In my most recent S&W session we had a battle of about 40 ghouls vs about 30+ soldiers and a couple of PCs. As I wasn't yet 'fluent' in the S&W mass combat rules and thought I'd like to see the battle play out in 'real scale' we started rolling the dice. It actually worked out pretty well and didn't take too long, though we still have to finish the battle in the next session.
I don't think I would run something like that again as a straight combat. So it was off to explore the S&W Mass Combat rules.
I ran through the same combat, minus the PCs, on my own to see how it would turn out compared the actual combat. Using the Swords & Wizardry mass combat rules the Ghouls pretty much overwhelmed the soldiers. Perhaps that is what would really happen? Ghouls are pretty vicious creatures and with forces of equal number on both sides the ghouls would still have the advantage.
For those unfamiliar with the Swords & Wizardry Mass Combat rules, they are part of the Core Rules and only take up two pages. The rules are quite simple, as they should be. Soldiers and monsters are grouped in units of 5 or 10, hit points added for a unit's total and you roll on the regular charts to determine out come. If a hit is scored, the unit is not destroyed (1 in 6 chance) but could be 'broken' and unable to fight until moral (d%) is made. That's just a broad stroke and if you are more interested in reading the details you can download the free version of the rules and look it over yourself.
A number of questions come up using these rules as is, and who says you have to use the rules as is?
Ghouls normally get 3 attacks per round, would this hold true in Mass Combat? Thus three chances to 'wound' a unit and roll a d6 for reaction results? That would seem pretty extreme but perhaps true to the monster. Perhaps just one attack with a d6 damage would be fine. For other monsters as well? How would you handle the paralyzing effect of their attacks?
How are PC's handled? That's not really handled much in the rules. A unit attacking a PC does half damage to the PC which could still be pretty vicious and deadly. In this case, would Ghouls still get their 3 attacks? How would the PC's presence affect the ally unit's moral on breaking?
I know the Mass Combat Rules are a very broad stroke to handle a situation like this and maybe works fine for larger scale battles but groups of about 10-50 combatants on each side should be handled by this rule as well as taking the PC abilities into account. So maybe what I'm looking for isn't mass combat but something in-between?
This week I'll be exploring this Mass Combat system and tweaking things and hopefully come up with some useful additions. I want to keep it simple and don't want to break out of the RPG and into a totally different (war) game. I'm looking to make or add some supplemental tweaks to make a combat such as this flow better within the scope of a table top RPG and make it fun, exciting and have the outcome be 'realistic' in terms of the outcome of standard melee combat.
If anyone has any thoughts on this I'd love to hear from them. I'd want to keep things pretty quick and simple using the Mass Combat rules but tweaked a bit to make it a bit more scaled to a large group of combatants and not so much an army.