Monday, September 20, 2021

Fantasy Armies

Recently in my Tidelock campaign I've run into the difficulty of the players making enemies with an Army. Why is this difficult? Because 5th Edition D&D isn't built for large scale conflict. It's built for skirmishes. Small numbers against small numbers. Warfare falls to the Dungeon Master to theorize.

Suggested solutions typically entail either breaking it down piecemeal until it becomes skirmish-scale again, treating it exactly like skirmish combat just with bigger numbers, or just ignoring it entirely and skipping ahead in the narrative.

None of these solutions feel great to me. Like the concept of Initiative, it's about picking the least worst option.

Here is my take:

If the Adventuring Party fights an Army in straight forward combat, then they lose. 

Armies always win.

The largest command subdivision that The Party can engage with in skirmish combat is The Troop. About 35ish enemies.

If the Players, alone with only their party, engage with the main force of an enemy Army then the Players lose. They are captured, killed, or routed. The resources that the main body of an Army can bring will heel even high-level characters in mere seconds. Dozens of arrows, multiple castings of Hold Person, swarms of claws and bites, Counterspells, Teleportations. The Players could cut down a hundred soldiers in six seconds and it would merely be a dent in the body count of the Army. Retaliation against small-scale assaults is disproportionate and decisive.

You tell the Players right from the get-go that if they engage that Army alone then they will lose. You tell them that before them lie foes beyond accurate count, and that they have no hope of victory alone. You do not have enough d20s to properly simulate how many attacks will come at them per turn. (No doubt for some of you this is a bluff - you have more dice than stars in the sky - but I digress.)

If they decide to attack regardless (and admittedly there might be valid reasons for this), then one of the following happens:

Roll for each member of the party.

1-3: Routed. HP is +1 above minimum consciousness threshold. All Spell Slots are expended. All combat abilities with Charges are used up.

4-5: Captured. PC is now a bargaining chip for the enemy army.

6: Killed. Butchered. Corpse dealt with however this army deals with corpses.

If the Players integrate themselves with one Army to fight another, then they share the fate of their Army. Noteworthy contributions to the fight are noted. If Victory is achieved, PCs are left with 1d20 HP left and all abilities with charges expended.


Interacting with Armies

How do Players interact with Armies then?

The answer is: not directly. Players do not directly defeat Armies. Armies get defeated either by themselves, Politics, Rival Armies, or Acts of God (such as a Wish). Many of these things are within the capabilities of an Adventuring Party, especially a high level one, and are far more interesting than trying to mow through thousands of enemy combatants in small-scale skirmish combat.


Cause an Army to Defeat Itself...

  • Convince one or more factions within the army to abandon the cause.
  • Convince the soldiers to mutiny.
  • Delay the Army until the end of War Season.
  • Mass desertions

Do Politics...

  • Negotiate a peace or demobilization.
  • Bribe mercenary leaders to abandon the cause.
  • Random and/or kidnap someone important.
  • Excommunicate Army's leaders or supports from The Church.

Rival Armies...

  • Raise an Army to fight the enemy Army.
  • Provide intelligence to friendly Army commanders.
  • Convince a dragon to hound the Army.

Acts of Gods...

  • Flood a Dam, Cause a Typhoon at a crucial moment, Summon a Tornado.
  • Poison the Water Holes, Raid the Army's Food Supply, Burn the Fields
  • Cause an Avalanche or Rockslide
  • Start an enormous Forest Fire.
  • Cause the Army to stumble upon an extinction-level Curse.

Skirmish Level Fighting Units

The Soldiers
Enemies: 1d4-1 (2)
HD: 1

A lone soldier or two. Solitary soldiers have their Morale halved, and are not unlikely to be a Deserter.

The Team
Enemies: 2d4 (5)
Contains: A 2HD Veteran

The smallest unit of an Army above the individual: a handful of soldiers with a Veteran as senior.

A Veteran is a tough guy who's experienced combat. A Sergeant/Corporal equivalent. Expect them to act with resolve and decisiveness when shit goes down.

The Squad
3d6 (10)
Contains: A 3HD Enforcer, Two Veterans

Two or three Teams. Big enough to be a serious threat to an Adventuring Party. Led by an Enforcer.

An Enforcer is a real tough dude who knows his shit. A non-commissioned officer equivalent. They're often a spellcaster or paladin and will command others in the Squad to act intelligently.

The Troop
10d6 (35)
Contains: A 4HD Officer, 1d3+1 Enforcers, 2d4 Veterans, and Something Big.

The largest unit that the Player-Characters can fight in Skirmish combat without automatically losing. Approximately the largest number of soldiers than a single person can directly oversee at any one time.

