Paladins of Pippin

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.

Sweet historicity! Looking forward to more.

That's amazing! What a great time and place for a game. Are your players history buffs or are they learning about the era from play?

(Have you read "The Lions of Al-Rassan" by chance?)

(Theordoric’s player here) Teucer, Corbus’ player, and myself are part of a medieval recreation group that we’ve recently introduced Tariq’s player to as well. So, I suppose we are history buffs. We typically focus on a later period of time, but we’ve gotten into doing quite some interesting research into the particulars of 8th century Aquitaine. So far, this week has involved determining the characteristics of Frankish polygamy and determining the appropriate method of calculating the start of Lent (since domain festivals are clearly church feast days).

One of the great features of a historical setting is that there’s always a lot of different things going on in the world. I couldn’t possibly make up the level of rich detail that is readily available with a simple Google search. If the players decide to travel to Soissons or Thuringia or Ravenna or anywhere else in the world, I can come up with answers to what is going on there which (with PCs who are movers and shakers of the setting) are easy to use as plot hooks. They’re just there to be found.

It’s also great playing with others who have a passion for the historical aspect as well. Tariq’s player is particularly interested in the history of the Islamic world of the Middle Ages, so he’s diving into research about that side of things and knows the geopolitical situation on the other side of the Pyrinees better than I do. When we were building characters, Apep found a particular mountain south of Toulouse on Google Earth that he wanted to have as his stronghold (which is why he’s the Baron of Montrejeau - that’s the name of the town right next to the mountain in question). And Corbus’s player and I are both huge language nerds; he’s who discovered the world’s most metal Frankish name for Wulfegundis’s player to use (it means “wolf combat,” and is a documented Frankish noblewoman’s name). Wulfegundis’s player, on the other hand, is more excited about the literary antecedents, and knows the Matter of France quite well; she is in many ways basing her character on the legendary Bradamante, whose story she now knows thoroughly.

The next session is tomorrow, and I am looking forward to it very much.

Session 2:
The next morning, Tariq and Baroness Wulf met with the ambassador from Leon in order to ask him his plans. Osorio informs them that his plans are to meet with Pippin and Childeric in order to negotiate an alliance with the Franks in order to both defend Leon and to launch an offensive against Al-Andalus. After the meeting, Wulf met with Duke Guyver and informed him both of Osorio’s plans and of the bottles of cinnabar being smuggled by Osorio’s retinue. Notably, she mentions that Corbus, Tariq, and she were involved in acquiring this information, but leaves out Theodoric’s involvement.
Theodoric’s morning is spent returning to the inn where he left Oveco the night before. He enters the tavern, gets a drink and searches the sleeping area for the bag of baubles. He doesn’t find it there, so he leaves Yulios, his henchman, at the inn to see if he can find and acquire the bag once again. Theodoric then spent his day preparing for a party he planned to throw that evening for some of his neighbors as well as the PCs. He hires a bard to perform for the party and gives the bard specific instructions to sing songs about his neighbor Theudomer’s relationship with the Duke’s half-sister Gisela (As he claims to have fathered her bastard son) in hopes of provoking a response from Theudomer.
The evening starts with Theodoric having dinner with Theudomer where they discuss Theudomer’s peasant unrest. Theudomer is worried that his peasants are on the brink of revolt due to high taxes charged by Theudomer’s vassal lord, the count of Lourdes. The peasants seem to be largely concerned about their food supply. Theodoric offers his assistance if necessary, and dinner transitions into the beginning of the party.
The party was bawdy and loud, with plenty of wine, cider, and entertainment. The bard played several songs, decreasing in subtlety concerning Gisela, prompting Theodomer to object at one point in the night. Baroness Wulf’s younger sister, a bard herself joined in on the singing and dancing, and even taught the hired bard a few tricks. During the party, Corbus talked with Baron Magnusind about a mysterious problem he was having with his peasants. Ambassador Tariq and Baroness Wulf were fairly quiet throughout the party, chatting with a few people before retiring for the night. Theodoric used the party to become more acquainted with his neighbors Magnusind and Ansovald. Corbus, Theodoric, and Magnusind conversed about their hunting dogs, hounds, and werewolves for a while before Theodoric invited Magnusind on a hunt in the spring. Theodoric also used the party to begin marriage negotiations with Ansovald for the hand of his 17 year old daughter, Marcatrude. By the end of the party, Theudomer had gotten very drunk, as an inexperienced youth of 18 is wont to do, and began requesting songs from the bard. As he left the party, Theodoric bid him a good night and offered to send the bard to his court in Lannemezan, an offer which Theudomer accepted gratefully before asking whether some of the tales of Theodoric’s deeds in the siege of Cyprus were exaggerated in the songs.
After leaving the party, Corbus snuck into Baron Magnusind’s camp to meet with him about the problem with his peasants. . It seemed that they were dancing, and not just in a celebratory fashion, but all the time for days on end until they collapsed from exhaustion. As Corbus was Guyver’s resident witch-hunter, he agreed to look into the problem.

