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Castles and Crusades is one of the classic Old School variants of D&D and it is a very tidy version of the classic game. I am not going to do a full Castles and Crusades review here but I do want to tell you something about the game.
One of the biggest dilemmas in these more traditional D&D variations was what to do about skills. In the original game skills did not feature outside of classes like the thief and monk. How you solved other problems was down entirely to DM fiat. That lead to a great deal of variability.
I am preparing solo rules for this game. If you would like to know when they are ready and get a discount on DriveThruRPG, there is a link at the end of this post.
A lot of games resolved this by adding an ever increasing number of skills and feats to the core game. The complexity spiraled up over a few iterations before, the latest incarnation of D&D really stripped it all back.
I have bought the 3 Sisters bundle that contains the classic Players Handbook, Castle Keepers Guild and Monsters & Treasures.
Castles and Crusades on the other hand never when down the skills route. The game uses a mechanism created by Troll Lord Games, C&C’s creator, called the SIEGEengine™.
The way SIEGEengine works is by using Primary Characteristics, which are decided by a mix of class and player choice. The Castle Keeper (DM) sets a Challenge Level, and an appropriate characteristic. You then have to roll over the target number. If the characteristic is one of you primary characteristics the Challenge Level starts at 12, if it is not a primary characteristic the starting point is 18. You roll your d20 and try and roll over the target number.
The SIEGEengine is where Castles & Crusades gets awesome! For a start any character can attempt anything, well anything that isn’t class specific. What I should really have said is that your character can try anything that you or I could try and do. It doesn’t matter how hard you or I try, we are not going to turn the undead or cast fireball! Beyond that, characters are capable, but there is more to it than that.
The engine means that you know roughly what your chances are going to be, before you try. If you are a fighter and one of your primary characteristics is Strength, lifting a boulder is a possibility. You are looking at a 12+ give or take your level and any difficulty imposed by the Keeper. You can judge that based upon similar, bigger or smaller boulders shifted by your character in the past. If you are a cleric and none to strong to boot, shifting that boulder is going to be a much tougher proposition.
In both cases, we don’t know the actual CL until the GM calls it, but we do know where we and the GM is starting from. Is this plan on that is likely to succeed? In non-skilled OSR GM fiat can mean massive differences from session to session. Today you can, tomorrow you cannot. SIEGEengine takes away a lot of that uncertainty. In doing so it gives your characters a greater understanding of how their world works.
I like this, it is like having well structured nothingness. You don’t have skills, but you have a rule for how to resolve one. You don’t have feats but you do know your chances of performing one. The rule can be applied as easily to a called shot to disarm a foe as to trying to solve a tricky crossword puzzle, a constant torment to wizards up and down the land, obviously.
There are a few more nuances, the keeper can vary the CL and the player gets to add their characters level to the roll. Higher-level characters are capable of ever more heroic tasks.
All through the rules are constant reminder that the story and narrative are more important than challenge rolls, dice and numbers. I like this attitude.
The reason I am looking at Castles and Crusades is because I am writing the Castles and Crusades Solo Handbook. It is a prime candidate for a set of solo rules. Solo play is narrative-heavy, it is all about the story. The central mechanic of C&C is all just a single roll, not unlike an oracle roll.
Castles and Crusades on Kickstarter
Right now, the game is hugely popular. Troll Lord Games have run 30+ kickstarters and average in the region of $30,000 per project.
But this is where solo rules come in. If you have backed the kickstarter, or bought the rules, you will want to play the game. Getting you regular group to change system is not easy. For some players they like knowing the rules forwards and backwards. They know how to build the character they want to play and how every ability works. Why would they want to give that up?
Solo rules mean that you can play the game, even if your group is unsure. If you are part way through a campaign. If you have bought the game, you should get to play it.
I can go on and on for hours about how all the advantages of solo play, and what it will bring to your role-playing, in groups, online or solo. I will save that for another day. If you have watched the video above, you will know the production quality of Troll Lord Games and Castles and Crusades. I hope the Solo Handbook fit in well with that product line.
Solo Handbook Discount
I am hoping to have my Castles and Crusades Solo Handbook live on DriveThruRPG in May (2020). If you are interested, there is an offer below.