Thursday, July 18, 2024

Make Mine . . . Adventure Roleplaying?!

Friend of the blog EOTB at Chronicled Scribblings of the Itinerant Overlord recently outlined the precepts of classic adventure gaming (CAG), defined thusly:
It is the style of gaming presumed and presented in the 1E PHB and DMG which was common before a playacting style of "roleplaying" grew into a new normal. It rejects the term "roleplaying game" or "RPG" because today those names firmly convey implicit expectations running contrary to practices of successful adventure gaming.
I've liked the phrase "adventure gaming" as a description for the hobby since I first encountered Tim Kask's regrettably short-lived Adventure Gaming magazine decades ago, and a lot of what EOTB and friends write hits hard for me, in particular:
Adventure gaming is campaign based; the idea of one-shot games is foreign to adventure gaming. A game world exists and persists apart from any group of characters. When combined with the expectation that players grow in mastery of a set of rules, a single set of rules is used for very long periods of time (if not indefinitely) so that players gain enough time in a single ruleset to understand it thoroughly as opposed to a superficial understanding.

Nobody is trying to tell a story. A GM writes places and situations; if a future is written, it is the future of what will happen in that location or what those NPCs will accomplish if the players choose not to engage with it or them at all. No attempt is made to pre-determine the course of what will happen if the players decide to engage with that content. Because the GM has determined the goals, resources, abilities, local geography, and "personality" of any NPCs at a location, they have all the tools necessary to react believably and distinctly to whatever actions or plans the players may devise at the time of contact.

Should their plans and luck dictate such a result compared to the preparations and abilities of their opposition, players are allowed to "win" situations convincingly and without artificial tension or danger imposed by the GM. Conversely, the game is generous with 2nd chance magic so the GM need not prevent bad plans and poor play from reaping a whirlwind.

Player agency is paramount. The burden of what course of action is taken is on the players, not the GM. Adventure gaming is not well-paired with a table made up entirely of passive players, regardless of how excited a GM may be to try it. Many tears occur when a GM attempts to run an adventure game with players who really want the GM to tell them what they will be doing tonight, with players making only minor decisions through the course of the evening but otherwise seeing if they can succeed at the goal a GM has set before them. It is tailor made for groups having a minimum of one player who likes to make decisions. Not everyone has to be a decision maker if the rest of the group is comfortable with allowing a minority of however many to perform the role a GM performs in typical roleplaying campaigns of deciding what the group's course of action will be for a gaming session.

A GM accepts that world building and location/scenario writing is a parallel but separate hobby to the game itself. GMs enjoy worldbuilding for its own sake. There is no feeling that time spent devising locations and NPCs is "wasted" if players do not interact with it. Instead, because the GM has written out the effect of players not engaging with that content at all, the game world changes accordingly and seems to the players to move even where they've not personally intervened.
Music to my ears, truly.

I do hang up a bit in a couple of places, and let me make clear right from the giddyup none of my hang-ups are meant to disagree with or cast aspersion on the precepts of classic adventure gaming presented here. Rather, my hang-ups reflect the ways in which personally I'm not a "classic adventure gamer."

My personal conception or ideation - I'm loathe to call it a definition - of roleplaying is, "Making decisions as your character." If your character is a game-world avatar of you sitting at the table, as in CAG, then that still fits my concept of roleplaying. So does the "playacting style" EOTB describes as it's practiced and advocated for by many in the hobby. From where I stand, roleplaying isn't strictly deep-character-immersion or "talking in funny voices." "My guy" is a perfectly valid approach to roleplaying for me.

That said, I find that while I start generally somewhere in the vicinity of "my guy" - random generation, optimising what I can where I can, handwaving backstory - I rarely stay there for long. For those familiar with the history of GDW's En Garde! the game started strictly as tabletop fencing skirmish rules but over time and repeated play, the players started to think of their characters as existing in the setting, and wanted to know more about their lives. From this came rules for military service, carousing, mistresses, and gentlemen's clubs. That fits my concept of roleplaying to a tee, and indeed it slots in with CAG as well, which reinforces for me the notion of En Garde! as one of the earliest adventure games.

