Monday, September 1, 2014

Anygame System - Gamer Guide to Small Wars Manual part 1

Any Game System or GM will benefit from this Free Public Domain Book! It will highlight Tasks  any Adventure (aka Operations) the PCs will engage. Note that this book has Pack Animal care and logistics notes, which can be used and translated into your Game Systems' needs (some thing that is not covered by many game systems).

I will highlight some chapters so you can easily digest this massive book from the most important and relevant gaming pieces to the more theoretical and strategic elements that may be important if your game goes there in a series of posts.

Logistics in the Game

For every detail the PCs cannot perform with mastery consider noting it down. Skills like Packing, Organization, Recon, Basic Navigation, Leadership and Due Diligence are often done in conditions where someone practiced and proficient can succeed almost all the time. But when there is room for failure, this is where the GM can roll for where some internal challenges can come up. No plan survives contact, the GM has to make the internal challenges happen to test the adaptability of the PCs

Basics. Check out Infantry patrols> the March (6-38 p.23-34)

It talks about Rate of March, Load, and Bivouacing aka Camping!
If your game system has no rules for this, you can make them up using these practices. GURPS covers the marching part pretty well (but you need to set limits) , but not the Camping part.

SWM 6-40 Rate of March
Basically its 45min march because there is 15 min breaks. Breaks that go to fixing packing gear and hydration BUT see the book for more of the details the GM has to consider.

Even if you have minimal experience of the outdoors you will notice natural paths, worn trails, and difficult terrain. This is really a matter of awareness and familiarity, witht little experience and reflection you will notice these details. These practices (the book) is there to mitigate risks and because time and effort are of short supply, people tend to march the safe route - a visible natural path or worn trail. To deviate means to risk bad footing, which penalizes people in progress or the chance to injure themselves. A shortcut through difficult terrain is very difficult to capitalize because of the level of exhaustion, coordination (they have to be together, you are dragged down by your weakest team mate), and the risk of injury. Once you've sprained or injured you're leg, like pack animals, it has very serious consequences. So common sense - stick to the path, unless you're so good in navigation or survival you can pick out a path hidden by the foliage (if there is another PATH, the GM is the final arbiter).

Pack Animals

Important points in Packing 3-26 p.18
A successful packing easy roll should be 30 mins. Since this is can be a trivial task, the GM doesnt really roll for this If you make this whole march a task, one of the road bumps could be in the packing.
Mounted Detachment > Care of Animals >
Rules for Handling Animals 7-9 p.8
Management of Animals on the March 7-16 p. 11
- you will notice that animals are not the same as humans when carrying a load relative to their body mass.
Spare Mounts 7-35 p. 28
Animal Encumbrance

you will notice it takes a lot of effort to take care of animals. Other than camping (see below) you will need to care for your animal - your mount or pack animal. A your "torch bearer" better have packing and animal handling skills.

SWM 6-58 Camping. 
Camping is done 3 hours before sundown, 1 hour to look for suitable place to camp (ask your the player who is tasked to recon for the best camp sight to make a roll, the margin of success can be used as a reference point against ambushers) then two hours to move into the area, clear it and prep it, and then set up camp.
You can guess why this is a big deal? (does the system have penalties making camp at night?)


  • Hiking is 45 mins per hour with 15 mins for breaks. breaks mean eating a quick meal, drinks, and readjusting packs. Re-adjusting packs mean load outs are important and good quality gear and efficiency is key. This means PCs that overpack will be penalized.
  • Hiking in Daylight Hours, longer in seasons with longer days and shorter over seasons with shorter days. 2 hours before night fall, look for a safe place to rest and set up camp. Assuming you have limited man power security and details eat up more time.  
  • Packing is time consuming and takes 30 mins for a skilled packer. Typically specialized, that means mobilizing as soon as daylight arrives will be an hour or two from daylight when you need light and want to maintain security. 
  • Animal attrition is at about ~20% over a period of a short campaign. So there is a buffer for how much pack animals. Animals are time consuming, having such adds to the number of specialists to reduce the time impact or it will increase the time it takes to ready and preapare. Without such you may end up spending 1 hour for animal to be feed and prepped. 
  • All the details add up and your hiking time shrinks, then there are other security considerations. A party moving fast and lightly encumbered will have to "take" their supplies as they go, this means they know where they are going, the odds and are equipped to face them. Note even Mongols did due diligence (making maps of Europe prior to invading). 
  • Factor nature, Magic and Technology, civilization complexity, and economics. A setting with multiple packing animal options with trade offs, magic in logistics, how communities are organized and where they position. 

My Jabbering 

Ignore it if it will ruin the above (most likely it will).

This book was around in the Phil-American War and was the traditions drawn from by the Philippine Scouts in WW2, so I can pretty much appreciate its historical relevance and has impacted how Philippine history played out.

I bought my copy of the small wars manual in 2010, while in Singapore in the Borders there. We don't get these kinds of books in the Philippines and I've never heard about it until I've saw it then, bought it, and read up on it. (I also bought the Combat Leaders' Field Guide 13ed there and the SAS survival).

I consider these book necessary homework for GMing wilderness and logistics. The "doctrine" and practice is present to reduce the complexity of a task and highlights the main risk each tasks most likely encounters.

It is in this Doctrine do I see more supporting evidence of the differences between Human marching endurance and animals (see Animal transportation 3-25 p.17 on wards and Care of Animals 7-5 p.3 and onward).  It also talks about the kind of attrition expected for such animals. Already the details and specifics about care speaks volumes of the kind of problems the Adventurers would encounter if they adventure without Doctrine or a Tradition to draw from. this is Biomechanics.

Oh yeah, Drawing from Military Tradition is a BIG deal. These practices are honed over the frequency of use, ingenuity and pragmatism of fighting conditions. These traditions are indispensable and to "Make them Up" as you go would be a truly fantastic feat of genius (like someone just coming up with Gunpowder in a low tech era!). You can guess why Nomadic and Migrant Peoples were special favored for conscription, once you settle people they forget many of the logistical consideration of travelling over great distances. of course we can ignore these details to have fun, but once you realize the gap of knowledge offered by tradition vs "winging it" it may come nagging at you how your Players Set camp, or how many daylight hours they allocate on a march, or how much manpower they allocate for recon, if they bother to deal with local guides etc...

One sure use of the SWM is GM Ideas. If the GM looks at the practices and the reasons for it, every lack of diligence due builds up the challenge up for the players. Although, I'm a fan of the players, and ask them to roll Administration, Soldiering, Tactics, Information Analysis, Observation, Strategy, etc.. etc.. when I see that they overlook something that should be practiced by people of their level of ability.

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