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Old 09-19-2019, 04:13 AM   #1
FireHorse
 
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Location: Dayton, Ohio
Default Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

I have a scenario / adventure in which the players would be part of a much larger battle. While the players would resolve their own combats normally, obviously it would be wildly impractical to use normal methods to determine the outcome of every individual melee within that larger battle.

However, I do want the outcome of the players' fights to affect the overall outcome — they're the Heroes, after all, and they'd be facing off against the Leaders (and high-ranking sub-Leaders) of the opposing faction, and Morale can sway the tide of battle. (If you kill a group's Leader, for example, it should make their followers more likely to break.)

So I'm looking for two different things:
  1. A method for deciding the outcome of many separate fights, without having to roll each one individually; and…
  2. A method of applying Morale (resulting from the outcome of the players' individual fights) to the outcome of the larger battle as a whole.

Any suggestions…?
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Old 09-19-2019, 04:51 AM   #2
Chris Rice
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FireHorse View Post
I have a scenario / adventure in which the players would be part of a much larger battle. While the players would resolve their own combats normally, obviously it would be wildly impractical to use normal methods to determine the outcome of every individual melee within that larger battle.

However, I do want the outcome of the players' fights to affect the overall outcome — they're the Heroes, after all, and they'd be facing off against the Leaders (and high-ranking sub-Leaders) of the opposing faction, and Morale can sway the tide of battle. (If you kill a group's Leader, for example, it should make their followers more likely to break.)

So I'm looking for two different things:
  1. A method for deciding the outcome of many separate fights, without having to roll each one individually; and…
  2. A method of applying Morale (resulting from the outcome of the players' individual fights) to the outcome of the larger battle as a whole.

Any suggestions…?
A simple method:Break the opposing forces into companies or squads depending on total size. Assign each of these groups stats as if it was a single character and let them fight as if single characters just as standard Melee rules. A unit keeps fighting till ST0 at which point the unit is not destroyed but breaks and flees. You can figure casualties based on ST loss (bear in mind ST0 is not total loss of all figures in the unit.)

Example: Army of 200 Orcs v 80 well equipped Soldiers and knights.

Decide how many units you want to handle, say 10 each side. So an Orc squad will have 20 figures and a soldier squad 8 figures (assuming you want equal numbers of squads.

You can make all the Orcs the same for ease of setup or different if you wish, same for the Soldiers. The PCs can form one squad of Soldiers.

When you play the battle, the PCs fight individually against the individual Orcs in the Squad they are facing as if in a standard Melee battle and the rest of the battle is abbreviated by fighting squad v squad as if the squads were individuals.

You can scale this up or down as desired and add whatever complexity you wish. I've done this in the past and it works fine.
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Old 09-19-2019, 05:31 AM   #3
Chris Rice
 
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

As to Morale in terms of the overall battle, that can also be dealt with simply.

Set a number for each army. Let's say you set the Orc force at 4 and the Soldiers at 5 for example. That represents he number of units that need to be defeated before their entire army retreats or flees the field.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:01 AM   #4
Skarg
 
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

The two approaches that have seemed to work best for me are:

1. Use good medieval wargame rules. If you enjoy wargames anyway, and like to have a simulation game going for large-scale events, I have really enjoyed representing the armies in my campaign this way. It means there is an actual military situation with unknown but logical outcomes in the campaign world, which I quite like. I figure out what the scale conversions should be between hex scales, unit sizes, and what combat ratings in the wargame correspond to what sort of TFT figures.

2. Have a GM who understands medieval & TFT combat well enough to look at the situation and estimate what the odds are of various results, and have the GM figure out what happens by GM discretion and rolls made based on his estimates. I think this often gives better outcomes than a too-simple system that gives not so great results and cause & effects. (On the other hand, if your GM is clueless about medieval battles, sometimes having him use some random system is better than him just dictating results.)
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Old 09-19-2019, 02:35 PM   #5
Hobgoblin
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

I'd go with Skarg's (1) above and use a massed-battle wargame to fight the battle. (My recommendation would be Hordes of the Things.)

