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Mass Combat Rules Constraints
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:31 am    Post subject: Mass Combat Rules Constraints Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Dungeons and Dragons has always wanted to have men with spears marching around, and that in turn has always been very difficult to do. I've been thinking about the constraints that such a subsystem operates on.
    When military campaigns become expected, every character needs to have abilities that are relevant on that scale.

    When military campaigns become a thing, no character can have abilities that invalidate armies of orcs.

    Armies can't be an all-purpose answer to everything, because it is still desirable to do things on the individual scale.

    Military confrontations need to be resolved as quickly as any other subsystem that not every player is especially interested in.


I don't think that any of those statements are particularly contentious. But unfortunately it means that there's no easy way to fit a mass combat minigame of any sort into 3rd edition D&D. Many spell casters gt access to abilities that invalidate armies at shockingly low levels and there just isn't a way to integrate phalanxes of Hobgoblins in a way that makes sense.

Which means that realizing the dream of having high level warriors becoming dukes and marching soldiers around and still taking time away from the army to hunt dragons actually requires a ground-up redesign of D&D. And the entire system needs to look into being integrated into large battles from the very beginning.

-Frank
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Mord
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Throwing this out there to hear why it's wrong: What about Voltronning big enough piles of tiny dudes into real threats?

F'rinstance, just pulling numbers out of my ass, 4 CR1 spearmooks can be treated as a CR 3 Spearmook Horde, which is treated as a Large creature. Maybe throw in some kind of wound penalty mechanic for Horde type critters, representing that pieces of them are actually dying. In this manner, you could represent that phalanx of 1,000 CR1 Uruk-Hai spearmen as a single CR10 Gargantuan Uruk-Hai Horde. Then you can have the battle of Helm's Deep with only a double-handful of units on the field, where Gandalf personally is one unit and the other ones are hundreds or thousands of mooks glued together.

Combining heroes with spearmooks in a single field unit is a little more problematic, but that seems like the kind of thing that can be addressed with class features. Give Aragorn (Lv5 Ranger) a "leadership aura" or whatever, and his unit of 300 Rohan peasants + Aragorn would end up being CR 8 instead of CR 5 if it were just the peasant pile.


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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Having groups of dudes fielded on the same scale as the personal heroics scale rules is not going to work. It isn't that it's hard to make work, it just can't work. However many people you want to deal with in a "typical" military engagement, you're also going to potentially run into big military clashes that are a hundred times the size. Personal scale conflicts just can't be resolved in a reasonable amount of time with two orders of magnitude more actors in them, so that's just a non-starter.

So the goal is to be able to resolve military engagements with a few action declarations and a few die rolls. It has to be resolved in the time it takes to do a downtime action like item crafting or recon.

-Frank
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GnomeWorks
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:34 am    Post subject: Re: Mass Combat Rules Constraints Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Many spell casters gt access to abilities that invalidate armies at shockingly low levels


Could you elaborate on what this list of problem spells looks like?
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

What if something like Base Attack Bonus, xor attack roll, was used for tactical level battles; the same way Disable Device is used to disable traps (mundane & magical), locks, mechanisms; or Diplomacy is used for all aspects of convincing an other person (flattery, sympathy, empathy, concessions, demands, etc.).

A "bloc" of forces that are of the same composition (or even of the same (sub-)commander) acting on how well their understand the orders given, could be the summary of the action.

Making commanding of forces based off of BAB, the way turning/rebuking is based off of Cleric level, or spells hinge off of spellcaster level; would make it seem like Arete, Spiritual, and Arcane, have a place in higher level narratives.

GnomeWorks wrote:
FrankTrollman wrote:
Many spell casters gt access to abilities that invalidate armies at shockingly low levels


Could you elaborate on what this list of problem spells looks like?


A highly optimized Illusionist can create a Major Image that can theoretically grind apart an army of hundreds, and fool an army of thousands. If the illusions are positioned very precisely, additionally such a deception with the additional of a party's worth of similarly powered creatures synergizing their various powers would likely be necessary for such a plan to be truly convincing.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

On a tangent, just read a good article on how pike formations fought and charged:
https://www.quora.com/How-did-Swiss-pikemen-manage-to-charge-given-that-polearms-are-best-for-poking-while-hiding-in-a-line

Quote:
actually requires a ground-up redesign of D&D


is Warhammer Fantasy Battles worth looking at for that, they integrate various levels of spellcaster with blocks of tiny men marching around
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MGuy
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Consider in the rebuild, not giving characters any abilities that interact with the army specifically. The power of the player's armies should come from what they have in those armies (people, weapons, etc) and how they utilize them. If players want, they can participate in individual maneuvers/fights and bring whatever assets they have as an effective fighting force to the frontlines and contribute personally that way. The focus for building up a strong army should be in obtaining the best resources, managing alliances, and making the best of the terrain.

