Let's Read ACKS Core at RPG.net

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Alex
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Let's Read ACKS Core at RPG.net

There's a [Let's Read] ACKS Core happening at RPG.net by one of our forum members. Find it here: https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?802789-Let-s-Read-ACKS-Core-Rulebook

 

 

Jard
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can someone give me a quick summary of how these "Let's read" things work? I've always seen them, but never understood how they worked.

koewn
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It's kinda like a long-form review, as far as I can tell, but literally going page-by-page, generally.

Interesting bits are picked out and commented on, and folks following the thread can ask questions or (for those that know the product) contribute.

Alex
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Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I don't want to mess with my reputation as a controversial iconoclast over on RPG.net (I'm like the Orson Scott Card of tabletop gaming over there) so I will address interesting points that get brought up, over here.

  • The introductory story was written by Greg Tito, based on actual play of the Auran Empire campaign. He was one of the campaign's players. The introductory explanations in the story were written by Tavis Allison. That section is the only part of the book which I didn't write.
  • The reason that a sentient sword is in the introductory fiction is that the adventurers found the sentient sword of the founder of Aura during the campaign. It was a major plot point. 
  • Inthorn can now be found in Lairs & Encounters under Men, Brigands. You'll see that he's a former Auran vet who has been corrupted by a helm of alignment change. 

 

 

 

Jard
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At the risk of stirring up things I wasn't aware of: do you think Tavis and Greg will ever contribute to ACKs again?  I got to see Greg on a panel at Pax East shortly after I got the core rulebook, and Tavis ran some fun one-shots at GenCon one year.  I assume they're both much more focused on their day jobs. 

Alex
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Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

At the risk of stirring up things I wasn't aware of: do you think Tavis and Greg will ever contribute to ACKs again?  I got to see Greg on a panel at Pax East shortly after I got the core rulebook, and Tavis ran some fun one-shots at GenCon one year.  I assume they're both much more focused on their day jobs. 


-Jard

Greg Tito and I had some professional matters come between our friendship, and it ended badly. It wasn't Gary-Dave bad, but it was bad enough that, while we both did our best to make peace, we aren't likely to ever work together again. He remains an avid tabletop gamer and is working for Wizards of the Coast these days, however, and I'm sure he would be happy for more Twitter followers and so on.   

Tavis Allison and I remain on good terms, but his interest in tabletop gaming considerably diminished after Dwimmermount. He is now focused more heavily on his career and family and just sold back his remaining stock in Autarch. So it's unlikely that he'll write for us again, either. You will see him pop up in crowdfunding circles soon with some interesting new projects. 

 

 

 

 

thirdkingdom
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I don't want to mess with my reputation as a controversial iconoclast over on RPG.net (I'm like the Orson Scott Card of tabletop gaming over there) so I will address interesting points that get brought up, over here.

  • The introductory story was written by Greg Tito, based on actual play of the Auran Empire campaign. He was one of the campaign's players. The introductory explanations in the story were written by Tavis Allison. That section is the only part of the book which I didn't write.
  • The reason that a sentient sword is in the introductory fiction is that the adventurers found the sentient sword of the founder of Aura during the campaign. It was a major plot point. 
  • Inthorn can now be found in Lairs & Encounters under Men, Brigands. You'll see that he's a former Auran vet who has been corrupted by a helm of alignment change. 

 

 

 


-Alex
Thanks for the insight, man! Do you mind if I copy paste your answers over there, or better yet, you could post in the thread if you'd like!
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I don't want to mess with my reputation as a controversial iconoclast over on RPG.net (I'm like the Orson Scott Card of tabletop gaming over there) so I will address interesting points that get brought up, over here.

  • The introductory story was written by Greg Tito, based on actual play of the Auran Empire campaign. He was one of the campaign's players. The introductory explanations in the story were written by Tavis Allison. That section is the only part of the book which I didn't write.
  • The reason that a sentient sword is in the introductory fiction is that the adventurers found the sentient sword of the founder of Aura during the campaign. It was a major plot point. 
  • Inthorn can now be found in Lairs & Encounters under Men, Brigands. You'll see that he's a former Auran vet who has been corrupted by a helm of alignment change. 

 

 

 


-Alex

Thanks for the insight, man! Do you mind if I copy paste your answers over there, or better yet, you could post in the thread if you'd like!


-thirdkingdom

Your post on RPG.net was quite correct that I am controversial there, and I don't want to distract from your most-excellent readthrough. It would be best for you to post it. I'll continue to chime in from afar when I have further color!

