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Author Topic: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?  (Read 1477 times)

Effete

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Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« on: August 02, 2022, 06:01:00 PM »
Has anyone played Castles & Crusades? What was your experience?

I recently downloaded the free PHB (7th printing, 2017) and upon looking through it, the system just looks like a mess. The basic mechanics are your standard d20 Ascending vs static Armor Class, but the issues lie with the details. Most combat actions (including spellcasting) must be declared BEFORE initiative is rolled, which seems like it would severely hamper any tactical roleplay. Unless the players are good at guessing, they would generally be resigned to reacting to what happened in the LAST round rather than what's happening in the CURRENT round. "Locking in" actions might be more "realistic" considering that events in a round are supposed to be happening simultaneously, but from a gameplay perspective, it just doesn't sound fun.

Spellcasting is also gimped, IMHO, unnecessarily. A character cannot move while casting a spell, and getting hit in the same round causes the spell to automatically fail (unless the GM is magnanimous as fuck and allows a Concentration check). Combine this with the "declare before rolling initiative" rule and you can begin to see the concerns I'm having. And let's hope your Cleric didn't take a vow of chastity, because she's get fucked; healing spells are a range of Touch, meaning she'd need to Move to the target in one round, then cast heal in the next. Alternatively, she declares healing and hopes her target comes to her, like a child running to mommy after he fell down and scraped his knee.

There's also a whole slough of minor issues, such as a punishing Encumbrance system, unbalanced classes, a too-long list of weapons and armor (without any real meaningful distinction between them), and a god-awful confusing layout.

Are my concerns unfounded and the system plays better than it sounds?

Venka

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2022, 06:18:28 PM »
While I have no experience with this system, I can assure you that there's no core issue with declaring actions then rolling iniative- that's how Advanced Dungeons and Dragons worked for decades before 3ed, after all.  I'm not sure how that would work with d20 systems, where initiative is super variable (it using a d20), nor am I sure if the system has casting times and weapon speed factors as older editions did.  But I do know that you aren't "responding to last turn", any more than other modern games with action programming have that issue.  You tend to make assumptions about what the enemies will do, and then declare your action based on that, with some input as to whether you think your action will resolve before or after.  For instance, if you are good at striking first, you might try to attack a caster to disrupt their spells in those OSR type games.

DocJones

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2022, 06:52:19 PM »
Castles and Crusades is pretty much AD&D 1st edition.
Therefore it is actually good.  :)

rkhigdon

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2022, 07:12:51 PM »
I've played a ton of C&C, and consider it my go-to system.  We've switched our campaign to several different games over the years, but always come back to C&C as it seems to have the right amount of detail and flexibility for our group.

I don't believe most actions need to be declared before initiative, just declaring a spell or disengagement or evading (which don't roll initiative at all).

Spell casting is NOT automatically disrupted by damage.  The CC may allow a concentration check to successfully cast the spell if the caster has taken damage, failed a save, or been otherwise assaulted.

I actually like the encumbrance system, especially the ability to determine the Encumbrance Value of virtually any item that's not included on any gear listings.  I don't always use encumbrance myself, but only in situations where it would make sense to use it.

Just because there is a long list of weapons doesn't mean you have to use them.  Just pick the weapons appropriate to your campaign and ignore the rest.

The classes are generally balanced well enough, and if something does seem out of whack for your playstyle then it's super easy to tweak them to your liking.  I'd say it's fairly close to AD&D1e/2e in this respect.

On one thing we agree, and that's that editing and layout are not TLG's strengths.  I still love the game however, which is why we always come back to it.

David Johansen

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2022, 10:36:22 PM »
Bearing in mind that I haven't played it since first edition.  I dislike the SIEGE Engine, a rule that makes a prime 3 as good as a non-prime 18.  That can be fixed by making the target numbers 12 and 15 but even then it's just too broad for me.  Bearing in mind that Rolemaster Standard System's 600 odd skills is my minimum comfort level ;)

The encumbrance system has probably been toned down since first edition in which it was really restrictive.  I get that the author didn't want characters carrying around half a dozen pole arms, a crossbow and a small cannon but it was too much.

