Monday, June 12, 2017

GURPS Mass Combat: Fragile Feature

Precis: In GURPS Mass Combat, Fragile troops are helpful as long as you're winning - but they cause problems when you start to lose.

This is a new unit feature for troops in GURPS Mass Combat. It's come up in my New Dawn game and I thought I would share it.

Fragile  GM-Assigned

The element is composed of troops who perform poorly under heavy stress. As long as they are part of a winning army, whether on the offense or defense, they act as their training and experience dictate. Should they find themselves losing, they behave much worse than their training and experience would suggest, refusing to move from safe positions on the offense and refusing to fall back from compromised positions on the defense.

If a force contains at least 20% fragile elements (by percentage of total elements or total TS), then the force commander has an additional -2 penalty to Battle Strategy rolls when choosing the Rally strategy or when rolling after losing the previous round of battle. The penalty is not cumulative.
This feature is characteristic of fatalistic warriors, braggarts, some monsters, and troops that have been reformed after being defeated. It is compatible with Impetuous, and many Impetuous elements should also have Fragile.

Fragile came up in play after the PCs started defeating large formations of orcs: even with 100% or more nominal battlefield losses, 30-50% of the enemy force would flee without their equipment (Mass Combat p38). That wasn't a big deal when the PCs were fighting 100-200 orcs at a time, but defeating 1600 orcs meant there were still upwards of 600 dispersed fighters. It seemed reasonable that people would want to gather those survivors up, refit and re-equip them, but it also seemed reasonable that those broken survivors would permanently be less capable. The Fragile trait is a way to mark such units of formerly defeated soldiers, but it's also useful for modeling the tendency of some historical armies to do well as long as they're winning and then fall apart very quickly at the first setback.

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