 

thirdkingdom
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Firstly, you've always seemed like a decent dude to me and I respect the fact that, while we may have different political leanings, you've always been nothing less than respectful and generous to people posting here, and that you defend your positions with interity and calmness (comparing yourself to OSC is unfair to you, BTW).  Secondly, do you have any insight into this question that was just asked (at least, as it applies to your design decisions with ACKS):

I've never particularly understood why proficiency throws and savings throws are static numbers unaffected by attribute scores. While I get that it's a throwback to B/X or 1e, it's always seemed peculiar to me after 3e and even more modern systems that an L4 Thief with an 18 DEX and another with a 9 DEX will have the exact chance on thieving abilities, or that two people with a Knowledge skill will have the same chance of success regardless of INT, etc.

bestial warlust
Joined: 2017-04-04 08:15

Thanks for pointing this out. I normally avoid rpg.net now but this will be worthing reading. So one thing I noticed that was pointed out about ACKS core is it was mentioned that characters shouldn't rise in more than one level in a game month I don't remember reading that. Can someone point that out to me in the rulebook?

Jard
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Thanks for pointing this out. I normally avoid rpg.net now but this will be worthing reading. So one thing I noticed that was pointed out about ACKS core is it was mentioned that characters shouldn't rise in more than one level in a game month I don't remember reading that. Can someone point that out to me in the rulebook?


-bestial warlust

 

that confused me too and i'm not sure that's correct.  The closest thing I can think of is the confluence of two general assumptions:

1) it's generally assumed players will CHOOSE to adventure about once a month due to various game mechanics like domain growth and downtime

2) on a given return from an adventure, it's not possible to gain more than 1 level at a time.  If you would gain more than 2 levels, you stop at 1XP less than the amount needed to reach the 2nd new level.

 

edit: I feel you on avoiding RPG.net too.  The few times I've gone there and looked at the forums I usually pull an eye muscle from rolling on the topic titles alone.

thirdkingdom
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Thanks for pointing this out. I normally avoid rpg.net now but this will be worthing reading. So one thing I noticed that was pointed out about ACKS core is it was mentioned that characters shouldn't rise in more than one level in a game month I don't remember reading that. Can someone point that out to me in the rulebook?

 


-bestial warlust

 

 

that confused me too and i'm not sure that's correct.  The closest thing I can think of is the confluence of two general assumptions:

1) it's generally assumed players will CHOOSE to adventure about once a month due to various game mechanics like domain growth and downtime

2) on a given return from an adventure, it's not possible to gain more than 1 level at a time.  If you would gain more than 2 levels, you stop at 1XP less than the amount needed to reach the 2nd new level.

 

edit: I feel you on avoiding RPG.net too.  The few times I've gone there and looked at the forums I usually pull an eye muscle from rolling on the topic titles alone.


-Jard

 

Actually, I just realised that I am wrong.  The passage I am referring to is *Campaign XP*, not general XP, on p. 146; characters may not advance two or more levels per month from Campaign XP.  Huh.  I read that ages ago and it got stuck in my head that it referred to all types of XP.

Alex
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Firstly, you've always seemed like a decent dude to me and I respect the fact that, while we may have different political leanings, you've always been nothing less than respectful and generous to people posting here, and that you defend your positions with interity and calmness (comparing yourself to OSC is unfair to you, BTW).  Secondly, do you have any insight into this question that was just asked (at least, as it applies to your design decisions with ACKS):

I've never particularly understood why proficiency throws and savings throws are static numbers unaffected by attribute scores. While I get that it's a throwback to B/X or 1e, it's always seemed peculiar to me after 3e and even more modern systems that an L4 Thief with an 18 DEX and another with a 9 DEX will have the exact chance on thieving abilities, or that two people with a Knowledge skill will have the same chance of success regardless of INT, etc.


-thirdkingdom

Thanks for the kind words. Likewise, I appreciate the generous goodwill you and others extend herein. And obviously I appreciate you doing this in-depth read through. It's actually quite exciting as a designer to see it unfold!

Now, on to your question. It was a deliberate decision, not just a throwback to B/X, but it's one I find myself changing my opinion on over time.

Let's acknowledge that the prevailing trend in modern design has been to make ability scores more important and class-and-level-based modifiers less important. 5E follows this to its logical conclusion with bounded accuracy for level-based bonuses and constant increases to ability scores over time. A 1st level thief with 16 DEX will move silently at +5 (+2 from proficiency, +3 from DEX). By 14th level with 18 DEX, he will sneak at +8 (+5 from proficiency, +4 from DEX). Thus the change is only 3 points in 13 levels, and ability score ranges from 80% to 120% of level-and-class based modifier throughout. If that same thief had DEX 10, he would sneak at +2 and +5 -- e.g. the average DEX thief at 14th level is only as good as a high school athlete (DEX 16 is only in the top 10% or so). Ability scores in 5E are absolutely crucial!!!

ACKS bucks the trend and makes level-based modifiers more important and ability scores less important. In ACKs, a 1st level thief will sneak at 17+ and a 14th level thief at 1+, a swing of 16 points - unrelated to ability score. This is a stunning difference in design outcome for two similar games. 

So the first question we have to ask is: Why does ACKS deliberately keep ability scores less important than they are in modern games? 

Part of the answer is thematic. The theme of the game is Adventurer - Conqueror - King. It is a game of becoming. It is a game of common men and women who rise to greatness. Aesthetically, then, an over-emphasis on ability scores would  sends the wrong message about the theme of ACKS.

