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Five Leagues From the Borderlands

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27 Feb 2023 12:06 #338479 by Shellhead
A close friend of mine is semi-interested in these sort of games, now that I brought them to his attention. He watched a playthrough video for Five Parsecs, and was disappointed. He said that it didn't seem to have much of a sci-fi feel to it, and seemed more like a bunch of guys going to random locations and fighting generic bad guys. The die rolls led to results, but the lack of description for the results felt dry and mechanical. I think that is a solid criticism of this game system. If you aren't willing to use your imagination to provide some context to the table results, than it will likely feel dry and mechanical.

I think that my friend would be happier with a DM running a real RPG, or at least a Choose Your Own Adventure-style game. The big trade-off between a traditional RPG and Five Leagues/Parsecs/whatever is the need for a DM to provide the story, and his current circumstances are not conducive to that sort of role-playing. The big trade-off between Five Leagues and a Choose Your Own Adventure game is between replay and narrative. Choose Your Own Adventure is mechanically a flow chart of narrative paragraphs with perhaps some action, but the writing can elevate that narration into an okay story. But once you have played the story a few times, you have extracted most of the entertainment value. The random tables of Five Leagues can produce more variable stories, as long as the player can exercise some creativity in interpreting the table results.
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27 Feb 2023 13:42 - 27 Feb 2023 13:43 #338484 by EastCoast
Not sure if it's the series your friend saw or not, but the recent Me, Myself, and Die playthrough is pretty entertaining. Trevor does a great job bringing the game to life.

*I should specify, the play through is for Five Parsecs.
Last edit: 27 Feb 2023 13:43 by EastCoast.
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04 Mar 2023 20:54 #338550 by Shellhead
We only spent one night in Moulins, but apparently it was a lively one, as we somehow spent 6 gold marks though we only had 4 gold marks in our possession. After that we went back to the delve near Moulins and set up a camp within view of the delve entrance.

Hyuddumm's wound got infected, but he still recovered within four days, while Henri needed six days of rest before he was fit for duty. Floki picked up some Wilderness skill with his recent level-up, so we lived off the land (scavenged edible greens and berries) while he hunted deer. However, he had no luck for the first few days before finally scoring some venison and 4 gold marks worth of hides.

We headed back to explore the 3rd level of the delve. Finally, we will confront the necromancers, or at least their servitors, The Fog Born. It isn't entirely clear from the brief description if the Fog Born are alive or undead, but they are wreathed in fog, so our ranged weapons will probably be ineffective. To be continued...
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05 Mar 2023 21:48 - 05 Mar 2023 21:52 #338554 by Shellhead
With dread, the warband marched down to the third level of the delve near Moulins. They had heard that the necromancers were operating from base in this area, and this massive tomb complex seemed the most likely location.

Level three: live.staticflickr.com/65535/52728172377_f9ffe08260_m.jpg

Hyuddumm the duskling, accustomed to fighting in the dark, scouted ahead:
live.staticflickr.com/65535/52729176663_fc62e0b9e8_m.jpg

In the distant darkness, three of the Fog Born conferred in front of an ancient throne:
live.staticflickr.com/65535/52729108910_dcb3ce9bd9_m.jpg

Hyuddumm encountered a lone Fog Born on patrol, and rushed him. In the furious exchange that followed, Hyuddumm fell and lay silent. Another patrol, consisting of three Fog Born, saw the fight and moved to investigate.

The first Fog Born charged the rest of the warband, but Henri stepped forward with knife ready. After a flurry of blows, Henri was wounded and the Fog Born was down. Quetzal cast a Barrier, which gave Henri and Floki the chance to loose arrows before further melee. All three remaining Fog Born pressed up against the barrier. Even at such close range, Henri and Floki both missed their shots, due to the rolling fog about their enemies. Quetzal cast Steelbreak on one of the undead, depriving him of armor.

Then the Barrier dropped and on all hell broke loose. At the end, only the Count remained standing, and one of the undead had fled. Hearing distant footsteps echo, DuBois extinguished his torch and dragged each of his companions up the hard, stone steps and eventually to daylight. Henri and Quetzal were not badly injured, and so were able to help with the escape.

