|stolen right from their website. Acquired. I mean 'acquired'|
I'll probably yell into a can about cruft in 5e some time, maybe an Anchor podcast or something. I don't want to do homework: we're here to write/play/make a tense/funny/heroic/tragic story together. if you or I do a bunch of writing - together - there's no problem. You do it before hand or (worse!) afterward? A "No wiggle room" problem. So: I don't like having backstories for PCs, and I don't like to prep too much. I like to hit the RANDOMIZE IT button on the machine, show up with a bunch of print-outs, and wing it. I'm a lower-middle class white guy with a shit ton of privilege (I recognize this, bear with me) and some skill at improvisation (thanks DnD!) and so it's better if we wing it. I'm not saying it's better if EVERYBODY wings it, but YES AND and some other stuff can make it go a long way.
Anyways, Acquisitions Inc. It's got some fun stuff. Not 50 bucks worth of fun stuff : that's right 50 bucks. Im a cheapass cheapskate murder-hobo, but I had heard this thing was fun. Well, I heard there was a podcast about a franchise group of adventurers, and I looked into it, and my stomach dropped. Because I have been writing and playing a thing, here and there, about the evils of capitalism, a corporation bent on usurping all the resources of a dungeon, and the terrors of the gig economy as applied to dungeon-delving PCs. I call it DUNJONCORP vs THE ROBOLICH (alternately THE CYBERLICH in some markets where robots are not welcome). My jazz-age post-pockyclipse Thundarr-meets-Wizard of Oz thing. I like it. Your mileage may vary, I guess. Anyways, these Acquisitions Incorporated cats hit me on the noze pretty hard, but like 10 years ago!
I was sort of inspired, I guess, by my memories of the Ghostbusters RPG from like the late 80's early 90's, which I owned for a couple of years and gave away (so sad). And the current dystopic state of the U.S., with PhDs running around in Lyfts and Ubers trying to make enough coin for rent and to pay off student loans.
Anyways, this book is nice. The framing concepts are great, and funny. I like a book that takes the piss out of the source material. A sly wink and nod, like Bert from Mary Poppins. I love the hilarious notion that AcqInc doesn't give a fig about you, will offer unpaid internships, has full rights to the things you find, bodies you kill, secrets you reveal. Whatever you choose to reveal to them, that is. I like the PC options, with (possibly over-powered but terrific) roles in the corporate system for each PC, and then per-class options for bending characters to the corporate mindset as represented by their place as franchise owners/operators. There's a non-inspired halfing/half-elf/goblin replacer race whose name I can't even be bothered to recall (means "green skin", I guess? Verdguy? Verdgin? I don't fucking care). Some cool bits about the upkeep of a franchise and giving the party a headquarters of operation and making them invest money into it. I even like the downtime activities a party can engage in, to grow the franchise, get on the good side of corporate, etc. Adds to the options that I understand are in the DM guide and a couple of other supplements. I especially like the concept of "Royalty Components" of spells, that being money that comes right out of your pocket when you cast a spell and that makes its creator a little wealthier. In contrast to other spells, why on earth would you ever keep a spell like that secret? I think one of the main NPCs gladly gives it to you in the intro of the boxed adventure - like, uh, yeah!? Of course! A magical pyramid scheme. Maybe your PC can figure out the "Royalty Component" hook of a minor spell and then BOOM you're a bajillionaire.
What don't I like? I don't' know, exactly. I can't read these 5e (or 4e, or 3e) adventures without my eyes glazing over. Not really my cup of tea. There's about the middle third of the thing devoted to some complicated, world-altering plot, of course. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. I would/will probably chuck that out, except a couple of minor encounters. There's a magical item-destroying mecha-anvil which is sort of the impetus for the first dungeon because it opens up, via an earthquake, some part of uh, Waterdeep? Neverwinter? King's Landing? I don't care: basically, it can't break the McGuffin and causes the town to crack open. The lazy, corrupt city watch isn't much help and a case of mistaken identity sort of propels the party into the campaign. BLAH BLAH BLAH. I try to read the thing late at night but I get crossed eyed. I figure I'm about a fifth of the way through the campaign and there's some funny bits ahead (I can see it when I riffle the pages) but the plot is standard fare, except maybe that the party, as franchise operators, are literally ALWAYS on the lookout for contacts, employees, money making opportunities and are driven by greed to undertake heroics, not necessarily and sense of goodwill. Fine! Perfect for our jaded age. And a perfect thing for DUNJONCORP, but I already retroactively stole it. Every NPC or monster you kill is a missed opportunity IN THE LONG RUN, to make money. One of the thug NPCs at the initial encounter list has been, inscrutably and inexplicably, turned into a sentient skeleton? I love THAT more than I love most of the rest of it.
At the back, some magical items. A description of the big campaign McGuffin as an artifact. A cool airship and a mechanized beholder as a vehicle for PCs to use. That's fun.
Evidently the guys and gals of Penny Arcade did a podcast/vlogcast of live play games for this, and I tried it and You know what? I can't handle actual play recordings because I'm not playing in it. I don't dig on the likes of Matt mercer and his crew of voice actors is because I wanna play and participate, not observe DnD. A difference in my last 5e product is that this is a real campaign and not a one-off like the Rick n Morty thing. Fun sense of humor in both. this one has more, uh, respect for the origins. I don't know why they would put it in the forgotten realms, though. I sort of like the idea of a barbarian in a fur suit with a tie, I guess. I don't know. It makes trad-DnD sort of feel like Terry Pratchett (to my mind this is a good thing but it might offend genre-/lore- purists)
50 bucks? you get some great art, some wry humor, a modest campaign, and some maybe fun options for PCs and headquarters - pretty useful, I guess. The rest I might toss entirely. It occurred to me that with amazing artwork and design and glossy pages, you can't really fuck up the margins and write in a 5e book like this, especially for the price you pay. Not because you CANT morally, but because the parchment-style backgrounds and art-density and material-object-ness prevents it. I sort of like DYSON's practice of churning through your old 1e books and artifying them up to your own liking, even though I don't do that. Heaven forfend! Write in a 1e book? Gods above and below, who would do such a thing? Dyson, you heretic
|the splash screen for my dungeon craft playable intro to DJCvRL. needs more copyright symbols, dollah signs, and trademarks|
Anyways, 7 out of 10 for potential. 8 out of 10 for art - these 5e books are beautiful things. 4 out of 10 for failure to keep my attention, and maybe an green/grey/brown utterly unfascinating an compelling race choice, like practically human but O yeah it is telepathic and friendly. They coulda done better, I guess. 1 extra bonus point for pilotable mechanical beholder. there's about 4 fun new low-level spells but any one of you or me coulda done better