Battlefields & BroadswordsTM is an attempt to take a look at Old School fantasy miniatures rules and find a way to effectively bring them back into play as part of an Old School RPG campaign.
One of my biggest complaints about OD&D is that it is very poorly presented and rather messy. My biggest praise for Basic is that it took the workable mechanical ideas strewn across over half a dozen booklets and put them into something that was much more player friendly. I can’t help but wonder if some of the needless complexity as a result of organizational sloppiness sprang from the limitations of how many pages Gary could saddle stitch into a single booklet. Would the information have been presented better if Volumes 1-3 could’ve been perfect bound? Who knows.
In any case, Chainmail is a much easier to pick up and better presented system, though being complete in a single booklet definitely helps. The version I have has additions and various rules for incorporating elements from Dungeons & Dragons into the game. The base game needs very little work done to it because it works as-is. I may clean up the formatting a bit and make it look nice, but aside from removing certain historical reference elements. For my purposes, I don’t feel the need to have a specific unit of “Swiss” with their own mechanics, and though defining where assorted Turks, Janissaries, and Flems fall into in terms of units may be interesting, I’m content to let that be an exciting artifact of the Chainmail for those who discover it. I think defining units based on their equipment or natural abilities, in the case of monsters, is more appropriate to my purposes. As such, I’ll be also changing a few terms: while “Light” troops remain “Light”, “Heavy” troops become “Medium” and “Armored” troops become “Heavy”, with these values corresponding to typical fantasy RPG armor ranges based on the described equipment).
Where is the value add in Battlefields & Broadswords?
Chainmail is great is if you’ve got a giant playing area and hundreds of miniatures. What it’s not great for is your typical gaming group who has limited space and only a handful of minis.
What I want to do with Battlefields & Broadswords is bring the mechanical simplicity of the Chainmail system to a scale small enough that players with only a few minis can still engage in medium scale battles. Personally, I find the War Machine mechanics from BECMI to be a dismal number crunch where one tediously feeds in a bunch of information and gets a battle result spat out. As a wargamer, I love the thrill of high level tactical combat, which is all but missing from most tabletop RPG experiences simply as a matter of complexity.
I hope to accomplish the following goals with something I’m calling S3M or the Simplified System for Single Miniatures:
- Scale Old School miniature rules to a scope where groups with just a few minis and a board or hex-map can work mid-sized tactical combat into their games.
- Provide an easy tracking system for units; players may wish to have mini-character sheets for their troops, though GMs can treat troops as stat-blocks as necessary.
- Provide quick ways for players to figure out the cost to create, equip and maintain different unit types based on commonly used prices from old school gaming sources.
- Adapt certain elements which generally require multiple miniatures to adjudicate (such as blast areas from siege engines) to use simple results tables.
I have my work cut out for me, but I’ve got to admit, I’m really excited about this!