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Desirable Elements in a Mass Combat Minigame
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:31 pm    Post subject: Desirable Elements in a Mass Combat Minigame Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So the other thread is really about straight up dealbreakers - things that a mass combat minigame needs to do and where failure means that the subsystem simply is not fit for purpose and can be dismissed out of hand. Here's the short list to condense several dozen posts:

  • A Mass Combat system that cannot accept the inputs of the kinds of mishmash armies RPG characters actually end up with is a simple failure.
  • A Mass Combat system that cannot scale to the arbitrarily large armies that actual RPG situations might require is not particularly useful.
  • A Mass Combat system that cannot show real effects from player actions is not actually a part of an RPG and has no value when discussing one.
  • A Mass Combat system that any of the players cannot meaningfully interact with is worthless.
  • A Mass Combat system that is invalidated by abilities in the regular skirmish level RPG might as well not exist.
  • A Mass Combat system that supersedes the normal RPG actions is at best a concession that your core rules are trashable and probably worse than that.


That means that "answers" to RPG Mass Combats of "Why don't you play a game of Warhammer and then go back to the regular game?" or "Why don't you keep playing D&D and just periodically have the MC narrate how the war is going?" can be simply discounted out of hand. But it's still interesting to discuss what you want the Mass Combat system to actually do.

I would say that the following things would be nice:

  • Quick Resolution. The very first issue is that the Mass Combat system is and always will be a subsystem. Your Mass Combat system isn't done when there's nothing left to add, it's done when there's nothing left to take away. Resolution time is a real cost of anything your Mass Combat system does, and every part of the Mass Combat system needs to be scrutinized for ways it can be made to run faster and smoother.

  • Meaningful Troop Differences. An RPG allows you to have a truly bewilderingly large amount of different soldiers under your command. You could have Dwarves with warhammers or Orcs with ranseurs. You can equip your Orcs with spiderweb armor looted from Drow vaults and give your Grimlock slaves iron swords. Obviously you're going to have to draw the line somewhere somehow, but the more these differences matter the happier the Johnnies are going to be.

  • Quality and Quantity Differences. Sometimes you're going to have your own Dragon Turtle and sometimes you're going to have a bewilderingly large pile of Goblin spear chuckers. And it would be nice if that mattered somehow. There will obviously be some sense in which a Wyvern Rider is worth some number of Giant Weasel Riders, but it would also be good if there were also some senses in which the more elite force was better or worse.

  • Army Divisions. You're going to need to aggregate military forces to a significant degree. You can't meaningfully talk about squads of ten soldiers or whatever because that fails to scale as much as is required. However, it is also important that there be different parts of the army. The players need to be able to do things like "attack the left flank" or "cut off the reserves by breaking the dam" and such. For that to happen, there need to be parts of the army. Probably somewhere between 3 and 8 parts per army.

  • Leadership and Morale This seems self explanatory. Probably the default way for a team of adventurers to interact with an army is to target and slay a commander. Therefore there has to be stuff that having a commander around (and by extension not having that commander around) actually does.

  • Casualties and Conquest. While it's fine (if still pretty weird) for skirmish battles to end with one side wiped out, it's simply unacceptable for military engagements to typically be fought to the death of full sides. That's deeply unrealistic and also super upsetting. Winning the field and calculating how many casualties are taken on each side should be achievable.


-Frank
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I would add "fire at range" - the ability for, let us say, a group of archers or crossbowmen or slingers to fire *en masse* at a given range, rather than do individual attack rolls. That might be subsumed into some sort of group attack roll, depending on how it works out at a system level.
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rasmuswagner
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I think it would be beneficial to generally have as big (and therefore few) units as possible. When the giants attack your left flank, you can engage them with your Dwarven Pike and your Elven Archers; each of those is a smaller unit than the giants, and therefore suffer in the roll-off. But if you have managed the social challenge of making the dwarves and elves fight together, you can engage them with your "Left Flank" unit, which is bigger than the giants.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
I would add "fire at range" - the ability for, let us say, a group of archers or crossbowmen or slingers to fire *en masse* at a given range, rather than do individual attack rolls. That might be subsumed into some sort of group attack roll, depending on how it works out at a system level.


