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Let's talk about war, /tg/. This thread is meant to talk about war within tabletop RPGs.

This thread is NOT to talk about tabletop wargames. There are other threads for that.

There are two broad categories to be discussed here with regard to war. They are:

>War as a theme

For both GMs and Players alike, we are curious about and want to have our characters and worlds experience the total experience that is being part of mankind's oldest pass time. Whether starting your game in the midst of shells flying, or experiencing the intrigue of a build up to the opening sword clashes between antagonistic nations, there are many fascinating situations offered by this kind of theme.

War as a theme does not always imply combat. There are many adventures to be had behind the lines in the civilian world, where the war is a distant thing that makes every day living more and more desperate. What have you done in the past as a GM? As a player?

>War as a game mechanic.

It is easy to talk about war as a theme. It is harder to actually mechanically represent it within the framework of whatever game system you are running. As any GM who has tried to tackle this theme before knows, actually running a war is painful, tiring, and very time consuming. Depending on the size of a battle or engagement in question, players and their characters can find themselves quickly at the mercy of the chaos of battle, and they no longer have any agency to influence the outcome of a battle. Even the best swordsman in the world will die to a single rock from a trebuchet.

>Mass combat

Mass combat rules exist as a way to try and manage this chaos. There are many systems out there and some have more successful applications of mass combat than others. Have you used one? Do you know of one and have not used it? In either case, talk about your experience of knowledge of mass combat and its application (hypothetical or otherwise). We need to build a knowledge pool of these mechanics - in particular the ones which are successfully applied.

My definition of successful application is as follows: a mass combat system that both enables the experience of large scale warfare (hundreds of individual entities fighting to thousands) and permits player characters to possess some measure of agency to influence the outcome of warfare.

>Macroscopic management systems

Within mass combat rules for individual battles, systems also exist to manage the macroscopic scale of war beyond battlefields; the behaviour and activities of military organizations, nations, and the like. These include; troop movements, logistics and support, communications, command, and control. Sometimes these systems are separate, sometimes they are not. Talk about them too.

The Kingmaker system of D&D/Pathfinder are known examples of this last subject. GURPS being... well, GURPS, has its own approach to this subject as well, though I don't know anything about how it works. I would prefer to draw the spotlight to lesser known systems that attempt to tackle these common mechanical problems; how they work and how they do it well, or don't do it well. Again, we need to create a knowledge pool here.


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This is dumb. If you want to play a wargame play a wargame. RPG's came about specifically because of the interesting things you could do when scaling wargames down away from large mass combat to the level of individual fighting men and putting them into dangerous and fantastical situations. This isn't a difficult subject to tackle. It's narcissistic to want player characters to have a meaningful effect on the outcome of whole battles or wars and still put them on the front lines. Not even in the Illiad do the mighty gods and heroes have that much effect on the outcome of battles and themselves get wounded, killed and pushed out of the conflict at times. War kills people, if you don't want to deal with your special snowflake dying don't play a game with combat in it. This aversion to character death and weird over attachment to stat-sheets with fantasy names written on the top of them is a symptom of the autistic rot that grips rpgs. Roll 3d6 in order, die, roll 3d6 in order. Leave war for the conscripts, there are treasures to loot, dragons to slay and women to love in the far away lands of adventure.



> >he doesn't come up with mass combat rules

When I want to play a wargame I play a wargame. That's the point. The two types of games implicitly have a different scope and are tailored to being best played in that scope.



> In the grim darkness of 40 Mil. there's only war





I found that a great way to start an Evil campaign is to set it in wartime. Especially if you start at low level.

Maybe your players are a bunch of people down on their luck, desperate enough to try banditry to survive. Their homes have been ravaged by war, their loved ones slain or taken away, you name it. But they decided not to run away, to become another refugee. No, they'll have their revenge. So they started ambushing the enemy soldiers, poisoning their food, stealing their equipment, you know, doing murderhobo stuff.

