Table of Contents
Overview / Summary
- A Mass Combat check represents the climax of a portion of a battle between the acting force (generally PCs' side) and enemy force (PCs' adversaries)
- Mass Combat is broken into a series of phases, with a Mass Combat check roll being made by the GM at the end of each phase
- During a phase, the PCs may have “regular” encounters / rolls that will affect the next Mass Combat check and/or trigger a "Turning Point"
- A Mass Combat check uses ability dice based on the acting force's strength (upgraded by commander's ranks in Leadership), difficulty dice based on the enemy force's strength (upgraded by enemy commander's ranks in Leadership), and boosts / setbacks based on circumstances.
Planning & Phases
A Mass Combat scenario is broken into a series of Phases (similar to rounds of combat, but more fluid in the length of time they represent based on individual circumstances and the sizes of the forces involved). There are 2 main ways the GM can break a battle into phases:
- Time: GM chooses amount of time (10 minutes for smaller battle to an hour or longer for larger battles) for each phase to last. After this amount of time lapses in the game world, the GM rolls a Mass Combat check to determine how the battle phase resolved.
- Events: A GM already having a more structured idea of how the battle should develop can break it into a series of notables events, each event marking a change in the battle. (For example, at the Battle of Hoth, phases delineated by events might include the landing of the Empire, the approach of the AT-ATs, the breaching of the base, and the escape to space.) Here the GM rolls a Mass Combat check at the transition between each phase to determine how the battle has unfolded and may affect the phases to come.
When planning a mass combat, the GM should determine what constitutes a victory or defeat for the active force during each phase. As success or failure on a Mass Combat check will narrate the outcome of that phase, what those outcomes are should be defined beforehand. The GM should also consider what the PCs can do in each phase to facilitate a victory for their own side and prepare encounters for them accordingly.
Only the objective of the final phase should be the final victory or defeat outcome of the entire battle, with each preceding phase modifying the final check. Such phase objectives could include holding off an enemy advance long enough for an evacuation to begin / for reinforcements to arrive, taking down the shield generator of an enemy strong point so the final attack can begin, or even simply driving the enemy line back.
Building the Pool
Ability & Difficulty Dice
Ability dice are added based on the makeup of the acting force (all infantry, vehicles, and starships working together on the acting side of the conflict) that are actively participating in the battle during this phase (not force in bases, hangars or on other fronts). Likewise, difficulty dice are added based on the size & quality of the enemy forces actively participating in the current phase.
The actual number of / dice added is based on the Force Strength & Difficulty table (as always, these are general guidelines; the presence of mixed (ground/air/space) forces in a combat can complicate matters and is left to the GM's discretion).
After adding / dice, they can be upgraded based on how well each side is being controlled & led. Each side is upgraded a number of times bases on the corresponding force's commander's ranks in Leadership. The leader must actually be in a position to command forces in the current phase to get this upgrade (communications knocked out, disabled command ship, severe injury, etc can negate this upgrade).
In some cases even if the leader is cut off, they may have left orders that forces can continue to act on. This results in an upgrade equal to half the commander's Leadership ranks, rounded down. Such upgrades only last as long as said orders are applicable to the current situation.
Each phase a new character may take the role of leader if the situation calls for it and said character has the authority/ability to do so. In this case, the upgrades may be based on the new character's Leadership ranks.
Adding Boost & Setback
and may be added to the pool based on other elements that may be affecting the battle, such as morale, battlefield circumstances, PC actions, and anything else the GM & players can come up with. See the Boost & Setback Table for more ideas & guidelines.
Resolving the Check
At the end of a given phase, players construct & roll the Mass Combat dice pool for that phase, with the results determining success or failure of the acting force during that phase and likely having repercussions on later phases of the combat.
A successful check represents the acting forces accomplishing its objects for that phase of the battle or preventing the enemy force from achieving their goals. Objectives could range from pushing back an enemy advance, maintaining a defensive perimeter against an invading enemy, or buying time for civilians/noncombatants to evacuate the battlefield. Additional can be spent to achieve further goals or to increase the magnitude of the success. In some cases, such as with the civilian evacuation example, the GM may wish to determine success in degrees. For example, each additional may mean a set number of civilians escape the conflict ahead of schedule, which could lead to the battle lasting fewer phases than planned.
A failed check means the enemy forces completed their objectives for that phase or the acting forces were stymied. Enemy objective could include things such as breaching the outer defenses of a hidden Rebel base, destroying a shield generator protecting the acting force, or successfully implementing a counter-ambush against an attacking Rebel fleet.
What about the PCs?
PCs are the wild cards in mass combat, filling many vital roles on the field of battle – especially since they are typically the most skilled members of a force within their own specialties. Aces/Soldiers provide firepower & combat support, along with experience & knowledge on the shifting front lines. Commanders/Diplomats can take command or aid NPC Commanders, or even influence enemy forces. Engineers can offer technical support, such as fortifications and undermining the enemy. Spies can provide intel to the acting force and disrupt the intel ops of the enemy.
When planning a mass combat, it's up to the GM to determine what events the PCs will be able to take part in during each phase, and plan encounters appropriately (as mentioned in the Planning & Phases section). Such encounters should provide ways for the PCs to influence the outcome of each phase, giving players smaller objectives of their own or simply interpreting the actions they chose to take and modifying the Mass Combat check pool accordingly.
If PC actions significantly affect the quality & number of troops fighting on either side, the GM should represent such success or failure by modifying the or dice of the next Mass Combat check accordingly. Raising/lowering the acting force strength should be represented by either increasing or decreasing the number of dice in the Mass Combat pool once. Similarly, if PC actions increase enemy forces or eliminate a significant number of enemy troops, increase / decrease the number of dice in the Mass Combat pool once accordingly.
PCs also often make the most obvious candidates for leadership in a mass combat, and if a PC takes command then their ranks in Leadership are used for upgrading the Mass Combat pool as mentioned in Upgrading. Conversely, if the PCs managed to take out the leadership of the enemy forces, the difficulty of the next Mass Combat check won't be upgraded as enemy forces suffer from a lack of leadership & direction.
Finally, PCs might perform less defined tasks, turning the environment or circumstances to their advantage or failing in their minor objects and turning fortune against their cause. In these cases, the GM should add or as appropriate to represent the outcomes of the PC's actions. They may also try to remove an existing hindrance, and if they succeed, remove any that hindrance added to the pool.
As Mass Combat is as much about the PCs & their actions as it is about the forces clashing around them, PCs can affect the world around them in ways far exceeding their ability, experience, or rank.
When PC actions cause extreme results on the battlefield, the GM can call an end to the current phase and roll a Mass Combat check for the phase immediately, circumventing the predetermined end of the phase. This is called a Turning Point, and the GM is encouraged to use them sparingly. In this way, truly heroic & epic actions performed by the PCs can shape the course of even a massive battle.
Mass Combat Tables
Table 1: Force Strength and Difficulty
|Force Strength||Planetary Force||Starship Force|
| * Multiple Rebel cells working together|
* Hundreds of civilian militia
| * A single starfighter squadron
* A pair of combat-modified transports, freighters, or patrol boats
| * Dozens of Ewoks or Tuskan raiders|
* Thousands of civilian militia or a tribe of Ewoks
* A company of Imperial Army troopers
* A wing of speeders or platoon of scout walkers
| * A wing of starfighters
* A squadron of combat-modified transports, freighters, or patrol boats
* A single gunship
| * An army of several dozen Gungans or Talz|
* A plotoon of Rebel marines or Imperial Stormtroopers
* A dozen Wookie warriors
* A squadron of hovertanks or heavy walkers
| * Multiple wings of starfighters
* Numerous combat-modified transports, freighters, or patrol boats
* A small fleet of gunships
* A single cruiser
| * A company of Rebel marines or Imperial stormtroopers|
* A platoon of Alliance SpecForce or Imperial storm commandos
* A battalion of Imperial Army troopers
* A platoon of hovertanks or heavy walkers
| * A large fleet of gunships
* A small fleet of frigates
* A pair of cruisers
* A single battleship
| * A battalion of Rebel marines or Imperial stormtroopers|
* A company of Alliance SpecForce or Imperial storm commandos
* A platoon of Rebel elite commandos or Imperial dark troopers
* A regiment of Imperial Army troopers
* A company of hovertanks or heavy walkers
| * A large fleet of cruisers
* A fleet of battleships
* A star dreadnought such as the Executor
|* Any force larger and more skilled than listed above|
Table 2: Boost & Setback
|Reasons to Add||Reasons to Add|
|The acting force is in a defensible position (a fortress, a natural choke point, a trench system, etc.)||The enemy force is in a defensible position (a weaponized space station, a hardened bunker, a fortified vault, etc.)|
|The acting force has had an ample time to prepare for the engagement (set traps or mines, prepared covered positions, distributed ammunition, etc.)||The acting force is caught off guard, under extreme pressure, or otherwise unprepared for the battle (weapons are locked away, troops are out of position, defense systems are cycled down, etc.)|
|Weather or stellar phenomena provide the active force with cover, the element of surprise, or a distraction to the enemy force.||Weather or stellar phenomena disrupt or distract the active force or provide the enemy with cover or the element of surprise|
|The acting force has noncombatant allies who provide useful support (carrying a steady resupply of ammo or other supplies, acting as scouts or spotters, offering their knowledge of the battle site to the acting force, etc)||The acting force is hindered by noncombatant involvement in the battle (noncombatants are aiding the enemy force, present possible civilian casualties to guard against, are taken as hostages by the enemy, etc|
|The acting force is fighting for more than just martial victory or personal gain (higher ideals like the protection of others, the freedom of the galaxy from tyranny, justice, etc.) This is a very subjective category, but in Star Wars, right makes might.||The acting force has particularly unheroic motives for its actions (conquest, pillage, vengeance, etc).|
Table 3: Spending Advantage & Triumph
|or|| All characters with the acting force can recover 1 strain.