Broad troop types need to exist I would say. At the very minimum I would say you need to have Archers, Infantry, and Cavalry. But since you're talking a fantasy game, it's OK if you have substantially more base troop types than that. Monsters. Flyers. Artillery. Burrowers. The sky isn't even the limit, because you could have astral troops and shit.

But at the very minimum you have a Hobgoblin with a bow, a Hobgoblin with a big sword, and a Hobgoblin on a Worg. Those all have to do different stuff, even if it's only "contribute to force numbers during the Skirmish, Melee, and Shock phases respectively."

-Frank
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rasmuswagner wrote:
I think it would be beneficial to generally have as big (and therefore few) units as possible. When the giants attack your left flank, you can engage them with your Dwarven Pike and your Elven Archers; each of those is a smaller unit than the giants, and therefore suffer in the roll-off. But if you have managed the social challenge of making the dwarves and elves fight together, you can engage them with your "Left Flank" unit, which is bigger than the giants.


The story where you can do a thing to make the Dwarves and Elves work together and that gives you the numbers you need to repulse a Giant assault on your left flank is a thing that your Mass Combat system needs to support. It should be a thing that your system can organically generate and players should be able to look at the numbers and logically determine that making an Elf/Dwarf friendship speech is the best use of their time.

That being said, I don't think mandating a unit split represents a workable solution. While it sounds fine to have Elves and Dwarves being two units that can merge into a single Elf + Dwarf unit after the animosity gets handled somehow, I can't help thinking that there's still an upper limit of some kind to how many units your Mass Combat system can handle. I would say you probably don't want more than eight and honestly my target would be more like five or even three. In any case, twenty five is right the fuck out. So if it isn't just "Elves and Dwarves" but instead "Elves and Dwarves and Hobgoblins and Imps and Gnomes and Pixies and Draconians and Drow and Gnolls and Vampires and Bullywugs and Lizardfolk and Myconids and Orcs and Githyanki and Frost Giants" you have a problem.

Animosity probably has to be handled as a morale and discipline effect, because there simply is some upper limit to how many different units you can manage without the game dragging to a crawl and I'm pretty positive that the number of possible creature types you can recruit in a kitchen sink fantasy is much higher than whatever that number is.

-Frank
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Freed from 3.x constraints, it seems that a unit would need/should have

Cohesiveness - combining disparate unit types (manticores and hobgoblins) maked coordination more difficult, but if they succeed they can be more effective than uncombined units. This could be a slider that requires a Command Test to make the unit effective.

Discipline - Even a cohesive unit may be poorly trained rabble. More disciplined troops follow orders better. Quite possibly this could work as a bonus to command tests. Legendary commanders (like William Wallace) are able to command undisciplined troops. Even a fop can command highly disciplined troops.

In some gamed an HQ is used. Probably a commander can only command a single unit. Having a signal corps could allow the HQ to command multiple units. Since a unit could lose contact, you'd probably want a commander embedded in each unit.

Each unit action (change) would require a command test. Possibly advance (charge), volley, pursue, set (defend). Others I'm sure.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Fucking hell my post got ated.

Real short version:

DDMW wrote:
Each unit action (change) would require a command test. Possibly advance (charge), volley, pursue, set (defend). Others I'm sure.


Absolutely not. You are not going to track individual volleys or individual units and individual units are not going to take separate actions. These are not things that are going to happen because this is table top and we got shit to do. Mass Combat is a subsystem, and it needs to take a back seat to the primary systems and character interactions.

Consider the simplest case: we got 3 flanks (Left, Right, and Center) and we got three phases (Skirmish, Melee, and Shock). That's it, that's the whole battle. But we also got two sides, meaning that we have 18 tactic declarations, 18 die rolls, and 18 times however many calculations you need to make each round at a minimum. So if you're tracking Morale, Cohesion, and Casualties for each flank on each team, that's 54 calculations over the course of the battle. Again, minimum.

So there's room for complications and epicycles, but not very fucking much room. You could potentially have some additional flanks or some choices on adding additional phases or some shit, but that has a multiplicative effect on how much time this all takes at the actual table.

You absolutely cannot have the Skirmish phase be built out of individual volleys and outmaneuver attempts and shit. You just don't have the table time to do that or anything close to that.

