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The General

Over the course of multiple generations of roleplaying games, many attempts have been made to create a class or mechanics that really captures the flavor of an officer in an army, leading his troops. Of the intelligent and charismatic leader, deftly guiding her charges into perilous combat, and returning unscathed thanks to genius planning. Many of these classes worked on granting new abilities to those around them, such as the cavalier. Some would focus on increasing the bonuses granted in certain tactical situations. Still others would focus on the intelligent fighter, the wily fighter whose keen mind and situational awareness was as important as her razor-sharp blade. For many of these classes and rules systems, the rest of the party was a proxy for the commander’s troop. Rather than having a number of warriors under his command, he would instead have a rogue, a wizard, a cleric, and a bard, or any other combination. While the rules were often couched in terms of commands, at the end of the day, they were really just suggestions.

That is where the general (and the hordelord alternate class) steps in. The general is a unique class in that where others have explored the rules space around the ever-popular leader of soldiers concept, the general does exactly what the concept is about: you gain a troop of armed men and women under your command, and they live and die by your strategy, bravery, and decisions.

The concept of this class is rooted in the idea of the swarm, the mob, the troop; whatever you want to call it, a band of lesser creatures working together to become more than the sum of their parts. This principle for using a company of soldiers as opponents suggested a similar path for using soldiers as part of the player characters’ arsenal. That is to say, if the main problem facing the leader-of-soldiers archetype was the headache-inducing number of warriors to keep track of, why not abstract them away? Why not give them all the trappings of numerous warriors, the drilled tactics, the intricate maneuverability that is so essential to the archetype, but make it so that it fits the confines and assumptions of the 5E?

The general is therefore a class built around working with a troop of soldiers called a squad, in a way very similar to druids or rangers and their animal companions. Like those companions, the general’s squad does not precisely follow the standard rules and statistics for a troop of creatures of its kind. Instead, its capabilities are built to scale with the class level of the player character. Unlike an animal companion, however, a troop represents an abstracted mass of functionally interchangeable soldiers rather than a single pet. Rather than equipping each individual soldier, their gear is assumed to exist as part of the skills and resources of their leader and the tactics that she teaches her troops.

Their wounds, and to a lesser extent the number of soldiers in the troop, are abstractions. Admittedly, this is a somewhat gamist approach to class design, but it is a class that straddles the border between the mild abstraction of standard 5E gameplay and the highly abstract nature of the mass combat rules in this book.

As such, it requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but no more so than the magic and mystery already inherent in the game.

Troops in a Campaign

The general is a unique class with a number of people under her control. This puts the class at odds with a few of the assumptions of 5th Edition, and this requires some special rules and guidelines. In the interest of making the class fun to play, it requires a certain level of suspension of disbelief in how the troop interacts with the world. The game would slow to a crawl if the player of the general had to micromanage every single soldier and extraordinary soldier under her command.

The general works best when you view her squad as a single creature, rather than as a group of individuals. It’s generally best to try to prevent the squad from needing to “disband,” or not work as a group, or to be able to be broken down into single soldiers each doing different things. The squad has its own skill bonuses, which represent its ability to work together to notice threats or handle obstacles. For example, when the party is camping for the night, rather than keeping track of exactly which members of the squad are awake and asleep, rolling individual Perception checks, and applying penalties to the sleeping squads, the squad rolls a single Perception check to represent the soldiers who are alert.

Eventually, a case will come up with the squad must be split up. Even so, the individual members of the squad become noncombatants at all times when split from the rest of the squad easily slain by any enemy that sets its mind to attack them. Most of the rules presented in the squad ability are for combat, and the GM and players are expected to have the squads act in a normal fashion when outside of combat: the members of the squad do not need to move contiguously at all times when going through a bar. For ambushes, this may mean that the squad needs a short time to assemble into a unit, but this generally shouldn’t take longer than a round.

The general need not-and, for the sake of simplicity and abstraction, cannot purchase gear or supplies for her squad. Outfitting the entire squad with gear and providing all of the supplies that the squads requires using standard 5E rules would be time consuming and require the general’s player to juggle gear for dozens of indistinct characters. In addition, unusual purchases (such as riding tigers for every member of the squad) would disrupt the balance of the squad. Many of the extraordinary tactics and class abilities are done in such a way to lessen the need for gear. While exceptions to the rule of not buying gear can be made at the GM’s discretion, any gear bought should generally only be for out of combat purposes. This class relies upon abstractions more than most others, so the GM and player should determine a plausible explanation for the constant supplies that the squad receives.