There's too many class abilities.  Something like that, I don't know, it bothered me a bit.  I like to play knights but I didn't like their version of the knight.  One thing I did like is the fighter actually being the best fighter.  Because, you know, you'd kinda think they should be.  A fighter is pretty likely to be +4 to hit at first level because they can put their best roll in Strength and get a flat +1 nobody else gets and a +1 for weapon specialization.  Most knights, paladins, and rangers will be sitting at a +2 from a stat bonus.
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Jam The MF

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2022, 10:39:54 PM »
Castles & Crusades, is a system I have often considered.  If it was a single volume game, I'm sure I would have bought it by now.  But it is at least a 2 book system at the table.
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rkhigdon

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2022, 10:45:01 PM »
There are a lot of variations on the Primes in the CKG, so it's not like TLG doesn't expect you to tweak it to your liking.  That being said, it's probably the most common criticism of the system. 

We just make the challenge base 15 and roll with advantage for primes.  Seems to be the sweet spot for our group.

Spinachcat

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2022, 12:50:17 AM »
It's AD&D 3.0

I would happily run it for a group who wanted to play AD&D with in-print books. It's got Ascending AC and the Prime system is easily replacable with Advantage.

I've run one-shots  (of their first printing / edition) and it's been fun. The only reason C&C isn't my home system go-to is because I prefer the rawness of OD&D to the more expansive AD&D.


Effete

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2022, 01:42:57 AM »
I've played a ton of C&C, and consider it my go-to system.  We've switched our campaign to several different games over the years, but always come back to C&C as it seems to have the right amount of detail and flexibility for our group.

I don't believe most actions need to be declared before initiative, just declaring a spell or disengagement or evading (which don't roll initiative at all).

Thank you for this!

I think part of the issue is that the layout is so terrible (at least for the free PHB) that it's hard for me to really grok the rules. I'm sure with multiple readthroughs, and once I commit some things to memory, it will start to make more sense, but with just a first pass it didn't read well.

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Spell casting is NOT automatically disrupted by damage.  The CC may allow a concentration check to successfully cast the spell if the caster has taken damage, failed a save, or been otherwise assaulted.

Sure... but the Castle Keeper also may NOT allow a Concentration check. ;) The way the rule is written though is that damage (or other things) ruin a spell, unless the CK says otherwise. It's a default position that Concentration checks are an exception. At least that's how it reads.

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I actually like the encumbrance system, especially the ability to determine the Encumbrance Value of virtually any item that's not included on any gear listings.  I don't always use encumbrance myself, but only in situations where it would make sense to use it.

I have no issue with the method, only that it's quite punishing. Unless you've got a decent STR score, or set STR or CON as a Primary, you'll tap out pretty quickly.

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Just because there is a long list of weapons doesn't mean you have to use them.  Just pick the weapons appropriate to your campaign and ignore the rest.

Sure, but that wasn't my criticism. I was criticizing the fact that with so many weapons, the designer seemed to struggle with making each one unique, and that resulted in some clearly being inferior to others. I mean, there's something like 8 or 9 different polearms. Why? Just offer two with their own stats and say "polearm 1 covers ABC and polearm 2 covers DEF."

I know, this is such a petty thing to gripe about, but there's a sidebar in the combat section going into detail about how combat is supposed to be abstract and that verisimitude wasn't the goal, but then they provide a laundry list of weapons. All I'm saying is follow the same guideline: make weapons abstract and nebulous (i.e., provide only stats and basic descriptions) and just let the player define what it looks like. It would cut down on "analysis paralysis."

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The classes are generally balanced well enough, and if something does seem out of whack for your playstyle then it's super easy to tweak them to your liking.  I'd say it's fairly close to AD&D1e/2e in this respect.

I suspected this was the case. It's why I only listed it as a minor concern. It's just that several classes are very front-loaded, which means they probably play a bit better at lower levels, but then "even out" around LVL 4-6.

