Magical Item Creation Questions

Something doesn’t seem quite right with the formulas for Special Components:

“Components are usually organs or blood from one or more monsters with a total XP value equal to the gp cost of the research.”

First off, the phrase “GP cost of the research” seems unclear- does this mean the full GP price of the item, or the cost of researching the necessary spell effects? Except that it’s heavily implied that you always need components, even though you don’t perform any research if you have a formula or sample or if you already have a spell in mind. So if I know Fireball, and I want to make a Wand of Fireball, I should price out the research-cost of Fireball, and then use that to determine how many squid livers I’ll need?

Even with the third option, I still don’t always arrive at the examples in the book. Hellhounds are worth 65 XP, so 20 of them would be worth 1300. Fireball would cost 3,000 to research. By the formula, it should take 47 (46? What if the XP value of the creature doesn’t fit smoothly into the GP price of the research, does one round up or down?) hellhound fangs to make the wand. Efreeti, meanwhile, are worth 2950 each, so four of them would be worth 11,800! This is to say, the two example formulas to craft a Wand of Fireball apparently require ingredients with a 1000% difference.

On examining the other example components, they don’t correspond to any particular pattern either.

For instance, the book suggests the blood of 1 troll (680 xp)to brew one potion of healing(500gp, which was presumably made using the spell effect of Cure light wounds, which would cost 1000 gp to research.

3 griffins,(1760 xp) meanwhile, are needed for a scroll of fly, which would cost 1500 to scribe and is based off of Fly, which would cost 3000 gp to research.

Finally, 150 stalkers, (165,000 xp!!!)are required to craft a ring of invisibility that would cost 33,000 gp, and is presumably based off of Invisbility, which would cost 2000 gp to research.

Between the two Fireball examples, plus the three other items, I’m completely baffled regarding the intent of the rules. (I’m also a little concerned about what to do regarding Monster Parts As Merchandise, since mass and XP value don’t always correlate, leading to odd situations. Imagine that a merchant arrives with ten big crates, and you describe them to the players, then roll, and discover that all ten crates combined actually contain a single efreeti ichor.)

this has always confused me as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing some clarifications.

Hello everyone, sorry for the long delay in answering this. The examples are all wrong, but I wanted to understand why there were wrong before I responded.

The error was introduced in ACKS v22. (For reference, the current version of ACKS is ACKSv v40), created 9/9/2011. In that version, I updated the XP value for monsters from the old LL version to use the new, revised ACKS values. For instance, in ACKS v21, an invisible stalker was worth 215XP, while in ACKS v22, an invisible stalker was worth 1,100XP. 

Unfortunately, I failed to update the examples in the Magic Research section to reflect the change in the monster's XP values. The examples are therefore all wrong!. Here are the correct examples (I hope!):

Potion of Healing - 500gp - 1 Troll (680XP)

Scroll of Fly - 1500gp - 3 Griffons (440XP each = 1320)

Fireball Wand - 30,000gp - 37 Hellhounds (790XP each = 29,230)

Invisibility Ring - 33,000gp - 30 Invisible Stalkers (1,100XP each = 33,000)

Sword +1 - 5,000gp - 36 Ogres (140XP each = 5040)

Sword +2 - 15,000gp - 107 Ogres (140XP each = 14980)

Plate Armor +1 - 5,000gp - 3 Gorgons (1600XP each = 4800)

Susan, thank you very much for spotting these errors. I hate that they slipped through, but I'll get them fixed so future gamers can avoid this confusion.

To answer your other questions:

1. The values don't need to exactly line up, as the numbers above show. I generally just round to the closest creature.

2. The number of special components required is determined by the base cost to make the item, *not* the cost to research the spell. Thus, researching Cure Light Wounds (level 1 spell) would cost 1,000gp, but making a potion of healing using Cure Light Wounds would cost 500gp.


Yes, yes, the last thing I was really unclear about has been resolved! Thank you so much for clarifying that, Alex! I think it reflects really well on ACKS that the dev team is so active on here.

Secondary Query: Somewhere in the huge pile of absolutely delightful blog posts, is there one that deals with the fluff behind requiring huge piles of guts for a magic item? LOGICALLY, it seems like a pretty solid way of preventing players from mass producing any particular magic item (and to encourage them to make , as the pile of kobold heads builds up and they’re not sure what to do with them) but I was wondering how you guys meshed that with your design goals in terms of atmosphere and storytelling. That is, in every other respect, ACKS is constantly stopping and asking itself “Will these rules encourage players to act like aragorn, or conan?” I don’t recall many occasions when a fantasy wizard used hundreds of monsters as a component.

Slight clarification: Greater Hellhounds are worth 790. Lesser are worth 65. It would definitely be worth distinguishing between the two.

It does give a reason for mages to make dungeons and it push adventures into slaying specific monsters. Generally in fiction, however, the quests would be to slay a single great beast and not one hundred small ones.

Thanks, I'm glad to help out. It's been a humbling experience to discover how many little loopholes and errors I left in ACKS, despite multiple edits and fairly rigorous attempts at proofreading. 

