I wanted to share my take on the stress mechanic from “Blades in the Dark”. I wanted something that adds impact but not complexity to the game. Something that doesn´t result in a frustrating death spiral or rules / table consultations. In adition my players love to experiment and therefor I am eager to try out new stuff.
Incorporating the new resource “Stress”, characters will now have 9 empty tick boxes on their character sheet. Accumulating stress is as straightforward as ticking the corresponding number of boxes.
Stress isn’t just a numerical value; it’s a versatile resource offering various advantages to our characters.
- Reducing Incoming Damage: Characters can reduce damage by accumulating 1d4 stress points. I was thinking of a reduction of 1D6 + WIS, but I am not to sure about it yet.
- Pushing Rolls: If a character fails a roll, they can embrace the pressure by accumulating 1d4 stress points and retrying immediately. However, the second attempt must involve a different approach, introducing higher risks of failure. Each time a roll is pushed the bonus from the current stress level can be added.
Stress Levels and Bonuses:
To mirror the balance between the potential benefits and penalties of stress, I’ve divided the 9 stress points into three sections. Each giving different Bonuses to pushed rolls:
- Nervous (3 points): Grants a substantial +3 bonus.
- Stressed (3 points): Provides a minor +1 bonus.
- Panicked (3 points): Offers no additional bonus. Pushing a roll at this level should be a last resort, symbolizing an overwhelming stress threshold.
Burnout and Character Flaws:
When stress accumulates to the maximum 9 points, characters experience Burnout. This state suspends stress usage until a long rest is completed. Moreover, Burnout comes with a permanent character flaw, adding depth to role-play and character development. Importantly, the Burnout mechanic prevents the accumulation of multiple flaws within a single encounter. Once you reach Burnout, you have it until you finish a longrest even if you manage to reduce stress before. There is no additinal effect coming from burnout, to keep it simple during play.
- Acting on Flaws: Embracing character flaws permits a reduction of stress by one point, rewarding consistent role-play.
- Calming Checks: Characters can attempt Wisdom (WIS) checks to calm themselves, lowering stress by one point.
- Long Rests: A full long rest completely resets stress to zero. The GM might invoke special circumstances to modify this process, such as unsettling resting environments.
I have playtested another stress system with my group, which resulted in a super fast and not impactful accumulation of stress through out the game, which I´m hoping of fixing with the “Blades in the Dark” approach.
With the visual representation of the mechanic on the character sheet it doesn´t look to complicated to me, however I am eager to hear what others might think.