Friday, October 30, 2020

Domains at War: Men, Merchants and Nomads

Merchants and nomads, as foretold (although it did turn out that my BR numbers were high because I gave them the extra attack for being veterans, which they don't get because they're cavalry.  So it's good that I took the time to check, though I'm still not highly-confident in these BR numbers).

 The sort of NPCs that more scrupulous players might consider hiring.  Or use the caravan guard stats for when PC-backed brigands are raiding.


Men, Merchant Caravan Guards: 2/3/4 Loose Foot, AC 4, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +1, 3 sword and dagger 9+ or 3 crossbow 10+.  Every 10 wagons is guarded by 2/3 of a platoon (5/8 UHP on platoon scale).  Might be allowed to deploy as Formed Foot with 1H sword used in both hands, but it's sort of weird for them to use crossbows then.

The stats of the 5 merchants per 10 wagons are unclear.  I guess the Men monster entry does say that everyone in it fights as first level fighters.  They do have chainmail, daggers, and crossbows, which also suggests that they fight.  A mixed unit of caravan guards and the merchants themselves (dismounted) probably has 6 or 7 UHP instead of 5 on platoon scale, but otherwise fights about the same.

Basically veteran crossbowmen with two-weapon fighting.

Company BR 5.25, individual BR 0.044, individual wage 33 gp/mo.

The 5th level guard captain is each caravan is qualified to serve as a commander at platoon scale, which is perfect.


Men, Nomad Archers: 4/8/12 Irregular Mounted, AC 3, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 0, 2 short sword 10+ (plus 3 hooves 9+ on charge) or 2 composite bow 10+.  It's odd that these guys are mounted on riding horses instead of warhorses, but that's why they're irregular.  A caravan of nomads is about two platoons.  Company BR 2.5, individual BR 0.023, individual wages 18 gp/mo.

If mounted on light warhorses, Nomad Archers may be Loose Mounted, losing the hoof attacks on charge but gaining the ability to withdraw.  Loose Mounted Nomad Archers have a company BR of 8, individual BR of 0.066, and individual wages of 50 gp/mo (which seems reasonable - a horse archer is 45gp/mo with better morale but fewer HP and worse melee)

Men, Nomad Lancers: 4/8/12 Formed Mounted, AC 3, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 0, 2 lance 10+ or 2 short sword 10+ (plus 3 hooves 9+ on charge).  A caravan of nomads is about two platoons.  Company BR 4, individual BR 0.033, individual wages 24 gp/mo.  If Irregular Mounted, company BR 2.5, individual BR 0.021, individual wage 15 gp/mo.

Main difference between nomad lancers and veteran light cavalry C is the nomads' much weaker morale.  If I increase their morale to +2 I only get company BR of 4.5 and individual wage of 27 gp/mo, versus veteran light cav's wage of 42 gp/mo, so I'm not sure if I'm hitting an edge case or there's a bug in my BR calculator or if it's because my "number of melee attacks" input is already rounded instead of unrounded or what.

The 4th level leader of each nomad caravan (wilderness encounter) is not qualified to serve as a commander on platoon scale (but he only has two platoons so fighting it at squad scale might make more sense).  The 8th level chieftain in charge of each lair is definitely qualified to command at platoon or company scale, and gets about 14 platoons of cavalry in expectation (with possibly as many as 28).  So an average disciplined nomad camp, with an even split between formed mounted lancers and loose mounted archers, would have a total platoon-scale BR of 84, and a max-sized disciplined nomad camp of 168, either of which is plenty to keep a borderlands count awake at night, nevermind a marquis or baron.  I like that a lot - maybe Nomads are really the go-to guys for hiring in the wilderness and taking domains.

TypeBRCompany TCO, gp/moCompany kgp/moPlatoon gp/moSquad gp/mo
Caravan Guards5.2543304.251075225
Nomad Archers, Irregular2.521302.25575125
Nomad Archers, Loose8405041000200
Nomad Lancers, Formed424902.5625125
Nomad Lancers, Irregular2.519502500100

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Infravision and Mapping

I lied, the nomad post is still in the works (it's like 80% done but I need to recheck my math and I had to reinstall my OS because I realized my kernel hadn't been updated since October 2018 and it's been an exciting two years for kernel exploits; I haven't copied my sourcebooks back over yet because my cat spilled water on the wallwart for my external hard drive enclosure.  It's been a fun week) but I had a quick thought while taking the trash out.

ACKS goes hard on removing infravision from PC races, because it leads to the party getting split into the infra-haves and the infra-have-nots.  I observed something like this once when I ran OSRIC - the assassins with infravision went out ahead and had all the adventure while the rest of the party hung back and occasionally came running to the rescue.  It wasn't great.  So I tend to agree with this move on ACKS' part.

I've been thinking about trying to run some OSE, which gives dwarves and elves 60' infravision.  I've been considering removing it from them but then I'd have to compensate them or rejigger their XP progression and it would get annoying.

