After one year of real time and three years of in-game time my campaign is coming to an end. I fulfill my role as judge as the players guide their character from lowly adventurers to conqueros and finally powerfull kings. In here i will leave testimony of that journey and some reflections on this awesome game that is ACKS.
I haven't played nor directed any old-shcool D&D before, but always have a simulationist heart, so when i read in the book on how to create the campaign setting based on demographics and political divisions i simply love it. I started creating a map of the known world in campaign cartographer and after some attempts i came up with an island/continent the size of the UK, the shape of a dog's head (accidentally). It had a nice inner sea (the mouth of the dog), some islands to the north and looked nice.
While working i daydream of a evil empire defeated one generation ago, and the victorius kingdom of good at the edge of a civil war because the incompetence of the heir who belives that piety alone is enough to guide a kingdom. Then a decide that the evil empire will be zaharans who used armies of magically engineered slave races. The zaharans where once humans that mixed their blood with the ancient ones that ruled the world in order to defeat them a free mankind from slavery, but the ancient blood ended corrupting them. The elves are zaharans that retreat to the forest and worshiped the moon goddess to clean themselves.
To the north of the inner sea i put the colonies of the kingdom of Caelum (the good kingdom), the colonies are build on top of the ruins of the Ven (the evil empire), and outside the border monsters roam free. On the south of the inner sea i put the capital of Caelum (to have a nice class I market), to the east i put the Ergates (i didint think alot about them, but i wanted another kingdom for future conflict).
I looked at the map and decide to call the region of the colonies “the valley”.
I wanted to have a human potential enemy so i create a small kingdom (the size of a duchy) in the center of the valley. They are called the Astegos and they raid the colonies from time to time, they have horsed archers. To the north of the valley i put a group of barbarians that might some day be allies and i called them Bjerfolker (the have close ties to the dwarf)
Then i pick an ugly valley to the east of “the valley” and put an orc kingdom lead by the Ice Queen (a powerfull Ven lich).
Seeing all that kingdoms i decide to make some exel sheets to organize the data. and create one that gives me the population, number of character of each level in each domain, and the size of the cities based on domain size. To my surprise the capital of Caelum is only a class II marked! That was my first interaction with the system: the kingdom wasn't that big… i knew that i could change the market size, but i decide to embrace the unexpected.
Then i create the local nobles (a short paragraph for each duke and a phrase or two for the local barons). And finally i used the one page dungeons to fill the map with places to adventure.
A for adventurer:
The adventurer part of acks was a blast. Only one of the players have ever play old school, and they where a bit confused with the lack of general skill system and how proficiencies work. But soon that feeling fade away. We love how quick battles end, how each blow carried the risk of death (or at least a good portion of your hit points), the exploration of the dungeons step by step, always afraid of traps and sudden monsters. The GP=XP quickly made of every one a mercenary, scrapping every copper of the dungeon (and even the doors if i describe them of something expensive). The fear of death made them recruit a high number of henchmen, mostly peasants with grand ambitions, some of them died, some became heroes.
It took them 4 small dungeons and one big dungeon to get to level 5-6, but as they used a year to sell a fire-sword one of the time dependant events triggered, and that lead to a early conqueror stage.
-how the lack of skills for everything made the players more creative in the solution of their problems;
-the idea of henchmen;
-the heroic feeling of cleaving;
-the summon barbarians spell.
-the few spells of the mage
-the initiative system
-the mortal wounds
-And late in this stage the wilderness encounters and dynamic lairs.
-the find traps and dungeon exploration speeds (i assume that by moving that slowly character were constantly searching for traps). A succesfull find traps give the players a clue for a trap (like: “the floor is unussualy clean before the door”).
-The cleave rules: i allow to keep moving after a clave till the character have use all of their movement for the turn, and in case of range attacks just allowed to cleave any enemy in range.
-level drain was replaced by withering: 1d10 years of ageing and a save or die. (+2 bonus to elfs)
I didnt like:
-the poison rules: didn´t feel neither dramatic, nor fun, nor realistic. I should have houserule to make poison always hurt, but not kill so fast. Something that allow the: “we need an antidote” situation.
I regret i didnt use more:
-the rules for encumbrance, i used very rigidly at first but loosley after the third session
-the rules for light, i always forget that time consume torches… and that make player to think that continual light is a bad spell.
Later i will continue with the conqueror phase.