I thought I understood the rules for resisting consequences in Blades in the Dark, until I got to the GM Bad Habits section.

The resistance rules (page 32) say:

When your PC suffers a consequence that you don’t like, you can choose to resist it. Just tell the GM, “No, I don’t think so. I’m resisting that.” Resistance is always automatically effective—the GM will tell you if the consequence is reduced in severity or if you avoid it entirely. Then, you’ll make a resistance roll to see how much stress your character suffers as a result of their resistance.


Usually, a resistance roll reduces the severity of a consequence. [...]

You may only roll against a given consequence once.

The GM also has the option to rule that your character completely avoids the consequence. For instance, maybe you’re in a sword fight and the consequence is getting disarmed. When you resist, the GM says that you avoid that consequence completely: you keep hold of your weapon.

However, among other GMing practices to avoid, there's Don't Roll Twice For The Same Thing (page 199):

When a PC faces danger, they make an action roll. Also, they can roll resistance to avoid a bad outcome. However, don’t roll twice for the exact same thing.

For example, Arlyn is dueling a Red Sash on the roof. [...] Arlyn is forced over the edge and falls off the roof.

But she can roll to resist, right? Yes. She can resist the harm that results from the fall. But she can’t “undo” being forced over the edge. That’s already been determined by her action roll. Her resistance reduces the impact of the fall. Instead of breaking her leg, she suffers lesser harm (maybe a sprained ankle) or maybe the GM rules that she’s able to avoid the harm entirely by rolling into a rough crash-landing. Either way, she’s still fallen off the roof.

In other words, the action roll determines whether a consequence manifests or not. Resistance changes how much of that danger manifests or how bad it is, but it doesn’t negate the fictional outcome of the action roll.

So which is it? Can the player avoid the fictional part of the consequence, not just its mechanical impact if they resist and the GM agrees to it?

If a consequence is resisted in the forest, is the tree still fallen?


Consequences And Truth

Consequences are both a thing that goes in a harm box on your character sheet and a thing in the plot that is happening. "You go over the edge of the building and break your leg" is one consequence that you resist as a whole, not "you go over the edge of the building" and "you break your leg" as separate things you have to resist.

Resistance Is As Futile As The GM Wants It To Be

And while the very least you can do by resisting the whole consequence is knock "you break your leg" down one row on your character sheet to "you sprain your ankle", assuming there's room on the row below to write it, the GM has carte blanche to knock down the truth of the consequence, if they feel it would be appropriate.

Why isn't it appropriate, in this case?

The Devil's In The Details

So, here's the bit of the example you cut out:

The Red Sash drives her back with a flurry of feints and slashes, and there's a danger that Arlyn will be forced over the edge during the skirmish. Arlyn's player makes an action roll to see how her counter-attack goes. She rolls badly!

In this case the GM feels it's not appropriate to let Arlyn resist going over the edge because Arlyn was making the action roll in the first place to, among other things, not go over the edge, and she didn't even get a qualified success.

"Going over the edge" is the form her failure takes, how the mechanical part of the consequence is happening. (The book doesn't spell it out explicitly, but it's likely things have escalated to desperate circumstances, where you get imminent and multi-pronged threats like this.) If the GM rolls that back too, where are we?

Don't Make Them Roll For The Same Thing Twice

Well, we're back on the roof and Arlyn's having a swordfight with a Red Sash, down a harm slot and some stress, and she's going to make the same action roll to counter-attack and not go over the edge.

As the result of an action roll, the character's circumstances should change. In this case, they changed through failure. So, as a GM, you shouldn't scale back the truth of the consequence if that would mean that the only thing that happens is the player updates their character sheet.

Complicating Factors

Okay then, so why does the GM let you keep your weapon in a swordfight? Well, let's suppose Arlyn has better luck here and manages to succeed at her action roll, but with a complication, and the GM decides that the complication is that Arlyn's sword goes sailing over the edge of the building and she gets in the final blow with a broken roof tile.

So she's done everything she wanted - won the fight and stayed on the roof - but something else is happening she doesn't want. If she decides to resist that, the GM can walk it back entirely, because while Arlyn is now down some stress instead of down her sword, the original action roll has still changed things.


Simply put, resisting a consequence does not change what happens. It changes how much it hurts. In other words, it lets the character walk away from events they otherwise couldn't.

It is the RPG equivalent of the dramatic technique where the audience is forced to think the hero is done for, at least for a brief moment, but then the we realise that something else has happened and it's not over yet.

So the result of the action roll still happens, but the consequence changes to something less severe but more interesting.

When Arlyn gets forced off the roof, we expect her to be hurt badly because she just fell off a roof. That's the probable, therefore expected consequence of a fall.

But when she resists, she doesn't resist falling off the roof. That's already decided. What she resists is the consequence of the fall. She changes that consequence into something less severe, but more extraordinary.

We see her falling off the ledge, and expect to see her with at least a few broken bones, but when we next see her, maybe she's just barely clinging to a flagpole halfway down, hurt, shocked, dazed and without her sword, but her bones still intact. She still has fallen, but not as bad as we first anticipated.

The action roll isn't for determining what the consequence is, it is for determining if something happens that causes a consequence to manifest. If that something happens, there are two possible consequences, one if you resist, and one if you don't. You choose one as a player and that consequence manifests, not the other. And if you chose to resist, you roll for how much stress that choice puts on you, not if you managed to resist or not.

So you are not rolling for the same thing twice anyway.


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