Review: Castles & Crusades Gods & Legends, and Of Gods & Monsters

I will be reviewing two Castles & Crusades books covering gods and pantheons, the now out-of-print Of Gods & Monsters (OG&M) and its recently published replacement Gods & Legends (G&L). I will explain how they are different, how they are similar, and why you might want to get them (OG&M is still available in PDF format).

The gods play a huge role in my C&C campaigns through the abilities they provide their followers (originally inspired by the AD&D 2nd edition concept of specialty priests). When I began my world development using C&C my pantheons made use of the AD&D 2nd edition Legends & Lore book and the powers they bestowed on their followers, as well as the information from OG&M (both books had James Ward as their primary author, so this made sense even if the books were published decades apart). Those books were indispensable in laying out the foundations of my game world (even though I am now beginning to strike out on my own).

Sadly, although OG&M was published in 2012, it has been out-of-print for a while, and even though Troll Lord Games (TLG) had spoken of making a 2nd edition of OG&M years went by and nothing happened. But then, a few months ago G&L suddenly appeared. A lot has changed between the two books and although I really like G&L, I am saddened by the dropped and forgotten material from OG&M. Let me provide some detailed examples.

Of Gods & Monsters:
OG&M lays out 20+ pantheons: Aihrde, American Indian, Aztec, Celtic, Dwarves, Egyptians, Elves, Gnomes, Greek, Halflings, Humanoids (Bugbear, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Orc, etc.), India, Japanese, Norse, and Romans. Each section provides:
1. An introduction to the pantheon
2. Deity entries
3. Magic items each god uses and may bestow upon a follower under unique circumstances (typically 2-3 items per god)
4. Spells (unique to the pantheon, around 10 new spells per pantheon)
5. Bestiary (unique to the pantheon, around 3-6 monsters per pantheon)

It has a great balance between crunch and fluff. I have read other reviews where the reviewers thought the rules were all over the place and some of the spells were clearly not balanced and were too weird. There is some truth to this. Still, some of the spells in this book stand out as being truly unique and I have seen nothing like them in any other source. With this book now out of print and with the spells not appearing in the soon-to-be-published C&C Adventurers Spellbook, these spells are now lost and forgotten unless you get this book as a PDF. Let me give you an example of a couple of the spells.

There is a 6th level gnome spell called Avocado Justice (p.83). “A special banner is created, with a warning…something like, ‘don’t attack us [or] you will be sorry.’ Those who see the banner save versus their wisdom. If they fail…wherever they are standing they are permanently turned into a growing avocado plant.”

I had an NPC gnome illusionist who the PCs met and they saw a nice garden of avocados in front of his cottage. No one else thought anything of it, but I did tell the gnome PC in the group that the plants might once have been intruders who tried to enter his house and steal his magical secrets. I have made this a spell that one of the gnome gods in my pantheon provides those who worship him. It has a truly unique character and just feels like the quirky thing that a gnome might do.

Here is another unique 8th level gnome spell called Mass Eating Rather Than Dying (p.83). “The material component is a dead number of gnomes. On the death of a gnome, during the duration of the spell [1 minute/level], instead of dying, the gnomes find themselves back home in front of a large table filled with food and they have one hit point left. The spell only works during a battle and not from dying of disease or old age. Being accidentally bit by a poisonous snake would clear the poison out of the system of the now comfortably eating at-home gnome.” Again, I think this is a really flavorful spell. I think it would be fantastically cool if as a TPK has occurred – and we lost several gnome characters – for them all to appear back home for one final feast before they die. I can see players trying to abuse a spell like this, but then again, the wording of it allows me as the GM to put restrictions on it if need be. This is also a spell that one of my gnome gods gives to his followers.

Gods & Legends
G&L lays out 27+ pantheons: Aihrde, Dwarf, Elven, Halfling, Gnome, Humanoids (Bugbears, Gnoll, Goblin, Orc, Hobgoblin, Lizardman, Kobold, Giant, Ogre, Troll, etc.), Dragon, Fey, Centaur, Merfolk, Sahuagin, Celtic, Greek, Egyptian, German, Norse, Slavic.

This book has an elaborate introduction by Davis Chenault that provides advice on how you might use the gods in your world. This can be a quite useful section for GMs that want advice and guidance on using gods, alignment, holy symbols, etc.

The rest of the book is made up of the pantheons. Whereas EG&M provided a deity entry, magic items, spells, and a bestiary, this book just provides deities. No magic items. No spells. No bestiary. Just gods. And the format changes depending on the pantheon. Fantasy pantheons (i.e. dwarves and elves) provide background descriptions that are several paragraphs long. Whereas for the human pantheons (i.e. Celt and Norse), it is just a list of deities and powers with no deity descriptions (the Earth pantheons to be found in this book are the ones to be found in the Codex books that TLG publishes, so all the deity information is to be found there).

In my game world the Codex books are core books and there are molfar, seidkona, berserker, and drachentoten found everywhere, so this is not a problem for me since I own and use the codex volumes. However, for GMs that do not have the codex books, you will have a lot of game stat information to use but nothing provided explain or flesh out and add context to the stat dumps and so those without the codex volumes may feel frustrated.

A comparison of the gnome section from OG&M (top) and G&L (bottom)

Final Thoughts
So, where do we stand?

G&L is focused just on deities, pantheons, and guidance on how to use them. The fantasy pantheons are well laid out and provide a lot of information for those that need to drop a fantasy pantheon into their world. The pantheons based on our world, however, are massive stat dumps with no context or narrative support. I will use it as a quick reference, but for detailed information, I will head to the relevant codex books I own. GMs that don’t have them may well feel frustrated by the Earth pantheon sections.

Artwork. As for the fantasy pantheon deities in G&L, although there is a lot of great new black and white artwork. However, some art is also recycled. This can be annoying for those of us with both books that got used to associating specific art pieces with certain gods that James Ward wrote up for OG&M and now seeing them used for completely new gods written up by Davis Chenault for G&L.

OG&M as of this writing is only available as a PDF on DriveThruRPG. What it lacks in more robust write-ups on fantasy pantheons, it makes up for with unique deity-specific magic items, pantheon-specific spells, and culture-specific monsters. If you looked at the rough list of pantheons I mentioned for each of the books above you will notice that a large number of real-world pantheons have been dropped (e.g. America Indian, Aztec, India, Japanese), you now only have real-world pantheons represented if there is a TLG codex book for that culture.

