Demographics of the Border Kingdoms

As an experiment, I applied the rules from S John Ross’ Mediaeval Demographics Made Easy to the Border Kingdoms, my favourite bit of the WHAA world. This is what happened…

AREA AND POPULATION

First, how big are they? Well… WHAA doesn’t have a scale on the map, nor does it need one; but several of the countries are based on France, which is about 500-600 miles across. It takes five strategic moves to cross a country, so each is about 100 miles. Crossing the entire map East to West would take 35 moves, so the map as a whole is 3,500 by 2,100 – call it 7.4 million square miles, about the same size as Canada and the USA combined.

There is a hexgrid version of the map online at the THW Yahoo! forum, which is 41 x 28 hexes, so I could call them 100 mile hexes and be close enough for my purposes. I was curious by this time, so asked on the forum – Ed Teixeira of THW confirmed that the hexes are in the region of 100 miles across (thanks Ed!). By my count, the Border Kingdoms have 63 hexes, and a hex is roughly 8,660 square miles, so the total area is about 546,000 square miles.

I figure a population density of about 40 per square mile – the same as mediaeval England – is about right. That’s at the lower end, but then there are goblins, orcs and dark elves half-surrounding it, so it’s not a happy place. The overall population is thus about 22 million – I’m working in big handfuls here because the error margin in my initial assumptions is about plus or minus 20%, so there is not much point in being tremendously accurate.

CITIES AND TOWNS

As this is an experiment, I’m using the average rolls for the dice Mr Ross recommends. Following his rulings, we find the city and town sizes to be as follows:

  • Acromerinth, the capital, has a population of 70,000 people, and covers nearly two square miles of ground. Wow, that is a lot more than I would have guessed. Roughly the size of Paris or Genoa in the mediaeval period.
  • The second biggest city, which I’ll label “B” for the moment, has 35,000 people. About the size of historical London.
  • “C” has 26,000
  • “D” has 19,700
  • “E” has 14,800
  • “F” has 11,000
  • “G” has 8,300.

The seven listed so far are the ones big enough to be called cities; from this point on we must call them towns, and decide whether we’re using the pre-Crusades model or the post-Crusades one. I’ll opt for pre-Crusades for this test.

  • Town “H” has a population of 6,200.
  • “I” has 4,700
  • “J” has 3,500
  • “K” has 2,600
  • “L” has 2,000
  • “M” has 1,500
  • “N” has 1,100

And below that, we tail off into villages and hamlets. So far, there are 14 towns and cities, with a total population of 171,400 – not quite 1% of the total; one urban concentration per 39,000 square miles.

INHABITED LANDS AND WILDERNESS

Since a square mile of arable land at this technological level will support about 180 people, around 122,000 square miles of the Kingdoms are populated – about 22% of the total, or 14 hexes; so each populated hex has a town or city in it somewhere, surrounded by a network of villages, most probably every few miles along the roads between the towns. The remaining 78% of the Kingdoms (49 hexes) are wilderness. This is a dark and scary place to live.

FORTIFICATIONS

To work this out, I need to know how long the Kingdoms have had a castle-building culture, and for no good reason I decide 500 years.

This and the total country population give me 98 ruined castles, and 440 currently in use. 75% of both categories are in the 14 town/city hexes, the rest are scattered all over the place.

BUSINESSES IN ACROMERINTH

I don’t need to work through Mr Ross’ entire list of shops and trades, but picking out some highlights:

  • There are 1,750 clergymen and 64 actual priests.
  • There are 350 noble families.
  • 200 healers of various stripes, of which 41 are “proper” doctors with some sort of recognised qualification.
  • 175 each of jewellers and taverns/restaurants.
  • 25 “magic shops” – places where you can buy ingredients, scroll paper etc.
  • 35 inns where the adventurers could stay

If I set the “SV” for wizards to an average value for unlisted businesses of 15,000, there are 4-5 wizards in town.

CONCLUSION

I’m not likely to use this method for many places, because I play fast and loose in all my campaigns. However, even with conservative estimates, the Border Kingdoms have many more towns and cities than I would have expected, and both the total and urban populations are higher than I thought.

A big, post-Crusades country like Capalan or Altengard is going to outnumber them dramatically. It looks like the big edge those two have over the earlier cultures like Seniira is not the arquebus, but sheer numbers of urban population.

Brass Dragons, January 987

This one’s for Rick Devonshire (Hi, Rick!): How to do a WHAA dungeon crawl without figures or terrain. This is a didactic post with very little in-character dialogue. At the bottom of the post is the final dungeon, just as I scribbled it during play; one 5mm square to the tabletop inch.

Visually, this approach is not very attractive, but it has advantages:

  • It’s dirt cheap. The price of the rules and some dice, and you’re away.
  • It’s extremely portable. Anywhere I have room to set out the rules and a pad of paper, and roll some dice, I can do this.
  • You can make bigger dungeons than if you were using figures and terrain. Just use a smaller grid on the graph paper.
  • I can stop at any time if interrupted, and pick up where I left off.

SETUP

I’ll use the Brass Dragons as the PCs (blue pen), and arbitrarily select undead as the opposition (red pen), although I could easily have diced for what they’re up against. I set W = 2”. The Dragons form up outside the entrance:

  • Front rank: Johann, Gervaise
  • Second rank: Ispitan, Gottfried
  • Third rank: Beatrice
  • Fourth rank: Sir Charles (grumbling about not being in the van), Jean-Paul

Blue numbers show where the characters are at the end of each exploration turn; red numbers show where PEFs and undead are at the end of the turns. “A”, “B”, “C” are the three PEFs, “S” = Sentry.

TURN 1

“Turn” for this report refers to “exploration turn”, with combat being detailed within that as necessary.

A roll of 2 on the Lair Entrance table (p. 59) tells me we start with a passageway. Further rolls in section 5 tell me it’s W wide and 4” long, with a left turn at the end. A roll on the Traps table (p. 58) shows there is no trap.

