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

    Sunday, June 9, 2024

    Student of Theology: Seminary and Minor Orders in Flashing Blades

    Characters who wish to join the Clergy must have Theology and Latin skills, and must start as Students of Theology. Gentlemen with the necessary skills may choose to start the game as Students of Theology, in whichever school of theological thought the wish. All others may roll 2D6 at the beginning of each year after the start of the game, in an attempt to roll the entrance number of a school, to become a Student of Theology. As characters may not roll to enter a school at the start of the game, all characters who are not of Gentleman background must wait a year to enter a school of Theology.

    To study Theology in the 17th Century, one commonly went to a school or college run by one of the powerful monastic orders of the times. Each order has its own requirements for years of study needed to be ordained, and the amount of time each year which must be spent studying Theology. . . . At the end of a character's study as a Student of Theology, he is ordained into the Priesthood. - 5.42 Joining the Clergy,
    Flashing Blades core rules (page 30)
    A Student of Theology in Flashing Blades undertakes a three or four year period of study in order to become a Catholic priest, so what exactly happens during that time?

    The last half of the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries, known today as the Counter-Reformation, was a time of renewal and retrenchment for the Roman Catholic Church in response to the rise and spread of Protestantism. One of the principle events of that period was the Council of Trent, conducted in two dozen sessions between 1545 and 1563 under the auspices of three different popes; the Council attempted to address what the Church perceived as spiritual laxity and temporal abuse by the clergy. Among the recommendations - known as the Tridentine reforms - was to improve the education and training of priests, and this led to the founding of seminaries, what the game calls a "school of theological thought."

    The Student of Theology in Flashing Blades then is a seminarian. Seminarians, during their periods of study, live in a community, similar to monks. They are expected to be devout, dilligent, sober, and chaste. They wear eccesiastical garb and attend services several times a day, with periods of study in between.

    Seminarians also take minor orders. The minor orders are offices within a parish church or abbey responsible for assisting the priests in running the church and performing Mass. The minor orders are porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte.
  • The Porter is responsible for locking and unlocking the doors of the church and ringing the bell. Porters also act like doormen or guards, keeping the congregation safe during services - in the era of the Wars of Religion, this is no small thing.
  • The Lector reads non-Gospel biblical passages during services; Gospel readings are limited to the major orders.
  • The Exorcist of minor orders is not Father Merrin from the eponymous movie; exorcism of demons is left to ordained priests. The exorcist's main responsibilities are assisting with baptisms, performing "minor exorcisms" - mostly annointing with oil and praying over the infant - in preparation for consecration.
  • The Acolyte is the highest ranked minor order, lighting candles and carrying them in ceremonies and processions, administering bread and wine to the priest during Mass, and otherwise assiting the priest.
  • Before the rise of seminaries as part of the Tridentine reforms, "porter-lector-exorcist-acolyte" was a pathway to the priesthood, and seminarians are still ordained in the minor orders. As part of their training, Students of Theology will serve in a parish church; principally this will be as a lector, reading Holy Scripture - literacy in Latin, remember - during Mass and, particularly in the last year of their studies, as an acolyte and more rarely as a porter or exorcist. Much like the Student of Law's stage and clerkship, this gives the seminarian practical experience in the service of a parish church, working alongside priests and a pastor and interacting with congregants - and for the referee, another pathway for enmeshing the player character seminarian in the life of the setting through rumors and patronage.

    An interesting thing about ordination in the minor orders: it's open to the laity. This does in fact open another pathway to the priesthood for characters who don't want to be seminarians, but it's also an opportunity to involve a character in the life of a parish church without the responsiblities and strictures of ordination as a priest. As a quick and dirty house rule, say roll 8+ to become a porter with promotion to lector - literacy in Latin required - on 8+; promotion from lector to exorcist requires a 9+, and promotion to acolyte - Theology skill required - from exorcist requires 10+, all on 2D6, of course. Service is four months a year for each minor order. Promotion attempts are rolled once a year as per the core rules, so the time to ascend through the minor orders is variable and probably pretty lengthy, but that fact that one can rise to acolyte while keeping a wife and family and pursuing another career might be appealing.

    So how about Aramis? We know Aramis becomes a priest as well as superior general of the Jesuits, an ambassador, and a duke over the course of the novels, but what about Aramis the King's Musketeer of the first book? Well, we know that Athos and Porthos intervened "at the moment of my ordination," as Aramis describes it, so it would appear he is a lapsed seminarian who plans to return to the Church at a later date, which means he's probably ordained in the minor orders already.

    Now, a reminder: Flashing Blades is a game of swashbuckling adventure, and priests historically fought duels and carried on affairs and participated in politics, so none of this should imply a life of mundane service for player character clerics. Through active participation in a parish church, a seminarian will become close to priests, curates, and pastors, and quite possibly members of the bishop's curia, and will get to know parishioners as well; awareness of the politics of both the Church and the local community should follow. A better understanding of the Student of Theology experience should open doors to adventure, not close them.

    Friday, June 7, 2024

    Monsters in Motion

    Sometimes I run across something that seems so simple and so obvious it feels like it doesn't need to be said, and then I'm surprised when other gamers say, "I never thought about that before."

    I was reminded ot this by JDJarvis' post this week at Aeons & Auguaries, "Monsters don't have to stay in their rooms."
    Many published dungeons seem to treat the monsters in any given room and the entire room itself as if it is frozen in amber waiting for the PCs to turn up. The used of pre-written description text sure doesn't help dispel this notion (I recall one adventure with 6 or 7 paragraphs describing a room and in the last sentence it mentions the 1st thing PCs would notice... a Beholder). Many critics, DMs and publishers seem to forget that while the published dungeon may be fixed and as is on the page the monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.
    As I'm preparing to run Flashing Blades again, this seems particularly relevant to me, 'cause it's tied very closely to how I run my games. I have a list of locations; I have a list of non-player characters - families, really. Characters are associated with certain locations, sure, but then I populate my chance encounters - my preferred term-of-art for 'random encounters' - all over the city with those characters. The chevalier de Rochebaron, knight-captain of the military Order of Saint-Jean, is of course associated with the order's commandery in Sainte-Argene-sur-Barmie, but he can also be found in a chance encounter in the Place du Vicomte, or on the Quai Sainte-Barbe, or in Le Dauphin tavern.

    I find this makes the setting feel like a real place more than just about anything else in my referee's quiver, and it also creates coincidences, something that can feel very forced without a random element behind it. Frex, you may run into Lèbre, a "seller of holy water" - one of the random encounters in a church from the FB core rules - at Saint-Papoul's on Tuesday, then run into him again at the abbey of the Cordeliers on Saturday, without specific intent on my part as the referee beyond a non-player character showing up in places where it makes sense for him to appear.

    Now, adventure designers can encourage this sort of thing pretty readily, to wit:
    Key to Level One -
    30. Abandoned Storeroom
    Nine kobolds took up residence in this abandoned storeroom, from which they search for a dragon medallion they believe is somewhere on this level of the dungeon. From 2-4 kobolds will be out searching at any given time.

    Random Encounters -
    1.
    2-4 kobolds from room 30, out searching for the lost dragon medallion
    And Bob's your uncle.

    Tuesday, June 4, 2024

    Student of Law: An Alternate Approach to Legal Professions in Flashing Blades

    Any character who wishes to be a Student of Law must have Magistracy and Latin skills. Gentlemen may choose to start the game as Students of Law. Characters from other backgrounds may roll at the beginning of each year after the start of the game to become a Student of Law: a roll of 8 or more is required to be admitted to a College of Law (+1 to the roll if Social Rank is 8 or above). A character must be a Student of Law for 6 years before he becomes a Lawyer. Each year, a Student of Law must devote 4 months, distributed as he likes, in study. - 5.52 Entering the Bureaucracy, Flashing Blades core rules, page 32
    A Student of Law in FB has one of the longest apprenticeships of any player character, so what exactly happens during those six years?

    Before I get to that, first I want to expand what it means to be a "lawyer" in Flashing Blades. Advocacy in 17th century France is divided between three different professions: notary (notaire), procurator (procureur), and lawyer (avocat).

    A notary handles contracts for goods and services, prepares and executes wills, and attests to and certifies some legal documents. It is a bureaucratic office, in FB terms equivalent to a Minor Official as described in 5.53 Ranks and Positions in the Bureaucracy (p. 32), rather than a legal profession; alternatively, it can be a minor job as in 5.103 Minor Jobs (p. 39), with Bureaucratics skill as a requirement and paying 12 £ per month. Because of the importance of notaries to contracts for business and finance, Banking + Bureaucratics = Notary makes a useful pseudoskill for preparing or examining contracts.

    Procurators in 17th century France have two roles. In public service, procurators work with magistrates to prosecute violations of the law; they're responsible for gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses and presenting same to the court. They are not prosecutors per se; inquiries at trial are conducted by magistrates directly, using the evidence and testimony collected by the court procurator (procureur du roi). In private practice, procurators assist clients in preparing and filing necessary affadavits and other documents with the court and conduct pleadings before a magistrate; they do not, however, make arguments before the court. Similar to a notary, procurator is a bureaucratic office, equivalent to an Official of the Realm as per 5.53 Ranks and Positions in the Bureaucracy (p. 32); rather than working as a entry-level bureaucrat and a Minor Official, a player character is a Clerk of Law for six years then automatically becomes a procurator. A Clerk of Law may begin with either the Bureaucratics or Magistracy skill.

