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WotBS [Festival of Dreams] 5e Squad preview

Tormyr

Adventurer
Work is progressing on the 5e version of Festival of Dreams, the ninth adventure in the War of the Burning Sky campaign saga, and I wanted to share one of the newer / more out of the ordinary parts of this version.

For those of you familiar with the adventure, you will remember that there is a massive battle that represents a fight between over 1,200 combatants. As I looked at how to effectively bring this to 5e, I wanted to keep as much of the original concept while keeping everything moving as much as possible so that the players are not stuck watching the GM roll dice and calculate damage for 20 minutes every round. At the same time, I wanted to have the resistance have to retreat unless the heroes actively turn the tide.

The end result is that the squads, such as the Gate Pass Squad below, don't roll dice for their primary attack. Instead, the squad chooses 4 targets within an area to take damage. The area is a 10-foot square for ranged attacks or within its area for a melee attacks. Medium or smaller targets can only be target once per attack. Larger targets (including other squads) can be targeted up to all four times. The GM calculates the damage that the target receives based on the target's AC.

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Within the adventure text, a table has the damage pre-calculated by AC so the GM does not actually have to continuously recalculate, and the text also notes the 2 primary numbers that the two sides will be using as the Ragesians attack the entrenched Resistance. A Gate Pass Squad will do 48 damage to an AC 17 Ragesian Platoon within 80 feet (4 * 24, then apply resistance). While the 3/4 cover of the buildings gives the Gate Pass Squads an AC of 20 against a ranged attack, and a Ragesian Platoon would thus do 32 damage to a Gate Pass Squad within 80 feet (4 * 16, then apply resistance).

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Hopefully this is interesting to some of you. The testing has gone really well and allowed the battle to continue moving and quickly return focus to the heroes (which is good, considering how much else goes on during the battle).
 

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spinmd

Fishy DM
Looks interesting, I need to read in more detail and think about the design before I further comment, but I do have one question. I have the squad battle in adventure 4 coming up. Would you suggest that redesigning the squads for that battle in this format could lead to a more enjoyable encounter? As it stands right now, I am thinking that the squad's attacks could be really swinigy with some hot dice, and the Gallo Archers will destroy a lot of Steppengards forces once they are in longbow range, but before they can close to melee.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Looks interesting, I need to read in more detail and think about the design before I further comment, but I do have one question. I have the squad battle in adventure 4 coming up. Would you suggest that redesigning the squads for that battle in this format could lead to a more enjoyable encounter? As it stands right now, I am thinking that the squad's attacks could be really swinigy with some hot dice, and the Gallo Archers will destroy a lot of Steppengards forces once they are in longbow range, but before they can close to melee.
Yes, I plan to go back to adventure 4 with this methodology eventually. The issue with that battle I found isn't so much with dice rolls being swingy (although the heroes need to watch out), but that they are being done at all. The current 5e version of that battle uses squads which represent 4 soldiers. In my opinion, this was an improvement over the 3.5 edition which had 30+ creatures per side, IIRC. In the end, running the battle in adventure 9 at least felt faster than the battle in adventure 4, even though adventure 9's battle has more "encounters" in it.

The biggest determining factors for victory in the adventure 4 battle will be if the heroes manage to take care of all the earlier missions. Having the allied wizards, and not having to worry about incoming catapults or fireballs will make a big difference between holding the line or not.

When do you think you will have the adventure 4 battle?
 

spinmd

Fishy DM
The PCs just cleared out the Ragesians in Alydi Gap Outpost at the end of last session, so the big battle will probably be next session which is July 18.

Now that I read the squad design in more detail, I see how it can speed things up and I like it. The table is helpful. It probably would need to be toned down to accurately reflect the damage output of CR 4 - 8. Any resistance from players about essentially auto damage? Or increased math gaming with the removal of variables on the attack?

Back to adventure 4, am I missing something with the Gallo Archers? The way I see it, the PCs should target the Squads of Steppengard Soldiers from 600 feet until they reach melee combat and focus fire with the archers. Even with the Steppengard Soldiers constant advantage on the Dex save, the archers will average 22.5 damage per attack. With 2 squads that is 20 attacks during the 600 foot/10 round close and essentially kills all 8 Steppengard soldiers squads. Even with active catapults (if the PCs fail the sabotage), the combination of an Int check with disadvantage to target (range plus archers moving each round) and a save with advantage, the archers should survive catapult attacks while Steppengard's forces close.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
The PCs just cleared out the Ragesians in Alydi Gap Outpost at the end of last session, so the big battle will probably be next session which is July 18.

