Penny Arcade is charting a bold new course with Acquisitions Incorporated, the first D&D book produced in partnership with an outside design team since 2015. Whether it’s experienced as a podcast, a live show, or a YouTube series, Acquisitions Incorporated has been a gateway for new D&D players to discover this hobby for years. This new book, written in part by veteran D&D designers Shawn Merwin, Teos “Alphastream” Abadia, and Scott Fitzgerald Gray in collaboration with members of the Acquisitions Inc. and Acquisitions Inc.: The “C” Team casts, is made up of everything Dungeon Masters need to incorporate Acquisitions Inc. into their own campaign or setting, and everything players need to integrate their characters as full-fledged members of Faerûn’s most notorious adventuring enterprise.
Moments ago at PAX East, the Penny Arcade team revealed a host of tantalizing details about the upcoming Acquisitions Incorporated, including its scheduled release date: June 18th. The book is also available for pre-order on the Penny Arcade store at this very instant, and will be available for pre-order on D&D Beyond and at other sources by Monday 4/1. More importantly, dozens of images of the book and its art—which runs the gamut from the cartoonish Penny Arcade style to the digital paintings we’ve come to expect from D&D—and a few sneak peaks at the book’s contents were revealed to the public. Also, if you're a fan of #CriticalRoleFanArt, you might recognize the character designs of illustrator and Up to Four Players co-creator Aviv Or, whose style fits Acq Inc. like a glove!
I spoke with Penny Arcade Producer Elyssa Grant, the woman who saw this book from concept to finished product. “It’s exhilarating,” she said. “[The Penny Arcade team and I] have been talking about this book for almost two years, and working on it for almost a year and a half. I’ve been so deep in the process and the project for so long that the thought of it going out to other people is amazing.”
With two years of planning and development behind this book (about the same length of time Wizards of the Coast spends building from concept to product), I had to know what made this book so special to her, and what made it worth spending so much time creating. I asked Elyssa what fans of Acquisitions Inc. will love about this book, and how D&D players who’ve never listened to a minute of Acq Inc. can integrate this book into their campaigns. Here are some of the features you can expect from Acquisitions Incorporated when it comes out this June.
D&D is defined by its archetypal classes. While some players like to foil expectations and create a character who defies their class’s stereotypes, many players love to dig into the high fantasy archetypes of the paladin in shining armor, the charmingly traitorous rogue, and so forth. Acquisitions Incorporated describes how characters who have been adventuring for a while can integrate their characters into an Acq Inc. franchise, and draws upon the archetypal characteristics of each class give you a few tried-and-true ways to do so.
While the book promises to include plenty of advice and “soft” character options, I know a lot of players who will be excited by the book’s crunchier options. If you watch Acquisitions Incorporated: The “C” Team, then you’re already familiar with four of Acq Inc.’s staff positions. For example, in addition to being a wood elf druid, Walnut Dankgrass is also the “C” Team’s documancer, and manages mission reports and other critical documents that must be filled out in the line of duty.
This book includes eight roles, several of which will be new, even to Acq Inc. fans. The four familiar roles of cartographer, decisionist, documancer, and hoardsperson make their return in this book, and are joined by the lesser-known (but equally important) roles of loremonger, obviator, occultant, and secretarian. The exact nature of these roles are somewhat obscure, but we do know that these roles are more than just a social feature. As you grow more and more important within the hierarchy of Acquisitions Incorporated (rising from rank 1 to 4), you also gain more traits from your role.
The occultant, for instance, gains a few bonus tool proficiencies at rank 1, as well as the ability to “Read the Kill.” The exact nature of this trait was frustratingly obscured in the images shown at the panel today, but it seems to make it easier for occultants to “determine the impact of [creatures you’ve killed] on [your] franchise’s fate.” This extra progression, independent of your class, sounds like an interesting twist on the standard faction ranks as presented in books like the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Elyssa also revealed to me that the book will contain new spells—and that they may be linked to your position in your franchise!
Beyond this, Acquisitions Incorporated will even include a brand-new character race called the Verdan. Little is known about them yet—to the best of my knowledge, we haven’t even seen them in an official Acq Inc. game yet!—but I managed to learn a few choice details. The nomadic and mysterious Verdan are a new race that they tongue-in-cheek pitched to D&D Managing Editor Jeremy Crawford as "sexy goblins," and have unique powers of adaptation and evolution. Jerry Holkins (player of Omin Dran and Dungeon Master of The "C" Team) explained that the Verdan have their origins in an unresolved plot thread from season 2 of The "C" Team, when an army of goblins and hobgoblins were consumed by an eldritch power. Now reborn as the Verdan, they are emerging from the Underdark with a hunger for new knowledge, new experiences, and new cultures to adapt to.
I’m clamoring to learn more about them, and I hope that we learn more about their powers and their story in Acquisitions Inc. or Acquisitions Inc.: The “C” Team live games here at PAX East, or at least in livestreamed games in the weeks and months to come. If new races are being added to the Forgotten Realms vis-a-vis this book, then it's clear that Penny Arcade and their designers have been allowed a huge amount of creative freedom with the Realms. It can be hard to tell if streamed games are "canon" in the setting, but if Chris Perkins is to be believed, Acquisitions Incorporated is 100% canon within the Forgotten Realms. Will we see more of the Verdan in future D&D products?
Dungeon Master Options
Players aren’t the only people this book is catering to; Dungeon Masters will also have plenty of new content at their fingertips to challenge and reward their players with. As usual for DM-focused setting content, there’s a heaping helping of lore about the founding of Acquisitions Inc. and their mission, to help you calibrate your campaign’s expectations. This makes sense: this book is geared at all players, and while some of us have watched every single Acq Inc. live show, there are going to be people buying this book that have never even heard of Acquisitions Incorporated before.
I was surprised to hear that this book would contain a complete adventure! While the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica setting book contained a short introductory adventure that showcased some of the world’s unique features, the adventure in Acquisitions Incorporated will cover levels 1 through 6. This adventure is more than an introduction, it’s a full-blown mini-campaign that puts the players’ budding franchise at the center of the action!
Perhaps most exhilarating of all, however, are the monster and NPC stat blocks contained in the back of the book. While she wasn’t able to spill all the details, Elyssa assured me that the beings in the back of the book would be “fan-favorite characters and monsters” from the history of Acquisitions Incorporated. It seems like a no-brainer to include characters like Omin Dran, Rosie Beestinger, Jim Darkmagic, and Môrgæn—but do we dare to hope that characters like Strix and Evelyn from Dice, Camera, Action! will be included as well? And what of the iconic monsters that have appeared in the many “A” team and “C” team games?
Only time will tell.
Acquisitions Incorporated is available for pre-order on the Penny Arcade store, and will release on June 18th, 2019. What do you hope will appear in this book?
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and their feline adventurers Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.