Kevin Crawford
▶ Discussion
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

Some draft ideas about shield walls for Wolves of God , my 710 AD Anglo-Saxon England project. The general idea is to make getting caught out alone by multiple coordinated assailants a lethally dangerous prospect, while making shield wall tactics relevant to small adventuring groups.

Mobbing
Multiple intelligent foes or pack-hunting beasts may choose to Mob a single target in melee combat. All participants in the mobbing must choose to act at the same time, on the initiative turn of the slowest member. They attack normally, but gain a bonus on all attack rolls equal to half their Hit Dice or character level, rounded up, and the same bonus on their damage rolls. Even if a Mobbing enemy misses their attack roll, they still inflict this bonus damage on the target.

No more than a half-dozen man-sized enemies may normally Mob a single man-sized target at once. If the attackers are formed up in a shield wall or otherwise held in formation, only three assailants may Mob a single foe in front of them at once.

Targets who have the benefit of a shield wall cannot be Mobbed, nor can Mobbing be used with ranged attacks. Beasts and foes that are Fell and terrible cannot be Mobbed.

Shield Walls
Combatants may choose to form a shield wall if they have shields and experience in forming one with their allies. To do so, all participants must voluntarily delay their action that round until it is the slowest participant's turn. Then all warriors move together into either a line or a square. Once they are in formation, they gain the benefits of the shield wall and retain them as long as they remain in formation and continue to hold a shield, provided at least two warriors remain standing in the wall.

Shield walls can either be a single line of warriors taking up about four feet of frontage per man or a square of about two feet of width per participant. Even two warriors can form a line, or can make up a "square" if they fight back to back. Lines face in a particular direction, while squares face all directions. A group can change formation or direction on their turn if their movement for the round is sufficient for such reconfiguration.

Well-coordinated shield walls can move on their turn in a round. Lines can move up to two-thirds their usual maximum movement and squares can move one-third their maximum. Individual members may choose to break the line and move freely on any round, but they can't then rejoin it until the next round. The wall is assumed to shrink or expand automatically to allow for these breaks and for losses, provided its members still have heart to fight.

An assailant can break through a shield wall by felling the opponent before him and passing through it. If they move so, however, they automatically suffer a free attack from the shield wall members to the left and right of the breach. Particularly large warbands may form shield walls of multiple lines to prevent an attacker from getting through until many defenders have been slain. Forming a line with a wall or other obstacle at one's back can also prevent any breakthroughs.

Participants in a shield wall gain a +2 bonus to armor class, a +1 bonus to Morale, and cannot be Mobbed. Lines forfeit these benefits against any assailants from the rear or flanks. Squares lose them if the foe manages to break the square and attack from within. Squares consisting of fewer than ten warriors are too small to be broken into.

Dave Sherohman
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

"They attack normally, but gain a bonus on all attack rolls equal to half their Hit Dice or character level"

You might want to explicitly clarify whether these are singular "they" (each mobber gets a bonus equal to half of their own, personal HD/level) or plural "they" (each mobber gets a bonus equal to half the total HD/levels of everyone in the mob).

Matt Kay
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

I know that it's the very point, but Mobbing seems almost too lethal. I'd also recommend making it a bit clearer as to how many assailants are needed to make up a Mob - so Mobbing is only possible if there are at least 3 assailants vs 1 isolated target (or 4 assailants, or whatever).

I'd also reduce the shield wall movement to half normal. 2/3 seems a bit too much, at least without penalties.

Matt Kay
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

Oh, and as someone also working on a Dark Ages game, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the next draft!

Kevin Crawford
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

I'd have to clarify that "they" is each individual attacker using their own hit die total.

As for Mobbing lethality, that's a tone question I still have to decide on. If I'm going for martial verisimilitude, a single warrior jumped by two equally-competent foes is in deadly trouble. He's probably going to die unless he gets very lucky. Put three or four men against him and his death is almost a foregone conclusion. Even a crack swordmaster is going to be sweating bullets if he gets dropped in against four minimally-competent goons.

The issue is that most gamers are used to a gaming verisimilitude where a crack swordmaster is going to mulch a half-dozen common foes at once without taking more than cosmetic injuries. If Hrothgar the hero goes down because he got jumped by a trio of generic Picts they may not find it all that terribly fun- any more than they'll be terribly satisfied by an enemy king getting blended by the four party members all ganging up on him at once.

I can go with a more "heroic" tone and make mob attacks less effective, but that neuters the basic point of the shield wall, which is to keep the enemy from ganging up on any one individual. If what the shield wall is defending against isn't all that bad, then there's progressively less value in making the mobility and independence trade-offs that it allows.

Michael Stevens
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

So, is there any advantage to size in your shield wall? I'm not seeing why, if I'm in a party of four, I'd want to form a square of all four, instead of breaking into two groups of two. I understand longer lines are harder to flank, but squares can't be flanked, only broken, and fewer than ten warriors can't be broken, so arranging my 20 men into a few small squares seems better than one big square.

Matt Kay
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

I think the concept of Mobbing is sound. Defending against 3 or more opponents should be lethal in this setting. I guess it's the guaranteed damage on a miss that rubs me a little the wrong way. It's basically telling players that they don't have a chance, whereas I think they should have at least a small chance of survival. Maybe give the opponents extremely high attacking bonuses if they isolate a target, so statistically they should come out on top, but the dice could still roll badly, in which case they haven't coordinated their attack very well...

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

It's so much easier done in FATE. And so much more accurate.