    A lawyer's scope of practice is focused on interpreting and applying the law before the court. This is most often accomplished not by oral argument but in written briefs; a lengthy brief for an important case may even be printed and bound as a book! Lawyers work closely with procurators; in fact, clients hire procurators and procurators then engage lawyers to argue the client's case before a magistrate.

    Okay, now that we know what a lawyer is in FB, I can circle back to that six years a prospective avocat spends in preparation. First, there's three years of study of the law at a university; law students listen to lectures and read cases, much like contemporary attorneys do, but they also attend court hearings and discuss the proceedings with their professors, many of whom will be practicing lawyers themselves. Law students may be a rambunctious bunch; their case studies tend to immerse them in local politics.

    Next comes two years of internship - le stage - working in a lawyer's practice; the student of law will assit in preparing briefs and may actually represent, under supervision, pro bono clients such as the indigent, which is an obligation for lawyers throughout France. A student of law during le stage should find themselves meeting with procurators on active cases and preparing briefs, especially for peasants and craftspeople.

    Finally, the last year is spent working as a clerk for a procurator. Clerks of law spend much of their time copying documents and preparing pleadings; working in a procurator's office provides the student of law with a practical foundation of legal documentation as well as developing a working relationship with procurators they will need for the rest of their career as lawyers.

    The life of a Student of Law should be much more than classrooms and study; they're immersed in local politics and may be active participants as well, work with the poor, and prepare actual cases for court. The referee can use campaign turns spent by the adventurer discharging their student obligations as an opportunity to introduce non-player characters and opportunities for patronage. Their careers as lawyers become an extension of their experiences as students of law.

    Friday, May 31, 2024

    Fortress France: An Alternative Military Career for Flashing Blades

    Flashing Blades offers an extensive campaign military minigame for player characters who serve as soldiers, such as the King's Musketeers, battling the enemies of the kingdom of France on continental battlefields. The High Seas campaign supplement expands this with colonial soldiers garrisoning the far-flung royal outposts in the New World. The core rules, however, hint at another manner by which martial-minded characters may serve the crown.
    A Provincial Governor is paid 350 L per year. He may squeeze up to an additional 1000 L per year from the people of his province, at the risk of open revolt. Within his province, a Governor has the powers of a Magistrate. In addition, he has Command of a Battalion (2 companies) of Fusiliers to keep the peace, and as personal guards.

    A City Mayor is paid 300 L per year. He may squeeze up to an additional 500 L per year from the citizens, at the risk of open revolt. Within his city, a Mayor has the powers of a Magistrate. He also commands a company of Fusiliers to keep the peace, and as his personal guards. - "5.53 Ranks and Positions in the Bureaucracy," "ROYAL OFFICIAL,"
    Flashing Blades core rules, page 33
    The following rules offer three different opportunities for player characters to serve in the military:
  • Characters with the Soldier background may choose to begin as members of a Garrison rather than a Regiment
  • Characters with the Gentleman or Nobleman background may choose to be members of a Militia
  • Soldiers who are members of a Dragoon company may serve in the Maréchaussée, patrolling the countryside of France and enforcing royal law under the command of a Martial Magistrate

  • Soldiers who join a Garrison company are trained as Fusiliers or Artillerists, as described in 3.52 Choosing Martial Skills, page 9, of the FB core rules. A Garrison company serves in a Fortress or Fortified City. Fortresses serve to protect important strategic points from an enemy and to project royal power over the surrounding region.

    Gentlemen and Noblemen may join a town or city Militia on a roll of 8+ on 2D6; they must have either the Polearms or Firearms skill and outfit themselves as Fusiliers at their own cost. Militia characters must spend one month each year in military service unless called upon to campaign. Port cities may have a Marine Militia unit which serves aboard privateer ships and galleys.

    Dragoons may join the Maréchaussée on a roll of 9+ on 2D6; characters with the Tracking skill or Expertise 18+ in Firearms may automatically join the Maréchaussée. A character who is a Martial Magistrate may command a Maréchaussée Dragoon company on a roll of 10+ on 2D6.

    Fortresses may be Coastal, Frontier, or Internal. A Coastal Fortress is self-explanatory. A Frontier Fortress is located on the German (Holy Roman Empire and vassal states), Belgian (Spanish vassal states) or Spanish (Spain or Italian vassal states) front as described in 5.34 The Campaign. An Internal Fortress is located in the interior of France, away from the frontiers. A Fortress may also be a fortified city; if you're unsure, roll 1D6 and on a 5-6, the Fortress is a Fortified City. Fortified Cities have both a Company of Fusiliers and a Company of Artillery as well as a Company of Militia (Fusiliers) under the command of the City Mayor, as quoted above.

    Garrison Soldiers and Militia may campaign each year like Soldiers serving in Regiments, using a combination of the Flashing Blades core rules in 5.34 The Campaign (p. 26-8) and High Seas 4.2.2 Colonial Campaign Rules (p. 7-8). First, the Gamemaster determines where the Garrison and Militia companies serve (Coastal, Frontier, or Internal Fortress/Fortified City); ideally this should be established by the Gamemaster and the player characters, or it may be determined randomly by rolling 1D6 (1-2 Coastal, 3-5 Frontier, or 6 Internal).

    The Gamemaster next rolls for the timing, location, enemy strength, and situation of the annual campaign as per 5.34 The Campaign (p. 26). If the campaign takes place on the front where the Garrison or Militia characters are serving, then there's a chance their fortress may be involved in the action; if the campaign situation is Under Seige or Repeated Skirmishes, then on a roll of 6 on 1D6, the Garrison and/or Militia companies in which the player characters serve are included with the French forces on campaign. (Note that Garrison Captains may not volunteer their companies to serve on campaign away from their fortresses; a City Mayor may volunteer his Militia company to serve, but will only be accepted on a roll of 6 on 1D6 or at the discretion of a player character Division commander or Field Maréchal.) Garrison Fusilier companies count as one point to Army Strength for either Under Siege or Repeated Skirmishes; Garrison Artillery companies only contribute when Under Seige, but add 2 points to Army Strength. Militia companies do not contribute to Army Strength unless their Captain succeeds in a Brilliant Maneuver, in which case they add 1 point, but may be taken as casualties at the discretion of the Gamemaster or a player character Division commander or Field Maréchal. Injuries, special events, commendations and promotions, booty, and capture for Garrison and Militia player characters participating in the annual campaign are handled normally as described in 5.35 Personal Results of Campaign (pp. 27-8) and 5.36 CAPTURE (pp. 29-30); Militia characters will always be ransomed by their town or city if captured.

    Maréchaussée and Marine Militia characters do not participate in annual campaigns.

    In addition to service on annual campaigns, Garrison and Militia companies may participate in smaller engagements throughout the year. Roll 1D6 for a Fortress Garrison company or Fortified City Garrison and Militia companies each month; on a roll of 6, the Garrison or Garrison and Militia companies are involved in an engagement. Garrison and Militia companies involved in the annual campaign do NOT roll for an engagement during the months they're on campaign.

    Maréchaussée may also participate in smaller engagements as well. Each province, as represented on page 44 of the core rules, has one or more Maréchaussée companies; the Gamemaster should determine when the character joins the Maréchaussée in which province their company is located. As noted, Maréchaussée companies do not participate in annual campaigns; however, they are more likely to have engagements when the annual campaign takes place in the province where they're located. Roll 1D6 for a Maréchaussée company each month, on a roll of 6, the Maréchaussée company is involved in an engagement. However, if the annual campaign is taking place in the province where the Maréchaussée are located, then an engagement occurs on a roll of 5 or 6 on 1D6. Frex, if the campaign is "Spanish and Coastal" during the months of March to August, then a Maréchaussée company in Languedoc, Provence, or Guyenne and Gascony will have an engagement on a roll of 5 or 6 for each of those months, while a Maréchaussée company in Limousin, Auvergne, or Lyonnais will only have an engagement on a roll of 6.

    There are five basic engagements for Garrison, Militia, and Maréchaussée companies: Civil Unrest, Banditry, Deserters, Raid, and Bombardment. If an engage ment occurs, roll 1D6 on the following table to determine the situation; if the Fortress, Fortified City, or province where the player characters' companies are serving is also the location of the annual campaign, add 1 to the roll.

    1D6Coastal FortressFrontier FortressInternal FortressMaréchaussée
    1Civil UnrestCivil UnrestCivil UnrestCivil Unrest
    2Civil UnrestCivil UnrestCivil UnrestBanditry
    3BanditryCivil UnrestCivil UnrestBanditry
    4DesertersBanditryCivil UnrestBanditry
    5RaidDesertersBanditryDeserters
    6RaidRaidDesertersDeserters
    7BombardmentRaidDesertersDeserters

    Civil Unrest includes peasant mobs in the countryside (le paysage) violenty protesting taxes or troop quartering, rioting against a legal injustice or the nobility generally, or rebelling against religious persecution; more rarely it could include urban strife between noble clienteles or political factions, as in "fair Verona, where we lay our scene." The number of peasants protesting or rebelling is determined by rolling (1D20 x 20) and adding 200 (producing a number between 220 and 600). The Garrison Fusilier or Maréchaussée Dragoon company (1D20 + 180 men) and (2D6 X 10) civilian Militia will be mustered to quell the disturbance. Roll the three encounters as per 5.34 The Campaign in the core rules. Determine Army Strengths by dividing the peasant forces by 20, and the Garrison or Maréchaussée forces by 10. For example, if a Garrison company (200 men) and 60 Militia were sent to quell a riot by 340 peasants, the Garrison or Army Strength would be 26 (260/10 = 26) and the peasant Army Strength would be 17 (340/20 = 17). A Brilliant Maneuver by the Fusilier or Dragoon Captain or the Martial Magistrate commanding the Maréchaussée adds the equivalent of 200 additional soldiers to the royal soldiers' side for purposes of deciding the outcome.

