One of my wow moments when playing Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal happened when the three most powerful Bhaalspawn siblings (Imoen, Sarevok and the Player Character), together with just three more allies, are confronted by an entire Tethyrian army (melee forces, archers, spearmen, and mages) at an Oasis in the Calim desert.

Imoen the Quick, suspected leader of the Bhaalspawn gang. Wanted dead or alive. A powerful mage, she is to be considered armed and dangerous. Do not attempt to engage without magical backup. --- from a charred note found among hundreds of bodies at the Calim Oasis massacre site

The Bhaalspawn and their allies carved their way through this army with relatively little difficulty, and are also suspected of destroying an entire heavily armed and fortified Dark Elf (Drow) city by themselves.

How could a situation like this come to be? I imagine these 6 would be exquisitely good at making war, among the very the best strategists, tacticians, swordsmen, archers and mages in the land. They may (if you deem it necessary) wear the best armor and wield legendary weapons looted from the treasure-hordes of dragons and enchanted with the rarest and darkest of magics. Still, how could six people realistically (well, in the context of a magical world like Faerun) take on and literally destroy (or cause such casualty levels as to set fleeing) an entire army?

Magic context: Even powerful mages are generally limited to a few dozen spells per day, and only a handful of the most complex, although charged items might effectively shift that limit upwards. Most spells have areas of effect below 100 yards in radius. Summoning spells are possible. Extraordinarily skilled warriors can perform feats that seem akin to magic to the untrained eye, at incredible speeds, but even magically boosted stamina has limits. I would like to minimize the amount of magic needed here.

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    $\begingroup$ I would like to point out that the biggest problem of destroying the army would be getting the enemy army to fight your party to the death. If they enemy army is protecting some super important thing, or if failure means death anyways, then it should be pretty easy to say that your heroes wade into the enemy army and swung their weapons around until there are no more enemies $\endgroup$ – grimmsdottir Feb 6 '15 at 4:37
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    $\begingroup$ The terms "realistically" and "minimize the amount of magic" are explicitly at odds with "the context of a magical world like Faerun". Those 6 are decked out in top tier "christmas tree" magic items. The soldiers only scratch them 1 attack out of 20, while they one-hit the soldiers 19 out of 20 (plus iteratives, Cleave, etc). And the disparity vs casters is even worse. $\endgroup$ – Foo Bar Feb 6 '15 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Vincent. That idea long predates D&D. You'll find it, for example, in the ancient Irish legends of Fionn mac Cumhaill. (Certainly in Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling thereof.) $\endgroup$ – TRiG Feb 6 '15 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ Do these six people have any plague rats handy? Are they asymptomatic carriers of the plague? $\endgroup$ – Molag Bal Feb 6 '15 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ This actually happened in real life. Zvika Greengold alone wiped out two entire tank brigades from the most feared army in the Middle East. A personal hero of mine! $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Feb 9 '15 at 8:27

15 Answers 15


Here's a few ways it can be cut down to size. They can be split up into two types: taking the story at its face value, and not. First, taking it at its face value...

It turns out that a mass of fighters can be at a disadvantage against a small group. Mob mentality takes over and it becomes very difficult for the large group to act in a coordinated fashion making them timid and allowing the master swordsmen to control the battle. Demonstrated handily in this video of 3 Olympic fencers vs 50. That they have to hit a very small target emulates your 6's near invincibility.

They used terrain to cause a bottleneck or division or in some other way reduced their advantage of numbers and ranged weapons. Let a manageable portion of the army cross the flooded river, then blow the bridge. Lure them into a box canyon and then attack from above and the sides.

