My Rules for 'Crunchier' Combat in Blades In The Dark

After playing for a bit with my players, we’ve been kind of missing the crunchiness of other systems like D&D and Star Wars. As the GM I cannot overstate how much I love the low intensity of preparing BitD, and maybe there is a way to run combat encounters in a way that fits this system particularly well, I just haven’t been able to get my hands on any examples.

So I worked up a simple system for slightly more crunchy combat, that still doesn’t involve too much prep work for me, based on the clock and the position/result systems.

Combat prep is still fairly simple, at least relative to stat-block based games like D&D. The Enemy combatants have collective clocks to determine their strength.

Start with 6 clocks equal to their tier, + 1 four clock for each special enemy (an enemy that has a special role in the combat, aside from the common mooks) or environmental effect, +1 6 or 8 clock for each “Boss,” and +1 four clock as a final touch. For each clock assign a particular effect.

For example, one of my encounters looked like this, (imagine these numbers represent clocks): The crew was facing a tier II enemy with a special combatant and a ‘boss’

123456 - Supernatural resistance, and all attacks have -1 effect until the clock is filled.

123456 - Tactics. Until the clock is filled, actions have -1 position. When this clock is filled 2 enemies die.

1234 - Enemy Whisper, manipulating the ghost field making it harder for the PCs to move; until the whisper is dealt with (and the clock filled the PC’s have a hard time moving.

123456 - The Knife (enemy boss), until this clock is filled this enemy can Teleport any time a PC rolls 1-5 to attack him.

1234 - Final clock (Once all other clocks are filled, this clock just gives the players the opportunity to play out the final dramatic climax of the combat.)

  1. Each character fills a note card with 4 clocks. This will be used for multiple combats, so keep the clocks small.
  2. During combat each player determines what they intend to do and their position/result is set.
  3. Dice are rolled and the narrative outcome is determined. In addition to narative, players deal “tick damage” according to their result level, and take “tick damage” according their position, as shown in the table.

Desperate
1-3: 3
4-6: 1

Risky
1-3: 2
4-6: 0

Controlled
1-3: 1
4-6: 0

Great
1-3: 1
4-6: 3
Crit 5

Standard
1-3: 0
4-6: 2
Crit: 4

Reduced
1-3: 0
4-6: 1
Crit: 3

*Delvin is going to leap onto an enemy below him from a roof. It’s a low roof, and he’s fairly acrobatic, and the enemy is unaware so the GM sets the action at Risky/Great.

  • Delvin rolls a 1-3 : He deals 1 tick, and takes 2
  • Delvin rolls a 4-5: He deals 3 ticks and takes 2
  • Delvin rolls a 6: He deals 3 ticks and takes 0
  • Delvin rolls a Crit: He deals 5 ticks.*
  1. If the PC fills a 4 clock they take level 1 harm (the usual rules regarding harm still apply, if both level 1 slots are filled, the harm goes up a level.) When the clock fills, the PC may resist or use armor to stop the effect.
  2. Start another round of combat.

I’ve only run it a few times and there may need to be some adjustments made to armor, resistance and healing to get the balance just right. As it stands I’ve already slightly modified how healing works as follows.

Every downtime the players get one free recovery action. This recovery only applies to level one harm and injuries that have already been seen to by a doctor. This is a way of allowing for the passive healing that comes with time.

So that’s it. Those are my adjustments to combat that yield a slightly more “traditional” rpg approach to combat encounters.

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