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  • Mass Conflicts in the (D20) Fantasy Campaign

    Posted on December 14th, 2004 Rob No comments


    How to Have a Huge Battle In One Night

    Please send your feedback and questions to Samir.

    In the past year I have been involved in 3 different games and each of these games culminated in huge wars. The first involved a castle siege between two armies, the good guys numbered 2000, plus mages, clerics and 4 catapults and the bad guys numbered 10,000, plus undead, colossal creatures, druids, clerics and 5 catapults. Both sides had archers. It lasted 5 real weeks. The second one involved breaking the siege of a city. The good guys numbered 500,000 with elves, dwarves, halflings and humans (Each player was in control of a faction) and the bad guys numbered 13,000 with demons up to CR 25. Again each side had archers. It lasted one night. The third and latest battle involved 360,000 good guys and 600,000 bad guys and took place in open terrain. Each side with magical artillery, flying troops, archers, reinforcements (the good guys had limited reinforcements and the bad guys had the ability to raise the dead) and hidden positions. The bad guys also had animated juggernauts. This battle lasted one night.

    I tried to find D20 resource material to help me with these battles. Unfortunately, at the time there was nothing that I was satisfied with using. In the first battle I was not the GM, The second battle I was Co-GM. The third battle I set up based on what I had learned in the previous two.

    First off, everyone loves a huge battle. (Well, most everyone.) However, the longer a battle
    goes and the longer between turns a player has the wait, the less enjoyment your average
    player gets from this type of scenario. The Key word to keep everyone involved and
    interested. Abstract, abstract, abstract! The goal is to have fun and minimize the dice
    Rolling, to maintain an exciting pace.

    Here is what I learned. The way to speed up the epic army verses army is to abstract
    everything. (dare I say it again?)

    Eleven Steps to Speeding Up Mass Combat

    1. You will need an ample playing area. A huge hex/square map, large table or clear out the
    living room floor. Don’t forget you will need a tape measure if you choose the latter two
    options. Mark increments on the battle field. On the hex/square map
    you can number every fifth grid or hex for ease in marking locations. On the floor or table I would tape pieces of paper or card stock
    that have numbers or letters on them. These numbers or letters represent grid location
    markers. Place them sequentially, not randomly.

    2. For ease of play MOST of the soldiers need to be the same level. I.E. All infantry need
    to be 10th level or 1st level or 5th level. All clerics need to be 5th. Etc. This will help
    in Hit Point Management later on.

    3. Choose the scale of the battle. As a result the standard 5 ft square/hex increments may
    not work depending on the size of the armies. Or the size of the battle ground. You
    can/should base it on the average movement that your troops can move in a extended time
    frame. The normal time of rounds cannot be used. I chose 5 minute rounds with each hex
    representing 500 ft in size. This means your archers and mages have an approximate range of
    one hex for their spells and missile. Mounted troops will get a movement of 3 hexes (light)
    Heavy Calvary would only get a move of 2 hexes This may not sound correct for movement but
    you have to remember troops in formation do not run all the time, they have facing changes,
    formation changes, equipment changes (from bows to swords etc.) So 5 minute, 500 hex sizes
    is a good abstraction of the movement-range ratio. REMEMBER you are the GM, what you say
    goes and the players will be able to get a handle on this quickly.

    4. Get an assistant GM to help with the battle. It frees you up so that you can handle the
    side issues the players will come up with, also if the players want to infiltrate or recon
    with their characters you will be able to handle that while keeping an eye on the big
    picture. You will need to sit down and discuss how aggressive you want your assistant GM to
    be, since they will control the strategy of the opposing army. The less you have to
    interfere, the faster the battle and the more your players can accomplish.

    5. Put the players in charge of their sides tactics. (unless it goes against your campaign
    plot.) Have them roll on an appropriate skill, verse the opposing Army Commander. This gets
    the players focused on the battle. (In my game I allowed the players to choose if they went
    first or last as a benefit for having high skills instead of rolling for it. It also sped
    the game up by eliminating that die roll.

    6. Throw away Armor Class, Saves and Magic Items (for the armies) unless your game world is
    ultra high magic, very few common soldiers will be carrying magic arms and armor. This will
    help in the Combat Management later on.

    7. Choose how large each army unit is. Round numbers are not required but helpful in
    determining damage. If you have less then 100 per side I would not use this system. Divide
    the troops into equal units. 5-10 units per Player character is a good easy to manage
    number. Your assistant GM should make as many units as they can handle. One note of caution:
    Really large units tend to smash smaller units quickly. So if you are balancing this to let
    the players win, then let them have larger units. If you want them to sweat, then insure all
    units are equal in size.