Another topic to consider is how to handle squad death. Classes such as the ranger can easily regain a companion, and even if the companion is killed they generally have many other class abilities to fall back on if their companion is killed. The general has a few abilities she can use, but for the most part it she is reliant on her squad in one way or another. For this reason, it is generally better to assess most damage the squad takes to be of the form of injuries, rather than deaths or desertions, especially when the general will be far away from civilization for long periods of time. This isn’t to say that the squad should be invincible, but the logistical issues inherent with such a class are worthwhile to keep in mind.

A general bolsters allies and leads by example, but her signature ability is to inspire and train a squad of lesser warriors to assist her allies in battle.

Class Features

As a general, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per general level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per general level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: light and medium armor, shields
Weapons: simple and martial
Tools: none
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose three from Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Perception, and Stealth. Choose one of either Intimidation or Persuasion.

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) scale mail or (b) leather armor
  • (a) two shortswords or (b) two simple melee weapons
  • (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
  • A longbow and a quiver of 20 arrows
Table 8-1: General Class Features
Lvl Proficiency Bonus Special Tactics Known Stratagems Known
1st +2 Attack command, expert general, motivational speech, squad 0 0
2nd +2 Extraordinary tactic, genius stratagem 1 0
3rd +2 Archetype ability, swarm command 1 0
4th +2 Attribute score increase 2 0
5th +3 Genius stratagem 2 1
6th +3 Extraordinary tactic, support command 3 1
7th +3 Archetype ability 3 1
8th +3 Ability score increase 4 1
9th +4 Genius stratagem 4 2
10th +4 Convincing greatness 5 2
11th +4 Genius stratagem 5 3
12th +4 Ability score increase 6 3
13th +5 Archetype ability 6 3
14th +5 Vanguard 7 3
15th +5 Assured success, genius stratagem 7 4
16th +5 Ability score increase 8 4
17th +6 Fight to the death 8 4
18th +6 Always ready 9 4
19th +6 Ability score increase 9 4
20th +6 Greatness realized 10 5

The Soldier Squad

At 1st level, the general gains a squad of people to lead.

This squad is comprised of a number of people who all are outfitted with basic armor and weapons of war. As the general gains experience in commanding her forces, and her renown grows, her squad increases in power and in size. The squad does not blindly follow suicidal orders, and its members act as NPCs appropriate to the general’s overall theme.

During combat, the squad acts in aggregate, with no single member more important than the rest. The statistics of the general’s squad follow a set guideline and advance as she levels up. These can be found in Table 8-3.

The squad is something of an abstraction, in that the component creatures that make up the squad are mostly irrelevant; only the squad as a whole matters for the purposes of combat. Squads are generally assumed to be composed of similar members of the same race, and a general typically leads members of her own race. Even if there are a few members of other races, the squad is considered a member of the general’s race and gains the same racial abilities as the general does. If it fits the general’s backstory, with the permission of the GM, the general can choose another race instead.

Reducing the squad to 0 hit points or fewer causes it to break up, effectively destroying the squad, though the damage taken until that point does not degrade its ability to attack or resist attack.

The squad has a single pool of Hit Dice and hit points, a single initiative modifier, a single speed, and a single armor class. The squad makes saving throws as a single creature. The squad initially occupies 3 squares, though the actual size category of the squad is the same as that of the component creatures. The area occupied by the squad is completely shape-able, though the squad must remain in contiguous squares at all times, even during movement, to accurately reflect the teamwork of trained military units. The squad has a reach equal to that of the component creatures, based on size. The squad can move through squares occupied by creatures and vice versa without impediment, although the squad provokes an opportunity attack if it does so. The squad can move through any area large enough for its component creatures. The exact number of a squad’s component creatures varies based on the level of the general and some other factors but is generally equal to 2 or 3 times the numbers of squares the squad takes up.

The squad is never reduced to a dying state by damage; it simply disperses instead.

The squad cannot be moved involuntarily, except by area effects that do so (like an avalanche, or thunderwave).

However, a squad can grapple an opponent, and this does cause the squad to gain the grappled condition.

