A downloadable playbook

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A social predator who preys on hopes and fears

Beneath a bewitching smile and a veneer of civility, the Snake seethes with contempt for those who lack the conviction to seize what the world owes them.

Move in any social strata as you seduce those who will serve you. Use twisting words to make pawns pull the triggers while your hands stay clean. Infiltrate the ranks and psyches of your enemies and turn them against themselves.

A Devious Playbook for Blades in the Dark

Blades in the Dark is a game of scoundrels and strange cults, but I felt it didn't capture certain aspects of how cults and their leaders operate in the real world. In Blades, after all, the fantastical supernatural powers that cults worship do exist and the spiritual ascension they promise can be realized. Real-life cults rely on psychological manipulation to lure in followers and exploit their fervor, and this playbook is my attempt at capturing how they do that.

This playbook falls on the spectrum between the Spider and the Slide with its emphasis on conspiracy and manipulation. Where I tried to differentiate it was in its reliance on followers. A special Cult of Personality mechanic makes it act as a sort of mini crew that you can upgrade over time.

Cult leaders get a reputation for being evil geniuses or masterminds, but when you look into their pasts, you'll find they are often not especially smart or successful, at least at first. Rather, they refined their ploys through trial and error, deflecting the consequences of failures on to others, and omit those parts when telling their origin story. 

A cult leader's biggest "asset"--if you want to call it that--is being unburdened by the guilt someone with a healthy conscious would feel when abusing and exploiting the people who trust them. They are opportunists, and they are loyal to no one except themselves. That's what the Snake was designed to portray.



  • The Master
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Midsommar

TV shows:

  • Kilgrave in Jessica Jones
  • Ben Linus in Lost
  • Petyr Baelish and Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
  • Bret Stiles, cult guru in The Mentalist


At the end of playbook PDF, you'll find a list of recommended reading material and podcasts about high control/high demands groups and their leaders, should you want to learn more about how they work.

Also check out the Grifters crew playbook by Rob Donoghue. Con artists and fraudsters overlap with cult leaders and gurus, and they employ many of the same tricks.


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Click download now to get access to the following files:

Snake Playbook (Letter).pdf 366 kB

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