Wednesday, March 15, 2006

D20 Grunt Squads

As a GM, one of my favorite tools when running Risus is the Grunt Squad. It is, hands down, simply the best mechanic for handling hoards of nameless mooks. The idea is simple... treat the entire group of mooks as a single character (albeit one that can be in more than place at a time). Everything else is handled through description.

I have been wondering, as of late, if the concept could be ported to other systems, specifically the omnipresent D20. One of the major flaws of the D20 system is that combat is excessively tactical and takes far, far too long. Want your party of heroes to wade into a battle against hundreds of goblin spearmen? Using a battle mat and the rules as written, this would take hours and would probably result in some inconvenient player character deaths. But could those hundred of goblins be represented as a single monster? Here's how I might handle it...

First off, I'd most likely dispense with a battle mat in this situation. Cinematic combat against hundred of opponents is going to be primarily narrative and the rules for Attacks of Opportunity won't make any sense when a the "Goblin Hoard" grunt squad occupies hundreds of squares.

Next, I'd communicate to the players that the goblins that they are facing are a Grunt Squad and that they should assume their characters are attacking more than one character in a given action (even if the character is not usually capable of making multiple attacks in a round).

The "Goblin Hoard" would look like a suped-up version of an ordinary goblin, built to whatever CR the GM feels is appropriate. The Hoard's hit point are divided among the actual number of goblins for descriptive purposes only. The Hoard is only destroyed when the Hoard's hit points are reduced to zero. But when a character does 10 points of damage, it's fun to describe how many goblins he just killed.

The "Goblin Hoard" would get to attack each character that is threatened by at least one goblins. The number of attacks would be the minimum of the number of goblins that threaten that character and the Hoard's number of attacks per round. This is to make things exciting for the characters, and it ensures that the characters share the risk equally.

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Blogger Ruminator said...

Of course, why use D20 at all? ;-)

8:28 AM  
Blogger Risus Monkey said...

Gentle conquest, my friend. Gentle Conquest. Article XII of our Sacred Charter. :)

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Rolemaster did pretty much that with their War Law supplement back in the 80s. Of course, being Rolemaster, it came out more like 'how to fit your characters into a mass battle wargame' than 'how to fit a horde into your RPG.' But, as I recall, the basic concept was pretty much what you're thinking of -- how to translate disparate entities such as a single character or 1,000 screaming goblins into single units that can interact with each other.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Risus Monkey said...

War Law must have come out after we moved on from Rolemaster. I have a ton of the "Law" books, but not that one.

But cool for them. The concept is easily implemented in almost any system, and I've used it for one or two BtVS episodes.

10:48 AM  

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Created: 2 December 2005 / Last modified: 5 Feb 2010
Risus: The Anything RPG ©1993-2010 by S. John Ross.
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