Some Queries for our Backers

I have a few questions I’d like to ask. These are minor points within the game, but they weigh on me.

Let’s hear them.

Question #1: Elven Cloak and Boots
As it stands, elven cloak and elven boots make Hide in Shadows and Move Silently irrelevant. A 1st level fighter in an elven cloak and boots hides and sneaks better than a 14th level thief. What if instead of their current ability, they worked as follows:
Elven Boots: These boots completely muffle all sounds of walking. Commonly used by elven nightblades, they add a +8 bonus to any proficiency checks to move silently. Characters wearing elven boots can always move silently with a throw of at least 8+.
Elven Cloak: This iridescent cloak is made by the magical and nimble hands of the elves. It allows the wearer to blend into his surroundings to the point of becoming nearly invisible. The cloak adds a +8 bonus to any proficiency checks to hide in shadows. Characters wearing elven cloaks can always hide in shadows with a throw of at least 8+.
This makes the cloak and boots still very useful to non-thieves (giving them a 65% chance to hide), and invaluable to thief-types, letting them hide/sneak as a thief of much higher level.

Question #2: Wands of Detection and Swords of Detection
For legacy reasons relating to old versions of D&D, the range and duration of detection spells and detection items do not line up.
*Wand of detecting enemies lasts 1 round; “detect evil” spell lasts 6 turns
*Wand of detecting magic lasts 1 round and has 20’ range; "detect magic spell has 60’ range and lasts 2 turns
*Wand of detecting traps lasts 1 round and has 20’ range; “find traps” spell has 30’ range and lasts 3 turns
*Intelligent sword’s detection of good/evil lasts 1 round and has 20’ range; “detect evil” spell has 60’ range and lasts 6 turns
*Intelligent sword’s detection of traps lasts 1 round and has 10’ range; “find traps” spell has 30’ range and lasts 3 turns
My question is ‘would it harm game balance to have the sword and wands work as the spells’? The advantage is that this would square those effects with the magic item creation rules. The disadvantage is that it does make those effects more powerful. That said, at higher levels (where such items are common), I’ve never seen PCs lack for such spells, so I don’t know if that’s a concern. Please share your thoughts.

Question #3: Sword Powers
For legacy reasons, intelligent swords have two types of powers, “detection powers” and “spell-like powers”. What they do not have is proficiencies.
Would it be worthwhile to integrate proficiencies into intelligent swords?
Would it be worthwhile to add special sword types that have built-in proficiencies?

Question #4: Bards
The current Bard class defaults to “Magical Music” for every Bard. This is a classic bard power, of course. However, it raises the question whether every 1st level bard in the world genuinely can charm and enslumber with his music? It seems both too powerful an effect to be universal, as well as too stereotyped to make room for a breadth of bards.
What if instead, Bards got a bonus class proficiency of their choice at 3rd and 6th level?

Question #5: Minor Rules I’m Missing
Are there minor rules the game is missing that should be added? An example of “minor rules” is the Character Aging rules - game mechanics that take only a paragraph or two, and do not heavily interact with other game systems.

#1 - your suggested change is def. better
#2 - I think the advantage outweighs the disadvantage. Remember that in the explanation you say the wielder has to be concentrating on the effect, so the wielder gives up possible other actions to attain the longer spell duration.
#3 - Hmm, I dunno about this one - swords would become proficiency expansions (a bit like familiars) - so they are almost extra characters. I could understand if they were crafted by binding the spirit of a mage/cleric to them in some sacrificial ceremony.

