[To Playtest] War in Khale

Started by Eero Tuovinen, January 01, 2009, 06:03:50 PM

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Eero Tuovinen

As a sort of sibling thread for Colonization of Qek, here's another Ammeni campaign framework about the war in Khale. The war is already present in Clinton's treatment of Khale-Ammeni relations, but Zaru get most of the attention so this stuff hasn't perhaps been thought out that much. The following are notes towards how I'm going to run the Khale campaign when I have a chance.

The score

The Ammeni are attacking Khale in a concerted manner, crossing the traditional boundaries and enslaving the population. Khalean tribes raise in arms against the invader! The Ammeni weaponry and discipline are superior, but the Khaleans know their country and realize how overpowered they are. The Ammeni are warring to gain control of the mysterious moonmetal, a powerful substance that came to Khale as a shard of the Moon itself. Or, as alternate sources would have it, the Ammeni fight to pacify the Dragon's Mouth, the calm straits that allow access to the Sea of Teeth and are thus crucial to trade.

Player characters are involved with the war at various levels. Their actions impact the conduct of the war and ultimately determine two things: the fate of the poisonous culture that runs Ammeni, and the destruction of the fantastic lifestyle of the Khaleans. Of these:
  • Whatever the Ammeni culture used to be or perhaps could be is throttled by the corrupted ruling classes of the country. A sage of Near will tell you that it is the rotten influence of the House Father, master of the Revenant Cult, that drives and stabilizes this culture of horror. Regardless of what it is, military intervention in force might be the only thing that could release the subject people and cast down the Houses. Perhaps something good could still come of the war in this way?
  • The Khalean culture is, to a great degree, a fantastic utopia. A fragile one that will in all likeness be destroyed by the war. Adoption of moonmetal will destroy it. Burning the forest will destroy it. Even winning the war might destroy it in numberless ways. Khaleans will have to choose between preserving themselves and preserving the world.

The question is, how should a SG coordinate the campaign arc of war? The answers, and the accompanying crunch, can be used to resolve other brewing wars of Near.

Strategic issues

To begin with, the SG needs to recognize the strategic goals and constraints of the war. These will be used as the stakes and the venues of influence by the events; when we know that the city of X is crucial for the war effort because of Y, then we have the necessary context for what happens when the Khaleans raze the town to ruin. Essentially this is a simplistic web of value dependencies, often a very fragmentary one (due to how the warlords hardly realize everything about their condition). Fundamentally, the SG is choosing focal points by choosing the strategic issues.

I wrote a long example of the sorts of things that I might use to structure the war myself, but in truth this stuff should work better if the SG starts with a very simple premise and works himself up from there. Imagine a war room meeting in a movie about the Khalean war and ask yourself - what are the generals saying? This is an example of how I'd begin the campaign:

Each of the boxes in my graph represents a strategic goal for the Ammeni. This is what they might mean in terms of SG setting prep:

The March Tribes: Ammeni need casus belli. This is offered by the so called march tribes, a group of relatively small and weak semi-Khalean peoples that moved out of Khale proper soon after the end of the Year of Shadow, when the disrupted lifestyle of Khale left large numbers of people without home or sustenance. The march tribes are essentially Khalean in culture, except that they live on this less forested, marshy, sea-dominated coastal stretch neighboring the Sea of Teeth. They have lost the tribal commune as an economical unit and are stretched into fishing and agricultural family steads - politically they still organize tribally, but each family owns their own stead, and each family holds only one special ancestral tree holy in their worship.

The march tribes have traditionally been a target for Khalean piracy and raids, which makes them an amenable local ally for the Ammeni interlopers. The Ammeni do not need much in terms of justification for their war, but there are elements even in their own land and  especially the military (such as it is, hastily compiled of several house guards) that feel better about the war when it is dressed up as a war of protection and defense for their local allies. Perhaps the Ammeni also need the locals as translators, guides, rulers of pacified areas and justification towards outsiders like Oranite envoys or such, depending on the scale and development level of your Near.

Subjugation: The Ammeni generals do not have many compunctions, but they are aware of the scope of their endeavour. For the sake of the argument I'm making the SG call of deciding that Ammeni is not that big compared to Khale - in fact, the Ammeni army is going to take some care with the subjugation exactly because they are aware of the extent of the forest and the 101 tribes that live there. (Figure for my own campaign purposes only.) They will have to at the same time get the Khaleans under their power, but also manage to do this in a manner that does not galvanize the resistance any more than they can handle at a time. Ideally they will hold enough strong-points deep into the woods before the Khaleans unite that they can just torch the place if it comes to that.

