Clarification: Mass Combat

From “Exalted 2nd Edition,” Page 160

Although it is theoretically possible to run a combat with dozens or even hundreds of active participants, such battles last interminably and quickly stop being fun. As a result, Exalted uses the following rules to abstract mass combat into the existing system by making battle a clash of units rather than individual characters. Units do not fight in the standard one‐tick increments of individual battle. Instead, they track time with long ticks that last approximately one minute each. Storytellers should keep in mind that these rules aren’t appropriate to every engagement, particularly if the clash of armies only serves as a dramatic backdrop to smaller‐scale personal combat. Once protagonists become involved in the direction of mass combat or the Storyteller wishes to leave a battle’s outcome to dice rolls and strategy rather than a plot device, use these rules. Moreover, mass combat in Exalted assumes that unit Commanders fight at the vanguard, leading from the front rather than the safety of the rear. Those who wish to direct a battle from the rear are not unit Commanders. Instead, they take the role of generals, using relays and standard bearers to communicate orders to the unit Commanders under their command. Therefore, a distant general can direct an entire force but cannot personally rally troops to victory through her own prowess.

  • Mass Combat in Exalted is more thematically similar to Sango Fighters, Dynasty Warriors, Illiad than actual battles

"You wear them"

The metaphor of the rules that the military apparatus of mass combat is merely an enhancement to the commander. Troops comprise a bonus for their Commander, adding to his traits. In addition, troops marching in formation possess the ability to force their context on individual they engage. Characters who come into contact with aggressive units of troops will be forced to fight them as solo stacks in mass combat, not as heroes facing a large number of individuals in normal combat. This is a part of the nature of Creation, and Storytellers shouldn’t let characters fight individual members of units once the unit is gathered together in the field.

It’s worth noting that units in mass combat are rarely destroyed through sheer damage unless they are set upon by a truly ferocious supernatural power. More often, units are rendered ineffective by exhaustion and gradual loss of Magnitude by failed morale checks, until their commanders stand alone and unaccompanied on the battlefield.


Each unit on a battlefield falls into one of two broad categories. First, there are solo units, who are individual characters that are not part of any group. However, most units are complementary units, made up of a commander and all those who directly follow her orders. Statistically, a complementary unit is its commander, with trait bonuses awarded according to the numbers, equipment and training of her troops. These special traits of complementary units include:

  • Magnitude: The size of a unit
  • Drill: The trained discipline of a unit
  • Endurance: The physical reserves of a unit’s member. Solo units also have this trait
  • Might: The overall mystical power of a unit, factoring in magical equipment
  • Close Combat/Ranged Attack Rating: The skill of unit members at attacking.
  • Close Combat/Ranged Attack Damage: The lethality of unit members when attacking.
  • Armor: The average protection provided by unit members’ armor
  • Morale: The overall bravery of a unit.
  • Special Characters: A non‐numerical listing of important characters within a unit’s ranks.
  • Formation: A non‐numerical trait that describes a unit’s current tactical arrangement.


See pg. 159 of Core Rule Book
When a unit attacks another, the larger unit applies the difference in magnitude as bonus successes to its attacks or subtracts the difference from the successes of attacks by the smaller unit. This bonus/external penalty cannot exceed +/‐3.

My Modification: Keep track two Magnitude values. “Actual”: Calculated based on raw number of troops in the unit. This will be used for maneuvers and rally rolls. This eliminates the penalty for a 100 Solar Exalted army being as clumsy and hard to manage as 700 men army. “Effective”: This is the actual value used for attacks and such. So a 100 Solar Exalted fight just as well as a 700 men army.


Pg. 161 of Core Rule Book
This value is added as number of successes to the Commander’s attack. It is also added to the Commander’s Essence value to determine resistance and qualification against charms and spells.

My Modification: Mass Combat: The Issue of “Might”

Close Combat/Ranged Combat Attack Rating

See pg. 160-161 of Core Rule Book
Every complementary unit has a Close Combat and Ranged Attack Rating, representing the overall skill of its members. To derive the values, take the total (appropriate attack dice pool) for all unit members, average it (divide by the total number of troops), then halve this number. The result is rounded down.

  • This value is added as successes to the Commander’s attack
    • As long as the Commander didn't fail his attack roll (e.g. rolled 0 successes before EV modifiers)
  • This value is capped by Commander’s War Rating
    • This is before being doubled by Close Formation, so a War 3 commander leading an CC attack rating of 8, will only add 3 successes, or 6 if the unit is in Close Formation.
  • This value is doubled for Close Formation
  • Half this Value is added to the Commander’s Parry DV
    • Rounded Appropriately as per the Commander (Enlightned round up, Mortal round down)
    • This is after formation modifiers. So in the above Example, it will add 2 to his parry DV in other formations, and 3 to his parry DV in close formation

Close Combat/Ranged Combat Damage Rating

See pg. 161 of Core Rule Book
This is added to the Raw damage of the Unit’s Commander. It is calculated by dividing the average damage pool of the soldiers by 3, rounded up. Do not factor in the effects of any Charms or non-constant bonuses/supernatural effects.

