Let Slip the Dogs of War, Part III


Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu was a leading proponent of today's maxim.

This posting is the third in a three-part series which explores how a Dungeon Master (DM) can apply accepted axioms of war to enhance the structure and mastering of combat encounters in a Dungeons & Dragons game. These axioms, and the historical examples used to illustrate them, are drawn from the writings of military historian Bevin Alexander, such as those found in Rules of War.

If he or she hasn’t done so already, the Gentle Reader may consider reading Part I and Part II.

While not every monster in a D&D game will be familiar with all of the tactics described in this series, those who are intelligent or have intelligent leadership will certainly employ them if the need arises.

Thus far in this series, we’ve examined the tactics of striking at enemy weaknesses, defending, then attacking, and occupying the central position. This installment of the series will focus upon Operating on the Line of Least Expectation and Least Resistance. Continue reading

Let Slip the Dogs of War, Part II


This posting is the second in a three-part series which explores how a Dungeon Master (DM) can apply accepted axioms of war to enhance the structure and mastering of combat encounters in a Dungeons & Dragons game. These axioms, and the historical examples used to illustrate them, are drawn from the writings of military historian Bevin Alexander, such as those found in Rules of War.

The first post in this series can be found here.

While not every monster in a D&D game will be familiar with all of the tactics described in this series, those who are intelligent or have intelligent leadership will certainly employ them if the need arises.

The first part of this series descibed the tactic of striking at enemy weaknesses; this part will discuss the maxims of defending, then attacking and occupying the central position.

Defend, Then Attack

Typically, attacking forces believe themselves to be stronger than defenders, and defenders generally consider themselves weaker than attackers (if the defenders perceived themselves to be strong enough, they would attack, or so goes conventional wisdom). This maxim surfaces when a commander chooses to defend, even though he is strong enough to attack.

The maxim is employed when a commander is aware that he has a better weapon or tactical system than his foe. The superior weapon or tactic would enable his troops to defend so well that the attack would certainly fail, thereby demoralizing and/or scattering the attacking force and enabling the defending commander to immediately counterattack while the enemy is disorganized. Continue reading

Let Slip the Dogs of War, Part I


Combat encounters hold extraordinary potential for generating excitement in a Dungeons and Dragons game. Unfortunately, many in-game combats degenerate into dice-rolling exercises, with little or no tactical planning on either side. Ultimately, one side or the other wins a war of hit point attrition, after which a victorious party proceeds to the next encounter or fallen heroes are replaced with new characters.

Practical application of accepted axioms of war can greatly enhance the structure and mastering of combat encounters. When these maxims are applied to encounter design, the Dungeon Master (DM) can expect two results: unique combat challenges for the player characters, and encouragement for the players to begin thinking in tactical terms.

 The military axioms to be outlined in this three-part series are drawn from military historian Bevin Alexander’s Rules of War. While not every game monster will be familiar with all of the tactics described below, those who are intelligent or have intelligent leadership will certainly employ them if the need arises.

Continue reading