2020 Ends: Reviewing my Castles & Crusades journey.

This has been a very strange year. A lot of adjustments had to be made. But rather than do a year in review, I instead want to look at one thing which was a high point of this year – the further development of my Castles & Crusades game.

Castles & Crusades Players Handbooks. All you need to play the game (plus Mystical Companions).

2018: Leaving D&D behind and finding new players
I began C&C in 2018 after running a Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons campaign for 26 years. I was tired of edition changes, completely burned out on the Forgotten Realms, and although I enjoyed some of the post-2000 changes made to the D&D game, I wanted to borrow more from past editions as well as from non-D&D games, and perhaps most importantly, draw upon my personal interests and my academic background as a philosopher and historian. C&C met all those needs. I knew it could be difficult to get some of my old players to switch over from D&D, so I bought nearly two dozen Players Handbooks so that players couldn’t say they didn’t have the book, or couldn’t afford it. In the end, most of my old players who had played D&D with me for over 25 years chose not join me in my shift over to C&C, so I had to find new players. I had played D&D 5E Adventurers League for a year and made many friends from those games, so I was happy that many of those newer friends did make the move with me to C&C and gamed with me at the apartment that I lived in at the time.

2019: Moving into a House and having to start over again
In the first few days of January 2019 I moved into a new home. I turned my dining room into a game room. For the first time in my life I now had a dedicated and cool looking place to game. But when I made my move, most of my players felt it was too far away from them, some of them moved themselves, and a few went back to D&D 5E. So I had to once again nearly start over from scratch. But I knew I had a good thing going and had a lot to offer. For the first time since I first began my D&D Forgotten Realms campaign in 1992, I was energized and passionate. Indeed, I was more energized than I was then since C&C was my ideal game and allowed me to do everything that I had ever dreamed of doing. I was also using a world that I was creating and developing on my own. All my academic knowledge was flowing into this and molded by my enthusiasm and passion.

2019: For the first time in my life I had a proper gaming room.

So to get new players and to experience new gaming venues, I began offering C&C games at a local FLGS – Fantasy Flight Game Center. I also did some networking with my gaming friends and slowly, one-by-one, people showed up, both at the weekend games at my FLGS, and at the weekly Tuesday games at my house. These brand new players began to come in and it looked like they might finally be staying. I was able to see my world and homebrew ideas developing into something unique that stood out on its own. There was so much potential here, but would it hold?

Running Public C&C games at Fantasy Flight Games Center, 2019.

2020: Pandemic hits, need to adjust to online gaming
2020 began with me switching to a new FLGS for my weekend games – The Source Comics & Games. This was a better place to game, but my weekend players were split by another game being offered and player attendance at my game dropped. Then the pandemic hit. No more FLGS gaming. Indeed, no more home games either.

However, there was a difference between this and the previous challenges I faced. My Tuesday group still wanted to play, so it was a matter of adjusting to online game play. After some stumbling about on Google Hangouts the kind people at the Troll Lord Games (TLG) Discord server gave me my own channels to run my games. By the end of the summer my players and I had fully adjusted and were moving forward, I even increased the number of players in my campaign. As of the time of writing this, my Tuesday game has 7 regular players that have demonstrated their long-term interest and dedication to this game.

However, I still wanted a weekend game, and with FLGS gaming not possible, I began promoting my games on the TLG Discord and on MeWe, and over time players came in – from the west coast, the east coast, Canada, and Sweden. As of the time I am writing this I now have 7 players, with one additional player (an old friend who I gamed with 17 years ago during the D&D 3E era, who is on hold until he finishes moving into his new home), at which point I will have 8 players in that campaign. What began as a side game to get us through the pandemic is now an important campaign of its own where I have enough material to take everyone’s characters to their retirement age over the next year or so.

2020 may have been challenging, but somehow or other this challenge allowed me and others to rise up and unite together in gaming. I think we are stronger for it. Not only do I have two solid campaigns with 15 players between them, but I have made steady changes and development in my game world. Recognizable themes are emerging. There is a sense, feel, and familiarity developing, and the loyalty and enthusiasm of my players is demonstrating to me that I have a good thing on offer here: I have two healthy campaigns, I am offering a unique gaming experience, and there is an enjoyment and appreciation of what my academic background and reinvigorated passion and enthusiasm can bring to my C&C games to raise them to a new level.

So, what is in store for 2021? Well, my two campaigns will continue to develop. I will continue to bring more medieval history, realism, and folklore into my game (with my own unique twist). I will be studying and mining other RPG gaming products for ideas to bring into my games, I will continue to expand my GM skills, I will continue to learn new ways of using technology (even as I also embrace returning to some old-fashioned hand drawn maps like I used to do when I was a mechanical design drafter). I might also begin streaming games. There are so many possibilities for 2021. I have never had this much fun or passion for gaming. I can’t wait to see what develops next.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

The C&C Players Handbooks, as well as the Codex books, which are pivotal in bringing the medieval feel to my campaigns.