For the sake of my campaign I'm going to arbitrarily decide that the Ammeni need to establish three successive strong-points into the woods, with the first one in the march lands with firm support route back to the homeland, one on a certain river and one on the other end of the river, at the foot of the moonmetal woods deep in Khale. From there they can basically reinforce position, chop down forests and start bringing in colonists, should the moonmetal prove worth it. They can establish their strong-points by suppressing, paying off and moving about something like a dozen tribes, assuming that the guerrilla resistance does not interfere.

This is just an example sketch of how a SG might characterize the war. (Damn, I'd really like to lay out the epic scope of my plans, but they're really just for my own specific campaign - no sense mixing it up here into my explanation of the method.) He might have more or less strategic issues for a different experience; not necessarily a longer or shorter game, as we'll come to see. The "strategic" issues don't have to be strategic in any narrow and dull sense, either. He needs to do this preparation before the campaign starts, perhaps before or after the players make their characters.

Conducting the war

In actual play the SG uses the map he's prepared as an aid to dramatic coordination, especially scene framing. What are the Ammeni doing next if nothing else happens to interrupt them? What do the given player character need to achieve to progress/prevent the Ammeni strategy?

In play each node on this map potentially becomes an issue in scene framing. Essentially, I look at my map and see what it is that the enemy are going to be doing next, and frame accordingly. Individual nodes might not be resolved in one scene or even one session, but the basic arc is clear. Sometimes an individual node might prove to be a foregone conclusion when it comes to the table to be resolved. And when individual routes to victory are closed off, the parties to the conflict have to make peace or switch to alternative plans.

If you wonder how to resolve an individual node of the war map, such as "control of the waterways", consider the Secret of Incubation from the last thread:

Secret of Incubation (Secret)
The character has a plan for winning the Secret in question. The player lays out the plan in rought terms. The SG may challenge the plan freely in coming scenes with conflicts that make the success of the plan a part of the stakes. A failure in any such conflict means the loss of the plan and this Secret. However, when the character has succeeded thrice, the SG has to allow the player to exchange this Secret for the named Secret.

You can resolve any of the war nodes just like this, by asking the player what his plan is and then playing to see whether he succeeds or not. In appropriate conflicts threaten the success of the plan, and should the player succeed, then the node has been resolved in his favour. The Secret above requires three successful conflicts to achieve the goal, but that's a pacing issue for our purposes - essentially, the SG has wide leeway in just choosing a given situation and saying that this is where we determine who controls the waterways.

Furthermore, you can tie Secrets into the nodes if you want and really use the Secret of Incubation to arbitrate:

Secret of Waterway Control
The character's forces control the main waterways in Khale. By activating this Secret, the character can make an appearance at any scene in Khale, unless the scene specifically happens in an uninhabited, remote and difficult to reach place. Cost: 2 Vigor + 1 per barge taken to the scene.

Essentially, the war map allows us to have a semi-solid guideline for the reality of the war. It should not be secret from the players, either. Everybody at the table can use the war map to plan scenes.

Encounter with the enemy

Only rarely will a plan survive the encounter with the enemy. In practice the SG will from the first expand and revise the map as new facts come about - the war map is not the final word on the strategic reality of the game: for example, if a scene establishes that actually the Ammeni don't know where the Moonmetal forest is, then we'll revise the map:

(Note how I introduced a branching development - the Ammeni now need both control and information to get to their ultimate goal.) And when the Khaleans realize what is going on and start to act, we get a parallel development:

And then we get conflict:

What that red-tinged ball means is that there is an explicit cutting opportunity for both or either sides in there: the Khaleans can only effectively mess with the Ammeni efforts to control the waterways by setting up a guerrilla action. Perhaps the red ball also takes Khaleans somewhere if they succeed, or maybe it's just preventative.

Regardless, the Khaleans might fail in preventing the Ammeni from controlling the waterways, say - but when and if they succeed, the Ammeni will either have to give up or find an alternative route to victory, such as burning the forests to crisp:

And so it goes - I developed my map quite a ways into what might happen before I realized that this stuff has to, by necessity, be based on real strategic exposition during play; have the group determine the shape of the map based on what comes up in their play. Essentially, every time somebody says something like "if we ever hope to gain X we need to achieve Y", grab X and Y and add them into the map. If the actual play does not develop the shape of the strategic situation, then it's not a real war campaign - just a dramatic campaign played around the scenery of war. Of course there's nothing wrong with that, either, if it proves in play that the group is not that interested in tracking the overall war effort, after all.


