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Castles & Crusades Beneath the Dome, Pt. 1 Tombs of Green
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/08/2013 06:06:56
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/07/08/tabletop-review-beneath-
-the-dome-part-one-tombs-of-green-castles-crusades/

Beneath the Dome is Troll Lord Games’ second attempt to create an episodic adventure series for its Castles and Crusades line. The Adventures on the Powder River series consisted of five seven page short adventures, each for ninety-nine cents. I reviewed the first four adventures in the series (To the Damenheit Bridge, Thorns For Beer, River Walk and Golden Shingles) and found them to be all over the place in terms of quality, but I was happy to see a set of adventures for the system, or any system really, that were under a dollar and could more or less be played as stand alone or as one big story.

I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by the sticker price on this one. Sure, the Beneath the Dome series has a few more pages to the adventures, but is inflation so bad that the price for this concept of episodic adventures has tripled in just the past year? I can pick up full length Castles and Crusades adventures for the same price, and the subscription price merely knocks fifty cents off of each adventure. As well, for only a few cents more, you can get a full length adventure like The Goblins of Mount Shadow or the Dwarven Glory collection of adventures. I probably wouldn’t be heckling the price if we hadn’t just had a similar concept from Troll Lord last year for a fraction of the price, but it’s worth noting that the price is a bit exuberant compared to what has come before.

Tombs of Green is an interesting adventure designed for two to six characters between levels 1 and 5. This piece of information is in small print in the upper right hand corner of the legal text and credits page, so I’d forgive you for missing it. An entire town has been wiped out, and the PCs are called on to figure out what happened. Somehow, a nearby mountain appears to have been carved up without anyone noticing or hearing. The face of the mountain is now pale green, and a cave has opened up where once there was none. Approaching the cave causes PCs to be greeted by a calm rational orange person, who tries to get the characters to turn back. If they don’t… they are attacked by a horde of green zombies, who were once the villagers of the destroyed town! From there players investigate the cave, and things turn into a basic dungeon crawl. So you have a standard hook with some unusual creatures and a small dungeon. It’s an okay story to play through in a single night, but the adventure doesn’t have a set ending, or even a real climax, which is a disappointment. You just kind of go through the dungeon, kill things, and then leave. There’s no explanation as to why the town was attacked or even who the enemies are. My guess is that these bits have been saved for a later adventure, which is fine in terms of the collection, but as a standalone, there’s very little for the Castle Keeper to flesh this thing out with in terms of character development or motive.

Now, that’s not to say I only have negative things to say about Tombs of Green. I loved a lot of the encounters in the adventure. The zombie dragon was a lot of fun, as were the hilariously cursed magic items one can find in the dungeon. Living statues and an animated sword are also memorable encounters your players will have a blast with. Basically, if your friends are just looking for hack and slash goodness, Tombs of Green will be a lot of fun, but if you’re looking for story and depth, this probably shouldn’t be your first choice for a Castles & Crusades adventure.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art by Peter Bradley in this adventure. The cover to Tombs of Green is exceptionally striking, and there’s something about it that made me want to pick up this adventure, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the adventure AT ALL. The interior art is quite nice too, and C&C fans will enjoy adding it to their collection just for that.

All in all, we’ll give Tombs of Green a thumbs in the middle. The combat is fun, but the plot is lacking. It’s shaping up to be a better quality affair than Adventures on the Powder River, but I think the large price increase from last year’s episodic adventures may turn away those hoping for a similar cost in this collection.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Beneath the Dome, Pt. 1 Tombs of Green
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Castles & Crusades Free City of Eskadia
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/10/2013 07:35:33
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/06/10/tabletop-review-free-ci-
ty-of-eskadia-jack-of-lies-castles-crusades/

As this is my fifteenth Castles and Crusades review, you can probably tell I’m a big fan of the franchise. It’s easily my favorite OSR style system, and I always enjoy seeing what Troll Lord Games and other publishers put out for it. Today we’re looking at a new massive campaign setting in Free City of Eskadia. This 138 page book contains everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, you could possibly want to know about a fantasy setting. The history of the area, guilds, stores, prices, important people, sewer system descriptions – you name it, it’s in there. Free City of Eskadia is a whopping thirty two chapters of information, which sounds crazy impressive and perhaps even a little intimidating. The good news is that many of those chapters could have easily been one really long chapter instead of broken down as minutely as things are. For example, the adventure in the book takes up five chapters, which is an odd way to do things, especially when the adventure is only twenty-eight pages. I personally think one chapter with five sections would have flown better, but really, it’s all semantics when it comes down to it.