    8. Determine off board artillery (or on board if you wish, however the artillery is subject
    to damage and should not be able to move.) Having the Artillery off board speeds the battle
    due to the damage it can do. Having the Artillery on board will prolong the game because the
    players will target the artillery sooner or later. Abstractedly make the artillery able to
    reach any point on the map. It should do hideous amounts of damage. Limit the artillery
    batteries to no more then 5 per army. Apply the rule that the players must plot where the
    artillery falls two rounds in advance. Any targets in the specific targeted hex/square take
    full damage and those surrounding the hex/Square take half damage.

    9. Set up the terrain. One of the things that War Hammer 40K and Mage Knights taught me was
    that ordinary junk can be terrain features even on the hex map. The bad guys should set up
    first. Anywhere within 5 hexes/Squares of their map side. Place hidden units (if applicable)
    like army commanders and special villains (if the army commanders are taken out, I imposed
    penalties to the appropriate side, for instance loss of artillery or no reinforcements).
    Then the Players should set up their forces, hidden units (PCs if applicable). Remember the
    PC that are commanding the battle cannot also adventure with any PC that are doing recon,
    infiltration etc.

    10. Plot artillery strikes for 2 turns later. Remember when we made those grid
    numbers/letters? This is when they become useful. Choose a spot for the artillery. For
    example: Your side thinks that the enemy will be near number 33 on the hex map but not on
    it. Guessing a spot you write down the grid number (remember to choose the north facing of your battle
    area/map) you would say #33, 2 hexes to the west and south one hex. That would be one plotted
    artillery strike. After you declare the strike(on the appropriate turn.) The other player
    (or the GM) should check to determine if hidden units got damaged also.

    11. Players and Army GM alternate moving their units, then doing Archery attacks, then
    Magical, then Melee, then Artillery.

    Remember, these numbers are not statistically proven for the most part. Nor are they true
    averages. I did a little fudging on the side of fun. You can alter them as you see fit. Most
    of the assumptions take care of fog of war and Goth Factor.

    Tracking Units

    The unit information is as follows:
    Level of unit(type)= its hit points + 1d4 (con bonus: we will assume that all the soldiers
    Con bonus is exactly the same) times the number of soldiers in the unit equals the number of
    hit points a unit has.(see chart 2)

    For example; A troop of 1000 8th level averaged
    fighters has 48,000 hit points (d10+2 times 8)/2 x 1000= 48,000. (Work with me here, its
    not exact math but works in a pinch) Now comes the fun part. Damage. So I have provided
    several handy little charts that work those abstract numbers for you. These charts are based
    on several assumptions. 1 is that not everyone is going to hit their target, some will not
    be able to get to their target and that no one does all the damage they can when swinging.
    The damage assumption is 1 in 20: being that 1 in 20 people will do damage to their target.
    Each time your unit takes damage subtract it from your total and use the next lower damage
    position on the chart. You can recreate the chart if you wish to lessen the gaps for damage
    increments but in the abstract sense the huge gaps can represent the inability to do actual
    combat for a variety of conditions ranging from helping the wounded to personal first aid to
    helping block to plain combat fear.

    To track hit points loss you need to reverse calculate. Unfortunately this system does not
    allow for damage spreading, each number represents ONE soldier taking the damage until they
    drop dead and then the next soldier steps up and presents themselves for the heroic damage.
    Unit size divided by # of hit points of soldier type (see chart 2 or look at your quick
    reference unit card) divided by remaining hit points. For example 60,000 HPs (unit size
    1000 fighters) / 60 (tenth level fighter averaged hit points = remaining soldiers (of a 1000
    man unit). So if they had 58,800 hit points after being struck by artillery and hobbit
    Archers (1d8 weapon) from a 1000 man unit leaves you 980 people. Which means your fighters
    with longswords now do 100 points of damage as opposed to doing your former 200 points (not
    realistic with this chart, but you can easily expand the numbers to compensate.) Make sure
    you calculate your changes each time you take damage before any unit fires, unless you are
    doing simultaneous damage per round.

    How to Identify Your Units

    You will need a card for each unit or a piece of paper with the following chart
    to represent each unit.

