The fights of fantasy | Good generalship from a non-medieval viewpoint by Lew Pulsipher
Picture this fantasy episode: Somehow, the inhabitants of a world have been warned of an impending invasion by natives of another, evil world. They learn where it will occur, and approximately when, and set up a variety of traps -including an interdimensional gate of their own - in the projected path of the invaders. The day arrives. The invaders stream out of an inter-world gate; first, scouts who are trapped or shot with arrows (none of them escape), then flyers who are caught by invisible traps in the air as they avoid the ground traps, then thousands of orcs who pour out of the invaders' gate and right into the defenders' gate - which leads to oblivion. For hours the invaders come, and all are caught. Finally, there are no more, and the invasion is annihilated without loss to the defenders.
I understand that this actually happened, more or less, in a D&D* game. It is a good example of excellent generalship by the defenders, and appallingly bad generalship by the attackers (who were, it must be said, controlled by a referee rather than by a self-interested player). It also helps to illustrate how generalship in a fantasy universe, subject as it is to magic and a greater variety of creatures and capabilities than in our own mundane world, is very different from the historical generalship we know. The subject of this article is not the "principles of war" as such, because they are so abstract, but a discussion of how strategy and battle might be different in a fantasy game, and why, so that referees and players can make the necessary adjustments. The article uses examples from the AD&DT11 game "universe" because that is one of the most magic-rich and creature-rich games.
Fantasy battles aren't medieval battles
Some people have suggested that warfare in a fantasy game would be much like medieval warfare, and fantasy miniatures battles rules tend to reflect this view. Somehow, one notion goes, the magicians arid heroes ("adventurers") will cancel each other out while the armies get on with the battle. This is hogwash. Relatively inexperienced adventurers may be too weak to significantly affect a big battle, but more experienced ones will make a great deal of difference. True, if the adventurers on each side are of equal strength and numbers, the outcome of the battle - winning and losing - may turn out the same as if no adventurers were present; but the course of the battle will be quite different. And if one side has stronger adventurers, as will ordinarily be the case, that side will have a big advantage.
Magic strongly affects tactics. The only way to counter the effects of large-scale magic or bestial power (such as dragon's breath) is dispersal and long-range weaponry. In effect, in the fantasy world the analogue of heavy artillery is the magician, and the powerful monster resembles a tank. Battles in a highly magical environment are probably less like a medieval battle than like an 18th-century or perhaps 19th-century battle, where units spread out both within themselves and in their relation to the rest of the army. But the speed with which events can happen, when magicians and monsters are involved, means that individual initiative of unit commanders counts for more than it would in an l8th-century battle. In fantasy warfare, a well-trained, experienced army has an even greater advantage over a less well-prepared army than in medieval warfare.
Flying creatures also change warfare radically. In effect we have the opportunity for air-mobile cavalry in a short-range weapon environment. Commanders or other valuable persons, objects, and places must be heavily guarded against airborne raids. Commanders tend to be within an army rather than behind it - in a place where they're less likely to be seen and singled out by the enemy "artillery" (magicians). Flying creatures also change strategy because small units of great potential power can move rapidly from place to place.
A well-known military maxim asserts that "He who would defend everything defends nothing." This applies particularly well to most fantasy role-playing universes, where so much power can be concentrated in a small area oz in a few individuals. In the real world, one battalion used to take up as much space as another, with about the same combat power. But there's no comparison in strength between a thousand orcs and ten adult dragons, though the latter group is smaller and moves much faster.
The strategy of medieval (and some ancient) warfare was based on the more-or-less
impregnable castle. Yet, because magic is so prevalent in fantasy games, a
medieval castle is unsuitable as a fortress, and certainly far from impregnable
to assault. That topic is discussed later; the point here is that generalship in
a fantasy world will not be like medieval generalship because forts are much
easier to capture. Also, because of flying creatures and teleporting, supply
lines for small forces are easier to maintain in fantasy than in the medieval
world. Even if fantasy forts could be as strong as medieval castles, they would
have less effect on strategy because supply lines are harder to cut.