The big problem with Free City of Eskadia is that, as impressive as all the information about the campaign setting is, it is one of the dullest, driest reads I have ever had with a tabletop product. I had to keep putting the book down as my eyes glazed over. We’re talking Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off dry. I understand that a campaign setting, or any book designed to set the stage, can sometimes read like a textbook, but this was exceptionally above and beyond hard to wade through – and this is coming from someone who is a big Castles & Crusades fan, and a professional non-fiction writer used to doing essays and papers with bibliographies, footnotes and the like. I was very impressed by the level of detail in Free City of Eskadia, but it was so hard to get through because of the writing style and narrative, and I can’t remember the last time I had to force myself to get through a book for review’s purposes. Even products I’ve hated were easier to read and get through than this. I hate saying this, but I guess you can’t win them all.

Free City of Eskadia is also riddled with typographical and grammatical errors, often times in unintentionally hilarious ways. Look at the following sentence, for example, from page 39: “The ghost is quite vengeful and needs to be exercised.” Obviously that should be EXORCISED, but it is quite funny to think of a malicious specter whose only weakness is a holy treadmill. This is just one example of the many I’ve found here. Although these issues can be corrected in the PDF version, I feel bad for the people who ordered the hard or softcover version of the book, because you CAN’T fix one of those once they’ve been printed.

The important thing is that, if you can wade through the writing style, there is so much to be had in this book. It may “only” be 138 pages, but it feels as in-depth as the 300+ page location books we’ve seen from other companies like White Wolf or TSR. There is a chapter devoted to just the guilds of the city, along with the major houses for political intrigue. Each of the nine wards of the city get their own chapter, and within each one are names, descriptions and stat blocks of major NPCs. Besides the multi-chapter adventure, there are five other chapters devoted to story seeds, short adventures and dungeon crawls (although most aren’t literally dungeons) that you can use for a full on campaign. It’s wonderful just how much content is here, and I feel bad that I just didn’t care for the writing style or the manner in which all the content was presented, because I was really excited for this book. There are new races, a new NPC class, a full chapter on new magic items, another chapter of gods to worship and two new monsters. Again, there is a shockingly large amount of content in this book for the size. Now, will I ever end up using this? Probably not, due to how dull I found the content, but that’s really a subjective thing, and what I find boring, you might find thrilling. I will say that if you check my Castles & Crusades review archive, I to tend like the majority of what comes out for the system, so you might want to read those reviews and see if our tastes match up. I will probably try in a year or so to come back to see if the book has aged well or if I’m more receptive to the writing style, but for now, let’s call Free City of Eskadia a thumbs in the middle. Yay for the sheer amount of content and level of detail, but boo for the errors and extremely dull writing style.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Free City of Eskadia
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Castles & Crusades Aihrde Human Migrations Map
by Matthew M. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/31/2013 16:02:15
This is a color PDF document offered free of charge. To begin, I like maps and place names to help spur my own creativity in adventures and stories. "Aihrde" presumably relates to a fantasy universe given more depth and detail in a handbook. This then would be a supplement to that system. Several other maps of Aihrde are also offered for free. In my other reviews I stated that I was disappointed with maps of Aihrde. Sadly, this map of "human migration" from its title was very unhelpful. It's only use, in my opinion, would be for someone using the Aihrde system. It is provided free of charge, and that fact alone usually rates the product "Two Stars." Without offense to the author or design team, I can only in good faith give it "One Star"/Bad. I cannot suggest it be downloaded.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Aihrde Human Migrations Map
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Castles & Crusades Aihrde Political Map
by Matthew M. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/31/2013 15:55:49
This is a color map PDF document offered free of charge. To begin, I enjoy maps and place names because that isn't my strong suit. Usually seeing the work of others helps spur my own creativity for adventures and stories. It's likely to assume "Aihrde" refers to a fantasy universe given more depth and detail in a handbook. This then would be a map supplement for that setting. There also are a small handful of other maps of Aihrde offered for free. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this product since it wouldn't help me unless I was going to use the Aihrde setting; it's of little use otherwise. However, it is provided free of charge.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Aihrde Political Map
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Castles & Crusades Aihrde World Map
by Matthew M. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/31/2013 15:49:58
This is a brief, color PDF document offered free of charge. If I recall, Aihrde is a fantasy universe probably detailed in more depth and detail through a handbook. This would therefore be a supplement to that system and a foretaste of what and how it is. Personally, I love maps and place names as it spurs my own creativity in adventures and stories. But I didn't find this map/document to be very useful. That being said, it may help someone using the Aihrde setting. I'd said I was disappointed and couldn't recommend it, other than the fact that it is provided free of charge.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Aihrde World Map
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Castles & Crusades Town of Kalas
by Jake P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2013 12:37:48
I was surprised to like this as much as I do. As others have noted, this is a high magic setting, and I generally prefer lower levels of magic. The NPCs presented tend towards high stats and most have several levels of experience in some class or the other. Since I envision even a 1st level fighter (a "Veteran") to be a superior warrior to typical militiaman, having most shopkeepers be able to outfight lower level characters isn't something I care for. Worse, most of those same NPCs have one or (more often) several magic items, and most of them are stock items (lots of swords +1, etc.) without much color or "magic" to them, which I really dislike. Finally, the proofreading on Kalas certainly leaves a bit to be desired, and it gives the impression that it wasn't written for C&C, since the SEIGE engine makes nary an appearance (NPCs don't have prime attributes provided, etc.).

