Chronicles of Vulcanica: Defiance
Sometimes, the players will find themselves in a situation where they are fighting together against a large number of enemies. They might be grossly outnumbered in the streets, escorting a caravan through hostile territory, or leading an army in battle. In such situations, players and storytellers will often find that the rules for Combat get clunky and awkward as the number of combatants rise. Those are times when Battle rules come into play.
Battle is designed to streamline and make easy combats that would otherwise be long and tedious, but its rules can be used in any situation the ST deems appropriate. It is an entirely optional set of rules, and is not necessary to the play of FTS if no one wishes to use it.
Stage I: Define Teams
Before Battle can begin, it is crucial to break the combatants (characters participating in the Battle) up into Teams. For purposes of Battle, a Team is composed of combatants with clearly-defined common goals and interests, and cannot be made up of enemies. There is no maximum number of Teams present in a Battle, but there must be at least two. Combatants can only belong to one Team. Characters not wishing to participate in the Battle (“non-combatants”) are assumed to be attempting to flee the scene as safely and quickly as possible, unless stated otherwise.
A fight breaks out in a tavern, and quickly devolves into a free-for-all brawl. Battle would be inappropriate for this fight, as Teams cannot be clearly determined.
Two mercenary companies—The Marauders and Whistler’s Company—meet on the field of battle, each representing their own sovereign nation. Battle would be appropriate for this fight, as two Teams can be clearly defined.
Two rival bandit gangs attempt to rob the same caravan at the same time. Battle would be appropriate for this fight, as three Teams can be clearly defined (Gang #1, Gang #2, and the Caravan).
Stage II: Determine Strategy
Once combatants have been declared and Teams have been defined, each Team must declare their Strategy. Each Strategy has a different flow and feel to it, and each has their own unique strengths and benefits. As of this time, there are only three possible Strategies, but there may be more available in the future.
- Battle Plan – With the Battle Plan Strategy, a Team has the ability to think ahead and map out their moves, allocate resources, and gauge the enemy’s strength. Battle Plans tend to yield the best results, but they require having sufficient time before the first Advance to plan ahead. Teams that do not have this time cannot select the Battle Plan Strategy.
- Practiced Response – With the Practiced Response Strategy, a well-trained and well-coordinated Team can effectively implement a prepared Battle Plan without needing time beforehand to plan ahead—they trust each other enough that communication is not necessary, and everyone already knows what to do. Practiced Response allows a team to assemble a Battle Plan, but does not require any time for preparation. However, this Strategy requires that the exact same Team use the Battle Plan Strategy at least twice (or the Screw It Strategy four times) without any combatants joining or leaving the Team. For purposes of meeting this requirement, the Team in question does not have to use an identical Battle Plan (described in detail below) twice, they just need to select Battle Plan as their Strategy two times.
- Screw It – With the Screw It Strategy, a Team does not have time to effectively prepare a Battle Plan, and is not sufficiently trained to qualify for the Practiced Response Strategy. Essentially, the combatants are improvising—and doing their best to communicate with each other in the process—while basically hoping for the best. Screw It tends to yield poor results, but is plausible in the hands of capable combatants, and has no requirements for use.
The Marauders (an elite mercenary company) get attacked in the streets of Turath by a rival company. Though they’re surprised by the attack, each combatant has been in the company for many years, and knows well what to do in a situation like this. Assuming they all choose to be on the same Team for this Battle, they may choose either the Screw It or Practiced Response Strategy.
Lady Sehainne, tired of foreign advances on her land, assembles her army and leads them in battle against the invaders. Though her Team is not well-trained enough to qualify for the Practiced Response Strategy, she has more than enough time to prepare to qualify for the Battle Plan Strategy. If she’s feeling overconfident, she can always use Screw It, but the outcome of that fight will likely make her very unpopular…
Having returned home from her battle, Lady Sehainne decides to go for a stroll around the castle grounds. Nervous about leaving her alone in these politically uncertain times, her General quickly throws together a team of soldiers to accompany her. His fears come true, and Lady Sehainne is ambushed during her walk. Though the soldiers themselves may be highly-trained, they are not sufficiently practiced working with each other to qualify for Practiced Response, and they obviously don’t have the time to prepare a Battle Plan. Their only option is Screw It, they realize as they draw steel, hoping for the best.
Stage III: Choose Tactics
Once the Teams have determined their Strategy, they must each choose which Tactics they are going to use. Based which Strategy they chose, they have a limit on how many Tactics they may elect to use. Teams that chose Battle Plan or Practiced Response may use up to two Tactics, while Teams that chose Screw It may choose only one. It is worth noting that while a Team may be using more than just these Tactics overall, the one(s) that they choose will be their defining Tactics—the core of their Strategy. Teams with the ability to choose more than one Tactic cannot double down, and choose the same Tactic twice.
Tactics are described in brief here. For details on their mechanics, see Stage IV: Measure Superiority.
