At the end of my campaign (recapitulation and reflections on acks)



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.


I loved:

-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.


I houserule:

-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.


Very cool. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on the other two tiers of play.

C for Conqueror:


the conqueror phase at my campaign was unusual because it came early (level 5-6) and because it wasn't the conquest of virgin territory, but conquest of an established realm.


At the beginning of my campaign i had made a timeline of events that will happen unless some action from the players change it. The first of those events would be the orc invasion of the March of Aguirre (an advance fort close to the orc lands). The invasion was one year from the beginning of the game, and i imagined the players a bit more advance by then, but as they stay an entire year selling a fire tongue sword in a class II market they were only level 5-6.

When they heard of the invasion they decide after some debate to help (as i thought they will), but instead joining the rest of the nobles in the effort to retake the March of Aguirre they decide to attack the orc realm as the orc armies were fighting away.

They used all of their savings (and those of their henchmen, that were promised land and titles) and recruit the largest mercenary host that they could. Forced to use platoon scale the barely managed to control their troops, but they marched anyways.

Even the garrison of the orc realm was a challenge to their troops, but they win without loses when after a brutal charge vs the goblin archers forced the morale of the entire orc army, and the orc general fell to a well placed poisonous arrow.  

After that victory they claimed took a castle by infiltration and personal combat and severed the supply lines of the invasion.

The orc main army marched to retake the lost castle, but they were meet on the open field by the Caelum nobles and defeated (for this i used the battle resolution mechanics of D@W campaigns).

The victorious players razed the orc domain and managed to gain a couple of levels (between xp for the army and for the pillaging) . But they realized that they didn't have any way to pay for such a large army for more than two months, and decide to keep fighting pushing deep into orc territory. Outnumbered 20 to 1 they started a crazy blitzkrieg, having superior awareness (being small, having a sheep familiar with +6 military strategy, and having pegassi explorers and a crystal ball with ESP) they started to pick on the disperse orc domains with the hope of winning before they could organize (for this i allowed the  players to control troops on company scale).

Almost five sessions of pure military campaign later they managed to secure the or realm by force. Between the tactics used to win they included: a charge of invisible hydras to kill commanders (using invisibility potions and a wand of polymorph), hiding the thief on the battlefield to have a chance of killing a commander, the use of light blind commanders, the use of command word “jump” vs a commander charging on a horse. On top of that they had better archers and used them a lot on the last fights (in which they bunkered on a castle and wait for reinforces).

But this time they decided not to pillage the domains, and instead to convert the orcs to their faith (the unconquered sun).

Using Lots of money on festivals they managed to convince the orcs that they were better under they rule (and in fact they were as they also keept taxes at 0-1). And so they passed from not having land to have a poor land attender by orcs, but with thousands of families.  


Luckily when preparing the orc domains for the war i also make an excel sheet to calculate revenue, needed garrison and all that and so they only needed to distribute the conquered lands between them and their henchmen.


i loved:


-the rules of D@W battles

-how spells interact with the above

-that instead of a balanced fight the game bases on what is logical (if they have X land o X value they could have and army X big)

-the tokens (god to they look good)


I house ruled:


-very little


I wish i had house ruled:


-that uncommanded troops don't just stand there like idiots, in the future troops without commander will roll morale: if low they will retreat, if medium they will stand and fight if approached, if high they will advance and try to attack closes unit.


i didn't like:

-The above.

Latter: after the conquest, before the kings.

i always found players that ripped everything vaguely valuable out of the dungeon annoying, and i feel the best way to discourage this in a fair way is, rather than telling them they can't or just assuming they do, is to keep careful track of encumbrance and time.

They contracted 10 worker to remove and carry the entrance door of the dungeon and the statues of the third room. the workers refuse to go deper and so they stop stealing doors.


"a sheep familiar with +6 military strategy"

At last it is revealed why Ares, God of War, is represented by a Ram in the Zodiac!

Dolly the sheep is fearsome, +6 military strategy, 2 ranks in siege engineering, and the gift of prophesy!


i always found players that ripped everything vaguely valuable out of the dungeon annoying, and i feel the best way to discourage this in a fair way is, rather than telling them they can't or just assuming they do, is to keep careful track of encumbrance and time.


I agree, but it's a bit encouraged when GP = XP.


I agree, but it's a bit encouraged when GP = XP.


Absolutely. I had players do it when that wasn't the case.  You're almost crazy not to.  That's why you need in-world explanations for why that isn't the case.  Enumbrence and random encounters would be one. If those aren't in use, players should reasonably expect to come into dungeons with anything vaguely valuable already stripped by people who looted the place before the current denizens moved in.

From conqueror to king


After taking the orc realm and dive the lands the players decide that they will pool their money and divide it evenly. One of the oldest henchwoman (a cleric named vita) will receive the same treatment and stand as equal to the rest, this decision was based on two reasons: the desire to have a level 11 cleric as fast as they could and a fondness for the character.


We also decided that most bookkeeping would between sessions, and that the excel sheet will record their earnings and expending and xp gain  (also it will say when one of them level up). That decision was the best one we take on the campaign.

Also on long waitings we would chat over whatsapp about what they wanted to do on their free time.


For some time they dedicated themselves to gain xp from domain income, claim some land and build some castles, fight a couple of orc rebellions, doing magic research and doing some mercantile ventures.

In this, one of the players create a very profitable venture based on trading gems transported on pegasi from the dwarven capital to the elven capital. With that money he buyed a giant roc (he got lucky to find one with 1 in 200 chances per month).


The first problem that arise after the conquest was that some of the local nobles demanded that they kill the orcs, and they refuse. threatened with war they decide to search for potential allies, they eventually form a coalition with an independentist Caelum Duke and with the Astegos Raiders (after finding that the Astegos were the original owners of the land). And again they marched to war.

This war, unlike the other was decided on a single massive battle (battalion scale), and in that battle the key player was the roc bird that proved itself to be an excellent commander killer. For one brief moment the enemy wizard managed to take control of the roc, but the party wizard used his researched summon dragon spell to kill the enemy wizard and regain control of the bird.

After this victory the only obvious enemy was the Ice Queen, lich ruler of the big bad chaotic domain… but to my surprise they decide to negotiate with the Ice Queen and ended forming an alliance based on the marriage of one of the PC and the lich.   


I loved

-how my players pass from more or less murder-hobos to diplomatic and conspiracist nobles.

-the magic research, the machinist automatas and the spell creation rules.


I house ruled

-Very little


I didn't like

-the mechanic to resolve damage inflicted on heroes by armies, they were not coherent with the normal fighting mechanics, as in a normal fight a big group of weak opponents will always inflict a little damage each turn on the powerful character, but in D@W you either suffer no damage or you receive massive damage.

-Also the retreat mechanic is really exploitable by heroes, as individuals don't get disorganized.

-The population grow… ist ok, but such a chore to do each month. In the future i will use a season based domain: morale, growth, and income come every season (adjusted accordingly)


Next: kings


K is for King


After defeating the their enemies the party started a 4 front effort:

1) they decide to convince the powers of the valley to join in alliance under a senate, and achieve this by the fear of the ancients and their possible return and the fear of being left out of the alliance and later being attack by their armies.

2) they created a network of aerial trade routs to improve the revenue of the realm, and used that revenue to expand their territory even more.

3) they create a city in the middle of their kingdom and used millions of GP to make that city a class I market.

4) the dwarven machinist created an automata that carried a lot of weight and put it on rails with wagons attached (a train).


At the same time they lazily explored some of the hardest dungeons.


Eventually the diplomatic victory was at hand, but a internal conflict between those that desire that undead were considered people and those who wish to end necromancy ended in a series of betrayals and an epic PVP fight involving almost all high level NPC and PC. This fight took place inside a secret cavern/laboratory and armies weren't involved.

The fight ended with the side against necromancy victorious, but the victory was bittersweet as they had to kill one of the initial party members, friends killed friends, and even as they procure a momentary world peace the winnes lose a part of their souls in the proces.   


