Espionage scores in Blades in the Dark

I started a new BitD campaign this past weekend and the players decided on a crew of “strange, professional Shadows who specialize in Espionage”. (No Spiders at the moment, though I think that may change). Their hunting grounds are in Nightmarket, specifically a large vertical open-air bazaar.

As I think about opportunities for scores, I’m interested in ideas about espionage here. Many of the suggested scores related to information ultimately are a variant of burglaries. I’m not sure how I’d structure more traditional espionage as a score: infiltration of an organization, recruitment of informants, etc. Online searches have yielded a little but not as much as I’d like.

Thoughts, suggestions, and pointers are welcome and appreciated!

Infiltration into a high class ball to discover who is meeting who about what.
Convincing another gang to let you in so you can reveal a crooked betting syndicate.
Any plot from Leverage to make someone look bad by pretending to be something you aren’t.
Give the campaign an ‘international’ flavour by having one of the other places in the setting hire them through cut-outs to do any of the above.
Many noir private investigator plot.

Now I’ve begun to think about it a lot of the cyberpunk adventures I used in the 90’s might also give you a framework for espionage (check out the Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun back catalogue … The paragraph descriptions on Drivethru might be all you need)


I would revisit the hunting ground: does that support espionage scores? An open air bazaar doesn’t seem like a location where the PCs would be infiltration organizations or recruiting informants. Of course, espionage is a little more abstract than robbery, but maybe pinning down what the PCs want to infiltrate would help. Are they looking to ingratiate themselves with the nouveau riche and sell off their business secrets? Are they working to sabotage the construction happening the district by pitting companies against one another?

I think mechanically everything is there. Often BitD does pose a lot of espionage as a downtime activities (acquire an asset, long term project, …), maybe presuming tables will be more interested in action packed scores. But both of your examples would work wonderfully as scores – infiltrate an organization: how? Deception? Stealth? Social? Occult? All of those work. Recruitment of informants: how? Deception? Social? Occult? Assault (as a larger scale coercion)? All great.
The players have already decided they’ll focus on espionage, so let them guide the details. All you have to do, really, is not have an NPC suggest they blow up the city council (at first, at least).


There can be alliances between several gangs.

  • Who is maintaining these alliances and why?
  • Who is trying to undermine or use these alliances?
  • Which alliances are genuine, fake, good intended and nefarious?

This should give recruitment, sabotage, infiltration, observation and misinformation opportunities.

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I talked with my players last night (communication is the solution to 99% of all RPG conundra). Part of it was that some folks even newer to BitD than I am had misunderstood the purpose of “hunting grounds” and the “gathering information” mechanic, but more specifically they think of it as a place to start getting their feet wet before they start moving up in tiers, claiming turf in riskier (and more rewarding) locales, etc. Loose lips in a place where lots of people come together, maybe some “market research”, good place to meet folks, etc.

I appreciate the thoughts here and look forward to using many of the proposed ideas!!


I think an issue to look out for is that many “traditional” spy stories involve characters who belong to organisations with specific purposes and (more or less) clear loyalties whereas a BitD crew are more mercenary.

Given this, my advice would be to watch some spy movies and focus less on the missions the spies belonging to the agency get and more on the missions they hire outsiders to do - you know, those local operatives who often end up dead. :slight_smile:

Perhaps the tv shows Burn Notice and Leverage could also provide ideas?

The market is a great place for clandestine meetings and dead drops. Also, perhaps what they do is broken information or act as couriers. Don’t forget a large part of espionage is getting leverage on the person you want to give you intel. What are the vices you can exploit to blackmail them?

Finally, don’t forget disinformation as a tool for espionage.

And you could take it further: who are your characters loyal to? A different country or island? Are any of them deeper agents? Are any of them handlers of sleeper agents?

This sounds like a great campaign!


Good ideas!

Making the player characters burned spies a la Night’s Black Agents could be a way to introduce that uncertain loyalty. “This is Jim, formerly of the CIA.” Why was he kicked out? Is he still loyal to the US? Is he actually a mole? Maybe the player doesn’t even know at the start of the game!

I don’t think standard FitD is set up for this since it’s so centered around the crew, taking their loyalty to each other as a given. However, I think it would be possible to drift it a bit by giving the characters goals other than accumulating money. Maybe Jim wants to get his husband out of the US and the only way to do that is to do the CIA or another agency some favors along the way, essentially side missions for some of the jobs the crew takes on. Perhaps the only way for a character to retire to safety is to betray the crew on a job? (Actually, I think that setup could make for a whole game all by itself. Filing that away for future use…)

A potential Skovlander rebellion is fitting in already, as they’ve done some work for the Consulate to get leverage on a noble house. Tonight’s covert drop claim score will involve the Gondoliers and their network of canal boats.

@Anders That last bit sounds very Trophy-esque, hrmmm…

I don’t know anything about Trophy other than that it has popped up here and there the past couple of weeks.