S: He likes to create stuff, he likes to test out like different
chemicals and things.
S: He comes in handy when you break the stock of your gun on someone’s
K: Go boom
S: Haha, or if you want something to explode. He’s very handy in those
[Theme music fades in]
S:Very good at putting things together and pulling them apart.[Theme music is a darker melody lead by a lute and supported by
lower stings instruments. The tune is reminiscent of danger and
adventure in equal measure]
K: Welcome to D-Pad Diaries a new game and story each week hosted
by yours truly. This week’s episode: Blades in the Dark.
Hello and welcome to another episode of D-Pad Diaries. Thank you so much
for joining us and being patient and sticking in there for the more than
half a year that this podcast has been out due to COVID and other
personal reasons, I decided to take a break from the podcast but now
that I’m back up and running. Got some rhythm in my life, we’re going to
get things going.
So this episode is on a game called Blades in the Dark and I have a
wonderful guest who is a friend of mine named Savannah. Savannah plays
in a session with me where I GM a game called Blades in the Dark. Blades
in the Dark is a tabletop roleplaying game which can be shortened to
TTRPG. We’ll be describing what Blades in the Dark is more thoroughly in
the remainder of this episode, but for now all you have to know is that
Blades in the Dark is a tabletop RPG.
Also in the episode we compared Blades in the Dark to another tabletop
roleplaying game called Dungeons and Dragons. This is a very popular and
very widely known tabletop RPG, and we kind of use it as a baseline to
compare different systems and different ideas in Blades in the Dark so
that way if you are familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, or know of
Dungeons and Dragons, then you’ll kind of have an understanding of we’re
talking. Now Dungeons and Dragons can also be called, on the shorthand,
D&D for all of the uninitiated out there.
Another tabletop roleplaying that we compared Blades [in the Dark] to is
Vampire: The Masquerade, tabletop roleplaying that instead of high
fantasy setting that Dungeons and Dragons usually goes off of,
Vampire:The Masquerade is set in a modern, dark, supernatural universe
where the player characters take the roles of vampires in a game of
social subterfuge and cloak and dagger trying to usually escalate or
rise up the ranks of vampire society in whatever setting that takes
With those notes out of the way, we can now dive into this newest
episode, so far, of D-Pad Diaries. Thank you all again for hanging in
there, sticking with me and I hope that you enjoy the episode.
03:22 K: So the entire game of Blades in the Dark centers around you as
a scoundrel you know in this world along with a group of other
scoundrels performing things called scores which are essentially
criminal activities or clandestine activities ranging from robberies to
assassinations to occult rituals, you know different stuff like that
K: And then you can do scoundrels, you can do scores, and there’s
essentially fighting the other factions in the game to try to be on top
S: Yeah it’s got a very Peaky Blinders feel to it. Which I believe is
one of the inspirations for the..
K: That’s actually one of the cultural touchstones it has.
S: Yeah, so if you’re familiar with the show Peaky Blinders, thinking
just of the Shelby Clan and what they go through to a certain extent,
but how they’re structured it’s kind of like, you know it’s a gang. It’s
a Birmingham street gang in a way and you play one of the gangsters in a
group of other ne’er do wells. You’re trying to maintain your lifestyle
and climb up the underbelly of the city that you’re in. You know you
want to be on top and you don’t want to have to follow anybody’s rule
except your own.
K: Yeah exactly. You’re not necessarily playing the bad guy. Right?
S: Yeah yeah. I guess the bad guy is another thing that I like about
this system is that the “bad guy” is society I guess. It’s the circumstances that you find
yourself opposed to. The morality aspect is a lot more of a grey area.
S: Yeah, much more interpretative. There’s no such thing as the
alignment chart like you see in D&D. You don’t have your chaotic good,
lawful good. If your lawful good your character is not gonna succeed in
K: Even the authorities..
S: Oh yeah, they’re the [laughs]
K: The book literally describes the police of this world, who are called
the Blue Coats, as the biggest gang in all of Duskwall right.
K: And it’s like, it’s very… the game system does not ascribe any
moral high ground to any single…
S: Yes, no one is spared the chaos or the compromising that these
circumstances can hold over a person.
K: But that’s definitely not to say that there isn’t morality in this
game right. It’s just more of like…
S: Right, very subjective [laugh].
K: It’s more reflective of the real world right?
S: Hmm, hmm.
K: You know you find yourself in situations where you need to do A to
get to B because you need to survive at the end of the day right?
K: I mean not that like you and I are fighting for…
S: [quick laugh] Not right now.
K: Yeah, but this game is more like you have maybe hyperboles maybe
exaggerates as all storytelling does. You know you have these choices,
decisions you need to make and then you kind of reflect on was this a
good decision or a bad decision, and you know most of the time you don’t
S [laugh] Most of the time there is no such thing.
K: You know most of time it’s just the decision that you made in that
time. You know that’s the cool thing about Blades in the Dark. Also if
you’re like interested in social commentary, the game is great for
having a system like that.
S: Oh yeah yeah, it’s great if you want to explore social commentary
within the scope of a tabletop game. But you don’t have to get into it
if you don’t want to.
K: No, it’s like. I mean it’s a dark gritty world right? Every group
gonna have it’s their own sorta of like flavor of it right?
S: Yeah exactly.
K: You know some people want to have like, funny enough people wanna
be…essentially the game steps on you and it’s fun. You know [laugh]?
S: Hmm yeah [laugh]
K: I mean I shouldn’t say that steps on you, but it’s hard it’s
S: Yeah Yeah.
K: I would argue that it’s not pure escapism right?
S: There’s no argument there. I wouldn’t argue with you. I would say
that’s correct. Haha.
K: I mean you’re an underdog and you’re always going to be a underdog in
the game unless you fight tooth and nail.
K: Whereas in D&D you’re an underdog for a bit, and then you..
S: Then you level up and it’s fine haha.
K:And then you can almost become a god in D&D. In Blades in the Dark,
it’s like “sure maybe you can become a god, but there’s going to be a
S: “but you’re a lot more likely to get possessed by a demon and
K: “and then die”
[Both Savannah and Kyle laugh]
Stress and Trauma
K: So we talked about, well I’ve been kind of outlining what’s
interesting in the game- you have scores with your crew right?