From my own experience, making those kinds of decisions for my character - what to pursue and how to pursue it - suggests a nascent personality which influences subsequent decisions. While I start off an adventure gamer, as I play the campaign I'm prone to make decisions less based on my own logic sitting at the table and more from the perspective of the imaginary character in the imaginary setting, their experiences, their ambitions, their place in the game-world. As I make more and more decisions as the character rather than as a player, that's when a backstory may emerge, in dribs and drabs, further coloring how I think of, and think as, "my guy."

This is the essence of Develop-In-Play rather than Develop-At-Start gaming. Old-school and roots gamers tend to be speak in terms of "story" as an emergent property arising from actual play rather than one planned by the referee - story is something seen in hindsight - and from my own experience, so is characterisation. The more decisions I make for my character, the more subsequent decisions are likely to reflect a consistency and a coherence with what came before. My characters develop interests, habits, and quirks that build on those experiences and ambitions and "my guy" becomes someone else altogether, very different from where the campaign started.

I don't know if EOTB's concept of CAG necessarily excludes or proscribes this. Consider the following:
There is no expectation players will act at the table as if a game were not occurring; players are expected - not discouraged - to use what the modern hobby mistakenly disparages as "metagaming". A player who knows that fire prevents trolls from regenerating but declines to use it because "my character doesn't know that" is roleplaying instead of adventure gaming.

Conversely, GMs must not metagame - because a GM has perfect knowledge, they must limit themselves within the knowledge, goals, abilities, resources, and quirks of the NPC or monster they are running at the time in order for a functional game to occur. This is almost the exact opposite of how most roleplaying games view the player-GM dynamic, and an example of how character-first roleplaying flipped the playstyle in a 180 away from how early games ran.
(emphasis added - BV)
I agree with the idea of "metagaming" as presented here: I tend to think of anything in the rules as within the realm of knowledge of the player characters, but I also tend to violate one of the principles of CAG EOTB sets forth - "Because a GM is comfortable with highly experienced players, rules tinkering for tinkering's sake, or perhaps to artificially reintroduce an atmosphere of player uncertainty due to ignorance, is discouraged." - in that I will switch things up to create surprises or new challenges, such as introducing trolls that are vulnerable to salt rather than fire, frex.

More to the point, if the referee can be expected to create characterisations for non-player characters, monsters, and the like, and hold to them, perhaps the intent is not to limit players from doing the same so much as it is to not lose sight of playing the game. Hopefully EOTB may weigh in on this in a future post.

As I said, as things stand, while I'm very much a roots gamer, I wouldn't label myself a classic adventure gamer as styled here. Perhaps "adventure roleplayer" is more my speed, because after weeks or months or, ideally, years of playing, "my guy" is rarely just my avatar any longer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Loot!

A dozen years ago Desert Scribe at Super Galactic Dreadnaught posted about "non-standard treasures" in the Holmes edition Dungeons & Dragons sample dungeon and B2 Keep on the Borderlands and B1 In Search of the Unknown. The posts are effectively a guide to looting the Caves of Chaos and Quasqueton, and I loved them so much that I said in the comments I wanted to do the same for Flashing Blades, a game with its own actual, literal booty table (FB core rules, p. 28)!

Years passed.

And at long last, here we are.

Clothing
coat, gentleman's, cloth-of-gold 50 £
hat, cloth-of-gold 15 £
suit, gentleman's, cloth-of-gold 100 £


Decorative Items
chandelier, Venetian glass 500 £
chess set, silver and gold pieces 250 £
goblets, crystal 150 £
idol, Inca 100 £
lilies, white, 1 doz. 1 £
rose, red 1 £
tapestry, medieval of knights jousting 100 £
tea service, gold-inlaid with silver utensils 75 £


Functional Items
blowgun, genuine Caribe Indian 10 £
book, Da Vinci manuscript 1000 £
books, library set 100-200 £
bow, genuine Caribe Indian 20 £
chamberpot, silver with coat of arms 25 £
dog, hunting 70 £
falcon, hunting 60 £
longsword, fine quality 100 £
parrot, exotic talking 50 £
racket and ball, tennis 10 £


Jewelry
crucifix, jeweled 200 £
earring, gold pirate hoop 5 £
gem, Constantinople Emerald 10,000 £
gem, Constantinople Emerald (wax forgery) 1000 £
gems, bag of 1000 £
medallion, Knights of the Golden Fleece (melted down) 120 £
necklace, Inca 60 £
ring, small gold 25 £

There are a lot of items described - Delft tiles, marble statues, cherry bon-bons - in the various FB adventures which aren't ascribed values. This is a missed opportunity, one I may have to take up at some point in the future!

