View Full Version : Journal [ACKS][Play by Post] The Wilderlands of Absalom

2016-12-08, 09:24 PM
I started running an ACKS game on rpg.net somewhat over a year ago. The premise is that the world undergoes constant cycles between Law and Chaos, each extreme lasting roughly one hundred years. In the times when Law is ascendant civilization spreads, roads and infrastructure is built and the wilderness is tamed; when Chaos is premier the Realms of Man are assaulted by hordes of beastmen, screaming barbarian hordes and ripped assunder by warfare.

The campaign starts in the Thirdmonth of the Fifthyear of the Sixteenth Cycle (each Cycle is roughly a two hundred year period). The forces of Chaos are in retreat and the Realms of Men are in the process of rebuilding and retaking territory that was lost. The characters begin in the frontier town of Junction, a border community in the western reaches of the Scarlet Principalities. The game was pitched as ACKS meets Oregon Trail and was to focus on exploration of the world outside the civilized Realm of Man, with the assumption that it would gradually shift over towards the domain phase of the game as the party cleared and claimed territory.

The players created characters using the Adventurer method of creating high level characters, found on p. 253 of Core. I rolled five sets of stats and let them pick which one they wanted. No arranging, or adjusting, but they can change any three rolls to a 13, provided the original roll was 8 or lower and they can only do this once per set. Leftover sets are to be used for starting henchmen. Each PC starts with 20,000 XP and 16,000 gold. Gold can be spent on equipment, XP for henchmen (at a rate of 1 gp = 1 XP) and chances for magic items. Everybody, needless to say, spent the 10,000 and 1,000 gp for chances to get magic items.

The roster of PCs at the start of the game was as follows:

*Karag Two-blades, Assassin 5 and his two henchmen:
**Hira of the Seven (Antiquarian Witch 3)
**P'zev the Hairless (Mage 2)

*Qutai (Shaman 5) and his henchman:
**Jochi (Explorer 4)

*Rabanus the Raffish (Mage 5) and his henchman:
*Pantera (Explorer 3), a former panther transmorgrified into a human.

*Xallijk (Nobirian Wonderworker 4) and his henchman:
**Nathet (Nobirian Wonderworker 2) also Xallijk's daughter

*Sir Harn (Fighter 5) and his henchman:
**Brother Hanston (Cleric 3)

*Zaharak the Unburnt (slightly reskinned Ruinguard 4) and his henchman:
**Anchorite Syllana, Priestess 3

The PCs also started with the following:

*20 veteran horse archers.

*A baggage train of 20 mules for supplies.

*A factor named Mr. Hand who would remain behind in Junction and handle their expenses, money and recruitment of workers, mercenaries, etc.

*A magical silver bowl that would enable the party to communicate with Mr. Hand once per week.

*This map, 18 miles to the hex, dating from the previous Cycle. I made it clear that it is possible the very geography has been warped by the influence of Chaos, or that some information on the map may be incorrect. Because I am lazy I randomly generated the map using Hexographer.

*The following plot hooks:

Over dinner the previous night the party's factor, a lean, smallpox-marked man named Mr. Hand had spread out the wrinkled, faded map on the table and succinctly recounts what they know.

“Here,” he says, pointing to the road leading to the town of Rocky Mount, “a pride of manticores is said to lurk, devouring all who attempt to pass. Their lair is said to be in these mountains here, overlooking the forest below. I have spoken to a merchant who claimed they are denning halfway up an almost sheer cliff, with a difficult approach.”

“A man has made contact with me, wild-eyed and bushy-bearded, claiming to know the location of a lost gold mine that he is willing to sell for the sum of five hundred gold alcedes. Ordinarily I would discount such tales as the raving of a lunatic or the sugary words of a con man, but I have sources who confirm that there was at one point an attempt to mine a lucrative vein somewhere about here.” He points to a section of the map labeled “75.55”.

“Explorers tell tales of Pesh, a fabled city far to the west. However, in order to get there one would have to either pass through Rocky Peak or take a longer and more circuitous route south, and then west.”

“There are also tales that the land west of Junction and south of Rocky Peak are exceptionally fertile. They tell me the Prince has his eye on expanding this way, at some point, as his domain is somewhat lacking in rich soil.”

“The Prince is offering a reward of five thousand gold alcedes for the removal of the river trolls currently disrupting shipping traffic on the River Sarn, some one hundred miles south of here. Alive or dead, he wishes to see them removed.” Hand points to a section of the map labeled “71.51”. “They are believed to be laired here.”

“The Rufous Baron, ruler of Junction, has offered a reward of 500 gold alcedes for anyone able to clear the land opposite the bridge of all threats, so that he may garrison a squad of troops there.”

Mr. Hand takes a sip of wine and warns the adventurers that they surely will not be the only brave souls called to the frontier. “There is one other party that I am aware of currently in Junction, and more will certainly follow with the warmer weather. I have told you what I know, and leave the final decision to those more experienced in such matters.”

