Paragons Mass Combat Rules

The mass combat rules sum up the actions and traits of a number of less powerful combatants and treat them as a single more powerful character for the purposes of combat and conflict. This combined entity is called a force (as opposed to an individual character).

Force Traits
Like characters, forces have their own particular traits, measuring their capabilities. In general, the traits of a force are based on the individuals making up that force, with certain traits gaining a modifier based on the overall number of individuals.

Force Name/Description Size (Modifier) Attack +X Damage +X Defense X Toughness +X Initiative +X

Force Size
The most important quality of a force is its size, how many individuals make up that particular force. Gamemasters may choose to treat an entire group as a single force or split the group into smaller forces, as suits the dramatic needs of the story. Sometimes having the characters deal with two or more smaller forces can be more interesting than a single massive force, particularly if more than one character is interacting with the force(s) at the same time.

A force’s size determines its force modifier, which is an increase in certain traits based on the total number of individuals in the force. Each step up the Progression Table from one individual provides a +1 force modifier. So a force of two individuals has a force modifier of +1, five individuals +2, ten individuals +3, and so forth, as shown on the following table.

Force Modifier

Force Size Modifier Force Size Modifier
2 +1 250 +7
5 +2 500 +8
10 +3 1000 +9
25 +4 2500 +10
50 +5 5000 +11
100 +6 10000+ +12

A force’s attack bonus is the total of its base attack bonus for quality and the force modifier, so a larger force has a greater attack bonus than a smaller one of the same quality. A force’s total attack bonus is based on a large number of troops making simultaneous attacks and using coordinated tactics and such. It doesn’t assume all the troops attack or hit at once; like other traits, it abstracts the entire force’s capability. this increase to attack bonus does affect grapple checks.

A force’s damage bonus is the total of its base damage bonus and the force modifier. This assumes larger forces of troops have access to both more and more powerful weapons in addition to tactics like coordinated attacks and such. The force’s damage capabilities are generalized and summed up as single damage bonus.

Generally speaking, a force’s damage bonus is lethal damage, unless the GM decides the force is specially armed with stun-damage and incapacitating weapons. A force’s damage bonus works just like an individual’s damage bonus and is saved against in the same way.

A force’s defense bonus represents how difficult it is to inflict a successful attack on that force, although not necessarily how difficult it is to “hit” the force. Defense is based entirely on the force’s quality, with no modifier for size; essentially the force modifier and an effective size modifier cancel each other out. A larger force is easier to “hit” overall, but can also suffer more damage than a smaller force (represented by applying the force modifier to Toughness save (see the following section)).

Note that a force does not have a dodge bonus; conditions on the battlefield change too rapidly for dodge bonus to be considered a factor in the force’s overall Defense. The Gamemaster may permit certain maneuvers to modify a force’s Defense, but otherwise situational modifiers only apply if they affect the entire force.

Add the force modifier to base Toughness bonus for troop quality to determine the force’s total Toughness saving throw bonus.

For a force as a whole, this Toughness save doesn’t quite represent the ability to shrug off damage (as it does for individuals) but rather how long a force can suffer damage and continue fighting. See Force Damage for details on force Toughness saves.

A force’s Initiative modifier is likewise based solely on troop quality, unaffected by force size. A force uses its Initiative modifier just like a character, and all parts of the force are assumed to act together during its turn in the initiative order. Unlike characters, forces are not flat-footed before their first turn in the initiative order (since, in order for a force to act at all it needs a certain degree of readiness).

Forces in Action
When one or more forces are involved in a conflict, the combat shifts to battlefield rounds. Each battlefield round is approximately ten times the length of an ordinary six-second combat round, or one minute, and represents a considerable amount of maneuvering and activity on the battlefield during that time.

Individual characters and forces can take the normal allotment of actions during a battlefield round: one move action and one standard action (possibly trading the standard action for an additional move action), or a full-round action. Free actions and reactions are also allowed, up to the limits imposed by the GM.

A force makes an attack like an individual: a d20 roll, plus the force’s attack bonus, against the Difficulty Class of the target’s Defense, whether the target is another force or an individual character. A force may also move before or after an attack (but not both). Typically a force’s movement is limited so long as a significant portion of the force is on foot. Motorized forces may be able to move more quickly at the GM’s discretion.

A force can use particular maneuvers in battle, much like individual characters. These maneuvers are similar in many ways to character-scale maneuvers and are described here.

  • Offensive Posture A force that takes an offensive posture sacrifices Defense in exchange for greater attack accuracy: for every –2 penalty (up to –4) that the force takes to its Defense, it gains a +1 attack bonus (up to +2).
  • Defensive Posture A defensive posture is the opposite of an offensive posture; the force sacrifices attack ability for improved Defense (including intercepting some incoming attacks using the force’s offensive capabilities): for every –2 penalty (up to –4) that the force takes to its attack rolls that round, it gains +1 to Defense (up to +2).
  • Charge A force can charge, moving up to twice its normal movement in a relatively straight line. A charging force suffers a –2 modifier to Defense, but gains a +2 bonus on attack rolls for the round.
  • Split A force can choose to split off into smaller forces with reduced force bonuses, but greater maneuverability and freedom of action. Splitting a force is a full-round action. When a force splits, it becomes two forces, each with a portion of the troops of the original force. Each separate force has its force modifier recalculated according to its new troop compliment. If the original force suffered damage, both of the split forces have the same damage conditions.
  • At the start of a conflict the GM may divide a large group into any number of smaller forces and doesn’t need to split them. Otherwise, a large force would spend its first few rounds splitting into enough forces to challenge the heroes individually. Only after combat starts do you need to worry about splitting a force.
  • Combine Two forces may also choose to combine to form a single, larger, force. Combining forces is a full-round action. This increases the force’s size, and therefore force modifier, normally. For example, if two forces of 250 troops combine to form a single force of 500, that force has a force modifier one higher than the original forces.
  • If any of the forces are disrupted when they combine with another force, the combined force has the highest total of hits from among its components. The components’ hits are not added together. Disabled forces cannot combine with others.
  • Coordinated Assault Two or more forces may attempt to make a coordinated assault on a target. Each assisting force makes a normal attack roll against the target. Each successful attack inflicts no damage, but grants the coordinating force a +2 bonus on its attack roll against that same target.
  • Note that a coordinated assault does not increase the attack’s damage, only the likelihood of a successful attack, so several small forces looking to increase their damage potential are better off combining into a larger force with a higher force modifier (see Combine, previously).
  • Flanking Two forces may attempt to catch an opponent in between them, flanking that opponent. If two forces are located on opposite sides of a target, each force gains a +2 attack bonus against that target.