To answer your question, the inspiration for the "monster guts" requirements came from a few sources.

The real world inspiration is the actual practice of witch doctors and shamans of using rare creature parts in their potions and artifacts - for example, rhinoceros horn being valued by Eastern practicioners. Then there are legendary inspirations, such as the myths of unicorn horns possessing special powers. The literary inspiration was Conan and Hyboria. Sorcerers in Hyboria always seemed to be using wierd and rare flora and fauna for their various rituals. Another inspiration were the common video game  RPG quests and trade systems, which frequently involve collecting various animal/monster parts. Finally, there's the game-mechanical inspiration of providing an explanation of why wizards build dungeons or hire monsters to bring them rare and exotic. 

In the context of my stories (Auran Empire campaign setting), the explanation is as follows:

What are Souls?

Souls are the shards of the Logos that reside in every living creature. Each carries a measure of divine power. The transmigration of souls is the process by which immortal souls transition to new bodies. The ability of the Logos to reside in matter is dependent on the matter’s configuration and properties - its form in classical parlance. Death results when the physical form becomes so damaged or decrepit that it can no longer contain a complete soul. When this occurs, the soul transmigrates to a new form which can contain it. This process is called reincarnation or metempsychosis

Reincarnation does not occur immediately. When a living creature dies, a residue of its soul will remain coagulate within the body for a time, only gradually dissipating from its corpse. How much of a residual soul remains depends in large part on how intact the body is – the more intact the body, the more residue of the soul will remain. It is this residue of the soul that makes creature parts valuable as special components. It is this residue of the soul that a spellcaster speaks with when using speak with dead. The residual soul is also why it is easier for a cleric using restore life and limb to bring back the soul of a creature whose corpse is mostly intact. One of the reasons that the Empyrean faith teaches its clergy to cremate the dead is to help free the residual soul to move on to its next incarnation. 


This thread has some suggestions for other things you could use instead of special components:


This shines something of a darker light on magical crafting. Does this mean that using a hero skull in a +1 sword delay the reincarnation at least until the item is destroyed, possibly centuries or more? To a lesser degree, it is a pretty shady thing to do to monsters. How is this different than the reason mindless undead are considered evil abominations that cannot be permitted to exist (be they human, demi-human, beastman, or monster)?

I assume that the logos portion locked away is either significantly less (considering only a small part of the body is needed) allowing for reincarnation without it, or the logos only acts as a catalyst or jump-starting surge being released soon after?

Alex, the fact that you respond so positively and honestly to people finding loopholes and wrinkles in ACKS does you huge credit as a designer and as human being. I’m really happy to have spent the amount of money backing Autarch projects that I have done so far, and plan on continuing.

Tavis also deserves huge amounts of respect and credit for his integrity when handling (and saving) the Dwimmermount project.

Well done to both of you, and thanks.

Also, this souls business is awesome and totally stolen for my own game.

I was actually referring specifically to the need for piles of monster guts- As someone else pointed out, in most fiction, the quest will be for one ogre skull rather than a galleon full of them.

Unless we’re talking about mmo-style computer rpgs, then you have plenty of “bring me x of part y from monster z” where x can be quite large. Also, note that you can have relatively few parts required if you choose a particularly nasty monster. Maybe the bards just sing less about the tale of the man who killed a hundred orcs for his sword than the slayer of the hydra (also, mages are more likely to just put a bounty on small-fry monster parts for all the newbies of the land to fetch and call it a day instead of having a single hero do it). While still a valuable endevour, not the sort of thing the bards write about.

I wasn’t going to mention MMOs because in my experience, saying that a tabletop RPG resembles an MMO tends to be taken as a grave insult, and “Fetch Quests” are generally regarded as the most banal part of an MMO.

I concur, but that was an example that Alex gave. One interesting thing about ACKS, which sets it apart from most pen-and-paper RPGs but shares with MMOs, is how well it facilitates sandbox play at all levels with minimal GM work required. While this by no means stops it from being run like a more rp-heavy, story-driven rpg, this capacity lets the players make quests for themselves with the only GM input being “oh that sword you’re making needs ogre heads, like in that ogre villiage that I rolled up a while ago that you saw a few sessions ago because of a random encounter”. A GM can flesh out whatever he wants while leaving the rest of the world primarily to random generation. My current GM is normally great at inventing memorable characters, interesting stories, and fleshed out settings, but has been so busy with work he has had NO preparation time and yet, with a basic module and random, sandbox play his ACKs game is still engaging.

If the residual soul is used for crafting an item, it's consumed (or transformed, depending how you look at it). The rest of the soul reincarnates at that point, albeit at roughly 10% reduced power. The net effect is that if you use the souls of Chaotic monsters for magic items, the strength of Chaotic souls reincarnating is reduced. The gods of Law in Aura do not see this as immoral. There's a war on. These metaphysics and rules will be detailed in the Auran Empire Campaign Setting.