K: And your crew if your gang or whatever and the score is whatever
mission or job that you’re doing. And then you have the factions that
you’re fighting and stuff. One of the things that I find most
interesting about the game is the stress and trauma.
S: Right, which sound like things that you don’t want inside of roleplay
game, but it’s just a game mechanic.
K: So what’s it do, how have you experienced it?
S: Usually within games systems there are things built in to prevent
players from essentially god modding, [players] getting overpowered or
stacking things disproportionately in their favor, a lot of realism.
K: Just like your character becoming so powerful just through playing
the game that it becomes boring.
S: Right right. And it’s also… the stress and trauma are kind of a way
to keep the pacing of the game. Cause a lot of the game mechanics that
you see in roleplaying games are more so to keep you burning through
plot or burning through like the storyline or the setting’s super fast.
So stress and trauma are built into this game. When you do on score
whether you’re robbing a bank or taking out a hit or ferrying cargo or
smuggling goods, you’re going to encounter obstacles. Sometimes you’re
going to roll really bad.
S: So the stress mechanic allows you to take stress points, which you
have a limited number of, kind of compensate for those dice failures or
maybe your character’s attributes which are not as high in certain
S: So for example my character is not, in anyway, like charisma based.
He has no point in any of the charisma stats. So when, in the course
of any of our scores he has to talk to somebody or has to weasel his way
out verbally, instead of just like blowing up the place, I usually have
to take stress points so I can add extra dice to my roll to give me more
of a chance of success.
S: Then if you rack up too many stress points you gain a trauma. And
that’s just affects how your character interacts with other NPCS or
nonplayer characters or character in your group or the environment.
K: Say you’ve gotten one trauma. At that point you would’ve to have pick
up a new conditions…so say you get one trauma, you’d have to pick
cold. You yourself become cold.
S: Not physically, emotionally.
K: Emotionally yeah.
S: You’re freezing all the time!
K: Or you become haunted, obsessed, paranoid, reckless, soft. In this
game that’s bad because you lose your edge and you’re not able to…
S: You’re not taken seriously, you don’t have the same reputation.
K: Yeah. Unstable or vicious. So it’s like these different ways your
characters can become emotionally damaged from doing this traumatic
S: Yeah yeah.
K: So it’s like, in other tabletop roleplaying the game mechanics will
have like a name to them and kind of have something to do with it, but
kinda of not. So like in Dungeons and Dragons you can get an inspiration
dice sometimes if you do something.
S: Right, if you have a bard.
K: But you don’t necessarily have to do something inspiring to to get an
inspiration die which is essentially… it’s a bonus die for you to up
your rolls right?
S: Right right, or like in, hope this is a good example, Vampire: The
Masquerade you can get a bestial failure right, and it’s not necessarily
that you failed so bad that it’s considered bestial. It’s that you
failed specifically on your hunger dice, so the consequences are going
to be related to what Vampire: The Masquerade what their whole hunger
and vampire mechanics.
K: So basically things are like oh that’s how this works. It’s literally
like this thing in tabletop roleplaying games. The dungeon master or the
game master or whatever is like actually it’s not that.
S: Actually this is how it is.
K: Why is it called that then?
S: Because Wizards of the Coast said so!
K: I can’t think of anything that comes to mind, but in Blades in the
Dark you have like… stress is literally stress and trauma is trauma is
literally for your character.
S: Right, so a good example of taking stress: one of the things that my
character can do according to his, I guess what you would refer to his
S: Is, it’s a sharpshooter feat essentially and you it says “you can
push yourself to do one of the following: make a ranged attack at
extreme distance or unleash a barrage of rapid fire to suppress the
enemy.” So when you push yourself you’re literally taking stress points
because it is a stressful situation that you’re in and that you’re
trying to resolve. Like I said, this game’s really initiative. It’s
kinda of literal in a lot of ways.
K: Honestly that’s of one of my favorite things. So like where, where it
says… can you read that description again?
S: Yeah: “You can push yourself to do one of the following: make a
ranged attack at extreme distance beyond what’s normal for the weapon or
unleash a barrage of rapid fire to suppress the enemy.”
K: So you’re what are the long range rules or what are the long range
rules and as the game master you’re like they’re right there!
S: Yeah yeah
K: Literally, it’s as it sounds. Which is great you know, wherein D&D
it’s like what’s the range spell attack.
S: You have to look up that specific weapon or that specific spell.
K: Yeah, and you’re like this does 1d8 damage.
S: You’re like actually it’s foggy outside so it’s like a 1d6 [laugh].
K: Yeah, and then you’re like having to consult charts and stuff to
figure out let’s see it’s x distance away with y damage and z character
K: And it like no, it’s… this game is very lean. Which is cool.
So you’re referring to the class?
K: In this game it’s called playbooks because I don’t know why I’m like
picky about terminology when it comes to Blades in the Dark so please
K: I think the distinction is, if nothing else, interesting to note at.
K: So in D&D or Dungeons and Dragons you have like your class which is
like. You pick your character with a specified, you know with a
predetermined abilities and stuff.
S: Like fighting style and how many hit points you have you get.
K: Yeah, so say you pick like a fighter class and it… fights.
K: You can have a sword or bow and arrow or what have you.
S: They stab stuff.
K: Yeah or you have a wizard and you can do all this stuff. But like it
can be, it’s pretty linear to how you advance or how you progress in the
K: Or how you develop your character. So you know you get levels in D&D,
levels one through twenty. Level one anything can step on you and you
can die. Level twenty you can step on anything and everything else will
S: Haha, yeah it’s a very specific… it can be a pretty specific
K: Yeah, just going by the book.
K: It’s pretty specific. In Blades in the Dark it’s more, it’s not
necessarily like a railroad system. It’s not just like super linear in
D&D, there are some options you can pick and stuff. But it’s fairly
straight forward. Blades in the Dark is also straight forward but in a
K: Here’s like, you don’t ever level up you get experience points and
stuff right? But it’s literally as it sounds it’s not like you know kill
a monster get five-hundred experience points.
K: In Blades in the Dark you get experience points for doing things that
actually would make you experienced at that right?
S: Yeah so, for example in Dungeons and Dragons when you pick a class
you know, you have your group of players get together and they all make
their characters. Everybody’s got a different class and usually that
dictates who in the party does what job based on where they have the
most number of points, the most advantages and that largely falls under
their class type. If you need to sway a large group of people or talk
your way out of something, you’re probably going to go with the bard in
your party. Or if you need a wall run through you’re probably going to
point to your barbarian. If you need to lockpick, these are very broad
generalizations, but you go to a rogue for lockpicking and stuff.
