Interesting battefield events?

Hi everybody

I'm planning on running a story featuring a battle, using the rules for massed combat from Lords of Men. I'm curious as to how to make the battlefield events flowing relatively fast, and I'm a bit unsure as to how to actually play through the specific events. What level of detail vs. what level of abstraction? (fx how many npc dicerolls?) That sort of thing.

  1. Any general thoughts?

  2. Anyone willing to share an example of how they played out specific battlefield events? What happened during the combat rounds, how many dice rolls and what sort of dice rolls did you make during the combat rounds? Did you roll for attack and defense for loads of npc's?


So the season 2 finale of HBO Ars Magica involved a siege of the covenant by William Marshall the Younger, his vassals, and mercenaries. The PCs had about six months to prepare, hiring French mercenaries of their own, recruit allies among the Beastmasters of Connacht, learn rituals for the creation of nourishing food, and craft various lesser enchanted items for war, such as wands of Crest of the Earth’s Wave.

My intention originally had been to game it all out using Lords of Men, and I did plot it out that way, figuring out what the various events of the battle would be. For example, the PCs have a tower that stands apart from the castle, so Marshall took the tower out first, and that’s where the Flambeau made his stand.

But the real twist came from story, because ultimately a PC knight companion found himself in Marshall’s army. Marshall had promised rule over the covenant castle to whatever man did the most to take it (under Marshall’s feudal leadership, of course). So the PC resolved to be that man and the magi proceeded to throw the battle so the PC would win, thus forcing Marshall’s hand, giving the castle back to the magi, except now with the PC knight as the “front man” for the covenant.

So they left the French mercenaries where Marshall’s troops would storm the castle, made sure the castle’s loyal grogs were on the side where the PC Knight was scaling the walls, and the grogs—who all knew the knight on sight and generally liked and respected him—gave way before him. He reached the keep, the magi put up a flashy but futile defense (throwing Pilum of Fire when the knight wore fire-resistant armor, for example), and then surrendered. Meanwhile, other magi, the Beastmasters, and so on were ravaging Marshall’s artillery and archers.

At the end of the session, I went around the table and asked each player to name one character—NPC or one of their own PCs—who died in the battle. Each player described how the death occurred. One player chose his own companion, whose story had hit a good climax. One player chose my companion character, who had been teacher to all the magi when they were apprentices. One player chose his own magus’s love interest. Another player chose the longest-serving grog. Only one player really rejected the spirit of the exercise, picking the Beastmaster bad guy he really hated.

Then, I turned to the player whose magus is the covenant’s doctor, and asked that player which of the 7 characters that had been killed, she would choose to save. She picked the love interest. Everyone else really died.

There were very few die rolls. I used Lords to Men to get a sense of the way the battle would go, but when we finally got it, it was almost entirely handled in narrative. By choosing who died, the players felt like their choices had consequence. The doctor player felt like a doctor.

Thanks for telling this story. That also sounds like a great way to do it - especially the final questions of life and death.

I think I'll go with a bit more rules heavy approach. I'd really like to give the players a change to let their character make use of all those hard won xp - make the seasons of training/reading/adventuring seem worth it.

Then I just have to figure out how many dice roll challenges makes sense (and how to make those challenges fairly unique and keep the pace going all the while).

(Btw: happy to see that your HBO Ars Magica-saga got back on air again - enjoyed reading the first part)

Thank you for reading!

I did use the Lords of Men rules in one other instance. At the beginning of the camoaign’s second season, I knew I’d finish the season with a climactic battle of some sort, so I “test drove” the mass combat rules. I made up six beast master hedge mages, each with a small force of animals in their service. The session had one PC magus, and everyone else played one of the beastmasters. They fought a clan of wolf Bjornaer, their beasts, and mundane followers (mentioned in passing in The Contested Isle).

I just wanted to see how the rules worked and the players were good sports about it. And I had everything in place to use the rules again in the First Battle of Uisneach (narrated above). But, as I recall, the session had already gone too long and I just did not have time. I had to wrap up.

Let us all know how it goes! And if you’re interested in any of my notes on either battle, I can send them.

Thanks for the offer. I think I'll start by planning some more - it probably will be months before we play the actual battle (we only meet up three weekends a year, and the next time we have some other stories we would like to play) - I just enjoy the planning bit. But I'll let you know if I hit the wall and need some inspiration :slight_smile: