Dark Lord: Archetypes Overview

My reserve of old stuff that I wrote for half-finished projects seems bottomless. Every time I think “that’s it, I’m out” I discover more. Which is good, because I’m seriously unprepared to be running this thing alone.

What I’ve dragged up from the vault today are the descriptions of character archetypes from Dark Lord, the game where players take it in turns playing an evil overlord on a sinister council of darkness, and everyone not currently playing their overlord instead plays the overlord’s expendable minions.

The Troll King lives in the mountains and has goblins, orcs, trolls, and fire giants for minions. They ride wolves and use blasty fire magic. The Troll King himself has a very large weapon and is incredibly strong and durable, but also very slow and doesn’t (personally) really have an answer for enemies who kite him to death.

His minions follow the basic strategy of having a powerful front line that rapidly chews up the enemy’s own front line and then pulverizes their squishy casters. The Troll King’s own backline consists of a combination of healers (weak, but supplemented by the passive regeneration of the trolls, who are one third of his elites) and AoE blasters whose job is to clear swarms that his heavy hitting single-target attackers can’t clear themselves. The Troll King’s weakness is powerful fortifications that make it difficult to bring a lot of melee power to bear coupled with strong enemies who don’t fold under the AoE attacks of his casters. Weaker fortifications, whose defenders can be cleaned out by fireballs, and especially field battles against large numbers of relatively weak units, where ranged units can’t stay ahead of the quick and decisive Goblin Champion, nor avoid the wide-radius destruction of the Troll Mage, nor avoid a melee with the overwhelming power of the Troll Knight and Fire Giant Berserker, are where the Troll King shines.

Queen Mab lives in the forests and has pixies, elves, and hags for minions. They ride spiders and use beguiler/mesmer debuff-y control magic. Queen Mab herself has powerful magic of the same sort, but she’s fragile and can’t (personally) deal a lot of direct damage.

Queen Mab’s minions are heavy on stealth, battlefield control, and single-target spike damage as either assassins or snipers. They are most effective in reconnaissance missions and assassinations, where the goal is not to engage the enemy force directly, and against enemies with a heavy reliance on direct confrontation with the enemy (like the Troll King). Enemies with poor ability to maintain a front line against enemies who want to sneak or shoot past it and/or who concentrate their power into a handful of powerful units, or enemies who rely on powerful fortifications or battlefield control (easily bypassed by Queen Mab’s extremely mobile units), are all very weak to Mab. On the other hand, enemies who mass large numbers of weak enemies and whose battlefield control relies primarily on simply having lots of guys in their front line (like the Lich King) are where Queen Mab is weak, unable to spread her damage around and unable to penetrate the front line. Many eyes means lots of chances to fail a stealth check and terrible DR means no survivors in an arrow volley.

The Lich King lives in the crypts and has skeletons, ghouls, vampires, and mummies for minions. They ride skeletal horses and use debuff/minion master-y necromancy magic, using mindless thralls as opposed to the sapient minions the Necromancer Lord himself summons. The Lich King himself is also stoked up on that kind of magic. This is a party that will have lots of expendable tokens on the battlefield, especially if a lot of the minions have happened to have rolled high enough Magic stats to qualify as necromancers themselves.

The Lich King’s minions themselves have minions in many cases, and blanketing the battlefield in tokens is their source of battlefield control, which is handy because most mobility units have ways of doing things like ignoring difficult ground, or evading n amount of AoOs per turn where n is not a ridiculous number, or being able to walk right through or over fortifications. Generally speaking they cannot walk straight large numbers of skeletons actively trying to murder them without taking lots of damage – damage that will add up quickly on lightly armored mobility units. The Lich King shines when patrolling territory for intruders, defending against assassinations, and hunting guerilla operations. He is weak against enemies with more crowd control than his vampire duelists and ghoul assassins can stay on top of or who have more heavy armor than those ghoul assassins can penetrate before being splattered. The Lich King’s dependence on these two specific elites to shore up those weakness, elites who may or may not spawn, means he is often weak even against armies that have only some AoE and some heavy armor.

The Ice Queen lives in the tundra and has ice golems, yetis, and frost giants for minions. They ride bears and use control-heavy ice magic. The Ice Queen herself has some control powers, but she mainly uses them to keep enemies split up while she picks them off in melee one at a time. She is slow (it’s probably the big frilly snowflake dress) and deals little damage (personally), but deceptively resilient.

The Ice Queen’s minions are also heavy on control and deal a lot of melee damage, with the general strategy being to freeze an enemy in place, then lumber out to smash them to pieces. While they are most powerful in melee, they are also quite deadly at range in both single target and AoE. The Ice Queen is spectacular on defense, where the enemy must come to her and engage or they lose by default, especially when she can use heavy fortifications to seal off most of the battlefield and make it that much easier to funnel enemies to where she wants them to be and then freeze them in place. She’s weak on offense, especially against high mobility enemies (like Queen Mab), who even tend to have her at a disadvantage when she’s at home in a powerful and well-stocked castle. The Ice Queen’s minions aren’t especially numerous nor are they extremely perceptive, which means that a mobility enemy with enough control counters can ignore the Ice Queen’s attempts to funnel them to one location and kite her slow units from a range at which they’re less effective. Though the Ice Queen can put up a respectable fight at range, she is at a disadvantage compared to enemies who specialize in it, especially snipers who can quickly kill her few but powerful units.

The Black Prince lives in the plains and has humans, hobgoblins, orcs, ogres, and hill giants for minions. They ride horses and use healing and buff magic. The Black Prince himself is lightning fast and hits hard. He has no ranged attacks, but he’s really good at getting to enemies in a hurry despite intervening obstacles, so he doesn’t care. His main weakness is swarms.

The Black Prince’s minions are very flexible between offense and defense and have a good mix of units at all ranges. They’re generally resilient, but rely on healing rather than armor for that resilience, which means snipers and assassins who are deadly due to ignoring armor aren’t nearly as effective, especially since the Black Prince hits hard at any range and is overwhelmingly fast, able to dictate the range of any encounter in open terrain. He also has the perception to defeat stealth-based attacks. While he is weaker at range than Queen Mab and weaker in melee than the Troll King, he can fight Queen Mab in melee and the Troll King at range where he has the advantage. The Black Prince’s mobility and tactical flexibility make him king of the field battle, effective at raids and patrolling for enemy raiders, and defending against or performing assassinations – so long as he’s in the field where there are lots of straight lines. The Black Prince’s buffers can counter battlefield control spells, but he has no answer for heavy fortifications and he is bad at splitting his attacks between targets. His back line consists almost entirely of snipers and healers, with no nukers to speak of. As such, the Lich King can chew him to pieces any time the battlefield is too choked with obstructions for the Black Prince to dictate the range of the encounter, and even the Troll King and Queen Mab, armies the Black Prince ordinarily has the advantage on, can defeat him with the advantage of heavy fortification, the Troll King by forcing him to fight in the corridors where melee is king and Queen Mab by starting the fight at extreme range so that the Black Prince will be at a serious numerical disadvantage by the time he’s found a way to scale the walls.

The Lord of the Damned lives in the lower planes and has cultists and demons for minions. They ride wyverns and use AoE fire magic. The Lord of the Damned himself is a powerful AoE caster who can sacrifice his minions for a power up to his attacks. First level minions are worth nothing, however, and the power boost increases with the minion level of the minion sacrificed. Personally he is fairly fragile and is less effective against single targets.

The Lord of the Damned’s minions are mainly concerned with control tanking, debuffing the enemy, and spitting out more of the AoE damage that the Lord of the Damned himself does. Their strategy is to keep a front line strong enough and the enemy weak enough to be nuked into ash. He’s most effective against swarms of small enemies and anyone who tries to engage head-on and in melee, especially in the field where his debuffers can weaken their most powerful units before the melee is joined. He is effective both in melee, where his cernugons and erinyes shine, and at range, where his imps are the star of the fight. He is good both against swarms, who are vulnerable to his AoE damage, and against small armies of individually powerful units, who can have lots of debuffs stacked on them quickly. What he is not good at is marathons, because he has no healing whatsoever. The Lord of the Damned can win almost any individual battle, but in extended campaigns he will quickly lose the war.

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