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genderlich
2014-10-07, 11:59 AM
I have a couple different ideas for a war campaign; they're fairly different in theme, but each one has the PCs caught in the middle of multiple factions vying for control over a region. Thing is, with such a largeish scale plot, I'm not sure how to make it into a campaign in which the PCs actually take actions and have adventures and matter. My campaigns in the past have all been very standard "find the MacGuffin" games, so I want to try something different. Have any of you done something like this, and if so how did it go? What did you do to make it interesting for the players?

Dapifer
2014-10-07, 01:31 PM
I have a couple different ideas for a war campaign; they're fairly different in theme, but each one has the PCs caught in the middle of multiple factions vying for control over a region. Thing is, with such a largeish scale plot, I'm not sure how to make it into a campaign in which the PCs actually take actions and have adventures and matter. My campaigns in the past have all been very standard "find the MacGuffin" games, so I want to try something different. Have any of you done something like this, and if so how did it go? What did you do to make it interesting for the players?

Well, that very much sounds like my longest running campaign so I will try to help you in some way.

You can start them off with a little adventure of the standard variety. They kill some orcs that are raiding a town, or some sort of standard fare.

Then, they are caught between the schemes of one or more factions, you can throw them a hook to see if they buy into the politics or you can get them caught in the crossfire of two rivalities and make them collateral damage.

After you introduce them to the warring states, you offer them options for them to move up the food chain. By lettimg them join a faction or giving them ways to create a faction of their own if they choose to involve themselves directly into the game of thrones.

Then, once they are part of the politics, is just a matter of pacing the challenges.

I my campaign, four kingdoms in a huge land mass wanted control of the center of the continent that was mostly untamed and divided between small warring state-cities.

I started the players in a big city in the center of the continent, at the time when the western kingdom declared itself an Empire and started an expansionist campaign across the continent.

They got caught in the crossfire between their men at arms and a local militia. After surviving the attack, they got in contact with this resistance and joined them against the empire.

What kind of power level are you expecting them to start and to reach at end game?

Do you plan on having them fight skirmishes and raid holds and fortifications? Or more diplomacy or court intrigue?

Rhunder
2014-10-07, 01:48 PM
I created a time line and characters I knew quite well and how the story would work if the PCs never existed. then I throw the PCs from the beginning and see how that affects everything.

Such as an experience general and leader rallied a great defense of this small strategic town got killed from unforeseen events the PCs caused stops the rally of the town and instead got everyone killed. These effects can be positive or negative. I prefer to make morally gray stories where there is no good or bad. I also never railroad players and make events unfold around them with or without them. All of my PCs love the story hooks so far, so railroading has never been a necessity.

sktarq
2014-10-07, 05:05 PM
I created a time line and characters I knew quite well and how the story would work if the PCs never existed. then I throw the PCs from the beginning and see how that affects everything would go if the PC's never exist.

I'd recommend this tack as well but would expand on it.

1) Make the story of what would happen as dramatic and fun as you can. If your player choose not to engage the story at that level it is important that the overall story is still fun. Aslo be sure to include effects/events that are tied to small adventurer like parties-deep strikes, morale boosts from newfound relics etc that can both act as plot points your players can fill but also show that such small unit missions can have war wide effects and that the players are not the only adventuring band involved in the war (but by the end probably the best-which can be a great motivator)

2) Build up a series of NPC characters that are influential. Not so much their stat blocks but personality, strengths (which may well be more political or social than ability to actually lead troops) and weaknesses. This useful both for interactions and for coming up with ideas of how those NPC's (and groups they influence-troops, their commanders, the populous of a city of which they are mayor etc) would react to changes to the "original" story caused by PC actions. And don't just include troop commanders here (though they are a BIG focus) influential merchants , mayors, or priests that can effect morale or how a war is seen by the populous. Leaders of other adventurer like groups that can be rivals or competitors, the political leaders in the king's court looking for a way to boost their personal influence etc.