An Officer oversees the Troop, and will have direct access to the Army at large through the Army's communication networks: Sending spells, animal messengers, runners, crawling hands that use coded sign language... If the Platoon is engaged then the Officer will consider calling for support or reinforcements. Depending on whether the message gets through and how isolated the Platoon is, this puts a timer on the encounter (anywhere from Rounds to Minutes to Hours to Days). After the timer counts down the Army's arrival is announced and if the Players stay they will lose (see above).

In addition, a Troop has access to Something Big: a military support resource that can really put the hurt on some meddling Adventurers. What this is varies quite a bit between Armies.

Examples of Something Big: a mortar crew, a golem, a trained basilisk, a Counterspell battery, a summoned demon, a tank, an attack helicopter, a legendary Hero.

Troops can be clustered together or far apart. Rarely will they be out of shouting distance from the Officer, though. A Troop can comfortably occupy a dungeon across multiple rooms of a single Level. Any particular Squad or Team can summon the others, each arriving separately within 3d4 combat Rounds.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Wizard City Character Creation Guide

With the conclusion of my previous campaign and the freeing up of space, I do believe I am now ready to playtest this puppy I've been working on called Wizard City.

Ladies, gentlemen, and brains-in-jars, we shall be using the GLOG!



Welcome to the second ever Wizard City campaign! (I can’t take credit for the first, Anne beat me to it!) This right here is a guide for making your first, second, and potentially last characters for the campaign.


We will be using Skerples’ Many Rats on Sticks of the GLOG.


  1. Available races (pg. A-10): Human. No others.

  2. Only Wizard Templates may be selected, at least at first. No exceptions. All Wizards within the Rat on a Stick Edition ruleset are automatically allowed, and any other GLOG Wizards that use the MD mechanic are allowable with GM approval (just toss me a link over Discord and I’ll see if it’s kosher for this campaign).


  1. All characters begin the game with 2d6 Spellgold. 

(See: Spellgold, below.)

  1. All characters have a STUDENT LOAN MORTGAGE worth 2d6x500sg (spellgold), which means your soul is presently reserved by the Fiduciary Lich in the Bank Inerrable, and if you should die before paying back the loan your soul goes right to the bank. This was the cost of tuition in Wizard City.



You are a freshman at the University of Chronulus, Wizard City - a city full of wizards. Wizard City is a dangerous place, especially for a student such as yourself. You will be expected to brave many hazards during your undergraduate experience, and it’s more than likely several things will attempt to kill you during your studies.

Wizard City is a large and strange place, full of wizard criminal gangs, magi-oligarchs, mad scientists, half-robots, and poor students like yourself. Many students never survive to graduate, and even fewer decide to continue their studies beyond that. As a student, you are at the bottom of the barrel in terms of power: everyone sees you as a disposable asset. However… You are a wizard! Even weak wizards can be dangerous.

What follows is a list of questions for you to consider, with the help of the GM, when determining aspects of your character.


Your studies will be a reflection of what Wizard templates you choose to take. This is largely up to you to determine, and for you to coordinate with the GM. What your major/templates are will determine which University Department you primarily interact with.

Don’t fret too much about trying to match your class with a Department.



Spell Examples



Wracking Pain, Heat Metal



Cure Wounds, Raise Dead



Summon Familiar, Unseen Servant, Animal Messenger



Speak with Animals, Bookspeak



Minor Illusion, Clone



Locate Object, Detect Crime



Circle of Protection, Explosive Symbol



Poison Spray, Hands to Spiders



Modify Memory


Space and Time

Teleportation, Hyperadjacency, Time Stop 



Bag of Holding, Magic Hat



Misspell Magic, Counterspell



Scry, Detect Thoughts



Charm Person, Suggestion, Hold Person



Fireball, Light, Protection from Elements



Instant Summons, Sending



Wall of Swords, Summon Ooze



Enhance Ability, Stoneskin



Sleep, Magic Missile



Magic Jar, Prismatic Spray, Color Spray

For instance, a Drowned Wizard (pg. C-5H) might be taking classes in the Departments of Whales, Elements, and Accounting. A White Hand Wizard might be taking classes in the Departments of Torture, Medicine, and Circles.


Spellgold is the primary currency in Wizard City. Virtually all commercial things are paid in it, from food to rent to textbooks. You can get it several ways:

  • Make it yourself - this is very inefficient. MD can be converted into Spellgold at a 1:1 ratio. To start you can only make one Spellgold per day, and this leaves you vulnerable.

