War and Large Scale Battle (3.5e Variant Rule)

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War and Large Scale Battle[edit]

In the world of D&D, conflict often takes place in the smaller, more relatively confined battles within hundreds of feet. But, lost in this kind of world, what happens to the commander's view? The War-room discussion and tactics planning portion that comes with large-scale battle, itself. This by no means ever has to come to a common player character's destiny, but what if it did?

That is what this rule intends to create: The opportunity for characters to lead units of armies into battle against other armies, as commanders on large scale situations and terrains.

The way this works is by using dice to symbolize units and their commanders, the latter of which are usually based off of the player character or NPC leading them. Often, the Commander has a different die from the rest, determined from the table below. Battles are largely decided as one army attacks, prompting both players to take the number of dice accounting for their commander and units, and oppose rolls. This has a couple of rules that are in place to ensure longevity of battles and a sense of true victory upon completion:

  1. Only commanders can attack commanders; The only exception to this is overflow, which is explained in the Units section below.
  2. Commanders never attack units, unless stated otherwise.
  3. When opposing rolls, units from each side immediately match up highest roll to highest roll in sequence. This is explained in detail below.
  4. If a commander loses all his HP, he is knocked unconscious, killed, or taken captive, as per your DM's discretion. The units following this commander are considered to either scatter in fear, or dice without leadership.
  5. When morale is threatened, you must roll a check to determine whether your units stay loyal, which is against your charisma score. This is detailed below.


Commanders are essentially the enterprise of player characters. In a unit, the player character is represented as one die, depending on his class. Commanders must lead units of similar classes, or they suffer penalties to their unit's ability to attack and defend. Certain commanders may also have particular traits that affect how they handle themselves in terrain, against certain foes, and etc.; These are flavorful additions, and every commander is encouraged to have at least one benefit, and one flaw.

Commanders are only ever allowed to attack other commander units in battle. Once a commander is vanquished, his unit is scattered, and retreats in panic, or dices trying to hold their ground.


All commanders have classes within the five below. SRD classes typically filter in according to obvious contribution: Barbarians, Fighters, and Monks are Warriors. Sorcerers, Wizards, and Druids are Mages. Clerics, Rogues, and Rangers all fall within their obvious categories. Other classes, such as Paladins, are able to choose between their combination. I.E. A Paladin can choose to either be a Warrior or a Cleric, and a Bard might well choose between a Rogue and a Mage, at the player or DM's discretion. This is subject to DM discretion.

Table: Commander Class Statistics

Class dice Penalties for different units
Warrior Ranger Mage Cleric Rogue
Warrior 1d20 +0 -1 -2 -3 -1
Ranger 1d12 -1 +0 -1 -2 -1
Mage 1d12 -2 -1 +0 -1 -3
Cleric 1d8 -3 -2 -1 +0 -2
Rogue 1d8 -1 -1 -3 -2 +0

Commander Traits[edit]

Every commander has at least one of these. Discuss with your DM how many traits one commander is allowed to have, and clear your selections with them before applying them, as some may fit in with your character more than others. It's recommended you have one flaw for every one trait you have.

Terrain Traits[edit]
  • Natureborne -- +1 to all attacks made from wilderness terrains. -1 to defense in civil terrains.
  • Civilized -- +1 to all attacks made from civil terrains. -1 to defense in wilderness terrains.
  • Forestdweller -- +1 to attacks and defense made in forest terrain
  • Mountaineer -- +1 to all attacks and defense made in mountain terrain
  • Wastelander -- +1 to all attacks and defense made in swamp or wasteland areas
  • Plains Rover -- +1 to all attacks and defense made in plains
  • Fording -- No longer suffer a penalty for moving or attacking over a river
  • Plains March -- Double movement as long as the path is entirely in plains
  • Treefolk -- Gain concealment within forest terrain, except to units adjacent to you.
  • Overlook -- Ranged Units gain one extra square of range; This applies when on Ramparts of Civil terrains, Cliffs of Mountains, or Treetops of Forests.
  • Cover -- Non-ranged units in Forest or Mountain Terrain gain +2 defense against Ranged Units
  • Fleet of Foot -- Decrease all movement penalties from terrain by 1
Tactical Traits[edit]
  • Gang-up! -- If an opposing unit's roll is higher than yours, you may combine two unit dice to defeat it. They cannot already have an opponent, and the secondary unit is sacrificed.
  • Take Cover! -- When attacking or defending against ranged attacks, your opponent takes a -2 to it's unit's rolls.
  • Concentrate Fire! -- Ranged units can take a -3 to all rolls in order to focus up to three units on a commander. Their rolls are forfeit if attacked.
  • Retreat! -- Roll a 1d20 before any rolls are made, and only if you have an applicable terrain with no movement penalty to flee to. If you manage over 15, you can retreat from battle entirely.
  • Pick them off! -- If approached by a spread formation, gain the +2 bonus, as Warriors do.
  • Surround! -- If approached by a clustered formation, gain the +2 bonus, as Rangers do.
  • Combat Casting! -- By reducing your mage unit's combat dice by one level, you can increase their defense dice by one level.
  • Divine Offensive! -- By reducing your cleric unit's healing dice by one level, you can increase their attack dice by one level.

