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StanTheMan

[RQG] How do you do mass battles?

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What I mean, obviously, is, as a GM, how do you run those times where your PCs are involved in a mass battle where there are hundreds or thousands and of people? I have a case where, in a session or two, my group will probably end up in the Battle of Auroch Hills. One PC is the chief of his clan, so he’ll definitely be leading his people in the fight. The two other PC was participate as sub leaders or magical support. How would you run that so it’s fun?

I know in RQG we have the Battle skill; I guess the intention is PCs do things to Augment their roll, or Augment the General’s roll? How does it work really?

I also know there’s the Ships and Shieldwalls supplement from Mythras; that’d work too, no?

Thoughts folks? I want to run an intesting battle, not necessarily getting bogged down in detail, but enough detail so the players feel they matter to the outcome.

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My preference is to have a simple resolution system that takes the armies' sizes and positions, opposing leaders' Battle skills and chosen tactics, and a few other factors into account, and then allows for significant PC actions to tip the balance. I suppose you could steal the Battle rules from Pendragon (either the simpler ones in the core book or the much-more-complicated system from Book of Battle). I'd also suggest checking out Legend of the Five Rings (almost any edition) for a good set of rules that give PCs some heroic things to do without requiring you or the players to run a wargame-like experience, and GURPS Mass Combat for a somewhat crunchier system which would require conversion but which does almost everything I want a mass-battle system to do for me.

It's possible that Chaosium will publish rules for battles in a later RQG supplement, of course; these are the Hero Wars…

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The Battle skill in RQG is suspiciously similar to Pendragon, which means I don't expect anything groundbreakingly new there.

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How do the battles work in The Book of Battles? And in Legend of the Five Rings?

I have run several big and small battles with the rules in Ships & Shieldwalls, and they work very well if every player character is in charge of a unit. They are as crunchy as the Mythras combat system, to run detailed combats between units, although it takes some practice to master them. 

I'm looking forward to reading the soon to be published mass battle rules for RQG.

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16 minutes ago, Runeblogger said:

How do the battles work in The Book of Battles? And in Legend of the Five Rings?

I have run several big and small battles with the rules in Ships & Shieldwalls, and they work very well if every player character is in charge of a unit. They are as crunchy as the Mythras combat system, to run detailed combats between units, although it takes some practice to master them. 

I'm looking forward to reading the soon to be published mass battle rules for RQG.

Eh? Soon to be published? When! That would be perfect...

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15 hours ago, StanTheMan said:

Thoughts folks? I want to run an intesting battle, not necessarily getting bogged down in detail, but enough detail so the players feel they matter to the outcome.

In the past I've run a host of battles involving PCs. The first thing is decide just how much they can alter the outcome. Are they generals, captains, heroes or spell fodder. This will not only give them very different experiences but allows you the GM to establish suitable challenges by which they can determine their victory. A good example would be giving the PC charge of holding a key position. As the wider battle rages on, their success or failure effects the final result.

As for the Battle Skill. I would use that to gauge an individuals fate. Failed rolls don't necessarily mean death, but could be range from being captured to actually nothing as the PC got lost and ended up missing all the glory. For those in command of forces, I would use their Battle skill, opposed with their counterparts, to determine situational mods for abstracted combat rolls to determine their losses and or gains.

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2 hours ago, Runeblogger said:

How do the battles work in The Book of Battles? And in Legend of the Five Rings?

Book of Battles has maneuver rolls, sample foes (you typically fight one round with a given foe, rather than to the death), and abstract measurement of how much the PCs are in the thick of things expressed as their "Rank" (first rank is the killing zone, second rank is behind that, etc.). It measures your overall progress on an Intensity scale, where 0 means decisive victory and 40 means decisive defeat; commanders oppose Intensity with their Battle skill, and lots of events affect it. And there are forms for the GM, any leaders, and other PCs to keep records on what happens every round. As this indicates, the system is surprisingly "crunchy" where the original Pendragon rules are not; good if that's your thing, though they're very tightly focused on Arthurian knightly battles and would likely need some adaptation to handle the wilder, weirder Hero Wars.

