I am new to the RPG. Just ordered the book. I was looking at running an 2e converted setting like Planescape or Spelljammer to 5e. I came across Blades in the Dark and it looks fantastic and much more fun than the usual 5e campaign. The main issue I foresee in my group is character classes. We are always trying new classes but we often revert to our favorite types. The base classes in Blades of the Dark seem a bit limited (now I haven’t gotten the book yet so correct me if I am wrong). I did see a lot of the hacks with really strange and interesting character types. Has anyone used these and how did they work out? Are factions the source of the main story arc? I am looking at this as many serial shows have a main arc and then a more direct story that wraps up every “episode”. Is that perception correct? Thanks in advance for your replies.
Classes in BitD are not really classes. They are ways to envision how you will solve problems, manifested by your specific XP triggers. But any PC can pick any Special ability of any class; and there are 56 special abilities. So you have n fact an almost infinite number of possibilities. The seven initial playbooks will provide a lot of game, and I would advise to try them first.
Then you have more “official” official playbooks in the Supplements and over a hundred fan creations, all this on the official site… so don’t worry about lacking diversity in playbooks!
The playbooks are more like statements of roleplaying intent. If someone chooses to be a Cutter they don’t have to choose Cutter advancements, but they have committed themselves to gaining xp when using intimidation or violence, meaning that there’s an implication that they’ll tend towards violence.
As for the main story arc, it’s motivated by a combination of the factions and the player’s desires. Basically, the players try to carve out their own chunk of the world, step on people’s toes in the process, those people lash out, and the players lash back. And yeah, the serial show is a good reference point, like one of those crime-of-the-week ones that builds up its own mythology.
Thanks for the replies. That sets my mind at rest. The book will be here tomorrow so I’ll dive in then.
By far, Blades in the Dark’s main story arc is about the factions. Since Doskvol is an overpopulated hot pot of crime and intrigue, the rulebook states that every piece of Doskvol is already owned by someone, so conflict is inescapable. The BitD series (my term for BitD campaign. I definetly regard BitD as esipodic story) is frequently - if not always - about stepping on the toes of other factions, getting into troubles and making your way out of them by getting into more impending troubles. For this reason, from my experience, the beginning of a season might seem a bit slow - the crew didn’t got into enough troubles to create the drama the system is master at producing.
Once you will get your book, I highly recommend reading from cover to cover. Firstly, unlike some rulebooks, it is written so it won’t be a burden to read, even opposite. Furthermore, it is full of game philosophy, conclusions from running the game, and advices. John Harper has done a great job at giving you the tools you need to run BitD.
Additionally, my own conclusion from playing is that unlike many other systems, groups shouldn’t shy from PC vs PC conflict (not Player vs Player) while playing BitD. In the current game I run, one of the main dramas of the series was direct conflict and quarrel between a very violent Cutter and the rest of the crew, which reached to its peak in a fight between them which ended with the crew’s lair destroyed, the Cutter and his brother dead and the crew avoking the fury of a demon.
As a lot of people said before me. Blades doesnt really do “classes” . Its more like a choice of abilties and archetypes. The easiest game style description i think would be “talent trees”. You can pick up abilities left and right The starting playbook is what you want the base connections and items to be. Rest is open season.
For the terms of short arcs. Yes. Bitd tends to be very episodic. Most of the game happens in the “mission - downtime” cycle. The original Blades in the Dark game used the factions as good fodder for story. Their goal is that the party always has conflict and adversity to play off of. One of the main tenants of Doskvol is that its a closed system. You can’t swing a cat without hitting someone in the head.
But later versions and hacks worked with that system a lot. As long as there is always something pushing against the party you are peachy. Hell if you have a proactive party who are pushing for their goals you don’t even need to find the adversity. The faction system is just one way of doing it.
A friend of my for example makes extensive use of the rumor table in the book and basicly at the start of every session 2-3 opportunities or horrible stuff happens that we can interact with as a mission. It doesnt even have to have anything to do with the factions.
FYI if you are looking for something that is more weird and sci-fi-y you might want to take a look at Scum and Villiany. Its a mass effect/star wars/battlestar galactica kind of scummy space opera hack of Blades.
Thanks for the replies. All the replies do answer some basic but large questions I have. Have any of you used the “Unusual Suspects” fan made playbooks? There are some interesting ones there. I know my group likes options and I may give them access to these, of course I would have Veto power.
I am interested in Scum and Villany (I was looking at a Planescape campaign converted to 5e before I ran accross BitD. I may check it out after I read the basic book a few times.