Whereas with the playbooks as they’re called in Blades in the Dark it’s
basically just a bit of reference material to say hey here’s how you
build your character, here’s where you have a few extra points to move
around. But you can do anything.
S: You have a couple of specific abilities that might give you an edge,
but overall everybody can kinda compensate for each other.
K: No exactly, it’s less of like in D&D you pick one class and you can’t
do other things.
S: Right, right right.
K: In this game it’s more of you can pick a playbook and you can do
those things. It’s going to be limited, you’re not as experienced, but
you can still do those things. Everyone can shoot a gun or something
K: And maybe use it well. In D&D, not everyone can shoot a gun.
S: Yeah and like I think my favorite example of kinda the exclusionary
properties is like if you pick a spellcasting versus like a more marshal
class. If you’re gonna pick a barbarian, you’re probably not gonna be
casting spells because it’s not built into your class right.
S: Versus, you can pick any playbook you want and you can talk to
ghosts. There’s a playbook that specifically makes it a little easier
for you talk to ghosts
S: But just because you don’t pick that one, doesn’t mean that you can’t
talk to ghosts.
K: Yeah. And that playbook specifically is called the Whisperer right?
And their whole sorta of stick is to like… their the mage or the
wizard, typical magic character.
S: Yeah yeah.
K: It’s very specific to this… it has it’s own little twist in this
S: Yeah it’s very specific to the world-building.
K: Which is cool. Everyone can still do sorta of magical stuff right?
Which is cool.
S: Hmmm. Yeah yeah yeah.
K: Talking about playbook, can you tell us about your playbook and your
S: Yeah, so picking a playbook was probably the hardest part of
character creation for me because there were… because I didn’t have a
whole lot of experience or any experience really with this play system
so I didn’t want to get pigeonholed into a specific character archetype.
K: And then you played the and you’re like oh.
S: And then I played the game and I was like I could have done anything.
K: Yeah [laughs]. You’re like pigeonholing doesn’t really…
S: Yeah, it doesn’t really exist. So I went with the Hound playbook. And
that is a deadly sharpshooter and tracker by definition. They get hired
to, like archetypal bounty hunter almost, they get tired…they get
hired not tired [laughs]. They get hired to find things, find people.
Eliminate people. This says why have a fair fight when you can stalk and
ambush your prey on your terms. The underworld is your hunting ground.
That appealed to me.
K: Like a ranger, a hunter.
S: Yeah yeah, kinda of deal with your problem from a distance which is
hilariously the kind of scores that we’ve done so far because I haven’t
been able to do any of that. Which is fun, it kind of pushes the, my
creative boundaries. But yeah, so I’ve got this sharpshooter character.
You want me to, you want me to give you run down on Teck?
K: Yeah sure give us a rundown on Teck.
S: Okay, my character’s name is Teck Prichard. He is known by the
underground as the Grim which is really edgy I know…but mostly because
that is an anonymous identity that he uses and he is kind of like a
disenfranchised member of a military that was conquered by the city that
you operate in.
K: The Empire.
S: The Empire, yeah. So his country was taken over by the Empire in a
war that recently within the setting had ended and rather than trying to
fight back against it, he said you know what if you can’t beat em join
em. And he switched sides and did contract work for their military for a
little while, which has not earned him a fantastic reputation among
K: Well maybe not like switch sides.
S: He decided not to have a side.
K: Disillusioned right?
S: Disillusioned is very good word for it.
K: I think your character’s ideal is the highest bidder [laughs].
S: Yes, he’s very much a mercenary cause… I don’t know, character
development for me really happens through play.
S: So it’s an ongoing process. But he’s kinda of an aloof guy. He’s not
super sociable. Like I said he’s got no charisma ability whatsoever.
K: He does have a dog though right?
S: He does have a dog! Which is probably the single linchpin in why I
picked this playbook because it was a tie between this and the Cutter
playbook which is the brawler type
S: So I read a little bit through them and this says yeah you get a
hunting pet. And I’m like I can have a dog? I can have a dog! My in real
life puppy, who is a lovely individual…
S: Lovely mess. I love her very much. There is a version of her, I just
piloted her over into the game. So, he’s got a dog. She’s a lot more
obedient than my dog is in real-life [laughs]. Between that and the big
old long rifle that he carries around, he keeps on eye on stuff. He’s
very good at getting information about scores. The last couple, so the
two scores we’ve done so far I felt my biggest contribution to the
success was getting information about about the place that we’re hitting
or the place that we’re hitting in order so that we don’t get absolutely
slaughtered when we go in there.
S: Even though we do keep blowing things up. I’m not sure why that
K: That’s a recurring theme.
S:Yeah, Riley likes explosives. That something that we’re probably never
gonna get away with.
K: I know there’s a lot of other stuff to talk about in the game right,
but I’d like to know to what was your special ability that you chose for
you playbook or for your character.
S: Oh yeah so the Sharpshooter feat that I mentioned earlier, that’s
what I went with. Cause it’s kinda of your basic feat right? I really
like it because it just fit the way I imagined myself playing right? I
thought of okay what kind of of playstyle do I want to use, what kind of
situations do I want to be the most useful. And that fit. There’s a
couple others in here that I was really drawn to. One is Ghost Hunter
which just sounds cool. So basically your hunting pet is imbued with
spirit energy. It gains potency when tracking or fight the supernatural
and gains an arcane ability. So you can pick from one of these three
arcane abilities so if that you’re hunting ghosts your pet is useful
against them. Which really sounds more like a cat thing than a dog thing
S: Then other one was Scout and that is, you get an extra, you get plus
one to the effect so your effect is going to be greater in the situation
and you get an extra dice to avoid detection, which hindsight
considering we like to use explosives, I probably could have used that.
But it’s fun, the Sharpshooter ability has come in handy a couple times.
And I like the way if kinda of coaxes me into playing.
K: Gotcha. Cool, so we talked about playbook, we talked about stress and
trauma. Can you tell us a little about a score. So just tell us like
what was a score you’ve been on.