The wounds inflicted by the Fog Born were gruesome in appearance, but Hyuddumm would recover soon. Floki was in worse condition, and would need five days to recover. Henri's dagger was lost in the melee, and Quetzal's staff was broken. The Count knew that they had been lucky, but he still did not relish the coming days of camping and foraging without hope of more venison.

[I was not looking forward to this fight. The Fog Born have a combat bonus of +1, making them equal or superior to all of my warband. Due to their localized fog, they can only be hit on a natural 6 by ranged attacks. They inflict gruesome wounds (-5% on the Injuries table) and are brave (only lose morale on a 1). I made a mistake when laying out the third level of the delve, as apparently all battlefields in this game should be at least 24" inches square, and this level was roughly 15" square. That left a couple of the patrols starting too close together, making for a rougher fight than it should have been.)
Last edit: 05 Mar 2023 21:52 by Shellhead.
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10 Mar 2023 23:06 - 13 Mar 2023 11:32 #338643 by Shellhead
Camping while the band recovered was miserable. Game was scarce, and the rain caused Floki's bowstring to rot, leaving Henri as the only archer.

Count DuBois was determined to best the necromancers, so the warband returned to the tomb complex. This time, they encountered maddened revenants (zombies), who were slow, fearless, and very tough. After the initial skirmish, Henri and Quetzal stood triumphant, but had to drag their injured fellows up to the sunlight. Hyuddumm needed days to recover and Floki got his helmet broken.

With just three gold marks worth of pelts, they headed into Moulins to replace Floki's bowstring. Unfortunately, short supplies in Moulins raised the usual price from 3 to 4 gold marks, so the heroes left empty-handed. They camped for two more days, then returned to the delve.

This time, the warband was able to confront actual cultists of the necromancy cult. They were mere humans with no particular combat skills, though one did have a self bow. Hyuddumm and Floki succumbed to minor injuries, but the warband managed to defeat a total of 9 cultists, and a 10th ran away due to low morale. However, the loot was sparse: a fine crossbow, a scout's cloak, some rations, and three more frozen strands (spell components). They also checked to see if there might be a fourth level to the delve, but found nothing.

By this point, the warband has acquired 10 story points. After achieving a mission like this, I can spend any amount of story points and then try to roll a d6 equal or under the number of story points spent. I spent 6 for an automatic success, and the payoff is that we reduced the overall threat level of the necromancers from 5 to 4. The goal of the campaign is to reduce all three major threats to 0, which could make for a long campaign. But I am still entertained, so I will continue.
Last edit: 13 Mar 2023 11:32 by Shellhead. Reason: delve not warband

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13 Mar 2023 14:52 #338666 by Shellhead
I hope that Modiphius eventually does a superhero game along these lines. Maybe they could call it Five Blocks From Justice. Instead of extensive lists of monsters, they could have a bunch of pre-generated villains with stat blocks and a few defining traits (powers). And some stat blocks for more generic types of villains, like muggers, thugs, bruisers, and assassins. The focus of the campaign could be defeating an evil mastermind villain before he can execute his master scheme. Campaign turns could also feature patrolling to keep down the general crime threat in the city, and also to bolster the reputation of the heroes. There could also be complications involving secret identity and paying the bills.
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15 Mar 2023 22:00 #338687 by Shellhead
(I thought that I would need to poke around more to find where to fight the enemy, but I found that I can just declare that I am going to fight a given enemy, and then roll on tables to determine where, under what circumstances, and what the enemy stands to gain.)

We returned to Vyones to sell our animal skins and recruit a new follower. Hyuddumm and Floki took care of business while the Count, Quetzal, and Henri went to a local tavern. (Quetzal is the only party member with leadership skill, which helps on recruiting rolls.) Buying drinks cost us a gold mark, but we successfully recruited Gar, a feral follower with a literally wolfish countenance. Gar has limited social skills and no armor, but owns an axe and can attack in the same turn that he moves his full movement rate. While at the tavern, we talked to other locals and discovered that the necromancers intended to attack Cordeliers, a hamlet west of Vyones and south of Moulins.

