On some level, this might actually be getting closer to RPGs’ roots: I want to try a campaign where the PCs are members of a larger military. There may be need for them to coordinate with other units on a larger campaign, or bail allies out, and so on, but I want to avoid some problems I see with this:

  1. The players should still (at least eventually) feel like the stars of the story, despite the important things that may also be going on around them.

  2. They should come to be leaders/champions of this army, but I don’t think my players are necessarily interested in really doing much in the way of general-ing (and I’m not particularly interested in it either). Basically, I don’t want it to turn into a war game (though ultimately if that’s what the players want, that’s what the players want).

  3. I think there should be some level of unpredictability in what other units are able to accomplish, both because it’s more interesting and because it eliminates any possibility of their successes/failures being perceived as railroading.

  4. I’m envisioning a fairly-epic quest from low levels to high. The players will start as fresh graduates from a military academy, and by the end of the campaign may be fighting off demons for the sake of the world. I need suggestions on how to handle their allies’ growth or lack thereof alongside them.

This is not necessarily a system recommendation question, but I am quite interested in systems and books which have established rules for handling this kind of thing, if only for comparison/consideration. Basically, I need extremely streamlined ways of determining what these other units are doing and also how to communicate what they’re doing to the players.

And while this may or may not involve a system recommendation, all “shopping” questions like this go under the usual guidelines for Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, and I think the usual blurb about should be applied here:

As this is a system-recommendation question, please adhere to both the FAQ and the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and on our Meta. In particular, all responses should be based on actual experience and contain references and examples whenever possible.

It may (or may not) be relevant to your answer that the intended setting is fairly typical fantasy, with reasonably high magic. Mages might be fairly rare among the common folk, but then so are knights, and your local priest probably can manage a little. The army, of course, has mages as a major component of most units, as support and artillery behind the warriors.

This need not actually change your answer though. If you have useful information for a more sci-fi setting or modern setting, I can certainly use that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you considered Mongoose's Starship Troopers d20 game for this? Especially of interest might be the fact that their d20 game has basically one starting class, and specializations come afterward. This isn't necessarily something that you will want to model (If I recall correctly, the d20 game was entirely focused on Mechanized Infantry) in your campaign, but it's interesting. Unfortunately, it's also really expensive as far as the .pdf goes, though I found a paperback version at my local secondhand bookstore. If I had it with me where I am, I'd cite specific things they did. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2013 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KyleWilley I have not, as I've never heard of it. Mongoose hasn't impressed me (at all) in the past, but I'd be willing to take a look at it if it weren't expensive. If you get a chance to take a look at your copy, an answer with some things you liked from it might be quite helpful to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 28, 2013 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's really expensive (twentysomething dollars for the PDF), and it's not necessarily that great in and of itself; it's an above-average d20 game in an era where d20 system-based spinoffs were basically being churned out by the dozen. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2013 at 19:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I like what you're going for here. Have you read Heroes of Battle? There are grand sections of it addressing exactly what you are asking. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Apr 28, 2013 at 20:28
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/7414/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 29, 2013 at 2:39

5 Answers 5


I'm restarting a campaign right now that is almost identical to this. It used and will be using Savage Worlds, with PCs being members of a fantasy frontier law enforcement paramilitary group.

Savage Worlds was designed from the ground up to do all four of your points. Have you looked at it? There's a free Test Drive PDF on the publisher's site. It's not everyone's cup of tea because not everyone likes the exact trade-offs made in order to achieve streamlined combat with dozens-to-hundreds of combatants, but it does do the job for those who like the tradeoffs.


  1. There is a certain amount of "PC glow" built into the system, via the distinction between full characters ("Wild Cards") and "Extras". The ease of commanding/managing NPC followers in combat (see below) also factors into this.

  2. PCs will quickly become examples which their fellow NPCs will look up to, simply because of how the advancement mechanics put them into the heroic spotlight and let them take on more interesting missions. Individually, they may also choose advancement options that make them leaders in battle, or they may not – this is a dial they can personally set, so you don't have to worry about it. Even if they choose not to become amazing trooper leaders, they can still command allies in a squad effectively, giving you flexibility there. You can lean toward Spec-Ops type missions with no or small NPC squads, or toward big battles, depending on whether your players overall build toward leadership Edges or not.

