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Simplifying mass combat: Representing a crowd of NPCs as a single "character"

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  • Simplifying mass combat: Representing a crowd of NPCs as a single "character"

    I'm currently running a Changeling chronicle in which my players rescued the inhabitants of a fae-owned tenement building from a fire, causing everyone they rescued to owe the players a life-debt. In total, there are about 15 NPCs, mostly changelings and a few ensorcelled mortals, who for most intents and purposes act as a single character: the players have to make Social rolls in order to convince the NPCs to do anything that's dangerous or not in their own immediate interests.

    The most recent session ended on a cliffhanger, in which the main baddie and his cronies are trying to burn down the temporary shelter which the players found to house the NPCs, Obviously, the NPCs are going to defend themselves from the bad guys and try to put out the fire, but I really don't want to have to deal with 15 NPCs (not including the bad guys they're fighting against) in a single battle.

    What I'd really like to do instead is find a way to represent a small crowd of NPCs as a single "character" with a shared pool of Health and Willpower and a single initiative score. The crowd would act and attack together, and mostly avoid combat but could defend itself if cornered or seriously threatened (these NPCs are not combat specialists, just regular folks who happen to be changelings, or are mortals in relationships with changelings). Any suggestions on how to handle this hypothetical "NPC blob" in combat? As the crowd takes more and more damage, how do I decide when individual NPCs become incapacitated, thereby reducing the blob's dice pools?
    Last edited by Super_Dave; 11-10-2017, 10:57 PM.

  • #2
    As is, the books have you use a Down and Dirty roll with the group having extra dice based on Teamwork.

    If you want it more drawn out, you can do the same thing, each additional person adding 1 Health and Willpower, successful individual rolls adding to their overall dicepool. Might do something else for Willpower, presumably seeing your allies fall might hurt it more.
    Last edited by nofather; 11-11-2017, 12:08 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by nofather View Post
      As is, the books have you use a Down and Dirty roll with the group having extra dice based on Teamwork.
      How does a "Down and Dirty roll" work, and how would Teamwork affect it? Sorry, I'm not very familiar with 2nd Edition rules; I'm still running my chronicle using 1st Edition.

      Originally posted by nofather View Post
      If you want it more drawn out, you can do the same thing, each additional person adding 1 Health and Willpower, successful individual rolls adding to their overall dicepool.
      So the crowd would have 15 Health boxes and 15 Willpower? That seems like a lot of Willpower, but maybe it would be balanced by the fact that each time the crowd takes a point of lethal damage (or maybe two points of lethal, or three points of bashing, or whatever) the crowd would lose a constituent member (who presumably falls to the ground or runs away and takes cover) and reduce its overall Size, Health, and Willpower pool by one point. At least, that's how I envision it playing out; maybe the math will work out differently once I actually start playtesting this.

      Let me see if I'm understanding the second part of your suggestion: I think you're saying that having an individual in the group who has expertise in a particular field (combat, academics, etc.) would grant the crowd an equipment bonus based on the constituent member's level of expertise? That seems fair to me.

      Originally posted by nofather View Post
      Might do something else for Willpower, presumably seeing your allies fall might hurt it more.
      Are you saying that just seeing other characters (like the PCs) being harmed might cause the crowd to lose morale (in the form of Willpower points)? That's actually a really cool idea, and one which I'd be willing to implement in my own game. The crowd could easily do a lot more damage than the PCs, so it'd have to be balanced by making them a little fragile, and not letting them outshine the PCs. Maybe the PCs should have to make a Wits + Persuasion roll (or use the "Inspirational" Merit) just to convince the crowd to enter the fray in the first place?

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      • #4
        How about, the "mob" as well will call it has 2 actions. 1 is an automatic attack done against everyone adjacent to the mob and engaged against it, representing the grunts all ganging up on everyone in range. Action 2 is that the mob uses its other abilities, dedicated attacks, thrown weapons, uses guns, uses magical powers shared by the group, done after the first, representing more coordinated action and assault. The first attack would have very little dice, it's more of a passive ability than anything. The second attack has alot more to spend because it is more aggressive that way. Maybe there's 2 or 3 second actions instead of 1 for bigger mobs, it would be better than more dice I feel, because it makes balancing simpler than arbitrarily big numbers for attacking with.

        In any event, the one problem with using Willpower as a resource is that a mob gets really energized from successfully causing damage; it's part of the way mob mentality works. Perhaps as the caveat to how the mob works, all successful actions restore 1 point of Willpower to the mob, but failing actions demoralizes them such failing to land hits depletes willpower: Such as say 1 turn of failing to land any damage drains willpower, but also failing any rolls boosted using Willpower hurts because the mob literally gave it their best but still fails.

        Some traits and other actions can be added too, suicidal zeal would be represented by the mob self damaging itself for more dice. Zombies obviously would lack willpower, but don't restore it by causing damage or break from being low on Willpower/ Morale.

        Rally and Triage could also be actions, representing people spending time getting allies back into the fight.
        Last edited by Almarck; 11-11-2017, 02:12 PM.


        Mechs: Because even the Chronicles of Darkness needs robot fights.
        DarkFrame: Crossover setting that puts Chronicles of Darkness in the far future that is Warframe.
        Monarch: The Endless You are an alien ruler, charged with maintaining a people who you shape to suit your needs.

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        • #5
          This is a battle group from Exalted 3e. That's literally what you're trying to make here, but with Chronicles rules.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Super_Dave View Post
            How does a "Down and Dirty roll" work, and how would Teamwork affect it? Sorry, I'm not very familiar with 2nd Edition rules; I'm still running my chronicle using 1st Edition.
            Oh I'm sorry, I should have guessed with the Changeling thing. Basically Down and Dirty is for single roll combat. It can be used to just skip over lengthy combat scenes or show how much one side dominates.

            Take the leader of the mob's Strength + Brawl as a dicepool, the leader would be called the primary actor. Then roll everyone else in the mob individually (you only have to do this once) for their Strength + Brawl. You can use other dicepools if you're trying to get them to build a house or put out an inferno. Everyone else's roll doesn't just add to the primary actor, I think this was to keep groups from just steamrolling things, but it also acts to simulate the 'too many cooks in the kitchen' effect, where people are getting in each others way if they haven't trained to work as a team. Each actor who succeeds on their roll adds 1 die to the primary actor's dicepool. That's just the Teamwork part.

            Down and Dirty roll would then have that primary actor's adjusted dicepool versus the similar dicepool of the character confronting them (also potentially adjusted by teamwork bonuses). Whoever gets more successes wins the combat.

            So the crowd would have 15 Health boxes and 15 Willpower? That seems like a lot of Willpower, but maybe it would be balanced by the fact that each time the crowd takes a point of lethal damage (or maybe two points of lethal, or three points of bashing, or whatever) the crowd would lose a constituent member (who presumably falls to the ground or runs away and takes cover) and reduce its overall Size, Health, and Willpower pool by one point. At least, that's how I envision it playing out; maybe the math will work out differently once I actually start playtesting this.
            Let me see if I'm understanding the second part of your suggestion: I think you're saying that having an individual in the group who has expertise in a particular field (combat, academics, etc.) would grant the crowd an equipment bonus based on the constituent member's level of expertise? That seems fair to me.[/quote]

            That's a way to do it too, I meant the Teamwork thing.

            Are you saying that just seeing other characters (like the PCs) being harmed might cause the crowd to lose morale (in the form of Willpower points)? That's actually a really cool idea, and one which I'd be willing to implement in my own game. The crowd could easily do a lot more damage than the PCs, so it'd have to be balanced by making them a little fragile, and not letting them outshine the PCs. Maybe the PCs should have to make a Wits + Persuasion roll (or use the "Inspirational" Merit) just to convince the crowd to enter the fray in the first place?
            Ooh that's a good way to handle it.

