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.

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Astonishing ACKS – Armoured Caster House Rule

I think I’m going to soften my stance on human arcane casters in armour. How does this sound…

  • A human magic-user with unrestricted armour selection may cast arcane spells while wearing non-metallic scale or hide armour (AC 3 max).
  • A human magic-user with a broad armour selection may cast arcane spells while wearing leather armour (or equivalent; AC 2 max).
  • A human magic-user with narrow armour selection may cast arcane spells while wearing hide & fur (or equivalent; AC 1). (Probably “soft leather” or “cloth” armour.)

Under no circumstances can a human caster wield arcane magic while wearing metal armour. A shield also interferes with arcane casting (but can be dropped or stowed pretty easily).

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René Laloux Art

Sea-Blood ChildHere’s a Sea Blood child, probably found by the PCs after they’ve wiped out a Dagon cult.

(It’s actually from Fantastic Planet – French: La Planète sauvage – a 1973 animated science fiction film directed by René Laloux.)

Keep it weird, my friends!

Hyperborea HR

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Gatekeepers in Astonishing ACKS

EberronI was moving some old gaming books this week when I came across my Eberron hardcover. Back in my 3e days I played in a short Eberron campaign and liked some of the ideas (particularly changelings, shifters, and the artificer class).

I stumbled on this description for the Gatekeeper druidic sect:

The Gatekeepers are a druidic sect dedicated to keeping Eberron free of “unnatural” external influences, and this order has battled extraplanar invasions and aberrations for centuries.

These druids maintain old wards cattered around the region, seals that hold the daelkyr and other ancient powers in check. They also watch the skies for deadly planar convergences.

Okay; so that’s pretty cool – a druidic sect devoted to fighting otherworldy horrors. I’d like to swipe this for Hyperborea.

In Astonishing ACKS, the Gatekeeper sect works much the same way as described for Eberron, but against much longer odds. I already wrote up a version of the Ranger class with an appropriate special ability; here it is statted up as an ACKS proficiency:

Otherworldly Enemies: Trained by the druidic Gatekeepers, the character is furnished with the terrible knowledge of alien species and the nameless horrors they represent. Through the instruction he is provided the most effective means of harming them.

The character receives +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.

Gatekeepers would make a good “heroic” affiliation for PCs in Hyperborea. I might do a new class writeup for Druids, and will add Otherworldy Enemies to the Bard proficiency list. (Rangers are trained by the Gatekeepers, and some Bards are also affiliated.)

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Stephen Fabian Art

I’ve spent the last hour checking out Stephen Fabian on the web. This guy’s a genius; I’ve seen a lot of his stuff over the years but never realized that it was all from the same artist.

Here’s an incredible pic:


Affiliation paladin on her flying cyborg mount? Amazonian eagle-rider from the Floating Island of Paradoxon? Who cares – she’s awesome.

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More Bakshi Art

Here’s another piece of psychedelic Bakshi art suitable for Hyperborea. This time, it’s a pair of Nazgul from the 1978 animated Lord of the Rings:

Bakshi Beastmen #1

I’m not quite certain how I’d use these dudes in Hyperborea; maybe swine-demon orcs?

Keep it weird, my friends!

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Vhuurmis in Astonishing ACKS

I posted a while back on the Hyperborea Boards about Vhuurmis and Ape-Men. As presented in AS&H, I don’t see much difference between the two species, and I asked whether Ape-Men and Vhuurmis were redundant.

There were several good responses, and Blackadder23 made an excellent point:

I see the difference as this. Vhuurmis are apish creatures that once ruled Hyperborea and were this close to becoming true men. Then the Hyperboreans came and drove them into the darkness, where the Vhuurmis degenerated back into sheer savagery. But they still have some ancestral memory and resentment of their lost status, and hate mankind for it.

Ape-men, on the other hand, are apes who aspire to one day become men, or at least to mock men. Almost the opposite of Vhuurmis, really.

I really like that idea. It’s enough to keep the two monsters separate in theme. However, I want them to look different – and the Vhuurmis still appear too simian for me. So for Astonishing ACKS, I’m going to use the Yog-Blogsoth imagery for my Vhuurmis:

Yog-Blogsoth Vhuurmis

I’d further differentiate the Vhuurmis by declaring them sexually incompatible with humans. While Ape-Men hybrids do exist, there are no “Half-Vhuurmis” in my Hyperborea. Also, the number of fingers and toes that a Vhuurmis possesses is highly variable.

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