From there you can lower the top tier of power. It may violate DnD history but you could simply just stop having players fighting gods toward the end of their careers. This also includes reducing the highest level threats to things that for one reason or another can be handled by armies with powerful dudes in them. I'm not a lore expert of Tolkien's works but I remember hearing that entities like Gandalf and Sauron could get turned back by armies full of rank and file dudes with powerful people who can duke it out personally. I recently listened to a lore piece that said Elrond just got offed by 'an orc' of some sort.

This also means that higher level threats, like Dragons and Balrogs, can be turned (with a lot of effort) by armies. Maybe with big bows, or having a team of chanting people around a magic shielding device that gets wheeled onto the battlefield or something but make it so fighting these things on large scale can be done but make it costly enough to have committing the forces necessary be undesirable.

I don't really see a way to swing having a functional mass combat minigame without doing at least something like this. If players continue to be planes hopping meteor hurtling gods in their own right it strains belief that they are bothering with having an army outside of using it to hold territory. However, if the players and all but the most genocidal level of monsters are actually just really hard to kill and able to cause the kind of death and destruction a few tanks might be able to replicate then there is still a reason to send players after major threats while at the same time giving legions of fighting joes the ability to at least dissuade all but the most impenetrable of Dragons from routinely taking over major capital cities.
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Voss
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
On a tangent, just read a good article on how pike formations fought and charged:
https://www.quora.com/How-did-Swiss-pikemen-manage-to-charge-given-that-polearms-are-best-for-poking-while-hiding-in-a-line

Quote:
actually requires a ground-up redesign of D&D


is Warhammer Fantasy Battles worth looking at for that, they integrate various levels of spellcaster with blocks of tiny men marching around


Depends on the edition of WFB, but in general, no.

It partly depends on spell selection, of course, as you can always take (or randomly generate) nothing but magic missile class spells which have the potential to kill 1d6 or 2d6 dudes or no more. Or you can, depending on edition, have wizards that obliterate entire units at a time (Purple Sun, Dwellers Bellow), generate new units (necromancy, demonology especially in 3rd edition), change terrain around (moving hills, 3rd again had battlefield wide illusions and elemental spells), buff/debuff entire units- haste on 50 soldiers is absurd, as is setting Weapon Skill to 1.

Meanwhile the mightiest sword hero has the capacity to kill about 4 or 5 dudes...once they walk to combat. Plus various magic items, of course.

Now 3rd edition Warhammer 40k really reigned in magic, so psychic powers were generally just another type of gun that required and extra roll (psychic test). Needless to say, people took exception to that.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

In 3rd edition, the earliest you can deploy a monster that is literally immune to unlimited numbers of spears and bows is using command undead on a Shadow, which is available to 3rd level Wizards. Now you can pretty reasonably say that the issue with Shadows being literally immune to armies of thousands is a problem with the incorporeal rules, and I'd agree. But it's just a few levels higher when you can fly higher than the range of any non-magic weapon. And by 7th level you can summon or charm demons that are supposed to be army immune.

Warhammer is fundamentally the wrong direction to go. Yes, by simplifying the stats of individual soldiers you can fit a lot more on the table, but you still have a target of complexity and a fairly narrow range of playability with regards to troop numbers. D&D gets really messy and protracted with more than 10 dudes on the table, but Warhammer still gets messy and overly time consuming with more than 100 dudes on the table. And military engagements might plausibly have a thousand soldiers. Or ten thousand soldiers. Or more. No 1 : X conversion or individual stat simplification filter can possibly solve this puzzle, because anything like that that works for any number of soldiers is going to be a brain numbing slog with ten times that many soldiers and fucking impossible with a hundred times that many soldiers.

-Frank


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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:

Quote:
actually requires a ground-up redesign of D&D


is Warhammer Fantasy Battles worth looking at for that, they integrate various levels of spellcaster with blocks of tiny men marching around


No, because it still forces rolling on an "idividual model" scale.

