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[Closed Recruitment] Blades in the Dark Game

Nick the Nevermet

Concept Monger
Validated User

This is a setup thread for a Blades in the Dark PbP game that will be co-GM’d by myself and Tim.

While Tim & I both own the book, I realize others do not. Here is a link to the players kit online; that should be enough to get you started on things. The first few posts here will be written by me to help orient the game.

First off, the first several paragraphs from the book do a good job of explaining what sort of game Blades in the Dark is, so I’ll just quote them here:

Blades in the Dark said:

Blades in the Dark is a game about a group of daring scoundrels building a criminal enterprise on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city. There are heists, chases, escapes, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, deceptions, betrayals, victories, and deaths.

We play to find out if the fledgling crew can thrive amidst the teeming threats of rival gangs, powerful noble families, vengeful ghosts, the Bluecoats of the City Watch, and the siren song of the scoundrel’s own vices.


The game takes place in the cold, foggy city of Doskvol (aka Duskwall or “the Dusk”). It's industrial in its development. Imagine a world like ours during the second industrial revolution of the 1870s—there are trains, steam-boats, printing presses, simple electrical technology, carriages, and the black smog of chimney smoke everywhere. Doskvol is something like a mashup of Venice, London, and Prague. It's crowded with row-houses, twisting streets, and criss-crossed with hundreds of little waterways and bridges.

The city is also a fantasy. The world is in perpetual darkness and haunted by ghosts—a result of the cataclysm that shattered the sun and broke the Gates of Death a thousand years ago. The cities of the empire are each encircled by crackling lightning towers to keep out the vengeful spirits and twisted horrors of the deathlands. To power these massive barriers, titanic metal ships of the leviathan hunters are sent out from Doskvol to extract electroplasmic blood from massive demonic terrors upon the ink-dark Void Sea. You're in a haunted Victorian-era city trapped inside a wall of lightning powered by demon blood.

The point of all this is to create a pressure-cooker environment for our criminal escapades. Traveling outside the lightning barrier is a very bad idea, so it's impractical to “leave town and wait for the heat to die down” after you pull off a score. Everything the players choose to do has consequences for their characters and shifts the balance of power around in the city—driving the action for a sandbox style of roleplaying game…
There is a lot of setting info, and I don’t want to overload people. I will, however, happily answer any questions people want to know. A few details, though, that are worth adding to this short intro:
  • This is a cosmologically broken world. When people die, their spirits do not float off to the afterlife; that option is closed. Instead, they hang around and likely are driven made by the need to feed off the living. Religion and science have ways of eradicating ghosts, and turning them into electricity to power the city.
  • This is the opposite of Blue Rose: no one in power is heroic or good.
  • While the game premise involves PCs as criminal scoundrels, it is NOT organized around PCs screwing each other over. Without getting into any debates over whether the show is good, think Firefly: this is a game about a group of scoundrels who protect their own and are against the world. Exactly where they fall on the villain to antihero spectrum is up to the players.
  • Again: Doskvol is a post-apocalyptic steampunk industrial city with massive economic inequality. However, it is relatively safe from supernatural horrors because of the electro-barriers, and it is a famous city because it is a primary place massive ships dock that hunt the demonic leviathans who power this industrial age world. Its an industrial world that literally runs off demon blood.
  • For lack of a better quick term, this world is relatively queer. The setting as written does not assume everyone fits into clean cisgendered, heteronormative boxes.
This is the general shape of the world. For specific questions beyond this, feel free to ask.

Next up: the basic mechanic, and the basic ideas in chargen.

The Tim

Validated User
Checking in, I’m the Tim mentioned in the post. I was thinking for my PC a religiously motivated Hunter, but I’m happy to make anything to meet gang needs.

Nick the Nevermet

Concept Monger
Validated User

PCs in Blades in the Dark start with 1 of 7 different "playbooks," or classes. Each class starts with slight different ability scores, access to different special abilities, and different ways of getting XP. You can find a longer writeup on each playbook in the player's kit link in my 1st post:
  • Cutters are intimidating fighters.
  • Hounds are deadly sharpshooters and trackers.
  • Leeches are tinkerers, alchemists, and saboteurs.
  • Lurks are stealthy infiltrators.
  • Slides are manipulators and spies.
  • Spiders are devious masterminds.
  • Whispers are arcane adepts.
Additionally, crews also have playbooks. At the beginning of play, the PC gang starts as one of the following, which gives players different abilities, resources, etc. :
  • Assassins are killers for hire.
  • A Cult serves a Forgotten God.
  • Bravos are thugs and extortionists.
  • Hawkers sell illegal products.
  • Smugglers transport contraband.
  • Shadows are thieves and spies.

Gameplay in Blades in the Dark is somewhat scripted in that it is broken into a 3-step cycle:
  1. Free Play. Characters talk to each other, they go places, they do things, they make rolls as needed. They deal with political issues with other factions, and they choose a target for the next score. Scores could be purely about making money, putting the hurt on somebody as revenge, or growing the turf of their gang.
  2. Score Phase. There are lots of types of scores, and the score begins with an "engagement roll" to see how well the plan starts to work when they start the job. I'll get into it later, but Blades in the Dark has mechanics to minimize how much PLAYERS need to think through the details of a job. Thats the job of the PCs to handle, off camera.
  3. Downtime. After the score (be it successful or not), we determine fallout from the job, and people have the ability to heal and improve themselves. And then we're back to free play to set up the next job. The current plan is that Tim & I would switch off who is GM and who is playing after each downtime.

