Now, I really liked this idea, but it made me think: could the idea of one player playing a group of characters, all of whom collectively act as one character, be taken further? And then my eye fell upon my Pirates of the Carribean DVDs, and I came up with this:
B/X Class: The Extras
You aren't one person at all: instead, you are playing an indeterminate mob of nameless minor characters who follow the other PCs around. You might be a pirate crew, a band of Merry Men, a bunch of faceless stormtroopers, or anything else, but two facts remain constant: there are a lot of you (although exactly how many seems to vary from scene to scene) and, despite your numbers, collectively you only manage to achieve about as much as each of the main characters does individually. At best.
|You're not playing Barbosa. You're playing the other guys.|
The essence of playing as The Extras is that you aren't playing as a specific group with clearly-defined numbers and capabilities (e.g. 'the six archers Alice hired in the city'): use the regular henchmen and followers rules for those. Instead, you're playing as that bunch of guys who are milling around in the background in every scene. Every time you get in a dangerous situation, one or more of you probably dies just in order to show that things are serious; but, mysteriously, these deaths never seem to affect your overall numbers. If, for any reason, it ever becomes necessary to determine exactly how many of you there at a given moment, then roll 1d12+6; but the number rolled has no effect on how many of you there are in the next scene, or indeed in the next combat round.
Game rules for playing The Extras are as follows:
Hit Dice: 1d12. The Extras aren't individually very tough, but there are a lot of them.
To-hit, Hit Dice, Weapons and Armour, Saves: As per Fighter.
Experience Per Level: As per Magic-User.
Safety In Numbers: Apart from named characters (see below), The Extras always go around in a single big mob. If you use a battle grid or similar, assume that this mob of extras takes up an area 20' square whenever possible. (In a 5' wide tunnel, they'd form a single line 5' wide and 80' long.) They always move as a single mass, and can attack or be attacked by anything within 5' of the mob.
Inverse Ninja Rule: Even though there are so many of them, The Extras only get a single action per round: so a whole mob of Extras attacking a monster is resolved with a single attack roll, and so on. (The exception is Named Characters - see below.)
Many Hands Make Light Work: Whenever they're performing some kind of unskilled labour - e.g. standing watches, digging ditches, carrying treasure, rowing oars, etc - The Extras can accomplish the work of ten men. Even though there are more of them than that. Probably. Most of the time.
|'Who are you people? Why do you keep following me around?'|
Share the Pain: The Extras have a single HP total. Any healing or damage done to any of them affects them all. Weirdly, area-of-effect damage only damages them once rather than many times, almost as if they really were just a single creature...
Arm the Troops: For The Extras to gain mechanical benefits from new equipment, they must obtain at least ten copies of the equipment in question: so once they have ten swords they can make sword attacks, and so on. If they have less than ten, then some of them can be described as carrying the equipment in question, but they gain no mechanical benefit from it. (Oddly enough, this does not extend to consumables like rations and ammunition, which The Extras consume as though there was only one of them present.)
|Too bad these Extras only have five sets of legionnaire gear! No bonuses for them!|
Magic For the Masses: The Extras can collectively have any number of magic items 'equipped' at once, but they can only gain the mechanical benefit from each item once per scene. (The guy with the magic sword steps up to take a swing, or the guy with a magic shield steps up to block a blow, and then they just fade back into the mob.) If the item in question is assigned to a Named Character (see below), then its benefits also apply to any independent actions they may take.
Named Characters: At level 1, give one of the Extras a name and a personality, just as you would for a normal PC. This character (whom the other Extras will usually call 'Sarge') acts as the 'face' of the mob, and is the character who you will play during social interactions and similar roleplay-focussed scenes. (Naturally, the rest of the Extras never get any lines.)
Once per scene, you may have this character take an action independently of The Extras: so The Extras could attack an orc while Sarge ran off to warn the other PCs, or whatever. This is the only exception to the rule that The Extras must always act as a single unit, and it effectively gives you two actions for that round only. Next round, Sarge is assumed to have been absorbed back into the general group, and will spend the rest of the scene acting as part of the mob.
Each time you level up, you may create one more Named Character, by giving one of The Extras a name and a single distinguishing characteristic. (E.g. 'Private Wilkins, always drunk'.) Just like Sarge, each of these named characters may also take one independent action per scene, but only one named character may take such an action per round.
- Example: Kat's Cutthroats (level 3) have three named members: Kat herself (their Sarge), No-Ears Jake (their musician), and Silver Fork Sarah (who claims, and may actually believe, that she is secretly a princess). When they get into a fight with some goblins, the Cutthroats may act twice on up to three rounds of the ensuing combat: the Cutthroats take one collective action per round, in one round Kat can take an action, in one round Jake can take one, and in round Sarah can take one. Once all three Named Characters have taken one action each, the Cutthroats revert to their normal single collective action per round.
Die All, Die Merrily: If The Extras are ever reduced to 0 HP, describe them all dying in some suitably tragi-comic fashion. The only survivors of this massacre will be the Named Characters. The person playing The Extras can immediately continue play as Sarge, who can be assumed to be a Fighter of one level lower than The Extras; the other Named Characters will be fighters of half the level of The Extras, rounded down, who will instantly become Sarge's henchmen (or someone else's, if this would take Sarge above their limit.) Each of these characters emerges from the general massacre with only (1d6x10)% of their maximum HP.
- Example: Kat's Cutthroats (in the example above) are reduced to 0 HP by the goblins. The only survivors are Kat (who becomes a level 2 fighter, and a new PC), and Jake and Sarah (who become level 1 fighters, and Kat's henchmen).
If all the named characters survive the adventure and make it back to town, they may recruit a new band of faceless followers and regain their status as The Extras. If this happens, then the Named Characters merge happily back into the new mob. If, on the other hand, Sarge or any of the other Named Character goes on to die before a new band of Extras can be recruited, then the remaining ones decide sorrowfully that It Would Never Be The Same Without Them and remain as ordinary PCs and henchmen forever.