Monday, July 8, 2024

More Pseudoskills

In our new campaign, one of the players created a pseudoskill for his character, an unconventional healer using the Physician skill house rule.

Chemist + Physician = Paracelsian Medicine

Not gonna lie, I was pretty excited to see this idea of creating specialty skills out of the standard skill list take root in another player's character.

Here are some additional ideas for pseudoskills.

Oratory + Bargaining = Negotiation
I created this one for my own character, a smooth talking Student of Law, and used it to help his landlord get an investment loan to become an olive oil merchant. Negotiation is the polite or refined form of hustling, as represented by the Bargaining skill.

Oratory + Literacy Master = Poetry
Oratory + Seduction = Sonnetry
This one was also for my character - I wanted to make poetry a thing for him, a part of his Occitan heritage. These are pretty self-explanatory; one normally doesn't take check marks for Literacy, but a character pursuing this as a pseudoskill should be permitted to do so, using Wit as the defining attribute.

Oratory + Theology = Preaching
The ability to deliver a rousing or edifying sermon or a moving eulogy, this is an obvious choice for priests and ministers.

Theology + History = Hagiography
Hagiography is the "lives of the saints" - this is useful for identifying the connection between a saint's name and a location or an organization, similar to the Heraldry skill, or for invoking the proper patron for blessing an activity.

Horsemanship + Polearms = Jousting
Jousting was still a thing in early modern France; frex, jousts were held as part of Louis XIII's coronation celebration and appear in Richard Lester's 1973 epic The Three Musketeers. This could be a remarkable alternative to rapiers and pistols as a dueling challenge!

Magistracy + Pilot = Maritime Law
Magistracy + Heraldry = Salic Law
Two more areas of legal expertise, the law of the sea and the law of noble succession.

Friday, June 28, 2024

A Small Footprint, Or A Curious Omission

I stumbled across a review of Flashing Blades by Arthur at Refereeing and Reflection: Tangled Thoughts On RPGs and Related Hobbies published about seven years ago. Here's a short excerpt.
What’s even more interesting to me than these rules themselves, however, is Pettigrew’s notes on their use. He makes the entirely fair point that they aren’t necessarily going to suit all groups – especially if you’re just running a one-shot – but for the purposes of an ongoing campaign they can add a heap of flavour. On top of that, he even makes the point that you can use them to break up periods of adventuring (with one or two adventures happening a year) and make a truly generational game, with the campaign unfolding over a span of years. This I find fascinating because it has Pettigrew enunciating, a full year before it was published, the concept of generational play over an epic span of history which became a major factor in Pendragon – thus anticipating a widely-celebrated innovation in game design and in the idea of what a campaign might cover.
I find it intriguing that FB still gets positive reviews, in this instance thirty-three years after it was released, as well as a well-deserved call-out for innovation in roleplaying games.

It's rare that I find anyone with anything bad to say about the game. Many of the retrospectives I read over the years speak highly of Flashing Blades, and the stories of different campaigns are fun to read. And that made me curious: how big a foootprint did this fun, innovative game make when it was released?

If the major roleplaying game magazines of the mid-Eighties are any indicator, Flashing Blades didn't even leave a pinky toeprint. A search of the indices of Dragon, Polyhedron, Space Gamer, and White Dwarf don't mention the game at all: no reviews, no articles, no adventures, nothing. Only Different Worlds mentions it, with reviews of the core rules and the Parisian Adventure and High Seas supplements.

That makes the game's continuing good vibes, which appear to be largely a blogosphere phenomenon, all the more fascinating forty years after its release.

