The ONE thing I don't like in ACKS

I’m not shy about how much I dig ACKS, but there is one little aspect of the game which I really can’t get behind: I really hate that a mage’s domain game consists of building and stocking dungeons so he can farm them for crafting implements.

He doesn’t seem as involved in the conquest of the world as much as he’s providing a rational behind all the adventures he went on as a youngster.

What I’d really like to see is something like was done in the old Birthright setting where wizards could tap into the ambient magic of the land (thru ley lines) and cast domain-affecting magics.

Cleric’s are already doing something along those lines through the way their followers help with creating magic items and rituals. I’d like to see mages get some similar affect based on tapping into their “domains”. I’d actually even kind of like to see it at odds with civilization as they did in Birthright, with magical power lessening as a region is developed.

For the system developers, was there a reason you went with the dungeon landlord model of king-level play for mages?

I just wanted to say that the mage is just as involved in the “conquest of the world” as the fighter. He follows all of the same rules. He just has dungeons on top of that.

That said, the tension between civilization and magic in Birthright was pretty neat. You almost have that with mage-dungeons, since they tend to run counter to the civilizing presence of the peasant population.

Yeah, most domains aren’t going to want a dungeon in their backyard as the monsters don’t just ‘spawn’ but rather wander there. That means that they have to walk through the domain to get there and that’s just a recipe for hilarity if your dungeon is surrounded by a farming community. Oh, sure, after the dungeon is established, it might be self-sustaining. Then you get those ‘cities with dungeons underneath’.

But while the wizard’s tower/dungeon might not look much like a place of domain rulership, wizard’s need monies too and have the same incentive to build up a population center and tax base to fuel their nightmare experiments…I mean magical research.

From a game-world POV, mage dungeon-building is the reason most dungeons exist in an ACKS world, and, furthermore, this gives many megadungeons a high-level spellcaster “manager” to torment the adventurers (or hire them to actually go down there and harvest monsters).

Sounds like an easy enough change to make. I’ve looked at a similar thing myself for running Midnight with ACKS, since Midnight have a fair bit of focus on taking and holding natural locations of magical power. I could see doing this in a couple of ways:

  • The Midnight approach - a small subset of hexes contain lay-line confluences, and generate ‘arcane power’ at a certain rate per month (which may vary with Wilderness / Borderlands / Civilized status, only be usable for certain types of projects, or other stuff). These locations are coveted by wizards, so they are both kept secret and heavily guarded / garrisoned.
  • The Inverse Divine Power approach - A wizard’s domain generates ‘arcane power’ at a rate similar to that at which divine power is produced, except that as population grows, arcane power decreases. This incentivizes wizards going out and establishing nominal control over large areas of uninhabited woodlands. One problem I could foresee with this is that there’s usually a fair bit of uninhabited land, and it’s going to hurt party realm cohesion, because the wizard will want to keep his lands free of pesky peasants, while everyone else’s incentives line up with a policy of population growth. In a shared domain, this could cause problems.
  • The Land-for-Land’s-Sake approach (as used in Magic the Gathering and Encyclopedia Arcane: Sovereign Magic) - There exists a particular ritual spell which lets a wizard bind the natural power of an area of land permanently, barring disruption by other ritual magics. Wizards seek to build expansive and powerful domains so as to guard the lands to which they have bound themselves against rival wizards, and to conquer more land so that they can then perform the ritual there and draw power from the conquered territories. ‘Arcane power’ varies based purely on the number of hexes the wizard has ‘tapped’, though you might introduce some flavor stuff (arcane power from a city hex is only at half strength for purposes that don’t involve enchantment or illusion, arcane power from a desert counts at +10% towards Summon Efreeti rituals, and so forth). This approach works great with a shared domain.

I know it’s my personal quibble, but I’m not a fan of “monster-infested dungeons for monster-infested dungeons’ sake.”

I also accept that it’s my personal quibble that I’d rather see high-level mages engaging in more esoteric research than acting as a lord from his tower.

My first thought was to set up something where the mage gets gold-equivalent resources (like the cleric gets from his congregation) based on the number of resources NOT harvested. Fer instance, if a hex is slated to have a land revenue of 6, but the lord only “works” 4, the mage could tap the remaining 2 “mage units” for his rituals or magic item creation.

Having said all that, though, using the wilderness/borderland/civilized status could also form a good foundation.

Ok, the way I see it, if you don’t want your mage lording over a domain, then just don’t. There’s plenty of time to be spent on esoteric magical research. The rules are right there. Of course, then the money system breaks.

Another option, more in line with the cleric, is to reskin the current dungeon/sanctum rules. Instead of building a dungeon, the mage spends money to cultivate a “place of power”. Instead of attracting monsters, it just attracts a certain GP-worth of arcane power until it is “full” (like a 1/3 full dungeon). This happens faster in the wilderness, as per attracting monsters. Sometimes forces (like adventurers or something) come in and start wrecking the feng shui, requiring the mage’s attention. You might have to increase the garrison to keep the place pure (as per defending peasants from monsters).

Anyway, just a thought. Seems like it meets the criteria without breaking the game’s integration.

