|Art by JoakimOlofsson|
Classic Traveller has wonderful combat rules, among my favorites in the entire tabletop RPG world. They work wonderfully well when small teams of relatively skilled combatants - or predatory animals - face each other in pitched combat, with guns blazing and lasers glowing.
However, sometimes the Referee would want to create a situation in which the player characters face a large number of undisciplined, unskilled combatants - an angry mob of locals with torches and pitchforks, looters in a disaster - or even a zombie horde! In the Classic Traveller combat system, as written, this will create much paperwork and die rolls as each member of a mob suffers wounds to their characteristics and makes their attack rolls at the DM-5 "unskilled" level.
I wrote the following variant rules to reduce that paperwork and die-rolling load and thus facilitate situations in which skilled PCs face a large number of unskilled or minimally skilled combatants. Additionally, I added rules for relentless monsters which do not easily die from accumulated wounds.
A mob is a number of untrained irregulars who lack adequate combat training or tactical awareness. They may be enraged or even fanatical, but will typically rush at their enemies instead of employing a more cautious tactical approach. As noted above, the classical "low-tech local peasants chasing the spacemen with pitchforks and torches" or "zombie apocalypse" are good examples of this theme.
Each mob includes up to 12 members. In many cases there will be multiple mobs involved. Do not track individual characteristics, damage, or skills of mob members. The mob moves as one unit. It makes a single attack roll per round. Make this roll at an effective "Skill-0", with DM+1 for every four active members in the mob, or part of four. Thus, a big mob of 12 members will attack at base DM+3, modified, of course, by weapon and range DMs; a mob of 5 members will attack at base DM+2. Make the attack as if the mob is one character; apply automatic fire or shotgun rules as usual. While the entire gang might be unloading a hail of bullets, these shots are badly aimed and only a few have a chance of striking true.
PCs attack the mob as if it is one target. Most mobs are either unarmored or wearing Jack or Mesh armor; apply DMs accordingly. A non-automatic ranged attack which hits the mob incapacitates one member. When autofire, a shotgun, or a grenade hit a mob, throw 1d6; this is the number of mob members who fall. When using a flamethrower or machine gun, throw 2d6. Obviously, "incapacitated" does not necessarily mean "killed by a bullet" but rather "out of the fight" - killed, wounded, or maybe just shocked enough to be ineffective in fighting. The latter is the reason why autofire can incapacitate up to 6 mob members while a Classic Traveller autofire burst only contains 4 bullets.
Mobs are much more dangerous in melee, with a to-hit DM+1 per 2 members rather than per 4, and making two attacks per round rather than one. When skilled characters fights a mob in melee, they "cleave" - each hit incapacitates a number of mob members equal to the skilled character's relevant melee skill.
Mobs rarely fight well under fire. In any of the following cases, throw 5+ for the mob to disperse in panic and be effectively removed from the fight. This number rises to 8+ for frenzied mobs. Fanatical mobs are immune to this effect and will continue swarming the PCs regardless of death. Reasons for such morale throws include:
- The first time the mob comes under ranged fire.
- The first time the mob loses a member.
- When the mob first falls to half or less of its size.
- Each time the mob is attacked with fire, explosives, or similar shocking attack.
- When first attacked by armored vehicles or troops in battledress.
Conscripts out of basic training, as well as street criminals with some combat experience, fight far better than a mob of rabble. Whoever, they still are not a match for professionals. Grunts fight individually, as per the standard rules, including movement and attacks. However, they have a total DM+0 base modifier (from skill, characteristics, etc) to hit targets, subject to armor and range DMs. Any attack which hits a grunt incapacitates them. Note that Classic Traveller Book 1 Morale applies to grunts.
The Referee might also want to consider various small-to-medium-sized wild animals, but not apex predators or particularly large animals, as grunts.
Sometimes, felling a monster is not a simple matter of riddling it with bullets or chopping it one piece at a time - it just keeps fighting! In this case, attack the monster as per the Classic Traveller Book 1 rules, and roll damage on a hit. However, do not count accumulated damage. Instead, ignore any attack which does 14 or less damage. Any attack doing 15 or more damage kills the monster. For particularly fearsome monsters, make that 16 or less damage; this monstrosity will continue fighting even under a hail of bullets until a lucky attacks rolls 17+ damage (which is unlikely on the typical gun with 3D damage).