Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Taking ACKs for a Test Drive

I started an ACKs campaign a few Tuesdays ago at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA.  It took a bit to get our momentum but everyone had a good time.

We spent more time than I had planned doing character creation.  This was mainly because I decided to let the players play any character class they wanted from the core book and and the Player's Companion draft that Autarch has made available to Kickstarter contributors. Choice always slows things down.  Once they made their decisions about character class, it wasn't long before they were finished with their characters.

The characters had fled from a in the city state of Zarbala and met up as fellow refugees.  For several thousand years the city was run by an elected official selected by a group of the city's leaders.  The Doge of the city is elected for life and wields nearly absolute power.  Unfortunately, this particular Doge was a necromancer and has managed to live for about 450 years longer than anyone expected.  From time to time, he uses his various spies, minions and magical means to purge anyone who might be of danger to him.  He does this Stalin style with nighttime disappearances, rewarding and encouraging informers and mass killings.

The characters being part of the "dangerous people" category were forced to flee and found themselves in a refugee camp on the borderlands.  The region has some scattered farming villages, bandits that extort tolls from passing caravans, ancient ruins, beastmen, nomads, chaos abominations and other opportunities for homicidal transients. Deciding they would go check out a ruined manor rumored to have a gobln infestation, the party travelled overland.  They got about half way there when they were attacked by some bandits in the middle of the night.  The guy on watch was taken by surprise but did manage to survive the first round of attacks and wake the rest of the party.  In the end, two henchmen died and one of the PC's went down after a single blow.  The PC did manage to survive but his roll on the "mortal wounds" table left him with a scalped head and a week's worth of bed rest.

It was a fun evening and I"m looking forward to the next installment next week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ACKs Campaign Description

Life is hard in the border lands of Zarbala. The stink of the nomads and their camels. Stale water and iron rations to eat. Rubbish and dung every where. Beastmen raiding the camp. Mercenaries drunk on the horrible green liquor called "Goblin Water", telling the same stories over and over. Thrassians picking fights out of boredom. Pestilence running rampant. Cadaver men scratching at the palisade after dark, searching for flesh. Slavers snatching the able bodied from their bedrolls. None of that is quite so bad as the sanctimonious rebels seeking a way to destroy the Doge and bring a new age of freedom and equality for all. Replacing his corruption with their own, more likely. 

The Doge of Zarbala is purging his city of all perceived threats to his rule. Anyone who has the means is getting out of the city and heading for what ever safe haven they can find outside the Doge's reach. So much gold in the ancient and corrupt city there is for those who can win it! A stable of gladiators, selling slaves in the slave market, wine from the south, lotus from the east and the sword arm of the mercenary are all for sale in the greatest of the ancient cities. When the Doge's lust for the blood of his rivals has been sated, you may return without fear of being caught up in the slaughter. Then! Then there will be wine, pleasure slaves and glory! For now, there may be wealth to be gained here amongst the ruins of the Durian empire. 

Long did the Durians rule over these lands. Zabala is the last of their ancient cities. The rest were destroyed by nomads, rivals to the south and the west, internal strife, plague and decadence. Perhaps not all of the treasure of the ancient world were carried away by barbarians and beastmen. It is said that lurking in the ancient ruins are abominations of Chaos, ancient dragons and warlocks seeking the true names of demons. What treasures are they hoarding away! Nearby, caravans from the east bring their rich haul to the Azure Sea. Some do not make it and are slain and pillaged by beastmen. That wealth can be won back with the bite of an axe! Old barrow mounds hold treasures for those who have gone to the afterlife. The dead cannot spend their coins. That wealth could buy many skins of wine while waiting for the passing of the Doge's fury.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adventurer Conquerer King At Modern Myths in Northampton, MA

Starting on May 15th,  I will be Game Mastering at Modern Myths at 34 Bridge St, Northampton on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month from 7PM until 10 PM.  The Mythos Room is in an upstairs space in the same building as the Modern Myths store but can't be reached through the store itself.  The door to the room is on the right hand side of the building.  The game will be a drop in/ drop out style where players can come as often as they like.  

The campaign will include the more usual sorts of monsters and foes that don't make an appearance in my home campaign such as orcs, goblins, ogres and the like.  There will also be the occasional surprising critter to keep everyone on their toes.  There will be a mix of dungeon and wilderness exploration and urban hijinks.  Playable races will include humans, elves and dwarves.  There are a few other human offshoots that are part of a current play test for the publisher that you may be interested in trying out.   There are a wide variety of character classes available to play.  To give you an idea of just how much variety I will list them here.  Cleric, Fighter, Mage, Thief, assassin, Explorer, Paladin, Bladedancer (a female cleric that uses swords as her only weapon),  Dwarven Vaultguard (dwarven fighter type),  Elven Spellsword (elven fighter priest), Dwarven Craft Priest (dwarven smith and cleric), Dwarven Fury (dwarven barbarian that wears no armor and has special abilities that are activated with magic tattoos), Dwarven Machinist (builds fantasy steampunk automatons),  Warlock (sort of a dark wizard with some nasty spell choices), Witch, Shaman (proficiencies and spells are similar to a druid), Barbarian,  Zaharan Ruinguard (human of ancient stock that also has some magic abilities), Nobiris Wonderworker (human of ancient noble stock that is a cleric/wizard),  Mystic (kind of like the Bene Gesserit from Dune).   There are also rules to create new character classes offering potential for even more options.  

