Thursday, 2 October 2014

Dux Britanniarum for the Wars of the Roses Characters & Career Paths

Can you become as renowned as The Black 
Vegetable Adder?

Way back when Dux Britanniarum was released, I converted it to play both Wars of the Roses and games set in the Burgundian Succession War. Since that time experience has show up a few faults in the basic design and I have since moved over to using Sharp Practice for actual battles.

However I still think that Dux Brit has a lot to offer for this period and I am revising the original changes here, so as to enable small campaigns and games to be played out in the era of the Wars of the Roses - 1450 to 1487, although you could push into the early part of the Tudor period too.

To enable the game to be more fun than an accurate portrayal of 15th Century England, I have had to take some liberties, particularly that in reality, while rival nobles did fall out - a lot, generally any disorder and violence was stamped out within months of occurring, by the arrival of a 'Commission of Oyer and Terminer', sent by the King and headed by a senior Noble. Effectively this was a 'Cease and Desist Notice' but backed by bows and bills, rather than a high-priced legal team.

Assume then that the conflict you are gaming is a localised conflict between two minor nobles and their supporters (known as Affinities). It takes place within a period of great political instability, where Royal authority is somewhat laxer than usual and the opportunity to settle a score or too has arisen. The end of each campaign season reflects the arrival of a Royal Commissioner, who causes an end to the current round of hostilities and brings about a period where each of the protagonists begin to prepare for the next round of violence.

The important bits from this and the other posts in this series, has been summarised as a PDF.

Setting Up Your Campaign

As Dux Britanniarum is primarily designed as a campaign system as well as a set of traditional wargame rules, they are at their best when used as a whole package. I am presuming that anybody trying this mod out is looking for that same campaign experience too. Each player begins as a minor 'Lord', who holds a single Manor, either as land in his own name, or as the steward of some higher noble. It makes no real difference, as in either case there is always a superior of one form or another.

From such lowly beginnings the player will hopefully advance his career by gaining land, prestige and followers, often at his opponent's expense. While there is no kingdom to win, the degree of power an individual can gain can potentially result in its localised equivalent, an Earldom, being obtained.

Troop Types

I will be following Dux Britanniarum's troop types, as these fit quite well into those present in 15th Century England. Although there are some differences and in some cases a single troop type has the option of being fielded as more than one of the basic types given.

Troops may be either Retainers, Yeomen or Tenants, which conforms to Dux Brit's Elite, Warrior and Levy classes.

Spears - These are the Men at Arms and what have become known as 'Retinue Billmen', although there was no distinction made in the 15th Century. They may be fielded as either 'Shock Cavalry' or 'Infantry' at the player's discretion and in battle may change between these classes. These will be either Retainers or Yeomen, depending on whether you are representing high quality men at arms, or the better Yeomen and poorer gentry. If the figure is mounted but is not a Yeoman Archer, it is a spear.

Yeomen Archers - Typically these were the standard infantry 'warriors', but often had horses to convey them to and from battle and enable them to keep pace with the Spears. There is evidence that they were capable of acting as Light Cavalry, to the point that their bows could be shot from horseback. Regardless they were far more effective as massed missile infantry. Like the Spears they can switch between being 'Raider Cavalry' and Infantry as required.

Tenant Bills and Archers -  These were the poorest members of a community and other than occasional rebellions, had not been called upon to provide any form of military service for some hundred years or so. As a result their skills and equipment were somewhat lacking. Within the class it was the archers who were the best of the class, the billmen often lacking even the most basic elements of protection. Few if any billmen were recruited for the Hundred Years War, although at the end of the century they begin to appear in retinues drawn from poorer areas. Tenants are always infantry, although archers may switch between being infantry and skirmishers.

Others - While the above form the typical range of troops available, there were occasionally other types employed at this level of conflict. The Paston family for example, employed crossbows and handgunners in single numbers in its dispute with the Duke of Norfolk. These Foreign specialists will usually conform to the existing English types, so will be either 'Retinue' or 'Yeomen', depending on their type, origin and enthusiasm. They will not typically be available at the beginning of a campaign, but exchanging a like number of Retinue Archers for their equivalents should make no real difference, all things considered.

