Blades in the Dark. At the risk of being repetitive, it’s one of the best things that came out of breaking my right ankle on December 30, 2017.
The RPG is set in a fantasy world ravaged by a spiritual war that ravaged much of the landscape. Ghosts and worse roam the wastes; the only safe havens are cities protected by arcane wards that keep out the horrors. The adventurers live in one of these cities, carrying out all manner of crimes to improve their standing in its criminal underworld.
The game is inspired by urban fantasy, crime noir, and heist movies (movie-wise, think Heat, Reservoir Dogs, and Ocean’s 11; television-wise think Leverage and Peaky Blinders). The rules are descended from Powered by the Apocalypse (Apocalypse World, Dungeon World) and as such are very character driven. Going further, the game’s adventures are designed to start in media res, with the heist underway and the characters encountering their first major challenge. How they got there is told through flashbacks; how they get out of it is something everyone finds out on the fly.
It’s a challenging system and the narrative structure runs contrary to your standard RPG. Every RPG heist features the same sort of progression, the same sort of beats: get the job, scout out the site, make the plan, execute the plan, run like hell when it all comes apart (or succeeds brilliantly). It doesn’t matter if it’s Dungeons & Dragons or Shadowrun, the structure is the same.
Except in Blades in the Dark … it isn’t. The game forced us to think differently, and I greatly enjoyed that … even if it occasionally made my head hurt.
Read these Game Day columns for more about my experiences with Blades in the Dark: