Fighter’s Armies

Caesar in Gaul

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I spend a lot of time coming up with interesting subsystems for magic users. I’ve done this a bit for clerics as well, and I suppose specialists benefit from my extensive tinkering with skills–even if part of my tinkering is to make skills available to other classes. But what about fighters? Why don’t they get any love?

It’s not because I don’t love fighters. I actually think they’re the single most important class in the game.  But these days, when I sit down to roll up a new character, I’m never thinking thematically. I’m not choosing between the feeling of being a wizard or a fighter. What I’m choosing is how much complexity I want to deal with. If I play a magic user, I need to prepare myself for dealing with spells, and spell systems, contributing to combat without putting myself in direct danger, etc. If I’m a fighter, literally the only thing I have to worry about is the game itself. When combat happens, I jump forward. When I level up, some numbers increase in a pre-determined way.

The simplicity of the fighter is important. It allows the players to engage in the game without worrying about extraneous rules. To me, that simplicity is sacrosanct. It’s something I want to protect. However, there is one bit of complexity I want to explore: armies.

It’s an ancient tradition of the game that at some point the fighter reaches “Name Level,” and recruits an army. I’ve never seen it happen in play, but I’ve always wanted to try it out, tinker with it, make it work for me. And now, finally, I’ve got a player who is forcing me to do so. He’s high level, he’s recruiting some dudes, and he wants to start an army. So…how am I going to run this?

If, at any point during a fighter’s adventuring career, they establish a stronghold, then they may recruit an army. Strongholds can take many forms, but they all count so long as 1. they are large enough to house the fighter’s army; and 2. the fighter, or the party as a whole, can reasonably claim & assert ownership of the place. (For example, having a deed to an old castle doesn’t count, unless you’ve cleared out all the monsters first).

Eager young men and women will flock to the fighter, seeking to make a name and a fortune for themselves. For each experience level the fighter has, they attract 1d4 recruits, modified by their Charisma. So, (assuming LotFP’s ability modifier table), a level 4 fighter with 14 Charisma could recruit 4d4+4 young folk; while the same fighter with 7 Charisma could recruit 4d4-4.

Each recruit begins as a level 0 fighter, with a morale score equal to 1/2 their general’s level. Groups of soldiers check their morale collectively, and have a maximum morale score of 10.  If their general is leading them personally, add 3 to their morale score. (again, with a maximum of 10)

Recruits can be leveled up as a group. Each new level requires 1 month of time, and some amount of money. To get the recruits up to level 1 from level 0 costs 500 money per recruit. After that, the cost per soldier is equal to half the experience totals listed in the fighter’s class description. So, to reach level 2, the general must spend 1000 money for every soldier. Level 3 requires 2000 money for every soldier, and so on.

Soldiers can also level up through combat. After any session where a significant battle took place, each surviving soldier rolls a d6. If they roll over their current level, they level up once.

If the general wishes, they can elevate individual soldiers to become commanders. Commanders must be trained to at least 1 level higher than the rest of the troops, and this training must be done at full cost for each level. Normal hirelings can also be employed as commanders, so long as they are fighters who are at least 1 level higher than the troops they will be leading.

Each commander may lead a group of up to 10 soldiers at a time. That group gains +1 to their morale. This bonus does not stack with the +3 the troops gain from being led directly by their general.

If any soldier reaches 1/2 of their general’s level (rounded up), they must check morale. If the check is failed, then the soldier has chosen to strike out and seek adventure in their own right. This check is repeated each time they level, so long as they continue to be 1/2 or higher than their general’s current level. If a whole group of soldiers reaches this point, they check their morale individually.

During combat, each time a group of soldiers loses 25% of their total fighting force, they must check morale by rolling 2d6. If they roll higher than their morale, they will flee the field. If they roll equal to or lower than their morale, they hold. If a group of soldiers sees another group flee the field, then they must also check morale.

Combat with armies is based off of Zak Sabbath‘s rules for skirmishes, presented in A Red & Pleasant Land. Assuming there is no special strategy in place, friend and foe are paired off, one-to-one, in  groups of roughly equivalent level. In any battle that takes place between two NPCs, roll a d4 for each side, and add the NPC’s levels. Whichever side rolls higher has slain the other.

Given the low die and the matching of levels, ties will likely occur often. When there is a tie, neither side is killed, and the battle continues next round.

If multiple NPCs gang up on a single foe, each NPC rolls a d4, and adds them together. However, only one of the group (the one with the highest level) should add their level to the roll.

Note that these rules are only a loose groundwork, meant to keep battles fast-paced in a game which is not built for large scale combats. The referee should be flexible, making adjustments for any cleverness on the part of either their players, or their monsters. But do not bog yourself down attempting to create an accurate simulation of events. Since everyone involved is an NPC, it’s best to get things out of the way quickly so the actual players can resume playing.

Some (non-binding) thoughts on adjudicating tactics:

  • If the general has their soldiers swarm a target rather than stay organized into ranks, their soldiers will be vulnerable to flanking. Flanked soldiers cannot add their level to their d4 roll.
  • If the general equips their soldiers with spears, the folks in the second rank can also attack a target, effectively doubling the number of soldiers who get to roll d4s against a single foe.
  • If the general equips all their men with long pole-weapons, then the enemy troops will not approach close enough to be killed unless they also have long pole-weapons.
  • If the soldiers are heavily armored, are using a shield wall, are fighting defensively, or are otherwise trained/equipped to be well defended, then if their foes roll higher than them by 1, it is considered a tie. (They do not get +1 to their rolls).
  • If the soldiers are mounted, and there is room on the battlefield for them to move between their foes quickly, then they may also add 1/2 their mount’s hit dice to their rolls (minimum 1).
  • If a mounted soldier is attacking a fleeing soldier, it is an automatic kill, without any roll required.
  • If soldiers are under an arrow bombardment, they may roll as usual, but success only indicates that they survive, not that they kill their foes.
  • Soldiers equipped with ranged weapons in a melee combat take a -2 penalty on their rolls.

Replacing dead soldiers is difficult. A fighter’s army is not a mercenary force which can be sustained by throwing money at it. Men and women pledge themselves to the fighter, because the fighter is an inspiring figure. And so, to replace fallen soldiers, the fighter must do something inspiring.

Each time the fighter levels up, or their army wins some notable victory, the fighter may re-roll their recruitment dice. (1d4/level, modified by Cha). If they roll higher than their current army size, then they gain enough new recruits to cover the difference. So, if they currently have 10 soldiers, and they roll a 12, then they gain 2 level 0 recruits.

As a final note, I’ll point out that armies are a limited tool. It would be difficult, and pointless, for a fighter to drag their troops along on every adventure. Armies are noisy to move, require a lot of rations out in the field, and cannot fit into smaller areas, such as dungeon corridors. Furthermore, they’re bad at fighting anything which strays from what they would consider “normal.” In a historical fantasy setting, this would limit an army to fighting other groups of humans. Whereas anything like a wizard or a monster would require a morale check every time their foe did anything weird. (Eat a man whole? Morale check. Spray fire from its mouth? Morale check. Etc.)

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