Starting level for new characters

How do you deal with new characters being introduced to the game in terms of XP? When you have cohorts and experts, they rise in effectiveness in line with the crew’s Tier. Would you do the same for new player characters, so if someone dies for example and makes a new character, they start off with enough XP to reflect how far the crew has advanced and not leave them trailing behind the other players? Or just make them start off as total newbies?

I find giving everyone’s character time to shine is more important than XP count. Scores depend on teamwork, burning stress, and mad hijinks. So I don’t really worry about it. Plus characters get pretty tiresome when they collect too many upgrades, no room to grow.

But I like to negotiate: one special ability per trauma taken. If the player’s particularly itchy, offer two special abilities per trauma.


During my campaign, we introduced several new characters, from both new players as well as existing players bringing in additional characters. Each time we brought them in, they were just starting characters, no XP boost, and there was absolutely no problem. Unlike D&D, Blades is not the sort of game where XP balance or level parity is really important at all. But yes, spotlight time is very important.


Yeah, characters in Blades have a pretty level playing field - Tier is a much bigger indicator of effectiveness than a characters individual action dots and special abilities. I’ve never found this to be a problem, over multiple campaigns.

That said, if you or the rest of your table does find it to be a problem, it’s simple enough to give a character some extra abilities and action dots, and that won’t break the game either

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Joining the chorus. New characters won’t have as many action dots as old characters but that turns out to not matter as much as you might think most of the time. And new characters get to draw on all the abilities of the crew sheet, including ones like Chosen and Everybody Steals, and the crew’s higher tier equipment.

I think it helps that characters out of the box feel pretty powerful. They don’t feel like level 1 greenhorns. They got history, talents, powerful gear, and a crew backing them. On top of that pushing more (which compensates for low dots) can get you to your first trauma which then increases XP gain. Other characters can also assist the newbie more to prop them up so they feel more potent.

Starting with 2 or 3 (if you have the related crew upgrade) dots where other characters don’t yet have that many can also make a new character feel strong and differentiated.

It’s also worth stating that players basically have to choose to kill their own character as they can always resist lethal harm and even if they die they can choose to play a ghost.

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I’m a softie, and will often give a new character in an ongoing game a couple perks – an extra ability and/or action dot, maybe a coin. Maybe a more unique advantage that would typically come from a long-term project, like a special item or an iruvian fighting style. That said, you really don’t have to. Even if the other PCs have way more advances than you do, you can usually be the best in the crew at at least one action, and take a special ability nobody else has. That and your special items will give you a couple opportunities to shine, you can participate in group actions, and you can ask for assists from the other PCs. With a 2/2/2/1 build you’ll have 3 Actions that can roll 3 dice with help from another player, and if the experienced ones spread the stress out between them they should be able to do that consistently.

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In Blades, character advancement “feels” way more real than it is. Characters with vastly different power levels can play together without any real problem (the weaker characters will still be useful and have their chance to shine, etc).
So you can have replacement characters starting off as total newbies, that’s fine and it is the default assumption of the rules.

That said: even though game balance is not a real issue, some players might feel like they’ve been “unjustly punished” for changing character. Moreover, in some cases it may make more sense in the fiction for a new character to be more powerful than a starting character (imagine a player in a Tier 3/4 Crew who decides to make a PC out of their trusted and beloved Whisper Expert Cohort, who as an NPC has been rolling 4d or 5d in many scores; if that Expert is created as the Whisper PC, they will now roll only 3d to Attune, which feels ‘wrong’).
For this reasons, and since (as said before) game balance is not an issue, there is nothing wrong with giving some extra powers “for free” to newly created PCs.

A rough, simple rule could work like this:
New characters get 15 PX, 1 Coin, 7 stash and 1 filled Long-Term Project clock for each Tier of their Crew. They also get one Trauma if their Crew’s Tier is 1-2, or two Traumas if it’s 3-4.
Example: if you create a new character in a Tier-3 Crew, you’ll get 45 PX that you can spend on Actions (6 per dot) and/or Abilities (8 per each); you’ll also get 3 Coin, 21 stash, 3 filled clocks of your choice. You’ll still be considerably weaker than the old guard, but considerably more powerful than a complete beginner.