JP On Gaming

Monday, December 27, 2010

More Thoughts on Fantasy Warfare

I recently red a post by the GM Oracle ( In his post, he comments how mass combat is unrealistic a fantasy setting. His point is "proven" by an example of a single wizard with a wand of fireball. In many ways, he is right. A single fireball (or 50 in a wand) will decimate a unit of simple commoner.

In a med-fan setting, adventurers rarely tend to stick around one place for very long. After a battle or two, they drift off seeking treasure and - as their name implies - adventure.

Instead of thinking in terms of a human army (with clerics and wizards), first, let's think of an orc horde. The vast majority of its numbers is composed of disorganized individually dangerous creatures.

Why do I disagree?

1- Communications

Communication is key to any battle plan. When running small-scale action, it is easy to use magical means to coordinate. However, when the numbers grow, such cohesion and means of communications become confusing at best. Imagine 10, 20 or more people each talking, or relaying information at the same time.

Communication is not just knowing how engaged troops fare, but also where the reserve are, when and where to commit them, knowing about the enemy's movements. If a general cannot see where his troops are, it is impossible to provide support when and where needed.

Good examples of this includes Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz where he maneuvered his army while his Russian opponent was hampered by the fog, and assumed Napoleon would not risk battle because of it.

2- Limited Magical Means

It is false or simplistic to assume that only one side has access to magical means. Both sides would be likely to have destructive, scrying and dispelling magics. The rules in D&D and Pathfinder make such means of roughly equal level. Requiring a minimum of 5th level for the most common large-scale destructive magics (fireball), thus making it uncommon.

Next, people with limited, valuable resources (such as spell casting) rarely seek to expend those frivolously (like PCs do). Wasting fireballs on a mob of commoners is not something I would generally wish to do.

3- Target Priority

Same as modern artillery firing blindly at an enemy is not ideal. WWI showed us, massive barrage achieve only limited success unless backed up with an infantry assault (read about the creeping barrage tactics and the fall offensive of 1918).

YES, as a wizard, I can just throw my fireballs at whatever moves, leaving me with much less to fight against real tougher opponent (remember that wizard on the other side I mentioned earlier?).

4- Modern Military Tactics

GM Oracle's post mentions that fantasy warfare would be very similar to modern warfare. Good quality modern armies (such as the US) have one thing in common: they are a volunteer, professional military force. This means they are highly-trained, well-equipped and well-disciplined. Very similar to adventurers.

When gathering his military forces, a fantasy lord would call upon a few groups of well-trained warriors (such adventurers, knight-retainers and religious orders), but most of his forces would consist of local militia and commoner with little to no training, equipment and discipline.Thus the "mob" or "big block" formation makes the most sense.

Those elite groups would use tactics that would be more in line with modern warfare, yes, absolutely. But the poor little farm boy who leaves his farm to serve his lord with his club or pitchfork...

5- Intelligence

Knowing the enemy and his resources is crucial, even in fantasy warfare. The presence of high level spell casters in a city is something that is known. The presence of someone who can drop a mountain from the sky rarely goes unnoticed. People talk. Casters scry. Spies listen and observe.

Anyone quickly notices adventurers coming to town and selling for 1,000s of gp's worth of gear and loot. Merchants and people talk. They do so without malice, its just common sense. Since those merchants would have an influx of magic items for sale, they would spread tales designed to attract customers.

This forces an attacking commander to do something about those very dangerous individuals: assassins, distractions, bribery or even plain old magic. Nothing prevents an attacker from using many of those methods. PCs and high-level adventurers form wild cards that must be dealt with.

It also assumes that those around the PCs and other important NPCs haven't fallen prey to the means mentioned above. While it is often true that a PC could take command of the army, morale is likely to drop cohesion may not be the same. Why take out the impossible god-like adventurer when you can take down his few aides.

PCs can rarely be everywhere at once and an attacker would try to take advantage of that. Feints, counter-feints and all kinds of stratagems would still be used. Opponents would know that. Add to that illusion magic that would enhance those stratagems.

6- Castles and fortifications

Castles and fortifications protect little from a flying wizard/dragon, it does protect one from bandit and more "conventional" attackers. Adding machicolations and other defenses would help. At least delay such an attacker.

Elements that would change would include more elaborate underground structures to protect from airborne attackers and those underground structures would need additional defenses to keep enemies away. Do I hear "dungeon"?

Castles also make a great statement to the local populace that you are here to stay and defend against invaders (as they did in England after the Normand Conquest).

Plus... if we're very honest... They are really cool to think, design and research...

What we agree on

I think the biggest point we both agree on is that fantasy warfare cannot be modeled exclusively on medieval warfare, even though it takes a lot from it. Camps and bases would be more spread-out to avoid decimation by fireballs.

