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Seventeen Questions (and Answers) about Battle Group Mechanics

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  • Seventeen Questions (and Answers) about Battle Group Mechanics

    Here is a collection of common (and not-so-common) questions about battle groups, and my thoughts on them. Even if you’re familiar with some of these, read on. I might have a few surprises for you.

    1. If you hit a battle group with a withering attack, does its Initiative rating decrease?
    No. Check out Inert Initiative on pg. 208 and the example on pg. 205. Remember, you still gain one point of Initiative, and you may gain an Initiative Break if you reduce its Size (pg. 208).

    2. If you hit a battle group with an attack which specifically inflicts Initiative damage in addition to its normal withering or decisive damage, does that drain its Initiative? If not, does it drain their Magnitude?
    Probably not and probably not. Although most Initiative draining Charms don’t specify what happens when applied against battle groups, the general rule is that a battle group’s Initiative is inert. Curiously, Unbowed Willow Meditation – a Charm which drains the attacker’s Initiative and crashes him – specifies that it doesn’t work against battle groups.

    3. If a battle group uses a gambit, does that affect its Initiative rating?
    The rules for battle groups vis-à-vis gambits are unclear, but the battle-group-only Engage gambit (pg. 209) is probably a good baseline for how other gambits should work when effected by a battle group. I suggest the following:
    When a battle group uses a gambit, roll it as a withering attack. If it fails, do not subtract Initiative. If it succeeds, do not make an Initiative roll to confirm it. Just deduct an appropriate Initiative cost. Battle groups may attempt a gambit even if it would place them in Initiative Crash, and they ignore the normal consequences of Initiative Crash.
    4. If a battle group takes a combat action which normally costs Initiative, does it pay a cost?
    Unknown. I recommend applying the rules for gambits above: allow them to take the combat action, adjust their Initiative as appropriate, and ignore any effects of Initiative crash. The penalty it suffers is that it is permanently at a lower Initiative rating for future rounds.

    5. If a battle group crashes an opponent, does it gain Initiative Break?
    No. Battle group Initiative is inert. However, I suggest a Storyteller would be justified in granting the Initiative Break to the battle group’s commander if the battle group crashed the target because the commander made an order action.

    6. If attacking an opponent who is in Initiative Crash, does a battle group care about Hardness?
    No. A battle group’s attacks are always withering attacks, and thus only soak applies.

    7. If a battle group inflicts more than enough damage to crash its target, is the extra damage immediately subtracted from the target's Health Track?
    No, damage is subtracted from the Health Track only if the target is already in Initiative Crash (pg. 208).

    8. When a battle group hits several targets, does it roll separate attack and damage rolls against each target?
    The battle group makes only one attack roll, then applies that roll’s results to all targets. The rules do not specify whether the battle group makes one or multiple damage rolls, but making separate damage rolls makes bookkeeping significantly easier (and easy bookkeeping is the point of battle groups).

    9. How many battle groups can you include in a battle?
    There is technically no limit, but I recommend keeping it down to one battle group per side, for simplicity’s sake. Remember, the point of battle groups is to simplify bookkeeping. If you are thinking about including more battle groups, remember that similar forces should be combined. If the units are somehow distinct – like cavalry and archers – then they should be separated.

    10. Why does Might specify that it gives a bonus to accuracy and damage, as opposed to attack rolls and raw damage (like Size)?
    Unclear. There does not appear to be a distinction in function. If someone has insight into this, I would love to hear it.

    11. Who controls battle group actions?
    The Storyteller. Always. However, a player can direct the battle group’s actions only by taking order actions.

    From here on in, we get heavily into the realm of conjecture.

