The most sacred duty of any samurai is to make war upon the enemies of his lord. For many, that duty takes its most literal form as massive combats on the field of battle, with hundreds or even thousands of samurai on either side. For obvious reasons, conflicts of this magnitude cannot be resolved using the normal combat system, which is designed for small skirmishes. While some GMs may prefer to simply dictate the outcome of a given battle, others may prefer a dice-based method of resolving such instances. In these cases, the Mass Battle system is used.
The Mass Battle system allows characters to determine how involved in the fi ghting they are, and then uses the characters’ capabilities to determine how well they are faring at that level. Conflicts of this scale are measured in Battle Turns, which consist of thirty minutes each. Every character participating in the battle must determine the results of their involvement once per Battle Turn. The length of a battle can vary wildly, but a good rule of thumb is that one Battle Turn takes place per 250 troops on each side. So a battle between two forces of 500 men each would take two Battle Turns to resolve. Each Battle Turn takes place in the following stages:
- Stage 1: Declaration – During the Declaration Stage, all characters participating in the battle should determine their level of involvement. These range from Reserves, where a character is positioned well behind the front lines and relatively safe from the vast majority of his enemies, to Heavily Engaged, in which the character is positioned on the very front lines and as such is situated right in the middle of his foes. Each character may choose to be in one of the following four levels: Reserves, Disengaged, Engaged, or Heavily Engaged.
- As the rules are written, characters may switch to any level of engagement during any Battle Turn. However, GMs seeking a grittier and more realistic depiction of battle may wish to place some restrictions on a character’s ability to move swiftly from one level of engagement to another. A character in the Reserves could have difficulty getting himself into the thick of battle on the very next Battle Turn, for example. If this option is used, a character cannot change his level of engagement by more than one (from Reserves to Disengaged, for example) unless special circumstances or a Heroic Opportunity intervene.
- Once a character’s level of involvement has been determined, the GM should make a Contested Battle (Mass Combat) / Perception Roll between the generals in command of the rival armies. If one of the generals wins the roll by 5 or more, that general’s army is considered to be winning while the other side is losing. If the difference is less than 5, the battle is considered even. GMs may modify the results of this roll based on numerical advantage, terrain, weather conditions, successful Heroic Opportunities in previous Battle Turns, or any of a litany of other factors as they see fit.
- Stage 2: Determination – With the characters’ involvement and the current status of the battle determined, each player rolls one die and adds to it his character’s Water Ring and his Battle Skill, if any. The total of this roll is compared to the Battle Table to determine how much Glory the character has accumulated, how many Wounds he has suffered, and whether or not he encounters a Duel or Heroic Opportunity. If he does encounter a Duel or Heroic Opportunity, the character proceeds to Resolution (below). If a character does not encounter a Duel or Heroic Opportunity, then after he rolls to see how much Glory and/or Wounds he has accrued, the Battle Turn ends for him.
- Stage 3: Resolution – Characters who encounter a Duel or Heroic Opportunity have a special opportunity to take a more dramatic role in the battle. A result of Duel on the Battle Table indicates the character has come across an opponent of roughly equivalent skill, and the two have engaged in a private duel. Such events are generally allowed to play out by other samurai on the battlefield, because interfering suggests the samurai being aided is incapable of dealing with the matter, a grievous insult. These duels may be traditional iaijutsu duels, or they can simply be one-on-one skirmishes with whichever weapons are available, depending upon the combatants.
- Heroic Opportunities are somewhat more elaborate skirmish situations that arise depending upon where a character is situated in the battle. They generally involve an opportunity for greater glory on the battlefi eld, although they can easily lead to a character’s death if he oversteps his abilities. A character does not have to accept a Heroic Opportunity – he can decline, taking the better part of valor, although this will often have a negative impact on the course of the battle.
|1-3||1 die of Wounds||2 die of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds||4 dice of Wounds||5 dice of Wounds||6 dice of Wounds|
|1-3||0 Glory||0 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||3 Glory|
|4-6||1 die of Wounds||1 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds||4 dice of Wounds||5 dice of Wounds||5 dice of Wounds|
|4-6||0 Glory||0 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||2 Glory|
|7-9||1 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds||4 dice of Wounds||5 dice of Wounds|
|7-9||0 Glory||0 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory|
|10-12||0 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds||4 dice of Wounds||4 dice of Wounds|
|10-12||0 Glory||0 Glory||0 Glory||0 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory|
|10-12||–||–||Duel||Heroic Opp.||Heroic Opp.||Duel|
|13-15||0 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||1 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds||4 dice of Wounds|
|13-15||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory|
|16-18||0 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||1 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds|
|16-18||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||1 Glory||2 Glory||2 Glory|
|19-21||0 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||1 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds|
|19-21||2 Glory||2 Glory||2 Glory||2 Glory||2 Glory||2 Glory|
|19-21||–||–||Heroic Opp.||–||Heroic Opp.||Duel|
|22-24||0 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||1 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds|
|22-24||2 Glory||2 Glory||2 Glory||2 Glory||3 Glory||3 Glory|
|22-24||–||Heroic Opp.||–||Heroic Opp.||–||Duel|
|25-27||0 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||1 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds|
|25-27||2 Glory||2 Glory||3 Glory||3 Glory||4 Glory||4 Glory|
|25-27||–||–||Duel||–||Heroic Opp.||Heroic Opp.|
|28-30||0 die of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||0 dice of Wounds||1 dice of Wounds||2 dice of Wounds||3 dice of Wounds|
|28-30||3 Glory||3 Glory||4 Glory||4 Glory||5 Glory||5 Glory|
|28-30||–||–||Heroic Opp.||Duel||Duel||Heroic Opp.|
Each Heroic Opportunity is unique, and when a character’s
roll on the Mass Battle Table results in a Heroic Opportunity, the GM should select one appropriate to the character.