Commander Flaws[edit]

Every commander has at least one of these. Discuss with your DM how many flaws one commander is allowed to have, and clear your selections with them before applying them, as some may fit in with your character more than others. It's recommended you have one trait for every one flaw you have.

  • Pollen Allergy -- -4 to all rolls on Plain and Forest terrains.
  • Altitude Sickness -- -4 to all rolls on Mountain terrains.
  • Fear of the Dark -- -2 to all rolls while dusk, -4 to all rolls during night
  • Wetland Inept -- -4 to all rolls on Wasteland(Marsh) or Wasteland(Swamp) terrains.
  • Temperature Sensitive -- -4 to all rolls on Wasteland(Desert) or Wasteland(Arctic) terrains.
  • Savage! -- -4 to all rolls on Civil Terrains
  • Sunburn -- -2 to all rolls while morning, -4 to all rolls during day
  • Easy Target -- You suffer double damage from rangers
  • Superstitious -- You suffer double damage from mages
  • Pagan -- You suffer double damage from clerics
  • Civilized -- You suffer double damage from Warriors
  • Noble -- You suffer double damage from Rogues
  • Nearsighted -- Your sight range is limited to adjacent squares


Units are the background of every army. While a commander is a integral part of any force, without units to command, he is essentially useless. Often case, they also happen to be the nameless, disposable parts of any large force, as well, and thus are uniform amongst their peers.

Each unit, no matter which class, is represented by one die, and each die symbolizes 10 (or another appropriate number) men or women of that class. This denotes the size of your army to a key, and how well you can fend off your enemies depends on both their numbers and class. For example, having 5 units estimates that you have 50 people behind you, ready to help fend off your common foes, and they can be any of the five classes: Warriors, Rangers, Mages, Clerics, or Rogues.

Table: Unit Class Statistics

Class die
Warrior 1d8
Ranger 1d6
Mage1 1d8
Cleric2 1d4
Rogue 1d4
  1. Mages are less defensible than other classes, and take an alternate 1dd die when defending.
  2. Clerics are generally more defensible than they appear, and take an alternate 1d6 die when defending.

Units in Battle[edit]

Units specialize in being the bulk of the army, which means that, rather than take after the opposing commander, they tend to become enthralled in battling the opposing units, instead. However, that does not mean that extra units cannot assist their commander in taking down enemy leaders.

This is called overflow, and an instance where an army is larger than the opposing force. After determining the pairings, as per the rules, all units that have no opposing dice are allowed to transfer their full damage to the opposing commander, illustrating that their being unoccupied frees them up to attack in greater force against the commander.

An example of how units battle:

Player 1 rolls the following out of a fifty man army of warriors, excluding his commander's roll:

  • 4
  • 5
  • 2
  • 8
  • 2

The opposing commander rolls with his fifty man army, also of warriors:

  • 3
  • 5
  • 3
  • 6
  • 7

As such, we pair the two greatest rolls from each side, and remove the losing dice from his respective army; It should be noted that each die can only be involved in damage once per attack or defense. In this case, we take the 8 from the Player, and the 7 from the NPC. The player wins, and so the NPC loses that die, and therefore his army size decreases. We then move on to the next pairing, being the player's 5, and the NPC's 6. In this case, the NPC wins, and the player loses his die, now decreasing his army. This takes place until all dice have participated in battle.


As an example of overflow, if the player had one extra die, and had a rolled a 1, it would have been the last one to be paired! The problem is that there are no units in the NPC's army to fight with, and so (Unless your commander has the Gang-up! trait), they are immediately made to now attack the commander directly, who has no chance to counterattack or defend. The commander takes 1 damage, regardless of whether Player's commander was able to beat his score or not. This is why larger armies are always preferred.

Movement and Formation[edit]

Generally, every squad (Commander and Units) is able to move a set number of squares each round, accompanied with an attack or special ability, if any. This factor is entirely dependent on what Formation the squad is in, and what Terrain the squad is moving through.

The three types of Formation are Clustered, Standard, and Spread; All squads are considered to be in standard formation until they are noted to move otherwise. Single-man squads, such as single scouts, are always in standard formation. The formation of your squad has numerous effects:

  • Clustered formation affects the squad by making them move slower, but easier to conceal in the land's various shrubbery, foilage, or rocky outcroppings. It also gives your units a +2 to defense rolls, except if attacked by rangers, whose concentrated arrows give the squad a -2 to their defensive rolls.
  • Standard formation is the most average of all the formations. It comes with no penalties or benefits, but is the most balanced.
  • Spread formation affects the squad by making them move faster, and enables your field of vision to increase by 2, making it essential for scouting parties. Using this formation sacrifices performance for haste, and therefore attacks made after movement in spread formation apply a -2 to all rolls. If attacked by warriors while in this formation, your defense rolls suffer a -2 as they are great in picking off stragglers.


Squad abilities[edit]

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