For me, OG&M is just as important as G&L. I think the material they have dropped from OG&M and allowed to remain out of print is a real shame. I have no idea if TLG plans to keep the PDF of OG&M available (I hope they do), but in case they don’t, it might be worthwhile to go take a look at it and use it to add in the missing Earth pantheons and to add magic items, spells, and monsters to each of the pantheons that are missing from G&L. TLG may have intended G&L to replace OG&M, but I think OG&M has a purpose and place, indeed, OG&M will probably remain the main source and reference for my C&C games due to the gods, magic items, spells, and beasts, and G&L will probably function as the supplement to it as I will use it to mostly to just add a few more deities to my current pantheons.

Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Sessions 83 and 84

Summary:
First: battles with crypt shades, spectres, ghouls, and a Remorhaz!
Next: Ironguard Motte is attacked at night by a bloodsoaker vine creeping over the city gate, a bonecrawler – composed of the corpses of the citizens of the city – along with bone delvers (grave diggers turned undead with glowing lanterns that drain life), enter the city and begin a march through the streets!

PC’s, Session 83:
Kyron, Human Cleric 6 of Charon
Magni, Dwarf Fighter 3 of Barundar Battleaxe
Rosaline, Half Elf (elven lineage) Druid 7 of The Daghda
Zen, Human Monk 7 of St. Agathos
Roulf, Half-Orc Dragonslayer 6 of Crom
Oswyn, Human Cleric 2 of St. Jasper
Rolando, Hobbit Rogue 4/Pacer 3 of Brandobaris Fleetfoot
Llewelyn, Elf Cleric 6/Wizard 6 of Sehanine Moonbow
Gorgat, Half Orc Barbarian 7 of Haephestus
Remi, Gnome Harlequin (Rogue 6/Illusionist 5) of Hermes

NPC, Session 83:
Dhekeon “the Disgraced,” fallen skeletal paladin of St. Justus (seeking redemption)

Game Diary, Session 83:
This diary was delayed a week due to Gamehole Con.

In session 83 the group continued to work their way through crypts they had begun the previous session. They battled crypt shades, ghouls, spectres, and after they had enough of the undead, and chose to leave the Barrowmaze and head home to warm up (the session took place during the third week of December after a good snowfall), they encountered a Remorhaz! It was a…heated…battle! The heat its body generated along with its attacks knocked some PCs hit points down nicely. But there were a lot of them and even though it shrugged off some magic spells with its magic resistance, the fighting types beat it down.

They arrive back and after several leveled up after several sessions of combatting the undead, they took 10 weeks off to relax, recover, and prepare for more adventuring in the spring.

PC’s, Session 84:
Zen, Human Monk 7 of St. Agathos
Rosaline, Half-Elf (elf lineage) Druid 7 of The Daghda
Gnoosh, Gnome Rogue 7/Illusionist 6 of Baravar Cloakshadow
Martin, Human Rogue 7 of Bacchus
Kyron, Human Cleric 7 of Charon
Sagira, Human Cleric 3 of Horus

Game Diary, Session 84:
This session began during the first week of March. However, since in real-time we are in the Halloween season, I decided to have a spooky adventure.

I described a cool evening (10°C/50°F) with many white clouds drifting over the sky covering most stars and both of the moons. The lantern lighters have just lit the street lanterns for the evening and all seems calm. Except the main headquarters of the Army of the Light gets a frantic knock on the door. A town administrator tells the 6 PCs who were up that the southeast gates had been opened and that former caretakers of the cemetery were carrying lanterns with an evil red glow and shovels which they were using to decapitate guards and citizens. At that point horrifying screams could be heard and the group headed out to stop them.

A Bone Delver. Art from Tome of Horrors 4 (Frog God Games)

Rushing down a side street they see two former caretakers heading down the 10-foot wide side street as half a dozen more headed down the much wider main road. The group split up. Gnoosh, used burning ground and dark chaos, and Zen used his fists to batter away at these undead. They managed to avoid the negative effects of their horrifying howl and they also noticed that there was black negative energy emanating from the lanterns (implying some kind of undead life or essence drain). Fortunately, the burning ground weakened the bone delvers and the dark chaos and monk attacks finished the job.

Meanwhile, the other members entered the main street. Area of effect spells would not work here as town guards and brave citizens were engaged in melee with the bone delvers. The heroes noticed that the blows from their shovels caused some effect which weakened the guards and citizens fighting them, reducing their ability to hit and do damage. Their screams also caused many to scatter – but not the adventurers!

The clerics managed to turn these former caretakers and Kyron called out for the children and vulnerable adults to gather around him as he cast a circle of protection. Attacking the bone delvers from behind made combat easier and they went down. Kyron then sent those he protected away and took to destroying their lanterns, knowing that if others touched them they may lose their lives.

Rosaline noticed at this point that there was some kind of moving mass of bloodsoaked vines moving over the high entry gates. Kyron arrowhawk familiar blasted it with lightning and Rosaline summoned a swarm of bats to attack it. Slashing weapons were needed to truly be effective on this, so those melee combatants struggled, even more so since the bloodsoaker vines when they struck a victim, would cause a bleeding wound that could only be closed by magical healing. Luckily, the group had two clerics, a druid, and an illusionist (illusionists in C&C can heal through the sheer force and power of their mind). Still, this caused them to use up a lot of their healing spells!

Once the vines were destroyed the group noticed a writhing mass of sharpened bones held together by flesh and muscle, clearly an amalgamation of the recently dead of Ironguard Motte stitched together my some sick necromantic magic. They moved forward to attack. There were six characters, but this bonecrawler had 12 whipfronds – so there were two attacks on each character! The bone blades cut deep on several, but the summoned swarm of bats moved in to weaken it and Gnoosh, who had conjured a flaming cape around himself, burned it away when it made contact with him. The battle was over!

Heading to the cemetery to try to discover what had caused this, Rosaline spoke with plants – a tree in this case – and asked what it had seen recently. It appeared that hooded shepherds herding their goats had passed through the area as their goats fed to keep the grass in the graveyard manageable. However, the shepherds were really acolytes of Orcus, and their goats were Gehennian Goats! The necromancers visited the graveyard caretakers, turned them undead, and then worked their horrific necromancy on the graveyard and deceased people of Ironguard Motte. As soon as you think the dangers of the Barrowmaze are contained, the group is reminded that the reach of undeath has long arms!

Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 80

Summary:
The Army of the Light is pulled from the crypts of the Barbarian Lord Uthuk Amon Thar into an alternate prehistoric reality where they battle a legendary Hydra followed by a legendary Tyrannosaurus Rex that nearly kills a PC in a single bite!