Rarely is an army destroyed, especially before modern times (1800 onward). Rather, their morale is broken and they flee. Or they become so disorganized they become scattered or can no longer be controlled. Many would wander back to the army later, but often the largest slaughter happens after morale is broken and their protective formations break up. Ancient and medieval armies were often made up of amateurs and mercenaries lead by a few professionals, and their morale would break quite easily after fairly light casualties especially if their flanks or rear are threatened. Six legendary warriors, apparently invincible, inflicting heavy casualties to the army's scouts, could shake the morale of the army. If the warriors appear on their flanks and rear (teleportation or clever positioning or even just wild rumor) the army can break and run.

A broken or undisciplined army is basically a mob, a herd moving in a direction because everybody else is. A mob in a constrained area can panic and crush themselves, as is demonstrated in so many soccer matches and the Battle of Agincourt. If individuals try to move against the mob, they will be crushed or carried. The Six can use this to amplify their killing power. Catch the army in constrained terrain (a box canyon, mountain pass, between two rivers, a bridge...) and place three at the front and three at the back (or block retreat). As the front ranks panic and break and try to run they will crush the rest of the army in the middle. It might not destroy the army, but it will increase the casualties far beyond what The Six can do themselves.

Rumor can have a powerful effect on morale. The Battle Of Tours turned when a rumor spread that the Franks were plundering their camp (wives, slaves and plunder) causing the Umayyad to break ranks. With their flanks suddenly hanging in the air, and seeing troops running to the rear, the rest of the Muslim army (who had been winning) went into a general and unplanned retreat.

Speaking of baggage, an army marches on its stomach. If an army is deep in hostile territory (by enemy, by nature, or both) our heroes can destroy their supply train and leave the army starving.

Finally, combining all of these together. A large army, made up of low quality troops, moving through hostile and unfamiliar terrain on a narrow road in a very cold winter. The Six set up roadblocks in front of and behind the army (blown bridges, landslides, fallen trees). They move silently through the cold trees, attacking out of the forest all along the greatly extended road column, going wild for a few minutes and disappearing back into the trees before they can be overwhelmed. They attack at night, never allowing sleep. They move quickly and silently through back roads appearing out of nowhere making it seem like there are far more of them. The Six know the territory and have set up shelter and supplies deep in the forest. Any soldiers sent into the woods never return, killed by the Six. The army cannot advance, they cannot retreat, and they are unwilling to leave the familiarity of the road. The army slowly freezes and starves in place. What I have described is the Motti tactics of the Russo-Finnish Winter War.

And assuming the story has been... enhanced.

A battle against dozens becomes a whole army in the retelling. It could be self-aggrandizement as the Greeks would do with their claims of the size of the Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae. It could be the defeated commander trying to save face. It could be simple exaggerated storytelling as it gets passed along.

Sure, six people defeated an army... with some help. History is loaded with stories of heroic battles that fail to mention huge numbers of allies. The Battle of Thermopylae is famous for the 300 Spartans, but conveniently ignores the thousands of other Greeks who fought there. We've been told about how the Spanish conquered the Aztecs with a handful of men, but ignores the tens of thousands of native allies.

They pulled the trick from Three Amigos where many people dressed in just six outfits to appear to be all over the battlefield at once. Similarly, perhaps there is more than one Dread Pirate Roberts Imoen The Quick.

They were conniving, backstabbing, honorless bastards and want to cover that up with a huge story of conquest. Again, Cortés is the master of this. Welcomed by Moctezuma, made a guest in his palace, he took the Emperor hostage and could basically kill whomever he wanted. Hardly a noble military victory. Better to make up something about a daring coup. Sure, there were a lot of bodies, but it wasn't a battle, it was a massacre.

An army is on the move. Their scouting parties encounter the Six. The scouts are defeated. A recon in force is also defeated. Word gets back to the commander (well back in the long column) that a road is blocked by a force which has defeated their scouts and may take some time to get past. The commander looks at the map and simply orders the army to take a different road, this is why he has scouts! The warriors think they "defeated" the army, but commander wisely bypassed an obstacle.