Game's Workshop's "Warmaster" game is "formation" scale, and would likely be a better starting point in terms of simplification. In Warmaster, the "key" aspect to winning the game is being able to issue commands to forces, the actual rolling of attacks/saves takes more of a backseat to the importance of commanders being able to successfully direct their forces.

Which gave me the idea I previously posted that large scale battles should be calculated by "command" arbitration, over detailed calculations of the success of forces.

Borrowing from Kriegsspiele, as well as GW's "Battle for Armageddon" boardgame, the actual resolution of an attack could most speedily calculated with force comparison charts.

In Kriegsspiele, the resolution is a straight comparison of forces engaged. If you have more, you have better odds of the combat ending decisively. Interestingly enough Kriegsspiele's combat resolution charts used a d10 of some sort. Also, unless you've got a 7:1 ratio advantage, most resolutions are "your forces are engaged in battle, roll again next turn".

In BfA, the total of the attackers "offense" score compared against the total of the defenders "protection" score; then roll a d6 on a chart. Again, unless you have a fairly large odds in your favour as the attacker, be as prepared to lose forces/retreat, as you are to force defenders to retreat with minor losses.

A BfA pdf: http://www.jeuxprintandplay.fr/Jeux/Battle%20for%20Armageddon/Armageddon%20Rules.pdf

The BFA resolution chart:
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FrankTrollman wrote:
No "1 : X" conversion or individual stat simplification filter can possibly solve this puzzle, because anything like that that works for any number of soldiers is going to be a brain numbing slog with ten times that many soldiers and fucking impossible with a hundred times that many soldiers.

-Frank


[edited to make [1 : X ] not turn into emote]

Ultimately this is the fundamental limitation of all wargames. The larger the scale of the conflict, the less information needs to be considered on each unit in order to make the game playable. I don't think that there's any "solution" to the problem other than to have battles become more abstracted the larger the scale.

At a continental scale, going much more complicated than Risk's methods of "count military capability at a level of armies" is always going to bog things down into an quagmire (see: the Axis & Allies boardgame).

At a planetary scale, space computer wargames tend to simplfy down to "Attacker vs Defender" armies.

Which might mean that the largest scale conflicts are resolved the simplest way possible; and that more details should only ever be introduced as a conflict becomes smaller in scale.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Having the forces scale from skirmishes with two dozen lizardfolk on a side to clashes with two thousand orcs on a side is not actually that difficult. You give armies force totals and then you compare those force totals. 15 is more than 12, and twenty seven thousand is more than twenty three thousand. Crusader Kings adds complexity to that by tracking different kinds of strength (skirmish, melee, shock) and by having things split into 3 flanks. /you could do all that or add additional levels of complexity if that's what you wanted to do.

But the core insight is that if you worry about what individual units are doing of whatever size then your battlesystem cannot scale as much as it needs to, and if you compare army force totals then it can. It's really that simple. The question is really just how to put enough epicycles, choices, and die rolls in to make the battles more engaging than comparing two numbers and saying which one is better.

But we're talking about constraints that exist on mass combat minigames. Here's an interesting set of them:
    Heroes like the player characters exist.

    Monsters that the player character heroes fight in the personal combat minigame exist.

    Armies exist


Those don't sound particularly contentious, and I hope they are not. But it's actually a fairly difficult balancing act. If the armies can push the monsters around, why do the heroes fight the monsters instead of just sending the army? If the monsters can push the armies around, why do the witch kings bother with armies at all? Why not just sink all the gold into hero equipment and manticores?

There are various ways to thread the needle, but it's certainly not easy. And it's a significant set of constraints that indicate pretty clearly that we can't have shit like Shadows at all.

-Frank
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SlyJohnny
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I played in a game where the premise was a large army of low-level martial mooks (with a large budget, a small number of level 6 hero/general types, and a few dozen low-level clerics) were tromping over to fight a high level wizard, who for some reason was obligated to defend a fixed point, rather than just abandoning it and then coming back every day to lay waste to a little more of the army. He could still come out and shell us as we marched, or send summoned monsters, he just couldn't say "peace, nerds" and abandon the keep for more than 24 hours, or he'd lose.