Part of the answer is aesthetic. It feels good to allow sub-optimal characters a mechanical opportunity to thrive. There are certainly human beings born with the greatest gifts in their field, and they show up in fantasy - Aragorn, Conan, etc - and in history. But there others who succeed despite the seeming deficit of talents. By making ability scores less important, it keeps characters randomly generated with fairly average ability scores quite playable. That, in turn, means that there is a greater diversity of the type of characters that can be effective to play. You can play a shaman with high STR and average WIS, or a thief with moderate DEX but great CHA, etc.  Or, to use specific examples, in ACKS, it's easier to play someone like Taurus, the obese prince of thieves from Tower of the Elephant who nevertheless was a skilled climber and silent mover despite certainly not having a 16-18 DEX. Or Vincent, from Gattaca, who is inferior to his brother in every genetic measure, but the better man nonetheless. Or Audie Murphy, the hero of World War II, who was turned down four times for being too skinny to be a soldier. 

These two answers, however, don't fully respond to the question. Since ACKS provides generous benefits from leveling, the modest ability score modifiers would not necessarily swamp the value of training. A 14th level thief with DEX 9 would still be 1+, while a 1st level thief with DEX 18 would be 14+, so it's still a tremendous difference. Moreover, ACKS does allow ability score modifiers to apply some of the time, such as in to hit rolls, damage rolls, AC, initiative, open doors checks, and so on, so the answer is over-explanatory in that it suggests other parts of the game are designed wrong. 

The next layer of the answer is that ACKS was deliberately structured so that some classes are more impacted by ability scores than others. Fighters, for instance, have all of their important game mechanics affected by their ability scores - to hit, damage, AC, hit points. Clerics, on the other hand, have virtually none of their class effecs impacted - turn undead, divine repertoire, and divine spells per day aren't affected by Wisdom. Mages and thieves are in between. This, again, allows for a much wider variety of fun, playable characters.

However, over time I've come to feel that this latter choice wasn't necessarily a good one. Among other things, it has lead to Wisdom being a dump-stat in ACKS, and it has created an ugly asymmetry in that some target values that improve over time are affected by ability score modifiers (attack throws, magic research throws) while others are not. 

In my most recent home campaigns, I have had the Wisdom ability score modifier apply to ALL saving throws. In the Heroic Fantasy Handbook, where the emphasis is on more heroic characters, I have been toying with the idea of offering some rules to incorporate more ability score modifiers on rolls.

Finally, this wouldn't be an ACKS essay without mention of simulation. It is an open question within the field of human achievement how much talent matters and how much training matters. As far as I can gather (and I've read a lot, though not by any means exhaustively) the current findings are: (a) a minimum floor of talent needed to pursue training at all, (b) very high returns from talent early on with a point of diminishing returns and (c) continuous improvement from training over time  IF training is properly done with feedback from failure. So for instance older surgeons are typically better than younger surgeons, even though the latter have nimbler fingers, because the older surgeons' fingers are *nimble enough* and they have years of training. And I think ACKS' approach models these realities quite well. Games like Cyberpunk 2020 or 5E, where half the bonus is from ability scores, get it wrong; talent is not half the battle. Talent lets you train better, faster, and to higher aptitudes, but training and practice is what matters.

Character classes have prime requisites that set a minimum floor. Characters get a bonus to XP from high prime requisites to represent the higher return from talent. And characters get a bonus to starting proficiencies from high INT. I suppose if one wanted to be really realistic, probably the best way to handle it would be to have ability scores determine the speed at which leveling of skills occurs on a skill-by-skill basis, but that's more crunchy than ACKS can handle, and probably more crunchy than anyone would want.

wmarshal
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In regards to your concern about Wisdom becoming a dump stat I have found that having Wisdom affect ALL saving throws has minimized that. The bonus to all saving throws has encouraged players to keep any 13+ Wisdom scores they have.

thirdkingdom
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In regards to your concern about Wisdom becoming a dump stat I have found that having Wisdom affect ALL saving throws has minimized that. The bonus to all saving throws has encouraged players to keep any 13+ Wisdom scores they have.


-wmarshal

 

I'm not so sure I would give an across the board bonus to Saves based off the Wisdom modifier.  I think if I were to adapt something similar I would allow the player to divide up the Wisdom modifier as desired between the different Saves; so a character with a Wisdom modifier of +2 could gain a +1 bonus to two Saves.  I'd probably also allow clerics to apply the lump sum bonus to a single save, instead of having to spread it out, to represent the favors of the gods (it woud also make sense, frex, for the follower of, say, a god of thieves, or one with a snake theme, to get a significant bonus to saves against poisons).

Alex
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The issue of insufficient numbers of general proficiencies and/or a method of training is something I may address in an upcoming AXIOMS article. As an extrapolation of the existing rules for gaining proficiencies from aging (5, 15, and 35 years of work), a character might gain proficiencies more rapidly form high-intensity training.

