Astonishing ACKS

I’m calling my current gaming obsession Astonishing ACKS. It’s an old-school mashup RPG 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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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!

Hyperborea HR

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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.

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – House Rules for Thievery Skills

I’ve posted a few thief-type classes lately and have been thinking about Thievery Skills. There’s suggestions for house rules over at the Autarch forums. In one post from 2011, Alex noted:

One of the legacies of ACKS is that thief abilities use a per-level throw value while other proficiencies have throw values that are flat and increase by +4 when additional ranks are taken.

The result of this legacy rule is that thief abilities are notoriously unreliable at early levels; and by the time their abilities become reliable, thieves find themselves lackluster in comparison to spellcasters who can cast Find Traps, Knock, and Telekinesis.

More recently, Beragon suggested the following house rules to help mitigate this concern:

Open Locks: Codify the complexity of a lock and assume that the number on the thieves’ skill chart is applied against a high quality lock.
    Common lock: +8
    Good quality lock: +4
    High quality lock: +0

Find Traps: Make this skill operate passively. If actively searching, the character gains a +6 bonus (this is modeled after the keen eyes ability of elves). Essentially, a thief gets up to two chances to find a trap… a passive chance (rolled by the Judge) and an active chance (if the player declares a search).

Remove Traps: Codify the complexity of the trap and assume that the number on the thieves’ skill chart is applied against a very complex trap.
    Basic Trap: +8
    Tricky Trap: +4
    Difficult Trap: +0

Pick Pockets: Allow a thief the option to attempt to snatch an object out of another’s possession without regard to being noticed (i.e. the lowly act of grabbing an old lady’s purse) at a +4 bonus.

Move Silently, Climb Walls: If a thief keeps his encumbrance low – 3 stones or less – he gains a +4 and +2 bonus on these proficiency throws respectively.

Hide in Shadows: If the thief’s clothing blends in with his environment (most common = dark clothes when in dark or shadowy conditions), he gets a +4 bonus to Hide in Shadows.

Hear Noise: No change.

As moorcrys notes, these rules give the thief additional agency without re-writing the class or the rules.

After struggling with thief characters in other old-school games, I’m planning on incorporating these house rules in my (still hypothetical) Astonishing ACKS campaign.

Hyperborea HR

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Bakshi Spider-Man Art

I’ve picked a selection of retro Spider-Man art for my header image. The 1967 animated series was jointly produced in Canada and the US and was on heavy rotation from CTV when I grew up. Ralph Bakshi was in charge for the second and third seasons, and he added a distinct psychedelic twist to the show (despite low budgets and poor production values).

The background images – especially the watercolour skies – are how I view Hyperborea.

Dementia 5

Episodes which evoke a Hyperborean feel include Menace From the Bottom of the World, Spider-Man Battles the Molemen, Phantom From the Depths of Time, The Evil Sorcerer, Vine, Neptune’s Nose Cone, and (the classic) Revolt in the Fifth Dimension. (Footage from these episodes was re-used in rather shoddy third season, and some scenes were shared with Rocket Robin Hood.)

Keep it weird, my friends!

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – Delver Class

DelverA delver class for human characters. (Adapted from the ACKS Dwarven Delver)

HD 1 (d6), Fighting 1a, Thievery 2.

Base XP: 500 + 500 + 400 = 1400 for 2nd level.

2 Fighting Styles: Two-weapon style; two-handed weapons.
Broad Weapon Selection: One-handed melee weapons, all missile weapons.
Narrow Armour Selection: Leather armour or lighter (no shields).
Thievery Skills: Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Hear Noises, Find Traps, Backstab.

Maximum Level: 14th.
Prime Requisite: Dexterity.
Requirements: DEX 12.
Proficiencies: As Dwarven Delver; plus Climbing; minus Engineering, Goblin-Slaying, Mountaineering, and Siege Engineering.
Attack Throws: As Thief.
Saving Throws: As Thief.
Magic Items: As Thief.
Stronghold: Hideout (as Thief).

Character Class Templates: As Dwarven Delver, except replace Mountaineer with Caver (Climbing & Caving proficiencies instead of Mountaineering & Endurance).

Hyperborea HR

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Astonishing ACKS – Shield-Maiden Class

ShieldmaidenThe Valkyrie class from Wandering Gamist makes a great template for an Amazonian Shield-Maiden. Apply the following tweaks:

HD 1 (d6), Fighting 2 (4 trade-offs), Divine 1 (½ Cleric).

Base XP: 500 + 1000 (+ 600) + 250 = 2350 for 2nd level.

2 Fighting Styles: Two-weapon style; weapon & shield.
Broad Weapon Selection: Any axes, flails, hammers, & maces; any swords daggers, spears, and polearms.
Broad Armour Selection: Chain armour or lighter (shields allowed).
Custom Powers: Battle Reflexes (Animal Reflexes), Fighting Style (Shield), Ianna’s Blessing (Divine Blessing), & Resilient (Savage Resilience) @ 1st; Battlefield Prowess @ 5th. Damage bonus in melee only.

Maximum Level: 14th.
Prime Requisite: Strength.
Requirements: Amazonian female; STR & WIS 12 or more.
Proficiencies: As Valkyrie; minus Elven Bloodline, plus Wakefulness.
Attack Throws: As Fighter.
Saving Throws: As Fighter.
Magic Items: As Fighter.
Stronghold: Aerie (as Fighter).

Divine Spells: As Valkyrie; use my Divine 1 Progression and note that the Amazon Shield-Maiden can Turn Undead as a cleric of ½ her class level.

Hyperborea HR

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