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Author Topic: Adding wargame mechanics to my fantasy system  (Read 2045 times)
Ar Kayon
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Posts: 190


« on: May 19, 2010, 09:21:27 PM »

Considering the nature of play in my developing dark fantasy system, I was thinking of designing a large scale combat architecture.  However, I've never designed wargame mechanics before and I'm not sure how to go about it, although I am certain it will use the same core mechanics as I feel they will be compatible.  In any case, I could use some advice on design.  I've been doing research on Renaissance battles and will use the concepts as a framework for the system:

*Bowmen and artillery are typically used as opening strategies, then infantry close in, and then cavalry flank the opposing side's infantry.  I need to design mechanics that reflect the advantage of using these strategies.

*In the battle of Agincourt, terrain played a decisive role in the victory of a much smaller army.  Thus, terrain and position mechanics must be at the foreground of tactical choice as is so in the standard combat system.

*When the unit commander is taken out of action or a unit otherwise loses formation, chaos ensues and they usually suffer heavy losses.  A critical success roll can represent a unit taking out another unit's commander.

*Pikemen in formation have a huge advantage against cavalry.  Cavalry have a huge advantage against any standing opponent, except pikemen (unless they are flanked or in disarray).  Pikemen have a huge advantage when charging any other type of infantry.  When opposing groups of pikemen clash, casualties are likely to be extremely heavy on both sides, and a push-of-pike contest is likely to develop after contact (a critical success or critical failure from one side will most likely be required in order to end the stalemate).  In tight circumstances, sword-wielding infantry are superior to pikemen.  Harquebusiers are deadlier against armored opponents such as knights, but are otherwise inferior to longbowmen. 

*Different subclasses will have varying levels of strength.  The lowest subclass will be commoner (unless if crossbowman or harquebusier; otherwise will only have a low melee strength), then professional/mercenary, and then the armored knight. 
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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2010, 11:19:51 PM »

Well, I've actually got more experience designing and playtesting wargame mechanics than RPG ones, so I'll pitch in with a few thoughts and some questions.

First off, would this be entirely described by words, drawn on a map, or using counters/miniatures? That might affect some of the decisions you make. Also, what sort of scale are you going for here? I know you say 'large scale' but really even small scale skirmish wargames are pretty big battles compared to most RPGs. I'm gonna go ahead and assume you mean a scale appropriate to 'a Renaissance battle' which means hundreds, if not thousands of guys on a side, which means a focus on units rather than individuals.

Which brings up the question: how will this interface with the individual parts of  your RPG (i.e. what will PCs do in these big freakin battles?). You will probably want to abstract their role a bit to avoid having two layers of complex rules (complex individual rules + complex wargame type rules), but you also don't want them to just be part of the faceless hordes (well, I would assume not at least).

I'll respond to your points in order, then if I have anything else, I'll tack that on.

*Bowmen and artillery are typically used as opening strategies, then infantry close in, and then cavalry flank the opposing side's infantry.  I need to design mechanics that reflect the advantage of using these strategies.
I think achieving these goals will be fairly easy. For the artillery and bowmen being an opening strategy, just ensure that the 'set up' is similar to battles of the time except in special circumstances like ambush, and that the ranged units have a long enough range, and then they'll automatically get shots while the forces are closing. You may also make some kind of morale rule where your units will break and run super fast if they're taking friendly fire, to discourage callous commanders from always just raining down fire on units engaged in hand to hand fighting.

For the flanking, a) ensure cavalry is faster than infantry (duh Smiley ) and b) make sure there's a mechanical bonus to flanking a unit. Fortunately, organized medieval/renaissance formations were largely rectangular, which makes determining 'flanking' for a game really easy. Popular choices for how to model that are to provide a combat bonus to the flanker, cause some sort of panic or fear check in the flanked unit when attacked, or to take away some fighting ability of the flanked unit when attacked in the side (like if they have 2 or 3 rows of pikes that can be leveled at the front, only let the one row on the side fight, since they're not braced properly).

You'll also want to make sure that these big, lumbering blocks of men don't turn on a dime, otherwise the extra speed of the cavalry won't do much. Imposing restrictions on what kind and how many turns a unit can make in a turn (or other maneuvers) is probably important.


*In the battle of Agincourt, terrain played a decisive role in the victory of a much smaller army.  Thus, terrain and position mechanics must be at the foreground of tactical choice as is so in the standard combat system.