TURN 2

Same process as for turn 1, as this is another passageway around the bend. No traps yet, and the passage is as wide as before and 10” long, ending in a single door. A roll of 5 tells me it is locked; Gottfried to the fore, and he rolls 1, 3 vs Rep 5 to pass 2d6 and pick the lock. The Beyond the Door and Special tables (p. 61) and a roll of 1 on each, show me we have stairs down. A check on the Passageways table (p. 54) shows these are W wide and 7” long; because I’m running off the edge of the page, I decide they run off at a 90 degree angle.

TURN 3

Alas, as Johann steps through onto the stairs, he triggers a level 4 trap. He rolls 1, 2, 3, 5 vs Rep 4 and passes 3d6; the trap rolls 1, 2, 2, 5 vs Rep 4 and also passes 3d6. He is unharmed, but the trap remains dangerous. (If I were writing in character, I’d decide what the trap was at this point, but mechanically it doesn’t matter.)

Gottfried moves forwards as the party “specialist” (Rep 5) and I roll again to see if the trap springs a 6 means it does, and the trap randomly affects one explorer; that turns out to be Ispitan. The trap rolls 2, 2, 4, 5 and passes 3d6′; Ispitan rolls 1, 2, 2, 4, 5 and passes 5d6, disarming it as he has more successes.

The party descend to the second level.

TURN 4

At the foot of the stairs, they find a passageway 9” long and 2W wide. At the end are three doors, one on each side and one directly ahead. There is also a level 5 trap. It rolls 2, 2, 3, 3, 4 vs Rep 5 and passes 5d6. Johann, in the lead, rolls 1, 3, 5, 6 vs Rep 4 and passes 2d6. Johann is struck as if by a missile weapon of Rep 5 and Impact 5. I find the Firing Table in the Adventures QRS; Johann rolls 4d6 vs 3 (1, 2, 3, 6) and passes 3d6, while the trap rolls 3, 4, 4, 6, 6 and passes 3d6. As both scored the same number of successes, the trap misses him.

After rereading the trap rules several times, I decide this means it is disarmed.

The party quickly discuss their options and decide to try the east door. It’s locked, but Gottfried quickly deals with that. Alas, it proves to be a false door thanks to rolls on the tables on p. 61.

South door, then. This also submits to Gottfried’s lockpicks, and beyond lie stairs up to the first level. I’m certainly rolling a lot of specials today. These are not trapped, and end in an unlocked door.

TURN 5

Beyond the door is a chamber, 6W in area, with one other door in the west wall.

On finding the first chamber, I roll on p. 62 for the Lair Alertness. Rep 3, –1 because this is the first chamber, +0 because we have broken 0 doors down so far; 3, 6 vs Rep 2 is pass 0d6, so there are no sentries, but there may be occupants.

I set aside three PEFs, and roll 1d6 for each: 4, 5, 6. Since none of these is a “1”, none of them are in the first chamber.

The other door is locked, and this time Gottfried is unable to persuade it.

TURN 6

Knowing full well that breaking down the door increases the chance of encounters, the explorers backtrack down the stairs to the door they haven’t checked yet.

Gottfried has more luck with this. It opens onto a chamber, 12W in area, with one other door in the north wall. I roll 3, 3, 6 for the PEFs; as none of these are 1 or 2, there are no PEFs present.

(At this point, I have to pick up some visitors from the train station, so I put down the pens and graph paper. This is why I mark the end of turn positions; I can pick up where I left off, maybe days later.)

TURNS 7-14

(It is indeed several days before I can return to this skirmish. I open up my notebook, feeling smug, and carry on. I’ll speed up a bit, though, as you should have the idea by now.)

More stairs! No trap though. At the bottom is a left turn, just as well as otherwise I’d go off the page. We’re now underneath the original entrance corridor. A right turn next does take us off the page, so I resort to my usual stand-by of a cave-in blocking further progress.

Nothing else for it; back to Chamber 1 and break down the door. Ispitan mutters “Stand aside!” and breaks down the door by rolling 2d6 vs Rep (5), scoring 4, 5 and passing 2d6. A spell of mighty puissance, no doubt, since the door is now broken. Beyond is a wide corridor, at the end of which is a T junction. To the right, a short passage ending in a right turn (you can see I got the width wrong, but who cares?); that would end in a door, but it would be too complex to draw, so I make it a dead end. To the left from the T junction, a slightly longer passage ending in a door.

Beyond the door is chamber 3, which contains PEFs B and C (the room number counts as 5 now we have broken down a door). A couple of quick rolls on the tables on p. 54 reveal both PEFs are false alarms; the skeletons here are the plain vanilla, non-animated kind.

TURNS 15-18

It’s been pretty uneventful so far, hasn’t it? I decide Gottfried can take a Difficult challenge test on p. 64 to find a secret door in chambers 1 or 2, or the wide corridor from turns 11-13. The consequences of failure will be that he triggers a trap in each case, 50/50 for a level 4 or 5 trap. A Difficult test reduces his Rep by 2, so he is rolling against an effective Rep of 3. Corridor first; 3, 6 vs 3 is pass 1d6 – I opt to roll again, and get 1, 4. This would normally count as pass 1d6, but is reduced to pass 0d6 for the retry, meaning a trap is triggered. I roll 1d6, with 1-3 counting as a level 4 and 4-6 as a level 5 trap; level 4. The trap rolls 4, 5, 5, 6 and passes 1d6; Gottfried rolls 1, 2, 3, 3, 4 and passes 5d6, easily disarming it.

It’s the same story in chamber 2, except with a level 5 trap. The trap passes 5d6, Gottfried passes 4d6 and gets a Shield Die – a 6 – which negates one of the trap’s successes, so no harm done but the trap is still dangerous. The party misses a turn, composing itself.

In chamber 1, though, Gottfried finds a secret door. Beyond is chamber 4, which contains PEF A. This is the main body of the enemy forces; 1d6+6 gives a result of 12 on the “How many of them?” table, or 54 CV. I now dice on the Undead army list in the quick reference section until I get at least 54 CV of opposition. This proves to be 3 chariots, one of which is the Big Bad, 5 cavalry, 7 archers, and 24 infantry. Using the table on p. 10, I determine that the Big Bad has no particular advantages, just the usual ratings. They’ll probably be enough.

