Monday, December 15, 2014

Personality goes a long way...

One of the more appealing features of the Wars of the Roses is that it allows very wide scope for the personalities of various lords and nobles to have a big impact.  

(Incidentally, this is not always a feature of some wargaming periods, as there seems to be some kind of unspoken convention everybody has agreed upon!  Many American Civil War rules allow for the colourful personalities in the various generals for example, but strangely the 'personal' element is largely absent from, say, WW2 games - obviously figures like Montgomery, Patton, Rommel, etc. were all quite bland and unremarkable types that just rubbed along wonderfully...)

Anyway, the wargaming gods have decreed that WotR games should allow for personalities to have an impact, as this opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities for backstabbing, betrayal, or just good old-fashioned incompetence.  The original Miniature Wargames article outlines a system, which is actually attributed to Tony Bath's famous work on 'Setting up a Wargames Campaign.'  Bath however set out the basics, and never tried to explain how the idea could be applied in practical terms.  Jim Webster in Miniature Wargames sets out a method of putting it into practice for determining how people act.  

For each area we have a lord in charge, and his personality is summed up in seven categories.  Each category is a simple 1 to 6 scale, with the opposite extremes at either end.  For example a roll for morality would be 'paragon' for a 6 (kind, generous, friendly- basically doomed in a WotR setting) going down through an unremarkable person around 4 or 3, then descending down to 'depraved' on a 1 (uses phone in cinema, cracks knuckles, etc.)  

The categories are as follows, along with an explanation of their effect:

This has no direct game effect, beyond being a handy mental 'hook' to hang your notional person on, so they stick in your mind.  In more practical terms, it also provides another dice-roll to use when averaging out your 'popularity' category (see below).

As with the above, the combination of Disposition & Morals is just to make the character recognizable as a personality.  It could also be used if necessary to see how two figures cooperate, I suppose - after all, a paragon is hardly going to be close to some depraved monster, is he?

The first real game-centric trait: how skilled is he as as a tabletop commander?  It's a straight 1-to-6 rating, but of course this can easily be tailored to pretty much any rule-set you care to use.  It also lets us settle off-table matters like sieges by rating his competence.  A lord with a '6' will be certain to topple any castle within a turn, but a level '1' incompetent could well be there until doomsday.  

This rating is again very similar to the above, rating how much of a rookie our man is.  In the Webster rules many rolls for checking military competence allow you to use "either his aptitude or experience" - so this is effectively a "do over" roll, to stop you getting saddled with a dead-beat.  Interestingly, I notice that Tony Bath's original system allowed the characters' experience to be raised with time over various battles, so a character - providing they stayed alive - would steadily improve their rating.  Webster ditches this for simplicity, and probably wisely: say what you like about Tony Bath, the man wasn't afraid of complex and detailed book-keeping!

Basically, how swift in action is he?  If the lord commands a section of your army and you need him to bring it to the battlefield, he needs to roll against his activity level to see if he does it promptly.  A level '6' lord will clearly be bounding to your aid with Tigger-ish enthusiasm, while a lazy '1' lord may well only be out of bed before your crisis has come and gone!

Things don't always go well, and when you get beaten in a battle, those lords that had been submitting to you might take new ideas into their heads!  A roll against loyalty decides if your followers stick with you after a setback, or ditch you.  It would be a calculated risk to accept help from a highly skilled and powerful lord if he turns out to be as treacherous as an icy step...

Sometimes lords can submit without fighting doomed battles, if you're stronger than them or also if you're more popular than them.  Popularity is dependent on other personality features, so instead of being a dice-roll, the Popularity number is an average of the six previous rolls.  Unless you've rolled for the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, it very frequently comes out as being a 3 or 4, for generally liked/disliked.  One notable feature - a character with loyalty of 1 or 2 is rated as a '6' for calculating the average, as he is taken as a shameless dissembler - presumably channeling Richard III from Shakespeare!  

In addition to the above I have added in a few tweaks based on the characters' pro-Yorkist/Lancastrian bias.  When checking against a test for a similarly pro-'X' lord, I usually allow a pass when 'either' rather than 'both' conditions are met.  For example, a pro-Yorkist lord seeking to take over another pro-Yorkist will get a fight-free submission if he is either stronger or more popular, while a pro-Lancastrian target would fight unless he was both weaker and less popular.  Likewise, a lord on the tabletop who has an independent command may fail you if he is pro-Lancastrian and you are pro-Yorkist, just to keep that prospect of treachery alive and well...


  1. Hi Craig,

    Glad to see you are getting back to the WOTR stuff. I will follow it with interest, especially the campaign stuff.

    I am using a homemade variant of DBA 2.2 on a square grid for my battles. Games are fast and furious. sometimes we dance around, sometimes we crash together. It is never dull.

    Happy Holidays,

    Arizona, USA

    1. Hi Jim, thanks for the kind comments - I typically write up the blog for my own benefit, so it's always a nice 'surprise' in a way to get a reminder other folk dip into it now and again. :-)

      I think you have a good plan there regarding the use of DBA. When the campaign system becomes more complex, sometimes having simpler battles is a big help to avoid becoming bogged down. I'll see how it goes, anyway!

      Happy Holidays,

  2. My friend and I are just starting out on a new project to game the ECW in 6mm. Our focus is big battles in a Campaign setting, where Commander's personalities and traits can (and did) have a big impact. I think the system you describe here would work very nicely with a few tweaks. Where can I find out more about how you've set this up with the character traits?

    PS Our ECW Project blog is here: