Ran a session of ACKS last night, wherein the party decided to move their base of operations from Deal to Opportunity in order to explore the ruined Bleak Academy of Necromancy. We discovered that, per the title, overland travel in ACKS is dangerous for lowish-level parties, though they did have the good sense to bring along a fair cohort of a dozen or so mercenaries. On the first day it was unfriendly baboons, who Tim distracted with a large volume of rations. The second day was uneventful, but on the third they were attacked by griffons. They were all for standing and fighting, until they realized that it wasn't one or two griffons, but fourteen, fully half the size of their company, and each as strong as at least four fighters. They sacrificed their horses to the beasts and ran for their lives. More troubling was the loss of the mules, who were carrying the water supply; several PCs were reduced to drinking marsh water, which may have consequences later.
It was also on the third day that, in the aftermath of the griffon debacle, the party's rangers led them astray into marshy terrain. There they were beset by giant biting flies, which slew three of their mercenaries and tore one of their henchmen's arms off before being driven away. They managed to find the trail again, and were relieved to see smoke from the hearths of Opportunity... until it turned out to be from the campfires of an orcish horde laying siege to the town in search of vengeance for the slaughter of one of their villages by the town's resident master assassin. I was pleasantly surprised that they dealt with this situation diplomatically, and in the end broke the siege, brought both the assassin and the orcish chief to ruin, and gained the favor of the (new) most prominent guild in the town of thieves known as Opportunity.
But I don't think they're going to chance the wilderness again anytime soon... the griffons are still out there. Waiting. And hungry for horse-flesh, or lacking that, man-flesh. More generally, "Large groups of very dangerous monsters are out there, and we don't have the power to deal with them yet." This pleases me, for it is well in keeping with the tradition of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy - there's a reason everything is city-states rather than nations, and that reason is that the wilderness between them is full of monsters, not peasants.
Also on the agenda for the next week or so:
- Mapping and stocking the Academy. I did a draft of the first level, and it's... unaccceptably lethal. Even for ACKS. So that stuff is getting shifted lower, and the first level stocked a little more mercifully.
- Alternate spell lists for clerics of Harmakhis, the god of trade and assassins. One of the PCs sent their L0 henchman with 18 Wis off to the only seminary in Opportunity, and I'd like to tweak them a little for flavor and variety.
- Rules for henchmen that stay in town; Drew's bard is pushing his six henchman limit, and wants to leave some behind so that 1) there are guaranteed survivors, and 2) fewer shares and people crowding the halls in the dungeon.
- Oh yeah - get more sleep. I've never fallen asleep behind the screen before... but I got pretty close while they were hiring henchmen and whatnot at the end of the session.