Astonishing ACKS!

I’m calling my current campaign 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.

To learn more about the campaign, use the menus at top and right (on the desktop view) or click on the following links:

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Revisionist Theology – Mjölnir

I’ve been running my Astonishing ACKS campaign for a few years now. I’m pretty happy with how things are going, and am glad that I’ve archived a lot of my thoughts on this gameblog, but there are a few things now that I wish I could go back and change…

One thing that I’ve wrestled with is how to represent Hyperborean gods using the ACKS rules. In some cases, I took the lazy route – swiping the deities from the ACKS Auran Campaign and dropping them directly in Hyperborea. This is how Türas – Auran god of justice & valour – ended up being conflated with Thor.

If I could go back, I’d like to replace Türas with Mjölnir in my campaign…

Hyperborea HR

Cleric of Mjölnir


Thor fell in battle during Ragnarok, and is no longer worshiped by the Skandiks of Hyperborea. However, the legendary hammer Mjölnir was retrieved by his sons Móði and Magni. They now wield it against the otherworldly enemies threatening humanity.

Clerics of Mjölnir seek to emulate Móði, Magni, and the fallen Thor. Devotion to this faith is strongly discouraged in Vikland itself, but is preserved on the remote island of Thur and has recently become popular in New Vinland and Brigand’s Bay.

Requirements: WIS 9+, STR 12+. Lawful or neutral alignment.
Custom Weapon Selection: Axes; swords/daggers; club, spear, warhammer. (“Narrow” weapon selection, plus one tradeoff for Broad Armour.)
Broad Armour Selection: Chain armour or lighter (including shields).
Two Fighting Styles: Weapon & shield, two-handed weapons.
Proficiencies: As Cleric; minus Righteous Turning, plus Endurance.

Granted Powers: Clerics of Mjölnir cannot Turn Undead. Instead, they are granted the following benefits:

  • Brute Strength: The Cleric of Mjölnir receives a +4 bonus on throws to open doors and similar acts of brute strength. (This is equivalent to the Dungeon Bashing proficiency.)
  • Otherworldly Enemies: The sons of Thor wield Mjölnir against eldritch horrors. Clerics receive +1 on attack throws against aboleths, crab-men, elder things, fish-men, the Great Race, mi-go, night-gaunts, spore-men, and tentacular horrors. At level 7, this bonus increases to +2, and at level 13 it increases to +3.

Spell List: Clerics of Mjölnir are Divine 2 casters with the following spell list:

Türas Spell List

Hyperborea HR

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Ysabel of Jörmungandr

In my earlier Stone of Sakkara game, I threatened the PCs with rival adventuring parties; specifically, the “Five Delvers” and the “Seekers”. Whenever the PCs left booty behind, they would return to find it looted by these enterprising competitors.

Now that the Murderhobos are based in Khromarium, they are again facing rivals in their delves. I re-used the Seekers (as recurring villains) and last session they finally met up with the PCs inside the dungeon.

Murderhoboism ensued and the Seekers were defeated – except for their leader, named Ysabel, who managed to escape. She’s gained a level now, and I’ve redone her stat block in Astonishing ACKS style…

ysabelYsabel was raised in the Skandik capital of Eriksgaard, but always felt different from others. Perhaps it was her keen intellect and compelling allure. Or maybe it was her snake-like eyes.

As a young woman, Ysabel decided to take a gap year to “find herself” in mainland Hyperborea. Landing in Brigand’s Bay, she caught the interest of cultists of Jörmungandr who recognized her as being “touched” by their god.

Inducted into their ranks, Ysabel found her true calling and rose quickly in power as a Cleric of the Midgard Serpent. She became obsessed with seeking out ruins and lore related to the ancient Serpent-Men, and formed an adventuring party (the Seekers) to support this cause.

Called by the Sinister Stone, Ysabel’s quest eventually led her to Türas Tem. Unfortunately, a group of ruthless brigands (the Murderhobos) were already active in the dungeon there. The fools thoughtlessly destroyed the ancient relic found therein, and Ysabel swore vengeance against them.

Ysabel was in Khromarium the following year, and heard a rumour that a group of “Murderhobos” had discovered an ancient Hyperborean facility. Paying off the guide who had led them to the site, Ysabel set out to the dungeon with her Seekers…