“Mummy!” cries Gervaise.

“Errm, no, actually,” says Ispitan. “Just skeletons… Oh, I see what you mean. That is rather a lot of skeletons, isn’t it?”

This is why dungeoneering parties are usually small.

TURN 19

Finally, a fight! Note that this is both good news, because we can hope to find loot now, and bad news, because now more PEFs will start turning up.

The two sides are well within 12” of each other, so a Test of Wills is in order. The skeletons have a Rep 3 leader, and Ispitan is Rep 5; but the skeletons are Undead, and so automatically pass 3d6, and inspire Terror, so Ispitan rolls –1d6 for that; he scores 1, 1, 6, 6 vs 3 and passes 2d6. The skeletons have passed one more d6, so test to charge. Since Undead always pass at least as many charge dice as their enemies, and Ispitan can choose how many dice he passes, he can’t pass more d6; he opts to score the same number of passes, so that as defender he can fire and cast, and then the skeletons will charge home.

Ispitan opts to cast Dazzle. He rolls 2, 2, 5, 5, 5 vs Rep (5) and passes 2d6; the skeletons resist, rolling 2, 4, 5 vs Rep (3) and passing 1d6. For the first time ever, Ispitan succeeds in casting a spell; the skeletons halt in place and can only defend using 1d6.

“Kill them! Quickly!” shouts Ispitan “Before they recover!”

“Are zey not already dead?” mutters Jean-Paul.

Nonetheless, the two crossbowmen open fire; Gervaise rolls 1, 2, 2, 4 vs Rep (4), and Jean-Paul rolls 1, 2, 3, 4 vs Rep (4); both pass 3d6. The skeletons, being dazzled, roll only 1d6 each; 1 and 6 vs Rep (3), so one passes 1d6 and the other 0d6. The crossbow’s impact of 7 at close range (less than 6”) easily pierces the skeleton’s AC of 2, and with rolls of 2 and 4 on the Firing Damage Table, both are Out Of the Fight. Two down, 37 to go.

Note that I don’t play melee exactly as in the rules; I resolve the entire combat by the first round of die rolls.

Sir Charles and Johann now wade into the fray, followed closely by Beatrice and Gottfried. It’s a big room, so I figure they can face off against three skeletons each – this is important, as in WHAA melee successes (probable this round) count against all figures in combat. (You’ll notice I haven’t needed to lay out figures or terrain yet, and I don’t plan to, either.)

Sir Charles, Rep 4, has sword and shield; Johann has Rep 4 and a halberd, but being a Star he ignores such constraints as fighting room. The skeletons each roll 1d6, as they are dazzled: 1, 1, 3, 1, 5, 5. Sir Charles rolls 1, 4, 6, 6 and passes 1d6; Johann rolls 4, 4, 4, 6 and passes 0d6. All are evenly matched, except for skeleton #4, which passed one more d6 than Johann; Johann is pushed back 1” and loses 1d6.

Beatrice is Rep 4 with a sword; Gottfried is Rep 5 with a dagger. Bea rolls 2, 3, 5, 5 and passes 2d6. Gottfried rolls 3, 4, 4, 6 and passes 1d6. Their 6 skeletons roll 4, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5. Bea renders two skeletons OOF and pushes one back; Gottfried pushes back all three of his. Two more down, 35 to go; but now things start getting more complex, as the skeletons have a chance to recover from being dazzled as per p. 30.

TURN 20

Activation dice appear for the first time. The party rolls 6, the skeletons 3; only the skeletons activate.

There are 35 skeleton figures left in the fight. On average luck, 25% of them (let’s say 9) will recover, 25% won’t, and 50% will roll again, of whom 25% will recover. I reckon that makes 13 skeletons active, and 22 still dazzled. However, those in melee already can defend themselves at full dice now, so for simplicity I’ll say those surviving 9 are the 9 who recovered, and all the others are dazzled. Those who are active and were pushed back close up again.

Melee is already in progress, so we repeat. I won’t bore you with the die rolls; Beatrice kills her third opponent; Gottfried drops one, but is rendered OOF by both the other two; Sir Charles holds his own against two, and pushes back a third; Johann pushes one back, holds his own against a second, and is struck a telling blow; his armour is pierced, and he is OOF. However, as a Star, Johann now takes a Hardiness test against his Hardiness of 3. He rolls 2, 3, 5; passes 2d6; and is merely startled.

(At this point I again draw proceedings to a close for the night.)

TURN 21

The activation dice are 5, 5; doubles, so another PEF appears on the map – we’ll call it “D” – in a random direction, 2d6” from the party. This implies a secret door in the north wall of the corridor where they appear.

TURNS 22-27

The melee continues in chamber 4, while PEF D closes in on them. We’ll gloss over the die rolls, as this is getting long enough.

Ispitan dazzles the skeletons again; Beatrice heals Gottfried; the crossbowmen drop another two, Johann rolls amazing dice and renders three skeletons OOF, Sir Charles disposes of another two at the cost of losing 2 Rep.

Then, PEF D barrels into the back of the party and starts laying into Ispitan – at least, until they resolve as a false alarm. Ispitan dazzles the survivors of PEF A for the third time, and everyone lays about them with a will, slaying 10 skeletons. Johann and Beatrice each lose another point of Rep (now on 2 and 3 respectively), though.

Ispitan continues to dazzle the foe – he’s on a roll here – and the others finish off the remaining infantry, and follow through into the cavalry, killing two.

More dazzling and hacking follow, reducing the enemy to two whole chariots and half a chariot, before the party fails to activate in turn 25, allowing the half chariot to recover – this one has had one of its two crewmen killed. However, Beatrice fights it to a standstill.

Ispitan’s luck finally runs out in turn 26, and he fails to dazzle the enemy, losing 1d6 from his spellcasting Rep into the bargain. However, the skeletons fail to activate, and by the end of the turn only one chariot crewman remains in a fit state to fight.

