|Adventurer Conqueror King|
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Adventurer Conqueror King is a clone of Dungeons and Dragons and utilizes the open game license (OGL 1.0) of Wizards of the Coast. While not fully a retro-clone, having more advanced features such as proficiencies (likely borrowed from D&D 3e or 4e?) and not entirely neo-clone with a semi-independent (ascending type) combat system, it’s hard to relate where ACKs fits in the scope of other clones.
About the only reason to compare it as such, is to guess whether the OSR and fantasy gaming consumer is interested, or at least why they might be interested. To the OSR and old school customer base I would say that this RPG certainly has bits and parts of old school familiarity, which the OGL affords it, but it is also… Perhaps and certainly more so mechanically, a bit of a D&D mash. In that regard, I’m on the fence whether the game appeals to the old guard.
Not in question is that the gem of this product is the campaign chapter. ACKs provides an interesting continuation of somewhat subtle idea. The framework of what was started (if I’m remembering this correctly at any rate) by AD&D nearly four decades ago: the push for adventure beyond the dungeon crawl. Otherwise known as Duh! A Campaign! The framework which is found in the Strongholds and Domains section is very well done. Anyone who has ran a campaign knows that with survival comes player character influence (even fame) and while the final idea is that the player characters will build and maintain strongholds and domains, game designers have rarely provided a serviceable framework for this gameable idea. Even if you’re not in the market for an entirely new D&D system, the framework in ACKs can be modified to most systems with a little finesse. Personally, this chapter alone turns this product into something I would buy and recommend to others.
In ACKs character Levels cap out at 14th level. There are the traditional four: fighter, cleric, mage and thief as well as several campaign classes. The campaign classes are the Assassin, Bard, Blade Dancer who are human women who serve the god of war, think Amazon Women etc., the Explorer which is much a ranger, Dwarven Vaultguard, Dwarven Craftpriest, Elvin Spellsword and Elvin Nightblade. All and all a basic mix of magic or advanced fighting/thief capabilities in regards to demi-human races. No halflings, gnomes or half elves (thank you, said some people).
Character Alignment is pretty much straight out of OD&D and applies the same way as most retro-clones; Law, Neutrality & Chaos. An interesting choice was to do away with memorization/preparation for spell magic. Casters need only rest themselves for eight hours before being able to restore their spell repertoire. I’ve house ruled this way for most of my fantasy RPGs a long time.
The production value of ACKs, art, tables and layout is respectable. For the PDF of the core book each chapter has a number of hyperlinked pages which you can click and arrive at your chosen destination rather than scrolling through or typing in the page number. This feature is present in the table of contents as well as the index. Both sections have been meticulously detailed and encourage use. The hyperlinked pages are certainly a feature I wish more publishers would take advantage of. One can only hope those publishers are reading this column!
As I said, Adventurer Conqueror King (system) s is a bit of a D&D mash up. It seems as if the creator borrowed their favorite elements from the different editions of D&D and made an RPG stew of sorts. Some people like stew, while others won’t get near it. The combat system isn’t too difficult to get the gist, but I think most old school gamers would have preferred the standard ascending or descending armor class (AC) system. As I mentioned, the campaign chapter is really well done, expanding the idea of a valuable concept and creating a respectable framework in making it gameable. Keeping with our stew analogy, this is the ingredient that I think most gamers will love.