Blades In The Dark - Review of the paper RPG written by John Harper

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Valery Aloyants
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Imagine for a moment leaving the heroes aside and walking into one dark way, poisoned by vice, by violence, by loneliness. Imagine now having to survive in a hostile place and who has no interest in taking care of you. For the others you are just one of the many parasites that roam the crumbling streets of a ruined, decadent city. Making your way through that mass of people with no future can be a difficult undertaking, but the goal to survive is clear: create your own crime empire. Where does all this happen? TO Doskvol, the city where the crimes of Blades In The Dark. It is an RPG that enjoyed considerable success in 2015, when he landed on Kickstarter, then winning two coveted prizes such as the Golden Geek RPG of the Year and l 'Indie RPG of the Year. Written by John Harper and originally published by Evil Hat Produtions, this jewel comes thanks to the union of the forces of Grumpy Bear Stuff e Pendragon Game Studio. A title that many RPG fans have been waiting to play and browse for some time, and finally the prayers have been answered. Have expectations been met? Yes, and for several reasons.



Welcome (more or less) to Doskvol!

The adventures that come to life in Blades In The Dark come to life in a dark place: Doskvol (also called Duskwall or simply Dusk). The atmosphere that you breathe wants to remember that of Victorian and Gothic London, the mysterious and black air of Prague, and the charm of one Abandoned Venice. In short, a foggy and industrial environment, not very reassuring and not friendly at all, within which a dense network of criminal and magical activities branches out. And yes, like any good self-respecting fantasy, there is an arcane component that binds to terrible creatures present on the scenario. Doskvol, in addition to being the cradle of thieves, smugglers and spies, it is also home to demons, ghosts and vampires from the most dangerous areas of the world.



The city is immersed in perennial darkness, caused by a huge cataclysm that has destroyed the sun and the Gates of Death. The absence of light gives the environment a gothic, ghostly atmosphere, where the inhabitants move like rats looking for a way to survive. Ships set sail from Doskvol to the black waters of the Empty Sea, hunting for leviathans from which to extract the electroplasmic blood what the city needs. The Dead Lands that extend beyond the city limits are home to indescribable horrors, which are difficult to leave out.

Over time, Duskvol has welcomed a multitude of different cultures, coming from every corner of the known world. Society is made up of travels and experiences that must adapt to a life of sacrifice and immoral deeds. The players will then be immersed in a setting in pure style grimdark, where violence and recovered information can make a difference. So let's forget all those RPGs that show huge green spaces, cutting-edge and shining cities. Let's also forget everything that makes the game environment epic. Here, in the tetra Doskvol, you have to get by on your own.

There is no place for heroes

In a city like Doskvol it is easy to fall into the sweet hands of the underworld, of vice, of the darkness that lurks in the darkest alleys. And that's how players will find themselves rolling exploits of criminals of the worst kind, ready to do anything not to succumb to industrial cruelty and give life to a great empire of crime. All this, however, is hindered by those factions that, despite the decadence that is experienced, try to enforce order and a glimmer of the law. The Blue Jackets, one of Doskvol's meanest and most violent gangs, will give players a bit of a hard time.



Players will be able to choose between several Booklets, a term that identifies a real class, with strengths to develop e special skills. The creation of the character begins with the choice of the specialization of your rascal, which will still be possible to change during the adventure. Blades In The Dark offers the following booklets:

  • Glove: deceptive and manipulative criminals, skilled in managing and giving life to complicated subterfuges;
  • Fog: specialized in sneaking in without being seen and disappearing into the shadows;
  • Spider: criminals who plot intrigues and maintain relationships with other faction members;
  • Leech: alchemists and saboteurs, sadists with tools that no one would like to try on their own skin;
  • Hound: follows the track and makes the hands speak;
  • Whisper: experts in magic and ghosts, sometimes it seems that they speak for themselves, but they are interacting with a demon;
  • Cutthroat: expert brawlers, they get the information with sharp blows and an intimidating snout.

The era of princes and princesses to be saved is over. Gone are the days of good intentions, the good-legal man in heavy armor defending any defenseless citizen with the sword. Blades In The Dark introduces crime and there is plenty of choice.

The gang is everything

The world of crime is competitive. Making your way in such a dark environment is not easy and scoundrels know that you don't get very far alone. So all that remains is join forces with others in despair and try to achieve a goal common to many other criminals: create an eternal empire. It is not a question of glory, we know that life sooner or later ends, hanging on a rope or left to rot behind the bars of an ancient and damp prison. Survival is the imperative.



The players will be united in a real band, whose task is to complete the missions, here called "shots“, Which will be continuously entrusted. As with criminals, there are different types of gangs, each of which has one specialization that characterizes it. In Doskvol meet:

  • Assassins: do you want to make someone disappear? Call them;
  • Vultures: they manage the shop rounds, they have the solution to feed your vice;
  • Bravi: mercenaries from extortion jobs and other small activities that are annoying if you are the victim;
  • Acolytes: aficionados of forgotten deities and related artifacts;
  • Ombre: spies and keepers of secrets, if you've never seen one it's because they know how to do their job;
  • traffickers: if you manage to get something illegal it is their merit.

Blades In The Dark gives the ability to play the gang as if it were a real pg. It grows in reputation and wealth, clashes with rivals and relies on small cliques to complete secondary jobs. For criminals, belonging to a gang is synonymous with protection and allows them not to fall victim to the city. Hitting hits will be crucial for gang members and climbing the ranks of the criminal organizations present in Doskvol. However, pay attention to the Blue Jackets.

A mature game

Baldes In The Dark has a seemingly simple regulation. Creating a character and filling out the form seems to be much easier than in other titles, where the amount of information to know and master is much higher. The game develops in three distinct phases, within which the dynamics that lead to the growth of the PC or to its ruin take place:

  • Free Play: the characters interact with each other and with the surrounding environment, collecting information and implementing a plan for the next shot to be carried out;
  • Blow: implementation of the plan, the consequences of one's actions are "paid";
  • Downtime: end of the heist, you get the rewards and you go back to the first phase.

To experience the spirit of Blades In The Dark it is necessary that the Game Master recreate the atmosphere of Doskvol, with all the dangers that it conceals and the opportunities it offers. The city is the place where interactions take shape and holds all the necessary information. It will be up to the GM to make sure that the characters have adrenaline-pumping adventures, full of tension and challenges against time. The manual provides these tools and tips, such as the dynamics of Watches, very useful to give a certain rhythm to the action.

Ready to embrace the path of crime? Doskvol awaits you with open arms. Indeed, with open blades.


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