Blades in the Dark: How I Run Factions

Posted at — May 12, 2021

This is a codification of how I run factions in Blades in the Dark. It is intended as a reliable method, not a strict or authoritative one. Take what works for you and leave the rest. Change things if you need to. You can reference the book’s advice here.

Note: I refer to faction maneuvers here as faction actions.


Roll Crit 6 4–5 1–3
Ticks 5 3 2 1

My Goals For Running Factions

Two Common Approaches

1. Focus on factions the PCs have, or will interact with.

2. Simulate the world outside the PCs’ involvement.

The Mixed Approach: Overview

So, keeping in mind that creativity is a limited resource, what do we do?

  1. After a session, choose three factions to focus on.
    • Two the PC’s have already interacted with, or the players have expressed interest in.
    • One that they have not interacted with, which you think would spice things up.
  2. Have each focused faction take one or two actions.
  3. Have each focused faction progress their relevant project clocks.
  4. Figure out which NPC’s can tell the PC’s about what happened, and how they could tell them.

The Mixed Approach: In Practice


  1. Is there anything obvious that should happen? Make it so.
    • Are there are any factions that would react to the PCs’ efforts?
    • Is a faction close to finishing a project?
  2. Are there any current story threads/hooks that would be interesting to pull on?
    • What would be interesting to bring back right now?
      Tie back to unresolved story threads.
    • Did the PC’s recently discover something?
      What would be an interesting twist?
  3. How can I threaten the characters?
    • Consider their friends, family, rivals, contacts, vice purveyors, etc.
      If this is a new development, give them a chance to intervene.
      If you already foreshadowed this, and they ignored it, hit them hard.
    • Has someone discovered a weakness of the crew?

1. Choose which factions are acting.

The Faction Table

If you don’t know which faction should act, make a d6 table of the most likely factions and roll on it. Populate it with three to six factions, with even or uneven weights. Whatever makes the most sense.

d6 Three Factions Four Factions Six Factions
1 Faction A Faction A Faction A
2 Faction A Faction A Faction B
3 Faction B Faction B Faction C
4 Faction B Faction B Faction D
5 Faction C Faction C Faction E
6 Faction C Faction D Faction F

When deciding which factions to include, start with:

2. For each faction, choose up to two actions.

d6 Action
  • Seize a claim or increase hold.
  • Make an enemy vulnerable.
  • Reduce the hold of a vulnerable enemy.
2 Gather information on the PCs or another subject.
PC’s can take actions to oppose this.
3 Achieve a short-term goal they’re able to accomplish.
4 Acquire a new asset.
5 Call in a favor from another faction.
6 Employ political pressure or threats to force someone’s hand.

Factions aren’t limited to these actions. Take any action you think is reasonable.

For each action, choose who is involved.

Decide how each action plays out.

3. Progress their project clocks.

4. Determine who can tell the characters about it.

As always, choose an appropriate option, or roll:

Roll Action
1 A friend, rival, contact, purveyor, or cohort tells them.
Who did they hear about it from?
2 They hear about it from a friendly faction.
Who is looking out for them, and why?
3 They read about it in the newspapers.
Who wrote the article? Who is their source?
4 The get an anonymous tip.
Who delivered it? What evidence did they leave?
5 They overhear someone.
Who was talking too much? Was it intentional?
6 Someone with information runs into them.
Who “just happened” to be here? Was it intentional?

Finally, consider who can tell them more if they follow up.
What do they want, and why is getting it going to be difficult?

Make the information actionable.

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