Sunday, February 26, 2012

Live Blogging.

the kids rolling up new characters after a tpk.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How much campaign do you need?

You see it all over the place: coming up with a campaign is a lot of work, some would-be DMs toil for considerable lenghts of time and never reach a point they are really happy with. How much campaign development do we really need? I pondered this yesterday and took up a simple experiment: fit as much campaign as I could on two regular sheets of paper.

I dived in with drawing a campaign map in a small gridded off section of the 1st page. With a simple random system (1d6 for row and 1d10 for column) I placed the terrain (forest, open, mountains and sea), 2 towns, 4 castles and 6 dungeons on the map.

I named both towns (Nutham and Brewster), the castles (Grimsword, Ravenmeet, Shrike and Evermont) and gave the dungeons fitting names to establish theri nature (Forgotten Elfhall, Orc Pits of Doom, Shadow Crypt, Mount Death, Lost Shrine of Dwar and Halls of the Last King. These names all went down on the first sheet where I decided to list an encounter for each grid location on the map (towns, dungeons and castle are the encounters for their location). All of the remaining spots on the map got an appopriate encounter based on terrain and neighboring locations. The encounters ranged from such things as 30 Bandits, MU-levle 8 with 20 hobgoblins, 2 storm giants and 1 great elk (each encounter described as briefly as outlines above).

Following populating the map I detailed the two towns listing Entry Tolls, a random encounter table for each town, a couple inns for each town (name, lodging costs, meal cost and chance of getting robbed ) along with a price list for unique goods or those that strayed in price from the default price list. Smokeweed and pipes are in Nutham, Cheap booze in Brewster.

Next came the castle descriptions each got their lord, a couple retainers, troop roster and overall value of trappings and treasury along with a simple sketched map of each place. Grimsword is ruled by a 10th level Lord, with a pair of mid level knights and men at arms. Ravenmeet is ruled by an elven lord with a band of elf knights and a compnay of elf archers. Castle Shrike is ruled by Lady shrike a cruel 12th lelv MU with hill giants, ghouls and orcs in her garrison. Evermont is ruled by Duke Evermont a 9th level lord with a number of retainers and knights and a couple comanies of soldiers.

The dungeons came next, each getting a map of varying styles. The dungeons all got a slightly different layouts some depending far more on random encounters to flesh out the action. A couple have repeated generic chambers, two were drawn in profile.

Scattered about were the house rules on movement and wilderness exploration. It's a small map so travel isn't all that quick or certain; how many move points it costs to travel forests and mountains is random. I decided to use shields will be broken. Exp are calcualted at 100 exp per HD/level or just 50exp for wimpy encounters and 1 exp per GP.

There are at least a half million exp available to PCs in the campaign, that's enough for a small, aggresive and lucky party to reach respectable levels. At seven encounters a session there's at least enough action for about 20 sessions if the players and DM don't milk things for more innvolved play. So 4 pages (2 sheets) of campaign that could last long enough for some players to build their own strongholds. How much campaign do you need?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Inhuman Treasures II

Three inhuman treasures sure to produce horror in some circles.

Living Brain: a brain suspended in a unique mixture of fluid held sealed in a crystal vessel that can only be opened (without breaking the vessel) by one with telekinetic powers. These brains are a delicacy among a variety of intelligent psionic predators. (Approximate Value: 1,000 g.p.)

Gilded Pate: an entire head held in a gilded cage. The head is animated by a special form of necromancy which keeps the head from rotting. Speak with dead spells will function as normal if cast on a gilded pate otherwise there are no special powers inherent in this baleful arrangement but some do believe the spirit of the beheaded remains trapped. (Value depending on original identity and or beauty of head: 500-2,000 g.p.)

Tattooed Hound: Another necromantic horror. A tattooed hound is a canine shaved of all it's fur and elaborately tattooed prior to being slain and re-animated. They make ideal pets to some as they need no feeding and produce no waste. A pair of such tattooed hounds led on silver chains was once considered the height of style among necromancers and their ilk. Tattooed Hounds may growl but lack the ability to bite or bark as their mouths are sewn shut prior to death. (Value Dependign on breed of dog and tattooing: 1,000-4,000 g.p.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Inhuman Treasures I

The hands of men and dwarves are not the only ones that fashion treasures that may be found by dungeon delvers, many inhuman hands labor to create treasures worthy of those with inhuman desires.