Another issue I've run into while contemplating this is that I like having players maintain their own map of the dungeon (particularly - having one or more players each maintain their own maps representing items in the world that are being maintained by a character with two hands free), and that's annoying to do with VTTs.

Holding both of these in my head, they got to seeming sort of related.  Maybe mapping is one of the secret balance-points for infravision.  Maybe the rule "It is not possible to read in the dark with infravision, because fine detail cannot be perceived", the detail that it's heat vision instead of just light amplification, is important, because it means that if you have scouts with infravision out ahead of the party, they can't be mapping.  If you have a full-infravision party, they still need a light source to map.  So then you either need to have amazing spatial memory, or infravision becomes a fallback for when the light has been extinguished.

It's still not perfect; you could still get into a situation where you have the room-clearing commando group of dwarves and elves and then the baggage train of mapping humans and hobbits.  But it's a thought I hadn't had or heard explicitly before.  Maybe part of the cause when I ran into this problem in OSRIC is that I didn't know what I was doing and didn't make the party make their own map (also didn't throw random encounters at the back half of the party).

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Domains at War: Men, Brigands, Part 2: Implications


  • Can a 4th-level PC fighter afford as many mercenaries as a 4th-level brigand leader?  Can a 9th level PC afford as many mercenaries as a 9th level brigand captain?
  • Given the supply cost for brigands, how much pillaging do they have to do to sustain themselves?
  • How many bandit warbands does bad domain morale spawn?
  • How does a 9th-level brigand captain's army stack up against various borderlands domains?

1. Brigand bands vs mercenaries a PC fighter of same level could afford.

A brigand band has treasure type H, average value 2500 gp.  30ish loose foot brigands command a wage of 720 gp.  The two 2nd-level fighters command a combined wage of 100 gp.  So a 4th-level brigand "subchieftain" has no more than three months' pay for his men in his coffers (neglecting supply and specialist costs, presumably they're pillaging for supply, and assuming that the loot is his to command).

As a 4th-level fighter, he has between 8k and 16kXP, of which 80% came from treasure, so his total lifetime-to-date earnings are between 6.4kgp and 12.8kgp.  This lifetime earning is not enough to afford the platoon of bandits with Mercenary Money Up Front (but would be enough to afford them for eight months if you assume the 2500gp of treasure is the captain's, 11 months if you don't).

Maybe one-year mercenary contracts are a good middle-ground between infinite-term hires and monthly.  Or nine months, if winter is Non-Adventuring Season.  Or you consider a year "basically infinite, in mercenary years".  Maybe bandits just have really short time-preference.  Maybe if you're in the Border Princes, ACKS' economics and assumptions about return on capital and time preference start to fit less well than they do in Late Antiquity.  In any case, it would be nice to bridge this gap so that a 4th level PC fighter can have a platoon of veteran bowmen and achieve parity with his NPC counterparts, while also preserving the no-cash-flows and long-term incentive properties of Money Up Front.  Dropping the cash up front to a year also solves some of the problems with money up front for henchmen (namely, it puts a L0 henchmen within the realm of the possible for 1st level characters fresh out of chargen.  Expensive, but possible).

The 9th level captain has a lifetime earnings of between 200kgp and 300kgp.  He has 7 platoons with wages totaling 5310 gp/mo.  If paid up front, that would be around 76k, which is within his reach.  He also has 14 2nd-level fighters (50 gp/mo), 7 4th-level fighters (200gp/mo), and 3 5th-level fighters (400gp/mo), totaling 3300 gp/mo.  If paid up front, that would be 99kgp in leveled guys.  If he has an MU or cleric, that will absolutely break the bank.  But he could plausibly afford his units and his fighters if he were a PC operating under Money Up Front.

2. How often do bandits need to pillage in order to remain fed?  How bad is it for small borderlands domains to get pillaged?

A platoon of brigand infantry needs 60 gp of supplies per month (assuming they have a quartermaster, which...  maybe isn't a great assumption.  Maybe that's part of why their morale is mediocre compared to eg veteran cavalry!  But I don't really want to go rework their TCOs for companies).  A borderlands barony has 200 rural families and 20 "urban" families.  Per Campaigns page 64, pillaging it would take 1 day and require 600 troops to do properly.  The brigands have 30, so they pillage 1/20 as much as they would if they had 600.  In an average day of pillaging, a brigand band loots 115 gp in gold and 280 gp in supplies and takes 6 prisoners (worth 240gp), resulting in the loss of 6 families to the domain and about 635gp of stronghold value.  So the bandits only need a successful raid once every four months to stay fed by value (ration spoilage, on the other hand, would probably drive them to raid once every couple of weeks; but if they return to a friendly settlement, sell the captured supplies, and then buy fresh supplies over time with that money, that might work).  6 families and 600 gp of stronghold is not insignificant when you're this small.  I probably wouldn't make the domain morale roll at -4 for this tiny amount of pillaging - just using the % decrease in families penalty at the end of the season is probably fine (if they raid twice in a season, that's 12 families lost, which crosses the 5% threshold).  Using the "salt the earth" rule and multiplying for the band being small, it would take them about 80 raids to reduce a barony to wilderness.

