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Guidelines For Answering the GM Crafting Questions In Blades In The Dark

March 16, 2019 By: John Taber Category: Blades In The Dark, Games, Growlings

Crafting in Blades in the dark involves answering four questions.  Two are answered by the player and two are answered by the GM.  The GM questions involved determining the Quality and Drawbacks for the invention.  Fortunately the GM has some guidelines in the Blades book to help provide guidance.  This thread goes over the two GM questions using an example from my Blades In The Dark campaign.

The Crew Leech named Mort wants to create an alchemical solution.  Here is his idea:

It’s a two part alchemical potion which is made as a set.  One is an oil which draws an item closer to the ghost field making it invisible.  The second allows the drinker to see the specific item the paired oil was used on.  For example, if I spread the oil on a sword then drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible to others but I could still see it.  If I put the oil on my sword and someone else drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible but I would not be able to see it, only the person that drank the linked potion.

For Question 2 – Quality

When determining Quality for a creation there are several factors.  These are determined by the Magnitude chart on page 221.  The main areas are:


For Area values run from closet (0) to city block (6).

For Scale values run from 1 or 2 people (0) to 160 peoples (6).


For Duration values run from a few moments (0) to a week (6).

For Range values run from within reach (0) to across the city (6).

Tier & Quality/Force

For Tier & Quality values run from Poor (0) to Legendary (6).

For Force values run from Weak (0) to Devastating (6).

Quality really comes into play when you want to make more of the potions.  To make more you have to hit the Quality target during a downtime action.  You make a Tinker roll then use this chart:

1 – 3 – Quality level is Tier – 1

4 – 5 – Quality level is Tier.

6 – Quality level is Tier + 1.

Critical – Quality level is Tier +2

The Workshop upgrade for the Crew adds +1 Quality to the result.

1 coin may be spent to add +1 Quality to the result.

Example: As the MC I would say the area is close and the range is reach.  Duration of a few minutes (1) or an hour (2).  To Tier & Quality I would say Adequate (1) if the item flickers sometimes or Good (2) if it is very difficult to detect (maybe a distortion if you watch for a while).  Thus the total Quality might be 2 to 4.

For Question 4 – Drawbacks

The book has guidelines for drawbacks.  It groups them into sections.

Complex – Item must be crafted in several stages where each takes a Downtime activity and associated roll.

Conspicuous – Take +1 Heat when used on an operation.

Consumable – Has limited number of uses.  All alchemical formula must have this Drawback.

Rare – Creation needs rare item or material when crafted.

Unreliable – When you use this item make a Fortune roll using its Quality to see how well it performs.

Volatile – Item produces a dangerous side-effect for the user.  Some side-effects are consequences that may be resisted.

Example: For this alchemical solution I might decide on Consumable and Rare.  Eyes from a dead person as an ingredient.  Mort believes eyes from a blind man would make a particularly powerful version of the item.

So here are details as to how this came out in my game.

Creation Name: Ghost Oil

What type of creation is it and what does it do?

It’s a two part alchemical potion which is made as a set.  One is an oil which draws an item closer to the ghost field making it invisible.  The second allows the drinker to see the specific item the paired oil was used on.  For example, if I spread the oil on my sword then drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible to others but I could still see it.  If I put the oil on my sword and someone else drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible but I would not be able to see it, only the person that drank the linked potion.

What is the minimum quality level of this item?

Item affected flickers based on size (e.g. smaller items do not flicker and larger items do,  1) and it lasts for minutes (1).  Quality level 2.

What rare, strange, or adverse aspect of this formula has kept it in obscurity or out of common usage?

Willingly messing with the Ghost field and putting on item and your ability to see it in that space is dangerous.  If something went wrong, the item could be lost to the ghost field forever.

What drawbacks does it have, if any?

Consumable and Rare.  Eyes from a dead person are needed as an ingredient.  Mort believes eyes from a dead blind man would make a particularly powerful version of the item.

Dungeons & Dragons Does Good

January 27, 2019 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Product Reviews


I started running Dungeons & Dragons 5e (5e) campaign for my kids and one of their friends.  As part of the preparation I read the main three books cover-to-cover.  After reading the books I came away with a realization, “They done good.”  Many of my perceived minor foibles that were present in 3e and earlier additions are smoothed over or rewritten.  I know this is 5 years or so late but…here is a simple review of the changes in 5e that caught my attention.

Rolling Thunder

The dice mechanic has changed subtly for the better.  First off all rolls are now high.  Instead of rolling low for skills, high for attacks, etc players now always want to roll high.  Skills are rolled using a d20 plus a characteristic bonus plus a proficiency bonus based on level if you have the skill.  This means skills automatically improve as the player levels.  Neat.

They have also introduced rolling with Advantage or Disadvantage.  If the PC is at an advantage they get to roll two d20 and take the best.  If the PC is at a disadvantage they roll two d20 and take the worst result.  Simple yet really effective.

Occasionally a PC might be in a situation where a roll is not done as they are not actively performing a task.  For example, someone is trying to sneak up on them as they walk down a trail.  In this case there is passive checks.  Passive checks are a calculated number (10 plus modifiers) that is compared to a target.  So in my example, if the walker has a passive perception of 14 the person sneaking up has to hit that with their roll to stay hidden.  Again…simple…effective.

