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Adventurer Conqueror King System
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Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par christopher b. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 08/04/2018 16:40:55

The reviewer is writing this review using his own personally bought copy of the product

Adventurer Conqueror King System (or ACKS) came into existence back in 2011. It was right at the height of the OSR's first big boom, where most of the products went from PDF only affairs to offering more traditional dead tree format. While there have been literally well over a hundred different variations of old D&D rules, you would be deceiving yourself to think once you have seen one you have seen them all.

ACKS did not come on to my radar until much later through a Bundle of Holding offer. At the time I was playing 5E and Swords and Wizardry. Swords and Wizardry will always be near and dear to my heart, but I found myself wanting something with a little more teeth. Something that really took the old idea of character progression into something other than just more advanced murder hobo adventures. Sure as a DM I have control over the world my players are in and all the intricacies available therein. But having a mechanics system in place to handle the heavy lifting sure is nice.

I was looking through my DrivethruRPG library and what pops up but this package from Bundle of Holding I purchased a year and a half ago. I began skimming the product and was kind of shocked at what I was seeing. I had assumed (boy never a good thing to do) that it was another B/X clone. Not a bad thing mind you, but not exactly what I was looking for. What I found was something else.

Becoming an Adventurer

First of all, let's discuss or define what a B/X game looks like in comparison to more modern renditions of Dungeons and Dragons. B/X typically only took you to level 14. Levels 1-3 were the basic level of the game chiefly revolving around dungeon crawls. Levels 4-14 were focused on the exploration of wilderness environments, and once characters reached level 9, the idea of ruling a small domain with many servants or followers to assist you. Race and class were one in the same with only humans actually selecting a class type and the others being relegated to racially stereotypical pursuits.


ACKS keeps the same level scheme of 1-14 but changes several other aspects up quite a bit. First of all, ACKS provides many classes in the core book beyond the standard affair. Humans have the options of being Fighters, Mages, Clerics, Thieves, Assasins, Bards, Bladedancers (clerics that are slightly more functional at fighting and mobility at the cost of wearing certain armor types), and Explorers (rangers of a sort more focused on actual outdoor survival without the spell component).


Nonhumans instead of being one singular class are divided up into different aspects of their society. Elves can choose from Elven Nightblades (think sorcerer/assassin) or Elven Spellsword (fighter/mage combo). Dwarves have Dwarven Vault guards (typical iconic dwarf), and Dwarven Craft priest (combine cleric and fighter together without the hefty restrictions of a paladin).

No halflings appear in this rulebook (though do not worry they do appear later in another product) and nonhumans do still get restricted on level gain, though this is less of an issue with ACKS leveling system ending at 14 for human classes.

Optimization in droves

ACKS utilizes a proficiency system. While this is not a new idea, the way it is utilized is both efficient and really changes ACKS from being just another retroclone restating the same tired ideas. Within ACKS, Proficiencies fall somewhere in between feats and skills. Couple this with the use of templates and you can really make a customized version of whatever class you decide on that further individualizes without having to make yet another class.

Proficiencies are unique to certain class types. There are of course shared proficiencies, but by and large, this is more within a template (something I will go into more detail about on the Players Companion review). This makes a sword and board fighter operate differently from say a 2 handed fighter. The Mercenary template for instance: you throw in 2 proficiencies, Combat reflexes and Manual of Arms and a customized equipment package flavored to the more iconic mercenary role and voila your fighter is instead a professional soldier for hire.

Magic by the numbers

Magic in ACKS will be both familiar and unique compared to other OSR systems. I realize that is a fairly vague statement. So in most d20 systems wizards have a pool of spells in their spellbook. ACKS is no different in this. Where the differences come in is how those spells are utilized. Normally arcane spellcasters are restricted to only using those spells they have memorized unless we are talking about 3.X era Sorcerers. The problem with Sorcerers is that not everyone wants a spellcaster that does not have to "pay" in the traditional sense for their power. What this did is set what some looked at as an unfair imbalance to the more traditional mindset of spellcasting based around Vancian rules.

ACKS, however, says any spell in your repertoire can be used provided you have the spell slot left to cast it. This might seem like a minor change but in effect what it does is make the magic-user more flexible. Now the spellcaster can safely go into dungeons knowing that not only do they have offensive magic usable but also all those oft unused utility spells that could potentially make or break an encounter. I was skeptical at first until I saw this in practice. It worked very well and was in no way overpowering. The limitation of so many spells cast per day keeps it railed in while giving the benefit of far more utility.

ACKS has little touches inserted all over the place to individualize itself. The author encourages folks playing spellcasters to add little signatures that are aesthetic in name but really help to flavor their caster individually. The example that is given in the book is of a necromancer character that whenever he casts magic missile the magic manifests as a shard of a bone. It is a simple nonmechanical storytelling the device that still helps to further the idea of not relying on a hard mechanic to define your character.