A successful day of pillaging a barony earns each bandit about 12 XP (or if they only get 50% and their leaders get 50%, then each bandit gets 6 XP, the 2nd-level fighters get 30 XP each, and the 4th-level fighter gets 120 XP).

Bandit cavalry needs 240 gp/mo of supplies per platoon, so a band of two platoons would need to raid about twice a month.

Amusingly, a march takes 1d3 days for them to pillage the same amount from, because it has a higher population.  That seems a bit silly at this scale.

A bandit camp has about 200 troops for pillaging.  Assuming three bands of cavalry and four of infantry, they need 1680 gp/mo of supplies.  They pillage 7 times as fast as one band, taking 805 gp in gold, 1960 gp in supplies and 42 prisoners worth 1680gp in the first day of raiding a borderlands barony.  This reduces the domain by 42 families (of 220) and the stronghold by 4445 gp (out of 22500).  They can reduce a barony to wilderness in about 12 days.  They need to pillage at this scale about once a month to remain fed.

So it seems like a pretty easy gig if you can catch a domain ruler with his pants down - you only have to have one or two days of successful work per month.

3. Bandits from domain morale.

Domain morale of Rebellious, Defiant, or Turbulent causes a fraction of the domain's able-bodied men to become bandits.  In a Turbulent domain, one in five does; in Defiant, one in two; and in Rebellious, all of them.  Presumably not all able-bodied men immediately become veterans with d8 HD.  1 in 20 NPCs is a 1st-level character.  5 families is 50 characters, so we might reasonably expect that the bandits in a Turbulent domain are mostly veterans who turn to banditry because they already know how.  One per five families in a borderlands barony means 44 bandits - a platoon and a half (maybe one platoon of infantry and one platoon of cavalry).  This is about the size of a baron's garrison.

At Defiant, half of able-bodied men become bandits.  These are mostly L0, but it's another platoon and a half.  As all domain income is reduced by half, presumably they are earning XP for misappropriating it.  This reduction in income is about 6 gp/family/month, or 12 gp/bandit/month (half of which is gold, half supplies), or about one pillaging per month per band (which is also fairly close on the population loss from low morale).  At this rate the new bandits will become veterans in a year or so (not taking into account the declining population of the domain and consequently their declining revenue and XP).

At Rebellious, 220 able-bodied men become bandits, which is just about the size of a brigand camp, and they have a 12% chance to get a leveled leader.

When you scale up the domain, these scale up too.  A turbulent march gets six bands of veteran bandits.  A turbulent county gets 23 bands.  Even if they're fighting as Irregular because they lack leadership, that's right around the BR of the domain's garrison.  And that's only at turbulent!  If you go up to defiant, the number of bandits doubles, and then it doubles again at rebellious.

In conclusion, bandits from low domain morale are Serious Business and the only thing keeping them from toppling their domain rulers is probably lack of leadership and unity, which might allow them to be defeated in detail.

4. Bandit camp vs borderlands domain lord

This was something that I always wondered back during the first ACKS campaign.  My players had taken a domain in bandit country and weren't very high level.  But Domains at War hadn't been released yet and I didn't have any way to resolve potential bandit aggression.

A 9th level brigand captain has on average 7 bands at his disposal.  About half of those will be cavalry and half infantry (call it 3 cav and 4 infantry), giving him 10 total platoons (6 cavalry, 4 infantry).  In the worst possible discipline situation, all his units are irregular, with a combined platoon-scale BR of 20.  In the best case, where his infantry is loose and his cavalry is formed, they have a combined BR of 41.  If he has a maxed-out force of 12 bands, 12 platoons cavalry and 6 platoons infantry, and they're well-disciplined, he has a platoon-scale army BR of 78.  A maxed camp of pure formed cavalry would have a BR of 108.

Looking at Simple Borderlands Domains and totaling BR (again, platoon-scale) for garrison and field armies of various domains:

DomainGarrison BRField army BR

So even a weak and badly-disciplined camp of brigands is very bad news for a borderlands barony - enough to storm the baron's tower despite his garrison, and certainly enough to shut him up in the tower while they pillage the domain.  Even a single band of well-disciplined brigands can probably defeat a baron's garrison (but not if fighting into a fortification).  The baron himself is 6th level and probably not a match for a captain in single combat.

A marquis has nothing to worry about from a single band of bandits, but must still be worried about camps.  His garrison is probably enough to hold his stronghold against assault by most bandit camps, and his field army is about an even match for the average camp if he has time to gather his forces (but not for strong, disciplined camps).  If taken by surprise by average camps he'll still get to watch them pillage his domain from his tower.  The marquis is 8th level vs the captain's 9th, and might have a decent chance mano-a-mano.