I had Magic-domain clerics keeping all the army's magical items looking non-magical, and soldiers who would pretend to read from scrolls of papyrus at random times. I had the clerics casting Augury spells as the army marched (which led to an expensive daily upkeep in materials) asking "will we come under attack in the next half hour", which gave me notice of when I would be attacked, which is when I deployed more expensive magic protections and detections of invisible stuff and the like.

They had ballistas with operators that could cast True Strike upon themselves (multiple redundant operators, so even if some of them flubbed the casting, they'd always be one guy with +20 to hit and 3d6 damage), and catapult operators with good intelligence and buffs like Fox’s Cunning. I had lots of strong net-throwers, and seige towers pulled by carts, which was probably the silliest thing, as I don't think any army ever marched with unpacked seige towers getting pulled along.

I also had cavalry with halfling sappers riding shotgun, the intention being they'd run ahead of the main army and cross his field of defenses and antagonise him, and he'd have to waste resources tracking them all down. You can squeeze through any space big you can fit your head, and halflings are Tiny once you Reduce them. Swarms of low level mooks do surprisingly well against the smaller elementals earth and air elementals and the like, you've just got to hit it often enough that you wear down it's HP through it's DR.

If some monster appeared invisible over the army, it would get hit with glitterdust and faerie fire, then entangled by nets thrown from nearby towers or levitated soldiers; throw enough nets over anything, someone will hit it's touch AC, some Enlarged barbarian will eventually win the opposed strength check, someone will make the grapple check after the first couple guys get cut down by AoOs. I had a good system for getting the wounded out and healed, minimising losses. Even the Commoner portion of the army were mostly elves with longbows who could hit on a 20/20 and then do 3d8 damage vs DR 10. I had some portion of the army readying actions to fire if someone signaled that the critter appeared to be casting.

The one trumpet archon or whatever he sent before the game got killed in pretty short order through catapults, then ballistas and accumulated gnat bites, though it fried a few people with Holy Word and Dictum and the like. Everyone made UMD checks to be able to pretend to be an archon and use it's sword Smile

I had plans to deal with the wizard himself showing up, or Erinyes infiltration/mass assimilation, and the like. Though I think his second move was going to be to send a summoned Ghaele out with a Bead of Karma (+4 CL), which would enable it to cast Control Winds at Tornado level strength, and suck my entire army in to the blade barrier it'd summon on it's next action, and I hadn't predicted that and didn't have anything that could've stopped it; no range attacks (not even seige weapons) inside tornados.

That was long and rambly and didn't say very much, but I guess my point is that a lot of world-destroying abilities can be countered with swarms of little guys with just a little level 1-3 magic and prep time and a plan, and that maybe medieval armies would've looked different if they'd been designed to fight high level wizards and the critters they summon.


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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

In our homebrew we've done mass combats and they've been pretty successful for us. The first thing we do is put troops into like groups (ie, a unit of pikemen, a unit of archers - whatever). The groups can be of any size.

Let's say you have a group of 300 archers versus a group of 1000 pikemen. We derive unit values (attack/Defense) as well as average hit points. Then we roll attacks like we would for a character. Let's say the archers need a 14 to hit. If they roll a 14, we assume that 50% hit and we apply average damage x150 to the pikemen (removing whole units). If the average damage is 5 and the average hit points is 13 we'd divide the 750 damage and remove 57 Pikemen. The pikemen now number 943.

If the archers had rolled lower, we subtract 10% hits per value below and add 10% for every hit above. If the archers had rolled a 20, we'd apply 100% damage. If they had rolled a 10 we would have applied 30% damage. This means that the rolls do matter.

There are other ways to interact with the system and commanders can potentially give bonuses. Generally, numbers matter. Having 100 mooks is probably better than having 10 elite troops (because the elite troops would likely have to hit ~10x to eliminate their opposition).

If one side does well and shifts the numbers, it definitely puts one side at a major disadvantage for the rest of the combat. Ie, if you do 100% damage in round 1 your opponent will not have as much opportunity to reduce your numbers in turn.

It appears we didn't include these rules in our SRD. I should probably find it...

