Goodwill Towards ACKs?

Is it just me but does there seem to be a good amount of goodwill towards ACKs in the internet community? I hear about it on the WoTC boards, Dragonsfoot is an obvious place and it gets a few mentions here as well at ENworld.

I also ran the game with some 3rd ed/Pathfinder players and they also enjoyed it even though most of them still seem to prefer PF they at least liked the game and I used some 3.5 era WoTC minis on a battle mat as well. The simple little cleave ability went down well, not sure if that idea came from 1st ed or 3rd ed but its basic and makes fighter type into nice little murder machines.

Kewl little system, made a few changes such as death at -10 hit points. Likely to run it again in the future and due to some RL stuff I may have to pack up my D&D books and place them in storage so ACKs may be used a bit more for that D&D experience as it is a bit more compact as I use the main book and the players companion. I generally recommend it online to others as well including via PMs when we talk about various retro games or Pathfinder products.

I hope you’re right, Zardnaar. In a different thread, Boboblah had stated the opposite: “I also hope there are lots of new people buying it, but I’ve noticed a distinct trend (particularly amongst other OSR types) to not really grasp the differences within ACKS without actually playing it. Without doing so, it seems many people look at it as a poor clone with complicated domain house rules they figure they’ll never use anyway.”

So I’m left uncertain as to what the game’s reputation ultimately is.

Well there is a lot of clones out there around 25 apparently and I can think of 3 off the top of my head emulating BECMI I suppose. I’m using ACKs over Dark Dungeons and Labyrinth Lord as I like the proficiency system. I did like LL giving clerics spells at level 1 though.

ACKS gets lots of love at the forums I visit and on G+, as does S&W and LL.

Boboblah might be talking about Dragonsfoot, where many of he grogs stick their noses up at anything that doesn’t say (A)D&D on the cover. But even there, there are positive comments from the more open minded.

Met one fellow on G+ who preferred Stars Without Numbers’ skill system to ACKS’ proficiencies, and some adherents of the New School are naturally disdainful. The reception on EnWorld was lukewarm, but there is a vocal minority on reddit and few detractors there. I can honestly say that only two of the 10-12 people I’ve played ACKS with have found it to be not to their taste (one after he died twice in one session, and the other is game for another round which will hopefully go better). Others of my group have described it as “The most D&D D&D we ever did play”, and two of my twelve have since GM’d it for other groups. The trick to me seems to be getting people to give it a shot, really.

“The most D&D D&D we ever did play” is about the nicest thing you could say about ACKS - please extend our thanks to your players!

I think a few things have hurt ACKS in the market:

  • Going out of print! Selling out of our print run was cool, but oops, bad logistics. We’re fixing this.
  • The brutal delay on Dwimmermount and tardiness on D@W prevented us from doing a lot of follow-up product we’d planned.
  • D&D 5E being announced just as we were launching made it harder for any new OSR game to be as excitedly received since so much attention was being focused on that

I think with D@W finally on its way and the material we’ve got cooking we’re relatively well positioned to gain market share at least among our OSR market.

jedavis said: The trick to me seems to be getting people to give it a shot, really.

This, this, this! ACKS plays even better than it reads. I’ve looked around for some of the threads I’ve participated in, but they’re all a bit older, and finding them is proving impossible on my phone (which I’m restricted to, at the moment). It’s possible that the tide has turned now that more people have actually tried it.

Although, if you hit that ENWorld thread linked above, you’ll see the kind of thing I’m talking about with the second poster on the first page.

ACKs is a kewl little system though and I convinced some Pathfinder players to try it and they liked it and only some of them had tried AD&D and none had tried BECMI. I wouldn’t just market it to OSR players. Paizo sells all sorts of stuff on their site and often feature a daily non Paizo product and their site seems to have a lot of traffic as well.

Another thing would be maybe some free fan made ACKs adventures or conversions of fan made OSR material. Even a basic conversion guide between THACO/Attack Throw/BAB and the ACs could do it. AC 6 in ACKs is AC 16 in Pathfinder or C4 in TSR era D&D. Attack throw 8+ becomes THACO 18 becomes BAB+2.

Damn no edit button. AC6=AC4=AC16 ACKS/D&D/d20 D&D

RPG.Net seems usually pretty positive.

Okies I’ll go read through that thread.