Tariq escorted Baroness Wulf to her own encampment before returning to his own quarters. While Tariq is actually the ambassador, he wears a disguise while acting the part in order to conceal his true identity. When he returned to his quarters, he removed his disguise, gathered his henchmen and then proceeded to the Leonese Ambassador’s room. Tariq snuck into the room, drew his dagger, covered the ambassador’s mouth and woke him up. He questioned him for a bit about his intentions, which the ambassador once again confirmed that he sought an alliance with the Franks in order to push the muslims out of the Iberian and restore the visigothic kingdom. The ambassador also admitted to 2 more people (in addition to the 8 counts on the list that went along with the glass bottles) that he planned to meet with, a Dane and Pippin’s blacksmith. After questioning him, Tariq gave the ambassador a chance to pray before reciting his own prayer and stabbing him to death. Tariq quickly searched the room for more information and found a few gems which he took, but left 125gp worth of Leonese coins.

Having discovered that the Ambassador planned to leave early in the morning, Corbus used his crystal ball to scry on Osorio, only to find lots of blood. He quickly proceeded to the Ambassador’s room and found him murdered. There was a trail of bloody footprints, suggesting that someone had been in the room since the murder had occurred, and Osorio’s servants had fled. Corbus quickly proceeded to the stables where he found the servants’ horses missing, and sent his henchmen to find Baroness Wulf and Baron Montrejeau. Corbus then went with Baroness Wulf to report the murder to the Duke and Guyver suggested that he might need use of Baroness Wulf’s services in an envoy to Pippin or Leon. He instructed the two of them to apprehend the servants quickly and quietly.

In the meantime, Yulios returned to Theodoric with the bag of glass bottles that Oveco had been tasked with carrying to Soissons. Yulios poured out the bottles and found that hidden in the cinnabar were cut sapphires. Yulios and Theodoric collected the sapphires and instructed a servant to refill the bottles with cinnabar, while Theodoric instructed Yulios to return the bottles where he had found them. Shortly after Yulios departed, Corbus’s henchman arrived, carrying news of Osorio’s assassination. Theodoric followed him to a meeting with Corbus and Baroness Wulf where they decided that Theodoric should apprehend the 6 servants who were smuggling the bottles, while Wulf rode north and Corbus rode south in an attempt to find the pair of servants that had fled.
Theodoric took some of his men to the inn and arrested the 6 of them without incident. As they were leaving, the innkeeper called to him to say that he had something else that belonged to them, and handed Theodoric the bag of bottles. The 6 men were escorted to Duke Guyver’s dungeon and Theodoric met with the Duke to inform him that he had apprehended those 6 servants and informed him of the smuggled bag of cinnabar which he produced for the duke. Guyver responded that Baroness Wulf had already informed him of that, and that it was curious. Theodoric revealed the information that Oveco had produced during his earlier questioning and urged his lord’s mercy in dealing with Osorio’s poor servants.
Tariq and Theodoric then headed to the market to find a buyer for their gemstones, while Corbus and Wulf rode all day without finding the missing servants.

Wow, Tariq assassinated the Ambassador. I wasn't expecting that. Allowing him his final prayers before the execution was an awesome touch.

