log in or register to remove this ad


5E EN5ider #339 - Mass Combat

Have you been left unsatisfied by mass combat in 5E? This EN5ider article is for you—straightforward and narrative-heavy mechanics for army battles!

en5ider 339 snapshot.JPG

đŸ”„ 13 Free Articles including 5 adventures, memorable magic items, elemental cleric domains, Syndrathrax the soul-sucking dragon, and 2 complete character classes: the smart-fighting savant and the element manipulating geomancer!
⚔ Join EN5ider for Immediate Archival Access: Pay $1 per new article we publish (5 per month—so $5 a month) to become a member and get instant access to the library of 330+ articles at no extra charge!

Lately on EN5ider:
  • 339. Tertiary System: Mass Combat. The mass combat rules offered thus far for Fifth Edition can be pretty disappointing depending on the expectations of your group. Trying to extend the core mechanics to adroitly navigate an entirely different scale of play is simply too much stretching, often eliminating player agency and diminishing how fun the game is for everybody. Instead we offer you this alternative tertiary system, rules that employ straightforward mechanics based on narrative storytelling. Make the players into epic heroes who can turn the tide of battle in the face of overwhelming odds without any headaches! Designed by Benjamin Eastman, illustrated by JĂșlio Cesar Oliveira Rocha.
  • 338. Intriguing Organizations: Readers of War. Fantasy gaming oft emphasizes the magical side of scholastic pursuits, but in the real world one of the traditionally most studied aspects of history is the making of war. With that in mind we present to you the Readers of War, a sect of warriors that fastidiously study combat in all its forms with the most devoted accepting the First Codex of War as their very patron. The rank-and-file are combatants through and through however, traveling the land to teach martial history and arts to those worthy of wielding a blade. In addition to all the information you'd expect from an Intriguing Organizations article, this supplement also includes a Proctor of War (CR 8), a new warlock patron (First Codex), the eponymously named battle book weapon, and three eldritch invocations specifically for First Codex warlocks. Devotedly designed by Peter Martin featuring illustration by Phil Stone.
  • 337. ZEITGEIST #11: Gorged on Ruins - Part 1. Undoing the Obscurati's ritual is a tall order but there are three terrible dangers threatening the world that the adventurers might turn to the vital task: beneath the Beran city of Ursaliña is a Gidim leviathan colonizing the world, comets have striking in Drakr's frozen north herald the return of mythic warlords seeking a final battle, and the gods themselves are being put on trial by the people of Crisillyir! Can the adventurers navigate these epic challenges while learning the ritual themselves so that it can be undone? This 27 page supplement includes the empowered ghost councilor Shuman Larkins (CR 16), great eclipse killer (CR 13), Glaucia Evora (CR 14), and a devious memory trap.
  • 336. Villain Spotlight: Vengar the Reader. Goblins are known for many things—reading is not typically on that list, but it's not like Vengar is a typical goblin. Once a trapfinder for the Chokeleaf tribe, this errant necromancer went entirely off the deep end after selfishly stealing an ancient tome to fulfill his ambitions of power. The cursed book has sucked away his vitality and now Vengar travels from tribe to tribe posing as a shaman, utilizing everything he can to acquire more magics able to extend his piteous life before the dark entities he's pledges his soul to come calling for his debt. In addition to his statistics (CR 5), Vengar has access to a variety of enhanced undead that explode, ignite, poison, become conduits of deathly energies, and even hide other monsters inside their bodies. Designed by Charlie Brooks, illustrated by Renan Moraes.
  • 335. Enchanted Trinkets: Arcane Atlases. Sometimes knowing where you're going just doesn't cut it because after all, journeys are often only half of a quest. That's where these wondrous maps make their mark. The atlas of the lost keeps track of the things you've erroneously discarded along the way, a social map is certain to show its value after carousing starts and you forget where the next tavern is located, and surely being able to quickly find a healer thanks to a caduceus chart is a boon—one that might well mean the difference between life and death! Find these among the 10 unique enchanted trinkets on offer here, and get yourself a few maps worth keeping in your pack. Designed by Andrew Engelbrite and illustrated by Rachel Maduro.
If you haven't looked at the 13 free EN5ider PDFs
(that include the complete
first adventure
in the ZEITGEIST Adventure Path!) then by golly
you are missing out on some legit awesome.

(Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)
Mike Myler



Interested in the mass combat so I don’t have to resort to using 2e battlesystems for combat if this is easier/better. Was it play tested well enough to work through any issues?


Looks even less well thought out and tested than the Unearthed Arcana articles on mass combat. A whopping 5 pages, including cover page, pictures, and sample army list.


Looks even less well thought out and tested than the Unearthed Arcana articles on mass combat. A whopping 5 pages, including cover page, pictures, and sample army list.
Have you read the rules? I personally don't think the number of pages is significant. I think the bones of a well done mass combat system could be handled in 1-2 pages. Disparaging the quality of something based on page count without reading the rules is pretty silly IMO.

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
Casualties are an army's hit points.

For frame of reference, here's a flow chart with the Unearthed Arcana mass battle rules (minus the references to Dignity/Haitoku, which are specific to Mists of Akuma).

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
Also I have not personally playtested the Mass Combat article's rules. I have (numerous times at this point) used the UA mass combat rules and can tell you right out that in the future I'll be using the stuff in this EN5ider article instead. :)

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
It says a company is 51-100 soldiers but has 20 hp. Immediately following that shows modifying the HP for tough creatures. So, it's not quite that simple.
Casualties don't equal hit points. They aren't 1-for-1. That said, reducing an army's hit points is a representation of casualties suffered by that army. :)

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
Obviously. But it never bothers to say that. Also nothing on morale or routing. Basic stuff in any mass combat system.
You know in this rule system, it does. Much of 5E is design by occlusion—the rules are as much about what they explicitly say as they are about what they don't say. It's very annoying from a designer perspective. What it does say (and have) are more than one reference to heroes in the battle being captured and taken as prisoners of war. It's up to the GM and reader to make the logical leap that when an army is reduced in health, some of its soldiers died or otherwise stopped fighting.

Routing (aka Overrun! on page 4) is what happens when an army's hit points are reduced to 0. The GM may decide that means all the soldiers are dead, but it doesn't say that. It says the army unit is destroyed.

Sounds like you might just want to find whatever the mass combat rules are for GURPS and transport them into here, which is fine. I definitely did not want the author on this article to do that because as displayed above, the existing rules for mass combat are (at the very least) not wanting for heavy-handed complexity.


You just said HP are casualties. Then you say routing is 0 HP. Death and rout are not the same thing.

If you're cool with these rules, great. Use them. I read it. I don't care for it.

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
Hit points are casualties. Hit points are also deserters (the definition of casualty includes "one who is injured, killed, captured, or missing in action through engagement with an enemy"). Hit points in 5th edition are an abstraction. They do not represent only blood and flesh for characters, and it doesn't track that they would somehow change to only that for army units that use that same statistical category.

Sorry you didn't like them. Thanks for reading the article though, and hopefully next Monday's will be more up your alley. :)


Latest threads