The other day David Black posted about how he’d do mass combat in his Black Hack games and it reminded me that I had done a post about quick mass combat rules a few years ago for my OSR-style Frankenhack game.
I got to thinking about Barbarians of the Ruined Earth (and Thundarr the Barbarian) and there were a few times when humans rallied around Thundarr and fought along side him, Ookla, and Ariel against a Sorcerer and his evil minions. I thought it would be a good idea to clean my old rules up a little (and format them), and put them in Barbarians of the Ruined Earth.
Here they are. Enjoy!
Aside: These rules are actually pretty system-neutral so they could be used in pretty much any ruleset.
The group has gathered several villages from the surrounding area to stand with them to overthrow the evil Sorcerer Na’gthox. As a whole, they charge at the Sorcerer’s lair ready to clash with the villain’s robotic brain monsters, which lie between them and the entrance.
Mass Combat involves dozens, if not hundreds of troops, and can be fun, but confusing and time consuming to engage in. Here are some quick (and quicker) rules to use in Barbarians of the Ruined Earth.
On the Macro Level, players can communally control the units (or rolls), or just take turns, each controlling a unit.
Units are groups of soldiers that are in measured in Clumps of 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25. This is abstract, and just to illustrate how big the army is. The amount of soldiers in a Unit also represents their HP. For example if a Unit has 2 people remaining, it has 1 HP. If it has 20 people, it has 4 HP.
For each clump in a Unit, this equals +1 to their attack modifier. As units are lost, so is the modifier to attack. For example a Unit of 20 foot soldiers would have 4 HP, and +4 to attack. If, at the end of the round, a clump of soldiers is lost, the Unit would now have 3 HP and +3 attack.
Units are represented by a die: d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 (see below).
d4: Peasants, skeletons, raiders, zombies, small mutated minions, Slug Men, small animals, etc.
d6: Trained soldiers, Antmen Warriors, beastmen, robots, Pig Raiders, medium animals, etc.
d8: Elite robots, raiders in vehicles, Ape-oids, Hybrid Animals, etc
d10: Car Golem, Pig Raiders in vehicles, large animals, vampires, etc.
d12: Tide Turners (see below)
If the players come up with cool and creative ideas, give a +1 or +2 modifier to the roll. This can be rallying the troops with Saint Crispin’s Day speeches and promises of amazing beer or something else that is clever.
Being lazy or lame and boring gives -2 (steeper penalty for being a putz or poor sport).
Employing weapons like ballistae or traps such as having the ground soaked in tar to light on fire, etc. That gives +1 each to the attack roll (max of 5 traps for a +5 modifier).
Tide Turners are beings like dragons, Squid Men, epic robots, mutated minions riding on a genetically created abomination, or a Sorcerer are a d12. They count as 1 for 1 unit, have 5 HP and +5 to attack (initially). These are rolled separately.
How it Works
There is no initiative order. When engaging in Mass Combat, both sides roll their attack at the same time and work out the results. Roll each of the die types present, add/subtract modifiers, and compare the results; higher roll wins. Subtract 1 HP/Clump from the loser. Ties mean nothing happens. Once a round is complete roll a 1d6 to see if a Complication has occurred.
A combat example can be found below.
Every round of Mass Combat, a problem can arise with crazy Stupendous Science, Sorcery, and weapons being used and can go crazy and awry with magic, beasts, arrows, etc flying all over the place. Roll a d6:
1-4- Battle progresses normally.
5-6- Incident! See below.
Incident! (Roll 1d8)
1) Spell explosion rips through the battlefield! Roll 1d6- 1-2) -1 HP/Attack from your army!; 3-4) -1 HP/Attack from enemy troops!; 5-6) -1 -1 HP/Attack from both groups!
2) The horror of battle begins to take a toll on moral! Roll 1d4) Even: -2 to your next roll; Odd) -2 to the enemy army’s next roll.
