Content of the article: "How would you run mass combat without mass-combat rules?"
Suppose the PCs have just returned to town from an adventure. Maybe it’s an adventure that directly helps the town they’re in, like restoring access to an important resource or procuring weapons for the town guards. Just then, the BBEG’s armies storm the gates, sieging the town and threatening to invade. The PCs are suddenly caught in the middle of a fight between the town guards and the invading forces. They want to join the fight and make a difference; they’ve already helped by ensuring the town has access to the resource or weapons, but they want to influence the outcome more directly.
The mass-combat rules in Unearthed arcana 31 and Unearthed arcana 2 are… well, unwieldy and, especially in the former case, wildly unbalanced, not to mention the degree to which they take away player agency. I’ve also looked at alternatives online, but, while they tend to be better than the Unearthed arcana ones, they still require me and the players to learn a bunch of additional rules and they seem to favour spellcasters over martial combatants.
I was wondering whether anyone’s successfully run a mass-combat scene without making up an entire system for it. One or two rules would be fine, but if the players and the DM need to read several pages’ worth of rules then it’s too cumbersome for me.
I’m open to different ways of running it. I love the idea of PCs engaging in mini-adventures to kill the leader of this battalion or destroy that bridge or steal the enemy’s plans while the town guards and the majority of the invading army battle it out in the background. I’d like the PCs to also engage in one or three large-scale battles and be responsible for dozens of enemy casualties (and be at risk of dying heroically in the battlefield), but this isn’t strictly necessary. If possible, I’d like the system to be tier-agnostic; I’d like to be able to use it both for level-3 PCs defending a village from barbarians and for level-12 PCs holding back a demon queen and her infernal horde intent on destroying the kingdom’s capital.
I guess what I’m asking is whether anyone has successfully run an invasion or siege or other mass-combat scenario with minimal extra rules and in a way that ensures player agency and (preferably, but not forcefully) is tier-agnostic.
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