D&D General D&D and War

d&d is about the four people at the table
4 players + DM = 5 players.

That convention (4 players is the standard) ha come to annoy me.

The older tradition of “any number of players is fine“ is what I prefer. I’ve played with DM+2 up to DM+9 - nothing wrong with any player count, imho.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I've had some success with B/X, scaling it to 1 miniature = 20 troops and using Phil Barker's rules as the template for troop types, flanking, reaction etc. - the morale system and speed of resolution in B/X lends itself to easy adaptation. Heroes and big monsters can be represented in the main battle on a 1:1 basis using this, or the heroes' actions can be tracked concurrently with the main battle in a separate, regular 1:1 combat which then feeds back into the main conflict.

In other iterations of the game, I've winged it and have had myself and the players make sweeping, arbitrary judgements based on the mythic logic of the situation.
My favorite adaptation of TSR D&D rules back to miniatures wargaming is Dan "Delta" Collins' Book of War, which he's written about extensively on his blog. It's a good effort to faithfully adapt the rules of OD&D and make them into fast and simple wargame. Sounds like you've trod similar ground.



 


Chainmail works pretty well! I ran a scenario a while ago with some teens and they had a great time. They lamented the lack of archers they hired. I picked up Dragon Rampant and Delta's guide. They're solid rules, although Dan had some strange ideas on the area of a fireball.
 



Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Chainmail works pretty well! I ran a scenario a while ago with some teens and they had a great time. They lamented the lack of archers they hired. I picked up Dragon Rampant and Delta's guide. They're solid rules, although Dan had some strange ideas on the area of a fireball.
Ooh, I don't remember that about Fireball. What's the story?
 

Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
War pops up occasionally in my games, both as a player and DM. More often then not it's a background element, as the mere logistical concerns of simulating mass numbers of individuals - particularly if you're not using ToTM - is a bit of a chore.

I've had more than a few war scenarios. My general approach is to estimate how powerful each side is and then to roll a set of percentile dice to determine which side would win without the invovlement of the PCs. Why go overboard when a simple roll can handle things? Then I let the PCs dictate what they will do and allow their actions ro turn the tide in battoles that would be close. Regardless, I use the combats as a situation in which I can convey information to the PCs. They may catch sight of a special enemy, see some fom of strange war magic, or see troops that should not be there.
As DM, I VERY rarely feel the need to use any sort of (directly) randomized mass combat system. (For reasons such as complexity, effort in setup, working out or choosing a reasonable mass combat system, communicating it to the players....) I think it's generally better design from a player standpoint to set things up so that "bad things happen unless the PC's succeed at objectives" rather than rolling dice to determine which way things swing. Instead I might give the PCs tasks that can be broken down into specific fights or localized encounters - like kill enemy captain X, or destroy the catapults. One can, of course, use abstractions and background effects in a fight to kinda simulate larger scale battles. Like "enemies" that are a unit of troops. Or asking the PCs to make a dex save vs an incoming wave of arrows. It's just that I choreograph the action taking place outside the encounter.

While war as a plot element might well creep up, it's only really if I want or need the PCs to be commanding troops or the plot necessitates some measure of chaos that I'd bother with mass combat systems.
 
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Ooh, I don't remember that about Fireball. What's the story?
It's on his blog. In short, the scale is 1" = 20 ft. There is some analysis that makes the Chainmail scale of 20 people as 1 unit appropriate at that scale. Fine. Then, there was some math, and he concluded as a result that fireball only affects one unit at most.

1" = 20 ft. Fireball has a 20 ft. radius blast. In close quarter formation there are four units in a 2" x 2" area that could be covered. Now, I think there was some consideration that there would be "people in the corners" outside the blast. Even so, if 3/4ths of the squad was incinerated by the wizard way over there, I really don't have a problem abstracting that the 3-5 people remaining turned tail and ran for the hills.
 

jgsugden

Legend
...As DM, I VERY rarely feel the need to use any sort of (directly) randomized mass combat system. (For reasons such as complexity, effort in setup, working out or choosing a reasonable mass combat system, communicating it to the players....) I think it's generally better design from a player standpoint to set things up so that "bad things happen unless the PC's succeed at objectives" rather than rolling dice to determine which way things swing. ...
There is nothing wrong with that approach and it generally gives you the most exciting story option. I don't go that route, and instead insert the randomization factor, because it takes that control out of my hands and leads to a story that feels more organic and less planned. It feels less like a hero story and more like a war story in which you don't know how things will turn out, and have to be thinking about how you can win, but also how you can survive losing.

In other words, it feels less like a planned story and more like an experience. I let the players know there is randomness involved as well - which adds to them going into the combat with the worry that they could do everything right - and still fail. If they do fail after doing everything right it doesn't feel great in the moment, but that gives a real strong story moment. On the other hand, when they do win the day after doing everything right, it feels like a more meaningful victory because it wasn't a "You figured out the puzzle I left for you" moment - it was more organic.
 

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