Well, since you've given it a lot of thought in  your standard combat system, I'd recommend continuing the same principles for a feeling of continuity. That being said, in most wargames terrain has two main effects: impairing movement and offering cover. I'm including "gaining the benefit of the high ground" as 'offering cover' here. But a lot of terrain that is easy to traverse individually is a nightmare for organized formations. This is also one of the primary benefits of infantry - they can scrabble over just about anything with enough time. But they'll probably lose their formation if it's too ugly. Likewise, knights lose a lot of their momentum charging up hill, can't really charge into trees, et cetera. In general, you seem to have a good grasp on why these things have had the effects they do, so you shouldn't have much trouble coming up with a mechanic that forces players to make similar choices as real generals


*When the unit commander is taken out of action or a unit otherwise loses formation, chaos ensues and they usually suffer heavy losses.  A critical success roll can represent a unit taking out another unit's commander.

A lot of games have an abstract 'morale' or 'leadership' quality that is effected by things like your leader getting killed, getting charged in the flank, seeing a friendly unit fleeing. I think this is crucial, since most battles were decided by routing, not totally destroying, your foe. One interesting thing to do might be to have a variable 'morale value' based on your side's success so far, making it easier to keep going when you're winning, and easier to flee when everybody else is failing.

*Pikemen in formation have a huge advantage against cavalry.  Cavalry have a huge advantage against any standing opponent, except pikemen (unless they are flanked or in disarray).  Pikemen have a huge advantage when charging any other type of infantry.  When opposing groups of pikemen clash, casualties are likely to be extremely heavy on both sides, and a push-of-pike contest is likely to develop after contact (a critical success or critical failure from one side will most likely be required in order to end the stalemate).  In tight circumstances, sword-wielding infantry are superior to pikemen.  Harquebusiers are deadlier against armored opponents such as knights, but are otherwise inferior to longbowmen. 

Pikemen were effective on the charge? I didn't know that. I always figured them for a largely defensive role. You learn something new every day!

 At any rate, getting all of these 'rock, paper, scissors' type effects to work out elegantly is going to be something of a challenge, and probably a large part of the core of your large scale fighting mechanics. A simple way to do it would just be to list "X unit gets a bonus against Y unit". I also think your rules need to distinguish between a charge (and resisting one) and straight up melee, since different weapons were so effective in different roles.

*Different subclasses will have varying levels of strength.  The lowest subclass will be commoner (unless if crossbowman or harquebusier; otherwise will only have a low melee strength), then professional/mercenary, and then the armored knight. 

That sounds about right to me. I'd consider making 'morale' or 'staying in the fight ability' or whatever it is one of the biggest distinguishing factors. I mean, certainly the superior training and diet of professionals and knights made them more effective fighters than peasants, one of their biggest assets was that they wouldn't run away at the drop of a hat.

So that's it for my point by point, I hope it was helpful. As for general thoughts, I'll just say that with wargames, even more so than RPGs, you have to be really careful with all the cool, detailed rules you come up with for specific things, because when you put them together, you might get something very clunky. There's enough moving parts going on with the wargame style that even simple, elegant rules add up to a decent amount of bandwidth to handle per turn and through a game. You also have to consider handling time. Especially if you use counters or miniatures, any time spent resolving stuff is on top of time spent physically moving the guys around, since moving them around is a huge part of what the game is about.

Finally, to hopefully keep this post on topic for the forum, I'll bring it back around to the RPG it's tied to. Why do you want a large scale combat system for your game? I'm not saying you shouldn't have one, I think they're cool, I just mean, why for *this* game for *you* is large scale combat important? That'll help tell you more what to focus on than any wargames mechanics advice I can give you for sure.

At any rate, cheers, and good luck!
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Ar Kayon
Member

Posts: 190


« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2010, 04:26:30 AM »

First off, I'd like to thank you on your input.  I just read it and need time to mull it over in relation to my conceptual idea before I respond to those points.

Secondly, in response to your question: I've always wanted to install wargame architecture into my games, but I felt I never had the foundation to do so.  I believe my as-yet-unnamed RPG does in two ways:

1. The core system was designed to handle many entities at a time.  I bet it could accommodate 30 combatants in a skirmish without making the GM sweat; doing away with attributes, hit points, initiative allocation, large lists of special skills, and any other sort of book keeping has allowed me to build an extremely sleek engine and focus on developing tactical meatiness.  I'm fairly certain that I can translate a huge portion of the core rules to large scale without any modification.  For example, the combat phases (command, movement, attack, follow-up, misc.), which take the place of initiative allocation, can likely be installed as-is; critical failures could represent breaks in formation or loss of morale, whereas poor grounding or any other sort of bad position will increase your dice rank and thus your chances for critical failure.

