1.9 Order of Battle Rewrite:1


i fucking hate writing ...
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Is that really what order of battle means? better title?

Order of battle
Order of battle refers to how the creatures react when the party are detected. When the party invades a keep, or cave, or some other structure that’s got a band of bandits, tribe of humanoids, or some such, the reactions of the occupants to invaders needs to come up. Inevitably the worst adventure say something like “They all stay in their rooms and don’t come to the aid of their comrades in the next room.” They hate the other creatures. The creatures want to “test”” the party. Or, much more frequently, the reactions inside the complex are ignored. This clearly violates core conceit #1: Assist the DM. It's likely that the DM will need to pull out the map and key descriptions, figure out who is nearby and who can hear and react and how they do so. This is another piece of work that the designer should be handling for the DM.

A couple of sentences up front on how the complex reacts to incursions can be appropriate. Some individual room notes would also be appropriate in places. It’s fine for some of the folks to ignore the orc room because they are always fighting. But the room right outside the Necromancers door? Or the Captains quarters? Or noise at the main gate? Better yet, the guard captain comes down to chew the orcs asses out, or the Necromancer has had enough and it’s Zombie Orc time!

The point here is that intelligent monsters react. They might not react in an organized manner with well thought out defenses, but they will react to the murder hobos in the next room and/or the sounds of that bully Ur-gon finally getting what’s coming to him. {see Social/Factions.] A full reaction matrix in each room isn’t needed. But general notes, either up front or special cases noted, is a welcome addition to the toolkit running the game at the table. Maybe just noting on the map which rooms have creatures in them that will react, another case for overloading information on to the map.

In some cases just a touch of verisimilitude is called for. In the case of guards, generally, the ratio of on duty guards to off duty guards is about one in four. If you've got ten watching then are thirty more somewhere sleep, drinking, gambling, and so on. That's who always in those barracks and common rooms. It's also important to remember that these are unlikely to be crack troops. Or, perhaps, remember they are bored and have had to deal with a lot of false alarms and thus slow to respond to "another one?!" And how many are foot dragging, not exactly excited about being the first guy through the door in to the room full of trouble? These aren't words to live by, but rather enhancements to the verisimilitude that can be inserted for even more fun.

This isn't license for full on tactical turn by turn combat advice to the DM. "Turn 1 the wizard casts spell shield. Turn 2 they cast haste. Turn 3 they run out the door behind then down the left hallway and through the next two doors." This sort of tactical level advice is prescriptive and tends to be a sign of over-investment in the creation. Keep it high level.
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Excellent advice, and may I add an item on guards and reactions.

Strive for plausible on-duty versus off-duty ratios. For every guard, a complex needs at least two more (usually four more) "off duty" denizens. So a complex of 40 malcontents could expect to have about 10 on duty at any one time. The other 30 should be engaged in some other activity such as hunting, maintaining gear, gambling, drinking, sleeping, etc.

Those off-duty denizens need time to react and some can't react at all since they are absent. How many false alarms have they endured already which will make them sluggish to respond "yet again"? How many of those reactors are all too happy to let someone else take the lead?

I raise these points because so many adventures have the whole complex on duty all the time and reacting more swiftly than the home town fire department to the once-per-year drill they all know about before hand. Perimeter security is actually really difficult and most real life military units do a poor job most of the time; our fictitious environs would be more plausible if they reflected that.