Here for your treasure heaps are three such inhuman treasures:

Pickled Dark-Elf Placenta: among the dark elves and some others the pickled placenta of a dark elf is considered to be both a fertility aid and an aphrodisiac. Given how seldom a dark elf produces offspring in her life they are very rare and prized among dark and decadent folk. The placenta is usually sliced thin and typically kept pickled in a fine crystal vessel that is a treasure in it's own right. (Value of full vessel: 300 g.p.)

Dragonmarrow Wine: wine with the dissolved marrow drawn from a dragons forelimb femur. The wine is reported to be fortified by the marrow and to enhance magics related to the dragon type the marrow is drawn from. Only the marrow from and adult or older dragon is to be used but that doesn't keep folks from manufacturing this expensive rarity using marrow from other bones. The color of dragon will typically be recoded on the vessel containing the wine as only the most experienced connoisseurs could possibly tell the vintages apart. (Value per quart: 75 g.p.)

Mourn Whistle: a small flute manufactured from the bones of a victim tortured to death over thirteen moons by goblins. Goblins of all sorts claim to be able to detect authentic instruments from forgeries as there is a certain tone of agony missing in the fakes.
(Value at goblin market: 5 g.p.)

Dwarven Effigies

All the treasures of the deep dark depths are not fully functional or crafted to be of direct utility to adventurers or others at all. Among the dwarves and the hoards of those that rob them one will find the occasional effigy. A dwarven effigy will be a miniature, half-sized, three-quarter sized or even full sized representation of a object of dwarven desire.

A dwarven effigy is usually constructed by an individual dwarf to hold in place of some object they desire and seek to have later in life. Sometimes these effigies will be passed on to others as a promise of later works. It's not unusual to find an effigy of a battle-axe, helmet, crown or even a throne carved from stone, wood or even fashioned in metal. Some effigies can be quite valuable and may indeed be valuable enough to purchase the analog of the effigy itself.

The value an effigy itself isn't in the materials and workmanship of the effigy to the dwarf in possession of it, the value to a dwarf is found in the value of the item it represents as it is a goal of personal achievement that can be held in secret until the true object is achieved or displayed in pride when the true object is put to use or safely stored away.

In some dwarf-holds these effigies will be buried with the dead and the true items passed on to new owners. It is customary among some dwarves to construct an effigy of any valuable gift received and return that effigy to the gift-giver or their family within a dozen or so years time of the giving of the original gift.

Random Determination of Effigies:
1 per 20 dwarves would be appropriate.
1d10 in a notable dwarven grave.
2d12 among a hoard looted from a dwarven vault.

Dwarven Effigy Table (1d1000)
1-50......Wooden Battle-Axe
51-75.....Stone Throwing-Axe
76-150...Ivory War Axe
151-250...Miniature wooden hammer
251-300...Miniature Ivory Anvil
301-350...Clay Bridal Effigy
351-380...Wooden Bridal Effigy
381-400...Stone Bridal Effigy
401-415...Ivory Bridal Effigy
416-425... Bronze Bridal Effigy
426-430...Silver Bridal Effigy
431-435... Gold Bridal Effigy
436-450... Clay Infant Effigy
451-460...Wooden Infant Effigy
461-462... Well Painted Wooden Infant Effigy
463-465... Stone Infant Effigy
466-470... Gold Infant Effigy
471-480...Miniature Wooden Crown
481...... Wooden Crown
482-483... Miniature Stone Crown
484-485... Miniature Silver Crown
486-500... Miniature Gold Crown
501-550... Miniature Clay Goat
551-580... Miniature Wooden Goat
581-600... Half-sized Wooden Goat
601-620... Miniature Stone Goat
621........... Life-sized Stone Ram
622-640...Miniature Wooden Cart
641-680... Miniature Wooden Helmet
681-690... Miniature Silver Helmet
691-697... Basket of Wooden Apples
698-700... Basket of Miniature Silver Walnuts
701-730... Miniature Clay Beer Stein
731-740... Miniature Wooden Beer Stein
741-770... Miniature Stone Beer Stein
771-775... Miniature Crystal Beer Stein
776-790... Miniature Silver Beer Stein
791-799... Miniature Gold Beer Stein
800..... Miniature Wooden Ship
801-880... 1/2 Sized Stone War-Pony
881-890... Life-sized Wooden War-Pony
891-896.... A Dozen Miniature clay dwarf shield bearers
897.....1/2 sized Wooden dwarf shield bearer
898-900... A Dozen Miniature stone dwarf shield-bearers
901-950... 1/2 sized Wooden crossbow
951-970... Miniature Stone Chariot
971-990... 1/2 sized Wooden Chariot
991... Miniature Wooden Throne
992-995... Miniature Stone Throne
996-997... Miniature Ivory Throne
998-999... Miniature Silver Throne
1000........ Miniature Gold Throne

