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Running battles with a ton of creatures

Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:21 pm
by mAc Chaos
There are many DCC modules where a huge amount of combatants are described. For instance, in the character funnel presented in the DCC book. There is a room with like 100 enemy soldiers.

Putting that specific example aside, how are you supposed to run combats with such a huge number of creatures? Surely going through that many turns would become an exercise in unbearable tedium?

I have been trying to figure out what the right way to do this is so you don't give up the value of having so many creatures but don't make it take like 4 hours to finish a fight too.

Re: Running battles with a ton of creatures

Posted: Sun Mar 29, 2020 9:32 am
by GnomeBoy
Simply change the approach from the expectation that the PCs have to fight each and every one of their opponents...

Characters and players should be easily aware that such fights are going to take something extra, or are going to take simply running away...! If this is not obvious to players, spell it out for them. Certainly, in the example you cite, a toe-to-toe fight is a sure way for the PCs to expire before they finish the adventure...

Players need to get clever, use their environment to their advantage, and especially pay attention to the nature of their foes. Judges should allow for every possibility to have an impact of some kind, and make sure they run that multitude not as a horde with a single mind (unless they are a horde with a single mind; it is DCC afterall).

Mighty Deeds might strike multiple foes at once... Thieves might be able to literally bring the roof down with some Climbing of sheer surfaces and "disabling devices"... Wizards might well be able to strike a crowd all at once...

Not everything needs to come down to an attack roll. Maybe the Warrior grabs a fallen tree trunk, and bullrushes 6 foes at once every round, not so much hitting them for full damage (maybe a little), but driving them back and knocking them down, disrupting the enemy multitude, while his allies pick off the stragglers. A Judge might make this something other than an attack roll, given the specific circumstances, the particulars of the character and situation, and just the fact that it's awesome.

I don't want to spoil any game that someone hasn't played yet, but to reference as obliquely as possible one very famous adventure, I've always described the multitude as being so heavily focused on their 'worship' that they don't see the PCs coming. They are also beating drums and shouting and the whole scene is a cacophony, so even as the PCs start engaging their foes, only those foes closest to them become aware at first... as the scene goes on, more and more of the foe becomes aware, but by then the PCs have chewed through most of them. I've run this module multiple times, and basically every time I do, players comment on the impossibility of the situation. But once I get them to clearly picture what's happening, and they dig into it, they see it is dangerous, but also manageable.

Step back. Take a bigger, global view. Reward people being clever, by allowing cool things to happen to adjust the odds.

It can totally work.

Re: Running battles with a ton of creatures

Posted: Sun Mar 29, 2020 12:09 pm
by mAc Chaos
Hmm, I see. What about in level 0 adventures? There's no mighty deeds or spells to be cast there.

In that case, the sheer number of PCs is a factor too. Last night I ran a game with 4 players, and each had 4 PCs. Every turn involved each player going around and deciding what each character in the combat would do... all in all, it didn't take -that- long (by my count, about an hour and a half) compared to how long it could take in a normal D&D game, but the yawns around the table as the amount of time waiting for turns stacked up was impossible to ignore.

Maybe it's best to not have people break down every PCs action and have them act en masse as a group? But then that feels a bit off, too.

Re: Running battles with a ton of creatures

Posted: Sun Mar 29, 2020 5:02 pm
by Pesky
@mAc Chaos: You concern over run time for the funnel is valid and a common challenge. Let me offer up some things that have helped me through the years on handling this:

1. Initiative per player per encounter (rather than initiative per PC and init per round)
2. It's rare in a dungeon environment that there's room for all PCs to attack the beasties. Most zero-levels don't have missile weapons. Try to use some rationale or 3.5 mentality about how many folks can reasonably attack.
3. Ask players to arrange PCs in ranks (1st at the front, 2nd next in line, etc.) and attack them rank by rank. Moreover, 1st rank is most likely to get into melee. Last rank is least likely.
4. Have players roll attack and damage dice simultaneously (this can speed things up by a lot).
5. Have numbered index cards (or some other device) so that players know init order and can begin preparing declarations of actions before they're up.
6. Aim for about 30 minutes per combat encounter with 20 PCs. If you're passing 45 minutes in a combat, then you can probably find a way to streamline.

I'm sure others have tips as well. Hopefully they chime in. Regardless, I hope this helps.

Re: Running battles with a ton of creatures

Posted: Sun Mar 29, 2020 6:06 pm
by mAc Chaos
Thanks for the tips! In this case, it was actually an MCC module, called "Hive of the Overmind". You start the game with everyone in a big cavern surrounded by antmen, and pretty much immediately get thrown into a battle. There were options for more stealthy maneuvers as well, but fighting it out was a valid tactic since the antmen are supposed to be mostly distracted by a giant bee instead of the PCs.

I believe there was something like 12 antmen, and we had 16 PCs.

There were random encounters immediately after that were supposed to lead to even more combat, but because it had taken so long I just skipped it. I just wanted to move things along at that point.