-Frank
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Zaranthan
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Elves and Dwarves and Hobgoblins and Imps and Gnomes and Pixies and Draconians and Drow and Gnolls and Vampires and Bullywugs and Lizardfolk and Myconids and Orcs and Githyanki and Frost Giants

I feel like this could be handled with the Dungeonomicon/Tome of Necromancy alignment "team jersey" rules. When you're dealing with dozens of troops, the specifics matter. The gnolls and orcs won't work together despite their similarities.

When you're dealing with hundreds, you (automatically?) hire some Lieutenants that can whip both units into the same battle line and treat them as a combined unit. Introducing a platoon of bugbears is a trivial exercise in Troop Strength addition. Whoever you've got in charge of that regiment can handle anything that comes her way, so long as it's from Team Orange you can just let Master Sergeant Zintiel manage the left flank.

If your campaign scales up to five or six figures, you write off even alignment differences. You're no longer dealing with battles, but entire war fronts. The troop composition is now less important than their concentrations and depth.

Nobody has ever written a wargame that works at all these scales. One or more is always written off as "irrelevant", or "not our game" or "beyond our scope". It's all got to boil down to a single Troop Strength roll-off. The details of how you get there need a few layers of relevance between convincing Bifur and Bofur to join your fellowship and convincing Elrond to sacrifice his ten thousand unaging archers for your cause, but all that's immaterial to the DBA-style "two armies bounce off each other, one bounces further than the other."
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This is all spitballing, but attempting to focus on the ideas that "short" mass combat sub-games should try to be as abstracted as possible, offer meaningful strategic choices, and take up as little time as possible to resolve.

Morale/Discipline/Formation Durability & Formation size & scale

The "durability" of formations could very well be their morale; and morale/formation durability be calculated based on the scale of the conflict. That is, if you're counting by 10's, each group of 10 personnel is a single point of moral for the unit. If you're counting by 1000's, only a group of 1000 personnel count as the amount you care about.

This would allow a formation of 10 people to grow to 1000's, and the numbers used to calculate their performance as a whole not spiraling ever upwards.

While "Big numbers" can feel like an improvement, they really don't matter when the enemy is using equally large numbers; and simply changing the scope of the minimum amount of troops you care about becomes easier.

Comparisons of Yu-Gi-Oh! creature cards with similar from Magic: the Gathering gives M:tG a decided advantage due to simplicity of combat resolution.


Formations

Right now, I'm still feeling "positions" for formations to be slightly more abstract locations on the field (yes, there are two flanks in opposing forces b/c the forces are presumably facing each other and could use their right or left, but generally you care about the primary flank (e.g. the one you overloaded in a bid to punch through/around the enemy's robust forces to strike at their vulnerable ones). With Flank, Van (or centre), and Rear.

For units to include mixed forces, you're best calculating the aggregates by the gross categories of armed forces, as well as their most notabl contributions to their side. For the most part "infantry" are a defensive unit. "Cavalry" are mobile. While "Artillery" are offensive. Units should have some degree of each: defense, mobility, and offense, but one shouldn't be surprised when statlines are

[note: these numbers are purely inventions, and would require rewriting]

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Even then, stats could be simplified down to a units primary contribution to keep calculations streamlined. Only infantry contributes to a formations defense. Only mobile troops contribute to the formations mobility. Only offense units contribute to a formations offensive ability.

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Presumably you'll want your "flank" to be made up to mobile units, but also some Offensive and Defensive units to ensure their ability to: hurt the enemy a lot, and for the formation to survive the battle.

Presumably you'll want your "vanguard" to be made of a heavily Defensive, with Mobile and Offense units to give it some legs and teeth.

Presumably you'll want your "rear" to be heavily Offensive, with Mobile units to make the formation better at reacting to changes, and Defensive units to protect the mostly defenseless siege engines and various forms of artillery personnel.

Battle Resolution/Phases
The combat phases could be simplified/broadened to be: Command, Morale, Disengagement.

In the Command phase, both sides issue and resolve the results of commands given to their formations.