Briefly summarized, here are my current thoughts:

  • All characters have four implicit general proficiency slots which represent their potential for natural accretion of knowledge over time.
  • It takes 80 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the first rank of a proficiency. 
  • It takes 320 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the second rank or the first rank of a second proficiency.
  • It takes 1,280 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the third rank or the first rank of a third proficiency.
  • It takes 5,120 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the fourth rank or the first rank ofa fourth proficiency.
  • If characters do not fill up their proficiency slots with training, they can automatically fill them after 5, 15, 35, and 70 years of work. 

 

Jard
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The issue of insufficient numbers of general proficiencies and/or a method of training is something I may address in an upcoming AXIOMS article. As an extrapolation of the existing rules for gaining proficiencies from aging (5, 15, and 35 years of work), a character might gain proficiencies more rapidly form high-intensity training.

Briefly summarized, here are my current thoughts:

  • All characters have four implicit general proficiency slots which represent their potential for natural accretion of knowledge over time.
  • It takes 80 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the first rank of a proficiency. 
  • It takes 320 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the second rank or the first rank of a second proficiency.
  • It takes 1,280 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the third rank or the first rank of a third proficiency.
  • It takes 5,120 days of major activity - training that proficiency to gain the fourth rank or the first rank ofa fourth proficiency.
  • If characters do not fill up their proficiency slots with training, they can automatically fill them after 5, 15, 35, and 70 years of work. 


-Alex

I dig this a lot. it gives players that want those general proficiencies a route to them that doesn't involve leveling.  I might introduce this in my game and see how the players take advantage of it.

ZeroSum
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Indeed. Question though: would there be any other costs associated with training other than time? Cash, trainer fees, etc?

koewn
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There's sort of some baked in assumptions already present about training costs and times.

Light/Heavy Infantry take 1 month, and you could infer from their wages that the job of trained soldiering is equivalent to the Labor proficiency. (Under the theory of war being mostly hurry up and wait, it's equipment upkeep, camp upkeep, marching in a straight line, taking orders, etc, and as normal men the fighting bit is almost ancillary, as far as their level of skill goes, it was not necessarily improved). I'm not sure if it's supposed to be inferred that the cavalry units actually gain the Riding proficiency or not.

And there's the Axioms that talks about training elite troops, that's instilling a proficiency in someone; as well as the mention in the gladiator rules (that's replacing a proficiency, so, dunno)

 

 

thirdkingdom
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There's sort of some baked in assumptions already present about training costs and times.

Light/Heavy Infantry take 1 month, and you could infer from their wages that the job of trained soldiering is equivalent to the Labor proficiency. (Under the theory of war being mostly hurry up and wait, it's equipment upkeep, camp upkeep, marching in a straight line, taking orders, etc, and as normal men the fighting bit is almost ancillary, as far as their level of skill goes, it was not necessarily improved). I'm not sure if it's supposed to be inferred that the cavalry units actually gain the Riding proficiency or not.

And there's the Axioms that talks about training elite troops, that's instilling a proficiency in someone; as well as the mention in the gladiator rules (that's replacing a proficiency, so, dunno)


-koewn

 

I think it is implied, because mounted archers and cataphract troops need to be able to fire while mounted, something that's not possible without Riding.

koewn
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I think it is implied, because mounted archers and cataphract troops need to be able to fire while mounted, something that's not possible without Riding.


-thirdkingdom

That'd be my initial assumption as well. I think I may restart this sort of thread over in House Rules with a brief overview of what I can find about training and/or gaining proficiencies in non-leveling-up situations.

Alex
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Regarding the Assassin: In designing the assassin, my sense is that the class was sub-optimal because its ability to wear heavy armor worked at counter-puproses towards its ability to use thief skills. One could make an even more bad-ass assassin by trading in heavy armor for light armor and using the 2 class powers to add additional abilities.

Regarding the Hit Point issue: I believe the Heroic Fantasy Handbook's scaled healing is a major step towards addressing this perceived imbalance. I wonder if this rule might make sense as well: 

Contemplations on the Tree of Woe Memorial Rule: Characters whose class grants d6 hp/level get a +2 bonus on the Mortal Wounds table. Characters whose class grants d8 hp/level get a +5 bonus on the Mortal Wounds table.

 

Jard
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Contemplations on the Tree of Woe Memorial Rule: Characters whose class grants d6 hp/level get a +2 bonus on the Mortal Wounds table. Characters whose class grants d8 hp/level get a +5 bonus on the Mortal Wounds table.


-Alex

I dig it, it goes a long way towards making that d8 worthwhile.  It's also more likely to be well recieved by my players, who might balk at the idea of major fundamental changes to how much healing you get, even if they're at about the level where it will benefit them more.

 

koewn
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I do too. It's a nice way to involve the refreshed view of hit points into Mortal Wounds; and it aids characters with middling CON.

The Dark
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From a meta perspective, it's also nice because it makes the front line classes more likely to survive combat; since they're the ones that should be going into combat, it helps players understand a class's role more easily.

Would a class with d10 be +7 or +8 on the MW table?