  3. There is a lot of unpredictability built into the dice mechanic. Even a top-level (well, there isn't a top level, but you stop getting new fancy names for the levels) character can be taken out by one very lucky Extra. It's extremely unlikely (on the order of fractions of 1%) at that level, but no enemy is ever beneath notice. Players have to take their opponents seriously, even when they can expect to tromp all over them. Wading into battle like you're invulnerable is just begging to be KO'd in one lucky roll, so players are wise to act like sensible people and respect dangers and take precautions, even when they're confident they can take them.

  4. The advancement system and dice mechanic are designed to deliver gameplay that starts with Competent But Modest characters and proceed to Epic Legends.

It also has a very streamlined system for battles between very, very large forces, so that your PCs can concentrate on their local challenges and war objectives and influence the larger conflict, without taking hours to figure out what happens.

The gotcha with moving from d20 experience to Savage Worlds is that epic fights are about the size of the opposing force, not about the buff-ness of the stats on one Big Bad. Because of the swinginess of the dice mechanic, a single tough Big Bad will be either one-shotted, or be a source of much frustrating whiff and ping and make the combat feel slow and boring. "Boss" fights should involve lost of support Extras of variable toughness, units with different attack strategies, and one or two Wild Card Big Bads. Essentially, because there are no hit points, all the Extras are the hit points of the boss fight – then when the Big Bad goes down to a good roll it will be the climax of a bit fight rather than an anticlimax.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This sounds quite close to ideal, though I'm not sure I'll have time to learn an entirely-new system. More likely, I'll look into how they accomplish these things and see if I can use those ideas. Can you give me any direction as to the hows of those things happening? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 28, 2013 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ The how of it is pretty tightly integrated into the core of system. There are no hit points—extras are either up, down, or off the table. Wild Cards have three wounds, but one roll can beat their Toughness TN by enough margin to do multiple wounds since it's an exploding dice mechanic. All the mechanics are designed around quick resolution and low handling time, so fights are usually 10–30 minutes even with dozens of figures on each side. However, the system can be learned in an hour's reading and taught in 10, so it might be worth trying anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2013 at 20:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Well, I've downloaded the PDF and started reading; haven't gotten to the mechanics yet, but the adventure they have is amusing me. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 28, 2013 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I should mention, I've read through the preview rules, and I am definitely leaning in this direction. I think the lighter rules will be preferred by my players, and the streamlining will be appreciated by all around. My only concern is that a lot of Edges seem very dry: +2 when you're doing this kind of thing, +2 when you're doing that kind of thing. I realize +2 is pretty significant when you're aiming at 4, but it still doesn't seem like enough as the primary differentiation mechanic. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 29, 2013 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yeah, being a cross-genre system there isn't as much flavour embedded in the mechanics, so looking for character differentiation there is frustrating. Differentiation tends to come in how one used during-play options, which can vary a lot. There's good discussion here (eventually, later in the thread) about where to find character differentiation in unexpected parts of the game. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2013 at 14:26

Writing a game with a military structure focus is somewhat difficult, but something that I've had to tackle several times with my players. Here are some things I've gleaned.

  1. Military units tend to be symmetrical. This is because commanders typically appreciate it when every member of a fireteam is capable of serving as a rifleman, and any specialization comes after a basic generalization. For instance, I know of at least one mil-sim community whose first motto is "Every man a rifleman.", so it's a good idea to have a basic required package for players. For instance, in Shadowrun, I'd require players in a (para-)military campaign to take a custom Basic Training package for most roles.
  2. Ranks in the military tend to be divided between command and execution; while great soldiers often wind up in an officer position, it's not unheard of for the most elite soldier in a unit to be the same rank as the other mainline soldiers, and have the same leadership capacities.
  3. Units are typically given goals that are independent of the success of other units, then given another once the battlefield situation has been reassessed. If I were sending a fireteam into a facility, I wouldn't have their main goal be "Find the terrorist leader and take him out." from the very beginning. Their job would be "Breach the perimeter wall, and wait for Fireteam Bravo.", something that they can accomplish then make their own snap-decisions. Command micro-management will vary based on the structure of the organization, and the amount of technology involved. With real-time satellite feeds and HUD feedback, it's possible for commanders to micromanage, but typically they won't; player characters in a military campaign of mine will typically receive a goal and rules of engagement (i.e. stealth, caution about civilian activity or allies from other units, and more).
  4. One crucial thing I do in a military campaign is require non-combat skills. Perception plays a role both in noticing foes, but also in identifying the affiliation of combatants and other such things. Survival might tell people whether wildlife are likely to be spooked by a combatant moving through but otherwise ignoring them, helping them realize ambushes are up ahead, or set their own. Medicine is almost certainly necessary as well.

