So I’ve been running Adventurer Conqueror King System for a few weeks now and spending all my game time reading and familiarizing myself with the system. And you know, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of this game. It’s a great old school game but also very well written and full of clever extra stuff.
I’ve discovered a few things though as I’ve really been working on my game that surprised or confused me. Here are a few of my discoveries as I’ve worked my way into ACKS.
1. Elves and Dwarves don’t have infravision. It was funny, I took the idea of dwarves and elves having infravision so for granted that my brain completely just filled it in and glossed over the fact that it wasn’t written anywhere. Now, I’m actually really happy with them not having infravision. I just filled that in on my own and one of my players had to point it out to me. So – some closer reading was in order…
2. Sticking with Elves… One of the more interesting additions to the game with the Player’s Companion is the class creation system. But as I began to tinker with this I realized that one of the quirks of this system is that there is no explanation about the whole “elves can cast spells while wearing armor.” At this point, I can’t really tell how that is handled or where it originates in the game system. This may seem like a small point – but it really is a big deal when it comes to customizing classes. It’s also no help to compare the created classes because the language is not carried through all of the elven classes. This is one I’d like a clear answer to (because there are also other examples – such as Zaharans).
3. The domain and kingdom rules are also really difficult. As much as I love the rules built to handle markets and the clarity they bring to certain things – the actual work to build a domain during campaign planning was awful – and not terribly clear. Some of the language is confusing to the point that I just chucked parts of the rules and just faked it – something I was striving not to do and which worries me when my players start to reach the stage where they begin to consider domains. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that since the domain rules shape everything else in terms of the game’s economy it is very difficult to separate these pieces and see them in isolation. I haven’t given up yet on planning and that I might have a breakthrough that makes it all come together but… it doesn’t really seem likely.
Again, I have a few difficulties and confusions but I still love this game and I’m really enjoying running it for my players.
Thanks for reading.
[We started over after two sessions - no reason save that we added a new player and I had a chance to do a little more worldbuilding. I'm working with a very heavily altered version of Thunder Rift as my region map.]
Mithras – Dwarven Vaultguard
Aella – Bladedancer
Calus – Explorer
The nameless thief…
On the shores of the great lake, the distant roar of a waterfall in their washing over the town, four adventurers come together. Lured here by tales of a ruined wizard’s tower, they wander the town for a time, picking up rumors about dragons, an ancient dwarven artifact, and a hobgoblin warlord amassing an army. Realizing that they’ll need plenty of rations to go up into the mountains and explore this ruin, Aella and Mithras buy a mule they promptly name Bill Sparkles and at least a week’s worth of rations for the party.
They spend most of a day wandering the mountains headed for the dungeon, deciding to camp out for the night before trying their luck. The townsfolk in Kleine told them that other adventurers had gone to the ruins before and none had ever returned and they hoped that along with treasure, this expedition would build their reputations. They entered the dungeon early in the morning and began to explore by lantern light. [It is striking to me that none of the demihumans in this game have infravision]. The party chose to follow the left wall – and as they began to map the first level they immediately encountered skeletal sentries. As the four skeletons stepped out of alcoves along the walls Aella stepped forward and invoked the power of the Passionate Twins to leave the undead cowering where the rest of the party could make short work of them.
With their confidence up after this first encounter they push deeper into the complex and bust their way into a room where they encounter a Mage and his warrior companion. After a brief conversation, the Mage (who never gave his name) convinced them to turn back and take a different path. Mithras wanted to attack as he thought the Mage was hiding something from them but the rest of the party decided leaping on a prepared mage was not worth it yet.
They turned back and proceeded away in the opposite direction, going north and discovering several empty rooms before stumbling into several ghouls. Again, the power of The Passionate Twins compels the ghouls and the party makes short work of them. Their first real danger comes when the party finds a secret door with two further ghouls hiding behind it. The party is surprised and even though Mithras quickly lops the head off a ghoul, Aella and the Thief are both paralyzed and the thief is dragged into the secret door by the remaining ghoul. The dwarf shoves the newly statuesque Aella and manages to spring the door again in time to save the thief.
