18 April 2021

How to Create a Swashbuckler in Flashing Blades

Flashing Blades, published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1984, is a game "set in 17th Century France; the France of the bland King Louis XIII, the dynamic King Louis XIV, the evil Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, the dashing three musketeers, and countless other swashbucklers, dandies, cavaliers, rogues, villains, highwaymen, and cutthroats; a time when duels, brawls, and high adventure were the order of the day."

Allow me to introduce my first character for Flashing Blades:

Name: Pierre Rocher

Strength: 13
Dexterity: 12 [rolled 14, but lowered by 2 to raise Charm by 1]
Endurance: 16 [rolled 15, +1 due to combined Height and Build]
Wit: 10
Charm: 8 [rolled 7, but raised by 1 by lowering Dexterity by 2]
Luck: 5

Height: (Average) [chosen]
Build: (Stocky) [rolled]

Hit Points: 14 [10 modifed by Strength, Endurance, Luck, and Build]
Encumbrance: 13 [10 modified by Strength, Endurance, Dexterity, and Build]

Background: Soldier
Regiment: Royal Dragoons

Bargaining (Wit) [2 skill points]
Captaincy (Charm) [1 skill point]
Carousing (Endurance) [2 skill points]
Espionage (Wit) [2 skill points]
Horsemanship (Dexterity)[free due to martial training in the Dragoons]
Strategy (Wit) [1 skill point]

Martial Skills
Dueling, Cavalry Style, Expertise: 10
Firearms, Expertise: 9 [normally 8, but +1 by spending 1 skill point]

Advantage: Wealth (Well-off, +200L/year)
Secret: Secret Loyalty

Yearly Allowance: 400 L [150 L rolled + 200 L advantage +50 L pay as sergeant]

Social Rank: 4 (Sergeant)

The Royal Dragoons have provided Pierre Rocher with a helmet, leather jerkin, gauntlets, padded breeches, boots, a riding horse (and gear), a sabre, and two flintlock pistols. Additional equipment may be purchased normally.

Character creation in Flashing Blades is fairly simple and the pertinent rules are mostly confined to one section, but there are enough exceptions and decision points to prevent it from being called a quick process. The six attributes are generated by rolling 3D6 for Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Wit, Charm and Luck. One attribute of the player's can be raised, if so desired, by 1 point in exchange for lowering another by 2 points. Height {Tall, Average, Short} and Build {Thin, Average, Stocky} are determined next, the combination of which can affect one's attributes. One of these may be chosen by the player, but the other must be determined by a 2D6 roll on a table. If, after the attributes have been rolled and modified, the total value of the character's attributes are less than 54, the player my take the difference and distribute these points as desired. Hit Points for all characters start at 10 and are modified according to a table based on Strength, Endurance, and Luck. Encumbrance value also starts at 10 and is modified by Strength, Endurance, and Dexterity. Both Hit Points and Encumbrance value can be further modified by Build.

The next step is to choose the character's background category, of which the choices are Rogue, Gentleman, Soldier, and Nobleman. This will determine the character's skills, rank, position, and wealth at the start of the game. Skill Points start at 10, modified by Wit and Luck, and are used to purchase skills. Skills cost 1, 2, or 3 Skill Points, depending on whether they are Bonus Skills of the character's background, normal background skills, or skills from a different background respectively. Competence in any skill is measured by its governing attribute. Martial skills are handled differently. There is a base Expertise every character has in different combat abilities, and these are modified by specializations in one of six different civilian organizations in the case of Rogues, Gentlemen, and Noblemen, or one of nine different company types in the case of Soldiers.

Players then choose an Advantage and/or a Secret to further differentiate their characters and provide potential plot hooks for the Gamemaster.

A character's yearly allowance is determined by rolling 1D6 on a table and consulting the appropriate background column, which yields a result from 50 to 500 silver Livres.

Social Rank is determined by a character's background, and may be modified by military rank, membership in an Order, and the possession of titles.

Of all the early swashbuckling role-playing games, Flashing Blades is probably the one I'd enjoy the most. Character creation is not overly complicated (compared to its peers), and it succeeds in conveying the details of the setting and the flavor of the genre, both of which would make character visualization much easier. The skill and combat rules, although falling short of my preference for lighter systems, are still more suited to swashbuckling than those of most competing role-playing games. There are a number of interesting rules I wouldn't hesitate to incorporate into other, newer, systems, and I might write more on this in the future. Overall, Flashing Blades is a game I would happily play.

[For more articles in this series, visit How to Create a Swashbuckler.]

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