Wednesday, December 30, 2020

ACKS: Mercenary Veteran Templates

So your PC just died and you didn't have any henchmen, but you did have a squad of mercenaries led by a veteran sergeant so maybe he's your new PC.  What's his deal?

(Equipment is in addition to normal equipment for the mercenary's type)

Heavy Infantry:

  1. Doppelsoldner - Fighting Style: 2H, Bargaining, Two-Handed Sword, swagger
  2. Grizzled Campaigner -  Combat Reflexes, Endurance, equanimity
  3. Glory Hound - Berserkergang, Gambling, cocky
  4. Standard-bearer - FS:Polearm, Leadership, polearm with tattered and bloodstained "banner" 
  5. Drillmaster - Command, Manual of Arms, hardass attitude
  6. Grumbler - Alertness, Mapping, vellum and charcoal, pessimism

Light Infantry:

  1. Survivor - Running, Survival, definitely not wanted for desertion
  2. Bandit - Combat Trickery (Knock Down), Intimidation, sociopathy
  3. Picket - Alertness, Endurance, high tolerance for boredom
  4. Skirmisher - Skirmishing, Endurance, three javelins
  5. Marine / Pirate - Swashbuckling, Seafaring, cutlass, alcoholism
  6. Duelist - Fighting Style: One-Handed or Two Weapon, Gambling, sword and dagger, scars

Bowmen, Longbowmen, Slingers, and Crossbowmen:

  1. Poacher - Alertness, Survival, definitely not wanted
  2. Braggart - Precise Shooting, Gambling
  3. Shepherd - Precise Shooting, Animal Husbandry, dog
  4. Yeoman - Fighting Style: Ranged, Riding, perpetual good cheer
  5. City Siege Survivor - Siege Engineering, Profession (Attorney), grim stories about eating plague rats
  6. Woodsman - Alertness, Tracking, quiet

Cavalry is sort of boring, since they all have Riding as their general and the set of class profs that are good mounted is fairly small.  I guess it would be funny to have one Imposter background for cavalry that gets like, Diplomacy instead.  Or could use their class prof on Riding, but that hurts pretty bad.  I'll keep thinking about it.

Monday, December 28, 2020

King of the Britons

Something about Wolves of God reminded me of older notions of rulership.  I don't know if it was the emphasis on the non-hereditary nature of earldom, where an earl's son might not also become an earl if he hasn't accomplished anything.  It might have been the distinction between folkland and bookland, where folkland is the king's to grant temporarily but still governed by the traditions of the people (and returned to the king and folk on the grantee's death), with bookland, land granted in perpetuity, very much the exception.  It might have been the discussion of having multiple small kings in some of the realms.

But it has me thinking about rulership of peoples, rather than of places.  "Arthur, King of the Britons!"  Not King of England, but King of the Britons, a people, a culture, first, and Sovereign Over All England second.  King in the North, not King of or over the North.  This isn't purely a Dark Ages anachronism either; as recently as the 1850s, Otto von Bismarck tried to get the Kaiser to adopt the title "Emperor of the Germans" or "The German Emperor" rather than "Emperor of Germany".

(Electoral monarchy is another one of those fun twists that is forgotten in the popular-culture conception of kingship, but which ties nicely to kings of a folk, elected by the leaders of subsets of their people).

What would a domain game aimed at folk-kings rather than place-kings look like?  Heroic deeds cause you to accumulate loyal followers from among the people who you've helped, who provide you with a small amount of income or can serve as warriors.  You lead them into the wilderness to the promised land, or to take the lands of their ancestral enemies, or against a crumbling empire (German barbarian PCs vs hobgoblin Rome?), and once your people have a homeland the income that they provide you increases.  Sort of a cross between ACKS' congregation rules and Wolf Packs and Winter Snow's rules for accumulating a tribe, but scaled up and then bleeding into the domain game.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Undercity Dungeons and Turning City Maps into Dungeons

I got to thinking about dungeons under cities last night.  I'm not sure why exactly; I think it might've been that I've been thinking about variable corridor width since the gauntlets post, and it linked up with variable road width, the difference between broad streets and narrow alleys.

