I'm currently running a campaign in which the the party's homeland has just been invaded by an army of confederated orc clans. We are using the Pathfinder Core Rules in the campaign, but for the war sessions I have also been making substantial use of the 3.5e D&D supplement Heroes of Battle, which has some great material on running large scale combat. One thing that the supplement suggests to do is to draw a series of large overland map which includes major terrain features and which tracks the movements of allied and enemy units at various points within the battle. This way you can know at a glace what the flow of battle is at any given moment. Here is an example map given from the book:
Since I'm dealing with some fairly substantial armies (the two combined Orc Clans in this battle alone make up an army of about 5,500 strong) I decided to to follow this advice. I'm really glad I did to because I don't know how I could have run this encounter without these maps as visual aids. One thing that really surprised me was how quickly the battle went using the rules from HoB (modified by some of my own house rules). We just reached the last phase in the battle in last night's session and had to end with a cliffhanger. However the battle began at Noon and when we left off at 12:06, both armies were on the verge of collapsing! I guess that's what happens when you dealing with high fantasy magic artillery.
In the maps below I wanted to capture the quick-sketch look of the maps within Heroes of Battle. Nothing flashy here, just a nice simple layout. I've included a legend but to give you a better idea of the size of the units:
Breakdown of the Orc Armies (2 united clan armies)
- 1 Orc Infantry unit = 250 Orc Warriors, 1 6th LV Barbarian Orc Captain, 2 4thLV Barbarian Orc Lieutenants 10 2nd LV Barbarian Orc Sergeants and 20 1st Lv Ranger Orc Corporals. There is also 1 8th Lv Barbarian Orc Majors per/2 units, 1 10th Lv Orc Barbarian colonel per/4 units, and 2 12th Lv Barbarian Orc Jarls (one for each clan0 leading the combined armies.
- 1 Ogre Elite Infantry unit = 20 Ogres, and 4 Ogre Brutes (4th Lv Barbarian Ogres).
- 1 War Hulk Elite Infantry unit = 1 2nd LV Barbarian Formorian (Huge Giant with the Trample feature).
- 1 Orc Bowman Artillery unit = 250 orc warriors, 1 6th LV Ranger Orc Captain, 2 4thLV Ranger Orc Lieutenants 10 2nd LV Ranger Orc Sergeants and 20 1st Lv Ranger Orc Corporals.
- 1 Shaman Elite Artillery unit = 20 4th LV Orc Druids (casting area affect spells), and 4 8th Lv Orc Druids (casting area affect spells).
- 1 Hill Giant Elite Artillery unit = 8 Hill Giants, and a large pile of stones!
- 1 Warg Rider Elite Cavalry unit = 6 7th Lv Orc Rangers mounted upon Winter Wargs.
Breakdown of the Human Armies (Dawnhaven militia + reinforcements from Caldoranth)
- 1 Dawnhaven Infantry Unit = 200 Human Warriors, 1 6th Level Human Fighter Captain, 2 4th Level Human Fighter Lieutenants, 20 2nd Level Human Fighter Sergeants, and 40 1st Level Human Fighter Corporals.
- 1 Dawnhaven Longbowman Artillery Unit = 200 Human Warriors, 1 6th Level Human Ranger Captain, 2 4th Level Human Ranger Lieutenants, 20 2nd Level Human Ranger Sergeants, and 40 1st Level Human Ranger Corporals. There is also 1 9th Lv Knight Paladin Colonel leading overseeing both infantry and artillery.
- 1 Dawnhaven Elite Longbowman Artillery Unit = 20 4th Lv Human Rangers, 4 8th LV Human Rangers, 2 4th Level Battle-Mages (with wands of Fireball), and 1 8th Level Battle-Mage (with an Empowered Metamagic Wand of Fireball).
