This month's blog carnival is all about War. I've found that, in my games that feature war, different character power levels dictate different types of engagements and missions. Below is my general guidelines/suggestions for character involvement in war, as well as an example of each type of mission. These are not written in stone; in fact, it would be very easy here to take a lower-level encounter and turn it into something for a more epic character. But it does function (I hope) as a nice set of guidelines for the brainstorming GM.
Skirmish: There's a battle coming, but for now, the commander needs to get a feel for the lay of the land. Your small band has been sent up to get a feeling of the opposition's strength in that small cluster of trees by the old stone wall. Screen, harass, and delay any enemy forces.
Hold the Line: The army's center is buckling under pressure, and two additional squads of goblins are charging straight for the weakest point. Your small group must plug any holes and hold the line until the reserve company makes it to the front, so hang on!
Patrols: There's been reports of orc raiders hitting the supply line. Your party has been engaged to ride between here and the river, protecting the supply wagons and deterring the enemy wherever possible.
Messengers/Couriers: The town of Greenwell is under siege by the Parishoners of Set. The citadel commander has already sent out three heralds. Their heads were all catapulted back in the city the next morning. You must avoid the beseiging forces and warn the capital of this treachery.
Destroy Single & Basic Targets: That seige engine could cause a lot of trouble if its brought into action. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be that well-guarded (only a few common soldiers), and your merry little band is pretty good at smashing things...
Espianoge: The town of Hardgate is poised to hold out against your general's army for a long time. But if you could cut off or destory their water supply, this fight could be over quickly. You'll have to figure out a way into the ancient sewers below their well-guarded and warded city, for starters.
Commanding Squads/Patrols: You and your party are the nucleus of a small detachment of soldiers charged with watching the Mudwall River for enemy crossing. If there are any large-scale corssing attempts, you are to send a messenger to report and then try to delay their crossing as best you can.
Destroy Multiple or Well-Guarded Targets: An army marches on its stomach--that's why the bloodthirsty army of Set has seen fit to guard their food supply wagons pretty well. But if you can manage to destory a good portion of their foodstuffs, they will be hard-pressed to continue their invasion into your kingdom.
Small Unit or "Elite" Duels/Combats: Your band of adventurers has gained the nickname "The Invincibles" as the Knight-Marshal's personal bodyguard. It looks like the Ogre Magus has sent his elite Hobgoblin shock troops directly towards you to challenge that moniker. This should be a fight for the ages.
Rearguard Action: OK, so that was a lot of hobgoblins. The army is in full retreat, desperately needing time to reorganize something that can fight out of this routed mess streaming back towards the capital. Your unit is one of the last bands that hasn't turned to run. If you can hold this bridge crossing and delay the enemy until nightfall, the army should be saved. Then, if you arne't dead or captured, you can try to make your way towards your own lines...
Behind Enemy Lines/Infiltration: There's a supply depot about a day's ride behind the enemy's position. If you can burn it and create chaos in the rear of their army, you should be able to take their eyes off the flanking movement the Knight-Marshall is attempting. Now, about the 500 angry humanoid troops between here and there...
Battle Commander: Your stronghold has been threatened! Time to coordinate with your vassals to ride forth and break this terrible siege. Of course, you'll need to rally your men, see to your defenses, and most of all, come up with a tremendous plan of attack. (Note: With mass combat, I find players like a mix of zoom in/zoom out--that is, show them the big picture, zoom back in to their fighting or challenges, and make those challenges relate to what's going on with the big picture).
Army "Champion" Combat: The Vampire Lord and his Army of the Crimson Night have invaded and befouled your lands for too long. Being a vain, prideful, arrogant creature (but not without a twisted sense of honor), he has accepted your challenge of combat between he and his personal guard and you and yours. On the outcome of this fight rests the fate of your entire region.
Destroy Heavily-Guarded or Mass Targets: The Liche's army is fueled by the giant obsidian portal (heh) to hell resting in the middle of all his forces. As long as that is open, he may easily call more infernal troops, no matter how many you smite. Scores of demons glower and rage between you and the portal.
Last Stand/Extended Rearguard Action: This may not be Sparta, and there's a lot less than 300 of you, but if you don't hold this run-down fort in the Far River Valley pass as long as possible, those legions of howling hordes out there won't have anything between them and the rich valleys of the heartlands. You are legends, the great heroes of this war. Live or die in a manner that befits. (Note: Of course, you don't want to just go all Alamo on your players. Possible last stands or extended rearguards should be high-level, deadly challenges, but I'd recommend always leaving a few outs-even if they're tough choices to make).