Acquisitions, Inc.: First Impressions

Acquisitions Inc. has earned a special, beloved place in the actual play segment of the game industry. In 2009, long before Critical Role, Sirens of the Realms, or Dice, Camera, Action, Penny Arcade debuted D&D games presented as podcasts. They later transitioned to video and live-play in front of an audience at conventions, and have even had a comic book. Crowds for those live events have grown to larger and larger venues.


Over time, the DM became Chris Perkins, senior producer of Dungeons & Dragons for Wizards of the Coast., and more recently, Jeremy E. Crawford, senor game designer for Dungeons & Dragons. Along the way, Acquisitions Inc. spawned B and C teams showcasing other player groups, some of whom involved WotC staff members.

So perhaps the only surprise is that it's taken this long for Penny Arcade and Wizards of the Coast to team up and produce an Acquisitions Inc. book, though its 10 anniversary makes it perfect timing. Could anything else be such a no-brainer for content?

For those unfamiliar with Acquisitions Inc, the adventures meld classic D&D fantasy with dark office comedy. New players are often “interns,” and AI chapters are “franchises,” complete with promises that another franchise won't invade your territory. It opens with a note from “the leader,” AI founder, Omin Dran. Interspersed through the text are additional notes by well-known AI characters Omin, Jim Darkmagic, etc.

The book's layout is logical – Acquisitions Inc.'s history, in and out of game, custom character classes to fit into its corporate structure, variants from the traditional classes, new races, spells and factions, followed by an adventure. Players are warned not to read past page 78.

This is just the first impressions article. A deeper examination will follow once I have more time with the book. Until then, I'm quite pleased with the results even though I've only occasionally watched AI games (too much to do running D&D campaigns, creating my own RPG and life in general rather than lack of interest). The comedy/business approach to fantasy adventuring isn't new (Who else read Nodwick comics?), but it seems nicely put together here, with a rather fun internal logic.

The first thing that caught my attention, though, was the Deep Crow entry in the Table of Contents. Being a lover of the entire Corvus family, I flipped straight to the monster section of a book for the first time in my life. The entry did not disappoint. While technically labeled a form of avian insect, they look like a very large, monstrous version of crows. With a 9 challenge rating, they'll be capable adversaries for your players. The Ancient Deep Crow is even more dangerous, with a challenge rating of 12 and lair actions.

I was initially excited by the monster entry for the Clockwork Dragon, too, but that waned as I read the listing. I love, love, love the idea of a clockwork dragon (only slightly less than that of a crow that gets a legendary action). The description talks about how clockwork dragons are a “formidable guardian and defender.” You can then, perhaps, imagine my surprise when I see that its challenge rating is only a 1. Yes, it gets a rechargable breath weapon but really? A CR 1? I expected better (and will be tweaking it for my own campaigns).

After that, the next thing I noticed was the artwork. Part of it is, logically and obviously, in the same style as that of their animated openings, comic book, etc. Others, like the art of “Happy Franchise Staff” on page 12 has a style I'd call “Acquisitions Inc. adjacent.” It fits the flavor of the animated art while being its own style with more depth, more subtly, and more, well, “realistic” seems a poor choice for the situation, but it is. While all of the artwork is good, I like the AI-adjacent style artwork a lot.

The section, Playing with Class, could fit nicely with the character class options presented in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Like that book, it contains random tables for each class that you can use as is or to make your options for topics like signature items for a barbarian or Terrible Secrets for a paladin.

Some are clearly humorous, like the monk stance “Incontinent Elder – standing straight, knees together (excellent for surviving those long queues)” or Legendary Catchphrases like “'Surrender' is my middle name but it was a family thing and I never use it.” Others are geared specifically for Acquisitions Inc. adventures, like Barbarian Style such as “a fur-lined, double-breasted suit with a corporate logo on the pocket” or Cool Mottos for a warlock like “I'm the prophet of profit and I've got a prediction for success.” Others would fit in perfectly in any type of campaign, like a fighter's signature equipment that is “a bow carved with images of the phases of the moon” or a druid's Creatures to Care For that includes “a colony of bees whose hive once hung from a tree in your homeland.”