It's like reading a Guy Gavriel Kay novel!

I wasn’t expecting it either. As for the prayer, not only did Tariq give Osorio time to pray, but Tariq also has his own prayer in Arabic (that Corbus’s player will be teaching Tariq’s player to pronounce).

Session 3:

The party is spread across southern France at the moment, which is making play a little bit difficult, so in the next few sessions we’ll be trying to get the characters together. We all ended up taking turns with the judge, so I’m really unsure of what Tariq was doing for this session. I was busy trying to figure out dancing peasants with Corbus. Tariq may need to write his own report. Also, at the end of the session we decided that as we were spread out, we should try to meet individually with the judge in order to get to a point where we can work together, so the next part of Corbus & Theodoric’s story will overlap with the end of Baroness Wulf’s actions this session.

Jan 8, 751:

Corbus and Wulf departed in the morning to aprehend Ambassador Osorio’s servants who had fled the city following his assasination. Tariq left Toulouse on an expedition to Nimes where he planned to search for a lost treasure hidden by the legendary Ali of Cairo. Theodoric remained in Toulouse where he continued the investigation into the murder of the ambassador by trying to piece together where the servants had been the night before. He didn’t find much, but a patron at the inn where they had been drinking the night before mentioned that they were talking about a “gift” and a “blacksmith.” Having failed to find anything of note, he set out to return home to Montrejeau overnight by barge.

Baroness Wulf rode north all day, stopping in villages to ask about the foreigners. Several people indicated that she was on the right trail, but that evening she was forced to stop and rest in the village of Saint Loup. Corbus spent the day riding south and, finding nothing, stopped at Theodoric’s castle at Montrejeau, hoping to rest and perhaps sort out Baron Magnusind’s dancing peasant problem the next morning. Corbus used his crystal ball that evening to scry on Baroness Wulf and observed her talking with a peasant which indicated that she was on the right trail.

Jan 9, 751:

Theodoric surprised Corbus when he woke him up in the morning. Theodoric explained what he found in Toulouse over breakfast and Corbus requested that he assist him in investigating the dancing peasants in Magnusind’s lands near Saint-Guadens. Corbus, Theodoric, Wulfric (Corbus’ henchman), Yulios, and Humbert (Theodoric’s henchmen) set out for Saint-Guadens after breakfast and found a group of 20 peasants dancing behind the parish church and another 10 sleeping there. They met with the parish priest who explained that 4 of the peasants had begun dancing before mass on New Years Day and only stopped to sleep the others had joined since then. He had been able to give them some water, but they hadn’t eaten in days. Corbus initially tried using his amulet of ESP on one of the dancing peasants, finding that his thoughts were merely a refrain of hallelujahs, however he also rolled a 1, and so everybody (including the parish priest) also got to hear what he was thinking. Corbus then used detect evil while Yulios used detect magic in order to get to the heart of the matter, but neither test proved effective. Theodoric sent Humbert (an explorer) to scout the area for caves and such where a witch might be hiding, while Theodoric tied up the peasants who were sleeping and transported them out of visual range of the dance.

Finding nothing of note, they decided to wake up one of the sleeping peasants who had been one of the first 4. They questioned him for a bit, but he had no recollection of dancing for over a week. He did, however suspect a woman named Genevieve of witchcraft, and so Wulfric was sent to check out her home. He returned shortly later fairly sure she wasn’t a witch. The peasant also described a nearby cave, so Theodoric went to investigate, but found nothing in the cave.

