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Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
 
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Average Rating:4.6 / 5
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Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
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Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Johnathan H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/20/2015 00:04:22
Excellent game, just the right feel. Easy to play and quick to learn.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2015 14:11:55
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2015/04/29/tabletop-review-castle--
keepers-guide-castles-crusades/

Truly, the Castles & Crusades Kickstarter from last year is the gift that keeps on giving. If you’re a longtime reader of the site, you’ve seen my reviews of the new Player’s Handbook and Monsters & Treasure. I even showed off the first round of physical merchandise for backers, including leather versions of both of the aforementioned books. Now, with the release of the digital Castle Keeper Guide, the second round of content is getting ready to be unleashed on gamers, and I for one can’t wait.

A word before we begin though. The only real difference between the first and second printing is that the new version is in full colour. The old version of the CKG was essentially the same exact book, just in black and white. Sure some things have been cleaned up like grammar and formatting and some rules have been clarified, but if you already own the original printing of the book, be it digital or physical, this second printing it not something you need. Again, this is NOT a new edition of the game, just a much prettier version of the Castle Keeper’s Guide. I mean, it still has the original 2010 dedications intact. So if color doesn’t matter to you, you can stick with the old version of the CKG. If you’re new to Castles & Crusades or want to upgrade to a much snazzier version of the book, then by all means, keep on reading.

The Castle Keeper’s Guide can be divided into three topics: The Character, Worlds of Adventure and The Siege Engine. In many ways, the CKG is a combination of bits left out from the PHB and M&T to form the Dungeon Master’s Guide for Castles & Crusades. If you are familiar with first and/or second edition AD&D, you’ll see a lot of elements from those games rewritten here. Again, because the CKG is kind of a mash up of supplementary info for the PHB and M&T, it’s perhaps the least necessary of the core rulebooks for Castles & Crusades. Indeed, it is exceptionally easy to play the game without ever owning or even reading the Castle Keeper’s Guide – especially if you are experienced with other high fantasy tabletop RPGs.

“The Character” consists of four chapters. “Expanding Characters” gives you “new” ways to roll up a C&C character. By new, I mean all the methods found in your AD&D2e PHB. However there is much more than that. You can have attribute modifiers based on different versions of AD&D like 2e where a stat with a 9 would give you neither a positive or a negative, or 3e where a 9 would give you a -1 to rolls using that stat. This chapter also covers stats that reach 20 or higher, Beauty (Unearthed Arcana‘s Comeliness and new powers for high level characters. The chapter also includes new racial variants like Deep Dwarves or Orcs as PC races. Chapter 2 is “Magic” and it is just a brief overview of magic in the C&C world. It’s mostly filler like examples of starting spellbooks and the importance/costs of material components. The wizardry stuff is a bit dull but the clerical side is actually pretty interesting with topics like creating holy ground and holy symbols. Illusionists, a separate magic class from Wizards ala 1e AD&D get a really nice write-up here as well. As a big fan of the class I thoroughly enjoyed this. Sure it’s filler, but it’s FUN filler. Chapter 3 is “Expanding Equipment” and covers incidentals you might not always think of in a RPG like rations, room, board and encumbrance. I still remember when DMs would force you to adhere to those things but these days, most games don’t even bring up these concepts. This chapter is mostly just lists of knick-knacks for your PC. The final chapter in this section is “Non-Player Characters: and it’s simply a long look at how to make and play NPCs that will populate your C&C world. The chapter gives you a long lists of occupations along with rules and tips for designing henchmen. Most of what is in Part One is stuff you probably already know, especially if you’re an experienced gamer. It’s nice reading for those of you who like gaming books, but nothing in this first part of the Castle Keeper’s Guide makes this must purchase rulebook.