PC’s:
Gimli Hearthfire, Dwarf Berserker 6 of Odin
Wright Dawnbreaker, Human Paladin 3 of St. Luther
Edward, Human Bard 4 of St. Cecilia
Arthur, Human Oathsworn 7 of Celestian
Gorgat, Half-Orc Barbarian 6 of Haephestus
Belden, Gnome Bard 6 of Aengus
Elfgiva, Archer 2/Cleric 2/Wizard 2 of Sehanine Moonbow
Llewelyn, Elf Cleric 6/Wizard 6 of Sehanine Moonbow
Rosaline, Half Elf (Elf lineage) Druid 7 of The Daghda
Zen, Human Monk 6 of St. Agathos

NPC:
Dhekeon “the Disgraced,” fallen skeletal paladin of St. Justus (seeking redemption)

Game Diary:
Last session the Army of the Light entered the crypt of Uthuk Amon Thar, a barbarian lord that died long before the Barrowmaze was built. Entering the tomb they fought former servants of his that had become undead and the session ended with them completing the first Trial of the Hunt by fighting and defeating cave bears and carnivorous apes.

This session began with them entering a second room where a voice boomed “Let the Second Trial of the Hunt begin!” From the walls leapt owl bears and hell hounds. Gimli summoned Odin’s Fury and this berserker ability made him immune to the hell hound’s fire. Dhekeon was able to walk on the ceiling (he has a death mask that allows spider climbing) and attacked the owl bears from above. Upon destroying these beasts a door opened and they entered a third room where they saw a 12 headed hydra on one wall and a tyrannosaurus rex on another. A voice then boomed “Let the Final Trial of the Hunt begin!” The legendary beasts shimmered, the group felt light-headed, fell to the ground, and then awoke in a warm, steamy jungle-like swamp in the middle of the night. Above them in the sky the stars seemed to rotate and eerie lights shimmered and shifted about. The elves that had twilight vision and those that had darkvision could tell there were massive, prehistoric plants all around them. The sounds of jungle and swamp assaulted their ears. Where were they?

The sky came alive in my game room to pull the players into the adventure.

I love to immerse my players in a game when I can, and when they were brought to this strange place I activated a nebula/star projector I have and turned on ambient music from my computer. I usually keep the lighting low in my games around the table, so the projections of rotating stars and nebulae showed up well on the ceiling!

The players immediately went on the hunt. While seeking out evidence of where the hydra might be, a pack of 12 velociraptors picked up their scent and charged in a pack, Edward used a special bard ability and a cacophony of sound burst around them and injuring them enough for the others to destroy them.

They next managed to track down the hydra after several hours. The battle would’ve been quite rough, but Llewelyn has a mirror of opposition and when he held it up the 12 headed legendary hydra appeared in front of the PCs throwing them all to the side. The true hydra hated this imposter and it spend most of the first two rounds attacking and destroying the heads of the mirrored hydra. That gave the PCs time to attack the legendary hydras body. But with the body dead there were still 12 heads. The only way they could reach the heads properly with non-reach melee weapons was to climb the body of the hydra, so those melee combatants climbed its body. Gimli went to the back and summoned his Blood of Tyr berserker ability and began to burn the beast, while ranged combatants fire their arrows and bolts from afar. This took it down, but the group was grateful for the duplicate that was summoned, for this legendary hydra had 12 attacks a round and could have done some lethal damage!

Looking for the T-Rex they instead found two megalosaurus. It took a while for the group to whittle down these powerful beasts and the group was worried for what might happen when they found the T-Rex!

As the group took a chance in this strange, surreal, realm to find a place to rest and sleep the third watch was caught by surprised, for in the soft, marshy, ground the legendary T-Rex was able to sneak up on the members on watch. With one swift bite it emerged from the darkness and took a mighty bite of Elfgiva. The damage from the bite clearly killed her, but the group had a card from the Deck of Dirty Tricks that allowed one attack to only do half damage. A quick vote around the table meant that the card could be used on Elfgiva. With half damage she was only at -1 hit point and thus just unconscious. The group was clearly frightened, for in the first surprise round one character escaped death by the skin of the teeth.

Initiative was rolled. I rolled low. Everyone was awake, but 2/3 didn’t have their armor on since they had been sleeping (and anyone who tries to sleep in metal armor in my game – especially in prehistoric humid swamp weather – will take heavy combat penalties) they had to fight with low armor class. Spells were cast at it, but the T-Rex passed all its saves. The players were able to estimate that this beast was in the range of 20 hit dice, so even secondary saves were probably going to succeed against them. So they swarmed in for physical attacks for all they could. They rolled well, with many attacks doing 9-14 points of damage per hit. As the combat round came to an end I managed to get another bite in with the powerful beast but I rolled low damage and that character had more hit points. The next initiative round was rolled and again the players got what they needed to mostly go before me and the powerful blows finally took the king of beasts down. The legendary T-Rex with just over 100 hit points (which is a lot for an old school monster!) was defeated!

Immediately everything around the players shimmered, and after regaining their footing and blinking a few times they found themselves back in the chamber which had the image of the hydra and T-Rex. Only now a brand new door was open. Surely now that they have completed the Trials of the Hunt the group could enter the tomb of Uthuk Amon Thar! Well, the session was at an end, so the group will find out next week!

Is the current explosion in the RPG market sustainable?

Is the current explosion in the RPG market heading toward a saturation point? There is a post on EN World regarding the explosion of $1 million+ kickstarters and Erik Tenkar also discussed it recently. D&D and RPGs are flying high right now. But beneath it I know a lot of people – like myself – are weary of all the products and promotions. Here are some of my musings on the current situation and ponderings on the future.

RPGs are flying high right now.
RPGs are everywhere. Last year D&D appeared to have its best year by a noticeable margin. Through platforms like DriveThruRPG, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter, we are seeing an explosion of material from virtually anyone who has a sliver of an RPG idea. 5E-inspired indie products released on any given week on DriveThruRPG are drowned out the following week as new products replace them by a fresh number of aspiring designers trying to show off their newly acquired InDesign skills. Can the current heavy release by independent designers continue?

The previous d20 boom and bust.
We saw something similar to this once before during the d20 boom and bust. Third parties saturated the market after the release of 3E in 2000. By 2005 there were so many products of varying quality that people were burned out and quit buying. I wonder if we are going to see something like this in the near future?

I wrote a post last week about why I was going to leave Kickstarter next year (I shutdown Indiegogo over the weekend). The feedback I received from that post was surprising in that a significant number of people – the majority – had all either cut back on their crowdfunding support, were planning to cut back, or had ended crowdfunding support all together. The reasons included:
– There were too many things being published that they didn’t need (i.e. the market is flooded with product and many people already have more than they need).
– Too many crowdfunded products don’t live up to what was pitched to them (i.e. product quality was lacking).
– Poor business practices (i.e. products routinely delivered late, lack of proper editing, etc.).

I wonder if we are once again headed for RPG fatigue? The market is overflowing with products with varying quality and standards. But, what about all the “collector editions” and “leather-bound editions” that appear in virtually every Kickstarter nowadays? Surely that is a sign of an increase in quality and perhaps even demand?

It is true that high-quality products are being produced. But most people I have spoken to (and like the responses to my blog post about crowd funding, this is obviously anecdotal, so please keep that in mind) in the last few months are tired of the leather collector editions. When everything is a “collector’s edition” is it actually a collector’s item anymore? At some point it is going to register with people who pledge that high on Kickstarter that routinely spending $100 for a book that is just going to rest on a bookshelf and look nice is not sustainable. I wonder how many of these books are going to end up at Half-Price Books or eBay in 5-10 years time (albeit at an inflated price so the person can attempt to recoup their money).

We are just three years away from the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons (and the 10th anniversary of D&D 5E). A new D&D movie will be coming out in 2023 (a year before the anniversaries). WotC will undoubtedly be capitalizing on the new high-budget film and the two anniversaries with new product releases. The third-party market will try and do so as well. It is looking like the D&D frenzy will only be increasing.

We are also attempting to come out of a pandemic. I suspect that a contributing factor for why 9 of the 13 $1 million+ RPG Kickstarters have occurred this year is due to some people’s feelings and desires to try and “leave the pandemic behind,” and as a result have increased their “fun” spending to make up for the holidays they weren’t able to take over the last 18 months. But will this continue? Is this just a temporary blip? Some people are clearly spending more on RPGs based on those 9, $1 million+ Kickstarters), but most people I know – including myself – are stepping back from RPG spending.

My speculative thought.
So here is what I am thinking. D&D will be everywhere over the next three years with Hollywood films, merchandise, and promotions for upcoming anniversaries. DriveThruRPG, Kickstarter, and other crowdfunding organizations are going to continue full-speed ahead as more people try to jump on the D&D and RPG bandwagon, adding to the available products. But at some point it will dawn on people that the glut of “collector editions” are unnecessary and too expensive to continue supporting, and the continuation of delayed and poorly executed Kickstarters will take its toll on people. I think RPG product fatigue is going to set in. People will look at all the things they bought and realize they will never use most of it. They will be exhausted and drained financially and emotionally.

In a few years time we will also have to reflect on our jobs and life post-pandemic. Many people are already making big changes to their life and job based on the situation they find themselves in, and in just a few years they will see the results of the decisions they are now making and will have to re-evaluate them to see if those choices were the correct ones and if they need to make a new career pivot or change in personal/family choices. The attitude of “let’s leave this all behind and get back to normal” is something we’ve seen before and it has a limited life span. With the RPG saturation point I think we are headed toward at the moment, along with the larger issues tied-to the pandemic and post-pandemic world, what will the results be?

So, those are my thoughts. Do you think there is any truth in my musings, or am I talking utter bollocks!? What do you think?

What is the future of the current RPG market?

Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 65

Summary:
The Army of the Light battle zombie babies, zombie mothers and their male slaves!

PC’s:
Llewelyn, Elf Cleric/Wizard of Sehanine
Rolando, Hobbit Rogue/Pacer of Brandobaris
Astrid, Human Skald of Hel
Ria, Human Pacer of Loki
Remi, Gnome Harlequin (Rogue/Illusionist) of Hermes
Tiberius, Human Paladin of St. Ingrid
Roulf, Half-Orc Drachentoten (i.e. Dragonslayer) of Crom
Edward, Human Bard of St. Cecilia
Aturash, Half-Orc Berserker of Odin
Orwin, Half-Elf (human lineage) Fighter/Drachentoten of St. Agathos
Kyra, Elven Cleric of Sehanine

NPC:
Inaros, Human Cleric of Osiris

Game Diary:
After only a day of rest from their previous excursion into the Barrowmaze, they headed back again, they had nearly all of Dhekeon’s body parts (Dhekeon is the fallen skeletal paladin who has joined them to seek redemption), all that was missing was his head and torso. Inaros, the highest ranking lawful good member of this particular group that was going on the adventure (The Army of the Light now numbers over 30!), had one of Dhekeon’s arms lodged within the arm loop of his shield, and so the army could point in the direction of where his remaining parts could be found.

Upon entering the Barrowmoor, the Army of the Light saw three adventuring groups at work, two were excavating barrow mounds, but one was entering the Barrowmaze itself through the one known and common entrance. The group though they should use this entrance point for quickest access to where Dhekeon’s parts lie. It was mid-June in the Duchy of Aerik and adventuring parties and tomb-raiders were quite busy seeking glory and treasure!

Upon entering this old entrance they headed south to explore areas they had last been in between 1 and 2 years ago. Things had changed. Adventuring parties had left some graffiti on the walls, traps had been sprung with dead tomb-raiders within, and the undead in the area were not the older undead from the original people buried here, now the undead were the recently deceased tomb-raiders that had met their end here.

Zombie baby art by Chris Woodall.

In one part of these halls the group was reminded they had encountered some zombie babies that ended up falling to their death in a pit trap, although they had never discovered at the time where these undead infants had come from. Now, over a year later their heads had been carefully placed on a platform in remembrance right next to the pit. What did this mean? They found out immediately as two angry, screaming zombie mothers emerged from opposite ends of the hall, trapping the group in between!

One character took a mother and noticed that she was pregnant with an undead child in her (its hand prints pressed at her stomach from the inside). She had a purplish skin hue, looked ready to breathe some noxious spray onto the hero, but attacks from melee and range took her down. A key check made the group aware that if one of these undead were to successfully breath their spray of undeath on a member of the group, that it could kill them with its toxicity. They were very careful in keeping their distance from the other undead mother and managed to kill them without losing anyone. After exploring the room they had set up as lairs and birthing chambers, the group then discovered a room of twenty fresh zombie men (i.e. recently deceased adventurers), that the undead women had been using to produce their zombie babies. Clerics managed to turn half of them while cutting down the rest with there weapons.

At this point they managed to find a clear path to where Dhekeon’s final parts could be found. They were now entering an area where a necromancer named Kelmok had tried to ambush them over a year ago. Now, it seemed, a new necromancer had take up residence here – Grimstaff. He was a necromancer from more civilized lands that had heard of the Barrowmaze within the Borderlands and had come here to claim greater power. Somehow he had gotten a hold of Dhekeon’s remaining parts and was now lying in wait for the Army of the Light to come to him. If this was his attempt to gain favor with the necromancers in the Barrowmaze, then if he could defeat part of the Army of the Light with this ambush, then he should undoubtedly be able to elevate himself through the ranks quite quickly!

