Sticking points and slowdowns

One of the best parts of Blades in the Dark and other FitD games is how fast you can play the game. The equipment rules and Flashback system allow you to jump straight into a mission without feeling like you’re woefully underprepared, and the Downtime system is well-defined and efficient. But there are two places where Blades in the Dark can come to a grinding halt.

1) Choosing Missions. While my groups improved on this over time, choosing a mission would sometimes take upwards of an hour. Other times the mission would be chosen easily, but deciding how to approach the mission would take just as long. Eventually, we developed a system where any simple majority in votes automatically ended any further discussion and started a mission.

2) Choosing Crew Upgrades. My. God. The amount of time I’ve seen spent on arguing about what Crew Upgrades or Powers to purchase… My groups would advance the crew at the end of a session, text about the upgrades all week, STILL not have reached any consensus, and then argue for an hour at the next game before settling on powers or upgrades.
After trying a lot of different approaches, I eventually ended any and all discussion of Crew Upgrades during the game. Instead, at the end of a session where the Crew advanced, each player would secretly nominate one Crew Power and 2 Crew Upgrades. I would then send a Google Quiz out during the week that all the players would vote on. Despite being more work for me, it saved all of the players a lot of time arguing over what Crew Upgrades are best.

What are the sticking-points and slowdowns in your games? Do you have any clever ways of shortening discussions? Have you had similar problems?


Not sure about upgrades and choosing a mission (though I would always fall back on asking players, “what is your crew trying to be in this world?” to get some clarity) but as far as the approach to the mission, I think that is one of the best ideas that has come out of this system. If I recall correctly, the idea came from the sessions John ran of Stars Without Number in which we would literally spend several sessions just planning a mission. That is WAY too much time planning. As it says in the book - no plan is ever perfect.

The solution eventually became the Planning & Engagement roll (p.127). Choose the type of plan and Detail, then jump to the action. It works so well! If players are arguing over the plan type, not sure what to say. I’ve found that the mission and type of crew almost always highlights at least the top two choices. As you pointed out, Flashbacks and equipment rules dovetail well with this concept.

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The Planning & Engagement rolls are some of the best features of the FitD system, the problem I seem to run into is getting the players to that point! I will typically have a non-Claims mission ready-to-go in my back pocket, as well as 2-3 claims that the players can access. The problem I run into is one player will want to take some Turf, one player will want to do the special story mission, and the other player will be personally invested in some other kind of Crew Claim. Getting the players on the same page has been really difficult. Once I have a mission selected things move very quickly, the issue is getting there.

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Time to get new players! Just kidding. I would go back to “what are you trying to accomplish in Doskvol - short term and long term?” Maybe even have them write these long term goals down. Perhaps go as far as creating a clock for some goals? Or build in countdowns that would push them towards certain objectives and if they miss them, they miss them.

It’s something else John and I talked a lot about, having a reason for being a crew and, therefore, taking the actions you take. The best games we had were ones that had long-term views/goals. The worst (or at least ones we abandoned) were when the reason for being was unclear or too superficial.


One tip might be to get them to argue in-character. It’s a lot more work, and they’ll get tired quicker :smile:
Another is when you come to the crew XP, get them to tell you what their goals, drives, inner conflict, and essential nature of the crew actually is. If they can’t give you a good and short answer they don’t actually know and you can push them to develop it next session :slight_smile:
Surviving is not a sufficient goal! :upside_down_face:

Our Glow in the Dark tribe just tiered up to 1 and is going to sit down more-or-less in character next session to figure out wth they want to be doing. Good thing too, because a bunch of background stuff is going to start making noise :smiling_imp:

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Part of the challenge for a crew in Blades is the difficulty for a group of people to align their goals and objectives. If they can’t do that… they can’t be a crew. Both in-fiction and out.

I’m not saying your situation is impossible or anything – but the ability to coordinate, compromise, and communicate as a team are part of the “skill” of playing Blades. Your players might need more time to develop those skills .


my solution was simple - have one player play the boss, he decides. that it. now, if someone have invested interest in some specific mission, they can argue for it, but starting with a clear chain of command help the players learn what kind of dynamic they like in their crew, and free up time for actual Bladeing. It’s also a great set up for the fun type of in-group bickering - in one memorable session I really liked the player that played the boss couldn’t come, and so the others got him engaged as part of some weird political scheme. It was great.
not a solution for everyone, I admit, but it worked great for me.


Having a pitch upfront may help, too. I wrote something about that here:

This will not solve the problem completly but may lesser the effects.