Monday, June 24, 2024

You Got Your Boot Hill In My Flashing Blades! Reputation and Non-Player Character Reactions

Other gamers are suprised sometimes when I'm asked about my favorite roleplaying game and I tell them it's original, "classic" Traveller. In fact, I've played more Traveller over the years than any other game, roleplaying or otherwise. As a result, I've internalized a lot of Traveller's rules, which is why when I need something like a reaction table or encounter ranges or something, I tend to default back to the system I know so well.

When I returned to Flashing Blades about thirteen or fourteen years ago, I brought in Traveller's reaction table; random non-player reactions are something of a cornerstone to how I referee roleplaying games, and I can recite the little black book table and its modifiers from memory. In the years since I last ran FB, however, I played in a three-year Boot Hill campaign, which has my favorite reaction table in roleplaying games, full stop.

The first thing to understand is that 2e BH doesn't have a "social attribute" for player characters: no Charm, no Charisma, no Fellowship. It also lacks social skills, or really any skills at all, and the original rules include only one social rule, minor (non-player) character morale. Boot Hill's NPC Reaction Table was introduced in its first published module, BH1 Mad Mesa, and it was included again in BH2 Lost Conquistador Mine. For a game with no social attribute or skills, it's absolute genius, a rule based on the adventurer's reputation, built from the player character's actions and standing in the setting.

So as I start a new Flashing Blades campaign, I'm changing up my reaction table. Now there's one important difference between BH and FB; the lattter has attributes and skills affecting social interactions, so the challenge before me is to incorporate those while keeping the essence of a reputation based system. First, there are a few small changes to the reaction tables as published in Mad Mesa and Lost Conquistador Mine - we made some of these same changes when we played our Boot Hill campaign years back.

NPC Reaction Table
Roll Reaction
2 or less Deadly - NPC will attack at slightest provocation
3 Hostile - NPC will attack if player makes slightest threatening move
4 Insulting - NPC tries to pick a fight
5 Suspicious - NPC watches character closely
6 Undecided - NPC watches character
7 Undecided - NPC is cautious
8 Friendly - NPC is off-guard
9 Trusting - NPC is friendly and does not suspect character
10 Helpful - NPC will give reasonable aid
11 Helpful - NPC is willing to join character
12 or more Loyal - NPC is willing to risk his or her life for character

Reaction Roll Modification
-4 Character has killed a friend of the NPC
-2 Character has killed someone known to the NPC
-2 Character is caught performing a criminal action
-1 Character is a known criminal
-3 Character is a known enemy
-1 Character is a stranger
-2 An argument is currently in progress between the character and the NPC
-1 NPC is drunk
+1 Character has previously helped the NPC
+1 Character and NPC are together in the same group
+1 Character refrained from killing a friend of the NPC when given the chance
+1 Character is an individual known to have performed a heroic deed
+2 Character has saved the NPC's life
+2 Character is a known friend
-3 to +3 Character skill check results

Now, Flashing Blades has six social skills: Bargaining, Bribery, Captaincy, Etiquette, Oratory, and Seduction. As presented in the adventures, social skills are pretty straightfoward rolls against an attribute, as seen in thie example from An Ambassador's Tales.
The player-characters must be fairly tactful about dealing with the explosive cake and saving the Ambassador. The Bavarian chocolate cake is the Emperor's pride and joy, and any violent destruction of the pastries or ill-concealed removal might result in a bad scene. Clever characters may think of special excuses for removing the cake (e.g. saying that M. de Bienvenu has been advised by his doctor to avoid sweets, or, perhaps, that he is allergic to chocolate). Similarly, they might 'switch' cakes with him. Otherwise, some player-character with Etiquette skill must make a successful roll against Charm to avoid a scene. - "Habsburg Hospitality," An Ambassador's Tales, p. 8, emphasis added
One of the problems I have with a system that depends on an attribute or skill roll is that the universe comes to be defined by the character sheet. Persuade the count to loan the adventurers four horses? Oratory roll against Charm. Make sparkling small talk with the baroness over supper? Etiquette roll against Charm. Bribe the guard captain to overlook a transgression? Bribery roll against Wit. This is very unsatisfying to me. I jumped through a variety of hoops to make this work in my last FB campaign, but given how smoothly the combination of reputation and morale worked together to create nuanced social system for BH, I want FB social skills to fit into this framework.