The lone remaining skeleton leaps on Gottfried, rightly discerning that he is the most dangerous thing within reach, but precisely because he is so dangerous, Gottfried demolishes him in short order.

Panting, sweating, and bleeding in roughly equal measure, the party look around them. Having cleared an occupied chamber, they can now check for loot, using the table on page 63. We get a modified roll of 6; some items of interest, but nothing special.

“Next time, “ says Johann, “I pick the dungeon.”

“Fair enough,” says Ispitan.

MAP

BDJan987

AFTERMATH

The fighters are pretty banged up, so the party withdraws in good order back to Acromerinth, and rolls for advancement, with the following results – changes marked in bold:

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align CV
Ispitan* Missile 5 3 Staff 2 8 Caster 7 TW 5
Johann* Melee 4 4 Halberd 4 6 Warrior 4 FS 8
Gottfried Melee 6 3 Dagger 2 8 Thief 3 RM 5
Sir Charles Atain Mtd Melee 4 2 Spear, Sword 6 12 Elite Trained 2 SS 4
Beatrice Melee 5 1 Sword 2 8 Healer 2 SS 1
Gervaise Missile 5 1 Crossbow 2 8   2 SS 2
Jean-Paul Missile 4 0 Crossbow 2 8   2 SS 2
Total 27

So, everyone except Johann is a bit richer, and most people have gained either Rep or Hardiness – except Johann, who gained neither, and Isiptan, who lost a point of Hardiness. Must’ve caught something in the tomb.

Fantasy Maps and Travel

I’ve had a lot of fun lately drawing maps for the Irongrave setting; but I’m not going to use any of them for the campaign, because the exercise has brought me to a deeper appreciation of the simple brilliance of WHAA strategic movement.

It’s extremely fast and easy, requires almost no maps, and I would argue is a realistic simulation of how the Middle Ages saw travel.

MAPS

Gamers are used to maps that mimic the detail and accuracy of contemporary ones; these are created using post-Industrial Revolution survey techniques, and satellite imagery.

In 10th or 11th century Europe, the sort of map you could get hold of looked more like this:

10cworld

That makes the WHAA map of Talomir, or the ones in the end covers of fantasy novels, look pretty good.

As an educated person, you knew that Scandinavia existed, but you weren’t sure if it was an island or not. You knew that Africa, China and India existed, and roughly where they were (“Directions to China? Sure. Go to the Holy Land, then walk into the rising sun for three years.”). You had no idea what shape they were, or how big.

Arguably, you could simplify the ancient and early mediaeval world map even more; at the strategic level, the part from Byzantium to Beijing is a straight-line corridor with the Silk Road running along it.

TRAVEL TIMES

A one-month strategic move in WHAA takes you about 100 miles. (Five moves to cross a country, and most of Talomir’s countries are based on European ones about 500 miles across.)

That’s less than five miles per day, on average. Consider, though; there’s no universal currency or credit arrangements, no universal language, no maps to speak of, bandits everywhere, not much in the way of roads and a limited choice of where to stay overnight.

Estimates of how far the Roman legions marched in a day range from 5 to 20 miles or more, depending on whose calculations you believe. At the low end of that scale, 100 miles per month looks reasonable.

It took Marco Polo three and a half years to travel 4,000 miles overland along the Silk Road. That’s pretty close to 100 miles per month on average. It took him two years to get back by sea.

In Lord of the Rings, Frodo’s trip from Hobbiton to Mount Doom is about 400 miles and took him a little over six months; 100 miles per month on average is still looking good. (I’m using Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-Earth as a source, and fighting back the urge to base a campaign on it because the maps are so pretty. No, Precious, we mustn’t.)

CONCLUSION

It’s realistic in a fantasy campaign to have little or nothing in the way of maps. It’s realistic for travel to take longer than you would think.

It’s dangerous, too; of the 600 people who set out with Marco Polo to return to Italy, 18 of them made it. That makes even the casualty rate in my adventuring bands look quite reasonable.

Brass Dragons, December 986

On reflection, there is no need to merge campaigns or start a new party here; I’ll import Johann into the Border Kingdoms from season 1, have him join up with Ispitan, and arbitrarily change tack to a series of dungeon raids. This will give me a chance to become thoroughly familiar with the combat rules before adding any more rules sections into the game. We last saw Johann in the Ekran countryside in October 986; strictly speaking it should have taken him four months to get here, but let’s gloss over that in the interests of moving on.

The Brass Dragon in Acromerinth is overpriced, and full of loud men in garish clothing. Ispitan sits nursing a cup of mead against the chill, as close to the fire as he can get. The door swings open, to curses from the regulars hit by the flurry of snow, and a party of six enters, heavily muffled against the cold. Conversation falls silent as the patrons take in the newcomers.

An armoured man at the front of the group leans on his halberd and calls, “I’m looking for Sir Bertrand de Plastique, Ekran knight. Has anyone seen him? Or his brother?”

There is no reply. The man scans the crowd and fixes his eyes on Ispitan as he stamps the snow from his boots. He leads the group over to the table by the fireside, and signals the barman for mead. Conversation resumes.

“You’d be Ispitan,” he states. “Word is, you’re hiring. We’re looking for work. What do you have in mind?”

“Tell me a little about yourselves,” Ispitan says. He has been sitting here for over a month, and so far there have been no volunteers.

“I’m Johann, this is Sir Charles – we are fighting men. Gottfried over there is, well, let’s just say a specialist. Beatrice is our healer. Gervaise and Jean-Paul, crossbowmen from Ekra. And you?”

“Ispitan, at your service; journeyman wizard, recently returned from Goblin territory, where I found this…” he pulls out the item dropped from a goblin chariot a few months ago. “It’s a map, of sorts. It shows the way to a Stygustani tomb, about a week’s travel from here. As you may know, the Border Kingdoms were taken from the Black Moon by the Brethren, the Black Moon took it from the Legions of Tropilium, and Tropilium took it from the Stygustani.”

The mead arrives, and Johann takes a deep draught from his mug, before gesturing at Ispitan and declaring, “My friend will pay.” After a second draught, he continues, “Most useful phrase in any language, always the first one I learn. And why are you interested in this tomb?”

