Some feedback after a brief playtest

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Longshanks
Lairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2011-09-15 12:31
Some feedback after a brief playtest

First off, holy sh*t, reading through ACKS was the first time I've gotten a deep chill of awesomeness and wonder at the possibilities of RPGing since I found the second edition DMG I started with. And this document made sense and was something I know I could explain to players way easier than second edition.
Ran through the game with the normal gaming group, continuing a DCC game we've had going for a couple months. Thus, I have not tried out many of the character rules, I was using the encounter, surprise, initiative, equipment, wandering monsters, etc. style rules because that's stuff I'm most lacking in my games and ACKS rules looked great for it.
Things I liked that we used:
+ throws: the thief skills being a flat d20 number is perfect for my group (I converted to the ACKs for the group's thief, since both of us were annoyed by difficulty classes)
+ surprise and initiative rules
+ the hiring rules, and the reaction rules
Basically, I know this stuff is basic old school like labyrinth lord, but y'all have it down to a smooth art with the throw system. I do have some concerns about the system, and especially since Tavis is also familiar with DCC maybe some light could be shed or my fears allayed:
Worries or concerns
- the armor prices are very low, and why would anyone not just wear the best armor they can? maybe this isn't a real concern, but I was just kind of shocked. Shouldn't platemail cost more like 300 - 600 gp, not 60? why aren't all the dwarves and mercenaries in the book wearing platemail? it's something that otherwise makes the otherwise very internally consistent world questionable for me.
- the proficiencies: in my group they would lead to many problems with player indecision. there's also the min-max problems, especially given that many of the proficiencies do things like add +1 damage or AC, or actually make critical hits meaningful. I wish there were more simply "included" class features and maybe a random table for every character to get background labor/art/profession. How do y'all handle the proficiencies in your game, given that I'm assuming not everyone starts out flipping through the list of proficiencies for awhile? Aren't they also a bit of a brake on creative player actions (e.g. "oh, if I like to do Disarms I better buy Combat Trickery first")?
- just the general low-power level/high XP requirements. The proficiencies do help allay the boredom features that can come with simple classes, but the worry I have is that the current XP progression requires just tons of gold at level 1-5 and the power increase is really slow. I'm hoping my players wouldn't get bored with that kind of medium-slow progression for small number of power increases. Do you just hand out alot of gold to the survivors?
- I know the higher level stuff is probably all balanced out, but how has it actually played out in y'all's games with the need to spend large amounts of loot at lower levels? I mean are the PCs always running to Cynfaeren or wherever to drop their loot at a class III market? Do they always need a city, or can they effectively spend money in small towns close to certain dungeons?
Note that these don't necessarily have to be drawbacks to the game. All of the above (except proficiencies) are a baseline basic D&D assumption, I just am skeptical about keeping certain things like slow XP/power growth alongside newer ideas like proficiencies, I want to know how its working out for others. Best,
Nick

Longshanks
Lairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2011-09-15 12:31

I forgot to mention, I used several of the monsters in the back, and they played so smoothly compared to 3e or other retroclone fights I've used in the past. Only drawback: some monsters listed in the wandering charts I couldn't find in the monster section, like the carrion crawler.

Charlatan
Adventurer Conqueror King ContributorPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War Contributor
Joined: 2011-08-08 15:20

Regarding chargen and proficency selection: At the last playtest I was at, we just pointed folks at the templates in the class section and started playing.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Thanks so much for your feedback, and for the kind words.
Worries or concerns
- the armor prices are very low, and why would anyone not just wear the best armor they can? maybe this isn't a real concern, but I was just kind of shocked. Shouldn't platemail cost more like 300 - 600 gp, not 60? why aren't all the dwarves and mercenaries in the book wearing platemail? it's something that otherwise makes the otherwise very internally consistent world questionable for me.
ALEX:
1) Relative to other versions of D&D, some prices are lower in ACKS. For example, look at the cost of bows, or rations, or horses. Armor is still relatively expensive.
2) Being set in a semi-ancient world rather than a medieval world, it's not unlikely that many armies do consist of soldiers in plate armor (hoplites) or at least banded armor (legionaries). Dwarven mercs probably are in plate armor.
3) Armor is heavy. The stones of encumbrance really can weigh your character down.
- the proficiencies: in my group they would lead to many problems with player indecision. there's also the min-max problems, especially given that many of the proficiencies do things like add +1 damage or AC, or actually make critical hits meaningful. I wish there were more simply "included" class features and maybe a random table for every character to get background labor/art/profession. How do y'all handle the proficiencies in your game, given that I'm assuming not everyone starts out flipping through the list of proficiencies for awhile? Aren't they also a bit of a brake on creative player actions (e.g. "oh, if I like to do Disarms I better buy Combat Trickery first")?
ALEX: You are spot on with regard to the brake on creative player actions, of course. This is the trade-off of "powers/feats" v. "creative freedom". We think we found the sweet spot with proficiencies, but everyone's mileage varies.
As far as quick character generation, we recommend using the templates listed for each class. For instance the Elf Spellsword uses the "fighter-mage" template, the Dwarf Craft-Priest uses "Reclaimer", etc. Those have starting equipment and proficiencies for immediate play.
- just the general low-power level/high XP requirements. The proficiencies do help allay the boredom features that can come with simple classes, but the worry I have is that the current XP progression requires just tons of gold at level 1-5 and the power increase is really slow. I'm hoping my players wouldn't get bored with that kind of medium-slow progression for small number of power increases. Do you just hand out alot of gold to the survivors?
ALEX: The amount of gold should be relatively substantial, yes. We suggest that for each 1xp of monsters, there be 4gp of gold.
- I know the higher level stuff is probably all balanced out, but how has it actually played out in y'all's games with the need to spend large amounts of loot at lower levels? I mean are the PCs always running to Cynfaeren or wherever to drop their loot at a class III market? Do they always need a city, or can they effectively spend money in small towns close to certain dungeons?
ALEX: I think for major hauls they'll need at least a class IV town. Class V and VI are just a bit too small. That said, part of the assumed gameplay is having to travel to these towns, so don't feel like you need to plop a CLass IV down for them next to the dragon's lair. One of the things ACKS tries to do is make leveling take more time within the game-world's chronology (i.e. in game days and weeks and months) to create a realistic sense of "rise to power". This is handled through lots of travel, partly.