Rather than potentially engage undead monsters amidst terrified peasants, we intercepted the enemy on an old country road (really more of a heavily-trodden path) approaching Cordeliers, near the ruins of an old tower.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5274...n/dateposted-public/

Our enemy du jour proved to be ragged fanatics, possibly left homeless after we ransacked the tomb near Moulins. They are ordinary humans, though fearless (no morale checks) and driven to fury (+1 combat if wounded). And the scarred bald one (third from the top) has a crossbow.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5275...n/dateposted-public/

This will be my first battle on an open field, so my warband took up position in the ruins of the tower, with Quetzal on high ground and the archers also in an elevated position. Gar is the new token on the upper left, adjacent to the Count and Hyuddumm.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5275...n/dateposted-public/

The starting positions were somewhat flexible, except that the scenario determined that my party start within 6" of a map edge, and our enemies start 2d6+12" away.

To be continued...

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18 Mar 2023 23:01 #338704 by Shellhead
For the battle of Cordeliers, I will give you more detail than usual, so you can see how this combat system flows.

Rounds 1 to 4: The broken fanatics approach, while the war party lies in wait. On round 4, Floki and Henri both have a clear shot at a cultist with long dark hair and a beard. Normally an archer needs a 5+ (on a d6) to hit a target that is within range and in the open, but not close. Both archers roll a 4, but they both get to add their combat bonus (+1) because they were stationary. The hairy man doesn't have armor, so we proceed to the roll to overcome Toughness. He has a 3 and both archers roll 3s, which means that they both stunned him and wounded him, but the second wound means death.

Round 5: I made an amazing initiative roll with three 1s and a 2, which meant that four of my war party could move during the fast action phase. With the enemy crossbowman now having clear shots at four of my warparty, I gave all four of those characters the fast actions, letting them take cover behind brush or ruins. The cultists all continued to advance, mostly under cover. A naked cultist broke cover and Floki took a shot and wounded him. Despite standing next to Floki on an elevated section of a ruined wall, Henri didn't have line of sight on the naked cultist.

Round 6: Floki won initiative, but missed his shot on the naked cultist. The cultists all advanced, using cover to advantage. The crossbowman had a clean shot at Hyuddumm, but couldn't fire because he moved this round. Hyuddumm retreated behind full cover in the ruins, while the rest of the warparty held their positions.

Round 7: Quetzal and Hyuddumm won initiative. Quetzal tried and failed to cast Premonition, which would have allowed the re-roll of 2 initiative dice the following round. He rolled a 2 on 2d6, so he wasted one of his strands (material spell casting component). Hyuddumm pushed through two hexes of brush to attack the wounded naked cultist.

Hyuddumm's melee attack starts an "exchange" of 3 quick attack contests with the naked cultist. (For consistency, I will list each contested die roll as hero roll+modifiers vs cultist roll + modifiers.) Hyuddumm rolls a natural 1 so his first attack misses, allowing the cultist to become the aggressor for the second step of the exchange. 4+1 (combat skill) vs 2+1 (wounded cultist gets Driven to Fury bonus mentioned in previous post), so Hyuddumm is now the aggressor for the third step of the exchange. He rolls another natural 1 and misses.

Now the naked cultist begins a melee exchange with Hyuddum, 5+1 vs 2+1. Hyuddum goes on the attack, 3+1 vs 2+1 is a hit. He rolls a 2 vs the cultist's toughness of 3, for a second wound and kill.

The crossbowman stalks Hyuddumm through the ruins, and a flyblown cultist runs up to Hyuddumm but can't attack this round. The other two cultists are a male-female couple painted to look like skeletons, like voodoo houngans, and they approach Count DuBois and Gar. The rest of my war party holds position.

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19 Mar 2023 00:09 #338705 by Shellhead
The battle continues...

Initiative in this game consists of rolling Xd6, where X = the number of war party members still in the fight. After rolling the dice, I choose how to assign the dice to my heroes. Since Hyuddumm and Quetzal are the only ones with a 2 agility, they are the only ones who can win initiative with a 2. Everybody else has a 1, so I need to roll 1s for them to get initiative. Floki gets a re-roll as one of his racial advantages, but it rarely helps.