Another difference is that feudalism need not dominate the fantasy world in the way it dominated Europe in the Middle Ages. This is partly a consequence of the weakness of fortifications, since magnates cannot safely retire to their forts and defy authority. It is also a consequence of possibly quite different social premises. There is nothing in fantasy role-playing that necessitates a feudal setting rather than, say, a setting like the Roman empire, the successors of Alexander the Great, or the Renaissance. Warfare in these eras was highly organized and professional, in contrast to the less well trained, often nonprofessional armies of the Middle Ages.
Where fantasy warfare most differs from mundane warfare is in the concentration of vast power and abilities in individuals. This makes it harder to protect a specific person or place, despite the aid of defensive spells. When one person or creature can blow away dozens of orcs, strategy and tactics change.
This change is most obvious in the decreased defensibility of fortresses. The
medieval castle was not invulnerable, but a well-built castle was sufficiently
defensible that an attacking force - whatever its numbers - would need many
weeks or months to capture it. Most castles, even when defended by 100 or fewer
men, fell to protracted siege operations or treachery if they fell at all; a
successful immediate assault of a castle was almost unheard of.
The strategy of the builder was to provide multiple lines of defense in the castle, both to slow the attacker and to reduce his forces by attrition. Then the attacker would run out of time before his army melted away through disease, starvation, or return to the harvest. Or, the attacker would lose heart, or his losses would be so great that the defender could (ordinarily with outside help) defeat the attacker in open battle. Even if the castle fell, it could still accomplish its purpose by delaying the enemy while defenders elsewhere in the country gathered an army or received help from allies. (Later castle-builders changed their strategy, While still providing multiple lines of defense, the idea was to enable all defenders to concentrate missile fire on the point of attack and slaughter enough attackers to force them to give up the siege.)
Why was it nearly impossible to rapidly take a castle? The walls were simply too high and too thick to get over or through without extensive "softening up." Because flame was effective against wooden castles (though less effective than one might think), stone was the principal building material. A few defenders, well protected on stone battlements, could defeat any ladder assault by firing from protected positions, by dropping rocks and boiling water on defenders, and by pushing the ladders away. Consequently, the attackers had to build siege towers, various missile-throwing engines, rams, and protective "penthouses." Often they needed to tunnel under the walls to create a breach because no other method was as safe or as certain, but mining was extremely slow work, and could be unsuccessful if the defenders detected the mine. Once a wall was breached or a gate opened, the attack usually succeeded -only to face the next line of defense.
Over, under, or through
The reason castles are more vulnerable in fantasy gaming is that attackers have better means of going over, under, or through walls rapidly. Some of these means are magical, some monstrous or natural. First, going over: At night, a thief adventurer can scale a wall undetected if he's lucky, something virtually no one in the mundane world would try to accomplish. Two or three thieves, or a single very accomplished thief, could open a postern or other gate, let attackers in, and effect the fall of the fortress. The result would be similar to the effects of treachery in medieval times, when someone in the castle opened a gate to the attackers in return for financial or other rewards.
Any creature that can fly may accomplish the same thing, though beating wings are likely to be heard by those on watch. But not everyone needs wings to fly; picture a 5th-level fighter/m-u employing invisibility and a fly spell in a raid of this kind at night, or a group of ten fighters on hippogriffs.
Magic can help its users gain entry in many ways. Invisibility is enormously
useful. A knock spell may break open a barred door, such as a postern or the
door to a tower. Dimension door or even teleport allows a brave magician to
penetrate deep into the fortress. Gaseous form or etherealness enables an
attacker to slip into the fortress.
Magic can also help ordinary soldiers get over walls rapidly. For example, a fireball will sweep defenders from a wall section so that attackers can climb ladders unmolested by defenders on the wall. In a well-made fortress, the hoarding or brattice work along the battlements will protect defenders from fireballs, unless a fireball goes in through a slit; in that case, it would expand inside the hoarding and sweep an entire wall clear of defenders.
"Unnatural" powers can also help force a way through walls. Dragons and giants may break down gates in minutes. Stone-digging monsters can breach a wall in a short time. Some very powerful spells may breach walls, though in general lightning bolts and such will bounce off or hardly scratch a stone wall. A passwall spell would he great for getting through thin walls, but most walls of a castle would be too thick; every gate would be vulnerable, however. Nonetheless, going through rather than over or under is probably the least likely method of breaching a castle, except for an army with extremely powerful monsters.
