Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Review Of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters book For Use With Your Old School Campaigns

There are times when I need to know facts about monsters such as background, where the monster is dwelling, how long the horror has been in its location, the social background of the beast, are there others of its species within a certain number of square miles, & more. All of this material sometimes needs to be joined together in a concise & coherent way. Well that's where Adventurer Conqueror King System: Lairs & Encounters comes in. This book breaks down all of these details & more. This book continues the high caliber standard set by the other Autarch titles. The physical book isn't out quite yet but the pdf sells for around ten dollars. Everything in this book is geared toward creating monsters that can deal with PC's on an even footing & then come back for more.

Some of the highlights of this include the following:
  • More than 135 ready-to-play monstrous lairs - that's at least one lair listing for every possible monster lair mentioned in the Adventurer Conqueror King System. The lair listings are designed to be used both as domain and adventure plot points that can be shaped to the adventures that DM wants to run.
  • New subsystems for sandbox play, including rules for populating 6-mile hexes with lairs based on the terrain and extent of settlements in the region, and rules for searching for lairs in the wilderness factoring in terrain density, aerial reconnaissance, splitting up to cover more ground (never split the party!), and these are one of my favorite bits of Lairs & Encounters.
  • Additional mechanics for monsters, including ability scores for monsters, proficiencies for monsters, and young monsters. This takes the monster from simple hazard & a quick encounter to a fully fleshed out NPC. This ties in with the Taming & Training rules which hits & then paves the way for fully fleshed out pets. The system ups the anty for  taming and training monsters, complete system details  on the lifespan, roles, tricks, trained and untrained value, supply cost, training period, and the trainability modifier of every monster in the game.  All of this means simply that monsters, animals, pets, even live stock have a fair market value. Another addition to the dungeon that gives players even more trimmings to add to the PC in, out of, and as a part of the dungeon.
  • These are pretty well done a complete system for creating your own unique we bring our same rigorous attention to details, customization, hacking of  traditional D&D style monsters for the dungeon and the wilderness as well as urban materials. 
There are samples throughout the book presenting the types of details on monsters that I haven't seen since the days of the 'ecology of' Dragon magazine articles. There are samples of monster lairs and the details that go with them. There are lots of uses for all of this material and I have to say that it back ties into the Adventurer, Conqueror, King main rule book. This is a welcome and wise decision to the DM who wants to bring the monster goodness to their tables. 
Here's a good example of the level of detail that I'm talking about that appears in the Lairs & Encounters book:"
A fortified camp, with barracks, tents, and a large command pavilion, surrounded by a log palisade, is home to renegade mercenaries from the Company of the Black Thorn. They survive by raiding towns and robbing caravans and travelers. 
Cartography by Simon Forster
Cartography by Simon Forster
There are 100 Brigands (AC 3, Move 120’, HD 1, hp 5 each, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg by weapon, Save F1, ML +1, AL C) equipped with leather armor, shield, sword, and shortbow, and another 100 mounted Brigands (AC 5, Move 120’, HD 1, hp 5 each, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg by weapon, Save F1, ML 0, AL C) with chain mail, shield, sword, and riding horses.
They are led by Inthorn, their captain (AC 7, Move 60’, F9, hp 45, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg by weapon +6, Save F9, ML 0, AL L/C), equipped with spear +2, sword +2, plate armor, shield, and a plate-barded medium warhorse. He wears a red-plumed bronze helm of alignment change, which has turned him chaotic and led to his band going rogue, as well as a dragon-hide sword belt studded with hematite (900gp) and a wrought gold necklace set with thorn-shaped hematite (1,200gp).
Inthorn keeps a war-chest of 7,000gp, which is about one month’s operating expenses for the band. In a small locked coffer, trapped with a poison needle, he keeps 7 bloodstones (50gp each), 5 amethysts (100gp each), 6 amber (100gp each), 3 topaz (500gp each), and 1 sapphire (1000gp each). He keeps 3 wrought gold goblets (700gp), a gold decanter (800gp), and gold bowl (500gp) in the command tent.
Inthorn has 4 lieutenants (AC 6, Move 60’, F5, hp 25 each, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg by weapon +2, Save F5, ML 0), 5 sergeants (AC 6, Move 60’, F4, hp 20 each, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg by weapon +2, Save F4, ML 0, AL C), and 10 corporals (AC 6, F2, hp 10 each, Move 60’, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg by weapon +1, Save F2, ML 0, AL C), all equipped with plate armor, sword, lance, and warhorse.
Accompanying the mercenaries-turned-brigands is Dairin, a powerful chaotic wizard (AC 0, Move 120’, M11, hp 22, #AT 1 weapon or spell, Dmg by weapon or spell, Save M11, ML 0, AL C). Dairin wears elven cloak and boots and carries a wand of enemy detection (20 charges) and a scroll of cloudkill and conjure elemental. His spellbook has the following spells: burning hands, charm person, detect magic, magic missile, shield, sleep; detect invisibility, invisibility, knock, mirror image, web; dispel magic, fireball, fly, invisibility 10’ radius, protection from normal missiles; conjure elemental, cloudkill; death spell
Inthorn’s new lover is Olyma, a priestess of Nasga (AC 8, Move 90’, C8, hp 28, #AT 1 weapon or spell, Dmg by weapon or spell, Save C8, ML 0, AL C). Olyma is equipped with polished black plate armor +1, a whip, a spiked mace, a shield, an unholy symbol (a silver statuette of a bat-winged woman with a whip), and a potion of poison. She wears a pair of engraved silver armlets (600gp each) and a platinum tiara set with a ruby (1,300gp)." Needless to say that this sort of work is scattered across the board in Lairs & Encounters. This makes Lairs & Encounters a monster path book, that is not simply a source book but a source book that creates within its wake a way of detailing a monster as much as the setting within the context of an adventure or campaign.

