Friday, May 18, 2012

ACKS Initial Impressions

(Note: I started writing this last Monday (5/14), but just couldn't bring myself to go any farther than halfway through the second paragraph. Since I am feeling better today I decided to finish it up and get some sort of substantive post in this week.)

I've read through the character creation and proficiencies chapter so far. I skimmed the equipment chapter, which is to say I looked at the weapons and armor. I've had a terrible toothache all weekend and couldn't think clear enough to deal with "economics".

I am very pleased. There are a lot of old school sensibilities already. Roll 3d6 in order for stats, d4 HD for thieves, clerics don't have spells at 1st level, all very old school, at least up through Greyhawk. Likewise, there is the Greyhawk HD scheme for the classes, d8 for Fighters, d6 for Cleric, and d4 for M-U's ("Mages").

Variable weapon damage, with ranges similar to Greyhawk's are also included. Interestingly, a weapon's damage is based primarily on its size/heft and mode of use (one-handed, two-handed, or either). So, all heavy weapons that require two hands (all heavy weapons require two hands, actually) deal d10. I don't mind this at all, because trying to differentiate weapons based on damage gets very niggling very quickly. This represents a decent compromise between mechanics and role-play. A rather handy corollary to this is that it becomes easy to judge weapons that aren't on the equipment list. No need to fuss over "Is it more like a rapier or a longsword?" Just call it medium or heavy or whatever and get back to the game. In a system that encourages players to commission custom-made equipment, this level of elegance really helps.

So far, I love how proficiencies work. I know this may be a shock to some of you who have become accustomed to all my LBB palaver (love that word) lately, but to those who've read enough of my mess to know, I'm a different sort of referee. Most referee's are concerned with monsters, traps, or magic (in the form of new items and new spells). I'm more of a character referee. I like character options for players, I like things that players can identify with and hold on to that help them get into their characters, things that make their characters "real". Unfortunately, for every option you pick, there are a bunch you didn't, and sometimes it is human nature to be more dissatisfied with what you don't have, rather than be saitisfied with what you do. Too many options during character creation tends to limit options in play. I love being able to make a mechanical link between a player wanting to call his character a good tracker and there being a mechanic that supports it. So long as the mechanic doesn't exclude anyone else from doing it.

But, I've veered off topic. Proficiencies seem, on my read-through, to be pretty well balanced, and seem to bring as much flavor to a character as they do mechanics. One thing that rankled my LBB sensitivities a little is the fact that proficiencies are divided into lists. Each class has its own list, plus there is a general list which all classes can select from. When you create your character you gain one general proficiency, one class proficiency, and a number of bonus proficiencies equal to your INT bonus (+1,+2, or +3). These bonus proficiencies must be selected from the general list. I would be strongly tempted to allow the bonus proficiencies to be selected from any list, to represent a diverse background. My only concern would be that Mages should, by virtue of relying on INT, always get bonus proficiencies, which could be used in martial pursuits. I think that would be rare, though, and easily addressed by requiring the player to come up with a backstory for the character that makes sense of the choices.

All in all, I am extremely excited by what I'm seeing. It hews close enough to my personal old school to satisfy that itch. As a bonus it offers character options that help define characters without pigeonholing them. Win-win.

Oh, and one more cool old school thing: the rules refer to the referee as "Judge". It doesn't get anymore awesome than that.

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