With the ghouls dispatched, the party stops to investigate the rest of the room and the mysterious corridors which lead off in all directions. One of the tunnels meanders back to the surface and they find the graveyard where the past owner of this tower buried his victims and failed experiments. Deciding that they do not want to spend any time in such a place they retreat back into the dungeon and press on. The next room is full of trash and Mithras spots the giant rats just before they attack. He throws himself into the fray but some bad luck leads to a nasty bite. Deciding that they need to retreat from the dungeon they return to the entrance where they hid Bill Sparkles and camp. The next morning Mithras is sick but feels as if another day of rest is all he needs. They stay out another night and in the morning they find poor Mithras dead in his bedroll. Deciding that they fear the plague he might be carrying they burn him in his tent.
Despite the loss of Mithras the remaining adventurers press on. With the first real hint of treasure in their pouches they are excited for what else might lie within. Entering a huge chamber full of ten coffins and a wall riddled with rat warrens they set a fire to blow smoke into the warrens and try to keep the rats from surprising them. Then they begin to investigate the coffins, finding old skeletons, some ancient jewelry, and a jeweled sword with a dragon hilt. Calus draws the blade and fills a thrill of power as it slides free. The next coffin proves their undoing though. A jeweled dagger within animates when the party attempts to pick it up and it cuts Calus before they knock it down and it reappears in the coffin. After a brief conference between Calus and the thief they decide to try for the dagger again. This time it proved to be a poor choice. The dancing dagger strikes a fatal blow to Calus, opening an artery and ending his life. Aella makes a valiant attempt to save him but can’t quite pull it off – leaving them down two party members. After laying Calus to rest they decide to leave the dagger alone and perhaps head back to town.
Who will join them for the next adventure?
Last night was the second session of my new Adventurer Conqueror King System campaign. Session 2 also meant our first death but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
The first night primarily involved character creation with 3 players. Using one of the optional rules in the book, I had each of them roll up multiple characters and choose one of them to play. The others end up as back up characters and for use as NPCs.
The party… Knut (“Nut”), a thief with 2 hit points (there was some culture shock), Aella – a Bladedancer (a type of war-cleric who fights with two weapons), and a Dwarven Vaultguard named Mithras. I think the names embraced the style we were going for. Also, excitingly, the Vaultguard rolled both a 16 strength and a 17 intelligence and chose to play a dwarf instead of diving in with an Elven Spellblade.
So we have no arcane caster. It is what it is.
The first night we went through a very short, very typical dungeon crawl and it was strangely refreshing for me. I really enjoyed going back to a very simplified and straightforward accounting of time (the 10 minute turn). This actually made me feel a lot better about how I narrated time in the dungeon and really gave some context and some pressure to the idea of “you only have so many torches/flasks of oil.” So far, I find that I’m really enjoying these bookkeeping elements, including encumbrance, particularly because ACKS makes them much easier to follow on the fly.
After returning to civilization, the party wanted to do some buying and selling and they realized that the very little town they are in (a class six market) is just not going to cut it. The market system is a great innovation in the game and really streamlines a lot of the difficulties involved in “can I buy X here?” and really helps to push the characters toward civilization. I think there is room to manipulate the market system here with some subsystems so that it is not always tied to population size but I’m a big fan.
For their second adventure I’m running a modified version of a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure – and it’s a blast. I won’t say too much here – since they are playing through it still and my players all see this blog but I do want to say a big thank you to Knut for not only being our first casualty but also giving us the first chance to roll on the Mortal Wounds table. Let’s just say that it is going to be a game-changer when the bladedancer hits 2nd level and gets actual healing magic.
More to come on the ACKS experiment but I’ll say two things right now, I’d kill to get a copy of the Core Book as a hardcover (around $135 to get one on Amazon marketplace) and (not ACKS but…) Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures are every bit as cool to run as they were to read. I’m really digging this.