Most of those things are easily fixed. It's very easy to downgrade NPC stats and levels as needed. It's also easy to downgrade those +1 magic items to masterwork items, and it doesn't take too much work to provide additional color to the rest of the magic items, making the more "magical". Finally, assigning primes is dead simple, and the lack of SEIGE engine integration serves as a left handed boon to anyone not using Kalas with C&C.

So what's left is the meat of the book, which are the characterizations and hooks. And that's where Kalas is simply outstanding. There are many, many personalities that are distinct, interesting, and engaging, making the city of Kalas feel very alive. Furthermore, the city is so rife with adventure opportunities - many of them plainly laid out in lists that follow most of the building entries - that it makes the life of the referee nearly as easy as can be. The only problem in this regard is that the book was written more to be enjoyable to read than easily useable at the gaming table. The descriptions are more verbose than strictly utilitarian. Thus, Kalas is much more useful to referees that have time to read the whole book before use than to those winging it. For what it's worth, I found the author's writing to be quite enjoyable, so that problem is mitigated to a degree.

Overall, despite the upfront investment in time that Kalas will require for it to work well for me, the seemingly hundreds of quality adventure hooks, interesting characters, and useful tables have made this a very worthwhile purchase. Highly recommended.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Town of Kalas
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Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/22/2013 14:09:54
The Codex Celtarum is written by Brian Young. He is a gamer and an academic in Celtic history and languages and all around nice guy. Honestly he is the kind of guy I want writing this sort of thing. You talk to him and get the feeling that he could immediately tell you a story from the Mabinogion and it would roll off his tongue like the bards of old. This is the guy you want working on your Celtic game.

The first thing I noticed in his introduction was his acknowledgement of the differences in legend and in history and where he was putting his cards. For me, as someone that has had to have the same tug of war, the value of this book went up several degrees.
Before moving on to the book itself I spent a lot of time with Castles & Crusades again, this time from the point of view of a Celtic-themed game. Honestly I think it might be one of the better systems to do it with.

The book itself is divided into eight sections plus the forward.
Now at this point it should be noted that the design of this book is to play in a Faery realm, so it is something you can drop into any game world. There are some game-based assumptions made, but nothing to keep you from making this your own.

Chapter 1: Once Upon A Time covers the creation of the Celtic universe including the various wars that happened at the dawn of time and various personalities. We are introduced to various gods. The Horned One and the Blue Hag take central stage. At this point I want to say that reading this is like reading a story of old as an adult; familiar yet nuanced in ways I didn't know then. For me the myths and tales this is based on are familiar, but this is new telling for a new world. We are treated to so many names that are familiar and new at the same time; The Tuatha Dé Dannan, Danu, Lir, Goíbhníu, it's like hearing the names of old friends. In a mere 6 pages we have the whole background of the world to the present day. Nothing extra, nothing left out.

Chapter 2: In Lands Far Away details the physical and metaphysical lands of Faery and mortal plane they touch. There are the Two Cauldrons, Night & Day (which have affects on the faery) and the Twelve Houses of the Gods (with a cool map). Given the subject the human lands are the British Ilses and Ireland and given the author we get a lot of Welsh names. The faery lands don't have the same rules of nature as the mortal realms. So there are some tables about the odd passage of time or the nature of the land. Normally I would balk at this sort of randomness, but here it not only works, it is part and parcel of the mythos. BTW if you don't quite recognize the map of the lands, hold it up to a mirror.

