I judged my first session of ACKS on Sunday. Because the domain management is what first attracted me to this particular system, my campaign is starting with Conquerors, playing lords (and equivalents) at a time when the feudal system is in its infancy. The setting is southern Aquitaine, and the year is 751. Magic exists (what’s Roland without Durendal?) but there is a lot less of it than in standard ACKS - I nixed the spellcasting classes for PCs, though I did still allow players to start with magic items per the advanced characters rules.
The PCs are:
- Theodoric, Baron Montrejeau, a Burgundian who has been granted land south of Toulouse and is eager to expand his holdings,
- Wulfegundis, the eldest daughter of a Baron who has recently inherited her father’s land (Salic law only applies to Salic land, which is north of here) and despairs of paying the upkeep on its highly expensive fort
- Tariq 'abd al-Aziz, the new Abassid Caliphate’s ambassador to the Franks
- Corbus, the Duke’s witch hunter and sometimes advisor
Guyver, Duke of Aquitaine, has called his vassals (at least those within easy reach) and other important people to come to Toulouse to celebrate Epiphany with him as he entertains Osorio, the new ambassador from the Kingdom of Leon. Osorio is passing through on his way to Soissons to meet with King Childeric (and Pippin the Short, Mayor of the Palace, who actually runs the Frankish realms), and Guyver is not thrilled - Pippin only recently left Toulouse, where he negotiated a peace treaty with the new Caliph. Guyver sincerely hopes that this peace treaty will improve the situation around the border between Aquitaine and al-Andalus, which will hopefully soon be in Abassid hands. (The Abassids, it should be noted, recently overthrew the Umayyad Caliphate, but have not thus far taken over the entirety of the Umayyad lands.)
Tariq has had a messenger informing him that his government is rather concerned about a possible Frankish-Leonese alliance, as Leon is rather vehemently opposed to all of Dar-al-Islam. He is asked to find out what Osorio’s plans are. His first course of action, therefore, is to seek an audience with Guyver to warn him that he believes the Leonese have formed an alliance with the remnants of the recently-collapsed Umayyad dynasty (which still holds Narbonne and its environs), which is information Guyver promises to pass along to Pippin.
Wulfegundis spends the evening dodging would-be suitors and escorting Tariq, introducing him to all the important people at court. She also dances with Osorio while her younger sister entertains the three men who form Osorio’s retinue in the hopes to get them to open up a little bit about what is going on. She learns only that Osorio is headed north to Soissons to meet with Pippin, Childeric, and a number of counts who don’t feel as positive about the Abassid alliance as Guyver does.
Theodoric, meanwhile, spends the evening trying to figure out what his neighbors are up to. Theudemer, Baron Lannezeman, is having an argument about taxation with his overlord, the Count of Lourdes. The tax rate is high enough that to collect what he is asked to pay, he is putting enough pressure on his peasants that they are on the brink of rebellion. Ansovald, Baron Magnoac, is worried about the fact that he saw Osorio’s party arrive in Toulouse with about half a dozen more people than he’s brought to the festivities, and they were seen unloading a large sack of glass bottles. (Note: glass is expensive, so this is mildly remarkable, though only mildly.)
While Wulf and Tariq are busy hobnobbing with various elites (and doing awesome character development things in the process), Theodoric and Corbus go investigate the inn where Osorio’s men are staying. First Theodoric enters (no longer in his nobleman’s finery), rents a room of his own, and steals the bottles from the room they are in (locks being far too expensive for the innkeeper to bother with), and finds that the bag they are in also contains a note written in a cipher. He then goes back out into the public area and starts chatting up the entourage and buying them drinks. Corbus, who wears a Medallion of ESP, then attempts to listen in on what their leader is thinking; unfortunately, he rolls poorly and broadcasts his thoughts to everyone. His thoughts at the moment center around how the entire group seems highly suspicious. Unused to ESP fail, everyone pretty much freaks out at the voices in their heads; the innkeeper kicks the entire group out (Theodoric included). He does, however, allow Theodoric to recover the things in his room (which is to say, the bottles), albeit with supervision in case he tries anything.
Corbus and Theodoric return to the Ducal palace, where Tariq (whose people are known for their skill at alchemy) asks his henchman to look at the contents of one of the bottles. It is found to contain powdered cinnabar, a mineral mined in Spain which has uses as a medicine, a red pigment, and a poison. Corbus, meanwhile, decrypts the note, which proves to contain a list of eight important noblemen at Pippin’s court. Curious about what is going on, he and Theodoric scope out the handful of other inns in town to find where Osorio’s men have moved on to. Then, they wait for the apparent leader to step outside to relieve himself, knock him unconscious, and take him back to where Theodoric’s horses are stabled. After tying him to a chair and blindfolding him, Theodoric (who carries a sword capable of casting light up to 30 feet) lights up the entire tent and wakes the man up. The prisoner, still unsettled from his concussion and the strange situation he finds himself in, does not understand that he is in fact awake, and is therefore rather forthcoming with information: he is a commoner, his name is Oveco, and he is to deliver two of the bottles of cinnabar to each of the men named on the list. In exchange for this, he will receive a few silver pieces, and has had his taxes waived for this year’s harvest. He also expresses some confusion over whether his captor is an angel or a demon, which prompts Theodoric to send his priest in to take Oveco’s confession. They then ask that on his return trip to Leon, he stop and see a certain priest in Toulouse and talk to him about the journey.
After the interrogation, Theodoric allows Oveco to fall asleep, then leaves him in the outhouse of the inn with his bottles.
Meanwhile, Wulfegundis asks her younger sister (a bard) to entertain Osorio’s more official retinue. She does so, and attempts to distract them from their policy of keeping their lips shut about politics. It transpires that they are planning to meet with certain people (who, when mentioned, Wulf recognizes as the names from Oveco’s list) who are especially hostile to the notion of the Frankish-Abassid peace treaty. They are going to attempt to persuade King Childeric and Pippin to instead align themselves with Leon, which intends to retake the Iberian Peninsula for Christendom.
Having learned all this from their various channels, the four retire for the evening.