But then I'd have a set of potential hex-based TFT scenarios for a 'PC-scale' resolution to the battle. These would take account of the battlefield terrain and the winner/loser status of the 'goodies' and 'baddies'.

So, I'd have the battle played to a climax one way or another, and then resolve the 'personal stuff'.

The way that I'd do this is to work out a (lightly sketched) series of potential settings, one for each major area of the battlefield (woods, village, riverbank, marshes, whatever. These would essentially just be set-dressing, but the players don't need to know that!

Then I'd design encounters to reflect probable outcomes (essentially the villains have won, but the PCs are hiding on the battlefield among the corpses of their shattered regiment OR the PCs have won and are pursuing the routed villains through whatever type of terrain the unit was resolved in).

So, I'd have the shape of the wargame determine how the TFT-level encounter begins. And I'd have suitably interesting elements to throw in (either the PCs or the villains flee to seek refuge in a chapel in the woods (haunted?) or a an old woman's cottage (not all it seems?) or whatever. You'd only need a handful of these to allow the course of the wargame battle to shape the RPG climax.

I'd also work out a table of 'flavour elements' that I could pick from to reflect the course of the battle. Here are some examples:
  1. A wounded enemy soldier pleading for water
  2. Looters from the local community rifling the corpses of your men
  3. Wolves/vultures/ghouls devouring the fallen
  4. The huge corpse of a fallen enemy behemoth (dragon, giant, whatever) - to act as an obstacle/terrain item in the encounter with the chief villains
  5. Your men torturing (or being otherwise unethical towards) enemy prisoners
  6. As above, but vice versa (the PCs see this from cover, presenting them with a dilemma ...)
  7. A traitor on your side congratulating the victors
  8. One of your commanders taken captive (again, a cover-breaking dilemma)
  9. A distracting opportunity for loot

And so on ...

I'd favour Hordes of the Things for the encounter as battles take about 45 minutes - so you could use it to introduce the session and then have the RPG stuff take up most of the time. But any fast-playing wargame rules would work. I'd use something that's quite abstract or 'zoomed out' - so that you don't need to worry about what's actually happening to the PCs during the battle (if their unit is destroyed, they start the RPG session having fled or hiding; if their unit drove all before it, they might be riding round surveying the site of victory).
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:33 PM   #6
Tom H.
 
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Rice View Post
Assign each of these groups stats as if it was a single character and let them fight as if single characters just as standard Melee rules.
This is so simple as to be clever.

I have an idea to extend this concept. (It will need some thought and testing though).

Play this out on an increased scale map.

For example, draw a map with individual hexes at village scale (10 yards), town scale (30 yards), or more. (Although adjusting for range penalties gets tricky if you get too large.)

A single figure still represents a group and moves like an individual, but its movement and combat is "abstracted" to occur at the larger scale.

Hand-to-hand combat is just close quarters fighting.

A building in a hex would have the same effect on "a figure" as a body in a hex, and so forth.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:35 PM   #7
larsdangly
 
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

I think the important things about any skirmish or mass combat system in TFT are that it:
1) be compatible with the rest of the game, in tone, basic rules structure, look and feel of material components, etc.
2) be very fun all by itself, as a game within a game.

For these reasons, I'm not a fan of either highly abstract rules for just getting to a result (no fun), nor of resolving with existing different games and porting the outcomes back to TFT. I think the issue should be addressed with a new, hopefully short and punchy, set of rules. Basically, a game with the structure and heft of Melee but aimed at skirmish combats.
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Old 09-19-2019, 04:49 PM   #8
Hobgoblin
 
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

Quote:
Originally Posted by larsdangly View Post
I think the important things about any skirmish or mass combat system in TFT are that it:
1) be compatible with the rest of the game, in tone, basic rules structure, look and feel of material components, etc.
2) be very fun all by itself, as a game within a game.
I agree with 2), but for 1) I'd say that a difference in feel might even help for a massed-combat game. Why? Because it might help to create a sense that the battle is something bigger and beyond their individual powers (strategy aside, of course, if they're in command of one army).

