Saturday, October 26, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming I: The Front Lines

In my games and others, I've seen a fair amount of "Modernisms."

These are things that seem basic and standard to a modern audience but which actually post-date the game period.

I'll do a short series on the ones I notice in my game.

The Front Lines

Thinking of war as having "front lines" and a "rear area" is a fairly modern concept. World War I, mostly. Armies arrayed against each other will have lines, but those lines eventually play out on the fringes. There isn't a clear "our territory guarded along the edge byour troops vs. theirs guarded along the edge by theirs."

Armies march around, and chose to give battle or refuse it. In pre-modern forces, it's hard to force your opponent into a decisive battle if they don't want to give battle. Territory is taken and held and given back up as you move, or smaller forces are broken off to hold important points as the main force moves off to force battle.

Pretty much, to fight effectively you have to arrange your army to fight. You can march faster than you can arrange yourself to fight. Your opponents have basically the same speed as you. This means if you show up and then start to arrange yourself in battle order and your foe isn't interested in fighting, they can pack up and march off, screened by some light forces. So battles between similar forces are more mutual agreements to have it out. You can force your opponent to agree by putting them onto some other timetable - reducing the available food so they can't just march away and re-supply, raiding their baggage in previous battles and stealing their paychests, etc.

Magic changes battle, for sure, but it doesn't really mean total war with lines extending from impassable geographic end to impassable geographic end.

Up next: Absolute Monarchs.


  1. That’s a good one!

    We have handbills in our campaign city but not moveable type. There’s a new “newspaper” with one rumor or editorial about town in it every game week or so.

    My players have not considered buying their own press.

    On the topic of armies, there is currently an army of goblinoids or something parked about a day away from the city just sort of burning and looting the peasants. No one is sure why they are there but no one is particularly curious either since there’s a stupid pointless war every summer and this is as good as any.

    I’m not sure how it will play out. We will dispense of it in two weeks’ time. Until then the peasants are SOL.

    1. I'll need to make a related series of deliberate modernisms I include in my games along with the this series of ones it's easy to assume are included even when they aren't.

  2. I generally include modern attitudes towards gender roles and sexual violence because otherwise half of the players are seriously squicked out and half of the remainder are disturbingly enthusiastic.

    1. I do, too, as much from laziness as for the other reasons. It takes a lot more work, and it's not something that adds a lot to the game in a positive way (for my style of gaming, anyway.) So it'll take more work and potentially harm the game . . . lose/lose.

  3. I use the phrase meeting engagement a lot for any case where PCs and monsters more or less encounter each other and get the party started with neither side having done Pre fight work like buffing till they glow

    1. I'm not sure how accurate or anachronistic that is

    2. I'm not sure either. It's accurate, and it's something that would happen even prior to the term "meeting engagement."


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