Saturday 25 August 2018

Teams of Minor Characters in The Dolorous Stroke

So, inspired by discussions with JC over at his blog hobgoblinry, here are some rules for minor characters in The Dolorous Stroke. These are the cannon fodder, the nameless mooks, the screaming panicking peasants, and so on.
Using these new rules will let you expand the scope of the game from three or four models on a side, to perhaps as many as a dozen. Roughly speaking, you can expect a team of four minor characters to take up about as much spotlight as a single normal PC.
This hasn't been playtested in this iteration, although elements of how Teams work have been used in the games I've run and worked fine.

New Special Ability: Minor Characters
Minor characters are those whose roles in proceedings are brief or unimportant. They are probably not given a name or much backstory, existing more in the background of events starring our favorite knights, nobles, and ne'er-do-wells.
Rather than having four decks (for wounds, blood, willpower, and virtue), Minor Characters have only one, which is called Endurance. This has the same sequence of thirteen cards from Ace, through 2-10, and the jack, queen and king. A normal deck of 54 cards can then be split into four Endurance decks for four minor characters.
Whenever an ability or game effect would draw cards from a blood/wounds/willpower/virtue deck, a minor character instead draws one from their Endurance deck; the Endurance deck serves as all four all at once.
When drawing injury cards for a minor character, instead of setting aside the injury card and suffering its effects, drawing a valid injury takes a minor character out of action immediately. If the injury card drawn is not one that the weapon striking the minor character can inflict, instead that card (and one other Endurance card) is discarded in place of Blood cards.
Minor characters cannot duel, joust take prisoners or be taken prisoner. 
Other than this, they behave just like other PCs. Their attacks do damage in the normal way, and they have the same stats and equipment that other characters might have.

New Special Ability: Teams (and Crowds, Packs, Hordes, Mobs, Swarms and so on)
This special ability is used to represent those unimportant characters who are only really found in crowds: the peasants in a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob, the shambling revenants in a horde, the many masked guards in a knight's keep, the swarming vermin found in a cave, and so on.
All characters in a Team (or crowd, pack, mob, etc) must be minor characters; these are nameless masses, important only in their numbers. There should be at least 2, and perhaps as many as eight, in the team. All should be basically the same in terms of their rules, although slight differences in stats or equipment to represent the variation among the models used is acceptable.
Models in a team activate all at once. They must all take roughly the same action. For example, if they move, all of them should advance, withdraw, move into cover or whatever. Likewise, if they shoot, they should all be shooting at enemies in the rough same direction. Those that can't (or don't want to) do what the rest of the team are doing instead waste their action doing nothing. If any of the team are locked in combat when they activate, then the activation is spent resolving each fight that the team are involved. Those not yet in combat waste their action just like if they were unable to shoot when the team spent their action shooting or similar.

Designing Teams of Minor Characters
Minor characters can be statted up how you want, but there are a few guidelines you should probably follow in order to stay in keeping with their relative unimportance. 
Their actual stats should tend towards the low side except in unusual circumstances. Your average range is probably 3-4 (rather than 4-5), and their equipment should be limited to perhaps a single (probably poor-quality) weapon, appropriate armor (which should probably be light) and maybe one other item (which might be a second melee weapon, a ranged weapon, or something odder). Some supernatural beings will need multiple special abilities to reflect their particular nature, such as Undead, Mindless, Claws, and so on. Otherwise you should probably only give them one special ability, and probably a simple one such as Hide in Cover or Brute.


  1. Well, I just bought TDS and like it really a lot. It does indeed trigger both my Inquisitor itch as well as my ongoing fascination with Arthurian fnatasy (totally agree: underrepresented!). One thing, however, that immediately got me, was the lack of playing musketeer-style melees (few against many).

    These new rules seem fine to me and I really look forward testing them!

  2. hey Emmy
    need to talk to you about your works, thanks

  3. Emily, can I ask you a question about the Endurance deck?

    When it says: "If the injury card drawn is not one that the weapon striking the minor character can inflict, instead that card (and one other Endurance card) is discarded in place of Blood cards."

    What if the "one other Endurance card" is an injury the weapon can inflict? Does it then count as an injury, or is that second card just removed, regardless of whether it's a valid injury or not?

    1. Thanks. Re-reading the wording of your rule, that seems totally obvious now...