Character: Ysabel, 6th-lvl Skandik Cleric of Jörmungandr
Stats: STR:9 (+0), INT:16 (+2), WIS:13 (+1), DEX:12 (+0), CON:11 (+0), CHR:17 (+2)
Saves: Petrification&Paralysis:10, Poison&Death:7, Blast&Breath:13, Staffs&Wands:10, Spells:12
Combat: AC:5, HD:6d6 (24hp), Initiative +1, Base Atk 8+, Movement:90′ (30′)
Attacks: Mace (2H) (7+,1d8+1), Dagger (8+,1d4+poison), Dagger (thrown) (8+,1d4+poison)
Class Features: Ambushing (+4 Atk, ×2 dmg on surprise), Familiar (viper; bonus Battle Magic proficiency), Cast Divine Spells, Magical Research (minor)
Proficiencies: Snake Blood (infravision 15′), Combat Reflexes, Leadership, Seduction, Theology, Knowledge (Ophidian Lore)
Equipment: Chain mail (+1), marble-headed mace with cuneiform inscriptions (+1), dagger (coated with viper poison), silver unholy symbol of Jörmungandr, backpack (mirror, tinderbox, 6 torches, 2 small sacks, 1 weeks’ iron rations, waterskin), ring of invisibility, scroll (Cure Light Wounds, Resist Fire, & Cure Disease)
Encumbrance: 5½ stone; MV 90′ (30′) [encumbrance thresholds 5/8/10/20]
Divine Spells: 1st-lvl (2/day) – Command Word, Darkness, Spider Climb
  2nd-lvl (2/day) – Choking Grip, Hold Person, Silence (15′ radius)
  3rd lvl (1/day) – Hypnotic Pattern
Actions: Open Doors (18+), Detect Secret Doors (18+), Hear Noise (18+), Find Traps (18+)
Languages: Common, Skandik, Hellenic, Parseltongue [Literate]

Snake Totem: Viper; MV 90′, AC3, HD3 (hp 12), #AT1, D1d6+poison (death after 1d4+2 turns), always has initiative, Save C3 [Bonus proficiency: Battle Magic]

Hyperborea HR

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Hedge Wizards & Village Wisdom

frog_woodcutThe A quick post while I prep for tonight’s game… Autarch’s Patreon program releases monthly playtest documents (which are subsequently bundled into the Axioms releases). The latest one is entitled Hedge Wizardry and Village Wisdom and details cantrips and other minor magics.

It’s a neat implementation of folk traditions that fleshes out “peasant magic”. Not much of it really affects adventuring PCs, but I can see a few minor house rules that I might implement:

  • Antiquarian Tradition: Replace the 1st-lvl Antiquarian Witch “Healing” bonus proficiency with “Village Wisdom”.
  • Mages & Cantrips: Mages in Astonishing ACKS have the Overcasting special ability (from Axioms #1). Characters may substitute Hedge Wizardry, if they wish, to represent spellcasters from more humble backgrounds.
  • Dabblers in the Art: In Astonishing ACKS Hedge Wizardry may be selected as a class proficiency by Mages (including all subclasses), Thieves, Assassins, Warlocks, Xathoqquans, Bards/Skalds, and Spellfilches. Village Wisdom may be selected as a class proficiency by Clerics (including all subclasses), Beastlords, Monks, Valkyries/Shieldmaidens, Xathoqquans, and Purloiners.

If you haven’t already, you should check out the Autarch Patreon program and the already-published issues of Axioms.

Hyperborea HR

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Weapon Master Custom Class

Here’s a custom class that I put together a while back but forgot to post. The Weapon Master is a HD 1 / Fighting 3 variant who trades heavy armour and missile weapons for specialization with a favoured weapon.

  • Download: Weapon Master Class Description
  • Unlike some of my other custom classes, this one should work well in most campaign settings.

    Hyperborea HR


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    Ivgah, Ghoul-Blooded Necromancer

    (I statted up a Necromancer antagonist for my current adventure, but don’t think I’ll end up using him. So I’m posting Ivgah here instead, showcasing my Necromancer custom class and Hyperborean Ghouls.)