Aryxymaraki
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From a meta perspective, it's also nice because it makes the front line classes more likely to survive combat; since they're the ones that should be going into combat, it helps players understand a class's role more easily.

Would a class with d10 be +7 or +8 on the MW table?


-The Dark

One estimated progression of +2/+5 would be +9.

(Two more than previous, than three more than previous, and then four more. d12 would be 5 more than that, or +14.)

CharlesDM
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Contemplations on the Tree of Woe Memorial Rule: Characters whose class grants d6 hp/level get a +2 bonus on the Mortal Wounds table. Characters whose class grants d8 hp/level get a +5 bonus on the Mortal Wounds table.

-Alex

I like it!

The Dark
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From a meta perspective, it's also nice because it makes the front line classes more likely to survive combat; since they're the ones that should be going into combat, it helps players understand a class's role more easily.

Would a class with d10 be +7 or +8 on the MW table?


-The Dark

One estimated progression of +2/+5 would be +9. (Two more than previous, than three more than previous, and then four more. d12 would be 5 more than that, or +14.)


-Aryxymaraki
*shakes fist* OK, so I forgot one possibility (I was thinking either alternating +2/+3/+2/+3 or that it was 2.5 per die size increase with the "round down even, round up odd" rule applied).

koewn
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So; a +5 on a d20 is close to the advantage mechanic for the middle rolls (roll 2d20, take highest). That means the d8 HD +5 bonus tracks somewhat with the Savage Resilience proficiency, excepting the cases where you'd take a lower roll with SR to avoid shots to the crotchal area.

So this is probably something like an extra 1/2 proficiency with HD1, and an extra full prof with HD2.

 

 

Aryxymaraki
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So; a +5 on a d20 is close to the advantage mechanic for the middle rolls (roll 2d20, take highest). That means the d8 HD +5 bonus tracks somewhat with the Savage Resilience proficiency, excepting the cases where you'd take a lower roll with SR to avoid shots to the crotchal area.

So this is probably something like an extra 1/2 proficiency with HD1, and an extra full prof with HD2.

 

 


-koewn

I find this especially interesting because if it can be expressed in terms of proficiencies, that means that you can make tradeoffs from it.

Alex
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From the thread: "Okay - ugh. That's one thing I'll HR if I play again. Large weapons applying a negative to init is one of the stupidest things ever. Large weapons actually should apply a /bonus/ if anything. Try to get close to a guy wielding a large weapon with a dagger, I dare ya.  Reach is a thing and large weapons don't weigh nearly as much as some gamers envision."

It's reasonable to dislike the -1 initiative rule because it's *fiddly*, but I think the accusation that it is is "one of the stupidest things ever" is unfair. ACKS has two interlocking mechanics:

1. Against a closing attacker, a long weapon will automatically attack at least simultaneously with the attacker.

2. Initiative in ACKS is re-rolled every turn, and two-handed weapons suffer a -1 penalty.  

The combination of these two rules means that when a fight starts, the long weapon will be assured of attacking before or at least simultaneously with the shorter weapon. Once the engagement has begun, however, the shorter, faster weapon will tend to attack first. This is, I believe, a reasonable emulation of historical combat. History is replete with accounts of initial use of a long weapon in or to receive a charge, followed by its discard in favor of a short, fast weapon when the engagement intensifies.

 

CharlesDM
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Alex, you are correct, the other person is wrong.

I have fought against polearms and tried to learn to fight with polearms.

Once you step inside the reach of the polearm, the polearm wielder is at a disadvantage. Long weapons are used in formation to limit this vulnerability.

Jard
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Yeah, I disagree with that sentiment expressed that it's a bad rule. The rules presented do a sufficient job of creating a believable combat.  The main challenge, for me, is synthesizing all the rules found in the equipment and combat chapters into a cohesive understanding to use during a combat.  Now that I have most of the details memorized it's pretty good, although even knowing i need to do certain things can be tough to track, especially since my group tends to favor very large combats. 

koewn
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So; a +5 on a d20 is close to the advantage mechanic for the middle rolls (roll 2d20, take highest). That means the d8 HD +5 bonus tracks somewhat with the Savage Resilience proficiency, excepting the cases where you'd take a lower roll with SR to avoid shots to the crotchal area.

So this is probably something like an extra 1/2 proficiency with HD1, and an extra full prof with HD2.
-koewn

I find this especially interesting because if it can be expressed in terms of proficiencies, that means that you can make tradeoffs from it.


-Aryxymaraki

True, that, and that leads into the other reason I like this rule, which I just realized - it somewhat mirrors the Fighting 2 Damage Bonus, in that someone whose class is "good at something" gets a bit of a bonus that transcends their ability scores - a STR 9 Fighter is still getting a damage bonus from his Fighting 2 (and that damage bonus is technically more effective than STR bonus, at least for ranged weapons), and the CON 9 barbarian is getting a little extra on top of his d8 HD which is better than what he'd get out of plain CON (+5 vs +3).