Basically, in order to make a military campaign that covers players as they rise in rank without moving up into leadership roles you have to do the following:

  1. Characters gain trust in the eyes of their commanding officer as they demonstrate great performance, potentially even being transferred up the food chain to a more high-ranking officer, though this isn't how real-world militaries typically work.
  2. Characters may also be shifted between units; a character who does exceptionally well may transfer into the equivalent of the Navy Seals; where once they were just a good soldier, now they are efficient and essentially going to succeed in all but the most difficult tasks, given the appropriate support and leadership from above.
  3. Characters do not necessarily gain leadership, but there is a potential to, if you want to run NPC's for it, add in NPC's to their fireteams (for instance, if you're working with four players and four-man fireteams, the players may be promoted to specialists in fireteams (leader, machine-gunner is the typical grouping) and given the appropriate support troops, giving them the opportunity to execute small-scale commands without forcing off-field leadership roles on the players.
  4. Highly trusted troops warrant more support; if you're running something like d20 you could replace spells with something like standard issue ordinance (so, for instance, colored smoke grenades for officers that serve as a radio-free communications device and guaranteed point of reference, but on a more fancy scale even stuff like artillery or supply airdrops in the place of traditional magic), but this goes for everyone-less tried soldiers may not be allowed to use their own discretion, however (for instance, the artillery commander may decide that their judgment is flawed).

For dealing with allies and leadership, there are a few things to consider.

  1. People will follow the leader regardless of rank when shells start dropping. Players' plans may take precedence over a superior officer's (they could get in trouble for this) if the players have more knowledge. This works better in a setting like WWI, where the officers were often selected from the elite without much care for their actual martial prowess, versus in a modern scenario with highly-trained troops.
  2. If appropriate, soldiers may become celebrities. There aren't many real-world models for this, but you'll find a ton of this in military (science) fiction. More frequently, this is modeled in leadership figures (George Washington, for instance), but it's possible to see a few other figures throughout history of much lesser rank who rise to prestige.
  3. Unless there's a large common goal (D-Day, for instance), military units will often be assigned separate roles, generally based on their estimated ability to carry them out. Allied units may have an unfair reputation, meaning that they either are underrated to the point that they blow their way past enemy defenses or overrated so much that they rout or are crushed. Once a unit is finished with their objective, they may join forces with another unit temporarily (or permanently, if losses were enough to warrant the merger of two groups) to finish a particularly difficult objective.
  4. To let the players feel like they're still driving the action, feel free to attach members of other units to them in an auxiliary role. For instance, one of my favorite parts from MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries (sorry, video game reference) was when Victor Steiner-Davion joins forces with the player for an assault; he didn't necessarily come under their command, but merely the knowledge that I had the general in charge of the whole force helping my lance take down a dropship was exciting.

