Mass Combat: PDF or Free Companies?

Zul Daire

I've only ran the PDF version basically to give the PC's an opportunity to fight in the battle as serving as abackdrop to the story.

We finished the battle in one session which was the goal but naturally being our first time using the rules alot of time was spent looking stuff up and forgetting some of the modifiers to the next round.

Still we had a blast and instead of dishing out XP I just gave everyone one free level of soldier. Whatever percent you were away from your next level was the same percent away from the following level so no one resisted and all of them thought it was pretty cool. Months down the road it was obvious that the free level totally altered the path some of my players had laid out for their characters level progression wise.

However I have had no opportunity to run mass combat since Free Companies was released. I noticed it looked even more streamlined.

In you opinion which system is better?
It depends on your purpouse.

The PDF system is good if you like going into more detail about the battle.

Personally, I find the Free Companies system more handy, since it is quite abstract, yet it allows you to determine the outcome of a battle without having it doomed to end that way. My only advice whenever you stat NPCs or PC generals: don't understimate the Knoledge:warfare skill, it is great for this kind of combat.
I think the Free Companies system is too simple and the free PDF is too complex. I ended up using the Free COmpanies system, with a few more die roll modifiers. Its fairly easy to understand and use.

Mad Dog
Haven't used either yet but have read through them both. I plan to use the PDF Mass Combat for Large battles and the Free Companies for small to mid size skirmishes. If that doesn't work, there are plenty of good mass combat systems out there but they would require some conversion work.
We just ran a mass combat adventure last weekend. Using terrain and miniatures made the play so much easier. But still, the session was a grind. We used standard d20 rules instead of any mass combat or skirmish rules.

It took us nearly 6 hours just to set up and play two full rounds. Magic really cleared out a ton of minis but the combat was too long. Strongly recommend using ANY system that simplifies the running of these types of adventures.

I suspect we are only half way done....

Several years ago we ran a mass combat that took about the same amount of time for about the same number of rounds. We also used standard rules.

Afterward the DM said he would determine the outcome of the battle before the next session as we had not even scratched the surface.

After thant we used mass combat as a plot device or backdrop until recently testing out the PDF rules.

The rules in Free Companies look even more smoother.
For those of you have used the mass combat system using the downloadable rules, I was wondering how you handled damage reduction from armor. There is a rules inconsistency in how counter hit points are determined. In the Gunderman example they add DR AFTER multiplying by the number of units, so they get:


Where the 1.1 is for the constitution modifer.

In a later example with cavalry however they add the DR BEFORE multiplying by the number of units. In the Gunderman example, this would be:


The first seems to low while the second seems to high. Based on the sample counters in the Free Companies, they seem to have used the former method. This makes armor pretty meaningless. I would have preferred the other method - armored opponents should tear apart unarmored opponents in mass combat.
I use the PDF rules in my campaign. I've utilized them a few times and my players enjoyed mass combat with said rules.