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.

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