S: Right, so the way that, nobody in this group, nobody in our group
right now has seen the show Leverage, but it is the perfect parallel
to how these things are setup. It’s basically just a heist. And whatever
kind of heist is up to your group. You decide what score you want to
take. So do you want to steal a valuable item from a bank vault which is
what our last score was… do you want to assassinate a political rival
or what have you. So the two scores that we’ve done.. the most recent
one was that we had to break into a vault and steal some incriminating
evidence about a local gang boss right?
S: The first one we did, oh that was so long ago.
K: The boat?
S: The boat! It went so horribly wrong [laughs]. It was fantastic first
session to dip our toes into water or more like jump in headfirst. But
we were getting ghost essence essentially right? These canisters of
ghostly essence or spirit essence. We were trying to steal them for a
local proprietor. Out of the two, I like the second score because it was
a little bit easier to get through because we knew what we were doing.
S: The roles were a little bit more intuitive, the flow was a little
better. But man that first score was chaos central. In a fun way though.
S: So the one of the biggest highlights for this game is that yeah
there’s a lot of failure, a lot of dark aspects, a lot of consequences,
and a lot of these things that kind of sound negative, but when you play
it doesn’t matter if you succeed your score or not. As long as you
approached obstacles in your score a certain way, you’re gonna earn XP.
S: You’re gonna get to “level up”. It’s not quite the same, but similar
S: Yeah, you’re gonna progress whether you succeed or not. And if you
succeed, if doesn’t mean everything’s gun ho. It doesn’t that that…
K: Well in fact the more you succeed the more you gain…
S: Haha, there are equal consequences built in. The big theme of this
game like the bigger they are the harder they fall or the bigger the
risk the bigger the reward.
K: Yeah, and the bigger the consequences.
S: And the bigger the consequences. So this game, no matter how you
play, there’s gonna be consequences, the more familiar you are with the
game the more you realize well we’re gonna get consequences anyways, so
why not go all out.
K: Yeah, if you love getting into trouble, this is the game for you.
S: Oh my gosh yeah, if you play Dungeons and Dragons and your go to is
rogues all the time I mean this is your game.
S: It’s rogue central. It’s rogue heaven essentially.
K: It’s not like you all play as rogues, I mean yes you play as rougeish
archetypes. But if you’re like nah I’m not really into sneaking then
there’s a character for you. You could literally just be a Cutter and
just beat everything up. Or just like punch everything.
S: Yeah yeah it’s like if your like multiclassing you multiclass a rogue
and barbarian you get to be a Cutter. Or if you want freakin’ see
ghosts… that part twists me up sometimes. The ghosts freak me out.
K: Also, if you’re like me. I’ve always enjoyed games with violence in
them like combat and stuff. But recently I’ve been trying to, well I
guess not recently but ongoing thing just trying to find ways that are
interesting game without you know nonviolence. Cause like in D&D it’s
like oh here’s this thing, punch it kill it.
S: Let’s break it!
K: Yeah, that’s essentially how you progress. But like in this game, you
don’t have to kill anything at all. You don’t even have to hurt anything
S: Yeah, and I liked that too. It’s like you don’t have to cut through
like a freakin’ swarm of goblins to gain certain xp. You don’t have to
take down creatures or anything like that. You’re gonna gain xp just by
addressing problems in a certain way.
K: Your character class is like, you’re a Hound. You have a gun.
S: No no, I have a gun. If I shoot things, I get experience points.
K: Yeah, but you’re one of the few that has using violence as…
K: And it’s not only violence right? It’s also…
S: Right right. So at the bottom here, at the bottom of your playbook or
your character sheet essentially it tells you how to gain experience
points. So everybody gains experience points from rolling a desperate
action. So if you decide undertake something where the environmental
circumstances are stacked against you, you’re gonna get experience
points. But for me specifically.
K: And you just have to attempt it.
S: Yeah, you just have to try it. You have to have the balls to try it
and if you do.
K: There you go!
S: There you go. Here are those points, it doesn’t have to end up well.
But for me if I address a challenge with tracking or violence. If I
express my beliefs, drives, heritage, or background. Or if I struggle
with issues from my vice or traumas. And I guess we’ll explain vices in
a minute. But the tracking or violence… it’s hilarious that you
mention wanting to kind of wanting to get through situations without
using violence because I don’t necessarily like doing… I don’t like
heavy violence in role-playing games. I have experienced a lot of
violence in my life so the escapism part for me is to kind of get away
S: Ironically, I think I picked one of the playbooks that’s most prone
S: And certainly out of our entire group. The three characters player
characters that we have right now. The first score I accidentally killed
an NPC because I succeeded too well in a roll. It’s a really
well-balanced game. No matter what you do, bad things are gonna happen.
But also no matter what you try, you’re gonna get rewarded in some way.
K: Yeah, which is fun right?
K: But even like, yeah you probably are the most ehh… maybe you might
be the most violent character. I don’t know, it’s more like you use
violence the most I would say.
K: It’s like..
S: There’ the most opportunity right?
K: Yeah that’s the best way to put I think. But like still… it’s a
like a gun is just part of your character class?
S: Yeah, specifically.
K: There’s also like the tracking and the dog and you’re a scout. All
these other abilities to utilize other than just the gun.
S: Right, so if we did a score where we were trying to find a fugitive
then I could roleplay stuff that’s less of the shootout and…
K: Of the bang bang.
S: Yeah the bang bang. My baby shot me down type stuff. But so far we
haven’t done a score like that so we have to kind of have to lean on
different aspects of the playbook.
K: Yeah, cool. So scores right? So usually game masters decide what the
party is doing right? But Blades in the Dark again is a little
different. You want to tell us a little more about scores and how those
S: I think that’s more of your area of expertise. I don’t make scores
K: Honestly yeah. No that’s… so scores are really cool. They’re player
driven. In Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire: The Masquerade, other…
K: Pathfinder, what have you. It’s usually the game master that decides
what the group’s doing.
S: Like your overarching plot line, the campaign.
K: Exactly, but in Blades in the Dark the game encourages you to be like
setup the preconditions and just roll with the rest.
S: Right right. That’s why I was bringing up Leverage.
K: Yeah, and literally I made the first score, but then the second they
totally decided what they wanted.
S: Right, so the reason that I brought up Leverage because it very
much, score session, so sessions where all we do is roleplay the score.