    Roll normally for individual results from Civil Unrest, but assume that none of the peasants will be mounted. Peasants are poorly armed with improvised weapons such as farm implements - treat as clubs or hand axes for damage. If a roll indicates an encounter with an Officer, the encounter is instead with an archer on foot armed with a dagger and a bow or crossbow at the Gamemaster's discretion; if the roll indicates a Cavalier, the peasant will have a dagger and a pike or a halberd , again at the referee's discretion. Instead of taking or re-taking a flag, the Personal Encounter is with a ringleader; capturing a ringleader counts toward a decoration the same as capturing or keeping a flag. There is no roll for Booty after quelling Civil Unrest - if they had anything of value, they wouldn't be rebelling! If Garrison or Maréchaussée soldiers lose in the fight during Civil Unrest, each player character in the Garrison (or Militia) must attempt a Luck roll. If the Luck roll fails, he is captured; subsequent events are determined by the Gamemaster; this may involve the captives negotiating with their captors . . .

    Banditry includes roving bands of highwaymen and brigands preying upon travellers on the royal roads or threatening villages and country estates. They are marginally better armed than the peasantry, but only slightly more organized. The bandits, (1D20 x 20) + 100 in number, threaten the welfare of the King's subjects. The Garrison Fusiliers or Maréchaussée Dragoons company (1D20 + 180 men) must bring the bandits to justice. To determine Army Strengths, divide the bandit forces by 20 and divide French forces by 10. A Brilliant Maneuver by the Fusilier or Dragoon Captain or the Martial Magistrate commanding the Maréchaussée adds the equivalent of 200 additional soldiers to the royal soldiers' side for purposes of deciding the outcome. Determine the results of the first encounter; if the royal soldiers win, the bandits are dispersed and the campaign ends; if the bandits win, an additional (1D6 x 10) will join them. If the first encounter is a tie, or a victory for the bandits, proceed to the next two encounters.

    When rolling for individual results suppressing Banditry, roll normally. Bandits have a dagger or a club and a bow or a crossbow. If a roll indicates an encounter with an Officer, the bandit will have an arquebus and a longsword or cutlass; if the roll indicates a Cavalier, the encounter is with a bandit with a longsword or cutlass and two pistols. Instead of taking or re-taking a flag, a player character may free a captive held by the bandits for ransom; freeing a captive counts toward a decoration the same as capturing or keeping a flag. The roll for Booty at the end of Banditry has a -4 modifier. If Garrison or Maréchaussée soldiers lose in the fight against Banditry, each player character in the Garrison, Militia, or Maréchaussée must attempt a Luck roll. If the Luck roll fails, he is captured; player characters who look rich may be taken for ransom by the bandits, but otherwise, they will only be imprisoned until the bandits leave area, left chastened but alive.

    Deserters seek to escape the discpline and privation of military life, instead bullying and stealing from peasants to survive; deserters may also be mutineers, actively rebelling against their commanders or other authorities, at the Gamemaster's discretion. They are reasonably well armed but often undisciplined and poorly led. Similar to bandits, (1D20 x 20) + 100 deserters must be recaptured or killed. The Garrison Fusiliers or Maréchaussée Dragoons company (1D20 + 180 men) must restore the peace. To determine Army Strengths, divide the deserter forces by 20 and divide French forces by 10. A Brilliant Maneuver by the Fusilier or Dragoon Captain or the Martial Magistrate commanding the Maréchaussée adds the equivalent of 200 additional soldiers to the royal soldiers' side for purposes of deciding the outcome. Determine the results of the first encounter; if the royal soldiers win, the Deserters are captured and the campaign ends; if the Deserters win, an additional (1D6 x 10) will join them. If the first encounter is a tie, or a victory for the Deserters, proceed to the next two encounters.

    When rolling for individual results recapturing Deserters, roll normally. Deserters are armed withdagger and either a pike or halberd or an arquebus. If a roll indicates an encounter with an Officer, the deserter is a non-commissioned officer with an arquebus and a longsword or cutlass; if the roll indicates a Cavalier, the encounter is with a deserter with a longsword or cutlass and two pistols. Instead of taking or re-taking a flag, a player character may free an officer held by the deserters for ransom; freeing an officer counts toward a decoration the same as capturing or keeping a flag and may earn a Favor from the rescued officer as well, at the Gamemaster's discretion. The roll for Booty after suppressing Deserters has a -4 modifier. If Garrison or Maréchaussée soldiers lose in the fight with Deserters, each player character in the Garrison, Militia, or Maréchaussée must attempt a Luck roll. If the Luck roll fails, he is captured; captured player characters may be invited to join the Deserters, with the threat of execution if they refuse; subsequent events are determined by the Gamemaster.

    A Raid indicates that Spanish or Imperial troops, pirates, corsairs, or Huguenot privateers have landed or sent troops to make a quick skirmish attack. There will be (1D20 x 20) + 100 enemy soldiers (double this number a against a Fortified City). The royal Fort or Fortified City will be defended by its garrison (200 men, or 400 men if a Fortified City) and 2D6 x 10 Militia. To determine Army Strength, divide each side's forces by 10. If the French win the first encounter, the enemy raiders will flee, otherwise, continue the Campaign normally.

    When rolling for individual results in a Raid, roll normally, but assume that none of the raiders will be mounted (substitute an Officer encounter for Cavalier). Raiders will be well-armed as appropriate to their origins. The roll for Booty at the end of a Raid has a -4 modifier. Raiders will hold a settlement only long enough to pillage and plunder (a week at most). Player-characters who look rich may be taken for ransom by the raiders, but otherwise, they will only be imprisoned until the raiders leave.

    Bombardment is handled as in 6.4.8 Special Situations in High Seas. Roll 1D6 to determine the size of a Coastal Fortress; the Fortress may be Small (1), Medium (2-4), or Large (5-6). A Coastal Fortified City is equivalent to either a Medium (1-3) or Large (4-6) Fortress for purposes of Bombardment.

    Marines and Marine Militia will be handled in a separate post.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Of Skill Synergies and Pseudoskills: A Flashing Blades House Rule

    Skill Synergy

    It’s possible for a character to have two skills that work well together. In general, having 5 or more ranks in one skill gives the character a +2 bonus on skill checks with each of its synergistic skills, as noted in the skill description. In some cases, this bonus applies only to specific uses of the skill in question, and not to all checks. Some skills provide benefits on other checks made by a character, such as those checks required to use certain class features. "Using Skills," The Hypertext d20 SRD
    I like Flashing Blades' relatively spare skill list. It reminds me of pre-Mercenary "classic" Traveller, focused rather than expansive and with a strong sense of genre. I also appreciate that the skills as presented in the published adventures are synergistic, as seen in an example from "The Royal Hunt" in The Cardinal's Peril (p. 30):
    A character with courtly graces may wish to distinguish himself in the King's presence (by making witty remarks, praising the King's policies, making fun of his enemies, etc.). This requires that the character have Etiquette skill, and that he make rolls against Charm and Wit (+2 to these rolls for Oratory skill, +1 for Social Rank 13 or more, -1 for each Social Rank below 9). (emphases added - BV)
    Another example is found in "Scavenger Hunt" in Parisian Adventure (p. 29):
    They could try to trick her out her bonbons somehow (by telling her they are not worthy of a Duchess, and offering to bring her a box of truly royal chocolates, perhaps). This would require a good idea from the players (as judged by the Gamemaster) and a successful roll on Charm (+2 for Oratory or Etiquette skill; +4 for both). (emphasis added - BV)
    If we take examples from these adventures as referee advice, we see (1) one skill providing a bonus to skill checks for a different skill and (2) two skills providing additive bonuses to a single attribute check.

    We also see multiple skills used as what I call gatekeeper skills, skills a character must possess to do or be something - 'you must be this tall to ride this ride.' Frex, in the core rules under 5.103 Minor Jobs (p. 39), in order to find a paying gig as an Actor, a character must have both the Disguise and Oratory skills, as well as Charm 13+, while a Gunsmith is required to be a Master of the Firearms skill and have Fine Manipulation as well. FB doesn't have either an Acting or Gunsmithing skill, but if your put those gatekeeper skills together, you get something like this:
    Disguise + Oratory = Acting
    Fine Manipulation + Firearms Master = Gunsmithing
    And thus is born the "pseudoskill."

    A pseudoskill is two skills taken together to represent a third skill not specifically covered by the rules as written. A pseudoskill may be created during character generation at a reduced cost in skill points; the first skill costs one, two, or three points per the existing rules, but the second skill costs only one point - the skill with the highest point cost in the pair is always the first skill. When used in tandem as a pseudoskill, each skill can expect to receive a check mark for purposes of experience; frex, sneaking past a Swiss Guard in the Louvre might get you a check mark for Stealth, but Stalking a stag on a royal hunt could earn you checks for both Stealth and Tracking if taken togther as a pseudoskill.

