Siege Warare in D&D


3.5/d20/OGL


A general question about siege warfare in D&D: would this more closely resemble modern warfare rather than ancient, because of possible equivalents to long range communications, high explosives, aerial attacks and so on? Or would all this be rare enough to be exceptional?


All depends on the world and how common such things are. They could very from area to area really


Agreed. It also depends on who is doing the fighting. There may be two countries with little magical tradition who engage in very historical seige warfare tactics. A few nations away, there may be several arcane universities which gives the crown(s) ready access to spellcasters and very different seige capabilities. Of course, there should be a good reason why those countries haven't spread themselves out into empires if they are significantly more advanced than the neighboring lands: such as terrain which, even with magic, is very difficult to move an army over and supply.

Or there might be a gradient of magical warfare capacities, so the high-magic country has a middle-magic nation next to it which would be challenging to defeat, and engaging in that war might open it up to attack from other nations around the high-magic country. The low-magic nation would be on the other side of the middle-magic land so that it was effectively safe from the high-magic nation. The middle-magic nation would be cautious about attacking the low-magic kingdom because it would still present a challenge, all the while weakining the middle-magic nation to a quick attack from the high-magic kingdom on the other side.

Also, the nature of the planes and their residents will influence fantasy warfare. Do demons, devils, and angels willingly seek out armies on the mortal plane to join? Or is there presence extremely rare? Are dragons willing to sell themselves like mercenaries for treasure, or do they balk at the very notion of dealing with mere humans as if they were some kind of equal?

All these things will influence the nature of warfare in general, let alone seige warfare, in a D&D setting. You may want to look into Heroes of Battle. It has a lot of information about fantasy warfare, though it assumes a middle to high level of magic.

For my part, I prefer some magic and other fantastic elements present in the warfare, but generally limit myself to low or middle levels of such things (with a preference for low). Peter Jackson's depiction of the seige of Minas Tirith is a good example. If it were set in a D&D world, I may have had the good guys opposing the Nazgul with some griffon/eagle mounts of their own, and Gandalf using more magic (as well as some lesser spellcasters here and there). These things would have had an effect on the battle, absolutely; the fate of the war may well come down to individual duels and skirmishes between the power-players on the field (this is where mid- to high-level PCs come in, I think). The overall battle, however, would be far more akin to medieval warfare.

The battle for Azure City in OotS is another good example of the possibilities for fantasy warfare. There were plenty of spellcasters around in that engagement, but not enough of sufficient level to massively change the tactics of the armies. It still mainly came down to footsoldiers on opposing sides.

I'll jump topics here a bit and reference Paizo's "Seven Days to the Grave" in the CotCT AP. They address the issue of plagues in a fantasy setting. The traditional D&D world has kind of assumed these things aren't an issue because there are clerics with healing magic. The way around that has often been to make a magical plague which resists that healing (see: Neverwinter Nights). However, the minds at Paizo took the time to crunch the numbers and show that, even with a decent number of genuine, spell-casting clerics in a city, they still would not be able to stop or even really slow the onset of an epidemic (unless they caught it at the very outset, similar to modern medicine). The same thing is true in fantasy warfare: even with a generous helping of wizards, even high level ones, there may well not be enough to truly change the tactics of warfare on a large scale. I prefer it this way, as a DM who likes both magic and more historical (and the oft-used term "gritty") elements in my fantasy. With this interpretation, I get to have my mages and my medieval combat; have my cake and eat it, too.

Apologies for a long and rambling 2cp.

Sczarni

+1 to Saern's comments above.

In my experience, whatever tactics/strategies we have developed over the last couple thousand years of combat, DnD can reasonably duplicate.

Griffon/Giant Eagle Dogfighters.
Dragon/Roc Bombers.
Plague-style Germ Warfare.
Hot-drop style infiltration (Scry&Fry with a small team, or more traditional para-drop style via various magical means)
Orbital weapons bombardment/Nukes (Earthquake/Tsunami/Greater Whirlwind/Control Weather/Storm of Vengeance/Miracle/Wish)

So, it becomes more of an intention decision, rather than one of limited resources as to how to engage in warfare.

Castles and Siege Warfare are still very much reasonable responses in the standard D&D/PFRPG Game, especially if you have a bunch of low-level spellcasters with cantrips/orisons to Create Water, Mend, Purify Food & Drink, etc.

Those hordes of Orcs and Hobgoblins won't typically be armed with anything more sophisticated than ladders and (possibly) siege weaponry or tunneling gear. In that case, the classic "Hole Up and Wait Them Out" strategy becomes very successful.

Some of the most fun we've had, recently, has been to re-imagine DnD warfare with modern communications, transportation, and the like. Strike teams capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, flying under their own power, and teleporting give a whole new spin to the term "force multiplication."

-t

Sovereign Court

I tend to keep the number of spell casters lower in the world, so it'd be a lot harder to martial the amount of wizardry or divine power needed to properly run warfare like modern warfare.

