PCs (alone) vs Army


Advice


Wondering how I would do this. Say, for example, a scene had my intrepid party of 4 adventurers jump off a boat and take on an army of 100 (or even 200) baddies. How would that be done? I just read through the mass combat stuff on PRD, but it is focused on army vs army (with maybe PCs having a little fight of their own), but has nothing about just the 4 of them taking on an entire army by themselves. I'm thinking as a big finale having them running around yelling "that's #49 for me" would be fun for them (and still be challenging). I just don't know how it's done. Suggestions appreciated. And yes, I realize that no matter how powerful they are, they would be killed pretty quick in real life, but that's the beauty of fantasy, lol.

Sovereign Court

I'd make a most of them 1 hit and done mooks. Maybe throw a few casters in the back and the PCs have to mow their way to them.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The troop subtype is a good way to do this. Organize your army into several troops, and you will be able to challenge your PCs but not have so many rolls that it gets old really quick.

Scarab Sages

What level are the PCs? Even if the army is 100 commoners with 1 HP each armed with crossbows, if they need a 20 to hit, five of them are going to hit if they all fire. If they get lucky and 10 of them hit, and get luck on damage rolls, someone may die.


Well it depends what level the PCs are to make use of the mass combat from ultimate campaign for individual PCs. PCs can be treated as their own army for each individual character, or even combined depending on how many characters there are.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If the adventurers are of moderate level, their chances of dieing are actually pretty slim. And depending on your party makeup, this could be a very very short encounter.

If they are in battle formatiom, one firebal could take out dozens of them. Something like a wall of fire, or a pit or any number of things would be devastating.


Depending on level, this may or may not be a challenge.

Ran a mythic campaign recently that featured a couple armies of demons the players had to defend against, and it took about 2 minutes for me to realise the demons were utterly boned. As in the majority of them were baleful polymorphic or dead instantly, and the rest were up against the untouchable fighter who flew out to meet them.

It was pretty awesome. We just narrated it at that point and everyone had a lot of fun.

A fight versus a small army at level 5,though is a different beast.


I advise avoiding this kind of encounter. While cinematic in film, it will not play out that way at the table. rather, you will bee bogged down by almost pointless dice rolls, and it will almost certainly be a complete landslide either one way or the other.


This could work well for characters of moderate level with AoEs. Negative channeling clerics, arcane casters with metamagic fireballs can make this just trivial but alchemists would help out a lot too. If those three were in this fight and go first then that 100 will be reduced to have its number before they ever get to move. If they are high level just cast form of dragon 3 and laugh at those 100 as you simply fly around and breathe.

Regardless of how you set up it up have a LOT of premade dice rolls ready. Saves time.


Imbicatus wrote:
What level are the PCs? Even if the army is 100 commoners with 1 HP each armed with crossbows, if they need a 20 to hit, five of them are going to hit if they all fire. If they get lucky and 10 of them hit, and get luck on damage rolls, someone may die.

I think if all 100 got a shot off, you would be justified as treating it as an AOE, like a fireball, but piercing. It probably won't change the result, but at least it won't be boring.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I adapt the mob rules from the 3.5 DMG 2. It basically takes a creature and makes it a swarm. 48 humans per gargantuan swarm. You could easily adapt it from mob to "troop" or "platoon."


Well, I'm still figuring the details, but my guess is that they will be level 15-18 when they get there, probably closer to 18. I'd also be cool with them facing 1000 level 1 nothings that they can just mow down as they head to the "real" fight against the boss, mostly it's for flavor, but there should also be a chance for them to fail (big enough to raise their blood pressure a bit, but not enough to really worry about).


The mass combat rules do have rules for 1 vs army. If you're a single creature you get CR -8 for your ACR. You could do -7 or -6 for your PCs since there are 4.

That said... BORING.


At level 18, there is nothing a typical 'army' will be able to do to them of any note. Even if they hit on 20's, a wand or a couple scrolls of stoneskin will make them immune to incidental damage. There are single spells (especially conjurations, like greater Planar X or gate or creeping doom) that could win that for them.

I say let the players narrate it and move on to the real fights.


