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7 best Forged in the Dark RPGs to play after Blades in the Dark

Cast a light.
Blades in the Dark RPG artwork
Image: John Harper/Evil Hat Productions

Blades in the Dark is the gritty, atmospheric RPG by John Harper that can be summarised as a Victorian heist game with ghosts. The idea of the game centres on a plucky, often troubled (and troublesome) group of PC ne’er do wells that have come together as a crew. Said crew performs scores to acquire coin, reputation, turf and ultimately to accomplish a number of goals ranging from simply ‘not die horrible deaths’ to ‘become the strongest gang in this district’.

Best Forged in the Dark RPGs

But for some people, there’s something missing from Blades in the Dark. Maybe they’re just not into the Victorian setting. Maybe they want something with a bit more combat, or a bit less combat. Or maybe they’re simply looking for something similar, but new, to play after dozens of hours in the original.

If that's you, here’s a list of other great Forged in the Dark RPGs to play after Blades in the Dark.


1. U’Duasha

Add a bit of MENA flavour to your blades in the dark with an Iruvian campaign

U'Duasha is the capital of Uruvia, a setting inspired by the Middle East, Northern Africa and West Asia. Image: Evil Hat Productions

Only released in the Special Edition of the original print of Blades in the Dark, the U'Duasha expansion moves the setting to U’Duasha, the capital of Iruvia - a land loosely based on the cultures of the Middle East, Northern Africa and West Asia. No longer are you in a city plagued by ghosts, because a giant ever-burning well of fire sucks all the spirits of the dead into it. No, in U'Duasha every citizen is just a pawn for the political machinations of the demons who rule the city.

With new city factions such as the golem-like Gualim and the I’Yalim, who are the justiciars of the realm, as well as new gang factions like the A’Tahim and Hadrakin - there are plenty of new people and groups to influence and be influenced by your characters’ crew.

Combined with Johnstone Metzger’s wonderful Iruvian playbooks you could create a very nice, distinctly less Euro-centric, Blades campaign. If your group has any interest in being Viziers, Janissaries or Rakshasas in an Arabian-like city of demons and political intrigue, then the U’Duasha expansion is a great choice. Your biggest issue will be finding a copy of the Special Edition - failing that, Metzger’s Iruvian expansion should have enough to get you rolling.

Blades in the Dark's Special Edition is currently out of print, but you can download Johnstone Metzger's Iruvian expansion for free.


2. Band of Blades

Time to git gud with the Dark Souls of Forged in the Dark RPGs

If Blades in the Dark isn't dark enough for you, Band of Blades steps up the grim atmosphere and punishing difficulty. Image: Evil Hat Productions

Is Blades in the Dark too political, too bright and cheery, or maybe just too easy? If so then you probably have a very forgiving GM - but, more importantly Band of Blades might be right up your alley. Unlike the original game, Band of Blades is set in a medieval fantasy realm where the players take on the roles of leaders of an elite mercenary brigade known as The Legion on their way to what may be their brave last stand after suffering a major defeat at the Cinder King’s hands.

Band of Blades is not for the faint of heart. As brutal as Blades in the Dark can be sometimes, it is still built on the idea of wanting to see the players succeed. Band of Blades is not. Band of Blades wants to see you fail and crawl under the table to weep at your inadequacies. It is the Soulsborne of Forged in the Dark RPGs.

If you don’t mind constantly changing characters (usually because of death, maiming or exhaustion from the last mission) and like the grimdark medieval atmosphere, then BoB’s your uncle - Band of Blades could be what you’re looking for.

Buy Band of Blades on Amazon US and Amazon UK.


3. Scum & Villainy

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Scum and Villainy cover
Scum & Villainy draws heavily from Star Wars, giving a new sci-fi coat of paint to the Forged in the Dark engine. Image: Evil Hat Productions

You all know where the title comes from - when old Obi-Wan is first introducing Luke Skywalker to the settlement of Mos Eisley. Basically taking the Victorian grim-punk setting of Doskvol and turning it into a space opera, Scum & Villainy exchanges a crew of criminals for an actual spaceship crew. Rather than playing a group of scoundrels like the Cutter, Spider and Leech, the players are thrust into the roles of space adventurers: mechanics, pilots and stitches.

To give you an idea of how the setting is different from the original game; while Blades in the Dark draws a lot of inspiration from the show Peaky Blinders, the video game Dishonored and the Italian Job, Scum & Villainy takes its cues from the Star Wars films, space-western series Firefly and sci-fi anime such as Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star.

If you just want something like Blades but in a space opera setting, Scum & Villainy is the Forged in the Dark RPG for you. It essentially plays the same, using a very similar form of the gameplay mechanics.

Buy Scum & Villainy on Amazon US and Amazon UK.


4. Blades Against Darkness

Mix one helping of D&D into your Forged in the Dark RPG and find out that good is BAD

Blades Against Darkness sticks close to the Forged in the Dark gameplay, but relocates the action to dungeons and tombs. Image: Dylan Green

Maybe you still want the grimy Victorian ghost-punk setting of Doskvol or the medieval atmosphere of Band of Blades, but you’re coming from a big D&D binge or you’re just in a dungeon-crawler, ‘shoot-and-loot’ kind of mood. Try Blades Against Darkness, which takes the Forged in the Dark system and buries it underground in a dungeon-crawling RPG.

Like most Forged in the Dark RPGs, if you’ve played Blades in the Dark you know how to play. The difference is that now you’re brave adventurers out to gather loot, rather than scoundrels. The game’s acronym isn’t BAD for no reason - in this game you’re a bunch of badass tomb raiders killing ancient monsters and stealing buried goods.