After reading his taunting message, they entered the long north to south corridor and systematically battled ghoulish undead waiting for them. The whole time they fought the ghouls they could hear the voice of Grimstaff taunting them from further down the hall. Successfully destroying the ghouls the group made it to the double doors of the chamber where Grimstaff awaited. On the top of a obelisk in the center of this massive chamber they could see Dhekeon’s torso tied (his head seemed to have been removed). From behind four other pillars in the room and from under various piles of refuse and bone, the group could hear the sounds of arcane and divine necromancers preparing to cast spells at them. We were about to roll initiative to begin combat, but the session was over and this combat would have to wait until next week!

art from Barrowmaze Complete.

Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 64

Summary:
1. Attacked by a unique variant of cockatrice, Gnoosh, our gnome rogue/illusionist is nearly turned to stone – twice – through bite attacks!
2. Activating a trap, the Army of the Light is chased down flights of stairs with a giant boulder rolling after them!

PC’s:
Gnoosh, Gnome Rogue/Illusionist of Baravar
Llewelyn, Elf Cleric/Wizard of Sehanine
Astrid, Human Skald of Hel
Ria, Human Pacer of Loki
Remi, Gnome Harlequin (Rogue/Illusionist) of Hermes
Tiberius, Human Paladin of St. Ingrid
Roulf, Half-Orc Drachentoten (i.e. Dragonslayer) of Crom
Edward, Human Bard of St. Cecilia
Aturash, Half-Orc Berserker of Odin
Orwin, Half-Elf (human lineage) Fighter/Drachentoten of St. Agathos

NPC:
Inaros, Human Cleric of Osiris

Game Diary:
The group left off last time on a cliffhanger at the doorway of a room with two cockatrice bounding toward them.

Cockatrice (art from D&D 5E Monster Manual)

We began the session with an initiative roll. The players held their attacks and the cockatrice, although 40 feet away, launched themselves into the air and used their wings to soar right into melee combat. Some might think of cockatrice as creatures that petrify people with a gaze attack (like so many other monsters of that type, like medusa and basilisks), and although I frequently use the Labyrinth Lord monsters (which is what Barrowmaze was designed for), I chose to use the Castles & Crusades version instead. In C&C the cockatrice transmits petrification through a bite attack. I found that a lot more interesting, and it allowed me to potentially catch some players off guard who might otherwise rely on prior game knowledge (one of the challenges I have as a GM is that although it is sometimes nice to have a player rely on prior knowledge to move an encounter or adventure forward, other times I want to show them something new they haven’t seen before).

Two characters were bitten by the two cockatrice. One passed their save, but Gnoosh did not. I told him that it felt like cold concrete was being injected into his veins and his skin began to turn gray in color and his body began to stiffen (I was not going to petrify him in one round, like many other bite attacks that inject something, I felt it should take some time to spread through his body). Since the cockatrice bite attack was described in the C&C Monsters & Treasure as: “A wound from the beast’s bite becomes instantly infected…” a player asked if a they could cast remove disease to cure him. I thought that sounded great, but I had them make a spellcaster check with the Challenge Level equaling the cockatrice HD to over ride the power of the bite. They succeeded. I began to describe how Gnoosh began to re-acquire his dark tan/brownish gnome complexion again. But then the next round came and it bit Gnoosh again AND he failed his save again! I described how just as he was getting his roguish flexibility back he felt the rush of the cold, petrifying, saliva enter his system again and he began to return to a grayish stone color. Most players were able to keep the magical beasts at bay with their polearms as well as cut them up with them, and a cleric stepped up and succeeded in removing the petrifying disease of the cockatrice a second time on Gnoosh.

A large room lay before them with a tantalizing chamber in the back, but they decided they didn’t want to take any more risks, shut the door, and headed in the opposite direction! I had never seen the group do this before, they have traditionally never left a room unexplored. Since they were in this area to find the missing body parts of Dhekeon, the undead fallen paladin seeking redemption (and if brought together, his body parts will re-attach), they decided to get on with that mission. His left arm pointed to where his next appendage was. They got to a door and Gnoosh went to unlock it but rolled a 1! When that happened I described how his lock picks broke. I also explained that it appears his fingers still had some stiffening residue left over from the cockatrice bites. So Remi stepped up and as it happened, effortlessly unlocked the door!

They eventually got to a stone door that neither of the rogues could open. They knew somewhere behind it Dhekeon’s body parts were located, so they took out their sledges and broke it down. They then saw a series of stairs that slowly went up in a loose spiral pattern into an ever tightening center point (see map picture).

The stone trap (map from Barrowmaze Complete).

They got to the top and on the door there was an inscription: “Knock and Pull to Enter the Crypt of Mahle Royc.” They discussed what this could mean, eventually deciding to knock once and pull the pull ring. Apparently that was not the correct decision and a massive stone boulder fell from above. Dexterity saves were made, those that failed were hit for damage and the boulder roll over them (crushing some of their potions), those that passed were now being chased by the boulder as it descended the stairs after them! They had to make several more saves as they ran from the pursuing boulder, eventually making it to the bottom. There was a lot of healing that needed to get done when that was over. They then made their way back towards the top of the stairs and entered the crypt. There stood Dhekeon’s legs attached to his hip. Dhekeon’s lower body walked towards them. They already had his left and right arms, so all that remained was his torso and head and he would be complete. The crypt of this once mighty warrior – Mahle Royce – held his body in a full chain suit in incredible condition (and magical!). Roulf took that for himself.

The group was worn out and out of spells. They wanted to head back to Ironguard Motte. As they made their way out of the Crypt of Mahle Royce there were ghouls waiting for them (it seems that those that hid away Dhekeon’s body parts in the crypts knew the Army of the Light would go after it and set up undead to attack them). The ghouls were destroyed – they were much less challenging than the cockatrice and the crushing boulder! But it further depleted the groups resources. They left through a new exit they discovered and made their way back to town.

In the past they would take a few weeks off to rest, but this time they decided to heal up with curative spells and head back the following day to seek out the final body parts of Dhekeon. The players seem to be changing up the way they do things. This is understandable, since in an email I sent them prior to this session, I pointed out that they are mostly past the “easy” parts of the Barrowmaze and that things are going to get a lot more difficult going forward. I am guessing they have decided to be more cautious as a result, perhaps in part because three of the 10 characters in this session were level 1 and one was level 2 (40% of the group were newcomers). We did have four characters that were level 5-6, and having 10 PC’s in a party plus an NPC increases their chance for survival, but at this stage in the Barrowmaze 1st level characters have a much higher likelihood of perishing (although these new 1st level characters are all lawful good and the group was sorely lacking lawful good characters before, so having these lawful good characters is going to help them in the long run versus the undead and the forces of chaos, plus, with the higher amount of monster XP and treasure – I use the Gold Piece = XP rule – the low level characters will level up quite swiftly…if they survive). I look forward to seeing how this group takes on their next challenge!

Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 62

Summary:
20 flaming zombies and 20 skeletons break down walls to attack the Army of the Light. But what made the battle especially vivid was the 7 critical hits and the 5 critical fumbles that were rolled by the players during the combat!

PC’s:
Gimli, Dwarf Berserker of Odin
Cyron, Human Cleric of Charon
Belden, Gnome Bard of Aengus
Ria, Human Pacer of Loki
Noro, Human Warrior Priest of Hyperion
Elfgiva, Elf Archer/Cleric/Wizard of Sehanine
Martin, Human Rogue of Bacchus

NPC:
Inaros, Human Cleric of Osiris

Game Diary:
Last time the Army of the Light defeated Rendar Serouc, a barrow wight and Chosen of Nergal. The battle was taxing, with the paladin Cobalt in a catatonic state after he had made eye contact with Serouc and was driven insane. The group now wanted to collect the treasure and head back to Helix or Ironguard Motte to see if Cobalt could be returned to normal.

However, as they collected their things and prepared to head south to the skull entrance to this section devoted to Nergal’s Chosen, they heard in the distance pieces of wall crumbling to the ground. When a few scouts headed south down the corridor towards the sound and peaked into a chamber, they could see bricked up walls to the west and the east getting broken down. On the east zombies with black runes were breaking through, and on the west side it was skeletons. They could make out that these undead would be able to break through one at a time, which seemed manageable, but the scouts could also see that there were many breaking at the walls from the other side so the opening on both sides was going to expand over time.

Critical Hit and Fumble Dice by New Comet Games

The group gathered, headed south broke roughly into two groups to take on the eastern zombies and western skeletons. Normally one would have the clerics try and turn them, but all the undead in this section of the Chosen had unholy symbols that resisted turning, so this was was was going to be old fashioned combat. Gimli remembered that the zombies with runes would ignite into flames when struck, so he summoned Odin’s Fury, this berserker ability made him immune to flame and he headed in for an attack. As soon as he struck the first one it ignited, and since the others were so close, that ignited them all! Others wanting to assist Gimli stood back and from higher ground used ranged attacks to try and hit the zombies pounding through the wall.

Noro and Ria happened to have a magical halberd and bardiche, so with these polearms in hand they had the ability to take on each skeleton as it broke through the wall one by one and at a distance.

All seemed to be going well taking down one or two skeletons and one or two zombies each round. These early undead had a few hit points and it frequently took multiple hits to take them down. One would expect this to be slow but manageable, but as the undead slowly made their way through the bricked-up opening, the hole kept getting larger, soon more were going to come through.

Then the unexpected happened – everyone began rolling critical hits and fumbles! Since I use the critical hit and fumble dice by New Comet Games, crits and fumbles have spectacular results that can transform a battle. The critical hits were marvelous as I asked players to describe how it looked when they “blind opponent + 2d6 damage,” or “gain +1 attack.” The players were enjoying multiple attacks and describing how they were beheading skeletons, slicing through them, or pulverizing them to bone dust. But then everyone got nervous when the fumbles landed, now players had to deal with “hit self” and “crit ally.” With 7 critical hits and 5 fumbles, this was by far the most 1s and 20s I’ve ever seen rolled in an RPG game – and this was just one (extended) combat!

Every adventure has highlights when friends or enemies go down, but in this elaborate battle it was happening every round! What would normally become a highlight for the adventure would sometimes be overridden by the very next die roll later. We were being smothered in epic successes and fails. The 7 crits guaranteed that the undead were going down quicker than normal, but the fumbles meant the healers who had been in the back had to move forward to heal people up, and it was just as this happened that more of the bricked walls crumbled and more undead began pouring through. When the last 5 skeletons and last 5 runic zombies stumbled through from the west and east sides they had to climb over the 15 bodies of their fallen comrades in front of them, and all those undead corpses slowed them down a bit.

When that battle ended we – both players and characters – were all exhausted. Gimli, as a berserker, had to make a Wisdom check to see if he could exit Odin’s Fury with his mind intact, but he failed (his first time in 5 levels!) and his Wisdom went down by one. This was the first battle where Gimli failed his Wisdom check, but it was understandable. This was a taxing battle. Gimli will never forget the first battle when his mind began to slip away (well, he probably will at some point, but not until it reaches single digits!).

There was more to this adventure, for the group did want to loot the areas where the skeletons and zombies came from, and several characters ended up in a 30 foot by 20 foot pit trap fighting a four armed bone golem with magical maces and scimitars, and yet this almost became an after thought to what happened before. When they all eventually made it back to town and could rest, four of the nine characters that fought in the adventure over the last two sessions leveled up. They deserved it from the ghasts, wights, golems, and waves of skeletons and runic zombies. One character is comatose and some magic weapons were lost, but so much more could’ve happened (several could’ve lost levels). With so many characters training for new abilities after leveling up, it will be interesting to see who is available to adventure next week, or will the players just decide to let several weeks pass so that their characters can complete their training and they have more choice. There are currently over 30 members of the Army of the Light, but only about a half dozen are probably available to adventure! Next week we’ll see who will adventure and what is in store for them.

Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 61

Summary:
1. Entering the Death Vault of the Chosen of Nergal the paladin Cobalt meets the gaze of the powerful barrow wight Rendar Serouc, is driven insane and enters a catatonic state.
2. The berserker Gimli encounters barrow ghasts and is paralyzed. Then, after being cured of that barely escapes a poison save vs. death from a trapped chest!

PC’s:
Cobalt, Human Paladin of St. Agathos
Roulf, Half-Orc Drachentoten (Dragonslayer) of Crom
Gimli, Dwarf Berserker of Odin
Cyron, Human Cleric of Charon
Belden, Gnome Bard of Aengus
Ria, Human Pacer of Loki
Noro, Human Warrior Priest of Hyperion
Elfgiva, Elf Archer/Cleric/Wizard of Sehanine
Martin, Human Rogue of Bacchus

NPC:
Inaros, Human Cleric of Osiris

Game Diary:
Last time the Army of the Light found the animated left arm of their undead paladin seeking redemption – Dhekeon “the Disgraced.” They asked the arm where the rest of his body was and he pointed toward the Barrowmoor.

