I confess, I wish there was time to play out the combats one roll at a time, as I did last year; but alas, I wouldn't put my players through that again. I do need some sort of assistance on the large scale front ... particularly as the next pitched battle my party will be involved in will no doubt be three times as big.
Virtually everyone who sets out to create some sort of system begins by 1) compiling together the hit points of a group of men; 2) averaging out their AC; 3) averaging out their chance to hit; and 4) averaging out their damage.
The problem, of course, is that unlike a singular entity which, when it runs out of hit points, it dies, the 'grouped' unit is able to suffer damage and go on attacking. More importantly, some of the individuals inside the unit die, which should mean that the unit's attack and damage potential should be reduced (AC averages could change also, but that's less important). Most designers skip this part, and perceive that this unit continues to fight as though they remain a full compliment, right up to where the whole unit dies.
And then, when they play this methodology out at the table, somehow the intrinsic quality of the battle is lost. The game is reduced to all the flavour of chess ... something to be enjoyed by a particular wargaming Zot-headed type, but dull as dishwater for a RPGer.
However, when the more forthright designer tries to handle the change in combat ability in a unit that has taken damage, the calculation tends to become unwieldy, losing the simplified grail that is the desired purpose of a mass-combat system. Players and DM alike grind through the annoying trial that was concocted, hating it, then tossing it aside gratefully so they can go back to one-on-one encounters.
Now, if the gentle reader would forgive me. I am at that point again in the post where I am listening to the voices of my critics before they have a chance to speak, expecting then to advance systems I haven't heard of in order to be helpful. I will take this moment to express an appreciation for their efforts, but to point out some serious defects in their suggestions, which have nothing to do with the quality of those other systems.
They're not D&D. More to the point, they are not my D&D. They won't take into account my changed hit point rules or my modified combat/stun/lose turn rules. I'm only guessing here, but they won't be flexible enough for me to tailor them to my own personal needs. Even if designed expressly for AD&D as opposed to 3.5 or 4 or even OD&D, they will still make assumptions about the use of magic in my world. If the reader could please understand, they just won't be any good to me. They wouldn't be any good to any DM who has, for years, modified their personal game to satisfy their own personal needs.
The biggest problem in finding anything designed for your world is that in almost every case it won't work for your world. It works for someone else's world, a world so annoying that you wouldn't run in it on a bet.
This is not to say that a mass-combat system couldn't be designed. It only says that it would have to be designed in such a way that it did not make assumptions about combat rules. It should be a system defined by mathematics alone ... something for which I can plug in the numbers I want, and get out the numbers I need. And nothing else. The rest I'll incorporate myself.
To draw this out, and emphasize the problem, let's say I have a unit of 10 men. Two of them are leveled fighters, 1st & 3rd level, with 12 and 28 hit points respectively. The rest of the men, 8 of them, have 4-7 hit points, or an average of 5.5, or a total of 44. The unit has ten attacks, right?
Already we run into troubles. Because the unit actually has 12 attacks if it fights against zero levels, since the 3rd level would get three. And then again, if they fight against a mixed unit of levels and zeros, like themselves, how many attacks does the 3rd level get? An average of 2? Do we just assume that the levels will fight each other, and only each other? By what logic are we able to argue that in the middle of combat, they will automatically find each other as if they were polar opposites?
But okay, let's put that aside. Most would argue that we can forget the bonus attacks, and say the 3rd level fighter just holds back or something.
We'll add that everyone is in leather & shield, and with an armor class of 7 (arguing flatly that there's no chance anyone in this group has a dexterity of greater than 14). We have to make the same assumption about strengths less than 16 when we give them all long swords for an average damage of 4.5 x 10. But these problems are quibbling.
Let's put our unit in the field (we'll call it the defending unit), and let's say that in one round they experience the following (having miraculously not suffered any previous damage):
- A group of four archers fire into their number.
- One of the archers is an elf.
- They find themselves in melee with a similar sized 'attacking' unit.
- An 1st level illusionist at the back of the attacking unit casts a phantasmal force, causing the attackers to seem twice as large, and some of the defending unit fails save.
- A 3rd level cleric standing next to the illusionist casts hold person and freezes three of the defenders.
- One of the attacking group has a +1 long sword.
- Two of the attackers are elves and have a +1 to hit with long swords.
- One of the defenders has been given an aid spell by a cleric.
All right, feel free to roll a lot of dice. But please, if you could, resolve the combat in short order. Please make it feel at least some of the tension enjoyed by having the ten defenders fight the twelve attackers fight the traditional way.
I'll sit here and wait. No hurry.