Friday, February 24, 2017

More on 5E Mass Combat

Contrary to what I'd previously believed, the CR table is surprisingly linear. Between 1st and 20th level, 1 point of CR pretty much gains you 15 HP and 6 points of damage. Between 21st and 30th levels (inclusive), the rate of gain triples: 45 HP and 18 points of damage. CR 1 has about 5x the HP and 2x the offensive power of a typical CR "step" (but of course, most CR 1 creatures in the MM are not actually as tough as that table predicts). That means that all of the non-linearity after CR 1 comes from gains to-hit and AC, which kind of offsets the early stat HP/damage boost that comes before CR 1. Linear is good for mass combat because if you sum a linear measure, you can be pretty sure the result will come out close to your actual result.

I'm still running sims to find a BR measure that is plausible to me. So far, it seems roughly plausible to assign BR = CR for CR between 1 and 20.

Data points: purely by the numbers, a Marilith can take on 20 orcs, just barely, but loses pretty badly to 21. A Githyanki Knight can take on 6 orcs, about 70% of the time, but loses about 60% of the time to 7, and it's hopeless against 8. (In a real fight these differences would be less extreme because terrain and tactics come into play, but we're just talking pure numbers here, which is what mass combat is all about.) A pit fiend handily beats 30 orcs reliably (10/10) but loses reliably to 35 (9/10); the tipping point seems to be about 32. (Pit fiend winds 50% of the time against 32 orcs.)

So, I think you wouldn't go far wrong to start off saying that BR = CR (in conjunction with some set of rules that's better than the UA rules, e.g., with CR 1/2 counting as BR 2/3 and CR 1/4 counting as BR 1/3, and anything over CR 20 counting as perhaps BR 20 + 3 * (amount over 20), so CR 30 is BR 50. Then the DM can adjust things on the fly as needed, e.g. he can say that an ancient red dragon (BR 32) against 300 orcs (BR 200) counts as BR 320 for offensive purposes because its breath weapon scales so well against massed targets--so the ancient red's commander just needs to find some kobold or goblin meat shields to soak up orc javelins while the ancient red annihilates the orcs, and he'll be able to win. Similarly, a DM might reasonably rule that Ogres are not BR 2, they are only BR 1, barely better than orcs. (He might also downgrade them to CR 1 as well, but that's a separate conversation.)

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