To answer the question posed by the title: the adventure, "The Orrery of the Wanderer." Why? Read on.
Last week, we asked you where you would set up your very own Acquisitions Incorporated franchise. This week—on the day of the Acquisitions Incorporated book’s launch, no less—we take a brief glimpse at how you might run an Acq Inc-focused adventure. But first, a quick look at the book itself.
Should You Get This Book?
A lot of people have asked if this book is worth owning if they aren’t a fan of Acq Inc. As for me, I love the Acquisitions Incorporated live shows and try to attend them every PAX. I’ve seen far too little of The “C” Team than I ought, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen. I probably wouldn’t start an Acquisitions Incorporated game in my home campaign; I’m not a big fan of ruthless corporatism, even in parody. But I’m still 100% going to get a hardcover copy on this book. (In addition to my digital copy on D&D Beyond; I work here, ya know?)
Between the Company Positions, the downtime activities associated with building your franchise, and the adventure itself (more on all these later), this book is an amazing cornerstone for any campaign in which the player characters want to create their own adventuring company. If you find the lighthearted tone of Acq Inc off-putting, you may have to do a little bit more legwork to extract the humor and cheer, but the amount of Wizards-edited design and lovingly crafted mechanics already in this book.
Plus, it’s got new monsters and spells. What’s not to like?
The Adventure: The Orrery of the Wanderer
“The Orrery of the Wanderer” is an adventure that takes adventurers from 1st- to 7th-level on a journey that spans much of the Sword Coast of Faerûn. That’s a bit dry, isn’t it? Those are the plain facts. The real meat of this adventure is much juicier.
The real joy of “The Orrery of the Wanderer,” is that it synthesizes all of the other "best parts" of this book into one complete package. It hurls a group of adventurers with more ambition than sense into an adventure filled with discovery and acquisitions. It makes ample use of D&D’s oft-overlooked Downtime rules, and the unique downtime activities required to run a successful Acq Inc franchise. It gives every adventurer in the party opportunity to use their unique Company Positions—a new character option that defines your role in your franchise, much like your class defines your role in your adventuring party, or your background defines your backstory. The Company Positions, my favorite discrete part of this book, are used to perfection, as are the downtime activities. "The Orrery of the Wanderer" integrates all of these new aspects so seamlessly into its story experience, it almost makes me wonder why something like this wasn't part of D&D since its inception.
And, maybe most importantly, it tells a compelling story that knows when to get out of the way. The joy of the Acquisitions Incorporated podcasts, live shows, and livestreams that this book was built upon live and die by the strengths of their characters. The relationships between Omin Dran and Jim Darkmagic, between Walnut Dankgrass and Brahma Lutier—and so on—are the core of these shows. “The Orrery of the Wanderer” gives the player characters plenty of open-ended opportunities to make this story their own. It is the origin story of their Acq Inc franchise, after all.
Learn more about Company Positions in Todd Kenreck's interview with Jerry Holkins and Elyssa Grant.
Be warned, non-Dungeon Masters: minor adventure spoilers abound from here on out.
What’s in this Adventure?
This adventure is actually quite appealing to me; it begins in Waterdeep, and in the Dock Ward, no less! My first impression that it was a sort of mirror-universe beginning to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, and this book even calls out Dragon Heist for having more information on the city and its many wards. I think that an intrepid and inventive DM could very easily use these two books in tandem to create an adventure filled with both urban intrigue and grand fantasy exploration.
Without spoiling too much from here on out, this adventure begins feeling like something of a greatest hits of D&D fifth edition and the Forgotten Realms in general. There’s Waterdeep! Phandalin! Red Larch! Neverwinter! Luskan! And so on—but it never feels like the adventure is manipulating you with familiar names. Instead, players who were welcomed to fifth edition with the Starter Set and Lost Mines of Phandelver (or listened to the first arc of The Adventure Zone: Balance, or another podcast that played through Lost Mines), will feel like they’re returning home. And since they’re headed to Phandalin to check out another group of Acq Inc adventurers that have dropped off the grid, this could be the perfect place for a slick DM to drop references to PCs of Starter Set campaigns past to play on their nostalgia a little bit more.
Likewise, Acquisitions Incorporated fans who like the podcast just as much for its lore as for its comedy will be pleased to see factions like Dran Enterprises and other iconography like the Acq Inc Battle Baloon making triumphant appearances. Even when familiar elements aren’t at play, all of the NPCs in this adventure—be they significant or minor—all project the warmth, humor, and good-natured acidity that you’ve come to expect from Acq Inc.