Chapter 3: There Lived a People has everything you want to know about the Faery races. This includes the major sub-races (Light, Darkness and Twilight) and traits faeries can have. Now the utility of this chapter should be obvious. I will also add that if you want to give your FRPG Elves a nice shot in the arm then adopt this part of book. We are given detail (in terms of monster stat blocks) of the Children of Light, Children of Twilight and Children of Darkness. Nearly every Celtic-fae type is here in one form or another. There are lot of new creatures here (unless you are very familiar with Celtic myths) and some that I don't believe have ever been featured in a game book before. There are also plenty of Faery beasts and supernatural animals. We also get some giants, but no stats since they are legendary.

Chapter 4: Great of Magic and Power details, what else, magic. If human wizards study magic and human priests pray for it then the Fae ARE magic. The distinction is not a subtle one. The magical powers here are listed as spells. So they can be used by the fae as if they were spells, but that robs them of what makes them so interesting. Instead go with the suggestion in the book that each member of the fae get a number of special powers based on their intelligence. And there are plenty of powers here! If you are anything like me and love magic, spells or powers for characters then this chapter alone is worth the price of the book. I have to admit I am pleased to see similar powers here as to what I have in Ghosts of Albion under Faerie Powers. It tells me that we were drawing from similar sources. There are plenty of differences though allowing for personal preference, but it shows that Brian and I were thinking along similar lines.

Chapter 5: Strong of Feats and Deeds handles what the Celts did best. Fighting. Well they did other things too, but this is what those stories were all about. If your fighting-type characters felt left out in the last chapter, then this is one help you out. Plenty of options. I particularly liked the Tattoo magic. There are feats as well. Before you panic these are feats in the traditional sense of the word and there are only a score of them. If you have read any of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, then these are the feats of Cú Chulainn. There are also some fighting orders detailed such as The War Sisters, the Fian (Fianna) and the Dragons of Prydain (of which the most famous is Arthur).

Chapter 6: With Great Gods and Heroes covers the gods, demigods and heroes of the lands. We have been introduced to a few already like The Horned One and his wild Hunt. Arthur is mentioned as well as my personal favorite Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool). There are no stats for these gods or heroes. Why? That is easy. They are not meant to be killed or even interacted with. They are the legends of this land.

Chapter 7: Great of Name and Mighty of Deeds covers new rules. First up are changes to the various character classes. Not a lot needs to be altered here. Again as I mentioned above, the classes in C&C are based around concepts and skills rather than powers, these can translate better. There are some new classes too. The Woodwose is something like a wildman, a mix of barbarian and ranger. These are humans that have lived in Faery a little too long. The Wolf Charmer are something like a Beast Master. They charm animals to follow them. There are some adventure hooks from classical Celtic tales. A list of names for characters from Brythonic and Gaelic roots.

The last part, Chapter 8: Items Enchanted and Divine, are all the pieces that didn't fit above. But it still has a lot of good material. We get a nice discussion on Faery Metals and how they can be used. There is a list of divine items (artifacts in other games) listed by owner; that's right the Gáe Bulga is not just lying around waiting for you to find it. No this +8 spear (!) is well in the hands of Cú Chulainn.
Ogham is discussed and the various societies and cultures of the heroic age; the Picts, the Britons, the Anglo-Saxons and the Gaels. Holidays around the isles are also detailed.
We end with a map.

Ok. So what can say here.
First the book is absolutely excellent. I am insane with jealousy on how good it is really. At 176 pages it crams a lot into space. I love the feel of this book. There is something about that just feels right to me and it makes C&C the perfect system to play a Celtic-based Faery game. Now. Some points of clarification again. This isn't a book about playing in a Celtic society per se. There is no "day in the life of a Celtic warrior" bit. Only lip service is given to Bronze Age tech or what the larger Gaelic society was like. Also this book isn't about playing "weird elves". There is nothing here for example from the Germanic tradition of Faerie stories. The aim of this book is very specific. If you are looking for one of the above sorts of books then this might not fit your bill.
But if you are looking for a book to play in that intersection of Celtic myth and Faery lore, then this is the book you want.
As with all C&C books the layout is clean and easy to read. The art is fantastic.
If you are a fan of Celtic myth, Faery lore, or Castles & Crusades then I highly recommend this book. Even if you don't play C&C, I would get this book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
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Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/21/2013 09:51:28
Castles & Crusades actually has a number of monster books. Each has a slightly different focus. This one focuses on the game world of Aihrde. The Castles & Crusades Monster stat block is a nice combination of Basic's simplicity, 1st AD&D's comprehensiveness, and some 3.x style rules. Saves are simple (Physical, Mental or both), AC is ascending and there is a "Challenge Rating" stat and XP all factored in. Honestly it really is a synthesis of the best of D&D. Grabbing a monster from another source and converting on the fly really could not be easier.