Some items are symbolic and not meant to be taken as literal desire but the exact meaning of that symbolic meaning can vary wildly across dwarven domains.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Forester Has Gone Missing

The following table is to be used when players are master of an estate or small domain or find themselves in the service to a master in charge of such a place and it is discovered the forester has gone missing.

The table uses a D10,000 roll. Specific rolls may indicate possibility of back tracking along rolls or lead to further developments that may be extrapolated from the chart or of course developed by the DM. Fidn an uninteresting dead end, roll for further developments or wing-it. This table is meant to stimulate not simulate.

example roll: 5336 would yield an immediate result of : "the forester is inside and very drunk"
back tracking would build a fuller result of
"The forester's tracks lead far off the beaten path. The tracks can be followed to a secret hovel where it's found the the forester's horse is tied up outside and the forester is inside and very drunk"
How that result is revealed to the player(s) is up to the DM and governed by their actions.
Don't forget to check for normal wandering encounters while searching for a lost forester.

Missing Forester Table
1-50The Forester's tracks may be followed along a commonly used trail.
51-100 … tracks end mysteriously with no further sign.
101-150 …… a wider search reveals a small party on foot hid near the foresters path
151-175 ……. a wider search reveals a small party followed the forester
176-200 …… a wider search reveals a beast/monster was following the forester
201-250 …… a wider search will stumble upon a vagabond camp
251-275 …… a wider search will stumble upon a small party
276-400 …… a wider search will stumble upon the forester's horse
401-450 …… a wider search will stumble upon the forester
451-475 ……… who is impaled on the bottom of a pitfall
476-500 ……… who is trapped at the bottom of a pitfall
501-700 ……… who has been torn apart by a beast/monster
701-725 ……… who is laying on the ground wounded
726-1,000 ………. who is encamped and drunk
1,001-1,025 ……… who is encamped and badly wounded by a monster
1,026-1,200 ……… who is encamped with a limb broke after his horse bolted-off
1,201-1,300 … tracks show the forester entered a stream but there is no sign of exit.
1,301-1,325 … tracks show the forester increased his pace and the tracks disappear in thicket.
1,326-1,350 … tracks show the forester was met by individuals on foot
1,351-1,400 …… the forester left with them
1,401-1,500 ……… the forester and companions were attacked by another party
1,501-1,600 ……… the forester and companions were attacked by a beast/monster
1,601-1,700 ……… the forester and companions traveled to a poachers camp
1,701-1,800 ……… the forester and companions traveled to vagabond camp
1,801-1,825 ……… the forester and companions traveled into a nearby cave
1,826-2,100 …… there are signs of a fight but the forester's fate is unknown
2,101-2,125 ……… a search reveals tracks leading to and from a vagabond camp
2,126-2,200 ……… a search reveals tracks leading to and from a nearby cave
2,201-2,300 ……… a search reveals a dead local peasant nearby
2,301-2,400 ……… a search reveals a dead man-at-arms nearby
2,401-2,500 …… there are signs of a fight and it can be seen the forester sped away at some point
2,501-2,525 ……… tracks lead deeper into the wilds
2,526-2,550 ……… tracks lead into a quagmire
2,551-2,575 ……… tracks lead beyond the estate border
2,576-3,000 ……… tracks lead to water and disappear
3,001-3,300 the forester's horse returns to it's stable without the forester.
3,301-3,400 … there is no sign of wrong doing.
3,401-3,425… the saddle is bloodied.
3,426-3,500 … the saddle and all gear are missing from horse.
3,501-3,600 … the horse has a arrow wound.

