On my list of things to do if I get my hands on a time machine will be to go forward a couple of months, pick up an Adventurer Conqueror King hardcover, and then go back to drop it off in a nice silt bed in the Paleolithic where it can fossilize and make the title of this post strictly true.
What we have for now is the next best thing: an opportunity to observe how Michael Mornard, a member of the original gaming groups of both Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, does things and get some perspective on how his window into the past illuminates the choices we made in ACKS following our own cherrypicking of 40 years of roleplaying history. Here’s one that really caught my attention in Paul Hughes’ report at blogofholding:
In our game, when Mike called for initiative, each player rolled a d6 at the beginning of each round. Mike would call out: "Any sixes? Fives?" etc, so a high roll was good. I don't know if that's what they did in Gary's game, but it worked for us in 2012.I learned this style of doing initiative when I visited Durham and played proto-ACKS with Alex's Auran Empire campaign, and then brought it back to use in my White Sandbox. Although only Alex can say for sure, I suspect that what I think of as "ACKS initiative" is not so much a hammerhead shark - something that has been swimming around in the sea in an unbroken line of continuity from Mornard's primordial games - as it is like the structure of the eye, which has independently evolved multiple times because it serves its function most efficiently.
Here is another of Mornard’s stories that reminded me of the ACKS design:
When we got back from town, Mike rolled up the values of all the gems, announcing the value of each to the party record-keeper (me, again my default). If I were the DM, I probably would have announced an average value of the gems or something: I wouldn't have thought the players wanted to sit through a list of 27 numbers. But it's funny: people's attention spans get longer when it comes to profits.
The random rolling paid off for us when, among the other gems, we found a 10,000 GP-value gem. That pushed us all up to level 2. Mike commented that that’s why he likes random charts: they help tell a story that neither the DM nor the players can anticipate.
When I was overhauling the random treasure generation system, I kept pushing for simplicity. At one point I was going to have the roll of 2d6 determine what kind of treasure you found in a hoard of class X, with maybe a few extra number-details. These would be based on the B/X treasure tables, but standardized; a roll of 7 would be like rolling the average on all the sub-component rolls that go into making a Moldvay treasure, a roll of 2 or 12 would net you the low or high end of the probability range.
There were technical difficulties to this approach, but Alex successfully argued that it was also less fun; treasure is interesting, such that spending more time rolling up treasure is basically a good thing. I am glad to see that this approach, and the general philosophy that having dice make a story that everyone at the table is surprised by, is a consistent line of inspiration stretching from the earliest days of roleplaying to the newest.