The garrison of a county is stronger than the majority of disciplined camps and almost all ill-disciplined camps, and if the count has time to gather troops, his field army will be stronger than the strongest possible camp.  The count is 10th level and slightly stronger than the captain in single combat.

Curiously, applying the same analysis to orcs, the story is somewhat different.  An average orcish village is slightly smaller than an average bandit camp in terms of number of troops (only 6 platoons instead of 7), and there isn't any provision for giving them cavalry in the monster listing.  Assuming 4 platoons of heavy infantry and 2 of crossbows, an orcish village has an army BR of 10.  Even if you add in six platoons of orcish women (taking it as a full migration), that only raises BR to 13.  So they can still ruin a baron's day, but a march is a much dicier target for them.  Against a single warband of orcs, the baron's garrison should usually be sufficient (although in that sort of single platoon vs single platoon fight, the orcs' disadvantages as irregular foot are not so great).

So I think it's fair to draw the conclusion that barons and marquis in the borderlands must have allies.  Maybe not liege lords, but a pact among independent barons and marquis to join forces if a bandit army threatens them (certainly I could see this behavior emerging organically from members of an adventuring party acquiring small individual domains).  Barons and marquis without something like that to fall back on will, on average, get a bandit camp knocking at their door once every... 10 years in woods, jungle, barrens, and mountains, once every 15 years in hills (one random encounter roll per week in borderlands, 4+ or 5+ depending on terrain, 1 in 8 of getting the Men table, 2 in 12 or 3 in 12 of brigands, 20% chance in lair.  These numbers remain roughly accurate for isolated borderlands domains in woods or hills if using the Wandering Into War Axioms article).

Alternatively, maybe most borderlands barons were 4th-level bandit leaders recently, and 10 years is just the mean time between change of management (only 2 years for a band rather than a camp, due to the 20% chance in lair; if 50% of bands are disciplined and so can defeat a baron's garrison, then the MTTF of a barony may only be 4 years rather than 10).

And that's only from bandits.  Not orcs.  Not 3 platoons of 2HD gnolls (total platoon-scale BR 10-20).  Not a platoon of hill giants (platoon-scale BR ~5).  Not 14 platoons of veteran nomad horsemen (BR 54 - enough to make a count take notice).  There are so many things on this wilderness encounter table that can end a barony.

Did I say nomad horsemen?  Getting ahead of myself there.  Next post: Domains at War: Men, Nomads (and merchants).

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Domains at War: Men, Brigands, Part 1: Troops

I've been thinking about mercenaries again, and how what you really want in the wilderness is not a bunch of risk-averse garrison mercenaries who really just want to stay in town drinking and whoring.  What you really want are the guys from the Men: Brigands monster entry, who have lived out in the wilderness, take big risks for money, and collect orc scalps for fun.

I realized that my players had actually recruited from the Men monster entry in two previous campaigns, and that I haven't seen mass combat stats for them.  I also recalled that in a previous campaign I had the thought "boy these PCs are low level to be running domains, I feel like some jumped up bandit could knock them over."

This post, Brigands and Berserkers.  Since the monster description says that they're first-level fighters, I have given them fighter damage bonus, just as dwarven and elven troops get.  Between that and the d8 HD, they're broadly better in melee than orcs.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.


2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC 2, HD 1+1, UHP 10, ML +4, 4 two-handed weapon 9+ (7+ vs humanoids).

A warband of berserkers is half a platoon (fights at platoon scale as a unit with 5/10 HP).  The 4th level leader of each berserker warband is qualified to serve as a lieutenant at platoon scale.  I know that there's no connection between brigands and berserkers in the rules, but since they occur in the same environments and they're both chaotic I would not feel bad attaching a warband or two of berserkers to a bandit lair.  If you're a berserker leader with 15 guys and you're in the same hex as a bandit warlord with 200 guys, I don't care how good your morale is, you join them and get to be their best melee, you beat feet to a different hex, or you get perforated.

Berserkers have a company BR of 1.5, an individual BR of 0.012, and a monthly wage of 9gp.

Brigand Infantry

Brigand infantry is interesting - they're basically veteran bowmen with shields.  With their equipment, it's possible to organize them as either Formed or Loose Foot, and since they're bandits Irregular is also plausible, though the monster entry mentions that many are "renegade mercenaries" and they do have a lot of high-level leadership around to keep people in line.

2/4/6 Loose, Formed, or Irregular Foot, AC 3, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 3 sword and shield 10+ or 3 shortbow 10+.

A band or outpost of brigand infantry is about a platoon.  The 4th level fighter leading each band is qualified to serve as a lieutenant at platoon scale.

Fighting as Loose Foot, they have BR 4, individual BR 0.032, monthly wage 24 gp.
Fighting as Formed Foot, they have BR 3.5, individual BR 0.029, monthly wage 21 gp.
Fighting as Irregular Foot, they have BR 2, individual BR 0.017, monthly wage 12 gp.

