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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    On Paper

    Default Tides of Battle- "Mass" Combat System

    Tides of Battle is what I’m calling a system I’ve whipped up for a few upcoming sessions of my campaign. I’ve used a rougher version of it before to some success, and am working to formalize it.

    I want to call it a “Mass Battle” system, but it’s not really that. It won’t simulate the PC’s as commanders of a vast army, nor is it a good way to esolve epic-scale battles. What this system is meant to do is simulate a scenario where the PC’s are stuck in the middle of a pitched battle, and are crucial to resolving the immediate engagement. Holding this particular gate or section of wall, capturing this specific hill, ect. It does this by abstracting out the rest of the fight, allowing the PC’s to have a fairly standard encounter while providing a few ways that their fight and the battle going on around them interact with each other.

    This could be used for a scenario where two epic armies are clashing, with the PC's just being a small part of the overarching battle (Just don't count on this system to directly resolve that), or it could be used to simulate a small skirmish, with the PC's and 20-40 allies clashing with a similar number of foes in isolation. The important thing is that the numbers on each side are big enough to be abstracted away.


    “The Fray”: the area of the battle represented by the battle map (if you’re using one), which shouldn’t be more than 50ft by 50ft (Since there is more fight going on around it). This is where the PC’s are engaged in battle. Creatures in The Fray have hit points and initiatives just like in any other encounter. They Fray can move around, but should be kept fairly compact, with the rest of the battle raging around it’s edges.
    If the armies are densely packed, simply shrink the battlefield down to 20x20 or so, and assume that there are clashing shield walls on each side.
    “The Field”: everything outside The Fray, representing the rest of the battle. Not technically off-limits to mobile PCs, but the PCs should be focusing on the Fray, not running off randomly. Things happening in the Field should generally not directly affect the Fray except for Advantage Powers (For example, don’t put an enemy spellcaster in The Field, and have them drop the occasional fireball into The Fray). If a character is directly acting in The Fray, put them in there. Characters in the Field exist, but generally don’t model them directly in game-terms.
    Advantage Powers: Abiltiies possessed by each force that have some impact on the Fray, representing that force exploiting a temporary advantage over their enemy.
    Allies: The PCs, as well as an NPCs who are fighting with them. Generally speaking, “Allies” refers to those characters in The Fray. Allies in the field are not modeled as characters within this system.
    Opposition: The force opposed by the PCs and their allies.
    Resilience: A combination of numbers, discipline, and durability to indicate how hard it is to get a force to Rout. Functions as the HP for a force.
    Power: How good a given force is at Routing opponents, represented by a dice roll, usually between D6 and D10, may or may not have a static bonus, or an additional D4 for favorable circumstances.


    At end of turn Each Round, roll the Power of the opposing forces and compare them. The losing side loses 1 resilience. For each 2 points of difference after that, the winning side may either deal an additional point of resilience, or use an Advantage Power (Only 1 advantage power may be used per round) To impact the fight in The Fray.

    For example, if the Allies roll a 6, and the Opposition rolls a 4, the Allies deal 1 damage to the opposition. If the Allies roll a 6 and the Opposition rolls a 3, Allies either deal 2 damage, or deal 1 damage and use an Advantage Power, Player’s choice. If the Opposition rolls a 1 and Allies roll a 6, they can either deal 3 damage, or deal 2 damage and use an Advantage Power.

    As the PC’s defeat foes, more enemies will peel away from the rest of the fight to engage the PCs, thus depriving the opposition forces of combat power. Generally speaking, the opposition forces should take a -1 penalty for every 4 ordinary warriors defeated, a -1 penalty for each elite enemy defeated, and a -2 penalty for any commanders defeated, but you can tweak this as you see fit. The end result is that, as the PC’s slay foes, the tide of battle should shift in their favor, but as the PC's do not directly impact the enemy's Resilience, you don't give the sensation that the 5 PC's are personally killing half the enemy troops.

    Order of Resolution
    At the end of each Combat Round, do the following:
    1) Check for enemies defeated in last Round. If there are some, add more foes to the Fray and adjust “defeated Enemies” tally. (A potential take on this is that the “defeated enemies” tally is calculated, not by which foes the PC’s defeat, but by which ones join the Fray.)
    2) check “Defeated Enemies” tally to calculate penalty on Opposition roll.
    3) Make opposed Power rolls to determine the tide of battle.
    4) Winner decides if/which Advantage power to use, deal resilience damage, check Resilience scores.
    If one side is at 0 Resilience, they are Routed, the battle is over.
    5) Resolve Advantage Power (if any).
    6) Combat Round begins as normal.

