Tips on running BitD for PbP and online

For various reasons, gaming in person is not a great option for me at the moment, and my schedule is weird enough that doing a game over video conferencing is a bit tricky too.

So, does anyone have opinions or suggestions on how to best play / run BitD in a play-by-post style? Any pitfalls to be especially cognizant of, beyond making sure game prep doesn’t go on ad infinitum.

Thanks :slight_smile:

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From my experience, Blades doesn’t work very smoothly in play by post because it has loads of points of interaction between the players and the GM. So the GM describes stuff and ends their post with What do you do?

  • Players describe stuff and might call for a roll or check with the GM.
  • If a roll’s needed, the player states their goal and what they’re rolling.
  • Then the GM sets the roll’s position and effect to help everyone build a better view of the situation.
  • Sometimes the players decide they misunderstood the obstacles and change what their characters doing on-screen and choose a different goal and action to roll.
  • Or they point out they are using a particular item or ability which may improve things
  • So then the GM reconsiders the position and effect.
  • Anyway, once position and effect is set, we check if another player wants to assist or offer a Devil’s Bargain. These can take some back and forth.
  • Everyone should chime in here, because others assisting costs less than the roller pushing themselves. But only one character can assist at a time, and they need to say how they help on-screen.
  • Also, anyone can offer a Devil’s Bargain but the GM must okay it and the roller can choose to take it or not.
  • The roller often chooses to push themselves for an extra die if they haven’t collected enough from these previous steps. And then they roll.
  • The player may choose to the push for effect, if the roll isn’t good enough.
  • Then the GM describes the outcome, which often includes unwanted consequences, including harm and other complications.
  • The roller or another player can then decide to resist each consequence, at the risk of taking stress.
  • If they choose to resist the GM sets the attribute to resist with.
  • Then the player rolls for each consequence they wish to resist.
  • Then the GM describes how the consequence is reduced or eliminated. Then the GM goes to describe stuff till they get to another What do you do?

All these interactions are pretty critical to the system, for the players to work well as a team and marshal their resources. Group actions often add a couple more decisions.

Anyhow, all these interactions take a few seconds at the table, when everyone’s engaged in a conversation. But each interaction can take a full day when you play by post. So 30 seconds at the table can easily become 3 weeks by post.

Now experience in this system means players can navigate this process more smoothly. But the very strengths of the Blades system (flexibility, teamwork and scalable threats) are what make it quite cumbersome when playing by post.

  • The system gives players’ the freedom to set their goal, approach and action to roll, but they often dither on their goals and approach even before getting to the above process.
  • The system supports teamwork which helps share the spotlight around players and focus play on the crew, which is thematically on target and supports the focus on the faction game, but also slows down play when playing by post with everyone online at different times.
  • And the scalability of threats means there’s always a bigger fish, which rewards good teamwork and gives the game room to grow, but also slows down play because the GM has to input before every roll.

By way of comparison, I’ve found Apocalypse World works very well in play by post because the moves are so limited and triggered so precisely. The MC describes stuff then ends their post with What do you do?

  • Then the player describes stuff. If they’re experienced, the player can often say that triggers a particular move, roll for it, maybe pick an option or two, then throw back to MC.

And the process repeats.

A lot of fiction and game can happen smoothly in a few posts, which in real world time means things can progress every day or two. It can take a bit to build trust and experience to get there and they’ll always be system disputes and meta game discussion. But aside from that, the AW has a snappy back-and-forth conversation and smooth triggering of moves from the fiction and back again, which I’ve found works much better for play by post than Blades.

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I’m running Blades on rpol (which is play by post) and it does require a bit of adjustment to play smoothly in that format.

First off, players need to understand and be comfortable with a level of engagement that is not just the GM describing things. They need to be interested in the game and willing to add to the story/build in the setting and not just react to what you describe for them.

Two, when playing, it’s very helpful for the GM to give a general position/effect at the end of their descriptions and trust the players to not abuse it. E.g., you might describe the scoundrels entering a rooftop window to jump down to a gantry below, and like with an engagement roll, let them know that they’re at risky/standard in general. The players need to know the game well enough to offer changes and suggestions to that, like - The Fist doesn’t have a lot of Prowl, so he just jumps straight down. Probably a Fortune roll to see how much noise he makes.
Also, have a list of Devil’s Bargains ahead of time and post some general ones in when describing a complication. E.g., there’s a steaming whistling Hull stomping your way. It’s going to take you all apart with its sledgehammer hands. Devil’s Bargains - Burn yourself in the steam its releasing [2 Harm], Break a blade on its steel skin, It’s weight starts to buckle the floor (Clock 1/4). And then let the PCs choose them as they play (or come up with different ones) rather than just have them ask and wait for your response.