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The Dolorous Stroke
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The Dolorous Stroke

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"And when Balyn saw the spear, he gat it in his hand, and turned him to King Pellam, and smote him passingly sore with that spear, that King Pellam fell down in a swoon; and therewith the castle rove and the walls brake, and fell to the earth, and Balyn fell down, so that he might not stir hand nor foot"

-Thomas Mallory

The Dolorous Stroke - named after the fateful blow that sets in motion much of the Grail Quest  - is a narrative wargame that deals with medieval romances, and the knights they depict. Players take control of a knight errant and his retinue, and play through the various adventures that they experience on their quest.

The game is designed for teams of 1-5 characters on each side. It deliberately moves away from competetive play, and instead is focussed on an ongoing campaign where the cast of characters encounter new challenges each game.Character creation is completely open-ended and freeform, with each character tailored to match their miniature and concept. Likewise, scenarios are intended to have objectives that can change as the characters meet, fight, negotiate and explore. Rather than list-building and point-scoring, the game is instead meant to encourage creativity and picaresque storytelling.

As well as using dice rolls to resolve actions, each character uses a deck of playing cards to track injuries suffered, blood loss, degredation of virtue and expendature of willpower. Whilst using a simple framework, the mechanics have room to be customised so that a wide variety of characters can all play in different and interesting ways.

Gameplay tends towards fairly low lethality; killing enemy characters is difficult, but combat is useful as it allows you to injure (and so weaken) enemies, and lets you control the tempo of the game. This control of the tempo of the game so you can react to your opponent's moves or preempt their strategy is key to success; by the time blows are exchanged there's probably been a great deal of maneuvering and negotiation. 

The book contains:

  • Basic rules for movement, shooting, fighting, magic, and other actions.
  • Special rules for duels, jousts, taking prisoners and so on.
  • Guidelines for character creation, including various character archetypes.
  • A medieval armoury to equip characters with, ranging from simple weapons and armour, legendary weapons, different mounts, and stranger equipment.
  • Various example special abilities for characters, such as fighting styles, the authority of noblewomen, and supernatural gifts. Likewise, a selection of example spells from schools such as enchantment, necromancy, vivimancy, shamanism, theurgy, infernalism and alchemy.
  • 14 sample characters and 15 example monsters.
  • Guides to scenario design.
  • Various sidebars spotlighting different aspects of the setting, such as woodwoses, knightly orders, marquesses and hermits.
 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (1)
Discussions (6)
Customer avatar
July 02, 2021 11:33 am UTC
Love the rules. Bought ages ago, finally hoping to get some games in soon.
Any character sheets ever made?
Customer avatar
Andy S January 28, 2021 7:30 pm UTC
Any ready-to-go scenarios available for learning the rules ?
Customer avatar
Emily A June 12, 2021 11:59 pm UTC
There aren't. The intent is that you customise your scenarios based on the models and terrain you have available, etc: the creative element of making characters and setting up scenarios is part of the experience.
Customer avatar
Douglas C November 09, 2020 2:43 pm UTC
Question regarding Leaders & Sidekicks: if you have two people on a team, a Leader and a Sidekick, does the Sidekick get to act twice on his turn, once because the Leader gives him a direction at the end of his own action, and secondly because Sidekick gets to act after a friendly model (in this case his leader) has just acted? Also, does the Sidekick character then get an additional activation in the round, or has he already had his activation(s), just earlier than he otherwise would have?

Also, what if the same Leader from the above example also has Total Authority: does she get to command one ally, then direct another ally (or even the same one) because her command counts as an action? If the commanded model is a sidekick, does he get three activations in a row, once because he was commanded (via Total Authority), secondly because he was directed (via Leader), and thirdly because he's a Sidekick?
Customer avatar
Emily A June 12, 2021 11:58 pm UTC
A character gets one action a turn. Leader and sidekick let you take your action out of the normal sequence, but don't let you take *extra* actions. So when a character gets their action because of leader or sidekick, that uses their action for the turn, and they can't act again.