Liberty's Edge

+2 to Saern's comments above.

Don't have much else to add except lament the fact we can't give Saern awards for such a thoughtful post :)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
psionichamster wrote:

+1 to Saern's comments above.

In my experience, whatever tactics/strategies we have developed over the last couple thousand years of combat, DnD can reasonably duplicate.

Griffon/Giant Eagle Dogfighters.
Dragon/Roc Bombers.
Plague-style Germ Warfare.
Hot-drop style infiltration (Scry&Fry with a small team, or more traditional para-drop style via various magical means)
Orbital weapons bombardment/Nukes (Earthquake/Tsunami/Greater Whirlwind/Control Weather/Storm of Vengeance/Miracle/Wish)

-t

Not to mention that the more mundane modern tech can be copied too, things like night-vision goggles, binoculars, MBITR radio, flashlights, etc.


Michael D Moore wrote:

+2 to Saern's comments above.

Don't have much else to add except lament the fact we can't give Saern awards for such a thoughtful post :)

I used to accept deposits of virgins outside my lair, but the nagging eventually got to me. I now happily take cookies, preferrably white chocolate macadamia (though just about anything will do if there aren't any close by). :)

Spoiler:
Regarding biological and seige warfare, that can also be replicated with ancient and medieval methods. The Greeks would throw jars filled with (soon to be angry, if not already) hornets, bees, and scorpions at their foes; they also knew how to lob jars filled with acrid and toxic smoke (and how to find the tunnels of sappers and flood it with such toxins). I've heard the Greeks even had small, hand-held jars of naphtha (sp?) which could be lobbed as incendiary grenades. This is all dated back to the Trojan war, which was somewhere between 700 and 1100 B.C., wasn't it? The Byzantines later added the famed greek fire (which D&D replaces with alchemist's fire) to the arsenal of old-school chemical warfare.

There was also the very common practice of throwing rotting bodies (of horses, other animals, and people) over the city walls during a seige to try and spread disease amongst one's foes. So, even before modern science, warfare included chemical and biological weapons.

Liberty's Edge

Saern wrote:

I used to accept deposits of virgins outside my lair, but the nagging eventually got to me. I now happily take cookies, preferrably white chocolate macadamia (though just about anything will do if there aren't any close by). :)

** spoiler omitted **

Nagging is the worst! Gah! Why can't there just be stuff as good as white chocolate macadamia cookies all the time?

I didn't know the Greeks used hornets in times of war, interesting info. Keep this kind of info coming and we'll have to flood your lair with cookies!


MrFish wrote:
A general question about siege warfare in D&D: would this more closely resemble modern warfare rather than ancient

The term "siege" really has two meanings, the classic "starve them out" siege and the "assault" siege. The classic "starvation-siege" of a city doesn't change much, regardless of tech/magic level (though it may be irrelevant if the defenders have enough divine casters available), but is a dated military concept. No one spends months sitting around a city starving it out, particularly in a modern era of smart-munitions.

Even during the "Siege of Stalingrad" the Germans were trying to conquer the city militarily and not just starve the defenders out. Historically, with a professional army the Romans could pull off a long static-siege, but most cobbled-together feudal armies of vassals and mercenaries who wanted money, spoils, action and simply to be home in time for the upcoming planting/harvest rarely waited around the months needed to starve out an enemy. Plus, they needed to keep themselves fed in the meantime.

The "assault" or "dynamic" siege is more likely to be impacted by tech-4-magic in all the ways Saern addressed.

I ran a story arc in my previous campaign that featured a wartime backdrop. I have a military background and applied that knowledge and experience to the design of the armies and battle plans. The "good guys" had Battle-mages who basically served as a Command & Control communications network as well as coordinating field artillery of both magic and mundane sorts. The "bad guys" had giants as artillery and hippogriff-riding orcs as scouts, aerial recon and spotters/forward observers.

The PCs weren't trained in parachuting and couldn't be helicoptered by Air Cavalry behind enemy lines to launch commando-assaults on enemy strong points, but fortunately the Battle-mages had a teleportation waypoint marker about ten miles from their target.

The "good guys" had cohorts of Infantry, Archers and Siege Artillery that would have made any Roman general proud, but also Combined Arms units of the above plus Cavalry and Engineers that would fit well into modern warfare models. The "bad guys" varied their units, sometimes grouping them functionally, sometimes along racial lines (in case certain races didn't get along) as well as along hierarchal ones (one giant commands a few ogres who have dozens of orc minions who have scores of goblin slaves).

Ultimately, it all depends upon the magic-level in your world. More high-fantasy and high-concept means that you can run a more "modern" war, substituting magic spells, buffs and items for technology. However, lower the magic level and you lower the equivalent tech level.

I think the thing for you to do is look at history and say "I want the In-Game War to approximate this type of warfare, because ... ( it-fits-the-plot-and-story-line / it-gives-the-PCs-more-involvement-and-the chance-to-impact-the-outcome / I-have-adventures-suited-to-that-type-and-style-of-warfare / I-just plain-like-it ) ... best."

