Astonishing ACKS

I’m calling my current gaming obsession Astonishing ACKS. It’s an old-school RPG mashup set in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) campaign world using the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS) ruleset.

Here’s the setting in a nutshell:

Hyperborea is the default campaign setting for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. This “flat earth” realm is hemmed in by the mystical boreas (“North Wind”), and under the scarlet light of a bloated, dying sun, its roiling seas spill eternal over the world’s rim. Hyperborea is in a perpetual state of decay, populated by disharmonious men, hostile monsters, and weird, alien beings.

When I get some free time I’ll create a campaign page like I did for my previous Affiliation game. For now, check out my Astonishing ACKS posts.

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – Hyperborean Barbarians

(I’ve also got a Barbarian PC in my new campaign. The player doesn’t have the ACKS Player’s Companion, and I’ve changed the options anyways, so I put together a summary sheet for him.)

Hyperborean Barbarians are savage warriors from the outlands of civilization. Some Barbarians live on the edge of true savagery, while others hail from rich cultures with epic poetry and weapons of steel – but all bridge the instinctual gap betwixt man and beast, rejecting urbane ways. In Hyperborea, Barbarians might be fierce Viking reavers, swift Kimmerian horse archers, Keltic skirmirshers, painted Pictish berzerkers, or mammoth-hunting Esquimeaux tribesmen.

Hyperborea HR

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Elementalism in Hyperborea

(Short post today; mostly an excuse to quote Robert Frost and reference Bakshi again.)

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

– Robert Frost

Hyperborean elements do not match the ‘classic’ Greek selection of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Instead, the primary elements in Hyperborea are Fire and Ice. (Earth, Air, and Water are considered ‘minor’ elements.)

In Hyperborea, the power of fire is waning while ice is ascendant. Preternatural glaciers mantled the whole realm for æons. Ages later, when the ice thawed, Hyperborea’s connexion to Old Earth was no more; the sun was no longer yellow, and the sea spilled from the rim of a world hemmed in by the blasting North Wind.

I’ve posted ACKS game rules for Pyromancers and Cryomancers, wizards of fire and ice. If the need arises, I’ll also provide details on worshipers of Helios (fire) and Yikkorth (ice).

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – Pyromancer and Cryomancer

(One of the surviving PCs from my kickoff session is a Pyromancer. I’d posted details on the class before, but put together a one-page summary sheet for convenience. I also made one for the Cryomancer.)

The Pyromancer is a specialist wizard who masters fire through arcane studies and pacts made with forces elemental, dæmonic, or otherworldly. Pyromancers can be guild mages of an esoteric branch, or they might be members of a secret society or cult. Unlike other mages, they develop swordsmanship and wield scimitars.

The Cryomancer is a specialist wizard who masters the control of snow, ice, and arctic winds. Through arcane studies and pacts made with glacial spirits, Cyromancers form secret societies whose aims are oft deemed incongruous with other practitioners of the arcane. They favour the ice axe when ranging the frozen wastes.

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – Türas, Thunderer of the Gods

(Two players in my kickoff session chose Clerics of Türas as PCs – and both survived (although one was maimed). Check out my previous post on Auran gods; here are house rules for the gritty Hyperborean reboot of Thor.)

Hammer of TürasThis deity of Neutrality is associated with storms, thunder, and war. Türas is a ruthless hunter and slayer of otherworldly creatures. (It is said that in Old Earth, he hunted giants instead. For this reason, the worshipers of Ymir oppose Türas.)

The strength and might of Türas are legendary. His followers continually strive to improve their skills and do great deeds. They believe that to die in battle is the only way to die properly.

Devotion to Türas is strongly discouraged in Vikland itself, though he is popular with Vikings elsewhere in Hyperborea.

Hyperborea HR

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Session Report – The Fall of Calford

Well, yesterday we actually played a session of Astonishing ACKS! I ran it as a “character funnel”, starting with eight 1st-level PCs (two per player), and whittling that down to four by the session’s end. (Plus one maimed survivor.)

Keltic Hill Fort

The party began in the Chieftain’s Hall in Calford, which is a small hill fort/village in Brigand’s Bay. Calford was built near a river crossing and a navigable fjord, to control the local trade routes (which were heavily-traveled before the Green Death).

At sunset, Bird-Men were spotted circling far overhead (out of bow-shot). Soon afterwards, the alarm was sounded as Lizard-Men mounted on Giant Geckos scaled the walls of the hill-fort! The PCs joined the fray to defend Calford, but a second wave of Vhuurmis suddenly attacked from the opposite direction.

Vhuurmis, Bird-Man, and Lizard-Man

Vhuurmis, Bird-Man, and Lizard-Man

A vicious battle ensued, and the PCs joined in the defense of the village. Many brave heroes fell (and I got to try out the Mortal Wounds tables), but they managed to repel the first wave of attackers!

However, a third wave of reinforcements appeared (combined Vhuurmis and Lizard-Men). As his village fell to the beastmen, Chieftain Delmar called upon our heroes to ride forth and send news to Bjorn Skullcrusher – the local Brigand King in Türas Tem (Fort Türas) – of the attack.

As the PCs fled on horseback, they spotted the silhouette of human figure in the distance – a tall woman garbed in armour – conferring with a Vhuurmis, a Bird-Man, and a Lizard-Man…

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – Brigand’s Bay

Characters begin play in Brigand’s Bay. Here’s a general overview.

Mainland Hyperborea (Brigand's Bay)

This inlet is lined with the petty holdings of thieves, outlaws, and other villainous men. These holdings emerged at the end of the Dark Age. Each is its own fortress of some 500–1,000 individuals. Each is walled, is mounted with siege engines, and boasts two or more warships. The rulers fancy themselves dukes or kinglets, but the ruling elite of Khromarium scoff at such conceits.

Territorial disputes are bloody and frequent. History shews that single dukes have managed to assume authority of two or even three holdings, but such dominions scarcely endure, and never have all the holdings of Brigand’s Bay been united under one banner. Unscrupulous men of both Khromarium and Port Zangerios maintain business connexions with Brigand’s Bay, trafficking in all manner of stolen goods, illegal commodities, slaves, and so on. Racial diversity is the norm in Brigand’s Bay; hence, racial admixtures are quite common, with strains of Kelt, Viking, Pict, Kimmerian, and Esquimaux evidenced.

Brigand's Bay (Detail)

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – Tlak-Nakkan Witch

From the Hyperborean Gazetteer:


This deity is associated with spiders, death, poison, predation, murder, witchcraft, dreams, and fate. Tlakk-Nakka is an arachnid goddess reputed to beguile her followers into obeisance. She is said to manifest as an enormous spider with the head of crowned, raven-haired woman shewing jewel-black eyes. It is told that Tlakk-Nakka dwells within the impossible depths of Mount Vhuurmithadon, the treble-peaked dead volcano that rises from the epicentre of the Spiral Mountain Array. There she eternally weaves, taking her provender from that which finds itself ensnared in her webs, be it man, beast, dæmon, or god.

One of the PCs in my upcoming campaign is a Pict worshiper of Tlak-Nakka. The spider god is served by Witches (as per the ACKS Player’s Companion) with a custom Tradition (Totem Witch) and totem animal (Spider).

Hyperborea HR

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