Who needs harm anyways? No One Gets Hurt

This is just an option I want to share with the community at large. Do with it as you wish. Feel free to comment on how you feel this changed your game. Note: This is a direct riff off the work of Brenden Conway and the conditions system presented in the Masks tabletop RPG (young superheroes PbtA).

And here is the text from this entry for those wanting to copy pasta…

Use this option to get rid of the harm system completely. Instead, PCs can suffer conditions (like angry, afraid, etc.) which may take them out of the action.

When a PC would suffer harm as a consequence, they instead suffer a powerful blow. Use the available harm boxes on the playbook sheets to track marked conditions (the level is no longer important, only the quantity).

When a PC suffers a powerful blow, the GM will make a condition roll to see how bad it is for them using a pool of dice equal to the number of conditions marked on the character’s playbook sheet.

Condition Roll
Roll 1d for each marked condition.

  • On a 1-3, they narrate how they stood their ground and shrugged it off.
  • On a 4/5, they choose one and the GM narrates the source: suffer a serious complication or mark a condition.
  • On a 6, they choose one and the GM narrates the source: they freeze up / flee or they suffer both of the options above.
  • On a Critical, the GM narrates how they are incapacitated.

There are five conditions available to the GM: angry, afraid, guilty, hopeless, and insecure. When a given condition is marked, your effect is reduced when you act to defy it. When you take a desperate action in accordance with a marked condition, you clear the condition. You can also clear a condition of choice when a PC acts to comfort or support you (desperate action roll), when someone marks 1 additional stress to assist you (2, instead of 1), or when you protect someone.

A condition is a consequence and may be resisted as usual. While there are five possible conditions, only four can be marked at a given time. When you mark a condition and can mark no more, you have no recourse and cannot roll to resist the outcome of a condition roll until you clear a condition.

EDIT: Worth noting: serious complications can be terrible, or not so bad - but they can feel a lot like harm too! For example: Mind controlled, can’t be comforted right now, or start a 6-clock to “Break the curse.” Or if you wanted to be particularly brutal, you could go with something like You are blinded temporarily or even get catastrophic with You lost an eye or Your friend gets slumped


Won’t this remove the need for medicine?

  • R (discord server)

To the contrary, note that someone can “act to comfort or support you,” it’s just desperate!

GMs: Given their conditions and the situation, how is the comfort or support “desperate”? Could the medicine be wasted, or only support them this one time? Is this more of a fleeting moment, or is something important on the line? Ask the players “Is there is a chance they might turn on their comforter, given their anger?” etc

The idea is to have a few options that encourage acting it out, indulging vice (which already feels a lot like an action), and teamwork - because that’s how you get rid of conditions.

There is absolutely no difference between a Level 1 controlled harm, and a Level 3 desperate harm.

  • J (discord server)

It’s possible a GM may inflict what would have been level 3 harm (a single condition), or they could split it into multiple instances of level 1 harm (multiple conditions) to fit the tone of their story better. Besides, as a consequence, the GM can also inflict conditions as a matter of course (it’s one of their GM actions to Follow Through and yet another to Tell Them the Consequences and Ask). And it’s up to each GM when badness happens, and how much, as usual.

The consequences are always “serious” regardless of position.
The adjective “serious” is hard-coded in
The GM can’t inflict conditions as written. They can only call for condition rolls. Which are based on the player’s existing conditions, and always say “the player chooses whether to take a condition, or something else”

They could just inflict minor complication. That wouldn’t be a condition roll at all. And the other consequences are unaffected; inflicting conditions is just one potential badness [like harm].

Ultimately, it doesn’t work with the existing consequences because A: It does not scale with Position B: Having the consequence makes the same consequence worse C: There’s a chance that the whole thing is pointless. And it’s a high chance too. Other Consequences don’t have rolls. At all. They just Are Consequences. And they Always Have An Effect. Having the consequence makes the same consequence worse

A: it does [scale] because position and effect are still a thing, and harm/inflicting Take a powerful blow is still optional. The narrative [or game mechanical] severity of serious complication can vary wildly from situation to situation. B: having the consequence (complication?) doesn’t necessarily make the same consequence worse. The player character can shrug it off if they have the resources (it is a benefit unto itself to not have conditions marked). C : not seeing what’s pointless about any of the possible outcomes. Each bad outcome is followed by a narration based on the result. The 1-3 result on a condition roll triggers a narration of how it was shrugged off or they stood their ground. This is what happens in superhero and magical fiction: they narrowly escaped what would otherwise have been complications (or in the case of flee / freeze, a narrative intrusion).

I agree that this changes how the specific consequence are handled, and would stave off injury in favor of emotional turmoil. And I agree that this has the GM rolling to figure out how bad it is, but it’s not necessarily a high chance [the PC] avoids issues. And the negative narrative effect definitely still matters when you act to defy the marked conditions on your sheet.

Keep the questions coming!


What is the issue with the current harm mechanic?

Removing the current harm mechanics and replacing it with one similar to Tales from the Loop (because I have played this one and not the one referred in the first post) is watering down the tone of the game and removes the spirit of playing scoundrel in the world of Blades in the Dark.

It is suitable for games where you play children, young adults or when you play with children, but here looks out of place to me. If this is way to bring “safety things” into Blades, I think the approach is wrong and this is not the game you look after.

While I’m actually enjoying BitD harm system in my ongoing game, I have seen Forged in the Dark games where the main characters are indeed kids. This of course meant they had to “revamp” some aspects in the game. The Factions was one, the Vices system was another and I think it’s likely a few people had to tweak the harm system as well (even if just renaming things) to better fit the hack they were creating.

