ACKS and Eíre, part II

AKA, the belly flop flip flop

Yeah, converting to ACKS halved levels has been a pain in the butt. And the only real issue with the higher levels is spells and hit points. At the same time … heck, I dunno.

want to use ACKS. But the 14-level progression is baked into it very tightly.

For hit points, I can just eliminate hit die progression past 6th level instead of 9th level.

For spells … maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have high-level spells in the setting :-).

At any rate, I need to start over. This time, I think I’ll be sticking to ACKS, with custom classes as the biggest house rule.

Fortunately, no one has made any comments on any posts yet, so even though WordPress tells me some people have been looking at it, I can still pretend this is a rough draft :-).

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ACKS Setting-Specific Class—Monk (Cleric)

There are no generic clerics in Eíre, but there are numerous diety-specific clerics, one of which is the monk. Monks serve Sék as physicians and healers.

Prime Requisite: STR and WIS.
Requirements: None.
Hit Dice: 1d8.
Maximum Level: 14.
Attack/Save: +⅔ per level.
Saves as Fighter.
Armor: None.
Shield: No.
Weapons: Unarmed only.

Monks are masters of unarmed combat, but cannot wear armor, use shields, or use weapons other than their bodies (when wearing armor or attacking with a weapon, halve their attack bonus and saves).

When brawling, they deal lethal damage with punches and kicks; and increase the damage dealt by +1 at third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth level. At fifth level, they can strike metal armor successfully, but take a –2 on the attack roll; and at tenth level, even that penalty is removed.

At each even-numbered level (second, fourth, etc.), the monk gains one Combat Trickery proficiency of the monk’s choice, which can be used with unarmed attacks only.

Monks can turn undead and cast divine spells as a cleric of half their level.

All monks start with the Healing proficiency … and they can apply this proficiency to animals and plants as well as humans and humanoids. This automatically improves to rank 2 at fifth level and rank 3 at tenth level.

Monks gain a +1 on all reaction rolls by animals and sapient plants.

At ninth level, monks can construct a temple stronghold.

Monk Proficiencies. Acrobatics, Animal Training, Apostasy, Battle Magic, Beast Friendship, Blind Fighting, Climbing, Combat Reflexes, Command, Contemplation, Contortionism, Craft, Diplomacy, Divine Blessing, Divine Health, Endurance, Land Surveying, Laying on Hands, Leadership, Mountaineering, Naturalism, Navigation, Passing Without Trace, Quiet Magic, Running, Skirmishing, Survival, Tracking, and Trapping.

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ACKS Setting-Specific Class—Black Guard

The Black Guard is an order of professional murderers who do not exist in the service of the King of Broken Mountain. They are definitely not the premier assassins of the realm, nor do they worship Grim Shadow, god of death in darkness.

If they did exist, they would be skilled in one-on-one combat, ambush, and treachery of all sorts. It is fortunate indeed that they do not.

Such a shame about that rebellious duke, though.

Base XP: 2,000 to reach second level.
Prime Requisite: STR and DEX.
Requirements: None.
Hit Dice: 1d6.
Maximum Level: 14.
Attack/Save: +⅔ per level.
Saves as Fighter.
Armor: None.
Shield: No.
Weapons: Any.

Black guards are skilled with all manner of weapons, but cannot use their abilities while armored or using a shield.

While unarmored, black guards gain a +1 on initiative throws and a +1 to AC. The AC bonus increases to +2 at seventh level and +3 at thirteenth level.

They gain a +1 bonus to damage with all melee and missile attacks, which increases by another +1 at third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth level.

They can also backstab—if the black guard catches an opponent by surprise (such as attacking from behind, or after successful sneaking up on the opponent), the black guard’s attack throw gains a +4 bonus, and the dice of damage are doubled. This increases to triple at fifth level, quadruple at ninth level, and quintuple at thirteenth level.

Black guards possess the following thief skills: Climb Walls, Hear Noise, Hide in Shadows, and Move Silently.

Finally, black guards can cast spells as a cleric of half their level (but cannot turn undead). Black guards who are not Lawful lose their spell-casting abilities.

At ninth level, the black guard can construct a hideout stronghold.

Black Guard Proficiencies. Acrobatics, Alertness, Apostasy, Berserkergang, Blind Fighting, Bribery, Cat Burglary, Combat Reflexes, Combat Trickery (Disarm, Incapacitate), Contemplation, Contortionism, Disguise, Eavesdropping, Endurance, Healing,Illusion Resistance, Intimidation, Lip Reading, Mimicry, Running, Seduction, Skirmishing, Skulking, Sniping, Swashbuckling, Weapon Finesse, and Weapon Focus.