One really neat feature of the system is the way it handles training in downtime. For those who haven’t played Blades before, during the downtime phase one of your possible actions is ‘Training’ which gives you one or two experience points. In Blades Against Darkness you instead have to tell a story - the training action has been replaced by ‘Reveal Something’, which urges you to “describe a scene that tells us something about your character that fills in details or answers questions” in order to mark extra experience for your character.

If you’re after a fun dungeon-looting experience using the Forged in the Dark system, then don’t let the acronym fool you - Blades Against Darkness isn’t BAD at all.

Download Blades Against Darkness for free from the Blades in the Dark community site.


5. Leviathan Song

Everyone else is still singing them, right?

Leviathan Song focuses on the seafaring elements of Blades in the Dark. Image: The Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Doré (1865)

In all your games of Blades in the Dark, have you wondered what it would be like to be a Leviathan Hunter? The indomitable whalers of the setting - except that instead of whales they hunt gigantic demonic beasts in an ink-blank ocean while being constantly harassed by ghosts, demons and a cataclysmic environment. Or, y’know, maybe you just never got over the sea shanty trend from last year and want a reason to sing them during your next gaming session?

Well, learn the words to Process Man, Drunken Sailor and the Wellerman - and maybe Hoist Up the Thing by The Longest Johns, just for good measure. With Leviathan Song you get a system where, instead of being a crew of scoundrels in a walled-in city, you are a crew of sailors harvesting ectoplasm from gigantic oceanic demons.

You can have the players’ crew of characters be a united group of officers controlling the ship, or even have them as lesser sailors aboard the vessel with NPCs taking up the roles of Captain, Masters and the lowest-ranking junior sailors known colloquially as Chum.

Even if you don’t want to go for a full campaign of leviathan hunting, it can open up a fun interim to your Blades campaign to have your crew escape the city for a while aboard a vessel for some brutal adventures on the high - and very dark - seas in the search of Moby Drikath, the serpentine creature covered in metallic plates that spawns ferocious house-sized crustaceans. And yes - there is, of course, a leviathan-generating table that will give you ample beasts to hunt with just a few dice rolls.

If none of that sold you on the game, it comes with four Leviathan Hunter shanties to sing - plus a space to write your own.

Download Leviathan Song for free via the Blades in the Dark website.


6. Vigilantes

If Batman was a poor Victorian gangster… you would be Batman

Vigilantes lets players swap their criminal characters for crime-busters, and adds some new ideas to the Forged in the Dark system to boot. Image: Grandfailure/PJ66431470

Maybe you really enjoy the setting of Doskvol, but you’re a goody two-shoes who doesn’t want to play as a criminal - or maybe you just really want to be a Victorian version of Batman. Either way, the Vigilantes expansion for Blades in the Dark might be the answer for you.

As a vigilante you won’t be doing things to gather money, like robbing banks or smuggling escaped prisoners out of the city. Instead, you will be trying to thwart the various gangs of the city from doing those things. You aren’t necessarily fighting alongside the local gendarmerie, the Bluecoats - because if you succeed then it just makes them look bad. And likely corrupt, because there’s a very good chance the bigger gangs are paying the city watch to protect them.

Vigilantes come with some neat bonuses, such as being able to spend reputation on extra downtime activities - something most crews can only do by spending coin. The Vigilante crewbook can also give GMs great ideas to enliven your setting by including some guidance on turning the city into more of a living, breathing atmosphere.

Even if you don’t feel like playing Victorian Batman (but why wouldn’t you?), the Vigilantes supplement can improve a regular game of Blades with ease.

Download Vigilantes for free from designer Sean Nittner's website.


7. Flame Without Shadow

If you’re tired of being scoundrels, why not try being corrupt Bobbies instead?

Blades in the Dark RPG artwork
Flame Without Shadow sticks to Blades in the Dark's setting of Doskvol, but introduces new playbooks, crews and other gameplay options for players. Image: John Harper/Evil Hat Productions

Flame Without Shadow retains Blades in the Dark’s setting of Doskvol, bringing three new playbooks - Bluecoat, Inspector and Spirit Warden Initiate - along with two new crews: Imperial Mandates for the Bluecoats, and Inspectors and Imperatives for the Spirit Wardens. In each of these you play as a special operations force of either the City Watch or the Wardens, trying to root out rebels, criminal organisations and heretics.

FWS also includes guidance on an even more interesting choice: playing as Bluecoats. It suggests revamping a Bravos crew and just using the Bluecoat and Inspector playbooks as guidance and ideas. This opens the opportunity for an interesting campaign of fighting against the criminal organisations as cops - good or bad, since the city watch is often called the worst gang in the city.

While FWS itself is somewhat one-note - well, two-note, with both Mandate and Imperative campaigns available - it does give ample ideas for ‘law gang’ playthroughs. Combine some of the features of the Mandate, Bluecoat and Inspector playbooks, plus a hack of the Bravo and Vigilante crew setups, and you’ve got a pretty good gritty cop campaign on your hands. Likewise, if your last run at a Cult crew was a little too lackadaisical for you, a group of Spirit Wardens gives a whole new way to play.

Download Flame Without Shadow for free via the Blades in the Dark website.

About the Author

Richard C. Shaffer avatar

Richard C. Shaffer

Contributor

Rich is no rookie when it comes to the outside world - loathe as he is to spend time in it. He’s worked as a private detective, security lieutenant, print & shipping logistics manager, and game developer. He currently freelances as a writer, journalist and narrative designer/consultant, as well as streaming other people’s games.

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