Product– Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, 7th ed.
System-Castles & Crusades
Producer–Troll Lord Games
TL; DR– An interesting mix of old and new. 86 %
Basics-Onwards to adventure! Castles and Crusades is an Old School game through and through in its seventh edition. Let’s walk through to see all this game has to offer!
Basic Rolls-Castles and Crusades uses the d20 system at its core. Attacks are D20 rolls plus an attack bonus and an attribute. Skills are d20 plus an attribute and possible additional bonuses. If you’ve played any basic d20 system you can hop right into this game.
Skills, saves, and the Siege System-When you do something in Castles and Crusades, you roll as discussed above, but you sometimes get to add your levels. If the thing you are doing is something your class could do, you add your level. If you would not be trained because this isn’t something you would know how to do, you don’t add your level. The gamemaster sets the number you need to roll based on two factors-attribute and challenge level. Here is the crux of the Siege system. During character generation, you get primary attributes from your race and your class. If the thing you are trying to do or the save you are trying to make is based on a primary attribute, then the number you need to roll starts at 12. If it’s a secondary attribute, then the number starts at an 18. Next the GM adds the challenge level. This is a number representing how hard the thing you are doing is. Open a one tumbler lock might be a challenge level 1, but the king’s personal bank vault might be an 8. So, different characters have different required rolls based on their primary abilities.
Everything else-From here on, if you have played Pathfinder or DnD 3.5, you’re in solid hands. AC, rounds, and spells all function pretty much like you expect. If not, then the book gives you a solid introduction to the system
Mechanics or Crunch– Overall, this is a decently put together system, but the Siege system has some significant bumps in the road. I have lived through 3.5e to 5e DnD and watched wild swings in how much control a GM has at the table regarding the number required to roll for PCs to get things done. This game is solidly old school as lots left up to the GM, and I feel that hurts this a bit. This game really needs a list of skills and what classes get what skills, if any. Its OK for the rogue to be the a skill monkey and have tons of skills, but often some things just are left up to the GMs discretion. Saves are even left up to the GM! There is a chart of what attribute you roll for each save with different spell and monster effect requiring different attribute saves. All of this falls into the basics of the Siege system with a fighter who didn’t choose dexterity in a worse place compared to the rogue when the fireball goes off or he sneaks around in the dark. It’s not bad, but GM and the players have to really work together to run this game as some things are too complex to run on autopilot like simple roll to dodge a blow. Solid, but some needlessly complex things mar the system. 4/5
Theme or Fluff-.Solid old school fantasy. The book doesn’t have a world per se, but it does have world building with discussions on the nature of magic and character classes. Even each class has a bit of fluff to make you understand who they are and if you want to be them. It’s light, but for building a generic fantasy RPG, it’s doing its job well. 5/5
Execution– PDF? Check! Hyperlinked? CHECK! Tables that lay things out well? Well here is where things break down. This game is solidly in the OSR crowd. That’s not bad as the old school has some great advice for the young, but some things just need a new touch! Things like laying classes out better in tables and saying what I get at each level instead of having me read the complete class entry to see if and when I get different abilities. Spells suffer from the same issue as challenge levels where much interpretation is needed to determine what kind of spell is being cast instead of just leaving me with what I have to roll.and More often that not, I’m left making a call on what I’m doing or what kind of save I have to make. And for some things, I just want to add things up some numbers and see if I succeed. It feels a bit like homework. It does read easily, but modern RPG design elements would really help make this book that much more easier to read and run. 4/5
Summary-This game is a solid entry in the Old School Revolution that is embracing the advances of d20 system, at least for the mechanics. Adding at most two numbers and hoping is easier that thac0 or other previous system, at least for new players. But this book didn’t take enough from modern systems and layout. Listing skills and just saying what attribute to roll for every spell and most common effect will really help me play and enjoy the game. Now, this game is absolutely playable and fun out of the box day one with the basic mechanics being tried, true, and tested, but more specifically, fun. It’s old school fantasy RPG with some new additions that build on and preserve the original author’s vision. However, some things could be done much better to really help me play and teach this RPG. 86%