Session Rework - Redefining Scenes and their Use

I’ve been giving a fair bit of thought and research into how to keep the flow of games rolling but with enough space to breathe, and I think I’ve got some terms that can be useful. This would be engineering that sits between “getting the mission” and “getting paid” (aka the action of the mission). Transit and Conflict scenes would be woven together all towards the resolution of the central tension’s main conflict.

  • Transit Scenes: Transit scenes have a count-down clock, transport the player character or characters from one circumstance and/or location to the next, and involve the players simply making action rolls. There is no immediate risk of danger, and no need to make reaction rolls during a transit scene, because the any threat is offloaded until the end. It is not a question of “will they or won’t they” but of “what state will they arrive in.”

  • Legwork Sequences: Legwork sequences are a kind of montaged Transit scene meant to prepare or lay the ground work for a future conflict scene by allowing for player characters to reveal vulnerabilities and complications to their score. The clock is a “best of x” clock that determines the crew’s level of preparedness for what comes next (collecting enough clues, scouting the mark’s routine while evading security, meeting contacts who can help, etc), where the result of the clock informs the position the player characters are in when it comes time to make their engagement roll.

  • Conflict Scenes: Conflict scenes have a count-down clock, happened in one location, players may make action and reaction rolls, and revolves around a singular, central conflict. This conflict has a dominant obstacle and a singular intention. It is a question of “will they or won’t they”, as reaction rolls may be required in response to action rolls made by the player characters, and characters are under real threat of harm and failure to resolve the conflict while on the clock.

Possible Session Procedure:

  1. Initiation of Contract & setting the Mission Clock
  2. Color Scene to describe the setting - usually a sentence or two to set a mood that can be referenced throughout the following scene.
  3. Transit or Conflict scene
  4. Fill in segment of Mission Clock
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until one segment remains
  6. Final Conflict scene where Mission Conflict is resolved
  7. Downtime & Mission Fallout


Blades in the Dark’s engagement roll and pre-score free-play allow for a more structured mechanism for setting up the impending action than many other systems, but I think it limits the kind of stories that can be told with the mechanism. Something I really liked playing with The Sprawl was the Legwork clock, that gave players some rope to either hang themselves or some needed slack prior to a score, and the above Legwork Sequence is my attempt to lay out a way to bring that devil’s bargain to BitD.

The idea’s still in its infancy, but I thought I’d post it up here.

1 Like

I also really like the Sprawl’s legwork clock and I’m interested in how it could be applied to FitD, so this intrigues me!

What are reaction rolls?

Do you have an example of how legwork might look in actual play with this approach? I’m just trying to get my head around it.

1 Like

Oh, that’s what I call an Insight, Prowess, or Resolve roll, as those are made when reacting to danger instead of one of the 12 actions.

The idea here will be that this “legwork” sequence will supersede the pre-engagement free play and the engagement roll.

Let’s say the job is to deny an arms delivery to a more powerful faction who’s about to attack the Scoundrel’s employer. What they ultimately do with the weapons is up to them, but whatever happens those weapons can’t be used against the employer. The scoundrels for this job will be Smiley, Lashes, and Candle, and they’ve got about a day before the employer expects to be attacked. Let’s give the scoundrels a 4-clock.

Rolling a 6 on an action gives them 2 successes, rolling a 4-5 grants them 1 success, and rolling a 3- grants them 1 failure.

Lashes consorts with a local arms merchant, rolls a 6, and the merchant reveals that someone bought a bunch of rifles and shot from a business rival.

Smiley, prowls around the location of the arms merchant’s business rival, rolls a 3, and can’t manage to sneak into the back of the merchant’s store to see if the weapons are really there.

Candle hunts by following several known associates of the hostile in a carriage, rolls a 4, and manages to track them to the business rival’s shop, where he sees an exchange of cases of coin for several crates.

At this point, the scoundrels have revealed what could (and is) the weapons shipment, and they have the equivalent of a successful engagement roll, they need only pick their plan of attack, and execute how they wish.

That’d be the idea.


