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Blades in the Dark is a roleplaying game about a crew of daring scoundrels seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had - if you`re bold enough to seize them!
You and your fledgling crew must thrive amidst the threats of rival gangs, powerful noble families, vengeful ghosts, the Bluecoats of the city watch, and the siren song of your scoundrel`s own vices.
Will you rise to power in the criminal underworld? What are you willing to do to get to the top?
In this stand-alone game, you'll find:
* Rules to create your scoundrel using the following character archetypes: the Cutter, the Hound, the Leech, the Lurk, the Slide, the Spider, or the Whisper.
* Rules to create your crew, built from types like Assassins, Bravos, a Cult, Hawkers, Shadows, or Smugglers.
* A robust core mechanic which puts the fiction first-the strength of a character's position (desperate, risky, or controlled) matters just as much as the character's ability scores.
* A lightning-fast mechanic for planning criminal operations to cut through the usual slog of planning at the game table.
* Rules for alchemical experiments, gadget tinkering, and weird occult powers-including rules for playing Ghosts and other strange beings.
* A setting guide to the haunted city of Doskvol, with all the maps, factions, NPCs, schemes, and opportunities you need to run an exciting sandbox game.
The streets of Duskwall are haunted. By vengeful ghosts and cruel demons. By the masked spirit wardens and their lightning-hooks. By sharp-eyed inspectors and their gossiping crows. By the alluring hawkers of vice and pleasure. By thieves and killers and scoundrels like you, the Blades in the Dark.
The noble elite grow ever richer from the profits of their leviathan-hunting fleets and electroplasm refineries. The Bluecoats of the constabulary crack skulls and line their pockets with graft. The powerful crime syndicates leech coin from every business, brothel, drug den, and gambling house. And then there's your crew of scoundrels: all the way down at the bottom rung. Can you make it to the top? What are you willing to do to get there? There's only one way to find out...
Gameplay focuses on criminal endeavors called scores. A session of play usually consists of 1 or 2 scores, each followed by recovery, downtime projects, and advancement for the scoundrels and the crew.
In Blades in the Dark, your crew gets its own "character sheet" (chosen from different crew classes, like Cult, Thieves, or Smugglers), earns XP, and levels up alongside the characters. As you advance the crew, you unlock new options and abilities for the scoundrels and climb up the ladder of factions within the city.
The game features a robust core resolution mechanic which asks the group to characterize actions as desperate, risky, or controlled. Each choice provides a range of multiple outcomes, beyond simple success or failure. To highlight the roguish nature of the characters, players can accept a devil's bargain (a bonus die with strings attached) to bolster their chances.
A good teamwork system is critical to making a game about a crew of scoundrels work. Blades in the Dark features a fun and intuitive teamwork mechanic that shifts the spotlight from one character to another as they go "on point" with their teammates backing them up.
Many RPG sessions grind to a halt when planning is required. The group ends up discussing options for hours -- talking about the game rather than playing the game. Blades in the Dark cuts through all that with a lightning-fast planning technique that takes less than one minute. You make a few simple decisions and you're off and running. In addition, the players can use their teamwork bonus to activate a contingency plan, which lets them cut to a flashback scene and roll a setup action their character performed in the past.
Blades in the Dark is industrial-fantasy. What's that mean? It means that the setting of Duskwall is similar to some fantasy cities you may be familiar with (Lankhmar, Camorr, King's Landing) but with industrial-revolution era technology, like steam trains, gaslights, and primitive electricity. It also means that industry and science exist alongside occult mysticism and demonic horrors.
Here's a snippet from the intro:
"It is the year 847 of the Imperium which united the shattered islands of the cataclysm under one rule—all glory to his majesty the Immortal Emperor.
The unquiet spirits of the dead—free to roam the world since the gates of death were shattered in the cataclysm—prey on every living thing in the blasted deadlands between cities.
The port of Duskwall, like every city-stronghold of the Imperium, is encircled by crackling lightning-towers which create an electrical barrier that spirits cannot pass. By law, the Wardens must incinerate all corpses with electroplasm to prevent a ghost from rising. However, wealthy citizens, heretics of the spirit cults, and the criminal element often arrange for a spirit to escape destruction at the incinerator. Rogue spirits and the illegal spirit essences derived from them are rich trade for the black market.
Duskwall is the home port for the titanic metal steamships of the leviathan hunters. The blood of those massive demons is the catalyst for the refined plasmic oils which power the city.
Duskwall is a place of wealth and poverty, science and magic, ambition and decay."