Blades in the Dark and Risus

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Rules-light games like Risus benefit tremendously from a strong sense of shared expectations. That’s the only reason Lasers and Feelings works; if you have Trek fans they will go for that genre emulation, with a more or less consistent understanding of what transporters, the deflector dish, photon torpedoes, and planetary scans should be able to accomplish.

Blades in the Dark has gelled a similarly familiar set of expectations at the game table. I think it could be a fine setting to attempt with Risus. Now, I am not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with the original rules or they need to be replaced. However, the rules have a lot of abstractions and peculiarities that have a lot of nuance, and the pace of the game is not traditional. It could be fun to explore the setting in another vehicle.

Here are a few suggestions.

Playbook Cliche. Every character should have 1 cliche named after a playbook in Blades in the Dark. It doesn’t have to be your biggest thing, but it provides an expected skill set.

Cliche Mines. Other cliches can be based off of actions or special abilities, whatever focus works best for the kind of character you want to play. Heritage and Background can also provide inspiration for cliches. IMPORTANT: these are not limiting what you can do for cliches, but they do provide inspiration because they are a curated set of words with meanings that have already been explored in the base game, so it is easier to reach a consistent understanding.

Powers and Tools. Your tools fictionally expand what you can expect to accomplish, and without the right tools, your cliche dice pool is halved. Also, there is room to bring in equipment that can have mini-rules to customize some mechanics if the GM feels like it. Like, using a lightning hook and spirit bottle, before the struggle begins you roll 1d6 and negate that many dice from a ghost’s pool, up to all of them.

Difficulty Numbers. In general, if it’s a controlled action, difficulty is 5. Risky actions are 10. Desperate actions are 15. And up, if you get ridiculous, but that ties down a baseline.

Group Actions. Consider how you can team up, facing victory and defeat with narrative descriptions, dealing with having a leader and how you’re in some narrative cover with others there but still able to contribute. Also, there are brevet dice for when you do something with “0 dots” in the action type.

Stress. When you lose a challenge, you lose a die (or more if you’ve pumped them) from the related cliche. This is very much like using stress. So, you can say that characters can only get their dice back through down time actions with vice, getting 1d6 back and suffering a complication if they roll above the number of cliches dice they can hold. If you run out of a dice pool in an action, then you’ve “traumad out” and the GM can describe what happens to you!

Flashbacks. Is it obvious that you would have planned this? Yes? No cost. If it’s a stretch, then pick a cliche that’s relevant to the flashback and drop it by 1 die. If it’s highly unlikely, it can cost 2 cliches.

Pumps. Only allow pumping cliches if they accept the terms of a devil’s bargain.

Conflict. Appropriately enough, the rules are the same for violence or meeting any other challenge.

Other Bits. You have inappropriate Cliches for desperate situations.

Crew. Let’s steal from Inspectres, where the Crew gets 5 Cliche dice that the players can borrow over the course of the game, and refill as they are able.

Downtime. Give everyone two actions, and allow clearing vice. For clocks, set a cost in increments of 10. Every action spent to roll, take the total and put it towards the clock until it’s full. Use that to add cliches to the crew at the cost of 60 per die perhaps, and also to achieve fictional purposes.

Heat. Assign 10 Heat per 1 normal Heat in Blades in the Dark, and let them try and clear it in down time as a long term project.

This is not comprehensive, but it shouldn’t have to be. It’s enough for you to try it out and see how to echo some elements between the games.


Caul the Spooky Whisper. Hunched with a big cloak, pajama-like clothes, and perforated goggles built into a spirit mask, tends to move with fluid grace like a chi master. Cliches: Whisper (4), Prowler (3), Knife Expert (2), Iruvian (1)

Danforth the Chilly Hound. Whip-thin and savage, sneering aristocrat. Cliches: Aristocrat (4), Hound (3), Chauncy the Bat’s Master (2), Tattoo Artist (1)

Shelby the Shadowborn Lurk. Meaty but strangely silent, voyeur and vandal. Cliches: Lurk (4), Strangler (3), Artist (2), Slave of the Lady of Thorns (1)

Slackinsky the Mastermind. Low-born prodigal crime genius with a mean streak. Cliches: Spider (4), Everpresent but Invisible Servants (3), Ghost Contracts (2), Seduction (1)

The Crew: The Inkwhyles. Based out of a tattoo parlor’s dungeon, used to be a twisted noble family’s sexy torture dungeon. Cliches: Secure Prison Space (3), Satisfied Customers (2)

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One Response to Blades in the Dark and Risus

  1. Pingback: Summary of Blades in the Dark Worldbuilding | Fictive Fantasies

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