Which raises an amusing possibility, that the difference between brigands and veteran brigands might not be personal prowess but ability to fight in formation.

Brigand Cavalry

As with brigand infantry, brigand cavalry's equipment allows them to be organized as either Loose or Formed Mounted.  They're definitely odd; armed and armored mostly like medium cavalry, but mounted on light warhorses, and no lances or bows.

4/8/12 Loose, Formed, or Irregular Mounted, AC 4, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 2 sword and shield 10+ (and 3 hooves 9+ on charge if Formed or Irregular).

A band or outpost of brigand cavalry is about two platoons.  The 4th level fighter leading each band is qualified to serve as a lieutenant at platoon scale.

Fighting as Formed Mounted, they have BR 4.5, individual BR 0.038, and monthly wage 27 gp.
Fighting as Loose Mounted, they have BR 2.5, individual BR 0.020, and monthly wage 15 gp.
Fighting as Irregular Mounted, they have BR 2, individual BR 0.016, and monthly wage 12 gp.

Brigand Hounds

Another omission I realized - there's no mass combat listing for war dogs.  At platoon scale, this is two creature handlers in leather with shields and melee weapons and 28 war dogs.

2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC 3, HD 2+2, UHP 19, ML +2, 3 bite 8+, unpredictable.

There's a note about halving BR for units made of up animals, so I guess these are BR 1.  That gives us individual average BR of 0.009, individual average wages of 6 gp/mo, and total wages of 180 gp/mo for a platoon.  This works out fairly close to DaW:C's entry for War Dog in the costs table.

Brigand Armored Hounds

As brigand hounds, but the dogs have dog armor and the handlers have chainmail, shields, and melee weapons.

2/3/4 Irregular Foot, AC 5, HD 2+2, UHP 19, ML +2, 3 bite 8+, unpredictable.

Collective BR 2, individual BR 0.019, individual average wage 15 gp/mo.   There's a lot of staying power for your dollar here.  Regular heavy infantry has a wage of 12 gp/mo, less than half the HP, comparable AC, comparable or worse speed, weaker morale, and weaker attacks (but, Formed Foot so they can Defend and Ready, and they won't flip out and maul you if they fail morale).

In conclusion: war dogs don't stop being OP when the game changes from dungeons to wilderness.  You just need more of them.

Total Costs of Operation

In the style of Simplified Mercenaries,

TypeBRCompany TCO, gp/moCompany kgp/moPlatoon gp/moSquad gp/mo
Brigand Infantry, Formed3.528903750150
Brigand Infantry, Irregular218101.75450100
Brigand Infantry, Loose432503.25825175
Brigand Cavalry, Formed4.526702.75700150
Brigand Cavalry, Irregular219502500100
Brigand Cavalry, Loose2.517701.75450100
Brigand Hounds1960125050
Brigand Armored Hounds221202500100

It would be interesting to characterize a setting as down-and-dirty by making these the standard mercenary types available in most markets (perhaps in non-veteran variants - non-veteran bandit infantry might be called poachers, non-veteran berserkers might be goons or brutes), but this is already going to be a healthy-sized post.  Maybe some other day I'll figure out availability.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

ACKS: Simple(r) Logistics

Things I'm aiming for here:
  • Leave the party with meaningful choices in terms of expedition composition and gear selection, but reduce the granularity significantly
  • Support doing most wilderness resource book-keeping once per week; if the day is analogous to the turn in the dungeon, then the weekly rest day is analogous to the one-in-six rest turn, and this is also when you do resource updates like torches.
Here's a spreadsheet which handles most of this (doesn't do carts, doesn't warn you when you bring empty barrels that will weigh too much to carry when full, and the range estimation doesn't take into account ration weigh decreasing over time - and doesn't support the shield-bearer's Leader of Mules ability!).  But I do think this gets it down to the point where you could throw together a mule-train at the table in a couple minutes at the beginning of the session, in the spirit of No Homework, and then update the spreadsheet as the party uses gear, eats rations, suffers casualties, etc.


A party's logistical state can be expressed in the following terms:
  • Number of mounts
  • Number of pack animals
  • Number of carts
  • Barrels (empty and full)
  • Stone of each of the following:
    • Fresh rations
    • Iron rations
    • Dungeoneering equipment
    • Camping equipment
    • Medicine
    • Trade goods and treasure


Much as with mercenaries, managing a herd of small numbers of various types of horses is a pain in the ass.  Pick one type of mount and convert the gp value of all riding mounts for each market class into a single type.  Here I use Medium Riding Horses as a nice middle ground.  Depending on setting, other types of horse, camels, elephants, or big guars might also make sense.  Characters who want to do mounted combat are responsible for their own warhorses, as are cavalry mercenaries.

Mounts come with riding saddles and saddlebags (medium riding horse with riding saddle and three saddlebags costs 65gp).

