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    Canonfire :: View topic - Hordes of monsters in AD&D modules
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    Hordes of monsters in AD&D modules
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    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Mon May 02, 2005 3:56 pm  
    Hordes of monsters in AD&D modules

    Hi

    I read A1-3, GDQ1-7.

    There are 40-80 monsters bands in these modules. It's not in spirit of 3.5e. Any ideas about this side of conversation?

    Thanks
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon May 02, 2005 4:38 pm  

    Well, the idea generally is the PCs are not directly engaging those hordes all at once. There is supposed to be a lot of RP about subterfuges, infiltration, etc in that.

    Also, the large bands are important to reflect that the PCs are invading the monsters' homelands rather than defending theirs.

    If you feel you need to scale down the combats (its not, imho, required by the 'spirit of 3.5'. The ToEE computer game successfully used the large hordes approach and its a 3.5e game), then what you should do is decide how challenging that combat is supposed to be. Establish the EL you want and replace the hordes with a smaller number of advanced creatures of the same type, sufficient to make up that EL.

    Just keep in mind that if the PCs don't feel a sense of being outnumbered and isolated behind enemy lines while playing those modules, they are missing the point big time.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Mon May 02, 2005 7:36 pm  

    I agree with Vormaerin. I'd really recommend keeping the hordes as is, but I can understand the problem that presents with game mechanics if your party decides to charge in blindly.

    If you wanna plan for that contingency, you've got a few options. I can't vouch for any of these (2 out of the 3 I've not even really looked into), but just so you're aware:

    - I *think* the Miniatures Handbook has mass combat rules.
    - Complete Warrior definitely introduces Tactical Feats, but YMMV on their use.
    - Coming out next month is Heroes of Battle. Here's the link to the blurb on the Wizard's site:

    http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=products/dndacc/860900000

    Good luck!
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    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Mon May 02, 2005 10:24 pm  

    Options for Massed Combat

    For resolving most mass combat situations (other than very large scale battles, such as sieges or conflicts between entire armies) I simply use dice odds. Against a pc with AC 20, a group of 20 monsters with a +1 bonus to hit will inflict two hits on the target- roll for damage. As a "20" always hits, even monsters that need a "20" to hit will hit 1 in 20 times(with a chance to critical if yet another "20" is rolled after the first).

    As it seems really lame that the massed hordes will simply line up and let high level pc's butcher them, I have a method of resolving this as well. Most massed forces will simply "press in" on an inferior number of opponents, with the aim of disarming and capturing them. I resolve this as follows:

    A group of four 10th level fighters stand back-to-back in four adjacent squares in the middle of a field as they fight off an orc horde of 200. There is no way that all 200 orcs can wield their weapons in close combat, yet they will not simply form a line to be butchered a few at a time by the four fighters. Using their massed numbers, the orcs will "press in" on the four fighters. In game terms this is represented by the orcs making a Grapple Attack against each fighter. Each orc in base-to-base contact may attempt such an attack against one of the fighters. The fighter will usally only have once attack of opportunity to stave off one Grapple attempt(in the press of massed combat, Combat Reflexes is worth its weight in gold!) If the Grapple Attack hits, the grappling orc gains a synergy bonus of +2 to Hold and Maintain the Grapple for each orc in a roughly direct line behind them, representing the crush of numbers. A failed Grapple attempt does nothing as usual. The +2 synergy bonus is only gained if the target being attacked has no open spaces to retreat to- they have to be completely surrounded by either friendly or enemy models or hemmed in by terrain, such as being up against a wall. Spaces occupied by friendly models are not considered to be open unless the friendly model is prone due to death/incapacitation. If there are any open spaces and a successful Grapple attempt cannot be Held, the target is instead pushed into an adjacent open space, regardless of its orientation- the target may fall back or step aside at their choice without provoking any attack of opportunity. The Grappling models are advanced forward by one space to take up the space vacated by the pushed back target. This may eventually lead to a target being pushed into a space without any other open spaces adjacent to it, in which case the target is in really big trouble. In any event, the round after the pc is successfully Grappled and Held, they will likely be Pinned by most of the orcs, while a few within base-to-base contact may attempt to disarm the character with a +4 bonus to their roll to do so, as per the regular options available to be used against a Pinned opponent. Eventually the pc will be disarmed of most of their weapons and/or equipment. Capture is imminent against such superior numbers.

