A few questions for a new to ACKS DM

I will apologize for the long winded ramp up to my questions,

Originally I picked up ACKS simply for review purposes. Once I began to read through it however it truly brought me back to my days as a kid with the old Rule Cyclopedia. While we played a ton of AD&D, I think the most fun we had was with the BECMI ruleset advancing us into the political realm.  I was originally going to run something in the Auran Empire, but currently even armed with the currently published stuff I just do not feel there is enough there for my players. Simply put we tend to run multiple Campaigns set in different areas of the world silmultaneously ( was up to 4 different games in 5th edition all in the same 400 mile sandbox area ) and I know with weekly games we will blow through content fairly quickly.

While the primer was certainly good exposure, I still felt like it was not enough to keep me from constantly worrying about future releases messing with canon. Therefore, I sat and contemplated. Then I remembered Karameikos. A Land ravaged through wars, with most of the citizens living coastally or by rivers, and vast untapped wilderness resources and a government that is essentially out of pocket in Thyatia aside from the Duke.

With this in mind, I chose to run the Keep on the Borderlands module and have been carefully tailoring bits and pieces. Story is shaping up nicely, that part I am comfortable with, However, it was not until my son was rolling up his character that it dawned on me. ACKS has a TON more classes, something like 66 at last count before the kickstarter release is done. Original D&D was played with just the classic 7 (or did they add druids in later I am having a hard time remembering). 

How are some of you handling the class question for your players? Are you allowing them to make anything? Are you instead eliminating the more Auran campaign specific choices in light of sticking with more conventional choices? Are you making your own?

I am just at the pre-planning phase right now, as my 5th edition game is reaching level 12-13 range and my players are almost wrapping up the campaign. When that is finished I plan on dumping 5th edition strictly for ACKS. Not a bad system, but not my cup of tea and too much munchkinism when I run random sessions with players that are not my normal crew. So with that in mind and a month or two of prep time, I am trying to figure out just what to offer them in terms of classes. I would prefer to not stick with just traditional classes. Why buy a porsche if you are going to drive it like a chevette? So I am looking for community thoughts and suggestions from fellow Judges.


Thanks for any input!



My experience across several games including ACKS, is that open-book character creation always swamps the nominal setting.  That if you don't limit character options you end up playing the game rules and not the setting.  But limiting characters to match the setting looks better and goes down easier if you can give them more options than just the base four, and ACKS is well positioned to do that with the class builder anyway.

So for my last campaign I did not use most of the PC classes, or any of the Auran Empire-specific ones.  I did use Warlocks because they fit, and came up with a custom class of my own (that no one took me up on, but that's got more to do with being a cleric-variant that didn't get plate armor), and opened up Dwarven Machinists once they were contacted in play.  I don't make the class-builder player-facing because I don't want to deal with sweetheart classes or mechanics-first concepts, but if they have a concept in plain English that doesn't fit an existing class I'll work one up for them.  For another run I think I would look for a couple more custom classes, and maybe copy/paste a custom player handout for personal use only to give them their options.

I don't know Karameikos (Mystara?  which I don't know either) so I don't know what would fit, but that's my first recommendation, come up with some Karameikos-specific classes instead of throwing the Player's Companion open on the table and saying "but Karameikos".

Custom or reworked starting templates is another tool that's useful for grounding classes in a setting.  It takes some time but it's straightforward aside from that.

Even without extra classes, although there are some real offenders (Thrassian Gladiator comes to mind), ACKs classes are going to start getting better than the equivalent party in OD&D fairly quickly because of all the henchman.

I'd recommend that if you're drawing from published adventures, compare total levels instead of number and average level of a party.  ie: if something is suitable for 4-6 players of levels 6-10, make sure the party has total levels somewhere between 24 and 60 among PCs and henchmen.

Beyond that, if your players go henchman crazy, make sure that you run the dungeon appropriately: that many people makes NOISE and results in small groups RUNNING for HELP.  Don't limit yourself to just the foes in the current room.

That said, even if it ends up a little easy, as long as the players are roughly getting to choose what they get up to, it's ok because they can drive their own sense of difficulty.

I allow my players access to every class in the core rules and players' companion... In theory. In practice, only one of my players actually takes adventage of this.

