I plan on having a major battle take place in my campaign. It's a low-fantasy campaign, so the PCs are nowhere near powerful enough to have any significant impact on the outcome as individual fighters.
But since that would not make for a fun session and both a loss and a victory would lead to interesting consequences story-wise, why not let the players play it out?
So I wondered if there are any good rule systems for running this kind of thing without turning it into actual wargaming: Simple enough to be resolved in the same time it would take for a normal battle to be resolved, but complex enough to be fun to play and approximate a realistic result of said battle.
Also, it should allow for huge battles, and by that I mean 10k+ combatants on each side.
Bonus points for allowing sieges.
I made those by creating a system based on the system we were playing.
It's the best way, because it keeps that stats and feel of the game you are playing.
It's pretty easy with almost every game.
You need to create statistic table and approximate the variance with a dice roll.
It's difficult to explain, and i have no idea the system you are using.
First of all, create a table of hitting percentage.
Bonus to hit on one axis, AC to the other.
For example, if you have +5 to hit a 15 armor, it's 50%.
Create a table with all of that. Easy enough.
Now, i'm too lazy to calculate the variance and all the other stuff, but let's say you have good results with a d6.
You now set the table to have a penality of -3 to hit (because it's half the max result possible on a d6), but let the unit add a +d6 to the new "Unit hit rolls".
You do that to add randomness, but believable randomness.
You have a unit of 100 veterans clashing against a unit of 500 militias.
Veterans have, between various bonuses, a +3 to hit.
Militias have 13 AC.
Normally it would be a 50%, but our table have a -3 to hit. It's a 35% now.
We roll to "hit", roll the d6 and you have a 5.
See on the table, we have that 60% of them hit.
Let's say their average damage is 5 damage.
They are 100x0,6x5=300 damage
Each militias have, say, 10 hp, so 30 of them died.
Do the same for the militia against the veterans.
Seems complicated, but you can easily program an excel sheet to do that in an instant.
Now, all you have to do to make things interesting, is to add special abilities to the unit.
This add strategy.
Say that the militias are not professional soldiers, so they are high in numbers, but if any unit get reduced to half, they flee the battle.
Keep it simple.
Cavarly charge confuse and shatter the enemy unit, so in the first round of combat, they force the enemy unit to roll a 1 on their "unit hit rolls"
Spearmen don't hit together, but hit first.
Etc. It's easy to do, but the players get really engaged.
Why not just stat out, say "1k pikemen" as one guy, with appropriate feats/abilities and run it as a normal encounter, except each PC side unit is a group decision. Sieges could just use whatever your normal cover rules are. You can use whatever systems you already have in place for combat resolution, its familiar to all the players, and you don't have to spend a shit ton of time explaining new mechanics.
Just use your existing RPG rules but individual guys represent big blocks of guys instead.
Maybe let PC units get a small bonus from having the PC in them.
Change the timescale and groundscale to accommodate the new unit sizes.
This looks pretty great. Thank you, good sir.
This comes with the problem of having entire units be able to completely miss attacks, which seems somewhat strange. If one adjusts for that, it might work, too.
>It's a low-fantasy campaign, so the PCs are nowhere near powerful enough to have any significant impact on the outcome as individual fighters.
Why not come up with a scenario that takes place in the battle that the characters are powerful enough to take part in? Controlling the battle as players might be interesting, but you could equally tie the outcome of the battle to the performance of the player characters in certain key tasks - have them lead a scouting party before hand to find out the disposition of the enemy forces, have them sneaking around the back disrupting communications to the field headquarters, have them act as messengers trying to get the order to attack or retreat to a flank that's under heavy fire, that sort of thing. Success leads to victory in the battle, failure leads to defeat.
I'm not sure what rule of GMing it is, but there's got to be a rule somewhere about "making things about the player characters"
I´ve never gotten the chance to try this, but you might find it useful.
It´s also fairly easy to simplify, or so it looks.
You could look into ACKS:Domains at War. Has rules for abstracted battles, or proper wargame-esque battles. Some parts of the rules need modifying or tinkering with, but it's pretty comprehensive. Permits use for campaigns
and sieges too.
pdf is first part: campaigns.
The 3e book heroes of battle is full of great ideas on the matter since its low fantasy I doubt your playing 3e so the crunch won't be much good but aside from the retarded way it treats promotions and commendations the advice in it is great.
I was going to recommend ACKS.
