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Random Events

by Kenneth Baggaley

Random Events - Concept

We've already designed characters and families. We've given them their warped internal motivations and initiative levels. Now we need only create the catalysts to spark their noble (or corrupt) designs into action.

Random events (RE) are those capricious occurrences to which the human species attaches such symbolic significance. For the game, RE also constitute great excuses to go to war/end a treaty/ take action. After each RE, the umpire can refer to the character of any affected noble NPCs and decide (by dice or choice) what action those NPCs might take.

Consider RE an opportunity. NPCs may or may not seize upon these opportunities. Again, use logic to make the reaction fit.

Every RE has two components: the event itself, and the location of the event. I choose to roll for the event itself first. This way, if the event seems an “obvious” fit somewhere, the umpire can place it where it belongs. For example, the Emperor Charles IX is a might tough on taxes. The Senate of Thyatis just refused his latest ridiculous request. An RE roll indicates Unrest/Riots are due somewhere. Viola! You can assign the RE right there to Thyatis, or roll further if you wish. But rolling the event first gives you the option.

Random Events - The Event (RE)

Every three months (each season, as it were), roll percentage dice to determine what event will occur. This gives you only 4 events per year, but we feel this is often enough. The assumption is other events are occurring all the time somewhere in the world (for example, there may be flooding in Akesoli or bumper crops in Shireton that go unreported). The RE turned up here are considered either great enough to cause notice, or significant enough that an NPC could act upon them. Since we work in seasonal turns when fast-forwarding several years, or monthly if something interesting occurs, this RE schedule works fine for us (note we often go to weekly turns when actual armies/fleets are on the move). The umpire declares which month in that season the roll is made, and rolls as below.

Random Event Chart - roll % dice

01-05 Piracy/Bandits
06-08 Raid!
09-10 Invasion!
11-14 Peasant Rebellion
15-17 Pirate/Bandit Base formed
18-19 PLAGUE!!!!
20-23 Famine/Crop Failure
24-27 Unrest/Riots
28-29 Overthrow of Local Authority
30-33 Exiled Merchants
34-35 Increased Profits in Trade this year
36 Ambassador
37 General
38 Minister of State
39 Admiral
40-42 Key Figure dies
43-44 Diplomatic Success
45-46 Schism/Change of Faith!!!
47-48 Treasury Windfall
49-50 Peculation in the Treasury
51-52 Mercenaries available
53-54 Exceptional Harvest this year
55-57 New Mine is discovered
58 Old Mine dries up
59-61 TREACHERY!!!
62-64 Forest Fire/City Fire/Flood
65-67 Earthquake/Volcano/Specially Violent Storm
68-70 SCANDAL!!!
73-74 Founding of new lower noble family (lousy up-and-comers!)
75 Zealot (perhaps with a printing press)
76-77 Spy Success
78-79 Spy caught in the act
80-82 A major Diplomatic Faux Pax
83-87 Injury in an Accident
88 CRUSADE!/JIHAD!/ fervour
89-90 International Trade Incident
91 Pretender appears! (gosh, he looks just like....)
92-95 Pestilence/Sweats
96 Artist
97-00 Oddity (is that statue weeping...?)

If the RE seems to call for it (most do), roll a D10 for intensity. 1-6, significant. 7-9, great. 0, Historic (Remembered for All Time). I'll try not to bore you with the wargames applications of the above events, so here are a few interpretive notes:

PIRACY or BANDITRY depend, of course, whether the location has a coastline or not. If a Base is formed, it means not only must you worry about their incursions, you must go and root them out of their secret stronghold. Such a base should be located on a remote island, caves in the hills, the city's sewers, etc.

RAID and INVASION are similar in that a small armed band of logical enemies swoops down on some location. It could be from a local noble neighbour, a nearby state, a social sub-caste, a religious group, or even amphibious! It is NEVER an attack on one state government by another (at least not OFFICIALLY). They differ in that raiders go home. Invaders try to take possession permanently. Though well-armed and more than rabble, such groups are usually beaten unless reinforced. Example: religious Odinite soldiers from Soderfjord seize a castle in Whitehaven to protest the Vestland King's Ruthinian leanings. As no one reinforce them, and the king is just and popular, they are surrounded and starved into submission. But it could have gone otherwise...

PEASANT REBELLION and UNREST/RIOTS are the less organized, more spontaneous versions of the above. Rebellions are country-bred and Riots are city-born equivalents. Depending on intensity, these must be quickly crushed, as they disrupt politics and income.

OVERTHROW OF LOCAL AUTHORITY and SCHISM are the most serious types of outbreak. Overthrow means the local lord and family have just been captured/snuffed out. It may come from rebels or rioters, but is most likely a power play among the petty lordlings of the area, with a few rough, drunken retainers. Still, an NPC has to restore the rightful order of things, or take some action. Schism is the deadly tendency of cities or provinces to change their religious allegiance. However pure and well-intentioned, imagine an enclave of Kagarite followers taking over in some Hattian town! Things could get ugly.