After this, Corbus decided to test out the dance itself and tried to join the circle. When he did, he felt compelled to join the dance, but was able to resist its effect. He then had Wulfric attempt to pull out one of the peasants, but Wulfric started dancing himself. Corbus and Theodoric were able to pull him away, however and Wulfric recovered as soon as he was out of visual range of the dancing. Seeing as there wasn’t any magic nor evil, Theodoric decided it might be some form of sound that the peasants were entranced by, so he plugged his ears and walked into the circle. Initially he simply walked through the circle and felt nothing while the peasants danced around him. Finally, he tried to join in the dance and did feel compelled to keep dancing, but resisted the urge and walked away. Finally, seeing no other option, they began to simply pull the peasants away one at a time. As soon as they left visual range of the dancing, they stopped. Corbus questioned the remaining peasants and the one who had started dancing first described having felt a burning sensation all over his body before New Year’s Mass and knew that God had instructed him to dance, so he did. He felt much better now, but couldn’t remember the past few days. He suspected that perhaps it was a spell cast by the settlement across the Garonne, as they were known to be impious people. Yulios recalled hearing of similar incidents in Alexandria and thought it had something to do with St. Anthonly. After waking all of the peasants, Theodoric tried dancing in the area again, but felt nothing. The parish priest ensured that the peasants were fed and held a special mass for them while Corbus set off to investigate the other town. Humbert was sent to scout out Baron Magnusind’s stronghold.

Corbus met with the parish priest in the other village and once again used his ESP medallion (again rolling a 1 and broadcasting his own thoughts). It did not seem as though this village was involved in the dancing nor did it seem that they were particularly impious either. The group met back up a little later and Humbert reported that Magnusind’s stronghold consisted of an earthwork outer fortification with a wooden inner fortress. The stronghold was garrisoned by about 60 heavily armed infantrymen. He also reported seeing the parish priest from north of the river talking with a guard.

The party took a detour through two hexes to the north of Montrejeau that Theodoric had left his henchmen to conquer in his name while he was in Toulouse. The peasants seemed quite happy to see him, as they were excited to be part of Theodoric’s legendary Carnival festival.

That evening, Corbus and Theodoric decided to follow one of Theodoric’s treasure maps to Andorra. They planned to depart the next morning, so Theodoric spent the evening giving instructions to his other henchman, Dagobert and arranging a messenger to Baroness Wulf in Toulouse and a messenger to Ansovald at Castelnau-Magnoac to continue negotiations for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Baroness Wulf continued on her hunt for the two servants, stopping along the way to inquire about the two foreigners. She knew she was on the right trail, but at Agen (a class IV city between Toulouse and Bordeaux), she was told that a body had washed up along the river that morning. She went to the church where the body had been taken and identified it as one of the two men she was looking for. She asked the priest to provide a proper burial fitting for a nobleman, and set off to see what she could find. She quickly came upon a clearing that showed signs of a struggle, but was unable to find a trail to follow, so she returned to Agen to hire a huntsman. He identified a trail to the river (presumably where the body was dragged) and another that continued away from the river. They followed that path for a little ways before the huntsman warned her that the people were close. Wulf continued on alone and came to a group of bandits in the woods. She offered them their lives in exchange for information, a deal which they seemed happy to make. They told her that they had killed the two foreigners and had taken their gold and weapons before dumping the bodies in the river. They also told her that the two men had a flask of something vile smelling. She asked for the vial, and one of them went to retrieve it for her. When she smelled it, she thought it might be hemlock. She thanked the bandits and went back to the huntsman before continuing back to Agen. There, she alerted the authorities and began her ride back to Toulouse.

Jan 11, 751:

Baroness Wulf arrived back in Toulouse and met with Duke Guyver, reporting that the men had been killed and that they had a flask that seemed to be poison. He thanked her for her assistance in the matter and suggested she take the flask to the Apothecary (the front for Tariq’s syndicate)for identification.

So, Corbus’s player has promised to tell you the story of how this came to be, but we’re resolving a heroic foray right now. We’re putting pocket change on the battle mat to represent units.

Me: “Do you have any cents?”
Apep, who has just decided to singlehandedly face down 3 BR worth of foes and is watching the units pile up: “Apparently not.”

Corbus’ player here. Bit of an epic tale tonight …

10 Jan, 751

Corbus and Baron Theudoric set off from Montrejeau, seeking the Andorran hoard. Their path to the hoard of Andorra took them first east to Foix, then south, through a narrow mountain pass by El Sarrat, under Umayyad control. The pass was known to be guarded by a substantial fortress (this being wild borderlands). We considered our options (sneaking or taking a longer route) before the Baron saw fit to bring 140 men, a force of light cavalry and heavy infantry, along with Vulfram, Yulios, and Humbert. The lord of Foix was understandably disturbed to see such a large force moving through his lands, but was placated by some conciliatory words. This day being the Sabbath, all attended a brief service led by Yulios before encamping for the night.

