Urban Warfare

   Your home turf is being overrun by ferocious orc tribes? Who do you want to put in charge of the capital’s defenses and militia? Do you want an experienced general, or do you want, let’s say, Tom Waits & Willie Nelson? Me, I’d like Waits & Nelson, please! It’s gonna be a huge clusterfuk, crazy and fun, with defenders awaiting the arrival of the orcs in various bars and taverns, and comedians masquerading as orcs, and pike wielding beggars hidden in every trash pile of every side street.

   One of my friends ran a big game like that. Two guys played the orc tribes while me and three other players took charge of the city’s defenses. I wanted to sprinkle units and barricades all over the different neighborhoods and main avenues, but the other players all believed it would be suicidal. For sure, they were right. So we ended up cramming everything we had into that central, secure, walled part of the city, leaving almost no one outside except for a few skirmishers and a whole lot of pretty huge unmanned barricades.

   “Strategic” and “efficient” easily won over “crazy” and “fun”, and I’m not surprised – that’s a generation-old dilemma you come across in so many RPG situations. Like I said in a previous post, the real-life medieval battle of Calais was a terrible, utter mess; it’s a gripping read (especially in novel form, by Michel Peyramaure), but it would be boring as hell if the battle had been run by experienced EverQuest or Warcraft players.

   And that’s the paradox. Whenever you’re watching a movie or reading a book, you want crazy and fun, but when you are playing a battle simulation, you do not want crazy or fun – you want efficient.

   I had fun anyway. But my magic-user didn’t happen to be stranded in some back alley with the battered remnants of Citizens’ Brigade #3 and eleven feisty prostitutes and two dogs and only one leaking cask of wine while two hundred Uruk-hai waited at one end of that fateful alley, and sixty orc outriders advanced at the other end...

   Our DM had his computer generate exponential damage scores for the entire armies outside our own “personal” units. Hold on to your hats, here... In one single evening of gaming, this besieged city saw a staggering 26K+ Hit Points of damage!!!!!!!!!!!!

   It was a cool game. The map was insane. Those pics look great. But if I ever run such a large-scale thing myself, I won’t let the players decide. I’ll say: “This is what your dear old city’s defenses now look like; here are the various units / platoons / chokepoints. You guys just select which unit you want your character to personally take command of, and then let’s get this show on the road right away. Can’t let you waste 90 precious minutes debating initial placement. Sorry. It is not your fault if the head of the City Council is Lord Willie Nelson and the captain of the militia is Master Tom Waits!”

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