Runequest Thursday #192 - Big Battles, and Random Loot Distribution!

Clint Staples

A while back the Brightwater Company helped orchestrate the liberation of Moonbroth from Lunar control. The Brightwaters have been quietly working toward a free River of Cradles for the whole campaign but they are now outed as rebels. But was it worth it?!

With Moonbroth out of Lunar control, the Administration in Pavis is effectively cut off from the embattled legions continuing to put down the insurgents in Sartar. Lunar patrols in Old Pavis are coming increasingly under attack, and not just be Storm Rebels. Outlaws, ogres, trolls and more sense weakness where only a handful of years ago there was iron strength. So now the Imperial Governor is faced with the unpleasant task of retaking Moonbroth or relying on the threatened riverboats supply line from Corflu, which has been suffering ever since a nasty shaman player character managed to drive off the Gorakiki Dragonfly priestess who was keeping down the giant mosquito population.

It would seem that the taking of Moonbroth could not have come at a better time.

In fact, it HAD to happen when it did or the Lunar conquest of Dragon Pass and points south was virtually assured. The Temple of the Reaching Moon at Moonbroth was within a few weeks of completion, which would have allowed for the extetion of the Glowline into Prax and across Northern Sartar. Not only would this allow Lunar magic to function much more reliably, it would have changed the course of the conquest completely. Among other things, It would have enabled legions to be transported via Moonboats, covering a day's march in an hour, effectively unchallenged by those unable to fly. Suddenly the beleaguered Lunar Army of Occupation and Counter-Insurgency would have much of the striking power of a full army of conquest, and be able to redeploy free of being attacked on the march, with easy logistics in terms of supply, and the ability to go from attacking one place to defending another at a rate unmatched by the opposition. In the words of Jaldon Toothmaker, The one who gets there their first with the most, wins!"

But we started off talking about the taking of Moonbroth, and the title referred to Loot Lists for a major battle. which means we should take out how battles can work in an RPG, and probably about loot.



Having your PCs participate in a huge engagement - and I mean hundreds or more on a side - is outside of the RPG experience for a lot of people, whose characters are content to plunder dungeons and tombs, and depose the occasional evil spellcaster and his handful of flunkies. Now that can be a lot of fun, and takes up a lot of the stage in RPGs for a reason. But putting your characters into a situation that is literally beyond their scale can be a great way of showing them the rest of the world, while simultaneously pointing out how little AND how much they can do to affect it!

Obviously, how much depends on their level of experience to some degree. A group of tyros is unlikely to have the moxy to standup to the charge of the Black Horse Company. But they can undertake critical missions in the battle appropriate to their station. After all, they are likely still a step up from the average spear-pusher that makes up the balance of the force. And as such, they probably have sufficient renown to come to the attention of a decision-maker - who assigns them the critical mission. Examples include: Seizing a valuable asset on the enemy side; Destroying the siege engines that are raining down fire and doom on your side; holding the flank against those who would wrap around to attack from behind, even acting as part of the tactical reserve (which could then use any of the previous suggestions and more as "battle encounters"). 

The above are encounters in the midst of a battle, and can be played out with the "normal" skills the characters have. Running several combat encounters one after the other will be pretty draining of magic, so you may want to put them pretty closely together in time, so that characters benefit from spells like Bladesharp and Protection over more than one. To improve survivability in a game where so many people have magic, it makes sense for there to be regular healing stations situated close to the action, but safely behind the lines. Characters that are wounded, especially with a bad wound, could get themselves, or be taken, to a relief station for healing, returning to the battle with their limbs, and their Magic Points, intact (for casting battle magic). Another mission for the PCs might be to disrupt one of the enemy relief stations, or protect one of their own.

More powerful characters will have bigger rsponsibilities. They might still be sent on "missions", but these will be of greater import, and probably commanding larger forces (who could then be split off into details that the PC heroes do not have to directly control). Powerful figures can make a big difference in the front line - so a potent Yanifal Tarnils or Humakti lord or lady might lead from the front, inspiring troops in the thick of battle. Of course, those potent rune spells can turn the tide too. So an Orlanthi warband (if they all had runemagic that could fly or teleport them over the battlefield) would be wasted in the front line - but make the ultimate strike force for attacking high value targets!

Potent heroes are likely to have command of a bunch of people in the game world, but this rarely comes up around the table except in non-combat situations. A big battle is the place where a charismatic and powerful player character's following can really shine.


