Dungeons & Dragons Next Reveals Mass Combat System Details

Dungeons & Dragons Next Reveals Mass Combat System Details

The optional Battlesystem rules build on the D&D Next combat rules to allow massive armies to face off for honor and glory.

Wizards of the Coast revealed details today about the rules for mass combat in Dungeons & Dragons Next. While the typical D&D adventure still revolves around a small group of plucky adventurers, many fantasy stories end in an epic conflict between two armies. Players have been asking for years for rules to handle this kind of mass combat in D&D. Wizards of the Coast's answer is Battlesystem, an optional part of the core D&D Next system. Battlesystem is an extension of the standard combat rules, so players familiar with the core combat system will pick up the optional rules quickly.

Battlesystem differs from standard combat largely in terms of scale. Each round of combat in Battlesystem takes 1 minute, and each grid square represents 20 feet. Miniatures are scaled up, with a single figure representing a "stand" of allies or enemies. Each stand fights as a single group, representing ten Small or Medium creatures, five Large creatures, or two Huge ones. Stands are organized into larger units as skirmishers or regiments. Regiments move in tight formations, while skirmishers are faster and less restricted in their movement. Difficult terrain, walls, and cover all work the same as in the core rules. Combat between stands works the same as the core rules, with each stand making a single die roll against the other.

Solo creatures, such as a player character, important NPC, or powerful enemy, can also be added to the battlefield. Solos can fight on their own on or join up to fight with a stand. If a Solo is caught alone by a stand on the battlefield, the stand makes an attack against the Solo for each creature in the stand. So a stand of ten angry goblins could be a big problem for a lone thief in the middle of the battle. However, if a Solo joins up with another stand, the enemy stand can only make a single attack against it. Solos from each army can also meet on the battlefield and duel each other, playing out ten rounds of combat using regular D&D Next rules for each 1-minute Battlesystem round. The statistics for monsters and characters are mostly unchanged for the scaled up stands.

Morale also plays a key role in Battlesystem. Units must make Wisdom saving throws or flee once the unit has lost half its stands. Solos can attempt to rally fleeing units back into battle. Victory conditions can differ depending on how the DM designs the battlefield. Each army is given a set of objectives, each of which has a value in victory points. The army with the most victory points wins.

Reading about Battlesystem, my first thought was of theD&D 3rd Edition supplement Heroes of Battle, which added rules for dropping your characters into the middle of massive wars. Making Battlesystem an extension of the core D&D Next rules makes it a lot more attractive to use. Given the way Solos work, I can see how you could play out something like the Battle of Helm's Deep. What do you think? Is Battlesystem something you would use in your campaign?

Source: Wizards of the Coast

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Wisdom and not Willpower? Really? Did D&D Next get rid of Willpower, then? Because that's the only way such a choice comes even close to making sense to me.

MazokuRanma:
Wisdom and not Willpower? Really? Did D&D Next get rid of Willpower, then? Because that's the only way such a choice comes even close to making sense to me.

I don't recall Willpower ever being its own stat/attribute in D&D. Then again I haven't been following the newest edition much, did they have Willpower as its own stat at some point during development?

Jorec:

MazokuRanma:
Wisdom and not Willpower? Really? Did D&D Next get rid of Willpower, then? Because that's the only way such a choice comes even close to making sense to me.

I don't recall Willpower ever being its own stat/attribute in D&D. Then again I haven't been following the newest edition much, did they have Willpower as its own stat at some point during development?

Actually now that I'm thinking about it further, Wisdom is somewhat accurate. The saving throw itself is actually called 'Will' I believe, but you use your wisdom modifier to make the roll. I was just thrown off by seeing it as straight up wisdom, since saving throws are Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.

MazokuRanma:

Jorec:

MazokuRanma:
Wisdom and not Willpower? Really? Did D&D Next get rid of Willpower, then? Because that's the only way such a choice comes even close to making sense to me.

I don't recall Willpower ever being its own stat/attribute in D&D. Then again I haven't been following the newest edition much, did they have Willpower as its own stat at some point during development?

Actually now that I'm thinking about it further, Wisdom is somewhat accurate. The saving throw itself is actually called 'Will' I believe, but you use your wisdom modifier to make the roll. I was just thrown off by seeing it as straight up wisdom, since saving throws are Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.

I thought the language next used was "make a Dexterity saving throw", and that they'd dropped the 4E style defenses of Fort, Reflex and Will.

OT: I might use it if the situation arises, but I'll have to see how it plays first; I've always felt more comfortable running the combat that the PCs are focused on (their duel with the orc warlord and his entourage), rolling a couple of dice to estimate luck, comparing the forces by size and quality, and abstracting from that how the rest of the battle goes.

The way this is set up, it seems like it might take forever to get through. 3 and 4E combat was slow enough when everyone knew what they were doing with their own characters; I can't imagine what it would be like with 20 or 30 more turns each round, even with vastly simplified rules for each unit.

Well, Will is a defense stat while Wisdom is a core stat. That could have something to do with it.

MazokuRanma:

Jorec:

MazokuRanma:
Wisdom and not Willpower? Really? Did D&D Next get rid of Willpower, then? Because that's the only way such a choice comes even close to making sense to me.

I don't recall Willpower ever being its own stat/attribute in D&D. Then again I haven't been following the newest edition much, did they have Willpower as its own stat at some point during development?

Actually now that I'm thinking about it further, Wisdom is somewhat accurate. The saving throw itself is actually called 'Will' I believe, but you use your wisdom modifier to make the roll. I was just thrown off by seeing it as straight up wisdom, since saving throws are Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.

