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Friday, October 18, 2019

Player Characters in Mass Combat for Pathfinder

Battle of Grunwald by Jan Matejko (1878)

There are many rules in Pathfinder for adjudicating battles against armies; I highly recommend Mass Combat Rules for Pathfinder by Saraiso, aka Sarah Wilson, which takes the rules from Paizo's Ultimate Campaign and melds them with cherries picked from Legendary Games' Ultimate Battle and her own ideas.

The problem with these rules is that, although they are very good, they fail to address a critical question: How do you account for player characters in mass battle? Skirmishes, which are most fights in Pathfinder, can take several hours to play out; playing through a pitched battle on such a scale would take forever. Clearly, some manner of abstraction is needed, preferably one where the players themselves can participate in the fight and whose decisions can help shift the tide of battle.

I eventually settled upon adapting the mass combat rules from the excellent Legend of the 5 Rings RPG, where the players could choose the level of their characters' engagement (in the Reserves, Disengaged, Engaged, or Heavily Engaged) and then by consulting a matrix of engagement level and whether their army was winning, losing, or holding steady I could determine how badly their characters were hurt, if they contributed to the success of the battle, and how glorious their deeds were.

I playtested these rules last weekend. My PCs were engaged in a "Magnificent Seven" style battle last weekend, except on a much larger scale as they defended a community of deep gnomes against an invading drow army. For a playtest they worked well enough, although there is clearly room for improvement. It is my hope that enough experienced players and GMs will help me polish out the imperfections and deliver a more streamlined system.

Morning of the Battle of Agincourt, 25 October 1415, by Sir John Gilbert

Flow of Battle
  1. Consult the Battle Matrix (see below). Roll 1d6 to determine how many Heroic Opportunities there will be in a battle, then determine their placement using a d6 for X and Y coordinates. 
  2. Run the battle using Saraiso's rules. After running the Melee phase but before the Rout phase, consult these rules for the Hero phase (Phase 3.5). 
  3. Determine if the PC's army is currently winning the battle, losing the battle, or evenly matched. Generally the army which has inflicted the most damage upon the other in the Ranged and Melee phases is winning; in cases where the damage is minimal or a tie, whoever won the Tactical Initiative is winning the battle. If it's still not clear, assume the battle is Even. 
  4. Have the players place their characters in one of four categories: Reserves, Disengaged, Engaged, Heavily Engaged. 
    • Reserves are the furthest from the fighting you can be and still be considered in the battle. This is where many spellcasters choose to stand, either to heal the wounded or to cast battle-affecting spells. Siege engines and their operators are in this band as well. 
      • Feats required: Far Shot to hit the enemy with non-siege ranged weapons. (Spells are not weapons.)
    • Disengaged is where most ranged attackers are, such as archers, crossbowyers, gunslingers, javelineers, etc. as well as spellcasters who are casting combat spells. 
      •  Precise Shot to hit the enemy with ranged weapons.
    • Engaged is where the action is. Some ranged attacks are possible, but this is mainly the province of melee fighters. 
      • Feats required: Shot on the Run to hit the enemy with ranged weapons. 
      • Spellcasters must Cast Defensively or suffer +1d6 damage from Attacks of Opportunity.
    • Heavily Engaged is the tip of the spear where the fighting is at its most brutal. Only the most skilled fighters and the heavily armored can hope to last long here. 
      • Feats required: Snap Shot hit the enemy with ranged weapons. 
      • Spellcasters must Cast Defensively or suffer +1d6 damage from Attacks of Opportunity.
  5. TIP: it is recommended that you group the PCs by engagement level, starting with those Heavily Engaged and working your way to Reserves. 
  6. Each PC rolls 1d20 + AC + their best to-hit bonus. This is called the Battle Roll, and represents how well they do in combat both offensively and defensively. Compare it to the leftmost column to determine which row they are in. 
  7. Based on their level of engagement and the success of their army, find their position on the chart. Roll for damage and assign Fame. 
  8. If there is a Heroic Opportunity on that chart position, ask the player if they wish to make use of it. If so, see Heroic Opportunities, below. If not, move to the next player. 
  9. When all PCs have taken damage and earned Fame, resume the mass battle at Phase 4 - Rout.
  10. When the battle is concluded, tally up the total Fame for each PC. See Fame, below, for more information. 

Battle Matrix
Locations of Heroic Opportunities are in bold.

Actions in Combat
Player characters do more than trade blows and take damage in skirmishes, and so it is in mass battle as well. Once per turn, a PC may take ONE action:
  • Move up or down one level of engagement
  • Drink a potion
  • Use a scroll
  • Cast a spell upon himself or another PC (both must be at the same level of engagement)
  • Channel energy
  • Expend rage
  • Use Bardic or Raging song
Using scrolls or casting spells at any level above Disengaged requires Casting Defensively.

