The Castle Keepers Guide is one of the top GM guides you can get. Although it is made for Castles & Crusades (and includes C&C stats for a numerous variety of subjects), it has a wealth of material in its 370 pages that is system neutral and nearly all of it can apply to any fantasy RPG.
The Cover Logo Font and Cover Art
I received my third printing of the Castle Keepers Guide (CKG) from Troll Lord Games (TLG) yesterday and the book is a beauty! It seems TLG is introducing a new look for their C&C products and I welcome this. I remember when I first noticed C&C books at my FLGS in 2017, the font used on the covers of their books appeared to resemble what I interpreted as a far-east samurai font, and I initially assumed C&C was a non-western fantasy game and I just moved on to the next RPG books on the shelf (fortunately, the FLGS also had earlier printings when TLG used – in my view – a better logo, and when I later realized that C&C wasn’t a medieval samurai game I took a closer look). Now, with the 3rd printing, the cover font has been freshened up and looks like what you would expect from a modern RPG game. Hopefully, the D&D 5E and Pathfinder crowd will take a look at it if they see it at their FLGS (unfortunately, the white coloring of the book’s name on the spine almost blends in with the art that is spread across the front and back covers, so most people glancing at the CKG on a bookshelf at their FLGS may have difficulty reading the name of the book!
Any gamers that have played AD&D will recognize the echo of the 1E DMG figure on the cover. So while this latest printing presents a freshened up and much needed font style change to move C&C into the new decade, it still retains an echo of the past. Which make sense, since C&C is in my view the best RPG for mixing and mashing together the best of pre-2000 old school D&D and post-2000 D&D. You can make C&C a rules-lite D&D 5E, or AD&D with a consistent rule system (these are the primary reasons why I switched to C&C).
Castle Keepers Guide – what’s in it?
The CKG has 19 chapters covering subjects such as expanding characters, magic, expanding equipment, NPCs, world building, cities, dungeons, air and water adventures, equipment wastage, land as treasure, going to war, monsters, treasure, combat, skill packages, and character death. I won’t go through all the chapters, but just hit a few highlights.
Classes & Races
The expanding characters chapter used to include optional material to take C&C characters from levels 14-24 (the PHB takes characters to level 13), but this material has been moved to the soon-to-be published 8th printing of the PHB. The material that remains covers optional attributes, racial interactions, and expanding playable races. Although this is obviously usable for C&C, it is also very useful for anyone running a D&D-type game.
The magic chapter provides prices of material components, buying, selling, and trading magic, how one can interpret magic in your game, summoning options, and alternate spellcasting systems. It is useful across-the-board for any C&C or D&D game master.
The CKG has always had a section on castles, cities, towns, villages, etc. with stats and information on how they operate and how they are structured. But in this printing they brought in Alyssa Faden, and she provided an incredible amount of map art, some of which are full-page spreads to illustrate the varieties of castles, towns, and cities one can create or adventure in. The text was useful in itself before, but this art really brings it alive and truly enhances the chapter. The art is informative, but can also serve as inspiration, and if you are at a loss for a town or city floorplan, just grab one of the illustrations from the book!
The expanded equipment chapter is filled with information for GMs that want information on rations, animal care, room and board, provisions, etc. This is useful for any fantasy RPG game system. But once again, art has been added for this printing. There is a two-page spread on ships and a two page spread on different types of wagons. The art is top quality and I love the realism it presents.
The Dungeons chapter previously had text to describe the different cave landscapes and how they look. But this chapter has also received a fresh lick of paint with illustrations to assist the reader. The quality of this chapter has also been raised.
SIEGE Engine, Skills, and Feats
I’ve mostly just touched on the chapters that received new art to illustrate and enhance the text. But the other chapters on treasure, combat, and world building are filled with gems to enhance your game. C&C is one of the most rules-flexible RPGs out there and the SIEGE Engine is what drives the game (the SIEGE Engine is a d20-style rule system that binds the C&C game together). For those running C&C, the chapter on the SIEGE Engine provides new ways to use the system to meet the needs of the Castle Keeper. Although C&C core rules don’t use formalized skills or feats, if you want that in your game, the Skill Packages chapter provides the means to do so (and if you use an RPG that already has skills and feats, this chapter can expand your options or provide a new way to look at them).
Supplemental Kickstarter Material
The CKG Kickstarter came with some additional books to those who pledged at a higher level. The Core Index is a useful quick reference for the CKG, PHB, and Monster books. The CKG Tables booklet is 60 pages of the most useful tables from the CKG. This will probably get used by me every game session – this was badly needed! I’ve said that the CKG is one of the best GM guides out there, but sometimes trying to find what you need in a 370 page book is difficult to do in the middle of a battle during a game session. This booklet makes that a lot easier by putting things right at my fingertips. Adtherpe’s Natural Materials covers herbalism, alchemy, creature harvesting, and mixing compounds. At just 20 pages it is brief and compact, but it appears to me on a first perusal to be highly useful!
It was frustrating that this book arrived 11 months beyond its original delivery date of September, 2020. Keep in mind the textual content was largely unchanged from the 2nd printing, the book mostly just had some new art added. Unfortunately, delivering late Kickstarters is something TLG is known for. Still, I must say that this is a really beautiful book, and both it and the user-friendly supplemental material that came with it will get a lot of use from me. The book gives Castle Keepers guidance and suggestions on almost anything they might face in their game, and for non-C&C GMs out there, this is a very useful addition to your game as well. This book come highly recommended!