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Overview – Mass Combat

July 21, 2010

One of the system elements of Exalted that I like most (at least in theory) is its Mass Combat system.  Most of the dedicated fantasy enthusiasts out there will, like me, have noticed that in almost every major fantasy story (and in most of the minor ones), there’s a war.  Sometimes it’s one nation fighting another, sometimes it’s racially motivated, and sometimes it’s just plain good vs. evil, but at the end of the story, there’s always a big siege and a fight between two armies.  Most gaming systems reproduce this poorly if at all, normally leaving it to the Storyteller to arrange some dramatic narrative around the normal combat system.

Not so with Exalted.  Exalted has expanded its combat system to allow for a very specific set of rules that deal exclusively with mass combat.  They allow units from one to 10,000 members to engage dynamically on the field, as an expansion and adaptation from the normal combat system.  In essence, the Exalted Mass Combat system can be summed up in a single phrase: you wear your army like pants.

Let me clarify: in Exalted, armies modify the traits of their generals.  Troops provide bonuses to their commander’s Defense Values, attack rolls, damage rolls, and Health Levels, and larger units provide commensurately larger bonuses.  Often, two units of the same size cancel one another out, leaving it essentially a duel between generals… which is fine.  It works more like Dynasty Warriors than anything else. 

There’s a lot of discussion regarding how good the system itself is, as it fails in places to logically extrapolate from normal combat, especially where Charms are concerned, but that’s a minor quibble to me.  I’m thrilled to death that Exalted even offers a Mass Combat system, and it works well enough for my needs… especially when compared to, say, Dungeons and Dragons.

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