Many ancient cities were built on the ruins of older settlements, and if you repeated this process multiple times then it makes sense for an undercity dungeon to have multiple levels, with each deeper layer being the buried ruins of an older settlement.

Obviously placement beneath a population center has some nice properties for a campaign tentpole megadungeon besides just explaining its existence; low-level parties don't need to brave the wilderness to get there, the loop to resupply and return to the dungeon is tighter, and you have a ready source of rival adventuring parties.  But I think taking each layer / level as a layer of past settlement has further advantages which are less often talked about.

If you take a neighborhood as your basis for a dungeon level, rather than a single building, it might get a lot easier to manage mentally.  You can give your corridors street names and your rooms addresses.  Assigning functions to rooms should be easier here than in my traditional Dwarf Fortress-style dungeons, because you can reuse functions - each settlement was an independent layer, so each layer should have somewhere that was a granary or a forge, for example, versus a highly-vertical Dwarf Fortress-style dungeon where you have one granary or forge area for the whole dungeon.  So you need fewer ideas, and you can get mileage out of your everyday experience of the simple necessities of life as a civilian, versus trying to think of what dwarves would need in their fortresses or what evil wizards need in their towers.

I think the main difficulty might be dealing with density.  If you look at maps of Pompeii or Herculaneum, they're pretty dense, with many houses sharing walls.  This isn't how most people live in the modern West, but it would make for great dungeoneering.

Tell me this doesn't look like a dungeon map

Another interesting difference from typical dungeon maps is that when you have long, straight roads-turned-corridors, it becomes relatively easy to get close to any single point in the dungeon, versus having a mess of twisty corridors where all routes are circuitous.  I'm not sure that's a desirable property, but it might be worth experimenting with.  Certainly there were pre-industrial settlements with road patterns that would make mapping hell for the players (more hub-and-spoke than grid).  Playing with road patterns would be an interesting way to differentiate levels.

This does get away from the fantastical funhouse megadungeon and back towards the realistic ruins end of the dungeon spectrum though.  Still, it might be fun to throw a level with city-esque topology (of long, wide, straight corridors with branching narrow alleys and dense blocks of "housing") into a funhouse megadungeon.

So does anyone know of good sources of more line maps of archaeological cities like that one?

Monday, December 21, 2020

ACKS Mercenary Mixes: Dwarves

Context: Previously, I experimented with reducing the types of mercenaries available in each market, while preserving the total wages of mercenaries in that market, in order to make assembling whole units faster and reduce complexity in play.  Today, an application.
It always bugged me in ACKS that you could hire dwarven mercenaries (and you should, because they're good), and you can build a dwarven domain, but if you wanted to hire mercenaries in your dwarven domain, they were mostly human.  A reasonable judge would surely fix this, but it would probably be ad hoc.  But now, thanks to the wonders of hacky python, we have answers.

Let's take a ratio of 4 heavy infantry to 2 crossbowdwarves to 1 mounted crossbowdwarf to 1 fury.  It might be fun to do two dwarven mercenary mixes, one civilized, with crossbows and maybe musketeers, and one uncivilized, with furies and...  I dunno, maybe slingers or javelineers?  Disrupt enemy formations before the furies crash into them?  But let's just start with this, under the assumption that furies are uncommon in dwarven society but not that uncommon.

Raw counts

Heavy infantry286.979.2341.0312.626.12.18
Mounted crossbowmen71.7219.8110.263.161.520.54


Heavy infantry47 per month13 per month6 per month2 per month1 per month3 months
Crossbowmen23 per month6 per month3 per month1 per month2 months6 months
Mounted crossbowmen23 per month6 per month3 per month1 per month2 months6 months
Furies11 per month3 per month1 per month2 months4 months12 months


Heavy infantry9 per month2 per month1 per month3 months5 months14 months
Crossbowmen4 per month1 per month2 months5 months10 months28 months
Mounted crossbowmen4 per month1 per month2 months5 months10 months28 months
Furies2 per month2 months3 months10 months20 months56 months


Heavy infantry2 per month2 months3 months10 months20 months56 months
Crossbowmen1 per month4 months6 months20 months40 months111 months
Mounted crossbowmen1 per month4 months6 months20 months40 months111 months
Furies2 months7 months12 months39 months79 months221 months


This led me to realize that I didn't compute rounded total monthly costs of operation for dwarf units in Simplified Mercenaries (nor elf units, for that matter).