Thank you to the entire OSR for making Old School cool again. I’m having a blast.
I still haven’t figured out why I can get a jellybean that tastes exactly like freshly cut summer grass, buttered popcorn, or vomit (ew) but I can’t find an artificial sweetener that doesn’t make my coffee or tea taste weird and off-putting… That probably doesn’t seem all that relevant to gaming (it isn’t) but I tend to think of things in parallels and as my wife has gotten more into cooking lately I’ve been thinking about how things come together. Cooking is science, it’s alchemy, it’s taking bits and making a cohesive, enjoyable whole. And there are a thousand recipes for just about any dish you can think of – but they all claim to be making the same dish. There are low-fat, high-fat, gluten-free, dairy-free, lots of butter, you name it you can make it versions of just about everything.
And that makes me think about my quest for a game lately. I’ve been without a group for about six months now… roughly corresponding to my taking a pseudo-break from writing here. It’s given me a lot of time to read and plan.
I’ve been in an OSR kind of place for a while now. I’ve been thinking about old school play, missing old school play… And with Wizards of the Coast releasing their back catalog of D&D adventures (hurry up and get the Thunder Rift stuff up!) and Goodman Games making spectacular adventures for DCC, I’ve really been craving some old school. I dug out my Dungeon Magazines from the 80′s, my B/X D&D sets, my Rules Compendium, The Arcanum. I downloaded Labyrinth Lord, Swords and Wizardry, Legends of the Flame Princess, and Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS), and Castles and Crusades. I even bought Dungeon World and reread Old School Hack. And I realized along the way that there are a lot of Old School games. There are even New School/Old School games. It’s weird.
There are 31 Flavors of Old School gaming and that’s a good thing… Hell, Talislanta is free now. Seriously.
And they all do it a little bit different. They all do it just a little bit “their own way.”
I ran a short game of Castles and Crusades and I really liked it… but much like Goldilocks in the three bears’ house, it was just not quite right. I was really close to announcing a game using The Arcanum rules… I’ve always had a soft spot for those rules and I feel like they are an underappreciated piece of gaming history. That book is a gold mine of gaming goodness. And that too was just not quite right (partly because of the work invovlved in translating old school D&D adventures for Arcanum play). Recently though, Autarch put out the Players’ Companion for ACKS and I picked it up, knowing I’d enjoyed reading the core book and looking forward to more of the same. And as I read I had the urge to go back and read the core book again. This is what I’ve been looking for. I missed it the first time but really, this is a great game.
So I’m starting an Adventurer Conqueror King System game – that is – provided I actually get any players. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’m still trying to come up with a good name for this hack… “Runners of the Shadows” just sounds weird. Oh well.
I’ve been plugging away at this in my spare time but the end of the summer/beginning of the academic year is a really awful time for me. Things are just starting to settle down again so I’ll be back to posting more often.
Anyway, here’s some rules for Contacts in “Runners in the Shadows.” (still hate that…)
Contacts for DOW/Shadowrun
Contacts are a vital part of Shadowrun. As important as gear, as important as your team – who you know can be the difference between life and death. Knowledge is power, chummer.
The basic “Contacts” boon in Dogs of War is adequate, if you like it – but since contacts and legwork play such a vital role in most shadowruns, I felt like everyone should start the game with some contacts. I also like random rolls.
- Every Runner gets one contact at character creation for free. This contact is determined by rolling 2d6 – one for Connection and one for Loyalty.
- A player can give up two of their initial Run Points to purchase an additional Contact
- Runners with points in the Face career gain one additional randomly rolled contact for each level in the Face Career
Beyond these rules, each PC may also call upon one random contact per mission by spending a Run Point. These random contacts are rolled like original contacts but their Connection and Loyalty can never by higher than 3. (Roll 1d6/2) for each of Connection and Loyalty.
