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D&D 5E How to make PC mobs less of a slog in combat

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Two of the PCs in my current campaign have horns of Valhalla.

I have no issues with this as this campaign is more on the gonzo side of the spectrum. It isn't unbalancing. It isn't game breaking.

But buy can it turn combat into a slog. Even with a VTT.

Any thoughts, other than "take the toys away", that would make running combat with many PC mobs more enjoyable?

Some thoughts I have:

The summoned spirits all act on the summoners turn. The player can order them to focus attacks on a specific enemy or groups of enemies, but otherwise they attack the nearest enemy. I roll all of their hits at one time and distribute the damage. I use average damage. I don't roll damage for each hit.

I've though of running them as a mob according to the rules in the DMG but it takes more time to calculate number of hits using those rules than just rolling a bunch of dice at once in the VTT.

I've thought of treating them more as a swarm or hazard.

I just want to find a fair way to not have to treat them like another 20 PCs, rolling one by one against enemy ACs. But I don't want to completely remove any player agency over the spirit warriors' strategy.

Would love to hear ideas.
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Two of the PCs in my current campaign have horns of Valhalla.

I have no issues with this as this campaign is more on the gonzo side of the spectrum. It isn't unbalancing. It isn't game breaking.

But buy can it turn combat into a slog. Even with a VTT.

Any thoughts, other than "take the toys away", that would make running combat with many PC mobs more enjoyable?

Some thoughts I have:

The summoned spirits all act on the summoners turn. The player can order them to focus attacks on a specific enemy or groups of enemies, but otherwise they attack the nearest enemy. I roll all of their hits at one time and distribute the damage. I use average damage. I don't roll damage for each hit.

I've though of running them as a mob according to the rules in the DMG but it takes more time to calculate number of hits using those rules than just rolling a bunch of dice at once in the VTT.

I've thought of treating them more as a swarm or hazard.

I just want to find a fair way to not have to treat them like another 20 PCs, rolling one by one against enemy ACs. But I don't want to completely remove any player agency over the spirit warriors' strategy.

Would love to hear ideas.
What I have done when someone has summoned a large number of minor combatants is used the optional "Handling Mobs" rules in the DMG (p. 250). If you want to speed things up even more, you can have them do average damage.

You can split them into smaller groups, so there's still some tactics at play. Just start rolling for them individually if/when they are reduced to a manageable number.
 



NotAYakk

Legend
Gang Rules

A Gang is a group of small or medium creatures that act as a unit.

Gangs have HP per square, and attack as one.

Start with the statistics of the monster that is part of the gang.

The Gang's HP per square and attributes/saving throws is then the monster's HP, rounded to make it easier.

Saving Throws: When a spell is cast on the gang, roll a single saving throw. If you fail, give them a bonus equal to +1 for every two squares targeted by the spell; if this bonus makes them pass, the spell acts as if half of the squares passed the saving throw.

Gang Attack: When the Gang attacks, assign squares to attack various creatures. Make one attack roll per creature. The Gang gets a +1 bonus to the attack roll for 2 squares that attacks a creature, and it deals extra damage dice for every doubling of squares attacking:

1 Square: no extra dice
2 Squares: +1 set of dice (so 2[W])
4 Squares: +2 set of dice (3[W])
8 Squares: +3 set of dice (4[W])
16 Squares: +4 set of dice (5[W])
etc.

Gang Attack can only be used on the Gang's turn.

Overrun: If the Gang hits a creature it can overrun it, moving itself over the creature. When overrun, the Gang has advantage on attacks on you, you have disadvantage on attacks on the Gang, and if you cast a spell or make a ranged weapon attack the Gang can make a non-Gang attack on you; if it hits, you must make a concentration check to avoid losing the spell or attack.

Damage Taken: The Gang loses squares as it takes damage. A square does not track damage separately, but damage from an attack is limited to the number of squares it could kill. Ie, if a paladin is adjacent to 1 square of a Gang with 10 HP/square and it deals 30 damage with an attack, only 1 square dies. Similarly for a fireball.

Damage that exceeds the Gang's square HP costs it a square, even if it nominally is spread out.

So 20 damage per square on 10 squares of a 60 HP/square gang does 200 damage, which kills 3 squares and has 20 damage left over.

200 damage per square on 3 squares of a 60 HP/square gang kills 3 squares, and nothing left over.

---

Berserker Gang​

As Berserker.
HP: 60 per square
Gang Attack: +5 to hit (+1 for every 2 squares engaged). 1d12+3 damage (+1d12 at 2, 4 and 8 squares engaged).

So a Brass Horn that summons a 10 square Berserker Gang.

It acts (as noted) on the PC's turn. It runs up to a dragon and attacks.

They surround the dragon and reckless attack. They make a +5+5 (+10) to hit attack for 4d12+3 damage with advantage. It hits, and they overrun.

The dragon is pissed. It does a wing attack (DC 22, 15 damage). This hits all of the gang.

