Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Random Encounters: Mythic Role Playing

I've written at some length about using Mythic Game Master Emulator as a refereeing tool and for solo play. Today I want to follow up on yesterday's post, using the emulator to identify complications arising from a random encounter, and then look at how Mythic Role Playing handles random events.

While most of my random encounter prep is done away from the table, out of game, one of the best features of the GME is that it can be used in real-time, at the table, during actual play. If a situation arises in game for which I don't have a clear-cut. obvious answer, or when a number of possibilities are more-or-less equally likely, I often kick the question to the GME - I keep the flash-based emulator open next to my wiki on my laptop when I'm running the game.

From yesterday's scenario, I learned that wealthy vintner Maître Péquenaud stands between his niece and the poor gendarme Gribouille, and that the duchesse de Chevreuse plans the capture of Péquenaud to give Gribouille and Marie a chance to elope. I want to develop some potential consequences from this, and since there are a number of ways I could see this go, I'm going to fire up the flash GME and see what it spits out by way of complications.

After establishing the characters and the the thread - who's involved, and why - the emulator immediately kicks back an event, a "delay of the environment" of "ambiguous significance." I interpret this to mean that a sudden storm delays Gribouille's attempt to get to Marie - this prolongs the duration of Péquenaud's imprisonment, increasing the chance of discovery or perhaps giving him an opportunity to escape.

Now, I start asking questions about what happens next - the probability is shown in parenthesis.
Q: Does Pequenaud recognize Gribouille? (Likely) NO - apparently Péquenaud is flustered enough that he doesn't recognize one of the 'masked ruffians' as his erstwhile future nephew-in-law; Gribouille catches his first break.
Q: Did Pequenaud anticipate Gribouille's plan to elope with Marie? (Likely) EXCEPTIONAL YES - forced to leave Marie home with this wife, Péquenaud anticipated that Gribouille might try something; the "exceptional" nature of the answer increases the scope of his potential preparations by increasing the probability of future answers (e.g., from "Likely" to "Very Likely").
Q: Did Pequenaud move Marie to another location? (Very Likely) YES - the obvious location to stash a single girl to protect her from marriage abduction is, of course, a convent.
Q: Did Pequenaud arrange guards as well? (Very Likely) YES - suspenders AND belt.
Q: Are the guards trained fighters (bravos, soldiers)? (Likely) YES - the grizzled veteran is able to call up some skilled fighters to defend his interests.
Q: Are the guards associated with another suitor? (50/50 or Unsure) NO - the guards are associates of Péquenaud, not of a romantic rival to Gribouille; that would've been an interesting twist, and depending on how this all shakes out, questions about a rival will be worth asking again.
Q: Do the guards outnumber Gribouille's party? (50/50 or Unsure) EXCEPTIONAL YES - ouch, I'll call that twice as many guards as there are members of Gribouille's party; since these are trained soldiers, I'm gonna say that Péquenaud called upon the local provost-martial to arrange for protection in his absence, so the guards are dragoons.
Q: Is Pequenaud's place of imprisonment discovered? (50/50 or Unsure - originally I'd call this Unlikely, but the storm delay shifts this into Unsure instead) YES - Aramis chooses an out-of-the-way location to hold the vintner, but apparently someone stumbles upon the prisoner and the Musketeers nonetheless.
Q: Does Pequenaud escape? (50/50 or Unsure) EXCEPTIONAL NO - the 'exceptional' quality leads me to ask another question . . .
Q: Does Pequenaud die in captivity? (50/50 or Unsure) NO
Q: Is the captive himself discovered? (Unlikely) NO - so while the Musketeers are noticed in the out-of-the-way location, the prisoner himself remains undetected.
Q: Does anyone come to investigate the presence of the Musketeers? (50/50 or Unsure) NO - this suggests that whoever discovers them wants to avoid trouble, but of course the captors can't be sure of that . . .
And finally, perhaps the most important question of all.
Q: Will Marie elope with Gribouille if he's successful? (A Sure Thing) YES
Now throughout this I've made no reference at all to the player characters. This is the rough sequence of events that takes place absent the actions of the adventurers. What the players decide their characters do may affect this in large or small ways - maybe they guard Péquenaud or maybe they free him, maybe they ride with Gribouille to find Marie or perhaps they warn the provost-martial, or maybe they ignore the whole situation altogether, right from the outset. Whatever their choices, I have a framework from which to respond.