(edit: turns out I’m completely wrong! Look at the replies for clarifications here!)
Is that really true?
I thought picking up advances from other playbooks was much more expensive (counting as three advances, not one advance).
So although you can pick special abilities from other classes it isn’t really open season… for most people it is much more efficient to pick from you current playbook although you can dip into another playbook (once?) to get a different ability.
Kiko is right:
It has room to mark three times, but it seems that limit was only for aesthetic purposes
Well blow me down with a feather!
That is a spectacular failing in the rules explanations and character sheets for Blades in the Dark and Scum and Villany (in the sense that it should be transparently obvious what one should do). It absolutely looks like you fill in three dots for a veteran advance, and there is nothing in the rules which speaks directly to this.
If they ever redesign the character sheet I hope they put a dot on each of three rows with a nice blank space to write in the ability which you are choosing from another playbook.
Where is that “Mind Blown” emoticon when I need it
We use the unity war veteran playbook for one pc and it inspires several npcs. Given how many veterans there are in the game world it is a nice touch.
Huh! I assumed, after having played Spirit of 77, that you had to have a couple advances already taken from your own playbook before you could take a Veteran pick from another one. Good to know.
My redesigned sheets include space for writing in up to five additional abilities, with more space on the back under the Notes section.
Veteran abilities is one of the most misunderstood pieces of Blades
In Blades in the Dark (some hacks change this!) you can take any number of veteran abilities, for no additional cost. You’re assumed to take them later on, but there’s no rule to prevent you from doing a weird concept that requires spider abilities on your cutter or whatever.
You’re coming from games like DnD seems like? Be aware that structuring a campaign, and playing it, is somewhat different.
In general it’ll be more improvised and player-driven. Different tables approach it in different ways ofc, like any other game, but the core assumptions are a lot more episodic and less campaign-like.
What I tend to do is do when I start a new Blades game (usually with the same core players btw), is we’ll figure out what crew type they want to run, that’ll tell you what kind of jobs they’ll want and the players know where their characters need to fit in. You’ll also find out a few factions they’ll have good and bad reputations with. THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR LATER
Then make characters. I’ll prep a job for next week and that’s when the action starts. Literally.
Between scores I roll the faction clocks of the factions the crew has a relationship with (good or bad). That’ll tell me what they might want to do, or might hire someone to do, and that’ll inform next weeks stuff. Rinse and repeat.
Eventually a thread will emerge (and you can push a bit with how you do Entanglements etc) and it will become clear what the player crew wants, or what an allied or enemy crew wants etc, and there’s your “campaign” to end the season with.
Most of my games take 10-20 sessions to conclude, so depending on your expectations that might be shorter than you’d have thought. The characters start filling up everything they want to have by then anyway.
I’ve just about figured out the direction of our Scum & Villainy season now after episode 11, so I’ll try and drive towards a climax in a few weeks, after a few more jobs to set stakes, reveal big bads and plots and whatnot
I’ve actually done some writeups on this forum if you want to skim through them:
They’re for a post-apocalyptic and a weird west hack respectively, so a little different in their fiction than a vanilla Blades in the Dark campaign. I run them more or less the same way though.
(You don’t actually have to do all the stuff with the gameboard that I do. It’s just I like doing it )
Blades “classes” are varied and very broad (flexible). They cover quite well pretty much every character archetype you might want in a game about heists and the underworld.
On the other hand, most fan-made classes are honestly… Not well designed, overpowered and/or just unneeded (ie, easily replicated by existing official Play books). On top of that, they flood the game with many new abilities (unnecessary complication).
I realize there are people who like custom Play books, but personally I would stay clear of them!
Veteran advances costing more would be a fair assumption, to be sure, but if you look at the load and crew upgrades there is precedent for the graphical language: Things that can be taken multiple times have multiple, separate checkboxes, and things that “cost” multiple checkboxes have those boxes linked.
It still isn’t explained anywhere, unfortunately.
As for the basic idea of “classes”, Blades in the Dark doesn’t really have 'em. Instead of giving you a box, it gives you, say, the base of a box as a starting idea (xp triggers, key actions, thematic special abilities), and then you can tape/join/weld on the sides & top as you like, using panels that match, or panels that complement, or panels that contrast in interesting ways. Heck, nothing explicitly prevents you from creating a Cutter and immediately selecting from a different playbook’s special abilities, apart from assumptions about what “veteran” means. This is friendly to new players and those who don’t want to be bothered with lots of choice, and also friendly to players who do want lots of choice.
In their next edition I seriously hope they clarify this. I wonder how many other people made the same mistake I did? !