Four warlords have marshaled powerful undead armies to once more fight for the rulership of the Shining City of Salamangka. This is the climax of everything the PCs have experienced since 5th level when they were first drawn to the Disputed Territories, and for the most part this sidequest is focused on making the most important information for the GM readily available.
FORsaken, not FOURsaken Depending on how soon the party managed to escape from Valindar, they may have knocked out one or two of the undead leaders before the Festival of Night begins. With the exception of Syfforack Zoi, any destroyed warlord is replaced by their second in command and in lieu of that, 50% of their armies scatter as the fight begins (which armies are randomly determined).
Forsaken Soldiers Hopefully the PCs haven’t resigned themselves to a fate as undead under the tyrannical grip of Syfforack Zoi, but if they have been transformed into forsaken liches don’t let that end the game! Encourage the group to play through the final battle of Forsaken Frontier with the goal of seeing their master reach apotheosis, working to crush his enemies (or possibly strike him down and take the power of Salamangka as their own!)
Reaching Apotheosis To reach Apotheosis a warlord has to occupy the central hex of Salamangka for 10 consecutive battle phases. Any battle phases the warlord is opposed by an adjacent army or warlord also occupying Salamangka count at ½ value. Syfforack Zoi and Kaloatl begin the battle at the front of their armies. Savithrin and Doc Fell begin at the edge of the combat map.
Salamangka’s Aura The first time any army or creature enters the hexes touched by Salamangka’s Aura they gain +5 temporary hit points. While within these hexes, undead armies gain +1 to OM, DV, and Speed.
As soon as the sun is about to set on the Disputed Territories, a soft golden glow emanates from the pleasing architecture of distant Salamangka. With each passing second the illumination becomes more intense and glorious light shines forth across the Forsaken Frontier. When it reaches its zenith a dread call for war comes from the withered unnatural throats of thousands of undead and spreads all across the territory around the Shining City, the very ground trembling at their rage.
FROM THE NORTH (red) Savithrin the vortex dragon and his armies come from the northwest and northeast.
4 Shadow Armies are opposed by Syfforack Zoi’s forces toward the west.
Toward the east, 5 Crawling Hand Armies attempt to slow down the forces of Doc Fell so the dragon’s trio of Graveknight Armies can swiftly consolidate the hexes around Salamangka (the central army is led by Boris Balescu).
Savithrin can move two hexes each battle phase and ignores difficult terrain.
FROM THE EAST (shaded) Doc Fell the pale stranger and his armies come from the northeast and southeast. Doc Fell himself remains on the eastern wall of Salamangka with Sulcera Stonesmile and carefully directs his forces (occasionally firing one of the three arcane artillery pylons arrayed along the top of it himself).
Toward the north his 3 Ghast Rogue armies occupy Savithrin’s Forces.
Toward the south, the 2 Ghast Rogue armies hinder the soldiers of the Smiling Sons.
The Ghost Rogue armies are kept in reserve until another warlord reaches Salamangka or a hex adjacent to it, at which point he and these forces move directly for the Shining City’s central hex.
Doc Fell’s armies have turned at least two of the hexes on the Plains of Destryka into prepared battlefield traps, and every turn there is a 10% chance an arcane vortex trap appears in a random square there (removing any spellcaster bonus to an army’s statistics).
Doc Fell can move one hex each battle phase and can ignore up to 3 hexes of difficult terrain throughout the combat
FROM THE SOUTH (blue) Kaloatl the Eternal Eye and his Smiling Sons come from the southwest and southeast.
Toward the west Zhalak Mhun, his second in command, leads 2 Smiling Sons armies that focus on reaching and destroying Syfforack Zoi.
Toward the east Kaloatl and 3 Smiling Sons armies push directly for Salamangka. As soon as a warlord occupies the central hex, Kaloatl immediately heads for the Shining City.