The Flank formation are generally used as "extraordinary" forces, and are generally used with the aim to upset the enemies battle plan. They can elect to:
-Attacks the enemy Rear (offense vs mobility)
-Intercept enemy Flank (mobility vs defense)
-Counterattack enemy Vanguard (defense vs mobility)

The Vangaurd formation is generally the largest in order to ensure the stability of the force over the course of the battle, and can elect to:
-Advance on Enemy (Mobility vs Defense);
-Entrench Position (large penalty to Mobility, bonus to Defense vs enemy Vangaurd and Rear formations, but not Flank formations)
-Defensive Arrangement (slight penalty to mobility, bonus to defense, but only vs Flank formations & Rear formations)

The Rear formation is meant to contribute meaningfully, but indirectly, and can elect to:
-Target enemy Flank (Offense vs Mobility)
-Target enemy Vangaurd (Offense vs Defense)
-Target enemy Rear (Offense vs (Offense or Defense (?)))

Ideally it feels like 3 bouts of Rock-Paper-Scissors, but your formations actions might get bypassed entirely instead of merely beaten.

Amount of actions to resolve

Attempting to reduce the actions to one per formation per side for "action resolution". So that's 6 actions for two sides.

With Morale being calculated based off of the previous 6 results to see which formations in both lines are threatened with breaking (I'm envisioning as little as 10% of formation being lost as casualties to threaten discipline; but I'm willing to go for a low as 5% casualties to threaten a formations morale).

Finally, the Disengagement phase should be when most casualties (as much as 90% of casualties) should occur. Calculating who withdraws should be based on how many formations were forced to make morale checks (xor failed such checks). With armies who have one formation fail their morale check leading to the army making a withdrawl. Armies who have two formations fail in morale leads to an army retreat. While all three formations failing their morale checks leads to an armies rout.


The difference between an withdrawl, a retreat, and a rout should be based on how many of your overall formations failed in their discipline in the face of faltering morale. A withdrawal should only suffers as badly as it did when it first was commanded. A retreat should suffer about twice as badly as an ordered withdrawl. While a Rout should suffer 10x the casualties it did when it followed its first command.

The third phase might be more of a tabulation of casualties, than making any sort of decisions for personnel to fulfill.

So, trying to pare down the dice rolls down to 12; 6 for actions; (up to) 6 to determine if a formation stays or withdraws. With the final stage calculating how badly the withdrawl goes for the defeated side.

Which leaves room for additional turns or mechanics to be added; like espionage/sabotage, engineering/demolition; supply/looting.

Ideally, players are focused on the Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanics to make them feel like they have made strategic choices. With the understanding that a small mistake can snowball into a rout if they make a mistake in how they deploy their forces preventing savvy players from risky maneuvers which would cost more than they could achieve, and encourage committing heavily to the strategy they plan on using this battle.

Specialization of units

Aspects like "better armour" could lead to personnel gaining a bit of an edge for their formation of personnel (however, adding 10 spider-steel suits to otherwise leather armoured troops matter more when the formations are 5-10 personnel, and matter much less when formations are 100-1000 personnel). While "different weapons" could allow for the conversion of one type of personnel into an other type. Personnel who are flyers/teleporters/invisible don't necessarily need new mechanics solely for their abilities, and simply giving them massive mobility/offense/defense bonuses are likely enough to represent their abilities.

Even an invisible Hobbit can get inadvertently knocked out in a battle where five armies are raging against each other.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'd also add that it'd be desirable to have the same results across systems. For example, if you have 10 orcs vs 10 elves, there should be roughly the same chances of orc victory if you play using the RPG rules or the mass combat minigame. Or at least explanations on why one group works better at one sort of combat, as that'd be hard to achieve.
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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm not sure that dividing the army into parts is useful. If individual troop contributions are just abstracted into troop strength and their Skirmish, Shock, Spell, and Melee values, then I don't think it hugely matters which abstract bunch of values is where on the battlefield. Attacking the left flank is a strategy that gives the force commander some bonuses and penalties, probably depending on what the enemy is doing, and you can just assume that when the enemy left flank is near some woods you attack with your elves and when it's next to a river you attack with your fishmen.

If you really insist on splitting up the army, I would say at most 6 divisions: vanguard/skirmish/scouts, left flank, center/main body, right flank, reserves, and possibly air units though they should probably just be above one of the other divisions.