The PCs notice a key feature of the enemy force (an enemy officer, weapon emplacement, support vehicle, etc.) and its position on the battlefield
|or|| An attack by the acting force reveals a weakness in the enemy force's defenses. Add to the next Mass Combat check as the acting force exploits the weakness.
The PCs perform a particularly heroic act or do something with minor but lasting consequenses for the cause of the Rebel Alliance (acquire enemy materiel or intel; rescue or otherwise aid a neutral party, thereby swaying that person or group's position on the Rebellion; etc.) When the battle is over, the PCs each increase their Duty by one.
|or|| A previously unnoticed geographical feature of the battlefield (a stand of trees, a valley, a rock formation, an asteroid field, etc.) affords the acting force some cover. The acting force may downgrade the difficulty of the next Mass Combat check once as it utilizes this vital feature.
The acting force disables an important piece of enemy hardware, destroying a heavy weapon or item of equipment that provided the enemy force an advantage in the battle.
The leader of the acting force makes a rousing speech to inspire the troops or enacts a cunning plan. The acting force may upgrade the ability dice on its next Mass Combat check once.
| Overwhelmed by the ferocity of the acting force's attack, an enemy unit is close to abandoning its post. On the next Mass Combat check, any generated causes the enemy force to abandon its post and run.
A notable NPC within the acting force performs a particular feat of heroism. This provides the acting force with a tangible benefit and makes a name for the NPC in the Rebel Alliance.
Reinforcements arrive to support the acting force. These increase the force strength of the acting force by one step (Significant to Imposing, for example) in future phases.
| Sizable reinforcements arrive to support the acting force. These increase the force strength of the acting force by two steps (Significant to Staggering, for example) in future phases.
A dramatic narrative moment gives the PCs the chance to singlehandedly change the entire course of the battle. This could be anything from a chance encounter with the enemy commander, to a dogfight with the enemy force's top ace; to the infiltration and slicing of the enemy force's comms station, redirecting enemy reinforcements away from the battle. The options here are endless and entirely dependent on the circumstances of the narrative.
Table 4: Spending Threat & Despair
|or|| The characters involved with the acting force suffer 1 strain.
The fog of war creates confusion on the battlefield. Add to the next Mass Combat check as the active force struggles to differentiate allies from enemies.
|or|| The enemy disrupts the active force's line of battle. Members of the acting force suffer on their next skill check.
One of the PCs involved with the acting force (chosen at random, or as determined by the GM to fit the narrative) suffers an unfortunate accident on the field of battle (falling debris, a stray round, friendly fire, etc.) The PC suffers 4 wounds.
|or|| The acting force gets bogged down in difficult terrain. As a result, it upgrades the difficulty of its next Mass Combat check once.
The enemy force disables an important piece of the acting force's hardware, destroying a heavy weapon or piece of equipment that provided the acting force an advantage in the battle.
The enemy force gains a significant advantage in the battle due to a blow to the command of the acting force (the Commander is wounded, crucial equipment is damaged, etc.) Downgrade the ability dice in the next Mass Combat check once.
| One of the PCs involved with the acting force (chosen at random, or as determined by the GM to fit the narrative) is grievously hurt in the fighting and suffers one Critical Injury.
A notable NPC within the acting force suffers a grievous Critical Injury. This deprives the acting force of a tangible asset and seriously endangers someone important to the PCs.
Communications are disrupted, and orders are garbled. The commander of the acting force cannot clearly communicate orders to the troops. Unless another officer or respected leader who can communicate to the acting force steps in to take the commander's place, the acting force does not upgrade the ability of the dice pool due to its commander's ranks in Leadership on the next Mass Combat check.
Reinforcements arrive to support the enemy force, increasing its force strength by one step (Significant to Imposing, for example) in future phases.
| Either succumbing to panic or enemy infiltration, a portion of the acting force turns traitor and joins the enemy force. Decrease the force strength of the acting force by one step (Imposing to Significant, for example) and increase the force strength of the enemy force by one step (Significant to Imposing, for example) in future phases.
Sizable reinforcements arrive to support the enemy force, increasing its force strength by two steps (Significant to Staggering, for example) in future phases.