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Mass Combat Alternatives


Advice


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So, a while back I played through Kingmaker and when we got to the mass combat rules, I found them to be complicated, tedious, confusing, and overall not fun. We even used the more expanded rules from Ultimate Campaign We pushed through though and starting having fun again when the mass combat was over.

Now, I'm GMing Kingmaker for a different group and we're almost to the part with the mass combat. I know my players, and like me, I know they won't enjoy the mass combat system. I would like to make this part of the books enjoyable.

I don't want to skip the events of the book as I feel like they're important to the story, but I don't mind tweaking them a little. I looked around on the forums here, but I didn't find anything that helped.

Does anyone have any alternatives to using the mass combat system, or advice on how to make mass combat more fun?

Thanks in advance.

Liberty's Edge

I would maybe find use of the 'Troop' creature type that was introduced fairly recently.

It's basically for swarms of humanoid-or-larger creatures, and designed for a party of heroes tearing apart armies.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Dandy Lion wrote:

I would maybe find use of the 'Troop' creature type that was introduced fairly recently.

It's basically for swarms of humanoid-or-larger creatures, and designed for a party of heroes tearing apart armies.

Neat. Do you know what book that they're in so I can look them up?

Liberty's Edge

Ironfang Invasion book 1 has the rules for them, I think they're also included in Beastiary 6?


I need a squad template you know,4 to 6 NPCs! Something like the team stands in Heroclix. Want to have your party battle 30 hobgoblins? 5 squads with some type of Starfinder space crew mechanic. Just spit balling here.
I want war not as a backdrop, but as a Pathfinder styled chess match.can that barbarian make it past that volley of laser fire? Where did hobgoblins get Azimuth Laser pistols?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If I wanted to remove mass combat entirely, what would be a good way to run the encounters in those areas in place of them? Has anyone done anything like that?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Just bumping this.

I'm looking to either remove mass combat entirely, or find an alternate way to run mass combat. I'm just looking for some advice.

I had the idea of still building an army, but having that army fight the other armies (with rolls to determine troop loss and all that), while the PCs focus on the general. So, the fight it happening around them, and they fight the leaders while the army is battling.

Thoughts on that?


KingGramJohnson wrote:
I had the idea of still building an army, but having that army fight the other armies (with rolls to determine troop loss and all that), while the PCs focus on the general. So, the fight it happening around them, and they fight the leaders while the army is battling.

I have been in a game that did this. It will likely work for you considering your end goal. The PCs focus on their mission, the results of which are independent of the outcome of the major battle (which is resolved by your die rolls or narrative). In my case, we were successful, but still lost the major battle and had to retreat, we even suffered damage as a result of the retreat (applied across the board as a percentage as we acted as the rear guard, etc.). If I remember correctly, it was an older version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which may have some form of formal mechanic to use if you are inclined to look it up.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Thedmstrikes wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:
I had the idea of still building an army, but having that army fight the other armies (with rolls to determine troop loss and all that), while the PCs focus on the general. So, the fight it happening around them, and they fight the leaders while the army is battling.
I have been in a game that did this. It will likely work for you considering your end goal. The PCs focus on their mission, the results of which are independent of the outcome of the major battle (which is resolved by your die rolls or narrative). In my case, we were successful, but still lost the major battle and had to retreat, we even suffered damage as a result of the retreat (applied across the board as a percentage as we acted as the rear guard, etc.). If I remember correctly, it was an older version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which may have some form of formal mechanic to use if you are inclined to look it up.

And how do you think it went overall? You said successful, but was it fun?


When I ran Kingmaker I thought about taking out the mass combat but figured that everything had been kind of building up to it. So instead, I used Dudemeister's modified mass combat rules which end up making things take much longer.
Which makes the combat even MORE boring! (But super effective if you use his changes and introduce mass combat during book 2 as it makes it so that wars aren't lost or won in a single lucky roll with the good guys occasionally losing with just a few poor rolls.)

So what I ended up doing was keeping his rules, having the players make the various armies, and then I rolled all of the battles between sessions using tactics that I figured made sense for what the players would want.
The made it so that I could narrate things to the players while the PCs were doing specific things/taking out key opponents. The players kingdom was also being attacked from two sides so I was able to send messages giving a brief description as to what was going on on the front that they weren't on.
If you choose to do something like this I had each army roll take 2 hours. Each morning started with 2 hours of range attacks (1 roll) followed by 8 hours (4 rolls) of melee. It made it so the war lasted a few weeks. If I were to do it again I may change it to each day consisting of 1 range round and 2 melee rounds so that the war feels like the fighting lasts even longer.

But that's just me though.


My method of dealing with mass combat is hero combat. Basicly have a small fight between the party and some amount of enemies. That decides the entire war. I dont have a clear rule set for it but the general idea is a standard boss fight with minions. If the parties army is smaller then the enemies its a equal fight but allies arrive on the enemy side every few rounds to show the numbers. Good tactics effect who has time to buff. If PCs have a better trained army the minions are npc classes or monsters without class levels. If the enemy is better trained the enemies might be pc classes with gear of a player charecter.