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            • #7
              Give a crowd a Power, Finesse and Resistance attributes.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Malus View Post
                Give a crowd a Power, Finesse and Resistance attributes.
                Example on how to do this? I'd really like to know and it seems like a solid method.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Aristarkos View Post

                  Example on how to do this? I'd really like to know and it seems like a solid method.

                  Power = Attack dice
                  Finesse = Defense, possibly ranged attack dice (defense on a really large group of bodifes to me makes no sense)
                  Resiliance = Health/Morale

                  And then add in the variation from supernatural powers or other tricks.


                  Mechs: Because even the Chronicles of Darkness needs robot fights.
                  DarkFrame: Crossover setting that puts Chronicles of Darkness in the far future that is Warframe.
                  Monarch: The Endless You are an alien ruler, charged with maintaining a people who you shape to suit your needs.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Almarck View Post


                    Power = Attack dice
                    Finesse = Defense, possibly ranged attack dice (defense on a really large group of bodifes to me makes no sense)
                    Resiliance = Health/Morale

                    And then add in the variation from supernatural powers or other tricks.
                    Pretty much.

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                    • #11
                      The Chronicles of Darkness book stats up a crowd of zombies using the Brief Nightmare rules, no reason you can't use the same rules for things which aren't actually monsters.


                      Genius templates (for Demon: the Descent)

                      Rakshasa: the Kingdom (Featuring the Extinction Chronicle) [WIP]

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                      • #12
                        If you need slightly more nuanced rules from advice made by milo v3 - I advice my created Mass Combat rules based on Brief Nightmares mechanics. I checked it already to run Vikings war party attacking Christians monastery in 799 A.D.


                        Conquest of Paradise - Fan Dark Era about Portugal and Spain conquests in XVI century - Mage & Beast ( & Hunter )
                        My Hubs - VtR 2E System Hacks, MtAw 2E Legacies and System Hacks & WtF 2E Lodges and System Hacks

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                        • #13
                          Eh, that more complicates combat IMO. wyrdhamster

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Almarck View Post


                            Power = Attack dice
                            Finesse = Defense, possibly ranged attack dice (defense on a really large group of bodifes to me makes no sense)
                            Resiliance = Health/Morale

                            And then add in the variation from supernatural powers or other tricks.
                            Thank you!

                            I hope it is not too much to ask how to do it though. How would you calculate exactly how many die the group would get? How do I know how many die to give a platoon of veteran soldiers, a drunken bar mob or a myriad of children?
                            Would I just take the highest skilled individual and give +1 to one or more of the three stats for each extra person in the group?

                            How do I simulate the loss of individuals (Health) to the group? Do I just reduce their stats for each individual lost and also have them do a Res (Morale) roll for the group not to disband after each hit?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Aristarkos View Post

                              Thank you!

                              I hope it is not too much to ask how to do it though. How would you calculate exactly how many die the group would get? How do I know how many die to give a platoon of veteran soldiers, a drunken bar mob or a myriad of children?
                              Would I just take the highest skilled individual and give +1 to one or more of the three stats for each extra person in the group?

                              How do I simulate the loss of individuals (Health) to the group? Do I just reduce their stats for each individual lost and also have them do a Res (Morale) roll for the group not to disband after each hit?
                              Do averages (After modifiers) for attack, 3 dice means 1s on average, 6 means 2s, etc.

                              Do your players have an average defense of 5/6? Are they facing an elite anti riot police force with military equipment head on? give the cops power 20. They're likely hampered in the Finesse department with all the armor, so give them a 5 there and say 15 health levels/resistance

                              If you need to roll an individual person's resistance because say, Dominate or equivalent, there's relevant combatant stats you can use in the books for that.

                              If you're making a crowd, each damage they take is either someone who loss commitment to the cause or gets arrested or becomes a casualty (or it's simply too bruised to get up again). Someone spraying autofire into the crow is likely to disperse and decimate it far more easily than trying to reason with it with rhetoric.

                              Don't forget that harming/demoralizing several people at once is more than likely a breaking point to most.
                              Last edited by Malus; 11-12-2017, 10:16 AM.

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