It is useful to have administrative formations for convenience of reference. ie, people can say stuff like "the 1st Legion will hold the northeast frontier against the undead but we'll need to reinforce the 2nd Legion if we want to take the badlands from the Orc Empire." But in the actual mini-game, you just sum up the numbers and calculate the odds.

All that said, my group actually has multiple PC commanders at a time, and we generally split up forces and fight multiple mass battles at once under the heading of one big battle. But the exact positions of the troops are undefined: it doesn't really matter if Aisling is on the left flank or the right flank. The important part is that she conducted a raid against the enemy while the rest of the army used a mobile defense to fall back on the fortress, and now Aisling's force risks being surrounded and cut off unless the forces in the fortress ride out to engage the enemy while Aisling withdraws into the fortress.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
I feel like this could be handled with the Dungeonomicon/Tome of Necromancy alignment "team jersey" rules. When you're dealing with dozens of troops, the specifics matter. The gnolls and orcs won't work together despite their similarities.

When you're dealing with hundreds, you (automatically?) hire some Lieutenants that can whip both units into the same battle line and treat them as a combined unit. Introducing a platoon of bugbears is a trivial exercise in Troop Strength addition. Whoever you've got in charge of that regiment can handle anything that comes her way, so long as it's from Team Orange you can just let Master Sergeant Zintiel manage the left flank.

If your campaign scales up to five or six figures, you write off even alignment differences. You're no longer dealing with battles, but entire war fronts. The troop composition is now less important than their concentrations and depth.


Player characters are always going to end up with extremely eclectic armies. They are going to conquer provinces owned by the bad guys of the week and there are going to be four or five players who are going to want to do things that will attract wildly different units into the force. There's a move towards entropy by dint of the MC providing new opponents who will obviously leave different villages when conquered, but also from the players themselves because each player is going to want to grow up into a different kind of leader with different troops. The Elvish Ranger is going to work towards Unicorn Riders and the Orc Barbarian is going to work towards getting Ogres. And that's even before we get to the fact that the Wizard is going to run off to his tower and start making Ducksnakes as soon as that is an option.

So players are going to need to get some sort of integrated army thing where they stop worrying about whether their Gith Phase Spider Riders are getting along with their Pixie Archers. But at the same time, you are still going to want to be able to exploit racial tensions in the Lich King's horde even though that army just has Goblins, Trolls, and Undead. So the integrated army thing can be an upgrade or an investment or a civilization slider or some fucking thing. And the player characters are always going to take it and feel good about themselves because it's a real good deal when you have one or more troop types for every adventure you've ever completed.

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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

mlang wrote:
I'm not sure that dividing the army into parts is useful. If individual troop contributions are just abstracted into troop strength and their Skirmish, Shock, Spell, and Melee values, then I don't think it hugely matters which abstract bunch of values is where on the battlefield. Attacking the left flank is a strategy that gives the force commander some bonuses and penalties, probably depending on what the enemy is doing, and you can just assume that when the enemy left flank is near some woods you attack with your elves and when it's next to a river you attack with your fishmen.


Dividing the army into locational parts is so that the player characters can do things to influence specific areas of the battlefield. So like, if there's a thing they could do that would paralyze part of the battlefield by like dumping a river on it or something, they could arrange to split their forces unevenly and then do that thing. Or if the enemy has some super commander or a big dragon or something, the player characters could do their heroic action turn to go smite that thing to hobble that part of the army.

Having different locational sectors of the army isn't inherently more interesting than just combining all of it into one big pile. But having regional divisions in the army creates a way for players to interact with the armies in a regional fashion. And that can be interesting. If you aren't trying to hook it back into an RPG, you probably would just want to have whole armies as the units of account. But you are, so you want some kind of way to specify which part of the enemy army you are doing things to.

But the sweat spot for that doesn't change as armies get bigger. If you'd like to be able to use area denial effects on the left flank of an army with 300 Orcs, you aren't going to suddenly want to track targeting the 8th regiment from the left flank when the army shows up with 3000 Orcs. The number of divisions is going to want to be somewhere between 3 and 8, and your want is going to stay pretty much the same regardless of force size.