They decided to go after the trolls disrupting river traffic.

2016-12-09, 02:30 PM
A couple of houserules we're using:

*We're using the cost of living figures as per p. 51 of Core, due at the end of each game month. A first level character has a Cost of Living of 25 gp per month, while a 4th level character has a C of L of 200 gp per month. This covers the following:

**All food, drink and housing while in populated areas. I frankly don't want them to have to bother with tracking small expenditures of coin and such to buy drinks. We've got better things to do.

**The cost of living is also assumed to cover all taxes, fees and other costs incurred by the average adventurer. I'm not going to spend time figuring out how much it costs them to turn piles of gold into more portable gems. We just figure there's a fee per exchange which is covered in the C of L.

**As they get more powerful this covers other expenses, as well. At this point the cost of all lower priced consumables -- food, torches, lantern oil, etc. -- is assumed to be covered, as long as they're in a large enough Market Class to find the goods.

*I expect higher level adventurers to dress and comport themselves as such. Therefore, any ostentatious jewelry or signs of wealth worn by PCs does not count towards encumbrance.

*We reroll the total pool of hit points at each level. If the new total is equal to or lesser than the old total they gain 1 hp, otherwise they use the new number.

*Characters unhappy with their hitpoints can spend a week of downtime and 500 gold engaged in general debauchery and extravagance in any large town or city for a reroll of their hit points. They must take the new total, however.

*PCs get a full share of treasure and XP, henchmen get a 1/2 share of treasure and XP, henchmen of henchmen get a 1/4 share of treasure and XP, and so forth. If any subhenchmen end up taking on henches they'll get an 1/8 share. The players decided early on that they would form an official Company, and that full PCs would contribute their entire share of treasure to the Company coffers. Henchmen would contribute 1/2 of their share (or a 1/4 of 1 share), keeping the other half for themselves, and so forth.

2016-12-09, 03:43 PM
Nice premise, it reminds me of elric of melnibonč, i like the theme of the game it seem alot more interesting than dungeon exploring.

PS: What's Acks?

2016-12-09, 03:51 PM
Nice premise, it reminds me of elric of melnibonč, i like the theme of the game it seem alot more interesting than dungeon exploring.

PS: What's Acks?

ACKS (Adventurer, Conqueror, King) is a retroclone of the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic and Expert D&D game (often referred to as B/X). It's relatively low powered, with characters ranging from 1st to 14th level. ACKS uses race as class (although I limited my players to starting with all human characters) and has a robust mathematical underpinning. It focuses heavily on adventurers transitioning to a more domain-oriented style of play as they grow more powerful.

The ACKS forums are here (http://autarch.co/forum). For anyone interested in ACKS -- or simply older school D&D play, I'd encourage them to check out this actual play thread (http://www.autarch.co/forums/actual-play/maze-du-ch%C3%A2tel), in three parts, which does an excellent job of showing the transition from dungeon crawling adventurers to land-clearing Conqueror and finally domain ruling Kings.

2016-12-09, 06:57 PM
ACKS (Adventurer, Conqueror, King) is a retroclone of the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic and Expert D&D game (often referred to as B/X). It's relatively low powered, with characters ranging from 1st to 14th level. ACKS uses race as class (although I limited my players to starting with all human characters) and has a robust mathematical underpinning. It focuses heavily on adventurers transitioning to a more domain-oriented style of play as they grow more powerful.

It's based on B/X, but it's no retroclone. There's a lot of new material in it, starting with the completely revamped economy.

2016-12-09, 08:00 PM
It's based on B/X, but it's no retroclone. There's a lot of new material in it, starting with the completely revamped economy.

You are, of course, correct. I'm not sure what the appropriate term would be, though.

2016-12-10, 05:01 PM
The game begins on the Firstday of the Thirdmonth, right at the beginning of spring. As you may be able to tell I'm not a huge fan of coming up with new month and day names; I want something that is easily accessible and easy to remember by both me and my players. There are twelve months in a year, Firstmonth through Twelfthmonth, and each month has 28 days. To make life easy for us I've decided that the 14th of each month will be a full moon. Also, the last two days of every month are festival days in the Principalities. A mechanical benefit of this is that for those two days urban centers are counted as one Market Class lower for purposes of buying gear and equipment (each urban area in ACKS has a Market Class, from I (the largest) to VI (the smallest). The Market Class determines how much you can buy of anything, how many henchmen/mercenaries/specialists you can higher, etc.).

The Thirdmonth is the beginning of spring, with each season being three months long. I've got my own random weather generator I've come up with, and so am rolling for the weather each day. I've already let my players know that I'm intending the three months of winter (12th, 1st and 2nd) to be mandatory downtime during which time they won't be adventuring but can instead focus on other things, such as spell research, training troops or animals, etc.).

