Which Ruleset? (D&D is one of many)

My previous blog post "No Edition D&D" was fun to write, but it is something I've known for a long time about my game, and I've been very comfortable with. What I've been doing lately is digging even further back into the "way it used to be done" and expanding my game far beyond just the usual tabletop RPG game.

Post-It counters are a great option for fold-up maps... just not as pretty

There is a TL;DR at the end, if you want to skip all this.

I got another interesting question that  on Google+ (which has apparently become my blog post muse these days) in response to my musing about my work in progress:
Working on my "Wargames Campaign Rules" ... the first time is always the hardest, so setting up the battle between the Orcs of the Red Axe and the Southron Duchy/Duchy of Pisces is taking a little time. Figuring out little things. Getting it going via solo rules. Figuring out the basics. 
To which I received the question:
What ruleset is your game run with?
Well, my first response was to reply with something like this, since I had just been talking about "No Edition D&D"...

But then I realized that the answer isn't that simple... because I actually run with *many* combinations of rulesets in my campaign world. Because I run in many different scales. So the answer was a bit more complex.

The D&D scale (tabletop/online) which is 1:1, is my "D&D" - a huge mish-mosh of 0e/1e/BX/Holmes and tons of stuff I've gotten from other gamers.

The strategic/overall wargames portion is being developed based on inspiration from Tony Bath's "Setting Up a Wargames Campaign" and "Solo Wargaming Guide" by William Silvester. It's going to be another mish-mosh of rules and ideas and inspirations from across my own gaming experiences as well as from things done by others.

The strategic level takes place at the level of domains and political entities, with armies mobilizing, towns and cities preparing for sieges. It involves the whole world maps and roads that I've been sharing over the past few weeks.

When clashes happen between forces from the strategic level, the ruleset will depend on the size of forces. If we're talking an engagement that would involve armies (12 regiments make up an army), then probably HOTT. If at the regiment level (1k men to a regiment), then again HOTT, perhaps Ral Partha's Chaos Wars. If at the company (100 men to a company), then probably Book of War. I could also easily use One Hour Wargames at the regiment or company level as it abstracts out unit sizes very handily.

I'm also looking to use inspiration from Pendragon or other places to help drive NPC actions/events between seasons, to help keep the principle characters "alive." MAR Barker would go through monthly and update all 1,500 of his NPCs based on what had happened that month. While I'm not quite at that level, I do want my army commanders and domain leaders to be dynamic and to have things happen in the world that aren't just my ad-hoc decisions.

A question may be "WHY do all this?"

I'll admit, it is a bit unusual in D&D campaigns these days, although I do find it happening in games that are old school in nature. Most concentrate on the PCs, the plot and the game that expands like what we see on TV. But TV doesn't give us a chance to explore worlds at multiple scales, at the same time in the same world, not like books do. I find that idea of sliding up and down the scale immensely inspiring and seductive.

You see, I am inspired by Professor M.A.R. Barker and his Tekumel campaign as much as I'm inspired by Tony Bath's Hyborea campaign, as well as Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign and many others that share one thing in common... the sandbox was open to MANY different toys. Many of these games started out as war games, or included them as a primary method of playing in that campaign. The good professor is known for his wargames, and it's well documented in "First Fantasy Campaign" of how David went from just wargames to wargames with characters and then to a pleasant mix of RPG scale and wargames scale.

Another question might be "WHY REINVENT the wheel? AD&D, BECMI/Cyclopedia did this! And some retroclones and (insert your favorite game here) ..."  

Well, yes, that's a great point, but something I've found in reading those is that, to me, they concentrated on the RPG/player perspective, and what I wanted was a more wargame perspective. I'm less worried (right now) about taxes and building castles and more about how to mobilize armies and move them around so that they have to fight. I'm less worried about calculating in-depth information on the peasants in town and more about generating basic information on my commanders so that I can reflect that in what my armies do.

And... ultimately... because I go back to what I like and where I come from. I'm sure your favorite game may have some tidbits worth stealing, and I may liberally steal from it at some point. I find that my campaign comes the most alive when I've built it from the ground up. Instead of using someone else's system whole-cloth. That's their campaign, I need to build/make this mine.

My goal is to eventually open this up for other players to come in and rotate around as the domain leaders - the dukes, duchesses and maybe even the Orc tribal leaders. Someday, they may even become domain rulers in their own right with their own PCs. So that eventually it's less of a solo exercise to see if the Orcs do indeed cut off the Duchy of Pisces from the rest of the lands, but rather let the players themselves hash it out and I just record the results and watch the ripples play out.

As an example of what this is looking like, the picture at the top of this post is a strategic level map, showing the Duchy of Pisces from my campaign. The scenario being played is almost at the point of a clash between armies of Orcs and humans. I'm probably going to use HOTT to resolve it. Or maybe not... there are still things to be gleaned from Bath and Silvester on how to conduct things when armies collide.

And here's my own "work-in-progress"  Wargame Campaign rules document, although it's more of a "delta" document of what I'm doing different from Bath's or Silvester's books. Don't surprised if this changes, maybe even while you're looking at it, as I'm the tinkering type and this is definitely going to be a living document.

