Dungeons & Dragons Online

In order to spice up your battles or wars, steal some from history.

Some of my players enjoy larger, sweeping battles, whether they're acting as leaders of an army, or just pawns. The can also be a great detail for lore, or a character's backstory. In addition, a war always makes a campaign interesting. But, coming up with wholly original reasons for conflict, strategy, environment, etc. can be exhausting. So instead, take real historical battles, and throw in some fantasy elements.

A few examples I put together:


Julius Caesar had been waging a bloody war through Gaul for years. He had finally managed to trap the Gallic leader, Vercingetorix, in a small fortified hill town at Alesia. Caesar then built fortifications: a palisade surrounding Alesia, with rows of pits, spikes, etc. However, Vercingetorix had managed to get a call for help out before he was trapped. With a massive Gallic Army approaching from his rear, Caesar decided not to run, but to build another wall and row of fortifications on the opposite side of the first one. The battle came down to the wire, with the Gauls nearly managing to break through Caesar's lines a number of times, and Caesar himself being forced to lead a countercharge. In the end though, Caesar won, and cemented his rule of Gaul.

Players could fight on either side of this battle, either trying to rally and army in order to save an ally, or fighting to try and hold the palisade against enemy forces attacking from both sides. Alternatively, this could be part of the background for your campaign: A few years ago, the territory your PCs are in was conquered, and the resistance was squashed. Now, the son/daughter of the dead general is raising a new army, and seeking to fight a new war.Antietam:

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Fought during the US Civil War, it was the single bloodiest day in American history, with thousands of casualties on both sides. The Confederates held the defensive along a creek, as well as along a cornfield and a sunken road, and were steadily pushed back by US forces, until the end of the day, when a climactic confrontation allowed Lee to slip away. (Here's a map)

This one would be great for some kind of traumatic character backstory, a reason that a certain piece of land is haunted/cursed, or part of a necromancer's plan to raise a massive army.

Bellau Wood

A battle between US Marines and German soldiers during WWI. The Marines managed to halt the German advance as they cross a field, firing at them nearly point blank from a ditch they'd dug. The Germans then fell back, and set up their position on a wooded hill. The Marines attempted to charge the hill, but were pushed back by machine gun fire. Despite that, they continued to throw theirselves at the hill, and were pushed back five times, until the sixth attack managed to break through. This battle earned the Marines the nickname "Devil Dogs" from German soldiers. (It also had the lines "Retreat? Hell, we just got here." and "Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?", so those may be fun to throw in).

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This could could be fun as a challenging encounter if you wanted to have your players take on the role of the American army. However, you could also have them play on the German side, and face an unstoppable horde of demons or undead that just keeps coming, no matter how many times they push it back. That could be great for earlier on in a big campaign, to show the power of the forces the BBEG commands.

The Sack of Rome

During a war in Italy, Rome was attacked by a far larger force, which easily broke into the city. While the enemy army pushed through the city, a small group of the Swiss Guard banded together with city guards to mount a last defense, managing to hold off the enemy until the pope and a number of civilians could get to safety. They caught the mercenary army in a bottleneck, managing to inflict massive casualties before being wiped out to the last man.

This could make a great battle; just swap out "Swiss Guards" for some Paladin and Cleric allies, and have them stave off an army of undead, or just regular evil minions. Maybe they're trying to buy time for someone important to escape, or trying to defend a sacred place full of powerful relics. Or, it could be a great backstory for a player: The last surviving member of an elite paladin force. Maybe they panicked and ran, and are trying to redeem themselves, or they could have been injured and left for dead.

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These ideas are obviously just suggestions, and you can feel free to tweak them as much as you'd like. It's always difficult to come up with really creative new combat ideas or lore, so save yourself a lot of time by just googling "famous battles of history", and replacing "French" with "Drow".


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