Rylian Knights

Foreward: I’m not writing this first post in chronological order, simply because it comprises several sessions, and it’s easier to say “They ask the elves for help and the elves send help” than to try to remember when precisely they asked and then remember some ways down the page to add in a note saying the help finally showed up.

Setting: The Empire of Rylia, described in more detail over in my “Gearing up to start ACKS again” thread. Rylia is made up of five kingdoms, loosely analogous to England, France, Spain, Germany, and Sweden, thus neatly covering the fantasy bases.

The players begin in the nothernmost reaches of Zahre, once the capital of engineering and home to numerous universities, but which has now fallen into disarray and poverty following a disastrous war with the elves that concluded with the loss of their capital. Although that war ended a century ago, the economic and military losses have stripped the kingdom of the ability to expand; now merely maintaining the status quo taxes them to the utmost. In fact, the only reason they’re not steadily hemorrhaging territory to the beastmen was the creation of the Golden Aegis, an order of paladins and knights dedicated to the defense of the north, drawing on funds and volunteers from Zahre’s allies abroad.

Our adventure begins when the Paladin Magnar Westmont III writes to a handful of his old friends, asking them to ride north and join an army that will move to check a beastman horde. The party gathers in the riverside city of Nobridge:

Cast of Characters: (I gave them 4k XP to start)
Adam’s PC Killian Jones Thief 3
Adam’s Hench Dochi Mystic 2
Adam’s Hench Toni Assassin 2
Jimmy’s PC Tyr Mage 2
Jimmy’s Hench Jigby Mage 1
Jimmy’s Hench Jimby Mage 1
Jimmy’s Hench Carrawak Fighter 1
John’s PC Garret Cleric 3
Steve’s PC Dohmnall Saint Nobiran 2
Mike’s PC Magnar Westmont III Paladin 3
Sean’s PC Torque Dwarf Engineer 2

The party arrives too late to join the army, however they do discover that a splinter force has broken off and plans to sack the city while Count Mathias’s army is fighting the main horde to the north. As Nobridge is a major center for blacksmiths, engineers, leatherworkers, and alchemists who make a living supplying the Aegis with all the materials for their unending war against the orcs and lizards of the north, its destruction would be a major blow to the whole region.

The players declare themselves the Shield of Nobridge (or the Shield of Aegis, depending on the context) and set about attempting to raise forces. They manage to enlist the help of the City Watch, a couple hundred of the townsfolk, and convince some of the nearby Aegis forts to give away a portion of their men, although most already marched north and all that’s left is a skeleton crew (metaphorical skeletons.)

They also sent Jigby and Jimby as emissaries to the nearby vassal-Duchy of Yivehar’s Haven, where the “friendly” elves live. Count Vasveuryen of Drindrell sends a unit of veteran longbowmen. He’ll show up again later in the campaign, assuming I remember.

Their first course of action on actually leaving the city was to hit the goblin-held caves and attempt to prevent them from being rolled into the orc force. The Goblin King, Rodney, proves surprisingly amiable to their requests, as he’s something of a reformist among his people. He agrees: He’ll send two warbands to help the human side, on the condition that the goblins be given land and a promise of safety. The treaty is signed, and the party rides to Moorton (the village the beastmen just sacked and are currently looting) to see the beastman splinter force firsthand and assess what they’re dealing with.

It’s about a thousand orcs, lead by mysterious large horned beastmen. They can’t quite make out what they are, because they’re using Torque’s bird-shaped mechanical Omnicopter With Holographic Lens (Or OWL, for short) to record aerial footage of the enemy camp, but the picture quality is not perfect, or in color, and they don’t dare to have it fly too low. They also note that the Beastmen have been piling all the bodies of the slain into a massive pit, around which they’re building… something.

Instead, they capture a raiding party a few miles out of town; Tyr and Dohm both cast Sleep and are able to drop the entire raid during the surprise round. They execute most of them and torture the survivors for information. They learn that the horde is comprised of a number of mountain clans which were united when the Horned Ones challenged their chieftains and seized power via combat. The origins of the Horned Ones, and their leader Daedalus, remain mysterious.

After a few nights, the party is visited by the assassin Has’skein, who casually mentions that he was hired by forces unknown to kill Rodney to ensure the goblins choose the right side, or at least not the wrong one. He posits that beastmen destroying the country would be bad for business though, and offers to help the party assassinate Daedalus in return for a vial of Magnar’s paladin blood. Magnar agrees after consulting with Killian. HA HA HA I WILL DO FUN THINGS WITH THIS.

