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Characters / Blades in the Dark

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This is the list of character- and crew-specific tropes found in Blades in the Dark.


Tropes common to all scoundrel playbooks:

  • Addiction-Powered: If your scoundrel has a drug-related vice (Pleasure or Stupor), indulging your addictions restores your Stress points, which literally power some special abilities, in addition to helping you survive and succeed in situations where regular people would end up very dead, very fast.
  • Anti-Hero Team: Scoundrel crews tend to do extremely shady things while being motivated by their explicitly-codified vices.
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  • Cast Speciation: Subverted. Although the game's use of playbooks is reminiscent of games Powered by the Apocalypse (which strictly enforce the "only one copy of any playbook per campaign" rule), Blades explicitly allows two players to play instances of the same playbook, as long as their characterizations are sufficiently differentiated. The fact that there are only seven playbooks (instead of the PbtA norm of 10-12) may have something to do with it.
  • Everyone is a Super: While this probably does not apply to Normal People and every human is by default terrified of the ghosts and demons, pretty much every scoundrel has some experience with the supernatural and can obtain some electroplasm-powered abilities and use the Attune action without penalties. The Whispers (the dedicated "magic guys") are just slightly better at it than others.
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  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Scoundrels of the Military background have it much easier to justify their possession of weapons and combat skills.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Taking a level 3 harm normally puts a scoundrel out of the action until they heal up. However, if they still have 2 stress points to spare, they can push themselves to perform another action roll despite debilitating injuries (although doing so does not confer the extra dice/effect levels that pushing oneself normally does).
  • Player Character: "Scoundrel" in this game refers primarily to the PCs even though they are not the only people referred to as "scoundrels" in-universe.
  • Staying Alive: Mechanically speaking, player-controlled Scoundrels are very hard to kill: unless their players willingly let them die, it takes suffering a level 4 (i.e. instantly fatal) injury that they cannot resist because they have already suffered a level 3 harm and spent all of their armor uses and/or load. In other words, if your character croaks, they really had it coming — and even then, if the situation allows for it, the GM is allowed to permanently disfigure your character instead of offing them outright.
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  • Unique Protagonist Asset: The ability to take Stress is what sets the scoundrels (including player characters) apart from Normal People living in Duskwall. In gameplay terms, it is the main resource pool which players have to manage in order for their characters to come out on top of overwhelming odds.

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    The Cutter 
A dangerous and intimidating fighter.

  • The Berserker: Cutters carry vials of "rage essence", which greatly boost their combat prowess, but also make Friend or Foe identification more difficult.
  • The Big Guy: Cutters get XP for resolving challenges with violence or intimidation.
  • The Dreaded: The "Savage" ability automatically instills fear in anyone who watches the Cutter fight, making it easier for the latter to Command them. Their "scary weapon/tool" item additionally boosts the effects of such browbeating.
  • Frontline General: In addition to being combat-ready badasses, the "Leader" ability lets Cutters boost the crew's NPC morale and combat efficiency by commanding them in battle.
  • Healing Factor: The "Vigorous" ability lets Cutters heal much faster than normal during downtime.
  • Human Pack Mule: Invoked by the "Mule" ability, which greatly extends the Cutter's loadout capacity, allowing them to carry more stuff (or wear heavy armor) on Scores without usual impediments.
  • Iconic Item: Cutters get a selection of custom melee weaponry, including a particularly scary weapon that doesn't offer any combat bonuses, but is really good at intimidating foes.
  • Made of Iron: The "Battleborn" ability lets them shrug off combat damage as if they were wearing armor (and stacks with actual armor).
  • One-Man Army: The "Not to Be Trifled With" ability lets a Cutter fight a entire gang of up to six people on equal footing.

    The Hound 
A deadly sharpshooter and tracker.

