D&D 5E World Building: Army building


Yeah, that's why I house rule that no attacks can go either way. That way it's a nice utility hiding spot, but not an overpowered ultimate fortress.

On the other hand if you're defending a castle it's not that much better than just attacking from an arrow slit. At least not until the enemy archers have Sharpshooter in which case they can peg you from 600 feet with no penalty because they saw a shadow.
I did the opposite, attacks can go both ways. Tiny hut is more for people to have a decent night's sleep without being bothered by small critters or bad weather than for creating a near indestructible bulwark.

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Realistically your common conscript would have a +0 to attack with a spear (barely any training), deal 1d6 damage, an AC of 12 (only a shield), and 4 hp.
I had a DM build a +1 prof set of low CR people to represent barely trained once, but he gave up on the idea quick when he realize how unimpressive +1 or +2 to hit with a 1d6 or 1d6+1 weapon was.

Yeah, that's why I house rule that no attacks can go either way. That way it's a nice utility hiding spot, but not an overpowered ultimate fortress.

On the other hand if you're defending a castle it's not that much better than just attacking from an arrow slit. At least not until the enemy archers have Sharpshooter in which case they can peg you from 600 feet with no penalty because they saw a shadow.
I read on here or heard on tick tock someone call it Leomonds tiny battle bunker and I will never forget that name now... much like evards tentacles of forceful insertion.


"War" posts are fun, because we all make different assumptions based on our own campaigns and preferences. This is my take, but I've seen some pretty good posts that go in a completely different direction, so cherry pick anything that you want, and mix and match till you find what you like.

How I run battles. First, I don't usually have PCs running battles. There are different systems that do that well, but IMO, D&D has never been one of them. For me, a battle is an encounter setting, not the encounter itself. PCs will have an objective (though they often choose a different objective than what I planned.) This could be defend point X. It might be destroy or drive off thing Y. Even rescuing an overwhelmed unit of friendly NPCs. Often, it is simply a counter to elite enemy (CR appropriate) units, but allowing PCs to wade through low CR mooks occasionally can be a big hit. It could be direct combat, stealth (recon, sabotage, assassination, or rescue,) or social (flipping enemies to allies, bribing or intimidating units to flee, motivating troops, etc,) or some combination. Usually, we will end the encounter with friendly reinforcements pushing ahead of the PCs so they can have a moments rest, or with a fighting retreat to friendly lines.

Class vs Monster. For me, 5e NPC statblocks are far more useful than fully built PC classes, but in 3.5 PC builds were my default. YMMV. When I want to edit those statblocks, tetra-cube.com/dnd/dnd-statblock.html has been a huge help, but be careful not to add many single use, or rechargeable abilities. They are a nightmare to track.

Numbers. I like to use late viking age scale battles. Typically, battles happen with local troops, but full scale armies do take the field occasionally.

Kings can muster 8-10,000 troops but most of those are peasant fyrds (effectively CR0 commoners,) of which 10% probably come from local populations at the direct call of the king and the rest via dukes and barons up to a week after being called up. Maybe another 5-10,000 can be raised given full mobilization of the country, but this takes longer and has serious consequences to the economy. So 1 king, 4 dukes, and 20 barons may lead a total of 10-20k, but mustering all those troops takes time. Far more often, only the troops of the local lord, and maybe his closest neighbors will be on hand for a battle. So what troops are those?

