Cold War Espionage - Blades in the Dark

As mentioned on Discord I am interested in running a Cold War espionage game in Tim Powers alternate cold war of Declare using the Blades in the Dark game.

Concept: It’s late 1940s, World War II has ended and the Cold War is ramping up. You are all spies in the employ of one of the WWII era (or older) outfits, SOE, OSS, Rabkrin, Deuxième Bureau, etc. Officially your employer has been subsumed by one of the shiny new agencies created to fight this new Cold War, CIA, MI6, NSA, DGSG.

But unfinished business remains and you continue off the books in deep deniable cover in a major world city. That unfinished business could be linked to supernatural spirits harnessed by the great powers as a part of the next stage of the great game. Turn enemy agents, develop moles, steal secrets, bribe or extort foreign politicians, secure defectors, pass on info to your governments to steer policy and protect your country from supernatural threats.

Aim: To try Blades in the Dark as a John le Carre style espionage game. Focus on the slow work of spy craft and flashbacks to establish the “scores”.

Tone: mistrustful, secretive, slow, careful scores. John le Carre novels, Tim Powers Declare

Subject Matter: Undermining foreign intelligence activities and developing your own networks and security.

Availability: I can play Monday-Friday after 1730 PST, or after 0900 PST on weekends. I intend for these to be 2 hourish sessions, focused around a score with following downtime activities.

Number of Sessions: 1 session zero followed by 2-4 sessions.

Note on supernatural threats
In Declare the great powers can capture spirits that also inhabit the Earth to provide supernatural boosts and security. Depending on the groups preference I will include these in the game as targets and threats, or they can be left out and this can be straight spycraft.

Let me know if you have any questions or are interested.


Hey, I’m interested. I can do Monday - Wednesday from 1730 PST on. I would ideally want to end by 2130 PST at the latest, which is 0030 EST for me.

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A few more specifics around how I intend to use the Blades system to do this.

Scores will be heavily based on the flashback mechanic. The actual action should be short and concise, but setting up the mark and conditions will be the result of possibly years of prep or chance meetings. For example you need the back entrance of a safe house from a rival organization. Maybe the local they hire as a cleaner was a partisan in the war and you saved their ass. They owe you and know it, but also aren’t necessarily stupid about who they work for. Flashback to that scene in the safe house as the Gestapo kick in the doors, how well do you get them out?

Or you need to record a key meeting between a rival agent and their local informant. Flashback, how did you find out their meeting spaces, and how well did you cover your tracks? Flashback how well did you bug the table? Action - can you retrieve the bug before the servers seat the next guests…

I don’t intend on using any of the specific crews in Blades, you are a group of agents adapting to whatever situation arises on the ground. The crew can pick abilities from any of the abilities available to Blades crews that make sense or allow you to develop expertise that match the “scores” you are planning.

Likewise going to be pretty free with the character types, if one of the Blades characters fits your desired character go for it, but otherwise we will build the character you want to play as they don’t exactly match. High action characters will be rather high and dry in lots of this game.

Instead of character classes I will be leaning on your background and how you ended up with the organization in question. Are you?

  1. The well healed scion. Probably went to a prestigious University, speaks a few living and dead languages, but most importantly knows other well healed people in key roles.
  2. The ex-military. You were pulled out of the clean world of ranks and enemies to the shadowy world of spies and secrets. What did you do wrong (or right)?
  3. Career civil servant. Perhaps a scion, but by this point duty and country mean more. You have been working these files for years and have the knowledge and experience to match.
  4. The polymath. You probably specialize in some technical subject, but never met one that you couldn’t dive into and achieve some mastery in.
  5. The technician. More practical than the polymath, you haven’t met a piece of machinery you can’t bend to your will.
  6. The cursed. If we do go the supernatural path. You have some connection or ability to communicate, control or even just observe the spirits engaged in the game. This could be the result of some auspicious birthday, or high tech accident, or occult initiation. Highly valued by those you serve. You probably wish you couldn’t.

The vices will be in full force with stress costs for the flash backs and pushing yourself. Rather than ending up in the local lock up for over indulging though you will likely end up with pressure from a foreign power holding said vice over your head in exchange for something…

Action rolls, engagement rolls, and fortune rolls will all be handled standard Blades.

Downtime could be developing contacts (although the style I am pushing for here those can come about in media res as flashbacks), creating new ciphers or breaking ciphers, researching, building local networks etc etc.

Rewards will be more specific than the general coin in standard Blades. It will be moles, contacts, specific knowledge secure defectors. You have a blank cheque with some obscure gov’t department that probably doesn’t know its paying for you… As Felix Leiter says “Does it look like we need the money?”

Will post a few more details tomorrow.

Great to hear! Thanks for the end time, good to know you are in EST so we have some parameters.

Sounds great. Just want to make sure you know I have zero experience with blade in the dark. I very much want to learn, but if you’re looking for people with at least some experience I won’t be much help.

I would also be interested. Monday through Wednesday nights (in in MST) would work best for me. Have a bit of experience with BitD but no knowledge of the setting. Sounds like a blast.

@sean @jackalbane looks like @DoNotResuscitate and @Zagrave can do Monday to Wednesday evenings. Is there an evening in that range works for you?

If that range doesn’t work, feel free to put out some other options. Looking for a 3 player minimum if we can find another day.

For start time I can make a soft start at 1730PT (1830 MT, 1930 CT, 2030 ET) and plan for 2.5 hour sessions with 2 hours of game time and .5 hour for soft start and banter. With my work it will have to be a soft start unfortunately with possible cancellations or start time delays.

First session will be a session zero creating characters, “crew”, safety consideration, and a quick intro score to get a bit familiar. Follow by 2-4 sessions of scores and downtime to try out the system and explore the world of spies. I am open to starting next 2 weeks, but happy to wait until after BSer Con if that works better for everyone’s schedules.

For VTT I have started setting up my Foundry instance with a BitD set up and will look into customizing a few things. Happy if you want to roll your dice and run off a paper character sheet if you prefer that.

I am available on weekday evenings from 6:30-9:30pm ET except Wednesday (that’s my regular D&D game). Way more availability on the weekends, 10am to 6pm ET.

I have also never used Foundry, but am familiar with Roll20 (though wanting to switch).

If my times don’t work out for this game, that’s cool. I wake up for my job at 5:30am so I tend to sleep early.

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Giving this one a bump to keep it alive. What’s the plan?

I am keen to run this if there is interest.

I see the following options for times:

  1. Everyone is still interested and available we can play Tuesdays for 1 hour 2030-2130ET
  2. Another time that works for Zagrave, DoNotResuscitate, Sean Tues or Wed for a 2 hour session.
  3. Another time on a weekend day that bridges the zones better PT to ET?

Any thoughts?