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Anatomy of Warfare - What to do in a War?

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  • Anatomy of Warfare - What to do in a War?

    I wanna put this question out to the community to discuss in terms of narrative what exactly characters can do during a war. Not necessarily Exalts alone but people in general, to get a sense of the kinds of scenes that an ST can run to give a dramatic and engaging conflict some screentime, and to help STs figure out what else is going on besides a a roll to join battle on an open field.

    If anybody knows any good texts on what people have done in war in periods appropriate to inspire Exalted material, please share them!

    So in trying to think of things people do, I'm just gonna start listing some basic ideas.
    • Spying on the enemy
    • Stealing valuable information from them
    • Devastating supply lines
    • Assassinations
    • Sieges
    • Battles
    • Negotiations
    Are there any other things that happen in war? What advice do you guys have for each of these things, or examples of how you portrayed them in your games? I'd love to hear some thoughts about cool ideas for scenes, too! What do you guys know about war?

    Good gaming supplements about it wouldn't be remiss either. Even if mechanics are ignored, ideas about what things to focus on and how to focus on them are cool.


    I am no longer participating in the community. Please do not contact me about my previous work.

  • #2
    Id add: local negotiations/management, causing mutiny, mccguffin shenanigans Indiana jones style, r&d via sorcerous workings.


    The Book of Laughing Serpents, Vol 1,Vol. 2,,Vol 3; Vol 4; Vol 5 , Vol 6
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    • #3
      One thing to recognize about the historical 'styles' of warfare Exalted tries to emulate is that the divide between military and civilian life is extremely recent. In a large way, professional soldiers, where one is a soldier full-time, were pretty rare in the ancient world, since they are very expensive to maintain.

      Therefore, in most places outside the Realm and Lookshy, many/most people are likely to have at least some military skill, as opposed to being 'just' a civilian. One could be a potter..... and a militiaman.

      This also means that they are valid targets in time of war.

      I strongly suggest that you look up real-world historical examples.

      For example, here is how war is waged in my version of the Hundred Kingdoms, a combination of the Sengoku Jidai-era Japan and a conglomeration of feudal Europe, especially the Kingdom of England:
      - Warfare in general: http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...11#post1055011
      - The leaders, the knight/samurai-equivalents, called 'Oathsworn': http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...79#post1070979
      - The Hill-Tribes, the 'barbarians at the gates', cultural equivalents to the Celts (especially the Welsh) and Algonquin Native Americans: http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...n-quest/page11
      - Castles: http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...21#post1055021
      - "Civilian" life in the Hundred Kingdoms: http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...n-quest/page14

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      • #4
        Hiring mercenaries, betraying your army and defecting to the enemy, paying a visit to the prostitutes in the baggage train, to the armorsmith to fix your breastplate/helmet, to the quartermaster to see if there's anything interesting you might buy, building siege engines and fortifications, scouting the territory and drawing decent maps, hunting & foraging, gambling, participating in contests of various skills like archery, wrestling and swordsmanship, training, cooking, being posted as a sentry, religious ceremonies, patching up your clothes/uniform, taking care of the wounded, burying the dead, handling the mounts, going to the nearest occupied tavern and getting wasted, executing/ransoming prisoners, planning logistics, marching, raiding the countryside, recruitment...

        These are not books and are not set in the period covered by Exalted, but Band of Brothers and The Pacific are excellent.

        Otherwise, I remember a D&D 3.5 book named Heroes of Battle, about running wartime campaigns. I don't know if it's any good, though, or if it's got what you'd like. I do know that being D&D you'll have to challenge quite a bit of assumptions.

        And, the Extra Credits folks on YouTube have a series of episodes about the Punic Wars. In case you're not a classical history nerd you might want to check it out, lots of interesting tidbits.



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        • #5
          Originally posted by Roswynn View Post
          …gambling…
          Tonk!

          Speaking of which, if you want some military media set in a world of devils, sorcerers, and ambiguity, check out Glen Cook's Black Company series. It's great Exalted inspiration.

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          • #6
            Roswynn has the right of it, with a lot of things that are mundane verging on boring.

            ​If you're in a part of the setting with seasonal variations, it might be worth keeping track of the seasons so that one can face the challenges of winter quarters.

            ​It can help build a lot of atmosphere to refer to the long periods of warfare that consist of waiting around to go on the march to somewhere else to wait around in.


            I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Boston123 View Post
              In a large way, professional soldiers, where one is a soldier full-time, were pretty rare in the ancient world, since they are very expensive to maintain.
              ​Although, I'm currently reading some things about the background of the Hundred Years War, and I'm wondering if in the long term continuously raising armies on an ad hoc basis may not actually constitute a greater expense. Part of that would probably be relative; raising armies like that might imply that one lacks the financial and bureaucratic structures to maintain a continuous force, meaning that if there's ever an occasion in which one needs to raise a large army, significant debts need to be taken on, the repayment of which can ultimately constitute a greater burden.

