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Related question that doesn't answer mine because I have slightly different requirements

I am interested in a mass combat system for 4E, but before I just roll my own, I want to know if there is a system out there which has the following features:

  1. Levels matter
  2. Morale matters
  3. The battles can be resolved without having PCs to run them
  4. But it should make a difference when the PCs DO show up.

Is that a thing?

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2 Answers

Sure there is. It's described right in the DM Guide under the section "Skill Challenges."

This is 4e, anything you want to do that's major, and isn't combat, can be accomplished through manipulation of the skill challenge system.

  1. Levels matter. DCs are set based on level, skills are improved based on level.
  2. Morale matters. This can be managed through the skill challenge system via supporting roles. This is a good use for Charisma based skills.
  3. Everything is abstracted here, so there isn't anything to be run. You reduce your battles to a series of History, Religion, Arcana, Endurance etc rolls.
  4. PC's have gobs more leadership ability than your average Joe NPCs. And in fact you can do degrees of difference based on how many failures your PCs rack up through the challenge.

I understand that this is probably not what you're looking for. But this is the 4e's design. If it's not skirmish combat, then it's a skill challenge.

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1  
You're right, that's not what I'm looking for. The Skill Challenge system is entirely too narrative an approach for me, I ran one skill challenge back in 2008 and haven't touched them since : ) –  medivh Sep 13 '13 at 12:05
4  
Maybe it was you? I've ran several, I've seen other people run them, all with success. Did you consider that the skill challenge rules have changed since 2008? –  Adriano Varoli Piazza Sep 13 '13 at 12:11
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I've participated in several mass-combats as skill challenges and they've been quite engaging. Each check should describe how the characters bolster the army and what the army is doing. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Sep 13 '13 at 13:28
    
If you are a DDI subscriber, there was a good example Skill Challenge mxex –  Neil Slater Sep 21 '13 at 13:22
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I'd suggest getting One Bad Egg's mass combat rules supplement PDF for 4e: Hard Boiled Armies. They don't add too much to the game and I'm about to implement them in my current game. It's worth a look.

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Can you describe and link to these rules? And can you discuss how they impact the game? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Sep 19 '13 at 23:27
    
Based on this review, it sounds like it might suit. Each unit is a "character" with the usual stats and skills, mat squares become miles instead of 5', adds new unit powers, and then it leverages existing rules to make a battle on this new scale between units. It even sounds like it mixes unit sizes flexibly so you can have PC in the field along with units representing 100s of individuals. No mention of morale in the review, though. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 19 '13 at 23:44
    
Also, it's designed by Fred Hicks, for what that's worth. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 19 '13 at 23:50
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