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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

Posts: 629

PostPosted: Mon 26 Jul, 2010 12:34 pm    Post subject: Roleplaying Game advice wanted         Reply with quote

So, I'm going to start up a play-by-post roleplaying game on another forum I frequent. It's my first serious attempt to lead my own game, and it's kinda ambitious. (Though, the later could be said about all my projects.) It's a fantasy RPG set in a vaguely Asian-style world, the plot concerning two major empires involved in a struggle for dominance over a third nation.

Both of the main empires have some form of feudalism going on, with at least one of them having a direct equivalent to the knight/samurai class. (Though their government is really more Roman Empire.)

The general technology level is mostly medieval or Renaissance with some steampunk elements tossed in. Notably, firearms exists but are not used in warfare due to their poor range and inefficiency against armor. (Gunpowder in this world burns slower and thus has less explosive energy then in our world.) Flight is limited to balloons and a few rare airships, and steam engines are considered groundbreaking new technology that people are only just starting to see the potential of.

Furthermore, magic exists but requires fairly elaborate set-ups and ceremonies. Rather then being a “point and lightning comes from my finger” kind of thing, it's more like alchemy crossed with Feng Shui crossed with actual science.

Now, since it's a fantasy game I've made mostly for amusement, I'm not going to go out of my way to ensure everything is realistic. In fact, I can almost guarantee I'll be taking liberties for the sake of fun. However, I still want to make it somewhat realistic, for the sake of immersion if for no other reason.

Because of that, I could use some advice on the following issues:

1) How fast can my players move around? I found this was the first issue I encountered as I drew up the map. The majority of the plot takes place on a continent somewhat smaller then Europe. I estimate that they will initially have to travel about 1000 km to get where they need to go for the plot to happen. About half of that can be traveled by ship upstream a river, the rest would be traveled by land. How fast would a small ship and horse-drawn wagon travel, respectively? Assuming occasional stops along the way and decent roads in the later case.

2) What is realistic in terms of army deployments? I'm thinking stuff like numbers, how fast an army can move around, how complex the logistics can be expected to be, what would a typical campaign look like, etc. Really, I'm not a historical military expert in the slightest so any advice here is welcome.

3) What kind of trade might I be looking at here? How would the merchants operate? I was considering some kind of guild system but I'm not sure the kind of large Asian-style empires I'm going for here had those. Also, if an empire loses a large region to a rival empire, how would that affect trade in that region?

Other then that, if there is anything else you think I'm missing and should should keep in mind, I'm open to advice.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jul, 2010 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

GURPS Low-Tech will be out before the end of the year. It will contain all of this and much more.
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

Posts: 629

PostPosted: Mon 26 Jul, 2010 6:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is mostly free-form, though. Also, I seriously don't have to the end of the year. As in, I fear my players will rebel if I don't start the game within the next few weeks. Worried

Anyway, I'm not looking for tips on actual RPG supplements. Believe me; íf I did, I'd already know some serious experts to consult. Rather, I'm turning to you guys because I know there are a lot of people here who are vastly more knowlegable about history and how things actually worked in medieval times then I am. (Or anyone I know elsewhere, for that matter.)

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jul, 2010 8:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How fast can players move around ?

By ship 10 / 12 miles an hour is close to the maximum and probably not sustainable for most ships and sort of a ballpark maximum for a fast sailing ship or for a very short time for a galley under ideal conditions.

But half that should be sustainable all day long except under difficult conditions.

Five miles an hour for 24 hours gives 120 miles in a day and 1200 miles in 10 days assuming no stopping i.e. ships may not be very fast but the milage can add up to impressive numbers.

On land one need to rest oneself or one's horses, terrain can be difficult and people not wanting you to past their territory or wanting expensive tolls to let you pass means paying or fighting your way across.

The logistics of travel, water, food, shelter all all variables.

A large army in medieval times could be very much slowed down by various camp followers and non fighting servants and tradesmen needed to keep the army moving and wagons/horses in good repair: I would think that a small all mounted force with spare horses could move very fast compared to a huge army.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

Posts: 629

PostPosted: Fri 30 Jul, 2010 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
How fast can players move around ?

By ship 10 / 12 miles an hour is close to the maximum and probably not sustainable for most ships and sort of a ballpark maximum for a fast sailing ship or for a very short time for a galley under ideal conditions.

But half that should be sustainable all day long except under difficult conditions.

