Monday, December 10, 2012

Random Encounters: Robots & Rapiers' Swashbuckling Adventure Scenario Generator

Robots & Rapiers was a roleplaying game based on the premise of AI robots at a resort planet continuing to fulfill their roles long after a galactic war eliminated all their potential human visitors - I say "was," as it appears the game itself no longer in print and playtest files can no longer be downloaded, though the setting .pdf is still there.

One other piece of Robots & Rapiers remains available, as well, the swashbuckling adventure scenario generator. In principle, it is similar to the Tavern Trawling tables for Backswords & Bucklers; in practice, however, the Robots & Rapiers generator is both more detailed and more extensive, at the cost of yielding results which can be somewhat unwieldy to apply.

First I roll for a scenario goal, 1d10=1.
Table I. Scenario Goal
Rescue the [Victim] from the [Foe].
A good example of swashbuckling adventure fare. The results direct me to Section A of the generator, which details the following steps in creating the scenario.
1. Roll on Table II to determine how the characters find out about the adventure
2. Roll on Table III to determine who the Victim is that needs rescued
3. Roll on Table IV to determine who the Foe is who’s imprisoned the Victim
4. Roll on Table A(1) to determine the Foe’s motive.
Table II determines how the scenario is introduced to the adventurers; my rolls are 1d10=8, 1d10=1, so I take the first result on the second table.
Table II: How the Scenario Begins
Characters stumble into the event as its being perpetrated
So the scenario opens in media res. Next I determine who the Victim is, rolling 1d10=1, 1d10=6, 1d10=1.
Table III: Who’s the Victim?
1. Commoner – roll on table III(c)
6. The individual indicated
1 and 1d10=3 An old farmer
Next I roll for the Foe. Each foe belongs to a faction which is determined before the actual foe is diced up. My rolls are 1d10=4, 1d10=10.
Table IV: Who’s the Foe?
4. Foes of the King
10. GMs own invention, or – roll twice, it’s a conspiracy!
Since my goal here is to put the generator through its paces - and I like conspiracies! - I'll roll twice, 1d10=5, 1d10=8.
5. An ambitious noble looking to increase their power
8. A plot by the Queen and her agents against the king’s wishes
So, why do an ambitious noble and the Queen want to capture an old farmer? Next I roll to determine the conspirators' motives, 1d10=7.
Table A(1): Why were they taken prisoner?
7. [T]he Foe is mad with love for them or for a relative of theirs (Roll on Table III (b)) [to determine who the object of affection is]
1d10=9 The individual’s…
1d10=9 Other
Since the table provides for immediate family already, then "Other" can be someone like a niece or nephew, a grandchild, a ward, or neighbor. I'm thinking niece, to keep it in the family.

So the noble, with the help of the queen's agents, is abducting an old farmer because the noble is madly in love with the old farmer's niece, against the king's wishes. Lots of possibilities here.

Looking at the scenario, my first question is, play it serious, or play it light-hearted? Comedy is hard, but situations which are not what they seem are a staple of cape-and-sword adventures, and they make for entertaining choices for the players and their characters.

Maître Péquenaud is a veteran, a loyal sergeant once honored by Henri IV himself for his courage and ferocity. With his pension and his savings, he purchased land enough to make a comfortable living as a vintner, and in the years since his retirement he's become a pillar of the community, churchwarden for his local parish and an officer of a confraternity and participating as a delegate to the Estates General in 1614, where he was introduced to Louis XIII. Despite his many blessings, however, he has not been able to produce a child, leaving his brother's daughter as the heir-presumptive to his vines and cellars.

The young Marie Péquenaud, pre-deceased by her father, lives with her uncle and his wife. She is a lovely girl, and as heiress to her grandfather's vineyard, she is a catch which her grandfather plans to parlay to his advantage, to advance his interests and hers. However, Marie has fallen head-over-heels in love with the sieur de Gribouille, a poor but handsome nobleman, a trooper in the comte de Soissons gendarmerie company and a favorite of Soissons himself. Péquenaud believes he can do much better for his niece, as the king himself promised, than this penniless country knight, however, and forbids her to so much as speak of Gribouille.

Gribouille's pining for Marie has reached the ears of the duchesse de Chevreuse, confidante of the Queen and one of the foremost conspirators of the royal court. Seeking to curry favor with Soissons in her schemes against both the king and Cardinal Richelieu, Chevreuse offers to help Gribouille elope with Marie, by capturing and holding Péquenaud during a visit with the king's ministers at Fontainebleau. Chevreuse dispatches two of her own agents, the King's Musketeers Aramis and Louvigny, to seize Péquenaud and stash him somewhere while Gribouille races off to steal away the willing Marie and marry her before the old soldier can interfere.

The player characters stumble upon this abduction in progress. The first sign of something amiss is the sound of a shot followed by a riderless horse racing past them and someone shouting in the distance. Approaching the source, they spy three masked men surrounding a surprisingly vigorous old codger who grips and old arquebus by the barrel and swings it at the trio while yelling for the provost-marshal. One of the three clutches a bleeding arm, another is covered in dust where it appears he fell from his horse, and the third waves his sword menacingly at the old man. If the adventurers take a moment to observe the scene, they will notice that the mounted man with the sword does not attempt to stab the old man, despite having opportunities to do so.

What happens next is wholly dependent on what the adventurers choose to do. Both of the player characters in my campaign are friendly with Louvigny and Aramis, so a surprising reveal is possible. Do they then involve themselves in the scheme to marry the farmer's daughter niece? And if they do, how does it play out from here? What sort of complications arise?

The R&R swashbuckling adventure scenario generator is full of amazingly evocative possibilities and produces wonderfully convulated twists and turns. Many of them are geared toward the specific setting for R&R, including the factions and named non-player characters - hey, there's that named npcs in random encounters thing again! - but I've found they are easy enough to adapt.

My only issue with the generator - aside from the fact that no one's made a flash version of it yet - is that, if one is scrupulous about observing the rolls, it makes for great scenarios but awkward random encounters, at least if those encounters are tied to a location. Frex, a generated scenario may begin in a fishing village and end in the New World, which means that it's a poor fit as written for an encounter at the royal palace. Many gamers won't have this issue, as they simply ignore rolls that don't fit, but part of my fun comes from not changing the rolls - you may've noticed I'm 'rolling in the open' for the encounters I'm generating in my posts - so if the generated scenario doesn't fit the location for which it's rolled, then it becomes a rumor the adventurers may hear instead.

Tomorrow, sussing out the possible complications of the abduction of Maître Péquenaud using the Mythic Game Master Emulator.

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