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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

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    Question NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    I am having a hard time getting my head around how you handle NPCs, gangs, and monsters in this game.

    When a PC encounters an opponent, I can vary the urgency of the situation.
    As the book recommends, an ordinary opponent might come around the corner and see the PC, maybe drawing a blade, and it's "What do you do?"
    A skilled opponent might come around the corner and starts swinging his blade at you, "What do you do?"
    A master opponent might jump out from behind the corner, about to run his sword through you. "Does he run you through?" (That is, "do you want to make a Resistance roll and take the stress cost or accept a level 3 harm?")

    But the book also says that supernatural entities have a magnitude, and gangs both a quality and a scale. And as I understand it, a gang is mechanically considered identical to a single NPC. And on top, I can also give opponents a clock to track how much successful actions against it takes to overcome them.

    I actually don't even know where to begin with starting an encounter. What do I do with all these factors? I actually can't even spell out what my question is. How does a confrontation with hostile opponents work in practice?
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    I've never actually played Blades in the Dark (but I really want to) so all of this is theoretical but I do have the rule book open so it is not just guess work.

    For instance page 220 (magnitude) seems to give two uses. First is a catch all stat to use on fortune rolls that are about a super-natural being. The second more concrete one is a currency with which you buy the effects of magic. There is also a note about how it lines up to quality level in this use as well. Which does mean it is a bit unclear if a powerful demon being quality 6 is a guide on the cost or magnitude. Considering the setting both might work just fine (although you might include some other work in the purchasing a demon option to make sure you can control it). But I don't think this is one you would actually use in a direct encounter.

    Scale is numbers and quality is roughly how competent the members are. Consider that enemies are just another type of obstacle (like a locked door or a unsafe pathway) that are overcome with skill checks. Scale would be (roughly) how many successes you need to overcome them (the size of the clock) and quality is a guide on how difficult the individual checks are.

    Ordinary/skilled/master feels like an initiative hint. Maybe default would be a better word. So assuming neither you have ambushed the other - which would override the default - who acts first. Scoundrels/PCs are on a similar level to skilled opponents. So they act before ordinary opponents, around the same time as skilled opponents and after master opponents.

    At least that is what I have figured out after poking around a bit. And getting distracted running through some fan works.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    I think the numbers are meant to be purely ordinal. It only matters if one is greater or lower than the other, but it's irrelevant by how much.

    Say a mob of peasants (quality 0, size 6) tries to storm a palace, and a PC commands a handful of the king's elite guards (quality 4, size 1) to defend the main entrance at the top of great stairs. All that really matters is that the mob has larger size, and the guards have higher quality.

    If the PC commands the guards to hold the entrance at the top of the stairs as peasants come up and try to get in, the guards' quality beats the mob's quality, so the action roll to command the guards is with greater effect.
    If the PC commands them to charge down the stairs and into the crowd to disperse it, the guards would be surrounded and heavily outnumbered, with their one on one fighting skill not mattering much, and so the action roll would be with lesser effect. (Mob has larger size than the guards.)

    There's only lesser effect, standard effect, and greater effect, so it doesn't matter by how much one side's number is larger than the other side's. (At least before the roll. If the action is set to have lesser effect and the roll is a failure with the consequence "reduced effect", it stacks up to "zero effect".)

    I also believe that having the quality of a gang be equal to the Tier of the faction they belong to is only a default suggestion. A Tier V faction could still have bribed street thugs scare people aware from a warehouse that fight only as a quality 1 gang, while the faction leaders have quality 5 bodyguards.

    In the end, the rules for Effect state that comparing the values for quality and size is an alternative approach when it doesn't feel intuitively obvious if a roll should have lesser or greater effect. It's really more like guidelines than actual rules.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    Yeah the scale as clock size only works if you are doing something per member/sub-group. Which could come up I suppose but generally yeah effect modifiers seem to be the main use. Their main use does appear to be as guide-lines/a starting point. All of these are supposed to approximate, the tier being a prime example that even the book calls out as being an average.

    There are actually five effect levels, zero effect, limited effect (1 tick), standard effect (2 ticks), great effect (3 ticks) and extreme effect. The first and last are notes on the next page and aren't given explicate tick values, I'm guessing 0 and 4 or more. Extreme just seems to be anything better than great.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    Before the dice are rolled, the GM can set the Effect at lesser, standard, or greater. Which is based on whether the PC has a disadvantage or an advantage in the specific situation. But even when everything is stacked against the PC, it can not be lower than lesser effect. (Or higher than greater effect even when the situation massively favors the PC.)

    When the roll is made and you get a critical success, you get increased effect. If the GM set the Effect as greater before the roll, it gets jumped up to extreme effect.
    When the roll is failure or partial success, the negative consequence can be reduced effect. If the effect was set as lesser effect before the roll, it is reduced to zero effect.