Once you decide on an era/style/tone for your model, adjust your magic-level accordingly for technology-to-magic substitution and go from there. Alternately, you can do the reverse if the campaign already has a well-established magic-level baseline; look at how much magic there is and then see what you can do with it and choose the era that best replicates this.

Incidentally, my world is fairly low-to-mid-magic. The Battle-mages were basically relegated to the capacities discussed above (C&C or tactical field-artillery) but massed armies still had to slug it out. The PCs operated like SEAL teams on commando missions to support the main offensives, and a couple times participated in some corner of a huge set-piece battle.

There were some uber-magic tactics, like the army secretly crossing a river into a field by night and discovering that their own Battle-mages had teleported siege engines (heavy catapults and trebuchets) into pre-determined positions from which they could pound the walls of a very surprised and unprepared enemy fortress. However, this was the army's opening gambit of the war and required over 6 months of preparation for the mages to key each siege engine to a specific enchanted marker when was then taken by a spy to a specific point determined by an engineer-artillerist and buried beneath less than an inch of soil without being discovered by enemy intelligence before all of the proper rituals needed to teleport the engines almost simultaneously were prepared and cast. That being done, the Battle-mages had essentially blown their wad (and most of the Ducal treasury), and though the castle walls came down foot-soldiers still needed to rush in and storm them, then hold those same now-broken fortresses against an inevitable and very bitter enemy counter-offensive.

Incidentally, the above episode comes from a war the PCs sidestepped prior to taking part in a smaller but to-them more relevant conflict that followed on its heels. This smaller conflict happened in-arc and occasionally in-session. The Players served as the Marquis' War Council and designed the strategy the army would use, occasionally needing to modify it as the tides of war shifted. Actual large-scale and often off-stage battles were waged using Force Depletion models to determine victors and casualty rates. Occasionally the PCs were in a position to influence the outcome of a major battle, but usually they were figured into the overall Unit Strength for their side and factored into a pre-determined outcome of the over-all battle, regardless of how their little corner of it went. Often they were tasked with "special ops" to tie-down or eliminate significant enemy units (assaulting a dragon in its lair or engaging enemy champions or casters) and the success of their "supporting mission" could literally tip the outcome of the larger battle by possibly keeping powerful enemy units off the field and out of the combat model.

Sorry if this post rambled a bit and got off-topic. Having replied to your previous thread I figured I'd try to anticipate a few of your next questions and share some anecdotes.

HTH,

Rez


Sigh. I just lost my entire post.

First of all, thanks for posting everyone. Because there are so many things I could reply to I would like to say to those who've made long posts that I actually really appreciate the brainstorming, the examples and the ideas presented.

One question that pops up is this: do people running wars in D&D games also think about what kind of military forces exist, right down to the training and tactics? Clearly Rezdave has thought of this (a cohort the Romans would have been proud of) but I've noticed that's lacking in D&D. I have given it a fair bit of thought.

I'm going to post on the different armies therefore and see where we can brainstorm from there.

BTW...typical pc thing. The pcs have abandoned the port city, instead intent upon conquering a nearby kingdom in the name of a claimant to the throne. They basically felt they were being shafted by the republic they were serving and have changed sides, selling out their departure to their former enemies. (there is an npc commander, but the pcs strongly advised this) I don't mind but just so people know...

Good Guy/PC Army
1. The General (high level npc; aristocrat/warrior)
2. The Advisor (high level npc wizard/aristocrat)
3. General's NPC advisors:
- expert/aristocrat (chief engineer)
- mid level aristocrat/warrior (adjutant-general)
- spymaster (midlevel rogue/aristocrat)

4. Senior NPC commanders (midlevel warrior/aristocrats or warrior/priests)

5. Temples of the War Goddess and the Sea Goddess (roughly 12 spellcasting clerics for each of about 4th-8th level)

6. The Lord Wizard's followers (8 wizards of 4th-6th level)

7. PCs
- Paladin/Ranger (Commander of the General's Scouts)
- Wizard/Artificer (2nd in Command to the Chief Engineer)
- Ranger (Captain of a Squadron of Barbarian Light Horse)
- Priestess/Warrior (High Priestess of the War Goddess)

8. The Army

- General's Pesonal Guard (4th level warriors) (80 heavy cavalry)
- Cataphracts (200 heavy cavalry with spear, longsword, composite bow)
- Cavalry (500 medium cavalry with javelin, broadsword, spear)
- Infantry (3200 heavy infantry. Infantry are roughly based on the Landsknechts with pike, halberd, crossbow and two handed sword units)
- Barbarian Light Infantry (360)
- Barbarian Light Cavalry (200)
- Scouts (a force of mounted rangers, barbarian hunters and nomads) (150)

9. Special Units
- 25 Hippogriff Riders (rangers)
- 1 Blue Dragon wyrmling
- 1 Pseudo-Dragon

I haven't finished putting together the enemy forces because this campaign plan is kind of new; the pcs as I said went outside the box. I don't have a problem with that but it does require some rethinking of stuff. Any ideas about that would be much appreciated. The enemy city is going to be Byzantine for its inspiration, so I was thinking of special engineering units, flame units, that kind of thing.