    12. What happens if you use a Charm (or other effect) which doesn’t make sense when applied to a battle group?
    It’s up to to the Storyteller. It may fail to work entirely, or have a different function. To quote page 416...
    Certain Charms like Joint-Wounding Attack don’t make sense when applied to a battle group. Instead of having a single dagger knock the eye out of ten thousand people, refer to the Orichalcum Rule on page 182. In addition, the Storyteller may elect a single target to take the strike instead of the battle group, assigning that character an amount of Initiative, combat skill, and weaponry appropriate to the drama at hand. If this character is crashed or given wound penalties that makes it a negligible threat, it recedes back into the swell of the battle group and can no longer be targeted.
    13. Can battle groups use supernatural powers?
    The book doesn't say. I recommend simplifying things. You can assume their Might rating reflects general supernatural competence, and other effects may work automatically – or differently – when used by a battle group en masse. Some effects may even be inappropriate for a battle group to use. Other battle groups may actually gain new powers (for example, giving a swarm of zombies a terrifying moan they reflexively activate at the start of battle).

    14. What happens if a battle group targets a character who is protected by Defend Other?
    Up to the Storyteller. On one hand, battle groups are targeting everyone: cutting against that takes some of the bite out of battle groups, and is also difficult to make sense of narratively. Instead of just defending his ward, the defender is also trying to protect himself, and from multiple opponents. On the other hand, you could argue that the defending character has a chance to block a hundred sword blows because that’s cool. I am undecided on this one.

    15. Can battle groups use Defend Other?
    Ostensibly yes, but I recommend allowing it in limited circumstances: this may be appropriate for, say, the royal guard protecting their queen.

    16. Can a battle group use Disarm? If a battle group uses Disarm against an opponent who possesses multiple weapons, does it get a chance to remove all armaments?
    Ostensibly yes, but I recommend allowing it in limited circumstances, like a group of specially-trained monks descending upon someone whose drawing weapons, who are trained to disable opponents by disarming them. It starts getting a little weird to picture a group of cavalry trying to disarm their opponents.

    17. Can battle groups Suffer onslaught penalties?
    Yes…!

    …and maybe...

    Consider the following.

    The Pincer Attack stratagem inflicts a -1 onslaught penalty upon battle groups, which lasts throughout the entirety of the battle. There are otherwise no mentions of inflicting onslaught penalties in the book which call out battle groups one way or the other. On one hand, battle groups are generally treated like normal characters, and the above stratagem shows they can suffer onslaught penalties. On the other hand, the Pincer Attack is a massive scale stratagem (requiring a threshold of 3), representing cleverly outmaneuvering an entire army. It’s more difficult to conceive of individual heroes doing this likewise; typically the rules for battle groups represent such impressive assaults in the rules for rout checks (and are more likely the effects of powerful battlefield magic).
    Last edited by The Sword Emperor; 09-17-2016, 01:34 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by The Sword Emperor View Post

    17. Can battle groups Suffer onslaught penalties?
    Yes…!

    …and maybe...

    Consider the following.

    The Pincer Attack stratagem inflicts a -1 onslaught penalty upon battle groups, which lasts throughout the entirety of the battle. There are otherwise no mentions of inflicting onslaught penalties in the book which call out battle groups one way or the other. On one hand, battle groups are generally treated like normal characters, and the above stratagem shows they can suffer onslaught penalties. On the other hand, the Pincer Attack is a massive scale stratagem (requiring a threshold of 3), representing cleverly outmaneuvering an entire army. It’s more difficult to conceive of individual heroes doing this likewise; typically the rules for battle groups represent such impressive assaults in the rules for rout checks (and are more likely the effects of powerful battlefield magic).
    Mind, the Pincer Attack is a -1 Onslaught penalty for the whole battle while a regular onslaught penalty lasts until your next action. Not saying it definitively answers the question vis-a-vis general onslaught penalties, but that's why the Pincer Attack has such a hefty success requirement.

    Originally posted by The Sword Emperor View Post

    12. What happens if you use a Charm (or other effect) which doesn’t make sense when applied to a battle group?
    It’s up to to the Storyteller. It may fail to work entirely, or have a different function. To quote page 416...