Kaloatl can move one hex each battle phase but receives +1 DV and OM while in Salamangka. Once per battle phase he can act as the leader of any Smiling Sons army regardless of their position on the battlefield.
FROM THE WEST (green) Syfforack Zoi and his armies come from the northwest and southwest. Syfforack heads directly for Salamangka, leaving his forces to cover his flank and keep him from being overwhelmed.
Toward the north Izali Komadri and 5 Wight armies attempt to break apart Savathrin’s forces to leave the vortex dragon vulnerable.
Toward the south are 4 Dretch armies, fodder that Syfforack uses to occupy Kaloatl’s forces while he captures Salamangka.
Syfforack Zoi can move one hex each battle phase and ignores difficult terrain. Once per battle phase he can negate a hex’s negative effects (a trap, haunt, or difficult terrain) regardless of his position on the battlefield.
Eventually the various undead armies will destroy one another, but the focus of the PCs should remain on Salamangka. As before, once a warlord and their second in command is destroyed their armies scatter—as the Festival of Night ends, any leaderless forces disperse (though of a malevolent warlord underwent Apotheosis, the adventurers have an entirely different fight to deal with!)
This brings an end to the first AaWBlog Presents Adventure Path! The first of these to become a module (Tribal Troubles) is in production, but we encourage you to peruse the AdventureAweek.com website and follow the whole story (or download one of our first three collections, Armory of Adventures, Cultus Sanguineus, or Mischievous Meadows). Next month we aren’t doing a specific theme but don’t worry—as always there will be daily posts of magic items, traps, haunts, cursed items, story locales, sidequests, and statblocks before the second AaWBlog Presents adventure path begins in April [if you are wondering what Friday posts are going to be,you are in for a treat! -MM].
The four great warlords of the Forsaken Frontier all fight for the same prize: the Shining City of Salamangka! Once the crown of civilization in the Disputed Territories, it fell from the heights of power to disrepair but is still coveted for the great power the settlement still holds.
Every thousand years the Festival of Night occurs, empowering the citizens and creatures within the Shining City while it splays golden light over all of western Aventyr, filling the hearts of the living with spirit and vigor—and for the undead, a reinforcement of spirit so strong that for a time they seem returned to life once more. Leahcim and the Vidrefactebrought an end to that and there’s no way to tell just what the imminent Festival of Night will bring to the Forsaken Frontier, though each of the warlords has prepared extensively for it regardless [see the Apotheosis section of each Statblock Sunday! -MM].
Catastrophic Crags These unstable mountains have caused the end of many foolhardy armies, the landmasses literally quaking as the Festival of Night draws near. When an army without the incorporeal quality moves through a hex in this area they treat it as difficult terrain and there is a 50% chance of a rockfall dealing 1d6+6 damage to the army.
Plains of Destryka While typically dangerous enough because of spontaneously forming arcane vortices and prepared battlefield traps carefully laid out by Doc Fell’s army, the wily pale stranger has an even more dangerous weapon at his disposal. Several arcane artillery pylons once used by holy warriors have been painstakingly dragged out of the Vidrefacte’s reach by his ghostly forces’ telekinesis, set up along the walls east of the Shining City to range as far as the River of Contempt.
River of Contempt A strong running current of water from around the western side of Salamangka’s northern bulwark forces any armies without the flight or incorporeal special abilities to succeed a DC 17 Morale check (on a failure, the army stops its movement in that hex). Each round it receives another Morale check to cross the river. Armies stopped in a hex occupied by the River of Contempt may only attack and deal damage in the Melee phase but receive +3 DV during the Ranged phase. During the Festival of Night, part of the northern waters are filled by the holy waters haunt.
Salamangka’s Walls Enormous walls made from impervious stone over three hundred feet high tower along the cardinal perimeter of the realm that sits around the Shining City, forcing entry into the territory through the northeast, southeast, southwest, or northwest. Armies without the flight or incorporeal special abilities cannot move through Salamangka’s Walls.
