A PC in Blades in the Dark is in a bit of trouble. All of his harm slots are filled up, and someone's still trying to kill him. They don't care to capture or otherwise disable the character, they want his head. He's fighting back, poorly. He fails the roll and suffers harm as the logical consequence. But! He refuses to accept that consequence, and gains stress to reduce the severity (page 32). Cool.

Except the reduced harm still has nowhere to go (all slots taken), so it would get upgraded again. And here the GM has two options: either negate the consequence entirely, or essentially say the consequence is unavoidable. The former option is perfectly legal, but the character can keep refusing to die when more harm is dealt to him later. He gets a random amount of stress while doing so, but that amount can even be 0, so this could go on for a while. Whereas the latter option appears to be against the spirit of the game.

The book talks about deciding which consequences can be reduced and which are avoided entirely, so suppose we're playing a gritty game where everything is normally only reduced.

This is a contrived situation unlikely to be an issue in play, picked for the clarity it presents - I'm trying to understand the logic of the rules. The less egregious example of resisting moderate harm with both lesser harm slots filled is quite possible.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ From what I understand: you're looking to understand the harm & consequence mechanics, specifically those mechanics that are present in this scenario, and you've also seen a potential unbreakable exploit in them when they're pushed together in the right way, and want to understand how the game addresses that. Is that interpretation correct? It's less clear to me whether this question is more about (a) understanding the mechanics, or (b) finding out how this scenario would be handled, or if it's both. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 25, 2017 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ The mechanics are fairly straightforward - I've basically listed them all. But the game talks a lot about choosing how to apply mechanics, so that's what I'm after: how to handle such a situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Magician
    Dec 25, 2017 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


Can the GM--?

The GM can, yes. They're in charge of the game, they decide what goes.

So "can the GM decide to save your life"? Yes.

And in this case it's not even hacking the rules to do it. Can the GM let you resist harm, even when you have no more slots left to mark it, even when it's marked down, and then just ignore it entirely?

Yes. They're allowed to say that a resistance roll wipes out any consequence they want it to.

Even if--?

Still yes.

Even if you've been playing that all these consequences bite, the GM can decide that they don't, when there's nothing more to bite on.

Even if you've been playing super-gritty this entire time, the GM can suddenly act merciful. And I imagine if you look at the after-action report you'll probably think it's a little bit weird, but at the time, even if this is happening, the tension is still there.


There's still a timer.

Resisting and marking stress is still a gamble. At some point you may have to mark trauma and drop out.

So it's basically a scenario where you're beaten within an inch of your life, and trying to keep going on sheer willpower with no idea when it's going to run out.

And that's fine.

You're not some random bravo. You have a stress track. That's what it's for. And you're writing yourself a ridiculous bill in stress reduction and physician attention, too. So there's that to look forward to. Maybe you were better off dead.


In cases like this, the thing to do is to follow the spirit of the rules and fill in the procedural gap. Blades in the Dark is a fiction first game, and mechanics heavy scenarios without ample fiction to support it are likely to self-terminate.

That's because each die roll advances events forward. Any injury on the scale you're talking about is going to make continuing to fight a non-viable option. A fatal (4) injury may get bumped down to a severe (3) injury, but that severe injury is going to pretty much take them out of action. They will not be able to fight anymore after that. Being impaled doesn't mean they're dead if they resist death, but it does mean that any attempt to fight is going to result in a limited effect and a worse punishment for failure.

If absolutely all level 3 slots are taken, that would mean that they take a catastrophic consequence (see Death on page 33) which can include death. A catastrophic consequence is on the level of a severed limb. This is the kind of damage where most people would just assume they're dead.

The PC passes out, the NPC leaves them to bleed out, and minutes later some other character stumbles upon them and delivers first aid for their bloody stump of an arm. They wake up in a strange bed several hours later with the worst headache of their life and hobble back to base.


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