The Adventurer Conquerer King System was published through a successful Kickstarter Campaign by the start up company Autarch.  http://www.autarch.co The underlying basis for ACKS is the Basic/Expert box sets published by TSR in 1981 and edited by Tom Moldvay and Dave "Zeb" Cook.  The system has been "modernized" by making Armor Class ascending, a very smooth proficiency system and most everything is a D20 roll high mechanism.  The magic system is similar to old D&D but instead of memorizing spells each day, a character can cast a certain number of spells from their repertoire of spells (which is limited).  Fighters have a cool cleaving ability allowing high level characters to kill as many mooks as the player has levels in a single round.  Character creation is simple and fast.  Task resolution is quick and easy to learn.  Various tools for game masters have been created to make city adventuring more consistent and easy to adjudicate.  There are also rules for arbitrage trading, managing strongholds securing domains and hiring mercenaries that are far easier to handle than many of the older editions of D&D.  I've been using them in my AD&D campaign and like them so far.   I played three sessions with the designers of the game at a convention recently with low, middle and high level characters.  It was about as smooth a set of games as I've ever played.  I'm very impressed by what they have done. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

JiffyCon Game Day 2012

I went to a small game day at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA last weekend.  Jiffy Con is a small event that focuses on indie story games.  The Pioneer Valley region of Massachusetts has a concentration of indie story game designers and publishers.  They get together a few times a year to put on a mini convention.

The event was held in the upstairs gaming space at Modern Myths.  Modern Myths, is in my opinion, the best shop in area for RPGs.  We have a number of game shops in the area and each carries most categories of games.  Each one seems to specialize in a particular genre of games.  Modern Myths is the best one for RPGs carrying all the most popular games and a wide variety of indie games.  I have picked up a lot of out of print games and modules at reasonable prices and in good condition.  Modern Myths is also the best comic shop in the area.

I decided that what an indie game convention needed was a retro-clone so I signed up to GM. I ran a Swords and Wizardry hex crawl with a few dungeons as possible encounters thrown in.  Having never been to any of the Jiffy Con events, I was somewhat unsure how something like that would go over.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that several people I talked to at the con were familiar with what was going on with old school gaming and several had played Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying.  I did get to GM for a group that was made up mostly of people who never played D&D or any of its variants.

There were three little girls that came to the event.  My game was the only one which was child friendly at all so they signed up for my game.  I'm a stay at home dad and participate in various programs at the school my daughter goes to.  I'm used to working with children so it wasn't too hard to adjust my plans.  The set up was that the party had been hired by high level adventurers going on a dungeon delve.  The PC's job was to guard the base camp, hirelings and extra gear.  Their employers entered the crypt of certain demi-liche but never returned.  After a week, the hirelings decided they'd waited as long as they could and the food was running out.  The party was to lead the group back to civilization and sell off what ever extra gear their employers had left behind.

The party of three little ones and three adults were aggressive in dealing with the monsters they encountered.  "Retreat" was definitely not in the vocabulary of the girls.  Intuitively, they looted their slain foes much to the amusement of the adults in the party.  I thought it was interesting that these girls who had no previous exposure to the game were figuring out some of the standard operating methods of old hands without any prompting at all.  The only instance where they ran away was when they came across a hobgoblin lair with over 100 of the nasty beasts present.

Their aggressive tactics led to a few close calls. Some well timed heal spells from one of the adults playing a cleric kept them from being wiped out.  One of the girls was playing a 3rd level wizard who made the most consistent attack and damage rolls of the group.  Once her daily allotment of magic missile spells was gone, she went to work with her staff and hitting as often as most of the party's fighter types.  I kept things moving along and letting the girls roll dice as often as I could manage.  Brief but colorful descriptions of the action kept them focused and interested.

Those little gals were as adventurous as any pulp fantasy barbarian ever was.  They were a lot of fun to have at the table and were asking for more when the session was over.  It was a bit of a heartbreaker to turn them down but felt good to hear one of them declare, "Mom!  I killed a hobgoblin!"

In the afternoon I played a reprint of the Tom Jolly classic board game "Wiz War."  Fantasy Flight has put together a nice version of the game with quality components.  I had never played the game before but found it to be very enjoyable. Fortunes can change very quickly in Wiz War.  One player who is close to winning can get mopped up in a few turns if his opponents play the right combination of spells.  Another player who appears to be lagging can win if no one is paying attention.

I met some very nice people at the convention.  I plan on coming back next year.  It is worth checking out if you are in the area and have the time.