They play out like TV episodes, like almost a police procedural-esque
type thing. Your central goal, you know what you want to accomplish on
the score, is paramount and how you get there is up to your player
character. So like I guess the game master a few things called clocks
which are just environmental factors that progressing along and behind
the scenes of the characters actions.
K: Yeah, essentially they’re like… they push the game along.
K: If your characters are getting a little too comfortable right, like
your players are getting a little too comfortable. You can be like they
rolled this right and you can add that to the clock.
S: Like why you guys were sitting around debating what to do, this is
what’s happening at that time.
K: Yeah, so you’re debating so loudly I decided to make a roll behind
everyone’s backs and the guards heard you and are now coming toward your
direction. So it’s like fun stuff like that and it’s like, this game’s
much more built into the game. It’s super collaborative.
S: Yeah yeah.
K: I don’t to say that the game master has level control, but it’s more
S: It’s a different kind of control.
K: Yeah it’s like instead of… I feel like in D&D the dungeon master is
behind a curtain sometimes.
S: Like a Wizard of Oz style.
K: Yeah, you really don’t know what’s going right? In here, the players
kinda of know what’s going on right? But in here, the players kinda of
know more what’s going on, but there’s still those hidden surprises and
stuff right? But it’s more like the players are literally deciding what
their doing next session right?
S: Yeah [laughs].
K: We want to go to that place. Okay cool, what are you gonna do there?
We want to do a score. It’s like okay cool, tell me what you want and I
can plan something around that.
K: And then the entire game, it’s just not okay cool you do it and it’s
done– that score has lasting implications for the entire rest of the
S: Right, cause the “community” that you are operating in is fairly
S: You’re within the bounds of a city so it’s gonna have ripples. You
don’t just blow a hole in a bank vault and nothing happens. The cops are
gonna going looking for people who did it, it’s going to cause and
K: They literally did blow a hole in a bank vault last time.
S: [Laughs] that was not my idea.
K: Yeah, so there like they got everything finished and stuff right?
They’re hired by a certain faction to retrieve that evidence, they got
paid a lot by that faction. But they really really pissed off the
K: The Bluecoats…
S: The cops yeah…
K: And also just they just got a lot of what’s called Heat. Just
S: It’s like in GTA when you assault a random citizen you’re gonna have
S: Ah shit, I’m gonna act like I’ve played GTA before. Yeah, you’re
gonna be wanted. Your wanted level is going to be super high for a
little while and your kinda have to work around it.
K: The funny thing about… in GTA you kinda of just walk away and it
goes away eventually.
S: [Laugh] Run fast!
K: Again, this is a game of consequences right? So it’s like sure you
just blew in a bank vault and got a ton of experience points and coin,
but it was super noticeable
S: Everyone’s super annoyed!
K: You’re on the radar. And so the only way to lower that heat level is
by taking with your character to try to like persuade people right?
S: Yeah yeah, and we actually learned that from our first score is that
is where I am very very weak. So after your score, if your Heat is
really high which if you play right you’re constantly…
K: There’s constant Heat.
S: Constantly high Heat.
K: There’s always something that challenging you right? Where’s it’s
like cool maybe on that one score we didn’t get a lot of Heat, but also
we didn’t get a lot of Coin.
S: We’re broke guys!
K: Yeah, we’re safe but we’re also broke.
S: Right, I went to my default way of playing which is let’s try and
spread some rumors or you know schmooze some guys. Like really charisma
based stuff because my current character in our D&D campaign is very
S: So I try to kinda of fall back on that and I, ooh man, I failed very
bad. And kinda of just, my character made an ass of himself. And didn’t
drop the Heat at all. So it’s really fun, it pushes you into kinda of
thinking outside the box and….
K: But also helps you.
S: Yeah, it helps you. You’re constantly checking yourself going okay so
we had a lot of fun doing this, there was a lot of consequences and you
kind of find that happy medium of much risk you want to take versus how
much shit you want to deal with on the backend. For instance the amount
of Heat that we have right now is high enough that we need… we’re
gonna have to lay low for a little while. And none of our player
characters are really high charisma based.
K: See see, but the game’s not gonna let you lay low.
S: No, we can’t just disappear.
K: Without out consequence. Yeah, you can lay low, but it’s not like
we’re gonna wait for this certain level happens of heat and then we can
plan for this thing to happen right?
K: As soon as you start getting Heat, things happen.
K: So what’s going to happen is you all rolled the highest amount of
Heat you can get in a single roll.
S: [Laughs] yeah.
K: So what’s gonna happen with that is you’re going to have a demon…
you’re going to have to deal with demon.
S: Oh yeah that’s how we got the door open. I completely forgot about
K: Yeah, so that’s another thing.
S: Oh man.
K: If you generate any amount of Heat, it’s not cumulative but per unit
of Heat on a single thing there’s always repercussions, short term and
S: Yeah, it’s it own level and then you have to deal with each level of
heat on it’s own in addition to the accumulation.
K: And the accumulation is one of your of your character’s goes to
prison [laughs].That’s the only way to, other than like having your
characters try to get down the heat, that’s the only other way to try to
S: Right, it’s like something you have, well that gets into downtime I
S: So you have two types of sessions, well for us, you either play a
score session or downtime session where you deal with the consequences
from that score.
S: The downtime session you can only take two…
S: Yeah, you can take two specific actions and if you want to reduce
Heat that’s one of your actions. So it kind of excludes things like
spending your money or getting rid of your stress or trying to upgrade
your hideout or whatever.
K: I don’t want to say that… like large-scale actions.
K: Like if you want to be like I want to go buy something. You’re like
okay cook we can buy it.
S: Yeah there’s like a difference between everyday action and something
that is going to take…
K: Be substantial.
S: Like take things off of your character sheet or add them to your crew
sheet. You know that kind of thing.
K: Yeah. I think, let’s see we’ve talked about scores, characters… I
want to talk about vice…
K: And then we can move onto the crew stuff.
S: I’m very familiar with Vice.
K: So Vice, you want to tell us what kind of Vice is in terms of Blades
in the Dark, why that’s interesting. At least I find it interesting.
S: Well it’s really interesting cause so you have this whole stress and
trauma mechanic right? And it would be kinda of unfair if there was know
way to counteract that bar.
