Monday, December 19, 2016

I Ran The Largest Battle Scene I've Ever Run in 60 Minutes

On Sunday, just a couple hours ago at time of this writing, I ran one of the largest battle scenes, if not the largest battle scene, I've ever ran and had it done inside of 60 minutes Today I want to talk about how that happened, and what I did to help make it go smoothly.

Of Course The System Helps
The system in question was FFG's Star Wars, and it helps that they have mechanics for running large battles. It basically comes down to contested rolls with Ability set by force size, and Skill set by the General's Skill. This is key because it effectively reduces entire components of battles down to just a few rolls which helps things go quicker. But there's more to it than just that.

Preparation Is Key
I was more prepared for this session than most. I had my mechanics and expectations for the battle all layed out. I broke the battle down into 4 phases: 2 for getting in, one for doing the main objective, and one for getting back out.

I also had prepared the enemy dice pools, back up dice pools for various contingencies, and back ups for the PCs in case they decided to hand things over to NPCs part way through for some reason.

Finally, I had some arbitrary mechanics with bonus dice to represent morale, and I figured out a way for PCs who weren't rolling leadership to still be active in the battle as it happened.

Execution In Order
There was no initiative for the battle. FFG's system does contested rolls with the same ease it does normal difficulties and that was a boon here. Instead I called for rolls in the order they would be impactful and kept notes of what was going on. With the PCs having time to RP, and then having time for mechanics, it kept things nice and easy. PCs rolled dice as instructed for the task at hand as called for. Everyone got to roll something. Everyone got to be involved.

Narration Adds Life
Between rounds of rolling I described the battle and brought up the specific rolls - especially those on non-general characters. This helped show everyone what was going on, what was being dealt with, and how even seemingly small actions could help contribute to the whole.

Keep Things Moving
The final thing was I didn't stop. With the preparation done I had what the next thing I needed to do ready and waiting to go at every step. This made going through somewhat methodical, but with breaks in order for narration and adding the spark of life and chaos.

It helped that my players were all on board with selling it, but most of it washomework and pre-preparation with how things could go. A lot of work, but ultimately worth it.


  1. As a player I can say that it made for the most engaging mass battle scene I've ever experienced in a space game. It was slow enough I was able to keep up and not feel pressed for decision making and time, and fast enough that I stayed engaged in the movie in my head.

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