UC Mass Combat System


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Has anyone else tried to do UC Mass Combat? Do you feel it's lacking something?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I love Pathfinder, but in my opinion, Mass Combat is a garbage system. It's confusing, it's not fun, it's tedious, and it takes forever. I knew something was horribly broken with the system when I built a one-man army of a level 12 Paladin (which is allowed in the rules), and he defeated an army of 50 adult red dragons single handedly.

Now, when I do mass combat, I do it a little differently.

First the PCs build an army similar to mass combat rules, but I keep it a little more simple. I have their army face the opposing army for three rounds (best 2 out of 3 wins). And "while that fight is happening", the action is zoomed in on the PCs who have to fight the generals and captains of the opposing army (played like any normal combat). I also include a goal of some kind that has to be completed before or during the battle with the generals and captains, e.g. lower the gates, light the beacons, prevent too many buildings from being destroyed, rescue X number of people.

After all of that is done, we look at the battle as a whole, and how much the PCs accomplished.

Did the army defeat the enemy's army (win 2 out of 3)?
Did the PCs defeat the generals and captains?
Did the PCs complete their goal?

If the PCs can answer yes to any 2 of 3 of those criteria, they win that mass combat encounter.

My players like it a lot better than Kingmaker or UM's Mass Combat rules, and it's been more fun for them and myself.


While the system isn't exactly super polished... I'm wondering how a single level 12 Paladin defeated 50 Adult Red Dragons.
Going over the numbers:

Level 12 Paladin:
CR 12, -8 for being a solo character = ACR 4
Level 3 spellcaster = +3 ACR
"Army" HP: 38
Defense: 17
Offense: 7

Smite when fighting red dragons for a total of
Defense: 19
Offense: 9
(Once per battle)

Against 50 Adult Red Dragons
CR 14, -2 for small army = ACR 12
Level 3 spellcaster = +3 ACR
Army HP: 97
Defense: 25 (31 vs. Paladin due to Spell Resistance)
Offense: 15

Fear is canceled by Aura of Courage but the dragon can fly to just not get hit much. While Dragons have a number of immunities and DR, I don't think it's significant enough for a Paladin to have any trouble circumventing it so no Significant defense here.

Looking at required rolls:
To do *any* damage, the Paladin needs a 25 on a d20 roll without smite, or 23 with smite. The Paladin cannot possibly harm an army of dragons other than 1hp per natural 20. In other words the Paladin needs an average of 1940 rounds of combat to rout the dragons single handedly

On the other hand the dragons need to roll a 5 to start chipping away at the paladin's defenses. On a 20, the munch through over half the Paladin's HP.

The system itself is significantly simpler than a PC combat, the difficult part is calculating all the abilities and potential of the participating armies but that comes *before* the battle and should be taken care of before a session even starts.


A friend had an experience with it (with another group, not me) which wasn't that great because it handled fortifications badly. He posted about it here, I'll see if I can dig it up.

Edit: here


My (limited) experience is that a lot of people don't quite apply the rules correctly, likely due to the fact they are very different from standard zoomed in combat.

Fortifications are handled rather well though, they just apply a Defensive Value bonus to units manning them. Simple and effective. Which also means that unmanned fortifications are merely a piece of difficult terrain to cross.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Lady Asharah wrote:
While the system isn't exactly super polished... I'm wondering how a single level 12 Paladin defeated 50 Adult Red Dragons.

You're not wrong on your math. However, the character had a lot of cool items at his disposal and was capable of constant flight. There were a few other factors that came into play, including home field advantage, enhanced weapons and armor, and a few other things. He also fought them over two days, not one (so two battles). It may be that my GM wasn't doing something right.

...

Okay, I stopped typing and went to the book and looked it up. My GM at the time (not the brightest of people, mind you), ran me against an army of wyverns and told me it was adult dragons! Or changed them to dragons without understanding the conversion properly (the latter is more likely). So yes, it was likely done wrong the whole time. Disappointing!

That doesn't change the fact that me, and everyone else involved found Mass Combat to not be fun and a slog either way. I still think it's a bad system.


