Friday, August 8, 2014

A Braunstein Interlude - Maps And Campaigns

An old photo, from the archives...

If people wouldn't mind, might I talk for a little bit about maps and campaigns?

This short interlude has been prompted by the comments by several of you on the recent post about campaign games. As I mentioned then, the usual thing for games here in the Twin Cities back in the 1970s and early 1980s was for somebody to announce that they were going to run a campaign based in some period, and people could sign up. This applied to both miniatures and to board games, and later on to role-playing games.

Players would sign up to be anything from small unit / faction / warband leaders to kings and princes controlling small(ish) states. This principle was later (again, I'm speaking from my perch in time, back in the 1970s) enshrined in the idea of the 'domain game' in D & D, where the party / player-character would aspire to run their own fief.

These campaign games - so-called because of the 'campaign season' in our world settings, usually the spring and summer months in our worlds - were springboards to adventures of all kinds. We used them to run games both big and small; we were only limited by the resources that we could bring to bear. Now, I like doing miniatures and models, so I quite often would set up campaigns where I would provide all of the 'means', and the players would provide the 'manpower'. Players would hand me their written orders, usually once a week, and I would use these to set up the next week's game at the Little Tin Soldier Shoppe or at CSA meetings.

For example, I ran a space campaign set in the universe of the book "Handbook For Space Pioneers" (which is still available from Amazon, by the way) and using the "Starguard" figures in my collection for the ground battles; battles were fought out with Mike Mornard's "Planetfall" rules. This was a multi-player game, with something like a dozen players running different factions, and their plots, plans, and general skullduggery are what drove the games we played.

Prof. Barker's Tekumel campaign was played out on both a larger and a smaller scale. We fought map-based campaigns, such as the Northwest and Northeast Frontier campaigns, and then played out our personal adventures in those military campaigns. I spent a lot of time, for example, fighting what you could call 'skirmish' actions with our party of player-characters out in front of the main army doing scouting and mapping work, and having to fight off both our foes, the locals, and the wildlife. (Book Two of "To Serve The Petal Throne" covers this period in my career in some detail.) Similarly, when we played the Hekellu 'mini-campaign', we played the middle-level managers of the province and the attached frontier protectorate; for us, this was the exact equivalent of the D & D 'domain' game.

We collected maps from a great many sources, and use them in our games as we needed them We played one NATO-Warsaw Pact game, for example, using detailed survey maps of Southern Minnesota - my goal, as the commander of the Soviet forces, was to get my motor-rifle division from Red Wing to Rochester. The defenders were on the Minnesota side of the river, and were supposed to try and stop us. we had a lot of fun, poring over the maps, and it was a very fun campaign; all of our movements were plotted on the maps by the referee / GM, and our encounters (sound familiar?) would lead to all sorts of small actions. The terrain we were in determined the scenery on the tabletop, and it was a considerable point of pride to be able to translate what was on the map into stuff on the table.

The model rail supplies of the local hobby shops took a fearful beating, in our battles; I shudder to think just how many of the 'Life-Like' brand of trees and shrubs went to wrack and ruin in our games.

A lot of our RPG games also used 'real-world' maps - Mike Mornard ran a medieval game set in England during the Wars of the Roses, and we fought for control over the villages and manors of High, Middle, and Low And Behold. The Slaughters also saw a lot of, well, slaughter. (Dorset and Wiltshire, if you must know. See also The Ampneys, in the Cotswolds.) Small scale maps were also used - we collected a lot of town and village maps, and more then one part of player-characters fought it out with the orcs in some otherwise peaceful village in rural England or Wales.

Our Tekumel adventures, of course, took place in Phil's creation, and he simply loved to draw maps. We had everything from the epic large-scale maps of the Five Empires down to the plans and maps of local buildings; the 'Fortress Chalukolumel mini-campaign' was based first on the Northwest Frontier maps, and then on the plans of the fortress itself drawn by Ken Fletcher from Phil's notes and rough sketch. The battles for Castle Tilketl, up to the northeast of Khirgar, were done the same way - and I eventually built the castle in miniature for our 28mm figures to fight over.

I think what I am trying to says, with all of this, is that maps and campaign settings can do a lot for your games and campaigns. Use them as a sort of game aid to turn your imagination loose, and I think you'll have a lot of fun - I know we did!

Thoughts? Comments?