A sample list is presented below, and GMs should feel free to create more. Some of them will be applicable only under certain circumstances, such as occuring during a naval battle or requiring a shugenja.
A Clear Shot
The front lines break, and you have a clear shot at the leader of the opposing army with a ranged attack! The TN of the shot depends upon the commander and his Armor TN, although given the chaotic nature of the conflict it should not be less than 30. A successful hit is worth 4 Glory, even though a killing shot is highly unlikely. If the shot is successful, the enemy general suffers a penalty of -5 to his next Battle Roll.
Attack the Archers
Suddenly, your character sees a path that leads directly to the reserves of the opposing army. You have an opportunity to attack their archers, thus making an opportunity for the reinforcements to charge.
If the attack against the archers (which is a skirmish) is successful, the opposing general has a penalty of -5 to his next Battle Turn, and the character conducting the attack gains 2 Glory.
Attack the Shugenja
A break opens in the battle and you have the opportunity to attack the reserves. The enemy shugenja suddenly stop their battle rituals as you charge into their ranks!
A successful attack on an opposing shugenja, while exceedingly dangerous, can be the key to victory. The loss of such a vital resource results in the opposing general suffering a penalty of -5 to his next Battle Roll. The attacking character gains 3 Glory. Because of the relative scarcity of shugenja, it is considered honorable to offer them a chance to surrender. Doing so gains you 2 Honor, whether they choose to accept your offer or not.
Be Prepared to Dig Two Graves
You see a samurai from the enemy’s army cut down one of your kinsmen. You may spend the rest of this battle seeking that samurai.
If the character chooses to pursue his enemy, he must enter the enemy’s level of engagement and succeed at a Contested Battle/Perception Roll to locate him. If the character fails, his enemy eludes him. If he succeeds, he may immediately initiate the Show Me Your Stance opportunity. If the opponent wishes to confront the character, the GM may choose to ignore the Contested Roll.
Break the Line
You receive the command to charge the enemy’s front line!
The character must face 2 to 4 Rank 2 samurai to successfully attack the front line. The character is immediately moved to the Heavily Engaged level. During the next Battle Turn, reduce the character’s roll by 2, but add 3 to his general’s Battle Roll. The character gains 3 Glory.
Few against Many
You watch as an ally charges into the midst of battle. His fate is sealed as enemies surround him, unless someone comes to his aid.
Treat this opportunity as a skirmish against 3-6 samurai of one rank lower than the character (to a minimum of Rank 1). If the character’s ally survives, the character gains 3 Glory and may be awarded the Allies Advantage at the GM’s discretion.
Fire the Sails
One certain way to attack an enemy ship is to burn its sails and render it immobile. You may accomplish this with a well-placed flaming arrow.
The TN of this shot depends upon the distance between the ships. A successful shot renders the ship immobile until a new sail can be hung, and reduces the opposing general’s next Battle Roll by 3.
For the Empire
The hideous creatures you face seem unfazed by the deaths of so many among their ranks, pressing forward despite heavy losses. Suddenly you notice a Shadowlands warrior shouting commands to the foul creatures. Perhaps the death of their leader will have more impact.
The samurai may fight a Lost samurai of one Rank higher than the character, a minor oni of some sort, or any other corrupted foe the GM prefers. If the battle is successful, the character gains 3 Glory. The opposing general suffers a penalty of -5 to his next Battle Roll.
Hold the Ground !
Your commander tells you to hold the line! If you and your troops can hold your ground, you will bring great glory and honor to your Clan.
The character and the unit he is with must hold the line against opposing forces. If they are Engaged, they must face a number of opponents equal to their number plus 2, and gain 2 Glory if successful. If Heavily Engaged, an additional +2 opponents are present, and the Glory gain is increased to 4.
Join the Battle
In your position at the army’s reserves, you see a hole in the enemy general’s strategy. Perhaps now is the time to bring your strength into the battle!
The character can choose to move his position to Disengaged. If he chooses to do so, he immediately rolls again on the Battle Table with no modifiers to the roll.