11 Jan, 751

Near noon on this day, as the Baron and his entourage neared the fortress at the pass, a single man on a mule rode up showing no signs of being intimidated at the sizable forces arrayed before him. “I am the protector of these lands,” he intoned. “If you have need of anything, let me know.” So saying, he returned to his small encampment on a nearby hill.

Corbus, who had detected evil on the man via his blessed sword, Argus, felt he was suspicious. The major players convened and concocted a plan to attack the keep. Corbus was fearful of the strange man sending a warning or attacking, and returned to the old man’s camp stealthily and put a crossbow bolt through his back.

The man turned, angrily, and charged. Corbus’ next shot went wide as his enemy turned into a bear and clawed into the witch-hunter’s flesh. Weakened, Corbus’ sword possessed him with a rage (being specifically made to slay werecreatures) and plunged itself into the creature’s maw.

After burning the werebear and healing Corbus a bit, the team continued on their plan. After waiting for nightfall, Theodoric, Corbus, and Vulfram approached the fort, disguised as an imam and his guard and feigning an injury–hoping to gain entry via subterfuge. Corbus hailed the gate in Arabic, but found the watchmen on their guard; they refused the trio entry, only dispatching a few guards and a doctor outside. Begging and bribes gained them no entry, so the party fought their way in.

In the first round the mighty conquerors secured the entrance to the outer wall (earthworks) and the crude drawbridge (over a small, unfilled moat). Corbus and Vulfram cloaked themselves in the shadows within the walls while Theudoric assaulted a stable adjoining the outer walls (burning it with a torch he’d taken from a guard) and signaled his troops with his glowing sword.

At this point, Theudoric’s men joined the fray. By which I mean to say, they stood by and watched while Theudoric single-handedly killed off the garrison (Apep elected to undertake a heroic foray against the whole damn keep). At this point his opponents needed a nat 20 just to hit, so he cleaved through the first wave with few wounds, killing everyone he touched without having to roll. In the lull between waves, he beckoned Yulios over.

“Get a glass of wine?”

“… He pours you a glass of wine as the infantrymen start to muster.”

Meanwhile, Corbus slipped into the keep in the confusion. Picking the lock on the door and locating Vulfram, they dispatched a couple guards before finding their way to the baron(who had just finished arming).

Corbus leveled his crossbow and gave him a chance to surrender. In response, the baron drew his sword. After a crossbow bolt and a good Acrobatics roll plus the sneak attack from Vulfram’s sap, the baron was KO’d.

Outside the keep, Theuderic vanquished another 19 or so hapless guards before their morale broke. Faced with a god of death who had personally eliminated a quarter of their number, the garrison surrendered unconditionally.

And just like that, the fortress of El Sarrat was taken by three men.

So we’re holding the keep for now, converting the remaining garrison, ransoming the baron, and perhaps sacking the rest of Andorra.

We haven’t gotten to the treasure yet. I guess this was a fun sidequest.

(P.S. this occurs on the vigil of the feast day of Saint Victorian, a Spaniard whose name means “Win”. Also this officially changes history, establishing the greatest Frankish expansion to the south (to date; Charlemagne takes it later).)

Great moments in judging: watching Reynard and Apep spend at least five full minutes debating how to sneak past El Serrat to get to Grau Roig (where the treasure is) before Apep goes, “Or we just take the fort.” Actually, he said that early on, but he was joking; after quite a bit of discussion he realized this was actually a reasonable plan.

So, some stuff happened for Wulfegundis and Tariq, but as I wasn’t there, I can’t tell you what that was. One relevant note: When we pulled up Google Earth, we realized we misunderstood where the mountain pass was located, so we retconned the captured fortress to Soldeu rather than El Serrat in order to be consistent with world geography.