The solution is, a social skill check becomes another modifier to the reaction table. Taking a cue from Flashing Blades' combat rules, a social skill check is a simple attribute check but the results will be handled similar to extra damage (4.53 Weapon Damage, p. 17) for serious wounds.

Modifier Social Skill Check Result
+3 Roll of 1 exactly, at referee's discretion
+2 Roll of one-half or less of skill value
+1 Roll of more than one-half of skill value to skill value exactly
-1 Roll of one more than skill value to half-again skill value
-2 Roll of more than half-again skill value
-3 Roll of 20 exactly, at referee's discretion
Example: Jacques has Charm 12 and Etiquette skill. He wants to impress a potential mistress with his manners. The referee determines the skill check number is 14 - Charm 12 with +2 bonus for Etiquette - and Jacques' player rolls a six on 1D20. In addition to whatever modifiers he has for reputation, Jacques gets an additional +2 modifier to the reaction roll to see if the mistress is indeed impressed by Jacques' rizz.
Flashing Blades lacks a Bravery score like Boot Hill, but for purposes of rounding this into a social system, a Wit check will work; if the situation is especially complex, or the non-player character is particularly significant, the referee can even call for opposed Wit checks. Together the skill-influenced reaction roll coupled with a Wit roll produces something comparable to what we used for BH while maintaining the role of FB social skills and skill checks:
  • Negative reaction, fails Wit? Cowed
  • Neutral reaction, fails Wit? Resentful compliance
  • Positive reaction, fails Wit? Possible ally
  • Negative reaction, passes Wit? Possible enemy
  • Neutral reaction, passes Wit? Disinterested
  • Positive reaction, passes Wit? Willing to negotiate
  • And this avoids the situation of a player character's attribute score defining the universe, my personal pet peeve.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Pinching Pennies? Monthly Expenses in Flashing Blades

    Monthly expenses (food, shelter, etc.) 3 £ x Social Rank (see 3.8) - 3.72 Outfitting, Flashing Blades core rules (p. 12)
    Mark Pettigrew cited Traveller as an influence on Flashing Blades, and it may be most evident in the treatment of careers and character finances. Like Traveller, Flashing Blades likes its player characters struggling to make ends meet and hustling to pay the bills, i.e., seeking out and accepting patronage opportunities. Salaries alone are rarely enough: a Social Rank 5 Minor Official (5.21 The Social Scale, p. 23) in the bureaucracy makes 70 £ annually (MINOR OFFICIAL, 5.53 Ranks and Positions in the Bureaucracy, p. 32) but has monthly expenses totalling 180 £ for the year. Given that most player character bureaucrats start at SR 7 (3.8 SOCIAL RANK, p. 13), the disparity is even greater and the need for additional funds more pressing.

    Player characters don't simply rely on their salaries, of course, receiving an annual allowance (3.71 Yearly Allowance, p. 11) in addition to whatever salary - if any - they receive from their careers. The source of the annual allowance isn't defined; historically, people received income from rentes and other annuities, but inheritance, rich uncle, or a remittance to stay far away are all plausible explanations for a character's yearly allowance as well. Between a salary and a yearly allowance, an adventurer may make enough to meet annual expenses: an SR 7 Gentleman Minor Official bringing home that same 70 £ but with a yearly allowance of 300 £ will still have 188 £ left over, at least until the fermier général and the parish priest extend their hands for taxes and tithes.

    Advantages such as Wealth, Title, and Land may add to an adventurer's yearly allowance, but the latter two also increase expenses in the forms of higher Social Rank and property upkeep, and with greater income comes higher taxes and tithes as well.

    So, can a player character reduce their monthly expenses to better live within their means?

