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  1. #1

    Military Units in Birthright

    I'm not entirely comfortable with the way military units are handled in Birthright. There seem to be a number of issues with them that cause problems.
    • Racial bonuses are not included. This means, effectively, that you must "buy" any racial bonuses. For example, the average elf has a +2 Dex bonus, and therefore +1 to AC and to their attacks with missiles. They should be better than the equivalent human archers that lack this Dex bonus; if you want to reflect that, though, you have to buy them heavier armour and/or +Miss training, so that the elven unit ends up more expensive. Now, I understand that this is done for balance reasons, but it's still an awkward mechanic.
    • The costs to muster units have little to no correlation with standard price lists. This is most obvious when you consider how much 200 horses would cost for a cavalry unit, but if you run the numbers for virtually any unit you discover that these soldiers are very poorly paid, as there is little left over from the seasonal maintenance cost after feeding them. Presumably these are professional soldiers, not a militia - they would expect better wages than a farmer would get. But this is a minor issue at best; the vagueness of the value of a GB can be pointed at here in order to evade the question.
    • It is not easy to represent powerful creatures because of the first point. A unit that consisted of 200 ogres, for example, could not possibly be represented with the range of statistics available. Granted, the rules suggest that a "unit of ogres" would actually be mostly smaller creatures with only a few ogres, but there is no getting around that the inability of the system to represent a 200 ogre unit is a restriction.

    I actually do quite like the actual resolution system of war cards, though. I just feel that the way that the units are created is quite clunky.

    It seems possible that you could construct a system whereby racial bonuses were paid for separately to training. For example, if you worked out that a unit of ogre standard irregulars should have a +8 melee attack bonus rather than +4, you could make ogres cost (say) 4GB more than humans do. The advantage of this is that you could then have trained ogres that were even better. You could also take racial penalties into account this way to lower the cost.

    The main advantage of such a system would be that you could create units that were actually different, as opposed to the current situation whereby every race can construct pretty much the same units.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    I would prefer to think of the GB value of various units as being similar to a Challenge Rating. You are looking for concrete values of how many troops are in a specific unit, which is flawed by the (especially) 3rd ed BRCS.

    Using your first comparison, of elven and human archers, yes, of course the elves are better archers with their dex bonus - but there are also less elves in an equivalent unit because CR wise, they are slightly superior (very slightly superior) in this case - remember you also get Nature Stride, so, the Scout ability, which also adds more to their range attack, btw. Admittedly, it also reduces their hits by 1. This means that, as an example, the average elven archer unit may only number 30-40 elves... whereas the human archer unit may number as high as 200.

    Similarly, 200 ogres would NOT make a single unit of Ogres. It would be several units - as a CR 2 creature, let's assume that there are 1/4 of the amount of creatures in a "unit" as there would be of equivalent CR 1. So, 1 ogre to every 4 human swordsmen. This especially makes sense considering that the "average" ogre hit should incapicate a human in one hit. That means that if you are assuming a unit consists of 200 swordsmen, then 200 ogres = 4 units of ogres. 4 units of medium infantry, or irregulars vs. 1 unit of human medium infantry= 1 dead human unit. They may take a few down with 'em (inflict a hit, or hey, fluke and get a crit), but they are toast.

    BTW, the numbers above are just for comparison. P 117 BRCS (or page 7 of current chapter 6) implies a unit has about 128 people in it based on EL. You are arguing that, as it states there, the specialist troops, such as ogres, are only the minority, but it does not take into consideration the fact that an entire unit may be of ogres. If that was the case, then, as stated above, the unit would be smaller.

    The problem with numbers of troops and Encounter Level/Challenge Rating is that it breaks down when having large bodies of low level creatures. If you want to know exactly how many troops can do what, and what kind of damage, then the war card abstraction isn't the thing for you - instead, I would suggest pulling out the miniatures, and going for that instead - there are a few variants for that (whether you use old 2nd ed. Battlesystem, or one of the more recently updated mass combat rules, such as found in AEG's War! and others). I tend to do this myself sometimes, when the players are in the combat, as compared to simply directing it.

  3. #3
    OK, yeah, that works too.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    aberdeen, scotland
    I have always had a problem with the units mostly the elves and goblins and the way they are run but how you would fix that without breaking the system I dont know.

  5. #5
    For those of you interested, I know that Mongoose Publishing had a decent mass combat system free for download from their site. They also released a narrative system in their Free Companies book which works really well if the PC's are not the army commanders.

    As far as I have ready, this could work really well with Birthright, and its nice and simple.

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