The basic thing I'll leave you with is this; if you've ever read Tom Clancy, his Rainbow Six series with John Clark and Domingo Chavez give examples of characters moving up within a specific organization-usually they shift from field to desk, but there's no reason why you can't have elite in-field operatives within an organization as they go from rookie to elite killing machine, and these elites would be recognized as such and trusted more in tense situations.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Whoa, I'd already upvoted you and then you add a whole bunch more; awesome, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 28, 2013 at 23:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I spend way too much time on stuff like this. I'd already meant to write up something not dissimilar, so I figured I'd post some. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2013 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have one big caveat, micromanaging of units has been a problem since time immemorial, its just a different level of problem in different periods. Commanders could confuse a line of battle by sending out too many orders via horseback in the Napoleonic era and the same can happen with instant radio contact. I would say bad commander micro manage and good ones trust in their subordinates. I'd also add that you see as a general trend throughout military history the level of freedom given to lower level officers and NCOs increasing. A modern LT makes choices a Major once made over 100 years ago. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2013 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Micromanaging is one of those things that tends to happen when commanders are either unsure of their troops' abilities or are too focused on seeing their vision of the battle to allow the boots on the ground to do their jobs. It's something that happens, but it's not proper battlefield behavior. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2013 at 16:06
  1. War novels and movies I've read/seen don't focus on the whole war. They focus on small events. All's Quiet on the Western Front was about small ventures undertaken by small groups for the bigger picture. The war was the backdrop for their great undertaking. Take a hint from those: Generals concern themselves with the huge picture but often times the people engaged in the fighting have naught but their orders. They are heroes nonetheless, and the stars of their story. Don't overshadow them with mightier people for long (as you know) and it'll work fine - same as any dungeon crawl or other adventure.

  2. Keep the number of high-ranking officials low. Each PC can excel to a certain rank but the major logistics are carried out by NPCs, and that's that. Unless that's what they want as you've mentioned. One thing Heroes of Battle discusses is when PCs have rank they might tend to pull rank, and that doesn't work well in some groups. Especially if the "natural leader" isn't the highest ranking officer. It's recommendation for this is to** keep them all in their specialties and share the leader role among them**. Ambushing supply line? Rogue's got it. Holding the tower against several brigades? Now leadership moves to the dual-wielding fighter. Heroes of Battle has a clear-cut method for determining rank and medals mathematically, too - worth a look.

  3. Heroes of Battle recommends you sketch out a map of events for this. It'd be a series of if:then statements, more or less, see here. If the PCs defeat X leader unit then the forces led by them aren't at place Y during the siege. More than that, sketching out maps for each battle and having a good idea of what things will be nearly impossible to avoid (a passing tarrasque at 0500 hours or an earthquake across this bridge) and an even rougher idea of things that will be difficult to handle (enemy troops are reinforced at this point and grow by 60%), see here and here. While some events will greatly shape the fate of the war, D&D as a war game breaks down into an abundance of much smaller battles. Siege equipment can be taken out or castles waylaid, all the pieces contribute to that which is the larger 'war.' More to the point, plan individual challenges like you would any other dungeon. Now, instead of dealing with rooms and traps, you're dealing with units and strategic terrain. All that's shifted is the nature of the encounter and the backdrop, as well as how equipment is doled out (most large forces are cheaply armed - see requisition and rank below).

  4. The rank system from Heroes of Battle would work well for you. Equipment can be requisitioned by rank. Authority is easily enough attained through rank. PC action can directly influence things such as someone else getting promoted or demoted. If you want the PCs to entirely outshine NPCs by the end of this then you might want to either take out the key powerful NPCs through plot (several different attempts at trap the soul could probably pull this off without railroading, so long as you make it clear they are attempts and not seqways) or have those more powerful NPCs handling the bigger fish (second-in-command holds off Orcus while the party carves their way to them). While it's fun to level NPCs along with the party I've found that PCs rarely mind when sufficiently high level NPCs are just static characters, level-wise.

...I am quite interested in systems and books which have established rules for handling this kind of thing, if only for comparison/consideration. Basically, I need extremely streamlined ways of determining what these other units are doing and also how to communicate what they’re doing to the players.

I strongly urge you to read through Heroes of Battle. The advice which is most pertinent to your goal seems to be "think big, play small" as introduced in point one above. Graphing charts of the map as well as the battle flow-chart can help a lot at the table.

...the intended setting is fairly typical fantasy, with reasonably high magic. Mages might be fairly rare among the common folk, but then so are knights, and your local priest probably can manage a little. The army, of course, has mages as a major component of most units, as support and artillery behind the warriors.

As with most of the other splat books, the magic section is decent. It's no Spell Compendium but there are useful utility spells in there. Since you mention demons, one of the example armies listed in the book is a horde of demons. Another is humans. Saves on prep time. Heroes of Battle is written with the occupation of mages in mind and has a small blurb about useful utility spells and defenses. More useful than that is the permanent spell table on page 40 where PCs might encounter wall of stone or symbols from times long past. I favor this book for it's campaign-structuring sections, mostly, so I do believe you would find great value in it for your endeavor.

