Warbands are groups of about 50 men and women with weapons and at least some training in combat. They belong to one of five types, each with a rating on the ladder. A warband always has an aspect related to its type. This aspect could be as simple as the type itself — like Shieldwall or Skirmishers — but it could also be more elaborate, revealing something about its history and composition. Ala Secundae Ambrosiacum Cataphractarii tells us that they are riders, but it also tells us that they are deeply committed to their Romanitas, that they are armed and equipped like Roman cataphractarii, and even that they were first formed under Ambrosius Aurelianus.
These close order infantry fighters lock shields, presenting a strong defensive line capable of standing up even to a cavalry charge, particularly when they take tactical advantage of the terrain. What they lack in offensive power they make up for in their ability to hold ground.
Riders do not have the sheer staying power of shieldwalls or the ferocious aggression of warriors. Instead, they have mobility. Under the right commander, this is a deadly advantage. Many battles have been won by a well-timed cavalry charge.
Most typical warbands consist of 50 or so men and women on foot armed with spears and shields, eager to enter the fray and win glory. Warriors will likely bring you frequent compels for them to charge headlong into battle.
Trained archers have become more difficult to come by since the days of the empire, but these trained skirmishers can turn the tide of battle. Most commanders rely on archers to control the battlefield (i.e., creating advantages) more than doing direct damage to the enemy.
Whether mounted or on foot, skirmishers harass enemies from a distance, only to fall back when they come under attack. Most commanders deploy their skirmishers to their flanks or fanned out ahead of their main line, and rely on them to draw out the enemy and generally create advantages for their other warbands to use in the full assault.
By Arthur’s era, the large, well-disciplined legions of Rome were a fading memory. Armies centered around comitati, a Latin word for a Germanic concept. Tacitus described it thus:
When they go into battle, it is a disgrace for the chief to be surpassed in valor, a disgrace for his followers not to equal the valor of the chief. And it is an infamy and a reproach for life to have survived the chief, and returned from the field. To defend, to protect him, to ascribe one’s own brave deeds to his renown, is the height of loyalty. The chief fights for victory; his vassals fight for their chief.
While any army will have other bands of warriors ready to fight as well, a warlord’s personal comitatus forms the heart of a fighting force. You belong to Arthur’s comitatus, but you may also command one of your own — a group of about 50 men and women trained to fight and bound by mutual oath that they will never leave your side in battle, just as you will not leave them. In return, they expect you to reward them with regular feasts and a share of the treasure. To command such fierce loyalty from such dangerous people makes you a military and a political force to be reckoned with. Arthur’s power, in turn, rests on the loyalty he commands from people like you.
Your comitatus is, at its base, another warband. Choose a Shieldwall, Warrior, or Rider warband to start with. Your personal comitatus has an additional aspect and can thus take two stunts instead of one. They also start with a number of training points equal to your personal skill in Lead.
The GM can compel your comitatus’s aspect for them to demand compensation for their loyalty. Paying off the compel reflects the time and effort you put into arranging feasts and disbursing treasure to them, while accepting the compel may require overcome rolls or more complex solutions to provide for them. When you fail to provide for them, they gain the aspect Discontented, which you can remove by providing them their due compensation. Failing to provide for an already Discontented comitatus can lead to it breaking up and abandoning you — even one that has fought by your side for years. Abandoning you in battle would bring shame and dishonor upon them, but outside of battle, failing to live up to your obligations to them brings just as much shame and dishonor on you. No one would rightfully expect any warrior to stand by when you have failed to provide for them as you have sworn to do, no matter how long you have fought together.
When you create your warband, name three people within it — perhaps your most trusted commanders, those you know best, or simply three typical fighters. These warriors begin with the same skills as your warband, and an aspect identifying them as belonging to it. If you like, you can flesh them out in play with up to two more aspects each, one more skill at Fair (+2), and up to two more at Average (+1).
You can also create nameless NPC’s from your warband as needed. Like your three named NPC’s, they have the same skills as the warband.
Warbands do not take stress. Instead, they take conditions. Conditions are very much like the consequences your character takes, but since the consequences that can really affect a warband are more limited than those that a human being can take, they are already set. They do, however, come in two rows: casualties and morale. In each, there are four conditions, which can absorb two, four, six, or eight shifts of damage, just like your character’s own consequence slots.
When your warbnd take damage, check as many conditions as you need from either row or both, starting with the left-most condition on each until you have absorbed all of the damage.
Injuries: 2 shifts Some members of your warband have been wounded.
Light Casualties: 4 shifts A few members of your warband have been killed.
Heavy Casualties: 6 shifts A number of your warband’s members have been killed; perhaps only 30 remain. When you fill this condition, your warband’s rating is lowered by one. When your warband has this condition you will need to make an overcome roll with Lead against Fair (+2) opposition in order to issue an order to them.
Devastated: 8 shifts Most of your warband has been killed; perhaps only 20 remain. When you fill this condition, your warband’s rating is lowered again, for a total of two. This warband can now only go into full defense. You can only issue other orders to them by first placing the situation aspect Rallied on them and then invoking it.
