Guest Author - Jay Shaffstall
Castles & Crusades, published by Troll Lord Games, reminds me a lot of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
That's a good thing, by the way. While AD&D wasn't the first role playing game I played (that was the D&D Basic Set), it was my primary system through junior high and high school. We experimented with lots of systems during that time, but always came back to various AD&D campaigns.
So when I was looking through the rule books for Castles & Crusades, I had to keep checking the covers to see if I'd accidentally picked up someone's old copy of AD&D. Especially the Monsters & Treasures book; monster descriptions are very much old school (again, that's a good thing!)
So, for those like me that enjoyed AD&D in our younger days, but have grown to want a more flexible system (but without the complexities of recent versions of D&D), what does Castles & Crusades have to offer?
The Old & The New
While much of C&C brings back feelings of classic AD&D, they've also adapted plenty from newer versions. Each class in C&C has a primary attribute, and those match well to the primary attributes from 3.5. So someone familiar with more recent versions of D&D will feel at home.
Primary attributes are far more critical in C&C, though. Each class has one primary attribute. Each non-human character can have a total of two primary attributes (called Prime attributes), so you can pick your second Prime attribute based on how you want to play your character.
For example, if you're a Paladin, your class' Prime is charisma. If you plan to play your Paladin as a butt-kicking holy warrior, you might choose strength as your second Prime. But if you plan to play a sneaky type of Paladin, you might choose dexterity as your second Prime. The wise holy man would choose wisdom, and so on.
The choice of Prime attributes has a direct effect on what your character is good at, and is a key point in character creation. Human characters get a total of three Prime attributes, to make up for the fact that they don't get cool special abilities.
C&C excels in flexibility.
AD&D might have required a table lookup to figure out what you needed to roll to succeed in a particular task, and there'd be a table for every task you could do. Good luck figuring out what you needed to roll for non-standard tasks.
C&C provides for two basic difficulties for any roll you might attempt. The base challenge level of an attempt to perform something using a non-Prime attribute is 18. You're rolling a d20, so that's pretty tough. You might get some modifiers for special abilities, and for your attribute, but that's still tough.
The base challenge level for any attempt to perform something using a Prime attribute is 12. Add in bonuses you get for your attribute (you probably made your Prime attributes high, right?) and items, and that's looking not too bad.
That base challenge level can be modified by the GM to fit what you're trying to do. For example, if you're trying to hit a goblin in combat using a Prime attribute, the final difficulty would be 12 plus the goblin's defense rating. If you're trying to simply hit an archery target using a Prime attribute, the difficulty might just be 12. But trying to hit the bullseye in that same target will add some to the difficulty.
From that simple system comes enormous flexibility. Any character can attempt any action, with the GM modifying the difficulty appropriately.
Good Old Fashioned Dungeon Crawling
Castles & Crusades is a great system for good old fashioned dungeon crawling. Sure, you can do more than that in the system, but for those of us who grew up on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, a good dungeon crawl has a certain feel. And I, at least, haven't gotten that same feel in more recent versions of D&D.
I did, though, playing C&C. So if you grew up on AD&D and have been looking for a supported system to continue with, take a good look at Castles & Crusades.