For those looking to see an expansion of domain-level play options, this may be great summer. Both Hill Cantons: Borderlands (née The Domain Game) and the Adventurer Conqueror King System will highly likely see the light of print day—and hopefully will set off the kind of homebrewing and kitbashing around that arena we all love in the DIY corner of our hobby.
Earlier this week, I mentioned briefly that I was in talks with the ACKS design team. Although I believe that most people interested in this kind of campaign play would cherry-pick pieces of either systems and spindle, fold, mutilate them into their home games, there was still some concerns on my part that we would overly-duplicate efforts.
After all both games had a bottom-up, granular design, a layered approach to the power arc of player characters, and posited themselves as trying to make good on the “Arnesonian” promise of the very early days of this great game.
Having read the recent draft of ACKS, I can say that while we started in similar places that each project has some interesting—and divergent—answers to the same questions. In fact, I feel that in a number of areas they complement each other with different strengths and thus expand the cherry-picking options greatly.
Skipping to the punchline here, ACKS provides an open-gaming license of its own by which a product can be labeled as a “compatible product”. Borderlands will become such a beast.
What does this mean in practical terms?
It doesn't mean that Borderlands will dramatically move much in it's main goals and execution. You will still see a modular collection of sub-systems to maximize the plug-and-play aspect of the sourcebook. The three layers of domain-level play I have been talking about: the mid-level campaign play, the early name-level play of wilderness clearing; and the high-level play of kingdom-ruling will still all be there.
It will mean, though, some adaption to play to the strengths of both publications. In particular it means you will see a heavier emphasis in HCB on the first and second layers of play—and the accompanying more free-form “narrativist” play style alternative. Expect to see meatier social advancement charts/play suggestions, more options for characters 4th-11th level, an expansion of the epic campaign season concept, more fledgling settlement-subsistence work, and more.
Because the unified economic system inside ACKS is a really inspired piece of work you will also see a little less emphasis on the third layer and a general referring back to ACKS for certain pieces. Likely there will be more little changes here and there when we pass around the completed Borderlands manuscript in a couple weeks.
Lastly, before I sign out I wanted to make it clear that I haven't budged from my personal, non-commercial goals for this project. Though there is obviously a lot of talk about “licensing compatibility” and a “product identity” for HCB, I remain committed to this being a not-for-profit venture.
I intend on having the money move through the Pulp Fantasy Society, a non-profit organization. Additionally, I will strive to keep prices down on the consumer end while making sure that “profits” cover current and future production costs.
It's all about love of the (domain) game here at the Hill Cantons. Now back to work on some fun non-related posts (like a mechant-adventurer player class inspired by a recent Hari Ragat blog post.)