Five miles an hour for 24 hours gives 120 miles in a day and 1200 miles in 10 days assuming no stopping i.e. ships may not be very fast but the milage can add up to impressive numbers.


I'm fine with ballparking. Like I said, exact realism isn't that important as long as I have some solid numbers to go by.

Quote:
On land one need to rest oneself or one's horses, terrain can be difficult and people not wanting you to past their territory or wanting expensive tolls to let you pass means paying or fighting your way across.

The logistics of travel, water, food, shelter all all variables.


I can probably calculate those variables myself once I get going, but I still need to know how fast a person on horseback can be expected to travel, and how fast a horse-drawn wagon is.

Quote:
A large army in medieval times could be very much slowed down by various camp followers and non fighting servants and tradesmen needed to keep the army moving and wagons/horses in good repair: I would think that a small all mounted force with spare horses could move very fast compared to a huge army.


Again, a rough estimation sure would help. Still, this is a decent start at least. Thanks.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Thomas R.




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2010 2:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Uh... why this big scale for your supposedly first game? Start small: getting over just one mountain ridge can hold enaught surprises and adventures for a whole month of playing. Don't start with whole empires... add your upcoming war of the empires slightly to your backgroundstory, so in the longterm your players can decide to take part in that big trouble.

Just my two cents.

Thomas

PS: On foot 30 Kilometers a day is near to the maximum speed, if you are accustomed to trekking and having backpacks etc. and using paths.

http://maerenundlobebaeren.tumblr.com/
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Marko Susimetsa




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2010 3:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I must agree that large scale stories are perhaps best reserved for more experienced gamers / gaming group. And having something large scale happening in the "background" in rumours and stories will make your world seem that much more alive. Happy

BTW: the old MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) rulebook had some very nice travel charts for various travel methods that I always used with other gaming systems as well. You might want to look that rulebook up in some second hand store.
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Michael R. Black





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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2010 9:08 am    Post subject: maybe not much help?         Reply with quote

How are you planning on handling disease/malnutrition, and the resulting attrition for any large force? I ask because this was a big problem for large moving (or standing) armies.
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

Posts: 629

PostPosted: Sun 01 Aug, 2010 6:42 pm    Post subject: Re: maybe not much help?         Reply with quote

Thomas R. wrote:
Uh... why this big scale for your supposedly first game? Start small: getting over just one mountain ridge can hold enaught surprises and adventures for a whole month of playing. Don't start with whole empires... add your upcoming war of the empires slightly to your backgroundstory, so in the longterm your players can decide to take part in that big trouble.


Marko Susimetsa wrote:
I must agree that large scale stories are perhaps best reserved for more experienced gamers / gaming group. And having something large scale happening in the "background" in rumours and stories will make your world seem that much more alive. Happy


It's big scale because of how the plot is constructed, mostly. I just don't really write smale scale. Anyway, let's just say a lot of the plot points depends on there having been a war. Also, I wanted there to be a lot of political intrigues and deception going on since that was very popular in the last game I participated in. (Though I didn't GM that one.)

That said, the conflict is mostly kinda of a backdrop and the players are unlikely to be involved in any direct warfare. When the game starts the two empires have had to put the war on hold for some time, so rather then a warzone we're looking at kind of a "Nazi-occupied France" type of scenario. The main reason I'm researching how the military ought to function is because some of the more vital NPC are important military leaders, and there's a chance the conflict will re-escalate in later parts of the game.

As for the players, their main concern will be finding some McGuffins which will require them to travel into occupied territory. When they get there, they'll have to contact the secret resistance movement, find a lost princess, discover the source of a monster invasion, uncover a secret society, foil a conspiracy, etc, etc. Lots of traditional adventuring stuff, in other words.

Michael R. Black wrote:
How are you planning on handling disease/malnutrition, and the resulting attrition for any large force? I ask because this was a big problem for large moving (or standing) armies.


No idea, didn't think about that.

See, this is exactly why I'm asking for suggestions. Happy

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Marko Susimetsa




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Mon 02 Aug, 2010 6:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The closer you want to get to realism, the more I'd suggest you also take a look at all the HARN source books. That is a system that should really appeal to anyone's "re-enactor" genes. Wink
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

Posts: 629

PostPosted: Tue 03 Aug, 2010 10:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Google couldn't find anything on HARN. Did you perhap mean Hârn?
The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Marko Susimetsa




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Aug, 2010 2:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, yes, that one - I tend to avoid special character for fear of them rendering incorrectly on some computers.

