Mass Combat pt.1

Mass Combat

Sooner or later, even the most peaceable kingdom will f ind itself faced with the prospect of war. While some kingdoms at odds with your own might be willing to compromise, others are not amenable to negotiation, or respond to overtures of appeasement with ever-increasing aggression. When diplomacy fails, the clash of steel is close behind.

This section contains rules for you as a kingdom leader to create armies, assign their commanders, and prepare them for battle on land, at sea, or in the skies. This includes rules for equipping and maintaining conventional armies, utilizing PCs as part of mass combat, converting groups of monsters into military forces, and going beyond the battlefield to deal with the aftermath of combat.

These rules provide an abstract, narrative mass combat system that will let you rapidly play out a complex battle scenario without getting bogged down in excessive detail, while still retaining fidelity to strategy, tactics, and the realities of the battlef ield. These rules are not intended to accurately represent complex wars, provide a highly tactical simulation, or accurately model a tactical warfare miniatures game. Instead, they are intended to incorporate warfare into a campaign while still staying primarily focused on traditional, small-scale adventuring and roleplaying.


The key parts of the mass combat rules that you’ll reference often are:

  • Explanations of the army stat block and terminology used throughout this chapter (see below).
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to run the battle phases of a combat between armies (page 236).
  • Battlefield modifiers for terrain and similar factors (page 237).
  • Different tactics that armies can learn (page 237).
  • What happens at the end of a battle, once an army wins, loses, or f lees (page 239).
  • How to use special commanders or kingdom leaders to modify army statistics (page 239).
  • Resources to upgrade and improve armies (page 241).
  • Special abilities for unusual armies, such as spellcasting or poison (page 242).
  • A list of sample armies (starting on page 247).


The description of each army is presented in a standard format. Each category of information is explained and defined on the following pages.

Name: This is the name of the army. This could be a mercenary company’s name, such as “Thokk’s Bloodragers,” a formal regiment number such as “7th Royal Cavalry,” or an informal name such as “militia from Redstone.”

XP: This is the XP awarded to the PCs if their army defeats this army, and is the same as an XP award for an encounter with a CR equal to the army’s ACR (see below).

Alignment: An army’s alignment has no effect on its statistics, and is just a convenient way to summarize its attitude with two letters. It is usually the same alignment as a typical unit in that army.

Size: The army’s size determines not only how many individual units exist in the army, but also the army’s ACR.

Table 4–15: Army Sizes


Fine 1 CR of individual creature –8

Diminutive 10 CR of individual creature –6

Tiny 25 CR of individual creature –4

Small 50 CR of individual creature –2

Medium 100 CR of individual creature

Large 200 CR of individual creature +2

Huge 500 CR of individual creature +4

Gargantuan 1,000 CR of individual creature +6

Colossal 2,000 CR of individual creature +8

Type: This lists the nature of the army’s individual units, such as “orcs (warrior 1)” or “trolls.” These rules assume all units in an army are essentially the same; if an army of 100 orc warriors 1 (meaning 1st-level warriors) actually has a few half-orc warriors or some orc barbarians, their presence has no effect on the army’s statistics. If an army has a large number of units that are different than the typical unit in that army, and these differences are enough to change the army’s stat block, it is generally best to treat the group as two separate armies with different stat blocks.

hp: An army’s hit points equal its ACR × the average hp value of 1 HD of the army’s units (3.5 for d6 HD, 4.5 for d8 HD, 5.5 for d10 HD, and 6.5 for d12 HD). For example, warriors have d10 HD, so an ACR 1 army of warriors has 5.5 × 1 = 5.5 hp, rounded down to 5 hp. Note that only damage from other armies can reduce an army’s hp; a non-army attacking an army is mostly ineffective, though you can treat the attacker as a Fine army if you want to determine the outcome of the attack. As with standard game effects that affect hit points, abilities that reduce hp damage or healing by half (or any other fraction) have a minimum of 1 rather than 0.