Personally, I see med-fan battlefields as blocks of lowly troops in the centers with elite forces and splinter "modern" groups fighting on the wings, seeking to gain an advantage. The result is a hybrid of both methods. Thus the basic elements of medieval warfare such as supplies, communications, logistics, organizations and the stratagems are all there, but use of magic makes such stratagems more complex, and in the end interesting.

In the end, I guess that it is simplistic to merely assume that common medieval tactics should be discarded simply because of the presence of magic. As usual, the answer is more complex.


Friday, December 17, 2010

NeoExodus Adventure First Draft

For the past few posts, I have been telling you about my involvement on a writing project for LPJ Design. Well, finally, my first draft is complete! I worked like a mad man to complete the “manuscript” and now it is done. From here on, it’s editing, cleaning up, strengthening, tightening and making better.

For those who plan on writing and publishing material, the most important and hardest part is completing this first draft. After that you can change, tweak and re-arrange to your heart’s content. Unfortunately too many would-be authors get so focused on minutiae and pre-editing work that they never finish anything. Sit, write and get that first draft completed. Moving text around is easier than coming up with it in the first place.

Now you ask: what have I been working on? An adventure, of course! I hope that it will be the first of many adventures that will be part of the NeoExodus line.

Sneak peeks and details you ask? The current working title is “Origin of Man”. But that may change - it has already changed once since I started working on it last month. It targets a solid group of 4 or 5th level characters using the Pathfinder RPG.

When I started talking with Louis about NeoExodus, I was telling him that NeoExodus is an awesome line. Great, flavorful races; a unique history; many, many great groups and secret societies, the thing it lacks is adventures that showcased them. It’s one thing to come up with a creature. I find that creatures presented to me in the course of an encounter then the reason for the creature’s existence provide meaning. It’s no long just a series of stats and a monster. It’s something for my PC to defeat. A way to be a hero!

As I was writing the adventure, I pointed out to Louis a number of points that concerned me as a writer. Thing I understood as a concept, but that I did not really know how to present to the GM/ players. I guess that’s one of the big differences between a setting writer (Louis) and an adventure writer (me) that we approach certain ideas and concepts differently.

If you didn’t know, Louis and his team are working hard to update the setting from 3.5 to Pathfinder. He posted his release schedule on his blog. A lot of things in there and an exciting time really. I hope he enjoys what I do and gives me more work. I think he already assigned more things for me to do… I just need to know what!

That’s it for me!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Major Updates and News

This blog entry is a major update about what I have been doing these past weeks. So much is going on that my head is spinning. I’ll not give the detail of my job, where I have a lot to do (also). Let me focus on Gaming.

The Holidays
Let me start by wishing all of you a Merry Xmas and my best seasons wishes!

For my Holidays, I plan on spending time with my daughters and hopefully get them involved in a game or two. Don’t tell my wife, but I would sure love to have two beautiful gamer girls tagging along with me. I am lucky enough to have 2 weeks off this year (again). Good times. I’ll need to play a game of 40k at least… Plus I will be running two game days during that time (see later). Should be a lot of fun!

This coming Sunday (the 19th) will be our Not-Quite-Living Arcanis game day. I plan to run a VERY old (read: 3.0) adventure for the party. The adventure, Blood Reign of Nishanpur was written prior to the start of the Living Arcanis campaign. It’s a great story but one that is antiquated for our party (as we have already played a lot of later adventures in Nishanpur).

I am not sure what is happening with the new Arcanis campaign. As far as public events goes, it’s dead – at least here in Denver. I’m not in the know about what is happening so it is very possible that private games are still happening, but from the outside looking in… Doesn’t seem much is happening. What I find most sad is that I doubt I will get the chance to play any at Genghis Con Denver in February as I expect to be extremely busy with Pathfinder Society (More on Genghis Later).

I don’t want to say anything bad as the game itself is still in flux. That’s why I never posted my review of the game system, because it’s not final and reviewing a play-test document… It might be unfair, so I’ll wait for the final product before really saying anything. In short there is one element that drives me ABSOLUTELY nuts about it. But the storyline… well, it’s from PCI, so it’s top-notch!

Pathfinder Society Day: Dec 27th
I have been working with the folks at Enchanted Grounds in Highlands Ranch (Shout-out to Dave & Jeff) to organize two events during the holidays. The first is a Pathfinder Society Day on the 27th (still a few seats left). During the day, we will be running the new Pathfinder Module The Godsmouth Heresy and parts 1 and 2 of the Echoes of the Everwar and during the evening, Dave runs his usual stuff. So potentially 3 slots in one day! Good times to be had by all!