    Before I can answer that we need to understand what exactly is covered by those monthly expenses. First, shelter for most characters will be a rooming house or a hostel, or more rarely an auberge (inn), which generally caters to travellers, not tenants. At Social Rank 3 and below, lodgings are likely shared, with 1-4 beds with straw ticking and cheap blankets in a rented room, pegs on a wall for hanging clothing, a tin basin and a pitcher of water in the hall for ablutions, and the possibility of a cut-down wine barrel for use as a tub with water drawn from a well in the garden. From Social Rank 4 to 7, rooms are usually private, with two thin mattresses, one of straw and one of feathers, covered by a thick wool blankets, a basin and pitcher on a table or chest of drawers, a small wardrobe, a stool or small wooden chair, and bathing water warmed in the kitchen. At Social Rank 8 and above, lodgings are a small suite with a sitting room or salon and a bedroom or bedrooms as well as separate shared quarters for servants. A mattress and thick comforter stuffed with goose down cover the bed, a decorated and gilt ceramic basin and pitcher sit on a carved chest of drawers, and an expansive wardrobe stands against a wall, with a covered, cushioned chair and footstool on a carpeted floor nearby. A glazed iron bathtub is concealed by a screen or secluded in its own small room for privacy.

    Students and soldiers may also find lodging in a rented room in a private residence; d'Artagnan finds a room in the home of the cloth merchant M. Bonacieux after his appointment to the guards company of M. des Essarts on his arrival in Paris in The Three Musketeers, for example. Students of Theology, during their months of study and service, are expected to live in a community with other students not dissimilar to monks; the accomodations are comparable to that of merchants, but the cleaning and cooking are handled by the students themselves. Titled nobles of Social Rank 10 and above may find accomodation in the hôtel or townhome of another noble family, comparable to that of a rooming house but with better quality service - more on that in a moment; for such nobles, monthly expenses are halved as the accomodation is considered a display of hospitality expected of the nobility which is repaid by pourboires (tips or bribes) to the staff and service rendered to the family.

    A single morning meal is provided for lodgers of SR 3 and below, consisting of a thick vegetable soup or stew and brown bread with thin beer or table wine to wash it down; monthly expenses also cover a midday and evening meal, usually purchased from a street vendor. Meat is rare and usually consists of mutton or goat meat added to the stew or baked in a crust, or a fish ragout if near the ocean or a substantial river. If a SR 3 or below rooming house serves meat in its meal more than two or three times a week, the absence of dogs in the neighborhood may be noticeable. Meals are served in wooden or clay bowl or on platters with drinks in clay mugs. At SR 4-7, lodgers may expect to receive a morning and evening meal as part of their expenses; the stew will usually have meat, typically the aforementioned mutton and goat, and roast chicken is common table fare as well. The fish ragout is supplemented with whole fish roasted on a spit. Boiled vegetables are served as sides. Beer and wine remain the most common beverages, with rum or brandy available for an extra fee beyond what's covered as part of a character's monthly expenses. Service is on pewter bowls and platters, while drinks are served in clay or pewter mugs. At SR 8 and above, meals come in courses of four or more, with a variety of meats: roasted mutton and fish are common, with beef and especially wild game appearing with some frequency. Along with platters of boiled vegetables, raw celery is considered a delicacy and exotic New World vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes may be present as well. Good wine and spirits are served in crystal decanters and goblets while meals are served on china imported from the East Indies or silver bowls and platters.

    Finally, the rules specifically mention food and shelter, but what's about the ever-elusive "etc."? Some services may be covered by monthly expenses. At SR 3 and below, maids will change and launder the characters' bedlinens monthly and the character can get their clothing laundered and crudely patched on the same schedule as well; swashbucklers are a rough and tumble bunch as a rule, and stains and tears should accumulate readily in the course of their adventures. Between SR 4 and 7, linens are changed and quarters swept and dusted weekly, and a washer woman will launder clothing as needed while a seamstress will skillfully mend the garments on the adventurer's behalf. A young boy, perhaps a son of the owner or a servant, can be expected to bear messages for the adventurer, and to carry a torch at night, for the price of a small tip folded into monthly expenses; the boy's safety is the adventurer's responsibility and should be considered carefully in the assigned task. A groom will tend to an adventurer's horse as part of the cost of upkeep (3.72 Outfitting, p. 12 under Transportation); the groom will hotwalk, brush and feed the horse and summon a veterinarian if needed. At SR 8 and above, servants abound: chambermaids see to the linens every few days and sweep and dust daily while laundresses launder and seamstresses expertly repair and alter clothing on request. One or more ladies' maids or gentlemen's butlers will assist the adventurer with dressing and attend to the character's bath. A concierge will make sure that the accomodations are kept up and summon workers to perform necessary maintenance as needed. Messengers may be dispatched not just around town but to neighboring cities on the player character's behalf.

