Content warning: ghosts, death, and the insinuation of gruesome violence.
I don’t have the book on me, but from what I remember, the experience of being in the presence of ghosts in Blades in the Dark is a combination of electrical currents (lights lighter, electric sparks, etc) and cold (hairs stand on end, shivers, windows frost over, etc).
The effect causes fear and your choice as a player is to freeze in place or run away. With a resistance roll you can instead choose to act on your own accord. However, as a GM I’ve notice the impact of saying “you feel a sudden chill wash over you” does diminish after a while. So I’ve been thinking about ghosts and what they carry with them…the memories of their death! I think experiencing them might cause the same fear as the physiological reactions we’re used to describing.
Next time my players encounter a ghost, here’s something I’m going to try:
- You remember standing at the top of a narrow stairway leading down into a dimly lit basement full of rusted and weathered carpentry tools. You know you must descend, and you equally know that one of the stairs will break under your weight.
- You have a memory of a man with a silver broach in the shape of a cross. His look is cold and calculating, sizing you up as though judging the weight of your bones once taken from your body. He holds a knife in his hand…not it’s smaller, thinner… a razor, dripping with your blood.
- The steamship Medon slowly plods across the wine dark void sea. The waters are so still you can make out your reflection in them. Two dark eyes, the color lost in the sea, a hawk nose, and thin lips covering pointed teeth…so many…more than you could possibly have. Something is rising from beneath and your image fades as the water parts, torn open by jagged teeth…
- You hear the pounding of a Bluecoats bludgeon on the weatherworn and rotted door to your families home. Your father stands int front of you with a ball pein hammer in his hand. He’s going to be the first one to die.
These are just some ideas. If you know how a ghost died in your own game, maybe that’s something you want to share with your players. As a matter of safety and consent I think it’s important to judge how long these descriptions are. I’m inclined to give a short description as that both leaves things to the players imagination and minimized the time when they are unable to say “nooooooope, I’m going to resist that shit” if they aren’t feeling it.
What are your favorite ways to introduce ghosts (or other scary supernatural entities) in your game?