    In the above instance heroic resistance against such odds will see many orcs dead in the attempt, but in the end the orcs will in all likelihood win out and the pc will be dragged down and either be hacked to pieces or captured(I usually opt for capture). This method of handling things allows for “heroic resistance”, but not in the face of insurmountable numbers. The main key for pc’s is DON’T GET SURROUNDED!

    So, under the above example, even the most powerful of warriors can be dragged down by the massed horde of weenies. Beware the "kobold wave attack"! At least the kobolds suffer from the size difference penalty and a low STR score to begin with, but in large enough numbers, even the lowly kobold can drag down a larger opponent.

    If you choose to use this system make your players aware of how it works. A simple demonstration out of game usually suffices. This will put the fear of large groups of wimpy monsters into them. They will see the danger of taking on entire villages of humanoids or entire armies on their own. They may do a lot of damage, but they will be killed or captured in the end. To avoid such a fate, you will more often see the wizard fireball the horde of wimpy monsters just to thin their ranks and allow the pc’s a chance for a successful "heroic resistance".

    In my opinion, this is as it should be. It makes for much more exciting game play as well.
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    Tue May 03, 2005 9:47 am  

    Nice idea, Cebrion

    Thanks
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue May 03, 2005 10:08 am  

    That is four fighters.
    Add a wizard, and a 20' burst of orcs disappears every round.
    Add a druid, and the defensive square becomes spike stones, and the orcs are crippled moving forward.
    Add a rogue, or worse a shadowdancer as we are talking high levels, and orcs randomly disappear from the middle of the hoard.

    The issues with massed combats in D20 is not so much killing them all, but the xp calculations.
    D1 was originally for 7-9 characters of 10th level. In 3.5, that means a party with an effective level of 12th. (Since 8 characters is double the standard 4, you would add 2 to their effective level for xp and el calculations. In the main cavern of D1, the hoard creatures are cr 1, 2, and 5. That means no xp for the cr 1 and 2 creatures, but 21,600 for the hoard of cr critters, not including leaders. Even more the encounter level is a theoretical 19. Theoretical, as the el table doesn't contemplate a hoard that size. (Presuming you get swarmed.)
    It is much worse in G1-3 where the characters are of lower level and the giants have gained significantly in the shift to 3.5 from hp increases, strength and thus damage increases, and the effects of reach. That means xp awards will bump the players up through levels astoundingly fast. And you actually need to be significantly more powerful for the G series than most of the D series.
    Reconciling that is a significant task, one I have not yet undertaken.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 13, 2002
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    Tue May 03, 2005 5:11 pm  
    Hordes

    This is actually one area that I have a fair amount of experiance, as one of my campaigns has focused almost exclusively on hordes of goblins. Cebrion's system seems excellent, and is similar (though far more detailed) than mine.

    Sams point is also well taken. The traditional mix of classes can pose special problems for hordes of weak creatures. However, I think, just as fighters are countered by the grapple scenerio (and you could add trip/bull rush/overrun/sunder/ and disarm attacks to this), each class has it's weakness, and with quality DMing, can be made to fear (rightfully I think) hordes of weak creatures.

    First, every large group has a leader. The leadership feat has a chart for the level of the leader and the number of followers. If you have 20 kobolds following a "leader," he should have a leadership score of 15, or have a level of approximately 15!!! Say kobolds are twice as likely to follow, so he only needs half the levels to keep the same number of followers, he is still 8th level. Not absolute power, but this savy little creature could wreck someones day if their assumption is that he is going to get blown away.

    Second, as to Fireball spells and such, i use a modified cover rule. If 80 orcs are moving in on a mage, and he casts fireball, I grant cover by the ranks. If a creature of equal size is between you and the point of impact, they grant 1/2 cover. First rank has 0 cover, 2nd has 1/2, 3rd has 3/4, and the fourth rank has full. This is assuming tightly packed groups. I grant a similar bonus to my players under similar circumstances.

    All that is good stuff, but I think the most important decision is how to handle mass combat as a whole. I have tried various minature systems, statistics, rolling for group hits... I have even used Risk rules. For me (and my players) the most satisfying has been a cinematic approach. The large scale battle is going on around them, and they are aware of the general ebbs and flow, but winning and loosing is a lot hazier subject. They see where their friends and troops are succeeding and failing, and this often gives them short term goals and objectives which I use to chart the final outcome.

