Saturday, September 22, 2012

Military Magic

I have been criticized in the past for publishing “useless” information. By useless they mean something that does not increase the chance to hit or the amount of damage. I guess they might be slightly placated by things that give your more damage absorption potential, but they don’t really communicate that well. More about that later. I’m a big believer in role-playing games having a role-playing element to them. Funny, I seem to be in the minority about that. But even on the battlefield, I think way too much energy and effort is put into the less important things like accuracy and damage. Don’t get me wrong. When the arrows are raining from the sky and the blood is running in currents, I realize the value of doing a ton of damage, but we’re not war gamers here. Those guys died off in the last generation. So what do I think is important? Communications! I think logistics are hugely important too, but they are not as exciting. How do the units get their orders from the commanders? Sure, the charge call can be trumpeted out, then everyone roars and races forward. But while they’re roaring and running and smashing metal weapons into metal armor, how do you call retreat? Are the trumpets loud enough? What about the units that were flanking and might be out of trumpet hearing distance? If the trumpets are so important, why wouldn’t the enemy fake trumpet calls to mess soldiers up? I mean if one side sounds retreat, are they using a different retreat than the other side? Because once retreat is sounded, wouldn’t both sides fall back? OK, so we’ll assume they have different bugle calls, but still, are they secret bugle calls? Does the other side not know them? Seems kind of odd. And if it were that the bugle calls were secret, wouldn’t a clever enemy kidnap one bugler just before the battle and torture the answer out of him? I mean, we’re typically talking about enemies willing to consort with the undead and demons. Torturing some young bugler boy seems right up their alley. OK - That wasn’t the point of this blog entry. The point was - isn’t it time that the enchanters started working on means of communication and espionage instead of +1 swords? If not, shouldn’t intelligent commanders have telepaths sitting next to them at the battles, so they can send direct and secret information into the fray? Back to magic. Think of a telescope that also provided sound. That sounds like something magic could do, and WOW would that be beneficial when spying on your enemy camp. Every game has differences in the magic system, including what spells are available. In some games, spells that don’t do damage are either forgotten or considered useless. My players typically prefer to grab those “crazy” spells and find ways to make them work in the oddest arrangements. In Legend Quest, you cast spells until you pass out - none of this forgotten spell stuff. Therefore they can afford to be really good with one or two combat spells and then learn all the quirky ones. Not to get off track, but with sleep spells being so common in games, why doesn’t anyone ever spend the time to interrogate and then ransom hostages? I could easily write an entire book on the use of non-damage causing magic, with multiple chapters on how it affects warfare. How I do it doesn’t really matter in your game. What matters is if you recognize that reconnaissance, communications, and logistics have a much bigger part in military matters than the size of your sword. The sword matters! but not as much as the attention it is given.


  1. Don't worry about the damage people can reap from reading this stuff, and really don't think yourself in the minority. I often write about combat and never mention a single thing about hit points or damage dice, just cool things that if embraced by players can be more fun in combat.

  2. I have, somewhere, a prestige class for a logistics-mage . . .

  3. Logistics mage? OK - we don't use classes, but I'm interested. What spells? Teleports and other movers?