Difficulty with mob combat

I had a situation come up in which I had no idea how to deal with the combat rolls.

Two persons, one mage one soldier are standing at a shoreline with a river to their back and roughly 60 to 70 common peasants circled around them.

Within a few rounds the soldier has been swept over and is laying prone with at least three perhaps even as many as six peasant holding him down and striking him with whatever weapon possible.

The complication was that the maga turns invisible, and while it is nighttime and the peasants are tired from having fought a huge fire all day, they are angry and fanatically driven to kill the Christian sorcerers who plague them with demons. ((Your basic story of Greeks go to a town ruled within a Islamic Caliphate.... ect.))

Now my problem was, that while the mob would have penalties to attack and defend if it was a open combat and the maga was invisible, in such close quarters, being invisible would be a hinderance. The mob would not be keeping their distance from you, because there is nothing there to see in which for them to be cowed. Instead they would simply try to shove towards the soldier on the ground.

So what is the roll in such a situation?

For the record, for the most part the story is about at the end and the scene nearly resolved, but in case a future situation arise, I would not mind a good rule or dice roll in which I can fall back on to make the scene seem fair and less complicated.

And no... the mass combat rules of the core book were not helping. I admit on later reading I could have used them more efficiently but it was nearly impossible to be convinced they should be using combat rolls to simply walk thru a invisible person, while at the same time, the difficulty of determining the outcome with simple dice roll was quite cumbersome.

I basically just let the maga swing away with the crowd who were jumping on the soldier having no defense rolls at all. Of course I made the invisible wizard make defense checks to ward of random blows from the untrained group attackers.

Also the maga had a large broad sword which I suppose I should have penalized once the mob grew to be standing shoulder to shoulder, but I was not inclined to make the combat THAT intensive.

The scene sounds intense, two against a rabble would always be challenging, especially if the magus does not wish to kill the common folk. Might be not what you were looking for but:

Setting aside the Invis for a moment, it sounds like a situation where an"horde" should apply - a horde inflicts a slightly higher amount of damage according to the size (10, 20, ...50 participants) but is not a linear improvement, with a max damage capable depending on the target size. Perhaps take the base weapon damage when wielded by the commoner, then scale up by 1/3 for every ten people in the horde.

I'd give the poor defending grog a penalty to the attack roll as the "attack" is a hybrid of many angry foes. The defender would not get a penalty to strike however because foes are all around and it would be hard to miss. Perhaps even a bonus for a large mob,

Then when the overwhelmed combatants try to fight back they remove a magnitude of the horde size for each wound inflicted. So 30 goes down to 20, and likewise the dam is reduced. There also should be a morale or bravery check if the attacks are intimidating. Maybe counting the mob size in 5s instead of 10s, not sure.

Then the Invis character will get tusselled and bounced, giving a concentration needed for casting, a slight bonus to their attack rolls, and penalty to the attack roll of the mob trying to hit them. But then it would take a few rounds for the mundanes to realize an Invis person is there, as they'd bump into them.

All in all, the two characters are in real trouble, and you could almost "talk/story" the outcome rather than fight, as they're so overwhelmed. It saves on complex adhoc rules.

Iron. I could not ask for a better response

I am adding it to my notebook of Ars commentary and go to list that I keep with me when I ST.

I had never come across the situation and while in the heat of the moment, :laughing: my brain melted from the intensity.

Thanks so very much. By next game it will have been pretty much resolved, but it may be possible that events will flair back up. Also in any future situations I am definitely using this!

The credit for a horde combat mechanic goes to the DeathWatch rpg, where large groups of bugs vs heavy automatic weapons are a backbone of the stories. When I read the group combat mechanics in 5e I thought of these rules too, and have been considering creating a variation for Ars Magica which is a little better explained.

Some troupes (like mine) like combats to have some additional crunch and options now and then, and its something that my group has asked for. I tend to allow almost any type of action of maneuver and ask a neutral player to adjudicate on the difficulty mods.

That is brilliant as well, having a impartial person adjudicate a combat scene so that the ST can focus on keeping the intent and focus of the NPC action sincere while another person handles the mechanics.

I also prefer a more verbal handling of combat, but unfortunately that would not have flow in this case. I understand how the dice are there for the gaming chaos aspect of the story, but all too often it is hard to convince a player that there is something beyond the combat rules when trying to tell a combat scene.