Check out the excerpt located here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wait, Heroes of Battle expands the permanency table? Whoa, I'd already +1'd you but that alone would have been enough if I hadn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 29, 2013 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not permanency-compatible spells, but spells that would still be lingering (ie. semi-permanent to permanent duration). Heh if that was the case I would have gotten it well before my brother found it at a yard sale :) \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Apr 29, 2013 at 18:45

First three years of my campaign were similar to what you ask for - a baron of a frontline barony, his brother (a mage) and his soldiers. Here is some experience from this (in addition to what others have written):

  • GURPS mass combat system did worth it. The 3rd and 4th edition systems are quite different - 3rd ed. Mass Combat means more mathematics and less tactical options in a "all army" scale, but has more detailed evaluation of troop strength and PC's successes and battle survival. We used 4th edition rules for whole combat and 3rd edition for PC impact in the end.
    I used this systems for GMing allies and enemies when preparing bigger operation, and it also proved to be an excellent tool to speed things up when PCs lead an army. We used standard PC impact rules and "play few rounds of combat or a single duel" as needed, mostly depending on where in the battle each PC was. In smaller scale fights we used this either for speeding up unimportant encounters or to GM fights between NPCs.
    Another feature is dependence on dice - few years (of real time) after the war, players remember often and gladly the times the leading PC's player threw a critical fail and whole battle was either lost or won closely through heroism of PCs or luck in further battle rounds.

  • start with smaller scale fights where PCs are their own commanders, and gradually put them to bigger and bigger and to harder and harder fights. As they become more and more competent (with new levels/ abilities bought for XPs) and famous (for victories), they will get harder and harder, in the end even seemingly impossible missions. The freedom to command their own squad (regardless of whether it's just PCs' team or tens of thousands of soldiers) is crucial.

  • magic was considered a "dirty trick" and it's usage against "honorable enemy" (the other side in a civil war definitely qualified for this) was forbidden, so I could ignore it when I wanted. But we all know how is it about dirty tricks... In practice, both eliminating enemy magi and escaping accusations of abusing magic was quite frequent. For the few cases magi fought the allied army, GURPS mass combat system has rules for it too (completely different in 3rd and 4th edition, but useful).

And finally:

Don't forget downtime!

The other answers focused on the wargaming part of the campaign. In my campaign, about every other session focused on things other than war, or on the war, but not directly. While the king (leader of the other side of a civil war) was an enemy, a plotting count on the same side was definitely much more hated by both the players and the PCs. Countering his plots against PCs' main ally/patron/friend or even against themselves was as frequent as battling the enemies. There were other enemies in shadows, both the other side and an enemy country had spies, and there was a truce during winter time, when the mage could do his research, baron found a potential bride, dwarf crafted an excellent axe, sergeant advanced in his wrestling side career and everyone of this goals produced a plot for at least one session.

How to apply it to your campaign?

  • enemy have spies, and the army is not completely united, there are rivalries between generals, polititians and other important players. PCs are likely to become involved in espionage or political games, either because someone use them for his plans, because someone dear to them is endangered, or just that they are in a wrong time on a wrong place. These shadow games affect the battlefield, but they can easily make "downtime" plots. The routine tasks are not interresting per se, but in combination with this they can become interresting.
    Adventure hooks:

    1. the PCs' direct commander gets too good reputation due to heroic feats of his man. Some influential officer is jealous of him, so the PCs are to be send to a suicidal mission. A friend tells the PCs that the order will be approved by a general next morning. PCs have a night to find a proof that the action is a bad idea and the person who suggested it is not trustworthy, or even an enemy spy. Add one to three ways how to make it. Hilarity ensues (or sues, if a friendly lawyer is engaged).

    2. While doing routine patrolling, a PC finds a burglar. Investigation starts and a gang covered by some officers tries to stop it - and to remove an important witness seems to be the easiest step.

  • relationships does matter! Friends and "friends" can help (or need help) you in situations like those in adventure hook above. Friends, relatives and especially loved ones can be the only remaining reasons not to look for a honorable death. Adventure plots:

    1. PC's wife/ lover made an ultimatum: if she wouldn't receive a letter before certain date, she would leave him. But mail is a luxury the besieged army can't afford. Or will a group of volunteers escape from the siege with mail, both tactical and personal?

