Share Your Non-Physical Harms

I’m excited / curious about the possibilities presented by forms of harm other than physical injury. Examples from the book include “Terrified”, “Exhausted”, “Panicked”, “Seduced”, “Drained”, “Distracted”, “Scared”, “Confused”.

These conditions with the text

Your character suffers the penalty indicated at the end of the row if any or all harm applies to the situation at hand.

point toward using harm as the sort of general “condition” mechanic used in other games.

(I already take liberties with recovery mechanics, clearing harm for free when it makes sense, making recovery take longer when the fiction demands it.)

What non-physical harms have you used in your Blades game? Were there any that worked especially well?


Ooooh I love doing this with harm. I tend to go the emotional route:

  • Anxious
  • Furious
  • Angry
  • Cynical

These are great for social scores like parties or any time the crew needs to preted they’re someone who they aren’t. I’ve also had fun with imagining what harm to someone’s soul might look like, since Ghosts are real here.

  • Cursed
  • Soul burn
  • Phased out

Which always necessitates creating a new NPC to heal that sort of harm, or hoping the Whisper can fix it.


Oh, cool, yeah emotions!

Feels like emotional harm moves the game towards Monsterhearts or Masks, where the character’s emotions are not fully under control and have to be contended with.

I like this! But it’s probably important to discuss with players to make sure they are OK with ceding some emotional control. (Though “You are terrorized by the ghost – freeze, flee or resist!” already breaks this ground.)

This might work especially well in a Blades game where there’s more of an authorial stance and looser binding between player and character and the campaign is more the story of the crew than each character. (This low player-character fidelity is explicitly part of the rules in Band of Blades, for instance.)

I love Phased Out, like maybe the the character has become [disconnected] and only intermittently corporeal, like they’re glitching in and out.

What is Soul Burned?

(Ha ha I like the idea of asking a player “OK, the blast of electroplasmic shock sears your very soul. Take Harm 3 Soul Burned and oh by the way what does it feel like to be Soul Burned because I have no idea.”)


One of my players became Drugged Out when rigging a fight by blowing a black lotus smoke ring into one of the fighter’s face


I think it was just a condition of being intersected by a ghost. Like it reached through them and left electroplasm on their soul.


Social conditions could include things like ‘ostracised’, ‘ridiculed’, ‘scorned’. It doesn’t force an emotional response on the PC, but it does reflect the way that society is looking at them right now, and it will be much harder to persuade people if you are ostracised, or command people if you have been ‘ridiculed’.


I think my favorites thus far were Smitten and Obsessed. The players agreed that they were fun and fictionally appropriate, and were free to roleplay as they saw fit – but it meant the object of their affection or obsession was often on their mind, and acted as a serious distraction.


Quick question: How do you deal with mounting penalties from physical and non-physical harms?

I’m just imagining a case where someone has (say) a shattered leg (level 3), a concussion (level 2) and is exhausted (level 2) - then they get ridiculed for level 2 harm. The level two track is full, as is level three so it should escalate to level 4. But I presume that they wouldn’t drop dead from people laughing at them.

Would you track social/ emotional/ physical harms separately? That feels like an exploit to the system that could allow characters to split harms up into categories to avoid penalties and consequences. But RAW lead to the example above which seems unduly harsh.

As someone who hasn’t actually run a game yet, I feel as though this is something where a GM should decide on a case by case basis, but I’d like to hear how more experienced GMs have handled it.


The rules as written say that all harm should be tracked together, and I think it works fine.

In the situation you described (which honestly includes what I think of as an unusually massive amount of harm), you have a lot of options.

You can give them the level 2 harm and let it scale up to level 4, and then interrogate the fiction to see what that means. They probably won’t fall over dead from ridicule, as you say. But maybe they’ll decide that getting mocked after everything else they’ve put up with is the final straw, and they simply walk out. Done with this crap. Or they withdraw from the world in shame? Level 4 harm means the character is out of the game, but you can be creative with what that means.

Realistically, the player in that example will probably choose to resist the harm, either reducing it to level 1 or completely getting rid of it (GM’s call). Given the full harm tracker, they’ll probably do that even if it gives them a trauma.

Also, the GM can readjust the consequences they assign at any point to better fit the fiction. They can look at the situation and say, “Oh, I didn’t realize your harm tracker would cascade like that… nevermind. Let’s call it Level 1 harm, and add a complication. How about a 4-clock, ticked twice, called ‘Nobody takes you seriously’?”


I probably wouldn’t record the ridicule as Harm in this (impressively fucked up) situation.

If your femur is sticking out of your thigh and people are laughing at you, this probably isn’t a fancy dress tea party where clever society dandies are scoring points with catty put-downs.

I’d still describe the jeers to highten the drama?

But sticks and stones have broken bones – words aren’t going to hurt you.

We’ve used mental trauma (not Trauma in the mechanical sense) like: riddled with guilt, flashbacks, memory lapses, triggered by…

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Not from Blades in the Dark per se, but I think these might be relevant - my last Forged in the Dark horror game had someone suffer escalating Harms called Whispers (lvl1), Voices (lvl2), Instructions (lvl3) and they never quite hit Commands at lvl4 - they were being gradually possessed by something :stuck_out_tongue: and couldn’t cure them until they fixed the underlying problem.

I remember we also had: Doubt at lvl2 after listening to a cultist’s spiel in order to distract him and listening kinda too well. Incoherent Rage at lvl3 after direct mental contact with something.

And I’ve never used this one but I feel like “Exiled” would bea great Social Level 4? Like, it removes the character from the game.

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In the first episode of Season 2, my Slide took a desperate Attune to commune with our cult’s deity, by laying down in the Coffin of Kotar. Kotar was a famous necromancer whose legacy threaded through our first season and whose Coffin we recovered from the Dimmer Sisters in the finale. It worked, and I learned it was a Sorceror and his Spirit Well with a legion of bound spirits infesting the Tower in Mistshore Park. As I climbed away from the light back to the land of the living, I didn’t quite make it and took a Level 3 harm of a Catatonic State (being still mostly in the land of the dead). Couldn’t have that, so I resisted it down to a Level 2 harm of being Half Awake (now only half in the land of the dead). I’m totally distracted and spacey and can’t quite focus my considerable charms. Our first score against the sorceror went so sideways we wound up abandoning it, which we’d never had to do before. We were very stressed and all had level 2 harms, and we hadn’t even broken into the lair. Our attempt to Wreck our way into the top of the tower during a blizzard went terribly sideways. Maybe next time we’ll do better than a 1-3 Engagement Roll. At least it’s now down to a Level 1 Harm, Drowsy.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t mind at all being hit with a mental harm. I’m finally coming around to leaning into the Player’s Best Practices rather than adopting the defensive stance required to preserve a first-level OSR character.

We were blowing through so much stress resisting the supernatural that all three characters took the Iron Will special ability. We thought we’d then laugh when a fiend showed up, but we’re running into some really dangerous stuff these days (multiple elemental demons, summoned horrors, ancient undead sorcerors, etc.)