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I want to play an introductory session of Blades in the Dark with a group of six people, and I'd prefer not to split them into two parties. However, the rulebook mentions party size from two to four, not more:

WHAT YOU NEED TO PLAY

  • Players: two to four. Plus one Game Master.

Is it possible to play Blades in the Dark with a larger group? What problems should I expect? Answers with evidence from actual experience would be preferable.

This is my first attempt to play Blades as the GM (although I have experience with other PbtA games).

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I'm playing in a long term Blades campaign with 5 players.

There really isn't any change required beyond the normal adaptation any GM does on the fly for their game, like upping the clocks a bit for the hyper competent. We end up pushing high stress just like always, and when we don't, we risk overindulgence in the vice rolls that having a trauma in the first place pushes you into, so you still feel the need to "roll hard". Plus those sweet desperate rolls that get you XP motivate all of those people to incur risk, not use their numbers to eliminate it.

The up side is that more people means more folks have the freedom to spend their downtime on "their own" schemes without feeling like they're ripping off the team by not being a hivemind all the time. Once I've healed or reduced stress, my second action doesn't always have to be heat removal or whatnot, I can actually get some new rituals made, or go join an Eyes Wide Shut style cult, or whatever.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ ... an experienced based answer. (More to be desired are they than gold ....) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 13 at 0:06
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This question was asked on the Subreddit, and apparently it breaks the Stress economy.

Each PC gets 9 stress before they have to leave the score (trauma -out). So at 5 PCs that 45 stress for the table. With 45 stress to spend on one score most things that cost stress only cost 1-3 stress (aside from a bad resistance roll or a few other odds and ends). That means on any given score (which to me is 2-3 clocks of 4-6 ticks before complications occur) there is a LOT of ability for the players to interject or add into it. Which can really make things feel a bit... loose or non-consequential if you don't hit them hard enough where they really want to resist but have to think about how much stress they are using. (Don't forget about the protect action which lets PCs resist for other PCs)

Its just the stress pool gets really big even when the score can mostly "stay the same" in terms of difficulty, cause going from 3 crew members to 4 crew members doesn't really change the scale or effect of the crew so most of the things that'd go into effect (tier/scale/quality) are the same, even though they have more stress to attempt the same obstacle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If this is indeed the issue, is there a reason that it cannot be solved by reducing the amount of stress each PC can accrue? \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Aidley Sep 30 '19 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JackAidley: I've never played myself. Could it be that reducing the amount per player makes it more likely that a given player will get knocked out? \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Duggan Sep 30 '19 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've upvoted the answer, but still can't accept it, since it has no evidence from actual game experience. Yes, in theory 5 PCs do have 45 stress, but in practice stress is not hit points — it tends to accumulate from score to score, and there a plenty of situations when you can't be protected a teammate and have to take your own stress, so the very premise of the combined stress pool can be flawed. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 1 '19 at 9:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I were going to run for 5+ players I'd probably do a few things to up the stress accumulation speed. Make resistance be 7- highest roll (resistance always costs 1 stress now!). I'd also probably make Pushing yourself progressively more expensive in stress (pick 2 costs 5 total, pick 3 costs 7 or 8). I do think this would end up being very hacky and the game wouldn't play as well with the extra players. \$\endgroup\$ – aslum Mar 6 at 17:07
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I run Blades primarily with 5-6 players, but have also done so with lower player counts.

It works great. As ever you need to calibrate how hard you can push your players, but I find that is more group and situation dependent, than it is player count dependent. Some groups prefer grittier, tougher experiences.

Based on my experience I would say that no player-count specific changes are required to play the game. Rules for tweaking how gritty/hard you want the game to be are included in the book†, and may be of use, but are not necessary.

†For example; tweaking the payout for scores up or down, which impacts how easily the players can recover stress.


In fact I would say it is easier to run at higher player counts than any other system I've played (Pathfinder 1, Pathfinder 2, D&D, Fate, Genesys and FFG's Star Wars).

The reason it is easier, is that the GM makes far fewer rolls and doesn't normally have 'your own turn', as 90% of NPCs only take actions in encounters as consequences to, or as interference with the PC's rolls. It enabled me to give my players a far larger percentage of my attention and brain space, and I actually enjoyed it a lot more than DMing for similarly large numbers in other systems.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ By the way, I don't compare Blades with D&D or Pathfinder. I want a comparison between 4-players Blades and Blades with a larger group. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Mar 19 at 11:09

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