Craig1234 wrote:
Well, I'm still figuring the details, but my guess is that they will be level 15-18 when they get there, probably closer to 18. I'd also be cool with them facing 1000 level 1 nothings that they can just mow down as they head to the "real" fight against the boss, mostly it's for flavor, but there should also be a chance for them to fail (big enough to raise their blood pressure a bit, but not enough to really worry about).

Like I said a bit back.... Form of dragon 3 and that army is nothing to that character. At even level 15 I think he gets that spell and he won't need help from his party either. Even if the army hits the dragon he has DR too big to overcome without decent gear. Unless your army has in good quantities a means to overcome flight and DR this encounter at that level is narrative in nature. Finally, if that army could somehow threaten the dragon then the wealth in their gear would be insanely good.

Scarab Sages

As a player: I would not fight the army. I would go in disguised or stealthed, take out the leadership, and leave.

As a GM: I would expect a solution from the players other than brute force.

Scarab Sages

A that level a single Storm of Vengance spell would destroy an army of thousands.

Scarab Sages

Imbicatus wrote:
A that level a single Storm of Vengance spell would destroy an army of thousands.

Why kill thousands when you can take out the leadership with a minimum in collateral damage? Unless you happen to enjoy mass slaughter!

I cast Detect Evil


Artanthos wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
A that level a single Storm of Vengance spell would destroy an army of thousands.

Why kill thousands when you can take out the leadership with a minimum in collateral damage? Unless you happen to enjoy mass slaughter!

I cast Detect Evil

Hey, they may need their leaders to rebuild later. Taking them head on until they break due to heavy losses and impotence may be better for them in the long run. At that level, a fighter with two manuals of war could nonlethaly drop everyone in reach every round and likely never be in any real danger.


Honestly, let the players come up with their epic scene and narrate it. Unless you have individuals over level 8 or so, by that point nothing in the army will overcome basic protections and healing capabilities. Not to mention basic illusion spells - a single circle of invisibility will generally get them past.

You can make Human swarms. It will be a boring fight, but if you want something not too bad they work. They are more useful for players who don't want to kill them.

Scarab Sages

Artanthos wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
A that level a single Storm of Vengance spell would destroy an army of thousands.

Why kill thousands when you can take out the leadership with a minimum in collateral damage? Unless you happen to enjoy mass slaughter!

I cast Detect Evil

It depends on the foe, but you usually have to deal with either chain of command or mob mentality when fighting humanoids in an army formation. You take out a leader and the strongest one that is left becomes the new leader.

Or worse, instead of eliminating the threat of a unified army, without leadership, they break apart into individual tribes and warbands, constantly waging guerrilla attacks against weak civilian targets that could take months or years to get them all.

Would it be more humane to eliminate the threat in one blow?


You can still do the 100 attack thing, but I'd use a tool rather than physical dice. Otherwise it's going to get really boring really fast. If the party doesn't have area effects, it will still get really boring really fast.

The human swarm idea is also possible.


While it would be fun to have PCs vs Army, this sounds like it'd be better as a narrative deal, as stated above. I've run both kinds of PC vs Army, often enough that anyone who's played with me before expects it at least thrice in any campaign that has some expansionist empire of some sort.

The narrative way can be particularly fun and cinematic, and is best used at later levels. Throw in some 'platoons' of higher level goons to take up some of the player's resources with an actual combat, probably no more than twice and no less than the number of PCs. Take note of any resources your players cast during the narration, this will make the final battle against the big bad much more entertaining and flavorful. Think about it, the heroes are never fresh-faced and chipper when they bulldoze through an army of mooks to get to the guy controlling them.

At lower levels, the dice rolls can be rather fun, if you run it with a few tweaks. You'll have to find out what works for you, though I typically organized them into platoons consisting of individual creatures, attacks as one and typically did AoE attacks, with flat bonuses depending on what turn it is and how many creatures were left in the squad.

At lower levels your players will get that "WE @#$%ING DID IT MUTHA LUVA!" (Censored quote from one of my players after a difficult battle where the dice seemed to hate them) from the dice rolls. They're lower levels, they shouldn't be mowing down an entire army effortlessly, and should feel accomplished that it happened.

