A place for random posts about painting and modelling miniatures for historical, fantasy, and science fiction tabletop games.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Classic D&D + The Known World vs. Adventurer, Conqueror, King + Auran Empire


Mystara is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game. Following Greyhawk and Blackmoor, It was the third official campaign setting for what was coined the "Basic" version of the game.

It originated as the Known World, a semi-generic setting used in early adventure modules, first mentioned in the Module X1, Isle of Dread, which was expanded upon by several semi-independent projects by different teams of writers who were each assigned to the task of developing different cultures and nations that would exist in the fantasy world that was supported by Dungeons & Dragons at the time. Their work was gathered and compiled, blended, and combined to form a fantasy world, Mystara.

The Birth of Known World 81

A couple of years ago I finally got my hands on a copy of the 1981 "Basic" D&D game, the 1982 “Expert” D&D Game and the blue cover of the X1 Isle of Dread. While pursuing these books I had a thought.

How would a modern day DM run a campaign using just the materials that were available in 1982?

I got a list of everything a DM would have accessed to and then I built-up a campaign world out of it.

  • ·        1981 "Basic" D&D game
  •       1982 “Expert” D&D Game
  • ·         B4 - Lost City
  • ·         X1 - Isle of Dread

Using just the information in these publications I created what I initially called “Known World 81” and created an adventuring campaign for it. My gaming group played for over a year in this world and much fun was had. I am planning on running a new campaign in the same world 50 years later as a generational campaign with some of my players playing descendants of their original characters.
 There is more information first campaign on the Dragonsfoot Forum, where I posted an adventure journal.

 This time around I have updated the campaign and the setting. I am going to be running it using the Adventurer, Conqueror, King (ACK) Rule System. I have also taken parts of the default setting for ACK and merged it into my campaign.

What is Adventurer, Conqueror, King (ACK) Rule System?

ACK is one of the slews of RPGs that has been spawned out of the Old School Renaissance (OSR) movement of gaming. At its most base, the OSR movement is the fan-based movement to recapture the feel of the older versions of D&D by publishing new rulesets and adventures by “cloning” older rulesets. 

With all things this is good and bad, the sheer output from the community is staggering, with some exceptional writing, some utter dog turds, and sheer money grabbing/band wagoning. ACK is considered to be a neo-clone of the classic “Basic” D&D game that was published parallel to Advanced D&D back in the day.

What made ACK standout from the rest?   

For one thing it does not read or feel like a Retro-Clone or a Neo-Clone ruleset.  It does not try to mimic the older games. The best way I can describe it is as follows.

What 5th Edition D&D is to Advanced D&D, ACK is to Basic D&D. ACK reads and plays like a new edition of the classic original D&D.

The little diagram below is how I see ACK as a rule set; it is the next iteration of the tradition of the classic D&D game that I played as a kid. It still has some of the hallmarks of the earlier versions of the game, but presents them in a new and/or interesting way.

Original D&D (Gygax/Arneson) -> B/X D&D (Moldvay/Cook) -> BECMI D&D (Mentzer) -> Rules Cyclopedia D&D (Heard/Allison) -> ACK

One of the things that has really set it apart it from other games, is the fact it is the races, classes, arms, magic and monsters are not all tied to the traditional middle/high medieval fantasy like so many other games. Instead the game is steeped in late antiquity, the age of dying empires and barbarian hordes.  The default world is known as the Auran Empire and the thought and detail that has gone into it is amazing.

Can it be used in a traditional high fantasy setting like Greyhawk or Forgotten realms? Sure, not a problem. A lot of people dislike or disapprove of having default settings in RPG’s. Who wants to run some wankers idealized version of Greyhawk or circle-jerk fanboy version of Forgotten Realms? Not many I would think.

Auran Empire vs. Known World 81

As part of a recent Kickstarter, the creators of ACK are putting out an Auran Empire Primer, which provides more details about the campaign world that is alluded to in the core rule book and companion book. As a backer I got a draft copy of it (Still Waiting for the Finalized Version). 

After reading it and then going back and looking back at my own Known World 81 I was amazed at how similar our two worlds are. Instead of Auran Empire I had the Thracian Empire and on and on. Even the timelines for our two worlds bore similarities.  Needless to say I have begun to merge many element from the ACK defaulting into my own campaign.