  • Fence some loot - Few undergraduate students find themselves above thievery of university property. If you’re above theft, however, there are some dungeons on campus one can delve to acquire loot. There might even be more outside of campus. Steal furniture and busts of old administrators, loot textbooks off forgotten shelves, delve deep and find abandoned magic objects. Kleptomania is likely to be rewarded!

  • Do some (probably dangerous) work - There are plenty of organizations around the city who could use some cannon fodder bodies: wizard gangs, fraternities, magical capitalists. Do some work, get paid.

  • Marketeering - Lots of goods are in demand in various parts of the city: necromancers need bodies, spies need secrets, krill converters need, well… everything. Pawn stuff you find to these people for quick cash.

  • Get scholarships - Do really well in your studies, and maybe some benefactors might decide to help pay some of your expenses in return for future favors or employment.


Well, traditionally it’s to survive until graduation... But really it’s up to you and the consensus of the group as to what you want to do during your time in Wizard City.

Keep in mind, though, this campaign will be limited in scope. There is a world beyond Wizard City, but we won’t interact with it (for the most part). It may be alluded to, but venturing beyond the city limits will exist extra-narratively, if at all.


I also do not have plans to continue it indefinitely. This campaign will run for a limited number of sessions. Ideally we’ll be looking at 1-2 sessions per Trimester Break, resulting in around 12-24ish sessions overall, each 3 Hours in length. (I have a habit of underestimating how long things’ll take, though, so maybe double that.) Understand that your time in-game is limited, and make the best use of it.



10 Spellgold can be consumed like a Magic Die in order to cast a spell that you know, or have a spell scroll for. All wizards can turn their MD into Spellgold at a rate of 1 MD = 1 Spellgold. This process takes 1 Hour.


Wizard City campaign sessions will compose of two parts:

Every academic year is composed of three trimesters, preceded by three breaks. Because being a student is hard, everyone will only have time to adventure during these breaks. The rest of the time is spent doing off-screen studying, taking classes, working for minimum wage, etc.

Each break is only 2 days long. Each day is 10 Hours long (Wizard City uses metric time. 1 Day = 10 Hours = 1000 Minutes.) When break comes to a conclusion classes will resume, and any adventuring comes to a halt (dungeon expeditions, quests, and all between get abandoned).

Every trimester start with an additional 2d6 Spellgold, representing MD you managed to spare.


As a student, you’ve got bills to pay on a trimester basis:

  • Food: 1d6 Spellgold

  • Rent: 4d6 Spellgold

  • Student Loan Interest: 3d6 Spellgold

Failure to meet these bills means during the next trimester you’ll respectively be: starving, homeless, or hunted by the Bank Inerrable. Additionally, there may be additional bills:

  • Club Membership / Fraternity / Sorority Dues

  • Protection from Criminal Gangs

  • Doctors’ Bills

  • Payment Plans on Textbooks / Supplies


Characters will level up every academic year, provided they are not expelled from academic probation. To avoid academic probation, you must have two things: passing grades in three of your classes, and materials for your classes (textbooks, inks, reagents, etc.)

These materials have commercial costs as follows: 

Freshman: None

Sophomore: 50sg

Junior: 100sg

Senior: 200sg

At the end of every trimester all students will make one ability check per class to determine whether they’re passing it or not. This is traditionally representative of one’s grades on a midterm or endterm test/paper.


Roll-under the requested stat on a d20, and you’ve passed. This check can be modified with bonuses, penalties, and everything in-between according to how prepared you are (with materials obtained during breaks) and potential random occurrences.

Certain objects, relationships, or loot can grant you bonuses. Injuries, getting on peoples’ shit-lists, or being lost in time and space can grant you penalties.

(For instance, a pilfered Textbook on Spell Anatomy with handwritten notes might grant you advantage on the Spell Breeding class. Doing a solid favor for Professor Y might grant you advantage in your Demonology Class. Having a major concussion might give you Disadvantage on the Planar Mathematics class.)

The standard number of classes for a student is 6. Students can take additional classes, but doing so increases their workload and provides a -2 penalty per extra class taken on all of their classes.


While everyone will start as a wizard, certain GLOG templates will become available after certain achievements have been met. Classes can be found here. 

Unlock requirements (will become displayed once unlocked):

Anti-Magic Officer: ???

Mo-RON: ???

Spellshark: ???

T-Man: ???

Bureaucrat Bravo: ???

Grey Gnost: ???

Krill Man: ???

Speed Wizard: ???

These classes do not progress normally as Wizards. Instead, to gain templates one must acquire and spend an amount of spellgold equal to the XP requirements on page A-9.