I’ve been talking about my role in creating Adventurer Conqueror King, but as James pointed out in the comments to that post, I haven’t said what it is. Here is the text I wrote for the back cover of the mockup we made, along with Ryan’s illustration to the right:
In a world of fallen empires, some relics of the past are good only for a beastman’s bludgeon; others make ruin delvers rich. You may start out with no higher ambition than a sack full of ancient coins, but each gold piece you spend ties you into a dynamic realm of commerce and carousing, driven by the hidden engines of court intrigues and distant wars. As you grow in power, will you fight to hold back the darkness looming at the borderlands of an aging civilization, or will you pull down the last decadent barriers to the coming of a new dawn?
The Adventurer Conqueror King system fulfills the promise of the original fantasy role-playing game by providing comprehensive, integrated support for play across all levels of a campaign. Any referee who has ever checked for random encounters, and every player who’s has rolled a twenty-sided dice to hit a wandering monster, will find the rules of Adventurer Conqueror King as elegant, familiar, and comfortable to wield as a heirloom sword. The system’s cutting edge is the way every table, chart, and assumption in the game encodes Gygaxian naturalism, Arnesonian barony-building, and the designers’ own experience of hundreds of sessions playing and running old-school games. With Adventurer Conqueror King, you get both the versimilitude and consistency of thorough world-building with the power of improvisation and discovery through play. We look forward to seeing what you do with these tools!
In that description, I had an imaginary general audience in mind. Mule readers, however, will appreciate that what we’re talking about here is a second-wave retroclone. As Alex says at the Autarch blog, the first wavers were focused on using the Open Game License and the d20 SRD to reverse-engineer the experience of playing some particular older edition. In a first-wave retroclone, the assumption is that the differences between its system and the original it emulates are due to the desire to avoid legal infringements; the creator inevitably also makes changes and judgement calls based on the way they believe the original game should be played, but these are controversial and have often led to the creation of an alternate retroclone that seeks to be a more pure translation.
The second wave of retroclones build on the invaluable foundation laid by the first. What distinguishes a second-wave clone is that now the changes are intentionally designed to support a specific kind of play. As the Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Game tells you in its title, its system is intended to support encounters with the Weird. The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is almost as up-front about its intent to emulate early-70s Appendix N inspirations – which we refer to as swords & sorcery, but to his credit Joseph recognizes also include a huge bong hit worth of fallout shelters and Civil War soldiers astrally projected to other planets after falling asleep in a cave. I’d be interested to hear other candidates for the “second-wave” tag, and also whether this terminology is new to me or if there’s already a term for this elsewhere.
Anyway, the goal of the system is to support campaign play across all levels; one of the major tools for doing this is an integrated economy, which Alex talks about here and here. One of the reasons to present ACKS as its own system is because the ways this economy gets worked into the rules are pretty far-reaching; the rules differences aren’t major compared to any classic edition, but the tweaks to things like item pricing, hireling costs, etc. we made throughout the text are extensive and subtle enough that there’s some virtue to having it all laid out as a single volume.
Note that this kind of detail is something that I am notoriously bad at – the White Sandbox runs on an economy based on lammasu using infinitesimal twists in the astral plane to collect gold pieces that, over the course of millions of years, are erupted from bags of holding that get placed inside portable holes. Which is awesome, but I like the idea of having a rulebook do the work for me so I can look up how many acres of peasant-tilled land support the king for whom this lammasu treasure is a king’s ransom, because that gives the fantasy traction. (James can attest that terrible things when my GMing style is combined with eleven-year-olds utterly uninterested in realistic traction.)
So having ACKS gives me the ability to translate one aspect of the imagined world, like character level, into versimilitudinous data about the demographics implied by a character of that level; this way I get the benefits of thorough world-building and the freedom of rolling up a sixth-level fighting man as a wandering encounter without having to have known ahead of time what keep he is the Castellan of.
If this sounds useful to you, contribute to our Kickstarter effort – and/or spread the word to those who might want to do so. We need your help to make it happen!