The assassination goes off with only one minor hitch- Tyr attempts to grab the giant spooky staff in Daedalus’s quarters, resulting in his immediate demise, because you don’t just grab what is clearly a powerful evil artifact. Dohm wraps in it cloth, avoiding any skin contact, and is able to carry it away safely. Also, Daedalus was a minotaur, just in case a horned creature named daedalus was going to be anything else.

The resulting power vacuum causes roughly 1/3rd of the orc force to abandon the army immediately, and the party decides to strike. I organize the battle using Domains At War: Battles, at the Platoon scale.

I disregard the rules for general/commander minimum levels, as this is a special scenario.

Human organization of battle:

Killian Jones
Leadership 4
1 Crossbowmen
1 Veteran Crossbowmen (Attached)
1 Veteran Elf Longbowmen
2 Miltia

Magnar Westmont: 3
Leadership: 5
1 Heavy Cav (Attached)
1 Horse Archer
2 Militia

Dohmnall Saint
Leadership: 5
1 Heavy Infantry (Attached)
4 Militia

Beastman Organization:

Aspiring Minotaur
Leadership 5
2 Minotuars
2 Heavy Infantry (Orc)

Orc Chief 1
Leadership 4
3 Light Infantry (Orc)
2 Bowmen (Orc)

Orc Chief 2
Leadership 4
3 Light Infantry (Orc)
2 Bowmen (Orc)

Killian’s archers take up positions on a hill to the western edge of the battlefield, Dohm’s militia blob form a barrier along the center, and Magnar’s cavalry move to flank along the eastern edge. The Minotuars head straight down the middle, with the orcs covering the flanks. The human forces activate first every turn due to them having vastly better strategic ability. The battle unfolds with the humans using the militia to soak up hits; first they soften them up with arrows and spears at range, then the Beastmen charge into their shield wall and get countercharged while disordered from their first charge.

Eventually the flanks manage to kill the orc chieftains and leave the entire army under one minotaurs control. The very next turn is when the army takes a test for losing too many units and as they were getting pummeled a large number broke. After that it was just a game of peppering the minotaur with arrows while keeping the valuable targets out of his retaliation range. Eventually he was worn down and routed off the field, leaving the Beastmen army totally incapable of acting. I ruled that at that point, the entire army counted as routed.

Now, the players are arguing over what to do with the prisoners, I’m debating what reward would be appropriate for them, and we’re all discussing mechanics that surprised us. For example, it completely blindsided us that Generals and Commanders get XP from every single member of the enemy army, as though they’d just personally fought five hundred dudes. Even minus the value of the militia lost, those three PCs easily acquired a solid level from that battle alone.

Also, we forgot that the general’s leadership determined the number of divisions possible, so some players who might’ve commanded (or at least had command thrust upon them so they got some XP) did not, since we assumed it was just all armies had 3 divisions.

Thanks for the battle update! Awesome. It sounds like your players did a great job.

“We’re all discussing mechanics that surprised us. For example, it completely blindsided us that Generals and Commanders get XP from every single member of the enemy army, as though they’d just personally fought five hundred dudes.”

This is a deliberate design decision. Here’s why:

  1. It makes fighting battles a viable option for character advancement. Remember, ACKS is designed to reward players who become rulers. I never wanted high-level characters who’ve won a great battle to think “man, we’d have done better on a dungeon crawl”.
  2. It helps explain in-game and in-world why high-ranking military commanders tend to be high-level commanders.
  3. It reflects the historical tendency to ascribe virtually all of the glory to the leaders of the army. E.g. We remember that Alexander conquered the known world and is called The Great, and we remember his top commanders who became kings in their own right.

“Also, we forgot that the general’s leadership determined the number of divisions possible, so some players who might’ve commanded (or at least had command thrust upon them so they got some XP) did not, since we assumed it was just all armies had 3 divisions.”

Since you accidentally limited the number of divisions, you ought to feel free to divide the XP among all the participating PCs as if they were all commanders.

Where there any other rules that blindsided you or unusual results or whatnot? It’s really exciting to hear about the game being played live by groups I’ve not personally interacted with!!

Update: At the advice of the returning Lord Brightsword, the party sold the minotuars to the highest-level local mage for !!science!!. According to Campaigns, they’re worth almost 2k each, which means their 15 prisoners (During the post-battle phase, the party had cavalry and the enemy didn’t, so they chose to eliminate the enemy’s two 15-man (Platoon scale for large creatures) minotuar squads, resulting in 50% dead and 50% wounded, right?

