Prepping the Toolkit for Blades

In re-reading this Alexandrian article, I was struck by the idea of the “toolkit.” In the context of the article, they are designed as the tools that the villain uses to thwart the goals of the party. These are the sources of conflict, and, by my estimation, roughly analogous to the sort of go-to obstacles a villain (and therefore a GM) can throw at the players. The article divides the tools into toolkits into categories of personnel, equipment, physical locations, and information.

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Mutants in the Night – Other Worlds

I’m not a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction. Or the apocalypse either, for that matter. In my mind, it’s usually portrayed as wish-fulfillment of the worst sort. Everything has gone to hell, things are awful, but hey, you made it through unscathed. And look at all the zombies, raiders, or insert-other-here, just begging for a violent comeuppance. There are the occasional vague gestures towards to how “terrible” things are, and how bad you should feel for enjoying this consequence-free land of violence and pain, but it always rings a bit hollow to me. At least Day of the Dead was honest about it.

For it’s part, Mutants in the Night harkens back to the sentiment and message of Night of the Living Dead more than Mad Max. Your protagonist might be trapped by zombies, but at the end of the day, it’s racist cops that eventually put you in the ground.

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Re-roll Math in Blades in the Dark

As I continue to play-test my Blades in the Dark hack, I’ve done more and more fiddling with some of the “side” mechanics that are a bit off to the side of the core game-play loop. And, once again, I find myself looking at re-rolls.

My original intent in investigating this was to replace the “Devil’s Bargain” mechanic in Blades. In Blades, anyone at the table can suggest a twist or complication the active player can agree to in order to gain +1 die to the roll. It is a good, thematic mechanic for Blades, because it is inherently risky. A +1 can really help you out, especially if your dice pool is low, but it could also just as easily provide no benefit, as you could easily have rolled the result you needed without the extra die, or the extra die could not give you the result you want. It’s less a bargain, more a gamble, with fits with the roguish, things get you into trouble theming of Blades.

For my game, I want a mechanic where friendship, relationships, etc pull you out of trouble, where your friends are team-mates, there to help you when you need them. I think this is where re-rolls excel, because they are most effective as a ‘saving throw’ then an added gamble. The Devil’s Bargain asks you what your willing to risk to get a better shot at winning big, while Intimacy, like the FATE mechanics it’s roughly based on, asks you what you’re willing to spend or sacrifice to avoid failure.

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Planning a Score for “Blades in the Dark”

Disclaimer: In this article, I’ll be presenting some advice on how I think more planning-focused GMs can plan out a score in John Harper’s Blades in the Dark. Please note that I don’t think that this is the ONLY way someone could plan a score, or that planning is even necessary for more improvisational GMs.

Still with me? Cool. In Blades in the Dark, the structure of the book and it’s advice indicates that improvisation with the foundation of an expansive, detailed world is the go-to default for running the adventures that make up the game’s session-to-session experience, termed by Blades as “scores.” However, not all GM’s (myself included) do particularly well with on-the-spot improvisation, and while improvisation-from-source-material is one of the best ways to do improvised adventures, it isn’t strictly speaking the best or only way to run adventures for every GM.

Therefore, in this article, I’ll be presenting a methodology I’ve used to pre-plan scores that mimic the “sample” score provided in Blades in the Dark in style, so that they can be run from a written plan by less improvisational GMs.

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