Pacing problem

Hey,

I have been GM-ing Blades for about 6 months now. I’ve also listened to a bunch of APs.

However, my group can’t seem to run things as fast. I hear that groups usually end up with 1-2 jobs per 3-4h session. We usually do maybe downtime + free play + beginning of job, or end of job + downtime.

I think I’ve identified the problem areas as follows:

  • discussing approaches. This is the biggest problem. I just can’t seem to teach them how to let go of planning and just jump to the action. They come up with elaborate plans. They also spend quite some time arguing over what they want to do. Some are pushing for specific approaches, while others don’t know or want to talk more.
  • entanglements: Players don’t want to pay out the direct cost (Rep, Coin etc.) and instead opt to play out the scene. This ends up taking more time.
  • downtime: Players don’t know what they want to do, and it takes a bit more time.
  • free play: a lot of time is spent in gathering information/bartering for better pay.
  • setting density: we play in Planescape’s Sigil, so there is a bit more lore/fluff/backstory to be covered. This has been less of a problem lately, as the players are getting more comfortable with it.

I don’t want to paint the game as being unfun, as it is most definitely fun. I just wish I knew how to support them in jumping to the action and fun moments, and skipping the tedium

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I will respond to a few of your points.

For pacing it was normal for our group to do one score per session. The only times that did not happen we did Zero scores. For those occasions the entire session was spent in downtime. Although we knew it was possible, it just never worked out to do 2 scores in a session.

Also, the only actual play I watched was the one GMed by John Harper on Twitch. They seemed to average 1 score every 2 sessions.

It really is up to the individual players how much they want to role play during downtime or free time. For me that is the fun part. Building out the characters and the world.

Score planning and engagement roll:

This was the only part of the game that was somewhat awkward for our group. After 27(!) sessions it still seemed somewhat forced and anticlimactic. All that time spent on deciding which dice to give and which to take away for the engagement roll just didn’t flow real well for us. The rest of the game was great but the engagement roll was just a little clunky.

I’m just speaking for my own groups experience but if I changed anything about the game I would probably turn the engagement roll process into a quick fortune roll and then get on with the Score.

Too much pre-planning:
Yeah, that is hard to deal with. That is the point of the engagement roll. Drop them in the action and get on with it. Somehow the players have to get that Flashbacks cover them when it comes to planing. Good luck:-)

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Just want to add my voice here.

Your problems aren’t really problems, unless the lack of progress is frustrating you.

I think most people would really love a group that deliberates everything and spends most of their time on freeplay. It’s the dream!

From the groups I’ve played in, we generally average 1 score every 2 sessions. With one taken up with downtime and freeplay, and about half the session on the score itself, and then the second half dealing with entanglements or setting up the next downtime.

If your group’s having fun, I wouldn’t really stress about it!

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+1 to this sounds par for the course. My groups almost always alternate downtime / score sessions.

I’d add the note that I think discussing approach isn’t a bad thing - deciding whether you want to seduce, blackmail, or assassinate Lord Strangford is interesting. Deciding whether you want to bust into the Crows’ hideout guns blazing or sneak in through the sewers is interesting. It’s when you get bogged down in the details of “okay, let’s get a blueprint of his estate. Are we going to bribe the guards or sneakily take them down? How many guard dogs do they have?” that games go to die. This also goes back to what kris said though; if you’re having fun, it’s not a problem. If not, talk to your players about where the hiccups are.

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This is one of the few times in Blades where the GM really needs to use a heavy hand. It’s not just the players’ job to “cut to the action”—the GM should be making those calls too. As soon as someone voices a valid plan type and detail, say “That sounds good—we’re cutting to that unless someone else has another idea.” Remember that the plan type and detail only need to constitute a short sentence. “Kicking open the front door” is an “Assault” score where the “front door” is the detail. “Attend Lord Blackridge’s tourney and win his favor” is a “Social” score where “Lord Blackridge” is the detail.

This is… working as intended, I’d say? If you wanted to speed things up, you could make the forces behind your entanglements less “beefy,” and more inclined to go along with the crew’s machinations. That said, I’ve definitely had great sessions where the crew’s plan to “fix” an entanglement led to a full, complicated, fun score.

Bartering for pay is not something I’d devote full scenes to. If the crew want to bump their payment up a few coin for a job, ask how they argue for that, make a Fortune Roll, and then move on.

I generally don’t have money talk happen “on camera” at all. The payoff is the payoff, and it’s based on the nature of the score. If the crew want to argue for a better payoff, that’s fine—but that means they’ll be taking on a more dangerous job, not doing the same work for more pay.

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If the players wanted to barter for more pay I would have them make their argument (briefly plz :sweat_smile:) and make it an action roll. For example 4-5 is one coin, 6 is two, a miss makes their boss a bit angry. I didn’t have a set rule for it, I just judged what felt reasonable at the time.

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