Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

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Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by MrHemlocks » Wed Dec 11, 2013 6:33 am

My campaign, using Blackmarsh setting, is coming along nicely. Sometime in the not too distant future I would like to conclude the campaign with a mass fantasy battle. Are there any rules for fantasy battles that allow players to control their characters and other units in mass combat? I looked at Warhammer Fantasy Battle but it seems questionable...

Love to have a battle like at the conclusion of the Hobbit.

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Re: Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by Maxwell Luther » Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:10 am

There are quite a few, from Battlesystem, which is specifically for AD&D and might translate well, to Fields of Battle, which is for Castles & Crusades and is D20 based, which might be closer to DCC, to the Adventurer Conquerer King system's Domains of War, which is the most recent variation. All of the above allow for individual heroics, unlike, say, Rules Compendium's War Machine rules, which focus on very high level resolution.

Another thing I've used is Warmaster. I used it for mass combat in WFRP for many years. The trick was to create a battlefield with a number of 'Encounters' located at various points, so if a unit containing characters ended up at #3 in the small town at the edge of the battle, they would find looters ransacking a shrine and would have to stop the leaders personally by descending into the catacombs while the rest of the unit fought the looter unit (think Kelly's Heroes). Mix these sorts of encounters with individual champion challenges and so on, and you can basically write a whole adventure around a single campaign battle.

In this way, the actual rules used for mass combat you use don't matter. You can use something as complex as Battlesystem or as simple as Hordes of the Things (available for free here: About the only real interaction between DCC and the wargame rules will be if the characters are leading units personally, which can easily be handled by figuring out how Personality fits into the leadership rules of your set, a small thing to be sure.
Last edited by Maxwell Luther on Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by AJClark » Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:10 am

You could try the Domains at War starter edition. It's free on RGPnow. I think it has fantasy mass combat rules that also allow for individual impact by PCs. To be jhonest though I haven't really looked through them myself yet. ... ins+of+War

From the product description...

The Free Starter Edition introduces the essentials of Domains at War and presents a simple, abstract system designed for quick resolution of the kinds of battles that most often arise in role-playing games. Who will survive when a mercenary unit of horse archers encounters a tribe of orcs, and what would the player characters have to do to change this outcome? How many troops does it take to besiege the Keep on the Borderlands, and how soon will they breach its walls if no one arrives to help the defenders?

Domains at War is easy to use with any RPG system that uses twenty-sided dice and shares concepts like hit points and armor class. The system is fully compatible with the Adventurer Conqueror King System's rules for mercenaries, strongholds, magic, and rulership, and the rules for mass combat are faithfully extrapolated from one-on-one combat in ACKS. Two years of playtesting and many spreadsheets have gone into ensuring that the outcome of battles resolved at the unit scale using Domains at War is consistent with the likely outcome if they had been fought at the individual RPG scale.

The Free Starter Edition contains rules for heroic forays, which allow the game to "zoom in" and play out the actions of player characters and other powerful creatures using ACKS or a similar OGL RPG. Because the mass combat rules are organically derived from the RPG system, it is easy to then "zoom out" and see how these individual efforts have affected the larger struggle.

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Re: Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by cjoepar » Fri Dec 13, 2013 7:23 am

In the distant past I tried many times to come up with a way to mesh rpg characters into a mass combat system. I really wanted to incorporate large battles into my rpg games on occasion and it seemed like there should be something that would work smoothly. There are a lot of good miniature combat systems out there, you can spend the next several years trying them out and may hit on something that works nicely for you, but I never had any luck.

What I found, is that it is very difficult to translate a heroic rpg character into someone that can be neatly inserted into an existing mass battle system. The problem that I have always run into is that the mass battle system is typically play-tested for balance and this usually means that it's possible for characters to die in very inglorious ways, and very quickly. I think the trouble is that if you use the mass battle system, you lose all the rpg methods for the player to avoid death (e.g. hit points, healing, saving throws), and a lot of the cool things they can do to sway an encounter (e.g. backstabs, Mighty Deeds). If you tweak the rules and try to incorporate those somehow, you tend to end up with a system where the character is almost unkillable, which quickly gets boring. Magic tends to be a big hurdle as well, since most fantasy mass combat systems like Warhammer have their own magic which is totally different in pretty much every way from rpg magic systems, and it is an integral part of the balance of that game. In other words, you can't just strip out the magic from Warhammer and have any semblance of balance with what's left. If you try to develop something that incorporates everything from both systems and is balanced well, then it will take you a very long time, and it will need a lot of play-testing. They are just two totally different games with different objectives, and after many attempts I have resigned myself to the belief that you just can't do it without a lot of time, effort and playtesting, any easier than you could combine Hearts and Monopoly. It sounds like there are some suggestions above that may fit the mold, but I'm a skeptic by nature, especially when it comes to forking over some money for something that I may not like and I may never use. And systems like Warhammer are designed solely for the purpose of getting you to spend lots of money. It's a fun game, but you can easily sink $500 into it before you know it.

