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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Leadership in RPGs-

Leadership in RPGs (Tactical and Storytelling) is generally relegated to either a Player's speech (if they are 'roleplayers') or a Player's plan, both of which almost invariably involve a die-roll.

The particular rules-set may or may not have a Leadership skill or trait, but few have a deeper treatment of the same sort that wargames and game-friendly militaria possess, and many are perfectly content with that for the obvious reason that if they wanted it they'd craft their own set of rules for their fave RPG, or play a wargame instead.

Indeed, the circumstance of raising or commanding a band of warriors who number more than the fellow PCs and a few hires or henchmen seem few, and perhaps this has been the case throughout the history of the RP Hobby. That could have continued, were it not for the OSR's interest in the origins which greatly expanded and transmitted the core of the Chainmail rules-set (and related) to the plethora of gamers not overly aware of the nuances and peculiarities of that booklet. This was done by some of the stellar notables such as (Aaron of A Paladin in Citadel, and Evan from Swords of Minaria, as two examples).

A Google+ friend and I were recently discussing my games, and the topic of the VANGUARD Squad Control Record and its influences arose. I'm not sure if I got to tell him about Victory Games' AMBUSH!, but that was my first experience with a formalised 'run a squad from 1 sheet' game, although I'd certainly played more than one PC at a time (especially RPing Car Wars with the pedestrian rules from the ADJ), what with Tunnels & Trolls admonition to run a 'stable of characters'.

What I took away from them (esp. A!) was that each player needed to have that level of game-centric investment in the battle for it to have a real impact at the level I wanted in the games I run. At the Strategic scale, I want the Players to be Leaders, you know, 'REMFs', as it were.

How to build that sort of 'zoomable' action into the essential chassis of the game? became the basis of the previous two years of the regular Friday F2F game wherein the PCs were Primary and 2ndary leaders of an island, with considerable might at their disposal.

Interdimensional/extraplanar allies and the telegraphed effects of the PCs' actions untimately resulted in the Players' writing their characters out of history, undoing their considerable achievements, and missing numerous opportunities to advance the timeline's technological base towards the Quest for Ascension -- pursuing petty schemes, failing to think big, and generally futzing around week after week. Their actions and my total sandboxing of the game illustrated that a hands-off approach would benefit neither party of agents: GM or Players. No. I needed something intrinsic to the Vrun experience to resonate with the gamers...

Recently, running a series of short expeditions into entirely unknown territory has proved most effective in getting the players to 'grok' the importance of the scaled-up thought/prep, and as a consequence, better prepared the PCs to act individually as leaders, as well as the party as a military/scout body.

The Urutsk: World of Mystery Boxed Set's basic premise is that the Player is a colony or expedition leader. The primary role for a player in VANGUARD is that of a Squad Leader. The foundational and interconnecting aspect of the Vrun experience is the compulsory military service and the ties of Starship Crew Caste Clans. In sum, the Vrun RP experience is one of regimentation, redundancy, and careful resource management with a proud, Ancient martial history. That seems to create ad hoc Leaders when needed, and it is happening, organically, in game play.

Now, I'd like to ask you, the readers, of instances in your games in which the happy balance between PC actions and Battle Events was or wasn't successfully struck, and your thoughts on how best to integrate PC autonomy with their role as war-fighters (and preferably in a leadership role). Would you please share them with us?