3) Someone makes a great speech or engages in a truly heroic act and bolsters the units! Roll 1d4) Even: +2 to your next roll; Odd) +2 to the enemy army’s next roll.
4) Misfire! A trap goes off damaging some of the troops! Roll 1d4) Even: -1 HP/Attack from your army!; Odd) -1 HP/Attack from enemy troops!
5) The battle presents too good a target for these opportunists! Some nasty creature joins the fray as a Tide Turner fighting both sides!
6) A Death Priest is able to give much needed aid to units! Roll 1d4) Even: +1 HP/Attack to your army!; Odd: +1 HP/Attack to enemy troops!
7) Reinforcements arrive just in the knick of time! Roll 1d4) Even: +1d3 units to your army!; Odd: +1d3 units to enemy troops!
8) What a Mess! Roll twice on this table (ignoring any further results of 8!
At the Micro Level the players can opt to go “into” combat and control things minutely as their individual characters. This is resolved per normal combat rules. Fighting and killing leaders should be handled on the Micro Level.
A small fort of 25 human trained soldiers has fallen under attack by 20 Slug Men and a Squid Man. The humans have five units (5HP and an attack of +5). The Slug Men have 4 units (4HP and +4 attack). The Tide Turner (the Squid Man) has 5 HP and +5 attack.
The human fort has a ballista and three fire traps spread out in the field (this gives +1 each to the humans, for a total of +4).
First round: Humans roll 1d6 and get a 3 for a total of 12 (+5 for attack, +1 for the ballista, and +3 for the fire traps). The Slug Men rolled a 2 for a total of 6 (+4 for attack). The humans had the higher roll, effectively killing one unit of the Slug Men troops. Now the Slug Men will have +3 to attack.
Now the Tide Breaker (Squid Man) wades in and gets a 6 for a total of 11 (+5 to attack). The humans roll a 3 for a total of 12 (as before). The humans win again, and take 1 HP off of the Squid Man.
Before Second round: Rolls a 3 on a 1d6 for Complication, no incident.
Second Round: Player suggests throwing rocks over the side of the walls- decent idea, gets +1 for the round.
Humans roll a 6 for a total of 16 (+5 for attack, +1 for the ballista, +3 for the fire traps, and +1 for the throwing rock idea). The Slug Men roll a 4 for a total of 7. The humans kill another unit of the invading Slug Men.
The Squid Man rolls a 12 for a total of 16 and the humans roll a 4 for a total of 13. The Tide Turner kills a unit of humans in a bloody, messy rage (reducing the Human Unit to 4 HP/+4 Attack).
The players decide to go into combat as normal and take control of their characters and deal with the Squid Man directly.
This continues until the combat ends.
Even Quicker Mass Combat Rules
The above Mass Combat rules are quick and easy to use, but some GM’s prefer even quicker, looser rules to move through Mass Combat. Here is an option Mass Combat ruleset.
This will require up to five dice of a particular type that represents the chosen unit (as was mentioned above for units.
Each die represents 5 Clumps of soldiers per Unit.
The army with the least amount of Clumps is the max amount of dice rolled (IE- Slug Men have 10 troops, for 2d4. The humans have 15, for 3d6 dice). For every unit amount above the lesser army, gain +1 to roll to a max of +5. Roll each die, calculate modifiers, and add totals for each group together. The higher result wins the round. Ties mean no one is lost.
Example: Slug Men roll 2d4 and get a 4 and a 2 for a total of 6. Humans roll 2d6 and get a 4 and a 1 equaling a 5 and a 2 (+1 to each roll for having one unit over) for a total of 7. The Slug Men lose one die.
Next round the Slug Men roll 1d4 and get a 4 and the human rolls 1d6 (+2 for having two additional Units) and roll a 3. The Slug Men have rallied and cut through the human soldiers, reducing the humans Units to 2d6.
The third round the Slug Men roll 1d4 and get a 1 and the humans roll 1d6 (+1 for having one additional Unit) and get a 5. The Slug Men army has been decimated and the humans are victorious.