Converting d20 Players:)

For the most part my group is d20 D&D players although I have played BECMI, AD&D 1st and 2nd ed along with 3rd and 4th ed. I was getting burned out on Pathfinder and late last year started playing 2nd ed again. I saw ACKs being recommended a lot on other forums and bought the PDFs from

If people ask me what ACKs is I kind of explain it as a retroclone of the BE part of BECMI most RPGers these days have not played BECMI and I’m feeling old at 35. The group is 21-35 or so in age.

One of them missed our earlier ACs session and looked at the classes and was not to impressed but we lent him the fighter. I also decided to use a battle mat and minis today as he likes 3.5 a lot. Once he realized proficiency were feats/talents by another name and he got great cleave, spring attack and a free 5 foot step in between attacks he seemed to enjoy himself a lot more:). One has a few options which I like and with TSR critters generally being a bit weaker than 3rd ed monsters he felt like a big damn hero as the fighter types on some good rolls are sometimes cleaving 2-3 times a round in addition to the 1st attack.

They seem to be figuring out the mechanics as well and with one of my other players who also played AD&D they have always heard about OSR levels of wealth in and having things like a castle or tower each. They are also not used to an old school sleep spell that KO’s 9 minis or so with a single spell and no save. Kind of broken I suppose if you use it on PCs but NPC spell casters are rare in old TSR modules although Lareth the Beautiful was a rough fight.

Concerns were raised about the long term interest of a basic system due to lack of classes but I pointed out our players companion has an extra 19 classes most of which I would let in the game. They find attack throws mildly annoying as they seem to be a hybrid of THACO and BAB but they’re getting there. ACs are easy enough to convert AC2= AC 8 or 12 (OSR/d20).

Its a game though and it is supposed to be fun IMHO and ACKs passes that mark and I do not see any massive game wrecking problems at higher levels like Pathfinder tends to at level 9-11+. Then again 13 and 14 d6 fireballs could be poweful but we have no wizard in the party just the Nobirion Wonder bringer or whatever the class is called and he is a henchman.

To be honest, I’ve scrapped attack throws in favor of a progression that is simpler to me. Instead of attack throw progression, characters have an attack bonus that starts at 0 but goes up by a point each time attack throw would go down by a point (so an 8+ attack throw in ACKS would be a +2 attack in Dark ACKS), modified by Str or Dex as appropriate. ACs are increased by 10 (and can be less than 10 if, for example, it’s an unarmored human with 5 Dex). Attack roll + attack bonus = or > AC = hit. It’s basically bringing back the 3.x attack system, solely because for me and my players it’s the easiest one to calculate in our heads.

Theorycrafting for a moment, it feels like the ACKS system was intended to create a zero-basis defense system, where defenses started at 0 and attacks were oriented around that. I personally prefer zero-basis offense systems, where offenses start at 0 and defenses are calibrated to match, because defenses tend to be more static - AC usually has a very limited set of modifiers in a single combat (magic or swapping out a shield). Attack rolls vary every round, so making the AC math a little more complicated will only slow things down on the front end, while making attack math a little more complicated slows down every combat roll.

I discuss the philosophy behind ACKS’ mechanics a bit here:

Key Points:

  1. The throw mechanic directly, rather than indirectly, informs the player of the information he needs to know, i.e. “what number do I need to roll on the die.” This number can be listed directly on the character sheet: “Hear noise 14+” “Save v. Death 11+” “Attack with sword 9+”.

  2. The throw mechanic puts the emphasis on the character, rather than the situation. A player understands that if he has “Hear Noise 14+” in most circumstances his character can eavesdrop on a roll of 14-20. If there is a modifier to this chance, it’s transparent to the player: “A penalty of -4 to your roll due to the loud noise”. In contrast, systems such as 3.5 or 4e, which use a fixed bonus against a variable Difficulty, put the emphasis on the GM’s decision as to the situation. Very often the GM is actually encouraged to calculate what chance he wants for success, and to then ‘customize’ the Difficulty accordingly (this is explicit in 4e). These sort of accounting illusions are unnecessary in ACKS. Where we believed a task should be equally challenging for characters of varying level, we simply either use a type of throw that doesn’t change with level (such as the proficiency throw to find secret doors), or we use a roll (see below).

In any event, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with converting ACKS back to 3.5-style rolls. As you can see from the articles above, ACKS just went the other way around.

As far as how to convert someone from Pathfinder, here would be my arguments for the merits of ACKS:

  1. Fighter-caster balance is better.
  2. Character classes are better balanced overall.
  3. Combat is faster without losing tactical richness or challenge.
  4. Simple character generation with no real loss in character customization. With 20 classes, proficiencies, and complete custom class rules, a player can make anything he wants in ACKS.
  5. Unique rules like magical crossbreeding, magical experimentation, thieves’ hijinks, and merchandise & trade.
  6. The economy is functional and plausible, with little hand-waving required.
  7. Level progression stays fun from 1 to 14. Characters meaningfully advance in the world as they level up; high-level play isn’t just the same old treadmill.

For the most part I would agree with this. Thief is kind of lame at low levels though. We used our 1st houserule last night and went back to -10 hp rule over the bad stuff happens table. The players are also getting to grips with the attack roll table but some of them are getting into the negative numbers again by level 5 or so. We may end up using BAB again. The Blade dancer dual wields for example an gets +1 to hit dor dual wielding another +1 to hit for combat style and +3 to hit off a +2 dagger on one hand and a +1 sword in the other hand.

