5E good rules for PCs vs army units? - Page 2
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  1. #11
    I steal from Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Role Playing System. I make them "minions" in groups of 5 to 10 depending on the challenge you need. Each group gets one roll to hit with a +1 per extra creature in the group above one. For every two or three they beat the AC of the PC by they get an extra hit. If they get a Critical Hit then only one attack gets doubled dice. They get the +1 per extra unit for saves and such as well. Damage is not divided over all the creatures but to one creature at a time decreasing the combat efficiency of the group. Excess damage that takes out one member is lost unless it is an area effect weapon. Then you are rolling to hit for each squad, saving for each squad and losing members of a squad. Squads attack each PC doing damage to that PC. I would break into 5 man squads if competent baddies like Orcs or 10 man units if Kobolds. If Ogres maybe 3 man units. So for a Company of Orcs you only have 2 teams of 5 per squad, thus eight per platoon and thus thirty two for the company. Have the leader be a separate unit and his death gives all groups a -1 to all their hits, saves etc.. Better 32 rolls than 160. I'd even use Excel to do up sets of rolls in advance.

  2. #12
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    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)



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    Quote Originally Posted by Quickleaf View Post
    Tactical complexity is at odds with brevity. You can sacrifice one for the other, but you can't have both.

    The more tactical choices presented to players/DMs, the longer rounds take. That's why you have very abstracted mass combat rules in BD&D – the emphasis there was not on tactics but on troop composition, the objective being arriving at a resolution reasonably quickly.



    I ran a roughly 3-hour long fight with the PCs (and aarakocra allies) facing off against 21 gargoyles. The PCs had very limited access to magic weapons. It could easily have been a slog.

    However, despite the length, it turned out to be one of the most gripping intense sessions we've had. One player commented that he could envision the whole scene taking place like a Lord of the Rings film or fantasy anime.

    I accomplished this with a couple steps:
    1. I was well-organized with all the stats/notes/abbreviated tactics I'd need on just 2-3 printed pages.
    2. I also took specific notes on potential random actions for the gargoyles. See below.
    3. I framed the scene vividly. Aarakocra summoning an air elemental while their leader performed a ritual. At night, one of the PCs noticed the moonlight coming through clouds glinting off stony form of many gargoyles on the wing. A brief volley of longbows and other long-range attacks, and then the battle as rain and winds pelted the cliffside aarakocra settlement the PCs were defending. Many choices of the PCs came from how I framed this scene.
    4. I created a table of developments/twists that I rolled on every even round. I've pasted this below. Doing this kept the fight fresh & helped up the tension.
    5. Lastly, I incorporated Dungeon World GM moves as a table of "complications" – I rolled when players failed key checks, when players dawdled, when players tried to “brute force” a challenge (rather than engaging with the narrative & playing smart), or when play presented a golden opportunity. This also helped keep the fight fresh and make failure interesting.


    GARGOYLE RANDOM ACTIONS (d6)
    1. Attack & terrorize the weak.
    2. (aarakocra young, Na, unconscious characters, pets/familiars).
    3. Desecrate the Cleansing Chamber.
    4. Disrupt the air elemental summoning of the monks.
    5. Grapple a dangerous foe in pairs, then drop that foe off the cliffs.
    6. Hunt down Mwaxanaré to abduct her.
    7. Raid Asharra’s library or the scavenger’s market, stealing valuables.


    DEVELOPMENTS (d8 on even rounds)
    1. Na is missing! Is he trapped? Hiding? Taken by gargoyles? Trying to help?
    2. Mwaxanaré – not heeding Asharra’s warnings – goes to use a golden egg.
    3. Plummeting dead gargoyle breaks a 15-foot stretch of walkway.
    4. The air elemental is destroyed! Any gargoyles it was facing enter Kir Sabal.
    5. Wounded aarakocra is falling to death unless PC uses reaction to intervene.
    6. Building crumbles from magic missiles, 4d6 bludgeoning, dust, and cover.
    7. A RANDOM NPC/PC (d12) is overwhelmed and needs help!
    8. An aarakocra youngling brings arrows or a healing potion in the nick of time, but needs a window to escape to safety.