Part Two, “World of Adventure” makes up nine chapters and consists of half the book. Much like “The Character,” “World of Adventure” is mostly background and filler to help you flesh out your own personal C&C universe. “The World” talks about homebrew campaign design and items like topography, climate, vegetation and biomes. It’s very detailed and worth reading even if you’re not a C&C player due to the sheer amount of information on homebrewing. “The City” is similar to the previous chapter, except it discusses man’s impact on the world, specifically urban environments. Governments, diplomacy, economy and social order all brought up in this chapter. So are building costs, occupations, construction and income. “Dungeons” are the next chapter and like the previous two, the subject matter is really discussed in detail. Here you really learn what it is like to be undergrown. Light, temperature, vegetation, humidity, air quality and more are all things this chapter looks at. Unfortunately, most GM/DMs/whatever I know rarely take these things into consideration. Just a really great job on dungeon ecology here. Chapter 8 is “Air and Water Adventure,” which is an odd title. It talks about how hard it can be to not only write an adventure that takes place on a boat or in the air, but double so to make said adventure fun or enjoyable. I liked the stark honesty about air/water adventures. The only one I’ve ever really enjoyed was Ship of Terror for Ravenloft. This chapter tries to acknowledge the uniqueness of these types of adventure while giving ideas to make them fun and realistic. As such, you get info on ship movement speeds, how to do damage to ships, navigating and combat onboard vessels. The neatest part was fighting from canoes. Just a weird situation. The air section is similar but with an emphasis on flying creatures or spells that let a PC fly. Next up is “Equipment Wastage” which brings up the reality that some GMs let their players walk around or store tens of thousands (or more) of gold pieces along with a dump truck load of rare gems and magic items. Here we are given ways for the Castle Keeper to let’s say “relieve” players of all that treasure so the game stops being a Monty Haul campaign. It also talks about the wear and tear of equipment and how to roleplay it. Very nice! These are great optional ideas most modern games don’t even think about.

Chapter Ten is “Land as Treasure” and that really is the gist of what you’ll find in these pages. It’s about when and how to offer your PCs land and then how to use it as the springboard for potential stories and/or adventures. It even talks about what type of players probably shouldn’t have land. After all, if all they want to do is hack and slash roll-play rather than roleplay, there’s no point in design a duchy for them, right? Anyway, “Land as Treasure” talks about titles, nobility, and what to do with land once you have again. Again, yet another chapter you don’t need to actually play Castles & Crusades, but it’s still a fantastic in-depth look at topics most games just don’t think of, much less discuss these days. I love it. Chapter Eleven is “Going to War” and it’s here when you’ll learn to run large-scale battles. You get information of why kingdoms or people might go to war, and also how to roleplay such a scenario. Really, though, you’re probably here for the grand scale combat ala Battlesystem. Chapter Twelve is “Monster Ecology” and it’s a great discussion on actually roleplaying monsters rather than just using them as something for the PCs to attack. Why is this monster opposing the players. How does it think? What does it want? Those sorts of things are covered here. Way too many games use monsters as a one dimensional, easily exchangeable boogeyman to hack and slash. “Monster Ecology” reminds us that is the exact opposite point of a RPG. After all, if you wanted those type of enemies, you could play Double Dragon or River City Ransom, right? This is another section I think everyone should read, even if they don’t play C&C or even fantasy RPGs at all. It’s that important. Our final chapter in this section is “Expanding the Genre” and it simply brings up how to mix and match pieces from other genres into your high fantasy C&C game. Technology, horror, noir and even post-apocalyptic games can take place in Castles & Crusades. You’re not limited to Conan/LotR high fantasy with the system/setting. Here you’ll find suggestions on how to make things more interesting for your players.

Finally we get to the third section of the book, “The Siege Engine” which lasts for six chapters. The first, Chapter Fourteen, is “Advancing the Game” is about running a game. In many ways, this begins the actual “Castle Keeper” part of the book instead of just being good advice for gamers all-around. Here you get advice on forming a group, running adventures and most importantly, how to start designing your own plots, stories and hooks if you’ve only ever run store-bought adventures. There’s some fantastic stuff here, including ways to make the game runs smooth and what to do about handing out experience points. Chapter Fifteen takes the same name as the section – “The Siege Engine,” which is weird. For those of you who have been waiting for mechanics to rear their head in this book, well here you go. This is really a look at the inner workings of the system and how it differs from a d20/AD&D retroclone. It’s an interesting read, and it lets you see where the designers were coming from, but it’s probably stuff you already know if you’ve ever played a D&D style game before. Chapter Sixteen is “Treasure,” which is odd because two chapters have already talked about treasure earlier in the book. Here the book discusses how to properly balance treasure, so you don’t have a Monty Haul campaign, but also so characters are working for a few silver pieces at high level. It also talks about the different forms treasure can take. It’s not all gold and jewels, after all. Magic items are also discussed here.