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Lago PARANOIA
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

What's peoples' opinions about resource management and armies? If you have a unit composed of wizards, should they have a distinct, limited-use fireball action? Should they have an attack that represents the average of their attacks, meaning that they just have a 'Magic Attack' that doesn't care whether individual wizards are casting Acid Arrow or Magic Missile or whatever? Should they have something like 'Fireball Points' where they can use the Fireball action but they can use one or more of the points to represent just how many wizards are casting fireball at the same time?

By the same token, what's peoples' opinions about CO Powers? That is, passive or use-activated effects that activate actions only when a leader is attached to an army? This is above and beyond the generic idea of a leadership score -- this way you get effects like if an Illusionist is in charge of a Barbarian detachment they can turn them invisible for a few phases or if a Bard is in charge of a Goblin Rider detachment they can play music that will make them immune to fear.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

My opinion on any unit of any type is that whatever it's abilities are it should be able to fit on a MAGIC card-esque sized start block. Beyond that I don't think limited/day casting is necessary and any constraints that might be born of 3rd ed vanician magic should not be applicable to any game where a whole military minigame is going to be latched on.

That being said I'd think mage units should act in accordance with however they act in the game at large. So if fireballs are limited/day that should be reflected in the mage unit.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lago PARANOIA wrote:
What's peoples' opinions about resource management and armies?


Your typical army battle phase is so many turns of your skirmish dungeon fight combats that whatever resource management scheme you use in one should be completely meaningless in the other. A single Skirmish round involves people riding several kilometers, unloading all over their arrows at long range, and then riding back. A rage bar or restorable charges or whatever fucking thing you do in the micro battles is not going to matter at that scale. A typical battle round might seriously have enough time for a character to take four 4e/5e style "short rests" in it. An ability that has a warm up or cool down timer on it is basically unlimited in use when you're talking about a day of battle rather than 12 seconds or whatever the fuck your heartbreaker tracks duels with.

Now some things should be limited use or have some persistent cost on the Mass Combat or Military Campaign scale. It's just that those things are necessarily going to be different things than the stuff that is resource management gated when zoomed in.

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If you have a unit composed of wizards, should they have a distinct, limited-use fireball action?


Absolutely not. Since of course the number of rounds you could cast a fireball in Mass Combat is so vast compared to the amount of time you worry about casting actions in the "normal" game that it beggars belief. Now if you are going to have preparation casters in your fantasy adventure game, it makes sense for the Wizardry to have a preparation element to it. Like you could have them prepare "blasting magic" that made them hit hard during some phase or another. Or you could have them prepare "deceptive magic" that let them act as some sort of force multiplier or force negator in some other context. Ultimately that's not really different from having troops that you can dress up in heavy armor and put on the line or hand crossbows to and have them hang back as artillery.

But if you have Drain casters or cool-down casters or whatever the fuck, you aren't going to want to implement those mechanics in Mass Combat any more than you'd want to implement rules for "arrow charges" for archers or encumbrance and stamina for infantry.

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By the same token, what's peoples' opinions about CO Powers? That is, passive or use-activated effects that activate actions only when a leader is attached to an army? This is above and beyond the generic idea of a leadership score -- this way you get effects like if an Illusionist is in charge of a Barbarian detachment they can turn them invisible for a few phases or if a Bard is in charge of a Goblin Rider detachment they can play music that will make them immune to fear.


If you're going to make Mass Combat be a thing, you're going to want to give everyone Mass Combat abilities of various sorts. Some of those would be to provide various buffs to various numbers of troops. Some of those would be to provide force to the army in various ways. Some of those would be bonuses to getting various tactics to succeed. And so on and whatever. But yes, it should be absolutely impossible to get to Level X without having some abilities that do things on the Mass Combat scale. Where X is whatever level your heartbreaker intends Mass Combat to be a regular thing.

-Frank
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If the idea is to have 3-8 army components who each have various capabilities in Skirmish, Shock, and Melee phases of the battle (or similar), it seems to me that wizards are basically just going to be guys who are really good at the Shock phase. They can toss out a bunch of AoE or crowd control spells right before the armies actually connect, and that's going to cause a lot of damage either immediately or thirty seconds later when your army's intact formation arrives to crush an enemy split up by a bunch of Wall of Stone castings or whatever.
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Wiseman
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If this is a subsystem, then how abstract could you make it? Could you like, just have various traits you assemble into a unit, and what said unit's composed of is mostly just flavor text?