Afraid: 2 shifts Your warband’s confidence is shaken. They are worried. They may not show it, but you can see the fear in their eyes.
Shaken: 4 shifts Your warband is beginning to doubt its prospects.
Panicked: 6 shifts Your warband is becoming panicked. Outside of combat, this condition can be compelled to have them mutiny against you. When you fill this condition, your warband’s rating is lowered by one.
Routed: 8 shifts Your warband breaks ranks and flees the field of battle. When you fill this condition, your warband’s rating is lowered again, for a total of two. This warband uses its turn to move as quickly as possible away from the fighting. You can only issue other orders to them by first placing the situation aspect Rallied on them and then invoking it.
During a battle you can remove Morale conditions with an overcome roll with Lead. The opposition is equal to the number of shifts that condition absorbs. Removing Casualty conditions requires recruitment rolls, which you can only make after the battle.
If you have the time, you can train your warband. Make an overcome roll with Lead. The opposition is equal to the warband’s rating. On a success, your warband gains a training point. On a success with style, it gains two. At the end of a successful training exercise, you can spend your training points (including any you just gained) on any of the following:
2 training points: Swap any two of your warband’s skills, or swap a skill your warband has at Average (+1) for one they don’t currently have (Fight, Skulk, Move, Mark, Endure, or Daunt).
3 training points: Add a stunt your warband qualifies for (maximum equal to your warband’s rating), swap a stunt your warband has for a different one they qualify for, or remove the Uncoordinated Mob aspect.
You can also use training points in battle to add +2 to your warband’s roll or to power certain stunts.
When the opportunity arises, you can recruit new soldiers, either to remove Casualty conditions on existing warbands or to create new warbands.
Recruiting to reinforce a warband that has sustained casualties generally requires an overcome roll, usually relying on Lead or Speak) with opposition set by the casualty condition you want to remove (replacing a few wounded warriors is easier than trying to rebuild a devastated warband), though adverse conditions can increase the difficulty.
New recruits must be integrated with the rest of the warband, though. The warband gains the situation aspect Uncoordinated Mob. You can remove this aspect only by spending three training points.
When the opportunity arises, you can begin a challenge to organize a new warband. The opposition is set by the rating of the warband type you want to create (e.g., Fair (+2) for skirmishers or Good (+3) for Shieldwall). Pick two of these skills for the recruitment effort itself:
- Fight to assess the strengths and weaknesses of potential recruits.
- Lead to inspire recruits to follow you with your example of leadership.
- Scheme to bribe, cajole, or trick recruits into signing up.
- Speak to rely on eloquent speeches to inspire recruits to join you.
And one of these skills to provide for their arms and armor:
- Craft to personally lead the effort to create gear for your new warband.
- Lead to organize efforts and resources to supply your warband.
If you succeed, you form a new warband of your chosen type. Write an aspect for it.
Your comitatus can begin with two stunts, but newly formed warbands don’t have any. You will need to train them first. A warband can have a number of stunts equal to the number of its aspects (meaning one for regular warbands or two for comitati).
When you succeed with style on a Skulk roll, your warband gains a full situation aspect with a free invocation rather than just a boost.
Aura of Fear
You can use Daunt to defend against attacks from enemy warbands.
When you use your Fight skill to aid another warband, you provide Fair (+2) assistance instead of Average (+1).
Shieldwall only. Full defense grants a +4 bonus instead of a +2 bonus to your defend actions.
Archers only. When you use Fight to create the situation aspect Cover Fire on a zone or another warband, you can invoke it for free to force that warband or a warband in that zone to make a roll opposed by your skill in Fight in order to take any other actions.
Element of Surprise
You can spend a training point to take your enemy by surprise, allowing you to roll Skulk to attack.
You can spend a training point to attack in a particular formation (like the Boar Snout or Phalanx). Place a situation aspect on your warband naming the formation, with one free invocation.
Warriors only. When you accept a compel to charge headlong into battle, you gain a boost.
Skirmisers only. Whenever you gain the situation aspect Lying in Ambush, you gain a free invocation on your warband’s aspect.
When your warband goes into battle, they gain the Armored aspect with one free invocation.
Comitatus only. Your comitatus is especially loyal to you — perhaps they are all related to you by blood, or perhaps there are bonds of mutual responsibility that tie you together. They gain a training point whenever they enter a battle.
When you make a Move roll to try to move over multiple zones, you can take either the result of your roll or your Move skill as your result.
You can spend a training point to ignore an aspect that would otherwise force your warband to make an overcome roll.
When you roll a defend roll higher than your highest checked morale condition, you can spend a training point to also remove that condition.
You can spend a training point to place a number of situation aspects on the battle as a whole equal to your warband’s skill in Mark.
When you create an aspect with Mark, gain a boost as well.
You can spend a training point to make an attack with Daunt against an enemy warband in the same zone as you as a free action.
You can spend a training point to ignore two shifts of damage.
Your warband can use Move to defend, so long as they do not wear armor.