Sorry for non-constructive comment, but I just can't help comparing

Dave Sherohman
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

a) At least try to be constructive, by, say, explaining how simple it is and what makes it so accurate.

b) "FATE" and "more accurate" are not things that I'm used to seeing used together, unless you mean "accurate to dramatic stories" rather than "accurate to real life". Which makes perfect sense given that Fate generally aims to emulate dramatic stories, not the real world.

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

Well, as a medieval European martial arts enthusiast I used to fight in sport variant of a shield wall. It makes so many differences big and small. I believe no stats operated system could model it realistically. There are so many situations, dos and donts.

FATE on the contrary gives you an Aspect. 'Shield Wall!' And you can compel or tag it in every way that seems appropriate. .. to your table. The most importantly in the ways not foreseen beforehand.
This is the situation when the less is more and the rough model is more accurate

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Dave Sherohman you see, answering your questions was not constructive at all. It looks like flame bait too much and it's not useful at all

Sorry once again. I love the works of Kevin Crawford, backed SWNR and never wanted to start a counter-productive discussion in any way

Dave Sherohman
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Daniel Danilenko Hrm, ok. I assumed you had a rule more specific than just "add an Aspect" in mind. Thanks for the answer regardless - it was useful to me, even if not to anyone else.

Aaron Hamric
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

Larger shield walls allow for a second or even third rank to fight with longer weapons. In addition, the wider and deeper a shield wall is, the harder it is to flank and mob.

If you have three men abreast, slipping around back and surrounding the line is easy, unless you’re in a narrow corridor or terrain or construction. Two in front and one in back means that the man in back will get horribly surrounded if flanked, whereas in a 2x2, the enemies would be evenly distributed, which seems preferable.

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Kevin Crawford I believe a swordmaster hero still may have good chances to survive several minimally competent attackers. Because they don't want to die. So after a couple of exchanges they may just reconsider their intentions. Especially if the first counterattack results in wounding one of them. This is no bar fight or sport tournament. If your buddy fell and lying on the ground bleeding and screaming, it's discouraging

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Aaron Hamric A shield wall one man thin is easy to break. Sort of.

Backup guys behind the ranks deal with enemies who break through. Or just fell and needs to be finished.

Short blades are handy for the later, long arms like spears and axes for the later

Kevin Crawford
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Daniel Danilenko That's pretty much a by-the-book Morale failure, since they have to check Morale after the first one of them is killed.

In a larger sense, one of the main problems of mechanizing a shield wall is that it's most characteristic of large-scale engagements rather than bloody tussles between eight to ten people. If I'm going to make issues like flanking and rear attacks relevant at the individual PC level, I'm going to have to commit to a much heavier-gauge, more granular combat system than most players are typically interested in embracing. I need to create mechanical reasons why it's a good idea to go into a shield wall.

Also, shield walls are deeply boring to most players. They rely entirely on a PC remaining exactly where they should be and not maneuvering away or doing anything other than stabbing the guy opposite you. If you incentivize it hard enough, you discourage the players from ever doing anything but locking shields and rolling dice until somebody falls over. However realistic this may be, it's not going to fire the imagination of most players.

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

And speaking of breaking a shield wall. What about wedge and train formations? They should have some hefty bonuses for that task

At the cost of additional danger for the first liners

Aaron Hamric
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Daniel Danilenko Roman Imperial Legions fighting the “barbarians” in England were outnumbered massively by local troops. The locals were very brave and often quite skilled at fighting, but when they clashed with a disciplined shield wall they were constantly rebuffed, constantly charging and retreating, taking waves of casualties over and over again. Relying on personal bravery, lacking any military drilling, and the local’s belief in fighting as a man and not as a coordinated unit is what kept driving them back.

Using some sort of morale rules, or at least GMing attackers as people with a sense of self-preservation in combat would definitely favor the coordinated unit using a shield wall. A few casualties would drive attackers back to either withdraw or regroup and build courage for the next assault. Perhaps NPCs drilled to fight as a unit and trusting in their comrades for support standing in a shield wall would get a small morale bonus?

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Kevin Crawford Hm. Being boring to be in a wall, maybe the game should encourage fighting against it. Flanking and breaking through and tearing men from it. That kind of stuff...

Aaron Hamric
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Kevin Crawford I agree with you on shield walls not being exciting. It should mostly come up in larger skirmishes or proper mass combat, which I assume would be simulated differently from normal combat.

5e Unearthed Arcana has an interesting take on doing larger battles while still using mostly the same combat rules. It allows for PCs to still be big heroes and run off to complete critical objectives as well.

media.wizards.com - media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/2017_UAMassCombat_MCUA_v1.pdf

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

It could be done with GMing instead of rules.

Treat shield walls as default tactics. Something both allies and enemies do. And then ballance the opposition to be stronger than allies. Like, the way it goes your side is going to lose, but you have some time to do something because of your shield wall. What do you do?

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

To encourage exciting counter shield wall actions and make boring shield walls a background you need more various rules focused on counter shield wall actions. Like the rule for breaking through you wrote at the beginning

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Kevin Crawford as for mobbing and morale failures. I mean 'gaming' heroics may be not all that unrealistic, if it means scattering enemies instead of killing them all

Once again it could be matter of GMing instead of rules

Daniel Danilenko
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

+Aaron Hamric Oh! With that example. Romans vs barbarians.

Rules could focus on morale penalty for losing formation instead of bonus on being in it. To encourage improbable and unrealistic but exciting heroics.

Because being hero means to do improbable things and having unrealistic record. Winning against the odds etc

Mason Munden
2018-03-24T01:31:22.713Z

Glorious. Mobbing is perfectly lethal. I love it. Do you happen to have a new draft for WoG?