Jan 12, 751:

Theodoric set out to Grau Roig in pursuit of the treasure on his map along with his henchmen Humbert and Yulios and 2 porters with wagons. The group was unmolested on their way to the cave, but found large animal tracks outside before entering. The cave was straightforward, with a magic wand and a few gemstones lying about on the inside. As they group finished collecting the gems, they heard screaming outside, and hurried back to the wagons to find a giant Roc busy consuming the remains of the porters. The Roc turned its attention to the heroes, grasping and tearing Yulios in half in a single attack. Seeing the ease at which the bird had torn their companion apart, Theodoric and Humbert called their horses and fled back to the fortress at Soldeu.

Upon his return, Theodoric met with a peasant family and their son who was part of the captured garrison and instructed him to gain entry to the fortress at Andorra under the guise of a fleeing part of Soldeu’s garrison. His instructions were to convince the garrison that surrender was the best option, and, if all else failed, poison the well.

Theodoric then spent the rest of the day drinking and mourning the loss of his trusted companion.

Jan 13, 751: Theodoric gathered his cavalry that morning and set out to the fortress at Andorra held by the Wali Suleiman Abu-Issa. Upon his arrival, he demanded audience with the fortress’ lord, and was personally granted admittance. The fortress at Andorra was an old Roman fortress, so they met in the forum, where Theodoric challenged Suleiman to single combat. Theodoric offered the release of Yazid, the Wali of Soldeu and the release of the fortress as Soldeu as his stake against taking the fortress of Andorra and taking Suleiman as hostage. Suleiman accepted his challenge, but requested the use of a champion, the noted warrior, Abda Zahir, who would need to be called from Lerida. The duel was to be fought with great swords at Encamp, a village located midway between Andorra and Soldeu. Theodoric returned to Soldeu to wait for a messenger from Suleiman.

Jan 15, 751: Baroness Wulf and Tariq arrived at Soldeu along with a host of men sent by the Baron of Foix to help reinforce Soldeu. Wulf had been given the direction to hold a trial for Yazid for the crime of conspiring to murder the Leonese ambassador, Osorio. She also suggested that Guyver, the Duke of Aquitaine, didn’t seem completely happy about Theodoric’s expedition. Baron Ansovald also arrived at Theodoric’s request. They discussed the arrangements for Theodoric’s marriage to Ansovald’s daughter and decided that the wedding would take place on the day before Carnival such that the festivities of the two would not overshadow the other. Theodoric also presented an offer to Ansovald on behalf of Ansovald’s brother Baron Magnusind. The offer was that Magnusind would be given the entirety of Andorra and would serve as Theodoric’s Vassal. This would be quite the step up for Magnusind, as it would increase his holdings from 1 civilized hex, to 4 very prestigious borderlands hexes. Theodoric suggested it may be appropriate to name himself regent for Magnusind’s other lands, but Ansovald seemed less enthusiastic about that possibility.

That evening, a messenger from Suleiman arrived to tell Theodoric that Abda Zahir had arrived, and Theodoric chose the next morning as the time of the duel.

Jan 17, 751:

The duel was to occur that morning, so Corbus, Wulf, and Tariq served as seconds, and inspected Abda Zahir’s weapon. They found some foul magic on it and objected its usage to Suleiman. They also noted that after it had been unsheathed, the scabbard was placed far from the blade. Wulf attempted to take the blade to the scabbard, but was stopped by Abda Zahir, who explained that once drawn, there must be a death. The groups had agreed to weapons blessed by their own gods, but as this sword was Danish, it had been bewitched by Pagans. Suleiman noted that the same was true of Theodoric’s sword, and so it was decided that the duel should be fought with mundane weapons. Having solved this problem, the champions were blessed by their respective priests, and the duel began.

