Unearthed Arcana - The 5E "Battlesystem" Mass Combat Rules Are Here!

The mass combat rules have been posted in the latest Unearthed Arcana. "The D&D combat rules in the Player’s Handbook are designed to model conflict between small groups—an adventuring party of perhaps three to six characters against monster groups that rarely exceed a dozen creatures. Combat on this scale keeps the focus squarely on the adventurers. In some D&D campaigns, though, the story might hinge on battles involving dozens or hundreds of monsters and warriors. In this second installment of Unearthed Arcana, we build on the standard combat rules to model conflict on a much larger scale, allowing players and DMs to control whole armies. At the same time, these rules for mass combat allow individual adventurers to lead an army’s charge against an enemy regiment, rally dispirited soldiers to rejoin the fray, or defeat powerful enemy monsters or leaders."

Find it here! It's a 9-page PDF by Mike Mearls.

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Comments

Interesting stuff but I prefer more abstract mass combat systems. The War machine rules from BECMI (and reprinted in the Rules Cyclopedia) is still the pinnacle of clean, fun mass combat design for D&D IMO.
 

Mistwell

Hero
I gave it a brief read, and it looks pretty good. Seems like it would run relatively quickly, while still involving a lot of the more interesting tactics of a wargame type scenario.
 

Blackwarder

Villager
I'm ambivalent, my main gripe is with the use of grid an minis, I understand that each square equale 20 FR and that it allows you to use the minis you already have but something feels off... I need to gork it more.

Warder
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
While minis combat isn't usually really my bag, I do like the idea of objectives and victory points even outside of minis fighting. I'll leave those more invested in it to tell me if the minis side works, but I do like objectives and VP....and they have me thinking about campaign pacing....
 

Keldryn

Adventurer
Interesting stuff but I prefer more abstract mass combat systems. The War machine rules from BECMI (and reprinted in the Rules Cyclopedia) is still the pinnacle of clean, fun mass combat design for D&D IMO.
Agreed. Like BattleSystem in 1e and 2e, these rules would be good for conducting a castle siege or an asault on a town. When you've got nations at war with one another, War Machine was hard to beat.

X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield demonstrated that there is a place for both types of mass combat systems.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Overall, pretty interesting. If this is the general quality and depth we're going to get with Unearthed Arcana articles, I'm pretty happy.

I did notice some wonky stuff with stands compared to solos. Just as an example, it says a stand (10 units) of a creature should use the same statistics of the base creature for HPs, attacks and damage, etc. Seems strange that a single character would be just as effective as a group of 10, since there's no rules for scaling damage and HP up and down between solos and stands.
 

TerraDave

5ever
Overall, pretty interesting. If this is the general quality and depth we're going to get with Unearthed Arcana articles, I'm pretty happy.

I did notice some wonky stuff with stands compared to solos. Just as an example, it says a stand (10 units) of a creature should use the same statistics of the base creature for HPs, attacks and damage, etc. Seems strange that a single character would be just as effective as a group of 10, since there's no rules for scaling damage and HP up and down between solos and stands.
The rules feel like a good start, but not really complete. For example, how do solos fight exactly? We have rules for solos casting spells, and there actually are some differences between them and units. We have some juicy rules for them as commanders. But otherwise?

Some of it also seems a little fidly. Elevation rules seem a bit overdone for example.

But this is only a play-test version.
 

Prism

Villager
I'm ambivalent, my main gripe is with the use of grid an minis, I understand that each square equale 20 FR and that it allows you to use the minis you already have but something feels off... I need to gork it more.

Warder
Just having had a quick read it looks like you could easily remove the grid and do it with measurements much like Warhammer. A few spell template and I reckon it would play pretty well
 

TerraDave

5ever
Agreed. Like BattleSystem in 1e and 2e, these rules would be good for conducting a castle siege or an asault on a town. When you've got nations at war with one another, War Machine was hard to beat.

X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield demonstrated that there is a place for both types of mass combat systems.
To each his own...

I see why people like the war-machine, but most of the time I would prefer to handle war as part of the campaign narrative, which would include the PCs military, diplomatic, covert, and operational activities.

For these UA rules, I think the point is take a traditional approach--one going back to chainmail and battle system--on how the PCs can be involved in battles involving hundreds of troops. Except for some special cases, I would prefer to play those battles out, not just roll a few times on a chart. I mean if you can play out a battle with 10 orcs, wouldn't you want to play out one with a 1000?
 
I see why people like the war-machine, but most of the time I would prefer to handle war as part of the campaign narrative, which would include the PCs military, diplomatic, covert, and operational activities.
I don't think these are mutually exclusive. I have used War Machine in every edition of D&D except 4th (because I did not play it) and 5th (not yet, anyway) and it has always served to enhance the narrative aspects of battle and war in which the PCs were always the focus.
 

