Keeping It Irregular

Wars have always been a major bug bear for me in roleplaying. Wars happen to change things but unless you can involve the players in some way, shape and form then it usually all feels very forced. The players feel like no matter what they do they don’t get to influence the outcome and the whole point of feeling like a hero who slays the evil mage to save the kingdom becomes null and void.

I’ve played campaigns in the past where there has been a war going on and whether the players took part in it or not the outcome was going to happen. It followed my general rule of storytelling in that the world goes on without you so unless you grab it by the horns I’m not about to put the world at your feet. If your going to be a hero you need to want to be one first.

13th Warrior Antonio Banderas

But I digress. The point of this entry is that in order to keep your players playing their ordinary game when the entire world around them is in uproar you need to find a niche they can fill. From experience a handy group of adventurers can always find work with an army but unless you are specifically running a military game they should never end up in the rank and file troops. To much discipline, a high chance of them being separated most of the time and not being able to make many decisions for themselves do not lead to a very happy player.

So where does that work come in then? Every army you come across are going to have irregular troops. Whether that’s a group of scouts or just general rag tag villagers that are given some weapons and told who to hit the chances are there will be something for everyone.

A prime example for this working comes from one of the most cliched games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play in. An ambitious ruler from a neighbouring kingdom decided to invade the land the players called home. They had plenty of chances to run from upcoming war and most of the players actually tried to get the group to do just that and return once the victor had been decided. Thankfully however one of the warriors in the group owed the king a huge debt and decided that if he could pull off a defence of some kind that it would be paid off with interest. The town they were based out of was between the capitol and the incoming army but they wouldn’t be hit head on so they set about training up the local populace.The set up a local defence force as well as a small ‘gorilla’ force to harrass and slow down the troops heading towards the capitol. There were never any thoughts of ‘we might be able to win’ but the general idea was that if we could survive long enough and cause enough nusenace then we might buy the King some time.

As the approaching army took shape it turned out that the left flank would be winging its way through the area. The warrior took a bunch of the best woodsmen out and started to harrass the wagon train and thanks to thier actions it bought the town enough time to erect some form of defence and evacuate anyone that needent be there. Eventualy the town fell but most of the locals escaped safely into the forest and they brought the invading army almost to a standstill as they went from marching right passed the towns and villages to having to secure each one incase there was more violence and sabotage on the fragile wagon train. With this added time the King managed to bring in allies and the invasion was crushed but it was with the help of our adventurers that it happened.

So what does this teach us? Even allowing the players to have what accounts to a small encounter compared to a full scale war was enough to have a massive effect on the war and it’s outcome. The combat ran during these sessions was actually very limited but the ramifications of the small victories was enough to have a major impact on outcome of the war. And it gave the players something to talk about for many years to come.

This post was brought to you by the letter ‘W’ and by this months RPG Bloggers Carnival which is this month hosted by Reverend Mike over at The Book Of Rev.

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