View Full Version : Feat: Formation Fighting (mainly for npc armies)

evil mind
2007-01-16, 06:56 PM
I started thinking about how horribly ineffective an army using medieval tactics is in D&D. I came up with these 2 feats (primarily for NPCs) so that an army is more of a serious threat to a small group, like PCs. Consider a small army of 30 level 1 warriors led by a level 6 fighter vs a balanced party of four level 5 PCs. Such a party of PCs is outnumbered more than 6 to one but can still expect to win in 3 rounds or less.
More importantly the *flavor* of a fight like this always seems wrong to me. Namely the army would have to spread out (to avoid AoE spells) and the PC fighter would cleave through mid sized groups of NPCs. And players wouldn't and don't give such an encounter any respect (and rightfully so). But I've always felt that armies should get respect and the rules should ensure they do so I came up with these 2 feats:

Formation Fighting [general feat]

Base attack bonus +1.

When 6 or more characters with this feat are within 5'ft each other they may use a full round action to form a formation. In a formation:
-Characters are treated as being up to 2 size categories smaller for the purposes of how many squares they occupy (4 medium characters may occupy the same 5'ft square and attack while doing so.)
-Opponents cannot use the Great Cleave Feat against you.
-While using this feat you are considered hard cover.
-Grants a +1 competence bonus to melee attacks, and saves for each character in the formation that performs the same action that round to a maximum of +6.

-Detaching yourself from a formation is a interruptible full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity.
-Any character in a formation that does not have at least 2 other allied characters also in a formation within 5ft when they end their turn suffers a -4 competence penalty to all attacks, saves and AC and loses all benefits of this feat.
-You threaten a maximum of 1 square per round in a formation.
-Altering which square you threaten is a move equivalent action.
-Any standard action other than Attack or Cast a Spell takes a full-round action.
-Any Move-equivalent action other than moving takes a standard action.
-Performing the run action in a formation gives a -6 competence penalty to all attacks, saves and AC for 20 rounds.

Warriors automatically have Formation Fighting as a bonus feat. They need not select it. A fighter may select Formation Fighting as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Improved Formation Fighting [general feat]

Int 13, Formation Fighting, base attack bonus +5, OR Leadership, Knowledge (Military Tactics) 5 ranks.

Within the radius of your movement rate, any ally (but excluding you) actively using the Formation Fighting feat gains a a +2 morale bonus to saving throws and skill checks if you have 5 or more ranks in that skill.
You may as a standard action give a +2 morale bonus to attack, damage and AC to all allies within the radius of your movement rate at a DC of 10 if they can see and hear you. Base attack, Int, Wis and Cha modify this roll. Alternatively you can substitute Knowledge (Military Tactics) modified by Wis and Cha. Failing this roll gives a -2 morale penalty instead. Any bonus granted by this feat becomes a penalty if your allies can no longer see or hear you or while you are incapacitated. This is a mind affecting ability.
A fighter may select Improved Formation Fighting as one of his fighter bonus feats.

evil mind
2007-01-16, 06:59 PM
Meta-Analysis: Formation Fighting
-The base feat is obviously for melee npcs (attack bonus is only for melee attacks).
-Reach doesn't change... so polearms become much more useful (which I feel they should be in a melee army, but practically useless one on one.)
-A group of 24 men in a 15ft wide, 10ft thick (1st rank using swords, 2nd rank using reach weapons) becomes extremely dangerous to the fighter who just hacks at it. (All 24 warriors would be able to attack 1 target without even having to flank... though 3 or 4 warriors would be killed per round to the fighter until he is dropped.)
-Can still be useful to casters/archers in many situations. 1st rank of archers would have to be kneeling for 2nd to be effective but the only real reason they would use this feat would be for the bonus to saves.
-Hard cover gives a further +2 to reflex saves... unless you are the hard cover which simply means "ouch". (I'm fine with fireballs thinning out an army, but I didn't want them to laugh it off or to get slaughtered so I went an in-between route with hard cover.)

Meta-Analysis: Improved Formation Fighting
-I'm not sure I'm happy with the pre-req's for Improved Formation Fighting.
-I want to ensure that certain types of casters (like war wizards) and or NPC classes (aristocrats) can take it without too many levels.
-I based it on movement rate so that a mounted commander is more effective and it scales based on physical size. (lich on a dragon anyone)
-I strongly considered giving evasion to allies (not self) outright or some way via the improved feat but went the big + to saves instead. Really wanted to go one or the other not both... If getting all bonuses, +6+2+2= +10 reflex save. Still may go some form of evasion instead. If there is a "Greater" (3rd tier) version of the feat at level 12, it will definitely have some form of evasion.

