Squad action

Sorry if this subject seems to pop up again and again… but if it does here, and if if it does also pop up again and again on the reddit and the discord, then it could be said it would benefit from clarification and definite answers we could refer to.

The question I’ll ask are both simpler and more “mechanics-related” than the usual questions about how to distinguish between Marshal and the Group action, or about the corporal’s rules, that are clear to me.

Also, I’ve been playing with (what I perceive to be) the general consensus for 1 and a half year, without any problem for my tables. The problem is that when we answer questions from newbs on those subjects, there is always somebody who will give the opposite answer – and with good arguments – which generates more confusion for the newbs. And this happens quite often.

So here are my two questions (I have my answers to them, but I won’t say iot not influence other answers):

1/ In Band of Blades specifically, can you roll Marshal + the Squad’s dice pool in a Group action, for whatever you’re trying to do? (Just like you can roll Command + Cohort’s dice pool in vanilla Blade). Or can’t you (I mean, RAW. Each table can do what they want). Page 222 and 226 seem to say you can’t. Page 223 seems to say you can.

2/ In Band of Blades specifically, can a NPC Squad roll alone as an Action? By alone, I mean outside of a Group action with some PC. Or do you have to (when a roll is necessary) involve the Squad through either a GA, or an “order” from a PC (Marshal; Discipline… or even Consort or Sway)?

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  1. Coming back to this now, looking at p226 I can actually read this as agreeing with p223 (although in the past I didn’t). It’s a section about group actions, the first paragraph is “you don’t need a group action, just have one PC roll Marshal”. The second paragraph is “the PC still rolls Marshal but the squad also rolls something appropriate with that as a group action”. Anyway, p222 and p223 mean the answer is it’s both RAW and not RAW! I think of p222 RAI being “using the same action with the exception of when someone’s leading with Marshal”.

  2. I’d say RAW there’s no rule preventing it. I can imagine a scenario: “The Officer says to the (all NPC) Owls ‘Get over there and search those civilians, see if they’re carrying anything valuable’. The Owls grin enthusiastically and hurry over to harass what they see as some weak civilian targets…”. No need for the Officer to roll, but making the squad roll to see how they fare might be justified.

  1. Yeah, that’s the problem. Text is not entirely clear and seems to contradict itself sometimes.

  2. What you describe is a Fortune roll, which is always possible, but which does not work with Position and Effect and does not (normally) lead to consequences (like injury to the Squad). I am talking of the cases where the thing to do is complex or dangerous, ie it would require an action roll from a PC.

  • The example (not mine, but one the newb was asking about) related to 2. was: the enemy is trying to force a door. You (the PC) are trying to block the door. You give your gun to a NPC Rookie and ask him to shoot at what’s coming through the door. My opinion here is that this requires an action roll (it’s dangerous or challenging, there could be failure and/or consequences), but it’s definitely not a Group action, so would require a Marshal roll or some kind of other action roll by the PC, where what would happen to the NPC is included in the consequence of the roll. The other opinion was that the NPC Rookie (or squad)… could roll his dice pool, outside of a GA, as an Action roll (with P/E and consequences). It seems to me that this is against the basis of the rules that only PC can roll action rolls.

Tbf, I’m almost sure I’m right on this second question, while on the first point I’m… not so sure if I, and all GMs I’ve played with, are doing it right.

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I don’t see that basis for the rules anywhere…there’s nothing to say NPCs can’t take part in action rolls. An action roll is an action roll regardless of whether it’s solo or in a group. P/E works as per normal for them (more/fewer squad members die; they do more/less harm to the enemy).

If there’s no rule to prevent it, and it makes sense in the fiction, I’d say it’s the right thing to do.

p222 says: "Everyone participating in the action, including the leader, makes an action
roll…" i.e. everyone participating in a GA is making an action roll. If an NPC can make an action roll here they can do it elsewhere.

I don’t see that basis for the rules anywhere…there’s nothing to say NPCs can’t take part in action rolls.

Well, it’s an interesting POV. I would counter:
P. 22, description of the action roll, first para: “When a player character does something challenging, we make an action roll to see how it turns out.” And the whole para (referring only to PC, player etc)
P. 28, first para: “Since NPCs don’t roll for their actions,…”
P. 266 : "For actions, you should call for a roll when any of these happen: … ‘‹A player character leads or gives orders to an NPC or group of NPCs that faces something dangerous or troublesome.’ "

So it is clear to me that NPC don’t do action rolls all by themselves, even it they can ofc take part in a group action with PCs.

But, as we both can see, maybe I’m right, maybe you’re right, but this confirms my whole point: this is an important part of the mechanic of the game, and it is not clear. Hence my question n° 2 and the need for clarification.

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I agree that p22 and p266 do imply that, but only imply.

p28 is specifically talking about the opponent of a PC and the PC themselves having their results both determined by the same roll, it isn’t referring to the same scenario we are.

If it makes you more comfortable you could think of it as a fortune roll with consequences (or results that look like consequences). Action rolls are just modified fortune rolls anyway (or so says John Harper at least).

I agree there’s plenty of grey areas in the system, and lots of places where interpretation is required. Even systems like DnD where the authors try very hard to make everything explicit and avoid all grey still require some interpretation. The good thing about it here is that it doesn’t really matter how you interpret it, it won’t make a large difference.