- Advanced Mobility – The use of cavalry, elite troops, and/or magic to relocate combatants as they are needed.
- Ambush – The use of surprise and speed to catch an enemy off-guard and maximize effectiveness.
- Beasts of War – The use of war dogs or other trained animals to inflict enemy casualties while minimizing losses.
- Elite Combatants – The use of advanced training and heightened skill to gain an advantage over poorly-trained enemy combatants.
- Fight Dirty – The use of underhanded and dishonorable techniques to gain an advantage over an honorable enemy.
- Fight to the Death – The use of determination and unwavering morale to get maximum potential out of each combatant.
- High Ground – The use of terrain, positioning, and/or fortifications to gain an advantage over a poorly-situated enemy.
- Superior Numbers – The use of a larger fighting force to overwhelm the enemy and clog lines of mobility.
- Well-Equipped – The use of fully-armed and armored combatants to gain an advantage over an under-equipped enemy.
The ST has the ability to exercise their discretion when determining which Tactics are available to a given team. Players are able to lobby for certain Tactics, but must present a plausible and convincing case, and final say remains in the hands of the ST.
Continuing one of the examples from above, the Marauders decided to take the Practiced Response Strategy, which allows them up to two Tactic choices. Since their members are all well-trained and highly experienced, the Elite Combatants Tactic is a solid first choice. However, since they were surprised by their rivals and didn’t have time to prepare for most of the other Tactics—and don’t have the numbers to overwhelm the other company—they choose to Fight Dirty to offset that disadvantage.
Stage IV: Measure Superiority
Once all Teams have been determined and they have chosen their Strategy and their Tactic(s), their next step is to measure each Team’s Superiority. To do so, begin with the Strategy score, which is determined by which Strategy each team chose:
- If the Team chose Battle Plan or Practiced Response, they begin by making a MENTAL PRESENCE (Combat/Tactics) Test. This test is made by any one combatant in that Team (“the Strategist”), though it must be someone that everyone else on the Team is willing to take orders from (or they must have an open line of communication to someone that everyone else will listen to, like the relationship between a King and his General). The Final Result of this Test will be their Team’s Strategy score for their Superiority.
- If the Team chose Screw It, their Strategy score is 5.
As the Marauders size up the situation, their tactical instincts kick in, and they all immediately fall back on their training. The Captain assumes the mantle of Strategist, and makes a MENTAL PRESENCE (Combat/Tactics) Test, and gets a Final Result of 9. The Marauders’ Strategy score is 9, and they are already off to a good start for this fight.
Once the Strategy score has been determined, the Teams add their Tactic bonuses to that. Tactic bonuses stack with each other, and Teams can gain multiple bonuses from a single Tactic. Please be sure to reach each Tactic’s entry carefully, to see if your Team qualifies for more than one of the bonuses.
- Advanced Mobility
- +2 – Team has cavalry or mounts, and is trained in riding them.
- +2 – Team has multiple riders or cavalry units, and can coordinate their maneuvers.
- +2 – Team has access to magic that can aid in mobility, communication, and/or maneuvering troops in to advantageous positions.
- +2 – Enemy Team(s) is unaware of incoming attack.
- +2 – Enemy Team(s) is at rest, and unprepared for an attack.
- +2 – Enemy Team(s) are suffering from conditions that will prevent an effective or timely response (such as thick fog, caught in a crowd on a busy street, etc).
- Beasts of War
- +2 – Team has a sizable force (equal to 10% of Team size in number or larger) of war dogs or other trained beasts.
- +2 – Team has a large force (equal to 25% of Team size in number or larger) of war dogs or other trained beasts.
- +2 – Team has a sizable force (equal to 10% of Team size in number or larger) of particularly dangerous trained beasts, such as rhinos or lions.
- +2 – Each immortal (Dragon, Demon, etc) that is at that Team’s disposal.
- Elite Troops
- Each combatant adds their ranks in one relevant Skill (ST’s discretion) together, then divide the total by the number of combatants on that Team (round down). This final number is the Tactic bonus for this Tactic. The Skill can be different for each combatant, but it must be relevant to the Battle (so Craft/Art would not be relevant in most situations, in this case). Because it is averaged out among the number of combatants, this Tactic is only advised in situations where the combatants truly are elite.
- Fight Dirty
- +4 – Flat bonus, no requirements.
- Fight to the Death
- The Strategist declares a cause (it can be any cause). Each combatant with a Legend score that aligns with that cause adds said score together, then divide the total by the number of combatants on the Team (round down). Then, multiply that result by 2. This final number is the Tactic bonus for this Tactic. The Legend score can be different for each combatant, but it must plausibly align with the declared cause. Because it is averaged out among the number of combatants, this Tactic is only advised in situations where the combatants truly believe in the cause they are fighting for.
- High Ground
- +2 – Team has a few minutes to prepare terrain, and/or terrain is naturally favorable (such as a hill, a bottleneck canyon, etc).