The best part about this is that it gives you and your players the chance to act as sympathetic villains with reasonable motivations. You started out as normal people, but then circumstances changed you into monsters. And then those monsters started leveling up and finding new ways to survive in a world that's turning more and more against them. Because lets face it: If you had a group of heavily armed men running around the country, capable of leveling cities with their spells and slaying entire armies with enchanted weapons, you'd want to stop them or coerce them to work for you, right? It's honestly a wonder that your regular adventuring party isn't something government-founded, especially when you consider the fact that these dudes might end up capable of ending Gods.

Anyway, your bandit party will attract the attention of something bigger than themselves. Maybe they're forced to run into a nearby dungeon as a way to escape a search party (which might be another group you're running, only these guys have no idea that the people they're chasing after are the other group) so now they're stuck dungeon crawling. Maybe they decided to turn to necromancy in order to stand a chance against a stronger foe, or they stuck a deal with some demonic entity that wants them to sow chaos and destruction. Hell, maybe they unleash a Balor just so the enemy army has to deal with it, and they can get away.

But, if you are focusing on war, then the focus should be on more mortal affairs. Humans, elves, dwarves etc. are all perfectly capable of causing horrible shit on their own. So focus less on monsters and focus more on the affairs between the various mortal factions. Your bandits will be hunted down by enemy soldiers (and the other party), who're trying desperately to stop a bunch of criminals from going around, killing everyone and summoning demons and undead. They will be hunted down by other bandits, who're trying to get their loot or bounty. They'll be hunted down by a bunch of bounty hunters, or other people desperate enough to go after them because they've been promised redemption and a pardon if they do so. They'll be hunted down by orc warbands because the local chief smelled weakness, and is now chasing them down in order to appease his gods by slaying the toughest motherfuckers around. You get the idea.

The fun part here though, is that it opens the gateway to some political fuckery. Your players might end up approached by an important member of the royal family, now in exile. He knows that they're "loyal" to the old king and the old country, and might offer them a pardon for everything wrong they've done if they start killing in his name. A bunch of powerful saboteurs is a neat thing to have on your side. Go to the occupied town and cast a spell that will burn down the barracks. Kill some important general. Steal a powerful weapon, then deploy it in the middle of town square.Cause a plague. Do whatever, be Evil, just help us with our political goals. Of course, the royal brat might have no intention of ever pardoning them, and will sentence them to death the moment this insane bunch of murderhobos has done their job.

As for the monsters themselves, they might end up becoming occasional encounters instead of regular mainstay of your campaign. The focus should be on kingdom vs kingdom, and kingdoms usually fight wars using regular men and women. The war will be low-level and dirty. When monsters appear, that usually means shit's about to go south REAL fast: undead will spawn on their own near giant battlefields, orcs will start raiding the already wrecked countryside, dragons will show up and destroy entire armies when they approach too close to its cave, and so on. They should be treated as encounters in true sense of the word. Again, you get the idea: To wage war is human, not monstrous.


I'm thinking of having a one shot for a bunch of high level PC's fighting a overwhelming force to protect the last stronghold of man. The first hour or two will be collecting extra men and gaining powerful allies before the battle or assaniate low level comanders in the other armies.

The next three hours will be filled with grueling combat. Of course, the first encounters wil lbe simple, but as the battle continues, and as magic healing begins to dissapate, it will slowly get more dangerous for the PC's.

Would be pretty funny for a badly wounded warrior after cleaving through 100 men to finally fight a minor dragon in a duel.


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When you play out war on a larger scale, you're playing more of a board game. Wargames merely simulate small skirmishes between a few groups in a small area. Board games can simulate battles taking place over entire countries. Since we're not talking about either of those, that means we're down to the more micro scale available in war. A few guys in the conflict against a few other guys. It's effectively just an encounter. A random encounter with a handful of soldiers. In the larger scale, you can see soldiers, platoons, infantry, and other units moving towards larger goals. At the 'boots on the ground' scale, it's a bunch of guys trying not to get killed and being told where to go to try and not be killed.