For example you (probably) agree that NPCs can have fortune rolls made to see the outcome of their actions, and there are examples in the book of fortune rolls having consequences (or at least negative results that look like consequences), so whether or not they can actually make action rolls (on their own) doesn’t really matter, it won’t make any significant difference.

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Yes, I agree with all that.

As I said in my first post, I have no problem with the way I’ve been playing because I have enough experience of the game, have played with other GM more experienced than I, and it’s alright because we can deal with the ambiguities or we can choose what suit us best.

But when newbs ask these sort of question, and they ask it quite often, I think it’s quite a pity that we can’t give them a clear answer on very simple, fundamental parts of the game. “Oh, it doesn’t matter because, sure, the text contradicts itself but you can choose to do it however you want” is not a good answer for a newb trying to grok the system, and three more experienced GM/players giving contradictory answers is not good either.

My two initial questions are not philosophical questions about more obscure parts of the game or of the setting, or about those things which should be left for the table to decide. They are simple questions about fundamental parts of the mechanics. In BitD, they are clearly answered and explained, with examples. In BoB, they are not.

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If someone asks “is it X or Y?”, and the book leaves the answer open to interpretation, I think the first thought by a respondant should be “Does the answer even have any significant impact on play, or do they result in gameplay so similar it doesn’t matter?”

I think the best answer (seeing as the issue can’t be denied) we can give to newbs is “There’s room for interpretation in the book, the interpretations are X or Y, but don’t panic because neither will break your game, and in fact the differences in results in most cases are likely to be negligible”.

It’s not ideal but no rpg, not even ones with vast resources and a strong desire to stamp out any grey areas, can completely avoid this.

I think the worst thing a newb can hear is, like you said, one person tell them “X is the one and only true way”, and another tell them “No, Y is the one and only true way”.

I think it’s best to acknowledge the conflicting interpretations, and reassure them that they can’t break the game by choosing one or the other.

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don’t panic because neither will break your game, and in fact the differences in results in most cases are likely to be negligible

The fact is, on the second question I agree it can’t break the game. On the first question it can, and that’s why I (and others) interpret the text as “can’t roll Marshall + squad’s Threat in a GA”.

Why ? Well, Marshal is defined as “You can marshal a squad to do most actions that any individual might do.” A PC can already use its Marshal to use a squad with scale, for example in set-up actions. If a PC could use Marshal in any group action with the Squad, then the PC would basically almost not need to put dots (above 1, for the Resistance) in any other of his actions rankings. Just take Elite special ability, 4 dots in Marshal and you can do almost anything with at least 5 dice and scale. Throw in Lead from the front and you’re unstoppable with just the 2 special abilities and 2 supplementary dots from the beginning character.

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Well I’d say:

  • Command like that doesn’t break BitD, so Marshal like that won’t break BoB
  • There’s nothing unusual about a PC being able to make large rolls if they spend two dots and two abilities with that goal in mind

I had a PC in the first campaign I ran with high Marshal and LFTF, I’m now running my second campaign (Legion is at Calisco) which also has a PC with high Marshal and LFTF, and neither game was broken. It’s fine.

There is however a big difference between the two games in this regard: Gangs in BitD are specialized (Thugs, Skulks etc), so when you do Group action with them it’s limited to their specialisation (or you roll 0d). While in BoB, squads are not specialised, and you could do the GA in “most actions that any individual might do” (that’s more or less everything needed on a mission). This alone makes the “roll Marshal + Squad’s Threat” much more powerful than the “roll Command + Gang’s Quality”, and… I’m not sure it’s intended in the design. I would call that gamebreaking. Moreover, but that’s less important, you don’t always have a Gang with you in BitD, while you always have a Squad in BoB.

Well all I can suggest is that you try it and find out. I have, and it isn’t.

Which just shows that we have a different perception of what is gamebreaking or not.

But again, the problem is neither how I, ou you, interpret those two points or how we play. The problem is to be able to give clear answers to newbies on questions that pop up again and again about two important mechanical parts of the game. Which we have until now failed to do, as this whole conversation shows.

What would you do if, hypothetically, Stras jumped into this thread right now and said “Page 223 is correct, Marshal works with GA just like Command does in Blades”?

Would that solve the issue of newbs getting conflicting advice, or would you continue to advise them that playing this way breaks the game?

Excellent question, and indeed it is my hope that the authors answer.

I would answer questions from newbs, or from other people just asking, with the official answer. Because I think, as I said, that what people need on those points is clarity, and I’m perfectly ready to accept that what I find “gamebreaking” is fine for other people (like you).

At my table I would continue implementing my “house rule” (no GA with Marshal). As I imagine you would continue using GA with Marshal in your games if the answer was the other way round.

If people having more experience made remarks on various forums (reddit, discord…) about Group actions with Marshal being too powerful, then I would agree with them in the discussion and tell them what I do.

No, I’d play the official ruling. I don’t have any special preference for either way, I just had to pick one or the other when I saw the conflict in the text, and this one was closest to Blades, so I picked it. It’s been perfectly fine, and I’m sure my games would be essentially equally fine if I’d chosen the other.