Background Surprise Events Oracle

This ruleset and it’s playtesting will be my contribution to Solo Gaming Appreciation Month. During the playtest I may need to modify the ruleset, and it’s going to be finalized after the playtest adventure is complete.

So this idea has been bothering me a while now. How to deal with events running in the background that your character wouldn’t know?

In social TTRPGs the GM rolls some things behind his screen and you as a player have no idea what is going on.

Then suddenly, in the next town you are arrested by the militia. The burgomeister was running the fence of the weapons shipment you intercepted in the name of the king and he was notified by a survivor.
Or your thief barely escaped from the castle with a hefty jewel. He rides off, and a while later he finds out the constable’s men are after him.

How can we emulate this, by keeping the element of surprise? I know the Oracles have chaos factors and interventions which you can use to add such events, but it feels too random, disconcerted, and on the whim of the solo player to use. I want something separate, running on the side.
First of all dice as a check are out of the question. If you roll dice, then you know the result, which ruins any surprise and the sense of worry. This leaves me with cards as a randomizer. I will be using a deck of poker cards with jokers.

So here goes:

Choose one time unit for card drawing and one for resolution. I find a general rule for Day-Week is quite good, but you may want something more tense.

Each day, draw a card, face down, and put it aside. Do this for the entire week. The order matters so don’t mix the cards, but put them one on top of the other.
At the end of the week, reveal the drawn cards. If you get 3 or more cards of the same suit in a row, then there is an event. If you get 3 or more cards of the same suit, spread between other suits, then you get a rumor on an event, and if this happens again in one of the next two weeks, then an event is generated. If two different suits both happen, then the suit that wins is the one with more cards. If it’s a tie, then it’s the one with the highest total. Jokers can be applied to suits of the same color. Order still applies.

For type of event see the following table.

|Hearts|Relationship, Family|
|Diamonds|Debt, Weregild|
|Clubs|Wanted, Hunted|
|Spades|Wound, Disease|

So for example:
If you get an event in Diamonds, then maybe someone the party killed had a wife and kids. He is tracked down and asked to pay a Weregild to the victims family. This can go back to something that happened several adventures ago.
If you get an event in Clubs, then maybe a wanted poster is raised on the characters because of the fight they had in the inn.
If you get an event in Hearts, then maybe a friend has come to ask a favor owed.
If you get an event in Spades, then maybe that rat bite you had when clearing the basement from the giant critters was diseased, or an old wound from the past has reopened.

In any case when the event is revealed, it’s always connected to something that had happened in the past. If the adventure is still new and there are no past events, try to connect it to the character’s background.

The event should always give a chance for the player to avoid it or come on top of the situation.
If for example the character is hunted down in the city and he’s not actively laying low, roll a search/tracking/whatever skill for the hunters against a fixed difficulty. If he’s actively laying low, then the roll is opposed vs the character’s sneak/hide/stealth roll. If he’s found, then check for ambush and run the encounter, if not, then he’s made aware of his hunters presence. For example the homeless kid could run to him in the inn, and tell him that some nefarious looking figures are asking about him.

Now, if an event has triggered in the week, really early, the event will have a bonus when rolling on avoidance. For example if the hunters were on the character’s trail since Monday, and now it’s Sunday, then they had ample time to find him and ambush him maybe.

What I like about this mechanic is that it gives the player a warning at certain times, and also the results are hidden until revealed. For example if you had a ‘rumor’ on spades, and you felt that old wound bothering you when straining, maybe you start to take things slow to avoid reopening it. So you spend the next two weeks avoiding close combat and not responding to the insults of the thugs in the tavern, just to make sure that you will have an opposed healing roll if required. Then the two weeks pass and spades events didn’t trigger, and you took all those precautions for nothing.
Or you had a ‘rumor’ trigger in clubs and you overheard the merchant about how a caravan was attacked and they are looking to find who did it. You know your character was involved, so he lays low, and when the event triggers next week in clubs, you have the bonus opposed roll for laying low.
In addition it’s a way to connect game character creation disadvantages such as Hindrances, Banes or whatever else they are called.

So, considering the cards instead of dice again, I realize it’s all about the feel. This could be done with a nice table and probabilities on a d100 die.
But having the cards face down, makes one wonder about what’s going on each day that they don’t know about.

Also maybe there could other side rules. If the player has a sixth sense, an active web of spies, insight skill, or is clairvoyant, maybe they could reveal a card in the middle of the week, based on a successful roll, and prepare accordingly.

If for any reason, the character is otherwise occupied (in a dungeon, in hyperspace) then keep drawing cards face down, but reveal them only when he is back.

Optional rules:
If there are more than 3 cards of the same suit, then increase the intensity of the event.