One of the most popular and well-known Dungeons & Dragons shows out there today is Acquisitions Incorporated, created by the minds at Penny Arcade. The company has turned a simple podcast between some friends playing D&D for content into a phenomenon with lore and canon behind it, even though it's basically what would happen if The Office were filmed in Red Larch. For the longest time, fans and players have been asking for official written content related to the series be produced, and out of the blue, we got an answer earlier this year that both Penny Arcade and Wizards of the Coast would join forces to make an official sourcebook featuring AI material. We took the time to go experiment with everything this book has to offer and we're ready to give it a review. With official documents in triplicate, of course.
A Little Something Of Note
So for starters, let me just point out that this is one of the shortest sourcebooks you'll find in Fifth Edition. Not as short as Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide or Xanathar's Guide to Everything, but it's in that range with just 224 pages of material. The primary focus of the book is to give you all the tools you need to run an Acquisitions Incorporated franchise within the spectrum of Dungeons & Dragons, complete with real jobs, stats, equipment, allies, locations, enemies, vehicles, and a starter mission to boot. When you break down AI and the contents of this book into a real-world equivalent, it would be the same if you decided to start a McDonald's franchise in a city that didn't have one, and this book would be the manual to get you started. And much the same way Peter Venkman told Ray Stanz "The franchise rights alone will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams", so too are you working under a corporation that expects results and takes a cut.
So You Want To Start An Adventuring Franchise…
The first chapter of the book focuses on setting up your franchise, what to call it, how to brand it, and where to put it. Essentially, the world is your oyster as far as being a DM is concerned. Any town you feel like throwing a franchise in (except Red Larch) is yours for the picking. Whether you want to make it real and have them based in Luskan, Thornhold, Waterdeep, Orogoth, Daggerford, Baldur's Gate, Candlekeep, Triel, Berdusk, Iron Keep, Longsaddle, Neverwinter, or anywhere else your heart desires, you can. Don't like D&D's cities, throw it in the middle of your own creation. The chapter gives you hints on how to distinguish yourselves from other franchises and teams out there so that your group feels like they're officially a part of the team while also feeling like their own entity.
Making The Best You (According To Your Resume)
The second chapter focuses on actually putting a team together and growing the franchise you're forming for your campaign. In order to do this, you have eight job titles available to you. These act independently of your class or background, so it doesn't take up any slots your character would need to define their main skills and attributes. Think of it as a piece of flair added to your character, which grows over time as you and your franchise level up. The book contains a number of perks and additional equipment you get as you take on one of eight jobs, four you probably already know if you watch the C-Team, and four new jobs added to the ranks to balance out the "corporate structure". Every job has vital bonuses and attributes that can help you and the party out depending on the contracts and jobs you take, not to mention the adventures you'll trip over while filing paperwork with the head offices.
Everyone Has A Backstory
The third chapter is where the character-building really starts to take on a life of its own as you discover all the added bonuses to character creation with every class in the Player Options. There are amazing backgrounds for you to choose from in here that will make you laugh to no end. They include Gambler, Plaintiff, Rival Intern, Failed Merchant, and Celebrity Adventurer's Scion. Each of these comes with their own little bonuses if you choose to go down one of these routes. I myself enjoyed mixing in the Gambler with a Bard, and the Scion with a Rogue. This chapter also offers guides to making your character fit within the personality types you might encounter in an organization like Acquisitions Incorporated. There are some amazing options in here that are just filled with humor and will spice up any game you decide to run with this material in mind.
Well… Not Everyone
This chapter also includes a brand new race for you to place as with the Verdan. This is a race that was literally created from chaos in the middle of a season-ending event in the C-Team, and is probably one of the best mistakes to ever come out of it all. The race, however, has more of a refugee aspect to them as they are essentially nomads created out of the ether, and therefore have no homeland. So you as a player have multiple opportunities to explore what this means for them in general as they absorb cultures around them and try to define their own culture as it doesn't exist. In essence, it's a chance for you to make up a lot more things as you go about yourself. Think about it… when you play as a Goliath or a Gnome, they have a rich and storied history and therefore have certain traits and behaviors that are expected. With the Verdan, none of that exists, it's an open field for you to make up your own culture and make it a thing at the table.
Your First Assignment
Chapter four is where all of this gets put to the test as you have an adventure centered around Acquisitions Incorporated. This is your standard Dungeons & Dragons affair, as "The Orrery of the Wanderer" is a new adventure for Level 1 characters. Yes, this is where you will cut your teeth and begin your backstory as characters in the game. Meanwhile, as the DM, you now have an opportunity to build the team's essence and make them a cohesive unit by putting them in a situation filled with peril, sought-after treasures, guest appearances, and a surprise twist that will make you wonder "how long until Penny Arcade writes a second book that's just an adventure?" There are even options within the adventure to really define the branch these characters will be staying in, and how to properly go about dealing with their backstories and downtime. It really is a nice adventure as you can make this a game worth living in for them.
Meet Your Boss' Boss' Boss & Mom
This book comes with five different appendix listings, with the first being the main team. This is the fanboy/girl dream as you're given NPC listings of all of the major characters in the game. The A-Team (Omin, Jim, Viari, and Môrgæn). The B-Team, made up primarily of characters who became either villains or prominent NPCs in the series, the C-Team (Donnar, Walnut, Rosie, and K'Thriss), Flabbergast (who mainly works the home office) and House Dran which is Omin's family who owns and operates the C-Team's base/tavern known as the Dran & Courtier. This is basically a chance for you to throw these iconic characters into the mix and get some fan-fiction adventures in if you're a creative DM. It is a shame that Binwin, Aeofel, and others who have been on the team in the past were not included, but I guess they couldn't get everyone on board or just chose to keep things simple.
Appendix B has most of your monsters that you've come to know and love and run the hell away from. Some of these include Chaos Quadrapod, Clockwork Dragon, Deep Crow, Keg Robot, and Splugoth the Returned. I was super happy to see Keg Robot was included in this mix as he's probably one of the most iconic non-team members of the series and always fun to throw into the mix. The remaining entries into the Appendix focus on Vehicles, Orrey and Components, and Trinkets. You'll have a lot of fun looking over the official airship, AKA: The Battle Balloon. The one thing missing here was an actual map of the shop so we could explore the rooms and maybe hold fights on it.
May Their Labors Please You
Overall, this is a must-own addition to your Dungeons & Dragons collection if you are any kind of a fan of Penny Arcade and Acquisitions Incorporated. Even if you ultimately don't get around to playing a campaign, this is, as we speak, as close to a written history and documentation on the series as we have right now. The book alone is filled with so many references and jokes and inside jokes you won't get unless you watched one specific episode from 2011. If you're new to the show and the concept, that's perfectly fine too, as this is a unique blend of office comedy and trivialism mixed with role-playing that will bring a sense of brevity to what can sometimes be a very intense affair. Oh, and remember, sometimes it's okay to not go off and kill dragons all the time. Sometimes the best moments can be found inside a sleepy tavern in the middle of the forest as you figure out who forgot to tip for the bill and if the home office is covering the meal. (Spoiler, they're not.)