Edit: Found a descriptive test (spoilered)
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I have some early prototype notes languishing along one way to make something like this work:

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The most important realization is if you want to have both threats that armies are the best answer to and threats that PC strike teams are the best answer to in the same game then:
You must eliminate some abilities from the setting altogether
AND
in the early phases of game and world design you need to have both "Can't Get" and "Must Get" ability sets for each of your Rock / Paper / Scissors / Lizard / Spock categories
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I contend the fourth point of the OP. Having a mass combat system that simulates climactic set pieces like Helm's Deep but is too involved for Romance of the Three Kingdoms is still a step up from having no mass battle system at all. Likewise, a system that works only for groups who are unanimously down with spending an evening on mass combat is still a step up from none at all.

I agree that we can't have Shadows, but only insofar as we can't have a creature which is both easy to mass and yet immune to mass units like pikemen and bowmen who we want to be viable mass combat units. If the number of Shadows a dark lord can plausibly command is low enough, then they cease to be something that obviates pikemen and instead become a counter to pikemen, who can themselves be countered by adventurer parties. So long as pikemen can then counter adventurer parties, all three units are part of an effective military.
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SlyJohnny
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm not sure we absolutely can't have shadows. Figure out what a hundred level 1 soldiers of various classes can realistically do to a shadow. Figure out how long it takes for them to execute this strategy/surround the shadow/whatever. Now a thousand men does an abstract 1dX damage when attacking a shadow, half damage for the first round, or 2dX if they expend finite resources like magic missile.

200 archers will do 3d6 damage to something with an AC more than 20 higher than their attack bonus that's within their range, you don't need to roll to-hit. Attacks against them past a certain to-hit and damage are always successful and kill X archers. After 100 of them are killed, they have a 50% chance to deal no damage. Heavy infantry with tower shields and armour and Shield of Faith buffs have a chance not to be insta-killed, even against large creatures, and their presence can guarantee that some monsters can't preferentially target archers.

Any army over 1000 men strong is just assumed to have certain procedures drilled into them, or basic magical protections in their war chest, because noone bothers to raise armies that can be hard countered by a single monster. Some monsters are able to preferentially target casters and generals and specialists, despite what precautions people might take to protect them, and then the unit takes penalties or loses certain abilities.
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SlyJohnny
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Something like...

Ettin

AC 18 (Only 25% of attacking soldiers inflict damage)
2 Powerful, Ranged attacks (Kills two soldiers a round, can attack at range)
Power Attack (Kills even soldiers with High HP)


Naga

AC 16 (only 35% of attacking soldiers inflict damage)
Defensive Buffs (This monster actually has 18 AC unless it is surprised)
Nightmare Poison (heroes or soldiers hit by this attack have a 50%/75% chance to be counted as killed for the duration of the combat)
Invisibility (Only soldiers with see invisible can engage until this creature is Highlighted)
Detect Thoughts (The monster learns all Tactics that a unit possesses before combat, or within two rounds if it was detected)

Erinyes

AC 23 (only 10% of attacking soldiers inflict damage)
Fly (Monster can choose to only be engaged by flying units)
Damage reduction 5/good (subtract 5 from all physical damage)
Greater Teleport (This monster can choose which unit to attack. Every time it changes it's target, it is no longer Surrounded. This monster can disengage at any time.)
Charm Monster (This monster can subourn one soldier per round instead of attacking. If undetected, it can do this without provoking combat until it is detected.)


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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

One way to solve the incorporeal problem is to take the WHFB approach and make it so that Ethereal units can be killed through combat resolution/crumbling when the caster is killed. Alternatively, just make it a percentage miss chance like with other monsters. How this would apply in fluff terms I'm not sure, maybe you can assume that in a block of X soldier their exists at least one guy with a magic weapon and a character level? Or at least an ancestral heirloom weapon for their aristocrat leader or something capable of doing the job and hitting the Shadow.

As for why armies can't handle monsters and need heroes around to handle them, you could solve it with monster density. Trained fighting men are expensive to train and maintain and make equipment for, and every monster killed represents a significant expense of men and resources. If there are enough of them, there can be more monsters to kill then fighting men exist, but adventurers are much more likely to survive their encounters with monsters than individual soldier. For smaller settlements, they may lack the number of people to handle the monster/s terrorizing them, or don't have the resources to send people out into the wilderness/base on the off chance they catch them while they leave the settlement undefended. Also armies are loud and not that hard to miss unless it's an army of trained rogues or invisible creatures or similar. Individual monsters or small groups can probably hear/see them coming, and on their home turf, easily evade them.