“The Stygustani buried their nobles in underground tombs, with their life’s treasures.”

“You have our complete attention. Why do you need us?”

“The Stygustani also stocked their tombs with traps and undead guardians. Why are you looking for Sir Bertrand?”

“Friend of yours? Have you seen him?”

“No, and no. Just wondering if he will be a distraction.”

“Only if we meet him, and then only briefly. He killed my friends. I will have my revenge.”

“Well enough. Let us discuss terms, conditions and shares of the loot…”

“First,” interrupts Sir Charles, “Arr leetle band of adventurers needs a name. Eet must be one of panache, striking fear into ze ‘arts of arr enemies, and rousing arr friends to greater deeds of arms.”

“Fine,” Ispitan sighs, glancing around the inn for inspiration. “Aha, got it. We are now the Brass Dragons.”

“Ah like eet!” exclaims Sir Charles. The rest of the group shrugs and glances at each other.

“Well, if it keeps him happy…” says Johann.

We’ll leave them there for the moment. Next time, into the dungeon.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align CV
Ispitan* Missile 5 4 Staff 2 8” Caster 6 TW 7
Johann* Melee 4 3 Halberd 4 6” Warrior 4 FS 5
Gottfried Melee 5 3 Dagger 2 8” Thief 2 RM 5
Sir Charles Atain Mounted Melee 4 1 Spear, sword 6 12” Elite Trained 1 SS 4
Beatrice Melee 4 1 Sword 2 8” Healer 1 SS 2
Gervaise Missile 4 1 Crossbow 2 8”   1 SS 2
Jean-Paul Missile 4 1 Crossbow 2 8”   1 SS 2
Total 27

Ispitan, November 986

Ispitan and Eyjolf have escaped Valdemar’s pursuit and move into the heart of the Border Kingdoms on their way to Acromerinth. The Encounter Rating is 3, and there are no seasonal modifiers; I roll 4, 4 and pass 0d6, so there is no encounter this month, and the much-reduced party returns home without further incident. As there is no encounter, there are no rolls for improvement.

A much-muddied and travel-stained pair march into the tower of the Sable Mage to report. That worthy is advised of their presence and meets them in the Great Hall. He takes in their condition, and calls: “Meat and wine for these men. And draw hot water for a bath.” He approaches the pair.

“Do you have my herbs?” he asks. Ispitan hands over a worn leather satchel containing the material components they set out to find, eight months ago.

“Excellent. And the rest of your party?”

“Dead,” says Ispitan, who fears the wizard less than Eyjolf, a lowly footman. “All dead. Are these herbs worth four lives of our own, and twice as many others?” The Sable Mage draws back his head, puzzled.

“Well, of course. It’s not like any of them were wizards, now, is it?” Eyjolf glowers, but Ispitan holds out a hand to stay him; there can be no good outcome to a confrontation here, at the heartt of the Mage’s power. “At any rate,” the Mage continues, “As we agreed, you are now a journeyman. Consider your apprenticeship served out in full. What would you now? Would you stay, and further your studies?”

“I have not yet decided,” says Ispitan. “Although the quest was not without profit for me, also. I think I shall move into the Brass Dragon Inn for a while to consider my options.”

“As you wish,” intones his former master.

Ispitan turns to leave. “Coming, Eyjolf?” But Eyjolf shakes his head. From what he can see, the life of a journeyman wizard is short, and that of his travelling companions even shorter. A return to guard duty seems preferable.

“Very well. May the Sun shine on you both.”

Standing taller and straighter than before, and with a harsher visage, Ispitan leaves the tower.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 5 4 Staff 2 8” Caster 6 TW
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS

Ispitan – October 986

This is another session where I didn’t need to break out the scenery and figures. Ispitan and Eyjolf have escaped from Valdemar’s camp, and are fleeing across country towards Acromerinth, with Valdemar and his comrades in pursuit. Ispitan’s head start is 1d6 less the region’s ER in hours, which turns out to be 3 hours. The pursuing party’s CV is determined by rolling 1d6 and adding the local ER, then checking the table in the scenario, which gives us 10 CV of pursuers since Ispitan and Eyjolf are currently 5 CV between them. Some dice rolls on the army list reveal the pursuers as two skirmishers, two retinue infantry, four borderers, and one retinue cavalry – I decide this last is Valdemar, out for revenge.

Again, I don’t need terrain or figures unless the two groups meet, so a table is a good way to track things until that point. “Star pass” and “Val pass” show how many dice each side passes against the lowest Rep present in its pursuit turn, which drives changes to the Lead in hours and the Reps of both star and pursuer.

Pursuit Turn Star Pass Val Pass Lead Star Rep Val Rep
1 2 1 4 4 2
2 4 1 6 4 1
3 3 1 8 4 2
4 2 2 8 4 2
5 2 2 8 4 2
6 2 2 8 4 2
7 2 1 9 4 1
8 4 1 10 4 0

At the end of turn one, Valdemar orders his skirmishers home, as their low Rep is reducing his chances of catching up. At the end of turn three, he sends the rest of the foot home and pursues alone on horseback. By then, however, his effective Rep is too low to catch up. Once Ispitan increases his lead to 10 or more hours, the pursuers are hopelessly outdistanced and give up. Ispitan has survived another encounter, and so rolls to improve his Rep, Hardiness and Social Standing. He rolls 3, 6, 4, so that his Rep stays at 5, his Hardiness increases to 4, and his SS stays the same at 6.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 5 4 Staff 2 8” Caster 6 TW
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Foes                  
Valdemar Mtd Melee 6 4 Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Cavalry Mtd Melee 5 - Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Infantry Melee 4 - Spear 4 6” - - SS
Borderer Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Skirmisher Missile 3 - Bow 2 8” - - SS

Ispitan – September 986

It’s dark, damp and filthy in the ground floor of the keep, where Eyjolf and Ispitan have been dumped while Valdemar decides what to do with them. At length, the big cavalryman descends to visit them.

“Are you ready to tell me what these are for?” he says, hefting the satchel of herbs in one hand.