Superchunk77

Explorer
Overall, pretty interesting. If this is the general quality and depth we're going to get with Unearthed Arcana articles, I'm pretty happy.

I did notice some wonky stuff with stands compared to solos. Just as an example, it says a stand (10 units) of a creature should use the same statistics of the base creature for HPs, attacks and damage, etc. Seems strange that a single character would be just as effective as a group of 10, since there's no rules for scaling damage and HP up and down between solos and stands.
The PDF doesn't actually explain this at all, but from what I gather, as soon as you involve solos you need to return to regular combat rounds of 6 seconds, and just play out 10 of them for each battle round. This would probably bog down the fight though as the PC would be taking multiple different actions throughout the 10 rounds.

But yeah, it's a playtest so this is probably something that will surface relatively fast and be rectified. Alternatively, you could just use the Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign book to handle mass combat, as it would translate over to 5e almost seamlessly.
 

Psikerlord#

Explorer
I like that the devs have produced this article for those who would like mass combat rules, but it's not for me.

As far as rules themselves go, as I understand it, you just treat 10 creatures like 1 creature, and move it around on a map with squares? With only a single attack roll from each "stand" of 10 creatures. Using damage and HP like normal, but treating a stand of 10 as a single creature..... And for some reason, solos like PCs keep all their normal stats etc (not divided by 10, or reduced by any factor at all).

For me this isnt mass combat. It's the opposite: turning mass combat into small scale combat.
 
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jgsugden

Explorer
It seems kind of interesting, but these rules were far from a priority for me and my game. I'd rather have seen a few dozen other things, including more setting specific articles (like last month's Eberron), new classes, new PC races, more spells, more robust mounted rules, etc...
 
Is it just me, or is initiative in this article pretty much useless? Everyone involved rolls it, but all fights are handled as though they're simultaneous, and combatants rendered a casualty are specifically called out as being able to perform actions, including an attack.

If participants are only ever removed at the end of the round, what difference does it make as to the order attacks are made?
 

Skyscraper

Villager
I like the idea of these rules. It creates a mini game where strategy trumps role-playing, for a short term activity within a campaign.

I like the idea of making solos as important as an entire stand. It's a reprensentation of the solo's efficiency and importance in battles. It's fun to consider a solo as capable of eliminating an entire group of combatants, heroic deeds! If it irks your sense of realism, you could maybe consider having stands represent different numbers of creatures, for example a stand of magic-users could comprise 2, 3 or 4 creatures instead of 10. If the creature is so important such that you want it to be on equal footing with a solo, then... make it a solo :) But I believe stands are meant to represent groups of grunts.
[MENTION=6684404]Superchunk77[/MENTION] I have not seen reference to a battle between solos reverting to 6 second rounds. This was in a previous article by Mearls when he had first intruduced this concept some months ago, but apparently it's been dropped in this version of the mass battle rules. Personally, I'm pretty happy with that as I didn't want to see a solo vs solo fight in-between rounds of the mass battle.

I'd like to be able to test these rules in the near future. Hopefully I get a chance to try them out, as I'll be DMing a campaign where mass battles would exist. I'd love to see they come into play. For now, it's tough to see how the strategy of identifying skirmishers vs regiments, how making bigger units or more smaller ones, how to improve stands with solos/commanders, and this kind of stuff, will influence play. Looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
 

Skyscraper

Villager
Is it just me, or is initiative in this article pretty much useless? Everyone involved rolls it, but all fights are handled as though they're simultaneous, and combatants rendered a casualty are specifically called out as being able to perform actions, including an attack.

If participants are only ever removed at the end of the round, what difference does it make as to the order attacks are made?
Quickly, what I can think of about initiative is that it will be important to move units before others to occupy areas or block a passage. Also, taking out an enemy unit before it flees could also be accomplished.

What I wonder is: knowing that a stand is dying at the end of the round, will that yield weird kamikaze effects where you would send your dying stands running into the enemies before they are taken out? It will be limited by the fact that a stand cannot move once it is adjacent to an enemy stand, but still. If so, this would require another level of abstraction to explain - not sure I'm fond of this if it reveals itself true in practice.
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
Overall, it looks like a simple and useful system that would be fun to use. I do have a couple of gripes.

First, I'd prefer they describe everything in feet, including speed and range, and then have a sidebar that describes the size and use of squares, just like they do in the PHB. So, instead of describing your speed as a number of squares equal to your speed divided by five, you just say that units have four times their normal speed, and squares are twenty feet.

Second, I dislike the term "stand" for a group of like creatures. I'd much prefer "squad". It sounds far more natural.
 

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