Overall, the adventure boils down to a MacGuffin hunt in the way that Legend of Zelda games boil down to a MacGuffin hunt. Find six pieces of the thingy to stop the bad guys from doing something bad. It may sound a bit dismissive, but I actually love this structure. This simple structure gives the players room to put their characters’ interactions and development front and center, and it also lets the DM play up their cast of memorable and colorful NPCs in much the same way. It doesn’t hurt that many of the important NPCs are given beautiful, cartoonish illustrations that instantly plant an impression of their personalities straight into your gray matter.
And although the adventure itself is fairly linear, the players have the chance to grab the story by the horns in-between the story’s six episodes by performing downtime activities to expand their Acq Inc franchise. The adventure even provides specific, unique franchise activities at the end of each episode in addition to the host of generic downtime activities presented earlier in the book. And once all is said and done, if the adventurers are successful in their quest, they’ll have easily earned enough on-the-job experience to make their own Acq Inc franchise a roaring success.
Learn about the Verdan, a new playable race that perfectly embody Acquisitions Incorporated's senses of humor and adventure—and the undercurrent of eldritch evil running beneath it all.
Adapting “The Orrery of the Wanderer”
This adventure is definitely set in the Forgotten Realms. If you’re not a fan of Faerûn, you’ll be hard-pressed to ignore this fact. This is mostly true in terms of locations; many iconic Realms locations appear in this adventure. In terms of characters, “Orrery of the Wanderer” sees its heroes interfacing with canon members of the Acquisitions Incorporated “A” Team and “C” Team on at least one occasion each. It may depend on your personal taste if you consider these characters to be tightly associated with the Forgotten Realms, or if Acq Inc and its characters are sufficiently “setting neutral” in your mind to transplant them to another setting.
Despite all this, I suspect it will be very easy to adapt “The Orrery of the Wanderer” to another setting, be it your own home D&D setting or an extant setting like Eberron, Greyhawk, Critical Role’s Exandria, or so on. Even though this adventure sends you to numerous iconic Realms locations, I don’t consider anything that occurs in these locations to be so Realms-specific that relocating these events to similar locations in your setting would break them. There are no grand references to the overarching lore of the Realms like the Spellplague or the Time of Troubles—and though the Far Realm plays a significant role, the Far Realm has its eldritch tendrils curled around just about every major D&D setting at this point.
As long as your campaign setting has at least one big city, one piratical city, a Far Realm, a handful of villages, and a sprawling fantasy countryside, you’ll have no problem adapting this adventure.
Get the details on D&D's worst boss... Omin Dran!?
Continuing this Adventure
When we talked about where to locate your Acquisitions Incorporated franchise last week, I found myself surprisingly attracted to a Chultan branch of Acquisitions Incorporated. The mercantile scheming found in Port Nyanzaru pairs well with Acq Inc’s over-the-top parody of ruthless corporatism, and the vast jungle adjacent to the port is an incredible sandbox for adventurers to explore. Especially if the Death Curse from Tomb of Annihilation isn’t active.
In fact, continuing your group’s Acq Inc adventure by starting Tomb of Annihilation after completing “The Orrery of the Wanderer” is a compelling story. By the time the characters reach 7th level, they may have well suffered at least one death and resurrection, even if it was just momentary and solved with a quick revivify. Nevertheless, this means that one or more characters will feel the necrotic pull of the Death Curse firsthand—just like Jim Darkmagic did when the “A” Team hunted for the Lost City of Omu at PAX West 2017! Starting Tomb of Annihilation at 7th level means that you get to skip a lot of the aimless wandering of the jungle and move straight to the ruthless and eponymous Tomb, if that’s more your speed.
If it’s not, most of D&D’s hardcover adventures are fairly easy to transition into at 7th level; roughly the midpoint of most adventures. Princes of the Apocalypse’s Red Larch connection is attractive, and Curse of Strahd could be condensed into a short-but-fierce struggle against Count Strahd as the Mists of Ravenloft attempt to subsume your franchise’s home base. Rise of Tiamat begins right around this level, and the characters who have proved themselves to be world-saving heroes (or at least world-saving people) would be high on the list of potential allies for the Council of Waterdeep in the fight against the hitherto-unknown Cult of the Dragon.
How will you begin your Acquisitions Incorporated adventure? Will you be creating your own story, or starting from the adventure in this book? Acquisitions Incorporated is available now on D&D Beyond!
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 animal companions Mei and Marzipan. You can find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.