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1/31/2013

A Twofer Review: ACKS & The Teratic Tome

So yesterday was doubleplusgood for Gorgonmilk -- I received my physical copies of both The Adventurer Conqueror King System and Rafael Chandler's manual of monsters, The Teratic Tome. Both books are beautifully designed. 

I wasn't sure what to expect from Lulu -- most of my purchases from them have been in softcover versions -- but The Teratic Tome (hereafter referred to as TTT) was a pleasant surprise. The gloss of the cover is a bit higher than TSR's 1st Ed Monster Manuals (or maybe that's just because mine are a tad scuffy) but Chandler has done a fantastic job of mimicking the style of the original MMs, from the fonts to the layout to that nice gradient on the back.

The contents of TTT are an unusually infectious array of nightmare creatures. "Body horror" is a prevalent theme throughout the book's 100+ pages. Many of these beasties would like nothing more than to climb inside your guts and set up shop in your meat. If that sounds too gross for your home game, then TTT may not be for you. And while I'm being helpful: If the sight of lots of pendulous breasts and the occasional monstro-gina fills your heart with dread, then you may want to pass on TTT. Cus it's lavishly illustrated with some great b/w renderings.

I should point out that this book is OSRIC/1E compatible and has all the handy tables that you might expect in the back.

Would I use many of these creatures at my table? I'm usually a pretty hard sell on monster books. Too often they're a rehash or retouch of the classic beast-types that make up D&D's (monst)rogues gallery. But it's difficult to aim that criticism at TTT -- most of the monsters here are just fucking weird in that creepy Stair Stalker kinda way, if you catch my drift. At times there's a dream-like substance to Chandler's descriptions that seem to suggest that some of these monsters may have crept out of his unconscious. And comparisons to Lovecraft are not without cause (take a gander at the Vomitorian on pages 108-109).

TTT is a fun book, best enjoyed by those with a taste for fantasy-horror a la Carcosa. I look forward to more such things from Mr Chandler and the old school community in general.

Would you believe that my gf and I have actually had heated debates over descending AC? Me, on one side, insisting that descending AC is "not that hard to grock." Her, on the other side, insisting that descending AC is "counter-intuitive." Not only this! But! She hates THAC0. Aye. And she finds to-hit tables to be tedious. Tedious.

It took me a while to mentally digest all this. I like gaming with the gf, you see. She's a lot of fun. And I realized that I had no loyalty to any particular game mechanic as long as the whole machine could do what I want it to do.

I looked into ACKS and was pleasantly surprised by the game's clarity and comprehensive approach to the adventurer-as-careerist. In short, I dig it. And it's a nice compromise with the gf -- ascending AC and an extremely intuitive bit they call the Attack Throw.

The design/layout of ACKS is also quite exceptional and reader-friendly. System-wise we're in the borderlands between B/X, the Rules Cyclopedia, and more modern iterations of the D&D (but with none of that "character-building" meta- meta- time-sink that makes Gorgonmilk's brain blister with nerd-rage). I would go so far as to say that ACKS is the finest example of rules simulacra generated by the OSR thus far. It does everything I want my D&D to do.

Negatives: I wasn't all that hot on the Auran Empire stuff that is ACKS' de facto setting. It doesn't mar the book one iota, but it doesn't really add anything for me. Thankfully the space devoted to it is pretty minimal. And like all that Greyhawkery that's crept into core D&D books over the years, I am free to ignore it without feeling that I've missed something vital.

8 comments:

  1. Another excellent header, GG.

    Are you on G+?

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    1. Thanks! and not yet. I'm still getting over my breakup with Facebook.

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  2. Ditto on the new header!

    I got the ACKS PDF a few days ago. The new house rules are really quite good, and I agree that it just might be the best retro-rehash yet. Although I admit I'm not into the "campaign classes", etc. I might pilfer the attack throw system for my next campaign.

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    1. Thanks, Bob! I'm a bit iffy on the campaign classes, as well, but I like that the way ACKS has kept them distinct from the classic core classes. At the very least, they make good examples of DIY class constructs within the ACKS.

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  3. Hey, thanks for the review! I'm quite grateful. Also, I'm going to use "monstro-gina" in the next conversation that I have.

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    1. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much monstro-gina can creep into the average conversation.

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    2. I want to use "monstro-gina" in the course of saying "thanks for the review" but this is the best I can do.

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    3. My dentist was not amused. Oh well!

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