Like you have abilities like: Flame, Blast, Confuse, Anchor, Dig In, Cannibalize, Dash, Push, Boost ect.

For example: Confuse could cause an opposing unit to take the wrong action, Anchor would be used to prevent an enemy unit from moving. Flame might deal DoT to a unit, Push forces an enemy unit to move, Dig In resists forced movement and so on.

These abilites would have varying costs depending on how powerful they are. A unit might have a cost limit based on size or some other factor.
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Grek
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
That being said, I don't think mandating a unit split represents a workable solution. While it sounds fine to have Elves and Dwarves being two units that can merge into a single Elf + Dwarf unit after the animosity gets handled somehow, I can't help thinking that there's still an upper limit of some kind to how many units your Mass Combat system can handle. I would say you probably don't want more than eight and honestly my target would be more like five or even three. In any case, twenty five is right the fuck out. So if it isn't just "Elves and Dwarves" but instead "Elves and Dwarves and Hobgoblins and Imps and Gnomes and Pixies and Draconians and Drow and Gnolls and Vampires and Bullywugs and Lizardfolk and Myconids and Orcs and Githyanki and Frost Giants" you have a problem.

Animosity probably has to be handled as a morale and discipline effect, because there simply is some upper limit to how many different units you can manage without the game dragging to a crawl and I'm pretty positive that the number of possible creature types you can recruit in a kitchen sink fantasy is much higher than whatever that number is.


The obvious solution here would be to have each side in a conflict have one Standard Division template and one Special Division per player/major NPC on that side. The players collectively design their Standard Divisions and individually design their own Special Forces. Each army should end up with significantly more Standard Divisions than Special Forces - you want players to decide NOT to use their lovingly hand-crafted Special Forces every single time for reasons like "I don't want the Immortals tied up dealing with the barbarian raids, we'll need them for the big battle against the Lich King" and "No, we're not taking the Hippogriff Cavalry to fight the Drow. They live underground." and "Using my Myconid Sappers as tax collectors sounds like a terrible plan."

Building a Standard Division requires that you select one Demographic and one Armament for each of Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry and an overall Size of your Standard Division. That's seven choices total, which is pretty much the limit of what you're going to get the party to collectively agree to without it descending into interminable military history arguments. In order to raise a Standard Division, you need a number of each of the other six choices equal to the Size of the Division. For example, if your Standard Division is Cohort Sized and uses Human Pikemen, Elfish Longbows and Unicorn Cavalry, you need 500 Humans, 500 Elves, 500 Unicorns, 500 * whatever it costs to equip a Pikeman and 500 * whatever it costs to equip a Longbowman to raise one Cohort. You probably don't have 500 unicorns, so you would strongly consider replacing the Unicorn Cavalry with regular horsemen.

Special Forces pick one Demographic and one Armament total and have a Size that is two sizes smaller than the party's Standard Division. You can also go three sizes smaller, in which case you get Elites who have better stats and morale. Either way, the numbers involved are much smaller than with a Standard Division, which means you can afford to field things you only have small numbers of. Like Unicorn Cavalry and Vampire Legions.

When selecting a Demographic, you always have the option of selecting Cosmopolitan. This forfeits any racial bonuses you might get, but has the advantage of letting you use the entire population of your empire instead of just the Elves or just the Bullywugs. Likewise, when selecting an Armament you always have the option of selecting Irregular. This forfeits any equipment bonuses, but costs very little money - it's a Bring Your Own Weapons army.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Consider the simplest case: we got 3 flanks (Left, Right, and Center) and we got three phases (Skirmish, Melee, and Shock). That's it, that's the whole battle. But we also got two sides, meaning that we have 18 tactic declarations, 18 die rolls, and 18 times however many calculations you need to make each round at a minimum. So if you're tracking Morale, Cohesion, and Casualties for each flank on each team, that's 54 calculations over the course of the battle. Again, minimum.
We're splitting skirmish/melee/shock into full phases with their own declarations? I thought it would be better to have a single declaration phase and skirmish/melee/shock are stats you reference, which would keep the number of calculations down.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Wiseman wrote:
If this is a subsystem, then how abstract could you make it?