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    $\begingroup$ Very comprehensive! Any suggestions for taking a fortified position? $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 6 '15 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ Is it possible for the attackers to use magic to, for example, trigger an explosion in the magazine? See Siege of Almeida for a good reference point. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 6 '15 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa Talk your way inside and capture their God-King like Cortés. Otherwise, sounds like a new question. Link it in these comments when you ask it and I'll see what I can think up. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Feb 6 '15 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for talking about routes. As you say, most ancient battles were decided at a peak moment when one side or the other broke and were routed. The six didn't have to kill everyone in the opposing army. Perhaps killing a few key leaders/champions, or breaking through the line and heading towards the leadership would be enough. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Feb 7 '15 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ The fencing video is completely pointless, because the fencers used movement, not just the small target to their advantage. They essentially forced a series of 1:1 contests, and beat half the opponents with opportunistic strikes. I would be happy to take even a 2:1 advantage against them with real blades and no rules. Even back-to-back-to-back, they do not have an invulnerable front. 6 people attacking from all sides could easily score hits on them in a real swordfight. $\endgroup$ – Lawnmower Man May 3 '16 at 6:24

Don't try to make it 6 vs. an army. That is a very short battle. Make it 6-plus-mother-nature vs. an army.

Army tactics try to avoid putting themselves in positions where they have weaknesses. However, when push comes to shove, every army has its weakness. All you need to do is put the 6 into the correct position to carefully strike at it, and the army is doomed.

Mother nature wields vicious amounts of power, making her an ideal ally. She provides all sorts of opportunities for force multiplication. Consider tactics like setting off avalanches over the army, or breaking dams upstream of the army. Consider seeking terrain where there is room for 6 to escape a tornado, but no where for a full army to run.

And when all else fails, have your 6 hike across the Russian wilderness in winter and see if they will follow. That will stop an army or two, even if their captain is as good of a tactician as Napoleon.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this idea... I like that it does not need bucketfulls of magic. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 6 '15 at 4:44
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    $\begingroup$ An army moving along a single road across a vast forested area during a dry spell. Six people with some basic tools, fire making equipment, and a convenient wind direction... For that matter, lying about the local conditions and route ahead is an easy way to kill a large army if crossing unfamiliar desert, wilderness or sea. And only takes one. Having six people confirm the same false information would make it hard to avoid. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 6 '15 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ I definitely agree with this - Brains not Brawn is the way to go. A spell to set off an avalanche or start a fire in a dry cornfield where the army's families are encamped could cause carnage. Similarly subterfuge - fake orders leading one part of the army against another would kill many of both parts before it could be sorted out and could potentially spread panic or trigger pre-existing tribal tensions within the army. Or to steal a lion king moment, how about stampeding a herd of 20,000 1-ton bison toward the army? Being charged down by 20,000 angry 40mph cars... painful and panic inducing $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 6 '15 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ An example from Disney's Mulan animation. $\endgroup$ – dtldarek Feb 6 '15 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ The example battle takes place in a desert. It would take a lot of magic to get an avalance or flood there. The tornado might work. It is the perfect place to exhaust and wear down an army over time, though, especially if you have effective magics for attacking their supplies. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 6 '15 at 19:20

The thing is that games such as D&D amplify the difference in power level between humans far more than is possible in real life.

D&D Mechanics

A high level warrior can survive hundreds of blows from lower level attackers, and with his armour and other defenses only 5% of those blows will even hit (using the automatic hit on a 20).

If you factor in damage reduction then that can become even more drastic, even 5 points of Damage Reduction is enough to mean that your average low level combatant is barely able to scratch their target.

In the meantime your wizard does have a limited spell selection but those spells include being able to strike an area with swarms of meteors, hem people in with force-fields, turn vast areas of rock into mud, enlarge the fighter to make him stronger and tougher, etc.

Unfortunately the question doesn't specify the size of an army. So lets look at some numbers. A large medieval European army would have 5,000 to 10,000 people in it. So lets say there are 6,000 soldiers and you need to wipe out 3,000 to make the survivors flee into the desert (where they will probably die anyway).

