December 27, 2017 by crew
Welcome fellow Beasts to the final instalment in the Sharp Practice series, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
Sharp Practice by Too Fate Lardies functions very well when played as straight up games, as most of this series has demonstrated. However, if you’re after a little more story and background to your games look no further than Section Nine of the main rulebook entitled “Adding Characters”. I’ll now demonstrate the process of rolling up a quick character complete with a background that will be used in the campaign later in this article.
First, we have to decide what nationality our hero will be. Since the campaign will take place in Spain let’s make him a British Light Company Officer and roll for his first trait, his ‘Breeding’. Two dice are rolled and added together to find our officers birth and we see that he is the Illegitimate son of a Nobleman. Likely said ‘Nobleman’ purchased a commission as part of an agreement to keep his mouth shut.
I Say, Sir A Damned Ranker?
There are two types of officer, Gentlemen and Non-Gentlemen, and an officers gentleman status effects things like how easy it is for him to convince other nobles to do things he wants when he can issue duels and if he finds it easier to negotiate with civilians. Non-Gentleman officers can often get away with more than gentlemen can without it staining their honour. They can decline duels without suffering a large penalty and narrative-wise would be more inclined to beat information out of a source rather than waste time talking to him.
Next, we have to find out about our British hero’s “Character”. This influences whether or not he can issue bribes, is unpopular with his men or should best be kept away from any nearby loot. Two dice are rolled again and we find out that this man is Honourable. An honourable officer must always help a woman in need and almost all officers are honourable since it makes up a huge chunk of the chart.
Bribes can be used when words fail. If the officer has enough personal wealth he can give some of it up to attempt to pay off a civilian who could do anything from hand over a key to raising the local militia to fight on your side. Of course, some gentleman become insulted when offered a bribe and will often try to get satisfaction or aid your enemy if a bribe fails.
Next let’s see if our honourable, illegitimate hero has any special skills. To get a skill an officer needs to rolls a six on a D6 so skills are rare. As it turns out our hero hasn’t picked up any skills worth mentioning.
Skills include; a flashing blade that makes dueling easier, View Halloo which makes the officer a better horseman, Stunning Linguist which makes it easier to interact with foreign characters, Impressive Weapon which again effects in duels, Master of Disguise which is useful if you’ve made a lot of enemies and Sporting Life which makes your officer better at physical tasks like lifting heavy things or jumping wide gaps.
We’ll do the next three all together. Our hero is a Strapping fellow although he isn’t much of a looker and he’s quite charming. These are his Physique, Looks and Charisma that affect his ability to persuade characters in the game. The Mayor’s wife might be more willing to hand over the guardhouse keys to a Handsome Devil than to a Hideous Freak. These stats can also help an officer attract the attention of a lady who can be very helpful in a campaign and provides endless scenario opportunities for games.
No Small Parts Only Small Actors
Minor characters are present in a lot of scenarios where the objective might not necessarily be to wipe out the enemy. Maybe your men are desperate for supplies and the French just happen to be in town or there’s an unknown spy in the town that both sides are looking for.
The player’s discretion is used to alter the dice roll needed to succeed with tasks with modifiers like not speaking the language giving you a negative and having a lot of money giving you a bonus. If the demand is particularly unreasonable the roll receives a big negative representing things like demanding an officially neutral militia be turned out or asking for the prison keys.
So now we have our hero we need a special mission for him to be sent on so he can make a name for himself. ‘Dawns and Departures’ gives us the perfect framework to do this. The map is a simple one, three columns and eight rows make up the grid to which you then add towns, forest, roads and hills to generate your area of operations. Each player either decides or rolls off to see who’s the active player in the campaign, have you been sent to complete a task or are you here to stop the enemy?
For our campaign, the British have a noble task, of course, and the dastardly French exist only to muck it all up. You can roll for or pick a mission with eighteen different missions. Our Hero will be looking for a Spanish Guerilla Leader who has defected to the French and must be brought to justice.
The dastardly French don’t know where the Guerilla Leader is and are more worried about getting supplies than his safety for the time being. The British are fortunate and have some small outposts in the Region that can alert them if the French get too close.
I’m Off On An Adventure
The British player has fourteen bags of supplies while the French only has six. Each turn represents either a morning or an afternoon and two turns make up one day. One bag of supplies is consumed per turn and if a force runs out of supplies they can only take one action a day instead of two. Troops can forage with towns and villages being better places to find supplies than mountains and swamps.
The forces are now organised with the British choosing a Light Column with more Line troops, wagons to carry the sick and a doctor to get men back in action while the French have also selected a Light Infantry force but elected to spend their extra points on more troops and not campaign equipment. During a Campaign, players can choose upgrades like signal stations that boost a forces spotting range or engineers that can build bridges or blow them up.