So given that this is what I'm actually working with I'm going to start brainstorming what could be done with them.


Just bear in mind that unless antimagic (true seeing, protection from energy, dispel magic, etc.) is freely available, one mid-level wizard can easily destroy entire armies: a planar binding of some creature with DR (so that no ordinary soldier can possibly injure it) to "destroy that army" means that the wizard wouldn't even need to venture outside. Illusion magic has limitless warfare applications (cavalry charges enemy "army" only to charge, lemming-like, off a cliff, etc.).

Take it a step further: the way the rules are written, a high-level wizard can lay waste to entire nations with impunity unless they have equally high-level wizards to counter him. Which means, honestly, that armies in a standard D&D game shouldn't exist: the wizards' duel is what decides all issues, and whatever side loses has their army destroyed soon thereafter. We keep armies and castles in D&D because they fit the setting, and seem "cool," but realistically, the D&D rules do not support them, and the magic rules actively work to make them foolish and obsolete.

Which is too bad, because I think they're cool, and always include armies and sieges in my games. But man, it strains my mind coming up with new gimmicks all the time as to why the wizards didn't just settle everything. Eventually I introduced an "Archimage," a super-powerful NPC wizard, who destroys any wizards above 10th level or so who interfere in armed struggles (because he believes spellcasters should have more important things to worry about than petty nations) (see Murgen in Vance's "Lyonesse"). That opens up some fun apps where evil NPC wizards are always trying to circumvent/depose the Archimage.

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Kirth Gersen wrote:

Just bear in mind that unless antimagic (true seeing, protection from energy, dispel magic, etc.) is freely available, one mid-level wizard can easily destroy entire armies: a planar binding of some creature with DR (so that no ordinary soldier can possibly injure it) to "destroy that army" means that the wizard wouldn't even need to venture outside. Illusion magic has limitless warfare applications (cavalry charges enemy "army" only to charge, lemming-like, off a cliff, etc.).

Mercedes Lackey touches on this in Oathbreakers. The wizards bascially cancel each other out and it falls to the low level wizards to get the job done. This is espeically important in larger scale conflicts. Sure Donny the Diviner can have a spell that will detect each of Curly the Conjurer's attempts to 'Summon Monster X' but if he's running a 'detect every conjuration spell' type plan over a several square mile radius, he'll be picking up every Cure Minor Wounds that the villiage adepts cast, or every use of a potion of CLW.

If you 'filter' that spell for, say 4th or higher, then those hedge mages can still sneak in a glitterdust (or worse a widened glitterdust) to influence one battle.

Also, with 'scry and die' tactics, I'd keep a high level wizard on hand to keep the foe from teleporting something into my tent.


Matthew Morris wrote:
Mercedes Lackey touches on this in Oathbreakers. The wizards bascially cancel each other out and it falls to the low level wizards to get the job done. This is espeically important in larger scale conflicts.

That works well in novels, but by D&D rules, the two higher-level wizards can settle their argument in a few rounds, and then the winner can just go and win the entire war for his side. The rules expand power geometrically rather than linearly, to the point that only individual creatures are really important; armies can never compete. Hell, a 10th level fighter can probably lick the entire infantry of a nation all by himself, if you had the patience to play it out. If the other country has another such fighter, then whichever one of them kills the other can then go and kill all of the enemy's remaining men, even if he's wounded.

Only by introducing a new mechanic to allow powerful figures to "cancel" for long periods of time, or by introducing a deus ex machina as Vance does in "Lyonesse" (and as I did in my homebrew game), that reality be circumvented.

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Kirth Gersen wrote:
Hell, a 10th level fighter can probably lick the entire infantry of a nation all by himself, if you had the patience to play it out. If the other country has another such fighter, then whichever one of them kills the other can then go and kill all of the enemy's remaining men, even if he's wounded.

Not quite, as even with the most astronomical ACs, 5% of the 1st level mook warriors will hit him. After a time, that damage builds up.

I haven't actually done the math, but the 10th level fighter will take 5 or so damage for every 20 mooks armed with longswords and the like (1d8 damage) that attack him (assuming he has cleave, and great cleave to take them out quickly). Even giving him an 18 Con and max hp/hd, he's got 140 hp. That's about 500 or so mooks. Impressive, yes, but not Army Destroying.

Back him up with ANYTHING (wizard, cleric, ranged mooks), and we've got a whole different story.


I'm inclined to agree with Sir Geshko. I notice there are different schools of thought on this--Terry Goodkind's writing for example suggests that spellcasters would utterly dominate a society they existed in--but when we actually PLAY the game you notice that the spellcasters tend to get killed anyway, sometimes by perfectly banal creatures like hobgoblins sniping with arrows.