On the 1st day they decide, before heading south to deal with the trolls, to try and buy the map to the gold mine for the sum of five hundred golden alcedes*. After some negotiation they buy the map, which reportedly leads to a "Century" mine (one that has many years worth of ore), and learn that it was abandoned because of an infestation of giant ants!

This is the map they get:


They are told there is an ogre village in hex 30.40 and the ruins of an ancient village in hex 28.41. The scale of the map is 6 miles per hex.

*The name of coinage in the Variegated Kingdom. It was taken from the scientific name of the Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis.

2016-12-11, 07:02 PM
You are, of course, correct. I'm not sure what the appropriate term would be, though.

Spinoff, maybe? It's sort of like Pathfinder but for B/X instead of 3.5, except for with dramatically more changes.

The campaign sounds like it's off to an interesting start, incidentally.

2016-12-11, 08:23 PM
Thirdmonth, Firstday

The adventurers *do* end up buying the map to the gold mine and are told the story of the recent expedition by the survivor, who served as a crossbowman in the caravan guard. Turns out the gold mine -- which is said to have enough ore to last a century -- is now inhabited by giant ants!

It takes them several hours to do this, and so leave Junction around midday. On the plus side it means they are still within the Scarlet Principality when night falls, and are able to sleep in a fallow field with little fear of attack.

*My general assumption is that each hex in a civilized region has a network of roads and footpaths that act as roads for purposes of speeding overland movement (i.e. daily movement is increased by 3/2) and that there's no need to worry about finding a safe place to sleep for the night. Even if there's no inn to sleep in there's always a village common or farmer's barn they can crash in, and we don't track food consumption in civilized areas, either.

Thirdmonth, Secondday

The adventurers wake and continue south, crossing the river Sarn just before midday. They begin to follow the river, but before too long they enter a swamp hex* and movement slows dramatically. It is getting late, the air is thick with insects and a foul, miasmal odor, and suddenly two owlbears threaten at a distance! The mercenary mounted archers fire a volley while the adventurers dither; one owlbear is slain outright while the other is reduced to single digit hp and flees.

The companions decide that they do not want to spend the night in the swamp, which is good, as I had *also* rolled for a feature, which coincidentally was "Hazard, disease: those sleeping in the swamp have a 10% chance per night of contracting a disease".

Camp is established and watches are set.

*No one picked up on this, but the swamp hex was not noted on the general map that I gave them.

Thirdmonth, Thirdday

The adventurers wake and climb the tallest tree they can find and scan the horizon (one of them rolled Eyes of the Eagle as a treasure, but they are limited to seeing about 12 miles because of the horizon). It looks as though the swamp ends after a dozen miles (two hexes) if they wish to follow the river; south of them the forest they are in opens up into grasslands.

Sir Harn decides to take a dozen mercenaries with him and scout ahead, to see if there is a way through the swamp. Between the late start because he climbed a tree and the slowed movement rate from going through a swamp they arrive on the other side -- finding it only two hexes deep -- but having burnt through two thirds of their movement. So he begins to set camp for the night.

Meanwhile, back at the main camp, Karag the Two-Bladed decides to explore the forest -- staying within earshot of the camp -- and stumbles across a group of elves. In my campaign, elves are capricious faeries, just as likely to curse someone as give them succor. Luckily, the reaction roll was good, there's someone in the party who speaks elven, and the party ends up learning about the small bugbear village that the elves recently fought with and largely decimated (i.e. just one warband -- a grand total of nine bugbears), with treasure for the taking.

My take-away from the start of the game

*Explorers are awesome for wilderness adventures. Sir Harn neglected to bring one with him, but luckily did not get lost in the swamp. I'm probably going to roll again on their way back, with an decreased chance of getting lost, since they've already been this way and can pretty much just follow the river.

*If the party gets split I'm going to let absent PCs control henchmen/mercenaries so they've got something to do.

*The players haven't quite clicked yet, as a team, and are still working on coming up with a game plan. They're thinking pretty big, at the moment, but should realize pretty soon they're going to have to spend a fair amount of time dungeon delving/clearing lairs in order to maintain their expenses.

*The wiki with PCs, notes and maps can be found here: http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/The_Wilderlands_of_Absalom

*I gave them an old and vague map of the region to begin with, that's scaled to 18 miles per hex, and have been revealing a current and smaller scaled map of the territory as they've been exploring it. It'll be a pain in the neck to link to these older maps, so I'm linking to the map as it stands, now:


To reference, the swamp hex they enter is 25.25, and the main party is camping in hex 26.25 at the end of the Thirdday. Sir Harn and the archers are camping in hex 23.26.

You can also see where the map to the gold mine relates to the overall Player's Map. Thus far -- and we're three quarters of the way through the Tenthmonth, the furthest east they've gotten is hex 24.40