Similarly, the character quotes scattered through the book range from the accurate (“What a customer wants is not always what a customer needs... or gets.”) to the line between funny and disturbing (“Hirelings are kindling in the fire of opportunity.”).

The book also guides you through creating your own Acquisitions Inc. franchise for your players, complete with random tables for when you might have to do it quickly. Probably the part that might interest AI watchers the most is the NPC section that stats out well-known characters like Omin Dran, Jim Darkmagic, Rosie Beestinger and Brahma Lutier. I'm a bit surprised that they cap out at fifth level but the included adventure is for levels 1-5 so there is an internal logic to it.

Overall, I think AI fans will be happy with the Acquisitions Inc. book. I can't wait to dive deeper into it for my follow-up review.

This article was contributed by Beth Rimmels (brimmels) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
 
Beth Rimmels

Comments

Also, and I've just learned this (and think it's 50% awesome 50% hilarious), the adventure takes place in Phandelver, 5 years after the events in the starter's box.

I don't know why but I absolutely love that.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue was already making the Realms look silly like three editions ago. There's nothing easier to ignore than setting stuff that doesn't fit your taste...
Chris Perkins on Dragon Talk recently called out Aurora's While Realm Catalogue as one of the best and most perennial D&D products in his opinion, particularly given that it is edition proof. And he is the guy in charge of what makes things canonical in the Forgotten Realms, and directly responsible for Acquisitions Inc.'s tone.
 

Kurotowa

Explorer
Chris Perkins on Dragon Talk recently called out Aurora's While Realm Catalogue as one of the best and most perennial D&D products in his opinion, particularly given that it is edition proof. And he is the guy in charge of what makes things canonical in the Forgotten Realms, and directly responsible for Acquisitions Inc.'s tone.
It was certainly one of my favorites, back in the day.
 

gyor

Adventurer
Depending on one's taste, the Wizards Three can be adduced as proof that the FR is peak D&D: classic camp. And that's what I don't get about the attempt to gatekeep against AI counting as the "real" FR: Greenwood's worldbuilding was always camp-friendly, this fits in perfectly.
I'm fine with camp, AI goes a dozen shades beyond camp or humour like Misc, into actively damaging the emersive quality of the setting. It's not really the humour that bothers me, it's that the forms it takes make no sense in FR. How are their modern style corporations in FR, where is the legal code and international law such organizations require to function.

And I'm not gate keeping, disliking the quality of the content is not gate keeping, I'm not forbidding AI to play in FR, I just wish they put more effort into does this Quality X make any kind if sense in FR, not just is it funny.

I'd rather they'd done this with one if the other streaming groups, who might have funny stuff, but in a way that respects the setting and makes sense.

Heck I'm even fine with the Verdan, aka the Gobliniod Millenials, it's mostly the goofy corporate references and similar stuff that bugs the crap out of me, not the Verdan, not the use of humour (within reason), its all the stuff that makes no sense in FR. Now maybe the book will explain how a modern idea of a corporation works in FR.
 
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EthanSental

Explorer
Mine came in today, order from Penny Arcade and got the green flame pin. I enjoy the live shows they put on and still occasionally have it on while I’m painting minis or working on an adventure session. Initial look is similar to Beth’s but I don’t think of it as campy in tone.

If your hesitant but want some depth in running an adventuring business in a campaign, it’s worth it....then throw in an adventure that takes 110 pages and now even more people are getting their money’s worth.

My point is - pick it up at a store, flip through it and decide...might be pleasantly surprised and not all the art isn’t all cartoony like penny arcade art so don’t use that as an excuse.
 
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Psyzhran2357

Villager
The book's unlocked for me on D&DBeyond. Taking a look now.

Verdan racial stats for those interested:
+1 Con, +2 Cha
Reroll 1 and 2 when rolling Short Rest Hit Dice
Persuasion Proficiency
Advantage on Wis and Cha saving throws
Telepathy within 30 feet, need to share a language with the target creature
Start as Small size but become Medium size at Level 5

Warlock seems like a shoe-in for these guys. Could also be used for Conquest and Redemption Paladins focused on Cha and looking to use their Channel Divinity often.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
I still have not seen or heard enough about the crunch to see if this is worth it. I was interested for the setting up a franchise/guild thing, but GuildMaster's Guide to Ravnica has enough egs on how to do that and Strongholds & Followers too. I am not sure what this would add to all of that?
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I got it mostly for lonely fun. I really enjoy the AI pod cast and PAX shows, even if I don't have the time for the B and C team stuff.

