Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Vagaries of War and Fortune

Siege of Stralsund – 1628
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In the immediately previous En Garde post, your humble host started to provide information about military campaigns. The outcome of any such campaign is predicated by military ability – “the numerical quantification of a character's ability to lead men in battle.” Although not mentioned until page 19, military ability is determined as a part of character generation. Unlike the other ability scores, only one die is used to establish military ability. It is also necessary to determine military ability for many non-player characters. For instance, when a player character belongs to a regiment on campaign, military ability must be established for each commanding officer (and their adjutants) of every unit level under which the player character serves. Page 21 tells us, “Campaign battle results determination begins at the highest level and proceeds to the lowest.” The roll of a die is compared to military ability on the Battle Result chart, first for the highest ranking officer and then down the chain of command with a sort of 'trickle down' effect. In the example on page 22, each of eight non-player characters is provided a military ability so that the outcome of a campaign can be found for a single player character. These military ability scores are recorded so that they will remain consistent when needed for future campaigns. This would seem to be a great deal of bookkeeping. Your humble host understands there are computer programs that calculate and store these values but it is the principle that is distressing.

In any event, the personal outcome for a player character is eventually resolved. The player makes a number of 2d rolls, trying to achieve a certain number or greater in order to (a.) survive, (b.) be 'mentioned in dispatches,' (c.) be promoted, and (d.) acquire plunder. (This method is the direct forebear of the process used for each 'term of service' during Traveller character generation.) Before making a roll for survival, a player can choose to apply a positive modifier to the roll in order to have a greater chance of survival. This is called poltroonery and, if discovered, can cause the character to be disgraced. On the other hand, a player can opt for reckless bravery; this increases the chance of death but also increases the chances of being 'mentioned in dispatches,' being promoted, and acquiring plunder. Being 'mentioned in dispatches' entitles the character to one-to-six points of status for three months and one point of status per month thereafter (cumulative with other 'mentioned in dispatches' awards).

Being promoted is conditional; there must be a vacancy (more bookkeeping) and the character must be of sufficient social level. Of course, with higher rank comes greater privilege in the form of status and pay. Success in military endeavors can lead to a title of nobility with an increase in social level, an award of status points, and a possible pension. Higher ranks and titles are eligible for appointments, such as Quartermaster General or Minister of State. Some appointments can be quite lucrative, either by adopting policies that enhance one's investments or by embezzlement. One interesting appointment is the Commissioner of Public Safety. Not only can the Commissioner “trump up charges against five players per year...he must trump up charges against one player character” within the first two seasons of his appointment.

Characters can use 'influence' to affect rolls that represent the decision of a non-player character. For instance, when attempting to secure an appointment, influence can be expended to increase one's chances. Characters can also use influence to the detriment of their enemies and rivals. Influence is measured in units of favors and each favor is defined by its class. Decision makers of greater prominence can only be influenced with favors of higher class. As an example, a colonel can be influenced with a class 3 favor, but the king can only be influenced with a class 9 favor. Separate favors can be combined to increase their effectiveness. Influence is obtained from one's mistress, from one's position or appointment, and from one's own social level. There is no allowance for it in the rules, but I think that characters should be allowed to 'improve' the class of any given favor by contributing a certain amount of funds, similar to how a courtship roll may be modified – only more money would be required, such as 100 crowns times the next higher class value.  Perhaps there could be a way to 'convert' status to a favor.

In closing, your humble host perceives En Garde as an interconnected set of ‘sub-games.’ First, there is the ‘fencing’ game being, of course, the foundation upon which the other games are situated. Next, we have the ‘social standing’ game characterized by the constant need to acquire status. Closely aligned to the ‘social standing’ game is the ‘money management’ game with the risk-taking elements of gambling and investments. There is also the ‘military’ game, by which I refer to the resolution of campaigns and their attendant effects upon characters. Also, there is the 'influence' game where influence is cultivated and strategically spent. Finally, once the characters has progressed sufficiently, there is the 'appointment' game.  Each 'sub-game' is indispensable but the rules for such need not be ingrained. For example, players could employ a different method to resolve duels without altering the rules for the other 'sub-games.' Also, I would like to think that military campaigns could be handled in a more straightforward manner, yet not disrupt other aspects of the game as a whole.

For those of you who may have missed certain comments on prior posts, Les Petites Bêtes Soyeuses is an active game of En Garde! that currently seems to have about fifty players. Please use the link for additional information.

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