Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Marching Down to War

It's Kobold Quarterly Tuesday again. Today's topic is "Marching Down to War."

As usual, wargaming gets me thinking about fantasy warfare and why we don’t see more of it in RPG adventures. War plays a big role in sword & sorcery novels both old and new. You need look no further than The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones for great examples. Clearly, roleplayers consider war an exciting topic. Why does it keep to the shadows in our games?

I’ll leave the subject of how fantasy warfare would differ from historical warfare for a different time. Let’s look instead at what I see as the three reasons why war gets ignored or pushed into the background in RPG campaigns.

(Read the rest ...)


  1. Loved this article, though I'd like to toss out the Fall of Constantinople as well.

  2. I considered including that, because it's pretty darned dramatic, and the defense of a siege is a good situation for an adventure. Left it out because most of the other wars included sieges, and the list was getting pretty long already. But it deserves a shout-out, if only because it's the final blow to the Roman Empire and generally acknowledged as the curtain call of the Middle Ages.

  3. *coughbattlesystemcough*

    My original gaming group consisted of diehard LotR fans, so we inevitably fought in an epic war for the fate of the world. We never used any official rules for mass combat though.

    In my home game, elves and orcs are involved in a multi-generational war that is destroying both cultures. I've been pulling from World War I, the American Civil War, and Vietnam. Mostly in a sense of tone, the hopelessness of the average soldier, disconnect of leadership and soldier, and the brutality of the fighting.

    However, my players don't seem at all interested, which makes me cry big fat DM tears, on the inside.

  4. Ahh, Battlesystem. Three good games that never caught on. Probably too complex for it's own good.

    I suppose it takes a special group of players to be interested in a gritty war drama. Years ago, I ran FASA's Behind Enemy Lines, but only for a few sessions. It would have been difficult to keep it going for long. The same thing happened with GDW's Twilight 2000, in which I was a player. We just lost interest. I know other groups that had a different experience and kept T2K going for a long time, but we found it exhausting. That's probably why the more successful war RPGs add fantasy or SF elements, such as Pinnacle's Weird War series.