Fantasy economy done right

One of the surprises and delights of Adventurer Conqueror King System is the extensive study of 4th-8th-century history that the authors have done. A great deal of analysis has gone on to properly represent from a socioeconomic point of view the very real financial and labor challenges living in that era would have produced. Your first introduction to this is the equipment section, in which equipment availability by market size, as well as pricing conventions based upon supply and demand. This is not done in a time-consuming fashion. Everything is lined up in easy to follow tables that very quickly let the Judge scan for the market type based on domain size. In a clear manner, this tells the Judge how to price objects, if they are available, and if not if it is possible to get the product in and how long it will take.

A lot of folks hear the word tables, and that turns them off thinking this is going to be a game where they have to nonstop consult table after table. I am here to tell you, the information is oriented in a fashion in which it's easy to find in a time of need without disrupting gameplay for long periods of time. Later when the rulebook begins discussing domain management and creation, the game offers meticulous detail about acreage, production of resources based on peasant morale, population, and natural sustainability. A desert offers different financial and logistical differences than an overgrown forested region. All of this is presented in a fashion that a Judge can find and use with ease.

This land is my land

It was always the intent of Dungeons and Dragons B/X era gaming to guide players from lowly dungeon delver to wilderness explorer, to notable and important heroic figure and eventually to ruler. While a system to do this has been included in just about every iteration of D&D since B/X days, only in the BECMI rendition is the concept actually given real depth in the core rules. Yes, supplements have been offered in one fashion or another, but a supplement makes it more of an optional thing than an actual feature or focus of the game.

ACKS chooses to instead really dial in this oft-neglected aspect of gaming. Sure your adventurers will dive into pits of despair. But around 3rd to 4th level they spread their wings and begin to focus on exploring the wilderness surrounding them. As tales of their heroics spread, so does their notoriety. The movers and shakers of the land begin to take notice, and with this also comes those who will seek the players out.

However, this is just where the fun begins. In order to create a stronghold or a domain, the players must first clear or "conquer" the surrounding hexes from their chosen build site. This is the only way they can hope to attract not just followers, but peasants and commerce to come to their domain. The costs in labor, time, pedigree of hireling required (engineers for instance) is laid out in digestible bits that neither overwhelm nor undersell the reader.

Once the project is complete and the domain established now the mechanics of actually running a realm come into play. With such an eye for historical accuracy and logical population disbursement (you won't find a town of 50,000 people in a medieval desert setting where it would have been impossible to sustain it) you can easily weight the requirements of maintaining and growing your kingdom.

Creation defined

A lot of products shy away from the idea of letting players construct or build things. Specifically, most of this kind of detail did not become available until the 3.x era of gaming, and even then as an afterthought or option without the true details needed to fully convey this process. ACKS however does not shy from tackling this topic.

Complete rules are given for creating magic items, researching and creating new spells, building magical constructs, and necromantic minions and more. What is more interesting is that it also gives rules on how to infuse this into the domain aspect. A mage might have a few apprentices, which instead of just being fluff actually serve the purpose of advancing the mages personal goals and acquisition of power. This is done through harvesting ingredients, researching spells, writing scrolls or a myriad of other various functions. Your retainers, hirelings, and followers are more than mere torch wielders and trap finders.

This idea that a player can create items worthy of the magic item index is not new, but rarely has it been portrayed in the common sense fashion that it is in ACKS. Once again all of this is presented in an easy to follow fashion that is modular, use it or don't use it at your leisure. If you want the total ACKS experience use it, but if you just want it to be basic, the game runs fine without it.

Summary of my thoughts on ACKS

ACKS is not a retroclone as much as it is a reinforcement of the B/X foundation, then a layered approach of adding complexity to this style of gameplay. All this is presented in a very modular format. Meaning you can easily remove this aspect if you dislike it as a gamemaster without breaking anything. I think that is important to folks who look for flexibility in a system. It can be as complex or as clean a B/X inspired game as you want it to be. The foundation has been refined to perfection so that other aspects of ACKS can sit comfortably atop it.

The core rulebook follows a very predictable pattern in how it presents information. Chapters roll into one another in a common sense placement. You can tell time and understanding of gaming has clearly helped the author to conceive a functional layout. Every chapter progresses on the groundwork of the chapter before it in a clear and concise pattern.

The author has constantly worked towards individualizing the product. Attack Throws or To hit numbers are neither the Thac0 system nor the ascending system as it is used in 3.x products. It falls right in the middle still following an ascending pattern and more common sense approach of simply needing to add the respective armor class to a base roll to figure out the number needed. Unarmored foes start as Armor Class 0, and armor increases positively from there.

