Friday, April 23, 2021

D&Dhammer Battle Report

Ok, let's see how this works. I put together two armies using stats from Old School Essentials:

Orcs and Goblins

  • Orc footmen (3 units): AC 13 HD 3 ATT +0 ML 8
  • Goblin archers (2 units): AC 13 HD 2 ATT +0 ML 7
  • Goblin spider-riders: AC 13 HD 3 ATT +3 ML 8 (I used the black widow stats. They have a poison attack, but I just decided to increase their attack bonus instead of dealing with that.)
  • Siege Stone Giant: AC 15 HD 9 ATT +7 ML 9

Using the number appearing from OSE as a guideline, this would represent about 180 orcs, 120 goblins, 10-20 spider riders? (the NA for black widows is 3, but that seems far too low), and 1-6 giants. However, there's no real reason this couldn't represent twice or three times those numbers. There's definitely room to use your best judgment and try to keep things proportional.

Vampire Lords

  • Skeleton horde (3 units): AC 12 HD 3 ATT +0 ML X
  • Brigand archers (2 units): AC 13 HD 2 ATT +0 ML 8
  • Giant bats: AC 13 HD 2 ATT +1 ML 8
  • Vampire knights: AC 17 HD 7 ATT +6 ML 11

The orcs and goblins had 17 HD of units and vampire lords had 14, but they also had the highest-stat unit and 3 that didn't need to check morale.

Round 1

Orcs win initiative. Goblin archers attempt to bring down the vampires' bats, since they're the only ones who can attack flyers, but miss. Bats go after the archers in retaliation, but miss too. Spider-riders hit the vampire knights, who hold morale. The vampires' archers hit the giant, who holds morale. The giant then throws a boulder at the knights, but it doesn't find purchase. Vampire knights charge the goblin archers, who manage to scramble and hide. Finally the orc footmen and skeleton hordes clash, and the orcs inflict two hits.

Round 2

Orcs win initiative again. Goblin archers hit the bats once, who hold morale. Vampire knights charge the goblin archers again, inflicting a hit, but the gobbos barely hang on. Giant goes for the knights, but misses. Bats miss the goblin archers, and spider-riders miss the brigand archers. Brigand archers rain their arrows down on their goblin counterparts, and the little greenskins finally break morale, wiped out since they've lost all HD (At this point, going by the rules I laid out in the previous post, the bats should be impervious to attack, but I'm going to argue with myself and say the giant is big enough to get them so I can keep going). Orcs wipe out the remaining skeletons.

Round 3

Vamps take the initiative this time. Brigands loose on the giant, missing with both attacks. The giant swats the bats out of the sky, wiping them out. Knights tilt at the giant, missing. Spider-riders scurry for the brigand archers, but can't inflict a hit. Orc footmen overrun the brigands, hitting, but the archers hold formation.

Round 4

Orcs regain the initiative. Giant misses the knights, knights miss the giant, spider-riders pull off a coup and hit the knights. Those pesky vamps hold morale. Brigand archers miss the giant. Orc footmen smash the rest of the archers.

Round 5

Vampires take the initiative, and with only the vampire knights remaining they manage to throw the orc footmen into disarray with a hit. Giant misses the knights, but spiders hit. High morale keeps the vampires hanging on.

Round 6

Vampires hold the initiative, and with a well-timed charge they force the giant into disarray. However, the spider-riders countercharge, sending the vamp knights into disarray. Orc footmen manage to reform their ranks.

Round 7

Vampires keep the initiative, manage to pull themselves together, and hit the spiders, who are thrown into disarray. The giant can't pull it back together. Orcs can't attack the mounted knights, since the knights are cavalry and too fast for the footmen.

Round 8

Vampires manage to keep the initiative yet again and rout the spiders, pushing them off the field. Since the remaining orc footmen cannot attack the knights, they just hurl insults at them. The giant can attack the knights...but misses.

Round 9

Vampires keep the initiative and I start to wonder if Google's dice roller is broken. The knights hit the giant, sending it into disarray. Since the orcs can't attack, they decide to quit the field. The vampires have won, but at a great material cost.