    But even you have quality 0 tools to work on a quality 6 alarm, the GM still only sets the effect at lesser effect. Zero effect can only result from a consequence.
    At least I think so.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
     
    CarpeGuitarrem's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    My general approach rests on two points when I run Blades.

    First one is that gamemastering for Blades is more of an art than a science; there's a lot of levers you can fiddle with to communicate not just how difficult a task is, but other dimensions of how the task functions. Consequences, position, effect, and clocks are all useful tools, a mechanical vocabulary that the GM uses to talk about what the crew is up against. This also means there's no one right way to do things--underscoring this, Blades often asks you to consider alternate approaches you might take to represent a given situation. What winds up happening is a sort of fuzzy consistency that gets arrived at over time, you'll generally have particular ways that you handle a given situation, but it's not cut-and-dry rigidly defined. The section that starts on p 161 goes into this philosophy more.

    Second one is that "encounter design" isn't really a focus here, it's more about creating a snowball of cascading narrative. You just handle combat like noncombat stuff: challenges, consequences, and twists. It's centered on the actions the PCs are trying to take in the world, and you use the threat levels of enemies to inform what interactions are possible and plausible. For example, if a PC is pinned down by a gang, you use the tools at your disposal to figure out how to communicate to that. In the fiction, in the game, they're cornered by a bunch of enemies--that means if you try and Skirmish your way out, most GMs will set those rolls as Desperate/Limited or something like that. You make the call that makes sense in the moment--and quality, scale, and potency are ways to crystallize those judgment calls.

    There's a good bit on p 27 about the ethos behind this: "The reason we assess effect is to set expectations and make the fictional situation more clear, so everyone is on the same page." Once you say "oh, this is limited effect", people get what the stakes/consequences are now.

    A couple specific rules questions that came up here.

    RE: setting zero or extreme effect, on page 25
    When considering factors, effect level might be reduced below limited, resulting in zero effect--or increased beyond great, resulting in an extreme effect.
    So yeah you can set no effect or extreme effect initially. I've done that in some situations.

    I can't find the reference for the Tier question at the moment, but yeah, Tier is a rough guideline for how well-protected a faction's stuff is. Not every lock for the Bluecoats will be a Tier 3 lock, but many will.

    EDIT: oh, quick note about how supernatural entities have a Magnitude, that's basically a substitute for Tier for the purposes of making Fortune Rolls, which are sorta a go-to if you don't have a clear answer to a question you have about a situation, like "how badly does this demon wreck the city?"
    Last edited by CarpeGuitarrem; 2020-11-03 at 07:47 PM.
    Ludicrus Gaming: on games and story | My Steam Account
    Quote Originally Posted by Saph
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    I was wrong then.

    Though in case an action starts with zero effect, there is little point in actually going through with it. You could get a critical success and get increased effect to get limited effect. But the way the game works you're never forced by circumstances to use one specific approach, so there's no reason to try something completely different instead.

    Similarly, if effect starts out as critical, is there even still a need to make a roll?
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    Well for the extreme effect, you can still fail (highest result 1-3) and you don't get it. For the zero effect... I mean if you have just one tick left on a clock or are just actually role-playing your character who is making a sub-optimal move you can still do it. I think you could also push yourself to increase the result so you should be able to get at least a limited effect from a zero effect for some stress.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Titan in the Playground
     
    CarpeGuitarrem's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPCs, gangs, and monsters in Blades in the Dark

    Sometimes, taking on a roll with No Effect is the best option in a rough situation--and while you can do a little back-and-forth about what action to roll (with final decision resting on the player), you're not really supposed to back down from an action you said you were taking. Like, if you say you're going to rumble with Lord Scurlock mano-a-mano, I can't think of any action ratings without sufficient prep where I'd give a player higher than No Effect by default. Whether you Skirmish, Wreck, Hunt, what-have-you, it'll be No Effect unless you've taken the time (or have a Flashback!) to prep some sort of enchantments or specialized armaments.

    Plus, even if they don't make the roll, there's also a level of communication going on there. "If you want to roll Attune, that'll be No Effect" says something about the situation.

    And yeah like Cluedrew mentioned, they can always push for increased effect.
    Last edited by CarpeGuitarrem; 2020-11-08 at 10:35 AM.
    Ludicrus Gaming: on games and story | My Steam Account
    Quote Originally Posted by Saph
    Unless everyone's been lying to me and the next bunch of episodes are The Great Divide II, The Great Divide III, Return to the Great Divide, and Bride of the Great Divide, in which case I hate you all and I'm never touching Avatar again.

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