3,601-3,650 the forester's horse was sighted wandering at the edge of the estate.
3,651-3,700 … the horse can be easily found
3,701-3,750 … the horse can be easily found and is in a distressed state
3,751-3,760 …… there is no sign of wrong doing.
3,761-3,800 …… the saddle is bloodied.
3,801-4,000 …… the saddle and all gear are missing from horse.
4,001-4,050 …… the horse has a arrow wound.
4,051-4,100 …… the horse bears wounds from monster/predator attack
4,101-5,000 The foresters tracks lead far off the beaten path
5,001-5,025 … the tracks can be followed to a secret hovel
5,026-5,050 …… the hovel is home to poachers
5,051-5,075 …… he hovel is home to a crone/hag
5,076-5,100 …… the hovel is abandoned with no sign it was used recently
5,101-5,200 ….. the foresters horse is tied up outside a hovel
5,201-5,300 ……… the forester is inside wounded
5,301-5,400 ……… the forester is inside and very drunk
5,401-5,450 ……… the forester is inside engaged in "relations" with an occupant
5,451-5,500 ……… the forester is being held captive by the occupant(s)
5,501-6,000 … the forester's remains are found with all gear missing
6,001-6,500 … the foresters remains are found with most gear present
6,501-7,000 … the forester is found wandering about worse for the wear
7,001-7,100 …… the forester ran afoul of a small party
7,101-7,500 …… the forester ran afoul of a beast/monster
7,601-8,000 …… the forester's horse bolted off leaving the forester afoot far afield
8,001-8,100 …… the forester's horse was injured in a poacher's trap
8,101-8,200 …… the forester was lost
8,201-8,300 …… the forester is drunk
8,301-8,400 …… the forester is found stumbling about on the edge of death
8,401-8,450 ……… badly wounded by an ambush
8,451-8,500 ……… badly wounded by a beast/monster
8,501-8,525 ……… showing clear signs of plague
8,526-8,575 … the forester is found impaled in a pit
8,576-8,600 … the forester is found trapped in a pit
8,601-8,610 … the forester's track lead into a cave
8,611-9,000 … the forester's tracks can be followed to his last camp
9,001-9,500 …… there are signs he was visited by a small party in the night
9,501-9,600……… and left in pursuit
9,601-9,650 ……… and was carried off
9,651-9,700 …… there are signs he was visited by a beast/monster in the night
9,701-9,750 ……… and left in pursuit
9,751-9,850 ……… and fled
9,851-9,950 … if followed the foresters tracks can be found to be crossed by a beast/monster
9,951-9,975 … if followed the foresters tracks can be found to be crossed by a small party
9,976-10,000 … the tracks are blocked by a dangerous NPC

The composition of small parties, encounters with beast/monsters and dangerous NPCs should follow normal conditions for a campaign. Vagabond camps can be found here

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reality Check- Heating your Hovel

This past Thursday morning I was awoken by the wife who said there was an outlet fire in my two year old sons room, there was no actual fire but there was an electric burning smell and bubbling of the paint next to the outlet where his nightlight projector toy is plugged in. There was no immediate heat so I sped downstairs to turn off the circuit and i heard a strange high pitch whining noise coming from the heating systems return vent, the blower at my home gave up the ghost and decided it would blow no more, leaving us with no heat. We had electricians and heating techs come over to confirm no electric fire and dead blower. The blower is currently being re-built hopefully they'll get it back here as soon as possible,

Luckily we have a woodstove. Unluckily I had connected it yet. After a bit of frustration and a few minor cuts the woodstove was ready for the local fire chief (who lives three doors down) to drop by and inspect: It wasn't great but we are allowed to burn to keep the place from freezing as long as we get the upgrades in as soon as possible. The wife is having the devil of a time finding a spark-mat or hearth-mat to catch sparks in front of the stove just in case one shoots free while loading. (anyone know a place that has such a thing in stock in southern /nh?)

The reality check I've made is that for each hour of woodcutting with crappy tools and fallen wood it's possible to get eight hours of heat in my fair sized home with a good woodstove . This isn't early 21st century luxury heat but still a comfortable enough range 0f 50-63 depending on a host of variables and locations in the house. Of course tis was with outside being 40-21 and a colder day or two is coming.

So in closing: 1 hours work for 8 hours of heat and 50-63 is so much warmer than freezing.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review- Adventurer Conqueror King

I just downloaded the pdf and spent the evening devouring Adventurer Conqueror King from Autarch. The following is an overview and review based on a reading of the rules. I'm sure I've missed things but I feel the following should prove interesting to those wanting to learn more about the game.

