Choose a crew type
Each Blades-powered game should have crew types that suit its setting and premise. These might be organizations, gangs, ships, strongholds, etc. Three to six options are good.
Your crew type determines the scores that you’ll focus on, as well as a selection of special abilities that support that kind of action. The crew type isn’t meant to be restrictive—a crew of smugglers might sometimes engage in extortion or sell contraband —but the core activity of the crew type is the most frequent way they earn coin and xp for advancement.
Like a character playbook, your crew type is also how you’re known in the underworld. The criminal factions and institutions think of you as “assassins” or “a cult” etc., and will treat you accordingly.
Your crew begins with 2 coin in its coffers (the remains of the PCs’ savings). You are Tier 0, with strong hold and 0 rep.
Choose an initial reputation & lair
Your crew has just formed and acquired a lair. Given this group of characters and their previous escapades, what initial reputation would you have among the factions of the underworld? Choose one from the list below (or create your own).
You earn xp when you bolster your crew’s reputation, so think of this as another cue to indicate what sorts of action you want in the game. Will you be recklessly ambitious, targeting higher-Tier targets? Will you take on daring scores that others deem too risky? Are you interested in the strange and the weird?
Also, talk about where the crew makes its lair. You begin at Tier 0, so it’s probably a very modest or abandoned sort of place.
Establish your hunting grounds
Your crew is brand-new, but you have chosen some small part of a district as your hunting grounds. This is the area that you usually target for your scores, and you know it well. Your hunting grounds don’t have to be in the same district as your lair. The area is small, only three or four city blocks—but it’s still an intrusion on someone. The entire city is divided among larger, stronger factions. The GM will tell you which faction claims the area, then you decide how to deal with them:
- Pay them off. Give them 1 coin in exchange for giving you room to work.
- Pay the faction 2 coin as a show of respect and gain +1 status with them.
- Keep your money and take -1 status with that faction.
Your hunting grounds are useful for a particular type of criminal operation. Each crew type has a list of different operation types for their hunting grounds. For instance, Assassins have Accident, Disappearance, Murder, or Ransom as options. Choose one of these operation types as your preference.
When you prepare to execute an operation of your preferred type on your hunting grounds, you get +1d to any gather information rolls and a free additional downtime activity to contribute to that operation. This can help you discover an opportunity, acquire an asset you might need for the job, find an appropriate client, etc.
When you acquire turf you also expand the size and/or type of your hunting grounds. Detail the new area and/or methods with help from the GM.
Choose a special ability
Take a look at the special abilities for your crew and choose one. If you can’t decide which one to pick, go with the first one on the list—it’s placed there as a good default choice. It’s important to pick a special ability that everyone is excited about. You can get more special abilities in the future by earning xp.
Just like picking the crew type, reputation, lair, and hunting grounds, choosing a special ability is another chance to focus the game down to a more specific range of possibilities. That’s a lot to work with, and it helps get the game going in a strong direction from the very beginning.
Assign crew upgrades
An upgrade is a valuable asset that helps the crew in some way, like a boat or a gang (see the complete descriptions further down). Each crew type has two pre-selected upgrades that suit that crew (like Prowess Training and a gang of Thugs for the Bravos crew).
You get to add two additional upgrades to your new crew (so you’ll have a total of four upgrades when you start). You can choose from the specific upgrades available to your crew type or the general upgrades on the crew sheet.
When you assign your two upgrades, the GM will tell you about two factions that are impacted by your choices:
- One faction helped you get an upgrade. They like you, and you get +1 status with them. At your option, spend 1 coin to repay their kindness, and take +2 status with them instead.
- One faction was screwed over when you got an upgrade. They don’t like you, and you get -2 status with them. At your option, spend 1 coin to mollify them, and take -1 status with them instead.
You’ll be able get more upgrades in the future by earning xp.
Choose a favorite contact
Take a look at your list of potential contacts on the crew sheet. Choose one contact who is a close friend, long-time ally, or partner in crime. The GM will tell you about two factions that are impacted by your choice:
- One faction is also friendly with this contact, and you get +1 status with them.
