Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thoughts on Castles & Crusades

The only gaming I’ve got going on at the moment is a Castles and Crusades game, a new one. I’m playing a lawful neutral human cleric in a party that also has a pair of paladins. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group with two paladins, or this heavily skewed toward lawful. It’s just unheard of in my experience. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the game. I can see the potential for some really interesting developments.

I have visions of a fortress temple from which inquisitors are sent forth to deal with incursions of the chaotic creatures at civilizations edge.

To focus on Castles and Crusades for a moment, overall it’s a pretty solid retro-clone. Mostly d20, with some tweaks. I like how it handles ability checks, for instance. Your ability scores are either primary or secondary based on your race and class, and depending on whether you’re ability check is against a primary stat or a secondary one your challenge base is either 12 or 18. It’s a simple, even elegant solution to handling skill checks.

For as much as I’m enjoying playing it though, it’s not a game I’d run on my own. And I’m having a hard time articulating why. It’s a perfectly serviceable d20 system that does a lot of cleaning up of the various issues that 3.x has. But I feel like it doesn’t have that spark that makes me want to pick up anything besides the players guide. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure that if I’d had access to it back when 3.5 first came out, I’d have been all over it. Now I think I’ve just been spoiled by all of the awesome that’s come out of the OSR! It just isn’t different enough to really make it stand out in the same way that Adventurer Conqueror King or Dungeon Crawl Classics does, and it doesn’t try to closely emulate a specific previous edition like Swords and Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord.

When it comes down to it, I don’t need another D&D rules set that doesn’t do something *really* unique.

Of course that isn’t going to stop me from playing it! I’m pretty happy to sit down with just about any game and roll some dice.

The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure that if I’d had access to it back when 3.5 first came out, I’d have been all over it. Now I think I’ve just been spoiled by all of the awesome that’s come out of the OSR. I don’t know that I’ll ever get a more interesting set of deities than those found in Petty Gods, a more interesting campaign setting than The Hexenbracken, The Kraal, or The Colossal Wastes of Zhaar,
such variety of adventures in the one Page Dungeon Contest, and more everything in this year’s Secret Santicore.

7 comments:

  1. I have the same feeling. It seems an odd duck now, using the rules of an out-of-print game to try and capture the feel of another out-of-print game. The thinking at the time, from what I remember, was that WotC wouldn't let people make adventures and stuff for AD&D but that fear never materialized.

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  2. 'I don’t know that I’ll ever get a more interesting set of deities than those found in Petty Gods, a more interesting campaign setting than The Hexenbracken, The Kraal, or The Colossal Wastes of Zhaar,
    such variety of adventures in the one Page Dungeon Contest, and more everything in this year’s Secret Santicore.'

    And none of that will work with C&C?

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    1. Sure, but they also work just as well with Adventurer Conqueror King, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Swords and Wizardry, and Labyrinth Lord, and each of those systems offers me something that I just find more interesting. I'm not saying C&C is bad. It isn't. It's a great system, really, it just doesn't scratch the gaming itch in quite the right spot.

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  3. I am new to OSR but I was playing it when it was relatively new in the old days, if that makes sense. I just didn't know there was a community as geeked as I am about the classic game.

    You are right about how wonderful it is to have so many excellent sources, both for full games and from really smart bloggers just throwing stuff out there. It really makes the professional stuff from the last 25 years look pretty lame by comparison.

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    1. Welcome back! We're all pretty geeked out here about all sorts of stuff.

      Oh, there's been some good stuff from the pros too. And many have become pros in the meantime.

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  4. Take a look at the Castle Keepers Guide. It's just... fantastic.

    Most of the adventures are plain oldschool dungeon crawling, but each one has one two things in it that makes it special.The Celtic handbook is spectacular, too.

    I only recently got into C&C and only as a system to wait until Hackmaster 5th Gamemasters Guide comes out evetually, but it really got me hooked. It has a great set of basic rules - like you noticed yourself - and can easily be used to play all the oldschool stuff out there. Our current campaign is a birthright campain and the last advenure icluded stuff from Swords & Wizadry.

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  5. I've been running a campaign with C&C, and it has worked. But C&C lacks rules for Morale and Reaction - there are none. Those are corner stones of old school play. Also, I've had to use house rules for Surprise and Initiative... just don't get me started on what Wisdom checks have done to the game.
    Not to be too negative, I think the mix of old and new that is C&C is a good start.

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