    In the largest and most climactic battle I have ever staged, the Heros were defending a small town on the edge of the Dim Forest from an organized invasion of goblins, lead by hobgoblins and supported by a few giants.

    The Heros had militia, some Army units, and a small contingent of Knights (of the Watch) to aid them. The battle hinged on the heros a) plugging a break in the lines during the initial battle b) stopping a magical incursion that they repeled but lost a pc, c) spotting and stopping a group of hill giants attempting to gain an unobserved position from which to launch boulders, and d) a final charge at dusk in a wild and glorious attempt to kill the 15th level Goblin priest which was leading this little endevor. Both sides had over 500 specific persons/units (actually the goblins had a 3 to 1 advantage with nearly 1500 goblins, there were 12 PCs).

    Each foray was greatly anticipated, and often it was just a DM description as the PCs shouted encouragement and adjusted troops, and looked for openings where their special skills would be of use. They found web to be far more effective than fireball, and used walls of stone to great effect. But only in the key points listed above were the PCs directly responsible for success or failure. In the last desperate charge (cause the good guys were getting ground down over 4 days of battle), the paladin slew the priest (with him was the shadow dancer and a druid). On the retreat to the city, his mount was tripped, and the end result was that he died.

    And the whole time he was rolling up a new character he was saying "Now that is how a Paladin should go out!"

    My point is that hordes and mass combat can be among the best of D&D and roleplaying experiances. Unlike musty dungeons where the PCs are nearly alone, and the non party memebers (the monsters) usually die, these are actions taken in front of groups. Whether friendly or hostile, these are the encounters where the PCs reputation is made. Conquering the Tomb of Horrors is great, and the last 5 guys drinking tequila at the bar claim to have done it. THis is where reputations are made. Your PCs conquered the Astral Plane, great, but no one on Oerth knows where that is.

    I like the cinematic approach, and modifications suggested above really made our experiance that much better. Personally, I would trade in most super monsters and put in the Goblin Horde any day of the week.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Wed May 04, 2005 1:09 am  

    Certainly the higher level the pc's are the more easily they will be able to defend themselves against a massed horde of critters. In most cases it will probably happen that the pc's are not conveniently(for them) set in a defensive square. There will be spaces between them where enemies can get at them. Anyone who becomes separated is in REALLY big trouble.

    A mix of classes might seem rather good, but seldom will the druid, mage, or rogue have the all important Combat Reflexes feat and the base attack bonus and damage bonus to be guaranteed to drop the average humanoid foe that gives them an attack of opportunity. Plus, any of those spell casters(who are not known for their ultimate STR scores) better not get grappled or they are screwed, as spells with somatic components(which includes most spells) cannot be cast when you are being grappled, and they will most likely not have the slightest chance of breaking away. They might get one spell off, or even two, but probably not a third. Non-warrior types are usually not known for their exceptional STR(or hit points) or the most appropriate feats, so a grappling horde will take them out much more quickly.

    There are of course always ways to most likely stop the attacking horde, as in Samwise's example. It certainly isn't foolproof though, and more importantly, the element of danger still remains and that is the important part. Is it worth the risk, and worth the spells and item use to take on the horde, or do you simply just ride away from them.
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    Master Greytalker

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    Wed May 04, 2005 1:20 am  
    Cebrion

    Hey Ceb, have you thought of making your above post some sort of formal submission. It would be great to have, though as an article it may not have enough "greyhawk," content.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed May 04, 2005 1:13 pm  

    Also bear in mind that there are a lot more options for higher level parties in 3.5. Particularly the more you add on to the core rules.
    I can easily see a 10th level party of 8 all being able to get aerial in order to frustrate a terrestial hoard.
    Or they can dimension door out of an open area and to someplace they can put their backs to the wall.
    Their fighters can have such massive Strength scores that the chance of their being bull rushed or grappled is so low as to be irrelevant.
    Worse, their fighters can have freedom of movement cast on them and be immune to grappling.
    They can have clerics with wands of cure light wounds in reserve to deal with minor damage that might get past their armor class.
    They will have scrolls of unusual spells for use in emergency.
    They will have items to gain a moment's respite to prepare them.
    And on and on.