    Regardless of the particular mechanics you settle on, I'd consider incorporating aspects of my approach.
    I admire your work and commitment here, Quickleaf!

    I can vouch for the insanity of running mobs as individual NPCs...unless...

    If the minions are likely to be taken out by one attack from a PC, and the PCs are high enough level that they have more than one attack most turns or have area effect attacks that can take out multiple NPCs in one turn, and there are 4 or more PCs, and there's no more than 100 minions - then I say run the minions as individuals. Mowing down minions for a several rounds can be very satisfying for the players, abut still be threatening. As a DM, use some mob rules so you're not rolling for every single minion attack.

    I recommend having a good reference map as a DM - separate from the tactical map for minis, if you use them, with all the NPC/mosnetr stats, threat, treasure, etc. written on it. That way you aren't shuffling papers around.

  3. #13
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    Just have the army run away at the start of the encounter due to morale failure. While the commander may think that they can eventually overwhelm the PCs with their huge numbers, no soldier wants to be the first in line in a fight against an opponent they have no hope of beating one-vs-one.
    Laugh Frankie1969 laughed with this post

  4. #14
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    Do 10 rounds at a time & use average damage.

  5. #15
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    Thanks for all the ideas.

    I'm designing the platoons as swarms or mobs.
    Their actions are area effects (aura for melee, rectangle for ranged) that automatically deal a bunch of damage minus the target's AC, which streamlines combat without negating the value of armor.

    @Quickleaf's idea about complications could work. The battlefield does have some unusual features that ccould pop up to the advantage or disadvantage of either side.

    Dividing the battle into sections won't work, because there are no other sections or other defenders. It's strictly army vs party. The PCs have wiped out every team of high-level specialists that the BBEGs could send, so now they're trying battalions and warships instead. And the PCs already took out one of the warships.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie1969 View Post
    The party is 15th level, and it's time to put them up against a couple hundred soldiers in platoons. What's a good way to make this tactically interesting and take about an hour?
    One thought that occurs to me is that the circumstances will be crucial. A 15th level party in a fortified defence with some AoE magic should be easily able to massacre 200 regular enemy soldiers, while in an ambush situation they could be TPK'd with one volley of arrows.

    I think if I wanted this to be tactically interesting I'd use a large battlemat and be prepared to spend a few hours on it. I'd use card cut-outs for squads of enemy soldiers in formation, eg 10 men in a 4x4 area works ok for skirmishers or troops advancing; a 5x2 area for close formation infantry in line.

    If this is a group sent to kill the 15th level PCs then they presumably won't be a bunch of 200 11 hp Guards; there should be squads of elite strike units, supporting spell casters and such. Ability to soak AoE damage will be a priority so MM NPCs like Veterans, Knights & Berserkers seem appropriate. If I'm the NPC commander I'll want some disposable Berserkers soaking up the fireballs while I get a team of Assassins into position to gank the casters.

    My general expectation would be that against any serious military threat the PCs will withdraw at least to a defensible location. They likely have superior mobility to the attackers, and the ability to decide where to fight. They're going to want to fight from castle walls or in a dungeon etc where numbers don't tell so well.
    XP Frankie1969, ParanoydStyle gave XP for this post

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sorcerers Apprentice View Post
    Just have the army run away at the start of the encounter due to morale failure. While the commander may think that they can eventually overwhelm the PCs with their huge numbers, no soldier wants to be the first in line in a fight against an opponent they have no hope of beating one-vs-one.
    Whilst realistic, it's not exactly the Lord of the Rings...
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  8. #18
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    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)



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    The Mad Kings Banquet has the 8th-level heroes lead a group of allied soldiers in holding the line against a few waves of enemy soldiers. The 3.5 version had 30+ enemies in a wave and 16+ allies. The 5e version uses squads representing 4 soldiers in a cohesive unit. It turns something like this:

    GALLO SOLDIER
    Medium humanoid (dwarf), lawful neutral

    Armor Class 18 (half plate, shield)
    Hit Points 37 (5d8 + 15)
    Speed 25 ft.

    STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
    15 (+2) 13 (+1) 16 (+3) 10 (+0) 12 (+1) 6 (-2)


    Damage Resistances poison
    Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
    Languages Common, Dwarvish
    Challenge 1 (200 XP)


    Dwarven Resilience. The dwarf has advantage on saving throws against poison.

