Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fantasy: Mass Combat (Part I)

(Don't let the presence of the word "fantasy" up there fool you. These rules can be used for mass combat in any genre -- I think.)

My original goal was to see if I could use FATE to come up with a miniatures wargame that didn't require miniatures or terrain. So be warned: The following is likely to be way too crunchy for some people. Even though the bulk of these rules are months old, I have yet to playtest them (although I expect to in a few days), so give them a look-see, if you would, and tell me where I've gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Guiding Rules and Concepts
  • Chase rules: I like the way an independent pool of points is used to measure just how important the chase is, and the way those points can be spent to change things up during the chase.
  • Leadership: Specifically, the use of Leadership to help minions.
  • Units as characters: Treating units as characters with consequences, skills, and aspects.
  • Minion/Companion rules: If units are characters, they're most easily differentiated using these rules as a base.
  • Zones: I dig the abstraction of distance.
Player characters are commanders in these scenarios, not mere footsoldiers. If the PCs aren't in charge, don't use these rules.

Building An Army

Armies are built of individual units.

Skills for units are limited to the following:

  • Alertness
  • Intimidation
  • Melee
  • Missile
  • Maneuvering
  • Spirit
  • Stealth
Maneuvering is basically Athletics, but I don't like that word for a combat unit. Just doesn't sound right.

Spirit is a combination of Endurance and Resolve. Whether a unit is slaughtered or routed, the result is pretty much the same: It's taken out. The details of how that goes down are left to the consequences it suffers.

Alertness and Stealth are basically there to counter each other.

Battle Points
pay for units. The number of Battle Points each commander receives depends on how important the battle is. Use the Chase rules as a guide for this: 5 Battle Points for a skirmish that's just adding flavor, 10 for a battle that's the focus of the session, and 20 for a truly epic clash of armies. If the commanders are allies instead of enemies, and playing in a GM-run scenario, the GM gets Battle Points equal to the aggregate total of the players' Battle Points (or more, if, y'know, he feels like it).
  • For Your Consideration: Fate Points can be converted into Battle Points on a 1:1 basis. I'm not sure what I think of this, but... sure, why not?
Base Unit Cost is equal to the value of its apex skill. Units max out at Good (+3) quality.
  • Average units: One Average skill
  • Fair units: One Fair skill, two Average skills
  • Good units: One Good skill, two Fair skills, three Average skills

As for consequences, there's no consideration of degrees of severity here. The assumption is that these units won't really exist, in game terms, for any longer than the length of the battle, so there's no point dealing with any of that. However, we do track the nature of the consequence, whether physical or mental. A unit can withstand a number of consequences equal to one less than its quality. That is, Average units are taken out if they take even a single consequence, while Good units can take two without going down.

  • When a unit is defeated by a physical consequence, it's either wiped out or scattered beyond reformation.
  • When defeated by a mental consequence, the unit is demoralized, breaks ranks, and/or routs.

Every unit starts with one Aspect for free that reflects the racial make-up and nature of the unit. Examples: Dwarven Infantry, Elven Archers, Human Dragoons, Troll Shocktroops. You can't invoke your unit's Dwarven Infantry aspect to help with their Missile skill, for example -- but you can certainly invoke the Human Dragoons aspect to help move faster with Maneuvering (since dragoons are mounted troops).

Armoring a unit costs 1 Battle Point. This adds an appropriate aspect (e.g., "Human Infantry" and "Kite Shields," "Elven Archers" and "Mail Shirts").

By default, every unit has the tools it needs to get the job done. For 1 Battle Point, a unit can be equipped with superior or heavy weaponry. This gives it a +1 to either Melee or Missile rolls.

For 2 Battle Points, you get one Great (+4) Lieutenant that has access to the full gamut of skills, including Leadership (though not in excess of his or her commander). Build the Lieutenant as a Great character with one aspect and one stunt. Attaching a Lieutenant to a unit is the equivalent of the Independent advance for a Companion. Lieutenants can engage other Lieutenants, PCs, or important NPCs in one-to-one combat. Lieutenants are important NPCs in their own right, and should be treated as such.

Next Up in Part II: More!
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