What are the BitD Design Pillars?

I’d like to understand the core design pillars behind Blades in the Dark. It would be a nice reference as I develop a hack. When considering a complete revision or just a reskin, it pays to understand the source material.

For example, is the setting - grim-dark/industrial-fantasy - a core design pillar? Is the Downtime mechanic or the position/effects mechanic a key design pillar? The frantic, episodic pacing?

A group of people unified by a common purpose doing stressful and dangerous jobs, that’s the peeled core as far as I’m concerned.

The structured score-downtime episodic structure is also important to me. You don’t get bogged down in long dungeon delves or whatever.


First off, I think this thread will be informative for the question you’re asking.


There’s also some very good discussion about BitD Actions vs. PbtA Moves in this Twitter thread:


One thing I like about that second thread in particular is that John Harper described BitD Actions as a custom move-generation system. Instead of “Turn Someone On” or whatever (which is a fairly specific move), you could have a Desperate Prowl with potential Great Effect, modified by Push Yourself and an Assist from a teammate.

To me, the customization potential around the Action/Position/Effect/Modifier conversation is a key design pillar of Blades. But as John says in the first thread: beware simple categorizations… they’re always wrong! I know of a few hacks that make fairly big departures from that Action/Position/Effect/Modifier conversation.


I would add that the core game is very focused on the player’s parts in a complex pressure cooker of factions. You wouldn’t have to build that into any FitD game, but I think it’s at least worth considering. The core game is driven towards sandbox play where your actions have consequences in the world. In particular, because you can’t get anything without taking it from someone else, those consequences are how you deal with factions.

I would also second the game’s focus on the immediacy of getting right to the action. Engagements, gear, entanglements, heat. All of those tools are meant to make the connective tissue between scores (or whatever your game’s equivalent is) as seamless as possible. The game is very focused on The Score. It wants you to really zoom in on who the characters are when they are doing things in the aforementioned pressure cooker sandbox.