Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night…

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
— inscription, James Farley Post Office (NYC)

Here’s a handy table to use when your players go hiring courtiers to ferry messages around town.

2d10     Result
2 It’s Complicated: Roll twice, ignore this result again.
3 Played for Fools! The message courier is actually in league with enemies of the PCs or recipient. The message is altered to suit the whims and designs of these enemies.
4 Intercepted! The message never makes it to the intended recipient; it has been intercepted by enemies of the PCs or the recipient.
5 Bad Choice: The courier hired to deliver the message is completely unreliable. Hours later, he is found drunk in a local tavern and has lost the message. Roll again and reduce the result by half (a roll of 10 would be 5, etc.),
6 Waylaid: The message courier is waylaid by an agent unrelated to the messaging parties. It does not reach the intended recipient.
7 Blocked: An event or problem prevents the message from ever reaching the recipient.
8 Mystery: The message reaches the recipient with no complications. An unrelated third party has somehow learned the contents of the message through secret means and uses that information to further its own agenda.
9–10 Delay: A unexpected problem arises; the message takes twice as long as expected to reach the intended recipient.
11–12 Issues: An unexpected complication delays delivery of the message, which arrives slightly later than expected.
13–14 Business as Usual: The message is delivered in the expected manner.
15–16 Good Time: The message reaches the recipient earlier than expected.
17 Excellent Time: The message reaches the recipient considerably earlier than expected.
18 Intercepted! The message makes it to the intended recipient but is intercepted along the way by enemies of either the PCs or the recipient, who now know the contents of the message.
19 Surprise: The message is delivered but the response is not what is expected.
20 Unknown/Unexpected Ally: Someone unknown to both parties is somehow aware of the message contents and acts in a way that benefits both the PCs and the recipient.

5 thoughts on “Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night…

  1. Bren

    I like the idea of a table for sending messages. Even better for sending messages over longer distances than for in town. The table adds some color and risk. Sending messages other than by a trusted agent or royal post shouldn’t be as certain and sure as sending a letter or a package today. And I think you have a good set of swashbuckling appropriate outcomes. This makes trusted retainers (who are an advantage or boon in some systems) valuable as messengers since presumably they wouldn’t need to roll on the table.

    However, the table results are somewhat negative: ~20% of the messages don’t reach their destination at all and ~10% of the messages reach there destination but are actually read by an enemy or third party first. I would question how often players would bother to send a message if they had any inkling of what the results and odds were. And if they send more than a handful of messages it will become clear that the odds of a message getting to its destination more or less on time, intact, and un-intercepted are only around 50/50. This seems like odds that probably make more sense for long distance message travel rather than an around town delivery.

    Of course I’m assuming the PCs are paying the messenger and that recipient also provides a gratuity with a timely receipt. If the PCs are getting strangers to deliver messages for free or near nothing then the odds are better than I would expect.

    EDIT: Just noticed you said hiring courtiers as messengers. OK, I totally buy that those guys are only around 50-70% reliable. Also courtiers being involved justifies the unexpected ally as a result.

    One thing that I would like would be a table organized so that a bonus or penalty could be applied for type of messenger, amount and method of pay, etc. I think I will try adapting your table to a d100 so I can do that.


    1. blusponge Post author

      Well using the 2d10 method should create something of a bell curve, so the majority of rolls should return pretty mundane results. The message arrives a bit late/the message arrives a bit early. But yes, you could easily build on this. Hire a courtier with an established reputation adds to the roll, go cheap and save a few pennies subtracts from your roll. You could also add a d10 qualifier, so say 3 in 10 chance of rolling on the bigger table. This started out as part of a bigger article idea on the speed of communication in the 17th century, so this is sort of a first pass.


    1. blusponge Post author

      I followed up on your blog.

      The article on communication is taking some time, but I may be able to get it up next week. Quick preview: rough time estimates and costs for sending overland messages by post plus some new rites that allow magical communication.


  2. Pingback: 2015: A Retrospective | …and a Brace of Pistols

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