I expect, since I like the characters and stories, that I'll enjoy reading through the book. I don't think it will fit into my Lost Lands campaign, which while being on the gonzo size is darker than the camp of AI. But I won't know until I see it. Maybe I can bring in the franchise rules but change the names and keep out the more campy character options.

Even if I don't use it for my current campaign, I can certainly see running the included adventure as a mini campaign.
 
Been reading through it on D&D Beyond, and, while definitely written in a tongue-in-cheek tone, there's actually a good amount of interesting stuff in there. I just read through the backgrounds, and Celebrity Adventurer's Scion, Failed Merchant, and Gambler could be used in pretty much any campaign with minimal editing (the other two, Plaintiff and Rival Intern, are more heavily linked to the overall Acquisitions Inc meta). I'm not sure how much I'll be using in games ((and there's still plenty more book that I haven't gotten to yet), but at the very least I'm having a good time reading it...

EDIT. And now I'm in the class section, and already in the barbarian section I've had several laugh-out-loud moments. Who'd have thought that barbarians and corporations would make such a great fit?
 
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Parmandur

Legend
Been reading through it on D&D Beyond, and, while definitely written in a tongue-in-cheek tone, there's actually a good amount of interesting stuff in there. I just read through the backgrounds, and Celebrity Adventurer's Scion, Failed Merchant, and Gambler could be used in pretty much any campaign with minimal editing (the other two, Plaintiff and Rival Intern, are more heavily linked to the overall Acquisitions Inc meta). I'm not sure how much I'll be using in games ((and there's still plenty more book that I haven't gotten to yet), but at the very least I'm having a good time reading it...

EDIT. And now I'm in the class section, and already in the barbarian section I've had several laugh-out-loud moments. Who'd have thought that barbarians and corporations would make such a great fit?
I have to say, I wasn't all that into in this book, but my interest is beginning to be piqued...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I can't believe they made this glorified gag gift FR canon.
It’s a legit gaming book, and the lore contained therein fits perfectly well in FR.

Its good stuff, if you can get past the impulse to just reject anything presented in a funny manner out of hand.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Depending on one's taste, the Wizards Three can be adduced as proof that the FR is peak D&D: classic camp. And that's what I don't get about the attempt to gatekeep against AI counting as the "real" FR: Greenwood's worldbuilding was always camp-friendly, this fits in perfectly.
And Salvatore, who is the second biggest realms influence (IMO unfortunately), writes books full of weird nonsense like dwarves berserkers who hug people to death. FR is a silly place. AqInc is funny, but it isn’t burning down the realms.

I'm fine with camp, AI goes a dozen shades beyond camp or humour like Misc, into actively damaging the emersive quality of the setting. It's not really the humour that bothers me, it's that the forms it takes make no sense in FR. How are their modern style corporations in FR, where is the legal code and international law such organizations require to function.

And I'm not gate keeping, disliking the quality of the content is not gate keeping, I'm not forbidding AI to play in FR, I just wish they put more effort into does this Quality X make any kind if sense in FR, not just is it funny.

I'd rather they'd done this with one if the other streaming groups, who might have funny stuff, but in a way that respects the setting and makes sense.

Heck I'm even fine with the Verdan, aka the Gobliniod Millenials, it's mostly the goofy corporate references and similar stuff that bugs the crap out of me, not the Verdan, not the use of humour (within reason), its all the stuff that makes no sense in FR. Now maybe the book will explain how a modern idea of a corporation works in FR.
its a business, with an internal corporate structure. “Corporation” is just a word. There were already businesses, and setting elements based on bad jokes, in FR. “Goblinoid Millenials” makes me think you’re just being vaguely cermudgeony, though. Just relax and let yourself enjoy stuff.
[MENTION=48930]Demetrios[/MENTION] check out the “Conan the salaryman” twitter account
 

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