S: If you have a limited amount of stress then you’re just gonna max it
out, gain trauma and that’s it. So they have this counter system called
Vice and depending on how you build your character you specify a type of
Vice that your character indulges in to relieve stress. So the, let’s
see what we got here. You’ve got faith, gambling, luxury, obligation,
pleasure, stupor, or weird.
K: So initially when I saw faith, I thought that was weird one right?
K: But specifically it’s meaning like occult faith so like occult or
something like that.
S: Yeah yeah yeah, they all have their own really interesting…
K: Darker flavor,
S: Yeah, darker flavor, interesting definition. I mean pleasure and
stupor are kind of your general vices. Like what you think about when
you think of the word vice. You participate in substance abuse of some
sort or some sort of excessive activity that put’s you another sort of
mental state. My favorite and the one I went with, is weird. And that is
kind of a catch-all phrase for something that doesn’t into any of the
other categories. So something that even among the underbelly of the
city is kinda of looked at sideways. So my character likes to go and
like… how do I explain it… it’s not possession.
K: Maybe like voluntarily allowing a spirit to posses you.
S: Yeah in a very passive way. So he kind of sits back and just watches
memories from other spirits kind of taken over his psyche. It’s fun to
roleplay. You can pretty much pick anything. You can think of a Vice and
kind of retroactively fit it into one of these categories or there’s
suggestions built into the categories of the playbook.
K: The reason why Vice exists to not only reduce stress right is to like
to also give your character some sort of flaw or something like that.
S: Like scummy flavor.
K: Yeah, or maybe just like something that makes them a little more
tragic in a sense right? I mean there’s a potential for a lot of tragedy
in this game right? This is definitely a darker world so it’s your
characters may have some sort of mental or physical addictions to things
or some things with how they cope with this lifestyle that could to
their own self-destruction. Light stuff, right?
S: [laughs] exactly. I think it’s also a good mechanic to have in their
to prevent people from making a character and going well I don’t care
about moral or ethics or whatever so I can do whatever horrible stuff I
want and not have any consequences. Well there’s gonna be consequences.
Nobody gets out of that.
K: Yeah, if your character is like, one thing is called… I’m sure
you’ve heard the term of murder hobo for D&D.
S: [laughs] yeah chaotic neutral.
K: For those of you who isn’t familial a murderhobo is a sort of
playstyle in Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games
where essentially you’re just some “warrior” who goes towns killing
things, who doesn’t really ever have a set home. And it’s kind of just
like this wandering person who doesn’t really have anything good or bad.
S: Yeah, it’s like different from mercenary, so like a mercenary or a
monster hunter does it for the coin or the reputation or what have you.
A murderhobo just does it because they think that’s the best use of
their time or they’re bored.
K: Yeah no, it’s mostly a player thing, it’s a player style. It’s like
go to a town, kill the monster… well no a murder hobo is someone who
goes to a town, kills everyone who lives in that town, goes to the next
town kills… [laughs] they’re like look at me I’m so powerful I can
exert my will on anything right?
K: But like in this game… you wanted to be a murderhobo it’s okay you
kill, you’re gonna try to kill someone who’s way over, you take stress
or like other games you can take hits and stuff. In other tabletop
ropeplaying games you can have absurd amount of damage that would kill
any human being but you can take like five or six or those before you go
down. In this, it’s like cool you want to go punch that person and try
to kill them. You miss and you get your teeth knocked out.
S: [laughs] cause you are in fact a real person.
K: And you go to prison, yeah! So this game is everything is dangerous
in this game. And that’s just to say that hey, this is a game about dire
situations, you’re the underdog, you’re scoundrel and you’re going to be
climbing your way to the top even like.. everything is precarious and
S: Yeah, it’s like you worked really heard to get the crown, but do you
have what it takes to keep it?
K: Yeah no no exactly right? It puts you in some morally challenging
positions sometimes. Like nothing’s that I would say, it’s a dark world
but it’s not to the point to where’s its emotionally abusive to it’s
S: Yeah yeah, I mean there’s….
K: It’s a healthy amount.
S: Yeah, “healthy”. One my favorite benchmarks for the emotional labor
on the part of the players is Vampire: The Masquerade because it deals
with such sketchy dark themes and it has the potential to spire really
really hard if you’re careful. Vampire: The Masquerade has a disclaimer
saying that you’re playing monstrous characters, you’re not excusing the
monstrous actions. And there’s a system built into that roleplay where
you as a group agree on certain subjects that you won’t broach.
K: Subject matter.
S: Certain subject matter that you all won’t touch on and Blades in the
Dark, basically the same thing. Not necessarily written in stone, but
it’s intuitive right? Saying ok look we’re comfortable playing this kind
of stuff, we’re not gonna to the really really just like nasty
unnecessarily hard stuff.
K: So I guess to put it, it’s like dark enough to a point it has
reflections and parallels of the underbelly of society in our real world
right? But it kinda of allows you to contextualize it in your own way.
S: I like to think of it as it’s dark enough to make you squint your
eyes a little bit, but not so dark enough that it makes you want to shut
your eyes and turn away.
K: No exactly right… it’s fun. I know that’s weird to say but it’s
like it feels like..
S: Well it’s like when people play games Call of Duty or Doom or
something like that where there’s a lot of violence, a lot of death, a
lot of gore people… most people, most healthy people don’t think that
in real life scenarios that stuff would be fun right? It’s not actually
something that they actually want to do in real life, but it’s an
escapism, it’s a fantasy, it’s fun to indulge in the context of the
K: That’s a whole another topic of violence in video games. I’m not
gonna touch that subject.
S: With a 10 foot pole?
K: Well no I would like to talk about sometime but that would take a lot
of due diligence and research.
S: Right right.
K: In the context of this game, it’s a dark and gritty world but not to
the point of where it’s like, it’s all with the group you’re playing
K: The book does a good job of, it suggests things but not up the point
where… you need to contextualize it as a group.
S: Yeah yeah.
K: There’s like drug trafficking, murder, all these things but you also
you think of like why is all that in the game but on your cable TV and
you see like NCIS: Los Angeles.
S: Or like Law and Order: SVU. Stuff that deal with really mature
themes. But at any point you can turn it off and it’s the same thing
with this game.
K: Well it’s more of like subject matter of what you would see in those
television shows is kinda of what you would see in here right?
