Review: Acquisition Incorporated Provides New Faction Rules for Dungeons & Dragons With Tongue-in-Cheek Commentary

Penny Arcade's new Acquisitions Incorporated book provides a surprisingly robust set of faction rules that can be adapted to any Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Earlier this month, Penny Arcade released a new Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook that allows players to start their own franchise of Acquisitions Incorporated, the adventuring corporation at the heart of Penny Arcade's long-running D&D campaign. Acquisitions Incorporated was started back in 2009 to promote the then new 4th Edition rules for D&D. The podcast, which was described as "D&D meets Office Space," became one of the first big "liveplay" D&D podcasts and helped launch the streaming and podcast scene that has helped D&D grow immensely over the last decade.

The Acquisitions Incorporated book is unique in a few ways - it was made in partnership with Wizards of the Coast, thus making it the first "official" third-party Dungeons & Dragons book for Fifth Edition. The new book also has a decidedly different tone and feel than other D&D publication, with a careful balance of humorous commentary that captures the spirit of the Acquisitions Incorporated podcast and providing a robust set of practical faction rules for founding and growing a new Acquisitions Incorporated franchise within any home game. But while the book reads differently than just about every other D&D book available for sale today, it also adds something new to the D&D ruleset and avoids the common pratfall of being too self-referential or self-celebratory. This is a book that any D&D fan will enjoy, even those who can't tell an Omin Dran from a Rosie Beestinger.

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(Photo: Wizards of the Coast/Penny Arcade)

The book is divided into two main parts - the first explains how to build and incorporate an Acquisitions Incorporated franchise into your own campaign, while the second part contains a Level 1-Level 6 adventure set within the Acquisitions Incorporated world and featuring popular Acquisitions Incorporated characters. While they seem niche at first glance, the franchise rules (with a bit of tweaking) can be brought into any campaign - especially those in which party members tend to perform set roles within day-to-day activities.

Acquisitions Incorporated details eight company positions that players can fill when hired by an Acquisitions Incorporated franchise. These company positions are hybrid of a Class and a background - most come with additional proficiencies and abilities that grow as players level up their franchise. For instance, the Cartographer position can create a magical map that guarantees safe passage between known locations and can eventually show the way to places relevant to the party's current quest. The Hoardsperson acts as a quartermaster of sort, guarding the party's inventory using a special bag that grows in power and size as your franchise grows in prestige. The Secretarian, meanwhile, keeps track of all the NPCs a party might know and can eventually track down a hireable NPC for any job the party needs completed.

An important note to these Company Positions is that they parallel common roles players tend to take during a D&D campaign. Almost every table has a strategist or an item hoarder, and Acquisitions Incorporated rewards that sort of behavior by giving them extra abilities that makes their jobs easier to do. While the book frames these Positions as roles within the corporate heirarchy, I saw them as only slightly different to the positions provided in Ghosts of Saltmarsh for manning a seafaring vessel. While these roles are a bit more self-aware than playing captain or cook on a ship, I think Acquisitions Incorporated latched onto something that can be used by any D&D party that's in the business of making money, growing famous, or any of the other things D&D parties tend to do. At least one of my ongoing campaigns have players who fill these Company Positions, and I can see a lot of DMs bringing modified versions of these positions into their campaign to make players feel useful completing tasks outside of combat.

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(Photo: Wizards of the Coast)

Outside of the Company Positions, the book also contains a pair of great vehicles - the Battle Balloon and the Mechanical Beholder, a new playable race called the Verdan, stat blocks on various Acquisitions Incorporated characters, and a few magic spells that can be used in any D&D campaign, regardless of whether they want to build an Acquisitions Incorporated franchise or not. The Level 1-Level 6 adventure looks like a lot of fun, with the party tasked to retrieve the components of a magic item held by rival adventuring parties. The adventure is the only part of the book that "requires" players to embrace the lore and corporate humor of Acquisitions Incorporated, but it's short enough to give players a taste of that world without requiring a full multi-year commitment to building a franchise.

When Penny Arcade and Wizards of the Coast first announced the Acquistions Incorporated book, my main concern was if the product would be too niche to succeed in the wider market. After all, there are other podcasts and D&D shows that rival Acquisitions Incorporated in popularity, and starting an adventuring franchise isn't exactly what most players think of when they play D&D. However, not only does the Acquisitions Incorporated book provide a good foundation for what the Acquisitions Incorporated world is all about, it also codifies the day-to-day mundanity of the roles of a typical D&D party in a way that turns tedious inventorying and note-taking into magical skills. In the end, Acquisitions Incorporated approaches D&D differently, not in a way exclusive for fans of the Acquisitions Incorporated series, but rather in a way that encourages DMs and players to think about the roles within a party and they can be used to make exploration, social encounters, and downtime more engaging.