  • Bounty Hunter: Hounds get XP for tracking down targets and dispatching them with violence, naturally pushing them towards this archetype.
  • Guns Akimbo: Hounds get a pair of custom handguns, and there is nothing in the rules that prevents them from firing both at once.
  • The Gunslinger: The "Sharpshooter" ability gives them both the Trick Shot and the Vaporizer subtype: they can shoot things at ranges not technically possible with the primitive guns found in Duskwall, and lay down a suppressing barrage without having to reload said (decidedly non-automatic) guns.
  • Iconic Item: Hounds get custom-made firearms, some of which are actually illegal for private citizens.
  • It's Personal: The "Vengeful" ability grants Hounds extra XP for exacting revenge upon people who harmed them or their loved ones.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Hounds get a "trained hunting pet" who counts as an expert hunter cohort and can even track down ghosts with the "Ghost Hunter" upgrade.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: The "Tough as Nails" ability lets Hounds ignore the detrimental effects of level 1 harm and treat levels 2 and 3 as one lower (level 4 is still fatal, though). In other words, they are merely inconvenienced by injuries that would incapacitate normal people.

    The Leech 
A saboteur and technician.

  • Clandestine Chemist: Naturally gravitates towards this archetype, between their default starting ability Alchemist (which allows them to research and to mix alchemical concoctions) and their signature item being a pair of bandoliers for carrying vials with alchemical substances for every purpose.
  • The Engineer: Their abilities mainly revolve around making and/or breaking mechanisms (and alchemy). They also get XP for doing so.
  • Item Caddy: The Leech carries the widest assortment of specialized alchemical and gadget items on scores.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The "Artificer" ability allows them to invent spark-craft gadgets a lot faster and more efficiently than others.
  • The Medic: The "Physicker" ability lets them assist their crewmates' recovery, which normally requires an NPC Back-Alley Doctor's services.
  • Place of Protection: The "Ghost Ward" ability allows a Leech to trash a place in such a way that ghosts would find it too abhorrent to go near.
  • Plot-Powered Stamina: The "Fortitude" ability lets Leeches shrug off the effects of fatigue and weakness, which usually accompany their research.
  • Poisonous Person: With the "Venomous" ability, a Leech becomes immune to a certain poison and capable of secreting said poison at will.
  • The Smart Guy: Leeches are usually the most academic people on the crew, and their abilities tend to emphasize long-term projects, e.g. the "Analyst" ability grants them free advances on any downtime projects.

    The Lurk 
A stealthy infiltrator and burglar.

  • Death-or-Glory Attack: The "Daredevil" ability lets Lurks take a bonus die on Desperate rolls—if they also roll one less die to resist the potential consequences.
  • In a Single Bound: One of the uses of "The Devil's Footsteps" is to perform feats of acrobatics that are clearly superhuman.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The "Ghost Veil" ability lets Lurks to briefly become barely visible and intangible (i.e. ghosts).
  • Master of Unlocking: With the "Infiltrator" ability, Lurks ignore most disadvantages imposed by the quality of locks and other security mechanisms. In other words, they literally can pick any lock in Duskwall with equal ease.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: Lurks get a pair as part of their starting equipment.
  • Sneak Attack: The "Ambush" ability gives Lurks an extra die on attacks from a hiding spot or with traps.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Lurks get XP for staying hidden and actively avoiding conflict.
  • Stealth Expert: Not only do they have the skills geared towards breaking, entering, and exiting unnoticed, but their "Expertise" ability lets them lead a group action for the entire crew while only suffering 1 stress, at worst.
  • Super Reflexes: The "Reflexes" ability basically ensures that in any contest of reaction speed, the Lurk wins.

    The Slide 
A subtle manipulator and spy.