S: Yeah yeah, exactly
K: I personally like to explore darker subject matter and that’s not for
everyone. I love this game a lot, but I definitely know that some people
want a more lighthearted fair which is totally doable.
S: Right, yeah!
K: There’s great games for that.
S: And that goes for any sort of material that you consume whether it’s
music or video or books or televisions or gaming systems.
K: Definitely knowing what you are up for and kinda feeling comfortable
and you trust the group that you play with is a large part in not being
only enjoying yourself and feeling emotionally safe in Blades in the
Dark but also in any tabletop roleplaying game.
S: Right, exactly.
K: Let’s see, we were talking about vice right?
S: Vice yes.
K: Ok cool, so going on from vice, we go to the crew right?
S: The creeew. This is another thing. I like how we are constant putting
it up against Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s the easiest thing, it’s
there to poke at. So one thing that can happen when you’re in a party
playing D&D is your adventuring party doesn’t get cohesive for awhile.
K: They’re not collaborative.
S: They’re not collaborative. They all have, and that’s just how it be.
K: Unless you as a group agree to be like, okay we are going to do these
things as group right?
S: Right, unless you’ve like built that into your backstory or you’ve
independently agreed to But most of the time, you make your characters,
they have their own backstories, their own pasts and motivations, and
the DM creates a situation that throws them all together. That does not
make them cooperative. Blades in the Dark, you start off cooperative.
Everybody that makes a character in your group is making it within the
context of your gang, and your goal is to advance the… your street
cred, your resources, your hunting territory, whatever you wanna call
it. That’s from the outset. That’s just how the game is structured.
K: Yeah, so you have a playbook, or character sheet, for your character,
but you also have a character sheet for your crew.
K: Which is, I think, amazing.
S: Yeah, this is where the, like, more specific collaborative effort
comes in, especially with deciding what kind of subject matter you guys
want to deal with when you’re picking the type of crew you want to play.
You can pick something that’s heavy on the drug trafficking ring like
smuggling, you can pick something that’s heavy on the violence like
assassins, or you can pick what we did, which is kind of a catch-all for
everything else. So, our group picked the what’s called Shadows and
they’re thieves, spies, and saboteurs, so pretty much everything else
aside of smuggling and assassinations. Or the occultist stuff, but
that’s not something I’m super familiar with in this game yet. That’s
the really interesting thing is that the assumed cooperative effort from
the outset between the players.
K: Well, I don’t say the game forces you to be cooperative, right, it
encourages you to be more, it rewards you to be cooperative.
S: Right, right.
K: And it’s just built into the game, like you’re literally… the
nature of the game is you’re just operating as a group.
K: You do stuff as a team and not only do you get rewards or–I don’t
want to say rewards but–you get special abilities as a player, but you
get special abilities as a team, right, which is really cool.
S: And it can be, your relationship to the other players can be as
clinical or familial as you want. You guys can be super comfortable with
each other, or you can play it to where you’re all just in it because
the other players have abilities or have connections that you don’t.
K: Yeah, just practically…just on strictly pragmatic terms.
S: Yeah, and that’s kind of… our group is somewhere in the middle.
We’re a bunch of weirdos. It’s really fun to explore from having that
kind of expectation from the outset saying, “Look, we’re not thrown
together under mysterious circumstances, we are a gang, we have similar
motivations. We might not individually like each other, but we all have
skill sets that compliment each other.”
K: Which is, I think, honestly cool, right. And it kinda blew my mind.
Like, there’s no other–that I can think of or anything I’ve heard
about–table top roleplaying games that give your group who’s picking a
specific playstyle as a group, you know specific attributes, abilities,
S: Yeah, you get bonus for picking a playstyle not just specific to your
character but specific to your other player characters, and that’s
K: And not only does your crew get that, but your crew literally like…
you can expand and get different buildings and stuff like that. I feel
like there’s multiple games within Blades in the Dark. You have the
score game, and then you have your downtime, which is almost like a…
S: Clean-up crew [laugh].
K: Like a strategy game, kind of.
S: Yeah, you go from like a-football-game-to-a-chess-game-type
K: Yeah, exactly. But I find it really cool. So, can you tell us a
little more about your crew? What’s their name, their backstory?
S: So our crew is called the Twisted Knickers, and that has a few
different references. You pick a reputation type, so do you want your
crew’s reputation to be that you’re particularly violent or crafty or
mysterious, and we just picked strange because we’re just a bunch of
K: That’s all the word was.
S: Was just “strange” [laughs]. That’s the only thing that’s written in
reputation. So, “twisted” referring to the fact that we’re a bunch of
weirdos, and then “knickers”–“twisted knickers” meaning getting your
panties in a wad, and also “knickers” being that we steal stuff, so we
intend to knick things, which I thought was super clever. Pat myself on
the back. But, it’s a heh, we have three of us. There’s me, I’m our
sharpshooter. We have Arvo, or Moss as he’s colloqui–I can never say
S: It’s his alias, yes. Colloqu–
S: I hate that word so much. But yeah, his alias is Moss, and he’s kind
of an alchemist-type character. He likes to create stuff. He likes to
test out different chemicals and things. He comes in handy when you
break the stock of your gun–
K: Go boom.
S: –on somebody’s head
[Kyle and Savannah laugh]
S: Or if you want something to explode. He’s very handy in those
situations. Very good at putting things together and then pulling them
apart. Then, we have Serethee, who nobody in our group can remember how
to say her name so we just call her Wraith. She is our Whisper, so our
expert on all things supernatural in the occult. Between the three of
us, none of us are particularly good in talking to people.
K: But you have other means.
S: But we have, yes. So we have to try other routes to attain our goals.
K: Well, I wouldn’t say you’re not good at… I would say you’re not
exceptionally gifted at talking to people.
S: Yeah, we don’t have anybody who’s like heavy stats in charisma. We
did at one point, and unfortunately they were unable to keep playing
with us, which is… which makes me sad because it was a lot of fun. But
there is a character archetype that is kinda heavy charisma-based.
K: Yeah, so there’s just like your smooth-talker, let me kinda…
S: What they call a lide, I think?
K: Yeah, they’re called a slide. So here, let me just tell you the
different playbooks here. We have the Cutter, which is like the brawler.
We have a Hound, which we’ve been talking about. We have the Leech… oh
man, what was the Leech?
S: Isn’t Arvo… I think that’s what he is is a Leech.