As for the system itself, Frank's idea is good in comparing mass troop totals. As soon as you assign fixed numbers to a unit of X size, it's going to fail because you either can't simulate combats small enough where X is more than half the force, and you can have combats high enough in troops total you end up back to having dozens of things to keep track of. If rules can be written for blocks of X where X can scale depending on the conflict, that would probably be the best solution.

As for how characters can affect combat, wizards and other casters have the obvious tactic of mass spells, ignoring the ones that can auto-kill armies, which I assume are either nerfed or gone in these rules. Other character can maybe have special abilities that allow different options on the battlefield. Fighters can have tactics they can apply to troops that give them different buffs in combat. Rogues can assassinate leaders or poison food supplies before the battle and other sabotage actions to disrupt and debuff enemy troops. The Ranger can find alternate paths and guide troops to allow them to outflank from off the field or let troops ignore or reduce terrain penalties, and can also snipe important troop leaders. The Barbarian could maybe get mass-combat attacks that work better against enemy groups if they don't get Fighter's tactics.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The way that Warmaster deals with the Monster, Hero, Regiment divide is by treating them as different types of units that work better in conjunction, than apart.

Heros give a combat bonus (in Battle for Argmaddon it's a reroll on the resolution chart) to Regiments they're stacked with; and allow any Regiments nearby to act beyond being left to their own initiative (regiments generally don't act unless enemies are too close to not force an engagement; even marching requires orders).

Monsters are singularly powerful, but once they've taken some damage (1/2 of their total; and even high monsters Armour Saves aren't enough to soak a large armount of focused ranged/melee attacks round after round) and afterwards must operate at a reduced profile. While they can crush a couple of companies on their own, a regiment or two will badly injure them, armies can crush monsters, but only because the game makes it possible. This is likely because the scale of the battles are larger (100's-1,000's) in Warmaster than say "Dominions: the Asencion Wars" franchise of games (10's-1,00's per side).

Regiments, on the other hand, feel like "hordes of tiny men" fairly well in Warmaster. Sure, a stand of knights will crash upon a greater demon like a wave on rock outcropping in a shoreline. However a brigade (3 regiments of 3 stands each) of knights has more than good odds of killing a greater demon. [Edit, forgot to mention how troops interact w heroes] Armies also counter heroes, if a company/regiment/brigade gets within a certain distance of a Hero, the hero has to be able to trace an uninterrupted line towards friendly troops, within 30cm (when stands are 2cm wide & 1 cm deep; or vice versa for war machines, monsters, cavalry & flyers), and then flee to join the closest friendly units. If the heroes can't escape, they just die. Monster mounted heroes are a bit of an exception.

Flyers act as strategic attack units; they can attack anywhere on the battlefield. As far as I recall, they can only every two turns; as they have to fly back to home before they can be issued new movement orders.

This seems to be the only working source of the various Warmaster rules I could find online. It has several pdfs of GW's books regarding Warmaster; including the cut-and-paste errata sections for WM and WM:Armies.

https://sites.google.com/site/wmplaytest/work-in-progress-1/publications

An army builder, which is sort of useless for anything other than points calculations and unit min/max limits.

http://wm-selector.appspot.com/
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Zinegata
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:32 am    Post subject: Re: Mass Combat Rules Constraints Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Dungeons and Dragons has always wanted to have men with spears marching around, and that in turn has always been very difficult to do. I've been thinking about the constraints that such a subsystem operates on.
    When military campaigns become expected, every character needs to have abilities that are relevant on that scale.

    When military campaigns become a thing, no character can have abilities that invalidate armies of orcs.

    Armies can't be an all-purpose answer to everything, because it is still desirable to do things on the individual scale.

    Military confrontations need to be resolved as quickly as any other subsystem that not every player is especially interested in.


I don't think that any of those statements are particularly contentious. But unfortunately it means that there's no easy way to fit a mass combat minigame of any sort into 3rd edition D&D. Many spell casters gt access to abilities that invalidate armies at shockingly low levels and there just isn't a way to integrate phalanxes of Hobgoblins in a way that makes sense.

Which means that realizing the dream of having high level warriors becoming dukes and marching soldiers around and still taking time away from the army to hunt dragons actually requires a ground-up redesign of D&D. And the entire system needs to look into being integrated into large battles from the very beginning.

-Frank


The core issue here is that it subscribes to the Clauswitzian ideal that armies primarily exist to win field battles. This is a very limited view of what armies are or can be.

