Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Art of War in Italy 1494-1529 by F. L. Taylor

The Art of War in Italy 1494-1529, written by F. L. Taylor, is apparently a classic in the genre. I didn't know this. Rather, I was drawn to the book thanks to my viewings of Borgia and Borgias, seasons I caught up on Netflix that provided two different takes on an infamous family of the pope Borgia and his family.

This book isn't a book on those battles mind you. It mentions then by name and date, it provides who was where and who wrote what, but that is not its focus. Rather it is a discussion of the evolution and changing nature of war in this time and how those living at this time either embraced these changes or didn't and suffered defeat and lose of status as some mercenary companies grew in power and reputation and others didn't.

It's a relatively short read and provides some good grounds for why warfare changes. Those who've seen the military might of America, one of the greatest spenders of funds on military, change from it's roots in one type of warfare to counter terrorist methodology, know that war is ever changing.

In terms of role playing games? Some potential here or at least some things to provide fodder for.

1. Names. I've mentioned it before, but history books are a great source of authentic sounding names. In addition, they are great for names with titles attached to them. For example, "Gonsalvo de Codova, known to his contemporaries as The Great Captain." or "Lautrec the stormer of cities". You read a few of thoes and you're like, "No, go ahead and keep your nickname, I've seen worse."

2. Scouting: One of the things that comes up, is how vital knowledge of the landscape is. See, if you're using canons and horses, you need to know if the terrain will support their use. You need to know how quickly you can deploy them. You need to know if there is any fodder for the animals around. You need to know if the enemy can quickly get to you or you to them. Mastery and knowledge of the landscape provides those things to you. Characters that can scout out the terrain may encounter guards. They may encounter random monsters. They may encounter terrain difficulties that they can lead the enemy into. They may discover old abandoned mines that lead under the city.

3. Changing Methods: One of the things that frequently bores me about most fantasy games, is they love full plate mail and all of the other neat stuff of the times, but seem to forget how early guns actually get into history. They also tend to completely ignore all of the specialized forces in their own settings. In the real world? Well, if your enemy is using new guns to shatter your castles, you need to figure out a way to make better castles and make better methods to repel the invasions.

In addition, the changing field of battle may encounter remnants of the past in terms of social outlook. For example, one of the nobles would cut the hands and blind any gunners because he felt it wrong that a commoner would have the ability to kill someone nobly born.

Some found that attacking a foe while he was down after defeating them in the initial combat, was wrong and allowed their foes to retreat as opposed to destroying those forces and ending future conflict.

Imagine a scenario where orcs that routinely gathered in hordes started to use hit and run tactics, keeping the larger portion of their forces in reserve to destroy those that came after their own retreating forces? Imagine orcs that use some native herd beast to stampede them into a conflict against armored paladins. Imagine where they poison the landscape so that mounted knights can no longer give chase because their horses die when eating the grass.

4. War: One of the other things that tend to be boring in most fantasy campaigns, is that they're based on some of the harsh times of history, but usually have a few 'evil' countries, a few 'evil' organizations, and the rest of the setting is m'eh in that it's usually a bunch of good individuals and countries taking up the landscape with the threat of 'real' war very rare. Smash your setting. Have skirmish level combats breaking out all over. If you don't want to have it be nations, have it be monsters. Have things from other planes, like good ole Feist and Magician coming into the setting to take resources and supplies. History is violent and full of opportunities for clever individuals to make their mark on history.

The Art of War provides numerous observations on how and why warfare changed from armored knights on horse to canons and gunners whose role goes from supplemental to becoming part of a machine that must work together in unison with all other parts in order to achieve victory.