The players take it in turns to secretly move their forces with a Moderator keeping track. At the start of each turn a random event can occur, getting more likely to occur, six on turn one, five or six on turn two, with a successful roll resetting the score needed, triggering an event and restarting the process.
The events range from rain soaking your men and their powder which means you can’t shoot your firearms in games to your own men deserting and joining the enemy. Other events include a woman asking for your aid and joining your party if you stop to help her all the way to locals believing a Werewolf is nearby and demanding you stop and look for it.
Forces can detach small elements to scout ahead, forage or screen the army. Cavalry is especially good in these roles and can be removed from the game to screen the army meaning that if you lose the game they can soften the blow or increase your degree of victory by covering a retreat or pouncing on a defeated enemy respectively. The French player decided to use his Cavalry as a Reserve to unleash on an unsuspecting enemy as they retreat.
Players can move along roads without penalty, however, moving in a forest or town is more difficult and players have to roll on a chart that tells them whether they can move as normal or if it takes them two turns instead. Local troops, like Patriot Militia during the War of Independence, get a bonus to this roll.
They See Me Rolling!
Earlier I talked about wagons and they’re very important during a campaign. Wagons carry supplies, wounded men, extra food and ammunition and can be abandoned after a bad loss and leaves your force without any supplies. When men are killed in action there is a chance that they can be saved by rolling on a chart depending on who’s accompanying your force with a priest being better than nothing but a doctor is the best healer.
Men are then either able to return to duty, wounded or dead. Wounded men must be carried in carts while dead men are buried with no other effects, healthy men can immediately join any group they like although a Hussar can’t become a Rifleman etc. Abandoning the wounded will affect the troops available in future campaigns as well as potentially affecting the post-campaign rewards available to your leader.
Combat is simple when two forces collide a game is played and the results affect the campaign. Maybe it’s worth losing this village if it means keeping most of your force intact while one or two groups try to cause as much damage as possible in a rearguard or maybe those Riflemen are being extremely annoying and you want to blind your enemy by focusing on them.
Time For A Brandy
At the end of the campaign, each player scores points for winning the campaign, killing enemies and capturing officers while losing points when their Leaders and special allies are killed. During our Campaign, Captain Taylor managed to capture the Guerilla, drive off the French and rescued a Damsel at the same time. This Campaign Captain Taylor ended up with a result of eight for the campaign. A D6 is then rolled and subtracted from the result, in this case it was a one leaving Taylor with a final score of seven.
He would get a huge boost to his reputation and some gold to boot, it turns out this particular Guerilla leader had kidnapped someone very important. Taylor is on his way to fame and glory and was rewarded with two purses which represent either loot found in the Guerilla camp, a special reward from his commanding Officers like a sword or spyglass or even a cash prize from Wellington himself.
Purses can also be earned in game by looting or helping people and can be spent to buy influence, ransom officers or soften his mistakes like letting a friend die during the campaign.
Old Friends & New Chums
Now let’s take one last look at the campaign and see some of the types of people we can encounter during our mission. The first is the sworn enemy, at the end of each campaign test to see if your leader has earned himself an enemy. That enemy will then lead the opposition force during the next campaign and is worth more victory points if killed.
The next kind of person is the ‘Pocket Book’. These are people with influence or talents and include exploring officers, priests, friendly officers and doctors who may be employed at half cost in the future and help your character gain influence at the end of the campaign and really help you tell a story.
If a pocketbook dies, however, your reputation can take a slight hit, maybe they died like a hero and there was nothing you could do about it but no one can support your story or maybe your incompetence got a Priest killed and your Catholic Spanish allies aren’t pleased.
Women may also be encountered and play an important role in the narrative acting as potential love interests and allow you to re-roll a result on the injury chart, potentially saving your officers life or the lives of your men.
Quelle Affaire, Dear Reader
Throughout this article, there are some pictures of Campaign maps that I quickly generated and sketched up. The first is an example of a North American map, the second is an example of a Northern European map, the third is an example of a Spanish map and the last is an example of a Middle Eastern/Indian map. Whether it’s on paper, on a screen or with beautifully made custom tiles Sharp Practice campaign maps can scale to any skill level.
I ran my own campaign using ‘Dawns & Departures’ as a framework. We used hexes, set it in the backwoods of the Carolinas and have run four campaigns this way that was a lot of fun. As brilliant as the system is don’t be scared to change it and build on it to tell your own stories.
And we come to the end of our look at Sharp Practice. I’d like to thank you guys for reading and Beasts of War for giving me the opportunity. Will you be giving the rules a go? Let me know in the comments and have fun exploring the Black Powder Era.
Post some comments below and let @Elessar2590 know what you thought.
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"I'll now demonstrate the process of rolling up a quick character complete with a background that will be used in the campaign later in this article..."
"Women may also be encountered and play an important role in the narrative acting as potential love interests and allow you to re-roll a result on the injury chart, potentially saving your officers life or the lives of your men..."