Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Meditating on ACKS and Averoigne

One who has read this blog over the years may have noticed that I haven’t posted a Lost Colonies Session report in a long time. This is not because the campaign has ended, but rather that the sessions are few and far between and nothing has really happened that I was inspired enough to write about. This is due to the fact that I am not inspired enough by the campaign in its current state to do much more and none of the guys I play with have championed more sessions than the few that we have done.

In the meantime, my group has been primarily playing AD&D with a few forays into Pathfinder. At the moment, the guys I play with are enamored by AD&D’s fiddliness — to them it represent more “choice” than other older editions of the game. I could argue that I could accomplish much of the same feel and choices with a much cleaner and simpler ruleset such as S&W or LL + AEC, but I would be missing the point.

One has to understand that the group I play with were virtually all introduced to the game with 3rd edition. As such, character builds are very important to them — it is a part of the gaming experience that they really enjoy. I have meditated on this before. I have, in contrast, scratched that itch with various war games which these guys never had as part of their gaming experience.

Every couple of months, someone at the table suggests that we play Pathfinder for a while (it being the 3ed emulation of choice). We play awhile until everyone remembers why we don’t like playing 3ed/Pathfinder. I don’t mind terribly much because I have learned to enjoy the game at lower levels and I know we will sooner rather than later go back to an older ruleset or its emulation.

What this all means, in the long run, is that I am not ever going to be able to run an Averoigne campaign with the guys I play with the way I want to — with a Holmes/Cook mash-up using either LL or S&W as a jumping off point. While it is incredibly interesting to me and something I would really like to play-test one day, it isn’t something that is going to interest my group. Thus, I am having to re-think about my approach so that I can start play-testing Averoigne and the Chateau des Faussesflammes as concepts.

Enter, of all things, Dwimmermount. My faith in that project and my patience have born fruit. One of the things that has come out of all the complications of the project is the generosity of the guys at Autarch. Via a promise made to backers, I have gotten my hands on .pdfs of ACKS and the ACKS Player Companion and done some serious reading and fiddling.

I have to say that both are excellent products, if lacking in a few tables & examples here and there which would have made my understanding and use of the products easier. I really like the fact that at its root, ACKS is B/X. I also really appreciate their interpretation of its mechanics extrapolated into the concept of proficiencies/feats, world building and the end-game.

In the end, however, I find it too fiddly. I prefer a far more organic/random interaction with world creation than these rules imply and I have never much cared for proficiencies, especially when they really emulate skills and feats that imply more roll playing than role playing. There are aspects that I think will prove very useful in the long run, but won’t really know until I actually use them at the table.

This is where I insert the however of this blog post. Even though I don’t care for the fiddliness of ACKS, I do think the guys who I play with will. It scratches the character build itch in a way that AD&D can’t but without all the stuff we don’t like about Pathfinder (I hope). For my own taste, I prefer the fiddliness of ACKS over the fiddliness of AD&D because it represents true player choice and is mechanically cleaner (and did I mention that it is basically B/X — my favorite edition of the game — with a bunch of stuff added on?).

Thus, the best chance I have of playing in my version of Averoigne with the guys I play with may very well be ACKS. As such, in the coming days I will be converting some of the work I have done on Averoigne to the ACKS system to see if what emerges is something I am still interested in playing.


  1. That's an interesting review of ACKS; makes me actually curious to look at yet another Retro/NeoClone

  2. I ran ACKS last spring and summer for my weekly group. It plays well.

    Of course, now I'm running AD&D for the same group - go figure ;)

    I did keep the cleave rule from ACKS - makes for heroic moments

  3. I'll be interested to read about your experiences with ACK. I've been considering starting a game with either B/X + B/X Companion, or LL + bits of AEC, but I'd be open to another... mostly because I can't make up my mind. ;)

  4. Yes, I thought the same thing reading through ACKS. It's too baroque to suit my tastes, but it's also a sensible OSR gateway drug for anyone who needs to see a long list of skills to properly visualize a character. Also, the need to have a very carefully defined set of rules (to comb through for Munchkin-esque exploitation potential!) is something that many modern players demand, as a prerequisite to taking a system seriously. ACKS provides just enough support for that rules-combing dynamic to keep the min-max contingent from losing interest.

  5. The Autarch forum and ACKS G+ community have lots of how-to and how-I-houserule stuff that I'm eager to see collected in a zine. Keep in mind that this is an OSR game. It's not like Rifts where the creator plays it totally differently than written - these really are the houserules we evolved to cover situations that we needed for long term campaigns - but just because we follow the rules that doesn't mean you need to! And with the guidelines in the Player's Companion you (or your system-mastery players) can tweak the game to your style - separating race and class, for example, or removing proficiencies - while still staying within the unified design framework.

  6. FrDave, I hope your players have a blast with ACKS. ACKS was primarily playtested with a group not dissimilar to your own.

    Edward, what does it mean to say that ACKS is "baroque"? It's an interesting choice of descriptors. As the designer I'm curious what you mean. I've always felt my writing style is fairly straightforward, so I'm guessing you mean that the mechanics are exceptionally detailed.