Also it's noteworthy that for all the weapons of mass destruction, precision bombing, heavy armour, high explosive and whatever other inventions of war you want to describe, from the US Civil War to the present, you still have the Poor Bloody Infantry marching along.


SirGeshko wrote:
Kirth Gersen wrote:
Hell, a 10th level fighter can probably lick the entire infantry of a nation all by himself, if you had the patience to play it out. If the other country has another such fighter, then whichever one of them kills the other can then go and kill all of the enemy's remaining men, even if he's wounded.

Not quite, as even with the most astronomical ACs, 5% of the 1st level mook warriors will hit him. After a time, that damage builds up.

I haven't actually done the math, but the 10th level fighter will take 5 or so damage for every 20 mooks armed with longswords and the like (1d8 damage) that attack him (assuming he has cleave, and great cleave to take them out quickly). Even giving him an 18 Con and max hp/hd, he's got 140 hp. That's about 500 or so mooks. Impressive, yes, but not Army Destroying.

Back him up with ANYTHING (wizard, cleric, ranged mooks), and we've got a whole different story.

Two archmages could win a duel, then theoretically hop away and rest for eight hours, then come back and annihilate the enemy force; yes, that's possible. If the enemy army sits around and waits for the wizards to finish. More likely, I would think, each side would hit the champion wizard of the opposition with everything they've got: seige weaponry, supporting spellcasters, enhanced supporting melee opponents. I would tend to think, given equal resources, this would lead only to the mutual destruction of both wizards. Individual circumstances might vary this, but as a standard tactic, I think they would indeed ultimately negate each other, leaving the armies in the aftermath to carry on the fight as normal.

I would also tend to think that, even if one army had a 20th level wizard, and the opponents only had a helping of lesser level characters (say, 12th level or so of mixed classes), those lesser characters could likely be deployed in ways that would negate the archmage's ability to absolutely dominate. The archmage would probably need to take out whatever seige weaponry the enemy had first, so grouping the lesser leveled people around that would make sense. If the mage focuses on destroying them, the seige engines pound him along with the rest of the army. If the archmage focuses on destroying the seige engines, the 12th level or so characters attack him and probably have a good chance of taking down the distracted wizard with a focused attack.

I could be way off. Numbers crunching could reveal all this comes down to bunk. However, I think it seems logical enough that, without resorting to that numbers crunching, most people will accept it as a reason that castles and other fortifications remain a viable defense. Further, it helps if the DM runs a world where 20th level wizards (or the like) aren't readily available. Things become much more manageable if the highest level spellcasters a side can must are 13th level or so. They are still frighteningly capable, but not quite army-busting. If both sides are limited in number as well as level of spellcasters, their impact becomes even less.

Just observations about how one can run a fantasy warfare with D&D magic and spellcasters, without totally negating the medieval aspects of the world that so many of us seem to love.


Also fair points from Saern I think. But regardless, I'd like say that since I intend to run a game that isn't utterly dominated by spellcasters that I'm hoping to deal with how to actually see how it may affect my game?

Anyway what I came up with for the other side:

Bad Guy Army

1. Commanding General (high level aristocrat/warrior)

2. Senior Staff (low to midlevel aristocrat/warriors)

3. Evil Cult. (1 high level spellcaster, 3 midlevel spellcasters, several low level, pact with a moderately powerful demon and ability to gain lesser ones as temporary allies.)

4. Areas below the city operating as 'dungeons'. (including Cult headquarters, evil Thieves Guild, monsters used as a disposal service.)

5. 3 powerful golem like creatures. These essentially act as defenses for the city. 1 is an intelligence system (any activity in the city is observed by insect like devices that report back to the 'mother') 1 is an executioner (it is immobile but basically it 'devours' all put within it. Even magic will be treated as though subject to a dispel magic) 1 is a counterattack system; it will animate and hunt down intruders. (it's a kind of statue-pyrohydra)

6. Regular Army
- 2000 Infantry (pikemen with swords)
- 1000 Archers (also with swords)
- 500 Guardsmen (veteran infantry and archers)

7. Militia
- 1000 Cavalry (medium cavalry with chainmail, sword, lance; basically city and surrounding area's aristocracy on horseback)
- 500 Archers (local yeomanry)
- 500 Barbarian Mounted Archers (from an allied tribe nearby)
- 8,000 Infantry (pikemen with hand weapons)

8. Special Units
- City Thieves Guild (will act as spies, saboteurs, etc) (Also has 1 midlevel wizard)
- City Assassins' Guild (will act as spies, assassins, saboteurs, etc)


MrFish wrote:
the pcs as I said went outside the box

The only thing Players are guaranteed to do is mess up your finely crafted plans and plots. Take it as a compliment, as this is often a sign of a good game (especially if the DM goes with it, rather than fighting to get the train back on the tracks).

