The War Campaign Excerpt
What Is a Battlefield Adventure?
Playing D&D within the war genre is essentially about moving the action from the dungeons, castles, and ruins of traditional D&D to the great battle scenes of fantasy novels and movies, where tens of thousands of men and monsters clash. Summarized as simply as possible, this is the book that brings the dungeon out onto the battlefield. The two environments have a lot in common -- most notably the presence of lethal foes who want to do in the characters -- but major differences persist. Whether you're a player or the DM, you'll adjust your game to account for the difference in scale, pacing, movement, and motivation.
The battles discussed in Heroes of Battle are no mere skirmishes. Thousands of soldiers on a side is the norm, and the characters probably see only part of the larger battle unfold before them. But the outcome of even the greatest battle often hinges on a smaller engagement. Can the player characters hold the bridge long enough for a relief column to arrive? Can they disrupt the enemy's supplies behind the lines, then escape across no-man's-land before the entire enemy army hunts them down? While the player characters are only a small part of an army, the role they play in a battle can be pivotal and heroic.
Think Big/Play Small
Roleplaying in a war setting sounds like a lot of fun. Who doesn't enjoy watching great war movies such as Saving Private Ryan, The Guns of Navarone, and The Dirty Dozen? But turning the battlefield into a dungeon for your players takes more work than you might think.
By their very nature, wars are large affairs. Not even counting support personnel behind the lines who supply food and munitions, or medical personnel who care for the wounded after a conflict, a single battle can involve hundreds if not thousands or even tens of thousands of soldiers.
That's not roleplaying. That's wargaming.
And wars, by their nature, are political. They are fought over ideologies and resources; over religious beliefs and revenge; and, all too often, for economic expansion. But even if the masses are sold lock, stock, and smoking barrel on the reasons, wars are still political battles fought by common folk for reasons too often known only to the leaders of those countries.
That's not roleplaying either. It might make for a great game of Diplomacy or Risk, or a great Tom Clancy novel, but unless your players love political intrigue, it doesn't make for a great game of Dungeons & Dragons.
Think about those great war movies. They're not about huge battles fought over geopolitical ideologies. They're stories about small groups of well-trained people going on dangerous missions. They might have been ordered to go, but each person in the group usually has his or her reasons for taking the mission, whether it's for greed or glory, advancement or adventure.
Now, that's roleplaying at its finest.
The war becomes backdrop to a full-fledged adventure with great feats of heroism, tangible goals that group members can fully grasp, and one-on-one battles with life itself (and the success of the mission) hanging in the balance.