K: Arvo is a, yes, Arvo’s a Leech, who’s like a tinker or an alchemist
sort of person. Then we have the Spider, who’s like a sort of criminal
S: Yeah, like Machiavellian-type.
K: Yeah. Political intrigue and all that sort of great stuff. And then
the Whisper is the… oh wait, did I go over Lurk?
K: I think lurk is like the standard… so, Leech is a saboteur and
technician, kind of your mad scientist, if you will. The Lurk is a
stealthy infiltrator and burglar.
S: So you’ve got sharpshooter, you’ve got mad scientist, you’ve got
occultists, you’ve got cat burglars, you’ve got brawlers, and you’ve got
your string pullers.
K: Yeah. So everything you need to start your own criminal organization.
S: Haha, everything you need to start your own criminal enterprise.
Conclusion of Interview
K: Yeah. Which is cool… so okay, I just want to make sure we cover,
I’m just gonna look at the table of contents here and make sure. So
we’ve got characters, we’ve got the basics, score, downtime. We talked
about the setting. I think, broadly speaking, we covered everything. I
guess, is there anything else you wanted to bring up, or anything else
that interests you about Blades in the Dark?
S: That’s actually pretty comprehensive, we kind of went over all of my
favorite bits. I’m one of those people who really likes to try and draw
parallels to other media that I’ve consumed, so one of the pop culture,
you said pop culture touchstones, is Peaky Blinders, which I am
intimately familiar with. It’s one of my favorite shows.
K: I can also just read from the book here and tell you, “So, if you
like any of these things and you also like collaborative storytelling,
then this game might be for you.”
S: Yeah, so it literally says, “Here’s things that if you like these
you’d like Blades in the Dark.”
K: So if you like Peaky Blinders, The Wire,
Spartacus–particularly season 2–and Narcos, you might like this
game. If you like the books of Vlad Taltos, the stories of Fafhrd and
the Grey Mouser, that first word is F-A-F-H-R-D, The Lies of Lock Lamora, Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. Video games: Thief: The Dark Project and it’s sequels, Dishonored, and Bloodborne, and
films: Crimson Peak, Gangs of New York, Ronin, and Heat and
Thief. Which are kind of all the sort of cultural touchstones for
S: As far as those of the list that I’m actually familiar with, the ones
I’ve most seen or that come to mind mostly is obviously Peaky Blinders, Crimson Peak, definitely for the supernatural aspect of it.
I like throwing Leverage out there just because it’s like the perfect
kind of mindset to have when you’re doing scores. It’s like your score
is an episode of Leverage. It’s rather self-contained within one
K: But has overall implications for the larger seasonal quarter.
S: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Obviously if you like those things, you’re
gonna probably enjoy Blades in the Dark as a system. The flare, the kind
of setting flavor is very Victorian, that kind of industrial-type–
S: Sprawl, yeah. And the character interactions–I’m really glad they
put Peaky Blinders in here because if you need an example of how the
corruption doesn’t skate over anybody in this world, Peaky Blinders is
an excellent material to take your cues from. Because in that show,
everybody from the high political offices to the cops to your regular
run-of-the-mill people to your gang factions… they all are just trying
to get by and none of them are… hehe none of them are free from sin.
None of them are gonna get out of it scathed.
S: Or, unscathed. They’re all gonna get scathed, yes.
K: Lots of scathing.
S: Much scathing going on. But yeah, so even if… and you can play a
well-intentioned character in this for the most part. It’s just, know
that’s gonna come with its own set of…
S: Challenges, yeah.
K: I mean, just like in real life, like we’re all trying to be I guess
the best person we can be, but then like there comes times in our life
where we have to make difficult choices and you’re like, “Was that the
best choice looking back, or could I have…”
S: Right. Like a good example is like if you find a hundred dollars on
the street. There’s people that are gonna look for the person that it
belongs to, or just put it in your pocket and keep walking.
K: Keep it, yeah.
S: And each of those people like–the person who puts it in their
pocket, you’re a hundred dollars richer. The person that looks for the
person who dropped it, you’ve got that sense of moral high ground or
that sense of integrity to you. It’s all relative.
K: It’s like neither is the wrong choice.
S: Yeah. [laughs] First of all, finders keepers is the kind of person I
K: [laughs] but yeah, it’s escapist to the point to where… it’s
escapist to the point to where it’s like you feel like you’re in a
different world and you have more agency and different accountability
for your actions. But it’s realistic enough to be like, “Oh, would I
actually do this in this situation, or would I be that sort of person in
S: Right, like it’s got its own escapism but with like pretty empathetic
K: Yeah no definitely. I always like to have games that hearken back at
least a little bit to our, or parallels, our real world a little bit.
S: Yeah definitely.
K: But yeah. Cool, I don’t have anything else to talk about. Do you?
S: No, I think that pretty much covers it. Covers all my favorite bits
of the game.
K: Yeah, I love Blades in the Dark. I’ve played it three, four times
S: I think we’re on four. I don’t know. Sometimes real life gets in the
way. We go for a ways between sessions, but it’s always a lot of fun
when we get to it.
K: It’s awesome, if you wanna try it out, it’s like 30 bucks.
K: For like a hard copy and a PDF, so you get both, which is really
cool. So, go support John Harper, who’s the person who made the game and
S: Yeah, support your content creators, guys.
K: Yeah, come on. Come on.
K: Subscribe to my–no I…
K: Speaking of content creators…
S: There’s a leak.
K: Yeah. Subscribe to my Patreon, please. I don’t have a Patreon.
K: But yeah, cool. Well, thanks so much for talking with me. I
appreciate it, and I had a lot of fun.
[Theme music fades in]
S: Yeah, me too! Thanks for having me on.
K: Yeah, definitely.
[Theme music plays]
K: Thank you all for tuning in to this episode of D-Pad Diaries. If
you’re interested in learning more and staying tune with updates and new
episodes of the podcast, you can follow us at dpaddiariesofficial.com.
That’s dpaddiariesofficial.com. You can also find us on Twitter at
@thedpaddiaries and on Instagram at @dpaddiaries. You can also listen to
us on your favorite podcast listening platform including Apple Podcasts,
Spotify, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else that podcasts are
K: Music from filmmusic.io. Midnight Tale by Kevin Macleod,
incompetech.com. License CC By creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0.