Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What Hamilton Taught Me About Running Mass Combat

Hamilton isn't anything new to most people, but, well, it is to me. What can I say? I'm slow on the uptake. However, I have been listening to the music from the Hamilton musical lately, and among all the normal reactions I found myself nodding along to some of the songs for the battle scenes. Then it clicked, something to do with mass combats to keep things more interesting.

The Problem
The problem I saw, or rather had, isn't a real 'problem problem' but more 'these should be more dramatic.' The problem being that one general rolls for each army, and that is how the battle is going. Which means whichever side has the better general is probably going to win, barring luck or something that tips the scales (a larger force for example.)

However, battles in stories - and even in real life - are often more dramatic than that. Why? Because an army is never under the direction of just one person. Yes, a general does oversee the big picture movements. But those orders go through other people who have to pass them along. Those people have to execute the orders. And those people...well, it turns out they're people.

People are a funny thing. A lot of times in RPGs they just kind of do what is expected of them, but in reality...well, things can be more complicated. No one knows, thinks, or believes they're an NPC. Everyone is the star of their own story. And they're often looking for a way to make their life better or to accomplish their own goals.

As Littlefinger from Game of Thrones would say, Chaos is a Ladder, and very few things are more chaotic than a battlefield. And that is where others may be looking for their chance to rocket into the history books just like the PCs.

Can't Be Everywhere At Once
Put together and the solution Hamilton gave me is pretty obvious. Just because the general is doing their job correctly, doesn't mean that everyone is going to pull off their part. Someone might break and call a premature retreat. Someone might get greedy and do an ill-conceived charge. A flank may fall. The General - especially a PC general - can be doing everything right and still have problems to overcome because more than just their dice rolls are playing a factor. Where the general is goes smoothest, but the general can't be everywhere.

This also gives other PCs things to do, and makes the battle more of a narrative event while still using the dice rolls to resolve it at it's heart.

Just a small thing, but something I want to test out.

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