If you are going to say that the battle lasts an hour, then that means each of the 6 heroes needs to kill 500 in that hour, or 8 per minute. In D&D rounds of 6 seconds each that is just under 1 kill per round. Assuming the fighter has a 5% chance to miss (a roll of 1 on a d20 always misses) and only kills one target per round then that is still enough. In practice he would have the ability to strike multiple targets per round so would chew through them considerably faster than this.

In fact these numbers are easily sustainable, assuming the average army member is low enough in levels then even once they ran out of spells the wizard would probably be able to able to take down one opponent each round just by hitting them with his staff. The warrior would be killing many more per round than that. I run a game at the moment where a level 6 warrior easily kills 2 or 3 low level targets each round.

So, mechanically in a role playing game it works (although it would be a boring session!). But how does it work in terms of a "reality-check"?

The Reality Check

D&D is a very simplified model of the world. There are a number of things it just does not consider that to do a proper job of world building we should consider.


The first problem is exhaustion. Fighting, especially in heavy armour or throwing high-powered magic around is tiring. In a Live-Roleplaying System I help run we do big battles (1000+ people on each side) as a part of the event. One thing we have learned though is to make sure that the actual battle itself lasts for an hour at longest.

Once the hour is reached people start becoming tired and making mistakes and our number of Out-Of-Character injuries sky-rockets. We get more injuries in 1:00 to 1:15 than in the entire previous hour.

So the six would need incredible stamina. The ability to keep up sustained life-on-the-line adrenaline-fueled combat for an hour with no let-up, no pause, and no breather.


The second problem would be ranged weapons such as arrows, crossbow bolts, even slings or just thrown rocks.

In melee combat only a few people can attack you at any one time. Even with pole arm formations or surrounding someone only a limited number can strike. With missile weapons though you could have a thousand arrows being fired at you volley after volley until finally one strikes a vital point.

The target would need to be essentially immune to missile weapons, either through "kung-fu style" dodging and parrying, through impregnable armour, or through defensive magic. Even a slight chink in these defenses would eventually be hit, so they need complete immunity.

Terrain could be used to mitigate this but in order to attack the army they would need to advance on it, so at some point would be vulnerable to arrow fire.

Fire, Magic, etc

Fire is a common weapon, even if someone is immune to weapons you can set them on fire and cook them in their fancy armour. You would need to be immune to heat, and have no need for external oxygen for protracted periods of time to walk through the fire unscathed.

Additionally in any fantasy army you should expect at least some magic. The enemy heroes would come against you as would enemy spellcasters, etc. These high-priority foes would need to be identified and dealt with first since otherwise they might be able to take you down while the army distracted you.


You will notice that I mostly focused on defenses, that's because the enemy have weak defenses of their own so your capability to kill them is not in question. You just need to survive long enough to do so.

Of course if you can kill them faster than this or if their army is smaller then you do not need your defenses to last for as long.

I've also shown that mechanically in D&D and conceptually in a fantasy world it is indeed possible for 6 people to defeat an army. The reason this is not possible in real life is because it is just not possible for 6 people to become as invulnerable as is required. Even in real life though you should expect a team of 6 trained and equipped modern soldiers to be able to handle a much larger horde of people with inferior equipment.

In real life it is the offensive power (automatic weaponry vs bows and arrows) that has changed while the defensive power has not improved by anything like the same margin. In most fantasy worlds both offensive and defensive power increases with levels, so that changes the outcomes drastically.

The thing to remember about high level fantasy characters is that they are almost godlike. These are people who can wrestle a dragon, swim across burning lava, smash the stone wall of a castle to rubble, etc, etc. If conceptually you can believe a Dragon defeating an army then it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to think of a Dragonslayer also being able to defeat one.

