Mass Combat

PLEASE NOTE: This is an experimental system I cobbled together while trying to make mass combat interesting. It has not been fully tested but is recorded here for reference and future tinkering.

Mass Combat Rules:
In an effort to make 2e mass combat actually work, I present the following system. Thanks to John in particular for his help in putting this together.

Mass combat proceeds in long ticks.

Unit Statistics:

Each unit has several statistics. Morale, Defense, Attack, Damage, Unit Strength (health), Willpower, and special. Additional statistics under consideration: Training, Equipment. Training could be a prerequisite for some high-reward tactics, equipment can probably be eliminated in favor of modifying Attack and Defense. Morale adds or subtracts directly from all scores, attack, defense, damage and even unit strength (simulating the unit breaking before it is destroyed completely), but is capped at +3 to -3. “Special” is anything unique about that unit (2x movement rate due to being outfitted with First Age magic boots, or Veteran of Peace of Stone, +1 vs Undead, etc).

In addition, certain statistics stand in for the unit’s virtues and should be rolled as needed if called for (a Valor check would be made using the unit’s current Morale, for example).

Morale is equivalent to the unit’s Valor

Attack is equivalent to the unit’s Temperance

Defense is equivalent to the unit’s Compassion

Damage is equivalent to the unit’s Conviction

A unit’s willpower is used to power some special tactics and for automatic successes on rolls.

The unit is effectively an extension of its commander, and commanders are effectively embedded in a unit. At present there is no way to disengage from a unit to fight as a solo unit. There is a “Use Special Ability” tactic, but unless the commander’s special ability can potentially do 1 level of damage to the enemy unit, his attacks are factored into the damage of the unit already. (primarily this means that a sorcerer commander can still throw AOE spells, but even the most deadly multi-attack charm is unlikely to kill 100 soldiers in one roll) (special note: special abilities can and should include any charm or spell specifically stated to be usable in mass combat.)

Unit Strength is treated like health levels. Specifically, the unit has would penalties. It has 0 level health levels = to half its total strength, rounded up. -1 for half that, -2 for the rest, and the last 3 Unit Strength are -4. This applies to all rolls and statistics.

Unit Strength (roughly):

1/100 for each mortal soldier
1/5 for each heroic mortal (thaumaturgists, non-extras but non-supernatural), hungry dead or normal ghost
1 for each elemental, 1st circle demon or –blooded (God-, Ghost-, etc), war ghost or Fair Folk warrior
2 for each Dragon Blooded or 2nd circle demon or non-generic Fair Folk
3 for each celestial exalted
+1 for any entity of Essence 5 or more
4 for any 3rd circle demon

Thus a unit of 1,000 mortal troops led by an Essence 5 Solar exalted has a Unit Strength of 14, and is likely to have high stats due to training and a competent commander.

A group of 100 hungry dead led by a war ghost handler has a Unit Strength of 21, but is more likely to have lower overall stats due to their lack of training and coordination.

Turn Order:

Presently, the system will alternate PC/GM turns, one for one. (For example, Mike takes his turn, then Black Wisdom, then John, then the Melkin Fool in Red, then Bri, then Darkest Delight of Slow Suffering, then Erin, then Morbid Blade of Black Steel.) Once all PCs and the GM have taken their turn, all uncommanded units act simultaneously.

PCs/GM commanders may only command one unit at a time (see the “Send Runner” tactic for the exception). To provide flexibility on the battlefield, PCs or GM commanders (henceforth: all rules apply to PCs and GM characters) may skip their turn and instead directly take the role of another unit’s commander. All rolls are made with that NPC’s stats, but they have the full range of tactics available to that unit.

Marching Orders, Standing Orders, Uncommanded Actions:

All uncommanded units will act at the most basic level: if not in contact, units will move toward the nearest enemy unit. If in contact, units will attack. All units maintain their last order (and bonuses) until their next action. This means an uncommanded unit told to fight defensively will maintain its defense bonus until it is commanded again.

Any unit may be given both “Standing Orders” and “Marching Orders”.

Standing Orders – Standing Orders is the tactic chosen to deploy the unit into the field with. (eg: hold this location and fight defensively) Standing Orders are canceled once orders are given in the field. Since all units maintain their last orders, the last order given to an uncommanded unit is essentially their current standing orders. Standing Orders may come with conditions, but only the simplest can be carried out. (think no compound sentences, no indefinite targets. “Kill that cavalry unit” is acceptable, but “Hunt down all their cavalry units” is not.)