In case you want to help me playtest, here's a checklist of things to do:

  • Read up on the Khale war (not much material on it, really) and create your own war map of something like half a dozen nodes. Unless you have a completely different interpretation, it'll be a map of an Ammeni plan for controlling the moon metal, or perhaps for controlling the trade routes going through the Dragon's Mouth.
  • Create some characters - either Ammeni or Khale should be fine, or at least I don't know which would be better. Keep focus on the war, so either make the Khaleans patriots or the Ammeni soldiers. Of course the characters should also have other things pulling at them, things that get swept up by the war.
  • Crunch-wise, drive play towards military action. I'll include some military crunch in this thread, find out whether it works to resolve combats. It seems that we routinely get people asking about resolving skirmish action and other fighting here on the forums, so hopefully this crunch clarifies that.
  • I don't have any special other crunch that needs to be tested related to this, really - go wild bringing in stuff from different parts of Near, as both sides of the conflict will surely find foreign magic to be of great use.
  • Utilize the war map fully and play around with it. Find out if it would be worthwhile to provide special crunch that ties into each node, like Zu words, Qek knots and such; make it explicit that a character only controls a node on the war map by also having the accompanying Secret. I know that formalizing the sort of thing I made an example of above could be made to work, but I suspect that it's outside the scope of a generic Near sourcebook. More fitting for a specific book on military fantasy.
  • Let me know if you figure out some insight on the role of war in Near. I know that I can just put the rules on war into a generic chapter in the book, but I wouldn't mind attaching them to some specific culture (such as Maldor), just like the poison-making rules are attached to Ammeni.
  • Play long enough to find out how, when and where you modify the warmap. Make a point of allowing specific war room scenes for the player characters (ideally you already know what I mean by a "war room scene" from reading military fiction; if you don't, ask) and let those scenes impact the war map (and play) in essential ways. If the characters are low on the social totem pole, they'll still have room in the war room scene as aides and such - or simply depict things on a smaller scale and focus on just this one warband or whatever it is your game is about, exactly.

Note on Glorantha

Why should I waste my time with this when I could be playing a campaign of Orlanthi rebellion in Glorantha? This question is key, and I don't have an answer. Perhaps the best reason is flex; what is left unspoken is much less in Glorantha, so there's less overhead in starting a campaign in Khale. Another is method: I have no idea if the method I outline above would be useful in Glorantha with its intricate backgrounds. But there could be better reasons - maybe there is something in Near that, when mixed with Khale, becomes something else than a lightweight copy of Orlanthi?
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Eero Tuovinen

Now, some crunch on warcraft. I'm drawing on my experiences with earlier threads on the CRN forums (such as this): it seems to me that it's not uncommon at all to have people get confused by how they should be applying their characters to mass combats. Perhaps it'd be a smart idea to put in some rules like this?

War Crunch

Many of the things that leaders of men might do in war are easily covered by the normal rules. The stuff that becomes a problem comes in some specific guises:

  • When an individual character tries to act against a large number of NPCs, what happens?
  • When a character leads a number of men against another character, what happens?
  • When a large number of men goes against another such group, what happens?
So our problems are really about "how do large groups interact with characters" when it comes down to it.

The basic principle is that a large group of NPCs by itself is not a character, and therefore does not afford special statistics for itself. If the group has no mechanical backing at all, then it only influences play in terms of leverage: for example, a character who wants to challenge the opposing general into a duel might need to make a sneaking Ability check to get to meet the general despite his many men. Similarly, a character trying to single-handedly stop an army from attacking his hometown might not be able to call for this conflict simply because the enemy are too many. So the army affects the stakes of the conflict, but little else: as normally in TSoY, a character might suffer one or two penalty dice for going against adverse conditions, but anything more is not going to happen without the involvement of another character.

For the purposes of a campaign of this sort we might want to define a sort of parallel for the poison rules...

Battle (R)
The Ability to communicate commands, perceive on-going combat and plan combat actions. Maintaining basic discipline and training in a troop where applicable.

The above Ability is basically what you'll have to use when an unit under your command is going through some high-performance situation that requires them to act as an unified unit. Such units can be created by simple positioning in the fiction - be a Khalean chief and you'll tend to have armed men following you everywhere, for instance. One might also use social leadership abilities of appropriate sort to draw men together, or offer pay to form a mercenary outfit - lots of possibilities. An Effect may, of course, be created with such an Ability to represent the command - or Battle (R) might create the Effect in a training scene after the group of willing warriors has been gathered in some other way. Routine stuff so far.

Where this gets tricky is the fact that an undisciplined warband brought together like this will have limited mechanical impact in TSoY, however large it might be. Specifically, we'll clarify that such a band may usually be challenged by lone heroes in conflict according to normal rules - a character who has the backing of a warband in combat against another character causes a conditional penalty die for the opponent, for example, which is rather minor. For the cases where lots of armed men are considerably more serious, some crunch:

Secret of Discipline
The character has the capability to turn a warband into a military unit by indoctrination, training and discipline. The end-result is a group of men that acts in an unified, purposeful manner and will not break in the conditions they have trained for. The character gets a free Effect from Battle (R) to represent one such an unit when he leads one. A military unit acting within its trained conditions has overbearing leverage against individual characters - its activities may not be challenged without a warband to aid the opponent. Requirements: I'm thinking that this might be something limited to just Maldor, and perhaps Ammeni.

Secret of the Horde
The character has managed to gather together a large number of individual warbands which together form a horde. A horde has overbearing leverage against individual characters and warbands in situations that allow the large numbers of undisciplined warriors to count. The horde can also do many things simultaneously - a split horde is still a horde. The character gets a free Effect from Battle (R) to represent the horde and its robustness. Requirement: created through Secret of Incubation and lots of barbarian politics

Secret of Army
The character has several military units under his command, with subcommanders in command of individual units and/or warbands. The army can act in several places separately simply by detaching individual units or warbands, and it also acts as an unit itself. If an unit is detached and placed under another character's leadership, the captain needs the Secret of Discipline. (Warbands can be detached under any character's leadership.) Any detached units derive their initial Effects from the commander's Battle (R). Cost: 1 Reason and 1 level off from the army's Effect for each detached unit or warband. Requirements: Secret of Discipline. This is almost certainly limited to Maldor and perhaps Ammeni.

Secret of the Guard
The character has his own band of highly skilled warriors supporting him. The band needs to be represented as an Effect which provides equipment ratings for the character as long as it remains. The band has ratings equal to the value of the Effect, with one rating chosen by the player and the rest by the SG. The band Effect is created by Battle (R).

Secret of Tactics
The character may engage in a battle conflict with his unit or warband at hand and use his Battle (R) to resolve the combat instead of the normal run of Vigor-based Abilities. An opponent may force personal combat by beating the Battle (R) check with his own, though. Cost: 2 Reason. Requirements: Secret of Discipline.

A big issue

A big issue with these rules is whether I'm going overboard for the purposes of a TSoY book. Although wars are a sort of background phenomenon in traditional TSoY play, they haven't been a major topic. Is this sort of thing sufficiently interesting to justify the attention? Even more pressing is whether the above rules actually are useful for the sort of situations people tend to have trouble with - have I designed stuff that is only relevant for the sort of epic military fantasy campaign I have in my head? Playtest will perhaps tell whether others find any use in this.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


  This looks like a good start.
  Back to my previous idea of not just casting Ammeni as naturally evil people. what if we give them deeper motivations/goals.
  Don't get me wrong, at the 10,000 foot view, their goal is to subjugate Khale.

  But, I think that there are deeper issues that are driving the Ammeni to this course of action:
1) Reconstruction - I am sure that some generals/nobles see this as a step towards rebuilding the old, Maldor, world-wide empire.
2) Empire building - Only nobles on the border of Khale stand to gain from this expansion. They can annex neighboring Khale land and increase their holding without taking land from another Ammeni noble.
3) Strategic Resources - Metal, moon and others are a strategic resource that all Ammeni covet greatly. Metal is scarce in Ammeni and the Moonmetal just sweetens the pot.
  This is basically it, right?

