Thursday, March 31, 2011

Small group tactics

I have been considering some of the more common NERO tactics recently. Some of them make sense, some of them could be improved upon and some of them are just plain bad. I am going to try to take a look at one of each and everyone else can tell me why I am wrong.

The one that makes sense to me is the smallest chunk of the NERO battlefield, the fighter/healer backpack relationship. Fighters are the best repetitive damage dealers in the game but they have terrible survivability against packets. Healers have the worst combat survivability but the most versatile skill set. It seems pretty obvious. This building block became even more powerful in the post cantrip age, the cantrip healer at every level has more healing per level than the tree healer. In addition the cantrip healer maintains his tree for removal spells. The break down of this tactic is always the flanks, if something gets around the fighter and hits the healer, everything falls apart.

Which segues nicely into our next tactic, the one that could be improved upon. The shield wall, is generally a group of fighter backpack combinations standing side by side. This tactic is generally employed in field battles and it has one glaring deficiency, the shields are the worst packet magnets in the game, and when lined up edge to edge they are virtually impossible to miss. The fix is something that was discovered in Ancient Greece actually. Greek soldiers fought in phalanx similar to the NERO shield wall, just like the NERO shield wall they found that the added coverage from a neighbors shield allowed for better survivability in the closing portion of a battle. In the later days of Grecian dominance, they discovered that once the battle closed, breaking the phalanx into a spaced line actually protected the individual soldiers better from enemy arrow fire than maintaining the tight lines. The reason for this was simple, the spaces allowed for arrows to hit their own men, tight grouped close fighting still provides the packet target. The moral? Spread out when you are in close.

The tactic that I do not think works the way that it is intended is the protracted door battle tactic. Too often I have seen two groups randomly throwing packets at one another until the attacking group builds up the steam to charge in ( sometimes completely unsafely) This tactic is so easy to improve upon it is almost laughable, concentrated fire beats individual fire every time. Get your packet throwers together and throw the same packets. Not only does this lessen the possibility of missing, it also increases the likelihood the opponent will take the appropriate effect. Volleyed fire was common practice in almost every organized military throughout the ancient and medieval ages, it works, it has been proven, you should use it.

What do you guys think about this? Any other ones that you think we should talk about?


  1. In a minute Dan Comstock will be by to talk about polearm walls, no doubt, so I leave those to him.

    I think I probably have a million things to say reagrding LARP battlefield organization but I'll go with just two for the moment. First, sort of close up, I think that people are the most effective in a shield line when they realize that the person they should be actively hitting the most is the guy to either side of the guy actually directly in front of them. That is to say, when in a line fight, fight the guys to your diagonal and mostly block the guy in front of you. Your hit ratio will go way up.

    Second, a little more broadly, if the PCs have a battlefield commander then the last class to be one is fighter because a fighter, most of the time, has to be in the thick of combat to use his skills and that's not where the commander should be. A caster of some sort can step back, watch things, maybe step in to turn a tide if necessary with burst spellfire, but mostly hang back and coordinate the way a front line fighter just can't.

  2. Agreed with the first point and the second. My point with the shield wall change was that once the battle was joined it makes sense to space out a bit more. We are not talking 10 feet here, more like 3 feet. You can still actively defend a 3 foot gap.

  3. Btw, the comment about burst fire you make is really spot on. I hadn't really considered the "throw the same spell to avoid confusion" aspect, I think that's brilliant. The other half is, of course, the massive momentum advantage of holding off on spells for a few second and then suddenly BLAM! casting all at once that just overwhelms the enemy's ability to cope.

    The next time I organize a spell volley I'll have to remember the same effect trick, though. Seriously, good tip.

  4. I can't say I've ever.. (and the Rock means EVER) had a fun door battle.

    NPCs throw packets randomly, PCs take effects, fall, get healed. If you are not one of the 5 PCs by the door getting hammered, then you are one of the 20 PCs just standing in the back telling knock knock jokes to each other to keep warm/amused.

    Then the PCs charge. "Hold. I lost my glasses. Did you get that taint blood. I threw a wall of force there. Oops, stepped on your glasses. Ow watch the head shot."

    Yeah... fun... not so much.

    And I realize you're not talking about fun, you're talking about battle stragity. Just throwing a random curve into the conversation. hehe.

  5. Generally any door battle with more than 5 people is terrible

  6. Mark Henry ~MariusMarch 31, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    I have never liked the idea of 1 field commander. A chain of command is much more effective and less limiting.