S'mon

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2022, 01:56:22 AM »
I only know C&C 1st ed. I dislike the Prime system strongly enough I gave up running it pretty fast. Also TLG are reliably amateurish on layout/presentation. But most of the OP's complaints stuff is from 1e AD&D and works fine. Side based init and declare actions then roll init works fine, and plays much faster than iterative init. I find it works particularly well with AD&D segments (or how OSRIC does it), the B/X approach of move-missile-melee-spell phases works well too. AFAICR C&C lacks these nuances and feels a bit cargo-cult at times.

I'd much rather run OSRIC or BFRPG or Labyrinth Lord, or 1e AD&D for that matter. But the AD&D-isms work fine in practice. BTW in AD&D 'can't move' means 'can't move more than 10'' since a character's location is only supposed to be defined down to a 10' area in the first place.

Philotomy Jurament

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2022, 02:57:29 AM »
Personally, I find that C&C plays "weird." It's similar to TSR D&D, but it *isn't* TSR D&D, and the subtle differences add up and can be jarring if you're expecting it play like TSR D&D.

Right after I abandoned 3e I ran a C&C campaign (I think this would've been the second printing of C&C). At first, it seemed like just what I was looking for. It was very similar to TSR D&D. However, as time went on and I gained more experience with the system I found a lot of little differences and details that I didn't like so much. Most of those had to do with the use of the SIEGE engine and how it affected things like balance (e.g. saving throws), the importance of stats, etc.

I started house-ruling C&C. I replaced C&C saving throws with 1e AD&D saving throws. I replaced the C&C surprise rules with AD&D surprise. I removed spells that had been carried over from 3e and affected the balance and archetype-roles between clerics and magic-users. I replaced the C&C encumbrance rules with AD&D encumbrance. I replaced C&C initiative. I looked for ways to minimize the use of the SIEGE engine and "skills" (I prefer a very class/level driven D&D without a skill system -- I don't even use the "non-weapon proficiency" stuff that got introduced into later AD&D). I looked for tweaks to smooth the rough edges off some of the C&C classes. Probably other stuff, too -- hard to remember.

Eventually I realized that what I was doing was ridiculous and that I should just play AD&D, again, since that was clearly what I wanted to begin with.
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rkhigdon

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2022, 09:59:57 AM »
I think one thing to remember is that, unlike a lot of other OSR products, C&C is designed to replicate ANY version of D&D rather than just a specific flavor.  That means a lot of cases of "MAY" or "MIGHT" end up in the rules, with the expectation that the DM is going to play the way his favorite version plays (or the way the edition of the specific module was written for uses).  I do think that this gives C&C a less precise feel than other OSR sets (or even the original rules), and I certainly understand where others might not enjoy that.

David Johansen

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2022, 10:10:34 AM »
Of course, C&C basically sparked the entire OSR because it wasn't perfect for everyone.  The big winners being clones of AD&D and OD&D.  I wrote a neo-clone but I was never really quite happy with it.
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Effete

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2022, 01:37:22 PM »
But most of the OP's complaints stuff is from 1e AD&D and works fine. Side based init and declare actions then roll init works fine, and plays much faster than iterative init.

Yeah, everyone's been saying this and it makes me feel like an idiot. Granted, it's been about 25+ years since I played AD&D, but I can't ever recall playing initiative that way. I wonder if our DM was just using his own rule, or if the years spent playing "roll first" initiative poisoned my perception?

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BTW in AD&D 'can't move' means 'can't move more than 10'' since a character's location is only supposed to be defined down to a 10' area in the first place.
If this is the intention in C&C, it isn't being presented that way. There is a small blurb in the Movement section that says regardless of how much a characters pace is reduced, they should always be allowed to move at least 5 ft. But then is this an example of "specific rules trump general rules", and a caster simply cannot move at all? Or are they still allowed a 5-foot step?

After years of playing other systems, I've only recently come to the OSR, and I'm looking for a system that caters to my style. C&C looked interesting, but I had my concerns. Hence, the reason for the thread (otherwise, I would have deleted the pdf and moved on). Everyone's posts and insights have been very helpful so far. Thank you.

SHARK

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Re: Castles & Crusades - Is it actually good?
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2022, 02:13:30 PM »
Greetings!

Effete, I haven't personally played Castles & Crusades, though I have consistently heard from many gamers that it is a solid system and worth embracing.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
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