  So, this is a house of cards. Especially if you take the nature of Ammeni politics into account:
1) Reconsruction - I imagine this is a small, petty goal in the eyes of many Ammeni and if any one pursuing this goal were to announce it or mention it to the wrong person, that would pretty much signal the end of their political career.
2) Empire building - While this doesn't "hurt" the nobles that are not expanding. It does put them at a disadvantage. So, for every noble that annexes Khale territory, there is a few other nobles that feel slighted by their inability to gain in the same way. Of course, you could create a new territory with a new ruler, but it is still a contentious issue regarding what house the new leader is appointed from.
3) Strategic resources - This issue is less fragile. The only two issues that need to be sorted out are:
a) Who decides who gets what?
b) Khale cooperates and offers a reasonable or even favorable trade arrangement

  The Khale side of the issue can be more complex too. I mean if you look at it from the perspective of a hunter/gatherer/farmer they don't care who their leader is. Similarly, they have a range of motivators to go to war:
1) Nationalism - National/tribal pride. Many Khale can be inspired to fight in order to preserve their tribal/national identity. Of course this is fragile, the Ammeni may move to preserve some tribes in order to leverage them against their own people of other tribes.
2) Agression/Heroism -  Many Khale will naturally rise against any aggressors. But apathy/fear will prevent some Khaleans from risking all for such a high-minded concept.
3) Revenge - Many Khalean lives have already been lost. Surely, for those people who have been affected, they will seek to extract the price paid by Khale in blood. Of course, revenge is exhausting and sooner or later this too will fade. Unless more people are killed fuelling more revenge. Like the metal issue for the Ammeni, this is the hardest one to derail.

  I don't know if this is how you see this issue. But when I look at this conflict, I can see it going pear-shaped for either side pretty easily.

  One other thing you probably need to add is supporters of both sides of the conflict on both sides of the border.

  Meaning there will be Ammeni who will see a benefit to siding with the Khale. Maybe they are sympathizers. Maybe they are capitalists who don't see any profit in war. Maybe they are spy masters who seek to turn Khale against itself from the inside. Whatever the reason, I don't think Ammeni support for the war will be universal.
  Equally, I don't think Khale support for the war will be universal. I am sure many Khale will see the potential for good in the Ammeni people and want to come up with a diplomatic solution (the Khale are dirty hippies after all). Others will want to just hide in the Green world until this blows over. Still others will want to give the Ammeni what they want in order to stop the violence. And finally some Khale will want to use the Ammeni aggression as a tool against rival tribes or leaders.

  One of the things Clinton tried to emphasize in the revised version was that these are real people with real emotions. So, I think its important for each SGPC to have a motivation to be in the war and a choke point that can force them out of the war. Otherwise, this could easily devolve into a "to-the-death" type campaign pretty easily, no?

  Also, if you want, I can work my faction magic for this and your other playtest campaigns...
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo

Eero Tuovinen

Good points, Dave - I agree that the campaign definitely needs detail and nuance. That's what I delved into myself before realizing that such detail is much better left to the individual group and internet discussion like this. Nobody else needs to be committed to my notions about the politics of the House Father and other such details when they could be making their own calls on the details.

Looking at the situation and how I'd run it right now, though, I'd add one important facet to the Khale side of the situation, and that is fantasy. Khale is depicted in an extremely positive, idealised light in Clinton's account, which is interesting to me because it seems that whatever they do with this war, it'll destroy their idealised lifestyle. Their society is amazing, but doomed to change to the worse. It's like razing Lothlorien.

I just yesterday spent a couple of hours speculating about this scenario with a prospective playtester, and we wondered about many things, including Ammeni politics and economy. My conclusion was that my Ammeni would be perhaps 5 times the size of Khale in terms of population and productivity, with subject peoples upping that number to 20. The reason for why they don't just crush Khale, on the other hand, is that by my reading there is hardly any central government in Ammeni - the "war" is really just a semi-temporary House alliance among several of the Great Houses, and any forces that are not outright working for individual houses pretty much have to be career mercenaries. So from Ammeni viewpoint we're not looking at anything close to a total war - it's more like the British vs. Zulus, with the Zulus fighting for their very survival with everything their society has to throw at the conquerors, while the Brits just raise the taxes a bit to finance the colonial army, which is half paid for by the colonial trade company anyway.

Anyway - this is exactly the sort of stuff that I'd like to see at the gaming table, hashed out between characters and incorporated into the war map of the campaign. So when the players come to the conclusion that heck, Ammeni must be huge, they can start considering it very carefully before they put something like "topple the Houses" in the map as a Khalean goal. Perhaps they'll realize that Khale can't achieve that sort of success without first building up a new sort of military unit themselves, taking the war to Ammeni and instigating a major slave uprising in the Zaru delta and elsewhere.

