Thursday, July 30, 2015

ACKS Ability Scores

For a campaign rule I am developing, I wanted to identify the ability score most likely to be given short shrift by a player when creating an ACKS character.  I had a notion based on play experience, but I thought I’d specifically survey the rules (as written) to see where each ability score comes into play.  Having done this, I thought I’d share my results below.  The only things I’ve excluded are which ability scores are requisites for what classes, and the related experience adjustment.  Page references are to ACKS core, Player’s Companion (PC) or Domains at War: Campaigns (D@W:C).  Domains at War: Battles does not include any references not in Campaigns.

o  melee attack throws and damage rolls
o  Open Doors throws (including breaking manacles, PC p. 152)
o  maximum encumbrance
o  break through web spell

o  General proficiencies
o  languages
o  literacy (INT 9+)
o  arcane spell repertoire (including starting arcane spells)
o  magic research throws
o  maximum number of magic research assistants
o  arcane ritual spells known
o  crossbreed/undead special abilities
o  in conjunction with Familiar, Familiar's Intelligence
o  shaman totem animal's Intelligence (halved)
o  charm person new saving throw

o  Officer Strategic Ability (D@W:C p. 20)

o  saving throws caused by spells or magic items
o  Tampering with Mortality roll
o  divine ritual spells known
o  see through Disguise
o  in conjunction with Righteous Turning, turning throw and number of HD turned

o  Officer Strategic Ability (D@W:C p. 20)

o  missile weapon attack throws
o  Armor Class
o  Initiative
o  dungeon chase saving throw versus Paralysis (p. 100)
o  in conjunction with Weapon Finesse, one-handed melee weapon attack throws

o  hit points (up to 9th level)
o  rounds running before exhaustion (p. 101)
o  Mortal Wounds roll
o  Death from Old Age (p. 249)
o  in conjunction with Endurance, force march additional day(s)

o  reaction rolls (a variety of applications in the rules, including the Crime and Punishment table, p. 138, and the Results of Interrogation table, D@W:C p. 62)
o  maximum number of henchmen
o  morale
o  domain morale

o  Officer Leadership Ability (D@W:C p. 20)
o  Officer Morale Modifier (D@W:C p. 20; also see Assassination hijink, D@W:C p. 63)

Combining the survey above with my play experience, I perceive the following.  Charisma may be at least the second most important ability score for every character class.  Intelligence is so critical to a mage (or similar class), the mage should likely sacrifice every other ability score for Intelligence (if that rule, p. 17, is being used).  Strength is similarly important to a cleaving class, however, the character who aspires to survive and lead on the battlefield needs every other ability score point.

As an aside, additional spells involving other ability scores in reasonable ways, similarly to charm person and web are interesting to think about.

What ability score do you believe is most likely to be given short shrift by a player when creating an ACKS character?  I’m not revealing my choice at this time (although I’m happy my choice dovetails nicely with the campaign rule I’m developing).

What campaign rules related to using ability scores in play do you use?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ACKS Troupe-style Play

“Powerful though magic is, it cannot create real and nutritious food, cannot care for the horses and cannot guard the gate against the lowlife without.”

Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk by Graham Bottley

Ars Magica is commonly cited as an RPG built around troupe-style play. However, earlier fantasy, sci-fi and superhero RPGs have elements of troupe-style play. In troupe-style play, every player has multiple characters.

Campaigns may vary, but troupe-style play is likely emergent in any game like ACKS where henchmen and hirelings are an important part of survivability and long-term play. The following rules adapt the ACKS Playing With Advanced Characters rules (ACKS p. 253) to facilitate troupe-style play from the beginning of a campaign. Any rule not appearing below (such as ability score generation) should be considered to be as with ACKS core or the Judge’s campaign rules.

A player has a budget of 36,000 XP/gp with which to create her troupe. The troupe consists of five characters which must be created: Adventurer, Henchman, Specialist, Mercenary and Servant. The Adventurer and Henchman are created like player characters. The Adventurer begins with up to 20,000 XP, and the Henchman begins with up to 10,000 XP. A Judge might have additional campaign-specific requirements such as limiting the available classes, or requiring that at least one of the Adventurer or Henchman be an Arcane 3+ or Divine 2+ class. Next, the player spends her budget on a choice of Specialist and Mercenary. Mercenary and Specialist costs are detailed in the ACKS core rules. Only 0th or 1st level Specialist and Mercenary options may be chosen. For example, a Spy (4th level thief) may not be chosen as a Specialist. Only one of the Mercenary and Specialist may be 1st level. Finally, the player receives a Servant for free. This Servant is a non-adventuring 0th level character starting with four General proficiencies, as per ACKS core, p. 64.

ACKS Troupe-style Play Character Summary
Up to 20,000 XP
Up to 10,000 XP
Specialist (0th level)
Spend gp equal to six month’s wages*
Mercenary (0th level)
Spend gp equal to six month’s wages*
Servant (0th level)

* Optionally, spend 150gp** for a 1st level henchman/hireling in lieu of the listed 0th level Specialists or Mercenaries. This choice may be made once. The 1st level character comes with randomly determined equipment, like a 1st level player character.

** If using ByThisAxe Apprentice Level Characters rules, spend gp equal to 1.5 times a character class's XP requirement to reach 1st level.

Judge’s Options

1.       At the Judge’s option, the troupe characters begin play completely loyal (morale +4) to the troupe Adventurer.
2.       Also at the Judge’s option, the Adventurer’s troupe characters must be provided food and lodging, but need not be paid wages.


The Adventurer and Henchman troupe characters come with randomly determined equipment, like a 1st level player character. As much of the starting budget as desired may be used for additional purchases, as per ACKS core, Starting Wealth, p. 253.


Additionally, each player may contribute as much of her starting budget as desired to the Company, or the reason that brings the players’ troupes together. This combined budget may be used for a one-time initial purchase of the Company "household" at half the normal price. Players should discuss among themselves the nature of their Company and household, then present this to the Judge for approval. The Judge should not hesitate to reject a concept out of place in the campaign or any perceived player abuse of the opportunity of a discount. Players and Judges can best adapt their Company concept to their campaigns, but the following are some ideas for thought.

o Sorcerers in a walled townhouse estate, with laboratory and library
o Guardians in an old watch tower
o Ruffians in a dilapidated moathouse
o Explorers in a large sailing ship
o Venturers in a merchant caravan

Of course, a Judge need not just “give” the players their Company household – taking possession of the household might be an excellent way to begin the campaign.

Troupe Example

Becky is creating a troupe for Charles’s Sorcerers of Kemesh campaign. She spends her troupe budget of 36,000 gp/XP as follows.

Troupe Worksheet
Witch 5th level
Thrassian Gladiator 3rd level
Witch 1st level
Horse Archer (0th level)
Servant (0th level)
Alchemy, Bargaining, Healing, Labor proficiencies