Players should define these contacts with a single sentence – “This contact is a [something] who knows/does/sells/works for [something].” (Example: My contact is a talismonger who works for the mob…)
A GM should keep track of these impromptu contacts to start building a stable of NPCs. A PC can always spend a Run Point to use one of these contacts again in a future session.
New Boon: Connected
A PC with this boon may roll a bonus die when determining the Connection and Loyalty of contacts and may keep the best two dice. A PC with this boon also gains one additional permanent contact when the boon is acquired.
New Drawback: Burned
A PC with this drawback is forced to roll a penalty die when rolling for random contacts and they must always take the lowest die for loyalty.
So, that’s my simple and yet random system for injecting a good bit of “Contacts” into my Shadowrun/DOW hack. I really like the idea but it does need some tweaking still
PS – my inspiration for the sentence to describe contacts popped up over the last few days while I’ve been reading Numenera. If you prefer more or less detail on contacts – go for it.
Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon with more from the 2070s.
I’ve added another game to my Downloads page. It’s titled Legends of Ryllia, and it was my first attempt at writing a complete game. Sorta. Anyway, I wrote this in 2004 as an experiment, as something for myself, as a chance to just… do it. It’s difficult to really go back and say why I did this at the time with any certainty, but I remember being happy that I’d done it, at least.
At the time I was part of a web board and I set myself the goal that I would write a post/essay a week about my thoughts on game design and what I wanted to accomplish. I was really excited about the prospect – and setting myself a deadline helped me to stay focused. I think the writing I did then also helped me decide later to start this blog.
But the game’s the thing, right? Ryllia had a strange origin. When I was running a GURPS Space game one summer I had a PC race that required sexual contact or they slowly went mad… it wasn’t about the sex so much – it was an experiment with the idea of being stranded in space and what kind of ships a race with needs like that would design. No solo ships, lots of crew comforts, etc. They turned into the Deliri as I started working on Ryllia. I also had been tinkering with a race of flying mice-people who turned into the Myrwinn but really, the beginning of Ryllia came from a dream I had. The specifics aren’t really important – the dream focused on the land that became Discia.
After writing the game, I had them printed as perfect-bound books and sold around 75 of them at a local con… the only time I’ve ever attempted to make money from gaming… I even got a review (mixed).
I love Ryllia. It was populated by personalities I knew and I’ve run three campaigns in Ryllia – all of which are among my favorite games I’ve ever run. It’s one of many worlds I’ve created – but the only one I designed my own game around. It’s a game that says a lot about my feelings on low-rules systems, it doesn’t care much about game balance, and it’s best when played with a group that are comfortable together.
The version I’ve uploaded is the version I wrote in 2004. I tinkered with the layout a little because it didn’t translate cleanly from my old word processor program into Word 2013. I also removed the original cover art though I left the rest of the art created by my friend Paolo. He was kind enough to do it for me.
In the 9 years since I wrote Legends of Ryllia, I’ve played and tinkered with a lot of games. Looking back at this version – I remember how amateurish it is and I realize how much I just took for granted in the original manuscript. I also remembered how much I loved Ryllia, remembered how much I enjoyed writing this game. I’ve contemplated writing Ryllia again before – even toyed with the idea here on the blog. But doing this – working on getting this ready to post – it makes me really want to work on that again. So after I finish my current project (BoL/Shadowrun hack) I’m going back to Ryllia.
For now, please download and enjoy Legends of Ryllia – and please, if you enjoy it, drop me an email or a comment, I’d be happy to know what you think of my own little game… (oh, it’s 108 pages long).
Thank you for reading, and enjoy my game.
Not a fan of the… “sorry I haven’t posted” type of post – but I wanted to share my pain. Right in the middle of three projects and my computer…
…my computer has created a black hole of awful that we are still recovering from.
So just a quick post today.
Saw some comments about my BoL/Shadowrun project – still plugging away at that and will start putting stuff up as soon as I’m live again.
