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Blades in the Dark tabletop RPG being developed for TV

Peaky Blinders mixed with Ocean’s Eleven, seasoned with Gothic horror

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A thief with glowing eyes emerges from the mist, blades flashing in the lamplight. Image: John Harper
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Blades in the Dark, the award-winning tabletop role-playing game, is being adapted for television. The game’s bleak Victorian setting blends acrobatic heists with Gothic horror. It sounds like the perfect concoction for an addictive serial drama. The effort is being led by BAFTA-winning production house Warp Films (This Is England, Little Birds). The announcement came late Tuesday via author John Harper, and was first reported by Screen Daily.

Released in 2017, Blades in the Dark is set in the fictional city of Doskvol. Players form a team of criminals engaged in high-risk heists all around town. Working against them are the city’s other, more powerful gangs — and the souls of the dead, cursed to haunt the place for eternity. What makes the game unique, other than the whole undead thing, is its reliance on flashbacks. Once players come upon an obstacle, they roll dice to see how well they prepared ahead of time. With a high enough roll they can engage their own creativity, pulling keys out of a hidden cubbyhole, perhaps, or drawing the perfect weapon to disarm their foe.

There’s been a small surge of interest in adapting tabletop games for big and small screens over the past five years or so. The Dungeons & Dragons film, starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, and others, finished filming in August. Meanwhile, a Magic: The Gathering animated series is on the way in 2022 from Netflix with Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) in a lead role. Dan Abnett’s Warhammer 40,000-themed Eisenhorn Trilogy, a jewel in the crown of Games Workshop’s Black Library, is also in development from the team behind The Man in the High Castle. The Warhammer Plus streaming service launched just last week.