What are Rooks good for?

My players have a hawker crew. I encouraged them to spend crew upgrades to get a rook cohort, so that the rooks can go sell their Dreamsmoke. And my players like rp, so they did it gladly. But it bugs me that I don’t see any game mechanical reasons to have the rooks.

Likewise, they did a great score where they took out two gangs in one mad crazy adventure, seizing their territory. Now they had 3x the territroy BUT still only had the same 1 cohort of thugs to defend it as before. Feels to me like their territroy should look vulnerable and be subject to predation by neighboring gangs. And that is exactly what I did, using ro, and again they are fine with it. But is there a game-mechanical effect of thugs/claims that I missed?

Am I missing the mechanical reasons? Thanks!

So two things. As the gang goes up in Tier, the gang size increases, as does the number of Rooks. So yes, they have more territory and claims to defend, but they also have more people to defend them with.

“Rooks: Con artists, spies, and socialites.
A gang has scale and quality equal to your current crew Tier. It increases in scale and quality when your crew moves up in Tier.
If your crew is Tier 0, your gang is quality 0 and scale 0 (1 or 2 people). When your crew is Tier II, your gang is quality 2 and scale 2 (12 people).
Some crew upgrades will add the “Elite” feature to a gang, which gives them +1d”

And what to do with Rooks?

They’re a resource, same as your equipment. So on a score where your crew are at the dog races in Nightmarket, you could say “while we’re carrying out the con against the Iruvian trader, our Rooks are distracting her men / pickpocketing the crowd for extra coin / providing us with a room full of people pretending to be normal gamblers for a Sting like con”. And then they roll dice equal to your tier, or tier +1 if they’re Elite, to see how well they do.


You encouraged them to spend an upgrade to get a cohort … but can’t think of a reason why they should have a cohort? What actions did they do to get this group of people to work for them?

Thanks @Wildpark, I hadn’t thought much about use cases in-score. Their crew are DreamSmoke dealers, and to date the game has ended up being relatively combat focused (to gain or defend territory) or social focused (to gain allies, dissuade enemies from attacking). I hadn’t thought about how the Rooks could also be used to assist in these social scores, I strictly was thinking about the strategic game. I must think on this more!

That said, it does feel like cohorts could play a more interesting mechanical role in the strategic/crew-level of the game. But can one do so without ditching the elegant simplicity of Blades?

@BlueNinja, can you elaborate on your question? I want to be sure I understand it properly. Thanks!

I’m trying to understand why you suggested to your players to buy a Rook cohort, but apparently had no reason in mind as to why they should pick that Cohort. So I’m wondering what went down in the narrative that led to this recruitment.

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Oh, thanks! I talked with the players and we all felt that a hawker crew who was holding turf would be selling product off of that turf and earning revenue. So I went ahead and hacked the claims map so that “turf” claims can yield 1 coin per score IF the players have a cohort of rooks to “staff” it. So in other words, I created a mechanical reason that fit with the roleplay. But maybe I’m missing mechanics in the game? Maybe there are other strategic/crew-level-game reasons (someone else gave a good in-score use for Rooks)?

I like the spirit of my hack, but it has complexity that needs trimming. How many turf claims can a rook cohort “staff?” Does that change with the size of the cohort (which automatically goes up when the crew goes up in tier)?

It’s kind of up to the players how they use their cohorts, but to my mind the rooks are the “social cohort”. If you want help in a fight, bring some thugs. If you want help in a social score, bring rooks - especially since they can be socialites, spies, or con-artists; that covers a wide-range of social scores. What that help looks like is open-ended, but it shouldn’t be hard to think of ways to deploy them; as distractions, as back-up (scale factors into effect in Blades; bringing a cohort increases your scale, and thus your effect, and thus can be extremely helpful), etc.

I think it helps to step back from the mechanics and start with cohorts in the fiction - what could you do with a handful of skilled operators on your side? A whole lot of things!

The other thing that I have suggested to my players is that they can send their cohorts to go do stuff off-screen; if they don’t need their thugs on a particular score, they can send them to do something else in the meantime. In our last game, the sent their thugs to go shake up local shopkeepers for protection money while the PCs were on the main score. I rolled the thugs’ quality, got a full success, and so gave the crew a couple of bonus coin. It’s a very light way of mechanizing the fiction; decide what the cohort is doing and then roll quality to see how it goes.

