CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

War, What Is It Good For

War In Your Games

Illustration by Luis Perez
War. A backdrop for many an RPG setting or work of fiction and even very popular as non-fiction with the likes of Sun-Tzu’s Art of War being a top seller in many bookstores. From the all-out fighting between the forces of good and evil in the War of the Lance, to the secret war between the Red Court vampires and the White Council in the Dresden Files, there are all types of conflicts that can constitute war. Wars over religion, politics, or simple land grabs are a constant factor of many of the semi-medieval settings that are common to fantasy RPGs. So how do we incorporate wars into our characters and games?

To start, we’ll take a look at some of the current wars going on in the Pathfinder setting of Golarion. The first and most easily recognized as a war is the battle for the Worldwound. In this case the battlefront is the encroaching piece of the abyss that has taken hold in what was formerly known as Sarkoris. Troops from all over the world – including nations that are at what could be considered war with each other – come to the crusader nation of Medev in an attempt to force the demon hordes back.

On the border between Qadira and Taldor we have what might be considered more of a cold war. Although these two countries technically have a truce a number of unsanctioned skirmishes still happen along their border. There is also the continued enlistment of freebooters like the Zimar Corsairs to harry the trade of their opponents, in this case Qadiran trade. Even if it is no longer officially a war both governments put military resources against their foes as though it was.

Molthune and Nirmathas have been “at war” since the latter’s founding as a breakaway nation from the former. Troops are lined up on the border of both sides just waiting for full scale battle to break out. This ongoing hostility takes up the hearts and minds of both nations. It is especially central to Molthine, so much so that their entire culture revolves around their Imperial Army. One can attain full citizenship, even if born a laborer, by joining the army. They even allow monstrous races such as hobgoblins, lycanthropes, and nagas citizenship for enlisting. This could be the perfect opportunity to play something off the wall and still be accepted in polite society, mostly.

War plays a huge role on Golarion, to the extent that a number of deities have war in their portfolio and it is a cleric (link cleric) domain. The Archdevil Moloch, the Demon Lord Nurgal, the dwarven deity Angradd, and of course the Horseman of War Suzriel all seek war for one reason or another. Barring Angradd and the Osirian deity Neith, most of the deities of war are evil, which should tell you how war is viewed by the cosmos. Comporting oneself honorably in battle and truly wanting to war seem to be very different on pathfinder’s scale of morality.

So how can we implement war into our games? On the simplest level as a GM we can have our players involved in one of the ongoing wars. The Wrath of the Righteous AP throws the characters right into the battle against the abyss. I’m not sure if there are any modules that already put you in the role of agents of Molthune, Nirmathas, Taldor, or Qadira but these could certainly be interesting self-made adventures to run.

The all-out battle is one type of adventure you could run; pitting your player's unit against agents of their opposing faction in an attempt to take and hold a piece of land. In the battle between Qadira and Taldor less overt actions could make an interesting adventure. The players acting as a covert team sent to retrieve an item or person could make an interesting wartime adventure. Sabotage is also an common wartime strategy; maybe your players are agents of Molthune or Nirmathas tasked with destroying a weapon, or stealing the plans for an opposition attack.

Former soldiers are also interesting characters even if you aren’t playing in a wartime campaign. One of the other players in the Rise of the Runelords – in which I too am a player – is playing a former army scout. Deserters could also make unique characters. War can force characters to witness many atrocities, so fleeing from them is an option some will take. How that plays out in character could also be an interesting story.

Soldiers could be almost any class. Rangers, hunters, and rogues all make excellent scouts. Cavaliers, fighters, or paladins could all well have been frontline fighters. Any caster class could be used as a specialist or in a support capacity. You also have to consider what the rank system in the military is and how far your character made it up the ladder. Although a starting level character would probably have been more than a grunt – that is left to the NPC warrior class – you probably wouldn’t be commanding any battalions.

One thing to be careful of though is overplaying aspects of soldier or former soldier characters. Things like PTSD can be touchy subjects, and pushing the envelope too far can make the other players at your table uncomfortable, especially if one of them has served. So be mindful and respectful of how you treat the effects war has had on your character.

Although the examples here are done in terms of Pathfinder, war and soldiers can be used in many games. Some games even have war as the central theme. Hopefully the ideas within have inspired you to use a battlefront in your next adventure, or make a military character.

What wars have you thrown your characters into? Have you ever made a military character? If so what type? How does your world as a whole view war? And what of wartime atrocities? Tells us about your experiences in the comments.

Gaming is war, well, sometimes. In the battle to engage our players and tell good stories I hope the CRB has been a well-respected commander. If you feel the CRB has aided you in your battles please consider donating to my Patreon. The CRB has also spread across the battlefield of social media. Come join the unit on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. The inboxes on all fronts are always open for questions and comments.

The opening illustration was created by a fine artist Luis Perez. You can find him on TwitterTumblr, and on Instagram at luisperezart.


  1. There's also the big war that could happen between Andoran, Cheliax, and their allies.

    1. I'll have to look into it but I thought that Cheliax wasn't quite ready for war with anything yet. I could definitely see the tension on the border between Cheliax and Andoran as another kind of cold war.