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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

Mournblade94

Villager
There is a huge difference between Salvatores Comic relief and parody of D&D Rules like Barbarian Style and incontinence stance. This is a hard pass.

I wish this was not in the Realms. It should have been its own thing. This is a third party publisher and should have used their own world. Hopefully this is not the flavor of Forgotten Realms to come.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
There is a huge difference between Salvatores Comic relief and parody of D&D Rules like Barbarian Style and incontinence stance. This is a hard pass.

I wish this was not in the Realms. It should have been its own thing. This is a third party publisher and should have used their own world. Hopefully this is not the flavor of Forgotten Realms to come.
I ma familiar enough with Salvatore to say that no, this fits.

Forget going forwards, this has been the flavor of the Forgotten Realms for yeeeeeeaaaars.
 

Mournblade94

Villager
Really? We are reading very different Salvatore then.

Comic relief is not parody. A spiked Dwarven Berserker is not Barbarian Style with corporate tags. I'm not sure how you view the realms as a parody.

I apologize for my earlier phrasing.
 
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Parmandur

Adventurer
Really? We are reading very different Salvatore then.

Comic relief is not parody. A spiked Dwarven Berserker is not Barbarian Style with corporate tags. I have to question how well you know the realms if you think it is a parody.
Parody, not necessarily: but AI isn't strictly parody, either, it's camp. The FR is high camp. Always was.
 
Parody, not necessarily: but AI isn't strictly parody, either, it's camp. The FR is high camp. Always was.
I would say AI is pretty much running a parody of AI. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; Toril is a big world, there is plenty of room for a Death Curse in Tomb of Annihilation while a bunch of Office-style shenanigans are happening somewhere else.

It's a lot like how in the MCU (or Marvel Comics or DC comics) you can have two plotlines, Thor Ragnarok and Civil War happening at the same time. One is a comedy the other a tragedy, neither invalidates the other.

If you don't like one style, ignore it. Or in this case, don't buy it. That does not make it inherently bad though.
 

SkidAce

Adventurer
...I wish this was not in the Realms. It should have been its own thing. This is a third party publisher and should have used their own world. Hopefully this is not the flavor of Forgotten Realms to come.
Regardless of whether you are pro or con on this book, I suspect NOBODY really thinks this is the flavor of the FR to come.

Nothing to worry about IMO.
 

Psyzhran2357

Villager
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).
Echoing this. The new backgrounds are great.

Also, the new spells are an absolute riot. Gift of Gab is pretty much mandatory for my Wizards and Bards now. Spells here: https://www.reddit.com/r/dndnext/comments/c220r6/the_new_spells_from_acquisitions_incorporated_are/
 

Kurotowa

Explorer
Forgotten Realms aside, there's a video up talking about the Roles the book offers and I can't help but think this material would be just as good a fit for Eberron. The Dragonmarked Houses are halfway corporate already, and the pervasive use of low level magic seems to match. You could dial it in as a workplace black comedy with a bunch of PTSD Last War vets trying to navigate the jump from military service to post-war private enterprise, build a party that's a mix of old comrades and former foes, and you've got the seed of a campaign that's topical and narratively juicy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t53xthMdvFc
 

SkidAce

Adventurer
Forgotten Realms aside, there's a video up talking about the Roles the book offers and I can't help but think this material would be just as good a fit for Eberron. The Dragonmarked Houses are halfway corporate already, and the pervasive use of low level magic seems to match. You could dial it in as a workplace black comedy with a bunch of PTSD Last War vets trying to navigate the jump from military service to post-war private enterprise, build a party that's a mix of old comrades and former foes, and you've got the seed of a campaign that's topical and narratively juicy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t53xthMdvFc
Or you could call your corporation the Crimson Permanent Assurance.....plenty of D&D shenanigans available...

https://vimeo.com/111458975
 

gyor

Adventurer
I would say AI is pretty much running a parody of AI. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; Toril is a big world, there is plenty of room for a Death Curse in Tomb of Annihilation while a bunch of Office-style shenanigans are happening somewhere else.

It's a lot like how in the MCU (or Marvel Comics or DC comics) you can have two plotlines, Thor Ragnarok and Civil War happening at the same time. One is a comedy the other a tragedy, neither invalidates the other.

If you don't like one style, ignore it. Or in this case, don't buy it. That does not make it inherently bad though.
It's not the comedy that is the issue, it's that in an FR context it makes no sense, corporations Ade legal entities that real heavily on national and international law, none of which exists in FR. Yes FR is big, but it's not a matter of size, it's a matter of context.
 

Psyzhran2357

Villager
It's not the comedy that is the issue, it's that in an FR context it makes no sense, corporations Ade legal entities that real heavily on national and international law, none of which exists in FR. Yes FR is big, but it's not a matter of size, it's a matter of context.

It's a joke. The whole corporation thing is just a vehicle for them to inject farcical white-collar humor into a heroic fantasy setting. In practice, Acquisitions Incorporated is just a loosely connected chain of adventuring guilds and small mercenary companies with (questionably) better management than their competition. Or are you also clamoring for an audit of the Flaming Fists?
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
It's a joke. The whole corporation thing is just a vehicle for them to inject farcical white-collar humor into a heroic fantasy setting. In practice, Acquisitions Incorporated is just a loosely connected chain of adventuring guilds and small mercenary companies with (questionably) better management than their competition. Or are you also clamoring for an audit of the Flaming Fists?
Also, corporations don’t require national and international law. Modern real world ones do, but all it takes in FR is the precedent of contracts between individuals, which already exists, and is all that Aquisitions Inc is.
 

Azzy

Explorer
It's a joke. The whole corporation thing is just a vehicle for them to inject farcical white-collar humor into a heroic fantasy setting. In practice, Acquisitions Incorporated is just a loosely connected chain of adventuring guilds and small mercenary companies with (questionably) better management than their competition. Or are you also clamoring for an audit of the Flaming Fists?
I'm reminded of this:

View attachment 107148
 
It's not the comedy that is the issue, it's that in an FR context it makes no sense, corporations Ade legal entities that real heavily on national and international law, none of which exists in FR. Yes FR is big, but it's not a matter of size, it's a matter of context.
...but the corporations are what is the comedy, it's not supposed to really make sense, that's the joke. And I believe that FR is big enough for different contexts.

And are we seriously going to debate what makes sense in a fantasy setting? There is a multi-layered dungeon full of traps and bizarre monsters sitting beneath the biggest city on the western continent.
 

EthanSental

Explorer
It might not fit some people’s idea of their forgotten realms, others it’s fine.

i was hesitant and said not for me for the Ravnica book, sight unseen...then I looked through it and said there’s some stuff in there that’s pretty cool and I might be use that and ended up buying it...and using parts in my forgotten realms based campaign.
 

flametitan

Explorer
Honestly, looking at the spell section just affirmed for me it's not the kinda book I want. I hope it works well for those who do like AI or its content, though.
 

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