Now i stand at the end of my campaign, the kings of the world united to fight the god of death herself to prevent the return of the ancients, one last session, one last enemy, one last fight and this will all be over.


Final reflections:

i loved:

How the players could at the top of the world remember their origins: for example by contracting adventurers bands with what now was small coin, but basing their rewards in the rewards they used to get at that level.

The robust economy: and how it all adds up when analysed.

The diverse XP system: and how the thief started to shine at medium levels.

The maximum levels: and the point in which the dwarven machinist realized that he was nt going up anymore.

The henchmen: and the henchmen development.    

The random item tables: and how the players ended up using items that considered useless when found.

The X level X NPC in X population: and how it make high level characters more important by virtue of knowing that for example there were only 2 11 level mages capable of ritual magic on their side of the sea.

The prices and probability to find all sort of weird troops.


I houseruled:

that different types of land got different revenue.


i should have houseruled:

The possibility of treating gems as merchandise: that and the pegasi made my players very rich, even after the sky pirates (that failed after the group got its roc)


I didn't like:

That money was the only resource.

That there weren't example armies to guide/speed up the creation of enemy realm armies (by the way, if you don't have ⅓ archers you will have a bad time in sieges)

How dungeons lose a lot of attractive when you can camp outside with an army, and build golems to clear your path.


In the end, we had a lot of fun, but next campaign will be more heavily house ruled.  

Thanks for this great assessment of your experience playing the game.

One thing I would caution you about houseruling is this: "that uncommanded troops don't just stand there like idiots, in the future troops without commander will roll morale: if low they will retreat, if medium they will stand and fight if approached, if high they will advance and try to attack closes unit."

It will dramatically effect how D@W: Battles plays out! I wouldn't introduce that rule without extensive play-testing in non-campaign situations to understand how it will impact the value of different armies. 


I know that houseruling that will be complicated, but its something that really bother me for two reasons, its really exploitable and it feels to unrealistic (its like the troops didnt have survival instinct and just stood there waiting to root or to being commanded again).

If i come up with playtested rules i will post them. 



I know that houseruling that will be complicated, but its something that really bother me for two reasons, its really exploitable and it feels to unrealistic (its like the troops didnt have survival instinct and just stood there waiting to root or to being commanded again).

If i come up with playtested rules i will post them. 


The idea of troops NOT rushing into battle might feel unrealistic, but it's realistic. In fact, the leading theories oon how ancient and medieval battles were actually fought are in line with how D@W is designed.

Troops certainly would run away without being told to do so - but that phenomenon is already handled by the shock and morale system.

But they wouldn't advance and attack. Left to their own devices, troops would jeer at the enemy from a safe distance, but the troops would not push forward into battle without the exhortation of strong leaders. It's too deadly, and no one really wants to die. When you read battle descriptions carefully, you'll often find a lot of evidence of troops not attacking or not being used in the fighting or not joining the fight until such-and-such commander arrives to bring them in.

The desire to avoid getting killed is so strong that it even appears in mock battles. If you watch how spear formations clash in the SCA, they frequently stop a short distance from each other and just poke at each other from a range that's too long for either side to deal much damage. And you often see large formations just mulling around in the back. The same phenomenon occurs in modern-day street fights and riots, and in any battle fought by large number of animals.

Note that DBA/DBM, the most popular historical wargame for ancients and medievals, uses a similar system where units only move or shoot if command points are spent on them.

On a final note - your house rule would require building the entire command and control system from the ground up. Because it isn't just units without commanders that would be affected. It's also large divisions whose commanders aren't able to order everyone. And maybe that's because they have lots of disorganzed units - or they don't have lieutenants - or they are out of zone of control. So all of that needs to be re-thought.



ok, that has a lot of sense... yet some particular cases i have see were weird. for example: a group of gigants was surrounded and poked to death by units of light infantry. Even without orders shouldnt they retaliate even if just to open way to retreat?

That or when units were already engaged in melee.