Round 8: Good initiative rolls including two 2s and a 1. Hyuddumm attacks the flyblown cultist, but misses with a natural 1. The cultist attacks back, 3+1 vs 4. A draw forces the defender (Hyuddumm in this moment) to retreat, and the attacker has the option to follow. The cultist attacks again, 4+1 vs 5, for another draw, causing Hyuddumm to gladly retreat again, taking him out of line of sight with the crossbowman. Quetzal casts Mobility on himself, which could be very advantageous moving through all the brush in this section of the battlefield.

The houngan cultists were cautiously approaching the Count and Gar, because neither side wanted to run up and then get hit by the other side. But finally Gar charged the male houngan, attacking 3 vs 2 for a hit, then rolled a 5 vs the cultist's toughness of 3, for a kill.

The flyblown cultist attacks Hyuddumm, 2+1 vs 5 for a hit, but rolls a 1 against Hyuddumm's armor of 2, for no damage. He presses the attack, 3+1 vs 4, causing Hyuddumm to retreat. The cultist presses on for one more attack, 4+1 v s 5, causing Hyuddumm to retreat into the brush. The crossbowman advances slowly between two clumps of brush, hoping to get a clear shot at somebody, anybody. The female houngan assaults Gar, 3 vs 2 for a miss. Gar misses her 3 vs 4, and she misses him, 4 vs 3. (As I am typing this, Irish singer Phil Lynott is singing Attack, Attack, Attack (Yellow Pearl).)

Count DuBois attacks the female houngan, 3+2 (combat skill and flanking) vs 2, hits and wounds her. Then 4+2 vs 1, he hits and kills her. Henri and Floki climb down from their vantage point, which hasn't been useful lately with everybody skulking around in the ruins and brush.

Round 9: Hyuddumm attacks flyblown cultist, 6+1 vs 3, hitting and wounding him. Hyuddumm presses the attack 4+1 vs 4+1 (fury bonus), causing the cultist to retreat. Hyuddumm pursues 5+1 vs 3+1, hitting and lethally wounding the cultist. Quetzal sprints through underbrush to attack the crossbowman but rolls a natural 1 and misses. The crossbowman has drawn a broadsword and goes on the attack, 3 vs 6. He rolls a 5 vs armor and then a 3 vs Quetzal's toughness of 3, wounding and stunning him. He attacks Quetzal again 1 vs 2+1 (stun bonus), hitting and downing Quetzal. Is Quetzal dead?

The crossbowman doesn't know that he is alone yet, but suspects he would be safer if he could climb a tree and snipe from there. He runs for the nearest tree and manages to touch the trunk. but is spotted by Count DuBois and Gar. They chase after him and catch up beneath the tree branches. Floki runs to check on Hyuddumm, who is fine (for once), and Henri checks on Quetzal, who is not well.

Round 10: The crossbowman fires a close range shot at the Count. It would hit on a 2 or better (+1 for being stationary), but the crossbowman rolls a 1, which is both a miss and means that he is out of ammo. He drops the crossbow and draws his broadsword. The Count attacks now, 2+2 (skill and flanking) vs 3, rolling a 1 vs toughness to stun the cultist. The Count presses the attack, 5+3 (stun bonus) vs 3, hitting and wounding the cultist. Then the Count rolls a 1 and misses.

Gar now attacks the crossbowman, 3+1 (flanking) vs 6+1 (fury) for a miss. The cultist attacks Gar 61+ vs 5+1 for a miss. Gar attacks, 6+1 vs 5+1, hitting and lethally wounding the cultist.

Quetzal survives, with a moderate wound that will take 2 days to heal. Everybody gains 2 XP except Quetzal, who gains 1 for getting whupped. Hyuddum reaches 4th level and rolls a gain in his choice of Luck or Will. While Will renews each day and offers some nice single-use benefits in combat, Luck allows a character to cancel a lethal result on the Injuries table. He chooses Luck. Floki also reaches 4th level, and rolls his choice of speed increase or a skill selection. Since he currently uses a crossbow, he will be moving around less in combat, so he takes Pathwise skill (tracking).

