I want to create a Pathfinder campaign for my players that culminates in a war between fantasy cities. I've been researching mass combat rules looking for something comprehensive that effectively deals with fantasy worlds beyond 'just' incorporating magic. I've yet to find anything that specifically deals with mass combat in various standard fantasy environments:

  • Aerial Mass Combat (i.e. more than dogfights between individuals, the entire army/unit is capable of flight)
  • Underwater Mass Combat (Atlantis vs. Lemuria, anyone?)
  • Mass Combat between these environments (Atlantis vs. Laputa)
  • BONUS: Other-planar environments

The 3D nature of each of these environments opens up very different strategies and tactics. I.e., What does 'high ground' mean exactly? If an army has highly buoyant weapons in the underwater setting, can they bombard the enemy from below in the same way as a flying army could do to an earth-bound one?

Are there any game systems that address mass combat in any of these environments?

The best answer would be for something that is specific to 3.5 or Pathfinder, but I've given up hope in finding something like that. I'd look at anything that has been play tested. I'm always concerned about balance. Possibly something from the Sci-Fi genre?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can we assume you want a detailed ruleset, not a highly abstracted ruleset that can do any kind of battle simply because it's super-abstract? If no such thing exists, would a generic abstract system suit you as a "consolation prize", or would that make for a not-useful answer? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 27 '13 at 18:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I would prefer the detailed ruleset. If I get no answer in a reasonable amount of time (2 weeks? month??) I would be willing to put a bounty on the question. If no answer emerges after that, I would like to remove the bounty (forfeiting the reputation) and settle for the generic abstract system answer. Is that possible? I'd prefer not to pay bounty for an answer that might not be useful. I'm slightly shocked something like this wouldn't have been created somewhere. \$\endgroup\$ – highbandwidth Dec 27 '13 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't be as surprised—there just isn't much money in RPGs, so a niche of a niche is unlikely to be addressed. Outside of RPG supplements you might find wargaming rules that cover this, since it would be less niche there, but even so aquatic/aerial fantasy battles is still pretty niche. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 27 '13 at 21:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ As for how to handle the question, don't settle for less! There's no harm in leaving a question open and unanswered—if a system gets designed in the future, an answer might come. If you don't get an answer soon enough, you can ask a separate question to find an abstract system that would do it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 27 '13 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only system I can think of doesn't match your setting (sci-fi futuristic), but I can make an official answer if you would like? \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 1 '14 at 21:06

The only system I'm aware of that incorporates any kind of third dimension and underwater usage is Battletech. The maps, while 2D incorporate lines of sight by the slope of the attack and there are plenty of underwater rules such as limited range and damage for weapons, movement restrictions and hazards. While they try their best not to put two units in the same lateral space they do pay attention to physics and "looking up". Depending on how much elaboration you want, I can get a book out and put out some details.

The shortest version of the most important bits:

The game operates at a scale where it expects you to be using vehicles that are 10m tall, traveling in 30m hexes. While smaller units exist and the rules exist for how they mix and match, there are lots of Line of Sight (LoS) rules especially based on elevation that come into play. For example, a mech cannot target directly upward or downward, so being adjacent but in a couple (elevation) levels higher can destroy their attack solution. There is a limit to your movement based on how many levels you change by moving into a hex, and even a limit to how high you can go in one action based on your mech's abilities. Elevation can even determine if you fire over obstructions like buildings and woodlands, or even plumes of smoke. Altitudes of flying units also comes into play.

In water, you take penalties to your piloting and sometimes have to make checks just to stay standing if not on a firm surface beneath the liquid - whether actually water or mud or whatever you want them to wade/submerge through. Damage in water (or space) accounts for hostile environments and if the armor is penetrated, it can cause flooding/stablizing issues.

I did a google search for "Battletech Master Rules" and easily found a link to a PDf but I'm not sure I'm allowed to post that link here as a copyright thing if you want to review what they have. The rules are very specialized for what they're trying to do with them so it may not be worth outright buying the book so much as skimming it if you know someone that possesses it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ if you have time a bit of elaboration might be nice to see if it's worth purchasing. \$\endgroup\$ – highbandwidth Jan 7 '14 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited, please let me know if there's anything specific \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 8 '14 at 2:45

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