Total Authority doesn't really break this rule. It lets a character use *their* action for somebody else to do something.
So, for example, a princess who uses total authority to command an archer essentially uses HER action for the archer to take a shot. The archer hasn't used his action yet, so when he acts he can shoot again. This could be out of sequence if a character has leader or sidekick.

Fundamentally, you don't get more actions than you have models: it's always one action per model. You can shift around when or who acts with certain skills, but you don't get *more* actions.
Customer avatar
Jason S October 22, 2019 3:00 am UTC
Hi! A question on combat with multiple characters. Is the winner the side with the highest individual (character) result, or the largest total sum of the results (ie, adding up all of the rolls for each side)?

Customer avatar
Emily A February 11, 2020 10:15 pm UTC
Highest individual roll.
Customer avatar
Douglas C November 20, 2018 4:08 pm UTC
Hello! I am *really* enjoying this ruleset, but I would like to query a couple of things.

Am I right that the only suit of cards from your 54-card deck that needs to be shuffled and drawn at random is the Club (i.e. Injury) deck? I don't think it's ever really clearly stated in the rules that this deck needs to be shuffled and placed face-down before play, whereas the other three decks need to be face up and placed in numerical order.

The other thing I wanted to clarify was that on Page 40, under the Equipment sub-heading, you have Heavy Armour listed as offering +4 Defence, whereas on page 46, Heavy Armour offers +2 Defence. Which one is correct?

Customer avatar
Emily A December 02, 2018 12:27 pm UTC
Heavy armour should be +2.
Mostly, you'll be drawing a random card from any deck; which Blood cards you discard when you bleed are random, as are the Virtue cards when using corrupting magic, etc.
I tend to leave them face up and just shuffle before drawing.
Customer avatar
James H September 08, 2018 4:51 pm UTC
What are the weapon damage ratings for? Each weapon has a single digit numerical damage rating associated with it but I could not find these ratings referenced ANYWHERE else in the game. Are they artifacts from an earlier draft that were meant to be deleted?

Also, the insect injury substitutions list has a duplicate result of "7". Based on the text, I assume that the second result of "7" should be an 8, as that is the number of the entry on the standard injury table that it is meant to replace.
Customer avatar
Raoul H September 09, 2018 8:18 pm UTC
I take it the weapon damage rating simply refers to the amount of injury cards relevant to the weapon. A mace/hammer with damage 8 can use eight different injury cards.

Btw, this game is awesome!
Customer avatar
James H September 09, 2018 10:17 pm UTC
Re: damage ratings, I did consider that but it doesn't jibe with the rules for injuries, which pretty clearly indicate drawing only one card per hit scored (a take that the injury lists seem to further support).
Customer avatar
Raoul H September 10, 2018 9:27 pm UTC
Ah well, a misunderstanding, good sir. You clearly draw only one card from your injury deck, but the damage rating shows the amount of potentially matching injuries. Say you strike a blow with a mace, so your foe draws one injury card and compares it to the 8 different types of injury a mace can deal (listed in the weapon entry). If the drawn card matches one of those possible injuries, the foe has to suffer said injury; if not, the drawn card gets shuffled back into the deck. So the mace relates to 8 potential injuries, therefore the damage rating of a mace is 8. A torch can deal only 6 different injuries with 6 different cards, so its damage rating is 6.
Customer avatar
James H September 11, 2018 10:16 pm UTC
That makes sense. It should really be explained in the rules, though. Maybe it'll make it into a future revision (along with the correction to the insect injury tables).
Customer avatar
Emily A November 05, 2018 5:13 am UTC
Yeah, the damage rating is just how many injuries the weapon can potentially cause.
Customer avatar
James H November 10, 2018 12:14 pm UTC
Thank you for the confirmation! Also, this is a great piece of game design!
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