View Full Version : Large Scale Battles...

26 February 2002, 09:20 PM
Alright got a new one for all of you...

How the hell do you run large scale battles, I mean we're talking Hoth, we're talking Endor here. What do you describe to the characters? How do you handle it with miniatures? How does combat work? Do multiple attack a PC if there are that many enemies? How do you find out how many?

See the goal is to remain somewhat randomized while allowing the characters to feel like they are a midst a large scale battle where enemies and fellow NPC comrades are fighting and dying all around them.

The reason I ask is I ran something similar in my session and it really turned out to be dull...even with a crafty ambush, planned attacks, and lots of things happening. Ultimately though I had to "wing it" and I'm afraid it felt too much like I was bull××××ting.

27 February 2002, 05:17 AM
It is difficult, but it can be done. However, it may be a lot of work for the GM.

Before the session starts answer the following questions (some of them seem to be rather obvious, but I try to be complete):

What units are involved in the battle?
What equipment and manpower do the units have?
What is the goal of each unit involved in the battle?
Who leads each unit in the battle?
How competent are the leaders?
What is the characters goal in the battle?
What impact may the characters have in the battle?
What are the climatic, decisuve situations in the battle?

Then fight out the battle, on your own, without the characters. (Of course you have to prepare this before the players arrive!)
The best thing would be to write a little computer program to handle the bulk of dice rolling, or you just use statistical averages. (Otherwise it may take several hours to get the thing done)

WARNING: The d20 starship combat rules fail miserably if you use them for large scale battles. The net result will almost allways be: He who wins the initiative wins. They don't work for any large starship battle depicted in the movies. All capital ships go down in flames the moment they are in weapons range.

Balance the battle that way, that the good guys will loose, and decide at which point the players may do what to turn the tide.

Usually make up some smaller scenarios involving the players where they acheive a certain result. Then determine the outcome of the battle if the players are successful.

At the end, you may come up with a kind of scenario-tree.
Something like:

Scenario 1
--- y ---success?--- n ---
| |
Scenario 2 Scenario 3
-- y --success?-- n -- -- y --success?-- n --
| | | |
Victory Scenario 4 Defeat
| |
Victory Defeat

Then you have a large plan, have lot of ideas about describing several situations during the battle etc.

Maybe you may even allow some of the players to command a capital ship (but remember the WARNING)

This works for space and ground battles alike. Have fun!

27 February 2002, 06:49 AM
Very nice way to break that down, Thomson! I'm going to use that in my games as well.

27 February 2002, 08:54 PM
I've seen two different methods that worked pretty well. But for both, you need clear ideas of what the PCs need to do, and the effect they'll have on the battle if they succeed or fail. But as to resolving the rest of the NPC combat...

Option 1 - the more precise method.

List all of the units on both sides, and group them by type so that all the X-Wings are listed together, all the TIEs together, or all the landspeeders, or stormtroopers, and so on. List the relevant damage die codes and hull points, or shield points, vitality, body codes, or whatever you're using for either game system.

Now, roll attacks for one side, in groups. That way all the attack bonuses will be the same, the number needed to hit should be the same, and you can crank out the number of 'hits' quickly. It's really easy in d20 to grab a handfull of d20s and roll 'em all at once and just count how many were high enough to hit. With d6 it's a little messier, but I recommend rolling once for a group of 5 or 10 or however many you want, and assume that a hit means they all hit, and a miss means they all miss.

The thing that speeds this up in big battles is that you do not roll damage dice. Instead, assume that every hit deals the average amount of damage possible. If a weapon's dealing 3d6 damage, then every hit deals 11 points. 4d10x2 gets you 44 every time. It's average, it's consistent, and it's the same for both sides. And it saves the GM mondo rolling time.

Then you just go down the list of targets, apply the damage, make a few notes, and roll for the other side.

I learned this by watching my old DM run a battle between some PCs with the support of a few villiagers and an Orc army.... fun. :)

Option 2 - less precise but faster.

I usually just grab a set of percentile dice, and name them the "Who's winning now?" dice.