Terrain & Conditions
Certain kinds of terrain and environmental conditions make things difficult (or easier) for large forces in combat.
A force fighting in difficult terrain (rocky, broken, confined urban areas, etc.) suffers a –1 penalty to attack, defense, and initiative. A force fighting in an area under cover of darkness, heavy fog, severe weather, and so forth must deal with concealment modifiers, unless the force has equipment or traits to overcome these penalties (such as lights or night-vision equipment to overcome darkness penalties).

Gamemasters can also make liberal use of the positive and negative condition modifiers, adding a +2 or –2 modifier to any of the force’s checks or rolls for favorable or unfavorable conditions. This general modifier is a very useful tool for handling all the different battlefield conditions quickly and easily.

Force Damage
Forces successfully attacked during a round attempt Toughness saving throws as per the standard M&M rules. The results of Toughness saves are found under the Force Damage table below.

Force Damage

Toughness Saving Throw… Effect
Succeeds No Effect
Fails Disrupted
Fails by 5 or more Shaken + Disrupted
Fails by 10 or more Staggered + Disrupted + Disabled
Fails by 15 or more Destroyed

Each round’s attacks are considered to happen simultaneously in mass combat. Therefore, the effects of damage are not applied until the start of the following battlefield round.

Damage Conditions
The potential damage conditions resulting from mass combat damage are as follows:

  • Disrupted The force is suffering from the chaos of battle. Casualties and wounded are starting to add up and it is beginning to feel the pinch of lost manpower. As a result, each disrupted condition enforces a –1 penalty to all the force’s die rolls, including further Toughness saves and morale checks. The penalties for multiple disrupted conditions are cumulative with each other and with any other penalties incurred.
  • Shaken The force suffers a dramatic loss. The force cannot take any actions during the next battlefield round. During this time, it suffers a –2 penalty to all rolls, but any additional shaken results are ignored. The force recovers automatically on the following round, but may then be shaken again as normal.
  • Staggered The force’s members are no longer fighting at peak efficiency, as losses weaken their strength. The force is limited to a standard or move action each round, not both.
  • Disabled A disabled force has been demoralized or damaged to the point where it can no longer fight effectively. It may not attack other forces or characters, but it may still attempt saving throws to resist attacks against it, and take actions to retreat from the field of battle.
  • Destroyed A destroyed force is completely broken. Scattered elements may continue to fight, but their impact on the battle is negligible as the majority of the force has been killed, captured, disabled, or has taken flight in a disorganized retreat.

For the most part, powers affect forces in the way they affect individuals, with a few exceptions.

  • Powers that inflict damage are assumed to do their normal damage against the force as a whole, even if the power does not normally affect an area. The wielder is assumed to be making multiple attacks with that power during the battle round.
  • Damaging powers with the Area extra inflict +2 damage to a force, with each Progression feat increasing this bonus by +1, but the total additional damage from Area and Progression cannot exceed the target’s force modifier (since the damage effectively encompasses the entire force at that point). Essentially, the attack’s additional area “cancels out” the force’s Toughness bonus for being a large group.
  • Non-damaging powers that do not normally affect an area have a negligible effect on a force in battle. The character can only use such powers if they have the Area extra and sufficient Progression to encompass the entire force. So a character with the Mind Control power, for example, could not attempt to Mind Control an entire force unless he possessed sufficient area for the power to affect the entire force. The GM can allow these powers to operate normally at the individual scale, they just don’t have much influence on the outcome of force-level conflicts. Of course, the GM is free to allow plausible power-use in a mass combat situation, if it can reasonably affect the outcome.
  • The GM may wish to allow non-damaging powers with a save Difficulty to act as damaging powers for purposes of affecting a force. For example, powers like Dazzle and Mind Control on the individual scale would normally have no effect on a force, but, properly targeted, could disrupt a force’s cohesion and organization, inflicting “damage” on the force. In this case, simply treat the power as if it were a damaging effect, including having the force make a Toughness save against it. This is just part of the abstraction involved in mass combat; apply the appropriate description to the outcome: for example, if a Dazzle staggers the force, tell the players how the well-placed Dazzle attack has caused some members to stagger about, making it more difficult for the rest to get around them to act.
  • Impervious Toughness is compared against the force’s total damage (including force modifier) before determining whether or not the character has to make a Toughness saving throw against the force’s attack. This is one of the advantages of larger forces: they can overcome—through superior numbers—Impervious Toughness that would render a target immune to the attacks of a smaller force.
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