Trauma from Group Actions

We just had our first BofB session, and overall it was a blast. In our post game discussion one concerned was raised:

In the final stages of our Mission the Medic coordinated a group action for the 3 other specialists and the squad of rookies to climb down the wall of a keep. (Heavy Rain , need for speed etc., so I felt a roll was needed).
The Medic had 3 Stress prior to the roll, and of course 4 rolls went badly (with the fifth being a six and ensuring a good get-away). The Medic ended up stressed-out and with his first trauma.

We could justify his trauma in the fiction, but it still felt strange.

After the game the concerned was raised that the Medic could be “killed by group action” the next time he coordinated a group action. Examples were: Maybe he coordinates a research roll in and old library and gets a heart attack observing all his squad mates mistreating the old parchment …

We’re all for the gritty and brutal way of BofB, but this mechanic seems weird to us.
(We know the officer has a special ability to limit Stress taken from group actions to 1)

We consider using a house rule that you can loose Stress from group actions as RAW, but can’t suffer trauma if stressing out from it.

What are your thoughts?

I don’t like that house rule. Stress is a risk of Group actions; Trauma is a risk of Stress. Breaking that rule is a pretty fundamental change of the game.

Note that the death from Trauma doesn’t haven’t to be immediate, nor does it have to be directly caused by the roll. Use the trauma conditions themselves to govern how the death occurs. Maybe the Medic becomes Obsessed by the research in the library, and sneaks off at night to find some ancient artifact he read about, and gets killed by roving undead. Or maybe he becomes Haunted, and walks straight off a cliff, unable to deal with the horrors he’s seen. Narrate the death so that it makes sense.


How was the Stress described in the fiction?

Were arrows zipping around him as he attempted to get everyone over the wall and down, were the undead rushing towards them en masse as they scrambled for purchase? Did he have to grab a rookie whose hands slipped and nearly plunged to her death, and in the rain he nearly lost his grip on her? Etc.

For the situation you describe, picking up that much Stress could be played out as a major fictional event, or set of events, which would suggest a logical Trauma arising from it, and make it seem less arbitrary?

(Like the Medic getting everyone over safely, and just about to hop over the wall himself when an arrow catches him in the back and he topples to his death. Or he turns and rushes the undead to hold them back while the squad escapes. Or he grabs the rookie, saving her, and gets her hands back onto the wall, but it causes him to slip and fall instead.)

So that Research roll doesn’t have to describe a concretely-measured moment in the fiction…maybe the Trauma triggers after they’re out of the library. What information were they looking for? What else is happening in the fiction? What other dangers lurk? (SUDDENLY GIANT SPIDERS.)

The player can use it to push the fiction forward, and doesn’t have to rely on a narrow cause-effect (“You…you creased the spine!? Urk! Ggglllgah…gasp…” and Emmy).

Does that help?

I wouldn’t house rule it.

One way I like to run a group action is reflect each roll in the narration.

The best roll deserves something about that character(s) taking the crucial action. But that might be saved till the climax of the scene, after reflecting the bad and mediocre rolls.

And those deserve something about the leader keeping the team together, despite the obstacles and individuals. One failed roll, the leader pulls someone back, covers for someone, puts in the most hours. Four failed rolls, things should really escalate, going bad to worse, really off the rails. Little vignettes or a montage, a simple summary, or a blow by blow account.

If you do that, there should be plenty of opportunity to make sense of the leader being the most damaged.

I don’t think research need be safer than any other action. If you need to roll for it, then there’s danger and interesting consequences. If not, like any action, don’t roll.


As I wrote above in the situation we had it was no problem for me to justify the stress and trauma in fiction. (The squad was climbing down from a tower room filled with alchemical gas and the medic was last to leave, inhaling too much of that stuff)

Maybe we just have to “unlearn” some paradigms we have ingrained from 30 years of playing “traditional rpgs”. My players feel uncomfortable with the idea of a character dying because “everyone else has shitty rolls”

I agree with the others here.

Group action is a very powerful mechanic. It is balanced because when things go wrong, they can go very wrong.

As to your final remark: yeah, if you want to enjoy BoB, you have to learn how to roll with the death of your characters. I think dying by trauma in a group action can lead to a great scene, you will be decorated posthumously, you will be the guy who has sacrificed himself to save a bunch of Rookies, and so on.

