Friday, 13 November 2015

Veterans Day in your world

After seeing so many of the 11/11/11:11 posts, I was reminded of an old TV-show that had rigged up a trap to go off and shoot anyone trying to access a treasure chest. It was such a moment in my childhood that I never forgot, So I was going to write about that..

But then I saw a photo-shoot of returned, healed veterans, missing arms, legs, both, faces from burns.. and for a moment I thought.. no-one in a fantasy world would be coming back like that, they'd either die.. or get miracle cures / limited wish back to full health.. but I asked myself again..

What would happen to veterans in our fantasy worlds

Our lives are affected by events around us, what we see, how other people explain what they see, and the cumulative effect it has upon us.

So When roleplay characters have events around them, their lives will be affected as much.. yet I get the feeling that maybe some GMs forget to add that to their games and worlds.

How Often have you had NPCs in taverns talk about the last great war, how it affected them, what they did, their stories. More interestingly, how did the non-worldly events change things. Magic can be both napalm and airstrikes, tactical strikes and reconnaissance, so would a medieval war be like we think of a medieval war? or would it be more on par with WWI & II, even some of the skirmishes being played out now.

What of Healing? If a cleric or three exist on the battlefield, wouldn't they be the no.1 target for all strikes? Mass heals, miracle cures, Resurrection for the top brass or greatest heroes? Surely the local kings would be half decent warriors, and would go into battle daily, with the knowledge that no matter what, they'll be alive again the next day.

I don't know about many systems, but my Clerics gain XP for healing, based on the wound and how much healing took place. After a week of constant, regular healing, plus surgery, they'd gain a level or maybe two, sure the diminishing returns would take out some of the smaller HP heals, but any mid level Cleric/Priest with a minor in healing, is going to get more than half a dozen levels from just being on call.. 

and if they were running M.A.S.H. I'd have some epic level doctors by the end of the campaign.

What of the wounded? the dying? ok guys, rush them all into this 10x10m room, and I'll mass heal everyone to stop bleeding and close severe wounds.. then the junior clerics can take over and do some extra healing on the severely wounded, and within a few days the entire platoon would be back on their feet, right as rain.

Only the dead would be the limiter, so get those clerics in some arrow resistant armour, out on the battlefield, and heal them before they die, not much, just enough to survive the trip back to hospital.

Wars would go on for much longer. Soldiers would gain enough XP to level up, by the end of a campaign, you'd have an army of 3rd or 4th levels.. that's a scary thought.. maybe that's why they go fighting, for massive XP boosts.

Sieges might be the same, except a few mages that summon up food would counter the main problem, and the sight buff spells would take care of sappers and other tricks from the enemy..

Again Mages, they could do all the fighting, summon up creatures, back him up with a cleric to cover the possible backlash and damage.. (Magic the Gathering?)

begs the Question.. why hire, train and pay an army, if a few mages and clerics would do.

Would War even exist in such a fantasy world? could it still exist? The enemy declares war on your kingdom, so you send over an assassin, kills the opposition king, then maybe a bard, disguised using voice and illusion spells, pretends he's king for a bit, strikes up a treaty, then retires, to allow his 'friend' (you) to rule his lands too.

But the question in the beginning is, if wars are changed, people arn't coming back missing parts, burnt faces, and the greater populace doesn't see this, how will they be affected.. how will they think about wars.. just some crazy game played by kings? go off, have a good fight, don't get killed and you'll be right? return all levelled up? ready to be a hero?

Doesn't feel ok to talk about it in such glib terms, but I think that's the survival mechanism kicking in, so would a medieval person feel the same way about it, not having yearly reminders?


Unknown said...

I disagree. While the solders may come back in one piece physically, what happens to their minds? The healing prayers and potions do nothing to take away the pain of battle, and resurrection can lead to intense strain on the mind and soul. I wager the affects of such battles would result in a far greater amount of PTSD-type symptoms, similar to what we see from current wars.