    ACTIONS
    Multiattack.
    The soldier makes two melee attacks.
    Battleaxe. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) slashing damage, or 7 (1d10 + 2) slashing damage if used with two hands.
    Bohemian Earspoon. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) piercing damage.
    Heavy Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 100/400 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d10 + 1) piercing damage.

    Into this:

    SQUAD OF GALLO SOLDIERS
    Huge squad of Medium humanoids (dwarf), lawful neutral


    Armor Class 18 (half plate, shield)
    Hit Points 76 (8d12 + 24)
    Speed 25 ft.


    STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
    15 (+2) 13 (+1) 16 (+3) 10 (+0) 12 (+1) 6 (-2)


    Damage Resistances poison; bludgeoning, slashing, piercing
    Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned
    Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
    Languages Common, Dwarvish
    Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)


    Dwarven Resilience. The squad has advantage on saving throws against poison.
    Squad. The squad can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the squad can move through any opening large enough for a Medium humanoid. The squad can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points, and it has advantage on saving throws if the area affected does not cover at least half of the squad’s space.

    ACTIONS
    Flails. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 0 ft., one target in the squad’s space. Hit: 36 (8d8) bludgeoning damage, or 18 (4d8) bludgeoning damage if the squad has half of its hit points or fewer.
    Bohemian Earspoons. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 40 (16d4) piercing damage, or 20 (8d4) piercing damage if the squad has half of its hit points or fewer. The squad has disadvantage when attacking a target within its space.

    Bohemian earspoons are pole arm weapons that turns a hit into a critical hit if the creature readies an action to attack an enemy that comes into range. The squad represents 4 soldiers, but the hit points are only twice that of a normal creature because of the damage resistances. The damage of all 4 soldiers attacks are rolled into a single attack. This can make things very dangerous when they hit, especially against a 9th-level PC.

    In practice, moving the scenario to squads for the 5e version made the battlefield encounters manageable, but the heroes still had to rely on their allied squads (like the one above) to absorb the damage because a direct confrontation with one or more of the enemy squads was really risky. The enemy waves also had single-unit "heroes" for the PCs to fight, and the PCs could also reinforce parts of the line that buckled.

    For your scenario, 3 of the above squads per PC (or ally) would make for a deadly encounter that used up almost all of the daily XP budget for the PCs. If you took the squad concept for the PCs to hold off hundreds of units, you just say that each squad represents 200 soldiers / # of squads = # of soldiers per squad. Other squads such as knights or archers (with an AoE volley attack) will keep all of the units from seeming the same. Having waves will help you gauge how much the heroes can take at a time without overwhelming the heroes instantly.

    This will still not be enough to make it a super fast encounter, but it is essentially vanilla D&D and can be spiced up with the great suggestions in the thread, and it has a decent chance of pushing the PCs to their limits..
    Last edited by Tormyr; Thursday, 2nd May, 2019 at 09:34 PM.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie1969 View Post
    The party is 15th level, and it's time to put them up against a couple hundred soldiers in platoons. What's a good way to make this tactically interesting and take about an hour?

    Should be fun. If they let the soldiers get to close range, the PCs are toast.

  10. #20
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    My suggestion would be to not use swarms but instead to treat the enemies as 100 individual units...with 1 hp each. In other words, use 4E's "Minion" rule. Stat everything else as you would what you consider level appropriate for soldiers in this army. Since only so many soldiers can attack the PCs at once, you'll only need to make maybe 20-30 attack rolls per round at most, which is how many you might be making for like 6 high level monsters considering multiattack exists. For the rest of the army just abstract it and describe what it's doing. Also if the PCs fight smart and have a chance to choose their terrain well they'll create some kind of "Hot Gates" (Thermopylae) or bottleneck only letting a few enemies reach the frontline fighters at a time which should majorly cut down the number of attack rolls you have to make. Since fireball is not just a thing, but an archetemplate for a wide variety of area effect spells, I very much doubt this will take more than an hour.

    Missed "15th Level". At that level, the 1 hp thing does not feel appropriate. Good thing lots of other people have responded lol.
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