At higher levels, the players will likely feel that going through such combat is a chore, they're practically gods anyways, so mow through the mooks and get caught up on the few things that are actually nearly a threat. That way, the whole thing is more cinematic, they feel their hard work has paid off, and the fight with the BBEG is much more fulfilling.

... Of course, this was before the advent of the 'troop' subtype and Mythic rules. With Mythic, at least, all this goes out the damn window.


Go for it. Come up with stats for Grunts, officers, noncoms, and maybe some clerics and wizards.

Give them a mix of weapons, and give them a personality. Are these well-martialed, well-drilled soldiers with sophisticated tactics, forming shield walls backed by pike lines backed by net throwers backed by archers, backed by catapult crews? Or are they an intimidated rabble, ready to run? Or are they something in between: a horde of goblins with no courage, but no fear, either? Most DMs and PFS Module designers blanche at large mini battles, so I'd love to hear from somebody take it on.

Depending on the sophistication of the tactics and order of battle, and depending on the configuration of the characters, this might be a serious battle. I can see a platoon or Orogs all with Scent and Blind Fighting chip in to buy an Eversmoking Bottle giving a party of any level a very hard time. I can see walls of heavily armored soldiers hunkering behind Tower Shields holding the party in 1 position long enough for trebuchet crews to rain acid-filled clay pots on the squares the party occupies. They could arrange for some crews to hold their fire until the spotters see your wizard start spellcasting, then let fly. I can see companies of archers waiting for someone to try to flying. While this is going on, the army could have sappers undermining the ground under the party, ready to drop them in a pit that they have to climb out of while the rim is lined with pikemen and archers raining feathered steel.


Scott Wilhelm wrote:

Go for it. Come up with stats for Grunts, officers, noncoms, and maybe some clerics and wizards.

Give them a mix of weapons, and give them a personality. Are these well-martialed, well-drilled soldiers with sophisticated tactics, forming shield walls backed by pike lines backed by net throwers backed by archers, backed by catapult crews? Or are they an intimidated rabble, ready to run? Or are they something in between: a horde of goblins with no courage, but no fear, either? Most DMs and PFS Module designers blanche at large mini battles, so I'd love to hear from somebody take it on.

Depending on the sophistication of the tactics and order of battle, and depending on the configuration of the characters, this might be a serious battle. I can see a platoon or Orogs all with Scent and Blind Fighting chip in to buy an Eversmoking Bottle giving a party of any level a very hard time. I can see walls of heavily armored soldiers hunkering behind Tower Shields holding the party in 1 position long enough for trebuchet crews to rain acid-filled clay pots on the squares the party occupies. They could arrange for some crews to hold their fire until the spotters see your wizard start spellcasting, then let fly. I can see companies of archers waiting for someone to try to flying. While this is going on, the army could have sappers undermining the ground under the party, ready to drop them in a pit that they have to climb out of while the rim is lined with pikemen and archers raining feathered steel.

They blanche at large mini battles for a reason. They are hell on the DM, take forever, and aren't very much fun. While all your ideas are cinematic, they aren't practical. The end result is that the wizard casts a single spell like protection from arrows and protection from energy and then ignores all those enemies as he casts a spell that pretty much wipes out the entire enemy defense line (wall of fire is a nice one) and the melee characters walk up and mow down the rest over the course of the next few hours. It uses fewer party resources than you expect and is not half as fun as it sounds in your head. Hell, by level 8 I have had parties destroy 100 enemies at once with little planning or forethought.

Much better is to run a few cinematic battles against higher level opponents or unique combat squads that are interspersed in the enemy line.


Make it an army of 1,000 level 1 wizards with wands of magic missile and let slip the dogs of war!

I ran an "army" encounter with my group of 6 level 8 PCs and just narrated the chaotic scene where the mooks ran in to attack the PCs. My planned encounters were with elite squads within the army, the lieutenants, and the bbeg and his henchmen (3 encounters). The mooks were just window dressing if you will, and were cut down narratively by the heroic PCs (or just fled as the narrative dictated). It worked out well.


OK, so from what I'm reading it sounds like the hybrid approach is what I'd need - I can talk through the PCs wiping out the 10,000 goblin warriors, but will actually play out a handful of increasingly difficult special units leading to the big boss at the end.