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ACKS Setting-Specific Class—Bibliosophant (Cleric)

There are no generic clerics in Eíre, but there are numerous diety-specific clerics, one of which is the bibliosophant. Bibliosophants serve Oghma and are librarians first and foremost, though some travel afield to spread the word.

Prime Requisite: STR, INT, and WIS.
Requirements: None.
Hit Dice: 1d4.
Maximum Level: 14.
Attack/Save: +⅔ per level.
Saves as Fighter.
Armor: None.
Shield: No.
Weapons: Unarmed only.

Bibliosophants are extremely skilled wrestlers, but cannot wear armor, use shields, or use weapons other than their bodies (when wearing armor or attacking with a weapon, halve their attack bonus and saves).

When brawling, they deal lethal damage with punches and kicks; and increase the damage dealt by +1 at third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth level. At fifth level, they can strike metal armor successfully, but take a –2 on the attack roll.

Bibliosophants start with the Combat Trickery (Wrestling) proficiency, and gain Force Back at fourth level, Knock Down at eighth level, and Disarm at twelfth level.

At seventh level, the bibliosophant is treated as being ogre-sized for purposes of wrestling; and at thirteenth level, giant-sized.

Bibliosophants can turn undead and cast divine spells as a cleric of their level. This includes the ability to craft items as a cleric.

All bibliosophants are master librarians (three ranks in Professional: Librarian).

At ninth level, bibliosophants can construct a sanctum stronghold. Oghma is more interested in research and books than in military temples.

Bibliosophant Proficiencies. Acrobatics, Alchemy, Apostasy, Arcane Dabbling, Collegiate Wizardry, Combat Trickery (Overrun), Contemplation, Diplomacy, Engineering, Healing, Illusion Resistance, Knowledge, Language, Loremastery, Magical Engineering, Mapping, Military Strategy, Naturalism, Navigation, Profession, Quiet Magic, Sensing Evil, Sensing Power, Siege Engineering, Signaling, Swashbuckling, Theology, and Wakefulness.

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Eíre Artifacts—Rune Quill

«Originally an immortal calligrapher for an emperor in a distant land and long ago, Glitter raised Paper to godling and helped her achieve even greater mastery over ink and paper. Paper has become well-beloved to makers of magical scrolls.»

When North Wind was merely ancient, he served an emperor as a general and lord of the barren wastes north of the great empire. The emperor was wise, just, and profound in all ways, and had grown his empire to heights undreamed of by his ancestors, but he was also deeply traditional, and did not value new things unless they had military applications.

One day, when the North Wind had completed a great task for the emperor, the emperor, now an old man with many grandchildren to bequeath his empire to, asked the dragon to attend him:

“Of all of my generals, you have always served best. Of all of my lands, yours has always been my most secure. And of all of the lives under my command, yours will last the longest into the future and ensure that memories of my empire do not die. When I do die, I expect that my children and their children will tear this empire apart, no matter how fairly I split this legacy among them. This does not bother me, for empires are living things and must eventually decay. But I would give you those lands to the north which you have always defended and cultivated for me. Would you accept this burden? My children may war with you if you do.”

The dragon, knowing the danger that mortals could present to even one such as he, nodded, but said, “I will accept this burden and defend that land for the remainder of my days, but I would ask a boon in return.”

“Anything,” replied the emperor, “I will die soon, and have nothing I wish to keep.”

“There is a scribe who serves in your court. A young woman when I last saw her, though she may be old now, with only one eye and a steady hand. She was once assigned to General Hoh-Weh, and would take dictation from him for his letters to me. If she is still alive, I would have her services.”

The emperor closed his eyes, “I know the scribe of whom you speak. Are you sure that is all you wish to ask? She is hasty and unwise, and lacking in manners or temperament. I assigned her to Hoh-Weh as punishment for him!”

“I am sure. I do not much notice the manners of mortals, and all mortals seem hasty to me! But her calligraphy is the most beautiful I have known.”

And so it was done, and an old woman with one eye and a steady hand traveled to the inhospitable northern wastes with a small guard and scrolls clutched tightly to her chest, to serve as scribe for a dragon.

Many years later, when she was near death (her hands still strong and sure upon the quill!), the ancient dragon approached her as he had once approached the emperor, with deference, and asked her to attend him.

“Of all my servants, you have always served me best. Of all my scribes, your hand has always been my most trusted. And of all the words I have spoken, I feel that those you have chosen and shaped with ink will last the longest into the future. The emperor rewarded my service to him by asking for an even greater service, and I would ask the same of you. I would grant you immortality, that your skill with ink and paper need not die. Would you accept this burden? I cannot promise to ever release you, save by my death, and those who would kill me may not be kind to you, either.”