EltonJ wrote:

Has anyone else tried to do UC Mass Combat? Do you feel it's lacking something?

the mass combat system works well when:

1. Each PC involved has at least 1 army to control (if not multiple armies each)
2. The armies are stated correctly and reasonably
3. The armies involved consist of 50 or more creatures per army

Under the above conditions the rules work fine and the system is fun to use. Unfortunately, with a standard adventuring group during a normal session this isn't what happens and as a result it ends up not being fun for most players at the table.

Point number 1 I think is the problem encountered by most groups. The PCs find themselves helping or being helped by a singular army. For the most part this means you have 1 player who is engaged by the battle as they make all the decisions for the army. Everyone else is left sitting around trying to find ways to meaningfully contribute to the fight. By the rules they can't do anything, so either the DM says as much (which frustrates the players) or adhocs something that ends up unintentionally breaking the mass combat system.

Point number 2 is also very easy to get wrong. The army system is honestly just as easy to abuse as the magic item creation rules are. It's extremely easy to create an army that is incredibly OP. Especially when you try to figure out how to translate things like immunities and DR. The proper way to simulate these things is by giving the creature a bonus to AC. Mass Combat =/= one on one combat and as soon as you start thinking of the army as individual creature you can end up breaking the system by giving an army traits it shouldn't have.

So, just like with magic items. You should start by finding an army that is similar to the one you're trying to simulate and then tweek it to make it representative of the army you're trying to make. Building it from the ground up needs to be done with extreme care and consideration.

Point number 3, while it presents rules for having armies smaller than 50 units each these quickly fall into 1 of 2 categories. Either they are so under powered that they are quickly defeated thus just being a waste of time. Or they are unkillable versus whatever they are fighting such that they can plink away at the enemy armies for 10 rounds until they win. Mass combat should not go for more then 3 or 4 rounds if being done correctly. But because the army rules are easy to abuse if you pick the right class and buy the right equipment you can make a godlike army of 1 for chump change. This is because the system assumes that most armies consist of 50 to 100 units each. So, if you tried to have 50 of that same character the cost suddenly balloons to an amount that is unsustainable by any but the richest of kingdoms. Armies cost resources to build and maintain. It's easy to remove or even eliminate these elements completely by having small enough armies.

The best experience I had with the mass combat system was in a sandbox game. We had some time before a session was supposed to begin and so the DM and I resolved a battle that involved my kingdom. I had 3 to 4 small armies and I was being attacked by 2 very large armies. We were able to very quickly resolve the battle as it was basically just me and the DM. In that case it was fun and engaging for everyone involved.

My worst experience with it was when I was running the wrath of the righteous AP. Early on it lets you "train" with the army and run a mock 1 vs 1 army battle. Most of my players sat around doing nothing while one player rolled a d20. It was a simple combat and so even though everyone had input on what the army should do there just weren't that many options to pick between.


KingGramJohnson wrote:
Lady Asharah wrote:
While the system isn't exactly super polished... I'm wondering how a single level 12 Paladin defeated 50 Adult Red Dragons.
You're not wrong on your math. However, the character had a lot of cool items at his disposal and was capable of constant flight. There were a few other factors that came into play, including home field advantage, enhanced weapons and armor, and a few other things. He also fought them over two days, not one (so two battles). It may be that my GM wasn't doing something right.

Yes, the DM was doing something wrong, for once a plethora of fancy magic items has no effect on Mass Combat, that is all included in the "army" CR. So the Paladin CR includes all their gear and options. A Flight would be added which doesn't actually make difference in raw numbers, it just allows the flying unit to engage at their leisure (seeing as both were flying, the point is moot).

Wyvern is more likely, the Paladin would get hurt but ultimately emerge victorious. Mind you the result would likely be even more in Paladin's favor if regular combat rules were used... and you'd be playing for a week straight).

I just don't see how you could find it a slog. The battles in Mass Combat are resolved in less than a dozen rolls.

My biggest issue with Mass Combat rules is in fact in the phases. There is no real tactics phase. You decide your strategy, shoot once, then melee until one army breaks. Which is fine 1vs1 army, but that's not how battles are usually fought. I think there's a confusion because they are called "armies" while in fact they are more kin to "military units"


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I knew something was off about it when it was happening, I thought to myself, this shouldn't be possible, but I wanted mass combat over with as quickly as I can, and that GM was not the type to take criticism well, no matter how kindly it was presented. I'm glad they're not with us anymore.