The GME is just one part of Mythic Role Playing; MRP is a generic roleplaying game - a darn good one, in my opinion - with tools to facilitate both gm-less and solo play. Random events are an important part of the game, so next I want to create an encounter using these rules. Events - the "focus" - are determined by a roll on a table, and the specifics - the "context" - is provided by the players and/or referee, in conjunction with the Fate Table which lies at the heart of game master emulation as well as task resolution in the game.

A roll of 1d100=59 produces a "PC Negative" Event Focus, which is described thus.
Something bad, or good, happens to a player character, or non-player character, whichever is indicated on the event focus table. If there is more than one player character or NPC then randomly determine who the subject is. The event meaning will help determine what happens although logical ideas should begin springing to mind. These can be major, or minor, events. Perhaps the slumbering monster in the chamber awakens and attacks the poor, chosen character. Or, maybe while hiking through the desert the character discovers that the only food he has packed is beef jerky. He hates beef jerky.

This can be a very vague event focus, so you will have to rely much upon the event context and event meaning. All this focus tells you is who is directly effected, and if the effect is good or bad.
After the Event Focus is rolled, two more rolls are made for Event Meaning, one for Action and one for Subject; taken together, they form "a two-word sentence" which lends "spin" to the context and the focus of the event. Rolls of 1d100=79, 1d100=3 result in an action and subject, respectively, of "79. Intolerance" and "3. Environment."

There are a number of ways I could use this in my campaign. A MRP Event Focus can be paired with a result from the Flashing Blades random encounter table, plugged-in in place of the random motivations table results; I've done this a number of times with satisfying results.

But my favorite application of MRP's events is at the level of the 'campaign turn.' Time spent on career pursuits in Flashing Blades passes in blocks of one month - frex, a Musketeer lieutenant must spend four months of each year in the discharge of his duties, with an additional six months if his company goes on campaign, while a priest who is a member of a bishop's curia must spend three months each year performing his ecclesiastical duties. I use MRP's Event Focus table to determine what sort of activities arise out of the adventurers' careers, consulting the table on a roll of six on 1D6 for each month spent 'on the job.'

Absent the context essential to this event, I'm not going to flesh this one out further - mostly I wanted to show how MRP handles random encounters, and its applications to my own campaign.

On Thursday, improvising random encounters, courtesy of The Usual Suspects.


  1. Excellent write-up. I also make use of Mythic:GME when I DM. It is a wonderful tool for DMing.

    1. Thanks, Jacob. It also made for surprisingly fun solo play, much better than I expected.

  2. FYI, there are a set of javascript-based Mythic generators available through the files section of the Mythic Yahoo Group. While you can probably run the flash tool offline, the javascript tools are both offline-friendly and usable on iOS devices, as long as you can save web pages. (I use Atomic Web browser, which has this feature.)

    1. I haven't logged in there in awhile - thanks for the tip, Elliot.

    2. You're welcome. Also, I've really enjoyed this series on randomness, for the illustration of technique and for pointing to a few tools I didn't know about.

      One other tool worth mentioning might be the mission and event generation system in Crimson Cutlass. Unfortunately, the game is very hard to find; I'm very fortunate, and extremely grateful to the person from whom I obtained my copy.

    3. I've been trying to get a copy of Crimson Cutlass for awhile now - the four backgrounds in Flashing Blades come from CC and I'd love to see what else Mark Pettigrew borrowed.