I’m currently GMing Blades in the Dark for a group of 5. We had our first session recently, using the starting situation (War in Crow’s Foot) and interestingly the characters created by the players are already taking different sides as between the Crows, Red Sashes and Lampblacks. Two of the characters are kind of neutral, and just want to play everyone off against one another for their own ends. However, one character has ended up swearing an oath of fealty to the Red Sashes, one chose Baszo Baz as their best friend and another chose him as their rival. From a drama and role playing perspective this is obviously highly juicy! However, especially as I seem to have a crew with a tendency to split up and do their own little side missions I’m wondering if anyone has any tips on keeping a coherent narrative going? Should I just let the players resolve any differences of opinion in game? Should I try and direct them away from the war storyline unless the whole crew is playing?
Indeed! There is some juicy stuff here and plenty of opportunities to get all that wonderful “Inner Conflict” End of Session Crew XP.
That in mind, there is probably enough divergence that there’s the fine line of “great material for inner conflict XP” and “Too much conflict that nothing gets done.”
I’ve certainly been in groups where each PC has had differing “life objectives” and weren’t necessarily a “tight knit group of XYZ,” and even when their interests may split- at the end of the day: when it came to “the Job,” they’d still band together for the sake of the profit.
In this instance, that might still happen… but it may not.
If I were in your shoes, I’d probably consult with the players. “So, I’ve been thinking: y’all chose to play a Crew of XYZ, which to me says y’all are interested in doing ABC things… but since you’re all swearing allegiances to warring Factions, it almost seems like we’ve defeated the purpose of making a Crew that tackles certain Jobs. Now I have no issues with y’all taking different sides, but I think we need to set some boundaries and expectations here about where we want this game to go. Remember, Blades doesn’t handle PvP particularly well. Conflict is a thing, and it is always consensual, but it isn’t the focus of the game. So I think we need to make some decisions here…” (or something along those lines!)
If you will enter into PvP, remember to check if there is any tension between players (more on this in the book). If it isn’t between players and only PCs, I recommand checking Wicked Ones (it has a great free verison you can download from DriveThruRPG. It is also a great game) method of handeling it.
Personally I love rivalries and conflicts between PCs, but Blades handles “PvP” especially poorly due to its “asymmetrical” design (ie, all Action Rolls are one-sided, they work from the point of view of the protagonist, no opposed rolls), and due to the fact that the Free play->Score->Downtime structure assumes that the whole crew will be in the “Score” phase at the same time).
The book is very explicit in saying that characters are assumed to work together to further their Crew’s common goals:
“During a session, the crew of scoundrels works together to choose a criminal score to accomplish”
“Regardless of how a crew comes to be formed, they all have one thing in common: they exist to create a legacy that will last beyond the founding members”
“In a sense, the crew is the central figure in the stories we’re going to tell about the underworld of Doskvol. Scoundrels will come and go […] but the crew carries on.”
I’d suggest you talk openly to your players and explain them that conflict is cool, but the game expects them to work together on Scores. If they don’t, the game will probably feel very different.
Try to find common ground - currently, there is no personal conflict with the Crows. Only if the PC who swore an oath to the Red Sashes would become a henchman of the Red Sashes problems might accure.
Furthermore, starting situations can easily become a background rather than a main story arc. You should not push them to leave this direction if they want to stick with the gangs war, but don’t need to be to worried as long as everyone is in good terms.
Also, encourage the players to be up front about their allegiances. Are the characters who swore oaths/made friends actually planning to honor those, or are they using those connections to play the factions against each other? If it’s the latter (or if the situation cam morph into the latter at the appropriate moment), then there’s no problem, and the potential conflict (or appearance of conflict) is part of the drama of the story.
Thanks for the tips all! As many have suggested I ended up discussing things with the players and getting them all on the same page as far as possible. We’re having a great campaign where the scores are largely what’s binding the crew together, though they all have their own reasons for participating and their own goals to progress, so there’s plenty of drama and scheming happening in downtime. I’m already excited for the season finale - as always with this game I’ve got some stuff planned but I can’t wait to see what the players do with it!