We All Go To Town Together

Everything is condensed to one experience point chart.  Gosh this make so much sense and should have been done ages ago.  This also makes it easier to treat advancement as characters will often level at nearly the same time.

The GM is also give advice on how to balance encounters based on level and a simple formula.  This makes it easier to plan encounters and adjust them on the fly if say one of your players cannot make it.


One really fantastic change is stolen right from systems with bennies like Savage Worlds.  There is a new mechanic called Inspiration.  This mechanic gives the player an Inspiration point when their character follows one of their flaws, traits, or bonds.  This point can be spent to give them Advantage on a roll.  I really appreciate mechanics like this that give the players a bit more control of outcomes if it is really important to the character.

More Hit Points (HP) at level 1 is also a very nice touch.  This makes starting PC able to take at least a couple of good hits before dying.  This is great at giving PC a bit more staying paying up front.  Also healing is simpler.  In fact it makes it so that every party does not need a cleric.  Another wonderful change.

Magic Mana

Magic is changed as well.  Characters using magic have prepared spells but these do not restrict how many times they can use each spell.  The amount of times a caster can do a spell is driven by spell slots.  So a wizard might memorize Magic Missile, Unseen Servant, and Identify.  During an adventure they can use their spell slots to cast any of those spells until the slots are gone.  Again…simple but less restricting.  Nice change.

The amount of magic items each PC can use is controlled.  Characters have to bond with magic items.  This takes a brief amount of time.  The key here is that they can bond to 3 items only!  This means characters are less dependent on magical crutches and forced to use the talents of their class.  Excellent.


I really looking forward to see how things turn out as the campaign advances with these tweaks.  I guess this goes without saying…this might be my favorite Dungeons & Dragons Edition to date.  Critical hit WOTC!

Running Blades For 6 Players

December 28, 2018 By: John Taber Category: Blades In The Dark, Games

—there are just too blasted many of you! The National Security Council can’t even keep track of who’s coming and going!

Hi Gang!

This is the first of a group of posts that I will make between Sessions 1 and 2. In this post I wanted to relay the salient points of a thread that I started on one of the Blades In The Dark social media sites. I think it was MeWe. 🙂 On MeWe I asked the following question.

I will be running Blades for 6 players. I have run it for 4 players and it went fine. I have run it for 2 players and it was fantastic. I am worried about running it for 6 players. I feel based on the way actions push the fiction that adding players will make the system considerably harder to run. Does anyone have any advice for running Blades with 6 players?

The entire first replay stream starts with this simple response, “Don’t.” This very articulate author then follows this up with solid arguments why running Blades for 6 players is not a good idea. He also points to the rule-book which actually says Blades should be run for a max of 4 players. I had not noticed that point on my first reading.

One of his points reflects the concerns I raise in my question above. In PBTA actions from the players (aka rolls) drive the fiction forward. After the player takes action the GM responds with complications from the setting. This could be in the form of damage, new threats, etc. With 6 players this means between each player action the plot will push forward. This can make it difficult for the GM to share the spotlight in critical scenes. The players need to wait their turn as the world pushes forward sometimes at a rapid pace. This started to happen in our first session when one of your noted, “How come the bad guy did all that and some character did not get a chance to act?” Actually in Score 1 the fact that the PC were in two groups actually helped. It made it easier for me to apply complications to each group instead of having to throw it all at a single entity.

Another argument against running for a large groups of players is doling out damage and stress. This is one I have spoken to Chris about at work on and off again. Since it happens in all PBTA games Chris and I have some experience with it through other systems. The idea is simple, in Blades terminology after every mission if the GM is doing their job there should be some wounds on characters and/or at least some stress use from everyone. If more players are present that means there are more characters present to absorb ill effects. It follows that the GM then has to add more threats to handle more characters.

Feat not…all is not doom and gloom! After this discussion he then also went on to give some pointers. One really good one he said is found in a Dungeon World podcast called Discerning Realities. (Since getting this advice I started listening to Discerning Realities and a series of podcasts they have on learning Dungeon World.) In this podcast they recommend checking the location of each PC when the action is starting to get heavy with rolls. In their example the group of plucky adventures enter a hiddle temple of some ancient god then a giant snake and several goblin worshippers appear. They carefully ask the PC the position of their characters after describing the scene. This allows the GM to start considering the flow and how complications might happen. It also naturally helps point out the character that should start the action. For example, maybe the thief who is leveling his crossbow or the mage who is readying a spell.

Others also mentioned dragging characters into danger so that other characters can spend their actions pulling them out of danger. Again this makes it easier to drive the fiction forward based on the consequences of the actions. They used examples of a PC felling a goblin only to be in the path of the snakes massive maw.

So as you can tell I did not let the advice of “Don’t” win the argument. 😉 I think we can get this to work given some practice and patience from the group.

How about a question o’ the post…

Question #1 – The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword! – Did folks enjoy the newspaper?
Doing the newspaper will obviously take some of my time and I do not want to do it if folks do not think it is fun. I think it will be a great way to show the effects of the Crew on Doskvol in an amusing way. I also think it can promote more player buy in on the setting which is an important aspect of Blades.

I have a few topics that I could do next…no hints yet…I’m not sure all of them will turn out…watch this space for more Blades goodness.

( FYI. Brownie points of someone can tell me origin of the quote at the top. 🙂 )