At first I was not going to get this book. I had all three of the other monster books and this one seemed a bit redundant. But this one had something the others didn't; Demons and Devils. I don't want to say that this is the only reason I got it, but they were conspicuously absent from all the other books. Of course this book has more, a lot more, than just that.

I did enjoy all the new dragons and like it's "parent" book, this book has a bunch of new treasure.
Some of the monsters are world specific, but nothing that can't be worked around. In truth most of these monsters are all brand new to me and that is worth the price of the book alone. Even most of the demons, devils and dragons are new. Likewise for the treasure.
176 pages.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde
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Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/21/2013 09:49:47
This is the main monster and treasure book for C&C. Here you will find what I call the "classic" monsters from the great Monster Manual. If you are familiar with 3.x then these are all the monsters from the SRD in C&C's format. There is plenty of new text here though to make this more than just another SRD-derived book. Like all the C&C books the art and layout is great. I have the physical book, the pdf and a printout of the PDF and all read great.

The Castles & Crusades Monster stat block is a nice combination of Basic's simplicity, 1st AD&D's comprehensiveness, and some 3.x style rules. Saves are simple (Physical, Mental or both), AC is ascending and there is a "Challenge Rating" stat and XP all factored in. Honestly it really is a synthesis of the best of D&D. Grabbing a monster from another source and converting on the fly really could not be easier.

This book though is more than just a monster book, all the treasure and magic items (normally found in a Game Master's book) are here. This is a nice feature really. One place to have your encounter information.

This really is a must have book for any C&C fan. 128 pages and full of everything you need.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure
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Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/20/2013 12:30:55
It is often said that Castles & Crusades is the Rosetta Stone of Old School Gaming. It certainly is that, but there is a lot more going on here than just that. Castles & Crusades is very much a stripped down version of the basic 3.x SRD. As such there are lot of concepts that are modern including a one-roll mechanic for all sorts of situations. Though if that were all then there would be nothing separating this from say True20 or other "lite" d20 iterations. Castles & Crusades plays like good old fashioned D&D. The aesthetic here is 1st Ed. AD&D, with the simplicity of Basic era D&D. The concept is noble and one we see in many of the retro-clones. But where the clones attempt to use the OGL to make an older version of the rules, Castles & Crusades makes it's own rules and instead goes for the feel or nature of the game. So while you will see Thieve's abilities represented by percentage rolls in Basic Fantasy or OSRIC and as a skill in 3.x in C&C it will be a Dexterity check. Simple, elegant and easy. The Ability check, whether your abilities are Prime or Secondary, are a key element of C&C.

The Castle Keepers Guide is the guide for Castles & Crusades Game Masters. It is a massive book at 291 pages. There are some obvious parallels between this book and the immortal Dungeon Master's Guide, but I am going to focus on this text.
Part 1, The Character largely parallels the Players Handbook with advanced discussions on abilities, classes and races in Chapter 1. Magic is covered in detail in Chapter 2. Equipment is expanded on in Chapter 3 and non-player characters are discussed in Chapter 4.
Chapter 1 does give the CK more options than just what is detailed in the Players book. For example the 4d6 method is discussed among others. If you prefer the newer attribute modifiers; ie the ones from the SRD, 3.x where 18 grants a +4, then those are also discussed and how they might affect the game. Along with that abilities of 20 or greater (godlike abilities) are discussed.
For characters, more options are given and experience levels beyond what is listed in the Players Handbook, typically to 24th level.
Chapter 2 on Magic is a must read for anyone like me that loves magic using classes. In particular there lots of good bits on spell components and the prices of various items needed to research spells or make scrolls. The effects of holy ground on clerics is very nice to see.
Chapter 3 details a number of mundane and exotic items not found in the Players book.
Chapter 4 covers NPCs as allies, adversaries or as hired help.
Part 2 covers Worlds of Adventure, or how to build your own fantasy game world. Everything from how many moons, to average tempertures by month and zones is covered. Details you might not ever need, but here for your use when you do need them. I rather liked the large portion devoted to urban settings; something I feel gets shorted in fantasy games. Of course dungeons and other underground environments are covered. As well as air and sea adventures.
Other sections detail equipment usage, land as treasure (and running this land once you have it) and going to war.
Some discussion is had on Monster ecology as well. Trying to make sense of what monsters live in your world and why. The standard monsters from Monsters and Treasure are discussed with an eye to what they are doing in the world; what is their purpose and ecological niche.
Chapter 13: Expanding the Genre is actually the first chapter that attracted me to buying this book. On the outset it covers merging different times with your fantasy world. Say adding guns, Gothic Horror or Pulp Adventures.
Chapters 14 and 15 details some of the underlying assumptions of the SIEGE Engine rules powering Castles & Crusades. This chapter makes a lot more sense in retrospective of reading Amazing Adventures.
Chapter 16 talks a little more about treasure. Chapter 17 about combat.
Chapter 18 adds some secondary Skills to the game. Not needed to play, but certainly will add some more flavor. A Rogue that only steals magical items for example might have a need for Ars Magica.
Finally we end with Character Deaths and Fates.