Where a lot of us stumble is trying to think of war as something where we need to be aware of every possible soldier on the ground and simulate their every action, attack, and maneuver. That's just setting yourself up for a huge headache. One group of soldiers can do everything right, capture every city they enter, kill every enemy they encounter, and still lose the war, because war is so much more than just a handful of small skirmishes. It's territory control, supply routes, industrial production, tactical retreats, and lots and lots of politics.

So, what you can do is think of war as a setting. It's not a simple ruleset or a few helpful ideas for the GM to play with, it's the backdrop and mood for a larger storyline. It's a hellish slog of constant conflict and struggle for seemingly no reason with no clear end in sight. It's trudging for days through foreign lands, constantly fearing that the enemy will ambush you at any moment. It's killing fiddy men and feeling like you didn't make any difference at all. In between, there will be chances to make a difference. Relaying the enemy's plans to your allies, interrupting supply lines, freeing POWs, blowing up enemy factories, but it won't feel like winning. War IS hell, after all.



War is great as a setting, both during and immediately after one.

>Instead of finding each other in a pub, the party gathered as guards for a merchant caravan that goes through war-torn lands. Since the merchant they're working for comes from the invading kingdom, everyone around wants to fucking kill him, and your job is to protect him. Then shit hits the fan.

>The players are all immigrants who've come to a country recovering from war. The local lord has offered them land and cash to start their new life there, if they decide to settle down. While traveling to their new home, shit hits the fan.

Go nuts.



How about using that confusion to make the campaign yourself?

>30 years war level destruction

>You're a small group of soldiers

>The war has degenerated into traveling bands that fight one another out of fear that the other side is still organized enough to put up resistance

>They're not

>Even others who wear your uniform/emblem can be hostile, as food/survival are more important than whatever the war is about

>Large groups from either side wander around, both are more concerned with wiping out the other side and pressganging or punishing "deserters" (that word doesn't even mean anything at this point, command and control is fucked) than actually engaging the other side

>Small pockets of civilian life are often organized in self defense, expect walled off towns or heavily patrolled farms

>Party has to carefully navigate all of this

Specific objectives could be:

>Escaping the area

>Completing a report of specific towns

>Mapping out where the heavy ordinance even is at this point

>Finding out if a pass or road is clear enough to send in a larger mercenary force to clean up the mess

>Burning the other enemy's crops (hardmode: run by farmers from your country)

>Heart of Darkness: finding out someone actually orchestrated all this, a noble/politician intentionally created the quagmire, maybe they're actually loyal to a smaller third power or for magical reasons like marking the whole area as a sacrificial offering (could also start everyone with a mysterious mark on their shoulder or something that they don't notice for a while as a clue)

>Maybe one of the governments uses this as a distraction from something terrible on the homefront

>The front in this area is just used to dispose of nobles or military officers that can cause a problem for some sort of pseudo-communist fifth column

Also, this all fits well in the same genre:




*itself, not yourself in the first sentence


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Thread OP here.


In a way you are missing the intent of the thread, but your criticism of its spirit does have merit. If war is wanted, why play a roleplaying game where the intent is to focus on a small group of people and their actions, where the actions of small groups tend to be minimized?

You are also correct that with many groups (your group experience and tastes will inevitably vary) there is quite the aversion to character death, yet the fundamental risk with what we do when we play or run these games -is- ultimately that. Death. If there is no risk, is there really a story being told here? A story has to have an end and I can think of no more final, nor no better example, of the representation of an ending than with death, and the decision chain that lead to that final moment of sacrifice. If we can be defined by anything, let it be said that we can be defined by what we have chosen to die for.

I am fortunate to be part of a group where at least half the players - myself being included - do not fear death in the sense that if it occurs, we will not rage at the GM for it. Ultimately, the dice and our actions determine the possibility and arrival of that consequence.


