When You Need a Goonswarm  

Posted by Michael Donaldson in ,

Because of Spenser's dedication to NaNoWriMo (or whatever.) it falls upon me to actually post here more than once a month, and I have gladly taken this reign (retaken it?)

Sometimes, the gloves come off, and you need to ambush your mid-level party with more goblins than they have ever seen in their life. Done incorrectly, this can descend into a borefest. If you can get it right, though, the fight can descend into a beautiful, chaotic fray that is unhampered by the myriad of dice rolls you're going to need to make.

Getting the Dice Out of the Way

Many DMs have at some point ran or plan to run a massive battle but all too often (as some of you may know) the fight can bog down signifigantly when it comes time for the DM to take his LONG, LONG turn. The amount of time it takes for the combat to get back to any given player typically extends well past the threshold for players to not get bored, and the whole affair quickly becomes unenjoyable for everyone. Today, I've prepared a few tips for making large-scale battles work seamlessly.

  1. Memorize Important Statistics - You absolutely need to know the attack rolls, AC, and any other important data that will come up over and over again in combat. One of the things that can really bog down combat like this is when the DM has to check the attack bonus every single time he rolls for one of his forty or fifty monsters.
  2. Break It Up Into Bits - The bustle and sway of a massive war scene makes for great movie scenes, but if you notice, the main characters have their individual scenes where they make a difference in the battle and the massive fight is faintly in the background. Consider several important consecutive fights in which the party has no time to rest (or perhaps a few rounds at most) but musn't fight the entire batch at once
  3. Use Computer Dice - An internet dice roller allows seamless, large-scale rolling instantly. Let's say Arash, the Rogue, can't be hit by Evil Mook Type A unless they roll a 18, but there are 9 attacking him. Click, Click, 9d20, consult list of results.
  4. Minimize Memory - In 4th Edition, there are a class of mooks that only take one hit to kill. They're decent foes but no matter what level you are, it's just one hit. Sometimes for a big fight, you can take a lot off of your shoulders by not having to obsess about whether or not any given minion has been hit yet or not.
  5. Focus on the Players - Remember, D&D is about the players. If you get too caught up in the big battle scene you have planned since you got that box of 500 minis, they won't have fun. Then you'll be alone. And you won't have fun :)
Ever ran an epic battle scene? Tell me about it.

This entry was posted on November 2, 2009 at Monday, November 02, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


The most epic battle I've ever run was the climatic battle in Road To Urik, the 2nd Dark Sun adventure that followed the happenings of the 2nd Prism Pentad book.

The players had to help recruit numbers for their part in the battle, from free slaves, aristocracy and others.

Prior to the battle the party determined the tactics for different unit types, who'd be where and what they'd be doing. They used engineers to dig traps and all sorts of other planning.

All the time throughout the battle they had to cajole and lead their different units with a good does of roleplaying. The uncooperative nobles, over zealous slaves etc.

Still my players quote our Dark Sun campaign as one of the most memorable.

November 3, 2009 at 7:44 AM

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