The "Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) is a set of rules for role-playing in a world of swords, sorcery, and strongholds"

The Game Judge (Judge for short) prepares the campaign and serves as final arbitrator of how the rule are played in that campaign.

For some odd reason ACKS has us rolling dice and throwing dice as distinct actions at the tabletop. The bog difference begin when one throws the dice they are attempting to beat a target value and that isn't the case when one is rolling the dice.

Character Creation:
You've seen it all before, well mostly sort of. What's interesting is the standard classes of Fighter, Cleric, Mage and Thief are the core human classes. Demi-humans are meant to be rare in ACKS campaigns and as such there are unique classes fro the demihuman races to set them apart from the humans; we get dwarves vanguard, dwarves craftpriest, elven spellsword and elven nightblade for those wishing to play demihuman characters. Humans may also play "campaign classes" of assassin, bard, blade dancer and explorer. There's enough variation to satisfy diversity at the table top and room to grow within the classes without any one choice looking like it will dominate play.

Hit dice and hitpoints are modest, fighter get 1d8 per level until 9th and but 2 per level afterward. Each of the human classes has a max level of 14. The dwarves classes top out at 13th and 10th level and the leaven classes at 10th and 11th. These level limits are a little important as the game is built around some demographics that define what levels of NPCs will likely occupy territories. A sleepy little burg is unlikely to have a 12th level Mage hanging out at the local pub and even an empire of millions is only likely to have many high level characters.

Whats different in classes: fighters get a damage bonus based on level and inspire others on the field of battle, mages start crafting some magic items at 5th level and work rituals from 11th level as do clerics, thieves abilities will be familiar to any oldschool player but are resolved with a d20 roll based on level instead of other mechanics.

What's interesting and supported later in the rules is as they gain levels each class is able to develop a stronghold of sorts Fighters may build castles, mages establish sanctums, clerics build fortified churches, thieves establish a hideout, dwarves build dwarves vaults and elves may establish an elven fastness. More on these later.

Alignments within ACKS run the spectrum of Lawful-neutral-chaotic. Lawfuls are not do-gooders who turn down reward and foolishly grant mercy to the unworthy. Lawfuls believe civilization is worth fighting for along with all it's virtues and vices. Chaotic beings seek the destruction of civilization. entrails do what it takes to get by. Lot's of room in this civilization based view of alignments to have authentic swords and sorcery adventurers.

The only real innovation is in establishing market classes for communities which limits availability of goods in the campaign and mentioning the possibility of commissioning gear if not ordinarily available in a market. Prices for weapons and gear are generally inexpensive except fora few luxury goods. A longbow is less expensive then a sword and peasants may be abel to feed themselves and buy a few drinks at the pub. There's a handy chart that establishes the monthly living costs for different standards of living from the wretched getting by on 1 GP a month to an emperor living in opulence at 80,000 or more GP a month.

Encumbrance is calculated in ACKS by the 10lb stone. 1,000 coins are in such a stone and 6 items weigh a stone as a rough guide. Reasonable and quick.

Hirelings, specialists,mercenaries and henchman get a fair anoint of support. Wages and maintenance for a wood array is given. Interestingly enough you can hire yourself some ruffians when business in town demands your adventurers attention. Hirelings become more important to a character as they establish domains.

All characters get a range of proficiencies selected from a class list and a general list. Every PC starts with the adventuring proficiency, a class based proficiency and a general proficiency align with a couple bonus proficiencies for those with higher intelligence scores. The proficiencies cover a wide range of skills and tactics that relate to ACKs campaigns. I have no idea why this is in a separate chapter from character creation but it is.
Some characters will eventually earn a goodly number of proficiencies but the game doesn't seem to depend on every character establishing a laundry list of identical skills.

The spells defined in ACKS aren't going to provide many surpasses and the lists will be very familiar to Old School gamers. Normal mage spells top out at 6th level and cleric spells top off at 5th level.

The first major diversion in spells and ACKS is that a spell caster need not memorize or prepare spells before casting. A spell caster is able to cast any spell in their repertoire to a limit of how many spells per level they are allowed.

Spell casters have their own spell casting signatures that others can learn and use to track the working of other spell casters.

This section cover the adventuring rules for dungeons, wilderness, and sea; along with combat. All the basics for dungeon delving are covered (resting, doors, traps). Wilderness adventure covers long distance hex-crawling travel as does sea travel. Sneaking past monsters explicitly uses the surprise rules as it's base (which makes plenty of sense).

