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I haven't used the mass combat rules yet but I was hoping to hear some of your examples, and maybe strengths and pitfalls of the rules. How did you set up your phases? How well did it go? 

 

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I've ran it once and I found it worked but you have to explain to your players what is happening. The game suddenly takes some control from your players and the roll is quite abstract even for this system.

 

It is also important to set up how many rolls you will be doing.

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Posted (edited)

I've run it a couple times.

I think it works best when :

A) The battle is needed, but not required. So you can run through a quick battle scene with a few rolls.

B) The battle has a lot of separate parts the players aren't involved with (Battle of Scarif is a near-perfect example, with the players doing the infiltration and diversion, and mass combat filling in the space battle and some on the ground details).

C) The battle has a lot of moving parts that can't all be managed by the players (so like you want the Mass combat to show shifts in terrain and push the players to the next encounter, whatever that may be).

D) Not all players have a significant role in actual combat actions, so you can just roll a few skill checks and Mass combat checks and get on with the story while still letting the direct action guy feel useful (Hoth, where Luke made skill challenges, Leia made Mass Combat rolls, and Han went to get pizza).

Edited by Ghostofman

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Mass combat is tricky.  It's not difficult, but it removes control from the players in an odd way.

My advice:

Plan it out, in heavy detail, ahead of time.  Have ways to increase/decrease rolls planned out ahead of time so you don't have to wing-it so much.  What happens if they succeed on this wave, what happens if they fail.  What am I going to do with triumphs, advantages, threats, despairs.  Make sure to understand that a failure in one phase is not a loss.  Also, set end goals.  Are the player just trying to delay the enemy while waiting for reinforcements (success slows their attack, failure lets them move faster), or do they need to wipe them out/make them retreat.  At what point does the enemy retreat.  Think these things through.

If possible, allow the players prep time.  Maybe they can set up defenses, or help in repairing vehicles that give their side an advantage.  During one mass combat scenario my players set up mine fields, recruited allies and had them hide in some ruins to snipe enemy units.  The enemy units had to fly through a debris field to get to the base, so they put explosives in some of the debris, or set up automated defense turrets in the debris.  Inside the base they set up multiple barriers that they could use, retreat from and blow up so the enemy couldn't use them against them.  They set up heavy fire zones and assigned various troops to various positions.  They even set up some tractor beams to be used as weapons.

Give players things to do between waves of mass combat that can aid the battle.  Have the group flank the enemy forces and attack a certain unit or weapon emplacement. Have the group react to a group of enemy units flanking them with speeder bikes.  Give them something important to do that changes the dice roll.  At the very least, let them play out a combat scenario against a group of stormtroopers, or TIE fighters.  Wiping out all the forces in X amount of turns reduces the difficulty of the check.

While not part of the mass combat idea, I like to give my people something to do during each phase.  A successful medical check against a tough roll means he was patching up people in the field and that gave your mass roll an extra blue die, or an automatic advantage or something.  A successful leadership check could rally the troops.  Set a number of targets (say 5 or 10) enemy units and if the players can kill that many they get a bonus to the roll.

Mass combat can take a lot of control and authority in the game away from the players.  Make sure you do everything in your power to make them involved.

 

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I've had three mass combats (one as a player, two as a GM). None of them were enjoyable even with time and effort spent to make them so. My tip is simple: If the players or GM aren't enjoying them, don't be afraid to drop them. The game works fine without them.

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I've done what others have suggested and had mass combat as a backdrop while the players are actively working. The first major mass combat was when they released all the slaves from caverns below a Zygerrian palace. There were three stages of the escape. The players directly fought adversaries in standard combat rounds. At each stage we rolled a mass combat roll to see how the newly anointed makeshift army was faring.

The next was a major battle to wrest control of a planet from the Empire. They had to recruit and prepare, which added to their potential mass combat dice pool. Then some of them hopped in the ship to fight, while my Politico ran the battle from the capital ship's bridge. Essentially her action each round was rolling the mass combat roll. The Doctor also stayed behind to patch up wounded crew members and keep the gunnery crews going.

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On 5/9/2019 at 1:03 PM, HappyDaze said:

I've had three mass combats (one as a player, two as a GM). None of them were enjoyable even with time and effort spent to make them so. My tip is simple: If the players or GM aren't enjoying them, don't be afraid to drop them. The game works fine without them.

This seems like great advice. Can I ask who was not enjoying it? Was it more the players or more the GM?

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59 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

This seems like great advice. Can I ask who was not enjoying it? Was it more the players or more the GM?

Neither really. It felt like a lot of rolling dice just to get to roll more dice. Oddly for this system, it was too much (uninteresting) system play and not enough narrative. We're OK with system play when it feels like it matters, but in this it just felt like a way to take something very narrative and add dice to it for no real gain (and no true player control--the mass combat rules only give the illusion of player control) .

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Just used mass combat in tonight's session. The players all had a blast, and thought it was a great addition to really depict the sheer scale of the battle going on. It helped to only have the mass combat checks tangentially related to the players' actions throughout the session, with the players' choices adding boosts/setbacks depending on what they did. In tonight's session, the players took out the proton cannons that were firing upon incoming Republic vessels (Removing setback dice from the combat check), and instead placed several of the clones under their command on the cannons to fire upon the Separatist forces above (adding a boost die). There were a couple other mass combat checks, but that was the one that really hooked my players on the idea, and they're now looking forward to more implementation of this feature in future sessions.

