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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

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
Of all the reasons to dislike this book, "It's too much fun for D&D" is unequivocally the worst.
 

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
The downtime and faction stuff make this sound like the perfect source for adapting a Ptolus 5E game. It's easy enough to tone down the jokey stuff, IME. It's almost enough for me to put aside my dislike of PA (and I've never been into Actual Plays, so I don't have any attraction from that standpoint). But as a resource for making my own awesome, I'm sorely tempted.
 

BMaC

Explorer
Of all the reasons to dislike this book, "It's too much fun for D&D" is unequivocally the worst.
Pants-on-head zanny fun in a D&D game is not to everyone's taste. I am not buying the book but I am happy it was released.
 

Azzy

Explorer
There is no place for silliness and whimsy in a game that has owlbears and beholders.
I would have chosen flumphs instead of owlbears*, but the point remains the same.

*Owlbears, if you ignore the magical crossbreeding fluff, can actually be actually bemade non-silly. Say that they're dinosaurs—the fur is actually quill-like protofeathers (as found on some theropods), with regular feathers in the appropriate places. And the beak with teeth is can be seen as an adapatation to an omniverous diet.
 
I love the idea of this book, and dig the art style, but my campaigns are in Greyhawk. Do they suggest where to locate the adventure in Greyhawk, or is that even possible?
 

Mournblade94

Villager
We've been telling people who have kept insisting there needed to be a Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book to go back to the 3E or Grey Box era for years now. ;)
If you're not a fan of the realms I could see why you wouldn't need one. But for the fans its a shame a proper campaign guide hasnt been released. The best we got was a regional guide like used to come out every month which at least was quality. Now we get a parody guide.
 

Mournblade94

Villager
Adventuring Companies have been a fixture of the Realms for a long time, ever since the beginning. The Grey Box spends three pages talking about what they are and lists the roster and exploits of a few famous ones. AI, as far as I can tell, adds a bit of corporate humor to the mix, but it doesn't seem to add anything radically new.
Adventuring company charters have always been a thing in Forgotten Realms. The Knights of Myth Drannor have a charter. But that's a far cry difference from changing it to some random office show.
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
If you're not a fan of the realms I could see why you wouldn't need one. But for the fans its a shame a proper campaign guide hasnt been released. The best we got was a regional guide like used to come out every month which at least was quality. Now we get a parody guide.
And if you ARE a far of the Realms, you probably already have information about whatever locale you might want to run a game in, and thus a new product is unnecessary. Do you really need WotC to write up eight new paragraphs about Turmish rather than just use the eight paragraphs they wrote about Turmish previously? Or really just write your own dozens pages about Turmish yourself, seeing as how you weren't going to get enough info about it in any "new" guide to run a campaign there anyway? :)
 

Satyrn

Villager
And if you ARE a far of the Realms, you probably already have information about whatever locale you might want to run a game in, and thus a new product is unnecessary. Do you really need WotC to write up eight new paragraphs about Turmish rather than just use the eight paragraphs they wrote about Turmish previously? Or really just write your own dozens pages about Turmish yourself, seeing as how you weren't going to get enough info about it in any "new" guide to run a campaign there anyway? :)
Replace Turmish with Lopango, and that's me!

I really don't know why I chose one of the most out of the way places in one of the least supported continents as the base of my FR campaign. It might have had something to do with Boy Meets World. Or just because Volcanoes are cool.
 

Mournblade94

Villager
And if you ARE a far of the Realms, you probably already have information about whatever locale you might want to run a game in, and thus a new product is unnecessary. Do you really need WotC to write up eight new paragraphs about Turmish rather than just use the eight paragraphs they wrote about Turmish previously? Or really just write your own dozens pages about Turmish yourself, seeing as how you weren't going to get enough info about it in any "new" guide to run a campaign there anyway? :)
I have all that information sure, but they did 2 realms changing events since all of those campaign guides were released. So for those that care about official canon that information is completely out dated. To say we don't NEED a guide in that case is like saying you really don't need any more rules options so why publish rulebooks with those options.

WOTC puts out a guide completely changing the map. Then releases an underwhelming 6 books series to 'fix' the mistakes. Doesn't release a sourcebook for any real game effect of those fixes.

I don't play in the current timeline. I play in the older ones. The ones you say we should just go back to. But maybe people could enjoy the present timeline MORE if WOTC bothered to think about the effects and release a source book. Not that my contribution matters, but the reason my Base system is Pathfinder is because they havent bothered to give good source material for the 5th edition realms.

So a new sourcebook is as unnecessary as a new rulebook with options. Clearly there are enough options for people right?
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
WotC doesn't care about finalized FR canon anymore and they don't want you to care about it either. They want the Realms to be left open so they can do whatever they want going forward without having to worry about contradicting anything someone else might written in some book or novel or comic book somewhere. That's been their MO for the entirety of 5E and why I don't believe they are going to release a setting book for at least the next several years.

Some people might think they need to know what's going on in Turmish right now... but WotC doesn't and indeed won't know until they decide to write a Turmish adventure somewhere down the line. Then they'll be happy to fill in any important Turmishian info the public is desperate to know. :)
 
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5ekyu

Explorer
My thoughts...

The humor and style is such that you will like it or not. That's very subjective. But while it goes a tad farther than I like, in my group some "conceptual anachronisms" are normal - basically the "Corp speak" no more actually what the character said than is our own english language as common. Many of the concepts being described existed in different forms.

As for what I look for the HMs? "how much" (hmmmmm?)

HM sparking ideas- good
HM - needed orvyseful structure - basic shop or guild structure and advancement- promotions etc - good
HM Character traits - good ones
HM Hooks and Bits - good

Have not hone thry the adventure but I feel it was worth it, in spite of its tone.
 

Mournblade94

Villager
WotC doesn't care about finalized FR canon anymore and they don't want you to care about it either.
They may not want me to care about it, but I certainly do. Fortunately for WOTC people are more concerned about the world of Critical Role than Forgotten Realms then. They can now afford to make the realms a pale shadow of what it was because Realms fandom has become a niche. The true success of D&D is going to the streamers so most people are exposed to the realms now in the joke AI form.
 

Azzy

Explorer
They may not want me to care about it, but I certainly do. Fortunately for WOTC people are more concerned about the world of Critical Role than Forgotten Realms then. They can now afford to make the realms a pale shadow of what it was because Realms fandom has become a niche. The true success of D&D is going to the streamers so most people are exposed to the realms now in the joke AI form.
Oh, please. The FR still get way more attention than ANY other settting, so your grousing just comes off as petulant to those that are fans of those other settings. Secondly, there are more Realms products than AI, so your doomsday prediction doesn't hold water. Also, the Realms aren't sacrosanct. P.S. You have no room to talk about joke products until the Realms gets it own version of the Castle Greyhawk module.
 
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