Squads are immune to single target spells (such as invisibility). To be affected by multiple target spells, the spell must have a sufficient number of targets to affect all the members of the squad, and the squad uses up a number of targets equal to the number of soldiers in the squad. At the GM’s discretion, the squad may be partially hindered by a spell that targets a high number of its members; for instance, if the squad fails a saving throw against an effect that would paralyze most of the soldiers in the squad, the GM might rule that part of the squad is affected by the spell.

The squad is weak to spells or effects that affect an area, taking +50% damage as usual. When a squad 0 hp, make a DC 10 Constitution save. On a failure, the squad may not be healed past 50% hp until the general has an opportunity to recruit new members.

To replace fallen soldiers, the general must enter a settlement of village size or larger and attempt a Charisma (Deception, Intimidation or Persuasion) skill check. The DC of this check depends on the type of settlement. The type of settlement she is in sets the base DC. As always, other factors as determined by the GM may change the DC (for instance, if a tiny village was founded by a platoon of war veterans, it might be easier to recruit there than normal). Each squad acquisition check takes 8 hours, and the general can attempt one such check per day. If she succeeds at the acquisition check, the squad recovers up to full hp and may continue to do so until reduced to 0 hp and failing its save again.

Table 8-2: Squad Recruitment
Settlement Type Population Range Recruitment Base DC
Thorp Fewer than 20 N/A
Hamlet 21-60 N/A
Village 61-200 20
Small Town 201-2,000 17
Large Town 2,001-5,000 15
Small City 5,001-10,000 12
Large City 10,001-25,000 10
Metropolis More than 25,000 5

For example, a 2nd level general in a Village would have a recruitment DC of 20.

The squad attacks with a variety of weapons, so the squad attack as a whole counts as the following weapon:

  • Squad Attack. Melee Weapon Attack: Reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d8) bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage (choose one type each round). This attack counts as a versatile weapon, and the squad can either wield it in one “hand” and carry shields (gaining a +2 bonus to AC) or wield it in both hands, increasing damage to 5 (1d10). The squad can change whether it is using the squad weapon attack in one hand with a shield or in both hands as a bonus action. The squad can use any actions a PC could normally use.

Kingdom General

Unsurprisingly, a general serves particularly well as a kingdom’s general. As a kingdom’s general, she increases the kingdom’s loyalty score by 1 for every 5 general levels (minimum 1). Additionally, her increased leadership and logistical skills provide ever-increasing benefits in times of war. As a kingdom’s general, she decreases the time to train a new army by 2% per general level, increases the number of armies the kingdom can house by 2% per general level, decreases the consumption cost of the kingdom’s armies by 2% per general level, increases the number of elite soldiers the kingdom can have by 5% per general level, and increases the Movement score of armies under her command by 1.

Squad Command

At 1st level, a general gains the ability to command her squad to greater effect. As an action, she can issue an attack command. This functions as the Help action when attacking an opponent, but the general does not need to be within 5 feet of either the squad or the opponent.

At 3rd level, she can instead issue a swarm command as an action. When she issues this command, the squad can attack wildly in all directions as its action, dealing damage equal to the general’s class level to all creatures and unattended objects within its reach.

At 6th level, she can instead issue a support command as a bonus action. When she issues this command, the squad focuses on supporting the general. This functions as the Help action, except the general receives advantage on all attack rolls, not only the first, against that foe.

Motivational Speech

The general’s rousing words bolster her squad before combat, giving them an edge for when things turn sour.

Once per short rest if the general delivers a speech to her squad and rolls hit dice to heal, she may select 1 hit die to give to her squad. She does not gain the healing from this hit die, but the squad heals an amount equal to that hit die times half the general’s level.

Extraordinary Tactic

At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter the general’s training enhances the capabilities of her squad, augmenting and modifying its abilities to better suit the focus of the general’s training. While called extraordinary tactics, these may represent the teachings of the general, intense training with specialized teachers (for example, with a sorcerer on how to mitigate fire), or with a trained person joining the squad and dispersing their knowledge throughout the squad. She selects squad tactics from the list on page 298, and she can only select a squad tactic once.

Genius Stratagem

At 2nd level, the general learns how to read battlefields and coordinate plans of attacks to best make use of the situation, allowing her to choose one of the stratagems from the list below. As she levels, she learns more stratagems at the specified levels on Table 8-1.

