Draft Battle System

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This draft battle system is exactly that, a draft -- and in general it is meant to be a framework for staff to tell stories about battles, rather than a definitive system. Expect that based on circumstances anyone could be getting from a +3 to a -3 based on happenings - that's just the viccissitudes of war.


Battles are fought between sides measured in a number of companies; while having one sort of soldier or another may provide synergy, make a difference in the way a story is told, or otherwise matter, in general a company of soldiers is a company of soldiers. They could be armsmen, legionaries, janissaries, a section of tanks, the support of an artillery battery -- they all matter similarly on the battlefield.

Before a battle begins, the generals on each side make Warfare checks to determine a 'target' in VPs, and then various commanders square off against each other rolling Command trying to reach that target in a sliding-scale chase mechanic. If Lord John needs to get to 8 VPs, for instance, and Lord Bob needs 6 VPs, then every time Lord John gets a VP it shifts the tide of battle towards his target - John +1, John +2, etc - while every time Bob gets a VP it shifts the title back towards him - John +1, John +0, Bob +1, Bob +2. Which direction the battle is leaning in can be seen at any moment by 'where' the running total of VPs is between each side.

When one side gets their VP target, they have won, chasing the enemy from the field and doing casualties.

Small Battles

Before two armies meet in battle the generals each roll an uncontested Wits + Warfare (or Command, with smaller forces) and then subtract the VPs they receive from (usually) 10. This is their battle target; during the battle, they will be trying to accrue that many VPs on a series of contested rolls, at which point they have won.

Each round of battle, the commanders contest Presence + Command (or Impress, with very small forces). The winner of that contested roll adds VPs to a running total; when that total equals or exceeds the target they rolled at the beginning of the battle, they win.

This running total is contested. For example, before the start of a battle Lord Bob rolls Wits + Warfare, getting 3 VPs, and Lord Sam gets 4 VPs. As the battle begins, Lord Bob has a target of 7 and Lord Sam a target of 6.

In the first round, Lord Bob rolls Presence + Command against Lord Sam. Lord Bob gets 2 VPs; the running 'battle score' total is now Bob +2. In the second round, Sam gets 1 VP, and now the score is Bob +1. In the third round, Sam gets 6 VPs, and the score is now Sam +5. If in the fourth round Bob gets 3 VPs, the total would be Sam +2, and it would go on like that until it is either Bob +7, leaving Lord Bob with the field, or Sam +8, leaving Lord Sam with the field.

Big Battles

The above rules work fine for a small battles with a handful of companies. In larger battles there will generally be three battalions - a left flank, a center, and a right flank. Each flank has the same target, but their running totals are tracked separately. When the commander in one flank drives their opponent from the field, the other commanders will receive extra outnumber bonuses.

Outnumbering the Enemy

If one side is larger than the other they get a bonus to all Presence + Command rolls - a flat +1 for every one-third an army outnumbers its opponent. If Lord Bob's army is 9 companies and Lord Sam's 12 companies, Lord Sam receives a +1. If Lord Sam has 15 companies, he receives a +2 to all rolls. If Lord Sam has 18 companies - fully twice the size of Lord Bob's army - he receives a +3. If Lord Sam had 27 companies, outnumbering Lord Bob 3 to 1, he'd be rolling at a +6!

Counting Companies

We count armies in terms of companies; a company might be between 50 and 200 men, but is usually around 100.

Most companies are armsmen, legionaries, or janissaries. Armsmen are best at fast-moving fights where their mounts can be brought to bear, while legionaries excel in disciplined formations or behind prepared defenses. Janissaries are a little of both. Some companies will be more elite units -- high-tech legions, for instance, with versatile laser and blaster weapons, mechanized legions that move ahead of a force or alien legions expert at fighting underground or in swamps.

For the most part, we treat all companies as equal. Sometimes, having an elite force may give synergy or flat bonuses in combat.

Occasionally, special units may count as extra companies. Usually, they are notated as 'Strength x2' or 'Strength x3'. A company of 100 dervishes or Brother Battle is Strength x3, and so it counts as 3 companies on the battlefield. For the sake of ease, we often count these special units instead as 'sections', with each section the fighting equivalent of a company of regulars. 30 or so dervishes may make up a section, as might 2-4 tanks or a battery of artillery.


Before a battle begins the two commanders should decide how vicious they are going to be to the enemy, on a scale of 1 to 5.

