I'm running a battle in a dungeon using the old Chainmail rules at Conquest Avalon in Sacramento November 1st. The scenario is gelling in my head and I'll be fleshing it out on the home tabletop this weekend, and working up more of Dwarven Forge scenery for part of the dungeon. Will have a table full of a mix of Dwarven Forge, Terraclips, and homebrew scenery. This post is basically thinking out loud as to work out scenario details.
It will use the man to man combat tables at the back of the Chainmail rules, with some monsters that use the fantasy combat table. I'm pretty fresh on the rulebook, having used Chainmail combat rules for my old school D&D game at Pacificon last month.
I signed up to host up to 8, so I have a choice of four options for sides. Everyone vs everyone with spontaneous alliances and each having a mission goal, 4 vs 4, 2 vs 2 vs 2 vs 2, or 3 vs 3 with a couple of spoilers/loose cannons. Given the setting, I'm thinking to do the last option.
The main factions, probably Dwarves and Goblins, are both resident in different parts of a megadungeon. The tabletop representing a level between their home territories that until very recently was protected by powerful magical wards that have precipitously and mysteriously dropped. After a curious dwarf and a similarly suicidal goblin come out of the no-man's level with loot, the gold rush is on! Both factions move in. Meanwhile a smaller force of adventurers comes delving opportunistically, and a monstrous faction emerges from below searching for loot, power, fresh meat, and slaves. If I come up short of players,
Of course it is a classic dungeon, so there are local monsters and traps to beset the unwary looters. Whoever dies first or if there are alternates, one or two extra players can play revealed creatures, or I'll use them as a GM tool. A few might even be potential allies depending on who encounters them. I might have some conflicting individual goals to make for uneasy alliances among the main faction players. The flavor from the delving party perspective ought to be that of a low-res D&D run into the middle of an active war zone.
As I remember from playing a lot of Chainmail many years ago, dwarves are worth about 2 goblins or one orc apiece, so that is my rule of thumb for balancing. So one player might have, say 15 dwarves and a hero dwarf leader, or an ogre plus 15 orcs or 30 goblins, maybe trading away some of the goblins for warg riders at 2 for 1. Will need to take into account the dwarf bonus vs ogres and how I implement it at man to man scale in working out whether an ogre approximately equals a hero. Will need to rank up my figures this weekend to see how many goblins I can field, though swapping out one group for orcs and possibly another for all ogres or something would let me bulk up a bit. It's a pretty lethal combat system once things get engaged, which pushes for big numbers but dungeon hallways restrict frontages unless a player is advancing along multiple routes, so forces shouldn't get too big. The Terraclips stuff has a natural 3" and 6" width of halls and rooms, Dwarven Forge tends towards a 3" space, 2 half squares with wall and two whole squares where the tiles meet between two L walls, or 2" where a walls are separated by a pure floor tile. 3" is a frontage of 3 or 4 figures depending on basing, with a few able to fight from the second rank, so a Dwarven warband like the above would be 4 to 5 ranks if massed in a typical hallway.
I can set up a card for each group with stats, including the portion of the man to man tables they will most likely need, for instance the goblins only really need to hit numbers for each weapon vs chainmail and chain and shield for most attacks, with the full table consulted for the rare other armors amongst the dwarves or other enemies.
Chainmail had awesomely powerful wizards with unlimited fireball or lightning attacks plus a few spells. With factions this small, I'll have to tone that down a bit or avoid spellcasters. Not much fun to see half your goblins go up in a fireball.
I don't have a formal map yet, but I know the characteristics it should have and did a bit of crude sketching. There should be very few door bottlenecks that would constrict the frontage to just one or two for one side, as they lead to stagnant ambush setups. Doors would mostly be into surprise rooms and possibly some narrow secondary routes. It needs to be a highly networked dungeon so there is plenty of opportunities for lateral or flanking moves. There should be some big central chambers where battles can broaden out with multiple entrances. I'll probably do some second elevation stuff on the main map but not a full break out of two dungeon level maps with notional stairway linkage. I'm thinking about whether to have some of the map covered initially for some double blindness to the action or if the spectacle of an exposed dungeon is preferable. Probably the latter. Maybe just cover isolated rooms or the middle part of the map until it is explored. The two long sides of the table would have the entrance zones of the big factions, and the small ones either enter from the short sides or vertically somewhere in the middle.
Objectives... The two big sides will each score for killing their hated enemy, but not for killing the smaller sides. Everybody scores for finding loot which will be scattered around. The delvers probably score double for loot, monsters from below score for killing, capturing or recruiting anybody. Probably set up one to three strategic rooms that have value to being "King of the Dungeon" and holding at the end. Personal goals like rival goblin clans or dwarven hero bands that want to see themselves do better than a particular ally on some goal. Some valuable portable maguffin. A couple of entertaining magic items.
I'll probably use some variant on the basic morale rules to give some ebb and flow to combat between rounds, with recoils being a possible result after some losses, so it isn't pure rush up, grind down in a stationary fight to morale checks, and then melt away in a rout.
If short of players, the sides adjust something like:
7 Drop the monsters from below, reintroduce if somebody wanders up.
6 Put them back but only have two dwarf and two goblin factions.
5 Do both reductions above.
4 Have all four sides, with dwarf and goblin players each getting about half a player's group extra.
3 Like 4 without the monsters faction or I play the monsters faction.
2 Just line up all the dwarves on one side and all the goblin/orc faction on the other, drop the internal competition goals. Introduce reduced delver and/or monster factions on autopilot die rolls.
1 I fill in for one side in the two sided scenario.