This session began with them entering the Barrowmaze. Cobalt asked Dhekeon’s arm where to go next. The left arm, which had tucked its shoulder joint in Cobalt’s belt effectively giving him a third arm, seemed a bit confused and half-heartedly pointed in a few directions before finally pointing north. The players began speculating that perhaps Dhekeon’s body had been further broken up and was now located in multiple directions. They followed the pointing arm and found their way to the entrance to the Death Vault of the Chosen of Nergal. The opening was a giant skull with an open mouth large enough for two people to enter side-by-side.

Entrance to the Death Vault (art from Barrowmaze Complete)

Upon entering the mouth the jaws clamped shut before releasing its victim. The group managed to pile some of the rocky rubble found at the base of the lower jaw into the two points where the upper and lower jaws meet and that prevented the mouth from closing long enough for the entire group to enter.

They entered a chamber with a large statue to Nergal (a skeleton shrouded in robes) with an offering bowl that had been used recently by his followers. In fact, with the Army of the Light destroying the Grand Temple to Nergal, as well as another important worship area, the church of this god of the underworld was running out of places to practice their evil faith! Examining the area they found bricked up walls to the east and west, and a hidden door behind the statue to the north. This hidden passage led to several rooms, one for embalming, one for clerical gear storage, a weapons room, a small altar room, and some crypts. However, since Dhekeon’s arm kept pointing north, they decided to conserve their spells and chose to skip exploring some rooms so as to save their resources for the greater danger they sensed they were heading into.

Continuing to head north they arrived at another hidden door and upon entering found themselves in a 10 foot by 20 foot corridor. To the north was a bricked-up archway, some of which had been sealed for centuries, but another smaller part that had been bricked up only days before and would be large enough for a medium-sized individual bowing down to enter once broken. Observant individuals also noticed a secret door to their left. They choose to go through the secret door to ensure that nothing would attack them from behind when they broke through the bricked wall (where Dhekeon continued to indicate part of his body could be found).

Walking single file down the 5 foot secret corridor to the west, Gimli and Cobalt were surprised by two barrow ghasts just as they entered a crypt. One was especially clumsy (I rolled a couple of 1s and 2s for attacks), the other was much more focused. It got an attack in and when Gimli failed his save, his muscles tightened up and he became paralyzed. While the clumsy barrow ghast continued to try and fight the group as they worked to enter the crypt, the one that paralyzed Gimli took him to its sarcophagus for the purposes of devouring him alive right then and their. Those with polearms lunged forward for attacks, Cobalt swung his Saint’s Mace with the assured confidence of dozens upon dozens of previous battles with undead expecting the impact of the artifact to either blast the undead into dust or turn them. But these ghasts were chosen lieutenants of Nergal. Their holy symbols glowed sinister colors and Cobalt was shocked to realize they wouldn’t get blown to dust or get turned. However, even without being able to use the higher artifact powers of his weapon, he could still hit hard with it, and the ghasts were destroyed the old fashioned way – pounding them down with weapons.

The group found a large amount of treasure (magic weapons, potions, and gems) and with several clerics in the group, Gimli was released from his paralysis. Since he was already in a sarcophagus, he decided to loot the material inside! One chest was already open and filled with gems, another was closed, so he decided he would open it. He immediately felt a prick on his finger. I told him to make a poison save. He passed – by one! I described how a drop of blood fell from his finger and turned black as it fell to the bottom of the sarcophagus where he sat (he learned that if he had rolled just one lower on his saving throw that his blood would’ve turned into a black ichor and he would’ve died). Gimli once again had barely gotten by! They were now ready for the bricked up room.

Rendar Serouc’s Crypt (art from Barrowmaze Complete)

They pounded away at the newly bricked up portion with their sledgehammers and entered. Dhekeon’s hand pointed immediately to the right at an amphora where his right arm had been placed in with the shoulder joint sticking out the top. The right arm, now sensing the left arm began tapping its fingers from inside. While the first few people to enter the room were distracted by Dehekeon’s unattached arms signaling themselves and the party, an undead figure lept to Cobalt and Gimli from the shadows between two statues. The robed figure had white skin pulled tight over its skeletal frame. This barrow wight swung at Gimli but missed, barely. It cursed at him and Cobalt and revealed that it was Rendar Serouc, a Chosen of Nergal, and the person who had been a High Priest of Nergal 250 years before when Dhekeon was still alive and the Barrowmaze was still young. The gaze of his eyes then met that of Cobalt. The paladin felt the powerful presence of this Chosen High Priest of Nergal enter into him. He rolled his saving throw – and failed! Another roll was made to determine what type of insanity he would suffer as the high priest’s mind entered his. The roll resulted in entering a catatonic state. The amount of evil that Cobalt witnessed from the mind of Rendar overwhelmed him, his eyes rolled up into his head, he shuddered, and then collapsed to the ground in a catatonic state unable to function, his mind in shock from the imagery.

The Army of the Light saw that Rendar was a very serious threat! They could also tell that Rendar was some kind of a wight, and new that if he physically struck them that they might have their memories and life experiences stripped from them (i.e. they would lose a level). Polearm wielders jabbed with their reach weapons. Gimli summoned Odin’s Fury and also summoned forth his lycanthropic powers and became a werewolf (a dwarven berserking werewolf is a force to be reckoned with!). The barrage of weapons hitting Rendar pushed him back against the base of his sarcophagus. He got a couple more swings in, but they missed. The mighty weapon blows from the group eventually split open his stomach causing several of his undead organs to spill out onto the ground with a trail of black dust (dried blood? negative energy residue?). The attacks also cracked several vertebra on on his spine and he fell backward at an awkward angle into his sarcophagus.

Gimli left Odin’s Fury and werewolf form and the rest of the group tried to pour a high-powered curative potion into Cobalt’s mouth hoping it could cure him. Upon swallowing it his mind left the horrific, nightmarish world he was inhabiting, to briefly acknowledge his friends, but the potion wasn’t strong enough and he was pulled back into the state of catatonic shock. As some began to ponder what to do with Cobalt, others began to take notice of Rendar’s generous treasure hoard! Looting was about to begin, but then they saw the black dust from Rendar’s organs, as well as from inside his eyes, nose sockets, and mouth, rise up into the air and enter the facial openings of the female and male stone guardians behind his sarcophagus. He voice emerged from both of them as they came to life – “did you think you could defeat me that easily?!” he bellowed.

