Acquisitions Incorporated: Surefire Business Proposal or Bound for Bankruptcy?
Acquisitions Incorporated is one of the leading D&D podcasts by the guys over at Penny Arcade. They’ve partnered with Wizards of the Coast and they’ve just released Acquisitions Incorporated as an official 5e sourcebook! Is it worth your time and money? Is it worth getting if you’ve never watched the podcast? Allow me to explain with a power point presentation which I’m sure will convince you to open your own new franchise today!
No Fan-Goggles Here
If you’re a fan of Acquisitions Incorporated, then you’ve likely already bought the book. I’m writing this review for all the other D&D players out there who’ve just seen this book pop up and want an unbiased review. Well, there’s no fan-bias here, up until the time of writing this review, I’d never even listened to the show or really seen anything about it. What you’re getting here is a clean analysis of the book, and how you can use it in your 5e games.
What’s Acquisitions Incorporated About?
Acquisitions Incorporated is all about high fantasy by way of dark office comedy. It’s not a setting exactly, as it takes place in the established worlds of D&D that you’re used to but brings the players into a pan-dimensional corporate battle between adventuring megacorporations. It’s full of dark humor, literally hostile takeovers, and sacrificial interns. Your party isn’t just a random assortment of adventurers going any old place, it’s a franchise that bears the Acquisitions Incorporated brand fighting tooth and nail for their territory rights against other franchises and rival megacorporations.
What’s in the Book?
Acquisitions Incorporated weighs in at 224 pages, which is pretty short compared to most 5e sourcebooks that are usually over 300 pages. Ignoring forwards, credits and just setting flavor and such, the meat of the book includes:
- A rather lengthy organization builder called “Growing Your Franchise” and 8 “Company Positions”
- 5 new player backgrounds
- 7 new spells
Growing Your Franchise
This section encompasses everything I think makes this book unique. It takes up a pretty massive chunk of the book’s length and whether this part is of interest is really the deciding factor on whether this book is worth your time. This section details everything you need to know about starting a “franchise” for your PCs. Even without the brand flavor, this is just a good set of rules for setting up an adventuring guild and a home base for your players. It includes randomized tables with a bunch of great base features, hirelings by tier level, and “company positions” that gives players a few very interesting features and a clearly defined role in the company.
I was genuinely impressed with this section, and I even plan on using it for base building in the future, even if I don’t use the “Acquisitions Incorporated” flavor.
5 New Backgrounds
These new backgrounds are dripping with flavor, so much so that they don’t have much of an application beyond the setting. Failed Merchant and Gambler are great backgrounds for any number of campaigns, but Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion, Plaintiff, and Rival Intern are essentially setting exclusive. These backgrounds are good, and a little stronger on average statistically than most backgrounds, but they’re still a very welcome inclusion.
Class flavor options
I was surprised when I looked through the class options section to find that these weren’t really class options but were rather “reskins” of the existing classes and class options to re-flavor them into the Acquisitions Incorporated lore. You’re not just a barbarian, you’re a corporate barbarian murdering your way up the corporate ladder. It’s well done, and I appreciated the tables filled with dark office humor, but I was a bit disappointed to find flavor here rather than actual new class options.
New Player Race: Verdan
As I said before, I’m completely unfamiliar with the lore of Acquisitions Incorporated, and I’m sure there’s an interesting history with these magical goblinoids, but I wasn’t impressed. Statistically, they’re a bit overpowered compared to the core races, and thematically they seemed to just cute magical hobgoblins.
7 New Spells
I absolutely adored the spells here. They’re mostly subtle role-play intensive spells that seemed instantly useful and unique. They also introduced a new spell component “royalties”. Every time you cast these spells a couple coins get magically paid to the original creator of the spell. It’s a perfect example of the book’s humor integrated into a flavorful mechanic, which is exactly what I look for in a setting.
The Orrery of the Wanderer Adventure Path
A rather large section of the book is devoted to this adventure path, divided between 6 “episodes” that takes your players from 1st to 7th level. It starts off with humble giant rat slaying and advances to haunted lighthouses and airship battles. The adventure exceeded my expectations honestly, it’s a bit scattered thematically (which I think is part of its strength, more on that later) but it’s very well thought through. Each episode has high-quality maps and dungeons, multiple plot threads that can lead to interesting side-quests, and an overall level of quality that meets or exceeds what I’ve come to expect from an official 5e adventure path.
These will mean more to fans than they did for me, but they’ve been lavished with great portrait art, big lore sections and unique stats.
These were fun, I particularly liked the clockwork dragon and the little beer keg automatons. They’re mostly here to fill in some needed stat blocks for the adventure path, but it’s a fine little bestiary in its own right.
Including statistics for a well detailed airship and a flying mechanical beholder! They’re very welcome inclusions to bolster the rather lacking ranks of official 5e vehicles.
Alternate Starting Trinket Table
This was a small addition, but I wanted to mention it because I really appreciate how quickly it can ingratiate starting players into this setting. It’s just a big randomized table of quirky trinkets that players can start the adventure with, but I love the humor in them.
What’s Good About the Book?
If you’re a fan of the Acquisitions Incorporated series, I’m pretty sure you’re buying this book regardless. If you’re not a fan or just haven’t heard of it, what does this book have going for it?
It’s not exactly a setting, and it’s not exactly a ruleset book. I think the best way to describe it is a “playstyle” book. The section on starting a franchise, downtime activities, roles to play in the company, it’s all very conducive to a playstyle that has a lot going for it.
Beyond the flavor, Acquisitions Incorporated is tailor-made for drop-in, drop-out gameplay. No matter how many players swap in or out of the game, the “franchise” keeps going. The episodes of the adventure are extremely wide in theme, and a player who’s there for the haunted lighthouse doesn’t need to be there for the airship battle, nor do they really need to know about what happened prior.
This book has a wealth of lovely flavor and artworks, a smattering of player options, a lengthy well-made adventure, and one of the best base-building techniques and rulesets I’ve ever seen.
What’s Bad About the Book?
As much as I like flavor and fluff, I was very disappointed to find such large sections of the book devoted to fanservice and flavor additions rather than gameplay additions. The class “option” section was the prime offender in this. It provided a ton of fluff but not much to really do with it.
Overall the whole book feels a bit thin. It carries a $49.99 MSRP price tag and only weighs in at 224 pages. Most official 5e sourcebooks at that price point are usually around 320 pages long, and there’s quite a few sections that could have been fleshed out with more content. No complaints about most of it, I was just expecting more for the money.
If you plan on running a campaign with a major base-building component, or if you’re just a fan of Acquisitions Incorporated, I can heartily recommend it. If you’re not, that’s where it gets sketchy. I think the base-building section is extremely useful, flavorful, and probably the single strongest reason to buy this book. If that’s not relevant to your game plans, then you’re essentially buying an adventure path surrounded by a lot of fluff and a few monsters and player options, which may or may not be worth 50 bucks. Overall, I really think this book should have been priced at $35 or $40, which would have been in line with some other 5e books of comparable length. At $50 it’s a hard ask.
Full Price: 5.5 out of 10
For the full $50 price tag, I don’t think there’s enough here to justify the purchase. For fans of the show only.
Discounted or Digital Price: 8 out of 10
There are a few coupons running around right now that can drop that price tag, and the digital price from several providers is about $30, which is much more in line with the value of the book’s contents. If you can pick this book up for $25 to $40, then I can fully recommend it.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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