So, the Manglers had their second session in Dwimmermount last night. A record of the action in the second session can be found here.
In this post, I wanted to share a bit about what I’ve done to prepare for this campaign beyond reading the campaign setting and trying to understand the rules.
One of the first things I did was to prep my GM screen. I have one of those screens with plastic sleeves where you can insert your own paper charts. I combined that with the first few pages of the ACKS GM Reference Table by gregoj at Autarch. (I’d link to it, but the Downloads links at autarch.co haven’t worked for months. Luckily, I had the file on my hard drive from a year or two ago.) I copied all of the extra pages in this file and put them in my notebook. Mainly what’s in the screen is what’s important for exploring and combat, and all of the merchant/campaign building stuff is in the notebook.
I also decided to take Gygax’s advice and pay strict attention to keeping track of time. So, I created this sheet and laminated it, so I can write on it with a dry erase marker. (The Expo ultra-fine markers are really nice.) It has some reminders for how long torches and rations last, as well as markers for rounds*, turns, hours, and days. I just write down the start time/date at the top and then update the current time whenever the party rests. Otherwise, I treat it like an abacus, mark rounds until those bubbles are full, then mark one turn and erase the rounds. Keep marking turns until an hour has passed, mark the hour and erase the turns, etc. There’s also a big space for me to make notes. (I think in this image, I had listed all the loot the party was trying to sell and how long until their torch burns out.)
(*I changed rounds to 1 minute each, instead of the ACKS standard 10 seconds. It just makes bookkeeping easier.)
The other time-keeping implement I created is the calendar. This took far longer than it should have because I started creating it before I finished reading the adventure, so I hadn’t noticed that there is actually a description of how time works towards the end of the book. So, I created a whole bunch of month names and day names and created a calendar using an Excel template, then realized that the book tells me that there are 13 months with 28 days each. Oops. So, I decided to just put the calendar into a Word document instead of trying to make it actually look like a calendar. Because I’m a bit obsessive about random things, I got it into my head that having the weather for each day would be pretty awesome. So, that took me to Weather Underground’s History pages where I picked my own town (because the weather mirrors what I think the weather would be like around Dwimmermount’s heavily forested/mountainous region) and the year 1980 (for no particular reason) and started copying/pasting weather into my calendar. It took a while, but now I know the high and low temps as well as the general weather conditions (rainy, fog, snow, etc.) for every day for the next year of the campaign. And I can track healing, long term conditions, birthdays, henchmen contract lengths, etc.
I also decided to create a deity specific spell list for my player playing a cleric of Typhon. This lists all of the tenets of the religion and the spell repertoire for each level. I used the same tenets for the priest of Typhon listed in Dwimmermount, but made some of them more suggestions than strictures. I figured that clerics were given more latitude than the priests–similar to the difference between Knights Templar and Catholic priests. For the spell list, I used the lists in the ACKS Player’s Companion to get a sense of how many spells per level would be reasonable, and then went through the Divine spell list and picked the spells that seemed right for this particular deity. I initially started with the following spreadsheet, but then realized I didn’t really need to figure out every god’s spell list unless they became pertinent:
My final prep act was to find an 8″ x 14″ landscape orientation binder. I had printed the adventure 2 pages to a page in landscape orientation, flipping on the short side, so a regular binder wouldn’t work right. Finding a landscape orientation binder was tricky. Apparently, they are mainly used by engineers and architects and people who can afford to pay $35 for three pieces of cardboard covered in plastic and some metal rings. Finally had to order one from Walmart for store pickup. Still overpriced at $13, but worth it for my sanity during play.
So, two sessions in, how’s all this prep working out for me? Hmm, let’s call it a work in progress. . . . I think that the utility of this stuff will become more apparent as I get more acclimated to the rules, but right now, it’s just more stuff to keep track of. I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned the weather to my players yet. And keeping track of time is effective, but right now I find myself saying, “Oops. Haven’t updated time for two rooms… let’s make something up.” I think time management, in particular, will become quicker as the campaign progresses, and the motions for checking boxes become second nature. Right now, the fiddly bits are the hardest part of the game for me. Keeping track of torches, time, rests, when to check for wandering monsters, rooms cleared, etc. is all a lot right now before the rules themselves have become second nature. Compound this with the wealth of information in the adventure–when areas were built, what their construction materials were, what factions exits, etc. It all adds up to a lot to keep track at once. But I have faith that the prep work will pay off in the end.
Next time, maybe I’ll talk about how the ACKS rules are going for the Manglers right now.