Thursday, March 11, 2010

War Campaign musing

I've joined Arm Chair Generals forums to work through some of my campaign problems.

One of them, I'm stuck on is military readiness. Using GURPS mass combat, plotting the precise human resource is very hard and difficult when with all the money that goes into keeping a war machine running, even if the engine is on idle.

Levies are a great way to cheapen the overhead cost. Knights and Lords with their Feudal obligations also count as levies.

Sure, levies and promises are "cheap" but the constant military mobilization is expensive. The logistics increase over all costs by 16x! That is x5 for the land support, x5 for the sea support, maintenance per month increases to x1.5 and you have to end the campaign in 2 months in time to go home before the beginning of the harvest season.

The funny thing about war and game theory, when you and your opponent's population is doing well, it is a good time for war. Its a prisoners dilemma, like what Von Neumann pointed out about Nuclear inevitability and that Sun Tzu adage: when negotiating for peace make preparation for war (signaling serious intent). Realizing this, it is no surprise populations of Levant, the crusader states and Byzantium were constantly falling during the medieval era.

The anticipation for war can be a killer. Preemptive strikes are not only strategic, but due to emotions running high.

So a minor Lord who has jurisdiction of a early 11C style castle (motte and bailey) and the neighboring town might have a income of $810,000 (50cp, and 15cp in status) might only have a budget for $240,000 for troops. That is "just" enough to hire squad of sergeant man-at-arms. The recon ability is whole set of skill that is important in managing a fief, particularly intelligence gathering. If this lord were to answer a call to duty he might have to draw on his areas population of 7000 for levies (3 Levies ally group 18cp: once a year counts as rare-freq x1/2cp, 51-100 x12 x3). He would call on those estate holders who owe him fealty (Vassals Ally group 15cp; once a year counts as rare-freq x1/2cp, 6-10 x10cp) like yeomen archers and some harriers (light infantry). That lord would run up a social advantage cost of 96cp.

Its all about the Sack! Now here is a funny thing of how peace is settled in such settings is that it becomes a game of match making. If you want to make sure that guy is not going to fight you, its best to make him part of the family. Its not the most sure fired way, but its one of the best. Why fight, when can have it all with a "corporate merger". At around 11C primugeniture is not only a way to accumulate power, it is a system of creating long lasting dynasties. It is ironic that the happiness, lives, and suffering of all the regular people depend on the success of nobles if their "celebrity love lives".

As Henry VIII love life determined much of history, so can players enjoy a war campaign when they go to war behind the scenes. Rolling up a freaking host of NPCs can be maddening, it doesn't help that they didn't exactly have sure names to keep all the Johns in check.

While populations rebuild and old problems silenced with the convenience of the past war slowly get their voices back, PCs can be busy getting to know everyone they may have to face on the battle field. This guys cousin, his brother, his sister, her father, her best friend, her lover, his teacher, his master, his servant, his squire, his broker, her husband, his wife, his priest...

the drama, before the war. It is no surprise that lords who face each other in the battle field, knew each other in a "private high-school"-like environment of court (repressed, many small cliques, emotionally charged, forced socialization and status driven).

Lords muttering to their men at arms, about the guy across the field.
"Lord Athos, had a certain way with Lady Veatryss" (that guy was looking at the girl I liked in a bad way)
"I can still remember Sir Harl squiring for Old Sir Kylean, washing the breeches of the old man when he kept soiling himself"

High-school cliches are useful if you need to populate your court quick.

Thoughts about running War campaigns. Knights and Lords did not stay in one place long, they had duties to attend. The lack of instant communication meant a lot of travell for men of responsibility. They had to see things first hand, and fix up a sticky situation. PCs who composed of an entourage of powerful individuals working together will find a lot of situations where they work out a solution, and go off to their individual tasks.

Diverging from the usual game format the GM would let the Players quickly build up a set of plans, then individually handle each player and his responsibilities. He can limit the brainstorming to 30 mins to 1hr, then adjudicate its player in less than 15 min like a problem solving improv session(something like the Ignite 5min talks).

Eventually war breaks out and the PCs get to work on their specialties. The PC commander will have to delegate, build up bonuses by letting other PCs execute special maneuvers in mass combat. Support PCs, might be left in the background and their players take on NPC allied commanders.

In a war campaign, army strength constantly goes down. There are no "instant" regens, like in fantasy. In a way this makes the math easier, but the decisions much harder. In such a war, like that in the medieval times force sizes are around the average of 3,000 to 7,000 (average of 1/6 to 1/10 cavalry) each. The first crusade with its 35,000 was unusual and possibly exaggerated (its all demographics, don't believe the bigger numbers you can't get those numbers with the current population and economic capacity of the participating states) although still one of the biggest forces assembled in the era.

One nice thing about a war campaign, I can look forward too is that when all the fighting is done and over the man power depletion means no more war for quite a while and I can end the campaign at that point.

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