  • $\begingroup$ Good exploration of the mechanics, and +1 for great last-line summary. $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Feb 7 '15 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ IIRC there was a mechanic in AD&D the rules set the Baldurs Gate series were based on that allowed a PC to kill a number of low level creatures per combat round that was the same as there current level. This would allow 20th level characters kill 20 level 0 soldiers per round. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Jun 8 at 21:58

So far all of the answers so far miss a fairly important point (semi-spoiler alert):

The Bhaalspawn are such named because they are the literal sons and daughters of Bhaal - the god of Murder. These people aren't just some of the best tacticians, warriors, archers, and mages in the land, they are demigods who have a supernatural talent for slaughter, even compared to a world filled with magic, monsters and cutthroats of every measure.

This adds to the other answers' notes about morale, but also impacts battle itself. With such a lineage, it should be expected that the characters' strength and stamina are superior to their foes, likely beyond what even magic can gain (especially for a longer period than magic).

Put those together and it's not unreasonable that a few well placed fireballs or cloudkill sort of effects (that are longer lasting and kill low level characters terribly and near instantly) or loosing a few demons would kill a few hundred grunts. Combine that with supernatural swordplay (or gratuitous evisceration) and I would expect the army to break rather quickly.

One other D&D specific sort of trick is that a few creatures in that world are immune to normal weapons (think werewolves). If the army doesn't have silver/magic weapons (and it's unlikely they would), then a summoning or shapeshifting would mean that the army could not even wound their enemy. There's not much other option than to flee or die at that point.


I would like to note that:

the very the best swordsmen, archers and mages in the land. They can wear the best armor and wield legendary weapons looted from the treasury-hordes of dragons and enchanted with the rarest and darkest of magics.

Because of that, I will then assume that no enemy survives first contact with the party of 6 physical gods of war. Well then, depends on how fast you want the enemy army dead.

Instantly dead

It really only takes probably the President of USA and couple other important staff, no more than to launch a nuke and destroy just about anything. For your magic fantasy setting, you could easily amend magic fantasy to everything, and it would probably work the same. Get the magic fantasy President of USA and a couple of other magic fantasy important staff and launch a magic fantasy and destroy just about magic fantasy everything.

Given your parties vast accomplishments, it should not be too much of a stretch that one of them is at least the magic fantasy president of a magic fantasy nuclear power state

Dead in a few hours

A little more serious than the previous one, the 6 heroes could go and chop a line through the army, chopping up the enemy commander on their way, to the enemy army's cannons. From there it should not be too much of a stretch that the wizard of the group could summon some summoned things to go man the cannons and shoot up the rest of the army

Dead in a day or two

Probably the speed that best matches the spirit of killing everyone by combat. Your heroes will go forth and dispense glorious death by swords and sorcery, and the enemy army will gladly throw themselves at the heroes. Just because the first 45,000 men-at-arms were unable to deal with the heroes, does not mean that the next 45,000 men-at-arms can fail.

Unfortunately, and realistically, most armies rout by the time they lose a quarter to half their fighting forces. Historically, few generals would allow the army to still be fighting at such a huge disadvantage. Fewer still are the soldiers who would stay and fight after taking such losses.

Dead in a few weeks

Carrying forward from the previous point, it would take them much much longer to actually completely destroy an army, as they would have routed. A majority of them would rout in a large trail, but there will be many who will be scattered to the four winds.

Such is the price of wanting to kill absolutely everyone in the enemy army, as your heroes will then easily spend weeks searching for every last enemy router.

Suppose that your heroes are not actually physical gods of war, and need tactics, one simple thing you could do then is something like this.

Extraordinarily skilled warriors can perform feats that seem akin to magic to the untrained eye, at incredible speeds.

