Stress & Trauma
Player characters in Blades in the Dark have a special reserve called stress. When they suffer a consequence that they don't want to accept, they can take stress instead. The result of the resistance roll determines how much stress it costs to avoid a bad outcome.
During a knife fight, Daniel's character, Cross, gets stabbed in the chest. Daniel rolls his Prowess rating to resist, and gets a 2. It costs 6 stress, minus 2 (the result of the resistance roll) to resist the consequences. Daniel marks off 4 stress and describes how Cross survives.
The GM rules that the harm is reduced by the resistance roll, but not avoided entirely. Cross suffers level 2 harm ("Chest Wound") instead of level 3 harm ("Punctured Lung").
You can use stress to push yourself for greater performance. For each bonus you choose below, take 2 stress (each can be chosen once for a given action):
- Add +1d to your roll. (This may be used for an action roll or downtime roll or any other kind of roll where extra effort would help you)
- Add +1 level to your effect.
- Take action when you're incapacitated.
When a PC marks their last stress box, they suffer a level of trauma. When you take trauma, circle one of your trauma conditions like Cold, Reckless, Unstable, etc. They're all described in the next section.
When you suffer trauma, you're taken out of action. You're "left for dead" or otherwise dropped out of the current conflict, only to come back later, shaken and drained. When you return, you have zero stress and your vice has been satisfied for the next downtime.
Trauma conditions are permanent. Your character acquires the new personality quirk indicated by the condition, and can earn xp by using it to cause trouble. When you mark your fourth trauma condition, your character cannot continue as a daring scoundrel. You must retire them to a different life or send them to prison to take the fall for the crew's wanted level.
- Cold: You're not moved by emotional appeals or social bonds.
- Haunted: You're often lost in reverie, reliving past horrors, seeing things.
- Obsessed: You're enthralled by one thing: an activity, a person, an ideology.
- Paranoid: You imagine danger everywhere; you can't trust others.
- Reckless: You have little regard for your own safety or best interests.
- Soft: You lose your edge; you become sentimental, passive, gentle.
- Unstable: Your emotional state is volatile. You can instantly rage, or fall into despair, act impulsively, or freeze up.
- Vicious: You seek out opportunities to hurt people, even for no good reason.