Gathering information

Can the crew members perform multiple rolls of gathering information before the score? It seems to me there are no negative consequences of the roll - does it mean that every player can roll until they get a full success? If yes, the roll doesn’t seem consequential - it might be easier to just describe how they acquire the information. If no, are they limited to a single gathering information roll?

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Gathering Information is a Fiction First Process, like the whole game.

Anytime the Players have a question ranging from “is there a chandelier in this room?” to “Would I be able to investigate the series of Lampblack disappearances over the last few weeks?”; they are “gathering information.”

That’s it. It is a way for the players to fill in any blanks that you have intentionally or unintentionally left in the fictional space.

As such, to answer those questions- follow fiction first:

  • Is the information readily available to attain? Just give them the answer.
  • Is the information not readily available, but there is no risk to getting the information? Fortune Roll, usually using the Dice Pool of an Action Rating. In this case, since there is no risk, we’re just rolling to see how much information they gleam.
  • Is the information not readily available, and there is risk to getting the information? Action Roll. Usual Position and Effect process.
  • Is the information not readily available, but it would take significant effort and/ or resources to accomplish??? It is probably a Long Term Project. LTPs are usually Fortune Rolls, but always keep an eye out for LTP Progression that fictionally describes quite a bit of risk… it may be an Action Roll.

All attempts at Gathering Information take some level of time. Not to mention that there is only so much you can attain “risk free” before things get suspicious. So if PCs are really into poking around:

  • First remind them that they don’t need a lot to start a Job. They just need a target, an end goal, and a missing detail for their approach and that’s pretty much it. Anything else can be learned on the fly.
  • If they understand, but would like a more complete picture to wrap their head around- that’s fine. As long as forward progress is being made, you’re golden.
  • However, portray the fictional world honestly. Eventually it may be prudent to start Clocks for “Time’s Running Out” for a Job or “Suspicion” being raised, either of which can impact an Engagement Roll or just send things snowballing out of control.

Thanks a lot for the response, but I am very specifically asking about repeating the Action Roll by different characters in the group before the score if they only got partial information and they wish to get more. Since there doesn’t seem to be cost associated, they will be interested in digging deeper to get more information and being prepared.

I am thinking about giving one free gathering information before the score, but additional ones requiring downtime usage.

I think the “fiction first” is the key here. Are they trying to ask the museum custodian about guards routes? One goes with him to a pub, but gets only a basic info (1-3 on a roll, he got drunk faster than custodian), how do you repeat that roll? another player “happens” to go drinking with the guy again? First try might have been a fortune roll, second might as well be a normal position/effect roll with the risk being, custodian will get auspicious.

But maybe they will try to get the extra info by direct observation - fortune roll again, although at this point I would propose “let’s roll for engagement, and we will get results of your observations as a flashback - if needed”

In that particular case, rather than setting a hard limit- go ahead and explain that the more they poke around, now you start transitioning from Fortune Rolls to Action Rolls. It becomes one of those “give them rope to hang themselves with” kinda thing. That’s when you can (and probably should) start bringing out Suspicion Clocks and the like. Sometimes that Riskier Gathering Information can be so wild that it snowballs you right into a Job without ever needing the Engagement Roll! I’ve had that happen a few times and it can be super fun.

In addition, sometimes a 5 or less might just be a representation of “This is all you were able to get *because this is all that is available in the fictional space. There is no further information to gleam here” rather than “You did something ‘wrong’ and didn’t get everything that is available.”

@Tarkis I am talking about following examples:

  1. Consorting with a friend (I have 5 players, so a lot of friends). If one Consorting didn’t work, why not try again with another? What is the cost here?
  2. Survey the area - if one player failed, can another try? What is the cost?

now you start transitioning from Fortune Rolls to Action Rolls”

What is the cost of Action Roll? Did I miss some rule in Gathering Information? From what I saw the score simply determine how much information, doesn’t have other consequences. So it seems to me that going to Action Roll is actually better, because the player can control which Action to use and choose one with a lot of dice (Sway/Consort/Command/Attune).

So, the rules for Gathering Information are a little unclear, as far as I’m concerned.

Like I said in my original comment, Gathering Information isn’t anything “special” (per se). It’s just a way for Players to learn more about the world around them.

When they go about trying to decipher said world, determine what their approach is and pick the mechanic that best suits that they’re doing in the fiction. It may very well be that there is no mechanic needed (e.g. “Is there a chandelier in the room?” “Sure!”)

When there is uncertainty in the game, but not really any Risk, The Fortune Roll is the go to mechanic. Fortune Rolls don’t have Consequences (well… they kinda do, but I’m getting into semantics with that). Fortune Rolls tell us how much you get out of a given situation and that’s pretty much it, that’s why we don’t need to set a Position or Effect.

So if the player is trying to ferret out some information about Commander Demerforth’s Patrols and they Hunt, there probably isn’t a whole lot of risk there. Maybe a tiny bit, but not enough for an Action Roll, IMO- even a Controlled one.