Mount availability by market class (pooling light riding horses, camels, and medium riding horses):
Class VI: 50%
Class V: 1
Class IV: 5
Class III: 10
Class II: 25
Class I: 80

If you have as many mounts as characters (PCs, henchmen, hirelings, mercenaries, guides, prisoners, ...), the expedition can move at up to the speed of the mounts.  If you don't, then you're stuck at the speed of whoever's walking, but at least you can still use the mounts for scouting, pursuit of routing enemies, etc.  If you have more mounts than party members, the extra mounts can be used as remounts, allowing you to travel even further and faster than normal - with twice as many mounts as party members, you travel at twice the mounts' speed, with three times as many, at 2.5x speed, and with four times as many, at thrice the mounts' speed.

Mounts can carry some amount of load in addition to their riders; subtract 20 stone for the rider, saddle, and personal effects from the mount's normal load, and subtract the mounts' remaining carrying capacity from the weight carried before applying weight to pack animals.  Mounts with riding saddles can't be used to carry any single object of greater than 3 stone encumbrance, as it won't fit in a saddlebag.  In the interest of simplicity, neglect the fact that you can encumber your mounts over their normal load; riding saddles probably aren't really built for it.  If you have more mounts than party members, each extra mount still only provides carrying capacity of its normal load minus 20 stone, since you need to keep them fresh for rotating.

Per The Prairie Traveler (free on gutenberg), mounts don't tend to just drop dead from normal use.  The things that kill mounts are lack of forage or water, long forced marches which prevent them from grazing at night, and being used in pursuit of game while hunting.
  • If a party makes a forced march and doesn't take a rest day in an area with fodder, 10% of mounts "fall away" - die, are lamed, or become too sick to keep up.
  • If mounts have no or very poor forage for a full week, 25% of mounts fall away.
  • If mounts have no water for three days, 50% fall away (or to simplify, no water for a week, 75% fall away).
When mounts fall away, a character with Animal Husbandry may make a check per mount to prevent it (18+ for Husbandry 1, 14+ for Husbandry 2, 10+ for Husbandry 3), up to 3 "patients" plus 1 per rank of proficiency.

(These numbers are probably too severe for camels; consider 5% for forced march without rest, 10% for lack of food, 25% for lack of water for a week; yes wild camels can go 6-7 months without drinking in winter, but that's not when being used as workbeasts)

Mounts can be butchered for food.  A healthy mount yields 30 stone of meat (fresh rations), per statistics on modern Mongolia's horse-meat industry; a mount which has fallen away yields only 10 stone.  Butchering animals generates an extra wilderness random encounter roll. 

Pack Animals

As with mounts - pick one type of pack animal, sum the value of pack and draft animals of all types in each market class, and convert it into that type.  The noble mule is the obvious choice for adventurers, as they can also be brought into dungeons.

Pack animals come with draft/pack saddles (mule plus pack saddle costs 25gp).

Pack animal availability by market class (pooling the value of available oxen, donkeys, draft horses, and mules):
Class VI: 1
Class V: 2
Class IV: 8
Class III: 20
Class II: 45
Class I: 140

When you have totaled the weight of the party's equipment, divide it by the carrying capacity of the pack animal and use that to determine another limit on the party's speed.

Pack animals suffer the same attrition rates from the same sources as mounts, and may be preserved through Animal Husbandry in the same way (though they count against the same pool of "patients").

Pack animals can be butchered, like mounts, but yield only 25 stone of meat each (for healthy mules) and 8 stone each for unhealthy mules.

Pack animals cannot carry single objects of greater than their normal load (so for example a mule could carry two 20-stone water barrels, one on each side of its pack saddle, but placing a 25-stone golden statue right over its spine is not a great idea).  To carry single heavy objects, you need...


For each single object weighing between your pack animal's normal and max load, a single pack animal can pull a cart carrying it at a quarter of the animal's normal speed, or two pack animals can pull the cart at half speed.  A cart carrying a single object between your pack animal's max load and twice its max load can be pulled by two pack animals at quarter speed.  Carts cannot traverse mountains, swamps, deserts, or forests without a road.  A cart costs 25gp.

If you need to transport even bigger single items, large and enormous carts pulled by teams of 2-8 animals can be fabricated.

  • Small
    • Cost: 25gp
    • With one pack animal, carry an object up to the animal's max load at quarter speed
    • With two pack animals, carry an object up to max load at half speed
    • With two pack animals, carry an object up to twice max load at quarter speed
  • Large
    • Cost: 50gp
    • With two pack animals, carry an object up to twice max load at quarter speed
    • With four pack animals, carry an object up to twice max load at half speed
    • With four pack animals, carry an object up to four times max load at quarter speed
  • Enormous
    • Cost: 100gp
    • With four pack animals, carry an object up to four times max load at quarter speed
    • With eight pack animals, carry an object up to four times max load at half speed
    • With eight pack animals, carry an object up to eight times max load at quarter speed
This is more complicated than I had hoped and needs more work, but I'm not sure which options to prune here.  Enormous carts probably don't come up much in practice (how are you going to get a one-ton object into the cart in the first place?).


