Planning Back

Planning Back

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything

is often attributed to Dwight Eisenhower and it beats "no plan survives first contact with the enemy".

I have never played Blades in the Dark but the actual plays I have seen were food for thought. I am probably wrong in my understanding of the flashback system, but the reflections here center on the malleability of the shared imagined space (and time).

Alex's post about Forged in the Dark last week brought back this reflection track for me and I mumbled something in my comments for that EOW post, but that mumbling needs some articulating.


An action has a planning phase and an execution phase.

The referee prepares the action (the adventure/module/scenario) and challenges the players with it.

The action may be thought of as a test, sanctioned by a pass or fail outcome.


The players start at the planning phase. There are some intelligence gathering actions and the players come up with a plan. Reserve moves or resources are set aside to buffer potential issues.

Resource attrition.


The planning phase is elided and the players start at the execution phase. Each time an issue comes up, a flashback is invoked, the planning phase is amended to deal with the issue in the execution phase.

Each of the planning flashbacks stabilizes planning points and eliminates planning branches. At some points everything in the planning has been stabilized (and the players may have planned their characters in a corner). Planning attrition.


Now, if we assume the classical approach results each time in a Total Party Kill and that we have an unlimited number of tries. After C tries we have a successful run and players with upgraded planning skills.

For the flashback approach, after F tries we have a successful run.

I would bet on F being smaller than C.


I have the impression the flashback approach is more fun overall for the players because, by avoiding the big upfront planning phase, it prevents a takeover by the table's self-appointed mentat.

The turn taking mechanism prevalent in the execution phase gives each player the opportunity to invoke a planning flashback.


All in all, when I think about the flashback approach, I figure the adventuring party strolling towards obstacles, freezing time, ordering resources to their logistics center, and unfreezing time when they are equipped and ready.

It feels like a dummy run maybe, less sweat, less blood, but it probably is good fun anyway.