With's today post I begin of what can be called as a Thematic Week devoted to Old School Renaissance (OSR) consisting in a series of revies of publications inside the scope of the role-playing games which recover and modernize the essence of the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Today I will talk about of Adventurer Conqueror King System by Autarch.
This is not the first review written about Adventurer Conqueror King System, in fact there's others at La Frikoteca, Mundos Inconclusos and The RPGPundit, of course these are not an impediment for giving you my thoughts about it.
Adventurer Conqueror King System (henceforth ACKS) has as an implicit game scenario the Auran Empire, a fantasy equivalent of the Roman Empire of year 350 AC with Byzantine influences, already in decline and about to enter the Dark Ages, as Autarch explains in this blog post (although I think there's also a certain thematic inspiration in the One Thousand and One Nights fables judging the book illustrations), characters in this setting being adventurers and plunderers looking to obtain wealth of the reamins of decadent empires or heroes trying to save all they can from their kingdoms.
The basic book feture the following chapters:
The classes players can use to create their characters are divided in the following general types:
- Core classes (with characters of human origin).
- Campaign classes (namely advanced classes also with human characters).
- Demi-human classes (basically dwarfs and elfs).
Regarding Campaign classes you may find the Assassin, the Bard (besides singing and offering shows he is also capable of inspiring courage to his comrades in the most difficult times, decipher ancient languages and using magical objects), the Bladedancer (women being part of a clerical and military order consecrated to the service of Ianna, Godess of Love and War, so they can fight and cast divine spells and turn undead creatures) and the Explorer (able to guide groups in desolated lands).
Finally in Demi-human classes we have the Dwarven Vaultguard (charged with protecting Dwarf underground shelters), the Dwarven Craftpriest (charged with recovering and preserving relics and works of art of Dwarven past, being also clerics capable of turning undead creatures and casting divine spells), the Elven Spellsword (able to defend himself with sword and cast arcane spells) and the Elven Nightblade (very agile assassin and sorcerer).
As it can be seen ACKS offers many kinds of character classes between the typical ones and those created for the game (in fact, as hte basic book explains, the system is designed to allow referees and players to create their own classes, although to use its fully potential you need to buy the Player's Companion, this being too bad).
These kind of characters have a series of characteristics of their own classes as also happens in other OSR games, but theu can also be customized with the experience adjustament rules and the Proficiences use.
The experience adjustment during the character creation allows players, after the rolling ability scores (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdowm and so on), to adjust them putting points from one to another so 2 points of an ability can be used to raise in 1 point the main ability of the chosen class, so the experience adjustment of the character also will be afected as it may be seen in the following table:
|Ability Prime Requisite|
|9 - 12||0|
|13 - 15||+ 5%|
|16 - 18||+ 10%|
Proficiencies give characters knowledge or capabilities in particular areas (like Alchemy, Blind Fighting, Combat Reflexes, Divine Blessing or Fighting Style), these Proficiencies are divided in two types: General ones (available for any character) and those of each class.
Another interesting mechanic of the game is the relation between attack bonifications of each caracter class and the Armor Class (AC) of the enemy or creature to bring down, if in most OSR games you have to read a table crossing the character level and the enemy AC to see the minimal number to obtain with a 1D20 roll to impact (or overcome the AC with the attack roll like in Lamentations of the Flame Prince) in this case the attack mechanism had been overtly simplified, so you only have to sum to the enemy AC the attack bonus of the character according to his class and level (apart of other modifiers like those derived from Strength or Dexterity or use of magic).As an example of this mechanism here you have a table with the scores of the levels of the Fighter class needed to attack an adult dragon (AC 7):
|Fighter Class||Adult Dragon (AC 7)|
|Level||Attack Bonus||Total to overcome|
|0||11+||11 + 7 = 18+|
|1||10+||10 + 7 = 17+|
|2 - 3||9+||9 + 7 = 16+|
|4||8+||8 + 7 = 15+|
|5 - 6||7+||7 + 7 = 14+|
|7||6+||6 + 7 = 13+|
|8 - 9||5+||5 + 7 = 12+|
|10||4+||4 + 7 = 11+|
|11 - 12||3+||3 + 7 = 10+|
|13||2+||2 + 7 = 9+|
|14||1+||1 + 7 = 8+|
As you may have seen, as the character level increases it will be easier to impact with his attack.
Rules regarding critical (a natural 20 roll in 1D20) and fumble (a natural 1 roll in 1D20) also applies.
Regarding campaign management it's also interesting to see all the information related with themes like magic investigation, magical objects creation, ritual sorcery, creation of artificial and hibrid beings, necromancy, divine power and creation and management of fortresses, domains and kingdoms.
Characters from 5th level able to cast spells may begin to search for new spells if they have access to a specialized library and enough money (by the way they do not have to memorize spells every day like in other OSR games, so the magic system is more versatile and the sorcerer may choose the most adequate spells in his repertory), they may also write scrolls and create potions and from the ninth level create things like wands, rings, magic swords and other objects.
Arcane and divine spell casting characters reaching the 11th level will increase significantly their knowledge, so they will access the following capabilities:
- They may learn ritual spells (including 7th, 8th and 9th level arcane spells and 6th and 7th divine ones), more powerful than the ordinary ones and with more important effects like resuscitating characters or fertilize great terrain extensions to farm.
- They would be able to build artificial beings like golems or gargoyles (something Dwarven artisans can do from 9th level) using a workshop with proper tools and materials.
- They would be able to create hibrid creatures magically mixing two progenitor creatures with help of a special laboratory (the mage creating this specimen has no guarantee of automatically controlling it, this only will be possible if one of both progenitor creatures is intelligent and a willing participant in the process).
- Use necromancy for transform creatures recently deceased in intelligent living dead using the corresponding rituals and an embalming chamber (with the same limits said before regarding the creature control).
Finally there's the part that may become more complex but at the same time more interesting (and this remind me of the long campaigns of Traveller) if the referee and the players like to create fortresses to accommodate their [SÚBDITO] or followers and control a definite terrain (which can be generically named a domain), which may be civilized, frontier terrains or unexplored lands waiting to be colonized. Fortresses that may be raised are diverse, so castles, sanctuaries, temples or underground vaults like those of the Dwarfs can be built; ACKS gives necessary data to calculate the structure's cost and the number of inhabitants living in the terrain domain characters will manage.
Referees also will have the tools to create the needed background elements for their adventures, like the dungeons characters may explore (determinating the monsters sieging them, traps arranged to deal with looters and the treasure they will find inside) and any type of political and territorial entity (from empires to baronies) where the characters live or visit, with details of its political and economic organization, its demography and the population nucleus (from small towns to metropolis).
To finish I can suggest ACKS as a good complement for any OSR game because the referee can adapt its contents to any adventure and campaign without too much trouble although as I said before it's too bad the rules for creating new character classes are not included in the basic book.
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