L5R 5th edition's mass-battle system is more abstracted but structurally similar: the two army commanders set their strategic objectives for each round of battle (like "capture a position" or "grind the enemy down"), and leaders of cohorts in their armies take actions (like Assault, Reinforce, or Rally) to try to achieve it. You get rewards for achieving the objective. Armies are rated for Strength (which is reduced by attrition in the form of casualties) and Discipline (which is reduced by panic), and can have special abilities, like cavalry inflicting extra panic if they take the Assault action. PCs are typically expected to command armies or lead cohorts (any subsection of an army which acts on its own, from a squad on up); in a round, a leader can choose a stance (tactic), narratively move their cohort on the field, and perform an action. Fortifications and defensive terrain reduce attrition for forces in them, and have a measure of how hard it is to push those forces out. The one downside is that it doesn't really provide much structure for PCs who aren't leaders or commanders.

L5R 4th edition (the only other one I have) has simpler rules that focus more on roaming PC heroes and less on the details of the battle itself — the army commanders make opposed Battle skill rolls to see who's winning, then each PC makes a check to see how much Glory they win, how many Wounds they suffer, and whether or not they have the opportunity for a Duel (a one-on-one fight with a foe using the normal melee rules) or a Heroic Opportunity (a chance to change the course of the battle at some risk, such as getting a shot at an enemy commander or having the opportunity to fall upon the enemy's reserves before they can be committed to the fray).

I think I'd mix bits of the L5R 4th- and 5th-edition rules to get about the level of abstraction I like. I want a system that tells me which army will win if the PCs don't do anything to affect the outcome (and how it'll win) and that takes the opposing leaders' tactics and forces into account, but that doesn't get bogged down in detail. And I think I prefer the Duel/Heroic Opportunity idea to the Pendragon approach where you and a foe always each take one swing at each other and are then swept apart; it seems a bit more flexible. YMMV, obviously.

 

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20 hours ago, StanTheMan said:

What I mean, obviously, is, as a GM, how do you run those times where your PCs are involved in a mass battle where there are hundreds or thousands and of people? I have a case where, in a session or two, my group will probably end up in the Battle of Auroch Hills. One PC is the chief of his clan, so he’ll definitely be leading his people in the fight. The two other PC was participate as sub leaders or magical support. How would you run that so it’s fun?

I know in RQG we have the Battle skill; I guess the intention is PCs do things to Augment their roll, or Augment the General’s roll? How does it work really?

Having just run the Battle of the Queens in my RQG campaign, this is what I did:

  • Asked them to identify what roll the PC was taking in the battle: Warrior and fighter; Missile caster; Magical support; Healer and medic; or Recorder of deeds/messenger
  • Indicated that those who wished to augment their subsequent rolls with Inspiration, should identify whether they are inspired by a Rune or a Passion, and make those rolls
  • Then had everyone make a Battle roll (considered adding a Penalty for Prince Kallyr's bad omens, but didn't end up doing so) for the opening scene of the battle
  • Somewhat like a Group Simple contest in HQG, I narrated the flow of this stage of the battle based on the sequence of their results 
  • Missile casters and riders generally acted first, fighters fought in the melee, messenger was sent by Queen Leika to Prince Kallyr and had to add in a Ride roll through the battlefield (in time to see Kallyr fall & die)
  • Queen Leika made a rousing speech (i.e. succeeded in her Battle roll which gave everyone in her group a +20% bonus for next scene of the battle
  • Previous Inspirations carried forward; those who failed prior Inspirations could attempt Inspiration via a more limited set of options:  a Rune or Passion associated with Queen Leika, the Colymar (or a Colymar clan), Orlanth, Air, Movement, or Truth
  • Then had everyone make a Battle Roll for the second scene of the battle
  • Again narrated results based on the series of results (this time the messenger got to ride to rally the Cinsina and got to see Queen Ivartha fall)
  • Number of battle successes indicated that the Colymar had driven the Lunars back into the Creek (and were busy warning folks not to get too much blood in the Creek itself lest they feed the Delecti's undead downstream)