- +2 – Team has a few hours to prepare terrain, and/or terrain is extremely favorable (such as a low wall for archers, a narrow staircase, etc).
- +2 – Team has a day or more to prepare terrain, and/or terrain is designed in Team’s favor (such as a city wall, a castle, etc).
- Superior Numbers
- +2 – Team has greater numbers than enemy Team (Team has 1 more combatant than enemy Team).
- +2 – Team has substantially greater numbers than enemy Team (Team is twice as large as enemy Team).
- +2 – Team has overwhelming numbers. (Team is three times as large as enemy Team).
- +2 – Most combatants (75% or more) have arms and armor.
- +2 – Most combatants (75% or more) have high-quality arms or armor.
- +2 – All combatants (90% or more) have high-quality arms and armor.
- +2 – Each artifact the Team controls and plans to use.
Once the Teams have added all of their Tactic bonuses to their Superiority score, they have one final chance to spend Vengeance Tokens to increase the score, at a rate of +1 for every Token spent in this manner. Ideally, the Teams do not know each other’s Superiority scores at this time, and the ST should strive to prevent that knowledge from crossing borders as much as possible.
The Marauders are measuring their Superiority, and have a starting score of 9. Since they chose to Fight Dirty as one of their Tactics, they automatically get +4 to that, putting them at 13 Superiority. Their other Tactic was Elite Combatants, which is going to require some math. Each member of the Marauders then chooses their most relevant Skill to this fight, and they all add their various Ranks together, resulting in 102. Since there are 14 Marauders, they then divide that 102 by 14, resulting in 7.3, or 7 after rounding. This brings their final Superiority up to 20! Despite the ambush, it’s starting to look like the Marauders will hold on to their fearsome reputation for another day…
Stage V: Advance
The Battle has begun! Once each Team’s Superiority has been finalized, the process of the Advance begins! Follow the flowchart below.
- Each Team declares their final Superiority
- The Teams compare their Superiority to each other.
- Determine the highest and lowest Superiority.
- Find the difference between the two, and multiply it by the number of combatants in the Team with the lowest Superiority. This number is hereafter referred to as the Casualty.
- The Team with the lowest Superiority takes a number of Wounds equal to the Casualty. This can be distributed among the combatants as the Team wishes, but every point must go somewhere (for example, a Team with a Casualty of 30 couldn’t give one combatant a Severity 30 Wound, but they could give 3 combatants a Severity 10 Wound).
- The Team with the highest Superiority takes a number of Wounds equal to one-quarter of the Casualty, rounded up.
- Any Teams that had neither the highest or lowest Superiority take a number of Wounds equal to one-half of the Casualty, rounded up.
The first Advance is complete; many have been wounded, and some have died. If, at the end of the final step, the Teams want to continue the Battle, they must repeat Stages III through V. It is advised that Teams pay close attention while determining their Superiority this time around, as the Wounds from previous Advances may have killed combatants, or rendered them too injured to aid their Team any further. For the purpose of clarification: Any combatant who has taken a Severity 3 Wound or higher can contribute only to the number of combatants in their Team, and nothing more. Any combatant who has taken a Severity 6 Wound or higher is effectively out of the fight in all regards.
The Marauders’ rivals revealed a Superiority of 17—despite the ambush, their lack of skill and effective leadership ultimately came back to bite them. Since they had 21 combatants, they must now distribute 63 Wounds among their combatants. They decide that 6 foolish members charged in and immediately got killed, and another low-level recruit took an arrow to the shoulder. The Marauders themselves must distribute 16 Wounds among their combatants, and they decide that everyone takes a Level 1, save the Captain and the Lieutenant—who were both on the front lines—and took a Level 2 each. The Marauders’ rivals are effectively down 7 members, while the Marauders themselves are virtually no worse for the wear. Things do not look good for their would-be assailants…
Stage VI: Respite
Occasionally, Battles may get so massive and drawn-out that the Teams must rest before returning to the fray. This is a good opportunity to heal the wounded, resupply, and formulate a new plan. If all Teams agree to a Respite, than an appropriate amount of time is afforded to each Team before the next Advance begins (a few minutes in a small skirmish, several hours or maybe even days for larger battles). During a Respite, Teams may prepare a new Strategy and choose new Tactics if they wish, and they may also tend to any combatants that are too wounded to contribute, possibly restoring them to fighting status.
Stage VII: Victory/Defeat
At the end of any Advance, a Team may choose to declare defeat. If they do, the other Teams have two options:
- Accept their concession, and return to role-playing.
- Decline their concession, and force them to defend themselves as you Advance again.
If, however, no Team wishes to declare defeat, Battle must continue until one Team has no combatants left to contribute to the fight (regardless of whether they live or die). At that point, the other Teams must decide if they wish to continue fighting each other, or end the Battle and return to role-playing. Teams can only declare defeat between Advances.