Battle of Neville's Cross by Jean Froissart

Heroic Opportunities
Because the player characters are heroes, their presence can shift the tides of battle if they are in the right place at the right time. This occurs when their Battle Rolls place them in a spot on the Matrix where a Heroic Opportunity is indicated.

Heroic Opportunities should be individualized for the character based on his abilities and position within battle. For example, a bard might notice a unit about to rout and rouse them to victory with a use of Inspire Courage, whereas a cleric might channel energy at the right time to heal the wounded or a wizard might engage in a long-range duel with another spellcaster. The actual details are unimportant so long as they suit the PC and thrill the player.

The mechanics of Heroic Opportunities are as follows:
  1. The player is notified of the Heroic Opportunity for his character. If he accepts, that is his Action in Combat (see above) for the round. If he declines, he can take another action but the Opportunity is lost. 
  2. Based on the situation the GM describes, have the PC roll something suitable such as Profession: Soldier, a Saving Throw, a To Hit roll, a Caster Level Check, etc. The DC should be high but not impossible; something in the range of character level + 15 or 20 should do. 
  3. If the PC succeeds, he earns double the Fame for this round and the GM applies a modifier to one of the armies this round. This is typically a +1 to OM, DV, Morale or Tactical Initiative to his army, or a -1 to OM, DV, Morale or Tactical Initiative to an opposing army. 
  4. If the PC fails, he wounds he suffered this turn are doubled. 

Fame is used to reward player characters for their valiant deeds in battle in lieu of experience points. This way, no one is penalized for for having fewer hit points or a lower armor class than others and all PCs continue to progress along the same XP track. 

After a battle, tally up the Fame totals for each character, then consult this table from Pathfinder Society. This represents found magical items scavenged from dead enemies, treasure looted from bodies, noblemen taken ransom, and so forth. This gold piece value can be used to upgrade existing equipment or purchase new magical items with GM permission.

Unused Fame
If a character has more fame than can be used (for example, she has 29 Fame, and uses 27 of it to acquire 11,750 gp of magical upgrades) then she must choose one or more of the following:
  1. Bank it for the next Mass Combat;
  2. Convert it into skill levels of Profession: Soldier;
  3. Keep it to use as a Morale bonus for all Charisma-related skills (each point of Fame so used gives a +1 to the skill check up to character level; such points are deducted from the Fame total);
  4. With GM permission, given to another character so they may reach a higher Fame tier.

The Battle of Towton by Richard Caton Woodville Jr.

Known Problems & Desired Patches
As mentioned, this is a playtest and not everything has been worked out or sufficiently balanced. It is entirely possible that some of my numbers are too high or too low and need to be adjusted. I welcome feedback on this issue. 

Here are the problems I have:
  1. I do not know if the Battle Roll is properly balanced. My 5th level PCs scored consistently high, but that might be because of my failure with #2 below. 
  2. Battle turns are measured in hours, which means that most buffing spells and class abilities will not last for the entirety of the battle. My mistake was that I thought they were measured in minutes and so allowed the buffs to carry throughout the battle. This might account for my players' remarkable success; it might have also kept them alive when in fact my numbers were too lethal. I need more playtesting on this to be sure. 
  3. As PCs increase in level, they will quickly top out the matrix. I would like for the DC to vary according to their level to that the matrix can be used for all parties regardless of their level. The rows probably ought to be measured as DC [level] + [base number] but I'm not sure what each [base number] ought to be. 
  4. Is Fame too high? I don't know. I don't think it is, but as stated my players all have 5th level characters. Perhaps it's too high for lower level characters; perhaps it's insultingly low for higher level characters. 
  5. I don't know if random assignment of Heroic Opportunities is the right way to go. I do know that I want them weighted towards the harder end of the spectrum, but I also know that I want them to be available to all characters instead of just the front-line combatants. This is probably a job for a mathematician or a statistician, not a grammar nerd like me. 
I welcome any and all feedback on these rules. I hope you find them interesting and useful, and that they find a place within your game. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 073: Kind of a Big Deal

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss an anti-gun town hall held at a gun club, Bernie Sanders’ health issues, and Kamala Harris’ lack of compassion;
  • Oddball talks about camping hammocks and how to use them properly;
  • and Weer’d interviews Dr. Miguel Faria about his new book, America, Guns, and Freedom.

Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.