At the conclusion, depending on Battle results, they either took wounds or gained experience checks. Could have elaborated pieces further, or added in some set encounters (e.g. a fight with some named Lunar NPC), but seemed to work well for what I wanted and the players appeared to enjoy the overall flow.

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5 hours ago, jajagappa said:

Having just run the Battle of the Queens in my RQG campaign, this is what I did:

  • Asked them to identify what roll the PC was taking in the battle: Warrior and fighter; Missile caster; Magical support; Healer and medic; or Recorder of deeds/messenger
  • Indicated that those who wished to augment their subsequent rolls with Inspiration, should identify whether they are inspired by a Rune or a Passion, and make those rolls
  • Then had everyone make a Battle roll (considered adding a Penalty for Prince Kallyr's bad omens, but didn't end up doing so) for the opening scene of the battle
  • Somewhat like a Group Simple contest in HQG, I narrated the flow of this stage of the battle based on the sequence of their results 
  • Missile casters and riders generally acted first, fighters fought in the melee, messenger was sent by Queen Leika to Prince Kallyr and had to add in a Ride roll through the battlefield (in time to see Kallyr fall & die)
  • Queen Leika made a rousing speech (i.e. succeeded in her Battle roll which gave everyone in her group a +20% bonus for next scene of the battle
  • Previous Inspirations carried forward; those who failed prior Inspirations could attempt Inspiration via a more limited set of options:  a Rune or Passion associated with Queen Leika, the Colymar (or a Colymar clan), Orlanth, Air, Movement, or Truth
  • Then had everyone make a Battle Roll for the second scene of the battle
  • Again narrated results based on the series of results (this time the messenger got to ride to rally the Cinsina and got to see Queen Ivartha fall)
  • Number of battle successes indicated that the Colymar had driven the Lunars back into the Creek (and were busy warning folks not to get too much blood in the Creek itself lest they feed the Delecti's undead downstream)

At the conclusion, depending on Battle results, they either took wounds or gained experience checks. Could have elaborated pieces further, or added in some set encounters (e.g. a fight with some named Lunar NPC), but seemed to work well for what I wanted and the players appeared to enjoy the overall flow.

Yes, indeed. Playing the messenger in that battle it felt really like being part of the battle and even influencing it (on a lesser scale but not necessarily with less importance). It was fun and made the battle in fact a part of the campaign without removing to much time from the real goal of the campaign (whichever that may be 😉).

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On 2/8/2019 at 4:00 AM, jajagappa said:

Having just run the Battle of the Queens in my RQG campaign, this is what I did:

  • Asked them to identify what roll the PC was taking in the battle: Warrior and fighter; Missile caster; Magical support; Healer and medic; or Recorder of deeds/messenger
  • Indicated that those who wished to augment their subsequent rolls with Inspiration, should identify whether they are inspired by a Rune or a Passion, and make those rolls
  • Then had everyone make a Battle roll (considered adding a Penalty for Prince Kallyr's bad omens, but didn't end up doing so) for the opening scene of the battle
  • Somewhat like a Group Simple contest in HQG, I narrated the flow of this stage of the battle based on the sequence of their results 
  • Missile casters and riders generally acted first, fighters fought in the melee, messenger was sent by Queen Leika to Prince Kallyr and had to add in a Ride roll through the battlefield (in time to see Kallyr fall & die)
  • Queen Leika made a rousing speech (i.e. succeeded in her Battle roll which gave everyone in her group a +20% bonus for next scene of the battle
  • Previous Inspirations carried forward; those who failed prior Inspirations could attempt Inspiration via a more limited set of options:  a Rune or Passion associated with Queen Leika, the Colymar (or a Colymar clan), Orlanth, Air, Movement, or Truth
  • Then had everyone make a Battle Roll for the second scene of the battle
  • Again narrated results based on the series of results (this time the messenger got to ride to rally the Cinsina and got to see Queen Ivartha fall)
  • Number of battle successes indicated that the Colymar had driven the Lunars back into the Creek (and were busy warning folks not to get too much blood in the Creek itself lest they feed the Delecti's undead downstream)