Anyway, that means the sale of those 15 increases spoils of war fivefold or so. I think everyone is going to level off of this. (Except poor Tyr, who is at home recovering from being turned into jelly for another month)

So, after much debate, I decided to give Tyr a share of the spoils of war so he could level.

Since he chose to play a foreigner, his Mage’s Guild is in then neighboring kingdom, so between sleeping off his death, riding over there, and learning new spells, the party agrees to take a three month break.

Killian, the thief, visits with the elves in Yivehar’s Haven. The human-friendly faction is working on its PR game, so they’re extremely friendly to him. Killian wants to learn about the friendly local wood elves so he can glean something useful about elf culture to use against the hostile High Elves.

Magnar Westmont III decides to go hex-clearing by himself. He ambushes a vampire lair during the daytime and thus earns massive gold for little risk, and also makes a friend when he frees their almost-dead blood bank. Together, they then venture on to kill a baby dragon, and acquire some more gold. Then he encounters an ancient ruin, inhabited by powerful mummies. He and his new friend are slain and their flesh devoured.

Tyr, Killian, and Garret hear of this from Magnar’s mercenary escort (who survived because they were waiting outside) and ride to the tomb to attempt to extract his remains. They do not realize the cunning but brutal nature of the mummies, and Tyr, Garret, and Carrowak (Tyr’s henchman) all fall as well.

Killian tells a young but ambitious bishop about the den of powerful undead and massive gold just a few days ride away. A short battle later, Killian is richer four corpses, and five thousand pity gold (Given to him by the bishop as a payment from his personal reserves, and so not eligible for XP): enough to reincarnate Magnar!

Now the party rides to Mournton, a sleepy, swampy village ruled over by the reclusive Valeri Nunshkin, to ask if he would kindly reincarnate their friends. Now we just have to wait to find out what they come back as hue hue hue hue

Holy undeadliness, Batman! That’s wholesale slaughter.

Are Tyr and Garret also in need of reincarnation?

They are, they are! I’m not sure if the party can afford it for everyone though- someone might be playing as a henchman soon.

Results of Reincarnation:

Tyr the Wizard is now an Alive Human, with a slightly lower con and slightly higher dex.

Magnar the Paladin is now an Alive Human, with a slightly higher STR (18!) and lower DEX and CON.

Ulfric the Barbarian, Magnar’s henchman that he recruited while adventuring alone, is now an alive human, albeit with straight 11’s he’s he most unremarkable barbarian ever. He’s fanatically loyal now too.

Garret the Cleric is now an Alive Small Roc, with 4 HD. I ruled that Rocs cannot speak, but since he’s sapient, party members can spend one of their language slots to learn Garret’s Screeching. He’s quite happy with this.

I didn’t have the heart to make any of them roll for Sex, although I pretended to for Magnar, just to have a little fun with Mike. I don’t think actually telling party members to roleplay involuntary body swaps could go anywhere good with this group.

Having regained their lives and reunited, the party plans their next move. Magnar recruits a Priestess of the Shade who uses the alias Nightengale as their new healer.

“Let us go to Lastfall, and reclaim that hallowed bastion of order!” Magnar states what is clearly their main objective.

“I always wanted a mine. What if we went to Morian’s Mine?” Torque counters with a side-project he didn’t get around to during the three-month break.

“Morian’s Mine is awful far away. What if we went to this one- The Old Mine?”
Garret says, after Killian translates it from squawks.

“Sounds good!” Everyone agrees it’d be good to do a small, easy dungeon as prepwork before the main slog. Except Magnar, but sometimes the group gets away from him. Magnar is also still sore about most of the party dying, and about losing the +3 shield he found in the baby dragon’s lair. (When they had the Bishop of Riverfall clear out the mummy’s tomb, they pointed out all the loot in the room that belonged to Magnar, but since Magnar had only just gotten the shield on a solo adventure, nobody realized it was his, and it went to a local baron.)

In the old mine, the party encounters kobolds. Loads of them. First a dozen in the main room, who alert their friends, and they proceed down some curiously empty tunnels, only to be ambushed from all sides by roughly twenty. Garret, who is leading the rearguard, is nearly slain, but not quite. Toni distinguishes himself by rolling enough ones that Killian begins to contemplate firing him.