If not, OP, and if the characters are actually heroes, use the 1e Legend of the Five Rings system from the core book there. It's simple and straightforward; the PCs choose what kind of stuff they want to do (hang around in the back and be safe, go fight in the front lines, try and win renown by attacking the enemy commander or standard) and you do a quick roll to see how well they do. Easy, effective, and quick to adapt to any system you want.
This is a good idea. Remember that history is actually chock full of scenarios where a small unit played a key role (usually by fucking up).
Also, particularly in a Dark Age Europe inspired setting (or really anything Feudal), leaders were often near the front lines. A king, prince or high chief getting swept up into the area where the PCs are could mean victory or defeat for either side.
System wise, A Song of Ice and Fire rpg has built in scaling mechanics, though they need some heavy house-ruling. They work well enough, a unit is basically just a big character with some rule changes, and damage tends to represent morale and disruption more than actual casualties.
Small units also have done great things. The Greeks stopped the Persians a good few times while always being heavily outnumbered, and look up cases like Xenophon´s Anabasis, where a few thousand Greek mercenaries obliterated everything in their way, thought they had won the battle and went on to pursue fleeing enemies - only to come back and find that the rest of their army had been brutally massacred. Consequently having to find their way home from the middle of the Persian empire, while being pursued by the imperial army and raided by natives. That´s some campaign potential right there.
There´s also cases where it was about wits. Like during the Three Kingdoms war in ancient China, where one guy was brutally outnumbered and out of arrows but, according to the story, they sent ships during the night to "attack" the enemy fortifications upstream. They were filled with straw and wooden men. The enemy thought it was a desperate attack and shot them arrows. Then the ships turned around and left, taking the arrows with themselves so they could use them later. That´s the story, at least. Not sure how real it was.
Thing is, even if the players aren´t significantly stronger than any other soldier, there´s still plenty of shit they can do. Hell, Napoleon´s downfall came because the Spanish war, and there wasn´t even an army fighting him. It was all guerrilla warfare, and it was enough of a hassle that Napoleon wasted too much time and resources and then had to rush Russia, and you know what happened.
Opening gates, blowing up something if there´s explosives/magic, kidnapping someone or killing the enemy general, baiting reinforcements away from the big battle, poisoning the enemy water during a siege or setting their armory on fire, poisoning the enemy horses if they´re big on cavalry... There´s plenty of things a few individuals can do to massively affect the course of a big battle.
>There´s also cases where it was about wits. Like during the Three Kingdoms war in ancient China, where one guy was brutally outnumbered and out of arrows but, according to the story, they sent ships during the night to "attack" the enemy fortifications upstream. They were filled with straw and wooden men. The enemy thought it was a desperate attack and shot them arrows. Then the ships turned around and left, taking the arrows with themselves so they could use them later. That´s the story, at least. Not sure how real it was.
Oh wow I really want that to be true
The guy who organized it is a legendary strategist.
There´s another cool story about him. Earlier in that same big war he was guarding the North against another opponent, but his army had marched to go fight somewhere else. He was left in the city with a couple hundred men, and that´s when the guy he was guarding against happened to come by with a massive army.
So this fucking guy, instead of immediately getting the fuck out of there, ordered his men to open the gates of the city and then hide. Then he just stayed there. Some say he was brooming the path, others that he was sitting on top of the wall playing music. Thing is, the invader saw him and immediately retreated back to the mountains, fearing a trick.
Fucker was famous because of the shit he kept pulling on everyone. Zhuge Lian, I think was the name.
Those Greeks walked past the ruins of Nineveh right?
That would make an awesome game. You start as mercs, your employers get massacred, you gotta fight your way home... through the Cthulhu-haunted ruins of an ancient Empire that rose and fell before recorded history.
Try F.A.T.A.L. It has sections on seiges, battles and even naval warfare :)
Yeah, they passed by.
I think it´s still good enough without having to resort to Cthulhu stuff, though. That trip was a hell of an adventure.
Really recommended read. To anybody who didn´t know it, it´s a book called Anabasis, written by Xenophon a couple thousand years ago, and the content is a chronic of their trip through the Persian empire, trying to find their way home while being pursued and harassed by everyone, with barely any resources, and still insisting on protecting all the civilians that accompanied the army (mainly merchants an prostitutes, many of them now pregnant) who had been hidden during the battle. All sprinkled with some of Xenophon´s memories and anecdotes here and there. A wonderful read, and a reminder of how fucking badass people can be.