Designer Notes - Military Bases
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Basic Information

Despite the name, this page is an effort to introduce some verisimilitude to "troop quarters" in all RPG materials, not just to the design of full scale forces bases.

Three questions that all soldiers ask are "where do we sleep, where do we eat and where are the khazis?" … make sure when you add the garrison quarters to your facility that you answer those questions. You will require:

  • Sufficient sleeping quarters for all of the soldiers deployed in the facility and space to stow their personal kit (this should be commensurate with their species and tech level - stoneage canids might well sleep in a great heap of bodies, modern humans tend to require rather more in the way of personal space) - and ideally more space than the minimum since overcrowded quarters are generally unruly and unhealthy. Off duty troops might well be expected to be found in their quarters, either asleep or relaxing … but in many cases the two activities don't mix well. Consider having different "shifts" in different rooms.
  • Catering facilities and food storage for an appropriate number of men - although eating in shifts is entirely normal, not doing so is normal as well. When not eating, the eating area is frequently also a common haunt of off-duty troops (and those on fatigue duties) - either looking for additional food and drink or making use of the tables, seating and general space.
  • Latrines and washing facilities. These are optional in many eras, but the more they are neglected, the higher the attrition rate of the force. Professional troops will maintain appropriate facilities. In the modern era, this will also tend to mean lots of showers since soldiers tend to bathe in units.

Note that eating and living space can be combined - soldiers can very well cook where they live, or be issued food to take back to their barracks and eat, but appropriate provision will need to be included1.

Troops will also require:

  • Space for appropriate weapons training and drill.
  • Storage for equipment and weapons.
    • Once gunpowder appears, the magazine will become an important part of the base - normally more so than the armoury.
    • Note that "equipment" can include vehicles or mounts, which need their own feed or fuel storage.
  • Maintenance facilities for all forms of equipment.
  • Admin offices (which may be the same thing as the officer's quarters in some cases).
  • Some kind of religious and/or political centre appropriate to their culture.
  • Orderly facilities (generally a provost's office and cells, but in some eras may include things like a gallows and/or flogging triangle).
  • Medical facilities are also popular.

You will also need to know who lives in the base and for how long - a permanent garrison including men with wives and children will be a very different place from a transit camp and appropriate arrangements will need to be made. It also goes without saying that you need to consider the purpose of the base; an airfield, fortress, or hospital will need things that a simple garrison can do without.

Also, be aware that some cultures will operate "depot" bases - which are theoretically the home base of a unit, but almost never see it in full strength and may only house ceremonial parts of the unit and/or a few support functions2.

The number and distribution of troops will also be affected by the role of the base - too many bases depicted in RPG material simply add up the number of guards placed around the map and assign them all quarters. Whilst this may be better than assigning guards with no support infrastructure, it also implies that those guards are on 24h duty. If the base is a garrison (i.e. a storage facility for troops) then the guards will be drawn from a much larger body of troops, most of whom will be doing things that aren't guard duty. If, on the other hand, all the troops present are guards, you will need at least twice as many men present as are on duty at any one time in order for the posts to be covered at all times (or to plan out when various posts are unguarded). This figure will typically not include support staff who are generally not on guard rosters. A partial alternative is to have guards supplied from a garrison elsewhere - but you will need to at least sketch out the logistics of this as well in case your PCs decide to meddle with it.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • PCs intent on any kind of mission that isn't a full on attack will be able to make use of these details and will expect to be able to find them out, whether they plan to sneak past during a guard change or infiltrate disguised as part of the garrison.
    • If they are intent on a frontal assault, you will need to know how many people turn out to kill them.
  • Similar considerations apply when designing a dungeon: where do the monsters handle basic biological needs, what do they do when not fighting adventurers, do they have their own smithy, etc.
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