Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where D&D Meets Risk (PCs at War Part 2)

Yesterday, I talked about the difficulties of putting PCs in the middle of a larger battle. I have such a situation coming up during this week's game and ideally, I'd like to give the players the feel that they are part of a large, chaotic battle involving hundreds of combatants, but still keep the game focussed on their characters.

This is not necessarily an easy task. My Pathfinder players are not interested in a wargame scenario and I am not excited about a "Covert Ops" scenario. I am hoping that somewhere in the middle of those two ideas is the right solution.

What I intend to try is to merge the concept of a super-light, Risk-style boardgame with a string of encounters for the PCs. So, this gives the players an idea of how the battle is progressing, where they are in relation to the fighting and where they are in relation to the major NPCs in the scenario. However, the underlying mechanics of the battle at large will be highly abstracted and the game will play out just like a series of encounters in a module.

As I write that, it strikes me as either a very cool idea, or a horrible failure waiting to happen... So, onto some specifics.

The map of the battlefield will be divided into 16 hexes. The allied forces can enter the board at one of three spaces, each one having certain advantages and disadvantages and each one requiring different levels of PC intervention. For instance:
  • Main Gate -- Requires PCs to sneak into town, have an encounter with the gate guards and open the gate for the main force. This approach is the best from the standpoint of getting the most troops on the board quickly, but is farthest from the main goal, the Palace.
  • Scale the Wall -- Requires PCs to fight a "Protect the Ladders" encounter with guards on the wall. This approach puts the allies in a tough starting position, but is very close to the Palace.
  • Sea Approach -- Requires no PC intervention, and puts a number of allied troops on the board, but also alerts the enemy and gives them the ability to react to the allies very early.
Each turn, both forces place reinforcement units and move units on the board one hex. All special units and the PCs (which are represented by a single figure) can then move. The PCs draw or roll a random encounter and resolve it and then all other combat is resolved.

The random encounters are the meat of the scenario. They are based on whether the PCs are in allied, enemy or contested territory and they have the potential to change the disposition of the battle by adding or removing units from the map. PCs might ambush an enemy patrol and thus remove a unit from the board, or they might come across civilians willing to take up arms against the corrupt king, adding an allied unit.

I am going to write up encounters this evening and do a quick run through to see how it works out. Unfortunately, I have given myself only a single night to determine how this is going to play. We'll see...