In the same way, if you wanted to mechanize the rooks selling product on street corners I would simply say that the cohort could be doing that instead of going on any given score. In exchange for not having access to their cohort for the score, the crew can roll the cohort’s quality and try to get a bit of bonus coin.

My final thought - when the crew goes up in Tier, everyone gets a bonus payment which represents profits made in the course of business-as-usual. This speaks to a level of abstraction; we zoom in on interesting scores, but we don’t really follow the day-to-day business of the crew. There’s a certain amount of accounting - costs and profits - that we don’t have to track except as an abstracted bonus payment when they go up in Tier.


I see! Well, personally, I would limit such a benefit to no more than (Tier) coin - but admittedly I thought most of the upgrade maps included spots to unlock extra coin? And as timdenee said, I would also limit it so that if the crew needs their cohort on a Score, they don’t get the benefit.


Seconding @timdenee, since Blades is a “fiction first” game, the mechanical benefit is determined by the in-story capabilities of your rooks.

As @Wildpark said, rooks are “Con artists, spies, and socialites” – but that’s a broad overview of possibilities. They shouldn’t just be a board game token you drop on your turf to make 1 coin per downtime. If you define them and flesh them out, it should become clear what they can do.

In a game I’ve been running, the smuggler crew decided that they’d grown powerful enough that they needed a way to keep tabs on their turf, so they “adopted” a gang of street kids as rooks. Just that much tells us a lot about what they’re capable of (great at blending in to spy on rival gangs or warn of trouble in the neighborhood, bad at fighting with anyone besides another gang of kids, etc…)

The crew has used them to help prep for scores (gathering info or even setting up distractions for bonus dice on the engagement roll), to work on long-term projects (spying out rivals’ activities), to send messages via trusted hands, and so on.

If your crew’s rooks are a gang of neighborhood dealers, I imagine some of the same possibilities exist. They could also send them as proxies to sell the crew’s wares if pcs are otherwise occupied, help keep the neighborhood happy and docile, or to make contact with some new buyers. If you take edges and flaws, and come up with some names and personalities, it just gets clearer.

Really, like most things in Blades, they can do whatever makes sense in the fiction, and it’s up to the table to figure out how to represent that mechanically.

I’d also echo @BlueNinja – the claims for “secondary businesses” are a great way to deal with income from non-score related stuff. They’re heat influenced, which is fun, and they make excellent targets for enemies.


Cohorts have no impact on the “strategic game” because they don’t do Downtime.
If you want cohorts to be useful outside of Scores and Free Play, you could consider giving each Cohort (or each Gang, ie, excluding Experts) 1 extra Downtime action that the players can have them perform.
That’s veeery simple, well-integrated with the BitD system, and gives a clear mechanical advantage while being very generic and open to any kind of action.

If you want them to be even more relevant you could give them 1 more Downtime action (2 total) if they are at least Tier 2, or similar arrangements.

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Your cohorts can be sent off on their own to do things - there’s specific mention in the book of them doing so and rolling their Quality for effectiveness or of a PC leading them and then rolling command.

So strategically they’re a force multiplier - your Rooks can be ‘attacking’ one location while your crew are elsewhere. Does that mean extra downtime? Up to you as a GM.

Re your hack that turf = extra coin if staffed - I like that. Remember that turf (as opposed to other claims that have a benefit) counts against reputation to make it easy for the crew to advance so you’re giving it more of a benefit than the other claims have. And every extra Coin is an extra downtime which does massively help the crew, especially when they’re at war with another faction and only getting one downtime each normally.

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Y’all are great. This was a wonderful set of perspectives I simply had not thought of. I now have much better options for my players to use cohorts. I’ll continue to noodle on the “staffing” claims idea. That said, simplicity is a lovely thing. And being able to ditch my staffing mechanic and simply replace it with “if you have rooks and don’t need them on a score, come up with something for them to do and they can bring you benefit, including Coin.”

Thanks y’all!

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