Powers & Perils Mass Combat - Comments

Henrik Lawaetz henrik.lawaetz at MEDTRONIC.COM
Mon Apr 27 14:13:28 CEST 1998

Hi Burt (cc: P&P Mailing List),

For the next couple of weeks, I'm reviewing my old P&P stuff in preparation
for a new campaign with new players. Looking for background info, I
stumbled on the P&P web-site and mailing list. Lot's of good things there,
I've modified my skill system to your 2D10 format.

As for the Mass Combat stuff, Impressive job! Sure it's a whole lot like
the GURPS system, but that was pretty good so why not take advantage? I had
my own system (which I must admit was never used in any of my previous
campaigns). I've just spent some time revamping it a bit to reflect the
(better!) ideas in yours. Mine, too, was a clone of the old GURPS system.

1. Catastrophe Example.
One point: I believe "Catastrophes" should always be bad. Your wording of
the example seems to indicate that the Fierazi get a 10 % BONUS (it should
be the Djani's who got that bonus), however this does not seem to be
reflected subsequently, so perhaps I just read is wrong (?)
(I prefer to call the Catastrophe table for the SNAFU table, but that is

2. Effects of Player Characters.
Realism is fine, but players like to feel that their PCs personally affect
actions directly (at least that's what I believe they do). The system as
you have it only allows the leader to affect the overall battle result. For
the other PCs, the battle affects them - they do not affect the battle.

This is FRPG, where PCs can be a whole lot more powerful than ordinary
soldiers. I like to allow others than the commander to affect the battle.
With your system as a base, perhaps allow the players to create sub-units,
and resolve part of the battle commanded by one or more PC with these
rules, then let that affect the overall battle as a Strategy modifier, or
by complete separation.

Example: Player X's Housecarles Unit (100 elite heavy infantry, trained by
player X, personally) was assigned the task of holding the left flank; this
they did, defeating a numerically superior enemy Cavalry force (odds 2.5-1)
that charged repeatedly (... etc... etc... ). This has the effect of either
subtracting the enemy cavalry units from the other parts of the battle,
thus perhaps improving the overall odds, thus easing the task for the
overall commander. OR this might give the overall commander a +2 modifier,
as his Left flank held firm.

However, not all player characters are military leaders with great Strategy
skill or ratings. What I've factored in is the "straight fighter" effect. A
real-life example would be the Battle of Stamford Bridge (AD 1066), where a
single Norwegian Warrior held the entire English Army at bay defending a
bridge for a time - not long enough, but it nearly salvaged the battle for
Harald Hardrada. Going back to P&P, the Culture Book contains an example of
the Sword Firefang and it's wielder being instrumental in achieving victory
in a battle (sure the guy was eventually consumed in the fire, but...).
What I want is for the players to be able to perform heroics to help win
the battle.

I have house rules for career skills (skills that give you a who lot of
other skills, of which the PC can only start with one. Same concept as your
"lifestyle" skills). Three of these deal with PCs having served in military
organizations: "Military Officer" (expertise training and leading men in
combat), "Cavalryman" (ability to fight mounted alongside others in larger
battles), and "Infantryman" (ability to fight on foot alongside others in
larger battles). These skills were primarily intended to provide skills
bonuses for character generation, but they also come into play if a PC
wishes to train a military force, serve in a nation's military, etc. Of
course, the ultimate use of these skills is be in battle. Withing the
spirit of your Mass Combat system, I fancy this might be done as follows:

The "Glory Roll" (I have a similar concept called "Effect Roll") is
modified by subtracting Risk, and adding CEL/2 and EL/2 in either "Military
Officer" (if leading enough men to make a difference, GM discretion as
always), "Infantryman" if fighting on foot, or "Cavalryman" if fighting
mounted. Also, certain Magical Items might allow further bonuses. My table
goes a bit further, yielding a bit more potential Strategy gain at the top.
HALF of the Strategy gain can be achieved even if the PC is NOT  the
overall commander. The reasoning  is as follows:

 - Risk: well, the more you try, the greater the benefits.
 + CEL/2: If you have CEL 16, you can beat a lot of CEL 4 guys.
 + Infantryman EL/2 (or whatever): I require a battle plan where the PCs
roles are clearly defined, and where the risk factors and PC roles fit with
the overall battle plan.

Example: If a force defends a keep behind castle walls against the mass
assault from a numerically superior besieging force. Allowing a PC to fight
as Cavalryman at Risk -6 does not make too much sense. He can charge out on
his own and try to disrupt the attack from outside the walls, but he is
then just using his personal CEL, not his Cavalryman EL.

3. Monsters and Magic in Battles

I'm experimenting with allowing Wizards to affect the battle directly,
similarly to fighters using their CEL, but this must be modified based on
what combat/healing spells the Wizard knows and is willing to use. Perhaps
you have some ideas.

Monsters are even more important, since many nations armies can be aided by
these creatures. Again, I have yet to cook up something that really sounds

Yours, Henrik Lawaetz

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