The mechanics are simple. Every game minute (or few minutes or seconds, interval is not important) or every couple of rounds that the PCs get to act, you roll the Who's winning dice to see, well, who's winning. The percentiles get rolled five times, and the GM looks for trends.

Basically, team A gets the low numbers, team B gets the high numbers. If the five rolls are all low, then team A's kicking butt. The trick is to interpret the spread in the rolls, as well as how far from middle they are.

Five rolls: 08, 17, 41, 50, 81 is pretty even, but team A's got a little bit of an edge. Five other rolls: 51, 67, 86, 91, 98 means that team B's cleaning house. How do you interpret this? Go with what feels right. Wipe out a few units on the losing side. Wipe out a few on both sides if the numbers are pretty even. Just make the battle damage reflect the five rolls.

Also, a trick I learned when doing this is to reserve one specific number as what my old GM called "the bizarro number." We usually designated a 13 as the bizarro number. If at any time when the GM is making the five rolls one of them comes up a bizarro, then something unexpected and off the wall happens. It could be anything the GM can think up that fits the setting. An ISD defects and turns on the other Imps. A wormhole opens in the middle of a dogfight, bantha stampede through town during a firefight in the big city... whatever. We usually throw dice to figure out which side is most affected, and if it's for good or ill, then let your imagination fly.

Neither option is perfect, but they're just that - options.

Emperor Xanderich II
28 February 2002, 11:33 AM
We (Habuth and I) devised a system together. Basically, the GM will decide the main theme of the battle, but the tactics skill will come into effect.

There are several different types of tactic 'subdivisions' say for example, 'infantry tactics' or 'starfighter tactics'. For each level of the tactic skill above 3D the player earns points to buy specific tactics within their subdivsion.

eg a fleet commodore may want to bring the effective side firepower of his mon cal cruisers into effect, thus he would choose 'broadside gunnery'. This would increase the effectiveness of his broadsides by 10% but reduce the front and rear gun power by an equal amount.

It works well with other examples being: fighting withdrawal, hit and fade, street fighting and counter bombardment to name but a few.

Oh, and we also did a simliar system with a new skill called strategy.

3 March 2002, 05:51 PM
Those rules sound fine for D6, but we're playing D20. I'm in the group run by Nil Admirari.

Emperor Xanderich II
8 March 2002, 12:48 AM
Hmm, I'm sure there must be a way to convert them to D20, I don't have the book (it's with my fellow player in Japan8o ), but I guess they would work along the lines, that your score in tactics (i can't remeber if they have this in D20, if not simply add it), would be simliar to the D6 effect. ie for every point above a certain level would given you 'tactic points'.

Or something along those lines anyway:)

8 March 2002, 10:16 AM
I think you also have to consider how far you want to diverge from cannon, or in the case of a completly made up battle how much you want to leave up to chance. When we did Hoth we began, as players, with the assumption that it would end as it did in the movie. Our job was to stave off a rear attack long enough. When we did Endor it was the same thing. So as the GM you have an idea of where the battle needs to go in order to forward the story. For those reasons the total outcome of the battle would be set, and the way it progresses is the key factor.

When I plan "Large Scale Battles" they really are more of a backdrop to the actions of the characters. In ANH lucas didn't spend a lot of time with the tactics and actions of the many fighters that took part in the attack, he focused on the heros and supporting characters. So the characters get key positions (perhaps wing leaders) or specific directives (your job is to draw fire away from the medical frigate); they become the "actors" that the "camera" focuses on, and the rest of the battle plays out around them. In that sense things like Capital Ships usually end up as plot devices, rather than playable pieces. I know, as the GM, that in the end the battle will be lost by the Rebels, and they will have to limp off quickly or be captured; that is key to the adventure that I have created. However how well the characters do in the battle will decide if they end up being the rescuers or the rescuees.

Also something that needs mentioning here is that if you don't have the starship combat system from gamer 8 yet, get it. It makes this type of battle much easier and playable. I haven't really tried it for Capital combat, but for starships and freighters it works great.