The old woman merely smiled, and patted her hand upon his claw, “I have not yet mastered the quill. I worry that I may never do so! But if my feeble caricature of writing remains desirable to you, I shall endeavor to provide it so long as I am able. But,” and her one eye gleamed for a moment, “There is something I would want, and your request for such a mighty service has emboldened me to speak of it.”

Both laughed (she wheezed) then, for neither could think of a time when she had lacked boldness, and then she breathed and continued, “I have been thinking for some time that my quills always wear out before I do. I would like, very much, a quill that would not wear down, so that I need not look up from my work in the middle to replace it.”

And in that moment, the dragon’s heart was seized—for such was her devotion to her art!—and then and there he found the finest flight feather in his wings and plucked and sheared the tip, and set it before her. “This I will have my sorcerers enchant for further durability. This, I will make the finest quill the world has seen. And this, I will give to you, that your art will not suffer.”

And so came about the Rune Quill, chosen instrument of a scribe who would later become the goddess Lady Paper. It is said that even the simplest rune written with this quill becomes magical, and confers properties upon the object they are written on so long as the ink lasts.

Eíre Notes. Rune Quill is a two-foot-long pinion flight feather the color of hoarfrost, with a shaft stained black by millennia of ink use. A platinum band lays just behind the tip, with the words (translated) “The Eternal Script” pressed into it. The quill is essentially indestructible and very sharp, and can function as a dagger +1 in combat, although Lady Paper would be horrified.

When used with high-quality ink and great skill, the quill may confer some small benefit or effect upon an object written upon, in line with the intent of the skilled calligrapher who uses it. For example, if the word bear is written upon a suit of armor, it might grant a +1 to AC if the calligrapher was thinking of the bear’s tough hide, or +1 to Strength if the primary focus was ursine might. These effects are rarely very strong, and the duration ranges from an hour to a day, depending on skill.

Note that Lady Paper’s skill is such that the benefits are often in line with magic items, and the duration is typically a month … but most calligraphers are not deities with two thousand years of experience.

With the quill, a scroll can be created for one-tenth the cost and time investment, assuming skilled calligraphy; and with metallic inks, the material cost of magic items can be reduced by one-third by substituting written runes for components.

(In Lady Paper’s hands, every spell formula she writes on a surface becomes a scroll; and her speed and accuracy with the quill allow her to commit an entire spell formula at a rate of one spell level per minute.)

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Eíre Artifacts

When world-building, I like to start with a top-down view first to set the broadest parameters of the setting. That means the most ferocious dragons, the most powerful NPCs, the broad strokes of kingdoms and cities … and the artifacts.

Among Mortals

My goal is to have about one artifact in a mortal’s possession per 10 million people; and two lost artifacts per 10 million people (with the understanding that there might be more out in the world, but these are the ones I’m focused on).

It’s harder than I expected!

Anyway, as a start on an index, here is what I have in my notes, with links to the detailed posts as I add them:

  1. Black Iron Flute—A powerful flute associated with a long-gone trickster god (though claimed by a few modern ones) and in the possession of a dragon.
  2. Beggar Saint’s Cloak—A simple cloak (said to be on display in Shadow’s Valley).
  3. Beggar Saint’s Sandals—A simple pair of sandals (location unknown).
  4. Beggar Saint’s Tunic—A simple tunic (currently with the dragons Fire Dancer and Song of Dawn).
  5. Beggar Saint’s Cudgel—A simple walking stick and cudgel (location unknown).
  6. Bells of Dawn—A pentatonic set of five bells carved from sunstone. When struck, they glow dimly with the colors of dawn. Currently split between five religious factions in the Bells of Dawn kingdom.
  7. Crystal Cave—An enormous quartz geode currently owned by an oracular temple in the Summer Empire. Said to provide immense insight and wisdom!
  8. Eleven Scrolls—Ancient stone tablets said to contain the words of the  gods (location unknown). Most legends state that they weigh a ton or so each!
  9. Frog Tongue—A thin-bladed shortsword said to make its owner immune to poisons and similar treacheries. Also said to be owned by “the Toad,” an infamous crimelord in the Summer Empire.
  10. Heartscale—A shield made from the central breastplate scale of one of the most powerful dragons in the world (owned by the King of Broken Mountain).
  11. Mithril Raven—An artifact from the age of dwarves, said to be a war construct of unsurpassed power (long lost).
  12. Ruby Blade—An artifact associated with Night, a blade said to be a single solid ruby!
  13. Serpent of White Jade—A vicious and capricious little thing, part assassin and watchdog, part good luck charm (thought to be in the hands of a master thief in Orifai).
  14. Six Swords, “Destiny”—One of the Six Swords. Destiny is said to be in the hands of the “Great Generals” of the Summer Empire.
  15. Six Swords, “Doom”—One of the Six Swords. Doom is said to be in the hands of the “Great Generals” of the Summer Empire.
  16. Six Swords, “Fate”—One of the Six Swords. Fate is said to be in the hands of the “Great Generals” of the Summer Empire.
  17. Six Swords, “Geas”—One of the Six Swords. Geas is believed to be in the Land of Truth, although it could be a cunning replica.
  18. Six Swords, “Oracle”—One of the Six Swords. Last seen in the hands of a half-demon mercenary in Dis, but neither have been seen for many years now.
  19. Six Swords, “Promise”—One of the Six Swords. Promise is said to be in the hands of the “Great Generals” of the Summer Empire.
  20. Standing Stones—Wizard platforms from a bygone era. Locations undecided, as I am still finishing the maps.
  21. Sun Axe—The personal weapon of a fallen sun god, too large to be wielded by humans, and set on display in the kingdom of Westland. Thought to have brought the country luck and prosperity. The kingdom of One Axe has made several attempts to purchase it for obvious reasons.
  22. Tower of Shadow—A tapestry that can create temporary fortifications. Believed lost in the depths of Venidrid’s craggy and deep coastal waters.
  23. Ygg’s Junk—A boat created by a mighty wizard of a past era. The boat shows up in unlikely places, and could be found anywhere. It is often (and is currently) missing.