1 - 'Sport' - Base Casualties 0%
This is the level of a grand melee or a very minor skirmish; no one is really trying to kill the enemy, and while there may be some wounds they are not appreciable. Usually this is reserved for tourneys, but border disputes between allies might have a similar context, where shots are fired to miss and blows are struck largely with the flats of blades.
2 - 'Honorable War' - Base Casualties 5%
This is the level of a casual war; people yield regularly and yields are expected, and while ammunition is live and swords are sharp killing the enemy is not the main goal; holding or taking territory is. Wars between two vassals of the same lord usually are at this level, as they have to get along with each other when they are done. At this level, troops do not pursue the enemy when they start to withdraw.
3 - 'Regular War' - Base Casualties 10%
This is the level of most wars, either between the Known Worlders or against the Kurgans. Prisoners are taken, but killing the enemy is a major goal, and no one is pulling punches or giving opportunities to yield. At this level, troops pursue the enemy when they withdraw, trying to kill them as they flee.
4 - 'Vicious War' - Base Casualties 15%
This is a particularly brutal or vicious war, where quarter is rarely given; those who turn to flee are likely to be shot, and the wounded stand a good chance of being bayonetted. This is the sort of war fought between life-long enemies, or against an opponent for whom one has no respect. Many crusaders fight this sort of war against the Kurgans, who they see as infidels.
5 - 'No Quarter' - Base Casualties 20%
This is the sort of war where there are no mercies. Enemies are pursued until they are killed, and in a siege or assault men, women, and children are not spared. This kind of war devastates an opponent and can remove their will to fight, but the psychic costs are high.

After the battle, the loser takes casualties according to the chart, while the winner takes half as many casualties as the loser. So, if Lord Bob and Lord Sam are fighting a normal war each with 20 companies, and Lord Sam loses, Lord Sam will take two companies in casualties and Lord Bob will take 1 company in casualties.

Note that the winner takes half the loser's casualties in numbers, not percentages. If Lord Bob had only 10 companies when he beat Lord Sam's 20 companies, Lord Bob will still take 1 company in casualties. (Defenses can affect this, however - see 'casualties and effectiveness' below.)

Fixed Defenses

Often, units will be defending a fixed position against attackers, which gives them a multiplier to their effective strength.

  • x2 -- Trenches, field fortifications, and walled towns double defenders' strength.
  • x3 -- Fortified manors and walled towns with castles in them triple defenders' strength.
  • x5 -- Castles quintuple the strength of defenders. Some special castles like Kerak or Joyeaux may give x7 or even higher to defenders because of their location.

This means that three companies in a defended position 'count as' 6 companies, while three companies in a fortified manor count as 9 companies. In a castle, those three companies would be the equal of 15 companies in the field!

Fortifications can't hold limitless people, however. The fortified manors in the center of most baronies can hold only 3-5 companies, as can small castles. Medium castles can hold 5-7 companies, while large castles can hold 10 or more.

Only one defensive multiplier is applied to a side, even if different units are in different sorts of defenses. A town with a small castle and 15 companies defending it have all the companies at x3 strength, even though some are likely in the keep and some are manning the town walls.

Sieges and Assaults

Sieges are a waiting game; most fortified manors can last several weeks under siege, while most castles can last several months or more. In Fading Suns, airlift is usually not terribly effective at getting food in and out, though for play reasons lone flitters and starships can get characters to and from besieged places when required.

When a commander doesn't want to wait out a siege, they can instead assault the town or keep. An assault is merely an ordinary battle, except that the defenders cannot flee. In these 'no retreat' situations the defenders' casualties will often reach 100%; this is modeled by applying casualties and 'restarting' the battle every time one side reaches their target until the defenders surrender or there are none left. Thus, if Lord Bob is assaulting Lord Sam's keep, he does 10% casualties to Lord Sam when he reaches 7 VPs; at that point, the VP total resets to 0 and the battle begins again.

Special Circumstances and Clarifications

Important Battles

Sometimes, a battle is particularly important and so it will continue longer than normal. In these cases, staff may just multiply the 'targets' each side needs to reach.

When this is being done for narrative reasons, the casualties will stay the same, but sometimes a battle is long because the loser is unwilling to give up and can convince their soldiers to keep fighting. In those cases, a battle will just 'reset' as it does in an assault, though at some point even the most dedicated army will break and flee if it can.

Uneven Viciousness

Usually, the two sides are fighting the same sort of war. If one side is more vicious than the other, however, it is the viciousness of the enemy which controls your casualties.

Casualties and Effectiveness

Casualties are measured in effectiveness. A company of dervishes is 'worth' 3 companies; if it takes 1 company's worth of casualties, it has lost one section - a third of its total - not its entire strength. Effectiveness multipliers due to defenses count as well; if an army is strength 20 because it is 10 companies behind a town wall, taking 2 companies in casualties means it only loses one actual company.


Withdrawing before losing minimizes casualties; usually, it halves casualties all around.

Other Characters In Combat

Other characters in mass combat might be sub-commanders, leading small units or just fighting personally from the front. They are generally making Presence+Command, Presence+Impress or Presence+Melee rolls, inspiring those around them. These rolls are opposed by the Kurgans; whichever side wins a contested 'sub-commander' roll gets a +1.

Sometimes, a character is just fighting personally, not trying to inspire others. Such a character makes a Dex+Melee check opposed by the enemy; exceptional success may cause commanders to get a synergy bonus or flat +1, though mostly that character is slaying the foeman.

In other cases, a group of characters may be engaged in a side mission to help turn the tide of the battle. They will resolve that mission in a few poses and rolls and then add VPs or bonuses to the main commander.