ACKS Review Round Up
Posted by jeffro
on December 3, 2014
My review of the Adventurer Conqueror King System is up over at Castalia House. Here are a few things that other people have said that I either overlooked or couldn’t say as well:
From Dreams in the Lich House:
- “If ACKS were published 20 years ago, it’s likely I wouldn’t have finished college.”
- “Various dice rolls (throws) are expressed in ascending difficulty, mirroring modern design sensibilities in the d20 world.”
From Origins of a Dark God:
- “Spending money in town for no other reason than to live the adventuring lifestyle actually has an in-game benefit. Money spent on wine, company, and (in my game) exorbitantly fancy dresses, gets tracked. If your character dies, then 90% of those funds spent is converted into XP for your new character, giving you a leg up.”
- “The non-magical items, which in other games would be hand-waved into their GP value can be put into mercantile ventures and sold at a profit or loss depending on the town your characters head back to. This in turn can generate new adventures as the characters head out to sell their one-of-a-kind tapestry in a neighboring city where it will be worth more.”
- “I think its safe to say that I have never seen a set of rules and guidelines for stronghold and dominion management in any other D&D game (or even any other game remotely similar to D&D) that were this complete. The mechanics in the BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia books pale in comparison. Even Pendragon, which probably has the most detailed rules on manors that I’d seen systematized until now, doesn’t really match up. You get complete rules for just what kind of stronghold each class can make, how many followers it will attract, what every little bit of it will cost, how many peasant families you can attract and support, and what kind of revenue you can collect. On top of that you get rules for how to expand your domain, what kind of various expenses are involved on a regular basis, rules and tables for being a vassal of a lord or king, morale rules for your dominion to see if the peasants are revolting, rules for building and running villages, towns and cities, and building and managing markets.”
From The Other Steve:
- “One of the big changes is to mortality: when PCs hit zero (or fewer) hp, they remain in an indeterminant state between life and death until an ally treats them. At that point, they roll a d20 and d6 and cross-reference the results on a table. The results determine both the PC’s current condition and whether any lasting wounds are dealt. These results are often, to me, quite brutal: enough so that I’d rather just create a new PC than have a hand severed or crushed. At higher levels, healing magic can circumvent these injuries, but then you have to roll on another able for side effects (amusingly entitledTampering With Mortality).”
- “The campaign chapter also contains a bunch of amusing rules for magical research – not only can you create your own spells, but you can also cross-breed monsters and turn yourself into a lich! Perhaps the best part, though, is the conceit that wizards can build dungeons somewhere (probably not directly under their tower), wait for monsters to settle inside, and then send adventurers inside to harvest their parts. It sounds tremendously inefficient both for the PC (hoping you get a sufficiently interesting creature!) and the player (dungeons get stocked by making wandering monster roll…after roll…after roll).”
From Aeons and Augauries:
- “Ritual spells are powerful magics possible to spell casters of 11th level or higher. Handily these rituals duplicate the effects of other old-school games higher level spells. A ritual takes a while to learn (they are never gained with level advancement) and a fair bit of expense. Rituals are rated in spell levels of power to calculate these cost of research and spell casting time. A ritual costs a hefty 500 gp per spell level and takes a week to complete and isn’t certain to be cast successfully. A short list of rituals including spells such as Resurrection and Permanency is present and any compatible game with higher spells levels offers a host of higher level spells. The limitations put on rituals puts a decided dampener on high level spell-casters dominating play.”
One thing I’m not seeing people mention (and which I wish I had covered more) was that the key mechanic governing the domain system is the morale rating. You manage your realm, set it up, stuff happens… and then your domain’s morale changes over time in response to events and situations as they arise. This is a Good Idea™ and I’m not sure how common it is in the rpg scene. (Was it in the Mentzer Companion? Heh. I’ve never seen a copy.) Anyway… nice little rule there.
Oh… and not a lot of people are talking about the combination of the fighter damage bonus with the cleave rule. That’s a huge deal that makes fighters more the premier class of the game– especially when you take in all the things done to dial back the mages. (See the comments on my Castalia House post for the gory details on this. I would have completely missed it had I not been specifically asked about it by the designer. Doh!)
What is Castalia House?
It’s a publishing house dedicated to “old school” fantasy and science fiction. Their main selling point to me (and the reason I’d associate them) is that they not only understand the significance of writers like Tolkien and Lewis, but they also get that Robert E. Howard is on par with those guys. That is extremely uncommon nowadays.
I’d have a hard time believing that Tor post wasn’t trolling.
[Jeffro: Check out the comment that says of Ray Bradbury, “rereading his stories now is actively painful to me.” Incredible.]
Yeah, I saw that. I’m somewhat puzzled by this whole stance where golden and silver age late 19th and 20th century genre fiction need to be nudged behind the door as some kind of an embarrassment. Yes, let’s ignore the fundamentals upon which the successors are building or deconstructing. Hell, you can’t enjoy deconstructive fiction if you’re not familiar with the genre tropes it’s deconstructing.
Seriously, though, between posts like this and ones complaining about scantily clad individuals in fantasy art at conventions, I think that Tor is trolling everyone.
[Jeffro: Don’t forget, even as we nudge golden age fantasy behind the door, SCIENCE demonstrates that half of viking warriors were women. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but we’re pretty sure they fought in sub-zero weather wearing nothing but chainmail bikinis. Also: all of them were redheads.]
::facepalm:: I remember Sargon shouting about that. Pretty much everyone I’ve read who knows anything about Scandinavian culture discounts the shieldmaiden. Even at its most matriarchal, ancient Scandinavian society mostly shows that matriarchal doesn’t mean what they think it means.
Again, though, doesn’t surprise me that’s the sort of stuff coming from Tor. The first time I ever read anything on their blog, it was some guy handwringing about how gaming had a Nazi problem and conventions were overrun with Nazis & Nazi propaganda.
Oh… Ewww… I just saw that it was mirrored from Jezebel. What the hell is Tor doing in bed with Jezebel?