- One faction is unfriendly with this contact, and you get -1 status with them.
At your option, these factions are even more concerned with this contact and so you take +2 and -2 status instead.
Crew upgrade Examples
- Boat house: You have a boat, a dock on a waterway, and a small shack to store boating supplies. A second upgrade improves the boat with armor and more cargo capacity.
- Carriage House: You have a carriage, and draft animals to pull it, and a stable. A second upgrade improves the carriage with armor and larger, swifter steeds.
- Cohort: A cohort is a gang or a single expert NPC who works for your crew. For all the details on cohorts, see below.
- Hidden Lair: Your lair has a secret location and is disguised to hide it from view. If your lair is discovered, use two downtime activities and pay coin equal to your Tier to relocate it and hide it once again.
- Mastery: Your crew has access to master level training. You may advance your PCs’ action ratings to 4 (until you unlock this upgrade, PC action ratings are capped at 3). This costs four upgrade boxes to unlock.
- Quality: Each upgrade improves the quality rating of all the PCs’ items of that type, beyond the quality established by the crew’s Tier and fine items. You can improve the quality of Documents, Gear (covers Burglary Gear and Climbing Gear), Arcane Implements, Subterfuge Supplies, Tools (covers Demolitions Tools and Tinkering Tools), and Weapons. So, if you are Tier 0, with fine lockpicks (+1) and the Quality upgrade for gear (+1), you could contend equally with a Tier II quality lock.
- Quarters: Your lair includes living quarters for the crew. Without this upgrade, each PC sleeps elsewhere, and is vulnerable when they do so.
- Secure Lair: Your lair has locks, alarms, and traps to thwart intruders. A second upgrade improves the defenses to include arcane measures that work against spirits. You might roll your crew’s Tier if these measures are ever put to the test, to see how well they thwart an intruder.
- Training: If you have a Training upgrade, you earn 2 xp (instead of 1) when you train a given xp track during downtime (Insight, Prowess, Resolve, or Playbook xp). This upgrade essentially helps you advance more quickly. See Advancement. If you have Insight Training, when you train Insight during downtime, you mark 2 xp on the Insight track (instead of just 1). If you have Playbook Training, you mark 2 xp on your playbook xp track when you train.
- Vault: Your lair has a secure vault, increasing your storage capacity for coin to 8. A second upgrade increases your capacity to 16. A separate part of your vault can be used as a holding cell.
- Workshop: Your lair has a workshop appointed with tools for tinkering and alchemy, as well as a small library of books, documents, and maps. You may accomplish long-term projects with these assets without leaving your lair.
A cohort is a gang or an expert who works for your crew. To recruit a new cohort, spend two upgrades and create them using the process below.
Creating a gang
Choose a gang type from the list below:
- Adepts: Scholars, tinkerers, occultists, and chemists.
- Rooks: Con artists, spies, and socialites.
- Rovers: Sailors, carriage drivers, and deathlands scavengers.
- Skulks: Scouts, infiltrators, and thieves.
- Thugs: Killers, brawlers, and roustabouts.
A gang has scale and quality equal to your current crew Tier. It increases in scale and quality when your crew moves up in Tier.
If your crew is Tier 0, your gang is quality 0 and scale 0 (1 or 2 people). When your crew is Tier II, your gang is quality 2 and scale 2 (12 people).
Some crew upgrades will add the “Elite” feature to a gang, which gives them +1d when they roll for a given Type. So, if you’re Tier I and have a gang of Elite Thugs (+1d), they would roll 2d when they try to kill a target.
Creating an expert
Record the expert’s type (their specific area of expertise). They might be a Doctor, an Investigator, an Occultist, an Assassin, a Spy, etc.
An expert has quality equal to your current crew Tier +1. Their scale is always zero (1 person). Your experts increase in quality when your crew moves up in Tier.
Edges & flaws
When you create a cohort, give them one or two edges and an equal number of flaws.
