Sunday, May 26, 2013

Major Wars in RPGs

Years ago, I wrote a magazine article on this, but I’m guessing that most people reading this blog do not have access to some old out of print regional RPG mag. After that last post, I wanted to give some reasons that major wars are great for RPGs -ALL genres of RPG, but I’ll focus on fantasy. First - governments spend more money on weapons and defenses during a war -huge money! For fantasy, this means the government paying for magical weapons to be created to give to their operatives or officers. This increases the number of magical weapons and defenses in the world, expanding the stuff people can loot. Plus, they tend to get more inventive during wars, so there will be different types of magical stuff then there might have been before. Second - no war is going to be over quickly. That means that they serve as sub-campaigns within the overall campaign. I mean, that is where the term campaign was borrowed from. So these aren’t one shot adventures, but instead developing sub-plots that can really hold the interest of all the players. Third - the enemy should have so many men, that the player characters cannot simply go out and kill them all. If the PCs can slaughter the whole enemy army singlehandedly (and in the old D&D rules, they really could), then you need to be playing a different game! The fun part of this is that some players have never actually met their match in battle. By putting them up against an invading army, even if they are six times better than the common enemy soldier, they will get worn down by the constant press of enemies until they retreat or die. My last point (and I could really go on for hours), is that wars force GMs to develop different types of missions. Maybe the first thing is defending a wall. Does the wall hold or do they have to flee? As they flee, there will be skirmishes along the way to the next battle site. Are their raids against each other’s camps? Do the players need to help with the logistics (maybe hunting some meat, gathering more militia, guarding a weapons shipment)? Do different styles of units need to be handled in different ways? (Wow, I hope so!) Can the players get involved in any of the negotiations, maybe simply as bodyguards or messengers? Are there any dirty tricks going on, either offensively or defensively? Clearly the point is to develop the war as a major thing - tens of thousands of soldiers converging on a couple of spots, some drama leading up to the actual battles, reactions to the battles themselves, etc. I actually write out how the major battles are going to turn before playing through them, because I refuse to believe that a small squad of adventurers can turn the tide of a major battle. A couple of times, I’ve needed to alter that course, which is fun too. By knowing how things are going to turn, I can write it up almost like it’s a wilderness adventure with a series of encounters, which makes it easier for me to run.

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