Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Old D&D editions and clones - Ambition & Avarice

I remember when I first heard of Castles & Crusades, and how the creators talked about how it fused the best of older editions with new. I was never that convinced by C&C, but if any game has managed to fuse the best of old and new, that game is Ambition & Avarice.

The first thing I noticed when I opened this game is how good it looks. The layout it clean and readable and the illustrations opening each chapter is adorable. I mean, the illustration to Introduction is of a ruined structure, the proverbial hole in the ground you go to have adventures. It's where everything start, and the focus of it all, which is what the text say when it lays down the design goals. Everything in this game feels well thought out.

It's fun to see new classes, and new races. Some of them are what you would normally call evil or barbaric, and I like how this game never labels them as evil or NPC only.

Some innovations feels very good, like the saves as inherent to the race, while the classes is more about what you're trained to do. Having some things each class is good at, some things they can identify and some kind of companions are strokes of genius! This makes the class cover so much more, be flexible and the companions makes the game tie the murder hobos to the world. Very good new design, in a very old and traditional way. I also like the way the system of Dungeon Rolls gives you that kind of light weight "skill system" that LotfP has. Since there are lots of class based abilities and the races have lot of different qualities it feels like there so many interesting ways to make your character special, while it's still very easy to generate one and the archetypes you in a class based system are still present. It doesn't get much better than that. The author, Greg Christopher, even manages to sell me on a save system that aligns more with the traditional ones than my preferred 3rd ed. style saves.

What are my reactions to this game then? I guess you have noted that already. This is a game that is a joy to read, and thus it makes you want to play it. There are interesting innovations while keeping a lot of the stuff that is familiar. This is a honed game, and finely cut gem that has taken lots of stuff and really focused on player driven play, within the boundaries of old school gaming, but with lots of possibilities to play just the character you want.

There are a few things that really makes me want to run this game. One of them is the lack of a list of standard magic items. One of the things that so often make the fantastic mundane is the thoughtless reuse of the pieces of wonder Gary and Rob invented for the Greyhawk campaign. In this game both monsters and magic is allowed to be unique and fantastic again.

If more games were as well written as this one, we'd all be better off.

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