  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The Slides start off with clothes fancy enough to pass for wealthy nobles if they so desire.
  • Con Man: Out of all playbooks, the Slide is inherently the best at confidence schemes.
  • The Face: Most of their abilities are focused towards being the respectable front for the gang. With the "Ghost Voice", they can even communicate intelligibly with insane ghosts!
  • The Gambler: Their starting gear includes a set of loaded dice and trick cards.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: The "Rook's Gambit" ability lets Slides roll for their best Action rating on any action (at the cost of stress), giving them a chance to shine in every situation.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Slides can use the "Mesmerize" ability to make their victims forget about being manipulated by them.
  • Living Lie Detector: With the "Like Looking into a Mirror" ability, they automatically know whenever anyone lies to them.
  • Manipulative Bastard: With the "Trust in Me" ability, Slides get +1d on all rolls against people with whom they have an intimate relationship (and not only romantic ones).
  • Master of Disguise: The "Cloak & Dagger" ability gives Slides an advantage on deception rolls while disguised, which stacks with the bonus from the fine disguise kit in their starting gear.
  • The Social Expert: Slides get XP for resolving challenges with influence, manipulation, and deception.
  • Sword Cane: The Slides' weapon of choice is as classy as they are themselves.

    The Spider 
A devious mastermind.

  • The Chessmaster: Spiders get XP for addressing challenges with calculation and conspiracy.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The "Foresight" ability lets them assist their crewmates without spending stress or rolling dice by explaining how they have prepared a contingency for it ahead of time.
  • Functional Addict: The "Functioning Vice" ability is a Luck Manipulation Mechanic that lets them avoid negative effects of indulging their Vice or enhance the positive ones.
  • Hidden Weapons: Spiders carry a very well concealed handgun on their person for 0 load.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: With the "Connections" ability, Spiders can procure whatever the crew needs or reduce Heat with greater efficiency.
  • Magically Binding Contract: The "Ghost Contract" ability allows Spiders to write up contracts that places a magical curse on whoever breaks them.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: "Fine cover identity" is a specialized item unique to Spiders, which basically doesn't even cost them anything to use.
  • The Team Benefactor: The Spiders' strong suits are more focused on the downtime activities than on immediate tactical challenges during Scores.
  • Utility Party Member: The Spider is a variant. While Blades in the Dark in general is not necessarily combat-focused, it is focused on "scores" with downtime in between them. A Spider's abilities are largely focused on giving bonuses during downtime, instead of scores, making them the kings of pre-mission prep work.

    The Whisper 
An arcane adept and channeler.

  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Most people in Duskwall, even scoundrels, have a "freeze or flight" response to supernatural beings, such as ghosts or demons. The "Iron Will" ability lets the Whisper ignore this fact, because they are so used to the presence of undead spirits all around them.
  • I See Dead People: With the "Ghost Mind" ability, Whispers are always aware of the ghosts (who are normally invisible) in their surroundings.
  • Mask of Power: Whispers have a unique "spirit mask" on their equipment lists, which allow them to perceive the Spirit World in much better detail and also offers a measure of protection against the supernatural.
  • Psychic Powers: While all scoundrels can Attune their minds to the ghost field, Whispers are especially proficient at it and, in fact, get XP for using knowledge and arcane abilities.
  • Shock and Awe: The "Tempest" ability lets Whispers launch lightning bolts from their fingers.
  • Shout-Out: Some of Whispers' equipment is suspiciously similar to the Ghostbusters' loadout, including an extendable lightning hook for grappling ghosts and a pair of specially prepared spirit bottles for trapping and containing them.
  • Summon Magic: With the "Compel" ability, a Whisper can lure out ghosts from the vicinity to do their bidding.
  • Weather Manipulation: The other use of the "Tempest" ability is to summon thunderstorms.

    The Rail Jack 
A ghost-fighting roughneck. This playbook is an official supplement by John Harper himself available from his website.

