Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Why ACKS Is One of the Best RPGs on the Market

Autarch is running another Kickstarter and people want to know… is the game this supplement’s designed for even any good?! I’ve been telling people it’s one of the best rpgs on the market, but that doesn’t really satisfy people. They want to know why. So here’s nine reasons why:

1) It makes the sketchy domain game elements of AD&D into a first class element of B/X D&D. In other words, it takes the most played version of D&D as its chassis and then solves longstanding game design issues related to the least played aspects of the line.

2) With the Player’s Companion, you get what is essentially a GURPS-like build system for the game’s classes. (And spells, too, for that matter. Which is funny, because that’s kind of what people have long requested for GURPS Magic but which they never quite got.)

3) With Domains at War you get a “Commands & Colors” style miniatures rule set that can accommodate pretty much anything from the game. High morale units lead by clerics behave differently than Roman-type legionnaires which behave differently from the mobs of beast men. This is a 3d6 in order game by default, but fighters will be glad to have high stats in things besides strength and constitution because they will matter a great deal in this context.

4) The best megadungeon on the market: Dwimmermount. This masterpiece is infused with themes and material inspired directly from the Appendix N books– including a very big nod to A. Merritt. Also, people will play it long after the snacks are gone, and on past midnight.

5) The proficiency system makes sense of the differences between player characters, zero level humans, and npc “specialist” types.

6) Clerics don’t get spells at first level and thieves have d4 hit dice… which is the CORRECT way to play D&D. However, if that doesn’t suit you players can also choose to play the Priestess and the Assassin class right out of the box. Having balanced alternatives to these often house-ruled classes shows what you should really have to give up in order to get what people *think* they want here.

7) The cleave rules make fighters the premier class of the game. Extra proficiencies tend to make mages better at research and lore-related things, but their lack of cleave skill keeps them in their place. The proficiency system puts things that are commonly house ruled into play in a place where the players have to give something up to get them. (Stuff like a cleric type cantrip, doing extra damage on a natural 20, and being a little better at a particular thief skill.)

8) The initiative system strikes a good balance out of the zillion ways it could be done. Players roll for it individually, but monsters of the same type roll as a group. This speeds things up… and allows the high dex thief character to have a chance to shoot the enemy mage with his crossbow, saving the party from instant TPK. Just as the cleave rule makes the fighter into a force to be reckoned with, this particular rule gives the thief a chance to be awesome.

9) For an old school DM, this is a game that can do all the old stuff while holding up to the demands of the new crowd. The fact that this game somehow meets both old school and newer school requirements about halfway means that it can stick in practice. There’s some kind of sweet spot this hits and people will play this game to death.

I have reviewed many products related to this game, posted several session reports and taken a look at some implications of its design choices as well. Read on if the above list still isn’t enough to satisfy you.

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3 responses to “Why ACKS Is One of the Best RPGs on the Market

  1. dgarsys December 9, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    LOVE the simplified 1-6 initiative system.

    I can easily count down “Six, anyone?”

    Need to review cleaving and a couple other rules, but it’s the first RPG in a while where I can put almost every critical-or-play chart on 4 8,5×11 pages.

    I’m damn happy I got the Sakkara kickstarter with ACKS and the PC

    • dgarsys December 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      3 sessions in and it’s been a blast

    • jeffro December 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      I like how it changes up who gets to take the lead in the action.

      Don’t forget that magic-users can’t move if they’re casting spells! Not playing that completely changes things!

      In order to cast a spell, a spellcaster must inform the Judge that a spell is being cast, and which spell will be cast, before the initiative dice are rolled. If the caster takes damage or fails a saving throw before he acts, the spell is interrupted and lost. (The spell still counts against the character’s spells per day as if it had been cast.) A caster may not move or perform any other action on the round he attempts to cast a spell.

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