Having emerged from that trial by fire, the party proceeds to the kobold warren, which is situated over a deep, deep mining shaft, such that the party has to proceed along a treacherous route while suffering javelins from the far side. Dom and Tyr cast Summon Hero and Barbarian to provide cannon fodder while Tyr’s henches drop sleep spells on the spear-throwers. Killian and Torque use their bows to pick off the remaining distant enemies while Magnar, Ulfrick, and Toni charge along the bridge slaughtering as they go. The summoned berserkers all perish before attacking, but nearly fulfill their purpose of soaking up hits. The summoned hero triggers a pit trap and tumbles into the chasm after rolling very poorly on his save.

Garret flies around and is knocked to 6 hp during a prolonged battle with a gang of kobolds, but manages to retreat and be healed before taking enough spears to tumble into the abyss and never be seen again. (Ever since his transformation, the party has been making jokes like “Careful that Garret doesn’t go to the dark side- If the Roc Falls, everyone dies!” so while I remain an impartial judge, I would take pleasure in his destruction.)

Eventually they manage to clear the lair, collecting roughly 1k in trinkets and also finding a Philtre of Love, for a total of 2k worth of loot, which is peanuts to the now-level 6 Magnar and Killian, but not shabby for Torque, who is still only 3, and utterly meaningless to Garret, because monsters take preposterous amounts of XP to level.

Now they’re deciding whether they want to go back in and fully clear the cave, or if they should just press on to Lastfall.

It’s inspiring to see Garret taking so well to his transformation.

He really is the wind beneath my wings.


Between Session Update: Tensions rise in the party; low level PCs don’t want to risk death in the deeper dungeons, high level PCs don’t want to risk not being able to pay their henches/mercs because of low-value adventures in the shallow dungeons.

My group has had similar issues…though usually it’s PC with huge number of retainers doesn’t want downtime while other pc’s do…still tense though

In this case they’re synonymous- the higher level characters are the ones with the most henches.

On an interesting note, since Magnar died to clear Killian’s hex (but did ultimately get that land cleared), Killian is now the proud owner of a manor in the swamp! He’s left his monk hench behind to administrate the new domain from a monastery (I ruled that there’s a strict domain/hideout divide, and thieves cannot be lords, but they CAN have henches who are lords, and vice versa, in keeping with the time honored tradition of the city mayor who is only a pawn of the mafia dons.)

Quick update on our last session from one of the players (I run Tyr the mage). We all headed up to lastfall since the old mine was not yielding much treasure and we wanted to clear the castle so Magnar could start building his stronghold there. We got there with no encounters and sent the spy owl to see what was in there. We saw a huge orc village set up in the castle (our best guess after the session is that theres around 400-500 orcs in the castle maybe more, how do they even move?) We knew we couldn’t take them in a frontal assault so we had both mages summon up some heroes and some berserkers and assaulted the castle with them while we hid from a safe distance and watched with the owl. They managed to cleave their way surprisingly deep into the castle eventually waking up one of their ogres. Once they died the owl came back and we booked it to a different hex. A huge orc force followed us but we set up an ambush. Killian easily earned mvp of the fight by killing the shaman, the ogre, and one of the orc champions in the surprise round, leaving the army to just have a whole ton of orcs. After that we blew a bunch of sleep spells and the parties entire collection of military oil in the surprise round. When battle was actually joined it looked a little tenuous at first, our southern line was getting hit hard, wed lost a few mercenaries and were not hitting back particularly well. However the northern flank was completely destroyed by the red riders (Magnars mercenary calvary) charges. The south managed to hold out long enough however for the red riders to come in and save the day. In the end we managed to take out over 100 orcs with no actual deaths (although a few mercenaries and Killian’s hench were badly hurt, lamed legs, gouged eyes etc…). We than interrogated two of the orcs and found out some tunnels into the castle along with the fact that the orcs are being supported by something called the masters. Thats where we had to end the session but our current plan is to try the summoning hero plan again but this time have them bring in the shamans skull and scream that they have offended the spirits of this place and need to leave or the attacks will continue.

Everyone Magnar hires gets brutally beaten at some point, and without fail they become more loyal as a result. Baptized by fire indeed.

What a splendid campaign this is! Love the write-ups.

This week’s update!

The party has a captured orcs named Hits-Hard. Interogating him yields the information that something lives in the tunnels beneath the keep, something the orcs feed bodies to. Also, there are tunnels beneath the keep they could sneak in through.

The party, after much debate, decides that 600 orcs may be more than they can reasonably fight, even if they sneak in, particularly since the tunnels might be filled with shoggoths or vampires or worse. They send henches to the kingdom’s capital of Tidewater to hire mercenary forces. In the meantime, Magnar decides to pay a visit to the NPC’s henchman who accidentally looted his magical shield after he was killed by mummies (it was a new shield he’d just picked up on a solo adventure, so none of the party members who rescued him knew it wasn’t just loot).

