I’m admitting up front, this is a stream of consciousness post and shouldn’t be construed as hard and fast rules or…

I’m admitting up front, this is a stream of consciousness post and shouldn’t be construed as hard and fast rules or…

I’m admitting up front, this is a stream of consciousness post and shouldn’t be construed as hard and fast rules or even worthy of play value yet. 

I have been thinking about a war supplement for a long, long time.  I think I’ve come at the idea of how to do large scale battles from 80 different angles — and not a damn one of them did I think any dedicated DW player would enjoy in the least.  Each one of them focused on trying to ascribe values to armies, and then backwards to steadings to try to grok some way to make it all make sense.  And it didn’t.  Not once.  

Here’s the thing.  I’ve been struggling with trying to understand why creating a supplement for war would be so tough.  Why would something that’s been the origin of our overall game style be so difficult to replicate in DW?  Well, last night it hit me — okay, more accurately at 4am this morning — because to accurately reflect all of the variables (troop types, quantity, quality, logistics, terrain, battlefield conditions and so forth) requires you to make a simulator.  And DW is decidedly NOT a simulator.  

So maybe the whole idea of a warfare simulator isn’t going to really ever work.  Instead, perhaps war is just a front.  Perhaps it’s a front with a countdown clock… or maybe even two — or a number line of positive and negative results.  Call them the tides of war… One side for the “attackers” and one for the “defenders”.  And perhaps actions taken, or thwarted, by the players helps move the clock back and forth?  Maybe war is nothing but a backdrop — a set dressing.   Heck, I could see the entire process of seeing what happen with the war effort this season with a couple of fate dice and some slight modifiers for what our heroes have or haven’t done. 

Because, really, isn’t the goal of the game to tell really awesome stories?  And really, do we want to stop to telling of really awesome stories in order to play out a turn of warfare?   Or do we want to play to find out what the heroes do to pull their side out of the clutches of defeat?  

So, perhaps “missions” are accomplished that impact the war effort with successes bringing a +1 forward to the next Tides roll.  Perhaps threats emerge, like “if you don’t raise 10,000 coins, some of your troops will leave the battlefield and you’ll be at a -1 forward to your Tides roll.  

How are you making warfare work for you games?  

11 thoughts on “I’m admitting up front, this is a stream of consciousness post and shouldn’t be construed as hard and fast rules or…”

  1. I like to rarely (1 time in 30 or so) completely flip a play session on it’s head – the last time a major battle occurred in our DW game, which the party was not present at, the players showed up to find new, filled in character sheets for key officers of the army they were most supportive of and a hex map with settlements and topographical features near the borderlands marked.  They had a few days, as characters (with a bunch of free ‘hirelings’ from the army) to prep anything they could think of, but the scouts warned they wouldn’t have much time.   The map was modified accordingly (Victory Points for capturing towns reduced when they were evacuated, a few foxholes added to the map, roads disguised to funnel enemy foot traffic, etc.) Then it flipped over to a ‘board game’ using a modified version of the Battle For Moscow rules for the rest of the session (using a point-buy for various die sizes instead of the built in troop values for BFM, and a free boost to the die if a PC rode along with the unit at risk to their life/freedom.)


    It worked well, once, but got crunchy during the ‘clash’ portion.  I don’t regret it, but I won’t make it a standard resolution system.

    For the next war I will probably start adding fronts for both sides of the conflict, things that will come to pass if not prevented by someone.  Usually the PCs, but each Front will have to be re-evaluated between sessions to make sure it is still valid or not something an NPC would resolve on their own. I’ll aim for consequences that threaten things the PCs care about, even when they’re fronts ‘against’ the other side.  Every time a front is resolved for either group, both get a new one.  Continue until one side is obviously defeated.  It should fall rapidly out of balance – faster still if the players push hard for one side or the other.  But that’s all guesswork, with a few holes thrown in.  This seems like it’d work best in a situation where the PCs don’t want either side to win.

  2. I haven’t had a chance to put any of this into practice yet, but I’ve been thinking of abstracting large scale combat into a framework much like the normal playbooks and moves style: pardon if it doesn’t make much sense yet.