“So,” muses Ispitan. “You do not entirely trust the one who ordered you to retrieve them.”

“That is none of your concern.”

Ispitan gestures at the cell around him.

“If I agree to help, could we be moved to somewhere more comfortable?”

Valdemar laughs. “One would normally keep persons of your status, lord wizard, in cleaner surroundings. But you are in no position to negotiate.”

“Do you know why captive wizards are not usually held in dungeons?” says Ispitan, in a low and dangerous voice.

“No…”

“It is not because of our status. It is because with a fistful of cobwebs and some rats’ teeth I can do this…” Ispitan shouts a word of power and makes arcane gestures. Valdemar is stunned for a moment, then begins to copy Ispitan’s movements.

“The only difficulty,” Ispitan continues in a conversational tone, while Valdemar’s mouth apes his words, “Is that of controlling another body from an unusual point of view. That’s it, take out the key and unlock the cell… now come inside… Eyjolf, tie him up and gag him, please, I need to maintain the spell. And collect the bag of herbs while you’re at it. Thank you.”

As they make for the exit, Ispitan turns and calls back over his shoulder, “Your men should discover you soon. Adieu, Valdemar.”

And they are gone.

This is an Escape scenario. I don’t need to lay out terrain unless and until a fight seems imminent; if Ispitan and Eyjolf are in the middle of the 48” x 48” board, they can’t be further than 24” from the nearest edge. A couple of die rolls determine that there are no horses to steal, and it is night. The easiest way to handle this mechanically, at least until combat, is by a table…

Turn Alarm Die Alarm? Activation Die Star Active? Star Has Moved
1 6 No 1 Yes 8”
2 4 No 2 Yes 16”
3 2 No 3 Yes 24”
4 2 No 6 No 24”
5 4 No 1 Yes 32”

I note that it’s actually quite hard to get caught sneaking out of prison. At this point, Ispitan and Eyjolf have escaped Valdemar and run off into the night. Ispitan has survived another encounter, so rolls to improve Rep, Hardiness and SS; rolls of 5, 1 and 6 mean his Rep stays the same, his Hardiness drops one (must be the prison food), and his Social Standing increases by one.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 5 3 Staff 2 8” Caster 6 TW
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Foes                  
Valdemar Mtd Melee 6 4 Spear 4 12” Elite - SS

Ispitan – August 986

I went through the encounter process in detail last time, so I’ll skip to the outcome today: Ispitan & Co. have stopped at a farm to get supplies, unaware that local troops are about to attack it, in the belief that one of the farm buildings contains a McGuffin of some sort. The only thing special I know to be there is Ispitan’s herbs, so we’ll start with the idea that a rival of the Sable Mage is trying to stop him getting his material components.

Ispitan & Co. are helping out with some farm chores as payment for last night’s hospitality, when Galen trots back into view from one of his frequent trips to the woods to get medicinal herbs.

“Trouble coming,” he says. “I saw horsemen, heard chatter and weapons. We’d better get ready.”

“Get the farmer and his family into the cellar,” orders Ispitan.

This was a really tense and close-fought battle, and I was very pleased with the layout and photography – finally using a proper camera. This lasted right up to the point where I discovered that none of the pictures had been saved to the SD card. So you’ll have to imagine it I’m afraid.

Anyway… learning from experience, Our Heroes stayed in the farmhouse as the PEFs approached them.

  • Turn 1: Rufus gets Line Of Sight on one of the PEFs, and it resolves as one retinue infantry, 3 retinue cavalry and 3 borderers.
  • Turn 2: The retinue cavalry dismount and close on foot, driven by the NPC table on p. 48. This brings them within 12”, so a Test of Wills is in order. Ispitan uses his star ability of choosing the number of successes to force both sides to halt in place and do nothing, so that he can cast on his next activation. (I decided that they would leave one of the dismounted cavalry holding the horses so that they didn’t wander off.)
  • Turn 3: Ispitan casts Steel Wind, but fails and loses 6 Rep for casting purposes. Oh well.
  • Turn 4: The infantry and dismounted cavalry charge home, but in a masterful display of lucky dice rolling, Rufus and Galen render three of them Out Of the Fight.
  • Turn 5: All this time, the other PEFs have been milling about moving to the closest cover, but now one comes into view and is resolved: One skirmisher, 7 borderers, and one retinue cavalry – this turns out to be the Big Bad, with Hardiness 4 and Rep 6; I dub him Valdemar and decide he will make a fine recurring nemesis. Valdemar and friends close up, a Test of Wills is in order and again Ispitan forces a “hold in place” result to buy time for his friends. Rufus and Galen put another foe OOF.
  • Turn 6: Valdemar’s group charges home and kills Galen outright. Ispitan clobbers one of the borderers with his staff, rendering him Out Of the Fight. Rufus takes down another enemy. At this point I started to wonder if I would have enough OOF markers.
  • Turn 7: A retinue infantryman drops Eyjolf, OOF, and Rufus is Obviously Dead following an exchange of blows with several foemen. Only Ispitan is left on his feet, and things are not looking good for the home team.
  • Turn 8: The last PEF heaves into view and resolves as one skirmisher and four borderers. Ispitan is hard pressed by Valdemar and several borderers, but his Hardiness saves him until the next activation.
  • Turn 9: Ispitan has his back to the farmhouse wall, and again his Hardiness saves him from a flurry of blows by three opponents. However, he is wounded and loses 2d6 from his melee Rep.
  • Turn 10: Ispitan is clobbered again, and has his Rep reduced to zero, taking him OOF. It’s all over bar the shouting.

“Shall we kill them, Lord?” asks one of the footmen.

“No,” says Valdemar. “Search them. See if they have the herbs we seek. Bury the dead honorably, for they fought well. Bring the wounded with us, including the enemy.”

“Sir?”

“That wizard fought three of us and a horse to a standstill armed only with a stick. He is definitely worth talking to.”