    Here are a few examples, which are in no way intended to be exhastive.

    Acrobatics + Horsemanship = Trick Riding

    Leaping to or from a moving horse, riding while standing on the saddle, or concealing oneself behind a horse's neck and shoulder while firing a pistol would all fall under the Trick Riding pseudoskill.

    Tracking + Stealth = Stalking

    Moving quietly from cover to cover while tracking a quarry is a useful pseudoskill for poachers, gamekeepers, and sharpshooters.

    Bargaining + Horsemanship = Horse Trading

    A character with the Horse Trading pseudoskill can be expected to get a good price for a reliable mount, or at least end up not overpaying for a nag destined for the knackers.

    Forgery + Fine Manipulation = Counterfeiting

    Counterfeiters in the 17th century manufactured die stamps to change one coin into another; they also produced false seal stamps and signet rings to lend authenticity to a forged letter or document.

    Magistracy + Theology = Canon Law
    Magistracy + Banking = Contract Law

    Lawyers who wish to specialize in Church or business law can create their own pseudoskills to represent their expertise.

    Again, this list is not exhaustive; players should work with their Gamemasters to create their characters' pseudoskills as appropriate.

    As for resolving a task, the Gamemaster should use the most appropriate base attribute with an automatic +2 or higher synergy bonus for the paired skill. Remember, a pseudoskill is in addition to the benefits provided by the base skills; a character with Acrobatics paired with Horsemanship for Trick Riding can still make normal checks and earn experience for swinging from chandeliers or somersaulting from a table.

    Finally, characters may add new pseudoskills by learning two new skills or pairing a new skill with an existing skill; the training time for these skills is as per the core rules. A character who learns a new skill to create a pseudoskill with an existing skill may not receive the benefits of the pseudoskill until a checkmark is earned in the existing skill; frex, a character with Banking who learns Magistracy to create the Contract Law pseudoskill must first earn a checkmark in Banking before the pseudoskill takes effect.

    Monday, May 20, 2024

    Filling the Shelf: 17th Century Book Prices

    Awhile back I had a short series of posts called Off the Shelf, consisting of lists of book titles which could be found on a 17th century bookshelf.

    In addition to publishing his exhaustive and impressive price list, Gaston's Hat at For Honor . . . and Intrigue also prepared an excellent guide to 17th century book prices, so your bibliophile character can fill their own shelves instead of rifiling their mentors' libraries.

    Friday, May 17, 2024

    Wednesday, May 15, 2024

    Gentlemen's Disagreement: A Flashing Blades Sample Duel

    What follows is not an adventure log or actual play account of our game; rather, it's a sample duel showcasing the Flashing Blades combat rules for new or prospective players. A narrative of the combat is interspersed with text describing the rules behind the action. I posted this to my campaign wiki years and years ago, but due to Obsidian Portal's continuing unscheduled disassembly of my wiki, I'm moving it here for safekeeping.

    The action takes place in a Marchois inn on a rainy day in May 1625
    . . .

    “You are a cheat, monsieur. Now stand, if you’re a man.”

    It’s not the words that catch Louvigny‘s attention, but rather the sudden stillness which follows them, broken only by the sound the rain falling outside the inn. Across the common room, a gentilhomme in a slashed doublet of scarlet velvet stands with his rapier pointed at Ferusac’s throat across a table strewn with coins and cards. The Gascon’s face betrays no emotion beyond its usual wry indifference, but Louvigny notes that his fellow Musketeer’s eyes are alight as he pushes his chair back, scraping along the clay tiles, and slowly rises.

    “Take your satisfaction, monsieur,” Ferusac growls as he draws his broadsword with one hand and sweeps off his hat with the other, “if you can.”
    First, let’s meet our combatants. Ferusac, the King’s Musketeer, is trained in the French and cavalry styles of fencing; the veteran soldier is also trained in the use of firearms and brawling. His Expertise is 18 with his longsword and his flintlock pistols, or while brawling; his pistols are in the saddle-holster on his horse in the inn’s stables, however, and unavailable to him.

    Ferusac’s Expertise of 18 gives him a base chance to hit of 14 (4.31 Base Chance to Hit). His longsword (more properly, a basket-hilted braodsword) modifies his chance to hit by + 1 (4.32, Hand Weapons and Unarmed Attacks). His chance to hit is 14 + 1 = 15. He is using his hat to parry, which provides a + 2 modifier (4.41 The Parry, (e) The French Style). His chance to parry is 14 + 2 = 16. His armor consists of a leather jerkin protecting his chest and flank and boots protecting his legs; his gauntlets were removed during the card game and remain tucked in the sash around is waist. Ferusac has Strength 12, Endurance 15, and a Stocky build, giving him 15 Hit Points (3.1 DETERMINING ATTRIBUTES).

    D’Aiglet, the scarlet-clad nobleman, is trained in the Spanish style; a hunter, he is also skilled in the use of firearms. His Expertise is 14 with his rapier and 10 with the wheelock dueling pistol concealed in the sash beneath his cape.

    D’Aiglet’s Expertise of 14 gives him a base chance to hit of 11. He rapier modifies his chance to hit by + 2. His chance to hit is 11 + 2 = 13; trained in the Spanish style, he gains an additional + 1 to slash attacks (3.51 Martial Skills, Dueling, (1) Spanish Style), giving him a chance to hit 13 + 1 = 14 on a slash. He does not use an off-hand parrying weapon; his rapier provides him with a +1 modifier to parry (4.41 The Parry, ( c ) Weapon Parry Bonus). His chance to parry is 11 + 1 = 12. His armor consists of a padded doublet protecting his chest and flank, padded sleeves protecting his arms, and padded breeches and boots protecting his legs; like Ferusac, his gauntlets were removed for the card game and lie on the table. D’Aiglet receives no bonuses to his hit points from his attributes and has a Thin build, giving him just 9 Hit Points.
    Each man offers a salute, the gentleman, one d’Aiglet by name, adding a mocking sneer as well, then both come on guard. D’Aiglet stands tall, offering a lean silhouette behind his outstretched sword arm; the bulkier Ferusac drops into a crouch, broadsword angled before him, hat held close to his chest.

    D’Aiglet suddenly slashes at Ferusac, the tip of his rapier a streak in the light, but Ferusac sweeps the blade away with his hat and thrusts his sword on a low line, which d’Aiglet just manages to parry. The noble’s brow furrows slightly as he recovers.
    Combatants with rapiers and longswords attack on the same count in the order of attack, but d’Aiglet’s Dexterity is higher than Ferusac’s so he strikes before the Musketeer (4.2 TURN SEQUENCE, (2) ATTACK). D’Aiglet chooses to Attack and Parry; he attacks with a slash aimed at Ferusac’s head – clearly he wants to kill his man – and he anticipates Ferusac will thrust. Ferusac chooses to Parry and Counter; he expects d’Aiglet will slash and counters with a thrust in return, aimed at the nobleman’s abdomen.

    D’Aiglet must roll a 14 or less on D20 to hit (4.21 Base Chance to Hit); he rolls a 6, indicating a hit. Ferusac base chance to parry is 16 or less on D20 (4.41 The Parry); , he successfully anticipated d’Aiglet’s attack and gains a + 3 modifier to parry (4.41 The Parry, (a) The Type of Attack) but suffers a – 2 modifier from attempting to parry a rapier (4.41 The Parry, (b) Attacker’s Weapon Attack Bonus). Ferusac must roll 17 or less on D20 to parry; he rolls a 14, and parries d’Aiglet’s slash.

    Because d’Aiglet’s attack was unsuccessful, Ferusac may now counterattack and gains an extra + 1 modifier to hit (4.2 TURN SEQUENCE, (4) COUNTER). Ferusac hits on a roll of 16 or less (15 to hit + 1 counterattack); he rolls a 9, indicating a hit. D’Aiglet normally parries on a roll of 12 or less; he guessed Ferusac’s attack and gains a + 3 modifier, but Ferusac’s longsword reduces this by – 1, and as Ferusac’s Expertise is greater than that of d’Aiglet, he suffers an additional modifier to parry of one-half the difference in their respective Expertise (4.41 The Parry, (d) Expertise), or – 2 (18 – 14 = 4; 4 ÷ 2 = 2). D’Aiglet needs to roll a 12 or less to parry; he rolls an 11 and parries – barely – Ferusac’s thrust.

    There is a chance that d’Aiglet’s sword breaks when he parries Ferusac’s blade (4.42 Weapon Breakage). The chance equals 1 plus the difference in weapon strengths between the attacker and the defender. Ferusac’s longsword has a strength of 3 while d’Aiglet’s rapier has a strength of 2, yeilding a difference of 3 – 2 = 1. The chance of the rapier breaking is 1 + 1 = 2 or less on D6; d’Aiglet’s roll is a 6.
    Louvigny watches as Ferusac allows a hint of grim smile to appear on his face, while beads of sweat sprout from d’Aiglet’s forehead. D’Aiglet viciously drives the tip of his blade at Ferusac’s throat, but again the Gascon sweeps the rapier aside with his battered, rain-stained hat and slashes with his sword, striking d’Aiglet’s sword arm. The nobleman cries out as blood stains his white silk shirt and his rapier clatters to the tiles.
    D’Aiglet chooses to Attack and Parry once again, thrusting his sword at Ferusac’s head this time; he anticipates a thrust from the Musketeer once again. Ferusac chooses to Attack and Parry as well, slashing at d’Aiglet’s abdomen while preparing for a lunge from the nobleman.