              ​I think it would be an interesting subject to use as inciting incident for stories in the Time of Tumult; one way or another, the martial needs of many states throughout the Threshold increases as the Realm withdraws its forces to deal with domestic crisis, and raising unprofessional armies creates issues for a lot of the people ostensibly in control of them, whether it's the difficulty of suddenly paying for them or the issues caused with them ravaging the countryside.

              ​In a setting like this, one shouldn't think of war stories solely in terms of how your army is fighting the enemy, but also in how it is not repeatedly disintegrating. Roswynn linked to the Extra Credits videos about the Punic Wars, but I think something of equal or greater value would be their discussion of the First Crusade. That was an especially messy endeavour, even by the standards of large-scale Medieval warfare; the difficulties that arise not only from fighting a sophisticated enemy in a difficult environment, but doing so with a... damn, I had a good word to denote a group consisting of multiple disparate elements on the tip of my tongue... anyway, a military venture consisting of many people from many places, led by a number of aristocrats embroiled in the kinds of dynastic politics of the day. To not be a professional force means that you're not only up against your enemy, but the competing ambitions of your subordinate commanders, as well as discipline issues from the troops.

              ​Do you know how the core cites HBO's Rome series as a major inspiration? One of the significant issues brought up in that show is how any of the given competitors for control of the city is going to actually pay their forces. Alexander the Great, renowned as one of the most accomplished conquerors of the ancient world, finally ended his relentless eastern onslaught not because of military defeat, or even the desire to take a break and consolidate his current holdings, but because his armies were on the verge of mutiny.

              ​I think these would all be interesting issues to represent if one wanted to really tell a war story.


              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
              Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
              https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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              • #8
                Yeah, if you're the typical infantry grunt there's a lot of boooring stuff you'll be ordered to do. March, camp, stand watch... and then there's a lot of waiting around - some people in modern wars find that part to be the most difficult, apparently. It sure wreaks havoc with morale - and with someone's psyche. It might be better to gloss over this kind of stuff with some generic description and info, instead of role playing the minutiae, but trying to convey a sense of how nothing relevant ever happens might work. Also, anything can serve as exposition, as an occasion to introduce or develop NPCs, to establish a mood, to give the PCs a chance to express themselves, and so on - a scene here and there in the middle of something mind-boggingly tedious can do the job, I think.

                I haven't read the Black Company books (I know, I know, shame on me) but everyone says awesome things about them, and AFAIK they do give a great, detailed view of a mercenary unit's life through about 40 years, so you've got very long term developments, too. Also, it's a gritty series, which I think lends itself really well to most of Creation's warfare, and, as Alucard was saying, it involves supernatural elements - sorcerers, mostly? I really hope the TV show treatment pans out.

                Of course, well, there's also A Song of Ice and Fire, and perhaps to a more limited degree, Game of Thrones - but there you have to specifically look for the parts that portray soldiers and armies and warfare activities. It isn't hard, I mean, the whole series is a gigantic concatenation of wars, but some of the most intrigue-oriented scenes/chapters wouldn't really fit the bill, I suppose (although war does generate a lot of intrigue, and vice versa).

                I also wanted to suggest the Osprey books, but decided not to because they often give info only on particular battles or types of units. Still, if you already know what's the real world culture counterpart of the area you want to play in, it sure can help. They have everything you might look for in Exalted, I think - the Middle East, Persia, Rome, China, Japan, the Vikings, India, even something about Native Americans, pirates, and Pacific islands... they just won't tell you the day-to-day of these people.

                I was also having a look at Boston123's material, and I must say I'm impressed. It's excellent. Even if you're not interested in the 100 Kingdoms, you could extrapolate much from it.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Roswynn View Post

                  Otherwise, I remember a D&D 3.5 book named Heroes of Battle, about running wartime campaigns. I don't know if it's any good, though, or if it's got what you'd like. I do know that being D&D you'll have to challenge quite a bit of assumptions.

                  And, the Extra Credits folks on YouTube have a series of episodes about the Punic Wars. In case you're not a classical history nerd you might want to check it out, lots of interesting tidbits.


                  Heroes of Battle is an okay book. It helps with conceiving of how to make a battle _feel_ big and important without running combat after combat after combat, suggests some story hooks, and notes some organizational types for armies.These are good. Large chunks however are how D&D wars would work (how do the various races wage war, what assets would they use, how does magic effect the battlefield, etc) which is of limited use.

                  Extra history in general provides some ways stories can occur in wars. Almost all can provide intreasting sections of warfare/misadventures during warfare.