    Affecting the Field

    Ideally, the PC’s focus is killing enemies in the Fray, but if they so desire PC’s can directly influence the fight in the Field in a variety of ways, some examples

    Casting a utility AoE spell of 2nd level or lower (Such as Fog Cloud, Entangle, or Web) can grant the Allied forces a +2 bonus on their next Power roll, provided the PC justifies how the spell is helping.
    Casting a damaging AoE spell of 2nd level or lower with a range of at least 30 feet (Such as Shatter ), can grant the opposition forces a -1 penalty on their power roll for the rest of the fight (Similar to defeating 1 elite).
    Casting a damaging AoE spell of 3rd level or higher (Such as Fireball) with a range of at least 30 feet can grant the opposition forces a -2 penalty to their power (Similar to defeating a Commander)
    Casting an AoE Healing Effect That heals at least 10 HP to at least 10 targets NOT in the PC’s skirmish can restore 1 resilience to the Allied Forces.
    Performing an especially impressive action, making a speech, toppling an enemy banner, ect, can provide a morale boost, giving allied forces a bonus on their next power roll.

    Ideally, PC's without powerful spells should always have foes in the Fray to fight, but If you run out and haven't repopulated the Fray, feel free to let them engage a few mooks or an elite on their initiative. Simply add the enemy to the Fray immediately, insert them into the initiative order as normal, ect ect.

    BRC's Random Thoughts on using/modifying this system

    The PC’s forces should always be outmatched by the Opposition forces. Ideally, as the PC’s eliminate foes, the tide of battle gradually shifts in their favor. I’d say set it up so that, assuming average rolls, the opposition gets around 2 power over the allied forces.

    If you would like, you could give the PC’s some way to deal Resilience damage directly to the enemy, but I personally prefer keeping their impact to the power rolls. The idea is to give the sensation that, while the PC’s did not personally defeat the enemy forces, they were without a doubt the deciding factor in the conflict.

    I normally dislike adding NPC’s on the side of the PC’s to an encounter, since it’s more paperwork, but the PC’s not doing as much. However, you could let the PC’s demand help, giving them allies, but giving their allied forces Power penalties (Similar to what happens when the PC’s defeat enemies).

    Don’t use this if you want a carefully planned tactical wargame, this works best with heavy theater of the mind and a lot of tolerance for abstraction.

    Also, I make no claims as to what is or is not Balanced here. Ideally, the Power/Resilience scores are not such that either side is likely to Route before the 4th round of combat.

    As is, force that keeps winning seems to suffer no damage, but remember that this is happening at combat speed. This roll is happening roughly every 6-10 seconds. If the battle drags on long enough, statistically both sides should take a bit of a beating. But, if you really want to model that, have each side take 1 resilience damage every 4 rounds or so.

    Resilience is a combination of the numbers in each force, and how tough/disciplined they are. Since things are being resolved every 6 seconds, there isn’t a lot of advantage given to a numerically superior force in the Power roll, except that over time they’ll have more Resilience to spare, and so law of averages says that things will work out in their favor eventualyl. If you want to model numerical superiority, give each force +1 power for every 2 points of resilience they possess. I don’t like the idea of using this by default, because it takes away the sensation that the PC’s actions are turning the tide.

    When building your Forces, a D6 represents capable, but not professional troops. A D8 represents professional soldiers, a D10 represents either an elite force, or simply an especially dangerous one (For example, a group of berserkers might have D10 power, but substantially lower resilience)

    If you want a faster-paced fight, start putting some damage on the enemies that join the Fray. If the opposition forces are below 50% resilience, have new enemies enter the Fray Bloodied.

    Sample Forces


    Allied Forces

    Attack Power: D8
    Resilience: 10
    A standard group of professional soldiers, a combination of experience and numbers makes them a formidable force on the battlefield.
    -Advantage Powers:
    Wall of Spears: Enemies have disadvantage on attacks this turn.
    Hold This Ground: Enemies who move suffer 1 attack at +6 (1d8+2 damage) if they move at least 5 feet, with an additional attack for every 15 feet after that (as the Men-At-Arms make AoOs). Any movement that would not provoke an AoO does not provoke these attacks.
    Take the Field: The Men-At-Arms surge forward, briefly occupying the enemy. Each PC may instantly do one of the following (Resolved in initiative order): Make a single weapon attack, Dash, disengage, Hide, Use an Object, Use any spell or ability that takes a bonus action.