Initiative is 1d6 high roll goes first. Some actions require they be announced before the initiative dice are rolled. Every NPC and PC with the same initiative score acts simultaneously.

A combatant in ACKS makes an attack throw to score a hit in combat. Each class has an Attack throw Value based on level which is expressed as the score or higher required to hit a target. The procedure is simple and familiar a d20 is rolled modifiers for ability scores are applied and Armor classes is added attack throw value to determine the score needed to hit.

Armor class in ACKS runs from a score of 0 for unarmed combatants and goes upward. It would be better expressed as a penalty applied to the attack throw as opposed to the modifier to the target score it is currently described as.

Helpless targets are always hit, a 1 always misses, a 20 always hits.If a character or monster kills or incapacitates an opponent with an attack they may keep on hitting adjacent allies of the foe.

Weapon damage is pretty constant in ACKS small light weapons do 1d4 damage, slightly larger weapons do 1d6, bulkier weapons do 1d6 in one hand or 1d8 in two hands and the bulkiest weapons do 1d10.

When a creature is wounded so it's HP score drops to 0 or less a roll is made on the Mortal Wounds Table. ACKS character don't simply bounce from HP to no HP. Attempting to come back from death (or near death) requires a roll on the Tampering With Mortality Table. No yo-yo fights with characters being bashed to a pulp and then bouncing up to fight unhindered a round later after a healing spell is cast.

Dead is dead, no one earns EXP coming back from an adventure as a corpse even if brought back from the dead. Unless one has a loyal henchman to take over all characters in a ACKS campaign start at 1st level unless they have banked some exp by spending funds to build an EXP reserve for their next character which will start at the level allowed according to the total amount of banked exp. Two good ideas here, one gets money out of PC hands to encourage future adventure and the other makes henchman a desirable game mechanic for those that dread the "exp tax" of henchmen.

A whole lot of what really differentiates the Adventurer Conqueror King System from other OSR title is in this section. I'll admit I was feeling a while lot of " so, why'd I buy this same game I already own" reading the earlier chapters and thankfully this chapter really delivers on new and forgotten fantasy gaming.

magical power-
Starting at 5th level spellcasters may begin to research spells of their own, scribe scrolls, and brew potions, at 9th more powerful magic items may be crafted and at 11th level spell casters may cast ritual spells, craft magical beings and more. Magical research is spelled out clearly and constantly. All magical items require special components such as body parts from monsters with a total xp value equal to the gp cost of research. While it makes sense to give judges room for campaign development a standard list of special components isn't included.

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.

High level spellcasters are given rules to can crank out constructs, create crossbreeds of monsters, dig into necromancy and draw on divine power . High level magical workings aren't simply a linear progression of lower level spell casting.

Strongholds and domains-
A lot of useful rules are provided on establishing, building and maintaining domains. Costs of contraction are covered. Incomes and expenses of civilization are given.

The duties of nobility are spelled out as are the expenses. A PC may find the need to swear fealty to an overlord to thwart encroachments of neighboring lords along with favors and obligations following from that arrangement.

Hideouts and Hijinks-
Assassins, elven nightblades, and thieves can build hideouts and gather a syndicate of fellow criminals to do their bidding in a host of unsavory endeavors. This is a great treatment for criminal activities and thieves guilds that will have the would-be criminal boss reaping the profits and dealing with the results of smuggling, spying, theft and more.

Mage sanctums get a little attention, it seems they attract students. More interestingly a reason for dungeons and their construction is given: Mages need monster parts to craft magical items and the best way to get those is dungeons they themselves construct and oversee; in the world of an ACKS campaign "A wizard did it" is a completely reasonable explanation for a lot of mayhem.

Mercantile ventures are given a fair amount of treatment for those wishing to engage in commerce. Clear rules are given for the values of goods and cost of transport.

All lords, masters, arch-villains gain experience points and wealth from their endeavors and the shenanigans of their minions.

This section is a bit of a let down compared to the previous one. Monsters get comprehensive treatment but are really the same-old-thing as many the old-school RPGs. The most interesting detail is many monsters are indeed the results of the working of ancient spellcasters and are not in reality natural beings. The host of popular old-school humanoid heavies are unnatural beastmen that no one need feel any moral qualms about dispatching.

Not exciting but essential treatment for distributing treasure and it's properties is given. I do rather like the section for scavenging treasure that makes looting monsters for their gear a less than desirable option and create turmoil for those that must rely on found gear.

