Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Adapting 'Age of Arthur' mass battle rules for use in Fleet battle scenarios

Anyone who has listened to my recent review (viewable here) of Wordplay Games excellent game Age of Arthur (written by Paul Mitchener and Graham Spearing) will know that I was particularly taken with the magic systems and the mass-battle rules presented in the book; we had a great session of my Serpents Fall Fate Accelerated swords & sorcery game recently (actual play video viewable here) and i'm looking to follow it up with an equally impressive session. Currently the party are in Saxony looking for someone who might be able to help Captain Benito (one of the player characters) remove the curse that has been laid on him preventing him sailing the seas; with the curse removed Benito would be able to start seriously planning to take back the title of Pirate King that was usurped from him by the scurrilous Horningold Blythe.

Usurped Pirate King Benito

Current Pirate King Horningold Blythe

We ended the last session with a couple of the characters discovering an old seer in the castle dungeons of Saxony's villainous Regent, the seer was attempting to peer back into the past of Captain Benito to see how the curse was first laid on him (hopefully this would provide some clue to lifting it). My plan is to run the next session as a flashback with the players playing through how the curse was first levied; we are one player down and I have checked with the others that they are okay with playing pirate-NPC allies of Captain Benito (since their characters haven't met at this point), it will also give Benito's player a chance to enjoy being the Pirate King, giving him a taste of what he might regain should he regain his crown.

Adapting the Mass Battle Rules

My plan is to begin the session in the middle of a high-action scene as the pirate fleets of the Scarlet Brotherhood come under attack by vessels from Saxony; this could be done with individual combat rounds following the normal combat rules, however, it doesn't really have the grand feel of fleet-scale action that I want to capture in this encounter. Thinking back to the mass-battle rules in Age of Arthur I intend to adapt them for the first scene and subsequent fleet-battles in the game.

Effectively each fleet is treated like an army in Age of Arthur with the following stats:

  • Size: The number of ships in the fleet.
  • Fleet skill: The skill of a typical fleet ranging from 0(untrained/press-ganged crew) up to 4(legendary ships crew).
  • Fleet commander: The Fleet Skill is supported by the Clever and Sneaky skills of the commander (if one of this is higher than the skill level of the fleet then the Fleet Skill gets a +1 bonus, if both are higher then the bonus rises to +2).
  • Aspects: A Fleet has between one and five Aspects.
  • Stress Score: The larger Fleet has a stress score of 10, the stress score of the smaller Fleet depends on it's relative size (for example a Fleet of 10 ships facing a Fleet of 20 ships will have 5 stress).

Before the battle begins there are a few steps to go through:
  • Manoeuvring: The commanders make an opposed clever roll, the winner of this roll gets to place an Aspect representing their superior positioning on the enemy fleet.
  • Take advantage of the weather: A character nominated as navigator makes a an opposed quick roll against their opponents navigator to move to take advantage of the winds and currents, the winner gets to place an Aspect on his own or the enemy's fleet to represent the benefits that their mastery of the weather conditions brings them.

The Battle
The battle is divided into a series of turns :

  • Individual Heroics: A character may spend a fate point to make a test based on what they are trying to do, the difficulty is the is the remaining stress of the opposing fleet. If they win then it places an Aspect on the opposing fleet that can be used once for free (without paying a fate point). If they fail then the character suffers damage equal to the amount that the roll failed by.
  • Getting Personal: Attacking an important NPC costs no fate points (it is assumed that their ships come close during the conflict and, amidst the swirling melee of boarding actions and cannon fire the two individuals fight each other). This interrupts the fleet battle with a standard combat. The enemy NPC will be accompanied by a mob of lackeys with the same combat skill and armament as the rest of the fleet and with numbers equal to twice to the current stress score of their fleet. It is fine for multiple PCs to take part in a single combat like this; winning gives a free Aspect indicating the fallen enemy or loss of morale.
  • Fleet actions: The smaller fleet attacks first and the other force defends. Damage from a successful attack is inflicted on the opposing fleets stress tracker, causing half the degrees of success rounded up. A draw does no damage but lets the attacker place an Aspect. This aspect can be used once for free by the army that placed it at no cost.
  • Resolution: When a fleet is reduce to zero stress it cannot maintain an active part in the combat, it may concede a combat by withdrawing or surrendering; this ends the battle but prevents further stress on the defeated fleet. Even a fleet reduced to zero stress probably has a few survivors remaining.

Looking forward to seeing how these rules play out in a couple of weeks when we have our session in a couple of weeks time :)