So they make a Fortune Roll and the most sensible dice pool is their Hunt. This isn’t an Action Roll, so I don’t need to set Position or Effect. Technically PCs can Push Themselves for an extra dice anytime “extra effort would help them,” so we’ll say the PC does so and they have a 2d Hunt Pool.

They land a 4/5. Okay, so according to the book, they get “Limited Effect“ worth of information. I’ll tell them that Demerforth doesn’t seem to deviate from his patrol route… in fact, he isn’t deviating at all… hell, the man has been marching the same patrol route for the last 14 hours straight! He shoulda worn out his boots by now! Weird… doesn’t even seem tired.

So you could say there is a “Consequence” here, in the sense the PC didn’t get all the information they wanted. This is sort of true, but think about Engagement Rolls, right? An Engagement Roll is nothing more than a very procedural Fortune Roll. If you land that 1-3, boom- you’re in a Desperate Start. That isn’t a “Consequence” you can resist, it is just the starting fiction dictated by the Fortune Roll. Same idea here.

Now, let’s say the Player wants to change their Hunting Approach. They’ve been keeping a safe distance from Demerforth, they want to get in closer. Okay, this sounds Uncertain and Risky, so this is most certainly an Action Roll- that is the go to mechanic anytime a player does something uncertain and Risky.

Time to set Position and Effect. Demerforth isn’t on guard for people like the PC, he’s looking for any evidence of Union Gatherings- but he isn’t a slouch either. This sounds Risky to me. In addition, it doesn’t sound like anything is in the way of the PC keeping Standard Effect.

Since the PC is in a Risky Position, it would be ideal to now tell them what kinds of Consequences they might expect. The low hanging fruit is Heat, Suspicion Clocks, maybe even a confrontation or worse! Again, this wouldn’t happen on a Fortune Roll because the risk for these Consequences never existed! There was only the “risk” (so to speak) of not getting enough information (or perhaps getting troublesome information).

So the PC opts to Push themselves again and get that 2d Hunt for (let’s roll and improv here… ouch! A 2!). Okay, so on a 1-3, they don’t get their intended Effect and there is a Risky Consequence as well. You know what? Rather than not getting the intended effect, let’s give them some Effect, but not how they would have wanted it!

So the PC follows Demerforth a little closer, this time following the footsteps of the patrol. It’s like, late evening now (remember, Demerforth has been patrolling like this for like 14 hours). After the 17th lap of this close follow the leader game (17th lap of probably 50+ prior laps before the PC started to follow them), Demerforth finally stops at a vendor stall built into the wall under a bridge. They seem to be making an exchange with the vendor- but just as they are trading hands, there is a pause. The vendor peeks their head out and sees the PC as the vendor and Demerforth are having this suspicious exchange (this whole aspect is the fiction of the 1-3, this can’t be Resisted). The exchange stops and Demerforth immediately draws his service pistol and aims at the PC and yells out, “Oi! You there! Hands up! Don’t you f’in move! State your f’in business!” (Risky Consequence: Held at Gunpoint from a distance).

So the PC went ahead and opted to Gather Information and then went to gather more information, and that is when they got whacked with a pretty unfortunate 1-3, building the stakes of the session! Two different approaches triggering two different mechanics to support the fiction all of which was for the purpose of Gathering Information.

Does that make more sense/ clear things up?

Don’t think of info gathering action rolls as any different to action rolls at any other time. It doesn’t matter if it’s info gathering, mid score, or during free play. If you’re asking for an action roll, then you must have a clear idea of what’s the risk in the fiction. Then all you do, on a poor result, is bring that risk to bear.

Maybe they annoy or lose a friend, maybe their enemies get wind of their actions and complicate things, maybe a different enemy follows through on a threat and fire bombs their lair while their busy smoozing, maybe they get -1D on engagement. If you need ideas, look at the action roll summary and pick one or more consequences.

But really, it doesn’t have to be clever. Just make the risk you had in mind materialise. And if you don’t actually have a risk in mind, then really it should’ve been a fortune roll or you could have just told them.

Also, the GM can always say the results of an info roll (fortune or action) just resolve all avenues for info gathering. If they got incomplete information, then that’s it, that’s all they got. Maybe if the situation changes significantly, they can have another crack. But maybe not. That’s up to your table and whether rolling more if exciting and engaging.

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@watergoesred This was my initial understanding of how action rolls work - if there is a roll, there is a risk. However, the book explicitly contradicts that with the example:

For instance, if you decide to grab Avrick the powder dealer and Command him
to talk, you could ask, “Where does he get his supply?” Avrick isn’t tough enough to
stand up to you, so it’s a simple fortune roll to see how much he talks. On a 1-3, he
admits that he gets his supply from the Red Sashes. On a 4/5, he also tells you that he
works for the Sashes because they forced him to. On a 6, he also reveals the time and
place that he picks up the stash each week. On a critical, he’ll even tell you a secret
that he discovered: the Sashes get the drugs from diplomatic couriers from Iruvia. 