So, given all this, we now get to the question: What sorts of characters and crews do people want to play? I would encourage you all to think up multiple characters, so we can mix and match on different jobs.

Also, the playbooks are very flexible, so think of a concept and worry about the rules second. Inevitably, many concepts could be built as more than one playbook, so at that point it's a question of what sort of actions do you want them to excel at.

Nick the Nevermet

Concept Monger
Validated User
I don't really have ideas for a character yet, but as a player, here are some ideas for crews. I'm completely brainstorming here, and I have no attachment to any of them:
  • PCs run a concert / dance hall. Illegal activity flows from that.
    • Probably Hawkers or Smugglers
  • PCs are a completely new gang created to steal enough cash to keep their favourite neighbourhood bar open.
    • Probably Bravos.
  • The PCs are a cult, following a forgotten god. Maybe they are devout worshippers, or maybe its a supernatural being that has offered them help in exchange for... things. You know, like a fae contract. And we all know that all faerie are Seelie.
    • This is a cult
  • The PCs are kidnappers & assassins, making money by taking revenge on the richest families in the cities.
    • Assassins
  • The PCs are straight up Ocean's 11 style heist-meisters.
    • Shadows, maybe Bravos.
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The Tim

Validated User
Thinking of crews, I'm always pro-Cult, but would like to try Hawkers or Assassins. Mostly I've played in Shadows and Smugglers games.

Nick the Nevermet

Concept Monger
Validated User
Thinking of crews, I'm always pro-Cult, but would like to try Hawkers or Assassins. Mostly I've played in Shadows and Smugglers games.
I'd be happy to help run any of those games. I can see how a cult or hawkers would work, but I'd be curious how others would think about assassins, since I don't see it as clearly.

Also, I guess since Tim's mentioned cults, I should explain religion in this world a bit.

As already mentioned, the physical and spiritual worlds in this setting have been disunited for about a millennia. Some small cults remain of the old religions, and these are called the Forgotten Gods. The Forgotten Gods are a diverse and weird lot, though most are madness inducing in some way or another. Even if they were a totally chill deity 1,100 years ago, the last thousand years has made the gods go a bit lovecraftian. Also, there's a few deities in there that probably have always been a mass of tentacles.

To replace these fallen gods, the Immortal Emperor helped to establish The Church of Ecstasy and the Flesh, which is basically the state religion of Doskvol. In short, it is a materialistic world view that views the Spirit World as the enemy (in its defence, there is a LOT of evidence around to support that conclusion). Humanity, tragically, carries our own downfall within us: The spirits within us that will become hungry ghosts if we die without the correct rituals that destroy our ghosts or turn them into power.

Not everyone thinks the Spirit World is necessarily evil, though. The Path of Echoes is a cult that is actively trying to commune with the spiritual world... and is skirting what is legal in the process. Additionally, there are rumours that a secret society of sane, non-feral ghosts exists called The Reconciled. But they're a myth...

Finally, there are demons. Demons are (usually) humanoid, (probably) immortal, and superhuman in many ways. They embody various elemental things (sea, earth, fire, air, stars, etc), and they all have a desire they are obsessed with. You can contract with a demon to get powers in exchange for helping it acquire its desire in some ways. ...This is definitely a path to power, but it is rarely a smart one.

Nick the Nevermet

Concept Monger
Validated User
Also, the general ethnicities of the setting:

A land of dark, petrified forests and rocky hills. The rich coastal cities get their wealth from leviathan hunting and from mining colonies deep inland. The Akorosi are sometimes called “Imperials” since the Imperium began there. They are generally fair-skinned and dark haired. [They are the dominant group in Doskvol, and the rest of the continent]

A land of windswept plains, covered in dark scrub and thorny growths. Outside the Imperial cities on the coast, some native Serverosi still live in free tribes, scavenging the death-lands on their ghost-hunting horses. They are generally brown-skinned and dark haired.

A land of black deserts obsidian mountains, and raging volcanoes. Some say that positions of power are openly held by demons in Iruvia. The people are generally
amber-skinned and dark haired.

A tropical archipelago covered in dense jungle growth; now turned dark and twisted from the strange magic of the cataclysm. Some say that the people there live without lightning barriers. How do they manage that? Native islanders are generally copper-skinned and dark haired.

A ragged land of cold mountains and rough tundra. Skovlan was the last holdout against Imperial control. They are generally pale-skinned and fair haired or red haired. [Skovlanders are often discriminated against in Doskvol, despite the fact the city was originally founded by them ages ago.]

A far off land, disconnected from the Empire. People say the Tycherosi (rudely called “Strangers”) have demon blood in their lineage. [They are the smallest group by population in Doskvol].


Bleak Academic
Validated User
I vote Cult! And also express interest! No one ever wants to do Cults.

I do have the game already.

EDIT: Oops, sorry I dind't see that the recruitment was already Closed. My bad.
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