Now that I read the squad design in more detail, I see how it can speed things up and I like it. The table is helpful. It probably would need to be toned down to accurately reflect the damage output of CR 4 - 8. Any resistance from players about essentially auto damage? Or increased math gaming with the removal of variables on the attack?

Back to adventure 4, am I missing something with the Gallo Archers? The way I see it, the PCs should target the Squads of Steppengard Soldiers from 600 feet until they reach melee combat and focus fire with the archers. Even with the Steppengard Soldiers constant advantage on the Dex save, the archers will average 22.5 damage per attack. With 2 squads that is 20 attacks during the 600 foot/10 round close and essentially kills all 8 Steppengard soldiers squads. Even with active catapults (if the PCs fail the sabotage), the combination of an Int check with disadvantage to target (range plus archers moving each round) and a save with advantage, the archers should survive catapult attacks while Steppengard's forces close.
The table is just the calculated values from the squads in adventure 9, so it would not be applicable to those in adventure 4.

I didn't have any resistance to auto damage. In adventure 9, the battle is more about what the heroes do around the Ragesian and Gate Pass squads. They are not often actually targeted by the Ragesian platoon. I have a monk PC with AC over 20, and the player said, "50 arrows coming my way, makes sense that something hits me."

The first wave of Gallo's Fend should go solidly in the heroes' favor, but it should wear them down a bit. If a catapult is firing, it's random nature means that you don't know where the shot will actually impact, which means that there is a decent chance that something is hit regularly. In the end, the battle of Gallo's Fend went how I wanted it in terms of result at our table (although slightly easy), it was just really slow. Using this mechanic for the squads means you can do the first several rounds of attacks all at once, take out the damage, and get to where the heroes can see the whites of the enemies' eyes.
 

I'm not sure a group of 20 guys should be a challenge 19 threat, even if you have some spellcasters in there. But I like the ooze-like schlorping together that happens when you have two units adjacent. Then again, it's weird that if the unit gets under half-HP it loses its spellcasters. If another unit also below half-HP is nearby, it also won't have spellcasters.

But if they stand next to each other, the spellcasters show back up. :)

For ZEITGEIST 5e's setting book, I was using this design for a unit. The idea is that while there are a lot of guys, most of them aren't fighting, and you don't have to kill them all to get the unit to stop fighting.

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Tormyr

Adventurer
Thanks for the feedback. I have tried to focus on keeping things moving quickly in the encounter while keeping it as close in spirit to the original as possible. Part of that was having the number of units reduce so there were fewer things to do each turn. So the question had become what to do about the special units (Ragesian platoons have an inquisitor and commander as well).
  1. Special units don't come back.
  2. Special units combine resources but don't exceed the maximum
  3. Special units come back with resources already used
I had started with #2 but decided that was too much bookkeeping (and had the weirdness of bringing the units back), so I took that language out. Special units could come back if the squad received healing, but again, that is more bookkeeping. Originally, I thought that healing the squad and bringing it back up over half, but it did not come up that much in play (and bookkeeping). I am leaning toward units not being able to heal (except by absorbing another unit) and special units not coming back.



And about the CR: thanks, I took another look at it and had overstated the DPR when I calculated it.

DCR 18: 312 hit points (+27 HP from healing spells for 3 rounds)
DCR Adjustment -2: AC 15 is 4 less than AC 19

OCR 24: 198 DPR from arrows + 13 from spells
OCR Adjustment -4: Attack bonus 4 instead of 8

CR 18: (16 + 20) / 2



Another thing that comes with spellcasters is concentration. My thinking was that rolling concentration saving throws all the time was again going to slow things down. That led to the 50 damage number. It is big enough that a squad cannot cause concentration to end simply by targeting another squad, but a squad's physical attack combined with their spell might be enough. An enemy can get a squad's concentration to drop through:
  1. Significant damage (50 hp) in 1 turn
  2. Dropping the squad's hit points to half or fewer
  3. Using dispel magic
 

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