A lot of GM’s like to have wars and similar conflicts in their games, sometimes GM’s want to throw the PC’s into this war or the PC’s want to run out and be one of the soldiers, while fun it gets old and I have found that more than once a game has ended because of it.
So, with that I usually have wars all the time in my games, especially epic games. Now, I personally play a lot of d20 and that is kind of where this is going to go, although I am going to keep game system specifics out of the picture and these ideas can be used with any fantasy game or even sci-fi games, well for that matter any game with a war.
When I think of war I am not thinking single battles, I am thinking two nations locked in a long conflict and the PC’s have an opportunity to end the stalemate, or perhaps aid their home nation from the onset of a war. I have played several war campaigns and two have been very good solid games.
First off, PC’s are not mere soldiers and they probably shouldn’t be playing the role of commander either. I believe that PC’s should play the role of Special Forces types. So here are some of my ideas for characters during a war;
Disable supply lines: the characters need to attack wagons and supply convoys behind enemy lines. They will need to operate in secret and the primary goal is to destroy supply lines and weaken the enemy. Characters will need to sneak through enemy lines and wreak havoc on the enemy. This is a great adventure for rangers and there should be at least one ranger in the group.
Assassination: Even good groups can be assigned this type of a quest and yes it should be an issue. Yeah, killing the enemy general or siege commander would honor the greater good, but is it right? There might be another way, perhaps bringing him back alive would be an option.
Gather Intelligence: The characters must infiltrate the enemy force and gather intelligence. This can be done several ways. First, the characters might masquerade as an enemy soldier. It would be interesting to see what the players would do if they had to participate in a surprise assault on their allies. Also, the characters might just spy on troop movements and relay information back to their allies.
Rescue: The characters must rescue prisoners of war. One of these prisoners could actually be a prince or similar person of note and the enemy does not know it. Perhaps, one of the prisoners has information of some major plot and the characters have to go running on another adventure after the rescue. Rescues make good lead-ins to other adventures.
Aid Withdraw: The main force is going to withdraw and the characters need to hold off enemies as long as they can so that the withdrawal can be done in secret and be successful. The characters also need to have a clear moment where they know they can run away also or perhaps that should be part of their planning or they might succeed in their quest and then die.
Catch the Spy: The characters have to discover and catch a spy before he reaches the enemy. This should be played up to the point where characters discover he is a spy and then must chase him. This is more for political style games and should be only used with those players that like non-combat, more political games.
War is horrible and the effects on the people, land, and environs can be devastating. This should be portrayed in the game; burned farms, mass graves, carrion creatures, poor and destitute people on the road should be a common site. Even far from the front lines of a war, it could impact the game world in many ways. During a war is the economy is all but stable. Food prices could sky rocket one day and then be better the next, prices of weapons will rise and special taxes or even confiscation of private weapons for soldiers might be common. Men go to fight and women do the work of men. War industries improve but other industries collapse. I think one thing that really has to be conveyed in a game that takes place during a war is the fact that they are in a nation at war.
I made this a scroll so others can comment their own adventure and campaign ideas for playing waqr campaigns.
Additional Ideas (1)
*PCs can be soldiers. Sure you can't be freebooting adventurers, but soldiers of note are the kind of people actually trusted with these kinds of missions. Freebooting adventurers can casually turn on you for more money OR if the going gets tough, just abandon the mission. Soldiers, if they are more than mere conscripts, will stick to the mission to the end. They have loyalty to the country.
Your players need to accept that they are "In the army". They need to accept the chain of command and people telling them what to do. If they can't do that, then this campaign is going to fail... big time.
So the PCs are not mud sloggers, but are elite soldiers of some kind. They get to do the fun things, most of the time, instead of slogging lieus and basic guard duty. Though there will be times they will be doing that too. If you are centering the campaign around The War, then soldiers are an obvious choice for campaign characters.
However, there are so many other options:
*Spies obviously. Agents in the vocabulary of the day. You missed that big one. They are agents of the crown, with specific loyalties and paycheck. These people will be doing most of the cool things in the war and not subject to as many direct orders.
*Nobles. In the real world, until around 1450 in most places in Europe, Nobles were out in the field fighting it out. It was only until the purchasing of mercenaries and buying out of feudal duties became prevolent.
*Mercenaries, always a fun option. Makes for a good episodic campaign.