Monday, April 13, 2015

Compositions of Men

In Original D&D Vol-2, Monsters & Treasure, the first and most detailed monster description is for: Men. I find that running groups of men in the wilderness is potentially harrowing to manage, because each group comes in several different categories of composition (a certain percentage of footmen, some archers, some cavalry, etc.), as well as an array of different high-level leader types (each potentially with special abilities and unique magic items).

The number appearing for groups of Men is given as 30-300, which I think most of us generate by rolling 3d10×10. But technically this is contradicted by the example on p. 6:

Note that the number 183 is not a multiple of 10, so it could not actually be generated by the dice above. Did Gygax intend for us to be rolling 30d10 for this purpose? If so, then that would make for an extremely narrow distribution of values; 99% of the results would be between 125 and 205. (See Torben Mogensen's TROLL calculator here, with entry "sum 30d10": link). So let's assume that we don't literally take that approach. But the following paragraph may be even more troublesome:

Notice that the percentages given don't add up to 100% (40+25+25+20 = 110), so some fix is obviously necessary here. In AD&D, Gygax makes the composition percentages add up to 100% (MM p. 66), but in doing so he expands the number of distinct troop categories from 4 to 7, almost doubling the amount juggling that the DM has to do in these encounters (and he also increases the number of types of high-level leaders). Fortunately, if we batch up those AD&D types into superset categories, then we get the following: 50% Light Foot, 20% Archers, 20% Light Horse, and 10% Medium Horse; those numbers are workable as corrections to Vol-2, and they're conveniently all multiples of ten, so let's assume that we use them in OD&D.

One other sticking point remains when I seek to use groups of Men in my game. Even if you roll 3d10×10 (so the total number is a multiple of ten), and use those corrected and simplified percentages, the resulting categories are likely not multiples of ten. For example: 180 bandits would give 90 Light Foot, 36 Archers, 36 Light Horse, and 18 Medium Horse. Personally, I would prefer these cardinalities to also be multiples of ten, so as to make it easier to announce, manage, remember -- and switch to 1:10 mass warfare as in Book of War if that seems convenient. We could do this by rounding to the nearest ten, but then in some cases the total number would be different (for example: rounding and summing the example in this paragraph would give 190 bandits). So that then argues for hand-correcting the values, adding or subtracting some men in the higher-valued categories to always give the right total.

Below, I've done that for OD&D across all the types of Men indicated with sub-compositions there: Bandits (and Brigands), Buccaneers (and Pirates), and Nomads (Desert and Steppe). Of course, you could just note the percent corrections above and hand-tune any force to taste on the fly -- so in all probability you don't really want or need this as a separate handout. But I did it, so just in case you do, here it is (click here for PDF):


  1. Nice work Dan! Historically, the men entry in Monsters & Treasures is derived from the bandit and nomad write ups Dave Arneson did for Blackmoor and later printed in the FFC (1977, pp 90, 91).

    For men (and orcs), numbers encountered in the wilderness were 10 - 200, normally (Encounter Matrix, p34) although Arneson allowed for invasions/raids of 100 - 1000, or 400 - 4000 as yearly "Chance Card" possibilities.

    Here is the original composition of forces for Bandits, "The composition of their forces range as follows: 20% Light Foot, 5% Heavy Foot, 5% Armored Foot, 10% Cross Bowmen, 10% Regular Bowman, (Total Infantry 50%); 5% Mounted archers, 10% Light horse,10% Medium Horse, 25% Heavy Horse (total Cavalry 50%). Generally these forces will be led by an Anti-hero or Anti-Superhero on the following ratios: Anti-Hero 10% chance per 10 men; or a Anti-Superhero with a 10% chance per 100 men rounding down." The nomad entry is similar, but more cavalry focused and adds the note "For each defender, there are 1 - 6 non-combatents..."

    1. Oh, wow, thanks for that. The FFC/Blackmoor material is one of my blind spots. I actually was running one of my (very rare) games this weekend, and had combats with 3 different groups men in the wilderness -- even with just the 4 categories it was a bit tough on me and the players to clarify. I'm boggled at trying to manage as many types as Arneson specified!

  2. Now that you've given us tidy compositions of forces to use with BoW, I have a request.

    Could you whip together and post some basic siege rules? I have some strongholds that need over running and was considering using BoW.

    1. Thanks faoladh!

      I hadn't seen that pdf before. It's some help in the right direction.

      Does Dan happen to have a doc floating around that also addresses creating breeches- rams, catapults, sappers?

      Otherwise, Chainmail might have to fill the gaps.

    2. De nada!

      I don't recall seeing anything other than that scenario to date, though of course he can correct me if I'm wrong.

      Don't you mean that Chainmail would be used to make the gaps? :D

    3. "I have some strongholds that need over running"

      LOL, that's awesome!

      Yeah, full-blown sieges are definitely a current blank spot that I'd like to fill in some day, time-permitting.