At the conclusion, depending on Battle results, they either took wounds or gained experience checks. Could have elaborated pieces further, or added in some set encounters (e.g. a fight with some named Lunar NPC), but seemed to work well for what I wanted and the players appeared to enjoy the overall flow.

This is all really great, thanks for this. Running it as scenes this way might do it. Though I'm wondering if, as the skill says, letting numbers and training/eliteness modify the role, or simply make it Difficult or what. Thanks!

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1 hour ago, StanTheMan said:

Running it as scenes this way might do it. Though I'm wondering if, as the skill says, letting numbers and training/eliteness modify the role, or simply make it Difficult or what.

There's lots of options for modifications: skill of leaders, field position, average skill level with weapons, freshness or exhaustion of units, etc. Generally the GM will set the +/- bonus to each side, though if PC's are influential, maybe a preliminary Battle or Lore roll or other factor adjusts this slightly.  If you have PC's who are leaders, have them make their Battle roll with the initial modifier - their result then influences the PC's with them. 

For a larger battle, I like the idea of several 'scenes'.  I had thought of breaking up the Battle of Queens further: opening forays, attack on Kallyr, Leika's rally, etc. but consolidated to two (or a third if the PC's had joined the pursuit/rout of the Lunars).  But then having each PC's Battle roll reflect some event within that larger scene provides a bit more drama. I tried to sequence their rolls based on their role in the battle: missile users first, then cavalry or melee, healers next providing a morale boost, then messengers who need to communicate across the field. Magical support could go anywhere in the sequence depending on whether it is acting like ranged attack, within the melee, or more protective.

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I run each battle differently.  Depending on the mood you want or the story you are trying to convey.

 

The players can be part of a larger army unit, and just trying to do well in the eyes of their clan and survive.  Worms eye point of view here, and they should only be told what is happening in their little corner.  Always great POV to surprise them with a sudden disintegration of their army as a whole, so they can have to run and hide, Miyamoto Mushashi style.

The players can be part of a ritual or heroquest that impacts the outcome.  This is *very* Glorantha, but also a bit over done.  It is generally best when the players are moderately powerful, and have a plot hook or two from past adventures (like their evil arch nemesis is helping the opposing army in some magical way.)  Going to get allies and relieving besieged friendlies I would put in this category. 

Leadership positions.  There a couple of Conan stories where he is leading an army, even one where he is given one due to a prophesy, despite being a stranger.  When the players are in command I bust out To The Strongest! and we play a game right then and there.   Simon has a history of supporting Glorantha games, and his mass battle game is about an hour to resolve, so it fits within a gaming session.  The players are various types of modifiers depending on what they can do.

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Final option: The players have become so powerful that you can straight up play it out as a massive RQ combat.  Generally for advanced parties with extremely powerful PC's, they can act like a Hero counter from Dragon Pass and break phalanxes, challenge enemy champions, or just beat down literally dozens of ordinary soldiers.  Sometimes this is great as a way to demonstrate to the players just how far they have come.  It happens a lot of times that the player's opponents grow in power to provide a challenge, so sometimes it creeps up on the players just how far they have come since the start of a campaign.  Keeping the basic solider's static in power is a way to re-ground the players and let them feel like hot sh!t for a while.  Also the reason why they get asked to clear out the Vampire Regiment rumored to be training in the mountains two days after the battle.  🙂

 

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