Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Castles & Crusades review: Of Gods And Monsters

Apart from taking delivery of the very hefty - but gorgeous - piece of grognard porn that is the RuneQuest 6th edition hardback, I've also bought the smaller, but much cheaper, Of Gods And Monsters for Castles and Crusades (CnC). For those who don't know CnC, it is a stripped down, old school amalgam of 1st, 2nd and 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons. It excises much of the crunch while keeping many of the better elements of each system.

For example, there are no skills, but task rolls are made against target numbers based off an attribute. Some skills - e.g. open locks - are unique to a particular class. It also reinstates old school classes like the Assassin and the Illusionist, which were purged in later editions.

I'm not going into a detailed review of CnC in this post, largely because I'd rather do that having actually run it, but I am very impressed with OGAM as a supplement. Veteran gamers will recall TSR's old Deities and Demigods for ADnD, and this supplement riffs off that landmark volume, but takes it to a whole new level.

As with Deities and Demigods, the book covers a range of pantheons, many of which were also covered in the original 1980s TSR volume. Hence, we see here the Celtic, Norse, Egyptian and Aztec pantheons from real world history, along with the pantheon for Airdhe, the default campaign setting for CnC, which plays the role that Greyhawk did to ADnD. There are also several non-human pantheons. Ever wondered who the halfling goddess of gardening was? Now you will know.

In addition, there is a lot of good art in this book, far superior than Deities and Demigods, with literally almost every entry having a portrait. Different artists are used (including the iconic Peter Bradley), but they are all pretty good. Sadly, the book is in black and white, but the publishers, Troll Lord Games, are only just starting to venture into colour printing with the latest iteration of the game (sixth edition) which has been funded on Kickstarter.

What I like about each entry is that rather than provide the stats of the god itself, the authors deliver information on ceremonies, taboos for worshippers, artefacts created by the god, and avatars. The latter are the manifestation of that deity on the prime material plane. They are still pretty tough, but it is more likely that agents of the gods will be encountered by high level adventurers than that parties will go off to Asgard or Olympus on a god killing expedition. The volume postulates a sort of divine 'truce' between the gods, which stops them manifesting on the prime plane, although they may work through their worshippers or via avatars, artefacts, and the occasional beefy monster.

But it doesn't stop there - some pantheons have specific monsters associated with them, some of them unique. For example, the Indian pantheon provides Virtra, the three-headed snake, or the deadly gold ants. The Japanese pantheon includes the white tiger and the lethal gashadokuro.

Finally, an extra bonus - new divine magic spells for each pantheon for clerics / druids who follow them. For example, someone following the American Indian pantheon gets access to new spells like Heal Animal, Spirit of the Warrior, Heal Land or Summon Spirit Warrior. This is useful extra crunch, and provides additional powers for clerics following deities in those pantheons. It is something you could actually use in a game, rather than wasting space with ridiculous hypothetical stats for Thor.

The volume still feels appropriately old school in its flavour, but unlike the original, there is plenty more useful information for gamers here. Definitely worth a look, and not only if you want to play CnC. Much of this information is readily adaptable to other editions of the game. It is also available in both a hardback version for about £15 or as a softback digest at £7.50. I particularly like these softback digests, which seem to be becoming more popular amongst RPG publishers, as they are easy to carry around and read on the train. Good work.

2 comments:

  1. I am very keen to try Castles and Crusades some time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bet you are! Happy to give it a test drive ��

    ReplyDelete