The gang has a +0 dex save, +5 from 10 squares targetted. It rolls a 18+5, enough so that half save. It takes 75 damage (15*5), and one square dies and it is down 15 more HP.

Next legendary action, it lashes out with its tail. It is overrun, but the gang was reckless, so even dice. It hits (+14 hard to miss) and does 17 more damage. Gang is now at 9 squares x 60 HP and has taken 32 damage.

On the dragon's turn, it moves to reposition and takes an opportunity attack. It then breathes fire for 63 damage on 7 squares of the gang. The gang gets a +4 saving throw (9/2 round down is +4); the dice are hot today, it passed with the +4 bonus!

This acts as if 4 failed and 3 passed. The 4 that failed take 63 damage/square; they fry. The 3 that pass take 31 damage/square for 93 damage. That is 1 square dead plus 33 damage. The leftover 32 damage from earlier plus 33 is 65, another square dead.

9 - 4 - 1 - 1 is 3 square left, and 5 damage on those 3 squares.

Had the gang fully failed the saving throw, squares hit by the breath would just die as 63>60 HP/square.

When reduced to 1 square, gangs become an individual creature with any leftover damage.

---

The goal here is to give the feel of the mass combat rules without having to do math on the fly.

You have to handle "squares killed" and count doublings for damage scaling and squares attacking a target and deal with the square damage rules. And when the +1/2 squares bonus kicks in, you have to adjudicate "half passed the save, half did not".

The goal of the +1/2 squares to hit and scaling damage is to resolve the damage quickly without having to roll a pile of times.

Overrun is aimed at the feeling of "you are surrounded by a horde of zombies grabbing at you".

Doubling damage dice numbers with the attack bonus isn't OP compared to just rolling buckets of dice.
 
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I change the baseline function of them.

Undead, too, if there's a Necromancer playing.

Instead of fully realized thinking and feeling independent actors, they act as obstructions which can react.

On your turn, you can move them like chess pieces, but they get no actions of their own. You can sacrifice your bonus action to give them some extra movement or have them help someone. Or your action to make them use their full action.

Their only real ability comes through Reactions. They get opportunity attacks as normal, and occasionally get to use special abilities as reactions.

But that's it. Their primary role is to change the layout of the battlefield and force enemies to either slow down or waste attacks on secondary targets to avoid reactions and such.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
As an aside, I know you're not wanting to take their toys away, but speaking generally when it comes to what you can control as DM, it's best in my view not to give out items that can summon monsters, allies, etc. It's better to avoid that problem beforehand rather than have to deal with it in the aftermath. I still leave the option to play a necromancer or bust out the animal summoning spells, but I make it very clear with the players that they need to be mindful with how much extra spotlight this takes away from everyone else and to make their choices accordingly. Eight velociraptors may seem like a hilarious gimmick until everyone's annoyed at how long your turns are taking!
 

Stalker0

Legend
I saw a great little rule idea recently that I thought was quite cool for this type of scenario.

roll one d20, assume 1/3 of them get that result, 1/3 that result -5, 1/3 result +5. If a crit occurs, only 1 crits. Assume avg damage.

do the exact same thing for saving throws
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Two of the PCs in my current campaign have horns of Valhalla. . .

I just want to find a fair way to not have to treat them like another 20 PCs, rolling one by one against enemy ACs. But I don't want to completely remove any player agency over the spirit warriors' strategy.
You've got players. Use them! Divide the summoned berserkers evenly amongst the PCs to control. If the PCs groan at the idea, just wing it using Challenge Rating to run the ensuing battle. CR of berserkers cancel out (kill) CR of opponents. Adjust the timing in rounds for dramatic effect, but if the berserkers have more CR than the opponents, the battle ends. If the berserkers have less CR, they all return to Valhalla (why, exactly, is that placename in the PHB?) and the opponents' hit points are reduced to a percentage of the difference in CR.

E.g. 10 warrior spirits, 2 CR, appear to attack 5 trolls, 5 CR. That's 10 x 2 spirits vs. 5 x 5 trolls. You let a round or two pass while the spirits look like they're trying hard, but getting pretty well pummeled, and the PCs continue to fight. The difference of 20 - 25 is 5 in favor of the trolls, which is 1/5 of the original troll strength (25 / 5). So after two rounds, one troll remains, and its hit points don't matter because it's going to be running for the hills!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
What I have done when someone has summoned a large number of minor combatants is used the optional "Handling Mobs" rules in the DMG (p. 250). If you want to speed things up even more, you can have them do average damage.

You can split them into smaller groups, so there's still some tactics at play. Just start rolling for them individually if/when they are reduced to a manageable number.
Sly Flourish has a mob hit and damage calculator that is quick to use. At least faster than rolling a bunch of dice and adding them up.

Mob Damage Calculator for 5e Dungeons & Dragons
These. The Sly Flourish calculator is based on the DMG rules. It assumes average damage and tells you exactly how many hit and how much damage is done.

