The ReasonA long time ago, back in the early spring of 2018, I was running a heavily homebrewed game of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition for two of my friends. One of them was a strange tall man who desired to preserve nature and develop deep bonds with wildlife and the other character was a stubborn man whose ambitions knew no bounds. Throughout the course of the game, a campaign that had already gone on since the autumn of 2017, the two players became nobles and the stubborn ambitious character became the count of a region they had taken from some goblins. With the blessings of Tambet Sarap, King of Sarala, Rick Goldsworth became the Count of the Autonomous Saralian County of Elftile.
Now that he owned land that the goblins previously held, he had to worry about improving Spirit Dragon, the castle he had conquered, but his entire land was mostly uninhabited, and so he and his trusty companion Gandorf went to out to find colonists and soldiers. Eventually, the goblins attempted to attack the castle, hoping to take back what was theirs and during the battle, both I and my players noticed that due to a large number of tokens on the battle map, our browsers had suffered from severe lag.
Concept & Skills
I began the project with a simple blank A4 sheet of paper and a black pen. At first, I began looking into the combat systems of grand strategy games Europa Universalis IV and Crusader Kings II. From those games, I came up with the first few features. Both games had phases that the combat went through and both games penalized attacking enemies across a river or on higher ground. I wrote down the phases on my blank paper and after that, I came up with the idea that the player character in charge of the army should have skills related to those phases.
Originally the skills I wrote down were Skirmishing, Melee, Artillery, Pursuing, Tactics, and Initiative, but later I scrapped most of those and now the player has to invest into a specific unit related skill. How upgrading a characters skill works is still unknown and will depend on the tabletop roleplaying system. Tactics and Initiative will likely be the only skills out of the original six that will end up staying.
After I came up with the different unit types, I began coming up with ways how I could represent them on a battle map. As I had played a lot of Hearts of Iron IV during that time, the solution seemed obvious. NATO Joint Military Symbology was the best way of displaying the units, but unfortunately the modern symbols weren't all that good for units such as light and heavy forms of infantry and cavalry, and so seeing as I had the power, I opened up Adobe Illustrator and began coming up with a way I could easily adjust the NATO symbols to represent the units in my battle system.
I kept the original symbol and added a small indicator that helps identify the unit as either light, heavy, archer, or pikemen, and for the battlemages, I used the symbol that normally represents rocket artillery. With these symbols, I was another step closer to a functional system, but the main thing was still missing. I didn't have the stats or skills of the units and I lacked a way of displaying them.