In reality battles are only a tiny fraction of an army's entire lifespan. More often than not an army marched or simply sat in one place. We remember armies for their battles not because they were so common, but precisely because they were very rare and extraordinary events to begin with.

If we instead apply the idea that an army is an institution - a broader definition which means that an army is not just "a group of guys with pointy sticks that fights battles" but also one that is a "garrison force to collect taxes and prevent revolts", "an avenue for the hobgoblin minority to serve as auxilia and eventually gain full citizenship", or "a way for a rich prince to play warrior and promote his sycophants as its officers" - then it becomes entirely possible for adventurers and armies to exist side-by-side despite the adventurers being able to delete entire battalions with the wave of a wand.

More specifically, it's because armies are able to do things that adventurers can't. You can't have five adventurers acting as a garrison and tax collection agency for a country of hundreds of thousands of people. Adventurers likewise can't be tasked with baby-sitting thousands of hobgoblins with their own very different culture and try to instill a specific fighting doctrine into them; nor would they have the patience to play pretend-war with some bored prince.

In short, adventurers exist outside of armies because most of the tasks armies are supposed to do are too big (garrison, tax collection, etc) or too beneath (babysitting princes) their own concerns.

If adventurers do need to interact with an army - like say they need help to invade another Kingdom whose in uncooperative about "saving the world" - then it should be in the context of the party interacting with an institution over an extended time frame. It should be closer to a montage sequence in a movie where a plan comes together over many days or weeks; as the party sways the institution over to their side.

A good framework for these kinds of "montage" sequences are "ladder" challenges. The party starts at the bottom rung (present state), and want to get to the top rung (the desired state). To ascend the rung they have to complete various challenges presented by the DM which could be self-contained adventures or encounters. Success lets them ascend the rung, while failure means they stay in place or are forced to go down a level. A time limit is then added to all of this to add tension and pressure.

This same "ladder" can very much be applied to field battles as well, albeit with the twist that the battle starts at the middle of the ladder which is the "Both our army and the enemy army can still fight" state, whereas the top and bottom represents one side (friendly or enemy) winning outright.

As with a traditional ladder, the DM throws the players challenges that are more personal in nature and suited to their character's skills - like say having a scouting mission where the party tries to determine the strength of the enemy line and eliminate a group of enemy scouts, or having your warrior challenge an enemy officer to a duel - and party's success or failure influences movement along the ladder.

In addition, there could be a separate "army" roll at the end of each challenge - with each army simply rolling off against each other based on their relative strength - with the winner getting a free advancement along the ladder in their favor. This simulates how the armies still operate on an entirely different level and how a party can only do so much to help it.

I know this system pretty much removes most of the tactical elements on the battling side - no "move this unit of archers two hexes to the right and fire" - but it can actually support a wider range of tactical situations based on the DM and player's imaginations; which would also often be a better fit for the group's current party. And really, in an RPG, do you really need to be able to move a unit of archers two hexes, or would you rather have the party slay an Ogre sitting on top of a hill so that your army's archers can move into that position safely and rain arrows down on the enemy?

In short, rather than burying the party in another mini-game where they would potentially spend more time being accountants figuring out its current strength or logistics level, the "mass combat" mini-game should instead be a highly abstracted system that directly adds to the overall campaign story by generating interesting and context-relevant encounters; as encounters are the core dramatic element of RPGs in the first place. To do otherwise is to dangerously balance the game between two very divergent elements with the risk of not satisfying either one.


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Lokathor
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I like that. And heroes can still do their things as well that way. Hero powers can stick to short duration things or small scale things, and army powers can be broad and long lasting things.

Now to balance two different duration abilities against each other.

Zinegata, I would add that two armies against each other isn't like back and forth up and down a ladder. In the ladder scenario, one side is at its best when the other side is about to lose. The actual case is that both sides can be beaten down to their worst at the same time.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I could see monsters like WWII tanks, bombers and so on. Very powerful but high maintenance/expensive and if you're going to capture territory you need boots on the ground.

Real life elephants are bigger and stronger than ogres, but they also lost to real life infantry formations (also got spooked by gunpowder) and were very expensive to maintain.

When fireballs are being thrown around and dragons have hides steel pikes can't pierce though the value of pike formations is going to go down. Or perhaps there's lots of counter-magic and defensive spells being prepared to get your dudes to sit on top of the hill safely.