- 1 Caldoranthian Horn Brigade Unit = 800 Human Warriors, 1 12th LV Human Knight general, 2 10th LV Human Knight Colonels, 8 6th Level Human Fighter Captains, 16 4th Level Human Fighter Lieutenants, 80 2nd LV Human Fighter Sergeants and 160 1st LV Human Fighter Corporals. In addition, the Horn Unit contained a small unit of heavy artillery (4 4th LV Battle-Mages, each equipped with a Wand of Fireball), and a unit of medics (40 1st LV Clerics, 20 2nd LV Clerics, 4 4th LV Clerics, 2 6th LV Clerics, and 1 8th LV Cleric).
- 1 Elite Special Ops Unit ("aka, Our Party") = 1 10th LV Human Wizard, 1 10th LV Human Cleric, 1 10th LV Wood-Elf Ranger (and her Large Bear animal Companion), 1 10th LV Human Knight, and 1 10th LV Half-Elf Rogue-Assassin.
Basically the situations was this: Dawnhaven was a key strategic city within the nation of Caldoranth that was about to fall to the invading Orc Army. The nation was also fighting a war in the south and had little in the way of reinforcements to send to the city. It could only spare a contingent of just over 1,200 men. Including the 750 some odd units currently defending Danwhaven, the Human army was still outnumbered 3 to one. The only hope the reinforcements had at routing the enemy army and thus making it to the city safely, was to try to take out the main Jarl over both armies. Orcs have notoriously bad morale. If their leader fell there would be a good chance that, even with one Jarl remaining, a large portion of the army would route. Hence, the reinforcements formed themselves into a horn shaped brigade intent on piercing through enemy lines in order to make it to the lead general in the center of combat. The party was commissioned to take out tough obstacles and in general, run interference for the Horn Brigade. This they did admirably, taking out a the entire first Orc Militia Unit (as well as much of the first artillery unit), the first of two Battle Hulks, the Elite Warg Rider Cavalry and the Elite Druid Shaman Artillery. Yet as these below battle overview maps will show, the enemy forces nevertheless managed to flank the Horn Brigade and halt its forward momentum. From that point on it was a slugging match. The Orcs packed more of a punch but had low AC and terrible morale. The Humans had a reasonably good attack, a much higher AC, and excellent morale. They also had the ability to heal (regenerate units). Hence, they managed to give better than they received. The heroes then decided to divide and conquer. The rogue-assassin stayed with the Horn Brigade, attempting to use his "Dazzling Display" feat to demoralize sub-units of the enemy forces. The Cleric and the Ranger took on the second War Hulk, and the Knight and the Wizard (aided by the General and an 8th Level Cleric went after the General himself. That is were we left off in last night's session, and I must confess, I'm not sure if they're going to win this one. The War Hulk is tearing the ranger to shreds, the General still has two Orc Militia Units to protect him (and his Huge Basalisk steed), and the Horn Brigade is down to 250 men! The one saving grace is that with attention directed away from Danwhaven, the Dawnahaven Elite Artillery unit has been tearing up the place and will likely be able to come to the aid of the players.
Well, please excuse me, for this has been one long post! I'm still coming down from the high of last nights game.
Simple, effective, cool, easy and fast to do. This is truly great stuff, man. I gotta learn something like this.
If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
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What a great epic battle! Thanks for sharing that with us, Arsheesh!
Yeah that's good stuff. Fun to see how it goes. I've never gotten into very many big battles when I've played because it seems to bog down the game more than anything else. I'll have to check out those rules you mentioned above and see if they have any good tips.
Heroes of Battle is an excellent book (apart from the fabulously broken war weaver). Great work on the maps, and on running an excellent battle.
Reading the text and looking at the maps took more time than the whole battle Good maps arsheesh, as Ascension wrote: simple and effective.
Thanks guys! This was an incredibly exciting battle, and one whose outcome is not yet certain. I'll throw up the final map after our next session, once the dust has cleared. Oh and by the way Jax, if you ever do decide to try out a war scenario, I would highly recommend purchasing Heroes of Battle. Like Torstan mentioned, its an excellent book.
Very interesting. I love the battle description and the simplicity and effectiveness of the maps
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