It can be arbitrarily abstract as long as it retains the ability to zoom in and zoom out. The constraint is that it keeps having to create results that are relevant in the RPG and has to accept inputs from the RPG as well.

So you might not be able to go into like a full card game mode because you have to produce starting conditions that are the results of actions in the cooperative storytelling game. You could still use cards if you really wanted to, but you'd have to have some means of having the game include a pig stampede if the players have created a pig stampede (or whatever).

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Here's one desirable element that I can think of: being able to resolve multiple mass combats in a single session of gameplay; and have non-wargame gameplay also be part of the game session where a wargame was resolved.

Right now.... having multiple turns for the Wargame be variations of "fighting a battle" (i.e. skirmish, assault, shock) seem like the battles will never represent what feel like greater than 10's of personnel per side.

Specifically because the less the players can do to influence the battle while it rages, and the more they are carried by the momentum of their forces; the more they will feel like they are being swept up into conflict that feel larger than themselves.

I'd actually like it if players can't keep readjusting every part of their battleplan in the middle of the battle; and instead have to watch their pre-established orders get followed through (a la Dominions; over Total War). With the PCs having the ability to affect changes in their sides formations on a limited scale.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So the idea is, you have a bunch of different things (number of troops, type/quality of troops, equipment, environment, morale, discipline, tactics, etc) that ultimately contribute to a single modifier, with a different modifier for each part of the army (flanks, vanguard, etc), and you do a roll-off for each part for each phase of the battle?

Is this roll a simple d20 + mods opposed roll? I'm assuming there'd be some type of degrees of success/failure that show how many troops/how much morale is lost per side.

Can you use scouts/divinations to get a good estimate on the opponent's modifiers? Can you use illusions to give false reads on your modifiers?

How specific do you want to get with tactics? I understand the broad notion of a "sweet spot", but there needs to be a certain amount of tactical input to make this subsystem fun. If it's just "get the most troops, get the best gear, and start on the high ground", that won't be fun. Are we going to track things like "tightly packed formations are good against charges, volleys, and for holding the line, but they are slow to move and vulnerable to siege engines and fireballs"? What type of tactical input is good for this subsystem?


Edit: How do we distinguish between the normal "zoomed in" game and this subsystem? For example: lets say we decide the best use of the PCs time is to kill the commanders to get the discipline to drop, so their spear/shield wall won't hold against the charge (or whatever).

  • Is this fight against the commanders done in the normal system (with individual spells/attack rolls, and what not), or do the players have to roll some abstract roll within the subsystem to interact with the commanders?
  • What happens when the archers see the PCs flying overhead and the commanders tell them to shoot the flying wizards? Is this a case of "you'd be an idiot to fly over 500 archers without Superior Invisibility, Stone Skin, and Protection from Arrows up"? Is there some type of unit attack result to HP damage conversion we'd use for PCs?


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Mask_De_H
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The commander fight would probably be done with regular combat; they've got their squad, you've got your squad, kung-fu fight. Winning the fight grants a morale bonus and/or removes the bonus that commander was granting to the unit.

Mook army force against a PC strike team could be handled as a terrain hazard, a hard stop, or a DoT. It would depend on the tier of power the PCs are expected to have and the relative force of the Mook materiel.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

RobbyPants wrote:

Can you use scouts/divinations to get a good estimate on the opponent's modifiers? Can you use illusions to give false reads on your modifiers?


You should have rules for gathering and evaluating intelligence and performing counter-intelligence operations that work similarly to the rest of the mass combat mini-game. At the simplest, some troops (light infantry, light cavalry, flying units, spell-casters, etc) contribute to a Recon total and you have some kind of opposed contest. The winner of the contest knows something about the enemy and the loser knows less. In some situations, winning the reconnaissance contest might allow you to get additional battlefield benefits, like you scouted out the potential battlefields and managed to arrange the fight to occur on one that is ideally suited to your troops.

You could make the contests more complicated and detailed. Having two contests of reconnaissance versus counter-intelligence means that both sides could have bad information about each other (instead of one side or the other always getting good results) which I think makes a lot more sense.


Last edited by mlangsdorf on Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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