In the initial round, both champions missed their mark, but they both warmed up pretty quickly and landed some stout blows in the next one. The fight commenced with each fighter striking the other for a brief time, but it was apparent that Abda was in far worse shape than Theodoric. Then, with a single blow, Theodoric cut off most of Abda’s face, leaving him blinded. Abda made one more attack before yielding. Upon inspection by Corbus’ healer, it was apparent that there was nothing that could be done. A tired and battered Theodoric offered Suleiman the honor of providing mercy to his champion, an honor that Suleiman accepted graciously. Suleiman then struck down Abda using his bewitched blade. Wulf sheathed it quickly and handed it to Corbus for destruction. Suleiman offered his surrender and they returned to Andorra where the fortress itself was surrendered. The garrison was allowed to leave, though many of the Christian defenders chose to carry on in the service of Theodoric. That evening, Theodoric’s men moved into the fortress of Andorra, leaving Foix’s men to garrison Soldeu.

Jan 18 - 23, 751

The next few days were spent pillaging the areas surrounding Andorra and waiting for Magnusind to arrive. Word came that Saracens were besieging Lourdes, and Wulf seemed anxious to return to Aquitaine to serve the Duke in this matter.

Jan 24, 751
Magnusind finally arrived with 8 of his own men. Theodoric handed over command of the men who had stayed on from Soldeu and Andorra and accepted his oath of fealty. Theodoric also offered Magnusind a 1 month reprieve from his taxes to help him build his authority in the region. Magnusind suggested that it would be prudent for Theodoric to acquire the lands of Foix such that his realm was contiguous. Theodoric took that under advisement, but knew this would be difficult as Lord Sunnebald of Foix was hand-selected by the Duke.

It should be noted, for those watching at home, that both of these blades have names. Theodoric fights with Gram, while 'abd az-Zahir was the latest in a string of wielders of Tyrfing.

(…and I totally forgot this board runs on filtered html instead of bbcode.)

What a brutal duel! Can you share the ability scores/levels of the respective combatants for a sense of how it played out in-game?


'Abd az-Zahir is an 8th-level fighter (one of the best in all Andalusia), who specializes in using an axe (the agreement was made to match weapons for the duel, hence the swords). He has +1 for both his strength modifier and his dex modifier, and wears lamellar armor. Tyrfing would also have given him a considerable to-hit bonus, but he was not able to use it.

Theodoric is a 9th-level fighter whose banded plate mail is enchanted (I want to say +2), with a good strength mod as well (I forget what exactly). He, too, normally specializes in a different weapons form.

Theodoric also had considerably more hit points, having rolled much better on his hit dice than had 'Abd az-Zahir.

You got it mostly right. Theodoric’s banded plate is +3. He has a dex mod of +1. He has a strength mod of +1 and he has the 2-handed weapon style, for an additional +1 to damage.

Normally Theodoric uses a war hammer.

We took a long break over the holiday and have been meeting somewhat infrequently as we’ve all been busy/travelling through the last few months but we have had a few sessions that we got distracted from posting here. So, to continue from where we left off…

Jan 25, 751: After learning of the siege of the castle at Lourdes and the city of Bigorre, Theodoric decided that the best course of action (as the party has only a relatively small force) would be to march west across the Iberian in order to cut off the supply chain to the Saracen army. The most likely route for supplies would be the Roman road from Zaragossa across the Pyrenees at Jaca and so the party decided to march to the city of Huesca.

Theodoric left Magnusind in command of Andorra and suggested that he capture a small castle located in a mountain pass between Andorra itself and the Garonne valley near Theodoric’s home barony of Montrejeau.

Jan 26: The party came to a small castle at Seu d’Urgell that was held by a Saracen lord. Tariq volunteered to sneak in and open the gates (which he succeeded at) and the small army stormed the castle, quickly receiving the surrender of the Wali inside. As a term of his surrender, he was to swear fealty to Magnusind at Andorra.

Jan 27 - Feb 9: The party marched west towards Huesca, sacking and looting 4 baronial castles on the way. The plunder was taken west and the lords were taken hostage.

Feb 9: The party Arrived outside of Huesca. The PCs entered the city under the guise of merchants and presented themselves to the keep in order to demand an audience with the lord of the city. Tariq helped convince the guards to allow them to enter the palace, and once there, the PCs found the lord holding a trial. The Wali of Huesca wasn’t pleased to see them and ordered his guards to take the party away, at which point the PCs fought off the guards and took the Wali hostage. It turned out his name was Suleiman and that the man who was on trial was an Imam who was preaching against the Wali of Girona’s (He’s basically the duke of modern Aragon, Navarre, and Catalonia) attack on Aquitaine (He felt that recent military defeats were evidence that they had lost Allah’s favor and that rather than attacking Aquitaine, that the Wali of Girona should have focused on the Kingdom of Leon y Asturias, as they had recently expanded at the expense of Saracen holdings in modern Leon and Galicia).