If the party is using spells like wall of blindness or other mass effect spells that should weaken or remove some of the enemies.


KingGramJohnson wrote:
And how do you think it went overall? You said successful, but was it fun?

It was brief, and new to me at the time (it was a loooong time ago). The overall game was fun, but we lost the war, so, it was an uphill climb. In this case, the fight was arbitrarily a bunch of dice rolls and then descriptions of how things were going on around us. The PCs had little to no control over the course of the large fight. PCs were fighting individual bad guys and doing well (not spectacular, cause my dice usually fail me when I need them), but the allies around us were taking a pounding and we had to fall back or lose outright. Having only played that style once, I have no other basis for comparison and as an avid minis battle gamer, I actually enjoy both sides of the coin (RPG and mass combat).


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
KingGramJohnson wrote:
If I wanted to remove mass combat entirely, what would be a good way to run the encounters in those areas in place of them? Has anyone done anything like that?

The easiest way to deal with it is by linking together a series of scripted vignettes, or situations. This means, on a very basic level, that the DM has pre-determined the overall success or failure of the battle (based on his gut, or his perverse sense of humor) and all that remains to be seen is what part the PCs play in the overall picture.

I would offer the PCs a choice as to basic tactics. Do they want to:
- fight in the front lines and win through brute force?
- run a flanking maneuver to catch their enemies off guard?
- execute a commando-style infiltration raid, to elminate the enemy leadership (or some other essential resource)?
- plunder the enemy baggage train to rob them of the ability to support their army in the field over the long term
- cut supply lines or lines of communication to sow discord and confusion?

From each of these baseline choices, you could make a flowchart, kind of like a chase scenario or a heist sceme. Each point on the flowchart will require something from the PCs to overcome an obstacle. In some cases, it might just be a few skill checks, at other times it might be a set-piece battle with a handful of enemy forces, set up just like you would any hostile encounter during a gaming session. Success at each point will lead to a specific outcome, as will failure at any stage.

For example, failure at a specific number and difficulties of perception, bluff and stealth checks might lead to a really tough battle with Mr X and his nineteen minions, while success might allow the PCs to avoid that battle entirely, and surprise Mr X at his tent with only three minions.

If you prepare a set of half a dozen flowcharts, with various events and outcomes, the players can have fun working on their contribution to the battle, and if the DM wants to, he can have their cumulative successes or failures directly influence which side "wins" on the battlefield and the degree of victory attained.

I find something like this far more satisfying than trying to move blocks of troops around on the battlefield, using some other game system to determine tactical success and overall victory. It's far better to keep the spotlight on indiviual PC actions.

YMMV.


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Rattleingpython wrote:
My method of dealing with mass combat is hero combat. Basicly have a small fight between the party and some amount of enemies. That decides the entire war.

Rather than one fight decides the entire war, I would suggest a series of encounters which affects the outcome of the battle. Each encounter (between player characters and notable enemies) earns the players victory points and the total number of points accumulated determines the outcome of the battle. Encounters would have set objectives like hold the bridge, capture the gatehouse etc. Meanwhile the larger battle rages in the background and you just describe what happens. Then repeat for each battle.

As an alternative to victory points the outcome of each encounter might determine what happens next. You could put together a flowchart of events and potential outcomes. E.g. Encounter #1: capture the gatehouse; if the players succeed go to encounter #2; if they fail go to encounter #3. The players follow the flowchart until they come out of an exit point, having lost or won. If you want to give the players more choice create a flowchart with multiple entry points.

In short you run each battle like a dungeon. It's what the game's designed for! Of course this approach requires work from the GM and a few such battles is likely to put the players a level ahead, so you might then have to beef up the rest of the adventure path.

EDIT: I've just noticed that Wheldrake has already said essentially the same thing. I should have read the whole thread.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Moonclanger wrote:
Rattleingpython wrote:
My method of dealing with mass combat is hero combat. Basicly have a small fight between the party and some amount of enemies. That decides the entire war.

Rather than one fight decides the entire war, I would suggest a series of encounters which affects the outcome of the battle. Each encounter (between player characters and notable enemies) earns the players victory points and the total number of points accumulated determines the outcome of the battle. Encounters would have set objectives like hold the bridge, capture the gatehouse etc. Meanwhile the larger battle rages in the background and you just describe what happens. Then repeat for each battle.

As an alternative to victory points the outcome of each encounter might determine what happens next. You could put together a flowchart of events and potential outcomes. E.g. Encounter #1: capture the gatehouse; if the players succeed go to encounter #2; if they fail go to encounter #3. The players follow the flowchart until they come out of an exit point, having lost or won. If you want to give the players more choice create a flowchart with multiple entry points.

In short you run each battle like a dungeon. It's what the game's designed for! Of course this approach requires work from the GM and a few such battles is likely to put the players a level ahead, so you might then have to beef up the rest of the adventure path.

EDIT: I've just noticed that Wheldrake has already said essentially the same thing. I should have read the whole thread.

Both Wheldrake and you have some great ideas. I may try this out. Thank you very much.

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