Duskreign
Joined: 2011-08-10 17:22

Alex, the 1xp of monster to 4gp ratio is something I find very useful. Does that sentence exist in the ACKS rules anywhere? If it doesn't I strongly suggest it gets added somewhere.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Yes, it's listed in the section called "HOW MUCH TREASURE".
HOW MUCH TREASURE?
It is up to the Game Master to decide how much treasure he or she wishes to allow into the campaign. The amount of treasure allowed in the campaign will directly control the speed at which the player characters level, as well as the overall power and capabilities of the adventurers.
If you are a novice Judge, a good rule of thumb is to place a total amount of treasure in any given lair or dungeon that’s equal to four times the XP value of the monsters in the area. An easy way to apply this rule is to randomly generate treasure for the monsters. If too much treasure results, add more monsters or remove some treasure. If too little treasure results, make up the difference with special treasures placed by hand.
EXAMPLE: An underground crypt has been stocked with 20 skeletons (13xp each), 1 wight (110xp), 4 giant vampire bats (20xp each) and 7 pit vipers (40xp each), for a total of 730xp. The crypt treasure should be around four times that total (4 x 730), or 2,920gp.

Beedo
Beedo's picture
Patreon SupporterLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2011-07-12 13:55

Um - WOW. I'm just thinking through this for scenario planning - it really provides a lot of levers and knobs for a top down approach.
Let's say I'm planning a dungeon level for 1st level guys - I know that an average party will need around 10,000xp to level up (5 characters, using the fighter's 2000xp as a baseline). Add in half experience for a handful of retainers, and maybe we're looking at 15,000xp on the level. For a large level 1, I might take it a step further and assume quite a bit of attrition (resulting in lost experience) so maybe the starting value should be 20,000xp across level 1.
From Alex's numbers, that should be 4,000xp in monsters and 16,000xp in treasure.
Let's say the archetypical level 1 encounter is 100xp in monsters - there are 50xp encounters, 100xp encounters, and some tough ones in the 200-400xp range, but it averages out to 100 across level 1... our hypothetical level could have around 40 encounters, 120 rooms (using a 1/3 with monsters guideline).
I'm not taking into account wandering monster XP, or inheritance XP that is conserved through spending money - so the general numbers could be refined.
But overall, this is really useful stuff for megadungeon planning.
Oh - and I can second Charlatan's report on the templates - those things were super useful for keeping character generation moving along quickly. The templates list starting armor and weapons; the only other suggestion would be to have a couple of standard adventurer kits in the equipment section (variations of a backpack with gear, like Ye Olde Fast Pack from B4's Lost City module).

Longshanks
Lairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2011-09-15 12:31

All of this is great. Consider my concerns allayed on every count! I foolishly had not considered the effects of encumbrance, specifically how heavier armors will almost automatically slow down PCs, but not mounted warriors. I really like this. Reading the encumbrance rules brings up another question however: Have you considered allowing a Strength bonus to effect all encumbrance levels, not merely maximum carrying weight? I'm sure the current way is 'balanced,' but I know that intuitively my players always ask about stronger characters being able to carry more without being slowed down (in other words, this comes up everytime we discuss encumbrance). I think this is also true in reality: I know plenty of guys really into running with weight or mountain climbing who are not slowed by the weight they carry because of their extra strength. Just a thought.
On a far more important note: the character sheet has no place to write down initiative! We just write it on the Actions slot, but I think it'd be nice to have a set place for it.

Tavis
Joined: 2011-07-01 15:40

Re: XP and wealth, I am working on making sure the dungeon encounter tables, dungeon stocking procedures, and treasure tables provide (when combined together) the expected ratio of GP to combat XP in a procedurally generated dungeon. It should be easy to customize your own procedures or follow the guidelines in creating rather than generating one.
There will be some design essays about the approach, with links to same & a little summary in the text.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

We definitely need an Initiative line item on the character sheet, that's a big gap! Great catch.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Longshanks - the reason we didn't allow STR bonus to reduce encumbrance was precisely because of armor and movement.
As written, we're able to use a very simple formula where 1 point of AC = 1 stone. This guarantees that a Fighter in Plate will always be slower than an unarmored man, even if carrying nothing but his armor. However, if you add your STR bonus to your carrying capacity, then you'll get a situation where a STR 16 fighter in Plate can have an Encumbrance of 6-2=4, and you end up with plate-armored warriors capable of 100 yard dashes in 10 seconds. There's no real way to tweak this in a simple manner as the STR bonus is simply so large relative to the range of stones of encumbrance.
I played around with some complex rule variants, rules exceptions ("STR of 15+ has their carrying capacity increased by 1 stone") and so on, but it didn't seem worthwhile at the end of the day. We wanted encumbrance to be something you could calculate on the fly.