One of the resources I wanted to include in the upcoming Aldis: City of the Blue Rose when development began on that book was a simple “random encounters” system. Rather than monsters to fight, though, I wanted this system to be iconic “day in the life” scenes for the mighty capital city of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose.
The Encounters in the City of Aldis appendix works simply: draw anywhere between one to three cards from the Royal Road (depending on how much detail you want to pepper the scene with), interpret as appropriate for the scene in question, and present to the players. It can also be interesting to have players draw their own cards for their scenes, and to even have them construct the scene as they or another player encounter it.
Below are two examples of how we’re using the system.
Example I: A Busy Square in the Middle Ward
For this example, painting the scene for player characters who’ve arrived in a busy neighborhood square, the Narrator chooses a three-card draw, having each of the players who are present for the scene draw one card. The cards drawn (and the interpretation from the appendix) are:
- Nine of Chalices*: A small group of people gather about an old city well. Some people in the group solemnly lower their heads and whisper something into its dark waters. Turning around, they decisively march across the square. Others, barely able to hold back their giggles, run up to the well, squeak out a quick word or two, and then excitedly run off.
- The Hierophant*: You cannot help but pick up on small conversations that buzz about your ears. Turing to see one of the sources of these spirited conversations, you happen to see a small group engaged in polite, but animated conversation. At the center of this small group, a noble is enraptured by the storytelling abilities of his companions. The noble, dressed in clothing that seems to set them apart from the more obvious locals, soaks up the conversations eagerly, only interjecting to ask clarifying questions about the various tales and descriptions the seasoned locals provide.
- Queen of Swords*: You see an older citizen carrying scrolls and assorted books, one with a marking reminiscent of Queen Allia’s heraldry. They are soon met by other, similarly dressed citizens who begin discussing various aspects of Aldin history. Their voices remain calm and clear, each waiting for the other to finish their point before interjecting.
Using This Draw: All of these cards are set up fairly well for scenes of the sort being played through here; one of them even makes mention of a square! The Narrator describes the scene:
- “The square is bustling with people both lingering and passing through the square. In one corner stands an old city well around which people gather. Some solemnly, and other excitedly, some of the locals seem to be whispering to one another…wait, no, they’re whispering to the well itself! In the middle of the square stands an old tree, under which a small group of people are picnicking. One seems to be noble by dress, and she is listening intently to the stories of her companions, all of whom seem to be trying to outdo the others with delightful stories and anecdotes. Nearby, a man of advancing years wearing the heraldry of one of the former Sovereigns of Aldis walks past you, carrying a tall, teetering stack of books and rolled scrolls. He makes his way past you, walking carefully to avoid overbalancing his burden. You can see two others crossing the square, wearing a similar sigil. When they see him, they quicken their pace so that they can help relieve him of some of the books he carries. They pause to one side of the square, greeting one another and discussing the contents of the books in delight.”
Example II: A Subdued High Ward Tavern at Midnight
For this example, one of the player characters is meeting a contact in a familiar tavern in the deeps of the night. The setting is one where not much is going on, but the Narrator wants to inject a little color into the scene, just to keep the player character (a spy always on the lookout for enemy operatives) on their toes, so the Narrator draws a single card:
- Five of Pentacles*: A wounded citizen walks the streets ringing a small bell. They are accompanied by four others in distinctive clothing that marks them as priests of the Primordials. As the group slowly traverses the streets, they call out for charity, not for themselves, but for others. Onlookers seem moved by the procession and begin to speak with one another about how they too can help.
Using This Draw: Now, this card obviously isn’t entirely well-suited on its face for this scene. But the Narrator makes some alterations, adapting it for the quiet of the night-time tavern, thus:
- “As you enter the tavern, your contact waves to you from the back of the room. The only others in the taproom are a quartet of folk who all wear the vestments of priests of the four Primordials. At the edge of their table is a hand bell and a begging bowl. They have split the coins from the bowl up in the middle of their table, and they are discussing to whom the various small piles of coins ought to go, sliding coins around as they illustrate their points. As you pass them by, you hear quiet but passionate discussion regarding a recently widowed mother of three, while another champions the work of a healer that seeks out the sickly poor in the Lower Ward.”
* Note that all the quoted text is as yet unedited, and may change in the final product.