Tips and tricks for creating a successful FitD game

I think I have a fantastic idea for a FitD setting. I think it could be wonderful but I don’t know where to start when it comes to the actual hacking of Blades to make it attuned to my setting.
Are there any designers more experienced than I out there that could give me some tips and tricks to help me get started.


I’m not necessarily an experienced designer, but my FitD hack is far enough along that I’ve got some experience to share.

I would advise starting with big picture stuff, then drilling down to smaller and smaller details. What is the first major element that must change to fit your setting? Is it the playbooks? Is it the Stress system? The faction game? Identify the most important change and work through it.

Along the way, you’ll probably find that there are smaller systems that need to change, because of the changes you made to the bigger system. You’ll find that some systems need to be cut, entirely. In other cases, you’ll find that you might need to create a new system.

In my hack, Shatterkin, I started with two main areas of focus — the playbooks and the stress system. I had to make entirely new playbooks, representing the different types of evolving monsters you could have. Along the way, I realized that I’d have to change some of the Actions, and change how item loadout worked, and a bunch of other little details. With the stress system, I had to reframe it to represent the strength of the bond between the monster and the kid you’re playing as, which led to removing traumas, introducing a new system of rights/wrongs, replacing “indulge vice” with another system, and more. Though I started with just two main elements to rework, I ended up discovering dozens of alterations that I needed to make to fit the game I was making.

TL;DR - Start with big picture, and drill down to smaller details.


Also not a particularly experienced designer (hopefully it’s not too frustrating to hear from inexperienced people when you asked for experienced =P ), but similar to what Scott said above, a piece of advice that helped me a lot with PbtA games in general was to hammer out all of your core mechanics first and do playbooks after-- my natural inclination when designing a game had been to start with character options, since that’s the stuff that usually excites me the most about a game.

The reason is, playbooks are all about giving people new ways to interact with the broader currencies of your game, or to break rules with special moves, so it’s important to establish what those core systems are before you can start interacting with them in that way. Stress, harm, gambits, downtime actions, ability ratings, etc. are all currencies that make up the framework of the game, and a lot of character definition and empowerment comes from getting special ways to gain, spend, or recover these things.

Another thing I picked up from someone’s good advice (again, this is for classic PbtA moves, but I think the gist applies for FitD) is consider for any mechanic:

  1. What is the fictional input? What kind of story beat, trope, action, etc. am I trying to represent here?
  2. What is the mechanical input? How do I represent this action with my established mechanics or economies? Am I rolling? Spending some sort of currency? Etc.
  3. What are the fictional and mechanical outputs? On the narrative level, what do you end up with by engaging with this mechanic, and how is that represented in currencies/game mechanics, etc.

I tend to fill in those fictional questions first, be unsure of the mechanical side, and then zero in on the mechanic over time, write down a general idea, refine it, change it, etc.


I like to start with the character playbooks. You must have exciting character types for an RPG to grab players, so why not start there.

If you don’t have a system in place for a given playbook ability, just point outward from the character, like “The gunslinger needs a mechanic that lets them go first, like a quickdraw thing. And also a trick-shot ability, probably.” Those rules stubs will begin to form an outline of the systems that you need to make to support these characters.

Since there are many Blades hacks now, it’s likely that someone else has built a mechanic that will serve, but I recommend taking a stab at them yourself, first. You’ll probably hit some dead ends, but you’ll also come up with novel solutions.

Once the characters are roughed-out, create just enough setting material to support the action of the characters. If they’re pirates, give them a sea and some rich merchant ships sailing around. Come up with at least one exciting opening situation to drop players into. Then start playtesting.

Get your stuff into play as early as you can. Iterate and playtest, over and over as things get fleshed out, edited, and reworked. Keep playing! Nothing is better than playing your game to spur development.


I like to develop the Agendas and Principles of a hack either first thing or very early in the process. I usually have a pretty solid idea to get started, and writing the Agendas and Principles helps me to clarify my intentions and point me in a good direction.

1 Like

Very exciting! First off, I will say, if you ask three designers how something should be done, you’ll get four answers. But here’s some stuff, and hopefully it resonates with you!

  1. As stated by @Scribbles, starting with a high concept is great. I like to phrase it “what story are you telling?” Is this a game about high fantasy heroes on an epic adventure, street-level superheroes dealing with a crime lord, a family of street racers doing crimes to buy car parts, etc. @John_Harper’s advice to dive in on playbooks is a great way of developing a hack, and helps define #1, where you ask the question “who are the people we’re playing in that story?”

  2. Somewhere in that process, you’ll define actions that you see characters taking. You can keep the default Blades in the Dark actions for a while, but at this point, I always look to figure out what fundamental actions characters can perform. Is your Blades hack about racing cars? Well, you definitely want at least one action related to driving. Maybe you want an action related to fixing cars. You might need to talk to investors or the press or the cops, so that’s a kind of action. As you drill into the things that can happen in the game, it helps you think through your concept too; if you think using a particular action might be boring in the game, maybe you don’t need that action.

  3. When it comes to making abilities, you need to think about two things together: the first one is the fictional component, and the second thing is the mechanical realization of that fiction. People are great at the second part, but neglect the first part. The more clear in your head the fiction is, the better your powers will be at portraying the character type genuinely and letting players know when to use them.

  4. Crew sheets can look a lot of different ways. The idea of having a common element that’s shared between the players does a lot of good stuff at a table, but that sheet can look completely different from game to game. Ask the question of ‘what ties the characters together’, but don’t be afraid of a very different construct than any that you’ve seen in other games.

Idunno, those are some random thoughts. Hope that helps, and best of luck!