Some Rules:

As mentioned above, the normal RPG rules are not ideal for to handle the large scope of a battle. They can be used where it makes sense, but sometimes you need a skill that allows a character to study a proespective battlefield, or read a battle as it unfolds, or to know where to be, and when to be there, to make the difference. This same awareness makes such a character even more valuable on a battlefield, whether leading cohorts sword in hand, or directing the flow of units and support from behind the lines. When you need to abtract things away from individual fights and look at a character's performance in battle overall, Use the Skill: Warfare.

A couple of years back, I came up with the Warfare skill, based on a fan-created skill from the RQ2 days (think) called Battle.  Not only can Warfare determine how well a character does in a battle, it can also help you decide the outcome of a battle. I don't want to repost the entire article here, so you can read it at the link above. But the idea is to use the Warfare skill in combination with normal abilities of your PCs to determine how they do on the field. Interspercing encounters like the ones above livens things up, gives the players things to do and fight, and can help swing the outcome of the overall battle in their favor - if they succeed at their tasks.

You can also roll on Warfare to see how well the heroes are rewarded ini the aftermath of a battle. Let's face it: There is loot in any combat - the bigger the combat, the more the loot! But that doesn't mean it is all for the PCs. After all, there were hundreds of others risking their lives alongside them.

Most armies forbid looting during a battle. An army that loots freely also looses cohesion, essentially becomes a mob rather than an effective fighting force. So organized, or well-led forces usually hand out stiff penalties for those who forget themselves , which could include cult censure, forfeit of all loot, imprisonment, even exile or execution. But that doesn't mean that looting doesn't happen. Barbarians have, traditionally, adopted the superior wargear of their settled and more technologically siphisticated opponents - not to mention having a keen eye for shiny baubles, gold chalices, and coinage. Civilian populations near a conflict are often considered "fair game" by either side, and might be robbed or pressed into slavery. 


Using the Warfare skill as a Loot Reward System:

The following table is adapted from the Loot Table I used to see what each player character was awarded as their loot after the Second Battle of Moonbroth. Of course, there were a fair number of Lunar items.

- Roll 1d100. When Rolling on this table. Any PC that succeeded on his Warfare roll can elect to roll again, giving up the first and accepting the second roll. A special success allows the character to take whichever of the two rolls they prefer. A critical Allows two rerolls, and freedom to choose the one most desired.

 Optional - Depending on the experience level of your Characters you could put upper limits on their rolls. One way to do this is to limit them to items that are at their Warfare Skill or less on this table (So a 66% in Warfare woud treat all rolls on this table of 67 or higher as a 66).


01- 04. 5 x your Battle Skill in Lunars (Wheels if Special or Critical Warfare)

05-08. 1d4 Hit locations of armor in the Imperial Style: roll 1d4 (add 2 if Warfare roll was Special Success): 1- Leather, 2-3 Scale, 4 - Mail, 5-6 Plate. Roll 2d6+6 for SIZ. 

09-10. Ornamented weapon of your choice, normal stats, value is x2.

11. A handsome silvered and silver hilted crescent dagger, with a secret compartment in the hilt.

12-13. Hoplon shield – with the Runes for Death, Life and an empty half-moon [Yanifal Tarnil], very light and quick (+10% to block).

14-16. Herd Beasts (roll 1d6 for quantity): Quality roll 1d6 (add 2 if Warfare roll was a Special): 1-3 Pack beast; 4 – Riding beast; 5 – Cavalry beast; 6-8 – War-trained beast.   Roll POW x3% to choose species, otherwise randomize.

17-19. 1d6 Horses (roll 1d6 for quantity): Quality roll 1d6 (add 2 if Warfare roll was a Special): 1-3 Pack horse; 4 – Riding horse; 5 – Cavalry horse; 6-8 – War-trained horse.

20-21. Whole Armor Panoply: roll 1d4 (add 2 if Warfare roll was Special Success):  1-2 Peltastoi 3-4 Phalangite, 5 - Thorakites, 6 – Hellsister.

22-23. Horse or Herbeast Armor (roll POW x3% to choose Horse or Herdbeast – and type of beast): Roll1d4 (add 2 if Warfare roll was Special Success): 1 - Half Leather, 2 - Full Leather, 3 - Half Scale, 4 - Full Scale, 5 - Half Mail, 6 - Full Mail.

24-25. Beautiful saddle in the Praxian Style: 2x4x100L value.

26-27. Warsaddle and tack for a horse, silver accents and finely tooled leather overall: 1d4x100L value.

28-30. Jem, jewelry or ring: roll 1d6: 1-3 – Silver with nice stone of choice (1d4x100L); Gold armring, or finger ring with fine stone (2d4x100L); Ornamented Necklace or Torc of Gold (2d6x100L).