Divine Power of Creatures

The total amount of divine power possessed by a creature is equal to ten times its XP value. When a creature dies, about 90% of this value rapidly transmigrates; the other 10% remains as a residue within the creature’s blood or organs, which can be harvested as special components for magical research. When a creature is sacrificed, 80% of its divine power passes to the entity worshipped, 10% is retained by the sacrificer for his own ends, and 10% remains residual within its blood and organs. This why XP value = special component value = sacrifice value.

A living creature will generate excess divine power each day equal to 6% of its XP value. For example, a mage with HD 14** (worth 3,800XP) therefore has (3,800 x 6%) about 230 points of divine power available. Casters use some of this to fuel their spells (a 14th level mage’s spells cost about 190 spell points). The rest is dissipated or bequeathed to a god through worship. (As with sacrifice, a cleric that leads a congregant in worship collects 10% while the god collects the rest). Once expended, the creature’s divine power will recharge through food, drink, and sleep – the living body fuels the soul.

Nerdnumber1 answered the question as well as I could.

From my perspective, having creatures server as special components serves so many useful functions within the game that I don't mind if it resembles an MMO fetch quest. It justifies why wizards hire adventurers to kill monsters; why wizards build dungeons to lair monsters; why wizards might crossbreed monsters; why magic items are rare; etc. 


Thanks, that's very kind of you to say.

We joke on our mailing list that Tavis is levelling up Venturer at a rapid rate due to his Dwimmermount experiences. Fortunately he's a Lawful-aligned Venturer.

The souls rules are fully fleshed out in Auran Empire Campaign Setting - it's an area of the setting I have put a ton of time into.

Does this mean that creating mindless undead out of chaotic creatures and indefinitely removing them from action by ordering them to stay still forever and entombing them (or other similar means) is a lawful act which decreases the strength of the forces of chaos? Also, does sacrificing an entity to a dark (or light) god mean complete oblivion as 90% of it’s soul power is reduced (100% if the cleric uses the remains for crafting)? Can a soul be restored to life after sacrifice (presumeably by using donated soul energy that the god has obtained by other means)? Is there any meaningful difference between the soul and soul energy (i.e. is a soul drained or is a chunk hacked off leaving less soul afterward)? This is an interesting subject.

No, I fear not. Whatever incidental benefit is gained is lost by the greater pollution involved in creating undead. It's akin to using a dirty fission reactor that leaks radiation everywhere, while claiming it's good for the environment because it's not burning fossil fuels.

What is Undeath?

Undeath can be thought of as a blight, corruption, impurity, or taint of the Logos. It was created by the Chaotic gods in order to disrupt the natural order that the Lawful gods are relying on to achieve their version of the Awakening. Undeath blocks the natural process of reincarnation from occurring. Either or both the body (form) and soul can be tainted with undeath, and the taint can be spread from tainted creature to creature. 

Undeath’s impurity has spread even into the Logos immanent within the world itself. Where the taint in an area is severe, it constitutes a sinkhole of evil. (Conversely, an area free from virtually any taint whatsoever is a pinnacle of good). When an area is tainted, the corruption may leak into corpses within, causing them to animate as mindless undead skeletons and zombies. Similarly, magical animation of the dead functions by extracting tainted Logos from the environment and imbuing it into corpses.


No one knows whether a soul can be restored to life after a sacrifice. Or, if the soul is restored to life, is it really the same soul? 

“The Empyreans believe that after death, the body must be burned so that the spirit can swiftly travel to the afterlife, where its valor is weighed by Türas. Noble souls pass to the Empyrean Heaven, to dwell in the light of Ammonar forever. But most souls drink of the waters of sorrow and return again to the realms of man in a new body.

“Chthonic faithful do not believe in this cycle of life, death and rebirth. They believe that upon death, the Empyrean gods consume the soul, and then use it as fuel in the creation of new life. They see reincarnation of the soul the same way we see fungus growing in a corpse – new life, yes, but not the same life. They see, not a choice between undeath and reincarnation, but undeath and oblivion. They thus seek to keep their souls and their bodies intact until the time of the Awakening, lest their singular identity be destroyed by the cycle of death.”


As one who is looking at running ACKS in Midnight, where there is only one god and he (it?) is set upon consuming all magic in order to escape his world-prison, this post is excellent. Now I just need something to tie land value to the divine power generated by the ‘spirits of the land’, which accumulates in power nexuses, and I should have a nice solid numerical framework for the underlying realm-magic of Midnight (might work alright for Defiler magic in Dark Sun, too).

That’d also work for a slight re-imagining of Birthright.

Dark Sun, though - man. OK, imagine the Sorcerer Kings are giant batteries, they’ve sucked up and stored all the divine/world power up into themselves, those maniacs, they blew it up, damn them all.

Templars are powered directly by the SKs leaking that to them.

Druids want to kill them to release that power - play up the 1E connection between bards and druids, and the assassin-theme of the Athasian Bard, there’s your nature-lovin’ underground vs. the SKs.

Defilers are just working with whatever scraps and pieces of power remain.

If you ever finish working out ACKS Midnight, I hope you’ll post it (or a link) in these forums. It’s a setting I have a great deal of fondness for, and these days I find myself wondering how I would convert every setting I like to ACKS…