D&D and massive battles

A question to all D&D freaks here in this board (of which there are many, I noticed).
I’m currently running a D&D high level campaign (all players level 20+) and one of the players has amassed a pretty big army. We’re now at a stage that he wants to put this army in use and I’m looking for an elegant system to play out these massive battles.

It doesn’t need to be overtly realistic, but it must be fun. I’ve been scouring the internet, but have not found a system that is both easy to use, and also can incorporate the many different troops his army consists of. I’ve found Cry Havoc to be too cumbersome, albeit quite realistic. Playing out the battles as regular PC combat, where each 1000 troops represents one game unit also doesn’t work, since his army consists of thousands of foot soldiers, but also hundreds of monsters and dozens of demons. There is no uniformity to his batallions so that they can easily be split up.

Any other GM’s ever had this problem? I don’t want to bog my game down with war gaming, but I also want to reward my player with doing what his character wants to do (i.e. go to war).

Well, the problem is the hodgepodge. I think you’re going to have to improvise something.

I’d organize them into units based on CR/EL.

Let’s say you have Common CR 1/2 Warriors and a CR 17 Demon of some kind - a Marilith, let’s say.

The Demon’s a unit by itself. It has its normal stats.

512 of the Warriors make an effective Encounter Level of 17. (You’d want to group things in roughly equal CRs) The Warrior unit might have the base stats of one of its components, +1 to hit, damage and saving throws for each of the nine doublings of the number of them. The Warrior Unit’s hitpoints would be … oh, let’s see… the HP of one warrior plus (the number of warriors multiplied by the number of HD they each have)

Keep in mind I am making this up out of thin air, and you may want to tweak this. You could also treat the 512 warriors as a single 17th level Warrior. Ends up with better to-hit, but worse damage and saves.

You could also improvise using swarm rules, I guess.

So, back to the example …

The 1st-level Warrior mass would have 520+ HP, an effective BAB of 10, Base saves of 11, 9, and 9. Assuming longswords, they’d deal 1d8+9 damage, plus their group’s average strength mod. For the AC of the mass, I’d suggest the base AC of a representative member. When half of them are dead, give the mass -1 to hit, damage, and saves.

I think the Miniatures Handbook might have had rules for combat using armies. Or maybe the PHB2. I’m pretty sure one of the supplements did.

But that’s 3/3.5. You don’t say what edition you’re using.

Ack! that’s right. that’s because there is only one edition right? Strange that they start with 3.5. You’d think they’d start at 1 :wink:

I like the swarm rules. Didn’t think of using those.

They think I want to avoid most is the amount of math involved. Using the Cry Havoc rules, you’d spend 45 minutes calculating the batallion’s stats, and another 45 minutes recalculating after their first encounter. And that is when using my spread sheet that did all the calculating.

There used to be an official AD&D supplement, called BattleSystem, that took care of this stuff, but it was 1st/2nd Ed., and probably out of print and not online, so I don’t know if you’d be able to use it even if it were available.

What is your player looking for? Does he want to turn the campaign into a miniatures battle, or does he want his army to impact the plot? Is he more interested in the tactics or the politics of his army?

It’s really, really hard to incorporate PCs into large scale combat. Doubly so if only one character wants the game to go there. If you can find some way around it - handling battles offline, or using the army as a plot hook, I think you’re better off doing that.

OK, a bit of history. One of my players managed to snatch up some unguarded layer of the Abyss (I told you this was high level campaigning) and proclaimed himself Lord. He’s actually not doing too bad of a job, considering. He appointed another player as his commander-in-chief of his growing army of demonic misfits.
It’s this second player that I want to challenge. The first player has managed to get himself involved with both Orcus and Graz’zt and in the background several parties are conspiring against the players. For a few sessions now, tensions have been broiling. It will eventually lead to conflict, of which I want the second player to be able to shine.

So to answer your question: all of the above. The outcome of any oncoming battle will directly influence the politics of the Abyss, which will significantly impact the plot. I also want the player to be challenged tactically, get to grip with the chaotic nature of his charge. So the system ultimately needs to be a mechanic that supplements roleplaying, it needs to do both.

Just cast Magic Missile and everything will be allllllright. Trust me.

I know you’re playing 3.5 but you might want to consider making it more of a contest of skills, akin to the 4th edition skill challenge mechanic (there’s a complex skill mechanic in Unearthed Arcana for 3.5 that is pretty similar). That can allow you to abstract the combat out to a great degree - of course that might not be exactly what you want… but it would allow for roleplay with getting bogged down into the minutia of moving large numbers of units around a battlemat. You could break it down into parts, prep for battle, a couple of key points in the battle, and then some sort of denouement/aftermath. At each point, success or failure in the skill challenge could result in the PC’s having to deal with a different kind of more focused fight; for instance, if they win a challenge, you might give them a fight where they can take a key location, whereas if they lose a challenge, you could give them a scenario where they have to defend a location long enough for an orderly retreat to be made.

Should he cast it at the darkness?

He He

If you can find it used, the (Basic) Dungeon & Dragons “Companion” set had good abstract rules for large battles, seiges, etc. It was set up so that you could play your evil army of 500 hippogriffs, 300 trolls, and 5000 orcs, versus 1000 elves, 200 unicorns, and 4 flail snails.

The concepts were easily tweakable across systems and it kept it somewhat simple and fun.

3.5 edition has a supplement, Heroes of Battle, that covers this.

I have to wonder, though, what level the typical soldiers are in this army? With the PCs in epic levels, nothing below about 10th is going to be relevant in the least, no matter how many there are.

Cheapass Games had a good way of handling large battles. You take your large collection of polyhedral dice, divide it into groups for each unit (oops, I have a LOT of units, I need more dice!), and use the dice to represent current unit strength.

Working from memory, use d4s and d6s for infantry, d10s and d12s for cavalry and monsters, and d20s for demons.

Naturally, make sure the player has his heroic one-on-one combat with the opposing force’s leader.

Wow! That can actually work. Roll those dice to see which side wins a comfrontation. d4 (footsoldiers) against d20 (marilith). Whichever rolls higher wins. Not impossible for the footsoldiers to win, but unlikely. I could reward bonusses and penalties to each side’s rolls depending per situation (well prepared/equipped, surprised, etc.)

Thanks for the suggestion by the way, Chronos. I checked out the book, but it appears that that book revolves around adventuring with the major battle as a backdrop, without actually having to play out the war. This is something I actively do not want.

Warmaster, haven’t played it myself but it looks exactly like what you’re looking for. The rules are a bit involved though.

If you have some coin BattleLore is a worthy purchase, and its pretty elegant for having very simple rules.

That’s an excellent idea, I want to get some friends together and try this now!
If you go to the bottom there’s rules for D&D era games