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Crews may recruit Gangs or Experts as cohorts. Cohorts have a type, and it appears that this type has a specific mechanical purpose. E.g.

Modifying a cohort

... When a cohort performs actions for which its types apply, it uses its full quality rating. Otherwise, its quality is zero. ...

For gangs, the types are provided in an exhaustive list. But, there is no such list for Experts. There is a list of suggestions under

Creating an expert

... They might be a Doctor, an Investigator, an Occultist, an Assassin, a Spy, etc.

However, this list is clearly not exhaustive--even without the further evidence that a Hound's trained hunting pet is an Expert of type Hunter.

This leaves a lot of open questions about the parameters of Expert types. Do each of the types (listed above) have to be a kind of profession? Do the types roughly correspond to a type of playbook? Would that imply a limited list of Expert types? Or are there an infinite number of types (Gymnast, Animal Trainer, Chauffeur, Savant, Musician...)? Is there a "specificity" to types; e.g. "surgeon" vs "doctor"? Or, is all of this up to the players?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I hope that someone expert in this game can answer it, because our table is a little bit puzzled at how my Hound's hunting pet's expertise plays out. Then again, I've not yet read the rule book the required 83 times ... \$\endgroup\$ Mar 17, 2023 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast, Do you mean Expert type "Blades in the Dark Rulebook Scholar"? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – nonymous
    Mar 17, 2023 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ More or less, yes, but also someone who has played it in more than one group. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2023 at 2:51

2 Answers 2

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An expert's type is the reason you hired them.

When you think about what sorts of thing an expert could be, the most natural place to start is right there. They're an asset you can acquire in addition to being a crew upgrade, after all. A single person capable of performing an action on their own or with your scoundrels over the course of the standard investigation-score-downtime cadence, that you would need to drop some scratch on to secure their services. (As a crew upgrade you've got 'em on retainer.)

So, what kinds of experts are there? Well, how many jobs are there in Doskval where a single person could provide reasonable utility in that one-score time interval?

So... kind of a lot.

If during downtime or score prep some scoundrel in your crew says "couldn't we just hire someone to X" then, probably yeah, there's an expert in X. If you're looking for some suggestions just have a look around at all the various character and crew playbooks for an idea of the sorts of people your scoundrels might be bumping shoulders with.

Okay but when it comes right down to it what can an expert really do, I mean, really?

Yeah, I know, it's gonna get weird out there, it always does, and your crew's going to be looking at the poor soul they hired who was maybe just expecting a more exciting night out than usual and making all sorts of unreasonable demands. Your Hound has a hunting pet they can pull out at any time but what's the pet actually for?

Hunt (track) + Skirmish (tooth and claw)

So I kinda skipped to the end there, let me go back. The standard setup for a story like Blades, about a group of scoundrels who start from nowhere but have the potential to make it big or die entertainingly trying, is that out there is a society full of genuine specialists, people who honed a small skillset to a razor's edge but had huge vulnerabilities everywhere else, but that didn't matter as long as the big money thinkers could group enough of them together that they more or less covered each other's backs.

But you're not one of them anymore. Whatever ornaments and polish you had were snapped off and scuffed over as you tumbled around in the gutter, but still you lived, and when you found the strength to rise again you rose pretty well-rounded.

An expert is someone who could still kind of exist in that world, and the reason you hire them on is for that still-refined skillset of theirs. You run into a guy with a business card with 50 different jobs on it, you know what kind of quality to expect in any given one of them, right? Same with a dedicated professional.

If you need to know what kinds of things a professional can do, you can actually get pretty far at modeling any profession you might care to think of by picking two scoundrel skills and further detailing how the profession specializes in them.

So while your Hound could say "I want to stalk down this unpleasant fellow's trail and plot out a nice place twenty rooftops away to give him the ol' Kiwi Hello" and you'd handle that with a Hunt roll if you were so inclined, a hunting pet is a little bit more limited. Trailing they have no trouble with, but a Kiwi Hello isn't in their vocabulary and it's doubtful they could even secure you a spot to do one yourself. Similarly, they're probably well capable of a melee takedown but the finer points of street fights (on the finer blades of street fights) generally elude them.

And you might say "but wait, my hunting pet isn't like that, they're not out for blood, they're just a precision sense instrument in a way I couldn't be" but hey, the beauty of this little two-skill model is that Survey (sniff them out) is just as much a skill as Skirmish.

