Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Wilderness Lords and Symbolic Hexclearing

I'm not on the Autarch fora much anymore, but I dropped by recently and something interesting came up.

Quoth Tywyll:
As to the Domain game, I'm using the assumption of another system which is that at level 9+ you don't build your own castle but reclaim one from an evil or chaotic lord.
To which I replied:
I like this idea a lot; what system is it from, if you don't mind my asking?  I could even see replacing clearing hexes with overthrowing a natural / monstrous "wilderness lord" (think Oberon, Arawn, &c) to reclaim a realm for man and Law. 
Apparently it is from Blood and Treasure, which I have not read, but which looks like sort of an interesting 3.x / OSR hybrid, with a lot of material backported from the 3.x SRD.

I want to elaborate on this a little.  Problems with traditional ACKS hex-clearing include that it is undramatic, with lots of time spent on boring crap fights with crap treasure against dumb beasts, and that it requires a lot of book-keeping.  We can reduce these problems by giving Wilderness a face, a name, a voice, a sentience.  The wilderness lord and his cronies are the biggest, baddest things in this particular patch of wilderness, strong and smart enough to keep everything else in check, supernatural and aloof from the conventions of man.  To depose or conquer them is to symbolically "tame" the wilderness that they rule, to bring it under the Law.  The remainder of the monsters in their territory are liable to recognize when the party is over and either emigrate or offer tribute in exchange for permission to remain, while human peasants acknowledge the new ruler and begin immigrating.

We might even construct a parallel hierarchy, of savage dukes and wild kings...

The real point of this post was to kick around some ideas for these things.  Going to see a lot of overlap with the "men and monsters" part of the dungeon random encounter table.

  • Elves / fey, possibly with leveled spellswords but those are complicated
  • Dragon is another easy one
  • Ents of Fangorn
  • The Ur-Wolf rules the Great Pack of the steppe
    • Crow, Coyote, the Lion of Narnia, the Tiger Burning Bright, and other sentient, conversant animal-spirits generally
    • Ysengrin
    • The Frog God
  • Leviathan, Dragon Turtle, or Kraken
  • I don't know what exactly the Mountain King is, but...  that.  The biggest, baddest, 12HD morlock you ever did see, maybe.
  • Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain?  Sounds like a stronghold to me...
  • The Mushroom Brains of the Grim Fist
  • Vampire, lich, and death knight are classics
  • Continuing that gothic theme, werewolf/lycanthrope could certainly work
    • Demon Boar would make a fine wilderness lord with an orc/pig army
  • Wendigo
  • The Green Man / Green Knight / Maro
  • The simplest case, really, is the human outlaw - Robin Hood, the Khan, druids, Radagast the Brown (yeah yeah he was Maiar, can it), whatever, as long as they let the wilderness do its thing and remain inimical to settled, agrarian, civilized life.


  1. In my own ACKs campaign, the players had conquered Quasqueton, and that's now their fortress in the Wilderlands. And they are only level 1-3...

  2. I got ACKS after the fact, but both my "domain level" players seized their castles from others; one took hers from lizardmen after a traditional D&D adventure; the other took his (near to the first) after a short war game.

    My own thief-character also took a minotaur-cave near his "base town" as his initial hideout.

    ... the seizing has yet been more interesting than the solidification of power after the fact, as far as hex-crawling goes (the soap-opera of politics continues to be more interesting than hex-clearing)

  3. Cullen: Yeah, reflecting on our experience in the first and arguably best ACKS campaign, we had a character take a domain from lizardmen and it worked pretty well. I agree that hex-clearing is one of the weakest parts of the game, which is why I'm thinking maybe it's worth cutting.