As we explore the depth and variety of Blades in the Dark with the Green Flyers crew, keep in mind that the initial character generation is supposed to be fast and pretty straightforward. The Trauma changes and development of the crew encourages a longer form character development and the Crew advancement is going to matter a lot! If you have read Card Catalog posts before, you know that I love to delve into the plot and world building aspects of the games when crafting these characters. Blades in the Dark has a rich background, but not a lot of it is built out in publications. The Blades book contains maybe 100 pages of world building, but a lot of that is devoted to the city of Doskvol itself so as we progress, and I use some different backgrounds, I will be filling in the blanks with my own interpretations. This is both freeing for the creative GMs and Players out there, and Blades expressly shares ownership of the story and world between them and a little daunting when there are not common lore touchstones across tables.
Now, though, let us turn our attention to designing Cricket, the Spider behind the Green Flyers and how to start from a concept all the way through a ready to play Character in Blades in the Dark!
Anyone who knows me knows that I love the Mastermind character archetypes. Nate Ford from the Leverage TV Show, Detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, and the Mastermind Dramatic Character type from Castle Falkenstein are all wonderful examples. This ensured that the Spider Playbook was one I was going to use and the one that I am putting together first.
- Playbook – Spider. The book describes Spiders as masterminding maneuvers and as the characters that best support other characters but that play the Faction game. The Crew in Blades is in the midst of the uncertain and precarious criminal and social fabric of Doskvol, and so the factions and relationships between them will matter in the Crew’s rise to power or fall to ignominy. A Spider helps manage that part of the game. We will get to what the Spider Playbooks has to start in a few more bullet points.
- Heritage – Akorosi. This is the background of the Imperium for Blades. You could think of it like the default background as it encompasses a mixing and melange of different cultures since the shattering of the world a thousand years ago. I like the idea of the Spider emerging from the Scrum and being one of the people that wouldn’t get a second look and Akorosi seems to be the one that would most blend in.
- Background – Academic. It is a little bit of a trope, but the college student too smart for his or her own good that makes money selling tests just works for me in this character. An Academic background would allow that and fits with the Akorosi Heritage making a child of some level of privilege.
- Action Dots – Spiders start with one Action Dot in Study and two in Consort. Study covers anything that uses a perception or interpretation sort of skill including looking at evidence or reading people while Consort is socializing and making good impressions without necessarily manipulating people. With 4 more Action Dots to allot, I put a second into Study, but then two into Survey. Survey is the immediate observations and can be used to “anticipate outcomes” which sounds like a good Spider Action. Finally, Wreck gets an Action Dot which can be used for all sorts of smashing, sabotaging, and similar sort of options. If you recall Attributes, this means that Aldric will start with 2 Insight, 1 Prowess, and 1 Resolve.
- Special Ability – Mastermind. It was hard not to pick this Spider ability without hesitation. Several other abilities focus on the downtime segments of the game providing extra Coin, Result Levels, or Vice mitigation. Mastermind allows Aldric to spend his “Special Armor” during a Score to protect a fellow Green Flyer or get a bonus to longterm project work. The other option was Foresight which lets him Aid another Green Flyer twice per Score without taking Stress by pulling off one of those Mastermind preplanning sort of narrations. If we come back for an advancement Card Catalog for the Flyers, that will likely be the first thing Aldric acquires.
- Contacts – The Playbooks come loaded with stock contacts to choose from for ease of play, and while an enterprising GM could likely make their own or work with the Players to make new ones, for our purposes I’ll stick with the listed options. For the close friend, I will pick Augus the Master Architect – I think they went to school together and Augus may well owe his high standing to Aldric’s purloined papers and tests. As a rival, Salia the information broker is, I think, a good foil. She is someone who trucks in the same sort of thoughts as Aldric and they may both be after the same thing in the long run.
- Vice – Gambling. Recall that the Vice for a Scoundrel is how they spend time in Downtime to remove Stress and also to cause complications. Being a Spider, and the Mastermind style, I think that Gambling suits Aldric well for a Vice where he tries to let himself go where he doesn’t have control and know how things will play out. The Silver Stag is a casino in the region I had already scoped out for the Green Flyers and so it becomes an easy choice for Aldric’s Vice.
- Finishing Touches – I already picked a few names from the sample suggestions in the book to tidy up Aldric Skora here but the nickname Cricket appeals to me. I’ll work that Alias into the story notes next. An Appearance in Blades in the Dark is more a punchy collection of a few words, keeping with the breezy and motive ethos of the game itself, and I can picture this Bright and Wiry Man in a Vest and Long Cloak turning down a fog filled alley pretty easily.
A quick note on Advancement, while this Card Catalog is going to let us stop at a starting character, I want to note that Blades in the Dark provides an interesting way to advance with XP. Every advancement in each category costs the same, but you earn XP not only through the triggers on your sheet, but when you make a roll in a Desperate position – the more adversity you are under the faster you advance. The Adversity based XP must be allotted to the Attribute track where it happens, so making a Desperate roll with Prowl means you get to mark Prowess XP, while the other XP triggers may be allocated between them or for Special Ability advancement.
Every Empire requires a bureaucracy to run. The Skora line had known this for as long as any Skora could remember. The slow and predictable drumbeat of an office job, as filing clerks and functionaries, had long been their calling and, to their credit, their expertise. Young Aldric found that to be unimpressive. More than just a child’s rebellious pushback against their parents, Aldric was truly a once in a generation mind destined for great things as his parents would tell him when they would collapse into the sofa at home. The sitting room was more of the collapsing room from what Aldric saw.
Reluctantly, he went to Charterhall University. Acceptance alone demonstrated his prowess and ingenuity. While not a Sparkcraft student, he soaked up the world of the more prestigious. He knew he had always had it easy, but his ease was nothing compared to the life Augus came from, or that his so-called peers expected to have. He also saw where they were weak. He saw what they needed. A quick chat here, an extra flagon of wine there, and the key to the vaults where the tests were kept was easy to find. Recent graduates still struggling to make their rents were easy targets to the bright eyed Aldric.
Aldric became known as the Cricket – always there if you looked, but never in the way. A good luck charm if you needed it. Cricket soon found that his profitability was raising attention. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t give up this rewarding life he found. Lenia, his friend in the bars and Slide who could weasel into anywhere, called Sinker helped start their new adventure. The Green Flyers could smuggle what was needed, in spices and contraband, slowly growing in influence as they learned how to do more. Sphinx & Thistle followed soon after and the Silkshore Barge, used to launder the Coin from the Charterhall University scores rose up soon after.
Cricket Playbook Here
Green Flyers & Blades in the Dark Overview Here