PLAGUE and PESTILENCE/SWEATS are differing degrees of sickness. Both have a 10% to spread, +10% if in a major city, +10 if near a swamp hex (or other historically unsanitary place), +10 if on a major trade route (cumulative!). Spreading happens every month until no spreading occurs. They last one D6 months, and have a recurrence chance after next winter of 20%, until they no longer occur. Death tolls are up to the umpire; the difference is Pestilence sickens many but kills few, whereas Plague really wipes them out. I use the Intensity die roll x 5% to determine percentage sick/dead. Don't forget, many decreases in population are due to people running away as well as dying, so a certain per cent will recover automatically when the horror subsides. NPCs are subject to them, and might flee to a 'summer house' or such. It is best to name major events like this, such as 'The Cows' Breath Plague' or 'King Olaf's Sweat'. Also, we allow armies to spread such things, too.

FAMINE and BUMPER CROPS affect food supplies, armies and income. We allow soldiers to help spread Famine as well through heavy campaigning. EXILED MERCHANTS is one of my favourites. For religious, cultural, jealousy or other reasons, a body of merchants gets exiled from somewhere. Roll for location FROM where they will come. The umpire can then decide to resettle them in the nearest logical safe haven, NPC character permitting. If no logical target occurs, send them off to a 'New World' or roll a second time for their destination. Exiles bring skills and commercial profitability with them, and NPCs can usually benefit from granting sanctuary. I bump up the commerce income of the receiving land accordingly. These merchants may be resented by the locals, remain isolationist, and constantly need royal support, however.

INCREASED PROFITS and any TREASURY pluses and minuses are direct one-time income effects. You may reward a civil servant with a low-end title, or have a public beheading of a scoundrel (and if he happens to be a certain faith, or race, or protégé of another noble, look out!).

Another favourite of mine is the Great Man Series, which includes AMBASSADOR, GENERAL, ADMIRAL, MINISTER, ZEALOT and ARTIST. These are either commoners, merchant's and priest's sons or low-low nobility who have a true genius born among them, available for hiring and promotion. I usually role to create a character, then adjust STs to make him logical. Here are your Michaelangelos, Richelieus, Corbets, Cromwells, Calvins, Johan Hus, in short, all the brilliant minds that lit the Renaissance. And don't worry if the Admiral appears in Glantri - nobody said he had to work for the nation of his birth, or that he was even born there! When a Great Man (or Woman, if you wish) occurs, I assume he is in his manhood (20-40), reasonably accomplished and currently unemployed. He may be native to the location he rolls up in, or he may have wandered there during his 'finding myself' period. Benefits are obvious. Military geniuses give your forces an edge, Ministers run the government more efficiently (more income), Ambassadors give your international die rolls an advantage, Artists build or paint or design to reflect the majesty of your court, etc. Only Zealots are a mixed bag. Roll for their affiliation. They may be printers, preachers or prophets - always articulate and convincing - and they may help unite your lands, or cause civil unrest, or even a bloody religious war! Remember to reward such great men/women properly.

Culling effects on NPCs occur through KEY FIGURE DIES, ASSASSINATION, INJURY BY ACCIDENT, TREACHERY and SCANDAL. For these RE, look to the character of your NPCs. There may have been poison, or merely suspicion of it. Injuries could be falls from horses (common), shot while hunting, or eating bad oysters! Remember to let Injuries linger one D6 months, with a chance to die from it (or maybe permanent limp/indigestion, etc.). Scandals and Treachery require some creative thinking on the umpire's part, but the normal crop of NPCs usually give you a logical possibility. Assassins may be deranged loners, religious martyrs, or flies on Catherine D'Medici's dark web of intrigue - the choice is yours.

MERCENARIES AVAILABLE may or may not thrill you. They will be a good crop of men, however. Best to employ them or ship them out somewhere; else they could join your neighbour, or turn to banditry! I roll a second location for their national origin. The band is assumed part locals, mostly foreigners.

MINES are both discovered and dry up. Try to place them in mountains or hills, never in population centres. Could there be a gold rush in Dunadale? A mine drying up could cause serious trade or industrial problems.

Acts of nature such as FIRES, FLOODS, STORMS, EARTHQUAKES and such should be dictated by geography and the history of the location. Thyatis doesn't sit on a volcano, and the burning desert can't have a forest fire. Be logical - even if the NPC isn't, and reads this RE as a portent. And he/she may have to dip into funds to relieve the suffering, or face popular wrath.

