Help, adventure during a SIEGE!


#1

Hail Siege Wall!

TLDR. Players are in a besieged city. How to have encounters that are manageable but feel like an epic siege?

Background. The PCs were sent on a special mission to investigate a missing priest. They’ve discovered a cult highly influential in the World, secretly pulling strings to sow war and chaos on all peoples. Also they have MAGIC (which was assumed to not exists). The PCs almost died trying to penetrate the cult’s secret temple, avoiding death by the skin of their teeth (epic chest rolled a Necronomicon and teleport-to-a-place-you’ve-been item on their last round!) but are now in Jerusalem!.. As it’s being sieged!

Disclaimer: the only historical basis is that all the players like Kingdom of Heaven. This was originally a starting point from which to investigate a cult temple, where upon time traveling shenanigans would take place. But looks like we’re staying in the 12th century a while! No historical accuracy expected.

Components I want:
Battle on the walls, ladders coming up, ladders “spawn” more attackers
Large numbers of both attackers and defenders amongst the PCs
A moment with siege towers, the attackers have took part of the wall, their flags fly above it
Dilema moment… (chance to “sneak” out the city or stay a fight for the people?)

Extra bits:
Trebuchet fireball timer!
Crowd of fleeing civilians filling the street, how to get past them to the walls?
Looters!
Some quiet moments (could be used next session) exploring other aspects of the siege beyond FIGHT
Have that city feel. Or as much as possible without slowing down the game.

So yeah, please Siege Wall, lend me your wisdom!


#2

Off the top of my head I would rewatch the Battle of Helms Deep and separate the battle into chunks/encounters.

Examples: Fighting on top of the wall, defending the main gate, charging out of the keep, etc…

It will get your mind spinning, but in my mind the goal isnt to represent the whole battle all at once, but to focus in on the small areas of influence your characters have in the battle. Each of those areas of influence represents an encounter and your can move from encounter to encounter as the battle rages on.

If they fail in an encounter, things get worse and vice versa.


#3

If you want want the encounter to be more of a narrative I would break up the timeline of the battle into effort and timers.

Example #1
Defend the castle walls from ladder enemies for 3 rounds then scene changes to next problem

Example #2
3 battering rams are rushing toward the gate and will make impact in 3 rounds. take them out with arrows/cannons/magic from afar before they hit the gate.

Example #3
Enemies blew a medium sized hole in the wall and 1d4 enemies pour in each round. Barricade the hole so no more can pour in. Barricade takes 2 hearts of effort.

stuff like that


#4

I like the idea of treats in the form of siege defenses–caudrons of boiling pitch, nets full of boulders, ramps to roll big Indiana Jones balls down, giant arbalest crossbow things to shoot giant arrows into formations of dudes. But you have to fight your way to them and spend some effort prepping them without getting hit.


#5

Lots of great ideas!

The players’ overall goal has nothing to do with the city, they have just inadvertently landed themselves in a loosing battle. And if they die, they can’t pursue their goal!
So the aim is not to put them in a position to be the Saviours of the whole siege (though maybe saviours in more local ways). Best outcome is that the besiegers agree to surrender and spare the defenders and inhabitants.

The feeling I’m going for is that they are “caught up in it” and “trying to hold out against all odds”.
It’s a hard fight to secure their section of the wall, maybe they succeed but the next section is falling -> even harder fight to take that back.
If a section is completely taken, the siege is essentially lost. This part of the siege will be walls being assailed, incoming bombardment, etc. Maybe next session a wall is destroyed and the real slog begins (if they hang around for that).

My main predicament is how to make it FEEL like a huge battle. Many individuals fighting around them, with the possibility that the enemy individuals will fight THEM. Obviously I don’t want to do attack rolls and tracking of 20+ units fighting each other in an encounter.

For example, a solution could be a mechanic to randomly decide every round how many individual duels are won by each side. If enemy soldiers win, they will then assail the next closest foe (including PCs). If allies win, they back up the PCs, maybe making attacks EASY.

Alternative is just to narrate it, arbitrarily choose soldiers from each side to fall. As allies get overwhelmed by enemy numbers, they fall faster, etc.


#6

Break up the skirmishes into groups, then roll any die for each group: even the good side wins, odds the bad side wins.

If you’re using minis, roll a small handful of dice near the minis. If they knock any of the minis over, have the associated player roll a DEX check to avoid getting caught up in their melee. Rolling dice on a battlemap makes a great natural display of the chaos of battle, and the ebb and flow of combatants in a constrained space. Wherever the dice land, that’s where the fight took place and the victors now stand. (Use judgement for dealing with any rolls that go too far off the main battle space, obviously.)

If you’re not using minis, pick a number and any bad guys that win their fight and meet or exceed that number are close enough to cause trouble to the players (DEX check again, or they engage on the next turn, whatever).

Adjacent allies helping for EASY rolls is a nice option, too. I like that!


#7

Awesome mechanics skippy :ok_hand:t3:


#8

I’ve run similar ideas with ship to ship battles. The idea being both crews are fighting but I don’t want to do dice rolls for a hundred different individual people. The back ground becomes DM narrative. Describe how men are fighting and falling all around the players then have them fight a few of their own enemies. Once they defeat them describe the city fighters calling to fall back as hundreds of soldiers flood the city. If their smart they’ll follow the city fighters to the next baricade amidst volleys from trebuchets. Theres a good chance for a lull in the battle as they get behind the next baricade in the city and before the invading soldiers gear up to attack it.

Maybe it would be fun to have some of the city fighters talk about a tunnel or back door. They follow them through some alleys and tunnels just to find enemy soldiers using the same back door to infiltrate the city.

Think of it like a movie though. You can see the battle happening behind the main characters but those battles don’t really matter. The central focus on the fighters attacking the main characters. So narrate the background and give players their own battles.