Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Merchant War vs. Military War

You’ve seen the posts where we discuss the current merchant war brewing on Fletnern. I’ve done “real” wars before – You know, thousands of soldiers charging across a plain against thousands of soldiers. Truth is - I don’t think that role-playing characters belong in the middle of several thousand soldiers. Few if any games handle that well. The glass cannons become the only effective pieces and the warriors are reduced to shields for the mages.
So why a “merchant war”? Well, when the really big firms/cartels/merchant houses go at it, they are:
1 – very likely to hire adventuring type people – including assassins and small unit fighters
2 – very likely to be sneaky and mean if not outright evil
3 – very likely to have a lot of money
4 – very likely to be fighting against similarly odd groups of enemies as opposed to a huge number of reasonably identical soldiers
OK – 2 and 3 are likely in either type of warfare
We’ve talked about militaries retreating before - it’s not easy. Merchant wars lend themselves to smaller battles, often fought in city alleys or warehouses. If anything, they favor the subtle mages; fireballs will bring in guards from every neighborhood, but a disintegrate spell will do the job quickly and quietly. Adventurers fighting a merchant war can make a major difference, something they really shouldn’t be able to do in the major military actions.
Watch how our current mini-campaign work itself out. You’ll see what I’m talking about!

1 comment:

  1. Take a look at the 16c-17c, there were trade wars between England and the Netherlands and hostilities between England and Spain that were what amounts to mercantile wars. Nations used privateers (Pirates to many) to forward their objectives

    There were also the Opium Wars in 19c over rights to sell Opium in China, but that did involve armies. The Raj was a corporate invasion of Indian subcontinent, but that too used armies.
    Merchant or mercantile wars ar not always characteristically sneaky and small nor are inter nation wars, take the Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar on 27 August 1896. The conflict lasted approximately 40 minutes.
    Even in big wars, critical missions are often down to small units or individuals:
    - Assassin leaving note and dagger in pillow of opposing army's leader. (Happened early in Islamic History)
    - Modern day special ops teams (SAS or Spetnaz) disrupting supplies communications and gathering intelligence.
    - Fantasy - Lord of The Rings Saga or numerous other Fantasy novels. Small group sent of to find or destroy the artifact or seek some individual who needs eliminating or who essential to the cause.
    Conflict of all sorts has its challenges for Player and GM. It is down to the GM to find the most suitable role for the player and not the most obvious.