You and the troops in your unit see an enemy commander in the midst of battle with no guardians, separated in the chaos of battle. Though it may not be the most honorable thing to do, overwhelming him might give your army a deciding advantage.
The character and any others in his unit may decide to attack a single samurai of Rank 3 or 4. If this Opportunity is successful, the opposing general suffers a -5 penalty to his next Battle Roll.
Pick up the Banner
You see the banner carrier fall to arrows. You have the opportunity to carry the army’s banner, boosting your army’s morale. However, the banner carrier is a choice target for enemy soldiers. The character that accepts the burden of the army’s banner will be attacked by many samurai and archers every Battle Turn until he abandons the banner. During every Battle Turn the character holds the banner, his general gains a +3 bonus to his Battle Roll.
Protect the General
You suddenly come across the army’s general, who has lost his personal guard. The general commands you to stand at his side and protect him from attack. You must follow him wherever he goes (some generals are more courageous than others). Direct this character’s level of engagement for the rest of the battle. The character gains one extra point of Glory every Battle Turn.
Rally the Archers
Your army’s archers are in disarray. You must regroup your ranged troops and ready them to fi ght once more. The PC must use inspirational words and a roll of Perform: Oratory / Awareness at a TN of 20 to succeed. If successful, his general gains +5 to his next roll, and the PC gains 1 point of Glory. If this Battle Opportunity fails or is refused, his general suffers -5 to his next roll
The captain of your boat calls out, “ramming speed!” You must brace yourself to board an enemy ship as your boat enters the thick of battle.
If the character accepts this Opportunity, he must place himself in the Heavily Engaged level. He must fi ght 1 to 4 samurai of one lower Rank than the character. The character gains 1 point of Glory.
Save a Wounded Comrade
In the midst of battle, you notice a kinsman has fallen! You have the opportunity to save him.
While saving his comrade, the character cannot undergo any other Heroic Opportunities. Each Battle Turn, the character faces two or three Rank 1 or 2 opponents. If the character successfully defends the fallen comrade, he gains an additional point of Glory for each Battle Turn (and the ally may wish to bestow gifts in return for his life).
Save a Wounded Opponent
Between breaths you notice a wounded enemy. He calls out for you to help him. You may ignore him without penalty (he is acting cowardly, after all), but if you aid him, he will be morally obliged to you. The opponent could also become a valuable hostage to be used in negotiations with the enemy- The character must move to the Reserves level of activity as soon as he can. The character gains no bonuses for completing this Opportunity.
Save our Ship
Your ship has been the target of heavy fire throughout the entire battle, and you fi nd out it has suffered structural damage. In a few moments it will sink, and without warning your crewmates will all die. You must warn the others and help them off the ship.
If the character successfully saves the lives of his crewmates, he gains 3 Glory.
The curse of the Shadowlands Taint falls upon those fighting by your side and they fall to the ground, screaming. A few moments later they rise again – with an unholy gleam in their eyes.
The character must fight against 1 to 4 Tainted samurai either equal to the PC’s Rank (in Heavily Engaged) or one lower (in Engaged). The character gains 1 Glory for succeeding. If the character fails this Opportunity, his general has a -3 penalty to his next Battle Roll.
Show me your Stance
An enemy commander notices you and loudly challenges you to a duel.
If the character accepts, initiate a duel against a samurai of Rank 2 or 3. If the character wins, he gains one point of Glory for each Glory Rank of his opponent; additionally, his general gains a +2 bonus to his next Battle Roll.
One of the shugenja of your army has targeted you with a spell. The GM may decide what spell it is; alternatively, just consider one of the character’s Traits or Skills to be one Rank higher until the end of the battle.
This Opportunity gives a character the opportunity to fight a number of enemies determined by the GM. A character needs only to force his enemies out of the fight to succeed at this Opportunity; he does not need to kill them. If the character is successful in this Opportunity, add +1 to his general’s next Battle Roll.
Stand against the Darkness
The ashigaru troops and some craven samurai in your army are unused to fi hting undead abominations and the stuff of nightmares. They break and run at the sight of a huge Oni slowly marching on their position. If you can defeat the beast, perhaps your example will raise the morale of your army.
The character may fight a minor oni or other similar opponent. If he succeeds, the character gains 4 Glory and his general gains a +3 bonus to his next Battle Roll. If he fails, or if this Opportunity is refused, the general suffers -5 to his next Battle Roll.
Take the Enemy Banner
Between the blood and carnage you spot the standard bearer of the opposing army. You have the opportunity to take the enemy’s banner! You must kill the bearer in combat to take it. If you take it, you must try to get it back to your Reserves.
Without the help of the character’s army, this Opportunity is nigh impossible to complete. While the character holds the enemy banner, he cannot undergo any other Heroic Opportunity. Each Battle Turn, the character is assaulted by a number of enemy samurai (chosen by the GM) of equal Rank. On each Battle Turn the enemy banner is in the character’s possession, impose a -5 penalty to the enemy general’s Battle Roll. When this Opportunity is completed, the character gains a Rank of Glory.