The Shining City The effects of the Festival of Night, the full hex map, and the locations of the Forsaken Frontier’s armies (and their warlords) are all part of the final battle in this week’s Sidequest Saturday!
Prepared Battlefield Trap CR 14 Type mechanical; Perception —; Disable Device special Trigger location; Reset Repair Effect DC 35 Leadership check or halve army’s OM, speed, and DV and limit tactics to standard and withdraw
At the beginning of each melee phase, a DC 20 Morale check may be made to reroll the DC 35 Leadership check. A successfully sprung prepared battlefield trap can be negated for a number of rounds equal to its leader’s highest mental attribute modifier if this secondary check is successful. An army that has mobility grants a +2 luck bonus to these checks.
The constant warfare between the Disputed Territories’ denizens have taught them the value of a prepared battlefield and the importance of using tactics to take advantage of the terrain (both natural and man-made). Armies wait just on the other side of passes, fords, or other congestion points, ready to ambush. They often dig holes, divert water to turn roads muddy, or even use mundane and magical effects to slow and harass an enemy force to reduce its effectiveness. Because of their shared nature as undead, the vast majority of this region is rife with prepared battlefields frequently tended to and amended, making a strong commander and tactician a must for any military action to be successful in the Disputed Territories.
DESCRIPTION This large, sturdy t-shaped cart is mounted with a pivoting, enormous crystal pylon.
An arcane artillery pylon requires the infusion of negative or positive energy in order to function. This magic item can hold a charge of up to 1,000 points of channeled energy, at which point it glows (depending on energy type this can be gold, amber, or black). Any number of creatures can channel energy into an arcane artillery pylon at the same time, but conflicting energy types remain incompatible (for example, if the magic item is charged with 432 positive energy points, attempting to charge it with 32 negative energy points reduces its total to 400 positive energy points.)
An arcane artillery pylon can fire a ball of energy (positive or negative, whichever it is charged with) accurately at locations across a battlefield. Upon making contact, the sphere of power explodes in a radius and intensity defined by the type of shot.
Light Shot (35 points): 20-ft. radius, 10d6 channeled energy, Fort DC 17 halves, Range 2 miles, Knowledge (engineering) DC 15 Medium Shot (60 points): 50-ft. radius, 15d6 channeled energy, Fort DC 19 halves, Range 1.5 miles, Knowledge (engineering) DC 20 Heavy Shot (100 points): 100-ft. radius, 20d6 channeled energy, Fort DC 21 halves, Range 1 mile, Knowledge (engineering) DC 25
Creatures operating an arcane artillery pylon (the “shooter”) can do two things to affect the weapon as it fires. A shooter with Alignment Channel can expend one of their daily uses of channel energy to choose an alignment subtype when activating the magic item. Any shooter can make a Knowledge (engineering) check (determined by shot type) to maximize the arcane artillery pylon’s effectiveness; on a success, the DC to resist the resulting channel energy ball is increased by +4.
CONSTRUCTION Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, channel energy, life channel;Cost 68,000 gp
The tumultuous and meddling doings of Mischievous Meadows comes to a cataclysmic end in this week’s Sidequest Saturday: Vexing Valley Ambush!
The trails of Agent Elwin, Alby Amhlaoibhand whomever let loose the pepfralconsall lead to the same place: a secluded valley to the northeast of the grove where all this mess began. The troublesome antagonists are the adventurers’ only lead for what could have happened to their magic items, and were that not enough, an enchanted ring found while trying to lock down the location of the party’s adversaries provides the final clue—a lesser shining star.
Read the following as the PCs follow the magic item or trails of the various small folk proving to be such an impediment, bringing them into the Vexing Valley:
Pollen wafting on the breezes that fall down the hills on either side of the valley bring a pleasant fragrance to the idyllic scene before you, complementing the rolling green grasses and shimmering verdant fields that sway from blasts of wind that whip across the meadow. The sloped sides of this valley eventually round to a narrow pitch above its deepest part, a single cave four hundred feet from the natural entrance between its hills.