Also, this information could be of useful, not only for someone trying to hack BitD, but also for other game designers.
In my country, each year we have RPGenesis (which a challenge that happens each August, to try and create a fully playable TTRPG of at least 5.000 in only a week) and, if there’s anything I learned from that, is that knowing a bunch of rules from a bunch of different systems (even if you never played such systems) can come in handy in a variety of situations.
I could certainly use this knowledge for my own game design, so I’m glad this was shared.


if this is a way to bring “safety things”

To the contrary valyar, this is not meant to bring any safety. First of all, the title I chose for this rules option is not completely honest on purpose. It’s allusion to the thing that often gets said as a robbery begins… But then the criminal proceeds to scare the crap out of everyone else involved. Technically no one got hurt, but that’s not the whole story though…

This is not about safe spaces or any of that. It’s about precisely what I said above: encouraging acting, and the use of teamwork ( protection, assistance, and acting to comfort or support each other).

Removing the current harm mechanics

There’s a distinction to be made here: this doesn’t remove “harm” from the fiction for the mechanics, it’s just another complication that the GM can use. It removes the extra special mechanic associated with harm, allowing the other mechanics like position/effect and LTPs to handle any penalties and recovery.

Sure, while my advice here in this thread could be seen to set aside lasting harm as a serious or catastrophic thing, that’s isn’t the rule change I’m advocating. See: suffering pain and getting maimed is - and always has been - available as a complication whenever the player was running low on options and the fiction was right. Perhaps because there is a mechanic called out for the particular complication harm, the gamer in you may not wish to see it go. So be it! Bypass away.

Removes the spirit of playing a scoundrel in Blades In The Dark

Well, to that I’ll be quick to point out that a player may feel forced to choose complication just because they don’t want to have their character be emotionally affected in the current scene. A player may feel forced to choose a condition because they can’t bear to think of the complication. This is heightening the narrative control power of the player in a small way, to let the fiction take care of the rest.

I think the approach is wrong and this is not the game you are after

Sounds like this is not the option for you. And that’s hilarious: if you had met any of my players you would know that’s foolish talk. Anyways, I’m not trying to change Blades itself here, just sharing what I’ve found.

Excellent! Hope this serves you well, either as inspiration or a GMing tool.

First, this system looks cool to me. It works in Masks, and I can see it working in FitD games, too.

Second, the use of safety tools is important in all tabletop RPG play, including Blades in the Dark. I encourage everyone to discuss safety tools with their game groups.

Belittling safety tools or people who use them is not welcome here.


My post was not belittling to the safety tools or the people who use them. After re-reading my post I can see how it can be interpreted this way, apologies for that. My position on the topic is that a conversation on the tone, content and limits of the game should be done before playing and the table should facilitate a way to allow players to raise a flag, if something is too much even after the limits are set, as people might get carried away.

If you want I can edit it the post so no misunderstanding occurs, but then some future reader might wonder why this remark from your side and what I said to trigger it. :slight_smile:

Since having options and house rules to consider is good thing, even if one does not plan to use them directly but draw inspiration from, I would like to ask how you handle the moment with after the score recovery.

One of the interesting moments with the harm is that it can last over the next score if you have no resources or luck with the healing clock for one reason or another. This brings situations where players get creative with the ways to handle a score with hurt scoundrels.

Do you remove conditions completely between scores (which puts more weight on this system during score) or a checks are done in the downtime by PC/NPC to remediate the condition?

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Thanks for clarifying, Valyar.

Indeed, glad you cleared that up.

And good question, I don’t always remove conditions at the end of a score. I remove any that make sense to begone as needed. There are ways to remove them that don’t require desperate action. A bit of costly teamwork to remove it will do the trick during a score. Or protecting someone. That’s probably the easiest way.

The GM should make it however simple or complex they think it should be to match the fiction of the condition and desired tone of the game. Maybe they always go away after the score in your game (this will play out with near misses that cause bad emotions but nothing lingering). Maybe they don’t because there is some complication in play that prevents this (“can’t clear angry until you tell Baszo to F off”). There may be multiple ways to deal with the condition which aren’t named above, they just aren’t guaranteed like the ones listed.

Because they could take any of the named maneuvers or actions, successful or not, and the condition will be gone… it’s fine to clear them after a score.

Ps… aha! I can see how this is confusing since what I posted does not include the normal rules for actions so I should call This out- ANY action might do a thing, as usual. Not just desperate ones. The named ones are the only ones that definitely do, that’s all. The rules for actions are not being removed. Just the rules for harm.

Also your other question about when and how long to clear them seems to be pointing to injuries once again - which would be a complication. A complication can required whatever the GM says it requires to deal with it: end of score, action roll (which ones have some effect? Ask them!), Or maybe it takes a LTP (there’s your healing clock and lasting harm)

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I’m still learning the core rules myself, but I from what I’ve seen it is generally that “high rolls” are good-

So I’d suggest using instead of 1d per condition, use 1d per unused condition box and invert the results. Then your die pool shrinks as you gain conditions, and rolling high is still good. It also lets the player roll instead of the GM, which is one feature I really like about Blades in the Dark.

I appreciate what you are saying and considered inverting it, however this led to a situation it became confusing. Besides, “inversion” would be yet another mechanic and would not serve players well for an optional drop-in like this.

So this is a fortune roll, rather than an action roll. The GM is rolling for the badness, not the PCs. So higher is worse. See p 35 for some examples of rolls where this is already the case.

In response to the feedback on this thread, I incorporated some additional advice and a rule about how many to clear at the end of the mission. But the biggest change is rolling +1d for each powerful blow suffered beyond the first this time. This implies you can suffer multiple (also in the new game this came from, conditions are built right into the consequences system so you may suffer one powerful blow on controlled, two on risky, and three on desperate).

Aw: editing old posts is not allowed, so these changes cannot be incorporated into the OP above
PS: “Omens” roll refers to the Entanglements roll

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