Question #1: Elven Cloak and Boots
I like both of these, but it depends on the value of them and their commonality. My thinking is roughly this:
Thief types have specialist skills that make them valuable to a party
Spellcasters have a range of spells that can duplicate (to some extent) some or all of the thief abilities – Knock, Spider Climb, Invisibility, Silence 15’ radius, etc… (I don’t know if those spells are in the game btw, but they’re common enough)
Elven Cloak and Boots also duplicate some of the thief abilities, and are usable by all other classes. That should make them incredibly valuable.
There should be some sort of in-built niche protection for thieves to ensure that they are always valuable to a party. A +8/8+ rule gives significant advantages, but a high level thief should always be better.
Question #2: Wands of Detection and Swords of Detection
System parity would be my preference. At higher levels it probably doesn’t matter so much, at lower levels they’d be incredibly useful. Alternatively, any spell that goes into an item has its effects reduced, diluted if you will – that’s parity in the opposite direction. There may be other ways to balance it, to do with Concentration durations on spells and not wands, for example.
Question #3: Sword Powers
Firstly, whilst Intelligent swords are legacy I much prefer the idea that any weapon has the potential to be intelligent. I’ve always felt that it’s somewhat rubbish that only swords get to be smart. That aside…
If familiars can have proficiencies (and that’s a clear way of gaming the system), why not swords? That said, I’d expect a proficiency in a sword to be equivalent in ‘cost’ to a spell like power – but not necessarily equivalent in power. Proficiencies might well get a lot more use than other abilities.
Question #4: Bards
I like the idea that Bards use words, and sound as the basis for many of their powers. That flavour, I think, is important to keep for the ‘classic bard’.
Question #5: Minor Rules I’m Missing
Not that I’ve noticed so far, but I’ve been concentrating on ‘what is’ rather than ‘what is not’. I’ll have more of a think.

#1 - I like your suggested change. It would be very pleasant to see skilled people be rewarded for being skilled rather than replaced by magic items.
#2 - I have a feeling the reason the magic items’ spells ended up with shorter durations is because back then, you had to plan out your spells, so it would be more effective if you sacrificed that one spell slot for “Detect Evil” rather than planning in advance and whipping out your wand of detect monsters. There’s also the consideration that non-magic users can use the wands, so it’s more accessible in that regard. ACKS allows for spellcasting on the fly, but magic items are very rare. I think the lower duration or range is still acceptable for magic items, but perhaps not as harsh as it currently is. Maybe just a quick and easy rule like cut the duration in half or reduce range by one-third because a “fresh” spell is more powerful than one stored in a container for a few months or wizards concentrate more when pulling it out or something. Perhaps there could be a system where if the item crafter puts in that much more oomph, time, or materials, the spells in the magic item work as well as if a wizard casted them personally. Just a thought.
#3 - Intelligent items can’t access all general proficiencies. It’d be silly to see a sword ride on a horse or tend to patients. The intelligent items would probably just know languages, sagey bits of lore, or can identify arcane or divine symbols. I don’t see this as a concern of gameplay balance but rather another character where you can go, “Hey, do you know what this is?” I think it would be nifty if they had proficiencies, but I can’t possibly imagine them having many. Maybe 2 at most. There wouldn’t be that many to choose from. Ideas for specific intelligent items with built-in proficiencies that I can think of immediately are staves that can identify arcane symbols from whatever organization built it or holy avenger swords that can intimidate in Infernal (or whatever chthonic things use to communicate).
#4 - I accept that the definition for bard has always been some performer. Taking Musical Magic away would give less reason to shoot for the performance angle. What I rather see is an adventuring scholar show up in the Player Companion. Decent fighting capability, decent arcane magic, Loremastery, but no kissy face, look at me abilities. This is probably more personal preference, though.

#1 - Agree about boots and cloaks. I would suggest +8/10+, so that those items add a “proficiency level” power; 8+ for a non-thief still seems to steal the spotlight from the bona fide sneaking classes. That said, I haven’t done the math, so whatever yall think best.
#2 - I agree about Veketshian about the background reason for the discrepancy. Make it the same as the spells; the magic items are still valuable because its one more casting ‘slot’ you get for one more day, while I don’t mind magic items like rods and staves replacing spells anyway.
#3 - No need for proficiencies. I think you could add some Sage-type powers to the sword based on other rolls. I would suggest Sage powers to go with any motivations rolled (slay orcs=orc sage) and to add a history column (Sword of great warrior, great wizard, etc have corresponding sage power of military tactics or loremastery).
#4 - No, please don’t take this from bards. I have a Bard in my campaign now and it’s really no problem. Seducing women is both commonly known about bards and not overpowering, while soothing beasts I limit to natural beasts and so also works. These are not overpowered, but just the sort of useful and sensical things that make bards fun to play without breaking the lore of the game world.
#5 - Simple statement of mounted combat, combing the saddle, riding, and warhorse rules would be nice. I would like Skirmishing rules, preferably something like Pendragon: characters fight as normal, if they all defeat their enemies their unit does well, if they half defeat their enemies their unit takes high casualties, if they all lose their unit it wiped out. Maybe with an extra Leadership style roll to influence the results. (But any sort of skirmish rules for 10-100 a side battles would be good.) Finally, I’d suggest some greater examples of Conqueror and King levels of play. Conqueror needs some clearer objectives, I’m confused about what levels this really represents and what the characters can do that’s “new”: lead warbands before gaining followers? go on arbitrage expeditions? For King I’d definitely like to see what larger kingdoms look like, how they interact with the PC domains, examples of kinds of plots you have going at these levels.