    Each player is playing a Unit of troops

    Unit= Playbook


    Skirmisher (Rogue)

    Front-line infantry (Fighter)

    Archers/Scouts (Ranger)

    Artillery (Wizard)

    Support (Cleric)

    The General

    The group all together is an army. Hp and Armor would be changed to look more like AW gangs.

    -I’ve revised some of the Basic Moves to better fit unit combat

    Clash (H&S)

    When you attack an enemy unit in close quarters melee, roll+Stat.

    On a 10+, you deal your damage to the enemy and avoid their attack. At your option, you may choose to do +X damage but expose yourself to the enemy’s attack.

    On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you.

    Hard Rain

    When you shoot or let fly at an enemy at range, roll+Stat.

    On a 10+, you have a clear shot—deal your damage.

    On a 7–9, choose one (whichever you choose you deal your damage):

        You have to move to get the shot placing you in danger as described by the GM

        You have to take what you can get: -N damage

        Your target shifts, requiring several shots and reducing your ammo by one

    Stand your Ground

    When you try to hold something by force, or to secure your hold on something, roll+Stat. On a hit, choose options.

    On a 10+, choose 3.

    On a 7–9, choose 2:

        you take definite hold of it

        you suffer little damage

        you inflict terrible damage

        Redirect an attack from the thing you seized to yourself

        you impress, dismay or frighten your enemy

    Blockade or Reinforce

    When you defend, or interfere with, a unit or location under attack, roll+Stat.

    On a 10+, hold 4.

    On a 7–9, hold 2.

    On a 6-, hold 1, but you also expose yourself to danger, retribution, or cost.

    As long as you remain engaged with that unit or location, you may spend hold, 1 for 1, to choose an option:

        they take +1 or -2 to their roll, your choice.

        They’re stunned, pinned, or trapped

        They lose their footing or position


    When you position yourself to take advantage despite an imminent threat, say how you do it and roll. If you do it…

        …by charging through, +Stat

        …through stealth and trickery, +Stat

        …by enduring, +Stat

        …with good tactics and quick thinking, +Stat

    On a 10+, you do what you set out to, the threat doesn’t come to bear.

    On a 7–9, you give yourself away, suffer a setback, or falter: the GM will give you a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice.

    Track and Pursuit

    This is basically perilous journey

  3. I love a large battle as a backdrop for an encounter. The pc’s have normal combat while the battle is raging around them. They can influence the outcome of the battle by doing tactical things.

    But they have no controll over anybody except themselves. If they give orders, whatever happens in response to those orders are beyond their control. It will often happen off screen.

    Who wins the battle?

    1) The GM decides according to fictional imperatives.

    OR 2) The GM decides the odds according to the fiction and the players make one roll.

    We have played a few battles like this and it has an epic feeling not easily replicated by other types of encounters.

  4. Dungeon Kingdom currently handles war by seizing objectives, rather than abstracting things out to a victory track. So a push to conquer a neighboring city-state might involve taking the surrounding countryside, then the outer walls, and finally the city itself.

    These are all rolls that the kingdom itself makes, but the player characters can complete projects to ensure that the roll succeeds. So they might convince the captain of the roving guard to join their cause,making it easier to take the countryside, then plant dynamite beneath the foundations to weaken the city walls, then personally defeat the king and his royal guard so their army can take the rest of the city.

    They can also just let the kingdom handle everything while they’re off hunting dragons, but the kingdom risks more that way. Still haven’t had a chance to test the system, but we’ll get there eventually.

    Glad to see you’re getting your thoughts out there!

  5. Social Justice Commander Shepard  That’s an interesting idea, and I was thinking about it as well.  The rub I keep coming up against is this… DW has a struggle (IMO) with handling what amounts to PvP.  So, if we abstract warfare to the role of characters, don’t we run right up against that same issue?

  6. So, James Etheridge  let me see if I’m understanding correctly — do you mean that the objective may be a front and by achieving a number objectives is what ultimately decides the outcome? 

  7. I mean that seizing objectives is how military action is handled, and military action may be one way of engaging with fronts, as it is with, ah, unit level combat.

    So each objective is akin to an encounter in a dungeon, basically. The war itself may very well be a traditional Front, if the other side poses a threat of some kind (and I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t).

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