Castles & Crusades is constructed in such a way that most of the information a Castle Keeper needs is in the Player's book. But if they plan on doing anything other than just dungeon crawls then Castle Keepers guide is a must have. Like the Players Handbook the layout and art is fantastic. I also could not help but notice some really nice pieces from Larry Elmore and Peter Bradley. Always a bonus in my book.

If you are a Game Master of any FRPG based on or around the d20 SRD then I would highly recommend this book. The advice is solid and the mechanics are so easy to translate that it hardly matters what game you are running, it will work with this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
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Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 6th Printing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/20/2013 11:34:50
It is often said that Castles & Crusades is the Rosetta Stone of Old School Gaming. It certainly is that, but there is a lot more going on here than just that. Castles & Crusades is very much a stripped down version of the basic 3.x SRD. As such there are lot of concepts that are modern including a one-roll mechanic for all sorts of situations. Though if that were all then there would be nothing separating this from say True20 or other "lite" d20 iterations. Castles & Crusades plays like good old fashioned D&D. The aesthetic here is 1st Ed. AD&D, with the simplicity of Basic era D&D. The concept is noble and one we see in many of the retro-clones. But where the clones attempt to use the OGL to make an older version of the rules, Castles & Crusades makes it's own rules and instead goes for the feel or nature of the game. So while you will see Thieve's abilities represented by percentage rolls in Basic Fantasy or OSRIC and as a skill in 3.x in C&C it will be a Dexterity check. Simple, elegant and easy. The Ability check, whether your abilities are Prime or Secondary, are a key element of C&C.

The Players Handbook is the first book you need for Castles & Crusades. At 140+ pages it is all about getting your character up and going. The abilities here are the same six you have always used and they are even generated by rolling 3d6 and assigning. If you have a different method that you liked back in the day OR if you have adopted some point by system from a new version I see no reason why it would not work here. I am a fan of 4d6, drop the lowest myself. The ability score modifications are a bit different than new OGL games, but are in fact much closer to older games. Bottom line is just pay attention to how many pluses that 18 gives you if you are used to playing newer games.

Next you will choose a class based on your abilities. Each class has a prime ability; one that is most associated with it. So fighters have strength, clerics wisdom, wizards intelligence and so on. Speaking of classes, all the "classics" are here and some new ones. So you have Assassins, Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Illusionists, Knights, Monks, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues and Wizards. There are some minor tweaks that make them different from other versions of the same class in another game, but nothing that made me scream "That's not right!" in fact in most cases I was more inclined to agree with what they did. For example I like the Barbarian for the first time ever. Each class has some special abilities and skills.
In C&C it is assumed that if a character wants to do something that instead of a skill roll an ability check is made. There is Target Number, 12 for Primes (something you are good at) or an 18 for Secondary. You add your mods, any class or race based modifications and there you go. Simple. Skills are no longer of a list of things you can or can't do, but now potential to do or at least try anything. This is something we did back in the old days, but the newer twist here is that this is just the same as any d20 based roll. Be it skills or attack. So Rangers and Barbarians are good at tracking, wizards at arcane lore and so on. makes things pretty easy. So improvement over 3.x games, no tracking skill points.
I have to add, that there is such a cool old-school vibe here that it is just like reading a book from the early 80s. Only with far better layout and art. As another aside, the art is fantastic. I love my old school games and wizards in pointy hats and all, but the wizard in C&C looks AWESOME. I would not mess with that guy, I don't care if he looks like a farmer or not.

Races are up next and all the usual suspects are here.
Races and Classes are built in such away that customization is REALLY easy. If I wanted to play a Goblin here I bet I could rather easy. Every race gets two Prime stats. Typically you want one of these to correspond with your class. Humans get three allowing for their flexibility. All other races also get modifiers to abilities and/or special traits. While the modularity of 3.x is obvious, the feel is still more 1st ed.
We end character creation on completing the character with persona, gods and alignment.
Up next are some lists of equipment and rules on encumbrance. The rules are some of the easiest encumbrance rules I have seen. So far so good? Well we have by this point gotten through roughly a third of the book. Not too bad for 50 pages.

