Horde Combat

It’s a staple of the sword-and-sorcery genre: characters will encounter situations where they’re completely outnumbered. A war party sets an ambush for instance, or a ship is boarded by pirates. Possibly they’re attacked by a horde of ravenous beasts, or just have a misunderstanding with a mob of angry commoners. There is an entire section of the encounter tables in Blood & Iron dedicated to encountering a horde of creatures. Being the heroes that they are, most characters will want to wade right in and begin slaughtering them. Well and good for players, but for the Games Master all that bookkeeping can be a nightmare.

The following is a simplified system to pit player characters against literally dozens of foes at once.

Battling the Horde

Each player attacks and rolls damage as normal. If the damage dealt by the player character is less than the horde’s character level (the “Drop Threshold”) the members of the horde are still standing. If the rolled damage is greater than the horde’s Drop Threshold, the Games Master should make a tic mark on a sheet of paper. Each tic represents a member of the horde who has fallen in battle.

For example, Gunnar is fighting a horde of 3 HD level pirates. The Drop Threshold is 3. For every 3 damage his attacks deal, a pirate falls.

In the same way that a PC can never be attacked by more than 6 opponents at a time, he cannot kill more than 6 opponents in a round, regardless of the amount of damage he deals.

If the horde hasn’t routed (see below) by the time the Games Master has made tic marks equal to the number of the horde, they’re all dead or incapacitated.

Routing the Horde

For every 5 members of the horde who fall (5 tics on the GM’s tracking sheet) make a Morale Save. Add a +1 circumstance modifier to the roll for ever 5 members of the horde still standing. If the roll succeeds, the horde continues the attack. If the roll fails, the horde is routed. Any members of the horde not currently engaged in combat will immediately run away, and those in melee will disengage and run on their next action.

For example, Gunnar’s band of mercenaries is being overrun by 40 nomads. When 5 nomads have been killed the games master makes a morale check for them at a +6 to the roll. The roll succeeds, so the nomads continue their attack. After 10 have been killed, another check is made at a +5. They fail this roll, and begin to fall back.

Falling to the Horde

Only six members of a horde can attack a character in melee at a time. The Games Master should consider each of these as a single opponent and make a single die roll to attack. If the roll hits, roll 6d of the appropriate type for the horde’s weapons for damage. The player can deduct from the damage sustained.

For example, the Games Master rolls and hits Gunnar. The horde is using arming swords, so the GM rolls 6d10, for a total of 35 points. Gunnar is wearing armor with DR 4, so he only takes 11 points (35 minus 24).

For ranged combat, the games master should make one die roll for every 5 members of the horde, and roll 5d of the appropriate type for damage. The player can deduct DR X 5 from the damage sustained.

For example, the Games Master rolls and hits Gunnar with a volley from the horde’s archers (10 archers, in this case). The GM rolls 10d6, for a total of 26 points. Gunnar is wearing a leather jerkin with DR 4, but the arrows have AP 2, so he only gets DR 2. Gunnar takes six points (26 minus 20).

As each member of the horde falls, another will takes his place so that each character will always be facing the maximum number of opponents. If the numbers of the horde are depleted to a point where characters are facing less than 6 opponents in melee or less than 10 in ranged combat, and the horde miraculously hasn’t routed, simple decrease the number of damage dice to equal the number of opponents.

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