Most of my players, when they need new characters, grab them from the pile of five pregenerated character sheets that I bring to every session. At the start of any given session, this pile of pregenerated character sheets always consists of one cleric, one fighter, one mage, one thief, and one other class selected more-or-less at random from the list of other classes that're available. This means that the party is almost entirely human human, and mostly consists of the core four classes, with a smattering of more exotic campaign classes and demihuman classes.

The pile of pregenerated character sheets is also serves as the pool of available henchmen when the players try hiring, so henchmen are likewise limited in what classes they can be.

The best ACKS campaign I ran was mostly core-only, with a few characters of Player’s Companion classes (I mostly introduced them initially as henchmen for hire, and then they became PCs later - this allowed me to restrict the classes available and to limit their numbers).

Don't be afraid to limit players to the classes you are comfortable with.  It's your world after all.  If don't want Lizard man gladiators in your world, don't have them in your game.  

When I introduce new pllayers to the game, I like to stick to a few choices - Fighter, Barbarian, Cleric, Assassin, Mage, Thief, and Explorer with a chance for an elf (spellsword) or a dwarf (vaultguard).  Each of those classes are different and are easy to explain.  After a death, retirement, or the PC just wants to create a new character, I expand the selection.  

I also make use of the templates from the Player's Companion.  They really help new players get a feel for how they can tweak the proficiencies to make entirely differnt kinds of fighter (for example).  The player rolls two sets of 3d6 and gets to choose which template they want.

If you focus on mechanics, it's easy to get lost.  But if you tell someone they can be an ex-gladiator or a Van-Helsing like undead slayer they know exactly which one they want to play.  

My group typically works on the basis of starting with the question "What races exist or do I want in the campaign?" this really cuts down on the class option as most races have a few classes to them.
Then look at those you just dont want in the campaign, whether that be to start out or even long term.

Then you have the ability score rolling system which can cut down the number players will realistically consider as options.

Personally I have found to many options is worse than just a handful of them, espeically if characters are done as roll to class to concept, it can be easier to go concept to class where you can sugest a class to fit that desired concept.

The total individual classes really wont matter too much, with proficiencies and concepts most characters will end up being unique.

If you really want to put in the effort making up a few of your own classes that can work too and ACKs has solid guidelines on that.

Xandarr2000 and I had a long discussion on this over on Discord, as my own ACKS campaign has been set in Karameikos. Personally, I approached this in a fashion congruent with most of the advice given here: limit the Class selection to what makes sense in your campaign world.

One other thing I’ll mention that was touched on above is reworking the Template tables to match your setting as well. This has been immensely useful for people who need to generate a character quickly, but a far bigger benefit has been for me as a Judge when I need to roll up a Henchman or Classed NPC on the fly; it really helps bring the setting to life.

[quote="bobloblah"] One other thing I'll mention that was touched on above is reworking the Template tables to match your setting as well. This has been immensely useful for people who need to generate a character quickly, but a far bigger benefit has been for me as a Judge when I need to roll up a Henchman or Classed NPC on the fly; it really helps bring the setting to life. [/quote]

The templates alone are worth the price of the players companion. The custom templates posted on these forums are pretty cool.  One of these days, I'll get around to spending the time to come up with some.  

I completely concur. 

A common problem I see is that each individual player's desire to be the exception to the rule means that instead the exception becomes the rule. For instance, in a viking campaign, each player might decide that "I want to be unique and stand out" and so I'd end up with an "eastern mystic trapped in these savage lands", a "cleric from Aura come to bring faith to Jutland" and a "mysterious sorcerer of Kemesh seeking the secrets of rune magic". And suddenly the whole campaign becomes "strangers in a strange land" instead of vikings.

I try to resolve this by securing player buy-in before I start the campaign. I'll list the viking-appropriate classes and ask people which ones they want to play. If folks don't want to play Runemakers, Barbarians, Berserkers, and Shamans then I wouldn't run it.

Bottom line - I limit the classes in my own campaigns based on the region of the Auran Empire we're in (or campaign world, like LOTR) and if the players don't want to play those classes, that means I'm running a campaign they're not into it.

In my experience you can use all clases without problem... But, you should never allow a class only because it is in the book. Think about your setting and the sort of campaing that you will run and chose the clases that make sense and ad to the fun. For example i dich the mystic in my campaing because it didnt fit the pseudo roman feeling of the setting.