                  The Book of Laughing Serpents, Vol 1,Vol. 2,,Vol 3; Vol 4; Vol 5 , Vol 6
                  Many Limbed Manual
                  Patreon here: https://patreon.com/undeadauthorsociety
                  San Jeanro Co-Op writer. Volume 1 here Volume 2 here
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                  • #10
                    Set up heavily fortified decoy areas to trick the enemy into devoting resources to take something inconsequential.

                    Attack uninvolved third parties under a false flag to try and create bad blood between them and your enemies and get them to join the war as your ally.
                    Ferret out enemy spies.
                    Engage in diplomacy with regional gods to get them on your side of the war-wine and dine the local weather gods or disease gods.
                    Become divinely beautiful and dance before the enemy army, then flee into the woods where your smaller guerrilla force is waiting for them as they chase you filled with maddened lust.
                    Bargain with the local elemental court to grant your army passage underwater so that you can emerge from an unexpected beach to attack.
                    Salt the fields to keep the war dead from becoming a problem.
                    Barter with the Guild for a loan to finance your war in exchange for considerations after you've won it. Know that the other side is doing the same thing.
                    Make a deal with emissaries of a Deathlord that you'll intentionally create a shadowland in exchange for undead reinforcements at sundown.


                    But in my experience the biggest story-driver in a war-driven game? LOSE.

                    Lose a major battle. Become the underdog. Try to recover.


                    So I'm making God-Kicking Boot, an Exalted webcomic, now. Updates on Sundays. Full-color, mediocre but slowly improving art. It's a thing.

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                    • #11
                      These have been awesome replies! Ros, those are some fantastic suggestions for individual scenes, and my thinking when reading them is that they make great context for other important scenes to occur in (like social influence scenes where NPCs or PCs might be trying to get people to see things differently) and stuff. I'd love to have a scene in one of my games where the glorious solar general disguises herself and goes out among her soldiers while they're encamped to get an honest read on the morale of her soldiers after a long siege. That would be awesome.

                      That's also a great point, Isator. In the game I'm currently playing in, we're in the Near North in the midst of the summer months, but war might be coming soon, and we'll have to think about how the seasons will effect that.

                      All of this really makes me want to run a game where the characters have to engage with these things on that personal level. Awesome.


                      I am no longer participating in the community. Please do not contact me about my previous work.

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                      • #12
                        Keep in mind that the war is going to be framed in the context of Creation. You need to raid a village for food? The one protected by a rice god is going to be easier to burn down than the one with a war god. The Guild doesn't have a stake in the war? Giving them a reason to back you will make your enemy's logistics a nightmare. You're looking for a place to build a fort? That demesne might be borderline indefensible, but your sorcerer might be able to use it for something. The opposing general is a Deathknight? You better make sure his soldiers are already dead, or else killing them just gives him something to make zombies with.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Roswynn View Post

                          I was also having a look at Boston123's material, and I must say I'm impressed. It's excellent. Even if you're not interested in the 100 Kingdoms, you could extrapolate much from it.
                          -bashful- aw, thanks! I try.

                          One thing I haven't seen mentioned very much is the omnipresent threat of disease, and relatedly, the importance of logistics. My Quest protaganist is receiving lessons on that topic right now.

                          How many beans, bandages, blades and boys do you have? How many does the enemy have? Can you make sure you can get, and have, more than the enemy?

                          The #1 killer of soldiers in wartime up until about the 1900's or so wasn't warfare, but disease.
                          Last edited by Boston123; 07-23-2017, 05:43 PM.

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                          • #14
                            I kept meaning to bring up disease as an aspect of the whole thing with spending a long time sitting around or going on exhausting marches, but it got lost somewhere in the shuffle.


                            I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                            Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                            https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                            • #15
                              Fortifying positions, building forts and palisades, setting up camp, finding good locations to set up camp, identifying battlefield geography (Don't attack uphill), identifying logistical targets, making battleplans to force your enemy into confrontation.

                              I don't want to bring up modern events too much, but General Sherman of the American Civil War took his force behind enemy lines, forsook a supply line, and attack the enemy's sole munitions factory, essentially crippling their war-effort. Then he destroyed large swaths of cash crops to prevent them from being sold to finance the war. It broke the back of the Confederate war effort. This is a good use of the "War" skill- identify your opponents weakness an how to attack it. Burning a farmland 100 miles wide in Autumn is going to do more for you than 10 victorious battles. Destroying the only usable bridge within a week's travel of the enemy forces is going to heavily penalize their combat ability.

                              You could also use War to predict how battles will affect the Big Picture. Forcing Lookshy into a Pyrrhic Victory is a strategic win.

                              Bring the whole Circle in! The Eclipse and the Twilight strike a bargain with the River God Ha-Zet the Rock Eater to divert a river through an enemy camp or cause a drought in their wells.

                              The Night Caste spies on enemy leaders. The Zenith rallies the peasentfolk to your cause.


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