Also, HI TIM! It’s been a while, but I asked you for advice on how you made your character sheets, and I’ve been tinkering around like you suggested. Still a big fan of your work! I didn’t recognize you at first :slight_smile:

1 Like

This is great - and should work well at the table. I’ve done a small amount of playtesting on something very similar for my Disposable Heroes (modern / near future). I too like the legwork aspect of The Sprawl and the narrative aspects of inSpectres.

My approach uses the Intelligence / spec ops targeting methodology of Find-Fix-Finish-Exploit-Analyze-Disseminate.

Find & Fix is basically the same as your legwork approach. Find is general information gathering. Fix is when you start honing in on your target (surveillance, compromising target’s assets, etc).

Finish is your final conflict.

Exploit (or sse - sensitive site exploitation) is gathering Intel (bio, electronic, documents, etc) from the target and target’s environment.

Analyze is used during downtime to use Intel to add to the game world.

Dissminate (I changed to debrief) is rep / xp / heat

I’m working on a full playtest for disposable Heroes - out soon. I’ll see if I can get this part ready first and share it here.

1 Like

Part of my ttrpg history was with the Inquisitor specialist game, and that list is very similar to the scenario generation table. Consequently, SWN Darkness Visible has a similar, albeit much expanded mechanism.

I think I ought to publish my mission generator tables here. They may be of some use.

This can be altered slightly to fit different narratives. I’ve taken inspirations from a few sources, including Harper :slight_smile:

What’s the Job?

  1. Quietly Stalk or Surveil the mark and report their activities to your employer
  2. Embarrass or Flatter the mark to an audience for your employer’s profit
  3. Your employer wants you to Lift or Plant an asset right under the mark’s nose
  4. Arrange an Accident for the mark that can prove ultimately or immediately lethal
  5. Execute a Burglary or Heist of the mark and render the spoils to your employer
  6. Impersonate or Misdirect the mark while your employer enacts their own plan
  7. You are to Assassinate or Bomb the mark to send a bloody message
  8. Disappear or Ransom the mark or their asset to temporarily neutralize their power
  9. Terrorize or Extort the mark to weaken its support of your employer’s enemy
  10. The mark is a loose end your employer wants you to Tie Off and Silence
  11. Your employer wants you to Deceive and Betray the mark at a critical moment
  12. Rob or Strongarm the mark to tie up or remove them from a negotiation
  13. You’re paid to Escort or Secure your employer’s asset while it is vulnerable
  14. You need to Smuggle or Courier your employer’s asset through a blockade
  15. Your employer wants to Blackmail or Discredit the mark for future leverage
  16. The mark should be Conned or Tricked to invest their resources into a gamble or ruse
  17. You must Locate or Hide an elusive quarry on behalf of your employer
  18. Your employers require you to Parley or Threaten the mark on their behalf
  19. An asset of your employer is in serious need of Repair or Refit after it was damaged
  20. You’re paid to Attempt and Fail to do one of the above to destabilize the mark

Who’s the Mark?

  1. They’re an Allied Supporter who will kill or die for the cause, or maybe they’ve betrayed it?
  2. A Trusted Peer that can be relied upon through thick and thin who your employer dislikes
  3. They’re an Unfriendly Rival gunning for your resources and influence who your employer hates
  4. Your Dread Nemesis who is always at the heart of your woes, or maybe it’s your employer’s?
  5. One of your Former Employers. Recent? Current? Will you really flip on them?
  6. Just some Hired Mercenary who can’t be up to any good and won’t hardly be missed
  7. They’re known as a Cutout Fixer who knows everyone’s price or where the bodies are buried
  8. A Deniable Cleaner who works off-book to tie off loose ends and who knows a little too much
  9. They’re an overly zealous Lawful Agent empowered to act through their legal channels
  10. A hated and Wanted Defector who must pay for their crimes, or maybe they’re a run away expat
  11. They’re a Private Citizen on someone’s shit list for being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  12. This Corporate Salaryman’s suit is as slick as their smile and their practiced etiquette
  13. This Bureaucratic Cog who is just an expendable, replaceable part in a larger machine
  14. A Criminal Recidivist spreading and feeding off corruption through the government and society
  15. Heads will roll if this Stockpile of Wares (raw materials, armory, etc) is plundered or ruined
  16. It’s Precious Cargo (prototype, intellectual property, pay-data, rare resources, high-tech, etc)
  17. It’s a powerful Faction’s Symbol (e.g. monument) or effort (e.g. public works) that’s vulnerable
  18. An Untouchable Pariah (horrid mutant, unhinged kill-bot, degraded MES, uplifted animal, etc)
  19. Some kind of Abhuman (trained psychic, cyborg, braked or limited AI, metahuman, etc)
  20. It’s something Profoundly Alien and unknowable to humanity (e.g. meta-dimensional, alien mind)