Army Challenge Rating (ACR): This is based on the CR of an individual unit from the army and the army’s size, and scales like CRs for monsters. To determine ACR, see Table 4–15: Army Sizes and apply the modifier for the army’s size to the CR of an individual unit in the army. If an army is cavalry, use the mount’s CR or the rider’s CR, whichever is higher. For example, an individual orc warrior 1 is CR 1/3, so an army of 100 orc warriors 1 is ACR 1/3; an army of 500 orc warriors 1 is ACR 3 (4 steps greater than the standard 100-unit army). If a group’s ACR would be lower than 1/8, it doesn’t count as an army— add more troops until you reach an ACR of 1/8 or higher.

Defense Value (DV): This is a static number the army uses to resist attacks, much like an individual creature’s AC. The army’s DV is equal to ACR + 10 + any bonuses from fortifications or a settlement’s Defense score (see page 212).

Offense Modifier (OM): This is a modif ier added to a d20 roll to determine the army’s chance of success, much like an individual creature’s attack bonus. The army’s OM is equal to its ACR. If the army has the ability to make ranged attacks, that’s mentioned here. Melee attacks and ranged attacks use the same OM unless an ability says otherwise.

Tactics: These are any army tactics (page 237) the army has at its disposal.

Mass Combat Quick Reference

These mass combat rules treat armies as if they were individual creatures. Instead of making 100 attack rolls for each side of a battle between elves and orcs, you treat the elf army as one unit and the orc army as another unit, and they battle each other with just one roll each. Instead of the armies taking turns attacking each other, they roll simultaneously. Smaller armies have fewer individual creatures (units), larger armies have more units, and the number of units directly relates to how dangerous an army is.

Use the Mass Combat Army Sheet on page 251 to track the stats of your armies, just as you use a character sheet to track the stats of your character.

Every army has a commander, typically a seasoned veteran, who directs the army’s actions. You can lead an army yourself, making you its commander and providing bonuses depending on your kingdom leadership role (see page 240).

Armies can learn different tactics, such as using reserve archers, forming a defensive wall, or using dirty tricks. An army can use strategies like attacking recklessly and aggressively (much like a creature using the Power Attack feat) or being cautious and defensive (like using Combat Expertise). The army’s commander decides the tactics and strategy used in battle.

Conditions on the battlefield affect the process and outcome of the battle. For example, muddy terrain slows walking armies but has no effect on flying armies; night combat hinders human armies but not orc armies.

Resolving the battle consists of three phases in which the commanders decide on tactics, the armies make ranged attacks (if any), and the armies then close to melee range. They then remain in melee until one side flees or is destroyed.

The following summarizes the key rolls you’ll make when using mass combat:

Offense Check: d20 + Offense Modifier (OM)

Damage Dealt: Offense check result – the defending army’s Defense Value (DV)

Morale Check: d20 + the commander’s modifiers + the army’s Morale score

Resources: These are any army resources (page 241) the army has at its disposal.

Special: This section lists any special abilities (page 242) the army has.

Speed: This number indicates how many 12-mile hexes the army traverses in a day’s march. Marching through difficult terrain halves the army’s speed. Use Table 7–6: Movement and Distance on page 172 of the Core Rulebook to determine the army’s speed based on the speed of its individual units.

Morale: This number represents how confident the army is. Morale is used to determine changing battle tactics, whether or not an army routs as a result of a devastating attack, and similar effects. Morale is a modifier from –4 (worst) to +4 (best). A new army’s starting morale is +0. Morale can be further modified by the army’s commander and other factors. If an army’s Morale is ever reduced to –5 or lower, the army disbands or deserts and you no longer control it.

Consumption: This is how many Build Points (BP) an army consumes each week (unlike most kingdom expenses, this cost is per week, not per month), representing the cost to feed, hydrate, arm, train, care for, and pay the units. An army’s base Consumption is equal to its ACR divided by 2 (minimum 1). If you fall behind on paying the army’s Consumption, reduce its Morale by 2; this penalty ends when you catch up on the army’s pay.

Commander: This entry lists the army’s commander and the commander’s Charisma modifier, ranks in Profession (soldier), and Leadership score. The commander must be able to communicate with the army (possibly using message spells and similar magical forms of communication) in order to give orders or provide a bonus on the army’s rolls.

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