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I used mass combat rules once, because a player had built his PC around that, so on his obligation session, he got to lead one against an Imperial rival of his (he was ex imperial). Did 3 rounds, he succeeded in I think 2/3. At the end he just shoots the rival to end it. Had others on the ground leading a mission to steal shield generators and one player with a squadron trying to take down the air opposition, all sort of boosting each other and stuff since they were different pieces of the same battle.

 

It was cool but felt very nebulous and felt like it was mostly me talking as GM through it. I haven't run it again but that was really the one chance available with the one player that wanted to run a massive battle.

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I started this RPG with the intention of including Mass Combat. It's a concept I love having in TTRPG's because I want to be able to influence bigger events than is possible in video games.

So I have so far (since starting my Rebel Country Campaign in March) run 2.5 Mass battles:

Defending the Fuel Refinery at Polgas on Ulstara - This was a defensive action my players were dropped into. The strategic goal for the Rebel Wookie Uprising my players were supporting was to deny the Refinery to the Empire, thus limiting their operational range of Star Destroyers. This Mass Combat was a learning experience. The idea that each Check represents a bigger than normal chunk of time is tricky, especially as the players usually want to see the results of each order "I order this Cannon to open fire on that ATST", whereas really you want to surrender much of the battle outcomes over to the Mass Combat Check. 

The session went pretty well, it did take a full 4 hour session to complete the mission. I had my phases pre-planned, with the Imperial Force continually escalating and the Rebels knowing they were fighting a retreat. I ran this one as a Mass Combat Check every 5 rounds of structured time, so the Players were influencing the Checks Substantially, and the Mission outcome meant the players knew they needed to defend certain areas long enough to plant Detonite Charges, then get everyone to the shuttles. The players got to do plenty of cool moments both for the Action Guy  and the Strategic Commander. The Pilots got to shine escaping out from under an AT-AT advance. Overall I would rate this mass battle 6/10. There was stuff I liked, but there was stuff I didn't and wanted to work on - basically a better way to integrate the Personal Scale Combats with the Strategic Scale Actions.

Friends Like These Slave Revolt I ran this adventure Module - finished on Friday - The idea of working with Slavers was literally never going to be an option for my crew. My fiance is playing a Te'lek who's parents were sold into Slavery by the Empire (she actually saved her mom on the Adventure). So I knew how Kowak was gonna go down. Once the players found the Sword they called in the Mando's and began a heavy liberation fight. 

This Mass Battle was my least successful yet, as the book outlines 15 minute phases with a Mass Combat Check for each of the 3 stages, but a player with Mandalorian Heritage wanted to be in Command, but doing so left him with little to do outside of taking a Command roll every 3 turns. The rest of the party also split pretty seriously, which was fine when rolling well, but a series of bad rolls lead to losses and each individual being bogged down.

I rate this Mass Combat 4/10. I learned I want everyone keeping to the same turn Timescale, to keep everyone actively involved. Or also allow the players doing Command to also add in other Comm Range Skills as their action each turn, leading up to the Command Roll.

Friends like These - The Finale  - This battle I really liked. I think the writers did a good job of making a wide range of strategies viable, and the extent of the battle is written as such that you can focus on certain phases and breeze past others. 

I took a new approach of informing the players going in they could all take "Strategic Actions" which I defined as being long term things that take 15mins, or they could take Tactical Actions together in normal structured time. Each strategic actions such as individual combat encounters, were then extrapolated to 1 Skill Check. Naturally there is an assumption Manoeuvres occurred in that time as well. This worked pretty well and everyone engaged in the Strategic actions because they wanted to increase their scope. Until the finale when Captain Nervi showed up.

The players rolled really well in the Space fight, despite having limited Space Assets, mostly as the Ace lured large numbers off into a merry chase, opening up a chance to harass the Escorts. They one 2 rounds 2 phases, keeping them in Space for a lone time and took out a Raider before retreating to Surface. They then sprung the trap with their Droid army they had re-activated (the Droids all rose from the "Dead" to ambush the Stormtroopers) and ended up holding the assault long enough at the Landing shafts that Captain Nervi arrived to take over, prompting the players to take direct action and call him out, resulting in his death (although he nearly killed our Ace because she took a selfie flying past his Bridge). After this re rolled a couple more Mass Combat Checks with the Imperials lacking Leadership and narratively ended it.

The Players had a great time. The session was awesome. I rate this Mass Combat 7/10. I think I have some improvements I want to try as I work on this skillset. I am considering "Strategic Actions" Being players can take 2 turns back to Back then a Battle Phase roll, but I want NPC's to do the same back to cause more Wounds and Strain effects to the Players personally, so the battle still occurs over a Mass Battle type pace, but is appropriately involving to the players, as Despairs and Threat don't quite rack enough up consequences wise. Alternatively I might try Normal Structured Time turns with a Mass battle Roll at the End of the Round, but each Roll representing a smaller Slice of time - so more of them per phase of battle.

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