Kirth Gersen wrote:

unless antimagic (true seeing, protection from energy, dispel magic, etc.) is freely available, one mid-level wizard can easily destroy entire armies

SNIP
a high-level wizard can lay waste to entire nations with impunity

AND

Kirth Gersen wrote:
a 10th level fighter can probably lick the entire infantry of a nation all by himself, if you had the patience to play it out

I disagree whole-heartedly with these types of assertions.

Yes, high-CR beings can lay waste to vast numbers of mooks, but even within the rules can be beaten. These kinds of generalizations tend to be selective about the rules they use, often based on straight, stand-up fights. Mooks and conscripts can use mass numbers, ranged and reach weapons to their advantage, but their greatest potential is to Grapple. Regardless, they will use Aid Another and Flanking to their advantage, and, given enough individuals, will quickly become a real threat to anything.

Besides, even wizards and fighters eventually needs to sleep. Assassinate them at that time, or deprive them of sleep long enough and force them to burn spells and succumb to fatigue or sleep-deprivation.

All of these options are within RAW, and they work.

SirGeshko wrote:
I haven't actually done the math, but the 10th level fighter will take 5 or so damage for every 20 mooks armed with longswords and the like (1d8 damage) that attack him (assuming he has cleave, and great cleave to take them out quickly). Even giving him an 18 Con and max hp/hd, he's got 140 hp. That's about 500 or so mooks. Impressive, yes, but not Army Destroying.

Give the mooks spears and flanking (there is a reason conscripts historically were often armed with polearms), then have them Aid Another at a 4:1 ratio and you turn the tables quickly. Have them drop their spears and simply bum-rush the Fighter in a massed Grapple (again with Aid Another at the above ratio) and suddenly it's game-over in round 1. Once he's properly pinned, eventually he can be stabbed to death if a Coup-de-Grace doesn't get him first.

Either that or wait until he has to go to sleep and then sneak into his tent and cave his skull in with a rock.

MrFish wrote:
Also it's noteworthy that for all the weapons of mass destruction ... you still have the Poor Bloody Infantry marching along.

Regardless of how many smart-bombs and stealth-aircraft you have, ultimately wars are still won based upon how many boots you put on the ground. This has been a truism of military operations from antiquity to the present.

Saern wrote:
Two archmages could win a duel, then theoretically hop away and rest for eight hours, then come back and annihilate the enemy force

This is the real threat of high-CR beings. My Force Depletion model for the war story arc showed this very effectively. Assume an army of Commoners on one side battling a group of Giants on another. The Commoners win the battle and the giants are forced to retreat after taking casualties amounting to 50% of their strength. The Commoners have superior forces and only take 20% casualties.

However, the Commoners have lower HD and HP per-unit, so the majority of their casualties end-up being KIAs, and probably loose 18% or more of their units, plus a champion or two (if they have any).

The Giants, however, can absorb more damage per-unit, so assume they lose 15% KIA, and have their remaining casualties as wounded with 25-50% of their HP lost. Given time and even modest healing capabilities, the Giants can recover.

In other words, if the giants can retreat long enough to lick their wounds, they can eventually whittle down the "superior" Commoner army, because ultimately Giantish HP replace faster than fallen Commoners. The Giants actually come out 3% ahead of the Commoners in a "losing" initial battle, and so begin to close the gap of over-all strength. Through the use of hit-and-run tactics, they can quickly turn the tables on the Commoners and then once they have the upper hand return to finish them off in a climactic, final battle.

Incidentally, I did set minimum "recovery" thresholds for creatures during the conflict. Given that we're talking "armies" here rather than "parties" and there is much more limited access to healing magic, I did assume that damage beyond a certain degree rendered a combatant "crippled" and unable to take part in future action. Those with greater wounds recovered slower than those with lesser ones, and the model was also programmed with wound-recovery rates. If one side was in a position to press an engagement even upon high-CR enemy units they could emerge victorious by denying them a chance to heal.

Finally ...

NOTE #1 - My above assertions are not theoretical. I've seen them play out in mathematical models as well as at the gaming tabletop. In addition to running party-sized battles hit-point-by-hit-point and large-scale battles in the models, I've brought over "Asst. DMs" from time to time to help run company-sized Set-Piece battles with up to 100 units on each side, for which everything was rolled individually.

NOTE #2 - Fish ... if you haven't done so, then you should read the webcomic Erfworld. It takes a while to get into and starts off pretty weird, but once it settles down it might give you some great insights into this sort of thing.

FWIW,

Rez


MrFish wrote:

Good Guy/PC Army

1. The General (high level npc; aristocrat/warrior)
SNIP
MrFish wrote:

Bad Guy Army

1. Commanding General (high level aristocrat/warrior)
SNIP

Fish,

I'm becoming curious. Please provide me with Levels/CRs and any other relevant details for your two armies (the notes such as veterans, quality of equipment, etc. are useful).

I'd like to plug them into my models, though I'm about to move and can't say how soon it will be.

To keep the thread clean, I suggest that you use:

Spoiler:

Spoiler Tags !!!

... for the details.

Thx,

R.


