Help Needed v. Arch-Troll

There is an avid forum poster on RPGSite and Dragonsfoot who seems to get his jollies from posting in every ACKS thread to say the game is just a cut-and-paste of BECMI. I have spent a about an hour this morning writing a rebuttal to avoid having potential ACKS players turned away by his trollilng.

If anyone is so inclined, I would appreciate any support for the game you would like to muster. The thread in question is here:

That’s me in there; mostly concentrating on the guy that wanted to mesh ACKS into 13th Age.

I’ve noticed that dude before. It’s hard to come away with his opinion if you’ve actually read both products; I had to go do a quick skim of Companion to figure out what he was on about.

One can certainly see the same general themes (I’d actually posit Birthright as the workable (if very plain and limited) as the successor to those rules); but ACKS is 1000% more usable and plain-ass judgable - I don’t have to rely on feel to run that aspect of the game.

I saw you responded to him both in this thread and in the RPGSite thread on the same topic. I don’t know what his issue is, but it’s annoying. I really appreciate that you’ve jumped into the mix repeatedly.

Hopefully my overly-detailed point-by-point comparison of the two systems will put a rest to it for the time being.

If we are to counter him, it might behoove us to understand his objections more fully, as laid out at . Mostly it sounds like he was looking for something completely, conceptually different in terms of domain management, rather than an iterative improvement and expansion of the Companion material.

what a surprise, he’s a disgruntled dwimmermount backer.

Thanks, I had not read his review.

Since he missed the fact that ACKS doesn’t use Vancian magic, I’m not sure how seriously I can take his review…

Very reasonable, though we all see what we expect to see.

His bit about the domains resembling spreadsheetwork does remind me somewhat of the complaints of my players, who looked at the rules for fighter domains and went “The XP and GP I will gain from this are not worth the paperwork and investment,” and promptly resolved to remain unlanded as long as possible. I think he may not be completely off base in this regard; the fighter domain rules are a beautiful simulation, but the balance between grunt work and thematic gameplay opportunities is much skewed towards work when compared with (say) the wizard’s domain game, where the ends (inventing new spells or crossbreeding monsters and other really cool stuff) are exciting in and of themselves, and justify the (lesser degree of) work necessary to achieve them.

I think there may be room for a layer over ACKS’ domain game operating at a higher level of abstraction while preserving or being derived from the same historical economic assumptions. Perhaps I will devise such a thing.

I do think that’s a fair complaint and I don’t take offense at someone who claims that.

Personally I handle “the math” of domains in all of my campaigns and simply presented my players with the inputs and outputs they control. (And I had similar complaints from my players about building their 3.5 characters, which also took a spreadsheet in their opinion, and adopted a similar solution.)

we stopped trying to make or play 3.x/PF characters without herolab. The options are just insurmountable otherwise.

Hmmm, presenting only the inputs they control, sounds like a job for an automated application…

I dunno, some of my happiest D&D memories are of poring over 3.5 splatbooks, looking up a dozen guides, cross-referencing them, looking up the feats and classes they suggested, comparing relevant details, making decision trees…

Yeah! 3.x chargen was one of the most fun parts of the game (though my tolerance for complexity has fallen since). I think the difference is that in 3.x chargen, you have a lot of options and it’s paperwork you do one or twice a campaign rather than every month of gameplay. The domain subsystem is the opposite; you have paperwork on a monthly basis, and while doing it you don’t have all that many options (raise or lower taxes, make investment, skimp on expenses at the risk of morale, train militia, build urban center if you don’t already have one… anything I missed?). 3.5 chargen is (possibly) spreadsheetworthy because it’s an enormous decision-space; domain upkeep is spreadsheetworthy (or scriptworthy) because it’s just some math.

I think there is a happy medium to be struck, with more decision-points and less granularity (in population for example - I don’t think I’m super-concerned about knowing the population in families so much as tens of families, or possibly even hundreds of families per 24-mile hex).

I’ve got the same memories for Rifts. I probably read the random setting books I’d borrowed 10x more than we actually played, at that, digging on various RCCs and the like.

Nowadays, I ask (,/dare) systems for more behind the screen complexity; I’m miffed I don’t have access to the ACKS playtest docs that had the knight/manor scale still in them, for example.

On the player side, though, I’ve been cutting; I’ve dropped to single-saving-throw Swords&Wizardry style, for one, and I’m still considering all-d6 damage, once I can find a way to differentiate weapons by quality that doesn’t require a table.

There are additional decision points around availability of garrison troops (not every domain is large enough to just automatically hire an X,000 gp garrison), balancing morale vs. militia, holding festivals (yes, I know the forum’s common wisdom is that more garrison is cheaper than festivals, but, again… what if there aren’t enough mercenaries available to hire to give you a big enough garrison to compensate for missing festivals? or if you need to rely on bread and circuses because you can’t even hire the baseline garrison?), etc.

And I can assure you that my players care about every single family - they only have 68 families in the domain and 89 in the town, after all! While the system is clearly written to focus mainly on domains of tens or hundreds of thousands of families and massive armies (120 men per unit? That’s nice… Our realm can field 28 troops, total. Including conscripts. Plus another 29 militia if they’re really desperate, but that would leave the majority of the population at -3 or -4 morale, so not a good idea.), some of us have been using it on a much smaller scale.

We have never had a problem with insufficient garrison; importing mercs from other nearby domains has always been sufficient to meet our needs. An extremely isolated domain, where importation is not possible for some reason, could still make do by bringing extra garrison from former base of operations during establishment of domain and hiring locally thereafter, since domain growth is typically very slow. You do run into problems with domains as small as the one you describe, because the x% adventuring growth bonus is large, but “tiny and absolutely isolated” is sort of a corner-case.

That is precisely the size of domain that my players would (and in one case after acquiring such a domain, did) judge to not be worth the paperwork :stuck_out_tongue: That’s like what, 350gp/mo in net revenue assuming average land value? I suppose closer to 500gp/mo if you’re deep in the wilderness and not paying taxes on your urban income. Still, not enough to break the GP threshold for a 5th level character unless they lucked out on land value, nor to cover such a character’s cost of living.

I wouldn’t mind those manor-level playtest doccos, either.

Since you asked… Gross income was 1123gp last month, running with a 0gp/family tax rate (on the rural population) and including a 10% reduction due to the militia having been active the previous month. After relevant expenses, it was a net 88gp income for XP purposes. (After all expenses, including rural/urban development, stronghold construction, etc. it was a net loss of just under 4kgp.)

They are working on importing mercs, but it’s a two-month round trip by ship to the nearest class II market (first recruiting trip is due back any day now…) and, even then, a small sailing ship only carries 50 passengers and they’re prioritizing craftsmen over troops, plus they need to replace horses for the two light cavalry they’ve been able to recruit, which takes up more space…

As for whether it’s worth it… Not so much financially or XP-wise, no. But the basic campaign concept is “half a dozen third-level characters get 100kgp starting funds and attempt to settle a hostile island”, so abandoning the beleaguered domain isn’t really an option, given that building it up is the entire point of the game.

It’s one of the goals I have for the software I posted the other day to handle encounters, actually.