You are without a doubt correct, but scopes can be altered. When you run a game where the players are mech pilots, a single infanteer with his battlerifle seems beneath their notice or insignificant. So you must raise their numbers to squads or sections of men working together as part of a platoon which means creating some form of swarm mechanic that interacts in a fair manner with the PC's mech.

This is the reason starship combat mechanics are designed for science fiction games. The scope is, in a sense, still personal in that the PC's are members of the ship's crew or command team, and their actions determine the ship's overall performance. There are games which simulate this very well - Coriolis comes to mind. Stars Without Number as well. Having played those games, GMed and played Rogue Trader to compare, I find that Rogue Trader actually doesn't do starship combat very well, so I have had to leave it behind.

>He doesn't come up with mass combat rules.

I suppose this was a response to a removed post. But it isn't very easy to create functional mass combat rules for systems that may not possess them at outset. I have had to playtest on the fly mass combat rules I have designed myself and often the problems arise as more and more dice rolling are involved. The system becomes too chaotic and ultimately players feel powerless to affect anything.





These are excellent ideas. I Would like to see more.


>You are playing more of a board game.

You are more right than you think. There is a picture attached to this post called "SWN: The Contested Zone" I created that for a campaign that never took off. Ultimately, the idea is that there are two simultaneous perspectives going on.

On the tactical level, on the ground, the player characters are mech pilots in charge of very powerful warmachines.

On the strategic level, the player perspective moves from the characters they created, to three characters I created for them. Each player takes on the mantle of a high ranking staff officer in the military that their Mech Pilots are part of. Using this map, those staff officers review the current state of the war and decide where they should send their soldiers next. The mech pilots cannot be everywhere across the solar system at once - so conflict between other elements of the task force and enemy forces on the other worlds are resolved at this level using a simple dice roll (with some modifiers - not unlike Twilight Imperium's combat mechanics in fact). That one dice roll represents a week's worth of combat.

Meanwhile, the PC mech pilots are deployed to what the Flag Officers deem 'strategically important objectives'. And next session, we run a game focused exclusively on their pilots until that mission is done. Then, the final hour of the session is flipped to the Flag officer perspective. Rinse repeat until one of the campaign victory or defeat conditions are reached.


There's a few minor issues/hurdles to overcome. Not saying you need to address all of them depending on your players, but maybe worth considering:

> What works in battle for a party might not work for an army. Tactics can be very different and terrain, ranged, mounted, and what everyone wields can have a big effect.

> Morale works exponentially more with an army. Bad (and good) news spreads like wildfire.

> You almost have to manage a town. Food, waste, travel, discipline, on top of avoiding ambush and sabotage.

> Magic throws all of the above into disarray. With enough big bags of holding, portable holes, teleportation spells, or portals; you can make an army appear out of "thin air". Even if you can't, there are spells to make shelter and food. And that's not including spells that aid in combat.


YouTube embed. Click thumbnail to play.

How about WAR as a back-drop? This was done in Avatar: The Last Airbender.


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War... what is it good for?



Good excuse to mix things up.

>party visits place it's been before

>since they left one faction conquered the place or collapse of infrastructure means serious shortages and things have changed

Good excuse for quest hooks

>faction wants some work done

>strain of war on resources means townspeople more desperate for help

The tendency toward violence and murder-hoboism makes more sense when the backddrop of the setting is people trying to kill each other.



I'd just like to let you know I'm stealing this idea and running with it. I've been looking for a good low level story to run, and this is just perfect. Thank you Anon.



>These are excellent ideas. I Would like to see more.

Thanks OP. Expanding on this:


Much of the confusion that comes from being stuck in the middle of a war can be a good excuse to use diplomatic attributes. Roaming bands of soldiers with questionable loyalties gives a better breadth of options. You can talk them down (maybe) or at least keep them occupied while everyone gets in position. Stealing/reaving/etc. gives rogue characters something to do in the middle of the clusterfuck that would otherwise benefit fighters more than anyone else.