If you've got a good picture of what a profession usually does, and you can fit two narrow slices of scoundrel skill into that picture, then you haven't gone too far. Some examples:

  • Unless you've got a Leech who's prepared to swear and almost immediately break the Hippocratic oath, you're probably going to want to secure the services of a physicker, and your standard sort willing to do odd work for even money is probably going to be a nice workaday Study (diagnose) + Tinker (treat). Or maybe they've been tumbling around in the vice dens themselves for a while, and their line of work is more Tinker (treat) + Tinker (the good stuff). Or maybe you came up from the Barrowcleft and everyone swears by this old wise woman whose hut is half-toppled by the sparkwall but tends to vanish on the days when the dimmer sisters are full and people swear they've seen it out in the deathlands: Tinker (folk medicine) + Attune (the other side).
  • A skilled getaway driver might be Finesse (shoot the gap) + Survey (find the line).
  • Some professions seem like they might have some overlap to them, like how Investigator and Spy are probably both going to get into a position to Study something. What you do in that case is start from that point of overlap and figure out how they diverge, like the Investigator is more Consort (word on the street) + Study (scene of the crime) and the Spy is more Prowl (without being seen) + Study (what are you hiding).
  • Or perhaps consider the Demolitionist and the Saboteur. Tinker (precision crafting) + Wreck (precision placement) as compared to Survey (weak points) + Wreck (gunpowder plot).
  • Setarra, the Whisper's demon contact, is do not hire her do not hire her IT WAS ALL A TRICK ALL A TRI Wreck(🌊🌊🌊) + Attune(🐙🌑💗)
  • The Spider's servant contact is probably someone ambitious enough to be involved in a Spider's plans, so they could have something like Prowl (beneath notice) and Consort (the Help).

It might still be that, in the thick of things, it seems like the capabilities of someone your scoundrels hired could maybe stretch a little to fit something weird but cool that's being asked of them. That's fine too. Scoundrel skills can maybe stretch to fit something weird but cool as well, that's why every skill description in the game caps off with a couple-few instances of "you could try this, but another skill might be better".

Concerns for the Long-Term Hire

Not everybody you could hire as a short-term expert is necessarily suitable for coming onto the crew as a long-term expert. Some people can be short-term experts in specific neighborhoods or circumstances of Doskvol that your crew has cause to get involved with once or twice but they don't really want to make it their thing, you know? So if you're putting together a short-term expert when the crew's looking to hire, don't feel that you need to consider how viable their specialties will be as a long-termer.

In addition to spending an entire crew level worth of benefits (minus the scoundrels' coin dividend) to secure the services of an expert, your scoundrels could also choose to add a profession to an expert they've already retained. If the two professions have some skill overlap, maybe consider shifting the new profession slightly to one that doesn't - an Investigator might not want to add Spy but instead Skulk (prowl + finesse) or Stalker (prowl + hunt). I realize that I went double Tinker up there with the viced-out physicker like I was making a statement, but that's because physicker Tinker is a weird alternate skill use the Leech can grab and I don't really consider it as a reflection of a scoundrel skill.

And then there's the possibility that your scoundrels are going to get attached to one of your throwaway flavor NPCs like Darby the late-night florist or Street Pirate Jessamy the terrible pick-pocketing urchin and they're going to want to burn their entire crew level worth of benefits just to have them stick around as a cohort with a full harm stack. What the heck are you going to do then?

Well, I like to take a page from Cthulhu Dark, which also has open-ended character professions that give you a die bonus for acting within them. The rules suggest that if someone's profession is narrow because they wanted an entertainingly specific past, you should give them a little leeway to act as though their profession was a bit broader, because people shouldn't have to choose between character flavor and character power. So, congratulations: Street Pirate Jessamy is now a Hellion, whose Consort (streetcorner irregulars) and Sway (try and stop me, grandpa) give them license to raise a tier-appropriate distracting ruckus on any street in Doskvol.

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Blades in the Dark is a more free-form RPG, than Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. Many things rely on communication between player(s) and GM. There are infinite types of experts and their specialization do not correspond to playbooks. Also, while it's easiest to describe field of specialization with their profession, it's not a requrement. 'Small James, hulking brute' is about as good specialization description as 'Small James, skullbasher' or 'Small James, expert in violence'.

There may be a subtle difference between different specializations of the same kind. For example 'Small James, ex-soldier' may have connections with his former comrades (allowing him to Socialize with them), while 'Small James, street thug' may have some reputation among other gangs (allowing to Command them through intimidation), but it's up for discussion between players and GM, whether they'd allow it.

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