This section is the judges guide and offers solid guidance in constructing campaigns. Populations,Sinkholes of evil, transformations, poisons, slavery and death from aging are all covered in this section.

Developing realms to set campaigns in is given fair treatment and reveals the game-economics number crunching that go into holding ACKS together. Determining trade routes, assigning NPCS, monster lairs and adventure creation are all covered.

In conclusion the Adventurer Conqueror King System covers a lot of familiar RPG territory and delivers a solid game that does indeed provide for campaigns where lowly adventurers can build up domains. Not everything is amazing but the game delivers on it's promise of being a game about swords, sorcery and strongholds.I'd have bought this book alone for the campaigning chapter and I suspect a great many folk will as the developers have done their job. There are areas I'd have liked to have seen more detail and some areas i feel were overlooked but that leaves room for myself and others to expand on the fine work and solid foundation provided in Adventurer Conqueror King.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It puts the D20 in the basket.

Is that thread title a great line or what? "It puts the D20 in the basket" was just too darned good not to put in a blog post. It brings up lots of gaming horrors to me.

1. Oh no the characters we just rolled up are trapped in a dungeon...
This is one of the lamest scenarios to launch a D&D campaign with (beyond a bunch of murder-hobos meeting in bar). Its smacks a true control freak of a DM who just can't even let players start with a decent set of equipment or any choices of note. Worst of all, just how badly are the players going to work at having the characters escape. I know the best way to escape that dungeon...quit playing that campaign.

2. It was all a dream...
What, the past three sessions were all a dream, Lord Dark isn't dead, we don't have the sword of fire and ice? We're all back at the prancing Peryton where we met, bob isn't dead? So thanks mr DM you just told all the players everything they did was meaningless. Why would the players suspend disbelief at any point in the future or bother investing themselves at all? RPGs are already cerebral and things of the imagination.

3. Everyone starts out as a Tarnsman...
Nevermind the Gorean reference (which in itself should be a sure sign to stay away) but it is really annoying to have one of the first choices you get to make for yourself made by the DM at the very start of the campaign. It gets even worse if the arbitrary uniformity of starting character doesn't matter one damned bit. If I'm playing a Tarnsmen I better be riding a damned big bird pretty soon after rolling up a character. I've been in games where we all have to start out as Samurai, Demons or Tarnsmen and then it was pointless to be saddled with this seemingly arbitrary starting type of a character. Removing the ability to make such a significant decision as to what type of character one will start with is a great way to tell people you don't want them playing interesting characters in your campaign.

4. Prequel...
It might as well be a dream sequence, the characters you and everyone else rolled up aren't meant to be the characters play the rest of the campaign with, those characters you just rolled up are doomed to be destroyed or forgotten. You've just been playing a six hour long intro scene...

5. This campaign takes place in 11th Century China...
Or so you were foolishly led to believe. The DM setup the campaign to you weeks before, got you excited. Encouraged you to learn about the era, helped you roll up a character in advance and then decided to scrap that idea on the first night of game play just before you got there. That's a DM telling you to never get invested in a campaign, it's not going to last long enough to matter.

6. This campaign takes place in 11th Century China...
and the DM has decided to remove every possible bit of fun possible. The DM setup the campaign to you weeks before, got you excited. Encouraged you to learn about the era, helped you roll up a character in advance and when yuo got there yuo discovered your character was trapped in a campaign so over designed that nothing you did could matter. You could make choices but all of them involve being a dick and ruining the campaign or having nothing important happen.

7. No your character wouldn't do that, she does this instead...
Sure the red button was an obvious trap, that's why you didn't have your character push it, too bad the DM doesn't respect you enough and decides your character pushes it anyway. the DM is so in love with his creation that he just has to expose it to you at every chance to the point your ability to make decisions for your character will be removed if they don't allow the DM to spring his creations on you.

8. Book 1, Chapter 1...
Your DM is also a frustrated author and want to use you and your fellow players to work out some difficult points in the novel she's been working on for 8 years. The end of the story is already written, there's just a few points in the middle the author...oh, DM needs to work out...
well the DM can work that out on her own.

Those are just a few examples of players being trapped in a campaign and the DM setting the whole thing up for failure. I'm sure many of you gentle readers have experienced some of these situations and others but for some odd reason came back for more, at least for a session or two.