Show Notes

Main Topic:
Oddball’s Corner Pocket:
Dr. Miguel Faria:

Monday, October 7, 2019

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 072: Building Maura

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d are back from their trip to Arizona and discuss the last day of GRPC;
  • Weer'd brings us part two of Robert Francis O'Rourke's anti-gun interview on CNN;
  • David continues his series on casting bullets, now with sizing and lubing (oh myyyyy!);
  • and Weer'd talks to Heinrich from Geeks Gadgets and Guns about a little project named Maura.

Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.

Show Notes

Main Topic:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Gun Lovers and Other Strangers:

Maura, Heinrich’s 9mm AR-15 Build:

Monday, September 30, 2019

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 071: GRPC and the NFA

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer'd bring you a free-form episode from Phoenix, Arizona where they report on the happenings at AMM-Con and the Gun Rights Policy Conference.
  • Joining them is special guest (and Phoenix resident) Wally of York Arms to talk about his NFA collection and some of the many nuances of the National Firearms Act.

Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.

Show Notes

      Sunday, September 29, 2019

      My 2019 GRPC Address

      Hello, my name is Erin Palette. I am the Founder of Operation Blazing Sword and the National Coordinator for the Pink Pistols, which means I am the head of the largest pro-gun queer group in the nation.

      I am also a single-issue activist, and that issue is the Second Amendment. Because without the right to keep and bear arms, without the means to defend my life against those who hate me for who I am and who I love, all other rights are meaningless.

      This panel is“How to Grow Gun Rights”. What would you say if I told you that there was a veritable ocean of support here in America that, if accessed, would make our Second Amendment rights unassailable by the government? It’s true, but in order to reach them you need to be a single-issue activist like I am.

      Let’s do some quick back-of-the-envelope math:
      • The population of America is 327 million people.
      • Reported firearm ownership in America is 30%. We all know it’s higher than that, but let’s go with that low number for now.
      • 30% of 327 million is 98 million and change. Let’s round that up to 100 million to make the math easier and to account for some unreported gun ownership.
      • The biggest gun rights group in America today is, despite their troubles, still the NRA, and their membership is only five million people.
      • Let’s add Gun Owners of America; that’s two million members. The SAF, that’s one million. All of the other groups… maybe all those add up to another 5 million.
      • That still leaves 90 million gun owners who, for whatever reason, aren’t represented by pro-Second Amendment groups which have the ear of Washington, DC.

      Pro-gun votes are good and fine and necessary, but if the past year has taught us anything it’s that anti-gun messages need to be stopped, and preferably countered, before they reach the President’s ear.

      Now if the NRA, an organization that represents only five percent of all known gun owners, is the Big Bad Boogeyman on Capitol Hill which can scare politicians into doing what they want… can you imagine what a pro-Second Amendment organization representing a voting block of 100 million voters will accomplish?

      It will make politicians fetch their brown trousers!

      So how do we access this ocean of support? The answer is easy, but the cost is something which many of us will be loathe to give up: our partisanship.

      We have pro-Second Amendment allies within the ranks of libertarians and liberals, but some of us are actively turning those allies away by calling them names and wrongly assuming that anyone who isn’t conservative is anti-gun.

      I have lost track of the number of people who have told me they are pro-gun, that they own guns, that they believe in gun rights, but they aren’t members of any gun-rights group because those groups have bundled other political views -- such as abortion, or immigration, or economic policy -- into their Second Amendment advocacy. That bundling, that partisanship, that lack of single-issue focus is costing us allies by the tens of millions.

      If you are truly a single-issue activist like me, you will reach out to those you call your ideological opponents and, in the name of the Second Amendment --  in the name of keeping ourselves and our families safe -- in the name of freedom-- you will begin a dialog with them about what we have in common, and what we value most, and how we can best come together to defend that which we hold most precious.

      If you are truly single-issue, you will teach firearm safety and operation to those with whom you disagree politically. You will take them shooting. You will help them pick out guns for hunting and self-defense and, yes, defense against tyranny. You will show them not just through your words, but also through your actions and through your character, that you truly believe that the Second Amendment is for everyone, including them, not just for those who vote a certain way. To do otherwise means you are letting ideology stand in the way of true Second Amendment activism.

      Reach out to liberals. Reach out to minorities. Reach out to queer people. Reach out to everyone you know in order to make them enthusiastic about gun rights.

      Make gun rights unassailable by making firearm ownership and activism not just something that conservatives do, or white people do, or old people do. Make it something that American people do. Make the Second Amendment American again. If you do this, I guarantee you that our Second Amendment rights will be preserved for generations to come.

      I’m Erin Palette, and I am a single-issue activist. Are you?

      *Of course, this assumes that members of GOA, SAF etc aren’t NRA members as well. Actual membership overlap is likely somewhere between “many” and “most”, in which case there are yet millions more gun owners unrepresented in Washington, D.C. 