This means your warriors will be able to go in and kill off the enemy army one battle group at a time. Use the wizard(s) to cast giant flash bangs on the other battle groups while the warriors dispatch of them one at a time. They can also create some sort of giant very loud thunderstorm, which makes things very chaotic, so the enemy battle groups will then be unable to coordinate their attacks, and if the enemy commander calls for an orderly retreat, many battle groups will be unable to receive that order. Then when they see the little battle groups that do retreat, they might then panic and go into a rout instead of a retreat, making it easier for the warriors to go to town on them. Of course another big problem now may be the stamina of your warriors, but it should be fine as long as you have a healing wizard to heal them up. This may make it look like the wizards do not do too much, but what I refer to warriors may also include the wizards with more hands-on battle magic

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Good answer, and good points. Amended the question slightly to take what you said into account! $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 6 '15 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa I edited my answer a bit as well to try and try to tackle the earlier problems of the enemy army not sticking around long enough to get destroyed $\endgroup$ – grimmsdottir Feb 6 '15 at 4:48

Oh dang. Realistically, but in the context of a magical setting, I'd say you'd have to make them People of Mass Destruction. No real life swordsman or martial artist by any degree could reliably take on more than 3 people at a time (unless they practice mook chivalry), let alone when surrounded by potentially dozens of blokes. Because when they move to engage one guy, they open themselves up to being poked to death by that guy's buddy.

So, how do you deal with realistic bad guys who don't queue up to take you on one by one? Well, there's no hard realistic solution (short of strapping a nuke to your chest and running at them), but there are always fantasy solutions: For one thing, if every movement of a man's blade could churn the ground and throw mere mortals back a dozen feet, it'd be blasted hard to fight him.

Unfortunately, there's still yet another problem: ranged combatants. If you are impossible to fight in melee, chances are they will resort to shooting you. Thankfully, you have the solution to that - a mage. A mage who, being one of the best in the land, is more than aptly suited to blowing up large quantities of men in tight formations. If they actually managed to fire their volley? Bubble shield. (Alternatively, the heroes may simply have the reactions of demigods, and those arrows may well look to them as though they are swimming through syrup).

Once your great heroes have chewed through the pathetic fools who dared cross them, destroying a city is no big deal. A regular arsonist with a flamethrower could probably do it, let alone 6 dedicated supermen with a army vanquishing mage. USe torches if the mage is a lzay bum, otherwise fireballs. Non-modern cities are surprisingly vulnerable to being cleansed in glorious fire.

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    $\begingroup$ Have you never heard the saying, "When outnumbered, run"? This needn't be a retreat, running draws all but the most disciplined pursuers out of their group and allows a martial artist to defeat them in detail. This is a strategy I was taught and have practised myself in Karate against other members of the school. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Feb 6 '15 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild well, I'm assuming that by the context of the question, the 6 heroes are the attackers, rather than the defenders. I imagine it'd be blasted hard to run after you've already been surrounded :P $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Feb 6 '15 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, being surrounded is exactly the scenario we practise. All you have to do is not be at the centre of your attackers' formation. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Feb 6 '15 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild huh. Okay, I'll edit my answer a bit for accuracy. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Feb 6 '15 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild I teach this in LRP. At the start of my training sessions I pull 5 or 6 random people out of the group who've never worked together before and then I fight them all. I've got a slight stat advantage so I can take any of them 1v1, then I just run rings around them fighting them one at a time and tangling them up in each other. I've been beaten roughly 10% of the time, and even then I've taken down at least half of the attackers. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 6 '15 at 8:15

Beware of D&D, it is highly unrealistic. Specifically, the character's progression is exponential.

From Calibrating Your Expectations, and specifically in the ANALYZING ARAGORN section, you can see that in the D&D 3.5 system, where characters start at level 1 and in "regular" games stop at level 20 (21+ being epic play), Aragorn would be... a measly level 5.

A level 20 character facing a thousand CR 0.5 or CR 1 characters (regular soldiers)? Well, unless they are truly ingenious, I would bet on the level 20 character.

If you are not familiar with the D&D setup, realize that in melee, a lvl 20 Fighter with the appropriate feats (Cleave and Great Cleave, both accessible to a Fighter lvl 4 by the way) wielding a Spiked Chain and suitably Enlarged, will be able to kill... all the enemies surrounding him in a 20 ft. radius in under 6 seconds (1 round, in D&D speak). Repeatedly.

That is, in the "squares" setting of D&D (where each square is 5 ft. by 5 ft.), he will kill 80 enemy soldiers each 6 seconds; or in other words, he would mow down a 1,000 soldiers army in under 75 seconds (12.5 rounds), providing they surround him in melee and press forward as much as they can each round. He won't even be winded.

As for the amount of damage he would sustain? In the worst of odds, all 1,000 soldiers would attempt to hit him each round (at least, the surviving ones) using ranged weaponry from afar as necessary, that's an average of 6250 attacks for those 75 seconds. Of those, only 5% (312) will hit, and only 0.25% (13) will hit "critically" (doubling or tripling their damage). This is due to the high-end gear and speed of our villain Fighter. It is likely by then that said villain has access to some Damage Reduction, which will actually totally negate those 5% that hit, and only partially let pass those 0.25% that critically hit. The Fighter may lose over 100 HPs during the fight (assuming no magic on the soldiers' end), when he has at the very least twice that amount. He will not even pause to heal himself (or get healed).

That's it. 1 vs 1,000, and the only magic involved is getting twice as big as he normally is. Oh, and by the way, Fighter is routinely seen as one of the weakest core class in D&D...

Note: oh, and it may well be that Baahlspawn are actually playing in the epic range, being even more powerful and unattainable...

If you allow such a difference of power between characters, then, as demonstrated, even a completely unstrategic assault by a god-like character will run nigh unopposed by the poor commoners. Its near invulnerability and the quantity of damage he inflicts is likely to shoot morale down quickly, ...

... but what if we mixed tactics in? (but ignored anything short of a full attack, no poison there!)

First of all, instead of attacking from the front, our villains would start by taking down the chain of command, completely disorganizing the army. With the advantage of surprise, and seeing as a group of 6 is unlikely to be recognized as much of a threat until it is too late and those incredible 6 will just mow down any sentinel that attempt to intercept them, they should be able to behead the army's command in the first moments of the assault.

A headless army, hemorrhaging from the inside, is most likely to lose morale very quickly as the massacre starts. Without even going to magic, setting the encampment and/or provisions on fire is both going to add to the confusion and thus chaos, as well as ensuring the lack of potential survivors (deserts being typically unkind toward the unprepared).

And of course, for added reaction time, I suggest a night attack. By the time the bulk of the army wakes up, they should be surrounded by fire and without a single living officer. Pepper with summoned nightmarish creatures, fire strikes, poisonous clouds (accessible at lvl 9!), etc... at leisure; it will help setup the atmosphere.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 Loved the analysis and also the Analyzing Aragorn link. Hours of food for thought... $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 6 '15 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ While I agree with a lot of this I disagree that he would be able to do that every round. The opposing army would be pulling back and spreading out while firing arrows. Additionally if he rolls a 1 at any point he can't cleave the next target. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 6 '15 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB: I mentioned that this would only work if the army kept engaging him; indeed if he has to chase them down, then it will last longer. On the other hand, he would also be submitted to much less pressure. As for the 1, indeed it would stop his serie; however a Fighter 20 does not have a single serie, but multiple. At the very least, he has 4 attacks (20/15/10/5). He could use Haste, for another, or use the Two-Weapons line of feat... or just go straight for Whirlwind Attack: 1 attack at full bonus against each opponent in reach... $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Feb 7 '15 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ ... of course, on 80 attacks there's bound to be some 1s (4, on average) however Cleave will pick up the stragglers. I did not mention Whirlwind in the answer because it's a very specialized line of feats. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Feb 7 '15 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, overpowering difference in skill + tactics win the day, especially with Illusions (thinking full RP) and lasting area effects for crowd control. I could have erased that army at half the level. They were dedicated (suicidal in a 'you shall not pass' way), but not as well organized as those 6. What I did, though, was repeatedly use Invisibility/Darkness to run past them. And Silence on 1 caster. So the slaughter is just a rumor. But I can easily imagine ways the army could have used THEIR casters to end the party in 3 minutes. $\endgroup$ – kaay Feb 9 '15 at 7:36