    For all characters, monthly expenses include incidentals ranging from clay pipes and tobacco to woolen hose to shoe repairs by a cobbler, at the referee's discretion.

    Okay, that's what your money gets you. What if you can't afford to live at the standard expected of your station?

    Characters who cannot afford, or who choose not to pay, the monthly expenses associated with their Social Rank will find their effective rank decreases; a SR 7 Gentleman who pays 15 £ per month for expenses will find that others treat them as having SR 5 instead. This may affect opportunities such as membership in a club, admission to seminary to pursue a career as a Student of Theology, or to advantageously apply to a regiment. The most important consequence to the adventurer due to a lower effective Social Rank is the loss of influence.
    Sometimes, however, influence may have direct effects on the game, in one of two ways. First, any character may expect informal, polite requests to be granted by those three Social Ranks or more below his own, if he can roll his own Social Rank or below on a D20. Thus a Marquis could ask a small favor of a Baron or a Bishop, and have his request(s) granted on a roll of 13 or less on a D20. Polite requests are defined as those which are easy to grant, and which are of minor significance to the person asked (such as a Magistrate waiving a small fine, a Captain looking after someone in his company, a Baron allowing hunting on his estate, etc.). The possibilities are endless. Polite requests, no matter how polite they may be, will also often be influenced by bribery or reciprocal favors.

    In addition, influence of Social Rank may be used, on rare occasions, to force those of lower Social Ranks to perform services which may be difficult or dangerous. Such services may only be requested of one six or more Social Ranks below the character, and may only be asked once per year (unless the character increases his or her Social Rank that year, in which case, he may ask 2 services). Such services may not be outrageous (e.g. asking an NPC to lay down his life for the character, or to give the character large sums of money) and the request must be within the power of the person requested. The person requested has a choice: to grant the request, or to automatically lose one Social Rank himself. A small reward or bribe is almost always offered for such services, Examples of difficult requests might be a Treasurer of a Royal Order bullying a rich merchant to go into an investment with him (perhaps with the lure of possible profits), a Lt. General forcing a townsman to quarter troops in his house, a Grand Duke squeezing a Secretary of a Noble Order to admit him to the Order, etc. Of course, some such requests may be granted through threats or violence, rather than influence. - 5.22 Influence (p. 23)
    A character with a lower effective Social Rank will find their influence is constrained to that of their temporary rank.

    A character who does not pay the monthly expenses for at least four months will find their chances of promotion reduced by the difference between their Social Rank and their effective rank; frex, a character with SR 7 paying only 15 £ per month for four months will find their chances of promotion reduced by two. Finally, at the referee's discretion, a character who lives at a lower rank for six or more months may have their actual Social Rank reduced by one.

    Can living at an effectively higher Social Rank improve influence and chances for promotion? That's a subject for another post.

    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Plus de trousseau: More Skill-Based Equipment for Flashing Blades

    My Flashing Blades house rules include five new skills for characters to choose. In keeping with my Te Deum pour un massacre-inspired stuff-for-skills house rule, here are items a character taking the new skills may expect to receive.

    Skill Item
    Falconry A gauntlet with a tassel, jesses, a field leash, and a swing lure
    Musician A musical instrument and 1D6 sheets of music
    Naturalist A plant press, a bottle of grain alcohol, and 1D6 glass jars with stoppers and horsehair threads
    Physician A fleam, a metal bowl, and a clay jar with 2D6 leeches
    Surgeon A trousse including scalpels, hooks, a clamp, a probe, needles and flax thread, and a bone saw