  • Added as dice to the Raw damage dice pool, not as automatic successes

My Modification: Unit does not use the weapon damage of the Commander. Instead it only use the Skill of the Commander and Stats. It is assumed the commander is “wielding” the Unit’s Abstracted Weapon. So if everyone in the Unit is using a Reaver Daiklave, it is assume the commander is using the same. If everyone gets the material bonus, it is assumed the commander does so as well.

  • This also means the commander cannot use a different ability to attack than the soldiers - since he is using an abstracted weapon. So in the above example, he will be using melee no matter what actual weapon he is carrying.


See pg. 161 of Core Rule Book
This value is added to the Commander’s natural soak to determine the Unit Soak. Divide the full lethal soak of the troops by 3, rounded up.
The mobility penalty for a unit equals the average mobility penalty of its members, rather than that of its commander.
Hardness ratings for a unit equal the average Hardness and require that all members have at least that rating or better as a result of innate powers, magic or equipment.

  • The Soak Bonus is considered natural soak and thus aggravated damage is especially deadly in Mass Combat


See pg. 161 of Core Rule Book
Use the lower of the “average valor of the unit,” the “Commander’s” or the “average valor of any steeds.”

  • Units with Perfect Moral maintain Perfect Morale even if their commander has lower Valor

Special Characters

See pg. 161-162 of Core Rule Book

  • Maximum special characters in any unit is Magnitude x 2
  • Units with Magnitude of 3+ must have at least one relay for every dot of magnitude, or suffer communication failure.
  • My Modification: Clarification: Charms in Mass Combat


These characters are sub‐officers who are capable of assuming command if their unit commander dies. Furthermore, heroes may attack other units in close combat as if they were solo units, effectively giving their unit additional (but weaker) attacks. Finally heroes can break away entirely and take part of a unit with them, transforming the breakaway group into a new unit under their own command.

  • A hero can lead her Close Combat Rating to her unit, using her trait rather than the unit Commander’s but the trait is limited as normal by the commander’s War. E.g. use their stats for the attack roll instead of the commander's
    • My Modification: A hero that attacked or plans to attack independently cannot lend their combat traits to the unit
  • This allows a weak non-combat commander still be an effective attacking force if he has an combat oriented "hero" attached to his unit


These characters might be actual sorcerers, skilled archers or neutral observers embedded deeply in the ranks for their own protection, but First Age tactical manuals such as “The Thousand Correct Actions of the Upright Soldier” use the designation “sorcerer” for all such individuals. Sorcerers can lead the unit in missile fire, lending their rating in the place of the unit’s. This is limited by the commander’s War rating, as normal. In addition, sorcerers have the capability to make ranged attacks independently of their unit, but they cannot assume command or lead troops to break away into new units as heroes can.

  • A sorcerer can lead her Range Combat Rating to her unit, using her trait rather than the unit Commander’s but the trait is limited as normal by the commander’s War. E.g. use their stats for the attack roll instead of the commander's
    • My Modification: A sorcerer that attacked or plans to attack independently cannot lend their combat traits to the unit
  • This allows units lead by non-range oriented commander still be an effective attacking force if he has an range combat specialist attached to his unit. E.g. a Dynastic Dragon-Blooded with an Firewand specialist henchment


Possibly the most important special characters to organize military units, relay are the assorted drummers, buglers, standard bearers and signalmen who carry the commander’s orders through the ranks. Units with Magnitude of 3+ must have at least one relay for every dot of magnitude, or else, they suffer communication failure. This means the unit can only assume the unordered information and it suffers a penalty of ‐2 to its effective Drill. Besides passively maintaining order and communication, relays can stand in for the commander when the unit hesitates and tests for rout, and in other situations when commands are vital.

  • Can replace the commander's trait in situations when commands are vital, such as hesitation tests, formation changes, possibly even rally

Thus competent officers (special characters) can make up for most lacking of specialization of a commander. A bookworm who are intelligent and with command of strategy is still a deadly force on the battle field if he has companions who are combat and/or charisma oriented.


  • Unordered: Undisciplined Mob, add 2 to the difficult of hesitation rolls.
  • Skirmish: 2x shield/cover bonus against all attacks, additional +3 DV against ranged attacks. Enemy units attacking with close combat attacks 2x their Magnitude for purpose of calculating attack bonuses. If the attacker is in Close Formation, then 3x attacker Magnitude. Unit in skirmish formation add 2 to the difficulty of hesitation rolls.
  • Relaxed: Standard formation, no advantage of disadvantages. Double shield and cover bonuses against ranged attacks.
  • Close: vulnerable to AOEs. 2x unit’s Close Combat Rating, 2x their DV bonuses from shields/cover against Close Combat Attacks. Enemies attacking with ranged attack bonuses 2x their magnitude. Subtract 2 difficulty from all hesitation rolls.

Combat Summary

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License