3) don't have the PC's be on the winning side all the time. A rout of the opposing force is only really satisfying when the other side is a serious challenge. . This doesn't mean the PC's should fail per se. But having them create distractions to cover a main army retreat, missions to harry and slow the advance of a major unit of troops deep in home territory until relief forces can get there. Evacuating high value citizens or artifacts from a town deemed undefendable or being used as bait.

4) War is politics by other means. Not every adventure needs to be about harming the enemy. Diplomacy to secure a sulfur source for fireball spells (or deny it to your enemy), escorting a young bride to be whose marriage will secure the groom's nation will provide troops or material or even just gold to pay debts acruing, ferreting out traitors, handling bandits or monsters that the army would normally deal with and whose predation erode both the popularity of war (and support for groups ready to overthrow the rulers) and the ability of the town to provide for the war effort. Mix up the goals and know there are lots of good hooks away from the front lines.

VoxRationis
2014-10-07, 05:18 PM
If you've got a war campaign, you're inevitably going to have to puzzle out a mass battle. Since the rules for a small-scale RPG rarely handle large-scale conflict in a tidy way, I'd recommend drawing up stat blocks for average soldiers of varying types and then figuring out equivalency rates. That way, you can take a battle with given inputs of soldiers on each side and figure out what will happen in the absence of PC intervention, and you only have to account for casualties incurred/allies saved by the PCs directly.

Mark Hall
2014-10-07, 05:27 PM
The easiest method is to make them the equivalent of a special operations team; seldom involved in the line battle, instead sent in to cause a ruckus, kidnap/assassinate key players, or find MaGuffins that will help their side.

If they find themselves in full on battles, I prefer to have them make a difference through "scenes"... success in a scene gives them a good result. Failure in a scene gives them a bad result. They don't move the pieces aroudn the board, but they may be responsible for trying to hold the bridge, for example, while their troops retreat across it. Let too many bad guys across and they've got a harder retreat. Come up with a brilliant plan and they may be able to turn the tide.

sktarq
2014-10-07, 05:35 PM
Also Tome of Battle is a good splat for ideas and the like. Written for DnD 3.5 but the thinking behind it and strategies for dealing with the issues brought up by a war campaign are useful in any system.

VoxRationis
2014-10-07, 06:00 PM
Really? Tome of Battle? Are you sure you don't mean Heroes of Battle?

sktarq
2014-10-08, 01:09 AM
Really? Tome of Battle? Are you sure you don't mean Heroes of Battle?
*headdesk* yes. . . bloody hell . . .

Haldir
2014-10-09, 07:14 PM
At the tail end of the medieval era, Italy was basically split into dozens of tiny kingdoms based around the major trade cities. Each city competed with others for access to the surrounding countryside. Warfare became so common that is even became ritualized- a cart bearing each cities standard would accompany an army, and capture of the wagon meant great disgrace. Even the usual brutality associated with medieval conflict was curbed by a larger cultural acceptance of conflict.

This fragmented area, run by the capitalist elites of the competing cities, created a market for professional soldier corps. Not only did a city have its own garrison, but mercenary companies sometimes became quite influential.

Because each city was in and of itself a centralized power sieges, blockades, and defensive fortifications soon became more dominant that full scale battles. Pitched battle was more likely than a large set piece affair, as a huge battle could decimate ones forces, weakening them against the myriad of enemies awaiting them.

In a situation like the one the OP as described, large movements of armies will be rare, victory not terribly decisive, and defeat catastrophic. Whereas sieges, skirmishes, and raiding will be the norm- weak opponents will fall back to defensive locations and await reinforcements, strong groups will either siege (probably successfully) or move on- and raiding will be the way these complex war machines stay fed.

So give your PC's missions to break or hold sieges, harass enemy forces with surprise attacks or ambushes, and send them after valuable enemy supplies. Should be pretty easy.