Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Castles & Crusades Won the Day

Why did Castles and Crusades end up being the perfect fit for the VJH RPG Club's needs? Well in a word: rules. You see my role as adviser of the Role Playing Game club is two fold. One to administer and run the club, let's face it, rare is the kid who is willing to take the bull by the horns and run a club himself. We tried to do it when we were teens at our high school. In fact we had a proposal written up on the benefits of gaming and everything. Ready to present it to our principal that week; we were bushwacked by 60 minutes horrendous "expose'" on D&D -- drat the yellow journalism of the 80's. Anyway our principal just happened to see that episode and we were sunk before we left her office. No way was she going to let that devil's plaything into her school.

*Sigh* anyway, I wax acerbic in my digressions ...

The fact is I run the club, I make it happen. At least initially; until the games get rolling and the momentum of the kids burgeon my room to the tune of over 20 active gamers all hungry for a game up to 4 times a week.

So that speaks to my first purpose. My second role in the gaming club is really the purpose of the gaming club as a whole: to recruit new gamers, grow the gaming community and be a beacon of good gaming PR. I suppose that's actually three purposes rolled into one, but nonetheless many of my activities related to the club fulfill the trifecta of the real purpose of the gaming club. Okay, that may be a bit idealistic. The real purpose above all and everything else is just to have fun gaming. But allow me _some_ drama.

So, if bringing new recruits into the gaming world is my first and foremost purpose, or at least one them, I need a game that is easily consumable by novice gamers. Those who regularly follow my little gaming articles are well aware that I have looked for the prefect replacement gaming system since AD&D. So the system should fulfill all my wishes and desires for a system that runs and feels very much like the AD&D of old.

I was really down to one of two: Castles and Crusades or Hackmaster. Both hold a place dear to my heart and both their companies are more than one could wish for in a gamer friendly, quality product producing, creative group and community. Their forums are more than proof of that. Go and hang out there awhile, and a more gamerly, friendly, and generally cool group you'll never meet.

When you compare the two it's quite difficult to decide who comes out on top. Hackmaster has KODT and the KODT feel. HM is a, if you'll excuse me, geek orgasm of kewl crunchiness and intricacy that any long time gamer could appreciate. Moreover you _had_ to take the game seriously. If you didn't a buck toothed vorpal squirrell from their Hacklopedia of Beasts would jump out and frickin' decapitate your favorite character. I mean that game is deadly in a way only old school games could be. But Castles and Crusades is a brilliantly written piece of work. And though it paid several nods to later d20 style gaming mechanics; its focus on storytelling and roleplaying it couldn't be beat. And the seige engine was a big part of that: One central mechanic to rule them all one to bind them. The setting of the Rings of Brass simply kicked butt, and who couldn't help but like Stephen Chenault?

Anyway, I wrassled back and forth in my heart and head for some time. I also tried to sell the kids on one or the other. HM scared lots of them off. Too complex, takes to long to make a character, etc etc. So in the end C&C won the day for simplicity and ease of use, along with similarity of feel to the good old days. And I must say, our first session was buttered honey. Whoever wrote the Rising Knight A0 module should be awarded an Ennie. I love the way it's woven into the setting, and it's old school feel. The writing alone is enough like Old High Gygaxian to make me think I'm reading from the pen of the master himself. And the players loved it. The NPCs were so detailed and so well developed I was able to breath life into them with a mere whiff. The small hamlet of Malforten is very likely to figure heavily in our pcs future exploits exactly because of how well developed the place was. Kudos to Davis Chenault (I just looked up the author) for a job well done. Way to represent the Troll Lords and this excellent game. I'm fairly sure we've found our home in the VJH RPG club, and Castles and Crusades is it.

More on the review of Knight's Rising, The Rings of Brass Setting, and perhaps some play by play of our adventurer's journey soon to come. And I've just discovered the new Castle Keeper's Guide is so geeked out with KODT style wondermousness that I think I'm about to blow my gaming-geek-o-meter. Can't pass that up!

Game on!
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