2. The setting and gameplay style are appropriate.  Since many player characters will be nobles, they'll have the opportunity to command units or even lead their own personal army (or rally supporters and command them).  Also, there is not much dungeon-crawling to be had here, as I can think of no logical reason why elaborate dungeons with traps and puzzles exist.  If a wizard wants to protect his crap so badly, wouldn't it be more sane to hire guards than to pay exorbitant sums to engineers and architects?
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horomancer
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Posts: 54


« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2010, 05:12:13 AM »

Hey Ar kayon, is this RPG the one using the tiered dice mechanic you posted sometime ago? Or is this an addaption of your Nevercast system?

From what I know of the tiered dice system, it would seem easy enough to encompass the rules of a wargame with just a few rock/paper/scissor rules as mentioned earlier.
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Ar Kayon
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Posts: 190


« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2010, 06:26:21 AM »

Hey Ar kayon, is this RPG the one using the tiered dice mechanic you posted sometime ago? Or is this an addaption of your Nevercast system?

From what I know of the tiered dice system, it would seem easy enough to encompass the rules of a wargame with just a few rock/paper/scissor rules as mentioned earlier.

The wargame mechanics would be using the tiered dice.  Nevercast's mechanics are too cumbersome for larger scales as they are designed for such a fine degree of complexity.  The graduated dice method scales so smoothly in my conceptual models and its accompanying system is so designer-friendly (the logic almost *wants* to work; designing Nevercast I've hit roadblocks every fucking step of the way, which is why I take such long breaks from development) that I will be working on it exclusively until I can churn out a functional core for playtesting.
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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2010, 10:52:38 AM »

Good deal, I think if you can use the same core mechanic but scaled, that would be an excellent way to go (it would help avoid the feel of "a wargame plugged into an RPG").

I don't have much experience with pre-twentieth century historical wargaming, so I'd like to see what you come up with.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
horomancer
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2010, 03:45:47 PM »

Ar Kayon, is there a doc online somewhere with your current mechanics? i've looked through the post on the front page, but it piecing together all the different tiers, attributes, and success rules is kinda troublesome.

Few thoughts to mull over-
The larger side usually has the advantage in combat, but do you want to represent this with a bonus to the die or better staying power for that side.
If you do have a bonus for more numbers, how will you determine this? (I imagen proportional size different would be measured rather than unit count) How much bonus do you grant before you declare that more men couldn't possible engage in the battle without flanking? I was thinking of the 300 movie, and though historically inaccurate it does bring up the point that only so many man can engage in a space and terrain, while not always granting a numerical bonus, plays a big part.
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2010, 08:57:46 PM »

I agree with the upscaling idea.

Use units of troops as your combat base rather than individual combatants.

Apply the same types of stats across your units as you would see in an individual warrior. Perhaps give them different names, an individuals social attribute might correspond to the unit's "morale" attribute, "Strength" might translate across as "Might" (since both impact on potential damage)....you get the idea.

Use the same mechanisms for combat....a hit roll, a damage roll, a soak roll...whatever the individual combat system uses.

If the combat between individuals uses a hit location chart, create something similar for the unit...head wounds correspond to attacks against the unit's leader/command structure...arm wounds correspond to attacks against the unit member holding the best weapon (or the unit member best able to use their weapon)...leg wounds slow down an individual, and equivalent attacks on a unit might sap the groups morale...I'm just throwing ideas at you, don't worry if they don't seem right for the system you've got in mind.

If the combat system uses hit points, you might just give the unit a number of hit points equal to twice the number of members in it. Every 2 points of damage means that one of the unit members is eliminated, or two of the members have lost their effectiveness to the point that they fight as though they are a man down. When you're looking at big scale conflict, the small details don't matter...

...unless of course that's what the game is about. Legend of the Five Rings has a great mass battle system where individual heroes perform amazing deeds of bravery and they shape the battle raging around them.

If your basic system can handle 30 combatants, maybe the upscaled version can handle 30 units of 30 troops with just as much ease.

Perhaps you could even provide a note box in the text explaining how it can be upscaled exponentially further to create truly epic conflicts (30x30 = 900 soldiers in each "battalion", and you could run dozens of these battalions in a superscale game). Think Minas Tirith.

Again...I'm just throwing ideas out there.

Use of them or discard them, I don't mind either way.