Final notes:
-While 1st feat is pretty crappy for PCs, the 2nd I could see some PCs taking, but powergamers would likely avoid it.
-Bonus types purposely stack, and undead would benefit from the 1st but not the 2nd feat.
-skipped the "Normal" part of the feat entry as I didn't feel like writing a PHB.
-Most feedback welcome! Please no comments about CRs, tacking on levels/templates or how large numbers of monsters aren't supposed to be used in D&D. I won't agree or won't find such comments helpful.

2007-01-16, 08:11 PM
Let's see if I understand this.

4 Medium characters fit in 5ft, 16 Small fit in 5ft, 64 Tiny fit in 5ft? (Or is it doubling figures?) Because that could potentially get a touch insane, we'll go for the lesser figure of 8 small, 16 Tiny.

Okay, so we have our formation of 24 men in a 15ftx10ft block. 12 swordsmen in front, 12 spearmen behind. The entire formation moves forward its move speed (20ft) and makes melee attacks. Because everyone is doing the same thing, all men gain a +6 formation bonus to attack and saves. Each man provides hard (half?) cover, all gaining +2 to Reflex saves and +4 Cover bonuses to AC (but are liable to get it in place of their neighbour if his attacker misses by less than 4).

Next round, the entire formation spends the round executing their full attacks on the enemy, save one fellow in the front ranks who quaffs a potion instead. He loses his formation bonus to attack and saves (retaining half cover) through not following the group. As everyone else still has at least 6 people within 5ft doing the same as them, they still receive the +6 formation bonus.

Next round, four swordsmen (one third of the front ranks) move away from the group (potentially provoking attacks of opportunity, but we'll ignore that for now) as their own little formation. They are all doing the same thing, but as there are only four of them their collective bonus drops to +4 (although they still retain their cover bonuses).

One spearman on the exposed flank loses his nerve and makes a break for it, taking a full-round action to do so (nobody is close enough to make attacks of opportunity). He loses all formation bonuses as well as his cover bonuses. He is immediately picked off by an enemy slingshot.

A different formation (same order, 12 swordsmen in front, 12 spearmen behind) is rushed by a lone, idiotic warrior. All the soldiers are 1st level warriors. The warrior in question runs up to the front of the formation and is immediately attacked by all 24 men (he is within all of their reach ranges), each of whom attack him with at least a +7 bonus to attack (+6 from formation, +1 B.A.B). This will usually manage to skewer even a man in chainmail with a shield.

For additional fun, a different formation has 36 men. 12 swordsmen in front, 12 spearmen and twelve pikemen armed with awl pikes. Our lone suicidal warrior strikes the front of the formation and faces off against all 36 attacks, thanks to the extra long range of awl pikes. However, he might still scutter a few swordsmen on his way in. Quite a few swordsmen probably will die in the event of an attack by another battallion.

The smart commander has his 36 man formation armed with 12 pikemen, 12 spearmen in front and 12 shieldbearers in front of those. The shieldbearers march up to the enemy and plant their tower shields in the ground (a standard action), kneeling behind them to gain 9/10ths cover (a move action). The entire front line now has a +10 AC bonus and a +4 reflex bonus (superceding their formation bonus) and can attack with shortswords or shortspears (generally, bludgeoning and slashing weapons require too much freedom of movement for shieldfighting) or can just hide behind their shields completely for a complete cover bonus. The spearmen and pikemen can fight away as normal, cutting the opposing batallion into ribbons whilst they remain cheerfully protected by the (stationary) shieldbearers. It takes a full-round action to remove a tower shield from its planted position.

Awl Pike: A specialised pike 18ft in length, used primarily in heavy formation fighting. Pikemen require specialised training in its use, but it can be used to remarkable effect in large battles. Requires Exotic Proficiency (awl pike) to use proficiently.

Build Stats:
1d8 damage (4.5)
x3 critical (2)
Set to a charge (.5)
Reach 15ft (2)
(9 point total, suitable for a Large exotic weapon.)

2007-01-16, 08:19 PM
Sounds like a cool set. After all, PCs are only going to get this for the second one, and doesn't do anything to huge battles. :smallredface:

Glooble Glistencrist
2007-01-17, 03:34 PM
I may use this in my current campaign. There's definately going to be a war that the PC's get caught up in. I was planning to avoid battles with large armies, but now I may include one, just to test this.

evil mind
2007-01-17, 06:12 PM
I may use this in my current campaign.

If you do decide to use these feats, make sure to warn the players well in advance. Finding out that your character can't Great Cleave after the charge or finding out that the carefully positioned fireball that you cast is going to blow up on the front rank rather than the back rank (hard cover vs soft cover) are things players need to know before the battle starts.