If you don't want to do that, or deal with numbers at all, I'd suggest running large groups of NPCs against each other as simple narration. Decide what should happen and go with it. Be sure to let the PCs feel like their horns are doing some good, but don't let them simply win every fight with them.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
As an aside, I know you're not wanting to take their toys away, but speaking generally when it comes to what you can control as DM, it's best in my view not to give out items that can summon monsters, allies, etc. It's better to avoid that problem beforehand rather than have to deal with it in the aftermath. I still leave the option to play a necromancer or bust out the animal summoning spells, but I make it very clear with the players that they need to be mindful with how much extra spotlight this takes away from everyone else and to make their choices accordingly. Eight velociraptors may seem like a hilarious gimmick until everyone's annoyed at how long your turns are taking!
I appreciate that. But I don't want to backtrack on this at this point in the game.

I would rather it acted more like spirit guardians. An area of effect whose size and damage is determined by the type of horn and instead of a saving throw it was be rolled against enemy AC.

So...I'm basically talking about a summoned swarm. :)
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I saw a great little rule idea recently that I thought was quite cool for this type of scenario.

roll one d20, assume 1/3 of them get that result, 1/3 that result -5, 1/3 result +5. If a crit occurs, only 1 crits. Assume avg damage.

do the exact same thing for saving throws
I like that. It greatly simplifies things, except that you still have to spend time determining who hits which enemy.

I think I'm leaning more towards treating the spirits summoned by horns of Valhalla as area effects. But I'll need to discuss with my players as it greatly changes the tactics.
 

Put PC on the clock. They should be anyway.

Have minions go on the Players turn, after the Players turn ends. He gets a few seconds to move and resolve each ones action, or else they take the Dodge action and their turn ends.

In other words, palm the responsibility for tardiness over to the player.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
You've got players. Use them! Divide the summoned berserkers evenly amongst the PCs to control.

I've done this. It helps with keeping time per player more even in combat but still makes combat a slog overall. Also, while it gives each player more to do per round, it still removes the spot light from the PCs.

If the PCs groan at the idea, just wing it using Challenge Rating to run the ensuing battle. CR of berserkers cancel out (kill) CR of opponents. Adjust the timing in rounds for dramatic effect, but if the berserkers have more CR than the opponents, the battle ends. If the berserkers have less CR, they all return to Valhalla (why, exactly, is that placename in the PHB?) and the opponents' hit points are reduced to a percentage of the difference in CR.

E.g. 10 warrior spirits, 2 CR, appear to attack 5 trolls, 5 CR. That's 10 x 2 spirits vs. 5 x 5 trolls. You let a round or two pass while the spirits look like they're trying hard, but getting pretty well pummeled, and the PCs continue to fight. The difference of 20 - 25 is 5 in favor of the trolls, which is 1/5 of the original troll strength (25 / 5). So after two rounds, one troll remains, and its hit points don't matter because it's going to be running for the hills!

Hmm...I need to play around with this. If they use the Berserker spirits to mop up enemy mobs, I think this approach makes a lot of sense.

When they use them to increase DPR against a single powerful foe, however, I would probably just bull roll the and use average damage for the hits.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
These. The Sly Flourish calculator is based on the DMG rules. It assumes average damage and tells you exactly how many hit and how much damage is done.

If you don't want to do that, or deal with numbers at all, I'd suggest running large groups of NPCs against each other as simple narration. Decide what should happen and go with it. Be sure to let the PCs feel like their horns are doing some good, but don't let them simply win every fight with them.

The DMG rules don't save much time unless they focus their attacks. If they start splitting up, it doesn't help much.

A lot of their utility, is battlefield control.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Put PC on the clock. They should be anyway.

Have minions go on the Players turn, after the Players turn ends. He gets a few seconds to move and resolve each ones action, or else they take the Dodge action and their turn ends.

In other words, palm the responsibility for tardiness over to the player.

But the delay is mostly me applying damage. It is easy for the player to roll 10 d20s, say how many hit, and we use average damage. But I still have to apply that damage to the enemies.

If I use the VTT to auto apply damage, it would save me time, but actually slows things down MUCH more because then the player has to click on each berserker, target who they should attack, and roll one-by-one.

This is one area where I don't see VTTs providing much help. Many VTTs do great with area of effect damage, but I don't know of any that let me select multiple tokens and have them attack a target at once. But even if they did, that still wouldn't help in situations where they are splitting up and engaging multiple enemies rather than focusing attacks.
 

But the delay is mostly me applying damage. It is easy for the player to roll 10 d20s, say how many hit, and we use average damage. But I still have to apply that damage to the enemies.

If I use the VTT to auto apply damage, it would save me time, but actually slows things down MUCH more because then the player has to click on each berserker, target who they should attack, and roll one-by-one.
Use a pencil and paper?
 

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