We found a suit of fey steel partial armor, which is basically Armor 2 that can't be damaged. Maybe the naked cultist should have worn his armor! We give it to Floki, who happens to be fey-blooded and also has the worst armor of my original heroes. He hands down his leather armor to Gar. We also find a total of 3 gold marks on the bodies of the slain necromancers.

As he dies, the crossbowman mumbles something about the necromancers establishing a base of operations in Vyonnes. We also gain an adventure point, and spend all five of our adventure points for a roll to reduce the necromancer threat level. We roll a 4, so the necromancer threat is now down to a 3. That new necromancer camp in Vyonnes will yield an additional loot roll if we find and eliminate it. Until then, all of our battles against the necromancers will include a random enemy with a +1/+0 bonus to melee damage, meaning a +1 against armor rolls.

This was possibly our most successful battle, aside from the stingy loot. Only one hero injured, and it wasn't even Hyuddumm.

The end of the battle: all the blank tokens are dead enemies, except the one in the brush is Quetzal.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5275...n/dateposted-public/

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26 Mar 2023 18:53 #338780 by Shellhead
After the battle near Cordeliers, we camped for a couple of days to allow Quetzal to heal. To avoid digging into limited rations, one of our two daily actions each day is Live Off The Land. In other words, scrounging for edible berries, mushrooms, greens, and the like. Both the Count and Henri were 1 XP shy of leveling up, the other daily action was Training. The Count leveled up and acquired skill in Scouting. Henri's repeated experiences as point man in the delve finally paid off, as he now has Combat +2, the highest in the party.

While everybody else was out of the camp looking for food, a wild boar wandered into camp and confronted Quetzal. If Quetzal got wounded again, he would die, but he used his point of Will to give himself a +2 on a Wits rolled, allowing him to outwit the boar until it left camp. The war party got lost while heading back to Vyonnes, but encountered a friendly priest, Monseigneur Jules. The priest stayed the night at the warparty camp, then led them back to Vyonnes the next day.

To avoid spending limited funds, the warparty worked for the Town Guard for a shift, and identified the address that they had for the necromancer hideout. The party will attack their meeting place this evening, where they will find 10 members of the Coven of the Half-Dead. They are normal people, except Brave and a little tougher than normal. If wounded, there is a 1 in 3 chance that a given coven member will turn into a Maddened Revenant (zombie). None of the coven members have range weapons or combat spells, but one has a bastard sword (+1 to overcome toughness).

To be continued...

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09 Apr 2023 19:03 #338945 by Shellhead
I forgot to roll for leaders for the raid on the necromancers hideout in Vyonnes. I got a Captain and Cunning Infiltrator. The captain was +1 in combat (as good as most of my characters), had light armor, and a toughness of 5, which is pretty tough on a scale of 1 to 6. The infiltrator also had a combat of +1, light armor, and a running speed greater than that of most of my characters. To succeed in this scenario, I needed to kill both leaders, and failure to kill the infiltrator would have meant a die roll to advance the necromancer's agenda.

This scenario reminded me a lot of an encounter in the excellent D&D 3.5 adventure Night of Dissolution. I still had all my old maps, so I got those out and set up this scenario. The buildings are along a sloping street. The upper left corner is the first floor of a building on higher ground, where the heroes are gathering for the raid. The upper right corner is second story of the building where the necromancers are having a meeting, and a team of guards is sitting there playing cards with a tarot deck. The lower right corner shows the first floor of the hideout, with four more guards stationed outside while the captain, the infiltrator and two other necromancers are meeting inside.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5280...n/dateposted-public/

Closeup of my war party. Top to bottom, left to right is Henri Yeoman, Gar, Count DuBois, Floki, Hyuddumm, and Quetzal.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5280...n/dateposted-public/

Closeup of the upstairs guards:

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5280...n/dateposted-public/

Closeup of the meeting on the first floor, and the guards outside. The scarred man towards the top has a bastard sword. The man inside with the chestplate is the captain. The non-descript bald man in white is the infiltrator.:

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5280...n/dateposted-public/

My characters needed to sneak out the side door, then move through the adjacent door to a gated courtyard between the two buildings, then climb up a pile of crates to get to the second floor balcony. The nearest guard in sight was 9" away, so I had to roll a 9 or less for each sneaking character. Everybody made their roll, except Quetzal bringing up the rear. I blame his bright plumage. The rest of the heroes were already in the courtyard, and climbing crates.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5280...n/dateposted-public/

Combat turns begin, and I got a great initiative roll on turn one. Hyuddumm rushed the balcony door, while Henri shot an arrow through the window but failed to hit anybody. Quetzal cast a Barrier spell to keep the ground level guards from getting into the courtyard.

to be continued shortly...

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09 Apr 2023 19:29 #338946 by Shellhead
(To be honest, this map turned out to be a bit of a cheat compared to the default map guidelines in the rules. We were outnumbered two to one, but the tight quarters generally meant that we were usually up against even odds.)

Hyuddumm went on a rampage, suiting his background that includes a hatred for necromancers and the undead, which is one reason why my war party has completely focused on the necromancers in the early part of the campaign. Hyuddumm killed three of these half-dead guards, then wounded one who transformed into a maddened revenant and struck him down. The rest of the heroes were stuck out on the balcony due to the bottleneck at the door. Henri and Floki fired short bow and crossbow at approaching guards on the ground, while Quetzal renewed the Barrier spell.

Another half-dead guard and the captain went upstairs to confront the intruders, leaving behind a couple of half-dead necromancers, the guard with the broadsword, and the infiltrator. Quetzal cast Steelbreak on the captain to eliminate his armor, because the captain was a big threat with parry, counterattack, tough, and regeneration. The captain felled Gar, while Quetzal killed the revenant. The count battled the other guard, who got wounded and turned into a revenant. Quetzal cast Confuse on the captain (using up one of his limited supply of frozen shards), to suppress his parry and counterattack abilities temporarily. Then the captain defeated Quetzal.

The Count held his own against the captain for a turn, as Floki and Henri rushed in to help. Henri has a +2 in combat and was getting a +1 flanking bonus, so he managed to kill the captain, despite only wielding a knife in melee. Henri then battled his way down the narrow steps, killing again and again.

The endgame is depicted below, with the infiltrator fighting from the doorway to keep from getting surrounded by the Count, Henri, and Floki. All of my heroes were wounded at this point, but Floki was the only who got initiative, due to his re-roll ability. He managed to kill the infiltrator in a final exchange of blows.

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5280...n/dateposted-public/

I zoomed out the camera for one final shot of the whole battlefield, placing a red disc on each fallen combatant. This is the price of war:

www.flickr.com/photos/152016303@N05/5280...n/dateposted-public/

This was my biggest battle of the game so far, and I was pretty worried going into it. But it was a big win, and I collected a big adventure point award which I used to reduce the Necromancer threat down to 2. I have them on the run! Quetzal and Gar were only knocked unconscious, but Hyuddumm died. I forgot to spend a story point to cancel that toughness roll that took him out, but figured that I could spend a luck point to save anybody killed. But I forgot that Hyuddumm had already used his only point of luck a while back, so he is quite dead. The loot was stingy: light armor, a helmet, a couple of ironshield roots, which grant +1 Toughness for a single battle.

We will keep the roots, but sell the armor so we can buy drinks while recruiting a warrior to replace Hyuddumm. He was a brave warrior, always at the vanguard. He hated necromancy, and lost his life while dealing a solid blow to his enemies.
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10 Apr 2023 11:16 #338948 by Shellhead
The economics of this game continue to be problematic. In theory, my war band is a government-funded task force sent in to the region of Averoigne to investigate and end multiple threats to the people living there. In reality, we started with limited equipment and funds, and are expected to fund our ongoing efforts by looting our enemies. But the loot is so meagre that we must live off the land or pull guard duty shifts whenever in a town, because we can't otherwise afford food and shelter. The intent is probably to make us sell off most of our loot, but I have been giving much of it to the war band to make up for the limited weapons and armor at the start of the campaign.

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