Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free RPG Day impressions - Castles & Crusades

Now I have had some time to look over some of the freebies I got for Free RPG Day. Just like last year, Troll Lord Games participated with a booklet of quickstart rules for Castles & Crusades. Like last year it also included a small adventure.

The booklet starts with character creation rules, covering levels 1 to 4. Four classes (Fighter, Rogue, Wizard and Cleric) and four races (elf, dwarf, half-elf and human) are included. In just fourteen pages they even manage to include spell lists, equipment, combat rules and some short notices about how to personalize your character. Good job.

The booklet ends with a short adventure about exploring a wizard's tower. If that's not a classic, I don't know what is! It's intriguing enough, and a decent job for showing what you can do with the game.

Now for the oddities. When I came to the last pages and read the adventure, I stared at the monster stats. The monster has 7HD8, AC 20, HP 43, "Its primary attributes are physical" and it attacks with 2 slam attacks for 2d8 of damage. Plain and simple enough, right? Except that there are three physical attributes. Are we to pick one ourself? Are we to roll them up, since they are not provided? The creative gamer can get past that, I guess. Now for the next one, which I didn't manage to solve. Players attack using a d20 roll, add their level, add their BtH combat bonus and if I understood correctly their stat bonus. Compare the result to the target's AC. Take a look again at those monster stats. What's the BtH, level and stat bonus? Maybe I have misunderstood the rules, but I can't find a description how to play the adventure when it comes to combat with monsters! I borrowed the rule books for C&C but returned them just before getting the Free RPG Day booklet. Now I'm wondering if they have managed to be this opaque in the full rules, or if they just managed to slim the rules down a bit too much. I went back and looked in the quickstart from last year, and no more hints in that one. Feel free to enlighten me, if you know how it's supposed to work!

All in all I can't decide if I like C&C or not. It feels a lot like D&D3 without feats, and with a system of stat based rolls instead of skills. One could almost say it's AD&D2 done without trying so hard to keep the cruft of old. Or, one could say it's 3rd ed. done by streamlining AD&D2. I think AD&D1 is kind of messy, with it's nonsensical system of saves, and quixotic arrangement of rules and data in the PHB. I can see why some gamers feel it's a smooth running engine, though. D&D3 is a really slick machine of a game system. It can be tooled with and is a lot more adaptable than old AD&D2 ever was, creaking under the load of diverse settings as Dark Sun and Planescape. That being said, D&D3 without being tweaked is a bit to heavy and if you just add stuff without taking away something it will fall down under its own weight. C&C feels a lot like a mix between of the two. It is slick, and makes sense. It's possible to pick up and play, and don't try to do more than one thing at once but unifies what is does in a neat mechanic. So, why do I feel kind of disinterested? I really don't know. Many parts of me love this game, but my heart wont listen. Curious.


  1. Monster attacks are basically:
    d20 + HD >= AC
    So a 7 HD monster would roll and add 7.

    Character attacks are basically:
    d20 + BtH >= AC
    So a 5th level Fighter (BtH of +5) would roll and add 5 (plus any other applicable bonues/penalties, a 5th level cleric (BtH +2) would roll and add 2, etc.

    I like the game but don't like the books if that makes sense. I am not a fan of the writing or the art but I am a fan of the system.

  2. Hmm. I must say that wasn't all that clear to me. Thanks!

    It is indeed a strange game to create those feelings, isn't it?


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