Simplifying the Discussion

I usually don't blog my planned changes (instead I just explain what I did after its done, and its there) - most of the time I feel very certain about changes I implement - but now I am not so sure! See I think also knew there was a slight weakness to the position and effect discussion that didn't feel fitting for Runners: the tendency for a discussion about an action to turn to the matter of position and effect and go something like this..

The GM says that's going to be Risky, then it turns into a back and forth to find a "Controlled" approach that is just as "effective," only for them to seek a "Desperate" version of that approach, then.. they seek ways to involve additional PCs to "increase their scale" hoping for "greater or extreme effect" (even though things are now actually not the same, or not as dangerous now), and then describe a flashback to help them get yet "more effect".. and then, and then! 

This kind of fictional framing and reframing to find maximum effect can be very time-consuming and tiring as a GM or player, due in part to the existence of three possible position and effect ranges in any combination - which is compounded by the language surrounding that discussion. Don't get wrong, the effect slider will always remain separate from risk, but I think the terms are just.. too meta, not very fiction first, and pulls me just a little too far out of character for my liking. Instead, I envision players being able to discuss this kind of thing with more natural language, like "okay you will do it if you succeed," and we know pretty much instantly intuit that "it" means what they just described doingAnd we could just express that "someone will need to follow up on that to complete the task - or you can act together to potentially do more" rather than "you will have limited effect" which sounds kind of disappointing, leading to the back and forth I just described. 

So to achieve that, I am working on merging Controlled with Risky - so that either way it's the same chart, leaving fewer levers to pull. That is: those two would become the default position for all actions, similar to Risky and Controlled but actually more flexible than either of those positions are alone. This would become the default position - the one that does less than is actually possible. When "you take a chance," make an action roll. And when you "aim to do the most you can with a given approach or act despite great danger," then I think the action should be considered to be desperate, (a lever that the players or the GM can pull) and would point to the same severe consequences as before.

This should help simplify the language surrounding these topics, a small piece of game tech I think I want to include in Runners. Maybe this is a non-issue for your games, and you can't bear for this game to mess with the Blades vernacular by never mentioning Controlled? Or maybe you have also noticed this and have feelings about it? Something else? Either way I hope you will speak up in the comments below to help me move forward in the right direction!

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Comments from playtesters

"I prefer the way it works in Blades because it's known and easy to follow. It gives an almost numerical value that lets the player quickly understand and cuts down on the need for negotiation."

"I’ve been playing Fistful of Darkness and my group and I often get caught up using Blades terminology—even the GM—which is mostly confusing to the one player that had never played Blades."

"Yes, I prefer the way it works in Blades. Just familiar." 

In light of this, I decided to modify the approach to determining effect and position - and leave the underlying system of controlled/risky/desperate as is. Now players will say what they are doing, and the GM will clarify if needed "What do you hope to do? And what do you most fear will go wrong if you fail?"


I think part of the problem is that controlled position is misunderstood by many.  A controlled situation happens when most variables have been locked down by the players; this usually takes time ad planning.  They are in this position due to past efforts coming together. 

An example of this: An ambush on the player's turf with escape routes barricaded off and all automated devices are in the hands of the rigger and the decker.  A kill box.  Or a meeting with a Mr. Johnson in a building they control, they arranged the security, and all personnel in place are theirs or allies. 

Controlled situations don't happen easily.  Shows like Leverage and Burn Notice give really good examples of controlled situations.


I would prefer to leave this part of the BITD framework as is.

The issue described may be better solved with GM and players taking a step back/have a talk about trying to focus on story and less meta-gaming.  Urge players to simply proceed how their character would proceed in the story, even if it is not the "optimal" risk/reward.

Alternatively the GM can use BITD rules to push players to cut to the action (something comes up that forces decision/action from players instead of continued debate - time sensitive situation)

Overall the group may need more reflection on choosing story over exploitation of rules,  not rule changes as new rules can still be meta-gamed/exploited.

Also way I read it seems that risk level and effect level are being tied together in the situation described (must have desperate to have greater effect) when they do not need to be as I understand BITD.

In short I feel there are better ways to solve this than a rule change.

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> The way you read it

..Is not what i said, but maybe I wasn't articulate enough. I guess I will just have to do better to communicate this: Effect will always remain a separate slider from risk. I will edit this into the OP above.

I'm also not trying to discourage metagaming- I'm proposing that the language surrounding the metagame discussion be simplified.  That's literally it. I will also replace the word "DNA" since I really mean "language" or "vernacular."


I think this is fine.  I know that I don't use controlled as a position very often. The results feel boring -- mostly its a 'do over.' Perhaps anything that really is Controlled could be just as easily done as a fortune roll since there is little to no risk.  A failure or complication on a fortune roll could then indicate that something bad might happen -- risk introduced, so make you next action in a Risky position.

Or, just remove controlled.  I played Runners in the Shadows and don't think removing it would have a negative impact on the game.

Yea, that too. But I guess I just want to remove the word controlled from the discussion, but still keep the possibility for an outcome to be prolonged by trying again in certain situations (when they enjoy a definitive fictional advantage of course).