31-32. Scroll of Summoning, roll 1d6: 1 – Spirit; 2 – Cult Spirit; 3 - Cult Spirit of Reprisal; 4 – Magical Creature (Skybull, amphisboena, etc); 5 – Elemental; 6 – Demon;

33-34. Skill treatise: roll 1d6: 1-3 - Weapon; 4 – other skill; 5 - Magic spell; 6 – Warfare.

35-40. 1d4 Slaves of poor quality.

36-37. Slave of good quality.

38-39. 1d4 Slaves of differing quality.

40-41. 1d6 ten pound blocks of salt, each worth 75L.

42-43. Scroll of Technique: Study to learn a Feat of Arms described on the scroll.

44-45. 1d6 Fine bolts of imperial cloth in colors not seen outside the Empire (each worth 150L)

46-48. Assorted Documents: Including at least one map of a Rubble location, with notes in Imperial.

49-51. An Imperial History: Study to gain one of: +10% in Pelorian; +10% in Lunar History; Gain a secret of use to those resisting Lunar expansionism.

52-53. 1d10 Fire Arrows: Each arrow works as Fire Arrow spell once, destroyed after use.

54-56. 2d6+4 Iron-tipped Arrows

57-58. Potion of Might 4.

59-60. Potion of Countermagic 4.

61-62. Neutralize Poison potion.

63-64. Superior Hewing Spear, Reach 3, 1d8+4, Impale/ Sunder, +10% to hit, with a Bladesharp 2 matrix.

65-66. Sorcerous Grimoire: Notes for 2d6 Magnitude of sorcery spells, Sorcery Success to Learn 1d4+2% in Sorcery Skill.

67-68. Scroll of instruction written by a Yelmalian general: This scroll is in three languages: Original: Sun Script; Translated into Sartarite, and a partial translation into Pelorian (in progress): Of the Feat of Arms: Tactician.

69-70. 1d4 Sure-Fire Javelins: Marked with Sky, Truth and Mastery, these one-use javelins each have a True Weapon matrix, and inflict fire damage when they hit.

71-72. Hunting Spear marked with the Runes for Death and Beast. Animal or beast struck by the spear is attacked in POW Contest: failure means – 6 Movement for 10 rounds.  

73-74. Iron One-Handed Weapon.

75-76. Iron Two-Handed Weapon.

77-78. Iron mailshirt (Chest, Arms) , roll; 2d6+6 for SIZ.

79-80. Iron Hauberk (Abd, Chest, Arms), roll; 2d6+6 for SIZ.

81-82. Iron Composite Helmet.

83-84. Iron Full Helm.

85-86.Superior Hewing Spear, Reach 3, 1d8+4, Impale/ Sunder, +10% to hit, with a Bladesharp 2 matrix.

87. Sorcerous Grimoire: Notes for 2d6 Magnitude of sorcery spells, Sorcery Success to Learn 1d4+2% in Sorcery Skill.

88. POWer Storage Crystal: Roll 1d6 (add 2 if Warfare roll was a special or critical): 1-3 - 1d4+1POW; 4-5 – 1d4+3 POW; 6-8 – 1d6+6 POW.

89. Fireblade Matrix – Gold Ring with a Glowing red stone.

90. POW 2 healing focusing crystal.

91. Ring of permanent Protection 2, Iron band.

92. Matrix for Spirit Binding 2.

93. Iron plate helm in the lunar style, grants Darksight.

94. Heavy Horse bow with Multimissile matrix 4. 1d8+2 Damage

95. Everburning Torch from the temple to ara Aranis: Bronze handle with a carnelian at its end, containing a Salamander 2, that will power the torch for as long as required, or may be called out as a salamander and commanded.

96. Sartarite scroll of Sword +10%.

97. Random 1 point Runemagic matrix.

98. Random magic weapon, Permanently +1 damage, +10% to Attack and Parry. Roll POW x3% to choose weapon, otherwise roll randomly.

99. Random magic weapon: 1d6 Magnitude battle magic matrix.

100. Full iron mail panoply and splendid crimson surcoat with the runes of Yanifal Tarnils (Size 15).


Sometimes it can be necessary to randomize weapons found in treasures or elsewhere (like in Loot Tables). You may need to add or subtract particular weapons to suit your campaign or region.


Weapon Randomization Table: roll 1d20

1.     1 H Axe/ Mace

2.     1 H sword

3.     2 H axe/ mace

4.     2 H sword

5.     Buckler

6.     Club

7.     Dagger

8.     2 Handed sword

9.     1 H Spear

10.  Pole weapon

11.  Lance

12.  Shield

13.  1 H Flail

14.  2 H Flail

15.  Bow

16.  Crossbow

17.  Thrown Spear

18.  Sling

19.  Siege Weapons

20.  Net