Going under (mining) will be quick if an umber hulk, a trained or charmed giant boring beetle, or another sort of digger can be used. Dwarves, orcs, and most other non-humans are better tunnelers than men. Medieval forces rarely tunneled into a fortress in order to invade it, preferring to break down a wall; but attackers of a fantasy fortress, thanks to the concentration of power in individuals, could employ this tactic. Imagine a force of highly skilled fighters following an umber hulk into the enemy keep while the rest of the attackers create a diversion outside. The defenders would be devastated morally, at least, to see their keep invaded (if not captured) by the enemy.
Granted, defenders of a fortress may have magical or other unnatural help. But in most cases the defenders will be vastly outnumbered - the strategic value of the castle was that a small force could delay the enemy - arid will have far fewer adventurers arid monsters to counteract the attacking force.
Defenders can partially compensate for fantasy elements by altering the construction of the fortress. One alternative would be a large earthen fortress such as those built by the French engineer Vauban, but unless the defender has some weapon analogous to canister-firing artillery this won't do: the walls will be too long to defend. And although the walls will be too thick to go through, and invulnerable to mining, they won't keep the enemy from going over.
The other alternative is a completely enclosed stone fortress, much of it underground. Flying or climbing creatures would be stopped by the roof. Someone could enter via a spell, or through the slits with the help of magic, but the gates would be less vulnerable to surprise. This fortress would be smaller than a full-fledged castle, more like a tower-keep of several layers. It would allow less extensive fields of fire to defenders, and could be held by a relatively smaller garrison unless it extended far underground. It would be easier than a regular fortress for attackers to surround it and starve the garrison into submission unless the designer included long subterranean tunnel -networks in the fortress plan. If much of a fortress is underground, it will be less vulnerable to many of the unnatural powers of the fantasy world - but it would be generally easier to neutralize. And nothing can protect completely against underground approach, though a fortress dug into hard stone would be invulnerable to attack by most digging monsters.
All in all, the abilities that fantasy adds to the real world favor the offense, with the result that fortresses will be more vulnerable, and fantasy strategy will be quite different from medieval strategy.
The indirect approach and game theory
The foregoing applies largely to battles and strategy involving hundreds or thousands of creatures. The following discussion applies equally in principle to smaller pitched battles and to the strategy and tactics of successful adventuring.
Some military writers, led by B. H. Liddell Hart, have argued that the
essence of strategy is indirection - to act at a time, in a way, at a location,
with forces that the enemy doesn't expect, to strike the flank rather than the
front, to go over the hills rather than through the pass, and so forth. Liddell
Hart called this the strategy of indirect approach."
It is not always easy to figure out what the proper indirect approach would be in a given situation, but the basic idea applies to every conflict, whether a great war or a set-to in a dungeon. In a dungeon, for example, the last thing you want to do is charge right into the enemy soldiers' barricade arid spears, unless you can find no other way to accomplish your goal. And even if you must take this route, you might try to draw the enemy out by some trick. Don't let megalomania control you. No matter how tough you are, you can't lose by finding a more efficient way to defeat the enemy.
My magic-user characters look at it this way: Hacking and chopping lacks finesse compared to clobbering the enemy from a distance; and fireballs and lightning bolts, though sometimes necessary, lack finesse compared to other means of incapacitating the enemy. Why risk life and limb if you don't have to? Sooner or later you'll be forced into a desperate hand-to-hand fight; why not put off the evil day as long as possible?
Another way to look at strategy is through game theory, which is primarily a mathematical analysis of game-playing. strategies. The important aspect is this: The best strategy is one which attempts to maximize your minimum gain while minimizing your enemy's maximum gains (the "minimax" strategy). You assume that the enemy is a perfect player. Then you maximize your gain by picking the strategy which results in the largest minimum gain for you, regardless of how the enemy reacts. In other words, even if the enemy does this, or that, or the other, I'll still accomplish at least such-and-such: that's maximizing your minimum gains. If the enemy plays less than perfectly, your gain may be greater than the anticipated minimum. Similarly, you play so as to minimize the maximum gain the enemy can make.