  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: As part of their professional training, Rail Jacks (both the playbook and the trade as a whole) are immune to supernatural terror caused not just by ghosts but even by some lesser devils.
  • Foil: In many ways, the Rail Jack is the anti-Whisper: both playbooks specialize in ghostly matters, but where the Whisper relies on mystic powers, the Rail Jack is powered by sparkcraft (electroplasm engineering) and is much more adept at getting up close and personal with the ghosts.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Downplayed, the "Silver Lung" ability renders the Rail Jack completely immune to Demonic Possession by ghosts and the like.
  • Prestige Class: Taking the "Specialist" ability lets the Rail Jack specialize into one of three gear sets of their trade: Anchor (specializing in luring ghosts away), Grappler (ghost capture specialist), or Hammer (ghost combat specialist).
  • Sticky Shoes: A pair of magnetic boots are included in the Rail Jack's specialty gear list.
  • Traintop Battle: The "Goat-Footed" ability reduces the Rail Jack's stress loss when resisting the consequences of tumbling, falling off a moving vehicle, etc., noting specifically that they are "entirely at ease atop a speeding train car".
  • Who You Gonna Call?: While all other playbooks have abilities that help them deal with hostile ghosts, the Rail Jack is the one truly specialized in keeping them at bay. This is because, other than the Spirit Wardens, the rail jacks have by far the most experience protecting people from ghosts, specializing in keeping electro-trains safe on the long treks across the Death Lands.


Tropes common to more than one crew type:

  • Disposing of a Body: The "Hagfish Farm" upgrade for the Assassins and Shadows' lairs lets them reduce Heat from assassinations faster by discretely disposing of dead bodies.
  • It Gets Easier: The "Hardened" crew upgrade lets Assassins, Bravos, and Cultists retire after five Traumas, instead of the regular four, representing their increased desensitization towards death and suffering.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: The "Cover Operation" claim reduces the Heat after each score by laundering some of the money it made.
  • Mysterious Employer: The pretty much every crew except the Cult (for obvious reasons) and Smugglers can get the "Patron" ability, which gives them a mysterious patron who cuts their Tier upgrade costs in half in exchange for their work.

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Killers for hire.

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: The "Vipers" ability gives all crew members an immunity to a particular type of poison until the next score.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The "Victim Trophies" lair upgrade adds a Trophy Room to the hideout which actually increases the crew's Rep after every score as the word of its sheer creepiness goes around.
  • Deader Than Dead: With the "Emberdeath" ability, crew members can destroy their victims' spirit simultaneously with their bodies, ensuring the cannot rise as ghosts.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The crew can specialize in "accidents" as their primary mode of assassination. With the "No Traces" ability, they can even get Rep for perfect scores with no Heat (which normally give no Rep).
  • Murder, Inc.: Basically, the whole point of this crew type.
  • Secret Art: The "Crow's Veil" crew ability allows the members to participate in a secret ritual which hides their murders from the Spirit Wardens, who otherwise automatically learn of each death in Duskwall and usually arrive in force to secure and dispose of the corpse before it releases a ghost. This lets Assassins avoid the usual Heat penalties for murder.

Mercenaries and thugs.

Acolytes of a forgotten god.

  • Cult: Obviously enough. The crew's activities primarily revolve around serving whatever dark deity the players chose.
  • Human Sacrifice: The "Sealed in Blood" ability reduces the stress costs of sacrificing humans for the cult's rituals.
  • Mission from God: The basic motivation of the crew members.
  • Physical God: Cult crews can take the "Glory Incarnate" special ability, which means their god might sometimes manifest in the physical world. Given the nature of the forgotten gods, this is not necessarily a good thing even for the cult.
  • Synchronization: The "Bound in Darkness" ability lets cult members assist and communicate with each other regardless of the physical distance between them.

Vice dealers.

Thieves and spies.

  • Thieves' Guild: This is basically the Shadows' purpose.
  • Torture Cellar: The "Interrogation Chamber" claim gives Shadows a bonus on Command and Sway actions.

Contraband transporters.

