Initially the mass combat system caught my attention, and now following subsequent discussion elsewhere, I’m interested in possibly using ACKS the whole of my game, not just the battle-scale stuff.
For a little bit of background, what I’m intending is something set in the Hellenistic era (note this is not “mythic Greece” or even “ancient Greece”, but the time after Alexander the Great), possibly around 300BC when lots was still in flux and every Macedonian aristocrat fancied themselves king of the known world. There’s an explosion of Greek culture amid incessant warfare and intrigue - in other words an era ripe for roleplaying in. If you haven’t already seen it, check out the (free) BRP game Warlords of Alexander which is a great sourcebook even if you don’t use the system.
The impact of this is that there’s no magic, no monsters and no dungeons. I’m not interested in playing an alt-history game of “it’s like the real world, but there’s magic” and it would make a nice change from our usual pace to have a game without those usual tropes. Same goes for monsters, I’d hope the players might be a little more hesistant about wanton slaughter when their opponents are people. The third is my own personal preference, I can’t stand dungeons and don’t want to run them. Besides which, between raiding, trading and sellsword-ing there should be plenty of opportunities to make money.
Obviously what I’m planning is a pretty significant hack of the system, including dropping swathes of content. But I think the base of ACKS is robust enough to survive my ministrations.
Let’s get on to some specifics that I’m curious about…
Classes and XP
Obviously, the Cleric and Mage classes are binned, along with anything else magic-oriented (and the non-human classes). That leaves me with Fighter, Thief, Assassin, Bard and Explorer. In the Homebrew forum, someone’s done an Aristocrat, which seems to perfectly cover the D&D4e Warlord, which I was hoping to cater for.
How easy would it be to come up with an Expert/Scholar class, that covers things like philosophers, tutors, engineers and so on?
Onto a more fundamental question, the second part of this subsection: XP. I don’t do beancounting and I refuse to get dragged into calculating, awarding and tracking the stuff. I like unified XP (ie it costs everyone the same amount to level up) precisely because it allows me to drop XP altogether and simply award levels at sensible-seeming intervals or junctures.
Given the rules for creating your own classes in the Player’s Companion, and the rumoured expertise over here, what would you need to do in order to balance the Thief, mechanically, with the Fighter? Ie bring them up to the same XP progression. Same goes, I guess with anything else built on the Thief frame that assumes faster level progression.
Or alternatively, could I let everyone simply make up their own class, but with the same XP progression as the budget?
Relatively brief one. I’m not a big fan of the old-style five saves; is there an easy way to map them to the three used later on, ie Reflex, Fortitude and Will? If there isn’t I’ll just have to suffer them, but it’s worth seeing if anyone has considered it.
Next one isn’t a major one, just an admin/housekeeping sort of thing. I’d like to use period-appropriate notations of wealth; silver owls and Persian gold darics, significant wealth measured in talents of weight, that sort of thing. How easy would that be to do, and has anyone considered an exchange rate?
A gross simplification would be to just call gold pieces silver pieces and shift everything along a category, but I thought I’d check first.
Levels and rulers
I really like the demographics that have been built into assumptions about level and frequency. They’re a good benchmark for how good a character is. I’ve got a strong inclination, for the purposes of this game to cap level advancement at 9th. Will that cause any problems?
Something that doesn’t quite sit well with me, though, is the automatic assumption that a ruler is high level. The tyrant who hires a group of PCs might be 0th level, but connected and with the political nous to keep themselves in their post. I could easily see the sort of situation arise where a PC is individually able to squash some lord like a bug, but that lord is connected and has bodyguards and armies at their beck and call, who could ruin the PC’s stuff if they tried it.
Am I going to break anything by severing this connection, ie a lord could be any level whatsoever, the captain of their guard might be a higher level than them, members of the assembly would be all over the place from 0th level up and so on?
I’m not saying there aren’t exceptional rulers, because this period is full of them. But there are also puppets and figureheads, politicians who’ve never handled a spear in anger, children being run by their regents and so on. What I’m arguing for here is variety. For every Demetrius Poliorcetes there’s several Amyntas the Milds, non-entities who’ve ended up on the ivory chair with a diadem on their head because the assemblies of soldiers and coteries of powerful men decided to install someone pliable with the right heritage rather than split the kingdom in civil war.
In the period I’m looking at, pankration is an essential part of a warrior’s training. Are there any Profiencies for unarmed combat, so that the warrior who has spent lots of time on the sands of the palaestra is notably better than less-trained people at striking and grappling?
How easily can it be used in armed conflict? I’m thinking particularly of stuff like grappling a close opponent after you’ve been disarmed/broken your spear/lost your sword, or doing things like grabbing enemies shields and attacking them with them (twist to break their arm or slam it up into their jaw).
Another brief one, how would you map period-appropriate armours? I see them vaguely in three categories:
Light - leather or linen corselet.
Medium - light armour with greaves and vambraces; scale corselet, back and breast plate, mail (which is exceptionally rare outside of a few rich Celts).
Heavy - Full hoplite panoply, full-body suit of scale armour.
A brief question on shields, do they work against missile weapons? Reason I’m asking is there’s a Persian arm protection made of lots of iron rings worn over the shield arm. In melee it functions as a shield, but of course it’s useless against missiles.
I’m in the UK. The only way I’m getting a print copy is if I can buy it here (shipping is extortinate). So far as I can see, Leisure Games seems to be the only UK company that stocks ACKS. Is there anyone else?