Marching Orders – movement action that the unit will maintain if ordered. Marching Orders must be simple. (“Take that hill” is acceptable, but “move to that hill, fire your bows for two rounds, then retreat” is not.)

A unit commanded by a PC may be given both Marching and Standing orders as a free action.

A unit commanded by a PC may not be commandeered by another PC during their action.

Mass Combat round:
A unit’s action goes as follows -

PC declares what unit they are commanding

PC selects and rolls their Tactic

If the roll fails outright, the unit still loses its standing orders, but may only take an unmodified and uncommanded action (i.e. attack nearest or move toward nearest).

If the roll is a botch, the unit loses all standing and marching orders and does nothing.

If the Tactic allows for an attack, this is now rolled with all modifiers.

If the attacking unit overcomes the defending unit’s DV, the attacking unit deals damage equal to the extra successes on the roll.

If the attacking unit does not overcome the DV, the unit takes a number of levels equal to the difference between the attack successes and the DV, plus the defending unit’s Damage modifier. (for example: a unit’s DV is 6, the attackers roll a 4, they take 2 levels of damage for their trouble, +2 for the defending unit’s Damage modifier for a total of 4)

Movement Rate:

Each unit will move at a set rate. Infantry will move slowly, mounted units more quickly, with fliers or the like the fastest. Roughly:

Infantry/foot troops – 3 squares

Mounted/fast troops – 5 squares

Flyers, Stormwind Riders and limited teleporters – 10

Units in melee contact with an enemy unit may not move without using a tactic for this purpose. Units in ranged contact may move freely.

Tactic Tags:

Units may only use tactics with the “Contact” tag if they are “in contact” with an enemy unit (“contact” is defined as attack range). Units in contact may use non-contact tactics as well.

The “Supporting Unit” tag means that more than one unit must be in contact with the target unit.

The “Attack” tag means that using this tactic allows the unit to make an attack if in contact with an enemy unit.

A “Terrain” tag means there must be some feature on the battlefield to take advantage of in the unit’s location. This means a prepared earthwork, a hill, or anything comparable. An open field is ineligible for tactics with this tag. The ST is the judge of what is and is not acceptable.

“Persistent” is an effect that stays with the unit until it is at -1 wound penalty.

“Ranged” means that all actions apply up to the unit’s maximum range.

“Line of Sight” means the target must be able to see the unit.

“Idle” means the target can only be effected by the tactic if it is not currently engaged in combat.

“Special Unit” indicates that this can only be performed by a commander of a unit that contains the indicated unit.

“Willpower” indicates that the tactic requires the unit to spend a willpower point to even attempt the tactic.

Tactics:

All Tactics have a base difficulty and a superior threshold. This is denoted by two numbers divided by a /.

1e note – for the combat conducted under 1e rules, substitute Lore for War.

This is a list of tactics available to all unit commanders. Still needs: Speed, prerequisites,

Charge! (Charisma + Presence) – Leading from the front, the commander’s personal charisma leads her soldiers in a mad dash directly into the enemy lines.
Difficulty: 3/6
Tags: Attack, Willpower
Effect: Unit may make two move actions. If this places them in Contact with the enemy, the unit may then attack. -1 DV
Superior: up to 2 move actions, +2 to the attack roll, -1 DV

Orderly Withdrawal (Wits + Presence) – Discretion is the better part of valor, and an orderly withdrawal is key to living to fight another day.
Difficulty: 4/6
Tags: Willpower
Effect: Unit may break contact and make two move actions immediately.
Superior: Volunteers from the unit, inspired by the commander, stay behind to buy the rest of the unit some time. The unit loses an additional health level but target enemy unit currently in contact cannot move toward the retreating unit for three rounds.

Feint (Wits + War) – Clever tactics can make the enemy dance to your tune.
Difficulty: 3/6
Tags: Contact, Attack
Effect: Move an enemy unit one move action in the direction of your choice.
Superior: As above, but you may move your unit to maintain contact with the enemy unit.