The whole MAD doctrine means that having a conspicuously powerful character might be a hindrance given that everyone else would be itching to get rid of them ASAP.

I didn't hit on it as much as I would've liked in the first post but having command and control almost nonexistent has been a massive success in my campaigns. Everything is dangerous and the quest is tentative at best so if you just roughly map out the area and have a simple encounter table, the players get all the control but within a specific framework. The Dark Knight quote about chaos making everything fair is totally applicable, it can be a huge boon for underpowered or low level characters to really just run with it. Smart players are a ton of fun with this sort of thing.


File: a20b9bb068bba57⋯.gif (565.58 KB, 449x360, 449:360, 14222248569360.gif)


>War... what is it good for?

Mobilization. Science. Religion. Domination. Communication. Teleportation. Industry.




I know you mean Transportation, but imagining teleporting knight shock troops is just too amusing.



That's how it was in the original lyrics.






General Motors, International Business Machines, Newsweek, Cable News Network, Universal European, Independent Television, Video Cassette Recorder.

Reuters, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Siemens, Sony, Universal European, Deutsche Arbeitsfront, Volkswagen

I complement your taste in music, which matches my own.



Are there any RPG games where each player leads a unit, small enough that they still get shot at, but large enough that most of the killing is being done by NPCs under your command?

Or maybe something to do with insurgency/counterinsurgency, where the player characters are special forces operators training and leading local forces against the Taliban, or Vietcong cadres trying to recruit farmers and ambush American convoys?



With the latter, I mean something with an integral hearts and minds mechanic, where you can charm or intimidate the locals into doing what you want, with the political consequences of your actions being determined by the setting. So in an SS campaign in Ukraine, your boss doesn't bat an eye when you kill everyone in a village, but it can get your character arrested in Vietnam(maybe).


I've run a lot of systems attempting to make their respective mass combat rules run in a way that was fun, organic, and fast paced. Exalted, Birthright, Saga Edition Star Wars, Pathfinder and a few others. For me, the best system I've found, hands-fucking-down, was the Savage Worlds system. It's not as crunchy as lot of people would like, but that's the point. You (the GM) can make your own modifiers for mixed units, comparative unit strength, etc., by simply giving one side or the other a plus or minus on the all-important Battle roll or less of the tokens which serve as one side's "hit points" AND the PCs can still effectively influence the outcome of a battle; they're not just tumbleweeds caught up in a hurricane they can very well be the reason an under-strength, out gunned unit succeeds when, under any other circumstance, it would've failed. It can (and does) lead to mass combat that the PCs fear getting into for the right reasons (ie, lethality, and not the fear of a slow-paced, boring-ass number crunch-a-thon) and is fast enough paced to be as exciting as any normal encounter they're likely to run into.

I am presently running a hombrewed fantasy setting using the Savage Worlds system, the PCs have been involved in three mass combats, and all have gone off with less fussing and more speed than any other system I've attempted thus far. Usually one mass combat using any of the other systems took the the entire game session and even spilled into a second. None of the mass combat scenarios that have taken place so far have taken up half a session. I'm trying to think of ways to add it to non-savage worlds systems like d20 and others.

Pros: the rules governing it are approx. 2 pages long in the Deluxe Edition core book, so no lengthy pauses in the middle of a huge battle to consult the book looking for a (usually non-existent) ruling on an obscure rules question. It can be used at any scale; a skirmish between two platoons or two armies/navies.

Con: Narrative. (note: this may not be seen as a con for a lot of GM's (like me) who use mass combat as a way of telling the story of a conflict without expository NPC dialog the players will never EVER, EVER remember, much less consider.) The GM ultimately "interprets" the result of the dice rolls as things that happen, so it DE-emphasizes things like tactics and strategies used by the PCs by relegating such things to a modifier. Ex. one side rolls really well this round, the GM then narrates what that roll looked like in terms of casualties taken, damage done, to the side that didn't do well. What happens round-to-round to the PCs and their side of the mass combat IS still determined by a roll but what that "looks" like is described by the GM.