  • Base on Wheels: With the "Barge" upgrade, the smugglers' lair can be towed across Duskwall's canals as they see fit.
  • Cool Boat: The smugglers can get one (or a carriage) as their starting upgrade.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: The "Ghost Passage" ability renders the crew immune to spirit possession, but they can voluntarily let ghosts into their bodies to smuggle them wherever they need to go.
  • Vehicular Combat: The "Reavers" ability gives the crew bonuses while engaging in combat while in a vehicle.
  • Venturous Smuggler: This crew's whole shtick.

Deluded avengers. This is an official Blades supplement by Sean Nittner, downloadable for free from the official site, for those who want to play "the good guys" in Duskwall.

  • Clean Up the Town: What the Vigilantes aspire to, particularly as they grow in Tier and power.
  • Cowboy Cop: The Shields-origin crew are members of the law enforcement Living a Double Life to dispense extrajudicial justice.
  • Rabble Rouser: Particularly if the crew's preferred method of protection their community is Uniting them to fight, they will frequently have to rouse the rabble to do so.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Vigilantes of the Wolves origin are straight-up criminals who hunt fellow criminals for any reason — except the money, of course (that would just make them Assassins).
  • Splash of Color: The official cover of the supplement features a person in a blood-red cape against the completely monochrome background. This is the only instance of colors other than black and white used in any official Blades artwork, and it likely symbolizes both the glimmer of hope that the Vigilantes represent in this crapsack setting, and the futility of their actions in the face of overwhelming bleakness.
  • Vigilante Execution: Mostly averted, given how problematic murder is in Duskwall. The most aggressive favored operation type is Terror, which revolves around "intimidating" enemy factions, leaving the methods up to the players.
  • Vigilante Militia: The whole point of this crew type is to bring other, purely criminal crews to justice by extrajudicial means.

Artists of deception. Another official Blades supplement, written by Rob Donoghue.

  • Con Man: An entire crew of conmen, specializing in the long con. The supplement pointedly dismisses the idea that only Slides can be good conmen ("Everybody Grifts") and offers a mechanic named Roles to make grifting easier for less social playbooks.
  • Public Secret Message: The "Conversational Fugue" crew ability lets Grifters communicate in public without being understood by the outsiders.

Duskwall notables

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    Lord Strangford 
Currently the most powerful noble in the city (possibly after the current Lord Governor), who sits on the City Council (despite half of it actively trying to throw him out), operates the largest leviathan hunter fleet on the continent, and is a high ranking member of the secret order within The Church of Ecstasy of the Flesh.

  • Action Politician: In addition to riches and political clout, Lord Strangford is The Captain of one of the largest leviathan hunter ships in existence.
  • Big Fancy House: The Strangford House is located on a private island in Charhollow, and is elevated so that it is visible from across the city on moonlit nights.
  • Composite Character: Strangford seems to be an amalgamation of three key Loyalist conspirators from Dishonored: Admiral Havelock's ambition and maritime skills, Teague Martin's ecclesiastic connections and aspirations, and Lord Pendleton's Blue Blood and Old Money.
  • The Corruption: There are some indications that Lord Strangford's frequent trips to the Void Sea have tainted him spiritually and/or physically.
  • Old Money: The Strangfords are ancient nobility with holdings all across the city.

    Lord Scurlock 
A mysterious, seemingly immortal noble, whom the Whisper's ally list outs as an ancient vampire.

  • Deal with the Devil: Part of the Lord Scurlock's power comes from a deal he had made with a sea demon named Setarra long ago — a deal he still does his best to weasel his way out of.
  • Expy: Count Dracula has obviously been a major inspiration for this setting's Lord Scurlock, from being a wealthy, sophisticated, and cunning vampire, to possessing the strength of, specifically, 20 men (a trait repeatedly attributed to Dracula in the original novel).
  • One-Man Army: Lord Scurlock is considered a Tier III faction (equivalent of 20 highly-skilled operatives) by himself and has both the Spirit Wardens and the Immortal freaking Emperor listed as his official enemies.
  • Shout-Out: Both he and his demonic ally Setarra share their names with the characters of Tales from the Wild Blue Yonder by the same designer.


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