Quote:
HârnMaster is a fantasy roleplaying game that emphasizes character development and combat realism using a unique interactive skill system.

http://www.columbiagames.com/cgi-bin/query/cfg/allharnitems.cfg

The system actually allows you to design your armour from small bits and armour protection is calculated separately for every limb - if you want that sort of detail.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 12:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Roleplaying Game advice wanted         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
The general technology level is mostly medieval or Renaissance with some steampunk elements tossed in. Notably, firearms exists but are not used in warfare due to their poor range and inefficiency against armor. (Gunpowder in this world burns slower and thus has less explosive energy then in our world.)


Actually, slower-burning gunpowder might result in better propulsive properties. After all, modern "smokeless" propellants burn more slowly than black powder, but more evenly--with the result that longer barrels become genuinely useful (black powder weapons didn't seem to get much extra muzzle velocity beyond 20 calibers or so--that is, if the barrel was made longer than 20 times the bore diameter), which then leads to higher projectile velocity, flatter ballistic trajectories, better accuracy over a greater span of ranges, and all that stuff. So you'd probably want to find some other justification for firearms' lack of popularity.

On the other hand, limited use of firearms could be more interesting for such a setting than no use at all. Maybe they never invented the gunpowder we know (it's not a given that a culture would eventually invent it--note that even the Chinese, who pretty much invented the pyrotechnic precursors of gunpowder, were not necessarily the ones who discovered the right proportions for a good propellant gunpowder mixture), but ended up with a more volatile mixture instead that was more powerful but also much more dangerous to use, so their employment was largely restricted to specialist madmen? And it's still worth noting that, even in Europe, our world's firearms didn't render cold steel obsolete until well into the 20th century. There were several effective cavalry charges as late as the early years of World War II! (And let's not mention Jack Churchill, shall we? He was a WW2 commando who once shot a German dead with a longbow, for God's sake.)


Quote:
Flight is limited to balloons and a few rare airships, and steam engines are considered groundbreaking new technology that people are only just starting to see the potential of.


Hmm...oriental steampunk? I've been working on an idea like that too, except that it's set in real-world late 19th-century Java. One of the best sources of inspiration I've found is rangaku--the Japanese practice of selectively absorbing Western learning even during their period of isolationism in the 17th to the mid-19th centuries. It has been argued that this process partly explained why Japan managed to modernize so quickly: they already had much of the theoretical knowledge they needed to catch up, so all that was left to them was to implement it on a larger scale. The Wikipedia article is a decent introduction, especially because so many of the best books about the subject are only available in Japanese. This is not an obstacle if you do read Japanese, though!


Quote:
2) What is realistic in terms of army deployments? I'm thinking stuff like numbers, how fast an army can move around, how complex the logistics can be expected to be, what would a typical campaign look like, etc. Really, I'm not a historical military expert in the slightest so any advice here is welcome.


Over the years I've written a series of blog posts on how to worlbuild military details for the use of fiction writers, and if you think you might find them helpful, you can find them through the intro page here. Note that they're not professional articles, so use them as springboards for further research rather than as definitive sources on their own.


Quote:
3) What kind of trade might I be looking at here? How would the merchants operate? I was considering some kind of guild system but I'm not sure the kind of large Asian-style empires I'm going for here had those. Also, if an empire loses a large region to a rival empire, how would that affect trade in that region?


It depends on how closely you want to imitate the real-world Asia. In the Sinosphere back then (i.e. Chinese-influenced cultures in East and Southeast Asia), merchants were often seen as the lowest social class since they didn't grow or make anything by themselves. Of course this led to a great deal of social tension when some merchants became rich and tried to associate themselves with the more respectable kinds of folk.

As for how the merchants would have organized themselves, a brief skim through the [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guild#Background_of_early_guildlike_associations_AD_300_-_600"]introductory section[/url] of the Wikipedia article already gives you some terms that you can use for further searching, like the Chinese hanghui. Closer to home, I recall somewhat later cartel-like organizations among Chinese expatriate merchants known as the kongsen (I'm pretty sure that's not the standard Pinyin spelling, though), which is the source of the business sense for the English word "concern." A version of the word has become a loanword in my native language (Indonesian)--here it is known as kongsi and is generally used to refer to an informal corporation (usually a trading or shipping & handling company) run by a closely-knit group of friends (often Chinese or half-Chinese).
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