The artwork is superb with gorgeous color cover art and amazing interior Black & White illustrations. The author's tone is easy to follow and even subject matter that would have put me to sleep in other games is presented in a fashion to keep the reader interested. Most of this is done by using constant examples to make the idea shown click.

[5 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par Jarrod M. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 12/23/2016 10:56:39

This game was my introduction to the OSR, but it's much more than that.

Adventurer Conqueror King not only gives you an updated and clever reconfiguring of the original B/X Dungeons & Dragons rules, it delivers on the promise of high level play.

So many D&D games make reference to "gaining a stronghold and followers" at level 9, but they offer no interpretation of what that means, what that would be like. It's often relegated to story dressing, and doesn't get the attention that, say, combat does. ACKs fills in this sorely needed gap in a way that is largely compatible with most fantasy medieval games.

They say that what you give experience for in an RPG determines the kind of play you encourage. In this way, ACKs encourages ruling kingdoms, engaging in magical research, founding religions, running a thieves guild, or embarking on mercantile ventures as well as it does things like killing foes and stealing their treasure. Not only this, but it encourages doing these things boldly: timid rulers satisfied with their holds won't gain XP, but ambitious conquerors who expand their realm will.

Of course, these rules alone are worth the price of entry, and are easily ported to your game of choice, as the economic ideas underpinning the XP rewards are consistent enough to survive translation as long as you properly anchor to common worths. But the actual rules for playing adventurers are good too. You get a servicable expansion of available classes that simultaneously preserves the feel of "race as class" while giving people playing demihumans more options than usual.

And as if that wasn't enough: this system is well supported. If you find that you like this, you will be amazed at the supplements available that can further expand your games into anything you've ever wanted to run.

[5 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par William M. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 09/01/2013 18:48:03

Anyone familiar with original D&D or any of its more recent clones will naturally know the gist of the system from the start, there are a few surprises within this tome however. It uses an ascending AC system that is a little different than usual. Proficiencies offer a grab bag of skill and feat like abilities that don't weight the game down (plus they are optional). There is a hard cap on character level at 14. Demi-human classes may have a lower cap, but it is less of a handicap when its only a handful of levels at most. High level play is VERY much meant to be about lords and their domains, of which every class has its own unique take.

If I were to ask for more out of ACKS it would be that it included an example domain to get you playing as soon as possible. That and maybe a little dungeon module.

All in all, if you enjoy OSR style gaming there isn't any reason not to give ACKS a look over for ten bucks. If you like enjoy it, the pdf has a coupon for those ten bucks off of the hard back if you just have to have it in good old dead tree. I'm definitely considering it myself.

[5 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par Victor J. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 08/18/2013 03:47:31

Captures the feeling of earlier games and presents it well for a modern audience. Well-written, nicely laid out, and with artwork perfect for the tone. Highly recommended.

[4 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par Roger R. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 07/05/2013 16:34:50

Really well thought out, internally consistent. Brings an element of realism and verisimilitude that's lacking in some of the other more fantastical settings. I like it.

[5 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par john h. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 02/03/2013 07:55:06

I really loved this game, He's part of the reason i turned an OSR game now. Maybe the system is not revolutionnary but it's easy to grasp with few interesting things, like the way the proficiencies are working, that add a lot to the game. It's really oriented to the later part of the game, with high level character being lords of a domain and a really good economic building system. I think it's a very good retroclone game that worth the try

[5 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par Christopher C. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 06/02/2012 08:55:12

Well put together and designed, but I still have and use all my first edition AD&D books, so there was really nothing new or revolutionary about this game system. Basically, it's more accessible than the original books, which is good, but if you are already playing AD&D (1e) or a clone that you are happy with then this is not a must buy. However, it's well written and there are some good charts and stuff in the back for the 'late game' when the characters are no longer your typical adventurers looking to make it big. I think my disappointment is because of all the great things I've heard about this system said stuff like "I'll never go back to any other system!" and "It's what RPGs were always meant to be!" and when looking through it there was nothing new to me.

[3 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par Michael B. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 05/03/2012 13:50:22

Adventurer Conqueror King System or ACKS as it's becoming known is one of those pleasant surprises you always hope for when you download a PDF, (in particular a new ruleset) from RPGNow. The key to this system is present in it's title. The design is such that you begin your characters life as a budding Adventurer, seeking fame, fortune and the like. As you gain those, you graduate on to what might be called a conqueror as you begin to tame and settle borderlands or even conquer existing domains. This leads to a growth phase where much of the game revolves (or rather, CAN revolve) around building a mighty kingdom.

But what does all this mean? Well, to put it simply, Alex Macris and crew have done a wonderful job of adapting Labyrinth Lord to a game where dungeon craws slowly get replaced with something of a SimCity/Civilization ruleset. And, to my pleasant surprise, it seems to work really well.