Plus in a fit of insanity, a PC may want to take the feats.:smallbiggrin:

evil mind
2007-01-18, 01:33 PM
A couple of extra things I want to draw attention to:
-You can leave a formation without "detaching" from one and often you could be magically compelled to do so. That means you fight like crap (-4, and threaten 1 square at a time, most actions take longer) until you stop and take the full round action to "turn off" the feat. This is so that when someone breaks and flees from a formation they really suck until they can stop and take time to get their wits about them.

-Hard cover vs soft cover I especially feel needs extra explanation of how it works. A fireball normally goes to where it's targeted and how far away from the blast point doesn't matter. However a fireball that is targeted in the middle of a formation will likely hit the 1st rank instead of where the wizard was trying to hit. In that case, 1st rank gets no benefit, 2nd rank would get 1/2 cover, 3rd rank 3/4 cover (as with cover 1/2 + 1/2 = 3/4) etc as the cover categories increase. Each category of cover gives better reflex saves and at 9/10ths cover and better (which would be the 4th guy back and after) you get improved evasion as a function of cover. So the guys at the back of the formation will take little or no damage from a fireball as the bodies of their allies absorb the damage and the sound of It's raining men fills their ears.
Granted a wizard could in many cases target the fireball above them so that the effects of cover is greatly reduced... probably 1/2 cover for everyone in that case. But a lighting bolt or other directed spell (such as cones) would become less and less effective the further into the back ranks they went due to better and better saves each are getting (and of course improved evasion).

There will be lots of counters to this (as there should be) like calling in "Blackhawk" the flying evocation sorcerer to rain death from above. Casting a spell like "Chaos" first then a fireball second would turn a lot of +6 bonuses into -4 penalties too.

(Oh ya, and and I edited the feat above so that the "formation penalty" is a "competence penalty.")

evil mind
2007-01-18, 02:45 PM
Let's see if I understand this.
4 Medium characters fit in 5ft, 16 Small fit in 5ft, 64 Tiny fit in 5ft? (Or is it doubling figures?) Because that could potentially get a touch insane, we'll go for the lesser figure of 8 small, 16 Tiny.

Thishttp://www.d20srd.org/srd/combat/movementPositionAndDistance.htm#bigandLittleCreatu resInCombat explains the size categories.

I also thought this could be a touch insane too. For example with the feat the Small category would become Diminutive, which means 25 characters per square which my first impressions sounded nuts, but then I calculated it out. I also physically made a 5ft square using tape measures and stood in it... it didn't seem so nuts.

Another way of thinking about it is if (under normal rules) you had a battle with nothing but storm giants... would you still use a 5ft grid? What if there was a duel between pixies? Would you still give them a reach of 0? In those cases I change the grid so that proportionally the creatures become medium sized creatures (aka squares on the map at a size slightly less than their height).

It comes down to creature height vs area.

Inside my 5ft square, I thought I could comfortably add 3 other people to tighten it up without it being too crowded. That would means each person is fighting in a 2.5ft square. 2.5ft is going to be about 40%-50% of the height of an average man. Using a rule of thumb 40%-50% of height of a creature = minimum area, I checked the rest of the table and to my own surprise it still worked.

Example: A small sized creature (2.5ft tall) that is roughly proportional to a human would need an area of 1ft. (40% x 2.5ft= 1ft) In an area 5ft by 5ft (aka D&D's 5ft square) there are 25 x 1 ft squares. By standard D&D rules, 25 Diminutive creatures can occupy a 5ft square... so proportionally it still works.

Small --> Diminutive just feels like a big jump because two small characters really should be able to fit into a 5ft square in standard rules. (Get a couple of 8 year olds and put them into a 5ft square, and compare it proportionally to 2 adults into two 5ft squares to see what I mean.) After all, an ogre and a halfling by normal rules both take up a single 5ft square but one is a quarter of the size of the other. This problem with the basic rules pops up every time there is a character with a reach of 10ft... those corners are 15ft away, how does he reach them exactly?

On a similar note, large --> small also breaks for the same reason. 2 small creatures should be able to fit into a 5ft square under normal rules. And using the Formation Fighting feat, 2 ogres could fight in 1 5ft square, or 2 mounted humans on horses could fight in formation in a 5ft square.

If you were fighting in a skirmish type fight you would need more space. PCs generally would fight this way and D&D models it fairly well with 5'ft squares. (If I was fencing someone in real life I wouldn't want less than a 5ft square to stand in, preferably with the option to take a "5ft step" in any direction.) But if I was a roman solider facing an incoming barbarian charge and my allies are a minimum of 5ft away it would really suck as no one could support each other.