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Game review: Castles and Crusades handbook brings 'old school' gaming to life
The Castles and Crusades players handbook opens up worlds of fantastic adventure where dragons lie and the undead stalk the shades of your mind's imaginings, where creatures of legend plunder wealth through the horror of their passage. Monsters grim and foul taunt with the ecstasy of gold and glory. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
The Castles and Crusades fantasy roleplaying game (RPG) is the passion of brothers Stephen and Davis Chenault. It came to life in 2003 and is now in its sixth printing. Those familiar with the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons will feel at home.

The players handbook contains 190 pages covering gaming rules such as creating roleplaying characters, choosing classes and races, assigning a persona and alignment. Several pages are dedicated to equipment, including rules for encumbrance to add realism.

For a fantasy roleplaying game, it's all about the different characters available for gamers to play. The Castles and Crusades players handbook contains rules for fighters, rangers, rogues, assassins, barbarians, monks, wizards, illusionists, clerics, druids, knights, paladins and bards.

A thorough section on magic covers spells for clerics, druids, wizards and illusionists. An alphabetized spell index with complete descriptions makes finding spells easy and spreads over more than 60 pages. For example, on page 124 are the gritty details of the ninth-level spell meteor swarm that can decimate a small army with one stroke.

The final section of the book covers the role of the castle keeper (game master) in the game and gives details on everything from combat to attribute checks. A personal favorite in this section is the example of play on page 184 that pits three characters against a group of goblins and a hobgoblin leader mounted on a worg wolf. It brings back some wonderful nostalgia for the old days of gaming.

One of the problems with other fantasy roleplaying games is the amount of rules and player options available. Sometimes it's just fun to sit down and play a game to have fun without pausing to calculate the advantages and disadvantages of a flying hero swooping down to attack a dragon completely covered in gold coins.

Gamers who want that "old school" feeling with their fantasy roleplaying sessions are in the right place. What Castles and Crusades does is distill years of fantasy roleplaying rules development down into a smooth, easy to use manner that doesn't get in the way of having fun.

Additional books are available in the Castle and Crusades line of products that detail monsters and rules for game masters as well as adventures for character groups. The "Monsters and Treasure" hardbound book gives full details on 200 monsters that inhabit the imaginary world. It also contains details and lists for treasure such as magic swords, potions, rings, wands and gold.

The Castle Keepers guide contains rules for combat, roleplaying, dungeon design and character advancement. Interesting new rules such as wastage detail the damage equipment takes over time and how it affects the game. A personal favorite are the rules for using miniatures with the game to add some realism.

It's important to take a moment and talk about the quality of this product. Sometimes smaller publishers don't have the chops when it comes to artwork and book quality. But Troll Lord Games did a wonderful job. The players handbook is just as good as any hardbound roleplaying book on the market. Each page is printed on high quality glossy paper and contains cool fantasy artwork.

Overall, the Castles and Crusades roleplaying game is solid. There really is a wonderful game here that is worthy of attention. Gamers can find out more details about all of the Castles and Crusades products, including exciting adventures, at Troll Lord Games.
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