I look at the ACKS system as an attempt to capture the late-80s feel of simulationally complex D&D (J Mal called it the “Silver Age”), which is probably the least popular incarnation of pre-3.0 D&D. This was the era when products were being released with lots of attention to naturalistic detail and coherent world-building, but little attention to utility in play. If you read something like the AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide, it’s beautiful in presentation but not something you could actually bring to the table. Even the domain management in the Rules Cyclopedia doesn’t result in something that feels like a balanced “game” with complex strategies, just a simulation engine for the sake of world building.

I feel like ACKS is trying to be a cleaned-up version of that school of game design, with more stringent play-testing to avoid clunky mechanics. This makes it important to actually try the system and be convinced that it plays out better than the overly fiddly stuff people remember from this era. It’s full of the same kind of Gygaxian naturalism that you found in the early monster manuals, but instead of being take-it-or-leave-it flavor-text blocks, it’s integrated into the domain mechanics as something you actually use. That results in a very “crunchy” system, which isn’t going to be exciting to the corner of the OSR that wants to invest time and energy in cliche-busting themes (weird gonzo stuff) and anti-naturalistic settings (like psychological horror).

I think the direction being taken in D@W is going to sell much better to the miniature wargame community than to the OSR. The interest I’m getting now isn’t from our RPG players but from our regular Warhammer players.

Finally, I think there’s a huge amount of “overhead” for ACKS that other games with more modularity don’t face. To set everything up and run domains, it’s necessary to digest a range of interlocked mechanics from multiple sourcebooks. It’s not like running a domain in Pathfinder’s Kingmaker, where you just insert an independent city-building mini-game in between your regular sessions and use it as a source of plot hooks. That heavy investment is something people won’t do unless there’s a definite pay-off at the end. I think it would really help to have a condensed player’s guide that shows the breadth of the system, but without having the overwhelming deluge of tabulated data.

Well said! I agree that ACKS is indeed a ‘second silver age’ sort of endeavour. Good insights on the weird fantasy / horror facet of the OSR. Agreed that DaW absolutely appeals to our wargamers much more than our more RPG-focused folks (overlap of 3-4 of my 12), and readily admit that part of the reason I’m running my current game at a “quick-levelling adventurer to conqueror” mode is so that I might get my wargaming fix in the next year or so. I also think, though, that it is an important and worthwhile aim to roll some wargaming back into RPGs; on the wargame side, most such games benefit from good campaign context and consequences of victory, which these days are often minimized in the name of producing fair and balanced (tournament-style) scenarios. On the RPG side, adding wargaming back in adds scale and significance to the decisions of PCs. So I think it’s a good shift on the whole, and if it isn’t to everyone’s tastes, then make sure your party’s wargamers are the fighters and generals.

Finally, I agree that the domain paperwork can be somewhat daunting. I should write a script to handle monthly updates for extensive vassal domains…

An app for handling ACKS domain management is something I’d kill for…

What manner of app? Phone, web? I ask because I’m really a command-line sort of guy, and all of my prior ACKS automation has been python scripts. I could see using XML+python for describing and processing nested domains pretty easily, which would be relatively straightforward to transition to a webapp with Flask or django and XSLT, but I have no idea how I’d transition it to phones (and even web stuff is not at all my forte).

I’d take either!

While we are wishing…if it could generate a random domain with markets of the correct size that would be fantastic. Like if you could say I want a market 2 with all the secondary domains and it would spit out hexes…that would be amazing!

Though I love the economic aspect of ACKS I will admit I have a hard time wrapping my head around the system and how many nested domains of how many hexes there should be in a Domain.

You are absolutely correct in your view of ACKS. The “Silver Age” of simulationally complex D&D was my personal favorite era. I rather dislike anti-naturalistic settings and systems.

ACKS is definitely very crunchy. However, I think the overhead of ACKS is less than you describe. The crunch is there if you need it, but you don’t have to use it until you need to. Just because you could build the entire setting down to the level of individual baronies doesn’t mean you should or have to. I ran 50 sessions of my Opelenean Nights campaign before I ever built the stats for the cities and domains of the region. Up until then if a question came up I just used the default tables in the rulebook.

Questions such as “how many warhorses can I buy in town,” “how much gold could the baron offer as a reward” and “how much treasure would we get if we sacked this city” can come up in any campaign of any level. There are only 3 ways for the Judge to answer that question:

  1. “It’s whatever I think would be good for the story”
  2. “It’s whatever I think would be good for game balance”
  3. “It’s whatever I think makes sense in the world”
    The goal of ACKS is to give the GM a response to such questions that fulfills both #2 and #3.
    It’s not meant to force the GM to answer all those questions in advance.

That would be a good app that would be widely favored. I’d love to commission or create it at some point.

I’d back a Kickstarter for that.