TypeCompany kgp/moCompanyPlatoonSquad
Dwarven Heavy Infantry2.52500625125
Dwarven Crossbowmen3.253250825175
Dwarven Mounted Crossbowmen3.753750950200
Dwarven Furies2.252250575125

Man, this was an easy post.  I wish I had more trustworthy tooling to compute BRs though - I had an error in computing monomerc cavalry BR because there was a cell in my spreadsheet that I forgot to change, and it has me wondering if the same error has occurred with any of my previous cavalry, particularly the nomads.  Maybe I'll script that up next.  More ambitious would be to build a pipeline going from ACKS stats to some intermediate representation of Battles stats, BR, and wages which can be rendered several ways for human consumption for different purposes, or referenced by market mixer ratio files...

I guess elves would also be a natural next thing to do with my current technology.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Simple Mercenary Mix Experiments: The Battle of Crecy

Last post, I concluded that compressing mercenaries down to just one type was infeasible, but was thinking about going down to 2-4 units by culture, and then making those the only units available in markets of that culture.  If you preserve the total wages of mercenaries available per month, this will mean that more of each of those types will be available every month, so you can build up useful whole units much more quickly than under ACKS' defaults where every market has tiny numbers of every type of mercenary.  The tradeoff is that you lose that variety, so you may not be able to build certain unit compositions depending on where you're recruiting.
The English and French seemed like a fine place to start.  My aim here is less to build a super-high fidelity model of French and English army compositions and more to experiment with techniques for building these sort of cut-down unit mixes and figuring out their availability.

I don't know if the army compositions at the Battle of Crecy were representative but they seemed like a fine starting point.  I like that there's some vagueness to them.

The English had a ratio of somewhere around 2 men-at-arms (heavy cavalry, fighting dismounted in this case - although notably chain barding was not used, which would lower the unit AC to 5) to 4 longbowmen (longbowmen A) to 3 hobelar light cavalrymen (light cavalry C) to 3 spearmen.  Not clear from wikipedia how the spearmen were armed or armored; I'm inclined to go with light infantry B or E, though I did see some things while googling that suggested the Anglo-Gascon armies had Irish kerns with javelins.  I think Light Infantry E has the encumbrance to carry 3 javelins but that would increase their BR and wages up to 9gp/mo, so let's not do that.  I like that Light Infantry E is Formed even though it's lightly-armored; it makes sense in an army where so much of the infantry is longbowmen that you'd want the rest to be Formed, for some backbone.

The total wages of one of these "to ratio" blocks of 2 heavy cav, 4 longbowmen, 3 light cav, and 3 spearmen is a nice round 300gp/mo.  120gp/mo in heavy cav, 72 gp/mo in longbowmen, 90 gp/mo in light cav, and 18gp/mo in spearmen.  That's cavalry-heavier than ACKS' baseline assumptions, where about half of expected wages are cavalry (here it's more like 2/3).  It probably makes sense to make spearmen more available than these ratios would indicate, and they're so cheap that it barely changes anything to do so.  It also makes sense that the poor melee infantry would have suffered the greatest attrition and desertion during the campaign leading up to Crecy.  Finally, if the men-at-arms are AC5 instead of 6 due to lack of barding, that drops their wages down closer to 50gp, and we can get back to 300 by adding about three spearmen.  It's probably even more reasonable to go up to something like 8-12 spearmen, which would then give each of the four classes closer-to-equal shares of the wages pie (100gp for men-at-arms, 90 for the hobilars, 72 for the longbowmen, 72 for 12 spearmen)

So let's take 2 mounted men-at-arms, 3 hobilars, 4 longbowmen, and 12 spearmen as our ratio.  Total wages for one of these "blocks" is 334gp/mo.
We should expect to be able to hire about a third of one "block" of 2 knights, 3 hobilars, 4 longbowmen, and 12 spearmen per month in class VI, just shy of a whole block per month in class V, just shy of two whole blocks per month in class IV, six blocks per month in III, 12 per month in class II, and like 40 per month in class I.