What I noticed:

  • Initiative is a harsh mistress. Winning 6 out of 9 times definitely gave the vamps the edge.
  • It has the same weaknesses as regular D&D combat - lots of misses and rounds where nothing really changes.
  • 1 HD footmen units are pretty squishy. I don't think this is necessarily a problem. They are basically shields, like linemen in football.
  • What would happen if the orcs had no units that could attack the bats? Battle over? I suppose the orcs could try to push their luck and take out as many units as they could before the bats became a big enough problem and they had to retreat. Fielding balanced forces that can deal with a number of threats will be important.
  • Similarly, when it came down to the vampire knights and the orc footmen, the orcs couldn't attack. This isn't necessarily a problem, but I might institute a rule that if cavalry attack footmen but miss, footmen can counterattack if they haven't attacked that round. However, I don't want to keep making situational rules like this that make the rules more fiddly.
  • It took about a half hour to do all the rolling and typing. It might be a little bit longer if I was narrating the battle at the table. That seems pretty good as an add-on to a campaign climax session. However, it could be a lot longer if players can't decide how to command their forces.
Overall, though, this does seem to hang together. I have a campaign now in its 6th year where things have moved pretty far into domain-level play, and the players barely use their character sheets anymore. I'll probably use this system with them before too long and try to refine it further. Some next steps: codifying magic some more, dealing with fortifications, and stuff like ambushes/surprise attacks.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Ah, the elusive mass combat system. I've overthought this for a long time. Just use regular monster stats, ya dummy!

Specifically AC, HD, THAC0/Attack Bonus, and Morale. Ignore everything else. Each unit is represented by the stats for one creature of the troop type. If there are several units of the same troop type, multiply the HD by how many units there are. If you're not sure how many individuals one "unit" should represent, use the maximum number appearing. Try to keep the HD numbers small but proportional.

No maneuvering unless you feel like it. The type of unit determines who it can attack (adapted from Matt Colville's Strongholds and Followers rules):

  • Footmen and big monsters: can only attack other footmen/biggies if any are on the field, followed by archers, and finally siege engines.
  • Archers and flyers: can attack anyone.
  • Cavalry, fast monsters, and siege engines: can attack anyone except flyers.
If you want to get a little more advanced, you could say that any unit that was attacked in melee (so like, attacked by footmen or non-ranged monsters) must pass a morale check (2d6) to attack a different unit (instead of the one that attacked it) that turn.

Roll initiative. Each side takes turns using units until none are left, and then roll initiative again. Ideally, this would happen alongside the PCs engaging in normal D&D combat against the enemy commander or executing a special mission.

Units make attack rolls as normal against each other. A successful "hit" reduces the defender HD by 1. 

Each time a unit is hit but has HD left, it must make a morale check, adding the total hits accumulated to the roll. If it succeeds, it may continue to act normally. If it fails, it is in disarray and may not act again until it passes a morale check. If a unit is hit while in disarray, it is routed and flees from battle.

I have two ideas for how to handle a unit reduced to 0 HD: 

  1. Wiped out immediately. Simple.
  2. It is only wiped out if it fails a morale check. I like that this would allow for units to hang on for heroic last stands. I worry that this would make low-HD, high-morale units punch too far above their weight. You would have to keep counting hits to add to morale checks.
Mindless units, like some undead, do not check morale at all but are automatically wiped out at 0 HD.

If a commander is on the field, all units add the commander's Charisma bonus to their Morale score. A 12 is still a failure.

In order for a spellcaster to use spells in battle, it must be at least 9th level and use up spell slots (of at least the spell level) equal to the HD of the unit it is casting the spell on. Adjudicate special creature abilities on a case-by-case basis. I haven't thought magic and special abilities through very well.

Even though this is simpler than a real wargame, it is still a lot to add on to a regular D&D combat, so you'd only want to run maybe one or two climactic battles per campaign like this. I'm taking a look at the War Machine rules from the Rules Cyclopedia to try to adapt it into something I'd use. It reduces a battle to one roll, but there's a lot that goes into determining the modifiers to the roll. I'll post my version of that eventually. Honestly, most of the time, you probably don't even need to roll for the results of a battle unless it seems like it would be close. Even then, if the PCs accomplish their part of the battle, their side should win unless it really doesn't make sense.