TL;DR version - Chgowiz make his own thing because Chgowiz stubborn as rocks and wants to do it his own damn way. Chgowiz having fun. Chgowiz also pawn in game of Life.

Fuck yea, I want a war ox like Mongo!


Ripper X said…
Wargames, I've been tinkering with this idea too, I've got one player who is interested in playtesting, and I really want to but this is complex stuff! I haven't found any paper chits for sale, and I can't afford miniatures, so I've been tinkering with ways of making my own chits. As far as I can tell, the last D&D module to include cardboard chits was the Bloodstone Pass. That is a long time ago!

Keep writing up your experiences, this is deeply interesting!
Michael S said…
Hi RipperX, thanks for the nice comments.

Ye gods, yes it is tempting. I can trace these hankerings back to 2009 and it took me 7 years (with a 4 year pause) to get to this point. It's an idea that won't let go and now that I've crossed the Rubicon, it's become a full part of this campaign and a desire for most of my other campaigns. I may yet even get my wife to participate, as I can see her campaign heading for all-out-total war in the future.

Chits and markers... the bane of my plans! Trying to find decent and small hexmap friendly counters has been difficult. I'm drawn to 1/2" squares that I see available here and there, but until I get to a point where that is completely necessary, I'll stick with the hand-made post-it note sticky markers. Or a couple of cork boards and stick pins. We'll see.

I'm glad you're along for the (crazy) ride! I hope you'll share what you come up with yourself.
Warren Abox said…
Ripper, you can buy sheets of pre-punched counters pretty cheap:

When I need counters, I buy a piece of scrap cardstock from the local craft store. Their framing department cuts out standard cardstock frames, and the centerpieces they gut out can be had for fifty cents a pop. An hour with a sharp knife will give you all the blanks you need. And if you want artwork on them, take a look at this inspiration for silhouettes:

Michael S said…

Thank you for those links.

Right now, my maps printed at about a 3/8" hex size, so the counters might be a little big, I'll have to experiment. But I'm tempted to try them out. I can have my granddaughters color them for me :) They are fascinated by "Poppas games".
dervishdelver said…
It looks like I may be walking down the same path with you ChicagoWiz. Actually, I might be stumbling around in the weeds that runs parallel with your path (:

I'm in the early stages of putting things in motion through a pbp over on ODD74- Battered Empires. It's kind of experiment through play.

Obviously, since it's pbp, there's no miniatures. I'm resolving actions based on the player's directions. At the same time, hostile Armies are in motion using a weekly move.

Hope you'll check in on my progress once in awhile.

And don't forget to key us in to when you introduce the war oxes to your game.
Michael S said…
Got room for one more player? :D :D :D

Duuuuude! War Oxes! Tell me that would not be the coolest damn thing to break through a line! OK... maybe plod through a line while the enemy falls asleep waiting for you to actually make your 1" move... but still!!!!!!
Jarrett Perdue said…
A few years ago I embraced a "use it all" concept where almost ALL my games are part of the same campaign world. Play a four-day game of RISK at a games summer camp for teens? That becomes part of the campaign world along with all the implications for the victorious nation. Run a minis wargame with Chainmail? That's a major battle that may impact the RPG setting. The Discworld Ankh-Morpork boardgame becomes a vehicle for gaming through city-level struggles. Action in my RPG can ripple upward to help define the larger scale conflicts. The imaginary world is the constant, but we use a variety of rules sets (boardgame, wargame, and RPG) to simulate conflicts and adventures at various levels.
Michael S said…
@Jarrett, indeed! I've been doing that for awhile as well, and it's fun to have everything contribute to a greater whole. I'm not sure yet how I'll do that with Cards Against Humanity, but I'm working on it! :D
kokigami said…
ripperx, if you are planning on doing fantasy based stuff, you can get the old battlesystem from TSR (not the skirmish version from the for around 20 on Ebay. A ton of pre printed top down chits for fantasy troops, that were to stand in for minis.

Michael, The multi layered campaign, rpg to grand tactical, has always been a goal of mine. I have used board games as backgrounds for RPGs.. specifically kingmaker, modified for a fantasy setting (scottish orc, Irish Elves) But, generally, my players have tended to want to either play RPGs or Wargames, and never the twain did meet. Hope to try again in retirement.

I was led here by your post on chirine's workbench. Those early campaigns, Barker, Arneson, et al, always seemed to represent the holy grail of gaming. Well, short of being paid to game.

Rick Krebs said…
Interesting discussion, as usual, Michael.

I use foam board to make counters and print out unit descriptors and values, which are attached with a glue stick on the foam counters.


I'm still looking for a good, simple set of rules. Have used "Chainmail", "DBA", "HoTT" and "Song of Blades...".

dervishdelver said…
That's cool Rick Krebs.

If only people new to wargaming realized how easily they could adopt methods like that. They could learn how a rule set works without investing allot of time, money, and space to miniatures.

Ever try the plain white sticker paper to print on instead of using glue sticks?