I've done this a few times before. It can be done.

But, you need to be prepared for handling combat rapidly; don't be afraid to give the NPCs 1 HP each. The PCs will need a lot of alchemical items, a lot of expendable magic items that cause death, potentially a siege engine, and guerrilla warfare tactics. They must resupply from enemy supplies, though.

If the PCs do it right, they can bog down up to 100,000 foes in one area and whittle their numbers down to nothing.

Scarab Sages

One Word: Gauntlet.


It's an intriguing idea and I'd love for there to be a standardised system for running this kind of situation. Thinking about it I'm a little surprised there's nothing official since there's something iconic about about a small band of heroes taking on much larger forces - Lord of the Rings springs to mind.

I think it would be particularly enjoyable being a spell caster and getting to unleash great and terrible magics over vast swathes of largely defenceless enemies. I think for the warrior types single attacks could be described as a series of strikes against multiple enemies.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

My home campaign from which the troop subtype was adapted is heavy on PC-versus-troops engagement. Or, rather, the flexibility of the system allows for PCs to interact on a larger battlefield with no change to their statblocks, which was the whole point. We shift rounds between the larger troop-vs-troop action of the battlefield and PC-vs-troops/leaders in in-between rounds. It works fantastically.

Now if only you had a book full of troop statblocks...


I did this once via the following rules:

-Each round is a minute instead of 6 seconds.
-When a player attacks the army, every point of damage they inflict counts as a kill. For example, if the fighter hits the army's "AC" every time and does 40 damage, he effectively killed 40 people. If a wizard did 50 damage via a fireball spell, he killed 50 people.
-As for the army itself, I treated it as one entity, it got one turn and did damage to everyone.

Essentially it wasn't that different from fighting a swarm. Or, fighting a swarm that you can hurt with weapons at least. This approach worked well for my table. Be sure your pcs are super tough though or else it will make little sense.


Caineach wrote:
Scott Wilhelm wrote:

Go for it. Come up with stats for Grunts, officers, noncoms, and maybe some clerics and wizards.

Give them a mix of weapons, and give them a personality. Are these well-martialed, well-drilled soldiers with sophisticated tactics, forming shield walls backed by pike lines backed by net throwers backed by archers, backed by catapult crews? Or are they an intimidated rabble, ready to run? Or are they something in between: a horde of goblins with no courage, but no fear, either? Most DMs and PFS Module designers blanche at large mini battles, so I'd love to hear from somebody take it on.

Depending on the sophistication of the tactics and order of battle, and depending on the configuration of the characters, this might be a serious battle. I can see a platoon or Orogs all with Scent and Blind Fighting chip in to buy an Eversmoking Bottle giving a party of any level a very hard time. I can see walls of heavily armored soldiers hunkering behind Tower Shields holding the party in 1 position long enough for trebuchet crews to rain acid-filled clay pots on the squares the party occupies. They could arrange for some crews to hold their fire until the spotters see your wizard start spellcasting, then let fly. I can see companies of archers waiting for someone to try to flying. While this is going on, the army could have sappers undermining the ground under the party, ready to drop them in a pit that they have to climb out of while the rim is lined with pikemen and archers raining feathered steel.

They blanche at large mini battles for a reason. They are hell on the DM, take forever, and aren't very much fun. While all your ideas are cinematic, they aren't practical. The end result is that the wizard casts a single spell like protection from arrows and protection from energy and then ignores all those enemies as he casts a spell that pretty much wipes out the entire enemy defense line (wall of fire is a nice one) and the melee characters walk up and mow down the rest over...

I didn't say it would be easy, but I think it just might be awesome, or maybe your word: cinematic. It would be a test of the players, the referee, and the game system itself. Some shortcut rules would probably emerge as the scenario was played out. I'm preparing a political campaign myself. I will try to let you know about the methods I use and how they work out for me and my players.


The end result is predictable if none of the players nor GM have any imagination. There is a reason why we play the game.

Also, the circumstances have not been fully fleshed out. This might be a chance encounter between a marching army and the PCs, or it might be a force specially tasked and outfitted to hunt down THESE characters by someone who knows them. A lot of details make a lot of difference.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / PCs (alone) vs Army All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.