Magic and Spells take up the remaining bulk (65 pages) of the book. Not a surprise given four spell casting classes. Spells are listed alphabetically and range from 0-level cantrips to 9th level spells for each of the four classes. That is a major break from their old-school roots when only wizards had access to 9th level spells.
The spell format itself is also closer to that of 3.x, though no XP penalties that I could see.
The nest 20 or so pages deal with the Castle Keep (GM) of the game. This includes all sorts of advice on how to handle conflict, award XP and even how to set up an adventuring party. Good advice all around to be honest and enough to keep most groups going for a long time.
There is also an appendix on multi-classing as an optional rule. I have not tried it yet, but it looks solid. Not as elegant as what you see in 3.x, but better than what we had in 1st or 2nd ed.

The Players Handbook is all most players will ever need and even some Castle Keepers.
I have the 4th ed version with the black and white interior art and the newer 5th ed with the full color art. Rule wise they are the same, but the full color version is really, really nice and the art is just fantastic.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 6th Printing
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Castles & Crusades Arms and Armor
by Steven M. W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2013 01:48:01
Let me begin by stating that I DO understand the difference between an historical textbook and a role playing game suppliment. One has a somewhat different purpose from the other. That being said, however, there is no excuse for sloppy scholarship that perpetuates long treasured but misleading and frighteningly innacurate myths. Nor is there any excuse for simply making up information when said information is readily available from a variety of sources.

The listed weight for the broadsword is eight (8) pounds! Really? The two handed sword is listed at a whopping 15!!!! I know that we want our fighters to appear preternaturally strong, but this is overdoing it. The common single handed medieval sword averages a bit less than 3 lbs. The average rennaisance two handed sword a little over 6 lbs. Honestly. Come on guys, get it right for once!

And from what planet did they pull the description of the back sword? The back sword and mortuary hilt swords of history bear no, and I mean NO resemblence what so ever to what is described and illustrated. Sigh.....

The book itself is typical of Troll Lord Games; well laid out, well illustrated, chock full of useful information for the game and horrifically overwritten. Really, this publisher needs a brutal editor.

Overall not bad, but somewhat disappointing.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Arms and Armor
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Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 6th Printing
by Vance R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/03/2013 12:41:53
This game is a great balance between old-school D&D and the new (3rd and 3.5). It is tremendous fun and gives you a lot of options without gobs of rules.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 6th Printing
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Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/02/2013 09:21:50
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/05/02/tabletop-review-codex-c-
eltarum-castles-crusades/

I’m always happy to see new Castles & Crusades books come out, as it’s my favorite OSR system. I’ve also really been enjoying their Celt influenced line of products like The Goblins of Mount Shadow and The Crimson Pact, so I was really looking forward to the Codex Celtarum. especially after how successful the Kickstarter for this book was.

The Codex Celtarum contains a little bit of everything you could want for a Celtic-influenced campaign. I should point out that the Celtarum is not a source book for 100% accurate real world Celtic mythology, folklore and culture. It’s an adaptatiom of Celtic culture for the Castles & Crusades setting. There had to be some give and take which the author, who has a Masters in Arthurian Studies realized full well. The end result is one that should please fans of Celtic myth and role players used to generic high fantasy settings alike. The Codex Celtarum is something that every Castles & Crusades fan should be able to enjoy and appreciate, even if they don’t actually use it in their game.

There are eight sections in the book (Not counting the prologue). They are as follows:

1. Once Upon a Time – this covers the World creation and general overall mythology of the setting. The author has done his best to strip away the Christian influence of these beliefs and stories, which is not an easy task mind you, considering how intertwined they have been for the last two thousand years. He does a great job though and you get a more “pure” look at the Celtic world for a purely high fantasy setting that doesn’t have the same religious trappings as our own. You get a nice look at various races, historical events like the Darkwars and so on, along with the snap shot of how the world is in present day. By that I mean the game world’s present day, not our own.

2. In Lands Far Away – This is a general historical chapter. Here you see things like the Two Cauldrons (Night & Day), the Twelve Houses (families of Gods), information on Faerie portals and how time differs in their world, and locations that players will visit and/or travel to in their adventurers. This is the primary geographical explanation of the world and the races/people who inhabit the specific islands and regions talked about. It would have been nice to have a few maps (or even one!) in this chapter so that DMs could better visualize the locations, but since so much of it involved the Fae’s world, that is probably easier said than done.

