Blades In the Dark: Alternative Recovery

Posted at — Nov 2, 2021

Why Hack Recovery?

  1. Once you start the recovery process there are no interesting decisions make. You finish it at whatever cost, or fail and try your hardest to avoid taking harm on the next score (and resetting your healing clock).
  2. Making multiple rolls to fill a healing clock take time which could be better spent elsewhere.

Goals for this Hack


Harm is now structured as a stack:

| Level 3 |
| Level 2 |
| Level 2 |
| Level 1 |
| Level 1 |

There is no recovery clock.

Taking Harm

When you take harm, mark it in the lowest available slot of the appropriate level.


When you take the recover downtime activity, shift your all your harm down one slot.


The first time anyone takes the recover downtime activity after a score, roll to see how effective their healer is.

If they roll well, you get bonus recovery activities. These are free downtime activities.

On a:

Replace the original versions with:

Cutter — Vigorous: You recover from harm faster. You get a bonus recovery activity during downtime.

Leech — Physicker: You can Tinker with bones, blood, and bodily humours to treat wounds or stabilize the dying. You may study a malady or corpse. When you heal a crew member (including yourself) take +1d.

Vampire — Feeding: Your vice is life essence, consumed from a living human. Use 1 downtime activity to hunt prey and indulge your vice. Also, when you feed, erase all level 1 harm, and then take a bonus recovery action. This is the only way you can heal. How do you feed? What telltale sign do you leave on your victims?

Cult — Anointed: You get +1d to resistance rolls against supernatural threats. When you have supernatural harm, you get a bonus recovery action during downtime.

Claims — Infirmary / Sacred Nexus: When you roll your healer’s quality take +1d.

Playtesting Notes

This has worked well for my weekly group. We spend a lot more time in scenes about recovery, and other downtime scenes, instead of wasting time rolling.

The flow is usually:

  1. One player decides to recover, and asks who wants to join.
  2. We set the scene.
  3. One person rolls for the group.
  4. The players spend coin if needed.

I find rolling for bonus actions to be janky, but necessary to reward having better healers. If you use this in a hack I’d come up with something more elegant.

Optional Variation: Easier Recovery

When an instance of harm changes severity/level, move it to the lowest available slot in the new level.

Example of Play

The crew has just finished a score — ripping off the Lampblacks. It was rough, and ended in a scrap.

L1 = Level 1 harm, and so on.

  • Cole playing Cross, a Spider. Harm: L1, L2
  • Tam playing Thistle, a Cutter. Harm: L2, L2
  • Makara playing Mist, a Lurk. Harm: L1

Cole (Cross): “I’m going to see Sawbones, anyone coming with?”

Tam (Thistle): “Yep, I am pretty messed up. Can’t put it off.”

Makara (Mist): Sigh “Sure, I’m not drinking that concoction he gave me last time though. The aftertaste lasted for weeks.”

GM: “Ok, you end up at Sawbone’s lab in the back of the fighting pit. He grunts when you walk in, and looks up.”

The crew plays out the scene for a bit. Eventually Cole wants to get to the mechanics.

Cole: “I’ll roll for Sawbones. We’re Tier 1, so 2d right?”

GM: “Yep.”

Cole rolls a 6.

Cole: Alright, everybody here gets a bonus recovery activity.

Everyone spends a downtime activity to recover once, and shifts all their harm down one slot.

Their harm is now:

  • Cross: L1
  • Thistle: L1 (upper slot), L2 (lower slot)
  • Mist: None

They then apply the bonus recovery activity:

  • Cross: None
  • Thistle: L1 (lower slot), L1 (upper slot)
  • Mist: None

Cole: Oh right. I have vigorous, so I’ll reduce my harm again.

Thistle’s Harm is now: L1 (lower slot)

Cole: “I’ll pay one coin and finish this off.”

Cole removes the last Level 1 harm on Thistle’s sheet.

With the mechanical bits over, the group goes back to playing the scene.

GM: “Alright Thistle, Sawbones hands you the strange concoction this time. It’s dark grey with bits and bobs floating around. What rare and disgusting things does it taste like?”

Cole (Thistle): I hold my nose and wolf it down. Gulp. “Eel eggs, ash, and… a dash of cinnamon?”

(Everyone): Disgusted groaning.

Math For Nerds

These systems are hard to compare, but I’ll do my best.

The Original Mechanic

Lets compare the average number of recovery activities needed to heal each level of harm. This does not include spending coin to upgrade the result.

Dice Level 1 (avg) Level 2 (avg) Level 3 (avg)
1d 2.71 5.10 7.50
2d 2.27 4.13 6.04
3d 2.06 3.64 5.28
4d 1.92 3.32 4.80
5d 1.83 3.09 4.46
6d 1.75 2.90 4.19

The Alternative

Now lets look at the actions required to recover with the alternative. A “?” means the slot could be full or empty. It doesn’t change the result.

Level 3
Level 2 ?
Level 2 ? ?
Level 1 ? ? ?
Level 1 ? ? ? ?
Actions 1 2 3 4 5


First, the base number of actions required to treat various amounts of harm. The alternative system condenses the range and shifts it down. A single level 1 is easy to deal with, but it scales from there.

Harm/Actions Original (avg) Alternative
Level 1 1.75–2.71 1
Level 1, Level 1 1.75–2.71 2
Level 2 2.90–5.10 3
Level 2, Level 2 2.90–5.10 4
Level 3 4.19–7.50 5

But, each system has ways to reduce the cost:

Healer Quality 1 2 3 4 5 6
Bonus Recovery Activities (avg) 0.16 0.33 0.50 0.65 0.80 0.92