    And all that is assuming you don't just adjust the numbers. As I mentioned, without leaders the hoard of CR 5 critters in D1 is EL 19. That means they would be near death for a party of 8 13th level PCs. They should be absolutely certain death for a party that is just 10th level. How to reconcile that?
    My answer is to wing it. That's what i wound up doing with Night Below, and what I will do if we ever turn to the GDQ series.
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    Wed May 04, 2005 1:49 pm  

    [And all that is assuming you don't just adjust the numbers. As I mentioned, without leaders the hoard of CR 5 critters in D1 is EL 19. That means they would be near death for a party of 8 13th level PCs. They should be absolutely certain death for a party that is just 10th level. How to reconcile that?
    My answer is to wing it. That's what i wound up doing with Night Below, and what I will do if we ever turn to the GDQ series.[/quote]

    I will adjust case in GDQ like EL17 battle (main hall with lots of Giants) for 4 12-th level PCs by a decreasing monsters number (and it has one plus - I'll not need lots of expensive miniatures).
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed May 04, 2005 4:01 pm  

    One more thing about this discussion.

    I'm totally new in D&D (only one adventure from starter box as DM) and need in the expert's advice.

    For the case with lots of Giants (EL17). This battle has too much EL after conversion because CR of giants was changed from 1.0 to 3.5. I can easy to change battle's EL, but it is very interestingly to know which EL author meant, may be this battle has to be deathly for PCs. I can not to compare CR from 1.0 and 3.5 because 1.0 edition has not CR conception. But every monster in 1.0 has value in experience points. May be I can to use this value for to evaluate monster's CR?

    Patriarhies, your opinion?

    (Sorry for my English, I'm Russian)
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Thu May 05, 2005 2:08 am  
    Re: Cebrion

    Anced_Math wrote:
    Hey Ceb, have you thought of making your above post some sort of formal submission. It would be great to have, though as an article it may not have enough "greyhawk," content.



    Well, this rules post was just something that I use only occasionally. I might be inclined to write it up in a more finished format(add yet another project to the list), but I'd first like to see how the Heroes of Battle book might cover this type of thing. If it doesn't cover combat with massed hordes vs. your average adventuring party then I'll be more inclined to write it up. As an article it would be rather small actually- the post pretty much covers everything.

    It isn't every day in my campaign that the pc's run into a horde of anything. I arbitrarily chose four 10th level fighters for the subjects, as these are typical combat monsters so to speak, but I find that the "humanoid horde" is mostly encountered in adventures of levels 4-10 usually. The original A-series and Slavers fall right in there. The higher level GDQ series has some instances of "humanoid hordes", but these are even more dangerous as the humanoids comprising the hordes tend to be of a nastier sort- bugbears and kuo-toans being right at the top of the bunch. Powerful and resourceful pc's will have much less to worry about though.
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    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Thu May 05, 2005 2:19 am  

    As to Samwise's comparison of the relative EL's of the G and D series, that is a pretty important problem. Giants(and dragons) have gained much in the edition translation, such that the G series is much more dangerous than the adventures that come after(for the most part). As the GDQ series is the next main adventure series I'll be using in my camapign, I'll be paying very close attention to any further discussion on this interesting dilema.
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    Last edited by Cebrion on Fri May 13, 2005 11:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri May 13, 2005 9:54 am  

    Vormaerin wrote:
    If you feel you need to scale down the combats (its not, imho, required by the 'spirit of 3.5'. The ToEE computer game successfully used the large hordes approach and its a 3.5e game)


    I think the point is that the game mechanics become cumbersome and slow with large groups of creatures. Computer games can handle this smoothly because the computer is taking care of the mechanics, but on pencil and paper your average battle with a dozen hill giants will take an hour (or more!). I agree that 3.5 is not meant to handle hordes of monsters in combat. I think there’s even a quote somewhere in the section on finding the CR for multiple monsters that says something to the effect of if you have to throw hordes of monsters at the PCs you should consider using harder monsters.

    But as has been pointed out, reducing the hordes in the GDQ1-7 detracts from the feel of the modules. I’d suggest some sort of simplified battle resolution mechanics, such as the excellent ones posted by Cebrion, rather than greatly reducing the numbers whenever possible.

    As others have said, I’d also encourage focusing on stealth, avoiding encounters, ambushes, and quick fights vs. select targets such as leaders when possible. In this way the hordes of monsters and resulting mood that they create is still present, but you avoid much of the mass combat. The PCs should know that, even as powerful as they are, a frontal assault on the Vault of the Drow will result in their swift demise.
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