Our group ahs all played Pathfinder and like it so some extent but ACKs is a nice change of pace and the most hard core PF player liked it as I used minis for it. The cleave system is very basic, works great and seems to be a combination of a 1st eds fighter and great cleave from 3rd ed.

We do have a dual wielder, sword and board and a two hander and none of them feel to overpowered relative to the other options. Accuracy/AC/damage being the main difference.

I like the throw mechanic for everything (saves, hear noise, thief abilities, etc) except attack rolls. For most throws having a static number (14+ hear noise for example) works, its pretty common not to have modifiers to most throws. Attack throws always have the the targets AC as a modifier (except AC 0) so having a static number doesn’t work as well. To me it is simpler to know the modifiers to my attack roll, roll the d20 and know what AC I hit. The attack throw mechanic is not complicated and is not a game breaker by any stretch, attack bonuses just seem simpler.

Well, then you leave me no choice but to ACKScommunicate you, heretic!!

I kid, I kid. It’s funny that people make way bigger changes to the game than this in their various house rules (Kiero, Thomas W., etc.) and it doesn’t even provoke comment, but attack rolls is something everybody worries about.

Take your pick:

  1. My changes aren’t canon.
  2. There actually is one true way and your mathematically equivalent method makes you a terrible person, cf. Thac0.
  3. Attack rolls are omnipresent. Every use is a reminder.
  4. Trauma-bonding for grognards.


The minor complaints so far from my players seem to be attack rolls and the negative hit points rules. One of them also doesn’t like the race= class part to much but as I said a few of them are used to AD&D or d20 and not B/x. Its not like AD&D and d20 are perfect either though.

The Pathfinder player didn’t really want to play but turned up late and we had already started playing so he got to play the two handed fighter. At the end of the session had a lot of fun though and liked the system.

Having a game where the DM doesn’t end up hating running it and the PCs may actually make it to level 14 is good for them. Its also not hard to run AD&D and B/x adventures with ACKs either and my players have been looking at my old school modules so there is heaps for them to do.

I think the difference for me is that the major house rule changes are things that are interesting, but that I won’t use because I don’t see how they fit in with where I want to go with my game. Minor mechanical tweaks or small changes (like the “true first level” sleep spell) are much easier for me to evaluate and decide whether or not to integrate.

Are you letting them hire henchmen? That tends to take the sting out of the mortal wounds table when it happens to a random lackey you hired from the tavern. We had one henchperson actually survive getting his leg chopped off and continue to serve loyally for a few more battles before getting the other leg chopped off and bleeding out.

If you want to make things less lethal but still want the “feel” of mortal danger, give everyone the barbarian’s ability to roll twice and choose the result, then give the barbarian three rolls. This means your campaign will be a lot less lethal,but that death won’t just be a revolving door like it is in pathfinder.

Why do they dislike the negative hit point rules? I’ve heard two basic reasons people dislike them:

  1. The “quantum uncertainty” of the character’s condition. They would prefer to know what happened to the character when he’s hit, rather than when someone gets to him.

  2. The rules are too deadly.

Either one is relatively easily fixed. I think the system as a whole is worth keeping.

Not so much the deadly part more the book keeping. -10 is just easier and you do not have to consult a table to find out what has happened. The table kind of reminds me of the critical hit rules from 2nd ed Combat and Tactics.

The rules do not seem to be bad just more book keeping/effort than we can be bothered with.

The “quantum uncertainty” bugs me a lot, mainly because it was always fun describing the lethal blow. Still, the results of the table are so fun(ny) and flavourful that we’ve stuck with it.

I’ve been tempted to experiment with having the player roll 1d20 as soon as he’s struck down. Add his CON modifier and the Hit Point modifier, but ignore the Treatment and Timing modifier.

Since that would likely be much deadlier than the current system (which allows for Healing +2, magic, etc.) an additional bonus would be needed. Perhaps you add a random number equal to a hit die roll (e.g. 1d8, 1d6, 1d4).

EXAMPLE: Marcus, a fighter with CON 18 and 42hp, is cut down and reduced to -10hp. -10hp is no modifier on the Hit Points entry. His CON grants him a +3 bonus. He rolls 1d20 (base) + 1d8 (a single hit die), scoring a “6” and a “3”. His total is 6+3+3=12, so he is critically wounded. A d6 roll of 4 indicates a knee is damaged.

I roll the 1d6 portion when the character is struck, because of this pattern I noticed: 1 head, 2 face, 3 arm, 4 leg, 5 lower half of body, 6 upper half of body.

I’ve otherwise been pretty fine with the quantum uncertainty (Arkady got hit in the face and went down, but how bad was it?), but I like to know what the players saw happen.

Thank you for the excellent idea, Thomas. I’m going to use it to add even more tension to combat, though I believe you have your 1-6 values reversed. Come to think of it, why would the table read 6->1 left to right instead of the other way around?

Yes, I wrote the values backwards, sorry.

Oh, man…I can’t believe I never noticed that! That’s awesome, and completely alleviates my discomfort over not knowing if the cat is alive or dead. Thanks!

Yeah, that is genuinely excellent. Bravo, good sir.