Detachment Battle: Mass Combat in ItO?

I have claimed, based on what I read in the rules, that the “Detachments” (= larger groups in combat) from Into the Odd / Electric Bastionland are not very useful for actual Mass Battles because they are too vague and appear to need an obscene amount freehand corrections on the part of the GM / conductor.

But assumptions are not enough, are they? So I will attempt such a battle anyway, using some actual example detachments that were posited by the creator of the rules system.

Veteran Musketeers versus rookie guards.

Basics of the background:

ItO combat has no “to-hit” rolls, instead targets have a “hit protection” value. Every attack is basically something like an “auto-hit”, which can be negated as long as HP (hit protection, not points!) hold out. Once they are depleted, the target takes actual damage, and that goes off the STR stat.

For this reason, the most important two stats of a detachment are HP (avoids damage) and STR (suffers damage)

A unit / detachment that has lost all STR is wiped out. A detachment that fails a STR save (d20 roll under) after taking casualties is “broken” and needs to rally again to keep fighting.

If that sounds like fights might be very short, yes, fights can be extremely short! However, individuals don’t die easy. If they are taken out of a fight, they usually still live for an hour. Plenty, plenty of time for someone to come along and maybe save them.

Detachments die easier, although what “dying” for a detachment means is left to GM fiat.


The Veterans (9 hp, STR 12) feel that the guards (two units of 2 hp, STR 8 each) that protect the objective are too much of a gamble for a head on attack, so they need tactics. They pay a bunch of lowly street thugs (7 hp, STR 10) to create a diversion by attacking the back of the target building.

The attack is going to happen at night.


The Veterans stay in hiding, ready to strike after the diversion goes off. That diversion being the attack of the thugs. Now, the thugs strike, and here comes the narrative steering: Since the thugs have no advanced weaponry they cannot really attack the noob musketeers, they can only make a ruckus and draw attention.

So they don’t get to roll their attack, decides the GM.

The noobs on the roof have no such disadvantage. They go ahead and challenge the intruders, warning them and aiming at them. This can be considered an attack on their mind (WIL). so we roll their musket attack die of

We roll a 1, the thugs can take a bit of a threat and laugh it off, but their hit protection goes down to 6.

This is the moment of our veterans: they attack the second rookie detachment that is still minding the front door. Since they attack comes as a surprise, it gets enhanced. We roll a d8 and a d12 and take the higher result.

The d8 shows us a 2, the d12 shows a 12. Bad news for the rookies. The 12 goes through their hp of 2 AND through their STR of 8 like through wet tissue paper, and the guard unit is wiped out.

Defending the target

The second rookie unit recognizes the graveness of the situation and turn to the front, ignoring the thugs.
Now who will strike first? A DEX save for each side will tell us. The rookies fail their DEX save less hard than the vets, so they get to attack from their rofftop position.


The vets have a hit protection of 9, so 1 remains, and they suffer no losses so far. They get to shoot back, and ALSO roll 8!

That dismantles the rookies’ hp of 2 and cuts down their STR from 8 to 2.
Hard to avoid critical damage there.

Rolling a d20 against 2, we fail, so the sole survivor of our rookie detachment surrenders.

The veterans won.

The weaknesses of the system are obvious

But what if we had rolled a 1 just now? Despite all losses, our lone survivor would have gotten to roll another d8 aganst the vets, and if that would have been another 8, he would have taken them down to 5. They would then have a 75% chance to break and run.

Not bloody likely, given their serious advantage in numbers and strength. Who is that lone survivor, John McClane?

The system is too dependent on the dice and absolutely dependent on conductor overruling.

I believe my earlier instinctive assessment is right: The Electric Bastionland Detachment rules are not really useful for Detachment versus Detachment engagements, and even for Detachment versus party members, the game would be more interesting by splitting them up into single foes to outwit or overcome. In an actual game, the best way to go is by narration and GM fiat., and by using a single luck die in case of ambiguity.

Forget all of this.
ItO / EB is simply not built for a battle model: it is not built for the complex or precise, it is built for speed and simplicity.


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