I am taking the "floating" position in this in that I do not assign myself to any table until the day of the event itself. That way I can jump in and help wherever I am needed. That is the position I like to have as it gives me a lot of freedom and I don’t have to worry about incomplete tables or a missing DM. Plus being the holidays and December in Colorado, the weather can come into play.

Still I expect that day to be full of excitement. Good ol’fashion holiday gaming!

Non Organized Play Day: Dec 29th
Back when I started looking at my Xmas Holidays, a thought came to me. There are many games I like to play, such as Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, GDW’s Space 1889, and more recently Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. After my recent Doctor Who gorge-o-thon (all the 9th through 11th Doctors in one weekend plus a few week nights), I felt inspired. Very much so. It was awesome. Actually ever since, I have been trying to get my son to play the Dalek and walk around going EX TER MI NATE!. But he doesn’t get it. Not yet.

So back to the topic at hand, I thought that it would be fun to have a day where we would play something that would NOT be Organized Play. Where I could pull out my CoC and my Doctor Who and even play something else also. It would be very cool to see something of the sorts. So I offered to coordinate a non-OP day. I am still working on what I want to run. I think I’ll put together a Doctor Who: AiTaS adventure and maybe dust off an old CoC module. Just for good measure.

Hummm… Call of Cthulhu…

Micro con
Shannon is taking over the running of Microcon again this year (thank you Shannon). Good thing, since I don’t think I would’ve had the time to really commit to it. So on Jan 29th, there will be more of the madness that is Microcon. For those who don’t know, Microcon offers 2h adventures. Microcon gives just enough to whet your appetite, and hopefully join a campaign or join an existing group. \

The first year, I ran a Basic Zombie Apocalypse adventure. Last year I have a Cthulhu/Pirates crossover. This year, I decided to offer some Dr Who. My idea is wacky and interesting all at once. I call it The Doctor Who Marathon. Every slot I run a new episode. So I need to come up with more interesting premises. I have two good ones already (I think) AND I have Pre-generated PCs that each have something interesting. I may post them here or on my website before or after the event. Those pre-gens would be the same as those I would run on December 29th’s non-OP Day.

Speaking of the Doctor Who RPG, I have been looking at the game, but am still undecided on whether I should fork over the 60$ for it (likely I won’t, not with so many Pathfinder Goodies coming out). It’s a game I wouldn’t mind snatching at an auction.

More than a few have been asking me about Akos, and whether I would run some of it at one of the above-mentioned event. Well, I’m not. I am currently waiting on my publisher for news on a number of announcements. I expect great things, but I am waiting right now. I have the setting, the mods, and a basic rulebook ready to out. After the feedback from Neoncon, I literally cannot wait to move forward with this product.

LPJ Design
As many of you know, Louis and I have been talking a lot recently about a number of things. I am working on a writing project with him. That’s another thing I am extremely excited about. It’s something that to me is both very different and very familiar. He and I have a definite synergy and I hope to announce good stuff coming down the pipe. Ever since I started to talk to him, I mean I like his style and his approach to the business. Yes, he is a curmudgeon and somewhat of a sourpuss. But HEY! If you are reading thing blog on even a marginally regular basis, you would know that I too am one of THOSE people.

Someone initially pointed me to his blog as a great source of material. I have to say… Louis puts out a lot of good stuff. Some I doubt or could argue about, mostly having to deal with game balance, but most of it is fun and could easily be added to an existing campaign, more on that in a later post.

Genghis Con
The biggest gaming of the year in the Denver CO area, Genghis Con Denver returns this year. Once more, I will be marshalling the PFS troops and events. We have a sweet program with a lot of good and interesting events to play. As I stated early, I would like to play some Shattered Empires, Doctor Who, Cthulhu, but I doubt that will happen. I will be doing Pathfinder most of the weekend and running the Venture Captain special. (Most slots would be my guess). Oh well, I volunteered for it.

I am very happy that once again Enchanted Grounds will be sponsoring the Pathfinder Society events. That does help a lot. Because of all the other projects I’m working on right now, I will begin to ask GMs only following the Holidays, setup Slot-Zeroes and fill out my schedule. I am looking forward to that event also.

RPG Superstar
This year I WILL take part in Paizo’s annual contest. I thought of a magic item that I think many of my characters would like to get. It’s something that is low-level, simple, small and most of all usable by almost every character. Now I need to actually GO and finish writing it.

Good luck to all participants!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Becoming Venture-Captain

Although a few days old already (okay, I'm delinquent), I have made a guest blog post on Louis Porter's Blog. The article can be found here:

Becoming a Venture Captain for Pathfinder Society by JP Chapleau