Ispitan has survived another encounter, and so rolls to improve his Rep, Hardiness and Social Standing. He rolls 5, 6, 5 and all three go up one point.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 5 4 Staff 2 8” Caster 5 TW
Rufus Melee 4 - Sword 4 6” - - SS
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Galen Melee 4 - Sword 2 8” Healer - SS
Foes                  
Valdemar Mtd Melee 6 4 Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Cavalry Mtd Melee 5 - Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Infantry Melee 4 - Spear 4 6” - - SS
Borderer Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Skirmisher Missile 3 - Bow 2 8” - - SS

Ispitan – July 986

Ispitan and his surviving colleagues move back across the border into the Border Kingdoms. This region in the summer has an encounter rating of 5. I roll 2d6 and get 1, 5 – this passes 2d6 so there will be an encounter. A further die roll of 1 shows we have encountered locals. A roll of 2 on 1d6-1 (-1 because we are on the border) dictates that the encounter occurs in Clear terrain, and another 1d6 roll of 3 determines this happens in a village.

I now have to figure Ispitan’s CV to find out how many opponents and what kind.  (Rep 3 + AC 2 + Notes 1) * (Hardiness 2 +1) / 6 = 3, and since I’m running the rest of the group as NPCs I’ll count them as CV 1 each. I roll on the Border Kingdoms army list and get 7 (borderer), 9 (retinue infantry), 5, 6 (retinue cavalry), and then I’m up to CV 6 so I stop. The highest Rep (5) is with the retinue cavalry. I now roll 1ds6 on the Big Bad table (p. 10), getting a 2, and determine that the NPC force leader has Hardiness 3 but one Rep less than usual for his type, so he is Rep 4. I have MetaCreator open for other purposes so I use the built-in name generator to assign him a French name: Edon.

Our heroes tramp across frosty meadows back into the Kingdoms. At length, they spy a village in the distance and make for it with the intent of staying overnight; the quarters will be cramped and smelly, but warm, and after long enough in the cold, warm trumps the other factors.

“Ispitan,” says Rufus as they come closer, “Look at that. There’s a group of soldiers at the gate. Stragglers, by the look of them.” He points, and Ispitan makes out four spearmen and a couple of horses. Eyjolf chimes in.

“Where are the villagers? And their animals?”

The two parties move closer, stopping about 20 or 30 yards apart.

Rolling 2d6 on the adventurer encounter table (p. 46) gives a 10, indicating that we must Talk the Talk. Another 1d6 result of 2 shows we have met a hostile group with unknown intentions.

“Wait for me here,” says Ispitan, “Maybe they did this, or maybe they know who did.” He strides forward as one of the spearmen mounts up and trots out to meet him.

Ispitan rolls (Rep) d6 vs 3 and gets 1, 6, 3 = pass 2d6. Edon rolls 4d6 vs 3 and gets 1, 4, 3, 4 = pass 2d6. Checking the Talk the Talk table on p. 47 shows that there is no conflict, and the parties leave each other in peace.

“Greetings,” says the wizard. “I am Ispitan, apprentice to the Sable Mage, travelling on a quest for my master. Who might you be, warrior?”

“Edon, part of Lord Algis’ retinue. My comrades and I are what is left of a raid into goblin territory.”

At this point I use a random die roll to determine whether Algis and Sable are friends or enemies, and get a positive result. This won’t affect the outcome, just how I explain it.

“What happened to the villagers? We were hoping to shelter here.”

“As were we. Judging by the signs, I’d say orcish bandits happened to them. There are no villagers, no animals, but lots of orc arrows and a couple of bodies.”

“Would you like to join us? We’re bound for Acromerinth, and there is safety in numbers.” The cavalryman shakes his head.

“Our duty calls us elsewhere. I must report back to Algis’ keep.”

“The Sun shine on you, then.”

“And on you.” The horseman turns and rides back to his colleagues.

I’ve mentioned before that in campaign mode, THW games often generate no combat. That, too, is part of the story, and while I used to keep going until one of the encounters turned into a fight, now I feel more comfortable following the characters at their own pace through whatever the dice gods throw at them.

As we have survived another encounter, I roll for improvement for Ispitan, trying to roll over his stats. This increases his Rep and Hardiness by one each, but leaves his Social Standing where it was. This pushes his CV up to 4 (I round the Star’s CV down, because he will always meet enemy CV of at least his own, and often more.)

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 4 3 Staff 2 8” Caster 4 TW
Rufus Melee 4 - Sword 4 6” - - SS
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Galen Melee 4 - Sword 2 8” Healer - SS
Foes                  
Edon Mtd Melee 4 3 Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Cavalry Mtd Melee 5 - Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Infantry Melee 4 - Spear 4 6” - - SS
Borderer Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS

Ispitan – June 986

A variety of family events and other uses for Table Mountain have disrupted the Talomir Nights campaign for weeks, so rather than wait for them to finish, I have used GM fiat to move the story into a dungeon, which I can do in a lot less space and time. Thus, Ispitan and Company discover that the entire current crop of the herbs they seek has been moved underground into a goblin lair.

First I decide that the largest figure will have a 2" base, thus setting the dungeon’s W parameter to 2". The party begins at the entrance to the lair, at the top (north) of the graph paper, and enters the first segment; I roll 4 on 1d6, so this is a chamber. The only place I can see to determine its size is the Beyond The Door table on p. 61, so I roll 1d6 on that and see the chamber is 4 x 2W in area – eight 2" x 2" spaces. I decide this will be a rectangular chamber, 4" east-west by 8" north-south. I now roll a 2 on the Doors in the Chamber Table (p. 61) and discover that there is only one additional door; it seems most logical that this would be directly opposite, in the south wall.

I roll 1d6 on the Traps Table (p. 58); 4, no traps. Next, I roll 2d6 vs Rep 3 on the Dungeon Awareness Table (p. 62), with a -1 to the Rep as this is the first chamber; 2, 1 vs 2 = pass 2d6, so the defenders are in a heightened stats of awareness and have 1d3+1 CV from the goblin army table as sentries in the first chamber. A roll of 3 tells me I must roll up 3 CV of defenders (3-4 on 1d6 counting as 2, +1 = 3).