As for factions, I'd certainly love to see what you brew up, but there's no haste on the matter - the treatment in the book will be superficial enough to not really justify lots of detail at that level. Would make for a great separate supplement for any of these campaign frameworks, though.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Here is the spreadsheet version:

  I can translate it to Human-readable, if you think this is a good start...
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo

Eero Tuovinen

Heh, quite nice! I'll have to point this out to the Helsinki group who are going to start this campaign in a couple of weeks. They'll be needing specific places, factions and characters anyway, so this'll surely useful in that regard.

Also, I'll need to think of adapting a lightweight version of this factioning method for the titular "The Shadow of Yesterday" campaign frame...
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Paul T


This is quite an interesting method for a war campaign. I like it, and will try it out, at least in part, at some point in the future.

Just to be clear, is this how you envision it going down:

A player's character decides they want to work towards a certain goal: let'say, "Control the Waterways". They buy the Secret of Incubation, then we play it out until the issue is settled. If they succeed, they swap that Secret for "Secret of Waterway Control" (or whatever).

If so, I wonder why the "Incubation" is a Secret? It seems like it should play out better as a Key ("Key of the Mission: Control the Waterways"). That is, after all, what Keys should be for isn't it? Can you explain this choice?

Eero Tuovinen

Well, you could have at least some parts of the map represented by Secrets which are then meted out according to the Secret of Incubation. It's optional, though - the more important part is that the map is available as a source of stakes and consequences in the game. The map is effectively a list of conditions and strategic relationships: if you control A, you can try to control B, but if you don't, you have to try to control C or lose the war altogether. And if you control A and B, that opens up the option to go for D. By putting these things on paper the SG can make the flow of the war non-arbitrary.

As for the Secret of Incubation, it's not a Key simply because it concerns itself with a special, mechanized requirement for gaining some other crunch, which is not what Keys do. You could well have the Key of the Mission on the side - in fact, the Helsinki group are playing this campaign right now and they seem to have the Key of the Mission in the mix. But that's not the same as the Secret of Incubation.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.



I've been looking over the war crunch, and been giddy about its potential for use in Maldor and other locales. I don't know how familiar you are with Greg Stolze's "Reign", but one of the ransomed supplements has a mid-level wargame rules-set, called "Die, Men!" which has some pretty easy adaptability to TSOY. Of course, that's part of the beauty of "Reign", which has so much modularity to it that it's practically designed to lay over another game if you want it to.

Looking at it and your War crunch rules got me tinkering a little, and led to some questions. Specifically:

1.) Is it just me, is the Secret of the Army less potent than the Secret of the Horde? Is this because a Horde requires so much incubation and in-game work, whereas the Army can be scooped up within two Secrets? A lot of this centers on the fact that "a split horde is still a horde", whereas in most respects a split army does not seem to be as robust as an unsplit army.

2.) I'm unclear on what the Secret of the Guard gets you, but maybe this is me being unclear on Effects-as-equipment in general? I've tried to follow the various threads about this, but it always leaves me a little spun:

QuoteThe band needs to be represented as an Effect which provides equipment ratings for the character as long as it remains. The band has ratings equal to the value of the Effect, with one rating chosen by the player and the rest by the SG. The band Effect is created by Battle (R).

So, if I roll a Battle check and get a Legendary (5) result, that means that I basically have 5 "effect dice" to distribute between equipment ratings? So my personal detail of men could have swell "+3 weapons to kill Duke Westerlake," and then the Storyguide would dictate any other ratings, giving them perhaps "+2 shields against the Duke's guards", or "+1 knives for dueling" and also "+1 armor against smashing attacks"? How long do these Effects linger? Like other effects, I take it they're maintained by 1 Reason, and they stick around until I refresh my Reason, when they have to be re-invested in or else they fade?

Maybe it's because weapons don't just fall out of the sky in the games I've played, but that seems pretty darn potent. Most people who can conjure up the +3 effects seem like they drop the bomb on their intended targets pretty handily. Particularly if, at the end of the day, the effect goes back in he box when I refresh Reason, to be called up again the next time some other local lord gets in my face. Yowza.

But, then, maybe that's just me, and other games have +3 ratings all over the place. It must make for swift BDTP though. When your lowest tagged Harm level is guaranteed to be 3, things get Bloodied darn fast.

