The Sinister Stone

I backed this kickstarter today from Autarch, The Sinister Stone of Sakkara. For the gamers here, you should check it out. They do quality stuff that isn’t generic:

The default setting of ACKS, the Auran Empire, was also designed to support the player characters’ advancement from adventurer to king. The Auran Empire setting was inspired by the collapsing empires of earth’s Late Antiquity (250 – 750 AD), a turbulent era in which ancient glories were drowned in a torrent of violence. However, in the Auran Empire setting, the horror of civilization’s imminent collapse is worsened by the existence of nightmarish evils lurking in the world’s dark places, threatening to strike mankind at its weakest moment. The established leadership is too preoccupied by the empire’s political and military downfall to take these shadowy threats seriously, leaving them to be handled by adventurers, fortune-hunters, and would-be heroes. The adventurers’ success in dealing with such threats is, however, what garners them the fame, wealth, and strength they need to take power and restore order. Of course, the adventurers are not certain to win; indeed, the odds are stacked against them.

The premises underlying ACKS’ setting are evident throughout The Sinister Stone of Sakkara, most notably in its backstory. The adventure begins with local hamlets and villages suffering from beastman raids because the troops that ought to be protecting them have been sent to stem an invasion at another border. With the local military barely able to garrison its strongholds, it falls to the adventurers to deal with the monstrous threat.

The setting premises are also evident in the design of the dungeon itself. The upper level of the dungeon was inspired by real-world ancient architecture, and the brigands and beastly barbarians that populate it would not be unfamiliar to any Late Roman centurion (albeit the barbarians who menaced Rome were only figuratively beastly). Conversely, the lower level of the dungeon is a warren of weird horror wherein lurks an insidious evil that is far more threatening than mere beastmen. The dungeon thus represents the Auran Empire setting in microcosm – visibly endangered by mundane threats, appallingly imperiled by hidden horrors.

What I like about ACKS is the way it incorporates a military aspect into the role-playing. The world isn’t all random events, and you get the sense that things happen for a reason there, even if you have no idea what that reason is.