I roll 2d6 for each, and get 8 (Black Moon goblin, CV 2), 7 (normal goblin, CV 1) – I now have 3 CV of opponents, so I can stop rolling. The placement rules on p. 62 tell me that the Black Moon goblin is halfway down the west wall, and his companion is in the extreme south-west corner. (Post-Game Note: I realise I got the placing wrong as I write this up, but it’s too late for that now. As they are highly alert, I should have placed them wherever they can cause most trouble.)

TURN 1

Photo0040

Start of Turn 1: “Kick down the door!”

The two sides are within 12" of each other, so we go to a Test of Wills (p. 22). Ispitan has Rep 3 and the Black Moon goblin Rep 4; the goblin has Frenzy so must pass at least 2d6, and Ispitan is a Star so can choose how many dice he passes. The goblin rolls 6, 2, 3, 5 and passes 2d6; Ispitan chooses to pass 3d6  and the party’s melee specialists check to charge.

We now move to the Wanting To Charge table on p. 24, and both sides roll. Goblins roll 4d6 (their highest Rep) vs 3: 1, 2, 4, 4 and pass 2d6. Ispitan as a star can choose his number of successes and picks 3; so all charge and both sides may fire and cast. The goblin near the other door is the obvious target as he can run for help more easily, but he is out of range for a charge, so perforce we will pile in on the nearest goblin – never mind, his friend is counter-charging. Now we’re in melee. It’s not clear to me from the rules when the second goblin should roll to Sound the Alarm, but if I were him, I’d do it now, so I’ll roll. 1d6 roll of 6 shows that he makes a break for it through the other door. This triggers a Stop Him! test for anyone who is missile armed and has line of sight – I’m counting casters as missile armed, so Ispitan gets to roll (Rep)d6: 1, 3, 4 = pass 2d6. Ispitan can now fire at the goblin’s rapidly retreating back, and opts to cast Paralyse in Place. Ispitan rolls (Rep-1)d6 (because he is moving – a bad idea, I know) and the goblin rolls (Rep)d6. Ispitan gets 2, 3 and passes 2d6; the goblin gets 1, 2, 5 and passes 2d6. The Spellcasting Table (p. 24) doesn’t have a row for “Scores same number of successes”, so I roll 1d6 to decide so that the game keeps moving; 1-3 fails, 4-6 succeeds. A roll of 5 means I’ll count it as a success; the goblin is paralysed in place and misses his next activation.

Meanwhile, back at the dogpile, the Black Moon Goblin rolls (Rep)d6 vs 3: 3, 4, 5, 5 and scores one success (he gets an extra die for Frenzy but loses one for being outnumbered). Rufus rolls 1, 3, 5, 5 and scores two successes. Eyjolf rolls 4, 4, 6, 6 and scores two successes. Galen rolls 1, 2, 4, 6 and gets three successes. In WHAA, each combatant uses the same result against all opponents. So, Rufus beats the goblin by one success, which pushes him back 1” and costs him 1d6. Eyjolf does the same. Galen beats the goblin by two and scores a telling blow, so we check for penetration. Galen’s sword is a hand weapon (I use the basic weapons tables), so its Impact of 5 vs the goblin’s AC of 4 means the armour is pierced and he is now Out Of the Fight.

(Strictly, the Rules As Written call for a series of rerolls with decreasing numbers of dice, but I go with the result of the first set of rolls for speed.)

I did take a picture at this point, but it’s so blurry even I am too embarrassed to post it. Must try using a real camera instead of my cellphone.

Turn 2

Activation: The goblins can’t activate (one is OOF and one is paralysed), but the party could still fail to activate, so I roll for them; a 2 means they’re OK. The fighters move up to deal with the paralysed goblin; as they are more than half a move away this requires a Wanting to Charge roll, but Ispitan can choose the number of successes and a paralysed goblin doesn’t get a vote, I feel, so in they go. Ispitan doesn’t much fancy melee, so turns to face the Black Moon goblin in case he is not as OOF as he seems. (It’s a habit I want to get into for All Things Zombie.)

Rufus rolls 1, 1, 2, 5 = 3 successes; Eyjolf rolls 1, 4, 4, 4 = one success. Now the goblin is paralysed, but that means he can’t move and can’t activate – any other figure in that state would be able to defend himself in melee, so I figure he can, too. His melee modifiers cancel out and he rolls 1, 3, 5, 6 for two successes. The combat continues but the goblin has lost 1d6 and is pushed back, so I’d better see what’s beyond the door. I roll on the table on p. 61 and get a 1 – a special. A second d6 roll reveals this is a dead end! I decide this is an alcove with whatever treasure there might be in it.

A melee continues unto everyone is OOF, OD, or rolls are evenly matched, so we go again. The goblin passes 1d6, Rufus 3, and Eyjolf 2. Rufus pierces the goblin’s armour and he is OOF.

Photo0044

End of Turn 2: Take that, greenskin scum!

I could set aside Possible Enemy Forces as per p. 63, but since I can’t go any further into the lair there is no point. The party has now cleared a chamber so may check for loot; roll 2d6, and no modifiers apply. We get a 5 – “some items of interest”. That’ll be the herbs, then. Mission accomplished, and we can start back to Sable’s tower. Time to roll for advancement – with some trepidation, as my Stars usually get worse when I do this.

True to form, Ispitan loses a point of hardiness – from the cold, I suppose. However, his Social Standing increases; no doubt due to the promotion Sable will bestow upon him if he lives to return. I’m not bothering to track advancement for the Extras, so that’s it. At least he didn’t lose any more Rep. Now, we just have to get back home.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 3 2 Staff 2 8” Caster 4 TW
Rufus Melee 4 - Sword 4 6” - - SS
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Galen Melee 4 - Sword 2 8” Healer - SS
Foes                  
Black Moon Goblin Melee 4 - Sword 4 6” Frenzy - -
Goblin Melee 3 - Sword 2 6 Frenzy - -

 

Credits: Rules – Two Hour Wargames’ Warrior Heroes. Tiles – The Other Game Company’s Dungeon Bash. Figures – eM4 Elfsera range. Counters – WotC Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for NPCs, THW Yahoo! group for status markers.