The slopes of the hills on either side of the valley are at 45 degree angles (counting as difficult terrain to move up and granting higher ground to combatants farther above) and about 600 feet from base to top. Eventually it narrows and rounds into a sort of hilly-gorge with a cave at the valley’s lowest, deepest point.
Once the party approaches within 100 feet of the cavern’s entrance, magical sensors hidden deep under the earth by Alby pick up their movement (although incorporeal and invisible PCs remain undetected). This begins a chain reaction that unleashes dozens of biddlywinks into the valley; read the following:
As you peer about the valley, looking intently at the cave entrance at the bottom of the pitch, some movement catches your eyes; something small and insectile begins to curiously crawl out onto the green grass and you make out the shape of what must be another biddlywink. Then a falling rock from further up the valley wall, above the cavern’s entrance, alerts you to the presence of another magic-consuming insect. You quickly realize to your horror that the entire wall is filled with biddlywinks, and the mischievous creatures begin pouring out from the hillside, buzzing in your direction!
Biddlywink CR 4
XP 1,200 CN Diminutive fey Init +9; Senses darkvision 120 ft., arcane sight, see invisibility; Perception +12 DEFENSE AC 18, touch 18, flat-footed 14 (+4 Dex, +4 size) hp 38 (7d6+14) Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +8 Weakness silver OFFENSE Speed fly 60 ft. (perfect) or 40 ft. (see text) Melee force fronds +11 (1d8+3 force) Ranged +11 Space 0 ft.; Reach 0 ft. Special Attacks force fronds Spell-Like Abilities (CL 7th; concentration +10) Constant—arcane sight, nondetection, see invisibility At will—glitterdust, mage hand 5/day—dimension door STATISTICS Str 6, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 16 Base Atk +3; CMB -2; CMD 13 Feats Improved Initiative, Skill Focus (Sleight of Hand), Toughness, Weapon Finesse Skills Escape Artist +14, Fly +15, Perception +12, Sense Motive +11, Sleight of Hand +17, Stealth +26, Survival +12; Size Modifiers Fly +6, Stealth +12 Languages Druidic SQ freeze, hide in plain sight SPECIAL ABILITIES Interdimensional Sac (Su) While biddlywink can (and often do) consume enchanted items as quickly as possible, they also store them to digest later in an invisible extradimensional sac not unlike a handy haversack or bag of holding, but only capable of storing up to 30 pounds. When a biddlywink is killed, the sac appears on the material plane and bursts open dealing 3d8 force damage (DC 20 Reflex negates) to any creatures or items in a 10-ft. radius (though not to anything within it). Force Fronds (Ex) The tendrils extending from a biddlywink’s mouth can be devastating when employed to attack a creature. On a successful melee touch attack, they deal 1d8+3 force damage. Light Flier (Ex) When a biddlywink’s interdimensional sac is holding at least 2½ lbs. of items or a number of caster levels worth of items equal to twice the biddlywink’s hit die, it cannot maintain a sustained flight. Its speed is reduced and it moves in long bounds and hops that don’t exceed 5 feet in height or 10 feet in length—the biddlywink effectively now has a base speed of 40 feet until items in its Interdimensional Sac are digested. Ranged Legerdemain (Su) A biddlywink can use Sleight of Hand at a range of 30 feet. Working at a distance increases the normal skill check DC by 5, and the biddlywink cannot take 10 on this check. Only object that weigh 5 pounds or less can be manipulated this way. Wyrd Digestion (Su) These strange insectile-fey literally eat magic to survive. As a standard action, a biddlywink can ingest a magical item of Diminutive size or smaller. As a full round action, it can consume a magical item of Tiny size and over the course of a minute (ten rounds), a Small size magical item. Once eaten by a biddlywink, an item is not instantly destroyed—instead it is secreted inside of its Interdimensional Sac. Potions are digested quickly within and are destroyed after a number of rounds equal to caster level. Wondrous items are more resilient and last for a number of minutes equal to caster level; any other enchanted items (rings, staves, weapons, armor) are destroyed after ten minutes per caster level. Any item recovered from a biddlywink’s interdimensional sac before it is fully digested operates at two caster levels higher than normal for one week. The first time it is stored in an extradimensional space, it remains empowered this way until removed again (though afterward, the increased power diminishes and it returns to normal). Biddlywink that consume enough magic items (1000 gp x hit die) transform into a biddlytree and sprout 2d12+4 biddlywinks with the young template after 1d10 days.