    Forest Militia
    Attack Power: d6
    +1d4 in forests
    Resilience 6
    A group of hunters, trappers, and woodsmen rallied to defend their homes. While skilled archers, they are not trained soldiers, and will not stand up long in an extended engagement
    Advantage Powers:
    Focus Fire: 2 longbow attacks at +6 (1d8+3 damage) vs 1 target.
    Harry and Harass: Allies get Advantage on attack rolls this turn
    Covering Fire: All Allies may move up to their movement speed, moving in this way does not provoke attacks of opporunity

    Band of Crusaders
    Attack Power: D8
    +1d4 against fiends or undead
    Resilience: 8
    A force of noble paladins and clerics assembled to do battle against the forces of evil.

    Advantage Powers:
    Thunderous Charge: Enemies must make a DC 14 Save Str or Dexterity throw. On a failed save, they take 2d6 and are knocked prone, taking half damage on a successful save.
    Keep up the Fight!: Allies under an effect that ends on a save may instantly attempt that save, getting Advantage if they are trying to end a fear effect. All other allies heal 1d6+2 HP.
    Blessing of the Righteous: Allies are affected by the “Bless” Spell this turn.

    Example Enemy forces:
    Orcish Warband
    Power: 1d10
    Resilience: 6
    Unit Types:
    Standard Warriors: Orcs
    Elites: Orogs, Ogres
    Commanders: Warchief
    Passive Power: Berserk. If the Warband would not deal any resilience damage this turn, roll a d6, on a 5+, the Allied forces take 1 resilience damage.
    Advantage Powers
    Furious Charge, All Allies must make a DC 14 Save Str or Dexterity throw as Orcish warriors surge forwards. On a failed save, they take 2d6 and are knocked prone, taking half damage on a successful save.
    Warcry: Allies make a DC 14 Wis save vs being Frightened this turn.
    Blood Frenzy: Orcish attacks crit on a 19 or 20 this turn.

    Undead Horde
    Power: 1d8+2
    Resilience: 8
    Example Unit Types:
    Standard Warriors: Skeleton, Zombie
    Elites: Ghasts, Wights
    Commander: Necromancer
    Passive Power: Undying When the Undead Horde would suffer exactly 1 point of resilience damage, roll a D6, on a 5+, negate that damage.
    Advantage Powers
    Endless Legions: add 2 Skeletons to the fight against the PCs. If these skeletons are defeated, do not replace them or add them to the Defeated Enemies tally.
    Horrid Stench: All allies must make a DC 14 Constitution save vs being sickened this turn.
    Rotting Horde: Undead minions swarm the field, Allied forces treat all terrain as difficult terrain this turn, and any ally that moves suffers 1d4 slashing or bludgeoning damage for every 5 feet of movement.
    Last edited by BRC; 2017-02-15 at 02:41 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dsurion View Post
    I don't know if you've noticed, but pretty much everything BRC posts is full of awesome.
    Quote Originally Posted by chiasaur11 View Post
    So, Astronaut, War Hero, or hideous Mantis Man, hop to it! The future of humanity is in your capable hands and or terrifying organic scythes.
    My Homebrew:Synchronized Swordsmen,Dual Daggers,The Doctor,The Preacher,The Brawler

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    On Paper

    Default Re: Tides of Battle- "Mass" Combat System

    So, I tried this system out this weekend, and my initial thoughts.

    First, I ignored by own advice, and gave the PC's the opportunity to have their Forces start on roughly equal footing with the enemy. Thus, the PC's got lucky early on with their Power rolls, and then (As expected), the rolls quickly snowballed in the Opposition's favor (As the PC's killed enemies). The result was that, rather than the PC's winning the day, it just felt like they were marking time until their forces triumphed.

    Second, any power that involves an individual roll for each enemy in the Fray needs to be eliminated or rewritten. Doing so dramatically slows down the game.

    Finally, I think a good move is to rebalance opposition Armies to have much higher Power scores, but much lower Resilience. In my game, the opposition had more power, but similar resilience, so there was a considerable period where the battle was clearly in the PC's favor, but they had to chew through the enemy resilience. High Power/ Low Resilience for opposition forces seems like it will work better. Once the tide has shifted, the PC's get a round or two of Triumph before victory.

    Any thoughts?
    Quote Originally Posted by Dsurion View Post
    I don't know if you've noticed, but pretty much everything BRC posts is full of awesome.
    Quote Originally Posted by chiasaur11 View Post
    So, Astronaut, War Hero, or hideous Mantis Man, hop to it! The future of humanity is in your capable hands and or terrifying organic scythes.
    My Homebrew:Synchronized Swordsmen,Dual Daggers,The Doctor,The Preacher,The Brawler

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