In one of the campaigns I'm running, the players are about to enter a large fight (~50 vs ~50). This includes around 40 regular units, and 6 Player Characters versus around 45 regular units and 5 elites.

I've done 'siege'-type battles before, where each round reinforcements arrive on both sides, but that was only for about a 15v15 fight.

The problem I have here is that, the way the fights work in this specific situation, if you kill the clan leader on either side, the rest of the non-elite units of the opposing tribe will join the victor tribe.

So what are some ways (or battle systems) I can use to get around the player characters ignoring the army in front of them and killing the leader? (Even if protected he can be blasted with ranged — seeing as they are in a very open area, a desert).

Should I randomize what units on both teams enter battle each round? If all the player characters are present, and simply have to fight weak opposing waves of enemies - it might be too easy.

Or is there a separate battle system I can use altogether?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking specifically for something supported by Wizards of the Coast literature, or would a solution that reasonably fits 4e modalities suffice? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 1:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am open to using other resources. \$\endgroup\$
    – Othya
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 1:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this not a duplicate of rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/6310/… ? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 2:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or this one? rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/28726/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not really.. my situation is different as 1) it's no just 'mass combat', and 2) there's a specific condition that matters (clan leader death) Though "Hard Boiled Armies" May be what I"m looking for (or an example of) - more examples would be great! Thanks \$\endgroup\$
    – Othya
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 3:18

2 Answers 2



You can have 10 regular units be a "swarm", there are some good examples of Goblin, Kobold etc swarms in the monster manuals that you can base the powers on.

For added authenticity have a swarm generate a few minions to represent the stragglers when it hits 0 hit points, and maybe let 8 such minions recombine into a new swarm. Feed in a few minions on either side every now and then to make the PCs have choices: Chase down "routed" groups to prevent them re-forming, or deal with current more direct threats.

Have key, powerful, NPCs statted normally to keep things mixed up (many Defenders and Strikers are not effective versus swarms, and controllers can be over-effective).

This way you can represent a battle on the scale of 50 vs 50 using only a few more pieces than a normal skirmish.


I introduced my campaign with the players being soldiers mid-battle field. It was pretty cleanly executed and didn't take too long.

  • I pre-rolled what soldiers around the players did in large packs of 20. I listed a fixed amount of damage that pack of 20 did, a fixed chance to hit, and most of the soldiers had the exact same stats.
  • I set aside the rolling damage, hit chance, armor class, and health of a single soldier. The players would each face single soldiers to feel involved.
  • Most of the battle field was scripted large masses (and easy to dm as a result) with a fixed end (lose battle) unless the players killed enough enemies in a fixed number of rounds (win battle).

The point is managing live mass combat beyond a certain size (for me it's beyond 15 at a time) requires some level of pre-game scripting or planning or your head will explode from the numbers. Packing identical critters into crowds cuts down on time considerably. I am unaware of any nice free generators that will do the leg work for you. To be honest, Each battle should be tailored to exactly as you need anyway.

If large battles take too long to conclude, players will get bored. They are almost entirely narration if you make the battle too big. Then your just story telling. It's best to space them out, and to use them to bring the players to a story point or quest location.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Went off on a tangent on you, but managing to kill the clan leader could be the trigger that makes the fixed outcome change to a positive one. Also you could give the players a secret mission that the other people can't know about, to make then feel extra heroic/important. \$\endgroup\$
    – Julia
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 5:34

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