As a move, the general can deploy her stratagem, granting an ally other than herself or her squad within 30 feet who can see and hear her that stratagem’s benefits. This ability is a single target effect. Once the general deploys a stratagem, it lasts for a number of rounds equal to her Intelligence modifier (minimum 1) or until she deploys another stratagem, whichever comes first. The general’s stratagems take into account potential variables, so they remain active for their duration even if she becomes unconscious or unable to take actions, unless the nature of the battle changes so fundamentally that the general’s previous stratagem could not possibly help (typically only when a new initiative is rolled). The general can use this ability any number of times per day, but her stratagems only work when she can adapt them to the specifics of the current battle, so she can’t use them before a fight break loose.

  • Area Avoidance: The general takes careful stock of the battlefield, directing her ally to locations ideal for avoiding area of effect attacks. The ally gains advantage on Dexterity or Constitution saving throws against spells or effects that affect an area, such as a dragon’s breath attack or a rockslide.
  • Defensive Bulwark: The general coordinates her stratagem to protect her ally from harm. This grants attackers attacking the ally disadvantage on their attacks, as if the ally had taken the Dodge action.
  • Exploit Openings: The general’s stratagem involves a formidable offense that leaves no reprieve and exploits every flaw in the opponents’ defenses. Her ally gains advantage on their next opportunity attack they make before the stratagem expires.
  • Logistical Mastery: The general deduces a cunning way for the ally to choose his path and gain just a bit more speed, granting that ally a +5-foot bonus to movement speed and allowing the ally to ignore one square of difficult terrain during his movement each round.
  • Perfect Offensive: The general uses her knowledge of the battlefield to direct her ally on the perfect offensive, hitting every enemy in their weak spot. If she takes the Help action to give advantage to an ally’s attack roll, it applies to all attack rolls against that foe, not only the first.
  • Psychological Preparation: The general uses her own knowledge of her ally’s psychology to prepare that ally for assaults that prey on his emotions or fears. The ally gains advantage on Wisdom or Intelligence saving throws against fear or emotion effects.
  • Take Prisoners: The general’s plan works best with prisoners, and she finds the weaknesses in her opponents’ defenses to allow her ally to subdue them without killing them. When her ally would reduce a creature to 0 hp, they may choose whether that creature is killed or left stable but unconscious.

Archetype

There are as many leadership styles among generals as there are generals, but these styles can usually be divided into a few broad categories. These can include and be influenced by their personal history and squad history, past military service, attitude towards leadership, and the environments, foes, and tactics they’ve encountered in the past. Your choice of archetype reflects the direction you’re leading your squad, not necessarily its past.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 10th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Using the optional feats rule, you can forgo taking this feature to take a feat of your choice instead.

Convincing Greatness

At 10th level, when the general attempts a Charisma (Deception, Persuasion, or Intimidation) skill check to influence the attitude of someone or convince someone to help her, she gains advantage.

Lead the Charge

At 11th level, the general’s bravado inspires her allies to action. If the general moves at least 10 feet in a straight line and attacks an opponent, she can take the Help action as a bonus action to grant advantage against that opponent.

Vanguard

At 14th level, the general’s soldiers are so loyal that they will sacrifice their own lives to defend her. When the general is adjacent to one of the squad’s squares and is attacked with a melee attack, the squad can take a reaction to take the damage from the attack as if it were the original target.

Assured Success

At 15th level, once per long rest when rolling a saving throw, the general can, as a reaction, gain advantage on that saving throw.

Fight to the Death

At 17th level, the general can inspire her squad to fight on, even when faced with certain death. Once per day as a reaction, when the squad would take damage that would reduce them to 0 hit points, the squad instead is reduced to 1 hit point and gains the benefits of heroism (treating your Charisma modifier as your spellcasting ability modifier) for 1 minute or until reduced to 0 hit points again. You do not need to concentrate on this effect.

Always Ready

At 19th level, a general is never caught without a backup plan. After rolling a d20 roll, but before the results are revealed, she can roll again, switching instantly to her contingency plan. She must take the result of the second roll, even if it is worse. She can use this ability once per short rest. She can also use her superb planning to assist her allies.

Greatness Realized

At 20th level, the general’s renown has spread far and wide. Anyone who succeeds on a DC 10 Intelligence (History) check has heard of her. Against those who know of her reputation, she gains advantage on all Charisma (Intimidation or Persuasion) checks that leverage her status. When using genius stratagem, she doubles its duration.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Ultimate Kingdoms (5E) © 2020, Legendary Games; Lead Designer: Jason Nelson. Authors: Ben Walklate, Mark Seifter, Linda Zayas-Palmer, Will McCardell