Simplified Magic Reagents

Update: The final draft of the ACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook contains rules for “generic” reagents that I’ll use instead of the post below.

I really like the idea in ACKS of using monster parts as special components for creating magical items. The Lairs & Encounters (L&E) book even includes extensive tables for which monster bits correspond to each particular spells.

This is really neat in theory, but super fiddly in practice. The Pyromancer wants to create a magic item with burning hands? Better hope you can get some laga slag from an animated stone statue, or some hell hound teeth, or flame salamander ichor.

In my current Black City campaign, the PCs are using generalized magic reagents as special components for their magical trinkets. This loses a lot of flavour, but I like not having to track each special component individually.

I figure I can have it both ways – cool-sounding monster bits plus easy-to-use generic reagents… Alchemists will preserve their special components (in metamphora, introduced in L&E), but also distill them into generic magic reagents.

A fully proficient alchemist (e.g., three ranks in the Alchemy proficiency) can distill special components into generic magic reagents. These magic reagents can be used for the purpose of any magic research (kind of like Azoth from ACKS Dwimmermount).

In the Black City, magic reagents are only available from the Tolberts at a cost of four times their usable value (i.e., 10gp worth of magic reagents will cost you 40gp). The Elder Tolbert is a fully-proficient alchemist, if the PCs ever need his service.

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Black City Character Builder

I’ve updated my customized ACKS Character Builder spreadsheet for the Black City campaign:

You’ll need a version of Excel that can use slicers to use this spreadsheet. Input your name, culture (Norse of course), and ability scores. Next pick a class and template from the lists. It will generate a 2nd-lvl statblock for your character.

I’ve included most of the Black City class options and tried to adjust the templates to be culturally-appropriate. This tool even includes my custom classes and some of the new options from the upcoming ACKS Heroic Fantasy book. Note, too, I’ve also incorporated my own House Rules.

This spreadsheet is still in beta. Here are the known flaws:

  • Eldritch Ceremonies are not implemented; you’ll need to decide these on your own.
  • Similarly, none of the ceremonial classes come equipped with trinkets or magical components.
  • The Warmistress is really fiddly; I haven’t applied her bonuses for DEX and CHR.
  • I notice that I haven’t implemented my house rule for STR adjustments to thrown weapons.

This is an edited version of the “ACKS Simple Character Generator”, by Miguel Zapico. Full credits go to him.

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Hyperborean City Geomorphs

I wasn’t originally going to post this publicly, but several of you have expressed interest. A few years ago I swiped an excellent writeup by Rodger Burns on the Vaults of Pandius website (dedicated to the Mystaran gameworld). I was looking for a way to procedurally generate the urban ruins of an “alien” culture, and his post about Tslani ruins really fit the bill. I spent some time re-writing it from a Hyperborean perspective, for use in both the Black City campaign and my old Astonishing ACKS game.

As with most of my game stuff, this isn’t my original ideait’s a re-skin of somebody else’s work. You should check out the original writeup by Rodger Burns, or see his other Mystara material at the Vaults of Pandius.

Little doubt exists that the ancient cities of the Hyperborean peoples are the oldest in the world. However, the spiral towers of black gneiss that dominate both the Black City and Khromarium seem not to have been carved by human hands; neither were they intended to accommodate bipedalism, but rather something altogether inhuman.

Ancient cities of this type can be found throughout the Hyperborean mainland, with Khromarium being the most notable example. Hyperborean ruins can potentially be found in other worlds and places, however, such as the Black City of the Thule Archipelago of Old Earth. In many cases, only the subterranean under-levels still exist, with the surface structures reduced to rubble.

The Hyperboreans who fled Old Earth initially thought that their great capitol of Khromarium was lost. However, they quickly discovered that city – or at least some version of it – existed in their new realm as well. They also found other abandoned Hyperborean cities throughout the continent, but no trace of living inhabitants. Somehow, earlier Hyperborean peoples had managed to travel to this new realm and begun building their own civilization there.

Meanwhile, on Old Earth, human explorers eventually discovered the Hyperborean Black City amidst the retreating glaciers of Thule. They, too, found the city abandoned and have never managed to find any living Hyperboreans – something that troubles and discourages them. Either the Hyperboreans have left, possibly fleeing some terrible fate, or else they somehow managed to destroy themselves in a manner that left no traces of their downfall.

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Mi-Go in ACKS

Mi-Go sketch by Kurt Komoda

In the most recent Black City session, the Wolverines encountered Mi-Go for the first time. I had prepared ACKS stat blocks for the creatures, but misplaced them for the actual game and had to improvise. So I’m going to post their base stats here for future reference.

  • Special: Ultravision 60′, winged flight, space travel, immune to cold and vacuum, daze living creatures (as ensorcellement).

A “typical” Mi-Go has the following stats:

  • Mi-Go: MV 30′ (10′) / fly 180′ (60′), AC:6, HD:6+6* (hp 33), #AT4 or 1 (Base Atk 4+), D 1d4/1d4/1d4/1d4 or by weapon, Save M6, ML +3, XP 680

Note that Mi-Go are an extremely diverse species and most individuals will have special mutations, eldritch powers, surgical alterations, or technological artifacts.

They are treated as “summoned creatures” with respect to monster type.

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Further Inscriptions

Well I’ll be damned. A player figured out the Mysterious Inscriptions.

Congratulations! That was unexpected.

Here are some more, continuing from the first writings:

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The Wolverines are my current crop of PCs. They are Norsemen (plus a few Scots) exploring the Black City under the command of the Vengeful Lord Swayze.

The Vengeful Lord Swayze

The Wolverines are an unusual group of Vikings. Fierce adherents of the Old Faith, they have resisted all attempts at Christianization and claim to possess the wolverine’s great strength.

Needless to say, this strange group has been met with skepticism in Trade Town. Their friendships with the Tolberts of the Dark Spire does not improve their reputation, nor does the prevalence of magic-users among them.

Here is a link to their ACKS stat blocks:

These characters use the ACKS Heroic Companion, as well as my own house rules.

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Berserker chess piece, depicted as a warrior biting his shield.

Many of the characters in my Black City campaign are Viking warriors with the Berserkergang proficiency. Since a number of the players are new to ACKS, I thought I’d describe how this fighting style works – as well as provide some background info on historical berserkers.

Here’s the proficiency description (ACKS Core Rules, p.59):

Berserkergang: The character may enter a berserker rage. While enraged, he gains a +2 bonus to attack throws and becomes immune to fear. However, the character has a -2 penalty to AC and cannot retreat from combat. Once it has begun, a berserker rage cannot be ended until combat ends.

It’s pretty straightforward. I think in-play I’ll use sticky notes with “BERSERK!” written on them to designate berserk PCs.

(We also have one character – the Vengeful Lord Swayze – who picked the “Berserker” class from the ACKS Heroic Companion. He has the option to enter a greater berserkergang, which provides damage reduction against non-magical attacks.)

If you have a chance, you should take a look at the Berserker Wikipedia entry. It has info on Bear Warriors, Úlfhéðnar (Wolf Warriors), and Svinfylking (Boar Warriors). Of course, my players had to be different and selected the Wolverine as their totem animal. (I guess that would make them “Jervkriger” or something similar.)

I’m setting my campaign in the year 1015 CE. One interesting tidbit – in that year, Jarl Eiríkr Hákonarson of Norway outlawed berserkers. Perhaps this is one reason why the PCs have ventured to THULE this year?

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