I just found it to be less enjoyable, and the other players told me the same thing. Just not a fan of the system.

Maybe if I had another go at it with a GM who gets it right, I would consider trying it again, but for now, I'm happy to just not use it, or use my alternate version of it as stated above. :-)


Well, we tried it with my player and I with his home kingdom under invasion. It didn't work out the way we hoped. So he wants to try a different mass combat system. Like the Birthright Card(tm) system.

There was no way to maneuver his troops with this abstracted system. The mass combat system is way to abstract for us.


Mass combat can be decent if you adjust the rules a little... I ran Kingmaker, introduced Mass Combat early, and used Dudemeister's suggestion, which was:

Quote:

Armies gain bonus HP based on the size of the army.

Fine: +0
Diminutive: +1
Tiny: +2
Small: +5
Medium: +10
Large: +20
Huge: +50
Gargantuan: +100
Colossal: +200

Creatures of Large size or Larger are treated as having an army of one size category larger. Creatures of Tiny Size or smaller are treated as being one size category smaller when determining bonus HP. If using mounted armies, only use the mount's size if the mounts are of higher CR than the riders.

This is basically just to prevent any army getting one-shot.

Using this house rule. The CR 1 army of trolls would have 9 HP while the CR 1 army of warrior 3 (Barony Militia) would have HP of 15. (There is still a slight chance the PCs could one-shot the trolls, but I prefer to favour the PCs in what is ultimately a mini-game).

Early on it was fantastic. Small armies fighting each other was a lot of fun.

Larger armies, IIRC, took around 75 turns each. I had each turn be half a day, which made it obvious that the fighting lasted for a long time, whereas with the rules as written each army only lasts a couple of rolls. Rules as Written has the advantage that it doesn't get bogged down, adding the extra hit points makes it seem more impressive, larger scale, and longer but can take way too long to do all of the rolls. (I rolled the combats between sessions as the players trusted me to make decisions that made sense an no one wanted to sit around rolling that many turns.)


My DM switched it the other way around, units have lower defenses and less HP than the rules would indicate so that combats are faster and bloodier.

And he also made armies act almost as single PCs on a combat map, as in they can move around, engage, disengage, etc. at will so there are more tactics involved in setting up and movement.

Silver Crusade

We went to the other extreme in our KingMaker campaign (I was a PC). PCs described what they were doing, GM made some Ad Hoc decisions as to how effective those tactics would be, rolled some dice, and narrated how the fight worked out.

Obviously very abstract and requires the PCs and GM to be more or less on the same page as to what SHOULD work well in a mass combat. But it got the combats over quickly and felt quite good (ie, it felt that our decisions and tactics and character builds had actually mattered). It felt like the PCs both got to do stuff AND lead an army at the same time.

We'd all been exposed to the Mass Combat rules in the PFS scenario (Assault on the Wound, I believe) and all had ended up with various degrees of distaste, hatred and complete mistrust of them as a result.

I understand that from Paizo's point of view it can't treat individual spells differently but from a playing point of view that makes NO sense. There is a HUGE difference in the combat effectiveness of spells. Heck, a first level spell (entangle) should have a much greater effect than some 9th level spells (eg, Foresight, to pick from the same spell list).


pauljathome wrote:
I understand that from Paizo's point of view it can't treat individual spells differently but from a playing point of view that makes NO sense. There is a HUGE difference in the combat effectiveness of spells. Heck, a first level spell (entangle) should have a much greater effect than some 9th level spells (eg, Foresight, to pick from the same spell list).

In mass combat, with *few* exceptions, individual spells simply don't have the impact you imagine they would. With Entangle's duration, any army hit by it would just wait it out for couple minutes. Hunker down till it expired and moved on. Battles take place over course of hours, not minutes. Single fireball would kill a bunch of people... but hardly affect the effectiveness of over a hundred strong army.

But that also makes spellcasters really powerful. A level 7 wizard is an equivalent in combat effectiveness to an army of 100 CR3 soldiers. That is HUGE.


A mid level wizard could effortlessly cut through low level mooks by the hundreds. Eventually he runs out of spell slots but even then with the proper buffs he could keep slaying swaths of them with regular attacks.

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