Also want to add that, as a GM, the system doesn't terrify me to run it. No 3+ hours of game prep and hunting down unit/vehicle stats and making sure there is/isn't some OP, out-of-CR out-of-ECL, weaponry or unit being used that would lead to a one-sided fight or TPK...unless that was what I wanted to have happen.



So basically a Berserk campaign? Humans are evil but monsters are on another level of evil.



>This is dumb.

Youre dumb, as evidenced by your immediate focus on some hypothetical special snowflake that the OP never once mentioned. War in a standard tabletop game can be great. You can have anything from the party being used as a tactical strike force of irregulars to having the Paladin inspire his personal cohort in the midst of battle while the Fighter desperately guards the Prince/General/whatever as the hordes close in while the casters fling ground-shattering spells into formations to turn the tide of battle. The only limit is your imagination.



Basically, yeah. Monsters kinda loose that oomph if you run into them all the time, and each time you run into something monstrous should be something memorable, not something you plow through on your way to work.



That's one facet of Goblin Slayer's setting. There's a war against demons happening so there are less adventurers to deal with goblins. The audience might notice that whether Goblin Slayer faces anything bigger than the usual goblins, he has to use tricks.


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>The system becomes too chaotic and ultimately players feel powerless to affect anything.

You know I've been thinking about this and I think that upscaling should stop at figurines serving as a proxy for only one swarm and your Players are only commanding their own "elite" swarm force. The actual rules for what a player can bring to the table can be using DnD0e's rules for hiring guys because it's really workable for any game if you ignore the dice rolls.because there is tons of conversions for different dice systems so it's just a matter of having lists. The actual guys in the swarm merely contribute to stats for the proxy figure and the player's goals is either one of the following:

1) Move across the board to their intended destination so the meat of the campaign for dungeon crawling and being heroes can begin. It's like those beginning adventure maps where you're outside starting in town and you're heading off to the dungeon, but instead it's a war zone and random encounters are very few and far between so the players aren't bogged down. Players get to unanimously decide whatever the side they're technically on will move during this stage except their dudes.

Once they arrive at the destination the game is downscaled.

2) An actual war game, here the swarm being stats for a single figure is what matters instead of the standard comprehensive list of attributes of what the characters are,. The listed troops have a set limited contribution and/or detriment to the unit. To make things simple you can't have more then 6 troop types with the first 3 merely being attack types then the other 3 being special like troop transport or something.




>>War as a theme

>>War as a game mechanic.

Only War


There's a big war going on in a campaign I'm part of. The DM has handled it by keeping the focus of the big battles narrow and around the players and then abstracting everything that isn't immediately in front of the players. I've also noticed he tends to leave the massed formation fighting to the NPCs and throws more specific stuff at us... For example, the enemy is attacking the city and they're starting to get a foothold on the wall at this point. Deal with it.



Have a look at the very begining of the AGP, where it was just the players participating in large battles against a large army. They'd have to practically make new characters every session. But their GM showed them an over-view of everything. So even if all the characters they made died, they could see how their actions actually played a part in the whole shebang. Basically this >>407528


Stars Without Numbers got a crude turn based strategy system just so that GM could simulate dynamic background.

You get a bunch of local factions with attributes - Force (military), Cunning (covert actions) and Wealth (economy). There can be all sorts of conflicts, military and not, and PCs see it and as they muck around, may affect the factions' assets.

You have someone running a blockade against some planet, PCs are going to notice if they go there, or just hear rumors. Or a pirate faction may found a new base in a system that isn't well defended, then they be plunderin' and extortin'.

For action involving characters, there are Skyward Steel and Starvation Cheap books, for military and navy campaigns.

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