Two sessions ago I had a Heavy dying by Trauma, taking 4 stress while Resisting to save a Rookie from death. So of course, if you look at it from a purely min/maxing POV, that was stupid. But in fact it’s great. The astounding surprise when I rolled I think 1, 2, 2 with a Prowess resist… And then the Rookie, in the fiction, has been promoted at the end of the session, and he has decided to make the memory of this Heavy live eternally. First thing he did was to take the hammer of the Heavy for his “fine” Threat 2 weapon as a Soldier, so each time he will bash heads with it (that’s his own Trauma : obsesses with bashing undeads’ heads), he will remember his saviour.

Ah, well @A_B has it. It’s a game balance thing. If you reduce the cost of group actions, then you incentivise making group actions for everything.

But group actions are optional. Game still works fine without them. I’d drop them before changing them.

If you want the benefits of working as a high functioning team, someone has to take charge and pay the price.

If they take their last trauma from a group action helping research in a library they don’t drop dead of a heart attack. They get sick of dealing with the group’s bullish!t and just walk away. “Enough. I can’t take you people anymore. You’re hopeless.” If it’s their last trauma, then it’s not a sudden roleplaying change—unless of course the player hasn’t been roleplaying any of their character’s trauma (and hopefully not claiming any XP for it).

I wouldn’t have the Heavy die. They chose to resist so they resisted. My understanding of the rules is that the resistance roll is not a test to see if you succeed in resisting, it just determines the cost. The Heavy saves the rookie and they get out, but it’s their last trauma so they just can’t do this job anymore. Wrap up the scene and back at the hideout, or in the alley a couple blocks away, they say “That was too close. I’m getting too old for this [stuff]. I just can’t anymore.”

@Werlynn, except p41 says:

If you mark your last available trauma box, you die.

My bad. I followed a link from one of the digest emails and didn’t know it took me to the Band forum, so I was just going by the Blades rules where trauma is not a way for a PC to die.

1 Like

As a house rule I allow a final trauma to represent a character becoming too traumatized, too exhausted or too psychologically injured to continue serving in the Legion as a combatant.

But your answer was not wrong per se. Here we were in a close fight, so it was logical that this Trauma caused instant death (that we justified by a knife sliding between the armor plates from behid, while he was busy Killing the undead who was trying to kill the Rookie). But in other circonstances maybe our GM would have make me die a bit later, or “disappeared”.

I was thinking about this and realized there’s another core traditional RPG assumption to challenge, which might make the whole Stress-from-Research thing more sensible: why would you be using a group action for that Research roll?

You only make an Action roll when things are dangerous or troublesome. (See pg: 283 for examples of what a troublesome/dangerous Research roll might look like.)

You wouldn’t make an Action roll just to gather everyone up and read some dusty tomes – in that case, either the GM would just tell you what you learned, or they would make a Fortune roll to determine how good the information you found was.

Because Action rolls aren’t like skill checks in D&D etc.: you’re not rolling it to find out how well you did at a task. You’re rolling it to find out how much trouble you’re in from the trouble that’s staring you in the face. If there’s no trouble, there’s no roll. If there’s no danger, it’s not an Action.

OK, yes, you are also rolling it to find out how well you did, but I wanted to emphasize no trouble = no roll. If the only thing in play is “Did you find a thing out?” then it’s a Fortune roll (with #dice = Research and at least +1d for assistance).


Check out the book on page 226 on how to handle squad group actions.

Basically, in those situations the squad acts as one entity.
You could either have a specialist marshal for the entire squad,
or have the squaddie with the best action rating roll for the entire team.
Or if the squad is alone and no PC is with them, simply roll 1d (or 2d if they are all soldiers).

This would reduce the stress on a failure to only 1, which is way more managable.

If somebody marshals the squad (it could be somebody else than a Specialist), then they don’t participate in the Group action.
Even if the squad roll at one in a group action (or with a Corporal), it does not Always reduce the stress to 1, because the other participants in the group action could also fail.
If only the squad rolls, it is not a “group action” in the meaning of the rules. In this case, there is no stress inflicted.

Maybe I have misunderstood your meaning, but you seem to cconfuse “group action” teamwork maneuver, with the fact that several members of the squad can act together as a squad.

What I meant was, when performing a group action involving the squad, have the squad act as one to reduce the potential stress from the rookies/soldier to 1. Of course you can still get more stress from fails of the other specialists participating.

Of course there are a lot of ways to split this roll, with different narrative impact and consequences for the specialists and the squad, for example:

  • Specialists and PC squad members roll a group action together (avg. mission: 2 specialists 2 rookies = 4 potential stress)
  • Specialists and Squad roll together, with the squad acting as one (avg. mission: 2 specialists 2 rookies = 3 potential stress, but also potentially less dice)