    D’Aiglet needs to roll 13 or less to hit with a thrust; his roll is 6, indicating a hit. Ferusac didn’t guess d’Aiglet’s attack correctly; his chance to parry this attack is 16 – 2 = 14; his roll is 12, parrying d’Aiglet’s thrust with his hat, in the French style.

    Ferusac’s attack succeeds on 16 or less - 14 to hit + 1 longsword + 1 slash, due to his knowledge of cavalry style dueling; his roll is 4, hitting d’Aiglet. D’Aiglet doesn’t anticipate Ferusac’s slash, so his chance to parry drops to 12 – 1 – 2 = 9; his roll is 16, and d’Aiglet fails to parry Ferusac’s slash. The Musketeer’s attack was aimed at d’Aiglet’s abdomen, and two D20s are rolled to determine where the blow landed (4.52 Hit Locations); the rolls are 3 and 5, resuling in a hit on d’Aiglet’s right arm instead. A slash from a longsword does 2 points of damage (4.53 Weapon Damage) on a light wound, but because Ferusac’s roll was less than one-half the number needed to hit, it’s a serious wound causing an additional 1D6 damage (ibid.); the additional damage roll is 5, causing 2 + 5 = 7 points of damage. D’Aiglet’s padded sleeves protect him from 1 point of damage (4.54 Armor), reducing the damage to 6 points to the noble’s right arm. Because the damage exceeds one-half of d’Aiglet’s overall hit points, his right arm is rendered useless for 1 to 6 days (4.55 Effects of Damage); a useless arm cannot be used to hold a weapon, parry, or grip, so d’Aiglet immediately drops his rapier.
    D’Aiglet staggers backwards, clutching his limp sword arm, his face contorted with pain and hate as his gaze flashes from his wounded limb to the Musketeer standing before him. A smirk twists one corner of Ferusac’s mouth as he returns the nobleman’s gaze over the point of his sword. “Had enough?” the Gascon growls.

    The nobleman’s eyes bulge from a face red with fury. “André!” he screams through spittle-flecked lips, “kill this dog!”

    Louvigny sees movement in a shadowy corner of the room, opposite the roaring fireplace. A man, one of three at seated around a table, rises. He is not tall, but his arms and neck are thickly corded where they emerge from his leather jerkin. From a scabbard at his waist he draws an enormous hanger and advances toward Ferusac, the broad blade glinting in the firelight.

    The innkeeper, his apron twisted in his hands, speaks up. “Monsieurs, please,” he begins, but d’Aiglet shoots him a look like daggers and the innkeeper falls silent as André waves him back with his sword.

    At this, Louvigny rises as well, addressing himself to d’Aiglet. “Monsieur,” he says in a strong, clear voice, "your challenge has been met. You risk dishonor – " Before he can finish, d’Aiglet whirls toward him and barks, “This is none of your affair!” and André looks back at his companions at the table in the shadows. “Bernardo! Biscotti! Help this fancy find his seat,” he orders, and with a quick glance at one another, they rise. Louvigny observes one of the wretches, with a scraggly beard and mustache, draw a long dagger from the top of a muddy boot while the other, with a drooping mustache, plucks an empty wine bottle from the table and shatters it on the edge, leaving the broken end in one hand and his ceramic mug in the other.

    The pair advance on Louvigny, and the young Musketeer licks lips gone suddenly dry as he draws his rapier and main-gauche.
    Now let’s meet the rest of our combatants. Louvigny, another Musketeer, is trained in the French fencing style; he is also skilled in the use of firearms and polearms. His Expertise is 15 with his rapier.

    Louvigny’s Expertise of 15 gives him a base chance to hit of 12 or less. He rapier modifies his chance to hit by + 2. His chance to hit is 12 + 2 = 14 or less. He uses a main-gauche, an off-hand parrying weapon; the main-gauche provides him with a +3 modifier to parry. His chance to parry is 12 + 3 = 15. Louvigny’s armor consists of a padded doublet protecting his chest and abdomen, padded sleeves and gauntlets protecting his arms, and padded breeches and boots protecting his legs. The Musketeer receives no bonuses to his hit points from his attributes and has a Average build, giving him 10 Hit Points.

    André, d’Aiglet’s gamekeeper, is trained in Old Style fencing and brawling; his Expertise is 12 with his cutlass (hanger, a hunting sword) and 14 for purposes of brawling attacks.

    The gamekeeper’s Expertise of 12 gives him a base chance to hit of 10 or less; his cutlass provides a + 1 modifier to hit, giving him a chance to hit of 10 + 1 = 11 or less. The cutlass provides no bonus to parry, so his chance to parry is equal to his base chance to hit, 10 or less. André’s armor consists of a leather jerkin protecting his chest and abdomen and boots protecting his legs. He recieves bonuses of + 1 for his Strength, + 3 for his Endurance, and + 1 for his Stocky build, giving him a total of 15 Hit Points.

    Bernardo and Biscotti, d’Aiglet’s grooms, are each trained in Old Style fencing and brawling; Bernardo’s expertise with his dagger is 11, and both men have Brawling Expertise of 12.

    Bernardo’s Expertise of 11 gives him a base chance to hit of 9 or less; his dagger provides no modifier, giving him a chance to hit of 9 or less. The dagger also provides no bonus to parry Bernardo paries on a 9 or less as well. Biscotti’s Brawling Expertise of 12 gives him a base chance to hit of 10 or less; his wine bottle, a Brawling weapon, provides a modifier of – 1, giving him a chance to hit of 9 or less. Neither man wears armor, and they receive no modifiers for attributes or Normal build, giving each man 10 Hit Points.
    Ferusac tosses aside his hat and snatches up his cloak from the back of his chair, swinging it once around his arm as André advances. Each swordsman feints, trying to draw out his opponent, but neither commits to an attack as they watch one another other warily.

    Louvigny comes en garde as the two ruffians approach, trying to flank him. He aims a sharp thrust at the man with the gleaming dagger held before him and is rewarded with a cry of pain. Then Louvigny gasps, his insides exploding in white-hot fire as the other wretch’s wooden clog strikes him in the groin.
    Both Ferusac and André choose to Parry and Counter; since neither attacks, the opportunity to counter is lost.

    Louvigny chooses to Attack and Dodge, giving himself the opportunity for a Reaction Parry (4.41 The Parry, (f) Reaction Parry) against Bernardo’s dagger and a chance to avoid Biscotti’s bottle; he aims a thrust at Bernardo’s chest, anticipating a thrust in response. Bernardo chooses to Parry and Counter, thrusting at Louvigny’s head; he anticipates a thrust from Louvigny. Biscotti first throws the contents of his wine-mug in Louvigny’s face, then aims a Vicious Kick at the Musketeer.

    Louvigny’s attack succeeds on a roll of 14 or less; his roll is 9, a hit. Bernardo attempts to parry the attack; his chance to parry is 9 or less, with a + 3 modifier for guessing Louvigny’s attack correctly but a -2 against the rapier and – 2 for the difference in Expertise, giving him an actual chance to parry of 8 or less, Bernardo’s roll is 15, and the rapier thrust strikes; as Louvigny’s attack succeeds, Bernardo’s attempt to counter is lost. Louvigny aims for Bernardo’s flank; he rolls a 2 and 10 for hit location, resulting in a light wound – 2 points of damage – to Bernardo’s chest. The wound has no other effect.

    Biscotti goes straight to dirty fighting. Biscotti aims a Vicious Kick (4.73 Dirty Fighting, Vicious Kick) at Louvigny’s groin. The groom’s Brawling Expertise 12 gives him a base chance to hit of 10 or less; a Vicious Kick requires an additional modifier of – 2 to hit, and Louvigny’s Dodge provides a modifier of – 3 to the attack, giving Biscotti chance to hit of 10 – 2 – 3 – 5 or less to hit. His roll is a 4; Louvigny suffers 1 point of damage and is stunned, losing all remaining actions in this round and may only take one action in the next round (4.55 Effects of Damage).
    On the other side of the common room, André abruptly rushes forward, lunging at Ferusac with the hanger as he passes. The Gascon whips his cloak at the blade too late; the sword’s edge slices through Ferusac’s leather jerkin and bites into the skin below his left arm, and he staggers back, grunting through gritted teeth.

    Louvigny struggles to regain his balance as pain courses through his body. He slashes wildly at his tormentor, missing badly as Biscotti jabs him in the ribs with the broken wine bottle. Bernardo attempts to thrust his dagger under Louvigny’s chin, but he slips on spilled wine on the tile and the blow is lost as he struggles to recover.
    Ferusac once again chooses to Parry and Counter, anticipating a slash from the gamekeeper and thrusting at his flank in return. Instead of slashing, however, André lunges, a long action, eschewing defense for an all-out attack.

    André hits on 11 or less; he rolls a 7, scoring a hit. Ferusac attempts to parry with his cloak, which provides a + 2 modifier (4.41 The Parry, (e) The French Style) against the gamekeeper’s cutlass, which provides a – 1 modifier; he parries on a roll of 14 + 2 – 1 = 15. He rolls is 17, failing to parry the lunge. André’s cutlass is aimed at Ferusac’s head; his rolls for hit location are 6 (chest) and 18 (right leg), resulting in a light wound to the chest. The cutlass does 4 points of damage on a lunge; André’s Strength 17 meets the Advantageous Strength bonus for a cutlass, giving him + 1 point of damage (4.53 Weapon Damage), for a total of 4 + 1 = 5 points of damage to Ferusac. The Gascon’s leather jerkin absorbs 2 points of damage, leaving him with three points of damage from the blow; there are no other effects from this damage.