I have a question:
#A - what is the timeline for releasing more Auran Empire information? I’m using a modified Birthright/Cerilia in my current campaign, but I’d love to see some thoughts on this well-thought out late Roman/Byzantine empire setting/gazetteer.

Based on this random sample of 4 enthusiastic backers:
#1) yes
#2) yes
#3) mixed and not worth focusing on right now
#4) no, don’t change bards
#5) summary of mounted combat

Longshanks - I would assume a minimum of 3 months. I have a lot of material written, but the translation of “Alex’s notes” into “usable material” is slower than one would hope.

#4 - a 1st level Bard’s not just some O-level musician/storyteller so I would expect some almost-preternatural honed ability to connect with others through performance - but as it stands:
‘These abilities require one minute (6 rounds) of playing and may not be used if combat has already begun.’
one minute is too short - maybe change to
‘These abilities require three minutes (18 rounds) minus (Bard’s level rounds) of playing and may not be used if combat has already begun.’
This reinforces that it’s not just WAM BAM SEDUCED YA MAM, although it doesn’t have to be Freebird length - just nearer 3 minutes for low-level bards. It takes time to soothe the savage beast.
#5 - are there swimming/drowning/falling rules ?

Question #6: Potion of Polymorph
A potion of polymorph (self) grants its imbiber the ability to polymorph self once per round for the duration of the potion. It is otherwise as the arcane spell of the same name. On the other hand, the polymorph self spell merely allows you to change yourself once. This creates an inconsistency between the two.
Is the best choice:
a) To allow the caster of Polymorph Self to change shape once per round, akin to how wizards are sometimes describe fighting in myth and legend (and Disney movies)
b) To remove the ‘once per round’ power from the potion
c) To assume the potion represents a higher level spell, perhaps a 6th level spell called ‘Polymorph Self Repeatedly’

Question #3B: Sword Powers, Part II
What do you think of this list of “Sword Motivation” Opponents:
1 Animals
2 Beastmen
3 Constructs
4 Fantastic Creatures
5 Giant Humanoids
6 Humans & Demi-humans
7 Summoned Creatures
8 Oozes & Vermin
9 Undead
10 Opposed alignment (lawful if chaotic, chaotic if lawful, either if neutral
Does it make sense that, if these sorts of swords are breathtakingly rare, the enemy types should be fairly broad, to make the swords quite powerful?.

Question #3C: Sword Powers, Part III
At present, when a sentient sword is used to attack a being that fits its motivation, a special power is used against the opponent. These powers are determined by the alignment of the sword. A chaotic sword will petrify an opponent of the appropriate type. Likewise, a lawful sword will paralyze an opponent of the appropriate type. Saving throws are allowed for each of these effects. A neutral sword grants the sword wielder a bonus of +1 to Armor Class, attack throws, and saving throws when combating an opponent of the appropriate type.
The questions are
(a) Should the special powers be battle-ending (petrify and paralysis)?
(b) If not, would making the chaotic power be “energy drain” instead of petrify, to allow for “Stormbringer”-esque swords, be cool?
(c) What should the lawful power be if something other than paralysis?
(d) Is the neutral power as lame as it seems relative to the others?

UPDATE: Based on this random sample of 5 enthusiastic backers:
#1) yes
#2) yes
#3) mixed and not worth focusing on right now
#3b, #3c) no answers yet
#4) no, don’t change bards
#5) summary of mounted combat, summary of swimming/drowning
#6) no answers yet

It’s almost as if our backers don’t check the ACKS forums at 8pm Friday night.