Party Level DaW

I've been thinking about how to scale DaW combat all the way down to the very small scale combats typically seen in low levels.  PCs often have a selection of henchmen and men at arms that they are trying to coordinate.  These are generally somewhat handwaved, but I figured I would look at how the handling of large groups of troop npcs might be systematized.

First off, since I'm talking about command, lets look at how units, etc, scale down to the lowest levels.

Company Scale: 120 infantry, 7th level commander
Platoon Scale: 30 infantry, 5th level commander
so hypothetically,
Squad Scale: 8 infantry, 3rd level commander
Team Scale: 4 infantry, 2nd level commander
? Scale: 2 infantry, 1st level commander

I would interpret this to mean the following:

Party Scale DaW

A party may select a leader.  This leader (as the "general") has a leadership ability, which determines the number of characters that can coordinate their command of npc units, the "divisions" in combat.  The leader's morale modifier also modifies the morale rolls of the npcs in the party while he is actively in command of the party in combat.

Commanders (generally the PCs) may command npcs under their control.  Commanders can organize lower level npcs into squads, teams or groups of size up to twice the commander's level.  Commanders then use APs to order the npcs they control, either in the prearranged teams or individually.  Zone of control for commanders is 5 ft * level * leadership ability.

Example: A typical first level party with average characters.  The leader has a leadership of 4, so a total of 4 characters in the party may command npc groups as a "commander".  Each typical leader has 4 APs to control groups of 1-2 npcs within 20 feet.

AP Costs:
Activate Group: 1 AP
Group outside zone of control: +1 AP
Group is disordered/distracted: +1 AP
Group is of equal or higher level: +1 AP (+1 additional/level above the commander)
Group is henchmen of commander: -1 AP

Generally, npcs will continue to fight, hesitate, or withdraw, according to their own individual choice.  The benefit of command is that npcs can be directed to attack particular foes, switch places with each other, or what have you, and these actions will take place on the military-ability-modified initiative of their commander, rather than on their individual initiative.

A group becomes disordered if it charges, withdraws, or any of its members take damage.  They continue to operate on their own, based on morale, and their own inititative, until the commander spends the APs needed to get them back under command.


Poor commanders, ultimately, end up with a bunch of npcs just kind of doing their own thing, rather than following the "party plan", but excellent commanders can orchestrate all kinds of elaborate plans with their mercenaries and henchmen, and these abilities can come into play right at the very start of the game.

At such low levels and quantity, I suspect you're better off just doing away with the abstraction entirely and just having one giant conventional battle. Domains at War gives the actual stats for the different mercenaries you can hire (something that was missing when my players in my play-by-post went wandering around with 6 henchmen and 12 mercenaries).  I would say you should just be very stringent with the commands the players can issue to them, possibly even requiring all troops of the same type to be given the same command, in addition to the usual limitations that this is going to be overland battles only, with no mercenaries willingly coming in to the dungeons.

A shot at squad level rules. In theory PCs could be run as unattached heros - as scaled fighters/thieves can act as an unattached hero at 3rd level; arcane at 1st and divine and 2nd.

I think under Squad would be the modern term "fireteam", of ~2 people, at a minimum a 1st level PC as a unit commander and a 0-level mercenary perhaps in ACKS terms.

Yeah, I’m avoiding creating combined units here, because you can just do things at this level with individuals, classic style. I’m just interested in using the leadership stuff down at the lowest levels. Too complicated?

Yeah, I guess “fireteam” would work as a term. I guess I’m curious about how different things end up if you use little combined units vs regular characters.

My gut reaction is that you'd probably be making getting out of the city more complicated, as well as encountering slightly more complicated, but combat itself would be less complicated if you're just using campaigns and not battles, and XP allocation for the non henches/PCs would be simpler too.  So there's probably some tradeoffs.

I think it's a matter of action economy, in some part.

Combining, say, a 1st level fighter and a mercenary into a "unit" combines their actions - one attack and movement sequence that does the same thing - as opposed to two discrete actions. I'd be surprised if any bonus you get combining them into one unit would outweigh the reduction in actions.


Yeah, I suspect you are right about that. Also, it seems like creating and dissolving little 2-4 person units might be more trouble than it is worth, unless it can be done very dynamically.

So here’s an example…

A 1st level party:

Bladedancer, ld 4, SA 3

Delver, ld 4, SA 0

Machinist, ld 4, SA -1

Fighter, ld 4, SA 1

Priest, ld 5, SA 3

Thief, ld 4, SA -1

Given two lvl 0 npc men at arms, under this system, they should be commanded by the bladedancer. She would be able to coordinate them and her tactical “flair” would help them get +3 on initiative. So long as they stayed close. She could control more, but they might become hard to handle once combat got swinging.

The machinist has a 1 HD automaton, and he can control it, with 2 AP/round, but it would be hard to control more. The slow init wouldn’t matter hete, since the automaton is sloooow.

The priest has a war dog, 2 HD. He can command it, at 3 AP/command, and it gets an init bonus of 3. With the extra leadership, he could control the dog at a higher range.

I ran a skirmish with a hundred participants all told as a regular combat - it went fine. Took less time than a D&D4e combat of ten participants would, not least because most of the other side ran away or surrendered once the tide shifted against them.

I'll second this. I ran a battle where the PCs faced 120 beastmen with a rag-tag force of 70 as a regular combat. It went very smoothly, and, yes, more quickly and with better pacing than an average 4th Ed fight.

I believe it :slight_smile: I think the old school combat is wonderful for this. Note that in my idea, here, I’m just importing the command/control of these large groups down to the party level. This would mean defining who is commanding whom, and limiting pc control over such large engagements, rather than actually creating 2-4 person units.

This shouldn't be too surprising that these kinds of fights can happen quickly.  Consider that during heroic forays, the party will regularly be facing off against 1 and 2 BR of foes, often 120 beastment, and this is supposed to happen in between battle rounds!

I had the fortune of playing in a heroic foray with playtest rules run by Tavis one Gencon. It was quite a bit of fun to try and mow down gnolls before they finally surrounded and squashed my elven spellsword.