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My Mass Combat Rules

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In order to simplify combat on a large scale Units have 2 values to consider. Attack and Defense. These are generalized values and modifiers used when considering a units weapons, armor and level of training.

Attack Bonus
Primitive or Small Weapons (-1)
Simple Weapons - (-)
Melee Weapon - (+1 / +2)
Reach Weapons - Attack Bonus (+3)
Ranged Weapons - Can attack targets at range, thats a huge advantage

Defense Rating
Uniform (11)
Light or Medium Armor (12-14)
Heavy Armor (15-18)

No Training (-1 Attack, -2 Defense)
Basic Training (-)
Career Training (+1 Attack, +2 Defense)
Expert Training (+2 Attack, +3 Defense)

Discipline bonus
This modifier depends on the type of unit and what they are good at. If you order a unit to attack another unit that they are especially trained and experienced to fight they will get a discipline bonus. Conversely, if they are ordered to do something they are not trained for they will get a penalty.

Fervor bonus
This modifier is a judgement call based on the leadership score of the commander.
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Instead of rolling for each combatant a PC need only roll once for each attack a unit makes. The target number is the other units defense rating. Depending on the degree of success (the difference of the value rolled above the defense rating) the target unit will suffer more or less casualties. An attacking unit will always take 5% casualties unless target is routing. The basic number of casualties always equals the number of attackers.

+13 or more +50% casualties to defender
+10-12 +25% casualties to defender
+5-9 +10% casualties to defender
+1-4 +5% casualties to defender
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Difference in unit size also matters in the scale of losses. But there are two hard rules of thumb. Defending archers do not get a size bonus to defense. Cavalry units always count as twice their number for unit size.

Attacking Unit is:
25% larger or +100 men = +4 Attack Bonus
50% larger or +500 men = +8 Attack Bonus
100% larger/Double = +16 Attack Bonus
110% larger or more = Defender Routes

Defending Unit is:
25% larger or +100 men = -25% casualties
50% larger or +500 men = -50% casualties
100% larger or double = +25% casualties to attacker
110% larger or more + 50% casualties to attacker
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For example a heavy cavalry banner [141 H. Cavalry] charges 2 companies of infantry [200 infantry]. Attacker has an attack bonus of +4 (+3 for lances, +1 for career training), a defense rating of 18 (for heavy armor) and a discipline bonus of +6 (for charging melee infantry).

The attacking cavalry rolls an 18 on their attack role +4 = 22, which is 10 more then the infantries defense rating. By the chart that means defenders suffer an additional 25% casualties as a result of the charge. 140+ 25% of 200 = 165 losses to the defenders.

The attackers would normally loose 50% of their unit attacking a larger force, but remember a cavalry unit counts as double for scale. 141 cavalry are equivalent to 280 infantry which means they get an additional +2 attack bonus for being 25% larger then the defender. However that +2 only gives the attackers an total of +12 over the infantry's defense rating which is not enough to receive an additional 25% to the defenders casualties.

Thus the final tally is infantry 165 losses, cavalry 7 losses, proving the age-old truth that heavy cavalry can smash melee infantry. However in other circumstances this would not have been the case.
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Terrain Modifiers
High ground: +4 atk and defense. (Cavalry cannot charge high ground)
Cover: +2 attack and +2 defense.
Barrier: +2 defense. [A castle wall would be considered to be all 3 giving defenders a +6 attack and a +8 defense.]
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Mass Combat Maneuvers

The Battle Grid: One square on the Battle Grid from the DMG = 100ft.
Rounds: In Mass Combat one round equals 6 minutes.
Initiative: Before the first round begins each general roles to determine who's orders are carried out first. Generals must be very specific with their orders and guidelines. DM's should have their players write down clear concise commands ahead of time and refer to those by a number so as not to give away their plan. Units that have no career training cannot do Full-Round-Actions.
Actions: Units on the battlefield have 3 action phases. Actions may use 1, 2 or all 3 of these phases.

Standard Action
-Change Order [must be in sight of commander or otherwise see signals]
-Attack (Melee or ranged)
-Charge (2) [includes double-movement]
-Fire siege weapon (2)
-Pursue (2) [includes double movement and attack vs. a retreating foe]

Move Action
-Prepare volley
-Load Siege Weapon
-Alter Formation (2)
-Set vs. Charge (2) [infantry must have reach weapons]
-Retreat [double move but provokes attack from defenders]

Full Round Actions
-Disengage [includes double movement]
-Encircle [+4 Attack next round]
-Move Siege weapon
-Skirmish [includes movement and attack with +2 defense]

more to come... including movement, fatigue and Command.


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  1. scars_of_carma's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Meatboy View Post
    Not bad seems a pretty good extrapolation of dnd to mass combat. Just a couple of questions what about reach weapons eg: pikes vs shorter melee weapons which were a pretty good advantage in such combat. And how does encircle work exactly? can a smaller group encircle a larger group and what does changing formation do exactly?
    I did give reach weapons (such as polearms) a higher attack bonus then melee weapons. I figured it was appropriate because generally polearms cost more and do more damage. However it is kind of subjective because polearms aren't always practical or necessary. Polearms are used best as a defensive weapon to ward off cavalry. In a melee battle, polearms would only hold an advantage at the start of the battle (when the unit wielding them is held in formation).

    On the topic of formations themselves, well, there are many but the basic ones are pretty simple. The advantage of formations depends on the situation and the enemy. In any case they are a critical part of mass combat strategy. To "encircle" an enemy would require a force of at least of equal size that is a good observation.

    I won't get into specifics about all these little details yet, the idea of these rules is to make mass combat faster so players take prescience of the fluid nature of battle. These rules should reward players who prepare a better strategy and make better preparations in general. After all, when hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives are at stake you want to rely on everything but die rolls to ensure victory.

    I think Tsun Tsu said, "The only battles worth fighting are battles that are won before they begin."