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Mass Combat War v. Individual Combat (Spoilers)


Sovereign Court

As a DM, I just started the 4th book, Blood for Blood. I'm running into a few problems already.

First, the PC's got a small taste of mass combat with the attack on Tatzlford. While we were there they got somewhat frustrated with their inability to interact on an individual level with the combat.

First, they are very particular players and we all know the ins and outs and details of the system quite well. And when I say particular, I mean very numbers oriented. They want to know exactly what the population is of their Kingdom. I'm hesitant to give them this number because, as the module has been very clear, the population numbers are very arbitrary. The book says 250 people per square (or something like that) but obviously, Varnhold is far from this number. Anyway, their particularity has lead to them wondering why they cannot take an individual hand in the Mass Combat. "Why can't I shoot four arrows a round and whittle their numbers away?" or "My fireball, should have killed all of those people on average dice rolls." Some will start to do the math and realize by the numbers they should have killed some 80% of the invading force and say "So how is this still a fight?" Short version, what does everyone do to deal with PCs who want to micromanage mass combat?

Secondly, and somewhat oppositely, how do you deal with PCs who ONLY want to use Mass Combat. With one taste of mass combat under their belt the PCs want to quash any problem they face with a mass of troops. And honestly, I don't necessarily blame them. After the attack and talking with Kisandra, the PCs said "Well, why don't we put together a force and storm the keep." Obviously, Drelev doesn't have rules for Mass Combat and the PCs don't even have their rules for building armies yet. Does anyone else have this problem? How do they deal with it?

Thanks for the impending advice

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

I am adding more Mass Combat options to Drelev and the Tiger Lord Barbarians.
Here's what I do:
Each Mass Combat should have "Player Missions" dangerous tasks too deadly for low-level warriors but on par with the PC's. A Mass Combat turn is worth 3 personal combat rounds. If PCs manage to complete a player mission give the army a bonus to OM or DV commensurate with the CR of the character mission.

For examples search for Hargulka's Monster Kingdom and the battle of Fangberry Farm.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Also I let PCs give a bonus to OM or DV equal to the level of a Spell sacrificed, though I recommend adding more casters to opposing armies to even it out.

What strikes me as a bit odd is the fact that the Mass Combat rules get introduced rather late in the series. When you put up a kingdom, surely you'll want to defend it too? Unless it's some sort of bonobo kingdom..

I'd just introduce mass combat rules earlier. And because Dudemeister is doing this..

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I am adding more Mass Combat options to Drelev and the Tiger Lord Barbarians.

..there's no need for you to do any Mass Combat options for yourself.

Otherwise, I vote for Dudemeister's solution.

My advice in short : listen to the Dudemeister. He is that awesome when it comes to Kingmaker.

Not-so-joking apart, most subsystems I've seen for mass combat implemented the notion of "Player Missions" to reconciliate the problems you describe. Dudemeister's way of doing it for Kingmaker is both simple and sound mechanically.

I like to think of it this way :
- If high-level characters attempt to whittle down an army, it will take a very long time, and they risk being swarmed (which the standard rules does not account for, but mass combat rules implicitly assume)
- If an army attempt to take on powerful characters, it will take massive casualties while doing so, and success is not guaranteed by their numbers.
I feel this approach helps explaining why armies are needed to defeat other armies, and why powerful characters need to confront other powerful characters. It also gives PCs much more heroic deeds to accomplish in the thick of battle, which is almost always a good thing.

So in your second example, it becomes "Your army clashes with the soldiers defending the keep, but as your men slowly advance, Drelev leading a small group of elite armored trolls charge from the inner keep. Your men cannot withstand such an assault, and already you can see them fall back. They need your help if you are to be victorious". Your PCs then bashes on Drelev (who quickly retreats) and his trolls in regular combat to sway the outcome of the mass combat.

And first example is more "Dozens of enemies already fell to your mighty blows, but such is their number that this barely slowed their advance. You either need to fall back or be engulfed by the horde. As you hesitate, your men boldly charge into battle, inspired by your display of martial prowess". And you go back from regular combat to mass combat.

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