    Because André’s attack succeeds, Ferusac loses his counterattack.

    Louvigny gets only one action in this round, and he chooses to use it on a slash at Biscotti’s chest; he gets no defense against either Bernardo or Biscotti, but he may still make a Reaction Parry against Bernardo’s dagger, anticipating a slash. Bernardo chooses to Attack and Parry with his dagger, aiming a thrust at Louvigny’s head and anticipating a thrust in return; Biscotti chooses to Attack and Dodge, aiming a strike with the broken bottle at Louvigny’s head.

    Louvigny’s chance to hit is modified by – 3 from Biscotti’s dodge defense, resulting in a 14 – 3 = 11 chance to hit; his roll is 18, a miss. Bernardo’s chance to hit with his dagger is 9 or less; his roll is 20, a miss and a possible Fumble (4.72 Fumbles). A roll of D6 on the Fumble with Hand Weapons table results in a slip; Bernardo can take no other actions this round. Biscotti’s chance to hit with the broken bottle is 9 or less; his roll is 9, resulting in a hit. His rolls on the hit location table are 7 and 11; he strikes the chest with the bottle, causing two points of damage. Louvigny is wearing a padded doublet, which absorbs 1 point of damage; he takes 2 – 1 = 1 point of damage from the attack.
    Ferusac bares his teeth in a devilish grin as André presses his advantage, slashing at the Gascon with the hanger. The flashing blade whistles past Ferusac, who then whips his cloak over André’s head and shoulders. The gamekeeper, disoriented, roars in anger as he struggles to free himself from the folds of the garment.

    Across the room, Louvigny springs forward, lunging at Biscotti, driving the point of his sword into the man’s flank as he passes. The groom recoils in pain, all thoughts of attack lost as a handspan of steel enters his abdomen. Bernardo slashes at Louvigny with his dagger, but the Musketeer catches the blow on his main-gauche and turns it aside before it can find his flesh.
    Ferusac prepares to Parry and Counter once again, expecting a slash and preparing to entangle André in his cloak. André chooses to Attack and Parry, expecting a thrust while slashing at Ferusac’s head.

    André hits on 11 or less; he rolls a 12, missing. Ferusac does not need to roll to parry, but because André missed, he may counter. Ferusac attempts to Entangle (4.74 Special Attacks, ENTANGLE) André with his cloak; first he must succeed in an attack with a roll of 14 or less; his roll is 12. André may attempt to avoid the cloak by rolling less than his Dexterity – 3; the gamekeeper’s Dexterity is 9, so he must roll 9 – 3 = 6 or less. André’s roll is 8, and he is entangled in Ferusac’s cloak; the gamekeeper loses all of his actions next turn.

    Louvigny chooses to lunge, a long action, at Biscotti this turn; he is allowed a Reaction Parry against Bernardo’s dagger, anticipating a thrust. Bernardo chooses to Attack and Parry, slashing at Louvigny’s head; Biscotti plans another Vicious Kick and Dodges Louvigny’s attack.

    Louvigny’s chance to hit is modified by – 3 from Biscotti’s dodge defense, resulting in a 14 – 3 = 11 chance to hit; his roll is 10, a hit. The Musketeer’s attack is aimed at Biscotti’s flank; he rolls 6 (chest) and 15 (flank), striking the flank. The lunge causes 4 points of damage; the groom wears no armor and takes all 4 points of damage and he is stunned by the attack, losing all actions this turn and limiting him to one action next turn.

    Bernardo hits on a 9 or less with his dagger slash at Louvigny; his roll is 4, a hit. Louvigny is allowed a Reaction Parry to the attack and anticipates a thrust; he normally parries on 15 or less and there is no modifier for parrying a dagger, but because this is a reaction parry, the modifier is – 6, giving him the chance to parry on 15 – 6 = 9 or less. Louvigny’s roll is 9; he parries the attack, but only just. Because the main-gauche is weapon strength 2 and the dagger is strength 1, there is no chance the main-gauche breaks from the parry.
    As André fights his way out of the folds of the cloak, Ferusac performs a flèche, lunging past the gamekeeper and slipping a handspan of his blade under André’s ribs. The latter groans in pain and anger.

    Again Bernardo attacks with his dagger, low this time, the point jabbing toward Louvigny’s guts. The Musketeer, sensing an opportunity, parries in septime, than twists his main-gauche hard against Bernardo’s blade. The dagger slips from the groom’s hand and clatters to the floor. A tight smile appears on the Musketeer’s face.
    André can take no action this turn after being entangled in Ferusac’s cloak, so Ferusac opts to lunge; André can attempt a reaction parry, however, as it is not an action.

    Ferusac’s lunge succeeds on 15 or less; his roll is 6, a hit. The gamekeeper attempts a reaction parry, anticipating a lunge; he parries normally on a 10 or less, but this is modified – 1 for Ferusac’s longsword, – 3 for the difference in Expertise between the two swordsmen, – 6 for the reaction parry, and + 3 for anticipating Ferusac's lunge, reducing his chance to 10 – 1 – 3 – 6 + 3 = 3 – he rolls a 12 and fails to parry. Ferusac aims for André’s chest; the rolls are 19 (left leg) and 13 (flank), so the lunge strikes André’s chest instead. The longsword normally causes 4 points of damage on a lunge, but 6 is less than one-half 15, a serious wound causing an additional 1D6 points of damage; Ferusac’s damage roll is a 4, causing 4 + 4 = 8 points of damage. the gamekeeper’s leather jerkin reduces the damage by 2, so the actual damage is 8 – 2 = 6 points of damage. André is stunned as well; he may only take one action in the following turn.

    Louvigny chooses to Parry and Counter this turn; he anticipates a lunge and will attempt to disarm Bernardo. Bernardo chooses to Attack and Parry; he thrusts his dagger at Louvigny’s flank and expects Louvigny to lunge. Biscotti is limited to one action this turn; expecting Louvigny to lunge at him again, he chooses to Sidestep as his defense.

    Bernardo’s attack hits on a 9 or less; his roll is 2, a hit. Louvigny parries with his main-gauche, allowing him to parry on 15 or less; his roll is 4, and he parries the thrust. Now he attempts to Disarm Bernardo ((4.74 Special Attacks, DISARM); Louvigny’s main-gauche is weapon strength 2 and Bernardo’s dagger weapon strength 1, so the disarm may be attempted. Each combatant makes a resistance roll (3.4 USING SKILLS) against his Expertise. Louvigny rolls 6, which is 15 – 6 = 9 less than his Expertise; the 9 is subtracted from Bernardo’s Expertise 11, meaning the groom must roll 11 – 9 = 2 or less to prevent the disarm. His roll is 12, so Bernardo is disarmed.
    André coughs as he recovers, red foam flecking his lips, and Ferusac presses his advantage, lunging again, but the gamekeeper is ready this time, kicking the Gascon’s feet out from under him and sending him crashing to the floor.

    Across the room, Louvigny slashes at Biscotti again, his blade a glittering line trailing a spray of blood as it connects with the groom’s chest. Biscotti’s eyes roll back and he collapses like a rag doll, the remains of the broken bottle shattering on the clay tiles. At the same moment, Bernardo crashes into the Musketeer, intent on bearing him to the floor, but somehow Louvigny keeps his feet under him and pushes the groom back.
    Ferusac wants to end the fight, so he lunges again, trying to score as much damage as he can; he will trust to a reaction parry if André attacks. But André isn't prepared to give up the fight, trusting in a reaction parry as well and attempting to Trip Ferusac.

    Ferusac’s lunge hits on a roll of 15 or less; he rolls a 16 and misses. André can now counter with a Kick in order to Trip (4.73 Dirty Fighting, TRIP) the Musketeer. André’s kick gets a + 3 modifier; his Brawling attacks hit on a roll of 11 or less, and with the modifier the attacks hits on a roll of 11 + 3 = 14 or less. The gamekeeper’s roll is 10, the trip is successful, and Ferusac falls to the floor, stunned.

    Expecting Bernardo to spend the turn recovering his dagger, Louvigny chooses to Attack and Dodge, slashing at Biscotti’s flank again. Biscotti again chooses a Vicious Kick and Dodges while Bernardo ignores his lost dagger and instead attempts to Tackle Louvigny, a long action.

    Louvigny’s chance to hit is modified by – 3 from Biscotti’s dodge defense, resulting in a 14 – 3 = 11 chance to hit; his roll is 5, a hit. The blow is aimed at Biscotti’s flank, and the location rolls are 4 (right arm) and 9 (chest); the slash strikes Biscotti’s chest, as it is closest to the flank. A slash from a rapier does 2 points of damage, but Louvigny’s roll of 5 is less than half the chance to hit, so an additional 1D6 damage is added; the roll is 2, causing 2 + 2 = 4 points of damage. Biscotti now has cumulative 8 points of damage to his chest and flank; he is rendered unconscious for 1 to 6 hours by the blow (4.55 Effects of Damage, CHEST or FLANK).