3. There Lived a People – this chapter gives you stats for various Faerie races and monsters you will encounter while playing in this setting. It also gives some charts of Fae weaknesses, traits and typical punishments they hand out. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that this chapter didn’t include rules for playing some of these unique creatures as a PC, but it is what it is. The chapter ends with a history of Welsh Giants and gives out their specific locations, which is kind of neat but perhaps a wee bit too specific for the average DM.

4. Great of Magic and Power – The world of Faerie is exceptionally magical, with everything from a blade of grass to a steel sword containing some measure of magic power. Now whether said items retains its magic outside of the land of Faerie is another story. This chapter explains the different between a Fae’s spell-like abilities ad actual spells themselves, along with the mechanics and rules for both. As Castles & Crusades is a rules-light system, you don’t have to worry about memorizing too much. You get lots of charts to help with making NPC Fae on the fly. You can choose from general charts, or ones geared towards a specific race. You also get lists of new Cleric, Druid and Illusionist spells. As you can probably surmise, the bulk of spells in this chapter are Druidic ones.

5. Strong of Feats and Deeds – This chapter gives you information about Celtic warfare and reasons for it. I love that the book has an entire section on magical tattoos and body paint, for example. This thing is so highly detailed, you can’t help but be impressed. There is a list of twenty Feats that characters can learn. But these aren’t exactly what you think of from 3E D&D or Pathfinder. These Feats are learned in-game, by role-playing rather than leveling up. It’s a very interesting way of implementing them, and although I really like the idea of earning something through role-playing, some gamers might be too used to gaining things through leveling up to enjoy this.

6. With Great Gods and Lords – This chapter is all about the deities of the Celtic world. You don’t get any stats here, which is a smart thing because otherwise you’d have some power gamers running around trying to kill gods. You are told the relationship between the Gods and both Clerics and Druids. There is a distinction, after all.

7. Who have Mighty Names and Feats – this is the closest the Codex Celtarum comes to being mechanics heavy. This chapter is primarily for the Castle Keeper (DM), but PCs should read it too as it has some good role-playing commentary. The chapter primarily frames character classes in a Celtic lens. It points out the hardship of making a Monk, Cleric or Paladin work in a Celtic/Fairie world, which is interesting. You also get some new Classes, which is what I was most interested in. There is the Woodwose clan, which are the “savage” men of the wilderness, who are also known as Wildmen. Wildmen are a bit of a Ranger/Rogue/Druid mashup with abilities like Know Poisons, Forestwise and Sylvan Leap. These are some powerful abilities and with d8 Hit Points, the ability to use any weapons or armor and very low XP thresholds to level up, the Woodwose is a bit overpowered in my opinion.

Another class is the Wolf Charmer, which is kind of a Bard/Ranger hybrid. A Wolf Charmer is a dual class only profession and only of a neutral or evil alignment. Basically they can summon and control wolves and then at 5th level, lycanthropes as well. Holy crap, now that’s overpowered. My only real complaint about the book is that the two new classes are unbalanced, and that some tweaking should have been done here. The rest of the chapter is about adventure seeds and Celtic sounding naes so your character will better fit with the setting.

8. Items, Enchanted and Divine – the last chapter in the Codex Celtarum is all about magical items, with special attention paid to the concept of Faerie metal. Forsome reason though, the chapter also includes the language and history of Druids as well as information of societies. I’m not sure why these bits got shoehorned here as they absolutely should have been in chapters two or three. Their inclusion at the end just really destroys the flow of the book. Last I checked, things like Holidays and Customs are not “Items, Enchanted and Divine,” you know?

Aside from a few minor quibbles, the Codex Celtarum is simply an amazing book. It’s not just one of the best Castles & Crusades sourcebooks ever, but it’s something that ANY fantasy game setting can pick up and use/adapt, especially if they are looking for a Celtic flair for their homebrew world and stories. There is so little in the way of mechanics, that you won’t ever have to do that much converting, especially if you already use an OSR system. As usual, the new Celtic content line for Castles & Crusades continues to impress.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
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Castles & Crusades Town of Kalas
by Ken F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/14/2013 17:17:13
I am not a Castles and Crusades player, but I am always on the lookout for good material to entertain my players. The town of Kalas is a location that makes me want to use it, regardless of the system. The volume of fun, immediately usable ideas that Mr. Kidd has packed into eighty pages is remarkable. Interesting locations, nifty NPCs, and some unusual setting material all combine into a product that is well worth the investment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Town of Kalas
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