      Tuesday, September 24, 2019

      Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 070: Segments Galore

      In This Episode:
      • Erin and Weer’d discus their upcoming trip to Amm-Con and GRPC;
      • The Egghead discusses methods of water purification;
      • Weer'd fisks Beto O'Rourke and his attack on our gun rights;
      • Oddball gives us a list of good knives for under $20;
      • David talks about his debut as a male model at the NRA Personal Protection Expo;
      • and Steve tells the tale of his new Ninja Wagon.

      Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.

      Show Notes

      Main Topic:  
      Weer’d Audio Fisk:
      General Purpose Egghead:
      Oddball’s Corner Pocket:
      Tales from the Trunk:

        Wednesday, September 18, 2019

        How About We Treat Transpeople Like People?

        Important Note: Since I am not a transman and I do not wish to speak on a subject of which I know little, I cannot speak to their difficulties within society. My silence does not mean I think they have no problems.

        OK gentlefolks, let's gather 'round and talk about this "Transwomen are Women/Transwomen are Men" argument that's been going on for ages.

        On the one hand, we have the inclusionary position of "Transwomen are Women". While I cannot speak for everyone who says this, I believe that this is not meant as a literal statement of fact -- as in, they do not literally believe that transwomen are truly women in every sense of the word, including genetics and biology -- but rather as a statement of support. They are saying, "You are female in the ways that matter, and therefore I will support you by affirming your identity."

        In other words, it's not denial of biology but rather affirmation of psychology and an assertion of acceptance, which is something that is really freaking important when you've spent decades hating yourself because your body doesn't match who your brain says you are, and so you take a big, scary step in an attempt to find some peace between body and mind... only to have people yelling in your face that you're sick and disgusting and deviant.

        Let me share something with you: all but the most self-assured transwomen will, in their heart of hearts, sadly agree with the people shouting "Transwomen are men!" because that's how we still feel. We know that insecurity, and we crave acceptance from others because we hate what we see when we look in the mirror; and deep down, we think we're doing a terrible job of looking like women and because we'll never fit in no matter how hard we try, maybe we ought to just do what the screaming voices want and kill ourselves.

        Because that's what the "Transwomen are Men" crowd wants: for our identities to die. They probably don't mean it as "kill your physical form"; however, most of the time it's not in the hurtful-but-well-meaning manner of "You have a delusion, let me help you stop being deluded and happy" but rather in the far more visceral "You are disgusting and vile and perverse, remove yourself from my world".

        Let me tell you this: when someone who has been unhappy inside their skin all their lives finds happiness in transition, only to be told that they must destroy that part of themselves before they can be accepted by society, a lot of them feel that they're being told to destroy what makes them them. A suicide of soul, if not of body.

        It's because of this that I get very, very upset with the "transwomen are men!" shouters, because in their shouts I hear them calling for my death, for the death of the person who is Erin. It's beyond rude; it's cruel and disgusting and not at all what any loving God would want from believers.

        Here's what I suggest: Let's be courteous and treat transgender people like people instead of broken things. Yes, that means using their preferred pronouns and speaking/acting/reacting to them in the ways that make them feel comfortable. The first rule of getting along in society is "Be Polite"; or, put another way, "Don't Be Rude." Why is it so hard for so many people to understand this concept?

        "But they were born -" I'm going to have to stop you there. If you want to claim that you are somehow serving an absolute truth that is immutable based upon birth, I have some questions that you need to answer first:
        1. Do you still call married women by their maiden names? After all, that's how they were born. 
        2. Do you still call degreed professionals Mr. or Ms. instead of "doctor" or "professor"? After all, they weren't born with those titles. 
        3. If you're in the military, do you still call your superiors "sir/ma'am" or whatever their rank is? 
        4. How about the police? When you're stopped for a ticket, do you call the cop by the name on their uniform, or do you call them "officer"?
        5. How about calling judges "Your Honor?" How about any number of other situations like these?
        If you can call a stranger by a noun which they weren't born with, then you can grant a transgender person a pronoun. If you can call a married woman a name she wasn't born with, then you can call a transgender person the name they've chosen for themselves. If you can do all the things listed above without violating your "sense of truth", then you can be kind to someone who just wants to feel normal.

        And if you won't, then don't claim some moral high ground. Just admit that you're afraid of the severe social consequences for being disrespectful those you see as your equals or superiors, but that transgender people are below you and therefore you can get away with being rude to them. After all, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, what injury does it do you to say that a transwoman is a woman? How does it pick your pocket or break your leg?

        Please, be kind. Don't be rude or callous or cruel, especially in the name of "the truth" or your religion. Understand that we're all trying to find our way through this world in the manner that hurts us the least. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.

        The Fine Print

        This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

        Creative Commons License

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