    Bernardo tried to tackle (4.53 Weapon Damage, UNARMED ATTACKS, Tackle) Louvigny; he plans to Grapple and Choke (4.73 Dirty Fighting, CHOKE) the Musketeer on the next turn. The groom’s Brawling Expertise 12 gives him a base chance to hit of 10 or less; his roll is 11, and he misses.
    All thoughts of his own wound forgotten, André bellows as he stomps his foot down on the fallen Ferusac. The Gascon groans as the gamekeeper’s boot smashes into his ribs, and Ferusac rolls over and staggers to his feet.

    Louvigny thrusts his rapier at Bernardo, but the groom leaps backwards, beyond the reach of the Musketeer’s blade.
    André chooses to Stomp (4.73 Dirty Fighting, STOMP) Ferusac while the latter is on the floor. André’s kick gets a + 3 modifier; his Brawling attacks hit on a roll of 11 or less, and with the modifier the attacks hits on a roll of 11 + 3 = 14 or less. The gamekeeper’s roll is 2, a hit causing a serious wound. Because André’s Strength is greater than 16, the kick does 3 points of general damage with an additional + 1 point of damage for a successful stomp, causing 3 + 1 = 4 points of general damage to Ferusac. Ferusac must also make a resistance roll between his Endurance 15 and André’s Strength 17 to avoid beind stunned (4.53 Weapon Damge, UNARMED ATTACKS, Kick). André’s roll is 13, which results in a modifier of 13 – 17 = -4 to Ferusac’s Endurance check. Ferusac must roll 15 – 4 = 11 or less to avoid being stunned by the stomp; he rolls 9, so he is not stunned by the attack. Ferusac has now taken three points of damage to his chest and four points of general damage; he has eight hit points remaining.

    Louvingy chooses to Attack and Dodge, aiming a thrust at Bernardo’s flank; Bernardo chooses to Step Back, a long action, so Louvigny’s attack cannot reach him.
    Exultant, André swings his hanger in a wide arc at Ferusac’s head, hoping to score a killing blow, but the Gascon sweeps the blade aside with his cloak and thrusts his longsword past the gamekeeper’s parry into André’s guts, under the bottom edge of the his jerkin. André staggers, his eyes uncomprehending at the sight of crimson blood staining his woolen breeches; the hanger slips from his hand and falls to the tiles with a loud clang as André sinks to the floor with a groan and lies still.

    Louvigny advances cautiously, prepared to thrust his sword at the groom, but the fight is gone out of Bernardo, and he leaps back again, angling toward the door of the inn.
    Ferusac returns to his earlier tactic of Parry and Counter; he anticipates a slash from André and prepares to counter with a thrust to the flank. André chooses to Attack and Parry, aiming a slash at Ferusac’s head and expecting a lunge from the Gascon. André hits on 11 or less; he rolls a 5, scoring a hit. Ferusac attempts to parry with his cloak, which provides a + 2 modifier, against the gamekeeper’s cutlass, which provides a – 1 modifier; he parries on a roll of 14 + 2 – 1 = 15. His roll is 6, parrying the slash. Because André’s blow was parried, Ferusac may counter. Ferusac’s thrust succeeds on 15 or less; his roll is a 1, an automatic hit that bypasses armor (4.54 Armor). The gamekeeper attempts to parry; he parries normally on a 10 or less, but this is modified – 1 for Ferusac’s longsword and – 3 for the difference in Expertise between the two swordsmen; André’s chance to parry is 10 – 1 – 3 = 6 or less. His roll is 9; he doesn’t parry the attack. Ferusac aims for the flank, and he rolls to determine the hit location; his rolls are 11 (left arm) and 14 (flank), resulting in a serious wound on the flank. A thrust normally causes 2 points of damage, but serious wounds get an additional 1D6 damage; Ferusac rolls a 3, causing 2 + 5 = 7 points of damage. Because the attack roll was a 1, none of the damage is reduced for André’s armor. André now has 6 + 7 = 13 cumulative points of damage to his flank; this is more than one-half his total hit points of 15, so he is rendered unconscious by the blow for 1 to 6 hours.

    Louvigny again chooses to Attack and Dodge, but Bernardo wants to make good his escape; the groom chooses to Step Back again, and by successfully stepping back on two consecutive turns, he is now disengaged from the fight with Louvigny.
    The remaining groom dashes for the door of the inn and disappears into the pouring rain outside the inn. Both Ferusac and Louvigny suddenly realize that one man remains standing: d’Aiglet. The noble’s face is pale, his red eyes fixed on Ferusac as he aims a pistol in a shaking hand at the Gascon.

    “Die, you cur!” he screams in fury. The wheellock whirrs and with a loud crash and gout of flame and smoke the pistol discharges.
    Finally, missile weapons. D’Aiglet’s Expertise is 10 with the pistol, giving him a base chance to hit of 8 or less; because the pistol is a wheellock, d’Aiglet receives an additional + 1 modifier to hit (4.33 Missle Weapon Attacks, (a)), making the chance to hit 8 = 1 = 9. Because of the earlier wound to his right arm, however, d’Agilet is forced to fire with his off-hand, incurring a modifier of – 3 (4.33 Missle Weapon Attacks, ( c )); this makes his chance to hit 9 – 3 = 6. Finally, the range is Close (4.33 Missle Weapon Attacks, (b)), granting a modifier of + 3; d’Aiglet’s chance to hit is 6 + 3 = 9 or less. His roll is 8, a hit. D’Aiglet aims for the head, and the hit location rolls are 16 (flank) and 20 (left leg); Ferusac is hit in the flank by the pistol ball. The ball causes 2 points of damage; armor only saves one-half the normal amount against firearms (4.54 Armor), so Ferusac’s leather jerkin reduces the damage by 1 instead of 2, resulting in 1 point of damage.
    Ferusac winces as the ball strikes him. His arm swings outward and his broadsword sails through the air, catching d’Aiglet in the shoulder. The nobleman gives a strangled cry, and falls to the ground.
    Ferusac throws his sword at d’Aiglet. His base chance to hit is 14 or less, modified by – 1 at close range, making his chance to hit 14 – 1 = 13 or less; his roll is 6. Ferusac aims for d’Aiglet’s chest; his rolls for hit location are 5 (right arm) and 17 (right leg), so the wound is to d’Aiglets’s right arm. A thrown longsword normally causes two points of damage, but the wound is serious, resulting in an additional 1D6 damage; Ferusac’s roll is 1, causing 2 + 2 = 3 points of damage. D’Aiglet’s padded sleeves, however, reduce the damage by – 1, so the final damage is 3 – 1 = 2 points. As d’Aiglet only has two hit points remaining, he is reduced to zero and falls unconscious for 1 to 6 hours.

    As d’Aiglet’s hit points were reduced to zero by an attack on his right arm, there is a chance that he will suffer a more serious or lasting injury (4.8 Recuperation). His roll is 15; he will end up with a bad scar on his arm to remind him of the fight in the inn.
    Louvigny stares dumbfounded at Ferusac, and at the nobleman lying on the floor. "That was – " he begins, but Ferusac cuts him short. “Not now,” the Gascon mutters. He grabs a cloth from the bar and loosens the strings on his jerkin. “Are you hurt?” he asks.

    As the excitement of the moment fades, Louvigny feels his wounds, a dull ache in his groin and abdomen, the cut on his chest, and a pounding in his temples. “Yes – I mean, not badly,” he replies. “You were shot?”

    Ferusac nods. “A scratch,” he replies. "That one – " he nods at André " – got me pretty good with that deer-splitter of his." He grimaces as packs the wound with the wine-soaked bar rag. “And I think he may have cracked a rib.”

    “A surgeon – " Louvigny begins, but again Ferusac cuts him off. “No time,” he replies. Moving slowly, the Gascon shuffles to where d’Agilet lies on the floor. He places his hand on the nobleman’s chest. “Still breathing,” Ferusac murmurs, then glances at Louvigny. “Did you kill your man there?”

    “Yes, maybe – I don’t know,” Louvigny replies, looking hastily at where the groom lies on the floor of the inn.

    Ferusac recovers his sword, cleaning the blade on the nobleman’s velvet doublet. He takes d’Aiglet’s scarlet hat, tears off a long white plume, and sweeps the coins and cards off the table into it. Next he reaches inside d’Aiglet’s doublet, removing a silk purse filled with jingling silver, and tucks it inside his own jerkin. Finally, he removes a glittering diamond ring from the nobleman’s pinky.

    The Gascon turns to the innkeeper, standing in the shadows, his wine-spattered apron still twisted in his hands. Ferusac leans in close to the trembling host, and holds the ring under his nose. “For your trouble,” he growls, his eyes fierce. The innkeeper reaches for the ring, but Ferusac pulls it back quickly. “Should anyone inquire, we are heading west, toward Bourdeaux. You heard us talking about a ship for Spain. Do you understand?” The innkeeper nods quickly. Ferusac presses the ring into the man’s palm firmly. “If I find out you said anything else, I will be back,” he rumbles, his breath warm on the innkeeper’s rosy cheeks.

    “Let’s go,” Ferusac says to Louvigny, stopping to take d’Aiglet’s sword as well.

    Crossing the inn’s muddy courtyard, the rain seems to be growing worse, Louvigny notes sourly. Inside the stable, they quickly saddle their horses. “You robbed a gentleman,” Louvigny blurts out.

    “You disapprove, chevalier?” Ferusac replies as he slowly, painfully eases himself into the saddle. Louvigny frowns – the only time Ferusac uses his title is when he’s mocking the young knight.

