Friday, September 11, 2015

Swashbuckling Scenario Generator

Back in December of  2012, Black Vulmea posted an article about a Swashbuckling Scenario Generator. This was created by a game designer (who was perhaps on the StoryGame/Indie side of design) for use in the game Robots & Rapiers

Unfortunately Robots  & Rapiers is listed as sold out. From the listing the game was published by Ramshead Publishing. Ramshead no longer has any games listed at Atomic Empire and a  review of Ramshead's website shows no trace of Robot's and Rapiers or the Swashbuckling Scenario Generator in either their free or for pay materials. And the old links to the game or the scenario generator are broken. This is sad as the scenario generator was a good compilation of the various sorts of plots found in the swashbuckling genre. I use it if I need some inspiration for a new adventure and it has provided some useful random hooks for adventures that I then target for a specific PC. I like having random generation tools handy. In part, I like them as an additional source of inspiration, but equally because the tables can create something I wouldn't have thought to create myself. Which I find adds breadth to the activities in my campaign.

Fortunately, someone invented the WayBack Machine and I was able to find the Scenario Generator there. I don't know how long the WayBack Machine archives things, but for now, you can find the really cool Swashbuckling Generator here.

Here's an example of an adventure. We start out with Table I to find out the goal of the adventure or scenario.

Table I: Scenario Goal

Scenario Goal
Rescue the [Victim] from the [Foe]. Section A
Recover the [Item] belonging to [Victim] from the [Foe] Section B
Deliver the [Item] from [Victim] #1 to [Victim] #2 without being stopped by the [Foe] Section C
Escort the [Victim] without being stopped by the [Foe] Section D
Escort the prisoner and keep them from being rescued by the [Foe] Section E
Get attacked by the [Foe]’s men Section F
Interrupt an altercation between [Victim] and 1d10: 1-5 = another [Victim], 6-0 = a [Foe] Section G
Locate and engage the [Foe] Section H
Roll twice and combine
GMs own invention

A roll of 8 tells us that the goal is to locate and engage the Foe and we are to consult Section H.

Section H. Locate and engage the [Foe]

Do not Roll on Table II to determine how the characters find out about the adventure. Instead roll on Table IV(a) to determine which major party the Foe is an enemy of. The characters will be “requested” by this party to deal with the Foe.

Table IV (a): Which Foe List?
Which Foe List?
Foes of the King
Foes of the Cardinal
Foes of the Queen
Foes of the Bandits

The roll on Table IV(a) is a 1 which tells us that the foe is an enemy of the King.

A second roll of 1 on Table IV (b) Foes of the King, tells us this is a group of bandits is from Rork’s Gang. Now Rork’s Gang is in the original table, but it is not part of my campaign. Therefore I customize this by selecting an exisiting bandit gang from my campaign. 

I use Captain Mathew Ashe’s Gang. There are a gang of ex-soldiers led by a Solomon Kane like adventurer named Mathew Ashe who has a grudge against his former employer.

Next we roll 1d10 to determine how or where the characters are engaged.
1-2 = summoned to a formal audience,
3-4 = a secret meeting,
5-6 = a secret meeting with an agent of the party,
7-8 = a letter with an official seal,
9-0 = a secret letter with no seal.

A roll of 3 tells us the PCs are engaged during a secret meeting with the King.

So we know that the King gives them, or is personally involved in giving them , their assignment. This certainly ticks the swashbuckling/cape & sword genre since it includes a direct interaction with an very important person. This result also generates a few other questions that we will eventually want to answer: Why is the meeting in secret? What is the king hiding? And from whom?  Why does he want the villains eliminated?

2.        Roll on Table U once to determine where the Foe is located.

Table U(1): Which Location Table?

Which Location Table?
Roll on Table U(2):  Important City Locations
Roll on Table U(3):  Common City Locations
Roll on Table U(4):  Important Countryside Locations
Roll on Table U(5):  Common Countryside Locations
A roll of 5 tells us that the bandits are at a common city location.

A further roll of 1 tells us that the common location is a quiet city alley. This could be an alley in Paris, but since the bandits were last seen far from Paris, I think I will use a city closer to where they were spotted, which was near Lyon. Since I have Lyon well worked up from previous adventures, that should make it easy to run a new adventure in that city.

3.        Roll on Table H(1) to determine why the Foe needs to be attacked.

Table H(1): What’s the Cassus Belli?

What’s the Cassus Belli?
The Foe killed someone important to the party (Roll on Table E(1) to determine who)
The Foe has acquired some sensitive information about the party and needs to be eliminated before it becomes known
It’s a periodic raid against a regular enemy
To capture someone important in the enemy hierarchy. (Roll on Table A(1) to determine why)
Foe has something important which the characters need to get without letting anyone discover who’s taken it (Roll on Table V and Table B(1) to determine the nature of the Item)
Foe is building up strength for some major action and must be thwarted before they achieve it.
To prosecute a personal vendetta
They’re Foes, isn’t that reason enough to attack them?
Re-roll plus there’s a twist. Roll on Table F(3)
GMs own invention

Roll on Table H(1)  7 To prosecute a personal vendetta. So this tells us that a personal vendetta is involved. Is it the King’s or that of Mathew Ashe?

I decide that Ashe has learned that the King is behind the former employer who Ashe hates. Ashe has learned of this detail and is planning his revenge. Meanwhile, the King has learned about Ashe’s vendetta, either from the Cardinal’s spies or perhaps Ashe sent a letter to the King itemizing his grievances and calling the King to account.

Let us furthermore assume that Louis XIII is going to take a trip to visit Lyon. Kings in both the late Renaissance and Early Modern period still made royal appearances and Louis is known to have made such trips. The central activity in the movie Vatel is the preparations for a royal visit by Louis XIV. So a royal visit to the Marquis de Neufville, the governor of Lyon and Lyonesse, Charles de Neufville, Marquis de Villeroy d'Alincourt isn’t implausible.

Let us return to the questions I asked earlier. Why is the meeting in secret? What is the king hiding? And from whom?  Why does he want the villains eliminated?

 We can assume the King wants Ashe and his men eliminated because they have threatened the life of the King. Now since the king in my setting is Louis XIII, we know he is a weak king who depends on and needs, but does not really like, his minister, Cardinal Richelieu. Let's assume than that King wants to keep this hidden from Richelieu. That explains why the meeting is in secret and what the king is hiding.

An alternate idea would be that the Louis wants to keep this secret from his Queen, Anne of Austria. In this case I'd assume that the King suspects the Queen of some indiscretion with Ashe and that he wants Ashe killed. In this case, there may be no plot against the King, but instead an invented plot against Ashe to justify his muder.

So now the PCs mission is like that of the US Secret Service. They need to go to Lyon ahead of the King and eliminate a potential threat to His Majesty by finding Captain Mathew Ashe and his bandit gang.

I'd love to get permission to post the entire Scenario Generator, if anyone knows how to get in contact with the designer.


  1. Ralph Mazza's handle on The Forge and Storygames is Valamir. I also think he participates under his own name on G+.

    I've seen a copy of Robots & Rapiers on the used shelves once--I think it must have been a playtest or "beta" printing.

  2. Thanks. I'll try signing up and hunting for him over there. It's a useful tool as is and it would be nice if it was available.