A Light in the Darkness

Before I joined Fandible, my exposure to indie role-playing games was pretty limited. Sure, you had your Fiascos and such, but most of my time was focused on the tried-and-true games that I cut my teeth on: Shadowrun, Dungeons and Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade. My friends and I rotated these primary narrative worlds every couple of months, only venturing out into new horizons every now and again but never really seeking to add to our permanent repertoire. It’s because of this that I never gave games beyond my purview the time of day, and even with being part of Fandible I often wait for another member of the team to enthusiastically vouch for a new system.

Now, however, it’s me extolling the virtues of new gem. It’s called Blades in the Dark, and it whispers sweet and terrible nothings into my ears.

Blades in the Dark (by Evil Hat Productions) is a game set in a world (it notably does not call the planet “Earth”) that has endured a truly spectacular apocalypse. The sun has been shattered, the world is wreathed in perpetual night and every ocean is now inky blackness. The lands have become blasted, petrified shadows of what they once were and there is only a rumor of the glory of the world that came before the Armageddon. The only thing that is known is that humanity was united and now thrives in cities protected and powered by empirical science, or the arcane, depending on who you ask.  

While reminiscent of Unhallowed Metropolis it departs the setting in some crucial ways. The Player Characters (PCs) are always scoundrels and ne’re-do-wells, looking to improve their lot by any means possible. Players create a Crew that focuses on a particular crime (smuggling, intimidation etc) and execute “scores” to improve their wealth, influence and resources. It also uses a “Clock” mechanic, which is used for dividing up objectives large and small. As a lifelong fan of heist films, I can say wholeheartedly that this game’s system is the best representation of everything that makes a good crime drama.

The narrative setting is also infused with supernatural elements, but not your typical “dragons and fireballs” fantasy tropes. Instead players are introduced to a world where ghosts, demons and creatures of forgotten gods exist just beyond the periphery of everyday life. Outside the safety of the cities lurk horrifying monstrosities that are simultaneously the greatest threat and crucial resource that humanity has, harvesting their blood to power the machines that keep the cities safe while trying not to really piss the creatures off.

It’s with this backdrop that you and your crew begin your quest for domination of the criminal underworld. It’s H.P. Lovecraft meets Peaky Blinders. It’s not steampunk, it’s Eldritchpunk, and it’s rad as hell.

So while we’re preparing to tear into this game and see if it lives up to the hype (the hype that I am absolutely responsible for, to be clear) we would like to know if any of you have come across a genre of game that is so crazy or ambitious that you had to give it a try. Leave your comments (or questions about our experiences with Blades in the Dark) below!

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About the Author
David is a human, standing at average human size with human features. He is not an android, that would be ridiculous. He is fond of horror movies, so-bad-it’s-good movies, stand-up comedy and humor sometimes inappropriate for a given setting but within the accepted parameters of average human interaction. David reads H.P. Lovecraft with human eyes, speaks about Cyberpunk with his human mouth (using vocal chords, not embedded speakers) listens to podcasts with his human ears and typed this from an undisclosed location with his human hands. He was created in New England.

4 comments on “A Light in the Darkness

  1. Michael Merwin Jr says:

    I forgot this book existed but I was just talking about how a book called The Night Lands by William Hope Hodgson would be such a beautiful RPG setting. I would definitely recommend reading that before playing as it was an inspiration of Lovecraft and a few other prominent writers as well as most likely this book.

  2. Michael Merwin Jr says:

    Forgot to mention that the setting is basically the same as Blades in the Dark but written about 100 years before it was printed and without the heist stuff going on.

  3. Sophia says:

    I’ve actually played blades in the dark, and am currently listening to a newly started actual play podcast if it, and I would say it totally lives up to the hype. It provides good opportunity for social encounters, chances for you to feel like a criminal mastermind, and chances for you to fail spectacularly. In my groups first ever session of it, our hound fell through the roof of a building, got cornered by rival gang members and then had to blow up a decent chunk of the street to get away, only to run into a patrol of bluecoats. I think this will be a perfect fandible game.

  4. Paddy says:

    Hoo, glad you guys are getting into Blades. We’ve played a stack over at Liberation Industries… only game I’ve encountered that actually has social rules as resilient as the combat ones.

    As another odd duck, we really dug Nick Wedig’s game, The Devil John Moulton. The combo of the Wild West and Faust was just irresistible…

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