Unlike Damage Bonus, though, it's a bit situational, so if one would allow it to be traded off, I wouldn't charge extra for it.

Somewhere in this lies the key to ability-score-less ACKS.

 

 

 

Jard
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it seems the staff at big purple are enjoying the thread, they've marked it a "Staff Pick"

thirdkingdom
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it seems the staff at big purple are enjoying the thread, they've marked it a "Staff Pick"


-Jard

 

Alex, I think it would be totally fine for you to post over there.  There's been substantial interest in the system, and it looks like we've attracted some new people interested in trying it out.  Plus, your input into the current line of questioning would be helpful.

I'd also like to post some example art from the book, but I'm not sure how you'd like me to go about doing it.  Is it cool with you if I take some screenshots of the art and post them?

Jard
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Alex, I think it would be totally fine for you to post over there.  There's been substantial interest in the system, and it looks like we've attracted some new people interested in trying it out.  Plus, your input into the current line of questioning would be helpful.


-thirdkingdom

How will Alex maintain his bad-boy image if he descends into the ranks?  Also, it's statistically likely he is already banned from RPG.net, as many famous indie D&D designers are :-P

Aryxymaraki
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The current discussion going on there reminds me that I really don't like the abstract standard of living table being applied as a monthly cost for PCs based purely on their level.

What are these PCs spending so much money on? You can buy multiple townhouses, each month, for the cost of living of mid to high level characters! Further, if all of this money is going to purchase things, why aren't the PCs getting some kind of benefit for it?

If you're going to force your players to drop thousands of GP a month on standard of living, they should either be getting mechanical benefits for it (such as allowing them to get free equipment, lodging, mercenaries/guards, and so on), or they should get reserve XP from it. Playing ACKS, with its detailed economic system and ability to know where each GP came from and where it went, and then throwing in this totally abstract tossing of GP into the void makes no sense to me.

(My personal preference is simply to not enforce a standard of living on PCs; if they want to be treated seriously by nobility and the like, they should find some way to spend that amount of GP each month, most of which will probably go to their reserve XP because it is really hard to spend five or six thousand GP a month on socially acceptable [i.e, not adventuring] useful things.)

thirdkingdom
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At my players current level (6-7) they are no longer paying for lodging or food while traveling, mundane equipment, rations, etc. Cost of living is assumed to cover any taxes on their treasure or fees to recruit hirelings. Basically, I don't want 5th level PCs to have to worry about tracking small expenses like torches and ale. I assume that any domain worth it's salt is going to tax the treasure the adventurers bring in, whether directly or through transaction fees (moneychangers melting down ancient coins to strike new ones, charging a commision to change bulky coins to gems, etc.). The cost of living increases primarily because they're (in theory) bringing in more treasure as they gain levels.
Aryxymaraki
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At my players current level (6-7) they are no longer paying for lodging or food while traveling, mundane equipment, rations, etc. Cost of living is assumed to cover any taxes on their treasure or fees to recruit hirelings. Basically, I don't want 5th level PCs to have to worry about tracking small expenses like torches and ale. I assume that any domain worth it's salt is going to tax the treasure the adventurers bring in, whether directly or through transaction fees (moneychangers melting down ancient coins to strike new ones, charging a commision to change bulky coins to gems, etc.). The cost of living increases primarily because they're (in theory) bringing in more treasure as they gain levels.


-thirdkingdom

So what happens if they take a few months of downtime?

They're bringing in zero treasure, regardless of their level, why do they pay the same taxes?

I totally understand the value in 'pay this value every month and you don't have to worry about consumables like arrows, torches, lodging and food, etc', but the cost of living table goes so far past any amount you could plausibly spend on that sort of thing. Calling it taxes falls apart for me when you consider downtime still costing the same.

I guess you could rent out the mayor's own bedchamber for a night as you travel through a city, or something ridiculous in that vein, but I'd consider that kind of profligate spending for something that offers no mechanical difference from a room at the inn to be a textbook example of reserve XP expenditure, not something that you should be assuming and getting nothing out of. (I would also consider the previous sentence a textbook example of a run-on sentence but am too lazy to rewrite it to fix it.)

thirdkingdom
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To clarify on the cost of living now that I'm off my phone, let's look at it like this: a 6th level character (let's call them a fighter) has a cost of living of 800 gp per month.  They need 33,000 XP to reach 7th level; let's say it takes them the entire month to get that much XP.  Now, a small portion of that XP is going to come from killing monsters; let's say 6000 XP does, leaving 27,000 XP to come from treasure.  Of that 800 gp goes to their cost of living, or almost 3% of the total.  I've got no problem using cost of living to handwave all the niggling little stuff that I don't want to deal with, such as paying for mundane equipment (I figure that as long as the characters are in a market class large enough they can count on resupplying without having to count coin), subtracting a few gold here and there to pay for drinks or room at an inn, or even advertising for hirelings: let's say our 6th level fighter is in a Class I market and looking to hire some mercenaries.  The given cost per week is 16-21 gp.  I'm not going to make my players track that, man! So, it falls under cost of living.  

thirdkingdom
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At my players current level (6-7) they are no longer paying for lodging or food while traveling, mundane equipment, rations, etc. Cost of living is assumed to cover any taxes on their treasure or fees to recruit hirelings. Basically, I don't want 5th level PCs to have to worry about tracking small expenses like torches and ale. I assume that any domain worth it's salt is going to tax the treasure the adventurers bring in, whether directly or through transaction fees (moneychangers melting down ancient coins to strike new ones, charging a commision to change bulky coins to gems, etc.). The cost of living increases primarily because they're (in theory) bringing in more treasure as they gain levels.