Types of armour were largely relative within any particular troop type and this is incorporated within the rules to reflect this. The 'Spears' ranged from fully armoured men at arms to substantially protected men, what we might describe as being 'half-armoured'. The Yeomen archers usually wore some form of protection, ranging from the most common padded 'jacks', to the 'coats of plates', or brigandines as they were known, either type sometimes supplemented by occasional pieces of metal plate armour. The Tenants varied greatest, with some having the same protection as the Yeomen Archers, but most having far less, to the point of having none at all.

Organising Your Forces

As in Dux Britanniarum, I have not really considered a figure scale important. I have worked with groups containing five figures as the smallest 'unit', as this is the typical smallest group of men used in contemporary continental warfare. If you want to work to DB's usual numbers it makes no difference, so long as all players are using the same size. Units may rise to be ten figures strong during the campaign (as opposed to DB's eight figures), but this was selected purely because it mimics traditional English group sizes (10, 20, 100 etc.).

What your groups of men represent is up to you, but in terms of actual retinues, most wealthy Knights and Lords could only draw on less than a hundred men for their actual retinues, with only the wealthiest of Earls and Dukes managing to exceed 100-150 men. By raising other knights, gentry and yeomen, either by contract, or 'good will', along with everyone's tenants however, this could vastly increase their forces into the thousands in some cases.

The Lords Clifford are believed to have been able to raise around 500 men at various times, while the Percy's as many as 5-6,000, although whether this included their own retainers and 'well-wishers' (like Clifford), is hard to determine. The Stanley forces at Bosworth are supposed to have been in the region of 3,000 men, but these would include both retinues of each of the brothers, as well as what they raised under Commissions of Array (Thomas Lord Stanley was Marshal of England and both of them held various offices in Cheshire and Lancashire).

The above examples are amongst the leading magnates of the land at the time however and our men are much more lowly. Lord Berkeley was able to raise around 1,000 men for his dispute with Lord Lisle, representing his own retinue and men raised in Bristol by his brother's father-in-law, so at their highest point, our 'Lords' should be operating at around that level. In essence then each figure represents around four or five real men, so each group of five is about twenty men. It really is not important though.  

Each player's starting force will consist of;

The 'Lord', who will be accompanied by a banner bearer to display his coat of arms, a standard bearer displaying his badge and livery, and a musician or herald. These additional figures are classed as 'Retinue Spears' for the purposes of the game, but always accompany the Lord figure and may not be detached as a separate unit.

The Lord has two subordinate leaders, themselves accompanied by a similar number of figures, representing their own banner bearer (if they possess their own coat of arms), as well as a standard displaying the Lord's badge and livery, but of a smaller and somewhat different type to that of the Lord himself. Their accompanying figures are classed as either 'Yeomen Spears', or 'Yeomen Archers', as the player wishes.

The Lord also has one group of Retinue Spears, three groups of Mounted Yeoman Archers and four groups of Tenant Archers or Bills. The proportions of Tenant Archers to Bills is left to the player's discretion, but archers will be somewhat less easily acquired once the campaign begins. Having all four initial groups as archers is quite acceptable and represents the Lord 'cherry-picking' the best of his tenants.

The Lord's Background

The character rules in Dux Brit are mostly fine as they are. Obviously you will have to find appropriate names for your characters and here and there change an expression (i.e. 'Purple Born' would become 'Son of a Nobleman'), but largely they are good as is. Character backgrounds require a little more work however, but the effects are largely the same.

Roll 2D6 to see the background of your Lord.

Dice Result

2 - 3   Son of the Squire. Born into a family that traditionally heads the village. You will have to earn respect by your actions. Subtract -2 on the wealth roll. Add +1 to any loyalty roll he makes.