CN Medium (100) army of fey (biddlywink) hp 21; ACR 6 DV 16; OM 6 Special arcane sight, darkvision, flight, ranged legerdemain (once per round of combat, a biddlywink army engaging an army with enchanted weapons or armor can choose to reduce the opposing army’s bonus to either DV or OM by -1), see invisibility, weakness (silver; a biddlywink army takes x1.5 damage from an army attacking with silver weapons) Speed 3; Consumption 5 Note Biddlywink armies predominantly only attack armies with enchanted goods, but will engage pepfralcons (their natural predators) if the fiery birds are outnumbered.
Most adventurers are smart enough not to engage dozens of biddlywinks all at once and make a run for it or somehow protect themselves in the hillsides, but if a PC decides to take the insectile fey head-on, don’t discourage them—just strip them of their magic items as they pit themselves against the biddlywinks (either an army using the mass combat statblock below facing off against 12 of the creatures at a time)!
Put the pressure on for a few rounds of chase as the biddlywinks near the party or breach their ad hoc defenses and ask the PCs for a DC 13 Perception check to notice that the lesser shining star is gleaming an impossible-to-hide ray of starlight towards the cavern. Then read the following:
A defiant, familiar cry accompanied by the waft of an open flame seems to grow from one lone call into a chorus of voices as you realize the battle is soon to be joined by more adversaries. Swooping into the far entrance of the valley from behind both hillsides are dozes of pepfralcons! The flaming birds dart forward, scorching the air behind them and turning the entire area into a raging inferno!
While the pepfralcons absolutely pose a serious danger to the PCs as enemies, the greater problem is the enormous fire that is certainly going to consume this valley before the battle comes to an end! Every square the pepfralcon “army” travels through is ignited and burns for 1d10+1 minutes, dealing 1d6 fire damage to anyone that passes across a fiery 5-foot square!
If the party isn’t running for the cavern yet, the lesser shining star begins to gently tug them in the direction of its parent artifact—currently being used quite feverish by Alby as he gathers the choicest items from his treasure hoards before absconding. Any PC wearing the lesser shining star suffers a -1 to attack rolls and AC every round they fail a DC 10 Strength check to resist the ring’s pull if they aren’t gradually moving toward the cave entrance. Moreover, one particularly fearsome advanced pepfralcon keeps attacking the adventurer carrying the lesser shining star, continuing its assault until the bearer escapes into the cavern.
Advanced Pepfralcon CR 10
XP 9,600 N Medium magical beast Init+9; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +10 DEFENSE AC 25, touch 17, flat-footed 18 (+6 Dex, +1 dodge, +8 natural armor) hp 136 (13d10+65), fast healing 1 Fort +11, Ref +15, Will +8 Immune fire Weakness cold OFFENSE Speed 10 ft., fly 70 ft. (perfect); hovering inferno Melee beak +21/+16/+11 (1d8+6 plus 1d6 fire, Crit 19-20/x2+1d10 fire) Ranged flaming feathers +21/+16/+11 (1d8+2 fire, Range 20 ft.) Special Attacks flaming feathers (ranged touch, 1d8 fire; Reflex DC 20 or catch on fire), hovering firestorm (30-ft. radius, 6d6+12 fire, Reflex DC 20 halves) STATISTICS Str 19, Dex 27, Con 19, Int 9, Wis 18, Cha 15 Base Atk +12; CMB +16; CMD 35 (cannot be tripped) Feats Dodge, Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Critical (bite), Improved Natural Weapon (bite), Toughness, Weapon Finesse Skills Fly +21, Perception +10 (+16 visual), Stealth +15, Survival +10; Racial Modifiers +6 Perception (visual only) Languages — SPECIAL ABILITIES Fiery Flurry (Ex) Any natural attacks made by an advanced pepfralcon deal +1d6 fire damage as its plumage scatters with each violent movement. Any creature that strikes an advanced pepfralcon with a natural weapon or without a melee weapon that grants reach takes 1d6 fire damage as the shed feathers whip at their limbs in response. These feathers never ignite flammable materials. Flaming Feathers (Ex) The advanced pepfralcon can fling it’s fiery plumage at enemies within 20 feet (any farther and the quills are consumed in the flames. On a successful ranged touch attack, targets take 1d8+2 fire damage and make a DC 20 Reflex save or catch on fire. Hovering Firestorm (Ex) As a full-round action, an advanced pepfralcon can create a miniature tempest centered around the square they occupy. This maneuver provokes attacks of opportunity. The advanced pepfralcon spins wildly and swiftly whips out feathers that turn a 30-foot radius into a tempest of flames that deal 6d6+12 fire damage (Reflex DC 20 halves). Any flammable objects in the area catch fire (attended objects receive a DC 17 Reflex save). Hovering Inferno (Ex) Any round in which an advanced pepfralcon does not take a full movement, any squares adjacent to their path of movement (including squares they briefly occupy) are filled with its scorching plumage as the bird sheds fiery feathers everywhere it goes. Creatures in any of these squares make a DC 20 Reflex save or take 1d6+2 fire damage (success negates). Normally these feathers burn out before igniting materials, but as a swift action the advanced pepfralcon can intensify its feathers’ heat to ignite flammable materials. TACTICS The advanced pepfralcon is extremely dangerous; its intellect rivals many humans and it makes the best use of its abilities, burning all of a target’s allies to distract them before moving in for the kill.
N Small (50) army of magical beasts (pepfralcons) hp 38; ACR 7 DV 17; OM 7 Special burn, fast healing 1, flight, immunity (fire), scent, weakness (cold; a pepfralcon army takes x1.5 damage from area cold attacks) Speed 3; Consumption 3 Note Any squares the pepfralcon army crosses during a battle remain on fire (dealing 1d6 fire damage to any army that occupies that square) for a number of rounds equal to 1/8th the pepfralcon army’s remaining hit points)
Fortunately for the PCs, Alby didn’t even have time to set up traps or properly close his escape route! On the tops of the hillsides of the valley the party notices lurking masked figures of mysterious individuals (P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. Agents) as the PCs dive into the cave, and they’ll only have a minute or two to gather what they can from what Alby left behind—troves of medium and minor wondrous items, and their equivalent magic arms and armor. Read the following as the adventurers escape the vexing valley:
Escaping the impending inferno by diving into the cave, you barely notice black-swathed figures atop the hillsides of the valley, obscured by the smoke but definitely there—and in numbers. The shrieking pepfralcons don’t follow you into the rocky passage and after a few dozen feet you lay your eyes on a treasure hoard that would make a dragon blush in shame. Glowing swords, glittering shields, embroidered boots, inscribed rings, and countless arcane or divine goods are littered in piles around the cavern. No exits are clearly visible save what appears to be a malfunctioning secret door built into the wall, heading north farther into the earth.
