Giving characters more to do

I’m GMimg for a crew of Shadows, and the various plot threads are boiling right along, but on scores I find that the crew’s Hound and Whisper tend to get pushed to the outskirts of the scene, providing cover for the Lurk and Cutter, who handle most of the action. I’m looking for ways to give those two players more opportunities to act, without resorting to just, “Oh, here’s another ghost!” or “Sure could use some sniper fire here!” Any ideas?

When a player picks a playbook, they are giving you a gift of honesty. They are saying “I think the things this playbook is about are awesome and I want to see them in the game.”

They are giving YOU more to do!

Try dumping way more raw special forces cloak and dagger awesomeness and industrial occult weirdness into your game and I bet these characters (and their players) come alive.

Hounds aren’t just snipers. They are detectives. They are Deathland rangers. They are veterans with deep tactical intuition burned in by hard experience and useful connections in law enforcement and the Imperial military. They find people. They surveil people. They can assassinate, capture with non-lethal force, or confuse and demoralize with psychological warfare. They are special forces veterans with deep skills in asymmetrical warfare, urban small-unit tactics, and survival in extremely hostile wilderness. They are coming to organized crime conflict from actual warfare. They can absorb tremendous punishment and hit back hard.

Whispers aren’t just ghost busters. They’re mediums. They’re clairvoyants. They are expert at viewing and interpreting “echoes” of places and events. They might even be precognitive. They are occult scholars. Demonologists. Electroplasmic hackers and channelers. (Like, OK, they can literally throw lightning.) There are all kinds of nasty spiritual injuries, parasites, toxins, and curses that you’re going to need a Whisper to even understand. Anything you can do with Attune or the Ghost Field they’re going to be good at and please remind yourself that covers a lot of ground, not just wrangling ghosts. Whispers are terrifying sorcerers. They’re also likely to have a wide range of contacts in weird and occult Duskvol, the arcane underground. (Notably, the Spirit Wardens. Any Whisper is going to have some kind or relationship with them, probably a complicated one. Ask your Whisper about it.)

Hit the party with threats and obstacles that demand these capabilities and help your players discover that their characters have them. Ask leading questions and encourage characters to decide they can do new things.

Blades’ action system gives you an amazingly open ended framework to resolve characters’ attempts to do all kinds of weird shit.

Players can just say “I want to do [WHATEVER] and that’s [ACTION].”

When you and your players realize the implications, this is astonishingly powerful.

If necessary, you can discuss whether the Action is really a good fit for the fictional act. You have Position and Effect to define the stakes: what’s possible and what’s being risked. They have their Action rating and ways to get bonus dice, trade Position for Effect, and resist Consequences, so you have the freedom to set limits without flat out saying “No” and to hit hard when honesty demands it.

You have the tools to reign the game in from getting out of control in a not-fun way, which gives you the confidence to let the game get out of control in a fun way.


Start Actions in the fiction and you can follow with the rules to resolve anything your players imagine.

Encourage your players to explore this freedom.


I have liked this post. I wish to like it several times more, but commenting is the best I can do. This is a great response.