No matter what he does, if you do such-and-such he can I t gain very much. In game theory, choosing the best strategy involves complex calculations which usually include a weighted random determination, strangely enough. Game theory calculations can't practically be used in a role-playing game, which is much too complicated, but you can use the principles. In general, the minimax strategy encourages caution rather than chance-taking, but calculated risks are vital part of good strategy. The key is to calculate, to consider what the possible consequences may be, including the worst. Chucking a fireball into an enemy occupied room as soon as you open the door might be a good strategy if the room is large, but if it's small tire fireball will expand out the door and fry you as well as the enemy. The obvious thing to do is find Out flow large the room is before you open the door. If you can't do that, think about the possible consequences and you may decide not to throw that fireball.
Napoleon is supposed to have said that "The greatest general is be who makes the fewest mistakes." Gathering information is the best way to avoid mistakes. The 11101?C You know about tire enemy, the mote chances you have to take advantage of his weaknesses arid avoid his strengths. In the example at the beginning of this article, if the defenders had not learned when and where the invaders would appear, they would have lost.
In fantasy role-playing we have far more opportunities to gain accurate information than, say, medieval commanders did. Taking the rules for illustration, we have communes with a deity, contact other plane, arid legend lore, among others, as pure information gathering spells. (Questions should be worked out before casting the spell, so that none are wasted.) Clairaudience arid clairvoyant powers can act as substitute spies. Among magic items, crystal balls are the premier spying devices. Conversely, every general desires an amulet to prevent enemy scrying.
In the fantasy world, there are ways to be certain of extracting information from prisoners - methods that were unavailable in the real, medieval world. Mindreading and truth potions come immediately to mind, arid certainly the imaginative general can think of others.
The task of individual scouts is much abetted by the availability of non-human
helpers, whether familiars, devious summoned to gather information, intelligent
beast spies, or flying steeds. The last, alone, makes air enormous difference,
as both sides discovered in World War I when widespread aerial reconnaissance
was first used.
Strangely, in most games and certainly in the AD&D game, magic rarely improves communications or mass transportation. True, if you have a herd of pegasi or dragons you can carry around a commando force a la air-mobile cavalry, but beasts won't help you move an entire army faster. Flying creatures improve speed of communication somewhat, but there's a lack of spells or magic items for long-distance, two-way contact. If two parties have crystal balls with clairaudience or ESP, they can communicate, provided they use the magic at the same time, but this can be hard to arrange, since no standardized timekeeping devices exist, arid cosmological events such as sunrise and noon vary in time from place to place.
Information is even more vital for the adventuring party than for any army. The worst thing that can happen to adventurers is to be totally surprised in a strange place which is the home of the opposition. Adventurers should try to obtain information about an area before going there, from storytellers, sages, spells, or, most important, prisoners. A large number of players fail to even attempt to take prisoners. Those who inadvertently do, for instance with a sleep spell, usually s laughter them out of hand. Tire players, through their characters, show a lack of interest in learning about a situation, arid the characters (arid players) often pay for it later. Adventurers should take prisoners whenever possible. You can tie them up or, if it suits Your frame of mind, kill them after you've extracted what they know, but at least try to find out what's going on first.
The course of wars and battles
It would be nice if this article could describe just how wars and battles would go in a fantasy world, but it can't: Too much depends on the power-level of magic and on the level of military technology. For example, a battle between well-trained ancient troops, with magic added, would progress quite differently from an early medieval-style battle between troops untrained in group tactics. The presence of wide-area spells such as fireballs in game rules make a big difference in tactics. However, a few generalizations can be made.
Warring forces will probably spread out rather than concentrate in one place for a big battle, at least until one side is worn down. Skirmishes may be more common, especially between the most mobile (flying) elements of each side as they attempt raids against supply depots, treasuries, kings, and princesses. Each side will rely on dispersal and deception to counteract information-gathering spells and scouts. Professional forces, either mercenaries or a standing army, and non-human forces will dominate warfare; levies of farmers will be nearly useless. Warfare will be mobile rather than necessarily centered around castles.
In pitched battles, spell casters will tend to "hide" in the midst of large units, where the enemy will be unable to spot them. Rather than expose themselves to archery and action by enemy adventurers, spell casters will often cast one spell, then move elsewhere before casting another.
Non-spell-casting adventurers, on the other hand, will probably be the moral leaders of the army; that is, they'll participate in charges, rally troops, and generally put themselves in the thick of battle. Their positions must be well known if they are to affect their troops. But some of these people may have the task (self-imposed or otherwise) of seeking out and slaying enemy spell casters and leaders, or at least of incapacitating or neutralizing them. Insofar as spell casters have adventurer bodyguards, in hand-to-hand fighting even individual adventurers may participate. Leaders may fight one another so that the winner call gain a big morale advantage over a loser's force. But such fights have a tendency to end with one mail's troops rescuing him, or with the larger battle separating the antagonists before they finish their business.