    Ivgah the Ghoul-Blooded

    Character: Ivgah, 8th-lvl Ghoul-Blooded Necromancer
    Stats: STR:9 (+0), INT:15 (+1), WIS:12 (+0), DEX:13 (+1), CON:11 (+0), CHR:5 (-2)
    Saves: Petrification&Paralysis:11, Poison&Death:11, Blast&Breath:13, Staffs&Wands:9, Spells:10
    Combat: AC:5, HD:8d4 (24hp), Initiative +1 (+2 spellcasting), Base Atk 8+, Movement:120′ (40′)
    Attacks: Dagger (6+,1d4+2); Dagger (thrown) (5+,1d4+2)
    Class Features: Cast Arcane Spells (Caster lvl 6th/necromancy 8th), Black Lore of Ix (control undead as 4th-lvl cleric, targets -2 to save vs. death), Inexorable (immune to fear), Dark Soul, Signature Spells, Magical Research (necromancy)
    Proficiencies: Ghoulish Blood (infravision 15′), Battle Magic, Collegiate Wizardry, Intimidation, Theology
    Equipment: Glowing dagger (+2), defensive bracers (AC 4), black tunic and pants, leather belt, leather gloves, high boots
    Encumbrance: 1 stone; MV 120′ (40′) [encumbrance thresholds 5/8/10/20]
    Other Gear: Flesh-bound spellbook (containing all spells in repertoire), 5 violet sapphires (100gp each), 4 elixers of longevity, iron box (steel vial containing gelatanous cube matter, vial of powdered mammoth bone, mummified bat wings)
    Arcane Spells: Signature Spells (each 1/day) – Choking Grip, Ray of Enfeeblement, Dismember, Animate Dead
      1st-lvl (4/day) – Animate Carrion, Choking Grip, Darkness, Detect Undead, Protection from Chaos, Shocking Grasp
      2nd-lvl (3/day) – Deathless Minion, Forest of Bones, Necromantic Potence, Ray of Enfeeblement, Uncanny Gyration
      3rd-lvl (2/day) – Dismember, Lightning Bolt, Slow, Speak with Dead
    Actions: Open Doors (18+), Detect Secret Doors (18+), Hear Noise (18+), Find Traps (18+)
    Languages: Common, Ixian, Pnathic [Literate]

    Hyperborea HR

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    Shazun Zhuu, Hyperborean Noble

    (I’ve run several Astonishing ACKS sessions online since my last adventure logs; here’s a recent addition to the party – a Hyperborean Noble restored from hibernation.)

    Shazun ZhuuA young scion of a lesser Hyperborean noble house, Shazun Zhuu showed sufficient promise as a courtier and fleshcrafter to advance in station. In time, she became a liaison on a secret research project for her family…

    …Or at least, that’s what she remembers. Days ago, Shazun was released from centuries of suspended hibernation by a motley crew of degenerate sub-men who refer to themselves as “Murderhobos”. Using her skills and wiles, she has managed to survive thus far in this strange new world.

    Now, reading through her personal spellbook, Shazun has come across passages that she cannot recall writing but scribed in her own hand. The last entry reads:

    “Despite the ministrations of the Fleshcrafters, I succumb to the Green Death. I am spawning a clone using the most recent pre-infection sample. Hopefully in rebirth I can forestall the Fall of Zhuu.”

    Character: Shazun Zhuu, 5th-lvl Hyperborean Noble (Clone)
    Stats: STR:13 (+1), INT:15 (+1), WIS:14 (+1), DEX:14 (+1), CON:13 (+1), CHR:15 (+1)
    Saves: Petrification&Paralysis:10, Poison&Death:10, Blast&Breath:13, Staffs&Wands:11, Spells:12
    Combat: AC:4, HD:5d6+5 (26hp), Initiative +1, Base Atk 8+, Movement:120′ (40′), Morale:??
    Attacks: Dagger (6+,1d4+1); Dagger (thrown) (7+,1d4+1)
    Racial Powers: Ancient Pacts, Uncanny Senses, Overcasting, Longevity, Hyperborean Tongues, Inhumanity (-1)
    Class Features: Cast Arcane Spells (Caster lvl 3rd), Classical Weapons Training (+1 Atk in melee), Inspire Courage (allies gain +1 Atk/dmg/morale)
    Proficiencies: Diplomacy, Eldritch Aura (as Mystic Aura), Magical Engineering, Sensing Power, Knowledge (Hyperborean lore ×2), Knowledge (genetics)
    Equipment: Noble’s dagger (with Zhuu crest), Hyperboran environmental suit (AC 2), fabristeel doublet (+1 AC), Hyperborean signet ring (House of Zhuu), flesh-bound spellbook (contains repertoire spells plus Mutate Breed and Accelerated Metabolism)
    Encumbrance: 2½ stone; MV 120′ (40′) [encumbrance thresholds 5/8/10/21]
    Arcane Spells: Overcasting capability as per Axioms Issue 1
      1st-lvl (2/day) – Charm Person, Flesh Shape, Unseen Servant
      2nd-lvl (1/day) – Clone Plant or Animal, Minimus Replication
    Actions: Open Doors (14+), Detect Secret Doors (8+/14+), Hear Noise (18+), Find Traps (18+)
    Languages: Hellenic, Hyperborean, Atlantean, R’leyhian, Pnathic [Literate, 1 empty slot]
    Experience: 19,600 XP (+5% bonus)
    Next level: 39,200 XP req’d for 6th

    Hyperborea HR

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    Operation Unfathomable

    Operation UnfathomableSo I got to run a session of Operation Unfathomable over Christmas. It was with a group of Pathfinder players in Edmonton who wanted to try the “old-school”. And I wanted to try the tournament version of Operation Unfathomable (from Knockspell #5), supplemented with the backer draft of the Kickstarter product. It ended up being a bit of a gong show – which, of course, was entirely the point.

    hr-drips-flip Continue reading

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