Identity Crisis!

So, I’d love some feedback on naming a hack. I have a modern / near future (includes optional rules for augmentations) hack that I have shared here called “Disposable Heroes.” That is the THIRD name for the hack…I think each major update has come with a new name (One Last Job was taken, Live Fast, Disposable Heroes). I love the name, but it doesn’t fit the scope of the game.

The issue is that the core of this hack can be played in so many different ways – mercenaries, spies, modern thieves, cyberpunk. I have two distinct tones / settings in mind. Blades in the Dark set in modern / near future is one, the second is a modern / near future “punk” game where players rebel against the surveillance state.

Here is what I am thinking:

Another new name… THE USUAL SUSPECTS
and include GLITCH as an alternate setting.

Or, make it obvious that it is a modern Blades in the Dark and call it BULLETS IN THE DARK


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What’s the difference in your two tones? One’s rebelling against the surveillance state, and you don’t say what the other is.

This dichotomy of throwing the finger to the man (punk) while taking jobs for the man (mercenaries) is at the core of a LOT of cyberpunk. Neuromancer, Snowcrash, shadowrun, Cyberpunk (itself). This is fantastic! You’ve also tangentially keyed into the different styles of play common to cyberpunk games: Pink Mohawk, Black Trenchcoat and Mirrorshades (for more info on what I mean by that, check out the linked 1d4chan article that’s bookmarked to what I’m talking about). Definitely use this catch-22 to paint your narrative and mechanics.

Now, you’re looking for more of a near-future setting. I would HIGHLY recommend the tv show Person of Interest (near-future surveillance state with a strong Blades feel) and the Blacklist (a modern setting where a criminal network and federal agents team up to take on larger criminal networks). Both shows can give you a WEALTH of playbook ideas, crew inspirations, narrative inspiration, etc. The creepy thing is, there’s more true about the shows than not, haha. If there’s some magic in here other than the magic of computers, then I’d recommend the Laundry Files novels.

This can be tough. For me, I didn’t have a good name for my hack Caveat Emptor until I was listening to a Mike Mearls podcast where he mentioned the phrase and explained it as “Buyer Beware”, and I went with it from there. Your themes are Modern/Near-Future, Surveillance state, and Punk, yes? I would look into terms and phrases that fit those narratives and look for something that stands out to describe the game. I labor under the assumption that a game’s name should be part of the marketing effort. Let the name tell the consumers what the game’s about. For example, Caveat Emptor means that what you’re buying isn’t exactly as advertised.


The second is much more “toolbox” for modern / near future. The crew types include Wolves (mercenaries), scoundrels, & throttle hoppers. So, you can easily play a mission impossible game, Ocean’s 11, Italian Job, Fast & Furious, A-Team, Sons of Anarchy, etc. These styles can either be modern or (by adding cyber & drug augmentations) be near future.

The surveillance state “setting” adds more complexity and potentially more constrained play.

RE inspirations – I have read a bit of the Laundry Files, but I plan on leaving the supernatural out of this hack for now. Although, I do have a rules option that can add it in quite easily.

I’m finishing up John Twelve Hawks’ Fourth Realm trilogy – it is a brilliant story that combines mysticism with a believable surveillance state. Blacklist is also a good fit. I haven’t ever watched Person of Interest, but I will now. Other inspiration comes from Poul Anderson (specifically the sensitive man), PKD’s Foster, You’re Dead, Radio Free Albemuth, The Hanging Man, etc.

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FWIW I like that tension between rebelling and mercenary work as well. I’d lean into mechanics that reinforced the choices and consequences of too much/little of those (jobs that don’t really bring in cash without commensurate amounts of heat, for example). On the other hand, the other inspirations and touchstones you list (Ocean’s 11, A-Team, etc) above don’t really engage with police other than a vague deadline or timer sometimes. Your more fun, action-oriented touchstones don’t jive with “surveillance state”. But focusing the setting and mechanics towards this single purpose (trying to survive in the cracks of an orwellian system while using that system to make money) may help you produce a tighter game in the end.

It might be easier to make a tighter game and then have some hacks/alternate ideas that loosen the restraints for people who just want to use Blades in the Dark to play Triple Frontier or Fast Five or whatever.

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I think I agree with your last paragraph. I’m heading towards the action-oriented game with some world building tools and a separate surveillance state “hack of a hack” with a stronger setting and additional rules.

If I try to cram it all in, it gets to be too cumbersome.


Like how Sean wrote the Vigilante playbook and rule modifications. Still technically Blades - just an add-on with unique stuff.