Important individuals - often adventurers - will be captured more often than killed in battle. First, that may be a more effective way of demoralizing tire enemy force. There'll be no revenge motive because the leader isn't dead, and greater despondency among the troops because seeing one's leader captured is more ignominious than seeing him killed. Second, an adventurer surrounded by dozens or hundreds of enemy troops is almost certain to surrender or to be overborne and captured for ransom. Third, adventurers who are incapacitated by spells will be captured rather than killed, for the purpose of obtaining information if not for ransom.
The use of "flashy" magic will be preferred to magic which quietly gets the job done, because in battle one doesn't win by killing tire enemy but rather by breaking his will to resist. The fright value of air advancing cloudkill will be more important than the number of enemy actually killed by it.
Obviously, the larger the ratio of troops to adventurers, the less effect the
adventurers can have oil the battle, other things being equal. (In this respect,
powerful monsters are the equivalent of adventurers.) One 10th-level fighter,
say, or a giant, can do a lot more to sway a battle in which units consist of 10
men than when units are 200 men each. And finally, magic, or the fright-value of
monsters, is most likely to sway tile course of a battle. Regardless how skilled
o human fighter is, he just can't generate o comparable effect on enemy morale. Adventurers may devote their efforts to killing or neutralizing enemy adventurers, or they may concentrate oil affecting enemy troops. This decision will make a lot of difference to the course of the battle, but no one call say that one choice or the other will ordinarily be the better one.
Naval strategy and tactics
Magic allowing long-distance communication would radically change naval strategy, since fleets could still work toward a common goal even when divided. In the absence of long-range communication other than with flying creatures, naval strategy might not be affected, but tactics would be radically different.
In games in which fireballs or lightning bolts will set ships afire, the effect will resemble the historical effect of Greek fire, a combustible and nearly inextinguishable substance which could be catapulted or sprayed at the enemy. The Byzantine navy, with the knowledge of how to make Greek fire, consistently defeated stronger Arabian navies thanks to the secret, and thereby preserved Constantinople and Europe for centuries from the Moslems. If both sides have many fire-causing spells, naval battles will be much bloodier, and ships will sink more often, than was the case in medieval or ancient times.
As a referee, I rule that spells rarely set ships afire, especially ships not under sail, and when they do the crews are often able to extinguish the fires. Nonetheless, ships must be built carefully to minimize the effects of such spells. For example, every ship must have a full deck, with strong hatches, so that a single fireball cannot slay half the occupants. During battle, hatches must be kept closed and locked so that a flying, perhaps invisible, magic-user cannot dump a fireball down a batch to slaughter all the oarsmen in a galley.
The presence of flying creatures will alter naval battles, both because of' their ability to scout and because they call be used to "bomb" important ships or board the enemy flagship.
Aquatic creatures that can travel underwater will have enormous effects,
particularly if someone is able to control groups of unintelligent creatures
(such as whales or sharks). One may doubt how well thin-hulled galleys would
survive in battle against an enemy using large numbers of underwater creatures.
While most large water creatures could not seriously harm a strongly built
"round ship" (merchant) or Atlantic-style galleon, such a creature
would be able to ruin an ordinary galley. Galleys also have a low freeboard,
allowing swimming creatures to climb aboard with relative case. The more
involvement that swimming creatures have in a naval battle, the heavier and
higher the ships must be, to
counteract their presence and then potential.
Types of Conflicts
Law vs. Chaos
The original conception of alignment in fantasy role?playing, as expressed in
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS@ rules ?
' Neutral, and Chaos only, without a Good?Evil access but with Law tending to be good and Chaos tending to be evil ? has often been criticized astoo simple to adequately reflect the diverse motives one finds in any human population. But the introduction of alignment, an idea not found in earlier wargames, did accomplish what may have been its primary purpose: to set the stage for the political, social, philosophical, and religious conflicts which gave characters a reason for adventuring other than mere lust for blood and gold.
