Tuesday 24 April 2012

The Drums of War

Wizards' map of the Nentir Vale, adapted for campaign play! (click to enlarge) 

At long last we've reached the finale of King of the Trollhaunt Warrens, and I've decided to end it all with a big battle. In our campaign, the Nentir Vale is under attack from an army of orcs called "The Burning Banner", so the party led a desperate mission to Therund to call for reinforcements. Now, with Moonstair saved and Skalmad dead, they're returning home at the head of an army. To complete the adventure (and reach level 14!), they must rout the invaders from their homeland.

Ever since we ran the Battle for Moonstair, I've been yearning for a set of rules that would allow us to command troops over distance, manage simple supply chains, dispatch messengers: all the top-level strategic elements of a military campaign. The role-playing equivalent of Medieval: Total War, but flexible enough for a story to run alongside the strategy. In recent days, I've been asking the guys to draw up little war-banners in their spare time, while I've had a pop at working up some rules.

We'll be using the campaign map above as our board. I nabbed Rather Gamey's awesome "hexamogrified" version of the Vale map, and then annotated it with key locations from "Threats to the Nentir Vale", the "Hammerfast" book, and our own ongoing campaign. Stacey also extended the mountains to the west of the Vale, as in our game the Stonemarch is much larger. 

I'm really looking forward to seeing this in action, as it's been a great group effort. At the moment, my rules are very first pass - far too scrappy to show here in detail! - but they'll be undergoing trial by fire this weekend, and I'll be sure to report back once we're done. For now, here's a quick peek at my top-level overview. I sometimes find that writing a summary like this beforehand helps my thoughts stay focussed during the design.

"Godplate" is a system for managing large-scale conflict within the D&D campaign world. The players control commanders in charge of armies, while the DM controls an enemy faction (or factions). The conflict is played out using miniatures on a large, hex-lined campaign map. To simulate the “fog of war”, the DM secretly tracks enemy movements on a smaller map, only placing them on the campaign map if they’re spotted by the player’s units.
    Most importantly, "Godplate" is a tool for role-playing campaigns. This makes it very different from a conventional war game:
  • The players are not confined to operating within the rules.  For example, they could use Sending rituals instead of dispatching messengers, or ride out to negotiate with an enemy baron – such situations aren’t covered by "Godplate", so the DM needs to arbitrate them on-the-fly.
  • The game generates random events to inspire the DM. For example, losing an allied army could create an event that compels the adventurers to search for the lost legion’s standard. The DM can choose to roll for these, make them up, allow the players to roll for them, choose events in secret, or ignore them entirely.  
In short, "Godplate" is not a stand-alone game: it is a tool for generating war stories, hung around a few simple rules for simulating the progress of a military campaign.

  • The Fog of War
Players only know what’s happening around their own units, their allies, and their allied towns. Everything else is hidden on the DM’s secret map. Players can dispatch scouts to get a better view of the battlefield, but they risk falling into enemy hands if they stray too far.
  • Communications
Players can only control units that are within scouting range of their own units. If a unit moves beyond scouting range, the players must note their orders down on paper, and then track a messenger’s progress across the campaign map. The enemy can learn their plans by capturing these messengers.    
  • Construction & Logistics
As "Godplate" is played over weeks, months, or even years of game-time, the system provides a simple set of rules for maintaining lines of supply, recruiting new troops, upgrading the defences of towns, and building outposts such a watchtowers, forward bases and supply depots.    
  • Conflict
When armies clash, the outcome is resolved using a simple dice pool mechanic that determines success or failure, casualties, and experience gained on both sides. For important battles, the DM may instead decide to “zoom in” and use war-gaming rules, or role-play the conflict as a skill challenge or series of encounters.        
  • Encounter Generator
A suite of random encounter tables are provided for use when certain events occur on the campaign map: namely armies sighted, and battles won or lost. These can inspire fun side-quests for the DM to work up on-the-fly. 


  1. I look forward to seeing battle reports from the trenches. :)

    - Ark

  2. 3 days, 0 hours, 56 minutes and 38 seconds till we liberate the valley.

    (insert various weapon drawing sounds)

    Bring it...

  3. Ah! Just spotted Dourven's Rest in there! Is that in the original map? Otherwise it will be one of the freakiest co-incidences ever...

  4. This sounds fantastic. I am very very jealous.


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