Each Manor (or demesne, if you prefer) had its Lord, which confusingly was both a term of general respect, as well as an official rank of nobility, which we can mostly disregard. In this a 'Lord' is an individual who controls one or more Manors. The 'lord of the manor' could be of any rank, even the King was the lord of a number of manors.

The bulk of them were in fact held by the 4,000 or so families which formed the 'squirearchy' of England. These were families who had coats of arms, but who did not have hereditary titles, other than the honorific esquire (which is still used in formal letters today as esq.), which around this time was already being shortened to just 'Squire'. While some individuals might be knighted for the term of their life and would be Sir Whomever, this does not pass to his heir upon his death.

4 - 6   Beggar Knight. Although an ancient family with its own blazon, that is pretty much all you have and of course your honour. Subtract -1 on the wealth roll. 

Besides the nobles with their own estates and family lands, or the merchants and lawyers, with their businesses and clients, who were knighted for some service performed, there were also many knights who had nothing but their title ('nothing' in noble terms that is, not 'nothing' in ordinary people's terms). 

For whatever reason these individuals have no estates, they form a group whose station in life is far above their means to maintain it. Shakespeare's Falstaff is a typical example. Between wars, if they are lucky, they will gain service in a Lord's household, or as in this case, be the steward of a greater lord's estate.  

7 - 9   Gentleborn. Born into a relatively wealthy family. The bulk of those serving as Spears.

The gentry were those families who, while having no formal title (or possibly even a heritage if they were nouveau riche), held some land, which they were able to rent out to others to work, or had profited enough from business, to reach the point where they no longer had to work themselves. The head of the family might have been knighted for the term of their life, or not, but the family is able to maintain a degree of wealth. It is barely different to being an esquire, but different enough to set you apart within county society.

10 - 11   Younger son of a noble family. It was this or the priesthood. Your future lies in your noble blood and getting noticed. -1 to any loyalty roll he makes.

Inheritance rules meant that the oldest son gained all land and titles, although on occasion, it might be that there is a tradition that younger sons gain an honorary title, particularly in the grander families. For many however, there was nothing for second place and these individuals had to go and make their own way in the world, usually using their swords.

12   Minor Noble. Although it is a hollow title, through valour you will gain land. Add +2 to the wealth roll. Subtract -1 from any loyalty roll he makes.

There were a number of nobles, the bulk of whose family estates were either lost to them by marriage, or which were the subject of disputed inheritance claims, preventing them from accessing the wealth to be gained from them. Lord Cobham was a prime example.


The new terms for income and expenditure are as follows;

0 -   An Empty Purse.
1 -   A Tenant's Tithe.
2 -   A Yeoman's Wage.
3 -   A Dozener's Purse.
4 -   A Squire's Tithe.
5 -   A Gentleman's Largesse.
6 -   A Captain's Pay.
7 -   A Knight's Fee.
8 -   A Bishop's Stipend.
9 -   An Earl's War Chest
10 - A King's Ransom.

Other than the names used, there is no change to the Wealth Table on page 11.

Roll               Result

2 or less        A Tenant's Tithe.
3 - 4               A Yeoman's Wage.
5+                  A Dozener's Purse.

Career Paths

The most notable difference to Dux Britanniarum is that nobody gets to be King... ever. The best that you can hope for, and in relative terms is the same, is that you become the actual 'Lord' (i.e. Baron) of a named location, i.e. the lowest rank of nobility. The result of this is that the Dux Brit career paths will require some re-working. The options for improving your domain are also somewhat different, due to the nature of Medieval society and culture.

In the campaign you will start at the bottom, i.e. the first table (Squire). You are the head of the family which holds the manor. Whether you hold it in your own right, or as the steward of a higher family in the pecking order is immaterial, the effects are essentially the same. You then progress over time through the other tables in sequence (Knight and Lord), up to the point where you reach the end of natural progression.

I'm not going to copy them onto this post, they are pretty self explanatory. The relevant rules can be found in the Dux Brit rule book itself. The only difference is largely one of terminology; a Priest is the same as a Bishop in terms of the rules and a Cardinal is the equivalent of a Dux Brit 'Saint'.

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