    13. Can battle groups use supernatural powers?
    The book doesn't say. I recommend simplifying things. You can assume their Might rating reflects general supernatural competence, and other effects may work automatically – or differently – when used by a battle group en masse. Some effects may even be inappropriate for a battle group to use. Other battle groups may actually gain new powers (for example, giving a swarm of zombies a terrifying moan they reflexively activate at the start of battle).
    It'd be neat if we had some examples of such things, but I was gonna try to put some together. Could have some to represent interesting maneuvers that a mortal group might be able to accomplish, others could be supernatural powers, or for some things like Elementals or Ghosts, representative of supernatural powers in aggregate.
    Last edited by Leetsepeak; 09-17-2016, 01:56 AM.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Leetsepeak View Post

      Mind, the Pincer Attack is a -1 Onslaught penalty for the whole battle while a regular onslaught penalty lasts until your next action. Not saying it definitively answers the question vis-a-vis general onslaught penalties, but that's why the Pincer Attack has such a hefty success requirement.
      Agreed! The subject of onslaught penalties vis-a-vis battle groups is important, since it may be the difference between routing the enemy or suffering a crippling blow.

      I could see a Storyteller going either way with it. "Individual heroes are so awesome they throw whole battle groups in disarray!" versus "Throwing battle groups into disarray is what Magnitude and rout (especially rout modifiers) represent".

      Somewhat relevant: battle groups don't suffer wound penalties (for obvious reasons). It's really a matter of what you think the onslaught penalty is meant to represent. I think it better represents wearing down an individual, but I wouldn't be opposed to a Charm or battlefield magic which amounts to an onslaught penalty.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by The Sword Emperor View Post
        2. If you hit a battle group with an attack which specifically inflicts Initiative damage in addition to its normal withering or decisive damage, does that drain its Initiative? If not, does it drain their Magnitude?
        I asked this John on Twitter a while back. They do lose Initiative but only lose Magnitude if it makes sense for them to suffer damage. Thunderclap Rush Attack's Essence 3+ effect sure, the Dodge Charms that steal 1 Initiative from an attack? Maybe.
        Don't ask me what happens if they get crashed though.


        And our BGs suffer onslaught. There formations breaks when a few of them are sent flying creating a breach in the frontline where others can try to break in even easier. And at their turn they straighten out the formation again. Something like that.


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        • #5
          I think you missed an important question Sword Emperor

          If my opponent has a Tyrant Lizard, how many men do I need to send after it until the lizard is so bloated with my men's corpses that it cannot move?


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          • #6
            Anyone got a opinion on how to resolve a Clash attack with a Battle Group if the BG is in a Range Band with multiple opponents?

            EXAMPLE:
            Tiger Stylist and BG clashes, yet there are still three other players within range of the battlegroup.


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            • #7
              I would roll for the battlegroup as normal, and roll for the player as normal, and if they win the clash, they win the clash. For the other players, just use the BG's roll and compare it against their Defense.


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              • #8
                Yeah, that's how I'd do it. The clash is only relevant to the person doing it.
                I think it's useful for edge cases to remember that the Battle Group represents a lot of people, so think which ruling makes sense most for that.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Leetsepeak View Post
                  It'd be neat if we had some examples of such things, but I was gonna try to put some together. Could have some to represent interesting maneuvers that a mortal group might be able to accomplish, others could be supernatural powers, or for some things like Elementals or Ghosts, representative of supernatural powers in aggregate.
                  Oh yes, that would be rockin'. This is an opportunity to expand the rules. This is a subject worthy of its own thread.

                  Originally posted by Ryoki View Post
                  I asked this John on Twitter a while back. They do lose Initiative but only lose Magnitude if it makes sense for them to suffer damage. Thunderclap Rush Attack's Essence 3+ effect sure, the Dodge Charms that steal 1 Initiative from an attack? Maybe.
                  Huh! That's good to know.

                  Originally posted by Ryoki View Post
                  Don't ask me what happens if they get crashed though.
                  I would hope they don't suffer any penalty from being crashed: I think Unbowed Willow Meditation goes toward that interpretation. I'm uncomfortable with BGs suffering the deleterious effects of crash because they don't have any way of recovering.

                  Originally posted by Sandact6 View Post
                  I think you missed an important question Sword Emperor

                  If my opponent has a Tyrant Lizard, how many men do I need to send after it until the lizard is so bloated with my men's corpses that it cannot move?
                  This actually came up in one of my campaigns... The answer - obviously - is scatalogical humor. :-P

                  Originally posted by Growls
                  Anyone got a opinion on how to resolve a Clash attack with a Battle Group if the BG is in a Range Band with multiple opponents?

                  EXAMPLE:
                  Tiger Stylist and BG clashes, yet there are still three other players within range of the battlegroup.
                  Originally posted by Leetsepeak View Post
                  I would roll for the battlegroup as normal, and roll for the player as normal, and if they win the clash, they win the clash. For the other players, just use the BG's roll and compare it against their Defense.
                  Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
                  Yeah, that's how I'd do it. The clash is only relevant to the person doing it.
                  I think it's useful for edge cases to remember that the Battle Group represents a lot of people, so think which ruling makes sense most for that.
                  I agree with Leetsepeak and The Wizard of Oz. If you feel that using the Clash Rules is appropriate, it's easily resolved with their suggestion.

                  A reasonable alternative might be to declare that battle groups don't engage the "clash" mechanics except against other BGs (if at all), because they operate on a different scale than heroes. In that case, have characters take their turns on the same tick, as though they weren't clashing.

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                  • #10
                    Now I wonder whether the game would benefit from a Battle Group keyword, to denote Charms which have different effects (or which do not work at all) when used on - or by - battle groups.
                    Last edited by The Sword Emperor; 09-18-2016, 01:01 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Interesting. According to Morke on twitter, you can't clash a Battlegroup without magic or a very good stunt. That sure would be handy to mention in the corebook...
                      Last edited by TDS; 09-19-2016, 06:14 AM. Reason: without, not with. Oops


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                      • #12
                        That is interesting. I assume you mean "you can't clash a Battle Group without magic or a very good stunt".

                        It makes sense to me. It's hard to visualize a swordsman clashing with a thousand guys, but I can see someone doing so with Death of Obsidian Butterflies.

                        Learning a lot with this thread.

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                        • #13
                          Well, I decided to ask our dear John, mostly because I realized just how much of an issue that Clashing would be against a BG, as it is a far too good a bonus to gain against them, which would end up having my players simply waiting to clash with them instead.

                          Thank the Sun for Mørke and his willingness to engage with wondering players on Twitter.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by The Sword Emperor View Post
                            That is interesting. I assume you mean "you can't clash a Battle Group without magic or a very good stunt".

                            It makes sense to me. It's hard to visualize a swordsman clashing with a thousand guys, but I can see someone doing so with Death of Obsidian Butterflies.

                            Learning a lot with this thread.
                            You're right, of course. Got the negations mixed up there. Though I asked a follow-up question on Twitter and he said you need magic that explicitly says it allows you to clash a Battlegroup to clash Battlegroup, which should mean Death of Obsidian Butterflies wouldn't work.


                            Some of me humble homebrew for ex3:
                            Artifacts for Crumple's DB homebrew
                            Some Lintha QCs
                            A Wyld Behemoth

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                            • #15
                              If someone wanted to give battle groups special powers, I'd suggest creating Battle Group Merits. These would modify battle groups in some fashion, giving them extra abilities - usually without requiring actions. For example:
                              • Royal Guards possess the ability to take a reflexive Defend Other action to protect their liege
                              • Mortwight battle groups reflexively activate their cloud of darkness
                              • A Zombie Battle Group reflexively releases a horrible ceaseless moaning, which increases the difficulty of all enemy Fear and Rout checks by 1
                              • Ninjas benefit from the Conservation of Ninjutsu. When the battle group drops a size, choose one of the Size benefits. It does not degrade.

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