New poster here, so any help is appreciated.

As a DM, I have 2 main groups of players in my game; the ones who like very, very high strategy (as in commanding armies on the battlefield), and the ones who enjoy combat encounters (swords & fireballs).

How can I realistically work into the plotline a situation where high-ranking commanding officers of an army are also fighting enemies on a regular basis?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! I see it's not your first stack, but feel free to take the Tour anyway. As for your question, are you only interested in the story aspect of making such a situation happen? Or is the mecanic of how to run that scene and the social aspect of making both of those players happy also on your radar? \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 3:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretry interesting question by the way. I'm curious to see what people will come up for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 3:51
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Is this a question about how to build your plot? We can't answer that. Is this a question about mechanics? We might be able to answer that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 8:18

1 Answer 1


It’s the culture.

Wherever it is that your characters are, the cultural expectation is that military commanders lead from the front. That doesn’t mean they have to be in every single battle personally—they can order army A to fight in one place under a subordinate while they stay with army B—but a commander who rarely or never gets into the thick of the fight themselves quickly loses respect, prestige, and authority.

This has precedent:

  • Feudal nobility were basically glorified warlords: they were the warrior rank of society, raised from childhood both to fight and to rule. As well as the social standing to command others, the nobility were the ones with the training (and wealth) to become elite warriors, and the chivalric obligation to protect the people. (While the ideal and the reality may have diverged in this respect, in a game you run you can say that the expectations are very much upheld in practice!)
  • Buccaneers followed strong and active leaders. They weren’t a conventional military (though they certainly took on some of its functions in the era of privateering), and so they lacked any social or legal pressure to risk their lives for commanders who weren’t proven willing to do the same.
  • Legendary and fictional military leaders frequently possess personal skill at arms too—it’s part of the hero gig, and can be an aspect of a dreaded (or respected) villain too. Achilles was the mightiest Greek warrior and leader of the Myrmidons. Robin Hood was the best archer of the Merry Men. Conan found statecraft boring, but people followed a king who could slay twenty-odd conspirators hand-to-hand. Faramir personally led Gondor’s most daring defensive actions, even while his father espoused the wisdom of leading from the rear (and he made sure people knew he was still able and willing to fight; it just wasn’t the best strategy).
  • D&D characters are particularly well suited to modelling this kind of hero: the best, most experienced, most skilled at anything are also more powerful in personal combat.

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