Summary of Blades in the Dark Worldbuilding

BitD Title_01 by James Dudli

I’ve done a bit of world building for Blades in the Dark. Let’s summarize!

Tales of the Unrecommendables (Play Reports)

Season Two

Tales of the Crow Gangs (Open table play reports)

Various Other Tales (Play Reports)

I am steeped in the Thief games, Dishonored, and Warhammer, so of course that flavors my baseline. I also found “Death of a Necromancer” to be a formative book (by Martha Wells), and it sort of has a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes, corrupted fey, and Victorian seances. Plus I have a Gothic problem. So, that’s the soil my city grows in.

Supernatural stuff is only ever an amplification of realistic concerns writ large. So for me, Duskwall is an empire, so it is by its nature vampiric; it lives off the life force of the leviathans, and it is unsteady in its power. Those who live by stolen energy roil in it upon death, and the city draws in more than it can contain.

Using ghosts means using images of stolen power lingering past death. The grasping continue to grasp, the victims snatch what power they can or find their need and hate filled out in an echo of electroplasm.

Duskwall is a city that is desperately unreflective. It is rooted in the Iron Law of Distribution–them that has, gets. Like all empires, its essence is theft and injustice. If the concept of fairness got a decent hearing, power would be stripped from the powerful and given to those reduced to desperate subsistence or slave work. The living can never allow that, and they fuel their industry on the living; when the living die, then their life force is scrubbed out, or repurposed to continue fueling the empire.

No one wants real justice, because it would destroy the world they know. Instead, they want power to claim a better place in that world. Anyone who does want to restructure the status quo is a profound threat to everyone else, and bitter enemies will close ranks to destroy them.

That is the city stance, its foundation and flavor. Like a martial arts stance, it is about stability and balance, and you can go lots of directions from there. See how it informs how the nobles interact? How the criminal classes know which lines they can cross and which they can’t? How the supernatural ebbs and flows, how to use it, and what sub-plots it may best underscore?

To sum up: everyone in this city is a vampire, feeding from other vampires. The weak and the victims aren’t very good at it. The aristocrats use the law to manage harvesting the life owed them. All energy flows to the center, and when there’s a break in the draw then there is chaos until a new route is established and life again flows to the center.

The wheel goes round, but that only matters to those on the rim.

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