When I first played and read the D&D@ rules, there was no doubt in my mind that conflicts of this sort would dominate everything. Perhaps those who had not read Michael Moorcock's Elric series, from which the idea of alignment could have been derived, could not appreciate the intent. At any rate, in many of those early D&D worlds, where players explored "dungeons" and cared nothing about the rest of the world, the ~idea of large?scale conflicts was neither needed nor heeded, and every character tended to act neutrally, whatever his or her nominal alignment.
Yet when you come to creating a world
iart of a world for your campaign, no
Ater what game rules are used, you must start to think about motivations and about the struggles which dominate or highlight the area where the player characters live. As players gain experience they want more than a run through a
dungeon, the very existence of which is probably unexplained and most likely
In particular, when a Good/Evil alignment axis is part of the game, you will have to explain to those who sincerely play good?aligned characters why their characters 'spend much of their adventuring time exterminating living beings. Players of the older persuasion, the "Be thee for Law or be thee for Chaos?" crowd, don't need explanations: they know that, even if much of the world seems to beat peace, the conflicts never really end, and Evil (the new substitute for Chaos) must be destroyed! But the rest will undoubtedly enjoy the game more and believe in it more if there is some Important Struggle in which they can participate, if only on the fringes. Moreover, the very existence of this struggle can help you devise new adventures, as well as helping you persuade the players to embark on quests. The struggle isn't necessary, but its existence will certainly improve a campaign.
The purpose of the rest of this article is to describe some Important Struggles which might affect yourworld. Of course, it is possible to change from one struggle to another as time passes, depending on how catastrophic you allow the old conflict to become. A war between two countries is the simplest example of an Important Struggle which can be ended quickly and cleanly by a victory, the death of a leader, or some other nonobvious deus ex machina. On the other hand, the religious war is unlikely to end without an apocalyptic battle among the
gods, a la Moorcock, although the war may become a sitzkrieg for a while as
all sides regroup their forces.
The five principal types of Important Struggles are described below in order of likely length, f rom longest to shortest. Intensity might be related to length, since the more intense struggle is likely to exhaust all participants sooner than the less intense, but intensity is something the referee can manipulate with relative ease.
As mentioned above, the religious war is likely to be very long, though not at all times bloody. In a game world that uses deities, it is almost certain that the religious war will be instigated by the deities, though minor struggles might be solely the work of megalomaniacal or fanatic priests or rulers. The term "religious war" doesn't mean a kind of conflict between princes and high priests to gain political advantages, or to subdue competing religions. It defines a war of extermination, in which adventurers act as the agents of their deities. Most likely the deities do not participate directly, unless the potential benefit far outweighs the risk, but they communicate with the great men and women of the land and require their devoted followers to work incessantly toward the goal of defeating the enemy. In a way, the war is a continuous, perhaps never?ending Crusade, with no quarterasked and none given. In most cases it will be Good against Evil rather than Law against Chaos, if formal alignments are used, but complications
can certainly arise. Some true neutral deities ? if any exist ? may attempt to maintain a balance, while others will try to ignore the whole thing; the same can be said for true neutral people. Perhaps the deities and their followers will have a distinct objective, such as obtaining some artifact left behind by the Elder Gods (now thought to be dead). In Moorcock, where the "Cosmic Balance" is personified, the objective of both Law and Chaos was the complete destruction of the opposition so that their way could dominate the world; and along with that, the Cosmic Balance itself had to be destroyed.
Now this kind of religious war may be altogether too overwhelming for your taste, and understandably so. It requires from the deities an interest in men's affairs greater than some are willing to credit to them, even though the deities need not intervene directly on the material plane. One might put this kind of war in the background of a campaign ?though I can hardly believe that there would be no competition at all ? and deal with lesser struggles.
In thiscategory, there's alwaysthe old standby, orcs vs. dwarves or elves. But other races may become involved in war against each other. The goblinoid races as a whole could be at war with humans
and similar species such as elves. Or some race relatively less prominent in
most worlds, such as ogres, might instead be very numerous in a particular
milieu, and at war with humans.
Probably most satisfying is to develop adversary races more capable than the goblinoids, perhaps a race able to use magic. The drow (dark elves) used in some D&D modules are of this category. Then the racial war really amounts to something, becausethe non?human race needn't rely solely on numbers in order to give the humans problems.