Also straightened out the PDF of my old game, Legends of Ryllia – which I hope to have up early next week… that was a trip down memory lane. I’m actually a little excited about sharing it with the world. It’s raw, but like I said, lots of memories.
Finally caught up on the Harry Dresden novels – fantastic. I still don’t get how The Dresden Files can be so good and the Codex Alera was so awful…
But, stay tuned – I’ll get the computer up and live again soon and then – early next week I’ll be back with some gaming goodness (well, I guess all of you will be the judge of that).
So I was reading a recent post from MiddleAgedDM about D&DNext (or whatever) and he ruminates about the changes in his preparation and GMing style these days. I find it interesting because I know that it’s a conversation/thought I hear expressed often – that as we get older/more busy we lose the freedom to prep the way we used to, to play out all the little interactions we once did – that maybe we even lose the urge to DM that way anymore. We just need to get to the good bits.
I think it must be a common occurrence for gamers – and you know – you adapt so that you can keep playing. I get that. I find it fascinating because it hasn’t really happened to me. Admittedly, I’ve always been a prep-light GM anyway and I prefer systems low on mechanical interaction and high on at the table social interaction. That said, I ran a lot of Shadowrun and Pathfinder so it’s not all rules light. If anything, I find that I have the urge to prep more than I did years ago because that prep gives me a sense of comfort…
But I realized that I haven’t actually stayed the same over these last few years. My GM style may have remained consistent but my style and taste as a player have changed dramatically.
I have notebooks full of characters I played when I was a young gamer – and invariably I played one thing. I was the Wizard. If it was D&D I was a Grey Elf Wizard. If it was Arcanum, it was a Druas Wizard (or Mage). If it was superheroes I was a Dr. Fate clone. I played the wizard. I don’t think I played a fighter or a cleric until I was in my twenties – though I would be lying to say that I didn’t play the occasional thief. That did happen, like once. Heck, in the World of Darkness the only game I really enjoyed was Mage.
Then I started looking at what I’ve played for the last few years and I see a radical shift. Now I play Barbarians or Bards. And it may not be that exact character class – but that’s the character type I’m playing. I’m either a “let’s hit ‘em in the face” melee type or I want to play the charismatic “fifth man” who is that, I’m second best at everything type of character. I realized that I’ve actively refused to play Wizards (or even the magus) in Pathfinder because they are prepared spell type casters and I just don’t want to actually do all the work of picking spells. It’s also occurred to me that these days I would take a weaker passive ability over a more powerful, triggered ability any day. I also am pretty sure I haven’t played an elf in the last 10 years.
I don’t have a predictable reason why the shift happened. I still love playing (when I get the chance) and I still love the part of RPGs that is all about taking on a role and playing that character (not just a “version” of yourself). I love being a player character. But I shudder at classes that require a commitment in terms of planning each game session.
I hear a lot about how people’s GMing styles have changed over time – has anyone else experienced this radical shift in desired experience as a player? Or am I just crazy?
I know – I’m very late to the Mass Effect party… Here’s the thing. Years ago, I bought Mass Effect and I just couldn’t get into it. I traded it back in, played other stuff – never thought about it again. Recently, on a whim, I bought the PS3 Mass Effect Trilogy and, um, it would not be a stretch to say that I’ve become something of an addict. Seriously. Mass Effect is the only video game I’ve ever played that I went through it once and immediately started over and played through it again because it was just that much fun. I’ve rarely enjoyed any game as much as I enjoyed Mass Effect. I understand the legion of devoted fans and their outcry when it all came to an unsatisfactory end (though I’m not there yet… still so much left to discover). I’m a little over halfway through ME2 right now, loving every minute of it and being a completionist. In fact, I’ve kinda stalled with my game – but not because it’s bad – rather, because I know that if I keep playing I’m going to get to the end… and I really don’t want it to end. I could tell you all about my character and the romances I’m pursuing, blah, blah… but I won’t. I want to explain what inspired this post and relate it back to tabletop gaming.