Sunday, July 8, 2018

Blades in the Dark: Someone Else's Opus

My gaming group decided to give Evil Hat's Blades in the Dark a quick try.  The first session was last Friday, mostly spent introducing the group to the rules and the PC and gang creation system.  The initial PC's include

  • A Leech specializing in pseudo-science technology
  • A Whisper who can influence the weather
  • A Cutter who is a former merchant marine
  • A Lurk who can briefly enter the ghost realm
  • And a Slide who is a professional con artist
For a gang, they decided to be Smugglers, which I thought of as being a fairly "safe" choice and easiest to stay on the morally unobjectionable side (versus say, a Cult or Hawkers, who are vice peddlers).  Some of the younger players also picked fairly "soft" vices, like being obligated to their family instead of gamblers or drug addicts.

Photograph by Orla on Deviant Art.  There is no shortage of possible group photos online for this game.

I suspect that the game will likely be more of a "Han Solo" kind of campaign versus a more gritty, ethically murky affair, but that's okay given the disposition of my group.  What's interesting for me is that it is the first game I'm tried in a while where most of the campaign background, NPC's, etc. are already made up.  There's a huge trove of detailed information in the book that it in and of itself an incredibly impressive corpus of work, but I'm been more likely in the past to do most of the creative work myself on top of a skeleton of rules.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I suspect I'll be able to do this game with less prep, which means it will be likely to run longer than some other campaigns have.  On the other hand, it'll never feel like my game. It's someone else's opus, and I'll just be massaging it into something that looks more like me.  Plus I like to engage in the creative process, so it will be interesting to see how much room I have within the construct of the RPG.

How do you feel about super-detailed RPG's?  Love 'em or hate 'em?


  1. I'm like you, I prefer more bare bones rules where I can paint the setting on top myself.

  2. I tend to like them. Like you I mostly use my own ideas but if I have a framework (or canvas if you prefer) to put my own ideas on it usually makes it easier. The one campaign that really bothered me was the one that included reams of details/history the PCs were never going to have any chance of learning.

  3. Here a paradox...

    I dislike games with overly detailed, pre-built settings. My primary grips are that there is often far too much information for any one person to obtain. Unfortunately this means that players will familiarize themselves with the options and lore that apply to their characters. The GM on the other hand needs to be familiar with everything. That's not only annoying, it's often incredibly expensive.

    The other major issue is that it is difficult to surprise or add in your own material to a world that is over-writ. If I have a great idea for the secret origins of a given element, but a player has purchased that element's sourcebook, they're going to thing the material in the book is 'canon' and they'll be confused by my additions. On the other hand, if I say my creations are canon in my game, the player is going to feel jipped that they shelled out money for the supplement and took the time to read it and it doesn't matter in our game.

    What's the paradox? Well, I love playing in established IP universes such as Star Trek, Star Wars, DC Comics, Ghostbusters, and many more. Those are very detailed and have tons of well documented canon and lore. So what's the difference?

    Well, if I buy RIFTS for example, I now need to read a hundred RIFTS books in order to play, understand the settings, and get all the options that my players may want for their PCs. I have to do that before we play.

    Star Trek isn't something anyone who wants to play it needs to read up on right now. They've been watching it over time for a long time. We've absorbed the universes of Star Wars, DC Comics, and many others through exposure over many years. Even someone who isn't a huge fan of Marvel Comic Books knows who Spiderman, Captain American, and the Hulk are through movies, t-shirts, etc. Those settings are absorbed almost through osmosis.

    Additionally, most IPs are purposely built with room to spare. The Star Trek and Star Wars universes are huge and barely explored in a sense. DC has infinite Earths.

    Most RPG settings are detailed to the point of lacking much room to breathe IMHO. In an effort to be thorough the designers have made such settings stifling.

    Just my several cents. ;)


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