Blades in the Dark – Open Table Character Creation

Feels like a sinister faction symbol…

Cabin fever, so I’ve been dorking with another open table concept. I mentioned Blades for open OPEN tables and it’s been stuck with me. I’ve even stole the game structure for my open table Maze Rats game. I love the ebb and flow of score and downtime that Blades has rightfully received so much praise for. Check out the other times I’ve talked about Blades here.

So for an open table game, you need things fast. Starting the game with fewer things established gives you more time to discover the answers. And some questions that Blades asks in its opening bits of character creation aren’t worth asking for each player. For example, not everyone’s Heritage is especially relevant. Backgrounds are only relevant when they BECOME relevant. What mechanic did this remind me of?


During scores in Blades, you declare what items you “had all along” and bam, you have it. Need a gun? Well, I had packed one. I mark it on my sheet. I have four Load left for other items. Easy.

Relevant things are only relevant when they’re relevant.

Let’s extend this logic to the beginning of the game, before play.

Do you REALLY need to select your close friend, rival, heritage, background, AND vice during CHARACTER CREATION?

If you have time for a session zero-esque thing, you could I guess. Otherwise, no. We’re jumping in with both feet here.

So you don’t pick a “close friend” from the outset. You pick a friend when you’re in a tight space and need some help. It keeps your options open too. You don’t have to keep to being buddies with Harper, a jailbird, until you’re in jail. It reminds me of the “convenience” of Han’s buddy Lando being at Bespin, honestly. Same goes for rivals, heritages, backgrounds, and vices. Why would you pick a vice BEFORE who have a handle on your character in play. Better to see how they handle, like a car, before committing to the other details. PLUS you get to do it right away then. No waiting to leverage your Akorosi background six hours AFTER you pick it. It’s relevant now.

So how to implement this? Just choosing a playbook doesn’t give players a ton of options. So I’ve leveraged the “builds” included in the book to help the process. So pick one of the playbooks (seven options), then one of the builds (four options). Twenty eight instant characters so even players of the same playbook won’t 100% overlap.

While working with the builds, I noticed is that the builds for the Slide, Spider, and Whisper are all “The [Blank]” but it isn’t the same for the Cutter, Hound, Leech, and Lurk. So I added the “The” to each of them. I like the idea that someone is “THE Thug,” not just “a” or “any.” That’s their archetype. Feels like Darkest Dungeon. 🙂

So the ENTIRE character process has been reduced to:

1. Choose a playbook and build.
2. Record your name and play the game!
3. During play, keep the following in mind:

  • When you need an item, mark it on your sheet.
  • When you need a close friend or rival, mark them on your sheet.
  • When you declare your heritage, record it.
  • When you declare your background, record it.
  • When you declare your vice, record it.

And I made it into a handy PDF.

It has the blurbs for the names, heritages, backgrounds, and vices on the back page. Print this out, the playbooks, and the rules references. And go!

Now I just have to tweak the crew creation process for open table play… Or not, we’ll see.


One thought on “Blades in the Dark – Open Table Character Creation

  1. This is fantastic! I’ve found that players act really clever and smug whenever they use one of their “freebies” like this, and you know what? Good on them! Just need to have some strict guidelines as to what is/isn’t possible for items and contacts, no rocket launchers (?). Maybe have them just say “I packed a weapon”, and the MC figures out the details?

    (or maybe BitD tells you all of this and I’m tipping my hand!)

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