Hi, I’m new to running blades and would like to include some ghost encounters for my PC’s. Can anyone offer up any examples of how a ghost would attack a PC, how/what they would role for possession, and what damage they would do to the PC’s please. Thanks
The GM never rolls in Blades. The action is fiction first. You tell the players what is happening, and ask them what they do. They roll the dice, and depending on the position/effect/outcome of their roll, you narrate what happens, and then ask them what they do and the whole thing goes around again.
What damaged would a ghost do to the PCs? Harm depends on the position and the effect.
So, let’s say Sawtooth, a leech, discovers the ghost of a former patient on his doorstep. Sawtooth is in a bad position, he doesn’t know much about ghosts except they’re bad news. He resists the urge to flee on sight and opts to duck back into his workshop (and grab a vial of electroplasm he thought to keep for such eventualities) screaming blue murder the entire way.
He’s trying to scramble away as the ghost’s electroplasmic form melts into a terrifying mess of flayed skin and bones, lunging at him. His position is Desperate, which means that on a miss, the GM can choose to inflict serious (level 3 or higher) harm. This will probably kill Sawtooth, but the situation isn’t great, right?
On a 4+, the ghost’s going to latch onto Sawtooth and deal level 2 or level 3 harm, but he ain’t dead, yet, and now he’s got a vial of electroplasm, whatever good it’ll do him.
On a 6+, he gets out of the ghost’s way, diving into the workshop and grabbing the vial. He’s untouched, shit scared, but at least he’s got a fighting chance.
If you wanted to make the consequence of failure “you are possessed” instead of taking physical harm, you can do that too. “The spirit regards you covetously, ‘I’ll eat your soul and take your body. Your friends will never suspect you’re the traitor’ it hisses before it lunges.”
Don’t be afraid to tell your player the consequences of the action before you roll the dice.
“If you miss here you’re going to get badly hurt, or worse.”
Thanks for this Kris. Really appreciated. Jo
In the one shot I ran, the party dealt with a couple of ghosts. Most of them, the Whisper successfully bound.
However, the Spider did get attacked by one. In his case, it was a roll of 3 on a Risky Standard. Which would have been level 2 harm, but he resisted. In that case, I gave him level 1 “Chilled to the Bone” to indicate that the life-essence-sucking of a ghost passing through him had left a serious mark.
In his case, the Slide (with Ghost Voice) managed to bribe that ghost with a vial of electroplasm, so the ghost would eat that, instead of the party Spider. Had that not worked out, further Harm would have been along similar lines - shaken nerves, literal shakes in their muscles, creeping feelings of dread, cold, and depression.
Usually, the only rolls you will make as a GM is fortune in cases you need to determine random chances as “how much the NPC tells the character/ How this faction’s assaults goes”.
Imagine PCs actions as double-edged sword - Effect “cuts” the narrative and Position (mostly) “cuts” the PC who swing the sword.
If you want a fight against a ghost to carry more weight, create a progress cloak called “Ghost” (more ticks = deadlier ghost). Any time a PC does something that can hurt the ghost or make it leave mark some ticks based on the effect. This goes for any fight/encounter/challange that you think that “in-narrative” can’t be solved by few actions or should have weight in the story.
Thanks for this. Yeah i was toying with the idea of awarding a clock to the ghost conflict. Don’t know why i’m struggling with getting my head round GM’ing blades so much. Hopefully it will all get easier. I love the cannon soo much but it makes running 5e feel easy at the moment!
It may be easy, but I’ve never managed to have it be fun (as a player).
Rather than thinking of a Blades in the Dark game as contest or a, well, game, think of it as negotiated collaborative storytelling, with occasional dice rolls to spice things up. All of the mechanisms—position, effect, pushing, resist rolls, and the rest—are options both you and the co-authors (that is, players) can use to tune where you want the story to go, and how it goes there. But as noted, once it comes to the dice, that is nearly always in the players’ hands.
The GM sets the initial position and effect. The players may counter, briefly, but ideally that part is accepted, otherwise the negotation dominates and bogs things down. Really the players just want to counter with pushes, devil’s bargains, and the mechanisms made available. Changing their approach is one of those!
One of the things that makes it seem hard is that there are no “objective rules” to settle disputes. But the point is that this is not a game built on disputes, but on what everybody thinks is cool. The players are there precisely to have their characters get screwed over—it’s central to the genre—and still scrape through anyhow. Or not—also central to the genre. Even those things are on a spectrum, though, so as long as you & your players are clear about where on the spectrum to put your story, just follow the rule of cool.
Have you seen the Rollplay blades AP videos? I found them really valuable in getting my head around position and effect
If you want to see the potential of Blades in the Dark (BitD shortly), I recommand you watch Outside Xtra BitD actual play. It isn’t necessary a traditional BitD story (the world is a bit different), but it was one of the best actual play I have watched, mostly because the system’s narrative-building mechanics.
Additionaly, I think your struggle with the system will end once you play and let go. BitD flowes, it is a storytelling device.
These videos were a HUGE help to me as well. I strongly recond Kris’s suggestion!
I would second the just playing, GMing and letting it go. I had played Blades quite a bit but recently started GMing a game. I’ve been struggling with planning everything out, like many other games. But at the encouragement of players with experience running the game, I’m trying to free-style more. It’s getting a lot more fun and I think the players are liking it more.
Good luck to you!
Also, you’re the gm, you might not roll for anything else, but it also means that what you describe happens. Harms aren’t necessarily the consequence of a failure on a roll by the players. Sometime you just say “you open the door, unfortunately Billy Rough, your long time nemesis is standing behind with a revolver in it’s hand, you barely have time to think before he presses the trigger”. Done. It might seems unfair but you might notice that I haven’t detailed the level of harm, and it’s because like everything else, player can resist, allowing them a degree of control over what’s happening (remember, resisting is always effective, only the cost in stress vary).
A “normal” ghost that lacks any special powers basically “attacks” by just enveloping a character and/or floating past them. Some ghosts freeze what they touch, others electrocute. You can inflict a level 2 harm as a consequence from a Risky roll, or you can ratchet up the tension by downgrading their position instead – describe the ghost cornering them or swooping down on them and tell them they’re now going to need a desperate roll to avoid taking level 3 harm when the ghost fully envelops them.
Ghosts can cause other problems besides just killing characters, though. They can scream and wail, attracting attention, they can damage important objects or the environment, they can panic NPCs or Cohorts. The ghosts can also terrify the players into making mistakes or bad decisions; the consequence of a failed roll when a ghost approaches you could be to drop or break an important tool or to run out of the room before finishing an important task.
Some ghosts can possess people. You can straight-up hand it out as a consequence (probably for a Desperate roll) or you can be merciful and start a possession clock, letting the PC keep fighting for control until it fills up. You could also treat possession as a kind of harm; level 4 harm = fully possessed, level 3 harm = half-possessed, frozen motionless in a battle of wills, level 2 harm = still in control but distracted by the ghost’s presence.
Some ghosts have telekinetic powers and can throw objects around or shoot electricity. Some can tap into and take control of electrical appliances.
Thank you so much for this! This is just the thing I was looking for. Jo
Also don’t forget that ghost cause terror to the characters if don’t have the whisper special ability, so their presence can be veeeery disruptive .