Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Advanced Fighting Fantasy and D&D Quick Battle Rules Mashup

Got a mass battle in your D&D game and you don't fancy going through the rigmarole of using the War Machine or similar? Try re-skinning the Advanced Fighting Fantasy rules from Allansia. It works like this:

1. Work out the number of troops on each side. Anything with more than one attack counts as [number of troops x number of attacks], so 2 troops for a 2 attack monster, 3 troops for a 3 attack monster, etc.
2. Add the number of troops from both sides, divide by 100, and round down: this is the total amount of rounds in the battle.
3. Each side rolls 2d6 and adds the following modifiers:
  • +1 positioned on higher ground
  • +2 fortified (e.g. stakes, ditches, etc.)
  • +4 strongly fortified (e.g. constructed fortifications)
  • -1 outnumbered
  • -2 outnumbered more than 2:1
  • -3 outnumbered more than 3:1
  • +1 better quality troops
  • +1 more than 10% missile troops
  • +1 each 25% of troops mounted
  • -1 mixed species army
  • -2 surprised or ambushed
  • +1 each previous battle round won
4. Highest score wins the round. The winner rolls [1d6 x difference between scores] and loses that many men from his side, 25% killed, 75% wounded. The loser just uses [difference between scores x 20] and loses that many men from his side, 50% killed, 50% wounded. The commander chooses where casualties are distributed.
5. Continue until all rounds are over, one side surrenders, or one side flees. If one side flees, the other may let them go and automatically capture all their wounded, or continue the fight, adding +2 bonus to the next combat round.

I may tweak this. For working out troop numbers, it might make more sense to base it on the number of hit dice rather than the number of attacks, perhaps incorporating the asterisk system from BECMI. You could also add on further sub-rules, forcing commanders to define some sort of "marching order" so the casualties get distributed for some units and not others, or perhaps allowing the commanders some way of selecting which of the enemy units lose men.


Gertrude the Grimy leads her army to try to lay siege to Bartholomew the Bastard's castle. Gertrude has 400 foot soldiers, 50 knights on horseback, and 100 archers. The knights have two attacks because of their magnificent war horses, so they count as 100. Total troops: 600.

Bartholomew the Bastard has 350 foot soldiers, 100 outriders on ordinary horses, and 75 crossbowmen mercenaries. Total troops: 525. 

The total number of troops is 1125, so there will be 11 rounds. 

Bartholomew has used his scouts well and knows Gertrude's line of approach: he prepares an ambush from higher ground. He also has higher quality troops and more than 10% of his troops have missile weapons. He has 2d6+1+1+1.

Gertrude's army is surprised, but they outnumber Bartholomew's, and 10% of her troops also have missile weapons. She has 2d6-2+1+1. 

For round 1, Bartholomew rolls 3, giving a total of 6. Gertrude rolls 7, giving a total of 7. Bartholomew may have prepared an ambush, but clearly this does not perturb Gertrude's men; she rolls [1d6 x difference between scores] and gets a 5; she loses only 3 men wounded and 2 killed in the initial fight. Bartholomew uses [difference between scores x 20] and hence loses 20 of his men, 10 killed and 10 wounded. Clearly, both armies have used screens of skirmishers and Gertrude's make the best of the initial exchanges. 

For round 2, Bartholomew rolls 8, giving a total of 11. Gertrude rolls 8, giving a total of 8. Now, clearly, the bulk of Bartholomew's army is swinging into action - maybe his crossbowmen are now letting fly: he rolls [1d6 x difference between scores] and gets 6 - he loses 18 men, 5 killed and 13 wounded. Gertrude's army, on the other hand, takes 60 casualties, 30 of whom are killed; perhaps Bartholomew's intelligent use of skirmishers has tricked Gertrude's men into over confidence.

And so on, for another 9 rounds. 


  1. For such a wonky and quite clearly untested system, AFF still has much to teach us.

    1. I agree. I keep going back to the approaches and the universe, and they've been getting a fair bit of attention online lately too. Von did a brief overview at HoP even.

      He's doing OD&D next.

    2. I absolutely agree about the tone - I love the feeling of high adventure and derring-do, and it is refreshing given all the grimdark that's out there. I think there's something charming about the innocent expectation that the PCs are genuine heroes (in the quick battle rules from Allansia, for instance, the example battle pits a nobleman, his army, and the heroes, against "the forces of evil").

  2. Is it fair that either party has the right to choose outright which people on their side get taken out?

    Am just wondering about whether or not someone could build up an advantage sacrificing front line troops while holding mounted archers or something in reserve... Perhaps the numbers don't stack too bad either way. I don't know. Thoughts? And maths aside, do you think it's more interesting if the victor or loser of a round chooses who lives and who dies?

    1. I do think there is probably a need to have some sort of marching order beforehand, or a rule for keeping some troops in reserve.

      It doesn't really model a proper battle very well, but I think it's a good way to resolve one fairly quickly in abstract form.

    2. The speed factor is good: but also I think that the way you presented the narrative is a nice touch.

      Am I remembering "hero" bonuses for armies, or is that something more for the full battle rules? (i.e., any unit within 20ft of a hero gets +1 to attack)

    3. Yeah, I don't have the rules to hand but it's something like that. You also get "hero" combat after each round, where the heroes get to go one-on-one with enemy soldiers.

    4. I think that is how generals actually try and fight wars. They sacrifice less important troops wherever possible.

  3. Without getting Allansia off the shelf, I seem to remember that there were two versions of the 'mass battle' rules - one simple, the other more complex involving moving things (miniatures, counters, scraps of paper) around a map.

    1. Yes, there were. I've got a post on that brewing in my mind too.

  4. Sorry for lots of comments, am intrigued by the rules and how it works.

    After your round 1 example, you say Bartholomew loses 20 men - 10 killed, 10 wounded. Do wounded count towards the strength of the army? Essentially, is his army now 580 strong?

    Also, the -2 penalty for surprise/ambush: is that for Round 1 only or is it carried forward?

  5. With War Machine the d% roll looks quicker than this system; the tough thing is working out BFRs and BRs.
    I find that the easies thing to do is assign each side a BR, defaulting to 100, or base it on the BFR Troop Quality table, maybe take the minimum score +1d20.

    Then sum the mods for numbers, terrain etc and roll; that only takes a moment.

    1. Quicker to work out results but less enjoyable and much more fiddly.

  6. It seems I have every Advanced Fighting Fantasy book (including the new release) EXCEPT for 'Allansia'. :(

    1. Allansia is the best one. As well as the quick battle rules, it has a chit-based full mass battle ruleset and also rules on wilderness adventures (hexcrawling, basically).

  7. I have an idea for a twist; if you roll less than 5 on your roll to lead your army, your casualties are doubled.

    You could also add some morale rules.

    That way, if both armies are really badly lead, you get a massacre, but otherwise the battle can go on for a little while, until one side breaks. Would make me a bit happier than recalculating forces for 11 rounds!

    If I was doing that, I'd probably also invert your bonus for a good general, so instead of getting a bonus you avoid a few penalties for poor discipline, bad communication etc.