D&D 5e to Blades in the Dark: Suggestions?

Hey all! Hope this is in the right area/relevant to the forum purpose; if not, please let me know and I’ll sort it. If anyone else is running up against this, hopefully this could be a useful thread for them as well.

Anyway, to the point: I’ve been running a 5e game, and my players and I would like to switch to Blades. I won’t go into the reasoning too much–suffice it to say that the tone, focus, and setting of Blades is more compatible to our game than 5e, and we’d all rather be playing the Blades version of the game rather than the current one. We are using a homebrew setting, but one that bears more similarity to Blades than the Forgotten Realms.

I’ve already worked up a faction sheet, rejiggered the direction and intent of my prep to be more free form, and made sure I know how to build a character decently well, and we plan on running a quick one-shot game with other characters in order to get a feel before we dive in. We still have to transfer the characters over, which will likely require homebrewing some new abilities to account for, but I’m happy to do that.

My actual question is: Has anyone done this before? Are there any pitfalls you noticed? Any things you’d recommend I make sure to do before making the switch? Suggestions for how to shift from D&D mode into something else? Any help is appreciated; I mostly just want to make this game as good for me and my players as possible, and I figured this would be a good place to turn. Thanks!

I haven’t done 5e to Blades, but I’ve done this with other games. Sounds like you’re covering the bases pretty well.

One thing I’d add is to tell the group that any translations of abilities or rules are provisional – they can change them as much as they want as the game goes on in order to get the right feel.

Absolutely; makes sense. Definitely not planning on locking anybody into anything, especially since we’re all so new to Blades (my main experience has been in various actual play forms). Do you have any suggestions for what to watch out for in general with porting games?

Also, thanks for replying, appreciate it!

One thing I’ll weigh in with is to be mindful of the sort of, load bearing elements of Blades’ setting.
The key elements in my mind are as follows:

  1. All the stuff with lightning barriers and the deathlands and the post-apocalyptic nature of the setting. This all makes it so that the game can’t be a gonzo murderfest, which is generally where people have been trained to take things by western mainstream media. In Blades, the crew cannot simply skip town to wait for the heat to die off, their actions are always very consequential, and those consequences pretty much immediately come to bear against them by way of angry factions. And ghosts. The ghosts bit is very important, because it makes killing specifically a very difficult thing to get away with. This is good for the fiction. It forces compromises, negotiations, anything but murder, honestly, which is all much more interesting and fraught for the players.
    So if this isn’t present in your setting, I would recommend coming up with a suitable replacement to generate this same effect. Otherwise, mechanics like heat, the factions, all the whisper stuff pretty much, they all really lose their teeth.

  2. All the weird technology stuff. This stuff is essential for a few reasons. Tinker and wreck exist. Two of the games actions are very tightly connected to all the technology stuff, and characters that have these actions will feel lackluster if there aren’t explosives and spark-craft machines and alchemy and whatnot. This stuff also feeds back into number 1, of course. Furthermore it provides ways for the players to develop exceptions to the rules of the setting, which lets them do clever crimes, and feel like clever criminals, or adventures or treasure hunters or whatever they choose to call themselves. I think these also help, weirdly, as being sort of real world analogues to things. Not like, directly, like this is a toaster like I have a toaster, but for a modern audience, saturated as we are in technology, these elements can help ground the world in meaningful ways for the players and GM. Keeping the fictional world grounded will, again, keep things from getting all gonzo, and help with the position/effect negotiation process, because people will have clearer shared expectations around what is possible.

  3. That the setting is not 100% fleshed out from the outset. The way it’s written, that are some nice fruitful gaps for folks at the table to talk about and fill in during play. This gives everyone a shared investment and responsibility in establishing details for the setting, which is good not only because the GM shouldn’t have to do all the lifting in that department, but again to ground all the players in the fictional world’s internal logic.

The guideline I would recommend is just that if you take something out, you probably need to put something in its place. Something that is going to serve the fiction of your game in similar ways, and support the mechanics in similar ways. If you have the special edition of blades, with the U’Duasha setting, available to look over, I found comparing that and Duskvol really helpful to illustrate this idea.

Hope this lengthy ramble helps!


I’ve never tried to convert characters from one system to the other directly, but if that’s your goal, then I would say to consider playbook abilities from some of the hacks of Blades, too. Especially those that have a more D&D aesthetic.

You can find a lot of alternate playbooks in the Workshop here on the site. Mixing and matching them with the standard Blades playbook abilities might give you a bit more flexibility to produce something close to the 5E D&D classes.

Good luck! Let us know if you’re able to make things work.

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My players tend to avoid killing and fighting as much as possible, and one of the reasons we’re leaving 5e behind is because, as a system, it’s too focused on combat/violence. All the same, I have been toying with ways to play that up even more, so it is good to think about. As for technology, it’s an industrial fantasy world with some similar trappings to Blades, and there a few ciphers in particular we’ve relied on to make it more intelligible, so I’m not too worried about it.

As for the leave blank spaces stuff, to a certain extent we already had that conversation at the outset of the campaign, and obviously a some things are already settled, but it’s definitely something I’m trying to keep in mind going forward.

The only thing that’s a little tricky is that the players aren’t really interested in any of the gang mechanics inherent to Blades (territory, specifically), so I’m wrestling with what I might replace it with were I to remove it, but hopefully with some time we’ll figure out what works.

Also, lengthy rambles are always appreciated in my book, tbh, long as they’re relevant, so thank you!

I have an initial draft of a high fantasy hack. Here is a link to the folder. https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1DrEh0oCuBIg93KZQo2j790qkZuBqsHvo

It does have 10 playbooks, but the heritage/race section is missing. I’m doing a big rewrite of that. I’ll see if I can post the drafts of the “crews” that I have. Inquisitors, Adventurers, Fellowship (epic hero story).

If you use any of it let me know! I’d love feedback as I’ll probably return to working on the next version soon.