KING BEOWULF Development Journal 3


KING BEOWULF is a major expansion for BEOWULF: Age of Heroes that provides resources for higher level play, including a realm management system that allows your Hero to become the ruler of their own land, manage events that occur in their realm, and negotiate or wage war with other rival realms.

Jacob once again, now ready to talk about the warfare rules. As the ruler of a realm, you may be obligated to meet your enemies on the field of battle. KING BEOWULF includes sample scenarios that may see your ruler defend their realm against outside threats or decide to teach a rival an expensive and painful lesson in diplomacy by other means.

Warfare occurs on a playmat called the Crowfield if you’re representing a meeting of warriors on the battlefield or The Deep if it is a naval encounter instead.

The above samples are just mockups used in development, I’m sure the final designs will look even better. As you can see, each of the positions are labelled and have enough room to hold a marker for a unit of warriors or a ship. We’re working on some exciting options for the unit markers and we will have more information on them in the future.

How do you know what units you have available? You have a force roster, representing the warriors that you can call upon in a time of need, loyal to you because they are extended family, the recipients of rings or other treasures from the rulers or because you host them in your hall, keeping them well satiated with drink, food, and contests of strength or martial prowess. Rulers do spend some of their funds keeping these folk happy and loyal, but not nearly as much as they must pay for mercenaries (which is an option for those rulers who can afford them).

To fill your force roster, you select from the muster list, a table that provides various units with stats for the warfare system and a point value. The points you have available to spend are dependent on your realm – are you a sea power, with shipyards and shipwrights to keep your ships strong and ready for battle? Or are your meadhalls filled with accomplished warriors, the strongest in the Deer Sea, with hard-forged mail and bright spear points? Your realm has a military rating and a naval rating, allowing you to focus on being a sea power or a land power. These muster lists are also available for mercenaries, various foes and Monsters. Yes, it’s possible that you might face a Monster on the battlefield!

To play out a battle, you first prepare a battle portent, much like you consult oracles before setting out on a voyage as a Hero. The battle portent fills the Inspiration Pool (just like it does on an adventure) and each player can reference the portent to inspire their units, giving them advantage on battle rolls or allowing them to make use of special gifts.

You then place your available units on the Crowfield or The Deep, according to the positions available (which can be determined by a scenario or by the unit). The players then take alternating turns. During your turn, you first make some rolls to try and recover any scattered or routed units (more on this in a bit) and then move your units, possibly conducting attacks and making a followup move to claim territory if you scatter an enemy unit.

Scattering units is an important part of representing warfare in the Migration Era.  Shield-walls can be broken and warriors fail or fall in the press. Scattered units aren’t necessarily destroyed to a warrior, instead the unit can possibly reform and rejoin the battle after spending a couple (or more) turns re-organising themselves. This allows pitched battles to have reversals of fortune that represent what we see in the poem and other sources.

Units can also become routed, a lesser status than scattered but still representing a unit who has had a bad experience on the battlefield. This might be because they’ve engaged an enemy that did a surprisingly effective job of defending themselves against the unit’s attack, a formerly scattered unit that’s in the process of reforming, or a unit that has met one of the great Monsters of the Age of Heroes on the battlefield and come out worse for the wear.

The naval rules are a touch different – while units can still become routed and attempt to flee the site of a naval battle, it’s more difficult to reform a unit after its ship has been sunken or capsized. Naval battles are more about effective manoeuvring and then closing to do direct battle with another unit. And ships can change direction a bit easier than ground units, represented by the hexes used on The Deep playmat instead of the rectilinear grid of the Crowfield.

The rest of the combat rules are familiar to 5e players. Units make a d20 attack roll, adding a modifier to represent their offensive capabilities, hoping to achieve (or better) the defence rating of the opposing unit. Victory here produces the scattered or routed statuses (depending on various circumstances and unit gifts).

Next time we’ll talk in greater detail about Advisors and the realm turn, where you’ll make most of your decisions as a ruler in KING BEOWULF.