    Unit Name Unit Race Unit Type (circle one): Damage Type (circle one)
        Caster/Archers/Infantry/Calvary hvy or LT D6/D8/D10/D12 or 2d6
    Unit Size Hit Point Each Unit Hit Point Total Hit Points Remaining
    special notes:



    Chart 1:Magic in Battle

    Wizards 3rd 5th 7th 9th 11th
    spells 3 6 10 14 18

    Sorcerers 4th 6th 8th 10th 12th
    spells 9 14 20 26 32
    Clerics 5th 7th 9th 11th
    spells 9 14 19 25
    Druids 5th 7th 9th 11th
    spells 6 10 14 19

    The damage numbers from chart #1 are assumed. While spell casters are very
    powerful, they are limited. This chart shows how many times they can use their
    damaging spells. The chart only contains the break points at which levels casters gain
    new spells. It also does not count bonus spells.

    Using the above chart as a guideline a unit of 7th level Wizards can cast damaging spells
    10 times before their effectiveness is cut. Clerics instead of doing
    damage can heal that value instead. Obviously the casters are limited in the amount of times
    they can cause that listed damage.

    Chart 2: HP per level for the common soldier based
    on class. HP Averaged. Plus con bonus if any.

    HD Group 3nd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th
    D4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
    D4+1 7 10 13 16 19 21 24 27 30 33
    D4+2 9 12 15 18 21 24 27


    33 36
    D4+3 10 13 17 20 23 26 29 32 35 38
    D4+4 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48
    D6 9 12 15 18 21 24 27


    33 36
    D6+1 10 13 16 19 22 25 28 31 34 37
    D6+2 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48
    D6+3 14 18 22 26 30 34 38


    46 50
    D6+4 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60
    D8 12 16 2 0 24 28 32 36 40 44 48
    D8+1 13 17 21 25 29 33 37


    45 49
    D8+2 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60
    D8+3 16 21 26 31 36 41 46 51 56 61
    D8+4 18 24 30 36 42 48 54 60 66 72
    D10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45


    55 60
    D10+1 16 21 26 31 36 41 46 51 56 61
    D10+2 18 24 30 36 42 48 54 60 66 72
    D10+3 19 26 33 40 47 54 61 68 75 82
    D10+4 21 28 35 42 49 56 63


    77 84
    D12 18 24 30 36 42 48 54


    66 72
    D12+1 19 26 33 40 47 54 61 68 75 82
    D12+2 21 28 35 42 49 56 63 70 77 84
    D12+3 22 29 36 43 50 57 64


    78 85
    D12+4 24 32 40 48 56 64 72 80 88 96

    Take the HP of the averaged trooper and multiply it by the number of troops in the unit. You
    then have the total hps for the entire group. Track your HPs as your hit points go down
    your unit size will decrease as will your damage potential.

    Chart 3: Cross ref the damage downwards with the size of the unit across. The number in ( )
    is averaged.

    Unit Size 500 1000 1500 2000 2500


    3500 4000 4500 5000 5500
    1d4(2) 50 100 50 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550
    1d6(3) 75 150 225 300 375 450 525 600 675 750 825
    1d8(4) 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100
    1d10(5) 125 250 375 500 625 750 875 1000 1125 1250 1375
    1d12(6) 150 300 450 600 750 900 1050 1200 1350 1500 1650
    MAGIC 750 1500 2250 3000 3750 4250

    5000 5750 6250 7000 7750
    Artillery 1000/strike

    Based on the above chart you can either roll a 1d4 and multiply it by the size of the
    unit/20 or just take it for granted that a unit of 1000 mages engaged in battle will do 100
    points of damage with their daggers. Always round down for damage. If you do have an army
    equipped with magic weapons you will have to do some math to refigure the charts. Or just
    move the damage right one column (abstract it!) For magic weapons and stage it left one
    column if they have magic armor. You can also stage the columns based on race too.
    Constitutionally weaker races would take more damage, Stronger would take less. I would not
    recommend changing anything except the damage chart. With this simple system you can have
    your ravening horde of orcs and throw several lances of troopers at them too. Thats about
    the gist of it, tweak it as you will. This should speed up all battles. Email me if you have
    further questions.

    Feel free to up the damage ration from 1 in 20 to 1 in 15, 1 in 10. You get to do the
    calculations and new chart btw. I would not move it to higher then 50% of the unit. (1 in

    Warhammer 40K is trademarked and copyrighted by Games Workshop. Mage Knight is trademarked and copyrighted by WizKids inc.
    Goth(Go to hell Factor: from John Ringos book to When the devil Dances if
    you want to read an awesome science fiction war series here is the site. My understanding
    is that this series is also being made into if not already a D20 game.

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