What can my Whisper do with Attune?

Agreed - I am admittedly a new GM in BitD, and I’ve been working hard to keep things dramatic, and in line with the mantra “everything has a price”, rather than just hosing the PC’s with Harm. At the same time, I regularly remind them that Doskvol is a dangerous place, and surviving / thriving as a scoundrel is an uphill climb.

If I were playing a Whisper on a crew that wasn’t encountering a lot of supernatural enemies, I would probably lean heavily on this part of page 170: “When you attune to the ghost field you can see echoes of recent events or sense things beyond sight.”

Viewing into the past is great so solving mysteries or collecting blackmail material, and a social-oriented crew of Shadows or Hawkers could do a lot with that. Smugglers and Assassins might get more value from the ability to check for guards by scanning for spirits. You could even allow for a kind of “aura-reading”, and let people Attune to perceive someone else’s current emotions or state of mind. Nothing I’ve seen in the book indicates that “auras” are a thing in Doskvol, but I don’t think they’d be out-of-place to include in your version.


If you’re changing the way things are working, like if you had them suffer harm as they see a ghost and now it’s “just” a fictional position change, you can just tell them at the beginning of session. I do that sometimes myself. “I’ve been thinking about this thing we’ve been doing and I’ve come to some conclusions bla bla, so I think this is what we’ll do from now on”.
It’s not a big deal, the GM has to make judgments all the time, and explaining your reasoning helps the players understand how the world will work from now on when they’re thinking of things to do.


Precisely. And in Blades, changing a judgment call is even playing by the rules as written. :slight_smile:


Another thought: if the Whisper really loves summoning ghosts, the rest of the crew could support that by taking Iron Will (p. 86) as Veteran advances. At that point, they’d be set up to mess with the supernatural when and as they wish.

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We did this with an entire session.
“Well, the vibe last week was all off, I think we could do better. Let’s pretend it never happened and start over from the engagement roll, okay?”


I had this problem early on with the Whisper, but fairly quickly worked out a few things the character could do and how we’d play it. Most of the time the character did the summonings as prep for a score, or during a pause in the action. In a lot of games having powers that only work outside of direct action doesn’t work well, if it’s not zap pow it’s not much use, but in Blades powers like this and scrying and such are much more useful. I think it’s the pacing of the game and density of the setting, and the way the players really need a stronger plan and strategy than door, monsters, treasure. Having said that, I’ve a story for another post.

Anyway, he took Tempest and Warded early on which game him a lot of extra options. Dense fogs to cover an attack or retreat, electrical discharges, rain to obscure their tracks, etc. We never really got to explore rituals, dang it.

I’d also say that they would likely counter-act (or at least lessen) their fear if they are already Potent in the situation: a Slide calms his nerves when negotiating with Ghost Voice, the Cutter is composed when attacking with Ghost Fighter, the hunting pet will actively seek out and confront spirits as a Ghost Hunter.

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I like this as a possibility, though I’m not sure it would work in the games I’ve been running. I’ve really been playing hard on the supernatural dread – devils of all kinds are absolutely spine-chilling (using the rules from the book – resist or freeze/flee). Even the Whispers at my table have to resist that fear response until they take Iron Will.

Iron Will being an available advance is what led me to this interpretation, in fact. It says to me that without it, you have to resist fear or take the consequences. We’ve had some fantastic moments where a player has to decide whether standing up to the supernatural threat and being a badass is worth the potential trauma, and either answer makes for a great story. I like the idea that even though a Cutter’s fists can tear through a ghost, the character still has to overcome that base, reptile-brain fear before moving toward it.

I have a couple of players getting close to taking some Ghost abilities, and this is something I’d consider allowing after a couple of encounters with supernatural elements and a growing familiarity with their new abilities. (Or some flashbacks/downtime actions to show their practicing/exposing themselves to these dangers). This would be great for games where the players want the characters to be a little more chill in the face of these dangers.

From the games I’ve been running, though, and scariness of the supernatural we’ve been building in our tales, I also see the fun in requiring Iron Will as an advance before any character can easily face a devil. It really reinforces the power of the unknown and the work (experience) it takes to make yourself strong enough to face it.


From the games I’ve been running, though, and scariness of the supernatural we’ve been building in our tales, I also see the fun in requiring Iron Will as an advance before any character can easily face a devil. It really reinforces the power of the unknown and the work (experience) it takes to make yourself strong enough to face it.

I tend to agree with you, and for my upcoming Cult game, I am going to lean in hard on the dread at first.

That said, Iron Will has two components, not one. As well as the immunity to supernatural fear (and no one said this wasn’t foolhardy), the character also gets a bonus to their Resolve resistance rolls.

I’m okay with having characters - not necessarily become habituated to the dread - but maybe become used to a regular kind of manifestation. The Whisper who continues to call on spirits, the weekly invitations to tea at the Dimmer Sisters’ house. I’d describe how they feel on edge, how they feel constantly sick with fear and everything is telling them to run or freeze and I’d probably reduce the effect of any roll that wasn’t getting away from the situation, but I wouldn’t make them resist or run if they’ve put themselves in that situation often enough.

This became a bit of a ramble, sorry.


Sure, that’s legit. This game is built around creating your own interpretation of the fictional realities present in the game world.

None of my players have yet said, “I want to investigate a ritual that makes us impervious to supernatural fear,” or “I want to do a long term project to expose myself to ghosts until I’m able to act without terror around them.” I’d be into those ideas (or others) if they popped up – and if the characters keep messing with spooky stuff there might come a point where we decide they’re not as affected by the fear just because they’re used to it (maybe it reduces their position or effect, though?). Iron Will is one mechanical option in a game that encourages you to question and overwrite mechanical constraints regularly. But it does offer some strong direction for how the game assumes supernatural fear to function (especially for early play), which I have enjoyed.


I have a related question about whether to always use attune, or if a different action should be considered.

For example, if a whisper is trying to channel electroplasmic energy into a generator to overload it and cause an explosion, is that Attune (rather than Wreck)? If they’re trying to channel that energy into a person to harm them, is that Attune (rather than Skirmish)?

I’m trying to figure out if any time an action involves “weird” stuff it’s automatically Attune, or if the intention of the action should be playing a part in the decision.

How do you all handle that?

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The action you roll is the action your character is doing on-screen.

So, if you’re channeling electoplasmic energy, you’re Attuning.

By stating their action, the player is saying what their character is doing right now. If someone is wrestling you into a set of manacles, and you’re like “I Attune to channel energy to harm them!” that’s fine, but that means you’re - not - Skirmishing with them, so (if they’re skilled) they get you into the manacles, done deal – Attuning happens independently (maybe you zap them unconscious right after they click the cuffs on). Or, if they’re not so skilled, maybe your Attune roll becomes desperate, but has a chance to interrupt them.

See the long-form Action examples in the book. A player can declare that their character takes any Action, then the GM replies with how the Position and Effect looks in that situation. Don’t try to pick the “right” Action to fit an outcome. You can Wreck something to win someone’s love or Consort with them… the difference is in Position and Effect.

Tthe Action is “what you’re doing right now” and Position / Effect reflects how that activity sits in the ongoing situation, given the characters involved.

I’ve seen a few Blades groups get really bogged down trying to form consensus on every roll about “which Action this falls under.” Don’t do that. When a player picks an action, they say what their character is actually doing on-screen, and the GM responds with Position / Effect. The player can revise their action and try something else if they want, or ask why the Position / Effect is what it is (these are often useful conversations).

But don’t waste time determining the one right action (the way you might with skills in another game). That’s not how Blades works.