So this is what I have ended up doing, and I think it has worked well enough for me. I have designed the battle like a series of encounters in a dungeon adventure, with each encounter representing different waves of attackers or different units that the party comes up against as the battle rages on. I fill in all the details of the battle around the party with narrative, just like I would if I were describing a haunted forest they were travelling through. I narrate the events of the battle while the encounters are going on, and between encounters and give the party as much choice in what they do as my preparation allows. If you don't want to have it completely scripted out, then you could probably put together some simple charts to roll on between each encounter so the party doesn't feel like the outcome is predetermined.

This might not be the type of solution you wanted to hear suggested, but give it some thought if you encounter some of the same roadblocks that I ran into. And please, if you find something that works, by all means let us know! This Domains at War sounds promising and worth looking into, but I'd be interested in hearing how well it actually works.

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Re: Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by DM Marcus » Sun Dec 15, 2013 6:02 pm

What cjoe says is what I have found to be true also. You really begin to play another game when you insert the mass combat mechanics into it. That's not necessarily bad of course but be prepared for it.

And too like cjoe, what seemed to work at our table was to let the players play their characters in some of the individual charges, skirmishes and advancements of the climactic battle, making their successes or failures impact the overall "battle map".

I have tried different ways to simulate the feel of a grand epic climactic battle. The last large-scale battle they ended a campaign with, I (as the DM, it was a 4E game) set up eight different engagements that had to be won. Each victory gave them a new faction that could aid another, ( an elf faction, a dwarf faction, a wizard faction, etc...) either way impacting the number of enemy troops they would have to fight through. It individualized the battles, gave each one it's own personality and one had an impact on the other, for good or bad.

In DCC, I haven't had to incorporate mass combat rules yet, but I totally know that I will and plan on somehow incorporating the morale rules to be a large factor.

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Re: Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by Harley Stroh » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:46 am

Hemlocks, check this out: ... sp=sharing

It mimics the spell duel mechanic. It hasn't been playtested at all, so might be totally broken and worthless. If you use it, let me know how it works.

If / when I get around to writing version II, I plan on adding more roleplaying opportunities, mighty deeds, etc.

Game on!
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Re: Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by enty » Sun Jun 18, 2017 2:49 am

Hi all,

I'm resurrecting this thread hoping that maybe those who posted earlier reached more final forms in the ideas they presented earlier. My group is heading toward a village defense, so a mass system would be great :)

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Re: Need rules for mass combat...using DCC characters

Post by The Disgruntled Poet » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:00 am

enty wrote:Hi all,

I'm resurrecting this thread hoping that maybe those who posted earlier reached more final forms in the ideas they presented earlier. My group is heading toward a village defense, so a mass system would be great :)

For quick and dirty, I'll throw out the following system. Keep it as simple and close to standard DCC combat as possible.

Each unit, whether of bad guys or PCs, has a Leader. The units have stats just like PCs / NPCs / Monsters. The "Class" of the Unit is determined by the Leader. i.e, if a Warrior leads the unit, the unit has a Mighty Deed, if a Wizard uses it, the Unit can cast the Wizard's spells etc. If a unit is monsters, it can do the monster special attacks, etc.

Hit points should represent soldiers/men/grunts/mooks. Or you could make it even more abstract than that.

If you want more PCs active on the battlefield, you have to probably have some elite PCs vs. elite Foe battles going at the same time. Elites might do damage to units equivalent to what they normally do for Hp. (Since they are epic heroes/villains.)

This will take some improve and creativity on the fly as you might not be able to fully do rules for each situation.. but I think it would work pretty well.

Free to a good home!

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