What exactly the PCs pull out of the item hoard and how much time they have to do it is ultimately up to the GM, but should never exceed twenty rounds; what more, the presence of the pepfralcon army directly outside of the entrance should warn them the time to leave is imminent. The AaWBlog recommends rewarding the party magic items equivalent in worth to the ones they lost (perhaps even improved versions) as well as a few other choice pieces—this is the time for their reward. Read the following when the adventurers finally make good their escape down the tunnel Alby clearly left through:
On the other side of the malfunctioning stone-slab door, you can clearly see the broken handle of a half-activated lever—which explains why the door wasn’t entirely closed. The tunnel contines down another forty feet before turning around a bend.
A DC 20 Disable Device check or DC 12 Strength check activates the full mechanism of the seamless secret door in the escape tunnel and buys the party a bit of a head start from the sure-to-follow P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. agents about to storm the cave. After a hundred feet, the PCs come across a conspicuously large red button that says, very clearly in large letters of Common, Dwarven, Elven, Gnomish, Halfling, Klavekian, Orc, Vikmordere, and others, “DO NOT TOUCH.” Pressing it doesn’t do anything, but a DC 30 Disable Device or DC 30 Use Magic Device check gets the button to work, caving in all of the tunnel behind and the cavern that holds Alby’s last treasure hoard.
Of course, the adventure isn’t over—the PCs have brought themselves to the attention of a powerful and influential organization. If they haven’t made permanent enemies or aren’t guaranteed to do so (in the case of the vast majority of paladins), the party may find employ or a means to power by joining the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S.—but that’s a story for another day. Most adventurers probably want to settle scores with Alby, and if they still have the lesser shining star, the PCs have the means to do it (although they won’t be the only ones looking for the troublesome gnome)!
Check out the AaWBlog tomorrow to get a look at a P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. Agent if the PCs are being actively chased by the organization, but otherwise, have a great time bringing Mischievous Meadowsto your tabletop in time for April Fool’s Day!
In battles with dozens or scores of combatants, the action can easily be taken away from the PCs and bog down your group. Still, epic scenes of massive conflict are essential to a strong gaming experience—what’s a GM to do?
The AaWBlog has you covered with a few tips to simplify mass combat and increase the enjoyment of the game, keeping the pace fast without taking away the gravitas of the battle!
1) Averages (2-10 surrounding fights) What I like to do is work out averages; each additional NPC vs NPC turn is broken down into two percentile rolls. Compare the attack bonuses of the party’s allies against the AC of the enemies and likewise—there’s a certain likelihood they hit or they miss. Have the average damage they’ll deal listed nearby (and leave markers on miniatures that have taken damage) and if necessary, available spell effects.
While this takes out critical hits, both sides lose that and for the most part, that kind of improbable factor serves to take away attention from the PCs anyway—double kudos for me! Still, you’re going to be rolling quite a few dice if there’s more than a dozen or so additional allies and enemies in the fight.
2) Cinematic (10+ surrounding fights) There’s another option—play out the fight beforehand (either literally as both sides or as a game of numbers) and describe what occurs as the conflict coalesces. Leave room in your planned scene to improvise and allow for PC involvement; the preparatory bit should be cast to the wind of the adventurers make a serious point about intervening but otherwise, this is the simplest and fastest approach. Use it wisely however—the PCs are as important to the story as it is. Paranoid GMs are encouraged to roll dice throughout this anyway, or create a simple table to determine the general pace of the outside conflict if they want to keep a dynamic sense about it.
3) Proper Mass Combat Rules (scores of combatants) Paizo has crafted amazing rules for mass combat in Pathfinder. Taking a standard creature (or more accurately, many of them) and converting their statistics into an army is a simple and fun process. The variation within is excellent, allowing for a level of complexity approachable to groups of varied play experience and I recommend to anyone reading (as I have to colleagues) to give them a solid read.
Just remember that while the backdrop of a huge battle should still seem to be a real fight to the PCs, it should remain as just that—a backdrop to the adventurer’s combat.
Do you have a contribution or idea for Meta Thursdays? Send us your ideas (after reading the submission guidelines) to submit(at)adventureaweek.com with “Meta Thursday” in the subject line!