Why hire You?

  1. They’re negotiating a deal with the mark’s faction, and they can’t risk those talks breaking down
  2. Your employers can’t afford the inevitable vengeance of this mark’s powerful allies or minions
  3. They do not have the resources or ability to go after the mark outside of their own territory
  4. The mark will be within a nebulous border region and mobilizing their own forces would be provocative
  5. Your employer’s forces are being watched by hostile counterparts that could handily tie them up
  6. Appropriate forces cannot be mustered and deployed in time before the mark is lost to scope
  7. Making a move on the mark would leave your employer’s assets woefully vulnerable elsewhere
  8. The risk for collateral damage or civilian injury is too high to tie their name to the job
  9. They are unwilling to openly violate a treaty, taboo, or sanction in order to move against the mark
  10. Their mark is an asset of an allied rival or superior and the job cannot be traced back to them
  11. They don’t want to spring what they believe is a costly trap meant to deter this kind of attack
  12. They are simply asking for an unattributed, punitive strike with a low chance of escalating tensions
  13. The job will normalize the local power dynamic, but only if it can’t be tied to any faction
  14. The mark is (guarded by) an expat of the employer’s faction, and they want clean hands
  15. The job is meant to undermine confidence in the region without sparking a larger conflict
  16. The mark holds vital secrets or volatile materials that you employer’s forces cannot secure
  17. They have lost their own mark, and the forces required to quickly secure it would alert their foes
  18. Insubordinates have made a power play with the mark, and they need to be taught a lesson, not killed
  19. Moving on the mark would draw reprisals against your employer’s non-combatants in the region
  20. Moving on the mark would seriously risk exposing intelligence assets that cannot be replaced

I’ve got similar lists for complications and vulnerabilities as well, if you’re interested in looking over those?

I am particularly proud of the third list, as it is my own :slight_smile:


Here is my approach using the F3EAD Special Operations intelligence & targeting process. Feel free to comment. I do want to make this easier - perhaps by using a deck of playing cards for the intelligence gathering component.

1 Like

I’ve definitely got something for you for that. They’re d20 tables like above. Let me grab them. They’re meant to be “complications” that make the mission more difficult for the players and “vulnerabilities” that make it more easy for the players.

Every time the players “uncover” intel, roll on one of the tables.

1 Like

ugh, spelling errors. Anyway, I hope that at least is useful. There’s definitely a different feel between GM-spawned missions from an “employer” or superior and PC-spawned missions where they call their marks.

My typical way to plan out a session is to roll once or twice on the top three tables and two or three times on each of the lower two tables, then spin a narrative around all the results while mad-libbing in a few details from prior sessions or player back-stories to hook them in.

You know, it kinda struck me that in the community, they use a kind of clock system already. They’ll give the segments callsign names to keep objectives vague, but it’s there in theory. Maybe something to that. Have to think on it.

I’m been thinking about how these are roughly analogous to Harper’s engagement plans. They’re not necessarily mission objectives, or they don’t have to be, but they certainly can be. They’re definitely how a crew initiates a mission or how they plan to conduct it.

Definitely still thinking it over.

I haven’t gotten rid of approaches from blades. It still is the “plan” for how to approach the finish operation (score). I just added to the mechanics and narrative stricture for gathering information and continued world building.

1 Like

These tables are fantastic.

1 Like