Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pendragon Siege Rules

With the release of the Book of Battle, Pendragon finally got the detailed battle system it deserved. Even before the release of the BoB, the game featured a workable mass combat system. It's always struck me as odd that sieges, a central facet of medieval warfare far more common than open battle, have received such short shrift.

I realize that Pendragon is not a medieval simulation game, but rather a game designed to represent the "reality" of medieval society as seen through the lens of Arthurian legend, but even the legends featured some pretty epic sieges. And sieges have plenty of potential for drama interspersed among the muck and blood.

After giving it some thought, I've come up with, I believe, a system that dovetails with the system presented in Book of Battle, useful for generating more detailed siege results while still allowing for those moments of high siege drama to present themselves. Here then is my Pendragon Siege Table...

(A quick caveat: these rules have not been playtested--although they certainly will in upcoming sessions of my Solo Great Pendragon Campaign--so feel free to tweak and adjust the table and results as you see fit. Feedback's always appreciated!)

Pendragon Siege Table

At the start of the siege, the GM determines the Siege Intensity, which should range between 20 for sieges involving a couple hundred knights total to 30 for huge sieges involving thousands of knights on a side (Joyous Garde, for example).

The GM should also name a Time Interval: one day, one week, or one month. TI should be based on strength and provisioning of defender's position; figure a TI of a day for defenders in an exceptionally weak position or who were caught by surprise, a week for average preparation and defenses, and a month for exceptional preparation and defenses.

Figure DV modifiers as usual. Additional modifiers from p. 15 of the Book of Battle may be applied if the GM wishes.

Both Defender and Attacker roll Siege skill once per Time Interval. One opposed roll constitutes one Time Interval. Consult the Siege Table for results and add or subtract from the intensity.

If the intensity dips below 0, the attackers lift the siege and go home.
If the intensity rises above 40, the defenders surrender automatically.

At the GM's whim or as determined by a Siege Table result, selected Time Intervals can feature "extended resolution" phases in which the PCs are allowed to take action (lead or beat back an assault, attempt to sneak into the fortress, lead a sortie, etc.). These extended resolutions should trump any other considerations of intensity level or programmed results.

SUCCESSDisease (A)SortieNothing (Disease - D)Siegecraft
FAILUREStarvation (A)Nothing (Disease - A&D)AssaultDisease (D)
FUMBLENothing (Disease - A)Starvation (D)TraitorWall Breach

"A" - Attacker; the besieging force
"D" - Defender; the force under siege

Definition of Terms

Assault: Both sides make an opposed Battle roll; defenders add the unmodified Defensive Value of their fortification unless there's been a Wall Breach or Siegecraft result in a previous TI. Both sides then consult the Follower's Fate table in the main rulebook to determine casualties. Additionally, if the attacker succeeded and the defender failed, Intensity is raised by 10. Likewise, if the defender succeeded and the attacker failed, Intensity is lowered by 10. Criticals or partial successes have no further effect.

Countermeasures: Although largely confined to a passive role, there were options available to defenders--counter-mining, counter-battery fire, psychological warfare--that allowed them to take action from time to time. These countermeasures are abstracted, represented by applying a -1d6 to Intensity.

Desertion: Dissent and boredom in the besieger's ranks leads to mass desertion. Lower Intensity by 1d6+4.

Disease: Sieges inevitably became charnel pits of festering disease for attacker and defender alike. If the attacker is afflicted with disease this TI, lower Intensity by 1d6+4. Likewise, if the defender suffers an outbreak, Intensity is raised by 1d6+4. Note that these results can cancel each other out if both attacker and defender suffer from disease in a single TI!

Relief: The fervent prayer of any besieged force was to see a friendly army approaching from over the horizon. Such an event imposes an immediate modifier of -20 to Intensity; if this drops the Intensity below 0, the besieging army withdraws automatically in the face of the approaching relief force. If Intensity is still above 0, the GM should run a battle using the Book of Battle to determine the victor. If the PCs are part of the besieged force, they may of course elect to lead the defenders onto the field of battle and fight alongside the relief force.

Siegecraft: The machinations of the siege engineer are particularly effective this TI. Perhaps a well-placed hit from a trebuchet brings down a tower, or a mining operation makes particularly efficient progress. The particulars are abstracted, and are represented by applying a -1d6 to the opponent's DV.

Sortie: Besieged knights, always on the lookout for opportunities to put their martial skills to good use, spot a perfect moment to strike and ride out in a sortie intended to sow chaos, death, and confusion among the besieger's camp. This can be played out as an extended resolution, or resolved simply with opposed Battle rolls. Casualties and Intensity adjustment are figured as per Assault, but Intensity is only modified by +/-5.

Starvation: The bane of the defender, and the most common way to bring sieges to an end, starvation could affect attackers as well if the camp quartermaster did not make adequate preparations--an army camped in a single location for an extended period of time will quickly use up all the local resources. If the defender rolls a Starvation result, add 5 to Intensity; likewise, if the attacker suffers Starvation this TI, subtract 5 from Intensity.

Traitor: Aside from starvation, most sieges were ended not through bloody assault but by treachery from within. A Traitor result grants the attacker his choice of: (1) an immediate +15 to Intensity; or, (2) a reflexive modifier of +10/-10 on his next Siege roll (in which case a result of Wall Breach represents the Traitor opening the gates from within).

Wall Breach: Through battering ram, mining, trebuchet, or treachery, a wall or gate has been breached and the besieging force pours through. Add 20 to Intensity; if the modified Intensity is 40 or above, the defending garrison capitulates and the besieged residents are at the attackers' mercy. If Intensity is still below 40, the GM should run a skirmish to determine the fate of the PCs (barring some extraordinary heroics on the part of defending PCs, the besieged residents are still doomed; the skirmish merely determines how the PCs and their followers fare in the chaotic fighting through baileys, streets, and corridors).
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