Chapter Seventeen is “Iron and Sulfur: Combat” and this is more of an explanatory chapter. How much combat is too much? How much is too little? How descriptive should your combat narratives be? Things like that. It also discusses combat basics, gives you SIX different options for critical hits (rolling a 20) and how battle are affected by terrain, line of sight and surprise. It’s a fine read, but all stuff that might be better off in the PHB. Chapter Eighteen is “Skill Packages” and again, this is probably something that could be/should be moved to the Player’s Handbook. Much of this is a combination of AD&D 2e’s skill system with 3e’s d20 skill system. They even brought back Secondary Skills! It’s kind of nice. They also ad in Advantages, which gives you slight bonuses to specific skill checks. A Dwarf can take Stalwart Courage which gives them +2 to fear checks, for example. There are general, racial and class advantages, all of which have minor effects, but can really flesh out a character. Fun concept! Finally we get to the last chapter in the book which is “Character Death and Fates.” This is a nice summation of how to deal with PC death, be they a single character or a Total Party Kill. You get the classic “You’re not actually dead until you hit -10 Hit Points” from D&D, but also ways a character can die besdies combat. Disease, limb loss, old age, and even different types of infection are covered here. You’ll also find a section on insanity. Most of all though, the chapter talks about how some people might react negatively to a character dying and ways to deal with that. I appreciated that as some people take their gaming WAY too seriously or get attached to their PC more than they probably should.

That, my friends, is the second printing of the Castle Keeper’s Guide Castles & Crusades. It’s a fantastic book and I highly recommend it, although I can’t deny it might be better to divide the book up between the Player’s Handbook and Monster’s and Treasure to make C&C a game with just two core rulebooks. That probably won’t ever happen, which makes the CKG a fun but by no means necessary addition to your Castles & Crusades collection. Much of what is in here are optional ideas and essays about gaming and there is nothing in the CKG that is required to play Castles & Crusades. It’s still a fantastic book. I cannot say that enough, and I can’t wait for my leatherbound edition to arrive in about a week. We’ll do an unboxing of that when it arrives with the second half of the C&C goodies from the Kickstarter,

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Shaun A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/13/2014 07:29:28
I should probably lay my cards on the table and say that I’m a huge fan of C&C, which to me captures the feel and flow of play of the original game without the clunky, sometimes confused mechanics, so it was perhaps inevitable that I was going to like this.

The presentation here is not as lavish as the latest (6th) printing of the Players Handbook, but it’s decent enough, and the same goes for the artwork.

Since one of the appealing things about C&C is that all you need to play is the Players Handbook rather than a small library of rulebooks, you may be asking yourself; why would I want this book?

Well, what you get here is not exactly an expansion of the rules, but a sourcebook full of ideas and suggestions that you might want to pick some ideas from to customise your game or setting.

There’s far too much in this book to cover in a review, a huge range of ideas are presented, covering things like additional character abilities, stats for height, weight, age, languages, literacy, guidelines for adding new races such as monsters as player races, variants on the standard character races, different approaches to spells, spellbooks, material components and holy symbols, mana points, vehicles, lodgings, and hirelings. There’s a chapter on world design, including discussion of such elements as climate, geography, weather, calendars, government, alternatives to the usual high medieval cultural setting such as Greco-Roman, Iron Age, Renaissance, or even Meso-American or Stone Age (and a later section even discusses futuristic and horror settings). You get discussions of fortresses, cities and smaller settlements including types of buildings, occupations of citizens, etc. There’s a chapter on dungeons and underground adventures including different types of caves, different sorts of rooms you might expect in an inhabited complex, lighting, visibility, different kinds of traps, etc. There are sections on air and water adventures, a chapter on mass battles (a recurring theme in C&C, perhaps a homage to the genres roots in tabletop wargaming), an extensive section on monster ecology, plenty of advice on designing and running adventures and campaigns, incorporating things like luck/fate points, skills, racial advantages, etc, etc…..