-thirdkingdom

So what happens if they take a few months of downtime? They're bringing in zero treasure, regardless of their level, why do they pay the same taxes? I totally understand the value in 'pay this value every month and you don't have to worry about consumables like arrows, torches, lodging and food, etc', but the cost of living table goes so far past any amount you could plausibly spend on that sort of thing. Calling it taxes falls apart for me when you consider downtime still costing the same. I guess you could rent out the mayor's own bedchamber for a night as you travel through a city, or something ridiculous in that vein, but I'd consider that kind of profligate spending for something that offers no mechanical difference from a room at the inn to be a textbook example of reserve XP expenditure, not something that you should be assuming and getting nothing out of. (I would also consider the previous sentence a textbook example of a run-on sentence but am too lazy to rewrite it to fix it.)


-Aryxymaraki

 

We crossposted.  We're doing just that it about three weeks of game time: taking three months of downtime.  I assume that player characters live it up during downtime; I actively discourage parsiminous characters.  Think Conan, or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser; when they have coin they spend it on wine and women and extravagences; they don't hoard their coppers.  They're sixth and seventh level, dude!  They've got appearances to uphold.  If we were playing with XP reserve it would go into that, but we're not (if there's a PC death they can either promote an existing henchmen or bring in a new PC at the level (not XP) of the lowest full PC (in this case our Nobirian Wonderworker).

Aryxymaraki
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We crossposted.  We're doing just that it about three weeks of game time: taking three months of downtime.  I assume that player characters live it up during downtime; I actively discourage parsiminous characters.  Think Conan, or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser; when they have coin they spend it on wine and women and extravagences; they don't hoard their coppers.  They're sixth and seventh level, dude!  They've got appearances to uphold.  If we were playing with XP reserve it would go into that, but we're not (if there's a PC death they can either promote an existing henchmen or bring in a new PC at the level (not XP) of the lowest full PC (in this case our Nobirian Wonderworker).


-thirdkingdom

If you aren't using reserve XP, that explains the difference in opinions. If we agree that that sort of enforced cost of living would go to reserve XP than we basically agree.

(I tend to disagree with your world-building based on appearances being required :P But that's a minor thing. Most likely based on the fact that I play like 90% wizards and wizard-variants, so the high-level fantasy is 'reclusive hermit', not 'party barbarian'. A high-level wizard spending extravagant amounts of gold on parties and women is a major anomaly, whereas a fighter who isn't doing that is an anomaly.)

GMJoe
Joined: 2013-01-04 12:56

The current discussion going on there reminds me that I really don't like the abstract standard of living table being applied as a monthly cost for PCs based purely on their level.

-Aryxymaraki

I actually read that table as a description of reasonable expectations based on setting assumptions, not as a mandated tax. As in, I believe that table describes how much characters of any given level are likely to spend on stuff, given their expected incomes; not an mandated tax that they have to spend, for some reason. Note how the text describes it: "To put the value of currency in perspective, the Standard of Living table, below, shows how far a gold piece will go towards cost of living at different standards of comfort." Nothing there says that player characters are required to spend that much.

Aryxymaraki
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The current discussion going on there reminds me that I really don't like the abstract standard of living table being applied as a monthly cost for PCs based purely on their level.

-Aryxymaraki

I actually read that table as a description of reasonable expectations based on setting assumptions, not as a mandated tax. As in, I believe that table describes how much characters of any given level are likely to spend on stuff, given their expected incomes; not an mandated tax that they have to spend, for some reason. Note how the text describes it: "To put the value of currency in perspective, the Standard of Living table, below, shows how far a gold piece will go towards cost of living at different standards of comfort." Nothing there says that player characters are required to spend that much.


-GMJoe

I agree. RAW, there is nothing requiring PCs to spend anything on their standard of living; they can spend as much or as little as they want.

Enforcing that table (or the henchman cost table) as a monthly standard of living fee is, however, a very common houserule that I've seen, and as described above, not one that I am generally a fan of.

Weron
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... let's say it takes them the entire month to get that much XP.  Now, a small portion of that XP is going to come from killing monsters; let's say 6000 XP does, leaving 27,000 XP to come from treasure. ... 


-thirdkingdom

I am surprised by this example. In my campaign, characters barely manage to earn their living expenses in a month, and spend many months gaining a level. Is looting 80% of your current xp in gold in a month common?