The squire in question proves reasonable, but maintains his claim to the shield. He suggests letting the gods decide via a trial by combat, which magnar accepts. They joust! As the henchman of a baron, he’s about Magnar’s level, and the fight ends up being extremely close. They both incap each other at the same time, but ultimately Magnar manages to hit harder, reuniting him with a +3 shield. The brutal fight leaves the squire with some wicked scars, and Magnar looses some teeth. (Which I allow him to replace for a few hundred gold as he has false teeth made- he immediately commissions silver teeth “to bite werewolves”)

The party then decides to return to Lastfall and attempt to use summoned warriors to convince the orcs there that there are ghosts. On the way, they encounter a single medusa, who stones a PC and several henches. Its defeat, however, yields considerable treasure, including a stone sword which, when unstoned, turns out to be +3! The loot generator is very kind today. The party briefly debates whether to give the sword to Magnar, as stacking all the magic items on the strongest PC will yield tremendous force, or to Toni, Killian’s assassin henchman that cannot roll above 7. They give it to Magnar.

Since they had to travel to Tidewater to get Dom de-petrified anyway, they reunite with their henches and recruit 30 crossbowmen and 120 heavy infantry, plus a handful of veteran heavy cavalry. Magnar is very enthusiastic about creating the Red Riders, a legendary (at least, once they get into some legends) cavalry unit. This brings their total army up to nearly 180! They march on Lastfall.

The orc forces march out with about half their garrison, so the PCs are outnumbered almost 2:1, plus the enemy general is a wizard. They plan an ambush, but one of their soldiers is captured. They debate over what to do, eventually deciding to continue their current plan of “Recreate Teutoburg Forest” by ambushing the enemy army from two sides. A fantastically poor recon roll, combined with the prison refusing to talk, means their ambush succeeds. In the early rounds of the combat they’re able to deal enough damage that even a wizard can’t reverse the tides of war, and the orc force is routed without any causalities on their side.

The wizard escapes in the chaos of the aftermath, but with their leader missing and their forces routed, the remaining orcs flee the castle with their children. The PCs opt not to ride them down, though they do execute all the captured beastmen. The castle yields much loot, including two tons of salt bricks. Now that they own a keep, they’ve taken a significant step out of Adventurer and toward the domains-phase of Conquerer.

Tyr, the mage, finally reaches level 4.

Almost equally important Magnar spends the majority of his keep budget on a battlecat. A decision the rest of the party heartilt endorses


Wow but this thread has been neglected! My PCs were SUPPOSED to take it upon themselves to write the log after each game. [guiltshaming intensifies] Three sessions later, that seems to not be a thing.


In “cleaning up” Lastfall, the party discovers a handful of prisoners and a magically locked door. The wizard (Whose player is conveniently absent for most of that session) devotes his full energies to solving the riddle of the door.

Upon questioning, most of the prisoners are ordinary humans and demihumans who’ve been tortured as part of the wizard’s dark experiments- The party lets them all go, except for the elves, who the PCs suspect may be the hated High Elves. Upon further questioning, they admit to being an advance sabotage team that was attempting to soften the keep up for an elven assault. The party puts them back in the dungeon while they go hex-clearing around the fort.

They end up almost exclusively encountering the lairs of intelligent beings, so they’re able to get the Stone Giants to agree not to murder anyone, be respectful to the hot springs/shrine inhabited to the Salamanders, intimidate+bribe the Hill Giants to move north and raid the orc tribes there instead, and killed a handful of Caecalaiths (the gray worms, however they’re spelled.) Hex-clearing is thus resolved with almost no combat!

When they return, most of the elves are dead, except for the smallest and most cowardly of them. He reveals that they were spies of an entirely different kind- They’d been sent from the High Elves to try to convince the elves of Rylia to turn on their lords and reclaim their freedom, and the others killed themselves to protect this secret. This last elf did not have the strength.

At this point, Tyr’s player returns, and I explain to him the puzzle of the magic door. The puzzle is (loosely paraphrased) that there are six runes embedded in the door, each acting as a node for mystic energy. In total, they’ll require power equivalent to a first level spell, with each rune receiving a fraction of that charge. Identical runes are identical; there are two kinds, with three of each, arranged as so:


The nature of the lock is such that the last four combined will require three times as much energy as the first two combined.

I’m out of writing time now; I’ll post how the players handled this in the next update