I’ve always been…uncomfortable?… with how the group and horde tags work.

I’ve always been…uncomfortable?… with how the group and horde tags work.

I’ve always been…uncomfortable?… with how the group and horde tags work. Philosophically, what they mean for a monster is “this individual monster is a member of a horde/group”, and the rules for creating monsters make group members weaker than solitary and make horde members weaker than group members. This approach makes sense, if you assume that tracking each member of a horde/group separately is desirable.

It seems to me, however, in a system that abstracts the way DW can, that this is not desirable. Maybe this is just too much time spent with Anima Prime talking, but it seems a lot more manageable to me if the monster was the group or horde as a whole, a single stat block for the collection, instead of one hit point track for each member. Then the group and horde tags actually change combat, both mechanically and fictionally.

Unfortunately, hacking the system to do this is a bit challenging, not because it is hard to see how to do it, but because you’d need to change a bunch of different stuff to make it work right. (In particular, it wouldn’t really sing until playbook moves allowed different character types to gain different advantages/disadvantages interacting with groups/hordes.)

Before I go down the road of actually doing this, has anyone played with this idea before?

10 thoughts on “I’ve always been…uncomfortable?… with how the group and horde tags work.”

  1. I think some of this is already baked in to the way the abstraction works:

    – Group combat is usually handled by giving flat +1 damage for each extra member.  As such, whittling down the group over time also makes it less dangerous.

    – You can play around with whether damage hits individual enemies or cuts across multiple, based on the fiction of what your characters are doing.  This lets the fighty-types feel powerful as they take great cleaving blows that kill multiple enemies in a fell swoop.

    – Having individual members lets you split your group/horde on demand into sub-groups to use as desired to split the party, put them in a spot, etc.

    So, basically you can treat it like a bundle of stats that acts like one entity, but also have easy ways to split/recombine it as needed.

  2. Hm… sometimes I want a rat; sometimes I want a rat swarm. I think there’s room fictionally and mechanically for both to exist, it’s just that the rule book only has one with the tag indicating that the other is a likely scenario. This also provides DM/GM fiat with respect to creating an Orc Horde that is a challenge for the PCs and not just an outright slaughter. Or the other way around.

  3. Group and Horde tags simply mean that individuals usually cluster up into groups, or into hordes. The individuals each have the stats presented. And when a PC receives damage from more than one Monster (any NPC) source, they roll the damage of an individual, +1HP for each other Monster joining the attack.

    If you’re surrounded by a Horde, of course, only those that could reasonably hurt you add to the damage. If it’s melee against a horde of 100 goblins, only a handful could reasonably hit. Those closest could hit with their weapons. maybe a few on the outskirts could lob in stones. Use the fiction to determine how many add in an additional HP damage.

    Against range, you might face 100 enemies, but consider in the fiction how many would be targeting that PC. If the PC is one person among many spread over fortifications, under fire from 100 archers, maybe 3 or 4 enemies are targeting the PC specifically. But if the PC is Leonidas, standing alone in front of 100 archers, he stands to take 1d6+99 points of damage! (and even still, might survive due to Last Breath).

  4. Remember that when you fight a horde your goal is probably not to kill every single monster in the horde but to

    • Get to the other side of the field alive

    • Buy the thief some time to pick the lock

    • Get to the brood mother to destroy the hive mind

    • Create a distraction while the Wizard confronts the lich.

    So because you do not want to kill every individual you do not need to know how many there are (they are spawning the whole time anyway) nor what their individual hit points are.


    Fighter: “I defend the doorway while the others escape through the portal.”

    GM: “There is a horde of goblins on the other side, they can get to you three or four at a time. How do you do it?”

    Fighter: “I butcher any one that comes close.”

    GM: “Three come for you with swords and axes. Roll H&S.”

    Fighter: “12”

    GM: “You cut five or so down in quick succession with a flurry of blows, but they keep coming”

    Thief: “I run for the portal”

    GM: “You make it, since Fighter holds the door. Fighter, the goblins fall back a few feet and a volley of spears fly at you.”

    Fighter: “I duck, but stay in the doorway. I rolled a 7.”

    GM: “The spears miss you by inces, but three gobbos slip past you and attack the mage from behind as he runs to the portal. The goblins now push forward to overwelm you with sheer weight of numbers.”

    Fighter: “I stab and slash left and right”

    He rolls a fail on Hack and Slash.

    GM: “The horde steamrollers over you and tramples you under. Take 2D10 damage, and you are pinned to the ground. The rest of the party that have not reached the portal are under attack.”

    No numbers, no hitpoints. State the objective. On a 10+ you succeed for the moment, on a 7-9 there is a complication, on a fail you fail.

    Dungeon World handles hordes brilliantly because only the players roll, and bad things happen when they fail. This sort of thing is impossible in a system with initiative where monsters roll individually for their attacks.

  5. Lester Ward I generally agree with Wynand Louw and Andrew Fish, that the fuzziness of it all is generally more a feature than a bug.

    But I also feel where you’re coming from. It’d be nice to have some way to represent the overall cohesion of a horde as a single pool of hit points, and when the run out of HP, maybe you haven’t killed them all but they’re no more threat… they’re lying around moaning and maimed, fleeing or cowering or hands up and backing away slowly. Like the Crazy 88s after the Bride is done with them.

    Thing is, I’ve rolled it around in my head a lot (like a lot) and don’t see any way to really make it work without fundamentally changing the game. You’re not just looking at changing class moves. You’d need to seriously look at how Hack & Slash works, how Volley works, and how Defend works. You’d probably need some mechanics for reflecting group conflicts and scale (both in numbers and creature size), and so forth. The whole economy of HP and damage and the moves that directly deal damage… they all very clearly work with individuals. You’d be changing something fundamental and close the core of the game, and by the time you’re done with the ripples, you end up with something pretty darn different from DW.

    If you’re interested in where my thoughts have taken me on that, check out Heartbreaker:


    (It’s clearly got more changes than just those related to damage/HP, but the way it deals with damage/HP is directly informed by my thought process on this.)

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