Analects of War


Valentine’s Day is gone, but February is still here, and RPG BlogCarnival has a new home and a new theme. Doctor Necrotic introduces «Time Marches On» in his blog Daemons and Deathrays and he invites us to write about «the passing of time and its effect on a game world». His examples include social progress, technological innovation, time skips, reflections and the flow of time. I couldn’t make upp my mind about which one to use to start writing, so I picked them all along with my favorite D&D setting. The featured art today comes from the mind of the unbelievable talented Aleksi Briclot.

The Last War in Eberron was an internal conflict that started as a royal succession conflict. It lasted for one hundred years, changing everything from social prejudice to political boundaries and even brought a new race to the world. As such a pivotal event, any Eberron campaign should address how the War influenced the events going on as well as how it made the PCs what they are. One of my campaign, though, didn’t have to, because it was set in the Last War itself, one hundred years in the past from the regular starting point for the campaign setting.

A historical campaign offer too many options to consider: should the PCs fight in battles alongside armies? Should they be Mission-Impossible-style spies and saboteurs instead? First thing I had to consider is national allegiance, but that is material for another article. This one is about how the time passes, and I issued a warning to my players during their character creation: if they were to play a short-living race, they would have to create some sort of legacy to them, in the form of a descendant or apprentice. It was a very ambitious take on a campaign: it would last one hundred years, and the heroes would be shaping the standing of the War as they knew it.

Unfolding in three distinct parts, the campaign started just as the players knew it did: five siblings not recognizing tradition and clashing with each other for the throne. In the beginning, an united front allows the characters to fulfill missions trying to keep the war from igniting… unsuccessfully. As the campaign unfolds, one thing starts to grow in the characters: allegiance and loyalty to one of the fighting sides.

The war was changing not only their characters and their points of view, but also the kingdom around them: from commoner stashing food to families separated for military purposes, to political discussions about the future of the monarchy and religious ones about how the gods would punish the mortals for their sins. The important topic was to make the characters grow, both in level and maturity. My players joined the experiment and they had their characters fighting for freedom of the unwilling soldiers, the starting ideas for democracy and even the respect for their gods when they didn’t seem to care about their followers.

The Last War in Eberron finished after a hundred years, and my campaign saw one character (an elven ambassador) writing about how he changed his opinion about humans after two generations of his companions fought bravely in defense of their values and traditions. It was a very rewarding campaign, so the next time you’re thinking about bringing a war to yours, consider what it can bring to your players and characters beyond death and violence in the battlefield.

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