I would go a slightly different way. Tweak the mechanics of sinkholes, so that an equivalent thing exists for transformation magic. Fantastical creatures are attracted to these areas, which are created through (instead of cemeteries and chaotic altars) the presence of many fantastic creatures and wizard transformation labs.

I haven’t worked out the details, but something along the lines of making a lab function as twice its cost when in a magical area, and giving the Spellcaster a bonus on constructing crossbreeds as well as making polymorph spells cat as two levels higher in these areas. That, combined with the opportunity to harvest the creatures may make it more worthwhile

Mages are just as capable to conquer the world as others. The dungeons are optional and, unlike most classes, mages can make constructs and monsters to supplement their mercenary armies. Yes most mages will have one dangerous dungeon, but that doesn’t stop them from expanding their domains and realm.

If there's only one thing you don't like about ACKS, I feel pretty self-satisfied. I think there's more things than that which I don't like about ACKS, and I was lead designer! 

Self-Esteem := Self Esteem +1


1 Like

Alex - I’d be interested in what you don’t like about it, and why. Perhaps one of the bloggers can interview you about it :slight_smile:

Well, I also don’t like that halflings were left out, but I can add them myself.

The only thing I don’t like is the part about rolling demand modifiers for markets. Too much work for too little gain without an automated spreadsheet.

The rest is truly awesome. :smiley:

Probably not the best way to advertise a game, lol.

It makes sense there are things he’s not fond of about it, creators are never perfectly happy with their creations.

The things I'm not "happy" about are relatively minor. The mechanics themselves I'm quite satisfied with. A few folks who've read the rules and then played in my house campaign have noted that I play virtually "by the book"; I don't have a separate set of house rules I apply that I'm not telling you guys about, or something!

My list of regrets are:

1. I would have written the "fighting style" rules with more clarity. The interaction between "two handed weapons" "ability to fight with two handed weapons" and "two-handed weapon fighting style proficiency" is probably the most ambiguous aspect of the entire game.

2. Some of the suggesstions that backers and forum contributors have made for classes are so cool that I wish I'd known about them when I wrote the core rule classes. For example, I might have made the bladedancer more akin to the runeguard with some sort of channeling power through the sword, and might have replaced the nightblade's thief skills with some at-will spells (e.g. chameleon and silent step).

3. The use of percentages for taxes and tithes is realistic but slightly more complex than is probably necessary for the game. I might have gone with 2gp/family for taxes and 1gp/family for tithes and achieved a similar result with a simpler system.

4. Sometimes I wish I'd addressed the ancient D&D dilemma of why Cure Light Wounds heals a flat amount of hit points even though hit points increase with level and don't really represent wounds.

5. Sometimes I wish I'd written the game with a stronger swords and sorcery flavor, eliminating clerics in favor of just having priests and witches; removing or increasing the level of spells like fireball; and having different magic items. That I didn't was because I wanted to focus on a game system and tool kit that could encompass the breadth of fantasy genres and styles, even if some of those styles are not to my taste.



I recently put together a set of 40 pregens with no clerics or nonhumans; there were 2 Shamen and 2 Witches, but still dreadfully little healing available even if one or two of those characters were taken (since the random template rolls only assigned 2 levels of healing among the 40 characters - a Necromancer and a Village Witch). That was an interesting contrast to a previous thread here that said of course any party is going to have two characters with 3 levels of healing, and would certainly temp me to add dutch courage or some other recovery mechanic to a campaign that started with those classes available.

But with no 1st level spells, I’m not sure whether adding Clerics to the class mix would have fixed it?

Number 2 and 5 (maybe also 4?) could be “fixed” with the Auran Empire setting book no?

“2. Some of the suggesstions that backers and forum contributors have made for classes are so cool that I wish I’d known about them when I wrote the core rule classes. For example, I might have made the bladedancer more akin to the runeguard with some sort of channeling power through the sword, and might have replaced the nightblade’s thief skills with some at-will spells (e.g. chameleon and silent step).”

You could easily and officially add new classes and/or variant classes to ACKS either through an online pdf download or as part of an upcoming release. D&D did it ALL THE TIME. When your name is on the cover, you can add content that is not just a house rule but part of the official rules (sure a Judge could always say no as “every campaign is a law onto itself”).

Personally, I would love such additions. I tend to be more confident about using classes written and/or endorsed/checked-over by the game designer than any home-brew I happen to find on the forums or class I make myself (both my judge and I are unsure if I made it, perhaps unconsciously, overpowered through the point-buy system).

I’m not saying that official content can’t be overpowered, but it still inspires confidence and the rules act as a good arbitrator in these matters.

That's an interesting point. So here's what I'm wrestling with.

1. The actual Auran Empire, as used in play, followed the rules of a more conventional D&D-style game, because it evolved out of B/X. So therefore if I were to change it for publication it would be less genuinely based on actual play. I'm not sure how much of an issue that is.

2. I worry that, as the implied setting of the game, the Auran setting needs to adhere closely to the rules-as-written in the core, without tinkering with them too much. Dark Sun could tinker with D&D, but Forgotten Realms needed to apply the rules as written, so as to speak. (Or did it?)