In the history of the world of Fletnern, there was a major war, not too long ago. Depending on which campaign you’re in, it was 25-30 years ago, or as I like to think about it - the last generation. But why did it happen?
Well, in reality, it started 10 years before that (game time) when I was running a campaign and wanted the party embroiled in the war. The group of players didn’t really work out, so when that campaign died, I sort of postponed the war. It had already started, so I had to come up with game reasons that it got postponed. So then it started up again, and the new campaign(s) got involved. Those were the olden days when I really wasn’t that good a GM and I let the party win every time. So the obvious winner of the war wound up losing. Now I’m older, wiser, and a better GM (at least I think so). So now I have to ret-con the whole thing. Most of this pretty close to the original, but I’ve added a lot.
The original cause of the start of the war (35-40 years ago) was that a group of thieves had stolen the crown jewels of the continent’s military power house. They fled to a city of mixed halflings, humans and centaurs, with the army just a couple of days behind them. The thieves were a little surprised at the reaction to their caper, never expecting the entire army to be mobilized. What they didn’t know was that the army had been drooling for a chance to attack a couple of cities and expand their territory. This was the excuse they needed.
After sacking the thieves’ city, they realized that the crown jewels weren’t there. They also realized that going after thieves with an army isn’t exactly the best way to get things done. Not only are soldiers bad at spotting thieves, but what would happen if some enterprising infantry man were to find the jewels and not tell his officers? Not only that, but the logistics guys were completely unprepared for war. The food and rations had not been stored, nor had the arrows and bolts. There was no way they could properly support the full military in the field. So the military returned home and began to plan for the future. Lessons were learned during that “skirmish”.
Now the military powerhouse is run by a “conclave” of generals. These guys don’t always agree with each other, so it took ten long years before they were able to negotiate their aggression against the other cities. When next the military came out and started to move north, it was a different model. This wasn’t a screaming horde of men bent on vengeance, but a disciplined army determined to conquer key strategic points on the continent in order to make it impossible for any force to even move against them in the future. Contingents accepted the surrender of the two unwalled cities (northwest and northeast), and the main contingent laid siege to largest (and walled) city on their northern border.
The siege went well. They attacked in early summer when last year’s grain was getting a little thin, but none of the current crops had been harvested. It is nearly impossible to maintain a city of over 200,000 entirely on stores. (The army had also negotiated peace and support from some of the larger intermediary countries without letting the secrets get out.) Peace talks did little to stall the inevitable. Within a couple of weeks, the defending military was already starting to weaken from hunger and the people were not willing to form a militia and face the massive military outside their gates. Rather than wait for the defenders to launch an offensive, the attackers attacked the city with an unending barrage of artillery. When the ram hit the main gate, it more fell over than was knocked in.
With the nobles and refugees streaming out of the city, the army walked in and took over. Three cities down - easily. But this is where we have to stop. Why? Why did the most powerful military in the continent decide they needed to take over other cities? Why risk the lives of their sons in order to take other cities and invite the anger and “liberating forces” of other city-states? Well - There is the idea that they were open to attack on this border and needed to secure their own borders or risk attack. Everyone, even the lowest soldier, knew that was pretty much bullshit. After the battle ten years ago, they took some war slaves. This was probably one of the main motivational forces. Combining greed (for war slaves) with the idea that a large military must do something or it becomes too much of a drag on society, and you have the main points of why they went out. Why else? Well there have been some who believe that the businesses who supplied weapons and armor lobbied strongly for offensive action expecting that war would be good for business. This may have some merit, but it is not as though they weren’t making money before the war.
Motives - They're great for not only making sense, but for giving you more sparks that lead to adventures and missions.