This might be an attempt to represent "elite" units in all sorts of ways, such as archers and cavalry and pikemen and whatnot. Maybe it works better than I realize, but for the moment, I instinctively fear it.

3.) Depending on the direction you go with this, I have some Secret suggestions which might come in handy, particularly if this gets expanded into a Maldorite war crunch section.

Secret of the General
You can coordinate troops with tremendous skill, showing them by example how to When in direct command of a warband, you can use them as a conduit for any other Secret you already know, for instance granting them the option to use the Secret of Sudden Strike against an enemy unit. You can also purchase Secrets with normal Advances which are applied to all units under your direct command, such as granting them all the Secret of Imbuement or the Secret of Ability Enhancement for a specific Ability. Cost: +1 Reason to use the warband as a conduit for a Secret you know. No special cost for granting them Secrets of their own. Prerequisite: Secret of Discipline, Secret of Tactics.

Secret of Fearsome Reputation
You are well known for your cruelty and lethality as a military commander, and your reputation for what you do with captives and/or those who compel you to take them by force has spread far and wide. You can use Intimidate in lieu of Battle or Orate when inspiring troops, creating appropriate Effects. When facing a military force larger than your own, if you can beat the leader's Battle check with an Intimidate check of your own, they are not automatically considered to have superior leverage, though you may face penalty dice to the enemy force's size. This option to reduce a group's leverage requires the enemy force to know you are at the lead of your own units, requiring some appropriate justification in the game fiction or a deliberate terror campaign.

Secret of the War Historian
You've studied ancient history and tactics, and you know how famous battles were won and lost and campaigns managed and mismanaged. This insight allows you to chain appropriate academic and history Abilities to the Battle checks you or others make, acting as a military advisor and aide-de-camp.

(That's something I wanted to add in so the more academic-minded PC's can throw themselves into the mix if someone's running a crazy war-heavy game in Maldor, for instance.)

Secret of Guerrilla Tactics (maybe needs a better name; I'd honestly rather call THIS the Secret of Tactics, and rename the Secret of Tactics as something else, a la the "Secret of the Warlord" or something, but that's probably just me picking nits)
You can use a unit you control to attack and undermine the preparations of an enemy force. This requires 1 Reason and a Battle check. Each Success Level achieved removes a Battle effect die from an enemy force. This is typically performed before an actual clash of forces, but can be done if you have the option to split off units to perform this action during warfare, by outflanking foes, cutting off supply lines or retreat options, or other inventive tactics. Cost: 1 Reason. Prerequisite: Secret of Discipline

Secret of Strategy
You have studied the finer points of strategic warfare, and have certain scenarios at which you excel. You have a Style Matrix of imbued bonuses you can call upon when commanding units, spending Battle Effect dice to achieve these imbued bonuses, on a 1-die per rating basis (so achieving a +3 imbued rating on a single Ability check would cost you 3 Battle Effect dice). The Style Matrix is created when you first take this Secret, and should be appropriate to the culture your character hails from and the methods of fighting he is used to. Alternately, he might be some sort of strange genius who understands guerrilla warfare in a culture who has never practiced it before. Cost: 1 Battle Effect die per rating level invoked on a check.

Some sample Strategy Matrices:

Guerrilla/Resistance Fighter Strategy Matrix

  • +1 when making hit-and-run strikes against enemies
  • +1 when organizing peasantry from your homeland
  • +1 when fighting with simple, makeshift weapons
  • +2 when attacking supply lines or other non-military targets (food warehouses)
  • +2 when using features of your homeland to move stealthily
  • +3 when defending a home base against discovery by enemies

Maldorite War College Strategy Matrix

  • +1 on clashes of mass battle (conventional warfare on a relatively open field)
  • +1 when organizing enlisted men or mercenaries
  • +1 when storming an enemy's defenses
  • +2 when "healing" reduced forces via conscription
  • +2 when defending a fortified position (i.e. a fortress, a bridge, etc.)
  • +3 when targeting enemy leaders for single combat

I can imagine you could easily create Oranid cavalry ones, and something for the maritime combat scenarios, just as well, if those are people's thing in a game. These may need some work, but they're me attempting to go Martial Arts Style Matrix with something else, as I love those mechanics, and don't want them to only be in one place.

As always, comments and criticism are quite welcome.

-shadowcourt (aka Josh)