Monday, September 24, 2012

Logistics and Lairs

Well, it's been a while, but I've been busy with job-hunt, travel (as a result of job-hunt), and school.  One thing I will say for travel is that despite the general unpleasantness involved in flying, it does give one quite a lot of time to read and reflect.  And so it came to pass that last Thursday during a flight from Phoenix to Seattle, I finished Keegan's A History of Warfare.  Quite a lot of good gaming inspiration in there - now I want to run a Polynesian ACKS game, an Aztec ACKS game, a Viking ACKS game, and probably a few more that I forgot.  I hear Drew wants to run Roman ACKS (fasces?) game as well.

A few other surprising points stuck out at me, though.  The first is that different cultures have some really different outlooks on war.  The kind of combat we see PCs engaging in in D&D is very strongly western european in style, just in terms of directness and willingness to press the enemy into decisive melee.  Many other cultures, including the steppe nomads, Arabian cavalry, the Greek peltasts, and primitive tribesmen the world over much prefer to engage at range and flee or fall back if threatened with melee (often to encircle the enemy from the flanks).  And yet, we very rarely see such hit-and-run tactics on display among either PCs or their opponents.  This is disappointing, but easily enough remedied by changing "fighting retreat" on my morale table to "retreats with intent to reengage later".  As for PCs...  well, they will do what they will do, and as long as they have some armored melee fighters, they're likely going to press for melee most of the time.

Also interesting was that many cultures do not run down retreating enemies.  Surprising, I know - never would've guessed from the way my PCs go about it...

Finally, the chapter on logistics was extremely interesting from a gaming perspective.  There were a number of excellent facts:
  • On human limits - "A marching soldier cannot carry supplies for more than ten or eleven days" and "the soldier's load cannot on average be made to exceed 70 pounds of weight", or about seven stone.  Seven stone, curiously enough, is the cutoff between 90' and 60' speed in ACKS.
  • Twenty miles a day is listed as the best speed achievable by men on foot "with any degree of regularity", and the Roman legions on their internal lines are cited as moving about this speed.  ACKS permits up to 32 miles a day to unencumbered humans on good roads, or 48 with a forced march on good roads.  That seems... a bit high.  Good thing there are no such roads in my setting...  Unless some of those dastardly PCs were to build one...  Man, I hate those guys, always causing trouble, breaking the laws of physics, deciding to go to unmapped dungeons...  ahem.  Sorry, where was I?
  • Right, speaking of roads: "The lengths of roads per thousands of population were in 1860: 5 miles in Britain, 3 in France, 2 and a third in Prussia, and only 3/4 in Spain."  Now I feel even better about not putting much in the way of roads in there...  This means that a town of about 4500 souls, like Opportunity, has maybe 10-12 miles of good road in its vicinity, tops.  And wheeled transport doesn't work very well without them...  I guess the merchant caravans are actually mule-and-camel trains.
  • On pack animals: A bullock (apparently a juvenile ox?) eats its own load in about 8 days.  We have been ignoring rations for pack animals...  That may be for the better.
In any case, it looks like most long-distance campaigns during the Classical era were supported by a supply fleet of galleys carrying food and water rather than by pack animals or wagons, which was part of why campaigns tended to hug the coast.

So yeah.  Before the PCs decide to take their army and march on an opposing town (say, Deal), they should consider stockpiling iron rations for a month or three...

So that was the logistics part.  What's this about lairs?

A week and a bit ago, a session of ACKS was played, with many new players!  Jarol the Thothite assumed command of a band of new adventurers and sought out bounties upon the giant scorpions troubling the peasants of Opportunity.  Among his company were:  the wizard Leo, and his cleric Hildegarde, Goradohi the Crocodile-Man and his war-crocodile Ota, the Dardantine merchant Guilleme Capouchen and his own priestess Perrin the Pious, Bhoskar, a dwarven warrior in the service of Jarol, and one war dog.  They succeeded in tracking and slaying five such scorpions in pitched battle with no losses, save the war animals, both of which were slain by poison.

Upon their triumphant return to Opportunity bearing the stingers of their quarry, they were met by Corinth and her warriors while collecting their bounty from the Baron Garwyn, and also came into the company of Max Parsley, hick-turned-swordsman, and his scribe Henx.  Without the aid of Carcophan's Zaharan lore, they were unable to decipher the map to the Vaults, so Corinth proposed an expedition to the destination of the Myrmidian map recovered during the dragonslaying, which pointed to a fort in the desert.  En route, they made friendly contact with a group of giant cactus treants, who warned them of orcs and goblins in the vicinity.

Upon their arrival, the perimeter was scouted and no means of ingress was found, and so they went over the walls via grappling hook and opened the gates from within.  While exploring the cellar of a tavern within the fort, they found a passage within the cellar which led them into a goblin den.  The goblins, maddened by Max's accidental blasphemy of their death-god Hao-Dee, rolled a pair of 12s for morale and all charged to painful burning deaths in a patch of flaming oil.  All 30 or so of them.  Goradohi complemented the company on their cooking while the rest of them searched for treasure, finding several pieces of silverware and a captive, a captured bandit named Demmin who knew little of the area, being from further west.  After emerging from the warren, they sent Demmin to outside the gate with the mercenaries, and searched a smithy, where they found five goblins cowering in terror.  When commanded to leave, they protested that the orcs would get them.  Goradohi ate one, and the rest fled as orcs attacked the party from the rear, badly wounding Leo, Hildegarde, and Corinth's nightblade Macha.  The orcs were slain, and the party found nothing of value in the smithy, so with their wounded in tow a retreat back to Opportunity was ordered.

No PCs or henchmen were killed in the making of this session report :(  Even more sadly, it looks like with my interview travel schedule, there will be no more ACKS before the 14th of October at the earliest.

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