Sunday, November 10, 2013

Plagues, Disasters and War

Those who read my blogs know that I often suggest knowing things like where the lumber or food is coming from. I often argue that it is important, and I have a reasonably serious reason: natural disasters. The Great Fire of London followed a massive outbreak of plague the year before. (Don’t hold me too tightly here - I’m summarizing enormously.) Meanwhile, England was at war (mainly their navy) with the Dutch. With London in shambles, the supply lines (and I believe the shipyards) were of no use in the war effort. The tide of battle turned. So what? Well let’s think about your fantasy world. Imagine your players/party are fighting a huge war against the enemy. Their city is supplying men, arms, artillery, and logistics (rations) to the war effort. All of a sudden, the capital bursts into flames and 20-25% of the population dies. Maybe it was the enemy’s saboteurs. Maybe it was just lightning. Maybe it was a cow. (OK - Mrs. O’Leary’s cow did not start the Chicago fire, but that’s a different post.) What happens on the front lines? Well, forget getting reinforcements. Forget getting new supplies, and by supplies, I mean food and ammo. Can the military in the field truly take the men and time to start hunting the region for their own supplies and wood for arrows and javelins? All of a sudden, the military’s priorities are going to shift from winning battles to surviving. That’s why it should matter, even to the gold farmers out there. Unless they have some spell caster summoning up magical food for them, they might have to start thinking about starving too. And they will need to worry about their army starving. But this is the stuff of high fantasy. Now instead of scaling the walls to kill the enemy, they need to figure a way to steal the enemy’s supplies, and possibly catch those saboteurs. Maybe their healers need to return to the city to try to stop the plague, and their fantasy army is now without magical healing. Maybe they were expecting six new navy ships to come out of the shipyards and beef up the navy, but those ships either burned or are now heading out to try and get food to feed the civilians. An enormous number of issues could arise, and most of them would cause missions. What? Your cities don’t suffer from plagues and disasters? Really? Where’s the actions and adventure in living in a utopia that never has problems? You know, stuff happens outside of the adventures. Cool stuff! Stuff that matters to the adventures and the adventurers. One serious outbreak of plague could turn the tide of war. It happened all the time throughout history.

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