If you work this all out, you end up with these raw counts of mercenaries available per month:


I should really figure out how to translate these into dice, but picking rolls that have the right expected value is sort of annoying, and these go higher than any of the mercs in stock ACKS, so I can't just crib those.
If you turn those raw numbers into squads, platoons, and companies like in Simplified Mercenaries, you get these:

Men-at-arms25 per month7 per month3 per month1 per month2 months6 months
Hobilars38 per month10 per month5 per month1 per month2 months4 months
Longbowmen25 per month7 per month3 per month1 per month2 months6 months
Spearmen77 per month21 per month11 per month3 per month1 per month2 months

Men-at-arms5 per month1 per month2 months5 months10 months26 months
Hobilars7 per month2 per month1 per month3 months7 months18 months
Longbowmen5 per month1 per month2 months5 months10 months26 months
Spearmen15 per month4 per month2 per month2 months4 months9 months

Men-at-arms1 per month3 months6 months18 months37 months103 months
Hobilars1 per month2 months4 months12 months25 months69 months
Longbowmen1 per month3 months6 months18 months37 months103 months
Spearmen3 per month1 per month2 months6 months13 months35 months

I think these results are OK.  Whole units are available about two to three times as quickly as they were under Simplified Mercenaries, and you also have fewer unit types to manage.  It also adds an additional reason to travel for mercenaries; rather than it just being about hitting big markets to get large volumes of troops, you might want to travel to get access to a different mix of troops.

Speaking of which, the French.

Again, estimates are sketchy, but let's work with 8000 men-at-arms, 6000 crossbowmen, and 14000 spearmen as our estimate of the army at Crecy.  This works out to 4 men-at-arms, 3 crossbowmen, and 7 spearmen as our "block", with total wages of 296 gp/mo, the vast bulk of which is the cavalry.  Let's bump spearmen up again to 12 per block.

There's only one type of crossbowman in Domains at War, and unfortunately he doesn't have a pavise.  Oh well.  Let's stick with the AC5, 50gp/mo men-at-arms and light infantry E for the spears (same as the English).

Raw counts:

Every french village has a knight!  I like it!  It's a little silly that you can find crossbowmen out in the sticks (they were actually Genoese) but I'm not going to worry about rural vs urban units yet.  Or maybe ever.

Men-at-arms52 per month14 per month7 per month2 per month1 per month3 months
Crossbowmen19 per month5 per month2 per month2 months3 months7 months
Spearmen79 per month21 per month11 per month3 per month1 per month2 months

Men-at-arms10 per month2 per month1 per month3 months5 months13 months
Crossbowmen3 per month1 per month2 months6 months12 months34 months
Spearmen15 per month4 per month2 per month2 months3 months9 months

Men-at-arms2 per month2 months3 months9 months18 months50 months
Crossbowmen2 months4 months8 months23 months48 months134 months
Spearmen3 per month1 per month2 months6 months12 months34 months

So the French can raise knights about twice as quickly as the English, but have no light cavalry and much weaker archery.

So now that I have tech in place to make generating market availability for subsets like this easy, the question seems mostly like "how do you pick reasonable ratios"?  Both of these army compositions definitely deviate from the guidelines in Domains at War: Campaigns that you should really only have 10 heavy cavalry per 120 recruits, but I think I'm OK with that.  This isn't "we raised all the fighting-age men and trained them"; this is "among professional fighting men of a given culture, what fraction have what fighting styles and equipment?"  So if you weren't going to qualify as heavy cavalry in Late Medieval France, you were probably just not going to be a professional soldier.