Of course, some humans are going to prefer to cooperate with the enemy ratherthan with the establishment (whatever that might be); one could even arrange things so that the adversary race seems a more deserving winnerthan the humans, as in Moorcock's Eternal Champion. Or, humans need not be directly involved, as in the struggle between dwarves and orcs. As long as the two races engaged are numerous or powerful, there are opportunities for small groups of humans ? the adventurers ? to be drawn into the conflict. In general, the larger the number of intelligent races you have in your world, the greater the chance of a racial conflict of major proportions.
The next struggle again returns to the topic of religion, but only within an area
dominated byone organized sect. This is the struggle between an
orthodoxestablishment and heretics ? that is, those who profess toworship the
who do so in a manner condemned
If the religious establishment has the support of the political state ? or governs the state ? then it can persecute the heretics without tear of retribution from the law. This situation can be particularly interesting when the establishment seems to be reprehensible in some way, so that many of the player characters are seen by the establishment as heretics.
It is possible for an entire religious organization to fall away from the deity's "true path" (there are many examples in recent history), so that a group professing to worship a lawful good deity might actually be lawful neutral. The deity will recognize this, and refuse to deal with the establishment, but the common people won't realize it, or be able to do anything about it if they do. The establishment will go on collecting tithes, building temples, and persecuting heretics. (It is left to the reader to decide whether any church which professes to be Good could condone persecution of heretics; certainly, it would seem, minor heresy would have to be tolerated, if not approved, even in a lawful good church. At worst, the church might exclude minor heretics from its formal worship.'
This is a type of conflict good for putting players in unusual situations, and one which you can heat up orcool down
you wish, merely through a change in
irch leadership or a change of heart _y a church's ecumenical council (or whatever body determines church policy). It's also a struggle which can be conducted simultaneously with some of the others.
Internal political struggle
It's not only in matters of religion or race that intelligent beings can have disagreements. In the political sphere, one can find a country's nobles aligned in a power struggle against the monarch and his or her supporters. This can also take the modified form of a three?way struggle, among the nobles on one hand, a divine emperor on the second, and a shogun (de facto dictator or warlord) on the third, as in medieval Japan.
The emperor is too sacred to be harmed, but there is a struggle to arrange the succession. The emperor tries to gain support from the nobles in order to regain rule of the country. The nobles, meanwhile, want to rule their domains without interference from any central government (though some may arrange this by selling their support to the shogun in return for a free hand at home).
Depending on the commercial and in?
?strial level of the area, other factions
may become involved: the middle class, guilds, or the professional army, for instance. The situation can be beautifully confused and confusing, and the players can be frequently faced with decisions which mayaffect their characters'standing with one political group or another. Insofarasthe situation is morethan twosided, however, it is somewhat harder to run effectively than some of the other conflicts discussed above.
Many political struggles have economic components or roots; in some cases there may be no armed struggle at all, except covertly, but player characters can be profoundly affected nonetheless.
A somewhat different form of political struggle within a country is modeled on the old Persian Empire. A local governor (satrap) might attempt to raise a rebellion against the emperor, probably to overthrow him, possibly to form an independent nation. If the distances involved are great enough (requiring a quite large empire so that communication by horse takes weeks) this struggle can go on for several years. And more than one satrap might rebel, of course. The player characters, caught in the middle, must decide whether to try to ignore the conflict ? which would be difficult unless they leave the empire ? or to support the satrap or the emperor. If they whole?
heartedly support the eventual victor, this could be their opportunity to be awarded land for a barony.
War between states
Finally, there's the good, old?fashioned war between two countries. This will be more interesting if the player characters are living in a country where they are foreigners, or which they dislike (or are disliked in) for some reason. Do they abandon their friends and associates to move to another country at war with the f i rst one? Do they stay and risk becoring involved fighting for a country they dislike?
As an alternative, the player characters might live in a border area, while the two warring countries liejust beyond the border. Do the characters sympathize with one country enough to help it against the other? Do they mind their own business ? or at least try to? Does one country try to hire them for espionage or other intelligence operations? Will the government in their area of residence allow them to become involved?
When you create a world, as opposed to a dungeon?plus?village environment, keep the Important Struggle idea in mind. This approach to game mastering can add motivation and meaning to a campaign beyond the "usual" thievery and purposeless violence.
built by unclefester | sternzwischen | updated 14-05-29 23:15:25