In my campaign, I currently have standard of living related to level affect xp - if you spend less, you get a percentage reduction, if you spend more, a bonus. I guess this is similar to the prodigality rule from Barbarian conquerors of Kanahu.

But I dislike the abstract nature of how I'm doing it now. That is, when the characters are in town they just pay 400 gp each on living expenses. Nothing about where this coin end up.

I like the part in Heroic fantasy where you can spend living expenses to regain fate points. I think I'm going to use that in one way or another. I'm also thinking I should have players describe how the money is spent.

thirdkingdom
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... let's say it takes them the entire month to get that much XP.  Now, a small portion of that XP is going to come from killing monsters; let's say 6000 XP does, leaving 27,000 XP to come from treasure. ... 


-thirdkingdom

I am surprised by this example. In my campaign, characters barely manage to earn their living expenses in a month, and spend many months gaining a level. Is looting 80% of your current xp in gold in a month common? In my campaign, I currently have standard of living related to level affect xp - if you spend less, you get a percentage reduction, if you spend more, a bonus. I guess this is similar to the prodigality rule from Barbarian conquerors of Kanahu. But I dislike the abstract nature of how I'm doing it now. That is, when the characters are in town they just pay 400 gp each on living expenses. Nothing about where this coin end up. I like the part in Heroic fantasy where you can spend living expenses to regain fate points. I think I'm going to use that in one way or another. I'm also thinking I should have players describe how the money is spent.


-Weron

No, it's not typical of my current campaign, which has had as many as 6 Primary PCs, 18 henchmen and 6 henchmen of henchmen.  The XP gets sucked up fast that way. In 8+ game months of play the adventurers started out with very little cash and have, at this point, about 200k saved, above and beyond what they've spent to hire and maintain a small army of mercenaries, drop 30k on restoring an old keep, 24k on purchasing and commissioning a small fleet of river boats, etc.

And I don't know what the exact percentage is, but as a general rule treasure is worth far more in XP than killing monsters.  I just picked 80% as a back of the envelope kind of thing.

The point I was *trying* to make is that the given Lifestyle costs are a small percentage of the overall wealth an adventurer should be bringing in.

Hardrada
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Acknowledging that taste and preference trump all, I see enforced cost of living expenses as a way to model the very realistic conspicuous consumption associated with the wealth and power assumed by higher levels.

For example, I was browsing through my news feed yesterday and saw something about the Obamas in Italy. Mrs. Obama was wearing an "inexpensive" blouse priced at only $130. I'm middle class, and I still wear $10 t-shirts in public when my wife and work let me; I can only imagine spending such sums on clothing in the context of different norms based on socio-economic classes. In that light, it makes sense (while reinforcing my ambivalence about making more money).

For more context, consumption was even more extravagant in earlier periods. I'm working off my phone right now, but it's not hard to find evidence describing a pre-modern preference for prioritizing looking good over investment or other rational expenses. This tendency - nay, obligation - explains many of the otherwise inexplicable problems faced by the rulers of Sicily, France, and even some of America's Founding Fathers (particularly the Southern planters).

Just my two cents. I prefer the abstract cost of living "tax" for simplicity, but an easy way to make it easier to swallow might just be to grant a minor bonus for players who make an effort to explain exactly how they're blowing money on travel, baths, perfumes, rare delicacies, shoes, and clothing.

koewn
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And, technically, they were correct, she was probably operating a bit under what I'd expect an ex-First-Lady's "cost of living" to be. You can get $130 shirts at  Macy's, so it's not like that's a boutique price. And the fact that they point that out in the news is part and parcel of how deeply ingrained that sort of crap still is in the underlying culture - she's wearing something you can get at a mall, and because of the history of conspicious consumption, that's something evidently worth mentioning.

It'd be interesting to see a count of how often clothing costs are mentioned based on if they're above, equal to, or below whatever the apparent cost-of-living table is in the real world.

 

Jard
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after I said my piece on cost of living on the thread, I went to talk to my players since it seemed like a necessary assumption and it turns out they've all been paying the appropriate (though minimum) cost for adventurers levels 5-7.  Even doing this, they were eager to spend something in the realm of 3 months on downtime activities, so I'm not sure why Thirdkingdom's game seems to have so much more heavy of a push to constantly adventure.

DrPete
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In my mind, the cost of living table should be tied in with your ability to attract henchmen, and your reputation.

The henchman rates assume that what you're paying them is reasonable for their level. If you're 8th level, but you wear dirty peasant clothes and sleep in the common room at the Inn, you look like a peasant. That 6th level cleric who uses his pay to maintain a nice household in the wealthy part of town is NOT going to be your henchman.

In other words, nobody knows what level you are, they know about your cost of living, they know some tales of your adventures, and if they adventure with you, they see how you handle yourself, soooo...

Henchman availability ought to depend on your cost of living (as visible stand in for level) and reputation. Fake it with that big treasure hoard to get the best "people" and try to stay ahead of the curve :)

As for what it should get you materially, I think a cost structure like that has to assume that you've got a staff and a household once you get above a certain level, no?

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