What about magic denial / dispelling? There are ways to separate even priest from their divine connections, so suddenly your ability to heal is severely limited.

Consider the hedge mages, the witch doctors, and the shamans of the invading barbarian/orc army. Their magics don't work like yours, so suddenly you have a hell of a fight on your hands.

I wager that a magic can make war even worse for the common soldiers, though the royalty may not notice it as badly.

The Grand Falloon said...

In my worlds, it ain't so easy. First off, Clerics and other "Magic Healer" archetypes are a rarity. Sure, every PC group will probably have one, but they're special. Your average church or temple will have priests, but they're chosen by other priests. Almost none of them have magic of any sort. Clerics and Paladins are closer to "prophets." They are not ordained by any sort of religion, but chosen by a greater power. They may not even be particularly religious, but the powers tend to choose people that align with their domains. So a god of war is unlikely to grant power to a pacifist.
So, a magical Cleric Healing Corp is right out in my book. A great king or lord might have a Cleric at his side, but that's about it. Resurrection may or may not be available, but even if it is, it takes a lot more out of both the caster and the recipient than XXX gold pieces.

As for leveling common soldiers, they're mooks. They don't level like PCs. While there would be a distinction between Green and Veteran soldiers, the number of leveled Fighters or Barbarians in an army could be counted on one hand (okay, maybe two). Heck, I would generally not even give XP to a PC in a war unless there was a session around it.

Powerful Wizards and Sorcerers could wreak havoc on the battlefield, but they would also be a big target. I imagine two opposing wizards would spend a lot of the battle trying to counter each other's magic. Of course, I could also see them buffing up "champions," and pitting those champions against each other, rather than engaging in something so vulgar as a wizard's duel.

Bannister Nicholas said...

I would say the majority of psychological damage of war is losing a friend, watching your friends die, while you survive and asking, why me? With that taken care of, we drop one possible set of strain, next would be seeing the damage, the carnage, there are more than enough medieval documents pointing out that modern man copes less with this, as medieval man saw hangings, beheadings, death, more often, so war isn't going to be such a shock (well, of course it would be, just a little less). Lastly, while D&D might not have any psychological damage systems in place, if there were, there would be healing spells to deal with it.. softening the nightmares or dampening the pain..

I think I addressed the idea that wars would be less about soldiers, and more about dealing with the priests/mages, denial/dispel has a range, so you'd need to sneak the mage all the way into enemy hospitals to cast that.

I agree on the idea that magic might get 'bigger' and would make it far worse, so when a mage comes to the battlefield, wouldn't they just up and run? I'd rather get court-martialed than have my mind sent to the demonic plains

Bannister Nicholas said...

A Common falicy, I thought it was already understood that for a cleric to have 'powers' already set out and arrange, and mages to have spells, available to buy in a given town, that supply & demand would point out that for a shop to exist, profit needs to be common & often enough, so more than a few hundred mages would need to exist in a town to create the demand for a shop, more than a few hundred clerics would exist in a world for a god to even allocate a 5th level prayer.

Common soldiers still 'learn' from their experience, it'd be hard to justify how one person is so different, they somehow can learn to become better, but the entire army, no-one else can even think about understanding how to use their weapon more effectively, after years of training..

oops, addressing your points, I thought you said 'in my words' nor 'worlds'. So my comments are not directed at you, but instead the concept of heroes vs everyday people. I Should blog that point.

Unknown said...

What scares me is the idea of surviving the pain and trauma of having a sword thrust through you, a limb taken off, or a spell wash over you. Sure, the cleric rolls up and heals you, but your mind still remembers the trauma.

D&D has dabbled in the metal damage systems. In 3.0 / 3.5 they played Sanity rules via the Unearthed Arcana supplement. It was rough, and had no real benefits, but it provided a firm starting point.

You could utilize the Rötschreck system from V:tM, but only in the most extreme of situations. For me, it would be less about the mechanics and more about the role-playing.

Rob Whitaker said...

