Friday, June 27, 2014

Musings on 5AK

For those who are curious, the electricians finally showed up (9:20am)...only a little more than two days late. Fast Paraguayan fun fact: the average annual rainfall in Asuncion is more than that of Seattle, WA...however, it rains a lot fewer days during the year and, what with the crappy roads and crappier drainage, the streets run like rivers on rainy days. It's as dangerous as flash floods...usually you can count on one or two fatalities every time it rains.

[no, I'm not joking]

It's been raining for a couple days now, which means my boy has been home in the mornings and I've been unable to do much writing. I did write a few hundred words on revamping ability scores, but I've since lost my train of thought on the subject, and to be honest it was kind of a meandering waste of space. Yesterday, I did get an interesting idea about the undead, causing me to go back and review my PDF files of Five Ancient Kingdoms (Book 2), but that completely derailed me, as I spent all my spare time last night rereading my own book. It's really one helluva' good read. And it makes me wonder:

Why has there been so little said about it, dammit?

People continue to buy it, after least the PDF copies are still selling over at DriveThruRPG. The print copies (including dice!) sell less than print copies of The Complete B/X Adventurer (which I plan on uploading as a cheap, B&W PDF one of these days). But it IS selling...and thank you so much to those who've purchased it. I just find it...well, a little weird that I've received so little feedback. Not even negative feedback.

I guess apathy is a form of feedback. But at least I'd hope someone would say, "F you, dude, for taking my money! What a waste!"

Hell, someone (not me!) even bothered to add the 5AK books over at RPGGeek, but they didn't bother to actually review them. Oh, wait...they added a different "comment" on each separate entry; here's what Martin Ralya wrote:
This is a tight, clear OD&D retroclone with an Arabian fantasy spin, and it's a great little booklet. It's full of clever touches, notably using only d6s, those d6s having ZERO in place of one (and the accompanying rules for zeroing out), and being able to "push" rolls for extra dice with the tradeoff being that if you fail, you fail hard.
As a boxed set with all three booklets needed for the game, I'd rate the whole shebang an 8 as well.
[that's 8 out of 10, by the way]

Thanks, Martin!

But I do wish people would discuss more of those "little touches." Tenkar's Tavern started an in depth review, but never even made it through Book 1. Necropraxis gave probably the most complete summary I've seen (at least, in English). I haven't heard of anyone actually playing the game or stealing/hacking its contents.

The reason I was referencing it at all was to see how I approached the undead for possible inclusion in a new, project (I like to look back at my earlier work for ideas, because that way I don't have to reinvent the ol' wheel, you know?). What I found was a great, great monster section, and really one that I don't think I could really improve upon. Really! The work I put into those 27 pages...making them concise yet consistent with the cosmology of the setting, balancing them against the system, the streamlined stat table, the assignation of treasure hoard types (which, by the way, is handled quite a bit different from what you find in B/X and its ilk)...makes it one of the sections in which I take the most pride. But I suppose people probably skim over this section, seeing it as the "same old same old." Well, I suppose I did use the same "hit dice" for many monsters that are found in early D&D...but HD in my game operate a bit differently than in early D&D!

Oh, well...cry me a river, right? Plenty of people are publishing things and NOT making a buck on 'em. Five Ancient Kingdoms was written and laid out by Yours Truly, using only (beautiful) public domain art and with only a couple-three proof readers for help...and people are still buying it. I'm sure it doesn't help that the web site is still not up-and-running (maybe that will be my project for the week the wife is in Montevideo...she's taking the baby with her)...there aren't any forums to discuss or talk about the game or ask questions or provide feedback. Gosh, my original idea was to shoot it off into space as a "fire-and-forget" game, so why do I care anyway? It's a damn fantasy heartbreaker after all, what was I expecting?!

Actually, maybe the real reason I was thinking about it was due to a post by ChicagoWiz back in the day titled "Where's Our EPT and Blackmoor?" lamenting (in part) that the OSR wasn't doing enough to push the envelope. Granted, he was writing this in 2011 and plenty of weird and exciting product has hit the market since then, but maybe I was feeling that my little contribution to the collective "stuff" floating around the internet was kind of...uh..."pushy" and I was hoping it could be a spark for something.

But you know what? 5AK ain't a perfect game anyway. Even now, loving it as I do, there are things I'd like to have done differently and ways I coulda'-woulda'-shoulda' tightened it up. I feel like it needs a simpler, more accessible, less far-reaching version. Something a little more objective-specific. Something a bit to say...basic?


More later. Once again, I'm out of time.


  1. As I descend through the strata of the history of our hobby, I also find a longing for something simpler. Not TWERPS but something more elegant in its paucity than my earlier efforts.

    For my next game, I have done away with numerical ability scores. Everyone has the mechanical equivalent to 9-12 in most abilities, and one or Exceptional Abilities, which grant a +1 to rolls where that ability comes into play. There are some other little simplifications. I don't know yet whether it will work because I haven't finished it. But more spare doesn't necessarily mean less verisimilitude.

  2. Hey JB! I apologize for my part in the lack of 5AK love. I did indeed start writing a full review a while back, but time has slipped away and I've got ADD to boot! And I haven't been doing any real gaming for some time, so that hasn't helped. I've got all sorts of new plans for my life I'm working on, so gaming has once again taken a back seat. Blah blah, right?! Anyway, I'm going to find some time to finish up my post about 5AK! Stay tuned.

    1. @ Anthony:

      No worries, man. Really. There's a little more than my usual whininess in this post!
      ; )