    “The coins on the table, yes, I understand. But his ring?” Louvigny asks as they ride out of the stable into the downpour.

    “The innkeeper would take it anyway once we left,” Ferusac replies, raising his voice slightly over the rain splattering their hats and horses, “and accuse us of stealing it. He’ll still blame us for it either way, but now we may have bought some time with it.”

    Louvigny says nothing for a time. The only sound is the splash of the horses hooves in the mud. Finally he speaks up again.

    “Ferusac, were you cheating?”

    The Gascon’s face is hidden in the shadow of his hat.

    “Just ride, chevalier.”

    Monday, May 13, 2024

    The Heraldry Skill in Flashing Blades

    The Heraldry skill in Flashing Blades is a Bonus Skill for Nobleman characters, costing one (1) Skill Point during character creation; Heraldry doesn't appear on the skill list of any other backgrounds, so a character without the Nobleman background must spend three (3) points at character creation to acquire it (FB core rules, page 5).
    HERALDRY
    This skill indicates a thorough knowledge of noble genealogies and coats-of-arms. Characters with this skill will be able to identify high nobility and members of the royal family, trace their family histories, and recognize their crests and seals. Noble families of other nationalities will be more difficult to recognize than domestic nobility. (3.4 USING SKILLS, FB core rules, page 7)
    Heraldry appears two more times in the core rules, first in the ranks and positions rules for bureaucrats, as a gatekeeper skill.
    Chancellor (requires Heraldry and Etiquette skills, roll 9 or more to receive; +1 if Social Rank is 16 or above, +1 for having been a Provincial Governor, +1 for having been an Ambassador). The Chancellor looks after the bureaucracy and paperwork of the Royal Court. (5.53 Ranks and Positions in the Bureaucracy, FB core rules, page 33)
    Heraldry is also a gatekeeper skill for the position of Herald in the rules for minor jobs (5.103 Minor Jobs, FB core rules, page 39), for which a character earns 20 livres per month of employment. With a potential salary of up to 120 livres annually, the "minor job" of Herald earns more than a number of positions in other careers, with the caveat of requiring year-round employment, and is tied for the highest paying minor job with Gunsmith and Apothecary.

    The Heraldry skill appears in a number of adventures, as a means of identifying non-player characters by their arms or revealing some bit of background detail.
    Another personality whom the player characters may meet at Tavern Brevage Noir is Baron Jean-Paul De Gilloir, a debauched nobleman with a passion for gambling. Any character with Heraldry skill who makes a successful roll against Wit (+1) will recognize him as the same man who gambled away his family fortune and estate, and who has recently taken up with ruffians and petty villains of the Paris underworld. ("Tavern Brevage Noir," Flashing Blades Introductory Adventures, pages 3-4)
    Any character with Heraldry or History skill may roll against his Wit (+2 modifier) to call up information about the Archduke DeMainz. ("The Man Behind the Mask," FB Intro Adv, page 5)
    The fourth man also arrives in a carriage, this one with the coat-of-arms of a Baron. He is incredibly fat and his clothes, while quite expensive and fashionable, are in a state of disarray. Any character with Heraldry skill who makes a successful Wit roll (+1) will recognize this man as the Baron De Gras, a wealthy but debauched noble. ("Monsieur Le Droit’s Secret," FB Into Adv, page 11)
    There are nine additional instances of skill checks (four in Parisian Adventure, three in The Cardinal's Peril, one in An Ambassador's Tales, and one in High Seas) which are functionally the same as these. Three non-player characters (two in An Ambassador's Tales, one in High Seas) possess the Heraldry skill in the published adventures.

    In my actual play experience with FB, many players choose the Heraldry skill for their Nobleman characters due to the low cost in skill points and because recognizing arms and knowing details about other nobles is really part and parcel of playing a nobleman; it's usually taken along with Etiquette, which is also a Bonus Skill for Nobleman characters - two points for two background- and genre-appropriate skills, as the rules intend. Heraldry's also a means for supplementing a noble character's income when the rewards of adventure don't quite make ends meet.

    I think there's more here.

    Let's look at the history of heraldic arms in Ancien Régime (pre-revolutionary) France. First, unlike the United Kingdom, coats of arms were in no way restricted to the nobility; anyone who wanted arms could have them. In fact, the Parlement of Paris - a high court, not a legislative body - refused to register royal edicts limiting access in 1556 and again in 1663. In practice this meant that families and corporations - private, public, or civic, like a city - could have a coat of arms if they wanted. This extends the reach of Heraldry as a skill well beyond "high nobility and members of the royal family" to chartered trading companies, bourgeoisie families, or small market towns. Heraldic arms are also used by members of the Church; an appearance of the Heraldry skill in the published adventures reads, "A Player-Character who wakes his Wit roll (+2 for Heraldry) will recognize the insignia of the Archbishop of Paris on the offending vehicle, as it passes out of sight" ("Scavenger Hunt," Parisian Adventure, page 27). Gentlemen's clubs and orders of knighthood should display their own arms as well.

    Given the extant to which coats of arms are available, their display should be commonplace in a 17th century French setting. Arms as architectural details should be everywhere, not just chateaus or townhouses of the nobility. A chamber of commerce (la chambre des marchands) might display heraldic banners of its wealthy merchant members; the arms of church benefactors may be carved into the woodwork of a choir stall. Heraldic arms can be used to reveal history: chiseled into the stone lintels of the baron de Bauchery's chateau are the arms of the comte de Bonair - how did the baron come to possess the courtly count's castle? Perhaps club members wear ceremonial tabards emblazoned with the club's arms during rites such as initiation or processions. Arms may appear on crockery or in pewter - plates, mugs - in stained glass, and in paintings and statuary. Books were often sponsored by and dedicated to noble patrons and their arms may appear as a frontispiece.

    One of the most important applications of arms is the seal. Seals impressed into wax are used as authentication not just for letters and royal edicts but for contracts, deeds, and other legal instruments. For example the incorporation documents of a chartered company will include a row of wax seals suspended from the parchment by a ribbon or ribbons, indicating the parties to the agreement, including the king's agent and the lawyers who represent ownership.

    With the ubiquity and significance of heraldic devices in l'Ancien Régime, one might expect the occupation of herald (héraut d'armes) to be closely regulated and highly regarded. A French college of heralds was created by King Charles VI in 1407, decades before the English College of Arms. The college of heralds was established with four grades:
  • le poursuivant d'armes - "chaser" or apprentice herald
  • le héraut - herald, a journeyman
  • le maréchal d'armes - marshal of armes, a master
  • le roi d'armes - king of arms, a grandmaster of the college of heralds, initially twelve in number
  • The college was given space at the convent of Saint Anthony - Le Petit Saint-Antoine - in Paris to meet and keep a library of armorials. At the time, heraldry played an important role in battle, identifying who was on the field, and at tournaments, announcing the contestants. One of the early duties of heralds, wearing their distinctive tabards, was to act as a messenger between army commanders, for which they were afforded privileges and safe passage similar to those of diplomats. The absence of limitations on who could bear heraldic arms proved to be a problem several kings tried to address, first and foremost to prevent "the usurpation of arms" by commoners - one of the roles of heralds was to insure that arms were not duplicated. However, the efforts of Charles VI and his successors to more closely regulate the use of coats of arms in France were of limited success, in no small part by their ubiquity.

    By the 17th century of our little game, heralds are, while not exactly in disrepute, of diminished status, associated in part with the rise of a professional army of standing regiments. In 1615, King Louis XIII will incorporate the college of heralds as part of the royal household under the responsibility of le grand écuyer - the grand squire of France - and create a juge général d'armes de France for prosecuting the usurpation of arms by commoners; as with his forebears, he will achieve limited success and the role of heralds becomes largely ceremonial. King Louis XIV will attempt, without success, to restrict the use of coats of arms by those not enobled, and will only succeed in adopting a fee for the use of heraldic arms for a little more than a decade after 1696.

    So, what does all of this mean in terms of playing Flashing Blades?

    While herald as a profession may be diminished, heraldic arms, as noted earlier, are still very common and should be a regular feature of the setting. The Heraldry skill synergizes well with other skills: Oratory and Etiquette as a noble's, bishop's, or council of aldermen's master of ceremonies, Magistracy for identifying seals on a contract or discerning the finer points of Salic laws of succession, History for working as a chronicler for a noble or royal order, Forgery for producing convincing fakes. A spy needs more than Espionage and Disguise; without Heraldry as a skill, they may miss crucial intelligence.

    One aspect of a herald's job isn't touched on at all in the rules as written: producing coats of arms. Heraldry implies a level of artistic skill; an apprentice herald - un poursuivant d'armes - will likely spend most of their time creating arms for clients and preparing armorials - books cataloging coats of arms - under the supervision of a herald or marshal of arms. In fact, one could make an actual career path for heralds: three years as an apprentice (Social Rank 4) before becoming a herald (Social Rank 6), marshal of arms (Social Rank 8) on becoming a Master of the Heraldry skill, a king of arms (Social Rank 10) - opening on a 10+, promotion on 9+ - if a Master Superior in the Heraldry skill.

    Lastly, one more historical note creates a fascinating option for a swashbuckling character: early heralds were not noble at all - they came from the ranks of jongleurs and jesters, street perfomers. Imagine a 17th century version of Paul Bettany's Geoffrey Chaucer from A Knight's Tale, the perfect wisecracking second to a gentilhomme or noble duelist . . .