    2. PC's brother seems to have gone mad - the war probably is too hard for him. Or is the reason for his depression different? Let's try to help him!

  • soldiers have some hobbies, and while waiting between interresting actions, there can be time to practice them. Babes are similar to previous point, drinking is a must and if wrestling is popular, it will be especially popular among soldiers!

Adventure hooks:

  1. Bob the Bull wants to win the next wrestling contest at any cost, and a PC seems to be his biggest rival. Will the PC take a bribe and let Bob win? If yes, didn't that guy from rival squad listen? If no, how to handle Bull's friends and their dirty tricks?

  2. PC's new girlfriend isn't who she seems to be - in fact, she is a wife of an important officer, who's simply a bad lover. When the PC finds out, what will he do? How to hide the relationship from her husband? If the PC wants to stop it, what to do when she accused her former lover of rape?

Anyway, even if most sessions consist of battlefield action, PCs' backstories is what differentiate a good game from wargaming.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the downtime section. I don't really plan on having "on-screen" large-scale combat, so the first section isn't too useful to me (well written, though), but the downtime section is awesome. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 9, 2013 at 23:47

Abstract away the unnecessary

Are your players generals, in charge of an army? Fine. Let them have large numbers of soldiers. However, if they're not interested in managing the logistics and other maintenance required for handling the army, don't bother making them a (significantly time consuming) part of the game.

For example, say that your players each run a 10,000 man unit, and they are about to have to defend their country from an invader. Instead of worrying about optimal troop deployments, and makeup, etc..., create a series of adventures which do the following:

  1. Encounters which decide troop composition. Eg.: Lead a foray with a 100 man unit into the wilderness, save the leader of the horse-people's daughter from a troll, now you have 1000 horse people prepared for your battle. Fail, and he joins the opposition.
  2. Encounters which open up tactical options. Eg: Go on a scouting adventure to the enemy camp, with 4-5 players, learn that their magician is weak to fire, and then unlock the "your ice magicians will focus fire on their fire mage" strategic option.
  3. Encounters which open up strategies. Eg: Capture an enemy spy, and role-play mining him for information, to find out that the enemy will focus most of his reserves on the right flank. Opens up two alternatives - strongly defend the right flank, or feint weakness, draw their units in, and then surround them

And other items in the same vein. Have your players, through their skills, accidentally, or due to their personalities, end up being the ones completing these missions.

Tell a story with the abstractions in the background

Aim to build a decision tree for the players before large battles. Based on the results of their adventures, they should have a list of options/instructions they can give to guide the general direction of the battle (ie, attack the left flank first, surround the enemy, then call reinforcements; be able to call 2 eagle man airstrikes at any point; tell the dwarven sappers to fire off their explosions).

In anticipation of a major battle, prepare a series of encounters that are critical for the battle to complete successfully:

  • breaking down of the front gate of a castle
  • defeat of the evil wizard conclave
  • take out the snipers
  • repel the cavalry barrage

Have the players fighting/resolving each encounter, with the major war continuing in the background. Occasionally link them in with the rest of the combat (maybe with a messenger shouting: "their elephants are moving forward, sir! bring in the airstrike?").

Once the major combat is over, report casualties and other results at a high level, and directly relate them to the actions of the players. Eg:

  1. Took you 5 rounds to break down the door. You lost 5*2% = 10% of the men attacking the gate in the process.
  2. You didn't call in the airstrike when the elephants came in. They trampled 20% of your shock troops before being stopped
  3. You managed to distract the evil wizard with single combat for long enough for his control spell to break. The demons attacking your army dissipated and your troops were able to break through the enemy defences early

As a result, you're down 2530 men, and have 500 injured. All in all a good battle. It will take 6 months for your troops to rebuild without magical assistance, though there is a cleric enclave nearby, which may be willing to trade the assistance if you help them with a little problem...

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a nice approach (and closely compatible with the rules I'm using for my own game like this). +1 for you! \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've tried several variations on this theme and liked them all. It follows the general pattern for related games, books, etc... Turns out that few people enjoy reading/playing/studying detailed information about large scale battles. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 23:49

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