Long story short, the party convinced the Wali of Huesca to surrender the city to the party and Duke Guyver. He then abdicated in favor of his son who swore an oath of fealty to Guyver, the duke of Aquitaine. Baroness Wulf seemed a little smitten with the new Wali of Huesca, and they had a long chat during the feast that evening.

Feb 10: The party seized 65,000 gp worth of supplies destined for the Wali of Girona’s siege at Bigorre and instructed the new Wali of Huesca to cut off future supplies. Corbus decided to remain in the city in order to oversee the transition. Wulf and Theodoric left him a detachment of approximately 100 infantry. The rest of the party then left Huesca in order to return to Aquitaine with their loot in order to consult Duke Guyver and acquire reinforcements. Theodoric promised the now deposed Wali of Huesca, Suleiman a manor in his lands and brought him along with him back to Montrejeau. Theodoric also sent Humbert ahead with a group of Cavalry in order to scout and demand the surrender of any castles along the way.

Feb 11: The party came to the ruins of a castle that had been burned to the ground. The local peasants claimed that it had been destroyed by a flaming red bull. Wulf’s interest was piqued, but dealing with the beast would have to wait.

Feb 12: The party was rejoined by Humbert who claimed that the castle ahead had already surrendered. Before they reached the castle, however, the party encountered a pair of giant boars and a pair of wyverns which resulted in the loss of a few mercenaries. The party arrived at the castle late in the afternoon and found a small, run-down tower guarded by a handful of half-starved mercenaries. The lord welcomed his new lord Theodoric and swore fealty to him. The party spent the night at the tower before marching on.

Feb 13: The party crossed the pyrenees with only a brief encounter with a swarm of bats and some centaurs. After the PCs promised to leave the land alone, the centaurs allowed them to pass peacefully. The column arrived in Gascony along the Neste river in the early evening. The PCs rode ahead on to Montrejeau while the mercenaries and captured peasants made camp near Baron Chlodomer’s castle (approx 15 mi from Montrejeau).

Theodoric welcomed the other PCs to his home and spent the evening sending out letters (To Guyver and one to Ansovald to request that the wedding be moved up )and having a chat with his henchman Dagobert (who had been left in Montrejeau to carry out raids against Baron Theudomer’s lands in order to incite a brewing peasant revolt). Dagobert informed Theodoric that several of the peasant ringleaders had been violently assassinated (a shockingly canny thing for a moron like Theudomer to have carried out). Dagobert suggested that if Theudomer were eliminated, it would probably trigger the revolt, so Theodoric ordered Dagobert and Humbert to take a group of men to kidnap Theudomer.

A quick note on the nuts and bolts of campaign-running, here, particularly as it relates to ACKS’ hierarchical structure:

We’ve already had several incidents where the party has been split, with the usual results. The personalities and atmosphere of the gaming have been relaxed enough that it hasn’t really been a problem (although, as is inevitable, the pace has suffered a bit), but a lot of GMs and players aren’t fans of split parties for obvious reasons.

The thing is, this hasn’t really felt contrived or wrong. It almost seems inevitable, really; as high-level characters with considerable retinues, each of us is fairly independent, with steady revenue streams and, via henchmen/hirelings or simple wealth, access to as wide an array of skills as might be necessary. Long behind us are the levels where we need each other for surviving a dungeon; now we’re movers and shakers on a geopolitical scene spanning hundreds of miles. Sticking together would not only be artificial and unnecessary–it would be flatly inefficient. As barons and spymasters and high-level diplomats, we’re expected, by our ruler, to be able to handle ourselves, assume responsibility over significant and diverse spheres of operation, and accomplish nontrivial tasks alone.

Have other GM’s experienced similar phenomena?