Outmaneuver (Intelligence + War) – They’re right where you want them.
Difficulty: 2/5
Tags: Attack
Effect: Move one move action and attack an enemy unit.
Superior: +1 to unit’s attack bonus

Fight Defensively (Wits + War) – Focusing on defense, the unit sacrifices any advantage in favor of survivability.
Difficulty: 2/3
Tags: Attack, Ranged
Effect: -2 to Attack, +2 to DV
Superior: -2 to Attack, +3 to DV

Terrain Advantage (Perception + Survival) – A wise commander takes every advantage in battle.
Difficulty: 3/5
Tags: Attack, Terrain, Ranged
Effect: +1 to Attack and +1 to DV OR the effect of previously prepared defenses
Superior: +1 to Attack, +2 to DV, +1 Morale

Soldiers March on Their Stomachs (Intelligence + Bureaucracy) – Proper planning can make all the difference.
Difficulty: 2/6
Tags: Persistent
Effect: +1 morale, +1 Unit Strength
Superior: Having planned for every contingency, the unit gains +1 to all statistics.

Pincer Movement (Perception + War) – Taking advantage of superior numbers, you strike as hard as you can.
Difficulty: 3/8
Tags: Contact, Attack, Supporting Unit
Effect: +2 Attack, +1 damage
Superior: +2 Attack, +4 damage

Parley (Manipulation + Socialize) – The unit gains a brief respite as commanders negotiate terms.
Difficulty: 5/8
Tags: Willpower
Effect: Target unit ceases hostilities against this unit.
Superior: This unit is not a valid target for units not under direct command of GM commanders or PCs.

Fight in the Shade (Perception + Archery) – Your archers fill the sky above the enemy with arrows.
Difficulty: 2/5
Tags: Contact, Attack, Ranged
Effect: Unit makes a basic attack at range.
Superior: Unit may attack and targeted unit suffers a -1 persistent morale penalty that only goes away when it is out of the attacking unit’s range.

Show of Force (Appearance + Presence) – Fear and intimidation can sometimes win the battle.
Difficulty: 3/6
Tags: Line of Sight, Idle, Persistent
Effect: -1 morale to target unit
Superior: -1 morale and -1 Attack to target unit

Sorcerous Countermeasures (Intelligence + Occult) – Even the least skilled sorcerer can turn the tide on the battlefield.
Difficulty: 2/8
Tags: Special Unit (Sorcerer/Necromancer), Attack
Effect: -1 morale
Superior: with a well placed series of spells, the caster devastates the enemy unit. -2 morale, -1 Unit Strength

Remember Your Training (Charisma + War) – You stiffen the spines and harden the resolve of your troops.
Difficulty: 2/5
Tags: Contact, Attack, Ranged
Effect: +1 Morale
Superior: +1 DV, +2 Morale

Rally (Charisma + Presence) – You plant your feet and rally your troops around you for a final stand.
Difficulty: 4/8
Tags: Contact, Attack
Effect: Remove all negative morale modifiers
Superior: Remove all negative morale modifiers, +2 attack

Battle Plan (Intelligence + War) – While no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, it never hurts to have a plan.
Difficulty: 3/6
Tags: Attack, Contact, Ranged
Effect: +1 Attack, +1 DV, +1 damage
Superior: +1 Attack, +1 DV, +1 Damage, +1 Morale

No Quarter (Manipulation + War) – As much for intimidation purposes, this pitiless command is sure to intimidate the enemy.
Difficulty: 4/6
Tags: Attack, Ranged, Willpower
Effect: -1 morale to target unit, -1 DV on this unit. A unit who has used this in this battle cannot use the Fight With Honor tactic.
Superior: -2 morale to target, -1 DV and +2 Damage to this unit

Send Scouts (Wits + Survival) – A well informed commander is an effective commander.
Difficulty: 3/8
Tags:
Effect: Learn a unit’s current Tactic, Standing Orders and Marching Orders. Also reveals a decoy unit (see “Concealed Movement”). Reveals any hidden units within line of sight between this unit and target (roughly three square width line of sight)
Superior: Learn all of the above as well as the unit’s statistics.
Note: Scouts may be sent to a point on the map if all the commander wants is to look for hidden units.

It’s a Trap (Wits + Survival) – With carefully prepared ground the enemy won’t know what hit them.
Difficulty: 2/5
Tags: Attack, Contact, Terrain
Effect: Before the attack, move both units one move action. The enemy unit onto the prepared ground the allied unit in contact but adjacent to the trap. The enemy suffers the effects of the trapped ground as well as the attack.
Superior: as above, and +2 Attack

Press Them! (Wits + War) – Seizing the moment, a bold commander can press any advantage.
Difficulty: 3/6
Tags: Attack, Contact
Effect: Allied unit suffers -2 to DV but may attack, then move both units one move action. The units must remain in contact.
Superior: Allied unit only suffers -1 DV, otherwise as above.