Where ACK's is designed expressly for the purpose of providing interesting domain-level play, putting the "game" back into the endgame; Lairs & Encounters takes the domain level game applies that concept into the background of the monster. This means that the concept of the monster becomes two things one it becomes the competition, the horror, the mythological concept and antithesis to the PC's within their domains. The second thing it does is makes the animal or being that is being used within a game as much of a resource as any of the other natural game elements to be exploited by the DM. It means that those within your domains are going to be far more eager to seek the protection of those more powerful than themselves.
This gives a whole other aspect to monsters as protection, rulers, etc. within those hexes that parties seem to continue to crawl through.

Another thing about Lairs & Encounters that's the 'encounter' part there is the gravity  of history in many of the encounters that are created within this book. Many plug into the 'official' ACK's setting but they can easily be applied to your own campaigns for example:"
The ground here is torn up by the remains of nine ancient Zaharan scythed chariots, broken and partially covered by webs, dust, and sand. Here and there the jagged blades stick up from the scattered chariot wheels. Each character passing through or searching the area has a 1 in 6 chance of stepping on one of these partly-buried blades and suffering 1d3 points of damage. 18 skeletons (AC 2, Move 120’, HD 1*, hp 4 each, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg 1d6, Save F1, ML N/A, AL C), with rusted mail and jagged, broken scimitars, litter the ancient battlefield in clusters near the chariots. They will rise to attack if blood is shed. "  This is something to keep in mind when designing your own encounters and this book has the tools, guidelines, and more to help you out with that.

Something else to keep in mind is that Lairs & Encounters plugs into Domains at War, ACKS' expansion focusing on mass combat and how it relates to all other aspects of the game, from monsters in domain management to mercenary wages to mercantile supply and demand all centered around the aspects of the monster. By popular demand, they have distilled just the mass combat system itself to an ~8 page kernel which they are planning to add as an expansion but Lairs & Encounters slides right into the backside of this material. That means that all of those battle grounds, war fields, places of violence, ancient war sights and more have the real potential to turn into adventure locations unto themselves. This is something to keep in mind when running games after a party has passed through hex '5671' and they're entirely done with looting the bodies and the bandits, mercenaries are dead. Their foes can rise again to cause problems for the locals and you might have to back to clean up your messes.
There are several reasons to really get into
Adventurer Conqueror King System: Lairs & Encounters: 
  • When you want a really well thought out lair for an adventure or hex crawl that not only blends into the setting but enhances the adventure material adding in another layer of adventure 
  • Sometimes competition is good & monsters can add an entirely unforeseen complication for those domain owners. Monsters domains can also be a readily made domain for PC's to take over(Lairs & Encounters can make that process very wily and interesting as well). 
  • Fast set up and lots of prefab encounters that can be dragged and dropped into your own adventure enviroments to serve as bridge gaps when you've got fifteen minutes before your players arrive and nothing written. 
  • Expanded war game ties for domains of war that make those war games an actual part of the adventure with monstrous tie ins. 
  • This book can be used to enhance, expand, and blow life into the factions and background of existing or classic modules to give new twists on modules or adventures that parties have already played through. Take Keep of The Borderland and suddenly it becomes more then a simple introduction adventure, it becomes an introduction to factional warfare with monsters surrounding a tiny island of humanity in the wilderness on the border of war! Drag & drop in some of the encounters and the entire tone of the adventure changes!
  Adventurer Conqueror King System: Lairs & Encounters is a very useful book with lots of utility at the table the mechanics to create balanced new monsters, new spell powers, and other enhancements for foes itself is worth the price of admission because it can be applied for any OSR retroclone game with B/X D&D at its heart. Is it worth the ten dollar price of admission? Well in a word yes if you're used to creating your own adventures with in the confines of your campaign world and you want a book with the right tools for the job. Adventurer Conqueror King System: Lairs & Encounters ties directly back into the Adventurer, Conqueror, King main rule book making this one very thought out monster & encounters  book.
Do I think its worth the money for this book? In a word yes! Go buy it and will I be using it!


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