “finish it on a 6” was a little unusual.

The sniper had already shot it once, its clock was 2/8 when the heavy attacked it.

Your effectiveness (damage dealt) is (potentially) affected by what you roll (a crit increases it, a 4-5 can reduce it, a 1-3 will very likely reduce or negate it)

But in this case the expected harm before the roll was three ticks (great effect). So you’d expect a rolled result of 6 to do three ticks, a crit to do four or five ticks, and a 4-5 (which is what the player actually rolled) to do three ticks (or less if the GM decided the consequence should be reduced harm).

So yeah, don’t know where that “six ticks on a 6” came from, but the rule above all rules is fiction first, so I guess at that point JLL just felt it was fictionally appropriate for whatever reason. I wonder also if possibly he was also just thinking about time elapsed in the podcast and that perhaps killing it quickly might be convenient for RL reasons.