Rezdave wrote:
Yes, high-CR beings can lay waste to vast numbers of mooks, but even within the rules can be beaten. These kinds of generalizations tend to be selective about the rules they use, often based on straight, stand-up fights. Mooks and conscripts can use mass numbers, ranged and reach weapons to their advantage, but their greatest potential is to Grapple. Regardless, they will use Aid Another and Flanking to their advantage, and, given enough individuals, will quickly become a real threat to anything. Besides, even wizards and fighters eventually needs to sleep. Assassinate them at that time, or deprive them of sleep long enough and force them to burn spells and succumb to fatigue or sleep-deprivation. All of these options are within RAW, and they work.

Your scenarios all seem to be missing the easy example I provided: the wizard simply planar binds a critter with DR and teleport self at will, and sends it out. Now all the mook attacks and grapples in the world are useless, and the wizard never came near your mooks to be threatened -- they don't even know where he is, or that he even exists, unless one of them draws the conclusion that a demon isn't attacking them for fun. I'm NOT assuming straight-up fights, but rather simple applications of the RAW. Mass numbers are largely irrelevant to a moderately skilled caster who actually uses his brain... unless you place them within easy reach of him, deny him any escape spells, and then say "go!" (which is evidently what your "mathematical models" assume).


Yeah, but that's what heroes are for. I mean the pcs are called up precisely because of things like this, right?

Here, btw, are my stats for the good guy army.

Spoiler:

Good Guy/PC Army

Aside from the other level details, the following:
1. Cavalry and Cataphracts are average 648 2nd level warriors, with 40 3rd level Lance Leaders (squad leaders of 5), 10 4th level Squadron Leaders (of 20) a 5th level subcommander and a 7th level Company commander of each. Assume that each commander and subcommander have a +1 weapon (sword, horseman’s mace, etc) and +1 plate mail. (note: all cavalry are considered minor aristocracy though they lack the social graces thus explaining their class)Assume that all Squadron Leaders and Company commanders have masterwork equpiment. Horses are of good quality at least.

2. Infantry: Pikemen 1st level (1,260) armed with chain shirt, short sword and pike (160 2nd level corporals, 80 3rd level sergeants)
Halberdiers 2nd level (160) armed with chain hauberk, short sword and halberd (16 4th level sergeants)
Crossbowmen 1st level (540) armed with leather armour, short sword and heavy crossbow (54 2nd level corporals, 27 3rd level sergeants)
Two Handed Swordsmen 3rd level (160) armed with plate mail, two handed sword and short sword. (10 5th level sergeants)
Battalion Command: 1 5th/5th Warrior/Aristocrat, 2 2nd/2nd as staff.
Brigade Command: 1 6th/6th Warrior Aristocrat, 4 2nd/2nd as staff, 1 5th/5th as 2nd in command. All Battalion and Brigade staff have masterwork gear.
One of the brigade commanders has +2 platemail and a +2 spear.

3. Barbarians are 1st level except for 30 war-chiefs of 3rd level and 6 of 4th level, 1 6th level and 1 8th level. Barbarians on horseback are mounted on war ponies and have javelin, spear, hand axe and hide armour. Barbarians on foot have spear, shield and hand axe or club. Barbarian senior chieftain has special amulets that grant him +4 to ac and resistance to charm and other mental attacks.

4. Scout Force Includes: 50 1st level rangers, 20 2nd level, 5 3rd level, 1 7th level; 50 2nd level barbarians, 14 3rd level, 5 4th level, 3 5th level, 1 6th level, 1 7th level) Ranger scouts are wearing leather armour, are armed with light crossbows, short swords and are mounted on light warhorses; barbarians are mounted on war ponies and have spears, hand axes and hide armour. Scout Ranger commander has an eagle animal companion and a crossbow of speed, +2 chainmail, ring of energy resistance.

5. Hippogriff Riders Includes: 20 Wingriders( 3rd level Ranger/2nd level Warrior) 3 Flight Leaders and two Aides (4th Ranger/4th Warrior) 1 Company Commander (5th Ranger/5th Warrior) Hippogriff Riders are armed with masterwork crossbows and chainmail plus bolas and longswords. (Note hippogriffs are challenge rating 2) Hippogriff Rider commander has 4 +2 arrows and a ring of feather falling.

6. Almost forgot the Engineers! The engineers should be considered a body of 400 experts on average of about 2nd level. Most of them are specialists in constructing siege equipment but about 80 of them are mining specialists.


MrFish wrote:
Yeah, but that's what heroes are for. I mean the pcs are called up precisely because of things like this, right?

YES!!! That's exactly what I'm saying: the good general says, "We need this enemy wizard taken out quick, or the war's over before we start! Here's all the clues we have as to his whereabouts..." and you've got an excellent adventure -- and one that fits the 3.X rules as well.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
Your scenarios all seem to be missing the easy example I provided: the wizard simply planar binds a critter with DR and teleport self at will, and sends it out.