Shore Up Defenses (Intelligence + Craft or Lore) – Hurriedly repairing defenses is not ideal but it just might save lives.
Difficulty: 4/6
Tags: Contact, Willpower
Effect: +3 DV
Superior: +3 DV, target unit cannot use any tactic with the Attack tag on their next action as they overcome the new defenses.

Harry Them! (Manipulation + War) – Making attacks designed to drive and hurt rather than kill, a careful commander can put the enemy right where she wants them.
Difficulty: 5/8
Tags: Contact, Attack
Effect: -2 Damage, move enemy unit one move action in any direction.
Superior: -2 Damage, move the enemy unit up to two move actions in any direction

Take the High Ground (Wits + Archery) – A good archer knows where to stand for maximum effect.
Difficulty: 4/6
Tags: Attack, Ranged, Persistent
Effect: +2 damage (first attack only)
Superior: +1 damage persistent

Classical Training (Intelligence + Lore) – You know how war is supposed to be fought.
Difficulty: 3/6
Tags: Attack, Persistent
Effect: +1 Damage (first attack only), +1 Attack
Superior: +1 Damage, +1 Attack, Persistent

Send Runner (Wits + Survival) – Reacting to a changing battlefield is difficult at the best of times. With a good staff of runners, you have a chance.
Difficulty: 2/8
Tags:
Effect: The commander may make one move action with his unit and deliver a new set of Marching Orders and a new Tactic to another unit. This roll is made at the PC’s skills, but at a -4. These orders take place on the commander’s NEXT action.
Superior: Deliver a new order and a set of contingency orders. Contingency orders must be decided upon at the same time.

Forced March (Stamina + Endurance) – Sometimes just getting there is all that matters.
Difficulty: 4/6
Tags: Willpower
Effect: Move up to three move actions at once. Unit suffers -2 DV
Superior: Move up to three move actions, but unit moves cohesively and suffers no DV penalty

March (Wits + War) – Straightforward movement without any frills.
Difficulty: 0/5
Tags:
Effect: Move a unit a single move action.
Superior: Move a unit two move actions

Rout (Manipulation + War) – You attempt to break the enemy and drive them before you.
Difficulty: 6/8
Tags: Contact, Attack, Willpower
Effect: +1 Damage, -1 Morale, move enemy 2x on a successful attack
Superior: -3 Morale, +1 Damage, move enemy 2×.

Use Special Ability (appropriate ability roll) – Essence users sometimes have access to specific powers that can make a difference on the battlefield.
Difficulty: standard roll if not in contact, -3 successes from appropriate roll if in contact due to trying to work it into an ongoing battle without getting skewered.
Tags:
Effect: Use a special ability. To truly have an effect in mass combat, it should be able to do at least one level of damage to an opposing unit’s strength. Most charms, however powerful, are not capable of killing 100 mortal soldiers at a stroke, so this is reserved for artifacts, mass damage spells and high-end First Age magitech siege weaponry.
Note: Any charm or spell that says it can be used in mass combat works with this tactic.

Ambush (Wits + Stealth) – With careful movement, you spring a trap on the enemy.
Difficulty: 5/8
Tags: Attack
Effect: Unit must move one move action before attacking. +1 Attack. If unit was hidden, +2 damage.
Superior: Unit counts as hidden whether it was or not. +2 Attack

Concealed Movement (Stamina + Stealth) – With careful discipline, a unit can seem to disappear, only to launch a surprise attack from an unexpected location.
Difficulty: 4/8
Tags:
Effect: Leave a “decoy” unit and make a move actions in any direction. If original decoy is still in place when this unit takes this action again, do not place a new one.
Superior: Unit may make two hidden move actions.

Precision Drill (Stamina + Melee) – Training can make all the difference.
Difficulty: 3/5
Tags: Attack
Effect: +1 Attack, +1 Defense
Superior: +1 Attack, +2 Defense

Set an Example (Charisma + Melee or Archery) – By making a dazzling show of personal skill (or a brutal display of savagery) a commander can inspire her troops.
Difficulty: 5/8
Tags: Contact, Attack
Effect: +1 Morale, -1 Defense
Superior: As above, +1 Damage

Tend to the Wounded (Wits + Medicine) – Patching them up and getting them back to the front is sometimes the difference between victory and defeat.
Difficulty: 3/8
Tags: Willpower
Effect: +1 Unit Strength
Superior: +2 Unit Strength

