Whenever player characters spend time traveling or in a specific locality, they will meet individuals and groups of people there. These normal everyday encounters may be used to add color and suspense to the game, or they may be expanded into adventures of their own. Powerful non-player encounters may become Patrons for characters. If characters are looking for an adventure and/or patronage, the Gamemaster may roll to see what a possible Patron wants on the Patronage table at the end of this section.The description of random encounters in Flashing Blades fits very well with the principles I developed from Mad Mesa, of encounters which are complete in-and-of-themselves as well as encounters which may carry future consequences for the player characters, including the possibility of patronage arising from the encounter.
Frequency and types of encounters vary by situation and location, as detailed in the subsections below.
FB's encounter tables are divided between "city" and "countryside"; there are five city tables - tavern, marketplace, palace, ministry or townhall, and church - and three countryside tables - open countryside, forest, and King's Roads. I'm presently working on encounters for the royal palace of Fontainebleau for my campaign - Fontainebleau is a sprawling complex in 1626, which includes the palace proper, two chapels, and wings devoted to the royal ministers who accompany the king, plus gardens, nearby hôtels belonging to various noble families, and the forest which is the king's hunting preserve. This means developing encounters from the palace, church, ministry, forest, and King's Roads tables for Fontainebleau and its environs.
The number of random encounters I prepare in advance for a location is based on how much use I expect it to receive in actual play. Sites likely to receive regular visits from the adventurers may have a dozen encounters preparede, while less frequented locations may have just three readied. I also keep a list of drop-in encounters for locations which I improvise in actual play.
I'm going to put together an encounter for the palace of Fontainebleau proper, so my initial roll is on the Encounter at Palace table: 1d20=3, a Baroness and a possible Patron - 1d20=20, "The Patron offers the character a permanent position in his service, with some sort of special deal or pay for services rendered lin this care, it is similar to the Secret: 'Secret Loyalty.'" So, if the player characters sufficiently impress the baroness, they may be offered some sort of clientage relationship to her. An interesting start.
I incorporated the reaction, surprise, and encounter range tables from original, 'classic' Traveller into my campaign house rules for the simple reason that I know them by heart from long usage. The baroness' reaction roll is a natural 2d6=12, which corresponds t, "Generally friendly." This tells me a little something about her: she's gracious and at ease in her surroundings - a courtier, perhaps? Surprise determines whether or not a character can evade an encountert; the baroness' roll is 1d6=4, which is on the high end - she is neither blissfully unaware nor particularly vigilant. Range measures the distance between the adventurers and the baroness; with a roll of 2d6-5=2, she is at Close range, 0-4 meters away.
Finally, I roll for a motivation: 1d100=76, cooking and eating. Since she is not likely to be cooking for herself at Fontainebleau, I take this to mean she's enjoying something - a cup of chocolate, or coffee, both recently introduced novelties at the French court?
Next, per my house rule, I roll again for another encounter; if a second encounter occurs, on a roll of 5-6 on 1D6, then two encounters are merged into a single event. The second roll, 1d6=5, indicated that a second encounter is included, and it will be rolled on the Encounter at Palace table again. The second encounter is 1d20=9, a Duke, Archduke, or Grand Duke, with 2D6 (2d6=7) Attendants and 1D6 (1d6=4) sycophants, also a possible Patron - the roll for patronage is 1d20=8, "The Patron wishes to have a message taken to someone in a dangerous position (a prisoner in the Bastille, perhaps, or a soldier on the front)."
An encounter with a duke, peer, or foreign prince - the titles of archduke and grand duke are house-ruled out of my campaign - means I will incorporate an actual historical figure if I can; while I've invented a great many fictional nobles for the campaign, for the upper nobility I prefer to use the historical personages of Louis XIII's court - interacting with powerful historical figures is one of the conceits of the cape-and-sword genre. Fortunately, a possibility immediately springs to mind: the duc de Bellegarde.
Great Officers of France. Bellegarde is a notorious gallant - a playa, in the parlance of the time - who even has the temerity to flirt with Louis' prim, uptight Spanish queen, Anne. Though he's in his sixties now, he's still vigorous and, as I roleplay him, incorrigible.
Okay, let's see how the rest of this unfolds. The duke's reaction is 2d6=8, Interested; his surprise roll, 1d6=1, is modified to 3 based on skills and military experience - his mind is elsewhere, but long habit makes him hard to catch unawares. Range, based on a roll of 2d6-5=7, is Medium, 8-24 meters away - this means that the baroness and the adventurers are effectively out of earshot of the duke, at least for a moment.
Because the duke is a known, established character, I don't feel the need to roll for a random motivation for him, and the way the encounter is shaping up, I have a pretty good idea of why he's there anyway.
I roll once more to see if a third encounter gets folded into this emerging scene: 1d6=4 - no, just the baroness and the duke and his cronies.
The next question is, who is the baroness? Do I have a non-player character already created who fits well in this spot, or do I need to create a new character instead? Searching through my list of npcs, I don't have a baroness character waiting in the wings, though I do have a few barons - could she be someone's wife? There's the baron de Gras, a member of the queen-mother's household; the baron de Saint-Jurs, a Provençal soldier, and the baron d'Île-de-Batz. I know Saint-Jurs is married, but there's no reason for his wife to be at court at the moment. Gras is a courtier to the Queen-Mother, Marie de' Medici, so he's a possibility for a baroness. D'Île-de-Batz is an agent of Cardinal Richelieu - he has mistress, a rather notorious courtesan, but there's no reason why he can't have a wife at court as well - in fact, making her a lady-in-waiting to the Queen-Mother would fit.
So, the adventurers encounter the baronne d'Île-de-Batz, courtier to Marie de' Medici, strolling in the Galere des Cerfs, perhaps, or along the Grand Parterre overlooking the gardens, sipping a cup of chocolate from a Chinese porcelain cup, occasionally stirring it with a small silver spoon. She offers a gracious nod to the characters - or a deep curtsy, if their social rank warrants it - as they pass, when the booming voice of the Grand Squire, Bellegarde, is heard, approaching. He and his coterie of aides and hangers-on are fresh from the royal stables, trailing clouds of dust and shedding clods of mud - and worse - from their boots. The duke sees the baronne and makes straight for her.
She leans slightly toward the player characters and, as the duke whips off his hat and brushes even more of the dust from his clothing as he strides toward the baronne, whispers quickly, "Sang dieu! Please, save me from this old goat! Follow my lead!" Depending on how the characters respond, she will introduce one of them as a cousin, visiting court, with whom she's eager to catch up. As introductions are made, one of Bellegarde's aides, knowing his master's predilections, whispers something in his ear, to which the duke smiles. Bellegarde is gracious to the "cousin," asking a couple of polite questions, when the aide interjects that perhaps the "cousin" and his companions could be of some small service to the Grand Squire of France.
Now the players have choices: help the baronne escape the amorous attentions of the duke, provide a service to the duke and perhaps gain the favor of a member of the king's household, or perhaps weasel their way out of the whole situation, to avoid getting dragged into the affairs of their betters. Decisions, decisions . . .
And there you have it. I need to develop the character of the baronne d'Île-de-Batz, Bellgarde's trusted aide, and one of the duke's sycophants, a boor who will mock the adventurers' discourtesy should they turn the duke's offer of service down - perhaps a duel is in order? Wife of a faithless husband, lady to the Queen-Mother, the baronne offers all sort of interesting possibilities right out of the gate, and by fleshing out her background, such as her relations, opens up other doors as well.
So that's how I do that.
On Thursday, incorporating Rory's Story Cubes into random encounters.