If Eragon taught us one thing about magic, it is that killing by magic is laughably easy. No fireballs, no big effects. Just a rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, or cutting a few nerves -> instant death. Combine this with the magic power that is normally portrayed by the big spellcasters in such scenarios, and you get a dead army, and your mage hasn't even broken a sweat.

If you don't like this answer because the area of effect of such magic is too big (although the required energy is kinda low), then some kind of magic-induced disease that is highly contageous, deadly, and takes a few days for incubation would at least seriously diminuish the army. Take out the rest while they bury their fellow soldiers.


Well the first possibility would be if the army is a bunch of morons like the bag guys in the old tv series. just waiting their turn to take a punch on the chin or a sword through the heart.

Next would be a huge technological difference between them, halflings with butter knives against armored cave trolls with Gatling guns.

Kamikaze, each carry a small nuke as close to the center of the army as possible.

But in reality, fighting against huge odds you are going to lose. If you don't have some huge advantage 6 to 1 odds are pretty hard to beat if similarly armed people fight, even if the 6 are barely trained and the one is highly trained

  • $\begingroup$ Oh dang, you beat me to a bunch of my points, curse my slow typing speed. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Feb 6 '15 at 3:47

Six super stealthy thieves slip into the army's camp one night, add slow acting, sure-kill poison to all the cook pots and ration stores.

  • $\begingroup$ This happens in the inheritance cycle at one point ;) $\endgroup$ – TheNumberOne Feb 6 '15 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. I read them a while back. Must of accidentally stolen the idea from there or some place else. Most of my ideas on these forums come from some book or mixture of books that I poured into my skull at some point. Thanks for reminding me of an enjoyable read. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 6 '15 at 21:02

You could always do it the way Mulan did:


Or perhaps the army is being transported via ships, and you stealthily get aboard the ships, plant some sort of bomb/explosive, and then they all sink/etc.


The Civil War battle of Glorieta Pass was a tactical win by the Confederates invading New Mexico, but turned into a disaster because a small group circled over the mountains back to the supply train and destroyed the supplies and drove off the mules and horses.

In inhospitable country, and without being able to store water, the Confederates had to retreat to the nearest river, and thence back out of the country.


The first thing that came to mind is the intro sequence of World of Warcraft's new expansion, Warlords of Draenor, where a group of a dozen or so incredibly skilled mages, fighters and plains folk are faced against a horde.

I would strongly suggest you have a look at a play-through, to get an exact idea, but in summary it's about taking on small fights of huge tactical proportions, ie culling their generals/ most elite fighters one by one.

This can be done in a setting, where paths are narrow and hard to traverse, so only the most elite of the enemy would have to be sent out, like a jungle or a mountain. I think an excellent example here would be the Predator movies.

A fantastic example I read the other day was the Hobbits fighting against the Troll, in the Lord of the Rings books -- their only hope of success is attacking the weak points. In an army of overwhelming numbers, the weak point is the leadership. Take them out and the rest will flee or die off.


Don't engage the army in the first place. Rather, think sniper and saboteur.

Use magic, slip in and destroy as much as you can of their supplies. Attack any foragers. How far is that army going to go? They'll have to escort their foragers too heavily to accomplish anything.


Do it Gideon-style! Cause them to hit each other a lot with all their ranged stuff and generally stir up havoc, making them mostly die on each others' swords.


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