The barrow guardians came to life and so did Gimli as he summoned Odin’s Fury again along with his werewolf form. Noro swung a recently acquired magical halberd into the male warrior’s left arm – and it got stuck in it – he was disarmed! Cyron stepped forward and swung his mace against it and he lost it as it merged with its left arm! Rendar’s voice chuckled and he then removed the halberd from its left arm and was looking forward to striking down the intruders with it. But I rolled a 1 on the attack and decided that while swinging the halberd it got caught on the handle of the mace in his other arm and the halberd went flying over everyone’s heads – he disarmed himself! He was pissed!

The group lunged forward and attacked with everything they had. The male stone barrow guardian fell to one knee and Rendar’s voice emerged from it as he voiced his frustration, and the female barrow guardian had her head chopped off. It rolled to the feet of Martin and Rendar hissed a final “I curse all of you!”

And that is where we left that session.

GaryCon XIII, Day 3

For the third day of GaryCon I participated in a six hour Swords & Wizardry game – Rogues in Remballo.

This morning when I was preparing to get on Discord for my fourth game for this Con and my third in the Swords & Wizardry (S&W) game system I realized that I had unintentionally selected different styles of games for each day.
– Thursday: the two S&W games I played were underground dungeon crawls.
– Friday: the Castles & Crusades game I played was entirely outdoors and involved climbing cliffs and aerial assaults.
– Saturday: today my S&W game took place in a city involving lots of role-playing and puzzle solving.
– Sunday: tomorrow the Dungeon Crawl Classics game I will play in will be of mixed setting, as we begin in a tavern and then head into the sewers and the underworld.

Although I didn’t plan this, this has actually been quite enjoyable and I like the change of environments for each game, for I get to explore a plethora of challenges. Steve Chenault’s game reinforced for me the importance of using environment and I look forward to elevating that element of my game. Since I already use weather conditions in my game, further enhancing the physical environment is the next step I want to take to further enhance my game. But unlike weather, which is more of an outdoor phenomena, terrain is something that you encounter under ground as well (I think most prominently of the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide from AD&D as one of the top resources for this, which, it just so happens, is getting an homage and update in Kickstarter right now as the Survivalist’s Guide to Spelunking for DnD 5th Edition).

Rogues in Remballo was the S&W city adventure that I played today. I was specifically looking to play this game for one big reason. Playing in this game would serve as a great introduction to the Borderland Provinces within the Lost Lands campaign setting by Frog God Games. I own most of the Lost Lands material and have read through much of it, but you learn best not just by reading, but by doing, so I saw this as a great opportunity to get thrown right into the setting and learn about the city, the organizations, and local political color. I chose right.

When doing a city-based adventure which would have role-playing and puzzle solving, you need to allow extra time, and so the GM was wise to make this a six hour adventure. We spent the first three hours just navigating a small district within the city and through each interaction with an NPC stable-hand, barkeep, shopkeeper, and captain of the guard, we picked up snippets of information which led to the final three hours of taking on the villains and monsters of the adventure.

There was one major problem I experienced during this six hour game. At about the 3 hour mark there was a power went out (it effected more than 5,000 people in the area where I lived), and it took about an hour for the power to get restored. When I was able to return to the game roughly an hour later the role-playing had come to an end (they had gathered all the information they needed to find the people causing the trouble we were tasked with solving), and the combat portion of the game had begun. The final couple of hours were filled with great combat and even further negotiations with rogues from rival guilds pleading for their lives.

This was an all-around great game. I acquired some great insights into the Lost Lands, enjoyed a well laid-out city adventure with a marvelous balance of role-playing, problem-solving, and combat. I can easily see each GM emphasizing different aspects of the game depending on whether the players are interested or good at roleplaying, and the order and approach the players take in interacting with the abundant NPCs within the district and town. As a result, this makes a great convention game, for it can take many different turns and directions each time it is run. I will likely want to play in this again (if for no other reason than to enjoy it in its entirety and not miss out due to a power cut!).

GaryCon XIII, Day 2

Summary:
Played in a Castles & Crusades game streamed on Twitch run by Steve Chenault. An absolutely amazing game with players jumping off a 200-foot high bridge onto the backs of flying beasts and the beasts tossed players into the sky to play with their prey before devouring them! It was aerial madness like you rarely see!

Today at GaryCon XIII I had just one thing planned: play in a Castles & Crusades game with the CEO of Troll Lord Games in one of his infamous “big” GaryCon games. When in person these games can include 20 or more players (I was in the 2019 game and was one of 24 players). When done virtually you have to reduce that number, so this time there were just 8 players (and only a few of us made it out alive!).

For those who have not been in one of Steve’s games, he makes creative use of the outdoor environment. I’ve never been in games where the landscape plays such an important role. At some point you almost always come across a large river that needs to be crossed (usually swift moving!). As Steve has said, crossing a river is a great opportunity to showcase the SIEGE Engine (this is the mechanic which drives C&C and makes it so versatile, and was such a strong drawing point when I was looking for the perfect RPG for me. It is now the game system I use to run all my campaigns).

Unlike most RPG games you experience – especially at a convention – where there is usually some task or goal you are supposed to accomplish during the time limit available, in Steve’s game you mostly enjoy the moment, and since his games take place outdoors, you can roam anywhere you want and there is always something that will spring up and you have to deal with it. You rarely find such an open-world gaming experience.

A Fiedoth “Shovel Mouth” (Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde)

So what happened in this adventure? I think this game should be watched to experience it, but if you want a quick teaser, then I can tell you that most of the game took place on a bridge 200 feet above a fast moving river spanning two cliffs. We fought a large, strange flying creature called a Fiedoth “shovel mouth” with a 40 ft. wingspan. Much like an Orca (which when hunting seals throws them into the air before it kills them) the fiedoth does something similar to those it catches with its tail – throwing them into the air as an aerial plaything! The three hour adventure saw players being tossed into the air, jumping off the bridge onto the back of these beasts, getting partially swallowed and fighting to get out from inside its mouth, and many other attempts at aerial acrobatics. Many things went wrong, since several characters did not survive this adventure. But this was one of those adventures that you want to tell your friends about, and since it was streamed live, others can actually see it for themselves!

Those of us who played in this game learned after it was over that our entire adventure was mostly planned as an encounter, and that the adventure he had planned we never got to! But as I said above, in Steve’s games you end up creating your own path and we all deal with the choices we make. The two C&C campaigns I run possess a lot of occurrences that require improvisation from myself and my players on the spot, so this is a game-style that I really embrace.

If you are interested in seeing this game, then check out the link below.
Troll Lord Games Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/trolllordgames
The streamed GaryCon game was called “When the Iron Gives Way.”

For those that want to see the an adventure where Steve takes the players onto a challenging river crossing, take a look at “TLG 1500 – The Glade” here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/960511627
This game took place the week before GaryCon XIII and I happened to be a player in that game as well.