A kings regular guard probably has 50 CR1/2 soldiers, 30 CR2 archers, and 20 CR3 knights or veterans. Those are people constantly in the king's service and available at a moments notice. The local fyrd realisticly adds about 500 commoners within half a day, and another 500 on day 2. Nearby barons and dukes probably show up to support the king beginning half a day after a call to arms, and continuing as travel speeds permit. Some will ride hard ahead of their fyrds, and others will ride at a walk so as to arrive later, but in solid command of their peasant levies

In addition to the standing troops, and the fyrd, a king usually has powerful allies and subjects to call on. A CR9 diviner or abjurer, probably with a CR1/4 apprentice and perhaps a CR3 veteran bodyguard is normally available. Mercenaries consisting of a CR9 champion or CR3 knight with 20 soldiers and 50 guards and 30 archers. A unit of 10-20 paladins (somehow not statted on D&D Beyond) led by a CR9 warpriest from a local temple. Potentially, a theives guild might be persuaded to send a unit of thugs, or act as scouts and spies. Sailors could be pressed into service. Humanoid tribes might be hired as mercenaries, and of course the nobility.

Powerful dukes may individually bring 5-10% of the fyrd each. They also have retinues that can rival the king. I like to assume that a Duke will have 5-20 knights or veterans, 20-30 soldiers, 10-20 archers, and 10-20 guards. These men will be the extended family and major vassals of the duke, along with their personal retainers. They will probably fight as a unit, but may be folded into other units of the king when warranted.

Barons (or earls) typically bring less firepower than a duke, but some powerful barons are an exception. 1-5% of the fyrd, 1-5 knights, 1-10 veterans, 5-30 soldiers, 5-30 archers, and 5-10 guards are totally reasonable. Again, these guys either fight as a unit or are folded into the larger army of the king.

Wizards. Really, it should be "casters." I don't do colleges of bards and wizards. For high fantasy, sure, but my default is a little muddier than that. I like reclusive wizards, secretive warlocks, unaffiliated sorcerers, traveling bards, and clerics that try to avoid getting tangled into secular affairs. Will there be some casters in a war? Yes, but not squads of them slinging fireballs like artillery shells. A handful of low level casters (CR2-5) might travel with the army, but most will be grouped with the commander. They will be scrying, advising, and holding spells in reserve to counter enemy threats. These guys are the reason that "scry and die" doesn't work in my games. They are more valuable as defensive trump cards than casting evocations and summons all over the battlefield. BUT, a caster or 2 that has skin in the game is different. A caster who is based in a besieged city, or who has some other personal interest in the conflict is going to be far more aggressive. Clerics of warrior gods, or those deeply enmeshed in politics might show up as elite units. Wizards with land and title may be just as involved as their martial peers, but add 1-4 apprentice wizards armed with wands and scrolls to their roster. There may also be a few casters that sign on as special mercenaries, but I would cap them at CR9, and use them very sparingly (and never to the death.)

Monsters. Loads of humanoid monsters have statblocks for various CRs and societies that translate to armies, warbands, and raiders. Use them. Goblinoids, orcs, githyanki, gnolls, whatever. Use numbers that make sense to you for your story. A tribe, or small band is the perfect size to challenge an individual barony. Massive hordes totalling 10s or 100s of thousands are great to challenge a fully mobilized country. Sprinkle in elite units of 2-6 giants or trolls. Maybe a young dragon along for treasure and carnage. And of course, these guys could just as easily be fighting for good... if the price is right.

Edit: Who wins? That is all plot. Do what works for your story, but allow players to help shape the specific details of those events. If the PCs do well, then so should the army, but that doesn't automatically mean victory. If the PCs fight with a small force against an overwhelming army, then perhaps they allow the army to fall back with minimal losses. If they do poorly, then their allies are crushed and routed. If you want to allow the PCs more sway in the actual outcome (which is awesome,) then you can allow the combat between armies to be based on the results of PC encounters, or you can use "victory points." Victory Points was a 3.5e concept IIRC from Heroes of Battle, that determined the outcome of battles based on how successful PCs were.

For example, if the PCs do nothing then the enemy might be expected to win by a small margin. The PCs gain points by accomplishing various objectives to turn the tide of battle. Some objectives are worth more than others, and some happen at the same time, forcing the party to prioritize decisions and/or split the party. If the PCs fail to accomplish anything of note, it may make their allies defeat even worse. If they do enough, it could turn the tide completely. Usually, things fall somewhere in between.
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