Among the Gods

The following artifacts are owned by this or that god. They could theoretically fall in the hands of mortals (much like the Sun Axe, above). Their properties may well be exaggerated in some cases.

  1. Ash Armor—A full suit of plate armor, made of perpetually soot-stained iron and worn by Tears of Fire in wartime. Said to be too heavy for a hundred mortals to lift, much less wear. Said by others to be a fashion statement by Tears of Fire, with no actual powers at all.
  2. Emerald Shield—The leaf-shaped shield of the cyclopean god Dunatis.
  3. Crown of Stars—Night’s hair is ankle-length or longer, and looks like a cut in reality through which eternal night, complete with stars in the correct astronomical positions, can be seen. A single strand, held close to the eyes, allows the stars to be viewed as if through a slit in even the brightest day. Night has occasionally cut a small length of her hair and woven a crown from it, and granted this to those who have her favor—the crown is said to grant greater wisdom, prophetic knowledge, and invisibility. Oath and Aurora are both said to have such a crown.
  4. Brigit’s Hammer—This wee thing, resembling little more than a tuning hammer, can strike with sufficient force to forge mithril and shatter stone … or with sufficient precision to straighten a thin plate of gold.
  5. Glitter’s Studio—A tiny room full of cabinets and drawers, and dominated by a massive work table and cramped bench, where Glitter works. While seated at the table, all containers are within reach, each magically sorting their contents to put the desired item at the top. The work table can fit even an entire merchant ship, but no part of the table is ever out of reach—how this works, or looks, is unknown to mortals. Many of the tools in Glitter’s Studio are said to have magical properties as well, and some of the panels built into the wall are said to conceal portals to the elemental planes for raw materials.
  6. Ink Sea—A demi-plane of purest ebony ink contained within an inkwell, kept by Lord Charcoal. Despite its black hue, when brushed with, it can take on any color imagined by the user. The ink is said to be eternal when written with.
  7. Oak of Healing—Sék’s walking stick of oak, it is said to be able to heal or repair anything he touches it to.
  8. Parchment Boat—An origami boat which folds and unfolds from a small square of paper to a boat of size ranging from a simple junk to a full-sized merchant vessel. Perfectly sea-worthy, with runes of speed and a tame air elemental to power its sails. Was originally created for Oath, but Math is said to borrow it often.
  9. Poisoned ToothOath‘s longbow.
  10. Rune Quill—Lady Paper’s calligraphic quill. Runes written with it are enchanted, and confer properties on the object they are written on so long as the ink lasts.
  11. Winged Belt—A delicate belt of silver discs (worn by Aurora) from which sprouts a pair of full-sized, white, semi-iridescent wings. It flies at amazing speeds, protects its wearer from environmental conditions, and may have other messenger-like powers as well.
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ACKS and Eíre

A quick build-out of Eíre in ACKS is turning out poorly for my conceived values of NPCs.

Stated simply, the NPCs in positions of power are too powerful.

The king of Broken Mountain bears the Heartscale and numerous magic items; has fought in wars; and is an all-around badass. But at fourteenth level (or even 13th or 12th), he can master around half a dozen proficiencies, all but ignore non-magical armor, and take on entire squads of enemy warriors by himself with little to no risk.

However, looking at the demographic numbers, I can’t help but notice that if you take an ACKS suggested level and halve it (rounding up), you get the same levels as I suggested here.

That lets me use my preferred demographics with ACKS world-building and domain-ruling, with some possible tweaks required as I go along.

And that makes me pretty happy.

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