System Spotlight – Blades in the Dark

by Ziv Wities

I’ve never played anything quite like Blades in the Dark. It’s a game that promises daring, intrigue, cunning, ruthlessness – and delivers.

Shady Characters, Daring Heists

In Blades in the Dark you play scoundrels, crooks, and criminals, in a city full of steampunk technology, fueled by demon blood and haunted by the ghosts of the dead.

It’s a premise that guarantees tension, action, and conflict. The game keeps you constantly on your toes – while your scoundrel and crew often succeed, they dig themselves deeper into danger with each success.

Your crew chooses what scores to go on – a treasury to burgle; a mark to kill; a piece of turf to lay claim to. Blades avoids lengthy planning – you start a score by filling in a few simple details, and get going right away. In true scoundrel fashion, that doesn’t mean you’re unprepared, it just means we’ll discover your preparations as we go, as flashbacks within the game.

The characters are capable and often succeed, but most of these successes come with complications attached. Whether unexpected consequences of their actions, devil’s bargains they take to increase their odds, or stress they burn until they’ve got none left, it’s a game of constant twists, trades, and risk-taking.

Threats, rivals, and problems of every sort take the form of clocks. At any given time, your crew has clocks you’re trying to complete, such as the defenses of a target you want to get at; but also clocks that spell disaster once they finish ticking down, such as your enemies finally tracking you down to your secret lair.

All in all, it makes for an exciting, fast-paced game – where, if you’re not in trouble yet, you probably will be soon.

Playing in the Sandbox

Beyond individual missions and scores, Blades shines as a sandbox game. As your crew grows, you gain power and influence in the city – and more dedicated enemies, as well.

In Blades, your crew grows as you rise in tier. You get more people, including underlings you can order around and experts who do things you can’t. You get access to new abilities and better resources, and your crew’s reputation grows as well.

You keep track of entanglements and faction status, which means you’re constantly interacting with other major players in the city. Some of them will help you out, others will dedicate themselves to your destruction.

Your character can start long-term projects, which lets him set in motion any devious machinations he desires, but your enemies can make long-term efforts as well – with clocks keeping track of how close they are to landing their next blow.

It’s a game that rewards patience, build-up, and a dance of interactions between the city’s various factions. The story of fighting for power and position is never a dull one.

Hacks and Slashes

While Blades’s base setting of Duskwall is a fantastic location for criminal activity, the game was written with expansions, reskins, and hacks in mind. The Kickstarter campaign reached 11 new settings as stretch goals: from gangs of dungeon-crawling tomb robbers, to roguish smugglers in space, to Italian mobsters in the 1970’s.

And if that wasn’t enough, a thriving community of enthusiasts and creators has grown up during the game’s development, and they’re creating even more new hacks and expansions!

Blades At BIGOR

At BIGOR, we’ll be showcasing Blades in the Dark for Israeli roleplayers!

Ziv Wities is brewing up street hawkers pushing a truly unusual vice.

Rotem Cohen’s game is for scoundrels hailing from a long time ago, and a galaxy far, far away.

Daniel Fidelman will be demonstrating that Duskwall’s muckraking journalists are no less devious than its other gangs.

Roe Portal introduces a new Blades hack for that most vile criminal class — the lawyers.

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