A NEW NOBLE FAMILY is always fun. Who are these upstarts, and dare they think their wealth can buy titles? Always adds a fun dimension watching them rise (and fall!). I roll for a whole new small family (D6). Assume they are rich.

Diplomacy is a developing art at this time, so DIPLOMATIC SUCCESS, FAUX PAX, SPY issues, and INTERNATIONAL TRADE INCIDENT all offer opportunities for escalation. Maybe you got that non-aggression pact with Darokin, or your spies uncovered the plan to betray the harbor, or an overzealous Newkirk customs official imprisoned one of your captains, who died of flu while in jail awaiting trial. Hey, if I need an excuse for war, it could suffice (they once had a War of Jenkin's Ear, you know). And during the Thirty Year's War, one attaché almost ruined France's entire carefully constructed coalition by innocently suggesting it would be an excellent thing if the Dutch would tolerate Catholics (OUCH!!).

CRUSADE and such means popular opinion violently supports some ridiculous, quixotic and expensive gesture to go slaughter unbelievers somewhere. Your NPC may capitalize on this craze, play for time, try to redirect the effort for his own gains, or ignore it to his peril! At least he'll have plenty of volunteers (at first). But wars are always easier to start then to stop, and volunteers get killed or drift away....

One unique character is the PRETENDER. This unfortunate looks like the king, his sister, a dead claimant of the throne, etc. Man in the Iron Mask, anyone? The Prince and Pauper? England had years of people claiming to be the royal York princes murdered in the Tower. Roll for his/her character. The pretender may be kept at court to double for his ruler at boring ceremonial functions (Richard II actually did this!), or be used as a pawn by others to seize the throne, or be maintained at court as a curiosity, or be shuffled to a dark dungeon somewhere and never be seen again.

The final RE is ODDITY, and this one is up to the umpire's imagination. Here, something happens that shouldn't. For instance, all the royal portraits in the great hall seem to bleed red, and fall from the walls at night to wailing echoes (damp rusty nails dripping and breaking, or ghosts crying foul?). The orange trees refuse to bloom since George became Duke. Why do the clouds form over the castle so? And Demaria's dogs will no longer go to her since her state visit to Freiburg. In essence, some strange quirk is getting a lot of gossip lately. Blue roses? The sneezing fits during services at the rear altar? Lots of two-headed calves being born? They may be mere delusions, or circumstantial anomalies of science, but in the Renaissance, Inquiring Minds want to know.

Random Events - Location Galia Est Divoc Tres partes - um, Mystara is divided into several die rolls. Once you are inside a particular area, see if your RE applies to the NPCs or the area itself. Then use dice and imagination to apply the RE properly. For example, if you roll 4, the Guilds, and the RE is Famine, you may subdivide the islands, giving more weight to the larger ones, and roll again. Likewise, if you roll 16, and the RE is Scandal, you may want to role a D10 to decide which Glantrian prince is involved, and then roll further down that house, etc. Or an NPC's character may at some point be an automatic obvious fit. The options are endless.

Location Table

1,2 - Thyatis (TH)
3 - Karameikos (KM)
4 - Minrothad Guilds (MG)
5 - Ierendi (IR)
6 - Five Shires (FS)
7 - Ostland (OL)
8 - Vestland (VL)
9 - Soderfjord (SF)
10 - Rockhome (RH)
11-14 - Non-west powers (roll again below)
15,16 - Glantri (GL)
17,18 - Darokin (DK)
19 - the cold north (roll again below)
20 - the colonies (roll again below)

Non-West Powers Table - roll D10

1-3 - Ylaruam (YL)
4 - The Clans (AG)
5,6 - Ethengar Khanates (EK)
7,8 - Sind (SD)
9 - The Desert Nomads (DE)
0 - Yavdlom (YV)

The Cold North Table - roll D10

1-5 - Heldann Freeholds (HF)
6-8 - Norwold (NW)
9 - Wendar (WR)
0 - Wendar or choice (perhaps another northern realm?)

The Colonies Table - roll D10

1-6 - Isle of Dawn (IOD) - roll again below
7,8 - Ochalea (OC)
9 - Pearl Islands (PI)
0 - other colony at umpire's discretion

IOD Table - roll D10

1 - Newkirk
2 - Westrourke
3 - Redstone
4 - Sutherlands
5 - West Portage
6 - Septentriona
7 - Dunadale
8 - roll, 1-7 Helskir, 8-0 Deirdren
9 - roll, 1-3 East Portage, 4-6 Kendach, 7-8 Ekto, 9-0 Trikelios
0 - roll, 1-7 Edairo, 8-0 Other states to the east

Some of this may not be of much use to you, as in our Mystara, there is no Alphatia, and the colonial picture is quite different from official canon versions. However, the basic premise may be applicable. By all means, modify to your enjoyment!

And remember, a violent storm in Wendar may lead to nothing at all - or.....