V
     
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
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Ar Kayon
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Posts: 190


« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2010, 11:36:16 PM »

Horomancer,

The graduated dice method can be found here
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Ar Kayon
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Posts: 190


« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2010, 11:39:10 PM »

quote]If the combat between individuals uses a hit location chart, create something similar for the unit...head wounds correspond to attacks against the unit's leader/command structure...arm wounds correspond to attacks against the unit member holding the best weapon (or the unit member best able to use their weapon)...leg wounds slow down an individual, and equivalent attacks on a unit might sap the groups moraleQuote
Perhaps you could even provide a note box in the text explaining how it can be upscaled exponentially further to create truly epic conflicts (30x30 = 900 soldiers in each "battalion", and you could run dozens of these battalions in a superscale game). Think Minas Tirith.
I salivate at the thought of incomprehensibly massive armies slugging it out and wreaking havoc upon the landscape.  I can just imagine the GM having a drawn-out duel of wits against the players for 3 sessions.  Previously, I was thinking of constructing the units in increments of 10-50, but army sizes in the thousands would require increments of 100 - maybe even 500.  Do you know of any wargames that consider such fluctuating scales
Quote
If the combat between individuals uses a hit location chart, create something similar for the unit...head wounds correspond to attacks against the unit's leader/command structure...arm wounds correspond to attacks against the unit member holding the best weapon (or the unit member best able to use their weapon)...leg wounds slow down an individual, and equivalent attacks on a unit might sap the groups mora
Quote
Perhaps you could even provide a note box in the text explaining how it can be upscaled exponentially further to create truly epic conflicts (30x30 = 900 soldiers in each "battalion", and you could run dozens of these battalions in a superscale game). Think Minas Tirith.
I salivate at the thought of incomprehensibly massive armies slugging it out and wreaking havoc upon the landscape.  I can just imagine the GM having a drawn-out duel of wits against the players for 3 sessions.  Previously, I was thinking of constructing the units in increments of 10-50, but army sizes in the thousands would require increments of 100 - maybe even 500.  Do you know of any wargames that consider such fluctuating scales?
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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2010, 12:02:42 AM »

I salivate at the thought of incomprehensibly massive armies slugging it out and wreaking havoc upon the landscape.  I can just imagine the GM having a drawn-out duel of wits against the players for 3 sessions.  Previously, I was thinking of constructing the units in increments of 10-50, but army sizes in the thousands would require increments of 100 - maybe even 500.  Do you know of any wargames that consider such fluctuating scales?

Aww, crap, I know I've heard of these, but damned if I can think of one right now. I think I remember hearing about it specifically for a Colonial Era wargame. I'll try to poke around and see what I can find. As a matter of fact, I probably saw it discussed at Major General Tremorden Reddering's Colonial Wargames Page. This zany little page doesn't have much to do with the period or flavor you're talking about (they're pretty light-hearted over there) but their actual play reports show a massive amount of rules-tweaking, impromptu roleplaying, and concern for story you don't get with many wargames reports. So there might be some (vague) inspiration there.

I was thinking of the 300 movie, and though historically inaccurate it does bring up the point that only so many man can engage in a space and terrain, while not always granting a numerical bonus, plays a big part.

Also, I couldn't resist pointing out that this bit, at least, *was* historically accurate, even if the Greek side started with a few thousand guys rather than 300 until they found out they were surrounded. But yeah, you're absolutely right that ability to bring men to bear makes a huge, huge difference. Ancient Greek history is just kind of my thing, so I had to say something Smiley
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
contracycle
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2010, 08:57:04 AM »

What is it that the PC's are doing while all this is going on?
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horomancer
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Posts: 54


« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2010, 02:41:29 PM »

I think there should be small list of formations, though don't know how they would work aside from possibly granting bonuses to existing stats. The basic formation would be 'mob' which grants no bonus and could be th default state if a commander is killed in action. It could also be the only formation for untrained combatants, such as a PC rallying a town to defend it's self from some menacing bandits or the like.
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Ar Kayon
Member

Posts: 190


« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2010, 09:36:02 AM »

What is it that the PC's are doing while all this is going on?

Eating pretzels and drinking beer of course.  Duh!

Just as I plan on scaling up as is required, I would like the combat to zoom in on the players' unit when it is engaged in combat.  These "combat cells" will be where the standard rules of combat are applied (I need to playtest to determine the upper limits of how many combatants a GM can really handle, and the cell size will be based upon that information), so that players aren't arbitrarily killed in battle.  I understand that this can get tricky, but I want the rules to be fair, so I need to think of a way to pull this off elegantly.
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Ar Kayon
Member

Posts: 190


« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2010, 11:06:03 AM »

I think there should be small list of formations, though don't know how they would work aside from possibly granting bonuses to existing stats. The basic formation would be 'mob' which grants no bonus and could be th default state if a commander is killed in action. It could also be the only formation for untrained combatants, such as a PC rallying a town to defend it's self from some menacing bandits or the like.
similar subject<Group Cohesion
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