Love Letters in Blades in the Dark

In many PbtA games, love letters are a common way to handle a player missing a session.

Joe Banner described a “love letter” like this:

It’s a few paragraphs written specifically for a player or players to bring them up to speed on their situation, usually after a break or big change of scene.

They often include some sort of custom move so that there’s a bit of fiction around whatever the character did - and of course, any time a move happens, the world changes and complications can potentially arise. This is good and fun and I love it.

Have you done similar things in Blades in the Dark? Originally, I’d though I’d just give them a couple of downtime actions to catch them up, as that seems to be something of a formalization of the process, but I could also see throwing them an abstracted situation that results in an Action roll. I’m interested in what others have done or think about this.


I think choosing either love letters or downtime activities depends on if you want want to give them a narrative beat (with a love letter) or mechanical parity with the other players (with downtime activities – and frankly, you could just have them tick along whichever long-term projects with the benefit of the doubt that the character would’ve been working on them).

Since downtime activities aren’t really narrative devices, the player wouldn’t be doing much aside from ticking boxes or clocks – and then they wouldn’t, by implication, have really done anything since they last appeared “on screen” (e.g. while the rest of the crew ran three heists, Jimmy over here was just getting drunk and tinkering on a spark-craft).

With a love letter, however, you could have the missing PC run a whole separate heist (or set of heists) that, depending on the result(s), might inform the crew’s standing in the current session. Maybe those love letters are actually set up maneuvers or the crew finds out Jimmy, in all his glory, got the crew in a bad spot with some other faction and now they’re at war – way more, and more interesting, results by opening that narrative door with love letters.

Mechanically, a love letter could be a single action roll or a series of rolls, whatever feels appropriate for you, of course. The love letter section of AW is really just an outline of an idea and a quick homebrew solution. You could and should adapt it to BitD!


Downtime works quite well. What I’ve done with love letters and BitD is ask the player whether they want to take any downtime actions for periods of downtime they missed in a session. I also used it to work with that player to have their character show up, having set up the next heist while everyone else was busy.