So, last night I ran my first “Battle Mission”. Effectively, the players got themselves into a situation where they were fighting against the leading edge of an army. Normally, I would cringe at the prospect – there were 41 models on the table, and I have to keep track of all of them? Not only that, but even if they’re minions, it’ll take forever to move and make attacks with everyone. I decided that the system, as it was, could not handle that size of an encounter without it taking hours of play.
I needed a new system, one that kept true to the basics of the game, but made things move faster. I know that all us DM’s dream of that – but somehow, with only an hour to spare, I found a way. It’s only something I would do for the really large fights (hence “Battle Mission&rdquo, but I think it gives the feel of a frantic conflict very well, and keeps everyone in the action.
First things first – don’t roll initiative. Instead, do a group check to see if the players go first, or last.
All players take their actions as a group, simultaneously. After the players are done, the monsters take their turn simultaneously. Normally this would make both sides (player and DM-monsters) want to rip their teeth out. This is where the next part of the system takes place.
Break down the turn into the following phases:
Minor – Move – Minor – Standard Action – Minor – Move – Minor
If a model has yet to use that action, they are allowed to do so in that phase. This phase structure allows any combination or ordering of a player’s actions to be taken:
For very large fights, it’s recommended that you use an assistant DM to handle all the simultaneous actions. If a player wants to substitute their standard action for another move action, they skip their action in the "Standard Action" phase, and take their move action in either of the two move-action phases.
For Action Points, I'd recommend letting players use them at any time.
+ Remarkably fast; Our 41-model combat took 1 hour to complete. 30 models were Minions, 1 was a boss, and 4 others were Skirmishers. There were 6 PCs. The combat lasted 6 rounds. Instead of spending 5 minutes per player turn, we spent 7 minutes or so to do ALL the player’s turns.
+ Kept all players busy; It didn’t feel like players or monsters were hanging around for fights to happen. Players were kept in the action at all points during the “players turn”, meaning that no one sat twiddling thumbs.
+ More vivid conflict; With so many actions taking place at once, the conflict felt more “alive”, as the pieces were all moving simultaneously. Players are under more pressure to choose actions without having near-perfect battlefield knowledge.
- Throws the concept of Initiative right out the window; Any player who has worked towards having a high initiative is penalized.
- Players can’t “stack” advantages as easily; If one player wants to wait until after another player has moved before attacking, but that player doesn’t want to move until AFTER attacking, that isn’t possible. Everyone takes their standard action at the same time.
- Tension; While action goes up, tension does as well, putting players under the gun to choose actions without considering all the consequences, and without knowing their exact options. While this can be considered a strength in the case that it captures the feeling of “combat” more vividly, it runs counter to Yarium’s DM Rule #3, “Players hate feeling stupid”.
NOTE: Because it was a “battle”, and we had 2 DM’s running combat, and I was pushing the players to choose quickly during each phase, this added a lot more pressure than normal. I felt this was appropriate for the “all-out-combat” that I wanted to represent. I originally thought that this system wouldn’t work for smaller conflicts, but I think I am mistaken in this. If I don’t “push” players too hard, I think this system can work for regular-sized encounters too. I’ll try this next time and report back.
What do you think?