Aye that is correct. At least, correct in terms of my familiarity with Pathfinders. Wisdom is one of the core stats, and affects your Will saves along with the class modifiers (with it being heavily favored by the casters and such).

I'm also wondering if the "Morale" works similarly to fear as well. Fighters tend to have crap for will saves (Pathfinders again, mind you) and at least make up for it partially through the save bonuses they earn against fear effects. So... Fighters, I'd imagine, should at least have some kind of benefit, at least as a player character character.

I have next to no familiarity with D&D's own specifics, much less 4 or Next... All my friends have gravitated to Pathfinders, and if they feel like going for the more... complex, they whip out Anima instead... And dear lord is that one nuts.

I have to wonder though... Unless the mobs making up one of the "stands" are of lower levels, what would be the point to fight solo? As a Pathfinder "Mythic" Class (what with the mile-radius sleep, sniper magic missiles that ignore resistance, and the ability to leap stories and come crashing down through anything) or Epic levels (ala D&D), it would definitely be possible, but as a normal? Ouch...

captcha: Jabberwocky
Well... I guess it would be possible with that as well too...

Thunderous Cacophony:

OT: I might use it if the situation arises, but I'll have to see how it plays first; I've always felt more comfortable running the combat that the PCs are focused on (their duel with the orc warlord and his entourage), rolling a couple of dice to estimate luck, comparing the forces by size and quality, and abstracting from that how the rest of the battle goes.

The way this is set up, it seems like it might take forever to get through. 3 and 4E combat was slow enough when everyone knew what they were doing with their own characters; I can't imagine what it would be like with 20 or 30 more turns each round, even with vastly simplified rules for each unit.

Well, the article stated that the unit formations only act once every minute, or all 10 rounds, following the old D&D rule that one turn equals 6 seconds; which was extremely weird in some circumstances, lvl 16+ fighter with haste could attack 5 times in 6 seconds, and that is an example without any kind of power gaming. A good friend of mine once constructed a character in 3.5 which was legit (only official WotC material was used) that could attack 42 times in a turn, he never found a DM that was willing to accept the build.

The system itself strongly reminds me of Warhammer Fantasy, or at least of the 5th edition. This is actually the first thing i hear about D&D next that interests me, Heroes of Battle allways seemed so clunky, even for D&D standards.

I'm interested in trying this out. sounds like it could be an interesting concept.

I've used the 1E and 2E Battlesystem rules (and Chainmail and Swords and Spells before that). They were decent miniature rules using D&D concepts. I'll probably use this if I switch to DDN. Still 3.X right now and I admit to liking the Heroes of Battle concept with the battle being an adventure with a series of encounters for PCs. Works especially well if the PCs aren't the commanders and are just participants.

I always tried to avoid mass combat when I could but when I had no choice I always found I had better luck making up a system on the spot rather than trying to use anything the game came with. It was always something convoluted and I found more streamlined systems worked better. After all, most of my players weren't coming to play a 4X or RTS game.

Why are they making it a Wisdom roll instead of a standard Will save? Will save is used against things such as Fear, so wouldn't it make sense to use it here since it's... also essentially combating fear?

Judging by the current responses, it looks like a decent amount of people haven't actually READ any of the more recent D&D Next stuff. Will, Reflex, and Fortitude were removed and now all saves are directly stat based. While many of the old 'stand-by's are still their usual selves (Dexterity save for a Fireball or spike trap, etc) some spells and abilities do target stats outside the 'usual' three (Entangle is now entirely a Strength save instead of the multi-part stuff it was before). Ultimately this actually played really well every time I've tested it, but I digress.

more directly OT: This series of changes is sounding like a good step in the right direction. While many players and DMs have some homerules they use to handle these situations, having some sort of standard that isn't super clunky to fall back on is very useful as an option to keep everyone on the same page. That being said, the current scaling on the number of attacks a stack can get seems problematic. Next has done a surprisingly decent job in slimming down a lot of the bulk and excess, and while this rule makes sense, it does add in a lot of extra rolling. An idea I saw on that post that would probably work is having the damage die scale (in an unreliable fashion) with the more units in a stack. As such, you can reduce the number of rolls but keep the danger a lot of small units can do with a lucky hit.

Clearly most of the posters here haven't been following the development: D&D Next has done away with Fort, Ref, and Will. Saves are just rolls against your ability scores now. Skills have had a similar treatment - it's part of a general plan to make the ability scores into a prominent part of your character.

Sounds as though it would make more sense to just break out a game of Warhammer. It's trying to do exactly the same thing, but with rules that are being co-opted from a different system rather than designed for large battles from scratch. It's just a shame they never did a fantasy version of Epic for the really big fights.

I'm curious to see how this will play out with mid to high level play. One of the biggest "issues" with mass combat in 3.5 was that a 5th level wizard could wipe out a large section of an opposing army with a single casting of Fireball. I wonder if the same will remain for Next/5E.

Finally! Been waiting on this since the day I started DM-ing!!!
Not sure I am sold, based on what I've read here though :(

I can get behind this. I was trying to homebrew a way for my players to lead a charge against the armies of the Big Bad as part of the campaign's climax, but was struggling for ways to represent the entire battle and still let the heroes shine. This is a must-buy for my table.

EDIT: for those of you curious about it, and patient enough to scroll before posting, saves are now based on your ability scores directly as opposed to 3 condensed stats. This way strength tests can benefit from save boosters, a battle of wits between a wizard and a sphynx can be decided by an Int rolloff, or sheer force of personality or good looks can sway someone without the need to speak and initiate a Diplomacy test, just to name a few possibilities. I like the broader applications and how flexibly ad-libbable the system is as printed.

 

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