- Fearsome: The cohort is terrifying in aspect and reputation.
- Independent: The cohort can be trusted to make good decisions and act on their own initiative in the absence of direct orders.
- Loyal: The cohort can’t be bribed or turned against you.
- Tenacious: The cohort won’t be deterred from a task.
- Principled: The cohort has an ethic or values that it won’t betray.
- Savage: The cohort is excessively violent and cruel.
- Unreliable: The cohort isn’t always available, due to other obligations, stupefaction from their vices, etc.
- Wild: The cohort is drunken, debauched, and loud-mouthed.
Modifying a cohort
You can add an additional type to a gang or expert by spending two crew upgrades. When a cohort performs actions for which its types apply, it uses its full quality rating. Otherwise, its quality is zero. A given cohort can have up to two types.
Using a cohort
When you send a cohort to achieve a goal, roll their quality to see how it goes. Or, a PC can oversee the maneuver by leading a group action. If you direct the cohort with orders, roll Command. If you participate in the action alongside the cohort, roll the appropriate action. The quality of any opposition relative to the cohort’s quality affects the position and effect of the action.
The PCs crew of Hawkers want to run a rival gang out of the alley where they’re selling drugs. They send their gang of Thugs to go kick the interlopers out. The GM rolls 2d for the Thugs’ quality, and gets a 3. An hour later, the Thugs come back, beaten and bloody. One of them looks sheepish, “Those guys are tough, boss.” (The GM inflicts harm on the cohort, and they failed their goal.)
The next day, the crew boss goes back and leads a group action, rolling her 3d in Skirmish alongside the Thugs’ 2d. The boss gets a 6 this time—they beat the tar out of the other gang and send them packing (at least for now).
Cohort Harm & Healing
Cohorts suffer harm similarly to PCs. A cohort can suffer four levels of harm:
- Weakened. The cohort has a reduced effect.
- Impaired. The cohort operates with reduced quality (-1d).
- Broken. The cohort can’t do anything until they recover.
- Dead. The cohort is destroyed.
All of your cohorts heal during downtime. If circumstances are amenable for recovery, each cohort removes one level of harm (or two levels of harm instead, if a PC spends a downtime activity helping them recuperate).
If a cohort is destroyed, it may be replaced. Spend coin equal to your Tier +2 to restore it, plus two downtime activities to recruit new gang members, or hire a new expert.
Crew creation summary
1 Choose a crew type. The crew type determines the group’s purpose, their special abilities, and how they advance.
You begin at Tier 0, with strong hold and 0 rep. You start with 2 coin.
2 Choose an initial reputation and lair. Choose how other underworld factions see you:Ambitious—Brutal—Daring—Honorable—Professional—Savvy—Subtle—Strange. Look at the map and pick a district in which to place your lair. Describe the lair.
3 Establish your hunting grounds. Look at the map and pick a district in which to place your hunting grounds. Decide how to deal with the faction that claims that area.
- Pay them 1 coin.
- Pay them 2 coin. Get +1 status.
- Pay nothing. Get -1 status.
4 Choose a special ability. They’re in the gray column in the middle of the crew sheet. If you can’t decide, choose the first ability on the list. It’s placed there as a good first option.
5 Assign crew upgrades. Your crew has two upgrades pre-selected. Choose two more. If your crew has a cohort, follow the procedure to create it. Record the faction status changes due to your upgrades:
- One faction helped you get an upgrade. Take +1 status with them. Or spend 1 coin for +2 status instead.
- One faction was harmed when you got an upgrade. Take -2 status with them. Or spend 1 coin for -1 status instead.
6 Choose a favorite contact. Mark the one who is a close friend, long-time ally, or partner in crime. Record the faction status changes related to your contact:
- One faction is friendly with your contact. Take +1 status with them.
- One faction is unfriendly with your contact. Take -1 status with them.
At your option, increase the intensity of the factions’ relationship with your contact and take +2 and -2 status, instead.