So, the Rotgut Manglers have recently started a new campaign set in Dwimmermount using Adventurer, Conqueror, King System. We’ve never played this rules set before, but we like the way it looks.
Our first session was mainly about character creation; although we were able to play a little at the end. I was a little surprised at how long chargen took. For an old-school game, character creation took about 3-4 hours–with only 4 players. Rolling stats (where ACKS uses the roll 3d6 six times in order of stats, repeat five times, and pick the best set method) was quick, but then deciding on classes took a while; with the group trying to optimize their party, my players took a lot of time to figure out classes. While that was mostly the fault of my players, the number of proficiencies were a bit overwhelming, and the rest of the character creation time was spent picking proficiencies. My players gravitated mainly toward those with obvious game implications–healing, fighting styles, etc. It will be interesting to see how much of a role the other proficiencies play in the game, and whether the less obvious choices are chosen as the characters gain levels. Ultimately, we wound up with a shaman (python totem), a cleric, a fighter, and a thief. I had put a limit on 1 elf and 1 dwarf in the party, but no demi-humans were chosen. (I’ve always thought that old-school race as class rules–along with attendant level caps for demi-humans–were a good way of limiting the number of demi-humans in a game. And that seems to partially be the case here.)
One interesting effect of random systems–and I think I mentioned this back when I reviewed Dungeon Crawl Classics–is that randomness sometimes provides a freedom to be creative. In this case, much of the story of the characters can come from the randomness of character generation. While there are obvious questions to answer about the really high and really low stats of characters, the random element that struck me this time was starting money. I opted to not use the templates provided and to ask each player to roll 3d6x10 for their starting gold. The fighter’s player rolled a 17, starting with a whopping 170 gp, and being able to buy pretty much anything he wanted. The cleric’s player, on the other hand, rolled a really low number (a 6 I think), starting with enough money to buy some non-optimized armor, a holy symbol, and a weapon, but not really enough to buy clothes or other exploring accoutrements. Without even writing a backstory for these characters, the table was already coming up with explanations for this discrepancy. The fighter was determined to be a lower-ranked son of some minor noble. The cleric’s background was still left undecided at this point, but the possibilities that the low income suggests coupled with the character’s proficiency in judging help to paint a possible picture. Perhaps he judged unfavorably against a wealthy family who had him stripped and chased out of town. The random dice rolls can spark imagination as we seek to explain the chaos.
This time around, I haven’t been encouraging my players to create detailed backstories. I’m not sure about how deadly ACKS combat can be, but if it’s true to its old school roots, then casualty rates at low levels are significant. So, there’s not much point in having the players create elaborate backstories only to die an hour into the first session. Instead, I’m going with a “campfire” approach to backstories. Every time the characters rest, I’ll ask one of the players to relate what their character reveals about himself around the campfire. So, over time, each character will start to develop more fully, but also more organically. (Nothing is more disturbing for me as a player than to create an elaborate backstory about how awesome my character is, only to have that character persistently plagued by poor dice rolls, turning him from awesome into a blowhard who claims to be able to do more than he really can. Better to let the dice rolls help to determine the character.)
Later this week, I hope to explain a bit more about the kind of prep work I’ve been doing for this game. (For example, this campaign web site.)