First of all, planar binding is never simple, and with good reason. It has innumerable things that can go wrong with hit. Second, with an HD limit of 12 there's only so much you can do, and even with DR there will be ways an army can take it out, assuming the creature doesn't escape and kill the wizard first.

I notice that the spell description in the PHB doesn't specifically state that you can chose the being that will be "lured" into your trap. So much for the DR and teleport at will guarantee.

Since we're talking RAW here, I'll leave out all DM-fiat about cosmology, whether or not such creatures exist to be called and so forth. Also, we're talking an "army" of mere mooks. Not professional, career, leveled warriors or champions, much less officers and nobleman who would have access to magic weapons that could defeat your bound creature. Finally, if the king can keep conscripting people into his army as fast or faster than the bound creature can kill them, then perhaps it qualifies as an "impossible" demand and the creature will eventually escape the binding.

Anyway, I see your point :-) but don't want to get into a Rules Monkey debate about it :-P

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a Story-guy foremost.

Kirth Gersen wrote:
unless you place them within easy reach of him, deny him any escape spells, and then say "go!" (which is evidently what your "mathematical models" assume).

The models do not assume that. In such a case most wizards are toast to an even smaller group of mooks than they otherwise would be, especially if said mooks are widely dispersed on an open field and are using a combination of ranged and reach weapons.

FWIW,

Rez


I'm also working on other factors, such as resources that are within reach of the city. What I have for the immediate area is the following:

- 2 copper mines
- forest (useful for charcoalers and timberwrights, also some hunting is done in the area. 1 small estate, mostly used as a hunting lodge/ranch by a local noble)
- farmland (vineyards, orchards, wheat, oats, vegetables. Most of the population outside the city lives here on either noble manorial estates or villages)
- river (not really navigable, but good for flat bottomed boats. Plenty of river fish)
- lake (small, similar to the river in that only a few spots have decent depth at all.)
- marshy area. (not a true swamp, but marshy meadow and woods.)

Dark Archive

Adding my 2cp worth. I have run a campaign with a civil war as a back drop and it went well.

My suggestion is to let the players take their rolls. Just be sure to make them targets for assassins or counter part NPC parties. If one side is willing to use adventurers so should the other. If your players want to stratigically strike the lead wizard of the other side down don't be araid to counter the by attacking the leader of your player's side with summoned fiends and hit squads. Let the players set the escalation scale. Turn the war in to a war of atrition and artocity. Shine a light on the vicitms as well, especially seeing you have a paladin in the group.

Then again if it was me I would drop a goristo or two on them just to see their reaction.


What deathboy says makes sense; I have actually used pcs' reputations against them as well. There's of course the general classic myth/folklore thing too where peoples' reputations on the battlefield precede them and everyone who wants a rep wants them.

I'm putting together a scenario called "The Crossing" right now. Basically it involves the pcs leading part of the army on a flanking maneuver to try to gain advantage over the city's defending forces.

What I'm coming up with so far is:

1. 3 batteries of ballistae covering crossing points of the river. Each has one pyromancer directing fire. (literally. The pyromancers control a kind of Greek Fire that is placed in pots and are fired by the ballistae.)

2. 1 small fort with a company of crossbowmen inside, directed by another pyromancer.

3. Cavalry stakes placed along the riverbank. (breaks up formations; charges into them result in damage taken.)

4. Defensive staggered walls. (made of simple wicker and mud but again designed to break up arriving formations.)

5. 1 company of 250 enemy medium cavalry that act as a mobile response force; armed with javelins and broadswords. Led by 8 warriors of 5th-8th level.

6. A battalion of 1,000 pikemen. Led by a party of former adventurers who retired to the city. They are more cunning than truly fit now. (midlevel npcs)

The pcs will be assisting/leading one senior army commander plus 800 heavy infantry, 100 light infantry, 100 light cavalry and 50 scouts. The pcs have control of the blue dragon wyrmling and the pseudo dragon. I suppose I should say that the pcs' role is to make sure the force they're responsible for gets across the river with minimum casualties and advances on the nearest city gate.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I have nothing relevant to add, but did this thread give anyone else flashbacks to the nasty debates that ran back and forth in Dragon back in the mid 90s about seige warfare.

Ah, internet flamewars in the pre-internet days. Is it any wonder that Forum was one of the first sections I read when I got a new Dragon.


Sebastian wrote:

I have nothing relevant to add, but did this thread give anyone else flashbacks to the nasty debates that ran back and forth in Dragon back in the mid 90s about seige warfare.

Ah, internet flamewars in the pre-internet days. Is it any wonder that Forum was one of the first sections I read when I got a new Dragon.

Ah, I remember those days as well.

"Castles are useless."

"D&D societies would never resemble Earth societies with real magic around."

Thankfully, I was young and the fact that my blood pressure would go up because I couldn't immediately respond to someone that ticked me off didn't have any significant bearing on my health.

Thank God for the internet and the immediate ability to be argumentative, or I would have probably dropped dead from impotent rage years ago.

;)

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