Mass Combat:Playtest rules

Good morning Emerald Heroes.

In this post we will explore a mass combat rule system. The current rules as i work with them will be included at our current project with is based at BlackHack and it's called Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells. Just a reminder when reading the checks that the system utilizes are based on roll less than the ability score (STR,DEX,CON,INT,WIS,CHA) in order to be successful. A natural 1 is what we call Critical success.

Have a great weekend.


Mass Combat (without Heroes involvement)


Either like or not Mass Combat is been part of the RPG games since the very first inception. In away we can safely assume that those bizarre rules of counting distances and using miniatures were the humble beginnings of our beloved hobby. I put a lot of though and research to find something that suits my play style. All my effort was put behind a few concepts; that of simplicity and heroes involvement.


  1. Mass combat is break down in 3 phases (there is a 4th phase which is optional)
  2. Each phase both sides roll a single roll. The type of the roll is based on the current phase. If the both rolls are successful roll 1d6 for each side. If only one side was successful just roll 1d6 for the winning side. The d6’s produce the Victory Points (VP)
  3. The scale of the battle provides with the Victory Points needed to reach, as you assumed, to the desired VICTORY!!  The first side who reached the Victory Points Threshold is the winner.

Difficulty Scale
Armies Size
Victory Points Threshold
Easy
Skirmish 20-250 combatants
10
Average
251-1000
15
Challenging
1001-5000
20
Hard
5001-20000
25
Formidable
20001+
30


After the storyteller has calculate the size of the battle then he moves on to each phase.


Opening Act (1st Phase)


At this phase the armies are start to move, taking strategic positions. During this phase several skirmishes may occur usually at long range (Far Distance). Commanders of the armies issue orders trying to get an advantage that will help them to win the war. Opening Act is mostly based in communication and influence. Each side rolls a CHA check and if successful you roll 1d6. Storytellers can roll for the enemy army if he/she likes. At a natural 1 on CHA check you gain an advantage roll to the next phase. Congratulations these are the 1st Victory Points.


Main Engagement (2nd Phase)


The main body of the armies clash for supremacy. This is the heat of the battle where the stories and poems are been weaved into myths. This phase is occurs at Nearby and Close distance. Main Engagement is passed on the each commander military knowledge. Each side rolls a INT check and if successful roll 1d6. Don’t forget to use your advantage if you have previously roll 1 at Opening Act. At a natural 1 on INT check you gain an advantage roll to the next phase.

Interlude (3rd Phase)


If no side reaches the Victory Points Threshold the battle continues through the day. Many battle are fought during the whole day. The winner of Main Engagement decides the check for this phase. You can choose between WIS, INT or CHA check. If the check is successful you roll 1d6 and add the Victory Points to your total.


Epilogue (4th Phase Optional)


Maybe you have either won or lost the battle but your storyteller wants to describe what happened. Were any survivors? Was a total annihilation? Absolute victory or not? You can count casualties easily by using the base loss at 35% +5 % for each lost phase or -5% for each winning phase ranging to a minimum of 20% / maximum 50% . It’s not absolute fact that time you will have a winner. If not use this phase during the break from the battle, usually at night when everyone is taking time to bury the dead and regroup.


After the 4 phases storytellers have 2 options: you can recalculate the army size and run a new day of mass combat (4 new Mass Combat Phases) until you have a absolute winner or the the winner is the best of the 3 first phases (Opening Act, Main Engagement & Interlude). If you decide that the latter suits your playing style then you give mass combat a bigger narrative description. Using the narrative the losing side rolls for a last desperate move to escape total annihilation (INT, WIS or CHA). If successful the losing side retreats to live and fight another day.


The casualties were heavy but we managed to retreat through the lavish forest. We didn’t get the chance to bury our comrades that's why we will avenge for them til their roaming spirits return back to the sands, where life first came.


