Where to start? New to "Old School"

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Chaosmeister
Chaosmeister's picture
Joined: 2011-08-11 13:31
Where to start? New to "Old School"

Greetings all,

the title says it all! I started gaming around the time DnD was released, however as I live in Germany I started with The Dark Eye instead of DnD. Because of this I missed the Original playstyle and rules. My first contact with DnD was actually ADnD 2nd. ACK is the first game I bought that seems part of the Old school renaissance? Sorry, As I said, not very familiar with this side of gaming yet.

I am reading the ACK core book at the moment and It contains many things I find.. weird. XP for treasure is one example that springs to my mind was the first where I though "WTF?". I will try to roll with it even though it goes against my instincts. I come from a tradition where monsters and treasures did not provide XP but the players received XP upon reaching certain goals within an adventure.

Anyway, I am looking to get a campaign going as ACK really reads great. Now as I was not part of the original DnD story I do not own any of the original modules. Often I read about B1 and B2 and I have started to Google them. I can´t check as RPG now is down, but are these "old" adventures still available? Are there "Modern" alternatives that are easy to use with ACK? Maybe there is an article or blog out there especially for this?

I also never created a campaign fully from 0 and I find it surprisingly challenging. I am torturing Hexographer right now. All the population calculations and trade routes etc seem a bit much work at first glance. I am trying to understand the value of that information as all worlds I have played and GMed in where never as detailed in this regard.

I guess that`s it for now, any relpies and insights are very welcome!

theskyfullofdust
Joined: 2011-07-31 01:33

You could start with checking out this wiki: http://campaignwiki.org/wiki/LinksToWisdom/HomePage

It has a wealth of information, linking to all sorts of blogs, all for the Old School style of play.

Alex
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Hey Chaosmeister! Thanks for checking out ACKS. The wiki is definitely a good read. I'll take a few minutes here to address your points directly.

It seems to me that the main thing you are missing is the idea of the "sandbox". ACKS is built for "sandbox play", meaning that the Judge creates the world and the PCs map their own course through it. This is wildly different from "story play," where the Judge creates the story and the PCs proceed through it. Dragonlance, Ravenloft, and many more modern modules are all examples of story play. Keep on the Borderlands is an example of a sandbox module.

"XP for treasure is one example that springs to my mind was the first where I though "WTF?". I will try to roll with it even though it goes against my instincts. I come from a tradition where monsters and treasures did not provide XP but the players received XP upon reaching certain goals within an adventure."

The reason PCs earn XP for treasure is that a sandbox campaign needs an objective standard by which to reward the PCs. It can't be a subjective standard ("story awards" set by the Judge) because that takes away the player's agency to choose their path. Gold serves as a useful standard because the default motivation of most adventurers throughout fiction and history has been "fame, fortune, and power". Achilles, Beowulf, Conan, and Fafhrd would all be happy to earn a chest filled with jewels and gold.

The "XP for treasure" system has two other benefits that make it an especially good choice. First, treasure tends to be deposited in hard-to-get, well-guarded places that demand skill and cunning to reach. It thus serves as a way of objectively measuring the player's resourcefulness and determination. If they managed to get to the 8th level of the Undercity and find the lost treasure of Ianna, they deserve the XP! 

Second, using "XP for treasure" means that as characters become more powreful they will gather more resources. In a game like ACKS, which is built on the "rise to power" trope of Beowulf/Conan/Robin Hood/Theseus/etc., this is more than a happy coincidence, it's a necessity. A 9th level fighter is powerful enough to command respect, and rich enough to buy an army.

"I also never created a campaign fully from 0 and I find it surprisingly challenging. I am torturing Hexographer right now. All the population calculations and trade routes etc seem a bit much work at first glance. I am trying to understand the value of that information as all worlds I have played and GMed in where never as detailed in this regard."

The reason to do this is to create the sandbox that your players can play through. That said, in the early stages of your campaign, the playable area of the sandbox is going to be very small - a small town, a dungeon, and that's it. You could certainly just start your campaign with, e.g., the Keep and the Caves of Chaos. (I did!) Or, if this is your first time running an old school game, you might want to start with a pre-existing sandbox. Rob Conley's Points of Light is a good choice in this regard, as are the many old school sandboxes published on the web.

 

 

Chaosmeister
Chaosmeister's picture
Joined: 2011-08-11 13:31

Thank you theskyfullofdust, that wiki has a lot of interesting links!

Alex, thank you for taking the time to answer so thoroughly. I am generally familiar with the Sandbox approach where the players choose their path, I just never got around to running one. I do understand the reasoning behind the gold as xp rules now. It is a smarter idea then I would have thought. Just need to change some of my assumptions as I thought treasure is generated from a monster encounter and always figured the XP for the treasure is already calculated into the XP of the monster.

Funny you would mention the PoL books, I had them already! I decided to go with southland instead of starting from scratch and upped the resolution to 40/30 hexes. Thank you for the tip, I had forgotten all about them.

So If I understand correct I can calculate trade routes and the likes from the start but it really is only necessary when my players actually carve out a Domain of their own?

I am digging further into the secrets chapter and will add more POI to the Southlands, now that I have a base to go from.

Now to get my players started I would love to add B2 to the area, is that still available to buy somewhere, preferably as PDF?

wyrdbrew
wyrdbrew's picture
Joined: 2011-07-28 21:16

Alex has also written some very good advice in these three posts on the Escapist. The whole "Check for Traps" series of columns are worth reading if you want to get some insight into various elements of ACKS. I have found these to be very helpful.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/checkfortraps/7797...
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/checkfortraps/7864...
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/checkfortraps/7928...

Chaosmeister
Chaosmeister's picture
Joined: 2011-08-11 13:31

Thank you for these! They are written by Alex aren`t they? The second article sounded very familiar. ;) Very cool column, will dig in deeper. Just an FYI for anyone else reading this, at the end of the third article there is actually a link to a free, promotional version of the Southlands Sandbox! If you have a bit of trouble starting this is a great base. As is all of the PoL books really, they get my creative juices flowing!

Alex
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Hah, thanks for linking my Check for Traps columns.

I really, really want to do a Check for Traps article called "An Interview with the Designer of ACKS". It would feature Q&A like:

Q: "Did you find the material in Check for Traps helpful as you were writing ACKS?"

A: "Yes. In fact, I've often felt those articles really summarized my game design philosophy."

I wonder what %% of the readers would figure out the joke.

wyrdbrew
wyrdbrew's picture
Joined: 2011-07-28 21:16

Thanks for writing them.

I think it would be a fun article to read.