All of this consists of detailed, high quality, well thought out ideas, that will work well with the rule system, and how much of it you will want to make use of is going to be very subjective. I don’t think the idea of the authors is that anybody should just graft all of these rules onto their game, it’s more of a sourcebook that you can pick anything from that appeals to you and suits your setting, or just use as inspiration for developing your own custom rules. In fact, the whole book is rather like a compendium of the “Best of” house rules for C&C.

My only real complaint is that there is no indexing of the PDF, and the file is not editable so you can’t add your own bookmarks. This makes navigating it much more difficult than it should be, and is a pretty major oversight that affects the usability of the book, especially for reference purposes during a game.

Overall though, it’s a great addition to the C&C rules which anybody running a game with this system is likely to find useful, and is very much of the same standard as the Players Handbook in terms of the amount of thought and work that’s clearly gone into it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/24/2014 17:07:07
I am a huge fan of this book, it does a great job of kindling the creative fires and leaving room for a Castle Keeper to build his own campaign with the tools it provides. With each iteration the layout of the book improves and makes it easier to use at the table.
It reminds me of the olden days when my friends and I would sit around the kitchen table and spin yarns off the top of our heads using randomly generated maps. This book captures the feel of the older editions of the first fantasy rpg, but addresses some of the faults in its design.

Thanks Troll Lords keep the good work coming.

David Henley

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
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
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Chet C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/18/2012 23:29:53
Someone has to say it: this is the game that D&D should always have been. If Monte Cooke and associates want a blueprint to follow, they could do no better than look at what C&C has been doing to solve various problems of rolegaming's past.

This book isn't the rules for Castles & Crusades, nor should it be thought similar to a DM Guide. This is, instead, many pieces of advice, alternate rules, and words of experience for tba GM. And every page is of value, nothing is wasted.

The art is beautiful, and there's not nearly enough. This book is a book that you want to never end.

Highly recommended, with three thumbs up!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Eric P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/05/2011 02:46:07
A very long time in the coming, but worth the wait. This is an exhaustive tome covering an incredible amount of material, from expanding classes, equipment, and dealing with such things as hirelings and so on. The real beauty in this book is that it is just as much a toolbox kit as it is a DMG type of book. It has multiple rule variants, giving alternate options to magic (mana points vs Vancian), wound levels, hit location, multiple critical hit systems, optional skills, optional feat-like abilities, alternate armor rules (ie armor doesn't add to armor class, it soaks damage, etc). You really can design your own game with this book. The optional combat manuevers are a cool tactical option as well.

So besides the standard gamemaster type of subjects you would expect, you also get a lot of stuff to customize the game to your liking. Castles and Crusades is a rules light game but for folks who want to crunch it up a little (or A LOT) can mix up a batch of homebrew goodness with what is in this puppy.

A classic!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Ronald B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2011 09:13:26
If you want to tweak your C&C game, look no further than this book. Basically the Castle Keepers Guide takes a toolkit approach to modifying the Siege Engine. Much of the optional rules re-introduce elements of the full 3.x SRD, but the real beauty of the book for me is in the analysis of the game engine. Highly recommended for anyone interested in spicing up their C&C game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Joey M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/28/2011 21:25:40
Like every one else I have been waiting a long time to get my hands on the CKG. I could not get in on the pre-order.

I really struggled with the idea of paying $32 for the PDF. In the end my better judgment lost and I got it.

After reading through it I have got to say Its a great book. Part DMG part campaign planner.

For me the expanded rules for character building is great. As well as options for fine tuning the siege engine to taste is great too.

My only complaint is the price really. Too much for a PDF. If this was any other book. And any other company I would never have paid so much. $20 or even $25 I would have not hesitated.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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