I've always found that bolting together different systems in the same world/campaign is fine - so long as they're all good games (I've used Whitehack, The Black Hack, Tunnels and Trolls and TFT for the same campaign setting within the past year, for example).

That said, I can see the aesthetic appeal of a TFT-style massed-battle game - or achieving that with an assumed figure scale, as Chris suggests above - to complement the RPG/skirmish aspect.

But I wouldn't personally feel the need for that sort of surface elegance when I could just use Hordes of the Things (or whatever) for the big battles and TFT for the man-to-man stuff.

The big deal for me would be to use a massed-battle game that's short (and 'zoomed-out') enough to form just part of a single gaming session.
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Old 09-20-2019, 12:15 AM   #9
Steve Plambeck
 
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

In the late '70s my group used the rules from TSR's William the Conqueror - 1066 for this purpose. That's a venerable classic historical simulation that -- while I wouldn't use it again -- lent itself to the purpose for several reasons. It was diceless, and units were reduced or retreated more often than eliminated, so PCs were less likely to get killed off over something they couldn't control. "Leaders" were a big part of the rules, conferring plus 1 to plus 3 to the combat factor of the unit they were stacked with, so we simply made PCs (all high AP veterans) minor leaders in the battle. And if the unit they were with did get eliminated, the rules favored the leader escaping alive. On the negative side it was slow as molasses, and the PCs didn't really have anything to do besides confer that +1 or +2 to the unit they were with. I wouldn't use 1066 again but I would go with a classic or classic style historical wargame -- the rules for something set in the Bronze Age or early Roman period.

When I think about this problem more recently, I rather envision the big battle itself, this cast of NPCs fighting all around the PCs, more like a "terrain obstacle" the PCs, as a party, have to navigate through to carry out a quest or assignment (get to the enemy leader, escort a VIP to safety, get to the hilltop to signal for re-enforcement, or unleash the dragon the enemy has chained up so he'll join the battle on your side -- all kinds of things you could come up with!).

I see the PCs party represented as a single unit counter, a Player Character Party counter or PCP, just trying to survive and make its way through this hostile "terrain". It would slip between the fighting units, but the faster it moved (1-3 combat map hexes per game turn) the greater its risk of damage. If attacked by an enemy unit, the PCP would always be retreated, knocked "off course" rather than outright destroyed. And the party, rather than an individual, would take hits, and the designated leader of the PCP determines who takes how many of the hits rolled, and any that get through armor and shields are tallied on the character record sheets just as in melee. 10 hits to a party of 5 could be allocated as 2 hits each, or 5 hits each to the 2 guys in plate armor. It’s up to the leader (who COULD be contested, but that’s a bad idea once battle is underway).

And any time a PC might die, or any time the PCs ask for it, the action would "zoom in" and resolve combat in melee turns, preserving that element of self-determination.

TFT magic doesn't really scale up for big battles -- come up with some huge spell that works against units of hundreds, then you have an unbalanced situation when that wizard is back in regular play. But if you're zooming in for melee turns at just the critical points, then the wizards in the party could still prove invaluable.

There's so much to think about here.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:45 AM   #10
FireHorse
 
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Default Re: Suggestions for Mass Combat…?

Steve Plambeck — The way you describe the larger battle, almost like a kind of scenery or terrain through which the Players are moving…? Genau, right on the nail. That is exactly how I would like to handle it.

Two forces of mostly faceless Extras, enthusiastically attacking each other in the unfocused background, whilst the camera settles on the face-off at center stage between the Hero(es) and Evil Boss(es).
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