Umm, is this discussion limited to D&D? Because I think that Suspension of Disbelief is pretty much thrown out the window in that setting.

That aside, most of the things that still trouble me after 3 deployments don't have much to do with direct combat: a moment of panic walking on grass because you don't know if you're in a minefield, looking up outside at night and wondering if a rocket will come in soon, that kind of crap. We used to play paper-rock-scissors to decide who would open a door or chest in Bosnia, in case it was trapped - so when I bought my new house and was going through the old shed, I had a heart flutter moment wondering if it was going to blow up. I guess, regardless of the magic or healing powers available in your setting, what brings it to life will be having an NPC react to something common or trivial with dread or mild stress. Maybe the crack of thunder in an ordinary storm reminds him of that bad-ass Mage throwing lightning bolts from the other side of the battlefield. Or the shadow that's always farthest from the hearth shimmers just a little like the shadow cloak assassins that crept through his barracks one night slitting soldiers throats.

Unknown said...

That's a wonderful analogy Rob. I'm sorry for what you've been through, and thank you for your service.

Bannister Nicholas said...

Thankyou Rob for sharing, these kinds of things one cannot get from conjecture or creative thought alone.

While I have to respond to some comments with a D&D reference in mind, because D&D is all they know, I personally don't play, because of the myriad of belief breaking events, I can never get immersion going in that system (nor all its settings)

My Own, Original DungeonWorld(tm) is a darker system, mostly because I use real earth physics to base all rules, then tweak for magic and heroics, so Psychological damage is a thing, yet I personally have little experience with it, so I can only rely on medical journals to understand how to write those rules.

Begs the question, why don't heroes go through much more, given that my characters have lost arms, fused spines, burnt their hands to the bone, yet survived long enough to get healing, and while many cases got fully healed soon after, some went on for months waiting for the right ingredient to be discovered by another group of heroes.

Yet no GM nor system has asked me to roleplay those effects after the fact, every time I go to touch any gemstone(source of the burnt off hands) I should rightly shudder, be cautious, or refuse..

Thanks again, your words will bring a new set of thoughts to my RP table.

Alan Kellogg said...

I see an assumption here, the OP seems to assume that they're all DnD or DnDoid worlds. Not always the case. There are some RPGs where there are limits on who can use magic; one being Mythus (for Dangerous Journeys), where only some 5 million out of a population of 500 million can cast (in DJ spells are a type of casting). And the thing to note here is that not everybody learns how to use healing magick in Mythus.

What it comes down to is, not everybody has access to magic healing. May be somebody in your unit has the use of Herbalism, or can use basic priestcraeft tutorial castings; adventurers (Heroic Personae in Mythus) very often have access to such dweomers; but most common folk don't. It's not safe to assume that things are always there for you to use.

Then there's the matter of some magics being of high level (grade in Mythus). Not every one with access to healing magic has access to the high level spells. Add to that the fact that in some DnD(oid) worlds clerics and the like do tend to charge a hefty fee for their services. A case of high demand and low supply.

And then you have the matter of house rules that limit the availability of healing magic. Maybe the cleric is limited by his god to a certain number of times a day, or only for those who were injured by accident and not wounded in combat. Or, only for those who were wounded in a good cause, but not for those who were injured being aggressively stupid.

Cleric: He said, "Hello.", you attacked him, and he slit your gizzard. I have no sympathy for you.

Just remember, what happens in your world does not always apply to another.

Bannister Nicholas said...

While I agree with what your saying, if we take a poll of the number of GMs, the number of times each game has been played, and for how long, and graph the results, I'd say that the larger majority of fantasy worlds is going to be based around a very DnD style of play, if not actually the game itself which practically tells you to play it that way.

My own worlds are very much against the issues I'm talking about, I'm part of the people who don't want to play those kinds of worlds anymore, looking for a more mature environment, but I recognise that its still the bulk of the community that plays such, and so when I say "our worlds" then I recognise that 90+% of 'our worlds' are going to be DnD-ish.