The Guns Above Q7 Gaming

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Would you use something analogous to this book in a game? What appealed game-wise? What would you expand upon? Contract? What would be the key to properly gaming this book?

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    Adding a comment so I get joggled when other people comment!

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    I always have a problem with military games, because I think I get too caught up on the "chain of command" thing and now allow the PCs sufficient freedom. You can get away with that to some extent by having a mostly-independent unit, such as a scouting airship (or an exploring Starfleet ship). But there's still the problem of dealing with player agency within that group, in an RPG context of several PCs. It's notable that military fiction concentrates on commanders over the commanded.

    I don't really know how to deal with that. Suggestions welcome!

    Duty and Honour is the game I'd probably reach for first. That handles player agency by giving everyone personal objectives they have to do, quite apart from the overall military mission. Night Witches and The Watch both adopt a pattern of distinct "mission" and "downtime" phases, then doing the "mission" part as quickly as possible, leaving the players to enjoy the fun stuff of dealing the fallout and stresses from the missions.

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    Thinking about it, Star Trek: Lower Decks may be a good model for a military RPG. The characters are much more concerned with their own agendas, with the overall missions being more prompts and backdrops than they are the focus of play. In that way, it's more about life in a large organisation than it is about running around fields shooting people.

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    For reasons similar to Neil, I've also never really tackled military stories. And I have no strong desire, too. Perhaps unlike Neil (I can't say), I'm also held back by my own need to try to 'get things right' in terms of military culture. I could probably crib that from the Hornblower/O'Brien/Woodman/Kent crew, but that would involve reading a lot of books first and making notes, and I'm not into the genre enough anymore to do that. Once upon a time I was. Also, as a GM, I think I much prefer playing earthy types as NPCs that I do haughty commanders who give orders and brook no insubordination. So for that reason (as the Dragons in the Den might say) "I'm out".

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    edited May 2

    Yeah, I'm not that bothered by realism. I want things to fit the setting, but I'm more interested in using setting features to prompt interesting decisions. For example, you can catch the tide and sail now, but the ship won't be fully equipped. Or you can wait until you get all the food and powder aboard and sail on the next tide, but the enemy you're chasing will have a twelve hour head start.

    Saying I don't do military, I just remembered I did a successful game of Mouse Guard which was semi-military. But the PCs were more like a scouting party for the Guard, so were out of direct supervision most of the time. They were given places to go and objectives to achieve, and were left to their own devices on how they achieved it. In that way, it was similar to a typical small adventuring party. The commanders were distant, and there weren't other people around from the same military unit.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    I always have a problem with military games, because I think I get too caught up on the "chain of command" thing and now allow the PCs sufficient freedom. You can get away with that to some extent by having a mostly-independent unit, such as a scouting airship (or an exploring Starfleet ship). But there's still the problem of dealing with player agency within that group, in an RPG context of several PCs. It's notable that military fiction concentrates on commanders over the commanded.

    Speaking as a bystander, wouldn't that be a problem in lots of areas outside specifically military ones? In a modern setting, most individuals can't just saunter off for long periods of time without life-consequences like losing your job. And through most of history, very few individuals have had much real agency to explore outside the constraints of their life. Would it be fair to say that gaming (and written fiction) tend to focus on the exceptional few in whatever society you use as setting?

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    I heard once that the ideal for a play was for all the events to take place in a 24 hour period. That short period of intense activity is achievable for just about everyone. Even if things aren't that short, a lot of standalone stories are one-offs.

    Where there are serialised stories, very often the protagonists are people whose job is to deal with unusual situations: police, investigators, military, emergency responder, medical staff. So yes, I think it entirely fair to say that gaming and fiction focuses on the exceptional few.

    The problem I was trying to express is akin to the "Star Trek away team" problem. On a spaceship of several hundred people, you don't send your department heads out to the surfaces of strange new worlds: you have specialists for that. The bridge crew / department heads make the command decisions, but others carry out those orders.

    One solution is for people to have multiple characters, such as one in the bridge crew and one in the away team. But that's not ideal for an RPG.

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    I see this book as more a wargame than a rpg, but I liked wargaming when I did it. For people who like that, I think it provides a good setting for several sessions. I also think the military and war aspect allow a more human and realistic 'railroading' to plot construction than what is presented in many games (where the mechanic is used as justification without any justification e.g. what is levelling up and why does it happen? Not an issue in wargaming, which can also be episodic etc.).

    Perhaps like @RichardAbbott I think that the idea that players deserve extreme freedom of agency only reveals that 1) Causality isn't really much fun, and 2) Most of us have no idea of what is worth playing at with our friends. Being railroaded is a real thing after all, so why shouldn't it happen to PCs? Maybe common boundaries provoke community and creativity.

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    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    I see this book as more a wargame than a rpg, but I liked wargaming when I did it. For people who like that, I think it provides a good setting for several sessions.

    The mission-based style is common in RPGs, even if the initiation may be different: "you have your orders" vs "the old man gives you a treasure map" vs "you are the prophesied Chosen One".

    Perhaps like @RichardAbbott I think that the idea that players deserve extreme freedom of agency only reveals that 1) Causality isn't really much fun, and 2) Most of us have no idea of what is worth playing at with our friends. Being railroaded is a real thing after all, so why shouldn't it happen to PCs? Maybe common boundaries provoke community and creativity.

    My definition of railroading is "not being allowed to make choices you want to". If everyone agrees that the game will revolve around PCs being given missions, it's not railroading if missions are then given. It is railroading if people agree the game is about PCs pursuing their own goals then are forced to take on GM-dictated missions.

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    @NeilNjae I'm talking about PCs, not players. PCs don't have their "own" goals. The question is whether the PC's goals are only subject to / strictly determined by one player, or if they are subject to all the members of the group.

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    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    @NeilNjae I'm talking about PCs, not players. PCs don't have their "own" goals. The question is whether the PC's goals are only subject to / strictly determined by one player, or if they are subject to all the members of the group.

    Sorry, I misunderstood. Thanks for the clarification. FWIW, I think both modes are perfectly feasible in play, so long as all the players agree what they're doing.

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