The game has support for 14 levels and honestly I'd say that's all you need. It has about a dozen classes, include the 4 core classes and some interesting non-core. Most align nicely with what you'd expect but a couple are interesting takes on iconic fantasy archetypes. For example, the Blade Dancer, a female human cleric type class has a lot of interesting potential. Yes, I did say that correctly. Race, (in this case, human) and even gender can be tied to class. This means a bit of class bloat potential (elven cleric/dwarven cleric/human cleric/being 3 classes etc) but it also means that they can have a singularly simple and elegant proficiency system that allows each class to customize their character. The foundation of this is having 2 proficiency pools. You get a class pool of proficiencies (skills and feats) and a general pool. There is a lot of overlap between the two. So lets say you want to play a fighter who also likes to perform. Rather than being forced to play a Bard, you can take the Perform proficiency because it exists in both the Bard class proficiency pool as well as the General Proficiency pool. You get to choose several proficiencies, some from each pool at various points in your career. This allows you to double down on your class by taking class proficiencies, even from the General pool or to be a jack of all trades by taking as many non-class proficiencies as your heart desires.

Summary: If you want to start slowly with a serious world building ruleset where total domination is the ultimate goal, this is the place to do it. You'll get 5-8 levels of more or less comfortable Labyrinth Lord style gameplay (including VERY simply conversion of LL modules and content) and then move into the medieval equivalent of Civilization the RPG at your own pace, or not at all if the LL spin off seem appropriate. The really nice part is that the end game varies greatly based on class. If you are a fighter type, you'll want to start a domain and take over towns and cities and tax the goods traded within your borders. If you're a cleric type, you'll want to start a church and build a massive congregation which will grant you increasing power from your deity. If you're an Explorer (think: Ranger) you'll want to build a Wilderness Outpost and tame the borderlands to increase the size of a Kingdom. Elves build Fastnesses, Dwarves - Vaults, Thieves and Assassins - Hideouts and Guilds. The potential here is immense. I can only imagine the bedlam that might ensue as a Cleric starts trying to build a church in the same town where an Assassin is attempting to build his hideout. The opportunity for epic gamesmanship unlike we're used to in typical fantasy RPGs is staggering.

They're currently developing an Advanced Compendium (as of 5/4/12). It looks to include quite a few new classes and a couple of new races along with over 100 new templates, which is the ACKS way of delivering rapid character design and customization. Want your Fighter to be like Lancelot? There's probably a template for that. It will auto-assign the proficiencies so that you get the feel without having to read every single one and compare them. BUT if you're a munchkin who just loves doing that, the system supports you nicely as well.

My hat is off to Alex, Greg and Tavis.

Also of note: After ordering the PDF, I decided to grab a hardcopy as well. There is a discount on the hardcopy with a coupon code found in the PDF, making the PDF essentially FREE! That's a great deal right there. Lastly, the forums, while not overly abundant with traffic, are quite friendly and the principals frequent them almost daily so if you are one who likes to engage directly with the designers, this system is perfect for you.

[5 sur 5 étoiles!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Editeur: Autarch
par Dominique C. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 02/19/2012 04:05:04

I bought AKCS mostly out of curiosity. It's before all an "OSR" game (i.e. old school renaissance rpg), a simulacrum of the basic/classic older D&D rpg. Where Labyrinth Lord is a "clone" intent on reproducing basic old D&D faithfully, AKCS is a simulacrum, meaning it's that old game but with more modern, streamlined game mechanics, and differences.

The main difference is that AKCS uses the same mechanic as saving throws for combat and skill checks (and others things). I must say it works very well, and is a welcome simplification. That is, for each class level there is a target number that a character must equal or exceed with a d20 roll (to which he adds his bonuses and the target's ascending AC) to hit his opponent. I like this very much.

There is 12 classes, including of course the core Fighter, Thief, Mage and Cleric. Elves and dwarves get two classes each. Well, I am a little dubious about the dwarf classes, that provide even less abilities than they did in the original D&D, and are thus very much alike a Fighter and Cleric. There is also 4 variant classes derived from the core: Assassin, Bard, Bladedancer and Explorer. Here also, these classes are rather bland. Bladedancer for example is very much a cleric with little difference. Explorer replaces the Halfling class from BD&D. However, the good point is that classes can be customized with adding proficiencies, that are derived from 2e NWP and 3e Feats.

Then, unlike all the clones and simulacrums I have read before, AKCS provide extensive rules for castle and dominion management, ritual magic, and much more. All these pages are really a good addition that will be useful to players and GMs IMO. I won't detail them here, since I only flipped through these pages so far, but I am glad to see them included.

Lastly about art: it must be noted that AKCS is lavishly illustrated, which enliven the whole work and makes it pleasant to read.

If I were to run or play in a Classic-Basic D&D game, AKCS is the iteration I would want to use without a doubt.

[5 sur 5 étoiles!]
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