Mass Combat, or, You and What Army?

In Exalted, armies are all well and good, but Exalts rule the day. Therefore, this system attempts to treat mass combat as a battle between unit leaders, with their units as adjuncts -- or, mechanically, as wielded weapons.

As part of this system, a new ability called War is created, replacing Martial Arts. Martial Arts charms now operate on a different system, to be described separately. Dawns now receive War instead of Martial Arts; Battles receive War, while Melee is moved to Endings to replace Martial Arts; Earth receives War instead of Martial Arts; and possibly Eridanos also receive War instead of Martial Arts.

Attacks in Mass Combat use Wits (tactical brilliance), Charisma (heroic leadership), or Strength (pure brutality) + War. Defenses in Mass Combat use Stamina + War; regardless of how your unit is assaulted, it's pure grit that sees you through.

Units have four statistics:

  • Magnitude, representing the size of your unit -- use the table in Exalted 2e;
  • Drill, representing your unit's overall level of preparedness for combat;
  • Valor, representing your unit's average Valor; and
  • Essence, representing your unit's average Essence, always rounding up.

When used to make attacks or defenses, treat units as wielded weapons, having an Accuracy and Defense equal to their Magnitude, a Damage equal to their Drill, and a Rate equal to their Essence.

When a successful attack is made, the damage is done to the unit. Units have Soak equal to their Drill and health levels equal to half their Magnitude, rounded up. A unit subtracts a number of levels of damage equal to its Essence from each successful attack on it. A unit that loses all its health levels loses a point of Magnitude and refreshes its health levels to their new maximum. A unit that falls to Magnitude 0 is eliminated; only the leader remains.

Drill, or, What the Hell is Preparedness for Combat?

Here is an inexhaustive list of things that go into Drill:

  • Training (0-5, approximately as Drill in 2e core)
  • Equipment (0-5, approximately as average Resources; +2 bonus for average Artifact instead)
  • Logistics (0-3, approximately as half average Bureaucracy of coordinators)
  • Reconnaissance (0-3, approximately as... average Stealth/Awareness of scouts? search me)
  • Communications (0-5, somehow)
  • Endurance (0-3, approximately as half average Endurance)

Basically, Drill covers anything you begin the battle with that improves your odds of survival and victory. When in doubt, if someone has a Charm that "ought" to make their troops more effective, it probably gives a bonus to Drill.


Units without sufficient dedication can be made to flee at the first sign of danger. When a unit takes health levels of damage equal or greater to their average Valor in a single attack, the leader rolls their personal Valor against a difficulty equal to the levels of damage done. If this roll is failed, the unit immediately loses a point of Magnitude. This does not cause a health level refresh.

Oversized Units

Some effects create individual units with enough size and firepower to compete on the scale of mass combat in their own right. Warstriders, airships, and sorcery can all empower a single individual or a small group with the power of an army. These units are known as oversized units.

Each oversized unit has an ability associated with it; this ability may be substituted for War when making mass combat rolls. Oversized units do not gradually lose Magnitude; instead, they have a normal set of health levels and wound penalties, leading eventually to destruction. They cannot rout. Otherwise, they behave normally as units.

Charms In Mass Combat

The base unit of time in Mass Combat is the long turn, equivalent to one hundred and one turns (about eight and a half minutes). The long action, derived from this time unit, is an action that takes a whole or a fraction of one long turn, while requiring an unspecified but large number of normal turns to execute; similarly, a long scene encompasses all the long turns involved in a particular story moment.

At this time scale, obviously Charm use and Essence regeneration must be, to some level, abstracted. The Charm use of troops with Essence-channeling capability is abstracted into the unit's Essence rating; the Charm use of unit leaders is handled with the At-Will system.

Certain Charms and Spells with especial utility in Mass Combat have At-Will effects in addition to their normal effects. During Mass Combat, the Exalt may choose to activate any or all of these Charms At-Will. Activating a Charm At-Will is always:

  • a Reflexive long action with a
  • Duration of "one long scene" and a
  • Cost of half the normal mote cost of the Charm or effect, rounded up. This abstraction represents the Exalt using the Charm's normal effect at every opportunity they find to do so, while regenerating motes through stunting.

There is no limit to the number of At-Will Charm effects you may activate in the same turn.

  • Example: Zahara is leading a unit in Mass Combat. She wants to activate Magma Kraken At-Will, but since I can't find the stat block for that spell, she grudgingly decides to use Death of Obsidian Butterflies At-Will instead. Since Death of Obsidian Butterflies normally costs 15m 1wp, she commits 8 motes to activate it At-Will. She is assumed to be casting the spell every time her unit engages in combat, and possibly sometimes just for fun, and then regenerating the cost through casual stunting. The At-Will effect of Death of Obsidian Butterflies (does something really fucking awesome).

Prematurely deactivating your At-Will Charms leaves your Essence pool depleted, representing the difficulty of changing strategies in the middle of a battle; however, stunting your maneuvers during long turns (long stunts?) allows you to regenerate this Essence and activate different At-Will Charms. Essence regeneration over time also operates as normal.

(K) How would it be if we dropped the size requirement from the Oversized Units rules, so that sufficiently powerful individuals could move over the battlefield like a unit? Clearly that would require some extra rules support, but it invite non-War characters into the mini-game, and it would help me understand what is supposed to happen when those people are on the battlefield (especially if they're leading a unit that loses all its Magnitude).

My super-lazy suggestion is that any single character (or character-like entity) can enter Mass Combat as a solo unit. Use their normal statistics, except that the final value of their attack, defense, soak and damage pools (after charms, stunts, and whatever but before rolling) are halved. Mass Combat damage counts against their normal wound tracks, but each level takes off two health levels instead of one. Solo units do not subtract their Essence from the damage they receive from attacks. They may use Scene-long charms as At-Will charms (halving the Essence cost), but pay full price for Instant charms. Like all other Mass Combat units, they only receive one dice action per long-turn.

Page last modified on April 21, 2009, at 07:40 AM