Under STRESS & THE SUPERNATURAL it is specified

A close encounter with a spirit or demon is a harrowing experience. By default, the standard effect is to either paralyze a person with fear or panic them into fleeing from its presence. A PC can choose to freeze up or flee or make a resistance roll with Resolve to ignore the effect. Characters with lots of exposure to spirits, such as Whispers, Rail Jacks, and occultists become less susceptible and only face fear or panic from exceptionally powerful entities.

Notably, some characters are more resilient to these effects. The Whisper playbook even offers the special ability:


You can Attune to the ghost field to force a nearby ghost to appear before you and obey an order you give it. You are not supernaturally terrified by a ghost you summon or attempt to compel (though your allies may be).

So, Whispers need not suffer the consequence freeze up or flee in terror from supernaturalae they Compel. Notably, their allies get no such protection from the Compel ability. However, game mechanics seem to allow another PC to protect such an ally.


You step in to face a consequence that one of your teammates would otherwise face. You suffer it instead of them. You may roll to resist it as normal. Describe how you intervene.

So, I'm wondering if it's possible/broken for the Compelling Whisper to be the one to 1) "protect" an affected crewmate from the consequences of supernatural terror. And, I'm wondering 2) how this mechanic would work if it were possible in some scenarios; e.g. does that Whisper need to make a resistance roll?


1 Answer 1


"Protect" only works if you can define an "instead of".

In the case of getting punched this is baby easy: you get punched instead of your fellow scoundrel, everybody knows what that looks like as long as you're, y'know, actually there and not chained up across town or something.

But as harms get more esoteric the "instead of" gets more esoteric too. Consider by analogy the case of another playbook that can be immune to a thing, the venomous Leech:

Venomous: Choose a drug or poison (from your bandolier stock) to which you have become immune.

-- "Playbook: Leech", Blades in the Dark p.71

Does this mean that when the crew is hunting up a score at the Leech's old chemycker circle, its halls flooded with poison vapor, that the Leech can just lead everyone skipping merrily along, protecting the entire crew by stepping in to take the consequences of breathing the poison but being immune?

Not really. What's the "instead of"? Is the Leech breathing "instead of" them?

Wait, that actually sounds pretty cool.

Oh no, you're right. Okay, um, we'll call it a "rebreather web", 6-tick project clock, tinker to make standard progress, and when it's done you and your crew can actually explore the halls with a minimum of having to get the spaghetti of breathing hoses untangled.

Only, uh, when violence or danger erupts, an exposed hose might get slashed and there's only so fast you can be with the patch kit. You're still not literally breathing "instead of" them, the project just represents the best attempt you can make at using your skills to protect the crew.

Nice! Wait, wasn't this a question about Whispers and ghosts?

Yes, it was. So let's rotate this back to the case of the compulsive Whisper. Can they experience paranatural reality "instead of" their crewmates, thereby becoming the sole target of a fear they're immune to? Probably not, but what they can do is going to depend on why the compelled ghost is scaring their crewmates, which is going to fall into one of two categories:

  • The ghost is powerful enough that its mere manifested presence could scare anyone. In this case, the ghost's existence is probably well-known enough that its terror can be treated as a hazard to be prepared for, similar to the poison-flooded halls at the Leech's old place. The ensuing project isn't guaranteed flawless in the field, but it should at least work well enough to protect the crew before things inevitably start getting complicated.

  • The ghost isn't notable enough to project terror, but it did just slip the Whisper's chain and is headed for a close encounter with the nearest vulnerable body to vent its frustration. You know, you donked up your Attune roll and the GM is pointing a consequence somewhere. In that case, you do have an "instead of" to pull out, but it's not so much you getting the full ghost experience instead of a crewmate. Rather, "instead of" the ghost running wild and hurting someone, you make a grab for that flailing chain of eldritch geometries and try to hook it back onto your soul -- or, y'know, however it is your Compel operates, I'm not the author of you. The resulting resist roll isn't directly against the ghost's frightful powers so you're still going to get stressed and maybe consequented instead of your crewmate.

There's a Whisper who probably does have a more limited sort of "instead of", though.

This is the iron-willed Whisper:

Iron Will. You are immune to the terror that some supernatural entities inflict on sight.

-- "Playbook: Whisper", Blades in the Dark p. 86

When dealing with a supernatural entity that needs to force a close encounter to induce terror, if the iron-willed Whisper can perceive the encounter coming they can certainly step up and act as a bulwark for their less iron-willed crewmates.

Whether or not the "instead of" applies is mostly up to the supernatural entity there, if they're completely willing to throw themselves at the Whisper -- at least until that final second when their malice deflects away like fog from a train prow. If they've actually got a vendetta against a crewmate of the Whisper's, the Whisper is going to have to play a more active defense after the entity's initial push doesn't bear fruit.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Haha. Again, you get my immediate upvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – nonymous
    Mar 15, 2023 at 22:29

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