Or perhaps you don't go for the formations of pikemen and opt for something that looks like Warhammer 40k. The infantry squad largely exists to protect their (magical) artillery piece, blaster mage, fire lobbing drake and so on. Use of cover is important, adventuring parties are basically special forces teams.


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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Zinegata wrote:
The core issue here is that it subscribes to the Clauswitzian ideal that armies primarily exist to win field battles.


That is, fucking obviously, what they exist for in the context of a cooperative storytelling game. Because fucking obviously.

Yes, garrisons and tax collectors and shit are things that standing armies can assist with, but those aren't things that they need to do within the context of a cooperative storytelling game. Such things could and should be abstracted as development and order levels of provinces. Like, you could maybe contribute certain amounts of army force to increase law levels in a province or solidify control and increase tax revenue or whatever, but this is a mere accounting question. Whether it's something you need to do at all has to do with the level of abstraction in your kingdom management. If you aren't keeping track of levels of control over regions or tracking gp in and out, the garrisons can be entirely handwaved.

However, within the context of fantasy adventure storytelling, big battles of uncertain outcome are a major thing. Whether it's the Battle of the Five Armies in The Hobbit or some Wheel of Time clash or fucking whatever. Armies have big clashes, and the players need to be able to take actions that concretely affect the outcomes of those battles. Which in turn means that having the battle results just be bears that the MC pulls out of their ass is a basic failure of genre emulation.

-Frank


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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:

But we're talking about constraints that exist on mass combat minigames. Here's an interesting set of them:
    Heroes like the player characters exist.

    Monsters that the player character heroes fight in the personal combat minigame exist.

    Armies exist


Those don't sound particularly contentious, and I hope they are not. But it's actually a fairly difficult balancing act. If the armies can push the monsters around, why do the heroes fight the monsters instead of just sending the army? If the monsters can push the armies around, why do the witch kings bother with armies at all? Why not just sink all the gold into hero equipment and manticores?


For what it's worth, the reason the heroes in my Fantasy Mass Combat go and kill the dragons and undead giants and what not is that it is cheap to move 6-8 guys by teleportation/overland flight and expensive as heck to move 5,000 guys the same way. It isn't hard for a party of PCs to sneak behind enemy lines and intercept a dragon before it joins the Evil Army, but it isn't possible for 2,000 soldiers to do the same. And while 2,000 soldiers can probably kill a dragon, they would take a lot casualties, and if the dragon is supported by 2000 orc soldiers, then that force might beat the PCs' army.

We're using the GURPS Mass Combat system, which is similar to what Frank is proposing: count up force totals and apply modifiers to a skill contest between generals. It plays fast enough that we can usually do about 10-15 rounds of battle in a 4 hour session that also involves a fair bit of diplomacy and dungeon exploration. And most battles are over in 2-3 rounds; a 4 round battle is rare and I think we've only hit one battle that lasted for 5 rounds in the 60-70 battles we've resolved.

G:MC isn't perfect, but it's a good base for a new system.
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infected slut princess
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Mass Combat Rules Constraints Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Zinegata wrote:

The core issue here is that it subscribes to the Clauswitzian ideal that armies primarily exist to win field battles. This is a very limited view of what armies are or can be.

In reality battles are only a tiny fraction of an army's entire lifespan. More often than not an army marched or simply sat in one place. We remember armies for their battles not because they were so common, but precisely because they were very rare and extraordinary events to begin with.

If we instead apply the idea that an army is an institution - a broader definition which means that an army is not just but also one that is a "garrison force to collect taxes and prevent revolts", "an avenue for the hobgoblin minority to serve as auxilia and eventually gain full citizenship", or "a way for a rich prince to play warrior and promote his sycophants as its officers" - then it becomes entirely possible for adventurers and armies to exist side-by-side despite the adventurers being able to delete entire battalions with the wave of a wand.


What. No one gives a damn about any of this. People want MASS COMBAT. i.e. "a group of guys with pointy sticks that fights battles". That means "Like Braveheart style hordes charging into each other and hacking each other up with blood and body parts flying all over the place. And magic blasts exploding all over leaving craters in the battlefield and splattering people all over the place. "Collecting taxes" WTF. "Hobgoblin minority full citizenship" you have gotta be kidding me.
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