Having ran the entirety of an Ambassadors Tales for the Cauldroneers I thought it was handy to sit back and review the campaign as a product & play experience.
The first thing to say it’s been interesting running this as the grognodfiles has been doing its trilogy of episodes on espionage RPGs – Top Secret, James Bond and Nights Black Agents with this being a spy campaign. For an early 80s product not only does the scenario pack emphasise flashing blades can be a period spy game but it highlights different sub genres in each of the scenarios presented.
Hapsburg Hospitality – executive protection
The Constantinople Emerald – asset acquisition / heist / con movie
Torres el Diablo – jail break (in and out)
The Binnenhof Affair – recovering stolen secrets in hostile territory
Diplomatic Immunity – 39 steps style escape with added evil twin
Thematically this helped bond the campaign while the tonal differences in the scenarios kept things fresh.
I shouldn’t have been surprised really if you go back to Durmas there are strong elements of (private) espionage in say the adventures of the Musketeers so it’s a natural theme for Flashing Blades to develop and ripe for roleplaying fun.
There was a bit of the bleeding edge in the old school in some scenarios – Hapsburg Hospitality is phrased as an introductory romp but has a number of ‘ you fail the roll you die !’ encounters. The experienced PCs also got ahead of the scenario and set up the assassin which was good as the written conclusion was a little anti-climatic.
Constantinople Emerald was I think the strongest scenario and provided the most roleplaying opportunities and options.
Torre el Diablo was interesting in the sensibly the PCs judges stealth the better part of valour and didn’t explore the options to exploit the political differences in Spanish bigwigs.
Both Binnenhof Affair & Diplomatic Immunity produced a good bourne style pace which is interesting for a product written by a teenager in the 80s.
I think if I was a more ‘by the book’ GM and less of an improviser I could have got stuck on a couple of occasions but a prepper would have engineered around these occasional sticking points.
A couple of scenarios give plot threads for future scenarios & I’m even going to take threads and use them in different games entirely. The overall handouts are functional but period maps of say The Hague, Venice or period manor houses are always going to be useful for both flashing blades and other games.
I was really lucky with the blend and quality of my players innovative, roleplaying to the hilt. We had lots of laughs along the way but it came naturally out of character and circumstance rather than being forced.
Overall the campaign was excellent value and I’m glad I bought it both physically and digitally (to allow easy moving plans into roll 20. ) But enough from me over to the players I share their technical frustrations and am looking for better broadband!
Stephen playing Antoine
I’ve greatly enjoyed an Ambassadors Tales – the plots race along at a decent pace and they are sufficiently diverse both in tone and location to keep things fresh. Working as agents of Cardinal Richelieu during the 30 years war means that there is an underlying theme of espionage / counter-espionage in all the problems the party faces – so there is a permanent whiff of paranoia in all our dealings. Pretty much every event is considered from the perspective of “is this an honest encounter?” and “Are we being set up?” which makes for some very nice gaming experiences.
Admittedly, some of our solutions to the problems have only just succeeded (one adventure in particular was complicated by everyone rolling a string of catastrophic botches), but thus far we’ve managed to avoid being arrested & executed by Cardinal Richelieu which, ultimately, is our definition of success.
As to my fellow players & GM, I am fortunate to be in an experienced group where the level of gaming has been very high. I hope I speak for everyone when I say we have had fun playing up – and playing against – our characters foibles, flaws and secrets whilst advancing French interests.
My only complaint about the games is that the technology we depend upon – necessary because the players & GM are in different locations – is still a bit twitchy & can periodically decide to simply stop working. There have been several times when, in the midst of a critical conversation / encounter / combat the line has simply gone dead or the sound all “daleky” which does lead to “exciting frustration” as we work out what is going on!
Still, technological woes aside, its been a fantastic couple of months and I hope that there are many more to come.
Old Scouser Roleplayer playing Durand
The Ambassador’s Tale – a multi-faceted heroic romp through 17th Century Europe. What more could you ask for in a game. This was a lot of fun, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Our adventures included foiling an assassin in the Austrian alps, arranging and executing a jewel heist in Venice, infiltrating a prison in Spain, an escapade in Holland that I missed, through to undertaking a covert/diplomatic mission in England and dealing with the duplicitous Lord Pepperbox and his retinue. Keeping the Ambassador Bienvenue out of trouble while following the orders of Cardinal Richleau was a great deal of fun.
Lots of adventure, mystery and crazy plans, all carried out with equal measures of chaos, violence and luck. The mix of characters worked well with the charming, noble and efficient Joseph balanced against the stealthy, cunning and connected Antoine, both trying to rein in the proud and easily provoked Durrand. The players were great as well, lots of crazy ideas and bringing their characters to life, and this whole mix was presented via excellent GMing by our host Andrew.
Despite the technical issues we managed to get something out of most sessions – I just wish some of them were a bit longer.
I look forward to seeing Durrand ride again with his sidekicks Joseph and Antoine!
Matt playing Joesph(ine)
Our recent Monday Night Skype Escapism has been a trip to the Swashbuckling domain of 17th Century Paris, with the “proper old school” RPG “Flashing Blades”. I think that with one exception (a retro bash at “Superhero: 2044”) its the oldest rule system I’ve ever played, not least because as a player who started in the 90s I’m one of those gauche arrivistes to the hobby. So I guess my first impressions, system-wise, were a bit of a downer. I mean, skills work differently to combat, combat has some great ideas but struggles to explain itself, the character gen is…well if we weren’t doing it together I’d never have made it. Playing it is a similar experience, especially as the world as presented feels pretty pulpy, slashing and parrying and swinging and then…then you land a hit and your leg falls off. Welcome to realistic 17th century medical care! So it felt like there were certain barriers to entry in the modern age, shall we say.
But here’s the thing…it’s actually really fun. The far-to-lethal-combat is actually mechanically pretty fun, with a nice rock-paper-scissors and bluffing element to it that makes it really dynamic. The skills are really broad and there are a lot missing but that also meant that you need spread in the party and there’s always something to be both great at, and comically bad at. The period detail is great, and the setting is well laid. I think what i’m saying is that a second edition would be great, please.
We played our way through The Ambassadors Tales, a short campaign set in the service of the Cardinal and jaunting around Europe. We got to thwart assassins, steal fabulous gems, break into a prison and best Perfidious Albion, all in two-and-a-half hour chunks on a Monday Night. Its well written and flows from one scenario to the next, and gives lots of opportunity of the sort of character stuff that makes the genre tick. It suits broad stroke but interesting characters, a high tempo and lots of opportunity for tomfoolery, which our GM was good enough to provide.