If the last and desperate check ends in failure then the retreating army is rooted leading eventually to a wipe. Storytellers can allow for major NPC or Heroes to escape with a successful individual roll (INT or WIS)


Mass Combat (With Heroes involvement)  


The above rules will easily decide the outcome of a mass combat in few rolls but what will happen if heroes decide to actively take part in the combat. Then it’s up to the storyteller to create a few cliffhanger encounters to challenge the participants. The combat resolves normally in 3 or 4 (optionally) phases but when the side which heroes support reaches close to the last 5 Victory Points the cliffhanger encounters initiate.


The battle rages on. Our lands are fighting the rising tide of the shadow. We decided to help and we prepared our equipment. Our scouts have discovered  a small camp which acts as supply line for our enemies. We will hit fast and hard giving our comrades an advantage.


Following the above example. Storytellers must create the cliffhanger encounter and throw the heroes in. If the heroes are successful their side automatically acquires 5 Victory Points if not the enemy acquires 5 Victory Points. Adding these points to the total for each phase the result will be reached faster. This will allow the players to feel the heat of the combat and the pleasure of taking part actively in the combat.


For reference i will update the table including heroes involvement and when the storyteller initiates the cliffhanger encounters.

Difficulty Scale
Armies Size
Victory Points Threshold
Cliffhanger Encounters Initiation
Easy
20-250
10
5+
Average
251-1000
15
10+
Challenging
1001-5000
20
15+
Hard
5001-20000
25
20+
Formidable
20001+
30
25+
Optional Rules for Mass Combat


The above rules will provide an easy framework for storytellers to work a session of any mass combat but in a way it lacks further details. In this chapter i will add a few optional rules which expands Mass Combat. These optional stands apart from the philosophy of hack edition rules in which modifiers are been neglected in favour of an advantage/disadvantage roll.  


First we will add a few example modifiers that each side must take under consideration:

Optional Modifiers for Mass Battles
Situation
Modifier
Specialist troops
-1 per type
Battlefield surprise (ambush, fresh reserve, flash attack, rear attack etc)
-1 to -3
Enemy outnumbers you 2 to 1
+2
Enemy outnumbers you 3 to 1
+4
Enemy outnumbers you 4 to 1
+6
Higher ground
-1
Prepared position
-2
Fortification (Siege)
-3
Poor Weather
-1 to -3
Powerful enemy
Depends on HD difference


Let's take a closer look of the optional modifiers:


  • Special Troops: Examples are mages, knights, cavalry, aerial support etc. The side that own this kind of troops get -1 for each type to checks (just a friendly reminder that of the core mechanism of hack editions. You need to roll below your ability). These bonuses applies to both sides.
  • Battlefield surprises: At the table you can find the examples. These bonuses can apply to both sides.
  • Outnumbered: This applies only to one side.
  • Higher ground : This applies only to one side.
  • Prepared position: This applies only to one side.
  • Fortification (Siege): This applies only to one side.
  • Poor Weather: For both sides.
  • Powerful enemy: Storytellers must calculate an overall average for each army. The difference between the HD will provide with the according bonus.


Casualties as Usage Die


I’m well aware that many of you have a special affection for the Usage Die. In this optional rule i will make use of UD in order to calculate casualties. The original rule of Usage Die is used for item wear.  In our case it will be used for the wear of the troops.


USAGE DIE form the Core Rules


Any item listed in the equipment section that has a Usage die is considered a consumable, limited item. When that item is used the next Minute (turn) its Usage die is rolled. If the roll is 1-2 then the usage die is downgraded to the next lower die in the following chain:


d20 > d12 > d10 > d8 > d6 > d4


When you roll a 1-2 on a d4 the item is expended and the character has no more of it left.


Winner are rolling UD for each group of troops with advantage while losers of each phase roll with disadvantage.

Type Of Troops
Usage Die
Type Of Troops
Usage Die
Non-combatants, Peasants
d4
Brigands, militia
d6
Men-at-arms
d8
Knights, Cavalry,
d10


Storytellers can easily give a Usage Die for monsters on HD basis:


Monster HD
Usage Die
1-2
d4
3-4
d6
5-6
d8
7-8
d10
9-10
d12

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