Hit Them Where It Hurts (Perception + Medicine, Lore or Occult, depending on enemy type) – A perceptive commander can tell his troops how to fight a specific enemy unit for maximum damage.
Difficulty: 4/6
Tags: Attack
Effect: +1 Damage
Superior: +2 Damage

Fight With Honor (Charisma + Integrity) – A noble commander can inspire her troops to greatness.
Difficulty: 3/6
Tags: Attack, Ranged
Effect: +1 Morale, +1 Defense, this cannot be used by a unit that has used No Quarter
Superior: +2 Morale, +1 willpower

Relinquish Command ( Charisma + War) – With a few parting words, the commander leaves his unit in the field to command another.
Difficulty: 0/5
Tags:
Effect: The commander may stop commanding the unit this round. The commander’s next action MUST be either Use Special Ability or Assume Command. -1 Morale.
Superior: With a rousing speech and a show of confidence in the second in command, the commander leaves the unit ready to fight on. No morale modifier.

Assume Command (Charisma + War) – The commander takes over for subordinates in the field.
Difficulty: 1/5
Tags:
Effect: The commander steps in at the top of the unit’s chain of command and may act normally on her next action.
Superior: The troops gain new confidence from their new commander. +1 Morale.

Sample unit stats:

A list of sample unit statistics

500 light infantry, equipped with standard weapons and trained hurriedly
Move: 3
Morale: 0
Attack: 1
Defense: 1
Damage: +2
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / -1 / -2 / -4 / I
Willpower: 2

500 Peace of Stone Irregulars
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 2
Defense: 1
Damage: +3
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Willpower: 3

1,000 zombies, led by a team of Nemissaries
Move: 2
Morale: 0 (cannot go up or down)
Attack: 1
Defense: 0
Damage: +5
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Willpower: 1
Special: -1 additional Morale penalty to mortal units in contact

Abyssal-led war ghosts, hungry dead, skeletons (roughly 300 – 500 strong)
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 3
Defense: 3
Damage: +3
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Willpower: 5
Special: -1 additional Morale penalty to mortal units in contact

1 Unit Nemissaries (roughly 500 strong)
Move: 4
Morale: +2
Attack: 3
Defense: 3
Damage: +4
Willpower: 5
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I

Abyssal led peasant conscripts (roughly 500 strong)
Move: 3
Morale: 0
Attack: 2
Defense: 1
Damage: +2
Willpower: 2

1 Unit Bronze Tiger mercenaries (about 300 individuals)
Move: 4
Morale: +3
Attack: 4
Defense: 4
Damage: +5
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Willpower: 7
Special: +1 to any tactic roll incorporating the War ability

1 Unit Free Pikes
Move: 2
Morale: 1
Attack: 2
Defense: 5
Damage: +2 (
4 when defending)
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Willpower: 4
Special: +2 to any defensive tactics rolls (Terrain Advantage, Fight Defensively, etc)
1 Unit Knife Hand Irregulars
Move: 3
Morale: 0
Attack: 2
Defense: 3
Damage: +2
Unit Strength: / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Willpower: 3
Special: +2 to any move-and-attack tactics

1 Unit Kaia’s Archers (roughly 300 + heroic mortal command staff)
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 3
Defense: 2
Damage: +3
Willpower: 4
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Special: Range: 5

1 Unit Kaia’s ranged skirmishers (roughly 300 plus heroic mortal command staff)
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 2
Defense: 3
Damage: +2
Willpower: 4
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Special: Range: 3

1 Unit Student’s Skirmishers (roughly 300 plus heroic mortal command staff)
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 2
Defense: 3
Damage: +2
Willpower: 4
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I
Special: Range: 2

1 Unit Student’s light cavalry (roughly 300 plus heroic mortal command staff)
Move: 5
Morale: +1
Attack: 3
Defense: 1
Damage: +4
Willpower: 4
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I

1 Unit Aelix’s Combat Engineers (roughly 300 plus heroic specialists)
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 1
Defense: 4
Damage: +2
Willpower: 4
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I

1 Unit Valin’s light infantry ( roughly 300 plus heroic mortal command staff)
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 3
Defense: 3
Damage: +2
Willpower: 4
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I

1 Unit Valin’s heavy infantry (roughly 300 plus heroic mortal command staff)
Move: 3
Morale: +1
Attack: 2
Defense: 4
Damage: +3
Willpower: 4
Unit Strength: 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / I

Mass Combat

Six Impossible Things Gabriel_Luna