THE REBEL FLEET & Dice-less Mechanics
Been considering lately how little I enjoy d20 mechanics when it comes to large-scale encounters. While rolling a d20 and adding Dexterity is a decent fit for getting your dwarven fighter across a pit trap set deep into the mine, it rings somewhat hollow when applied to commanding legions across the field of battle.
In a Star Wars game, for example: while it is exciting to roll dice and follow standard mechanics from the perspective of a single fighter pilot, it is somewhat less exciting to play the role of a general using the same mechanics.
As an alternative, consider the following:
The Rebel Fleet
A game for 3+ players. Requires a long hallway or open space, and a stack of standard letter-sized paper.
One player takes the role of the Narrator. The other players are ace pilots in The Rebel Fleet. The Rebel Fleet can be any aerial force– be it World War II, outer space, or an alternate universe where lizardfolk ride tamed pteradons.
To create your vehicles (effectively your characters), each player should use one piece of paper to make a paper airplane. There are no rules for the shape that this plane must take, only that it must consist of a single piece of paper (8.5" x 11" if you’re American, A4 if otherwise). As an optional benefit, you can use a staple or paperclip to weigh down the nose of your craft.
The Narrator sets the scene. First, they should make one paper airplane for each major aircraft in the enemy fleet. For small squads, make one plane to represent a group of 5 or 10 (so you don’t waste all that paper). While making their planes, the Narrator describes the powerful regime that has ruined everything, which the Rebel Fleet is fighting against. Describe the battle that is taking place, and the broad strokes of the rebel fleet’s goals. Then, they ask what the players would like to do to achieve that goal.
Depending on how the players respond, the Narrator can engage the players in a series of challenges, using any and all relevant paper planes. These challenges can take place in two forms, or a combination/derivation of the two:
Race: The players and Narrator all stand on the same side of the space, and at the same time throw their planes in the same direction. The plane that makes it the farthest is the victor. This is used to represent outmaneuvering other planes, making it to destinations quickly, or rapidly closing on a target.
Battle: The players stand on the opposite side of the space from the Narrator, and then simultaneously the two sides throw their planes at each other. Make note of the planes that collide. If a plane crashes its nose into an enemy ship, it deals damage to it. Most enemy ships can only withstand one damage, while named ships (the players, or important enemies) can withstand five. Repeat until all named enemy ships are defeated, or until the players are defeated, or until the players opt to try a different approach.
At the end of each challenge, take a moment to discuss as a group how that maneuver took place, and describe how it moves the battle along. Continue until the players have achieved the goal stated at the beginning of the game.