Dang it.

Dang it.

Dang it.  Backed myself into a corner in my game tonight.  I advanced a front by informing the players that a nearby village was being attacked by some giant ants that they stirred up.  Of course, the players immediately marched to the aid of the village.  We’ll begin our next session with their arrival at the village.  I have no idea how to conduct the battle against literally hundreds of dog-sized ants.  Do I break it up somehow into more manageable chunks?  Advice?

8 thoughts on “Dang it.”

  1. Let them infiltrate the anthill and kill the hive mother. The ants will then stop fighting because she is the locus of their collective mind.

  2. Think about how this would Play Out in a novel/movie. You can’t fight those many critters without a choke point or aoe spell. Let them be overrun if they try just fighting it without a plan

  3. It sounds like you’re not inclined to play out the battle, but your players definitely want to be a part of it. That’s fair enough. If so, how about you spend some time at the beginning of next sessions with your players asking some opening questions about how the battle went, then pick up the game in the aftermath?

    How about:

    Did you win or lose? (If you won, then at what cost? If you lost, everyone mark XP and the GM makes a hard move or two.)

    For the tough guy When you had to take on a dozen ants at once, who had your back that you didn’t expect? Did they survive?

    For the smart guy How did you figure out where the queen was located? How did you manage to disrupt her telepathy?

    For the divine guy What blessings did you bestow upon the village militia? Whom did you convert to your faith? What local custom are they doing with the ant corpses your god considers distasteful?

    For the sneaky guy How much are mandibles and royal jelly going for on the black market these days? Do you know a guy who can sell them? How are you going to collect them?

    These are just off the top of my head, I’m sure you can think of some ones more appropriate for your guys. (Let me know what you come up with… by coincidence I’m using Ants in one of my games right now too!)

  4. I’ve collected a bunch of custom horde moves in the past, and I think a custom move for facing an entire horde of soldier ants would be great.

    I would also sit down with the monster creation rules and come up with various types of ants. Design Workers, Soldiers, and the Queen at minimum. Workers are definitely a horde, while Soldiers may just be a group type monster with the organized tag and a move to call more soldiers. This will help you visualize how to run this combat.

    While Joe Banner came up with a cool solution if you feel to out of your comfort to run said battle, I would be wary to rob the players of something that interests them so much. That said, there’s the possibility that they will simply be too late. Have them show up at a scene of utter devastation, and buy yourself some time for a proper confrontation when you are better prepared to run such an encounter. You could even drop some clues as to where the ants might strike next.

  5. Okay, here’s the thing: five heroes running into a village of a thousand ant-hounds, hacking away, are not going to save the day — despite what the Lord of the Rings movies taught us. More importantly, an unending tide gets dull fast.

    All you need to do is figure out what the fight is about so you can keep your eyes on that while your players do what they want. It’s your job to run the world honestly, so its more important that you know what is at stake and how the ant-hounds will react when it all goes down. Let the players do the heavy lifting of how they choose to do it, just make sure you know the answers to any questions they have or things they do, or just be ready to riff.

    •What made the ants attack? Can it be reversed? Try and include evidence of this in descriptions or from spouting lore to inform the players.

    •Is there something in the village the ants wont go near? Can it be moved or employed somehow? Try and include evidence in your descriptions or from discern realities.

    •What is being threatened by the ants? Be specific. Yes houses, but what else? The store house, with all the food the village needs for a year? Are they dragging off livestock? Make their attacks specific so players can implement specific plans to stop it and perform specific heroics.

    •Is there something in particular driving the ants forward or luring them into the village? Is it something that could be spoofed to to drive them back or lure them away? When fighting 1000 ant-hounds, maybe driving them back is a better idea if it can be done.

    Another possibility, I don’t know how much info the characters have already been given, would be to backtrack a bit and let the overrun village be the ultimate step of a countdown. If possible, when the PCs show up, it’s just a scout band of ant-hounds. Easy enough to deal with, but one immediately makes a dash down the tunnels into the ant colony and now PCs must dungeon-crawl an ant hill to find the one ant intent on spreading scent-knowledge around that it’s found a tasty village.

    Good luck; your game sounds fun!

  6. An ant horde sounds tedious to GM. For every one you kill there are three more to take its place. I’d treat them as an environmental hazard not as individuals. Don’t worry about damage -if you hit one, it’s dead or crippled. And individually they don’t do enough damage to worry about.

    Instead think strategically. They can bear you down with sheer numbers and slowly devour you, but they are stupid. I’d make them slow but inexorable. You can easily outrun them but never escape.

    So it’s like a zombie movie. Trying to reach your goal without drawing attention, getting cornered or overwhelmed, always on the move because you can’t stop or they’ll catch you.

    Ant pheromones might be an interesting twist you can work in somehow.

  7. When you are very clear that the horde is of a size that cannot be hewn down by the party, ant-head by ant-head, they are forced to get creative and overcome the threat to the village through some other means than merely stabbing.

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