    If you divide your line into groups of people who fight together regularly and let them break off as they see fit you will see much greater success. I honestly feel useless when i'm front line as a templar. I am much more productive going behind enemy lines in a group of 4 or so.

    Another thing I notice is people are very timid in large groups. Most people are not willing to lead the charge. Last big field battle I was in I found it was Bill and I side by side pushing through zombies while the rest of the party hung back. A swarm tactic would have been much more effective.

    Is it just me or do you guys find people plan more for their escape than the actual battle lol. It always makes me sad when I am in front and notice there is no longer a line, just random people breaking ranks and running away. A slow coordinated retreat yields less deaths.

  7. At Madrigal, I run a teamwork heavy group called House Beacon. My saturday morning drills work on the following things:

    (1) the team has a few calls we all know and respond to. For example, "Support" = I need a second to refit / fix a limb / drink a potion. After you call Support, somebody usually steps up to take your spot.

    (2) Formation 37: This is a polearm hedge. Somebody calls "37" while holding a polearm up in the air, the other teammates form on his left and right. We try to alternate styles on the hedge, everybody should have a shield next to them. The shield fighters specifically drill to block of the people they're adjacent to. Rogues and flankers go on the end of the line and try to control enemies from outflanking us or running away. We have a few calls specific to formation 37, like turns, shifts, about face, and other marching orders.

    (3) Wide Formation / Tight Formation - refers to how closely we clump together. We usually go with wide formation in forests, tight formation on fields.

    (4) Moon formation - this is a two part call "Ready to moon?" and if there are no objections, "Moon!" this causes a hedge to collapse forward, surrounding one target. (visualize a line bending into a crescent moon) The most important part of this formation is that the flankers have to be like five steps ahead of everybody else to block the enemy from running backwards.

    (5) Sun formation - this is a defensive posture. The line collapses backwards, creating a circle with everybody facing out (their polearms like the rays of a sun). We use this when we need to stay still for a while, like if somebody is refitting armor, disarming a chest, or picking a flower. (you'd be surprised how often that comes up)

    (6) High Road / Low Road. This isn't a formation so much as a fighting technique. If you say "High Road" it means "I'm going to aim for this guy's arms and shoulders, you swing at his legs and feet." ("Low Road" means the opposite.) Both people try to swing at the exact same time, creating unblockable brutality. Even total polearm noobs are devastating if they work in coordination with this technique.

    (7) Volley. This is a new one. Just about everybody on the team now has thrown weapons or another ranged attack. If enemy groups don't want to engage our brutal hedge, we pelt them with throwing axes and arrows until they're forced to engage or retreat.

    (8) It's not about how well you fight, it's about where you stand. This is the most important lesson of team combat. We talk about how everybody has a threat zone which is a 90 degree arc in front of them. When you engage a target, you and your allies should move to the edges of the arc to spread his attention as wide as possible. Likewise, don't put yourself in situations where an enemy will approach you outside of your threat arc.

    (9) If we have at least 10 of our people at the event, we divide the team into two sub-teams, an east and west column. In large battles, the two columns separate but stay near each other, using our position to control enemy movement. And sometimes we can pull off brilliant flanking maneuvers where two teams come at a boss from different angles and dispense horrible smackage in stereo.

  8. @Dan

    If I can find a group of people to do that with, I'm totally stealing your tactics.

  9. Dan, I would simply LOVE it if you had any notes or writeups about the training regiment for your House. I would love to do something like this in the LARP I play at.

    I googled House Beacon and came up with this video. Shows a couple of pictures of their formations:

  10. Dan, what are some ways that NPCs have tried to counter what House Beacon does? Which worked?


  11. Farfalle from the Ordo Solis would truly be proud!

  12. Actually I often do field commander in a smaller fight(15-20 something) duty despite being a fighter. Why? Because I'm heavy infantryman, armored head to toe and the hardest target on the field - I don't run around - others run from me, I'm not busy tracking a target or casting spells, however I create a dead zone around myself in a melee. Nobody would approach me on his own

    This allows me to survey the entire field and give necessary orders, without being too worried about my personal safety. If I do get jumped by 3-4-5 enemies - all the better, that's my original job and my side will surely take advantage of the situation and sweep their flanks.

  13. i am joining a larp group soon and i wish to bring my tactical ideals in to it. dan, you have given good ideas and i thank you. :)