If you're not planning to go to places where you need to bring your own water, you don't need to worry about barrels.  An empty barrel weighs 5 stone.  A full barrel weighs 20 stone and contains two man-weeks of water (or two animal-days).

(These are actually fairly small barrels - the barrels used for aging wine weigh ~100 lbs empty and hold 60 gallons, or 10 stone empty, 58 stone full, ~8.5 man-weeks of water.  This gets you more man-weeks of water per stone / lower barrel-overhead, but they are large enough that you need carts).

You probably want to carry empty barrels into the wilderness, fill them up, cross a dry stretch and drink them back to empty, rather than carrying them full all the time.


A man-week of rations weighs one stone.  Iron rations cost 3gp/stone, while fresh rations cost 1gp/stone.  At the end of each week, half of uneaten fresh rations spoil, while 10% of uneaten iron rations spoil.

Animals eat their own normal load in grain or hay per week (per Keegan's History of Warfare).  Carrying your own fodder in for extended mounted operations in areas without grass is generally ill-advised (although I guess you could do something like asparagus staging, if you replace "rocket engine" with "pack mule", "fuel" with "grain", and "jettison" with "slaughter" - still, you will need to slaughter a substantial fraction of your mules every week).

(ACKS Logistics: It Isn't Necessarily Rocket Science)

Dungeoneering Equipment

Most of the stuff found in the "Adventuring Equipment" table - iron spikes, 10' poles, rope and chain, military oil, etc.  1 stone of dungoneering equipment costs 10gp.  When entering a dungeon, select the equipment that your characters will carry in and deduct its weight from the number of stone of dungeoneering equipment brought into the wilderness.  If players get cheeky and try to convert it all into locks and lanterns (which are worth more than 10gp / stone), have them start deducting gp value from the brought equipment as well as mass.

Camping Equipment

Tents, bedrolls, pots and pans, flint and steel, sewing kits, extra socks, that sort of stuff.  1 stone of camping equipment costs 3gp.  A party with less than two stone of camping equipment per character (PC, henchman, hirelings, mercenary, guide, ...) suffers morale penalties and possibly other ill effects of sleeping in the rain without a tent, like increased disease risk, inability to heal naturally, inability to prepare spells, etc.  Harsher environments may demand more than two stone per character.

Something to consider: should camping equipment degrade over time, at a slower rate than rations, serving as a resource that can't be replenished in the wilderness?


Medicinal herbs and equipment for applying them.  Costs 60gp per stone.  Like dungeoneering equipment, must be converted from abstract stone into concrete herbs before entering a dungeon.  May be found while foraging.

Trade Goods and Treasure

Everything else with mass that the party might want to carry into the wilderness somewhere other than on their backs.

Closing Thoughts

I think the main tension in this system comes from the difference in speed between mounts and pack animals.  You want to go fast.  You also want to have plenty of rations and medicine and dungeoneering gear.  You really can't have both.

Heavy Mule

The way my players traditionally played, probably because they had lots of fighters with "normal animals are afraid of you" resurrection results: lots of infantry mercenaries and pack animals, maybe one or two characters mounted on warhorses.  Inexpensive, plenty of carrying capacity, can carry fairly large single objects like water barrels, heavy treasure, and small siege weapons, but dog-slow.  If you're bringing heavy infantry or PCs in plate on foot and the terrain permits it, carts aren't even much of a penalty.

Full Mounty

Mounts only, no pack animals.  Expensive, lowish carrying capacity, can't carry large single objects, and doesn't work with infantry mercenaries, but fast fast fast.  Endurance is limited by carrying capacity; probably works best if you have strong Survival and can reliably acquire plenty of fresh rations in the field.  This is sort of the wilderness equivalent of this idea for lightweight play in the dungeon that my players had once.

Heavy Cav, Light Foot

Bring a small number of mounts and as many mules as you please.  Mount characters with 60' speed first, then characters with 90' speed if enough mounts are available.  Have characters with 120' speed walk.  This is the 80/20 solution - mounting the slowest 20% of the party can increase your speed by 50-100%.  Moderately easy supply situation - can handle lots of mules, but doesn't do well with carts.  Probably a good approach at low wilderness levels when you don't have the money / market class for many mounts and the only mercenaries you can get in a useful quantity are light foot, slingers, and archers anyway.

Base Camp

Leave town with an big, slow pack train and a decent complement of foot mercenaries, but also enough mounts for the party proper and a small group of mounted mercs.  Find somewhere defensible to park your infantry and mules.  Split off the cavalry and mounted PCs and go search the wilderness for your objective, returning to pack train/camp to resupply as needed.  If you find your destination and it's defensible, maybe relocate the camp there.

Foot Only?

