Against the Thundering Horde


I've put together highly cinematic house rules for when players need to face down large groups of opponants -- a hundred raging Picts, a pirate boarding party, a mob of angry villagers, and so on. This is different from the mass combat rules because it pits individual characters against the horde, not unit-to-unit combat. All feedback is appreciated.

They're available from my site:

I've also uploaded the file to the ConanD20 Yahoo! Group file area.
I really really need to read this and the stuff that was sent via SoC on Mass combat. I have a prequel scenario where we start in media res with the heroes in the middle of a combat.

I want the combat to advance a bit as a grand melee (allowing the young heroes to test out their combat abilities) before having my arch villian stride through the combat. He's a Stygian scholar with a demonic pact. (specs not yet determined). I want non-PC fighters to rush him and allow him a defensive blast that will kill most of the generic fighters.

My resolution to this is to divide the combat up onto quadrants. PC's and anyone directly fighting them will have Initiative roles, everyone else will act when the quadrant's initiative is up.

To resolve the conflicts -

Every third melee round, I will roll a die for each combatant in a group. (either 1 on 1 or 1+ on 1) If the numbers rolled are within 3 of each other, than the combat continues. If the numbers rolled are not within 3, then one combatant dies.

Example - Fighter A is in combat with Fighter B. On the third melee round, I roll a 10 sided die for each and compare the results. Fighter A's result is 3, fighter B's result is 7. Fighter B wins the combat and Fighter A is (killed/maimed/knocked out) taken out of the combat.

Note: Combatants can move during each initiative round.

This allows me to focus on the individual battle and give the players a feeling for progress of the battle without rolling every to hit attempt or arbitrarily decide. The PC's can be heroic if they are able to dispatch their enemies quicker than 3 rounds and will have an impact on the melee. If I want, I can strengthen or weaken odds by adding bonuses to one side or another - or even allow a side to roll a different die. (d12 or d8 for example)

If more than one combatant faces someone, I rolled for each combatant and compared the numbers all the same. If Fighter A & C are meleeing Fighter B and the rolls are 3, 8 & 7 then I proclaimed that B defeated A while fighting C to a draw for that macro round.

It worked, my son's liked it and I'll try it out on my older players soon.

Arkobla Conn, you've GOT to read what I wrote. It sounds like what you're looking for.

Basically, I treat a horde as a single creature, with one attack roll against each PC to keep bookkeeping simple. If it hits, roll 6d whatever for damage (ex. an arming sword does d10, so roll 6d10), since no more than 6 opponents can flank a single character. Less the character's DRx6, of course.

The level of the horde + DR is the "drop threshold". For example, a horde of 2nd level pirates wearing chain shirts (DR5) would have a Drop Threshold of 7. If a PC does 7 or more points of damage in an attack on the horde, cross one off. If it does less than seven, no one falls. If you've got a boarding party of 50 pirates rushing the party, this is easier than keeping track of 50 separate HP scores. You make a tic mark on a piece of paper to track how many enemies have fallen; that's it.

There's more to it, I've got rules for the enemy routing and running away as well, but that's the gist of it.

To have two enemy groups face each other (like the PC and an NPC army against an enemy horde), you could just make attack rolls and then roll a die (d6? d10?) to indicate how many from each side have fallen.

For example: side A attack side B. you roll a d20 and it's a hit. Roll a d6, get a 4, so 4 people on side B are down.

Side B counterattacks, and missed. No casualties on Side A this round.

It's fast and loose, quick 'n' dirty, but it might work.
I will definately read what you wrote. (just not at work ;) )

I use minitures, so the mini's are spread out in a battle, completely integrated one army to the next. Unsure if the hording is quite what Im' looking for there, as one side didn't have much more than the other. Regardless, I'll be using hordes soon enough....

UncleBear: looks really good. The only problem I see is your archery example - the value used for DR is incorrect. Your example has his DR multiplied by 6, not 10. The text should read:
For example: the games master rolls and hits Gunnar with a volley from the horde's archers. The GM rolls 10d6 for a total of 26 points. Gunnar is wearing a leather jerkin with DR4, but the arrows have AP2, so he only gets DR2. Gunnar takes six points ( 26 - 20 ).
Thanks Bombaatu. What's a Conan RPG resource without typos in the first release, eh? :wink:

Fixed and re-uploaded to both my site and the Yahoo group.
Interesting stuff.

  • It looks like you're only considering a small group (the PCs) versus a large group. How well do you think this would this work for two large (20-40) groups fighting?

    Do you use the Many-on-one bonus for the hordes?

    One interesting implication of this system is that the horde level need not be the same as the average horde member's level. A strong motivation or leader could kick a horde's level up a bit. Remove that, and the horde gets weaker. That would be easy to do with this system.

    I think something's missing from the paragraph following "Falling to the Horde". What do players deduct? The example implies DRx6.

    Also, do AP2 arrows really reduce a DR4 Leather jerkin to DR2? I thought they needed to be AP4 to do that. Have I misunderstood how ranged weapons pierce armour?
I personally feel if the PCs try to tackle a horde alone they deserve to be Left for Dead. If you remember to use Aid Another, finesse attacks, trips and grapples, your players will learn not to charge the horde. :) Different styles...

(A good Intimidate check helps against hordes, of course. Nobody wants to be first in line to tackle the tenth level Barbarian.)
I'm working on an expanded and revised version, based on some feedback and additional playtesting of my own. In addition to PC-vs-horde, I'm going to add horde-vs-horde rules, plus clarification on the "aid another" situation (it's in there, factored into the BAB for the hordes and noted with an asterisk on the chart, but not clearly called out in the text).

Thanks folks,
Isn't those rule a little brutal for unarmoured character?? I mean that 6d10 can drop even the mightiest hero in no time! Of course with a leather jerkin the problem is solved, but with no armor at all the damage difference is kinda drastic, isn't it?
I would expect that any character wading into a horde wearing naught but a loincloth would be a higher level character against a lower-level horde. And any lower-level character facing those odds without armour is a madman or a fool. :D