As you can see, the consequence of the poor roll is just receiving fewer information, no additional consequences. If they get poor information, why can’t another player say “I approach a different target and command them to tell me more” hoping for a better roll?

It’s not that I don’t agree with the suggestions - I would prefer the action roll to have the standard behavior here and have potential consequences. However, until now what I saw is that everything in the rules has some design intent, so before I change things and go against the book I want to make sure I am not breaking this intent. Maybe gathering information is somehow intended to be consequence free (at least to a certain degree).

When you gather information without facing any clear obstacle, and the info isn’t common knowledge, you make a fortune roll.

When you gather information and there is a clear obstacle, you make an action roll.

You could imagine that, say, asking a contact for info ONCE is a situation in which there’s no real obstacle—they’re a friend, they’ll help you out, no worries. PC asks, gets a mixed success on the fortune roll, and receives some useful—but not entirely complete—intel.

Now, what happens once the other players try to do the same, either by badgering this one contact or asking other contacts/acquaintances? Well, the situation has changed. The scoundrels are either bothering this one contact, or asking several of their other contacts. I’d count those as obstacles—the former would be “Our contact’s diminishing patience” and the latter would be “Our contacts’ loose lips.”

Now the PCs are pushing their luck with action rolls, and the consequences for these could include angering their contact (“I already told you what I know! I stick my neck out for you jerks plenty already!”) or letting word get out that they’re looking for some particular piece of information (“The bank? Oh yeah, Marko’s crew were going around asking people about that. They sure seemed to be interested in the delivery schedule…”)

As Sean said, your missing the distinction between an action roll and a fortune roll. If there is an action roll, there is a risk.

That example is only for a fortune roll, that’s why it lacks consequences.

@watergoesred, @KidDublin Do I understand correctly that in the example from the book, despite using Action Command, this is not an Action Roll, it just uses the number of dice from the Action for the Fortune Roll?

Yes, Filip, that’s it.

A Fortune Roll can use any Trait relevant to a given situation. If the situation calls for using an action rating for a Fortune Roll, then do it. But it won’t be an Action Roll.


  • A Physicker has to operate in the field, with no spare time and bullets flying. Risks are multiple and obvious. Action Roll.
  • The Physicker has stabilised the wounded and can operate back at base, with more equipment and in a quiet environment. No risk. Fortune Roll (in this case, a specific kind of Fortune Roll: the Downtime Activity roll).
    But both would use the Tinker action rating of the Physicker.
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As A_B said, it’s a fortune roll. I mean the example literally says that:

That’s totally by the rules for fortune rolls.

Just because you make a roll using an action rating does not mean it’s an action roll. Only if there’s a risk is it an action roll.

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Thanks a lot for the answers!

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Seems like this is sorted, but to answer your initial question:

Usually, a single roll in Blades is definitive for that situation, so you can’t simply “try again.” If they get a 4 on the fortune roll to gather info from their contact, then they get some partial info – and that’s all there is to be had. You can’t simply keep asking that person questions and roll again to hope for more. The roll already told you what you can get.

If the players have multiple routes to info about the score from a variety of sources, they might make a few gather info rolls, each working a part of the problem and putting their results together. That’s fine.

Beyond that, if the players want to embark on some exhaustive, elaborate, multi-phase investigation to learn every last thing – that’s a long-term project, to be done over one or more downtime phases. And I’d probably start a “Suspicion” clock or something like that and tick it every time they work on their project.

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Thanks! In my case the challenge is that I have a large (5) crew, so they can have multiple contacts to gather information. I guess that would fall under:

If the players have multiple routes to info about the score from a variety of sources, they might make a few gather info rolls, each working a part of the problem and putting their results together. That’s fine.

Do I have some tools or techniques to scale this for a large crew? What would be the difference between 3 player crew and 5 player crew?

I’d just use clocks, like John suggested above. With each Gather Info roll, there’s a corresponding one which determines how much suspicion they’re raising, or how much time is running out. I’d be pretty stingy with those clocks as well, make them fill pretty quick. I’m about to start a game which will potentially have 6 players, so I’m thinking about this a lot!

Exhaustive info gathering from 5 different contacts isn’t really a useful thing to do to prepare for most scores. It would be a bit weird if any given score was connected to every single PC contact.

I wouldn’t expect every PC to gather info every time they do a score (regardless of how many PCs you have). If that’s happening, it may be a sign that the group isn’t trusting the system yet (especially Engagement).

Also, you, as the GM can just tell them what they already know, without a roll. That’s part of the info gathering mechanic, too.

I think it’s not so much about trust, but playing the game as it’s about managing resources. In this case they believe that perhaps having more information will allow them to prevent loss of stress.

I can see that if they choose particularly good approach & detail in the engagement roll they might start in a better position and hence save some stress from resolving complications. I don’t think it’s worth prolonging that phase, but I also respect my players gaming attitude (more about overcoming the challenge).