Something I'm still not sure about is whether pure foot without either pack animals or mounts is reasonable under any circumstance, if a niche for it exists at all.  Maybe drive the mules as far into the desert as they will go, slaughter them where they fall and bury the water barrels, and then you're pure foot from there, following your breadcrumb trail of mule skeletons back out and digging up your water caches as you go?  Sounds dicey.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Shattering the Venturer

The venturer from the Player's Companion has that one signature ability which is so good that it's basically mandatory to have a venturer in the party: the ability to raise market class by one.  This works out to about 2.5 times as much stuff available to buy, or twice as many buyers for your treasure.

This is about the only thing venturer has going for it, and it's sort of a henchman-tier class other than that.  One solution I've tried is to put that market increasing ability on a fighter chassis, the varangian.  This worked OK.  It was still sort of a hench-tier class but it was a hench that you would take adventuring rather than just leaving in town, and if your PC died it was one that wouldn't be too bad to play.

Thinking further on it, I think I don't really like the market class increasing ability.  It's an interesting idea but it's too big a hammer.

In parallel, there are all these general proficiencies in ACKS that just don't get taken because they aren't any good.  They're the usual suspects: Craft, Profession, Art, Performance.  It's not surprising - why would you take Profession(Restauranteur) when you could take something that will keep you alive and help you reach name level?

I suspect you see where I'm going with this.  So, the half-baked proposal:

If you take a Day Job proficiency and spend a month gainfully employed in a particular market, in addition to earning the month's wages, you treat the market class as one better (to a minimum of class I) for the rest of the year, for items produced by / related to that proficiency, including selling related magic items.

Here's a table:


Monthly wage (gp)

Goods and services

Animal Husbandry


Draft and riding animals, livestock

Alchemy 2


Oil, healing herbs, alchemists

Alchemy 3



Animal Training


War and hunting dogs, hawks, warhorses, animal trainers



Jewelry and other art objects

Craft Armorer


Armor, shields, and barding, armorers

Craft Bowyer


Bows and crossbows, armorers

Craft Jeweler


Gems and jewelry

Craft Leatherworker


Light armor, saddles, armorers

Craft Shipwright


Ships and mariners

Craft Weaponsmith


Non-bow weapons, armorers

Dwarven Brewing


Dwarven mercenaries, oil






Ruffians (carousers, footpads, and thugs)






Carts, wagons, draft animals, non-dog livestock, and porters (L0 henchmen)

Manual of Arms 1


Light infantry and archers

Manual of Arms 1 + Riding


Light cavalry and horse archers

Manual of Arms 2


Heavy infantry and longbowmen

Manual of Arms 2 + Riding


Heavy cavalry and cataphracts



Ruffians (carousers and reciters), instruments

Profession Chamberlain or Steward


Ruffians (reciters and spies), quartermasters

Profession Lawyer


Ruffians (footpads and thugs), attorneys

Profession Merchant


Trade goods

Profession Restaurateur


Rations, livestock for eating, ruffians (carousers), quartermasters, monster parts?

Profession Scribe or Librarian


Scrolls, books, sages



Ships and mariners

Siege Engineering


Siege weapons, artillerists, siege engineers

Notable things that aren't on this table: spellcasting services.  Theology and Collegiate Wizardry aren't really jobs, but if you made them jobs then I could see adding this to them and then maybe people would take them (or you could use Last Rites).  I'm also not a huge fan of improving the availability of spellcasting, because my players already used to complaint that RL&L was too available.

Healing Herbs aren't more available if you work as a healer.  Healing is already a great proficiency and doesn't need the help, and it's too natural a synergy.  Alchemy 2 notes that you can work as an apothecary, which means you know where to get the raw materials, whereas the doctor isn't necessarily the guy doing the procurement.

In general I am leery of making it too easy to improve the availability of military oil and healing herbs - these are two of the items where the market rules matter between 2nd and 4th level, when you've upgraded out of your template gear to plate and a real weapon but you still want these "expensive" consumables for the dungeon (but before you start worrying about mercenaries and mounts and selling magic items).

One potential implication of this system that I'm not sure about is that hirelings / specialists have the relevant proficiencies, and do indeed work in the market.  So that could be sort of a backdoor to just increasing market class for everything by one.  A reasonable solution to this, though, might be that if they're working for you on retainer, you're their sole employer and they're not doing business on the side.  Another is that hirelings aren't as engaged with their employers' interests as henchmen ("damnit Jim, I'm a blacksmith, not some sort of wheeler-dealer"), so if you want to push them outside their expertise, you have to recruit them all the way, and if you want to burn a henchman slot on increasing market class for a particular good in a particular market, well alright, that sounds fair.  A third is to just let it roll, you want to spend some amount of money monthly to boost market class for certain items, OK, fine, that's gameplay and choices about resource allocation instead of having a one-stop venturer solution for all your market class needs.

And then ban venturer.  Eveybody can be a little bit venturer, but nobody has to be 100% venturer (or burn a henchman slot thereon).

(I guess the henchmen and hirelings thing does suggest another possibility - spend a henchman slot and some amount of money to cultivate a network in a particular market.  It's like having a venturer henchman, without having to have a venturer henchman)