I have a confession: I have always found writing adventures for Duty & Honour to be a difficult task. I just find it exceptionally difficult to codify onto paper the way I run games as a GM. My table tends to be very collaborative in terms of player input and reactive to elements of the story that emerge in play. So any ‘script’ to follow is rendered almost null and void in the first hour of play as the game careens off into its own trajectory. This has lead me to think long and hard about how to create adventures for the game that reflect the play style that it is designed around whilst also giving GMs a chance to have some structure to follow if they need it.
There are many fictional and non-fictional accounts of the Battle of Waterloo; two of my favourites being Cornwell’s ‘Waterloo: The history of four days, three armies and three battles’ and Iain Gale’s ‘Four Days in June’. However, these texts rarely follow just one soldier around the battle – something that Waterloo: The Bravest Man by Andrew Swanston does, and in so doing provides a fascinating mix of fact and fiction to one of the most iconic heroes of the battle, Colonel James MacDonell of the Coldstream Guards – the man who closed the gates of Hougoumont and therefore, according to Wellington, won the battle.
It’s the mix of military and personal missions that makes this game tick. One minute you’re trying to get your neck out from under the boot of a Portuguese crime lord (and replace it with your rival’s), the next you’re being held at gunpoint as a skirmish rages.Martin Lloyd aka Volunteer Gentlemen John Lace
This week’s playtest was more of a normal session really – we’re testing a new format for missions to see how it feels upon completion and have started to look at the regiment rules and spitballing ways that they could be improved to make the Regiment (and moreover, the Company) more relevant to the game. I think this is one of the areas where D&H needs to get into step with more modern games ideas – whereas in the past just having a few pre-defined NPCs was innovative, now things like a Blades in the Dark crew mechanic are common place.
Last night’s session went very well indeed, with a lot of the rules questions being ironed out and only a few clarifications needed (see below). The real talking point of the session was powered by some amazing playtester work on probabilities earlier in the week and a deep discussion on the implications of the smaller hand sizes on Mission design.
You see, they failed the mission.
And so, the playtest begins, and from the get-go, I can see the value of playtesting a game whose baseline assumptions are over ten years old. Duty & Honour was borne of the indie revolution of the mid-2000s and a lot of the core assumptions were … vague. In many ways, ideas like shared narrative and conflict resolution have moved into different modern places and this makes the admittedly wishy-washy way I handled it previously just too lose. There was also a little bit of ‘no author included’ going on; people who have played in one of my games see me run it and then do the same, but those that have not always find a new interpretation of the rules to bring to the table. So there was a lot to question as we went along.
Rather than write up a blow-by-blow of the action, I’ll just highlight some of the questions raised, especially around new mechanics.