Saturday, September 3, 2016

On characters and campaigns

I just thought I’d set down how I created the characters for Zheltarus and Yeșilkara in my previous post and say a little about how I intend to use them.

The first step was to roll up a character for each of the command elements in my collection.
I started with a system straight out of Black Powder.  The Personal Qualities of Commanders rating in that rule set is rolled on a d6 but only the extreme values (one for “low”, six for “high”) are taken account of.  Three dimensions are considered - Aggression, Decisiveness and Independence.  Any resulting characteristics on this scale and their impact in the game are shown in italics below the narrative descriptions.

Those narrative descriptions are all my own work (modestly examines fingernails after polishing them on the front of his crimson velvet smoking jacket) but built upon a framework provided by Henry Hyde.    Following Henry’s The Wargaming Compendium, I created random values (from 1 to 100) in Intelligence, Initiative, Courage, Charisma, Strength and Health.

Occasionally there would appear to be a clash between the two systems.  For example, if the Black Powder Personal Quality was low decisiveness (Hesitant) but the character came up with Initiative in the 90s under Henry’s system, I gave precedence to the Black Powder rating.  In such cases I would swap the offending percentage rating with the value at the opposite extreme in the character’s profile.  Thus a Hesitant commander with Initiative 91 and Charisma 10 would become Initiative 10, Charisma 91 before the narrative was constructed.

The final numerical value I allotted was Social Status.  In line with the Maurice rules, this is on a one to four scale with four being the highest.  My commanders in chief (Mikhail II and Murad the Vicious) automatically got four.  The rest were rolled randomly on a d4 (actually using the Dice Bag app on my iPhone).  I plan to restrict the allocation of generals to commands in a true-to-period way.  Higher status officers will lead the cavalry regardless of their capacity to do so effectively!

Interestingly all of the Yeșilkaran generals so far have come out with Social Status 3 quite by accident.  I must consider what this says about the hierarchy within the Emir’s inner circle.

Meanwhile, I’ve neglected to do the command element for my Janissaries.  So let’s do him now.

The Dice Bag app rolls 2, 3 and 5 so there are no Black Powder Personal Qualities and we can go straight to Henry’s attributes.  I fire up the percentage dice function and get:  Intelligence 92, Initiative 15, Courage 66, Charisma 92, Strength 63 and Health 10.  Finally, rolling a virtual d4 his Social Status is 1.  This last value is interesting.  Clearly the Janissaries have a significantly lower status than the Sipahi in the Emir’s court.

Hall Inalcik’s book The Ottoman Empire is a good source of Turkish names.  In this case I choose Ishâk Pasha for our Janissary commander.

Now we need to consider the extreme values above.  Ishâk Pasha is very bright and will be popular with the men, all the more so because he won’t be prone to get them killed in rash advances.  He’s not a particularly well man, though.  So all in all we end up with:

Ishâk Pasha, commander of the Janissaries
Social Status 1
The Emir values his devoted slave Ishâk for his steadiness in battle.  The Pasha is a skilled but cautious political operator and has built his power on the unwavering support of the Janissary corps despite his lack of status within the Emir’s court.  Ishâk is a eunuch by conventional designation only. He is accompanied on his campaigns by a physic who supplies him with powders and ointments to mitigate the effects of regular “conversation” with foreign women.

So how will I use these ratings?  The initial inspiration to create them came out of my limited feel for the period.  I’ve read so much about twentieth century warfare that I find it easy to come up with interesting scenarios for games.  In the 18th century I don’t have that instinctive understanding and wanted a bit of game mechanism to help me.  By populating the region with defined characters I’m hoping plots will emerge naturally.

What I don’t plan on doing is running a full campaign on the Hyboria model.  Zheltarus and Yeșilkara will simply provide a framework for the narrative around occasional battles using Great Northern War-period toys.  I also don’t plan to give the numeric stats (other than Social Standing) to the players.  They will remain in reserve in case I want the dice to reveal whether an officer, not currently under the control of a player, behaves in a particular way.

That’ll do for now but I’ll also want to add equivalent characters for my Poles, who are planned to appear in fictionalised form as the Kingdom of Tszervonsk.  More on these later.


Andrew Canham said...

Some interesting ideas there Richard. Look forward to seeing how the narrative develops and the scenarios you come up with.

Cheers, Andy

Counterpane said...

Thanks, Andy. I think a Black Powder game in this setting may be one of my games over the Christmas holiday this year.

Richard Phillips said...

Count me in if there's a spot free

Counterpane said...

I'm sure that can be arranged Richard.

I'm considering what to run. I have a New Year's Eve Pulp Alley campaign that I must continue. Aside from that I reckon Black Powder and To The Strongest are the best multi-player games I can offer (apart from CWC, BKC and HOTT all of which I feel I've rather overdone).

Andrew Canham said...

I'd be interested if there's space. Much depends on when for me though as if Lynda is working I'll have to keep Charlie amused. Guess the weather will play a part too!

Cheers, Andy

Richard Phillips said...

We had bright sunshine if I remember rightly last year

Counterpane said...

I usually run a couple of games over the period. When we get closer I'll announce dates and scenarios and you can tell me which you can do. I'll give priority of choice to folks who are travelling furthest and those who have supported Saturday afternoon gaming in Storrs over the course of the year.

Richard Phillips said...

Great look forward to it. Last years Andreivia game was fantastic.


Richard P