Castles & Crusades White Box Review

The Castles & Crusades White Box is available on the Troll Lord Games website in print and digital forms. We ran the box using just what was in it. Castles & Crusades is a rich Fantasy Role Playing game system that uses the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons Open Game License to recreate the game to be more similar to earlier editions while keeping the parts of modern mechanics that streamline the game and make it run smoothly. Like modern versions of the game it uses an ascending armor class. Many modern gamers at times have expressed some resistance to descending armor class and mechanics such as To Hit Armor Class 0 (THAC0) and the necessity of charts. The 3rd edition changed that. C&C also creates a simplistic resolution system based on attributes called the Siege Engine which mirrors these modern resolution systems and creates a smooth and easy to remember rule system.

The Bad
I am going to start with the bad. The one thing that I noticed while running this was typos. Especially within the adventure Kane’s Gauntlet. The book could use another trip to the editor. I don’t notice typos that often, but I saw quite a few throughout the books and the ones I noticed most were in the adventure we ran.

What’s in the Box?

The box comes with five booklets that contain the whole game. It has character record sheets, a set of dice and a pencil for filling out those sheets. The first book we really looked at was called Men & Magic, it is pretty much just a book for rolling up characters. The book only has four classes in it, Fighter, Cleric, Thief and Wizard. For those of you wanting a lot of options for classes this is not for you. It is designed to harken back to the original Dungeons & Dragons box set from the 70’s before there was an AD&D or a Basic.

I really appreciate the solid group it made for our game. It seemed that we were lacking in nothing. With all four basics covered, I can say that I would strongly suggest using this to start a campaign. The other C&C books have many more classes, many more options, but by using this more distilled approach to character classes you come out with a fairly capable party, ready to handle anything.

The box also comes with a little booklet of Monsters & Treasure, a book just of spells for your clerics and Wizards, and a sort of DM’s book for running the game. The Book Adventures in the Wilderness and Underground is that DM’s book. Or, in this case the term Dungeon Master (which I believe is held as a proprietary property by Hasbro at this point) is Castle Keeper. So, the Castle Keeper book is a great little resource in running the game. I was able to quickly find the sections I needed to find flipping through and go on to make quick rulings. It was easy being such a smaller page count book than a lot of the books I am used to. Having separate books makes it easy for people to pass the books around the table and not have to wait for a book.

Now, I have no nostalgia for a white box. I did not start playing the game until later in the 80s when it was already obsolete. The Basic game we avoided as kids because we thought we were big kids and wanted Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and not Basic.

The adventure Kane’s Gauntlet I found to be a great starting adventure, more so than what I expected before I ran it.  The basic adventure in my opinion after running it, is not the ancient, haunted fortress the players raid, but the NPC’s and Brigands. With lots of NPC’s available to you, I suggest reading about them and getting an idea in your head how you will run these characters. Who are they? What makes them unique. By the time the players finish this adventure you should be able to have the seeds of a great sandbox adventure. The number of brigands is way too much and too high level for some first level adventurers to take out and kill all on their own. That is okay. Do the brigands stick around to get slaughtered? No. Have them take off. These are great opportunities for your game group to get their hooks into some baddies and opposition that they have already begun to hate.

Our game was great, by the time the players encountered the brigands they were coming up with creative ways to confront them. Some of them managed to escape the heroes burned and scarred giving me great protagonists to bring back later down the road, and ones whose personalities and quirks which have been already defined. If a group of thieves try to jump someone to steal from them, they are not looking to die for their loot, keep this in mind running these villains, have them try to get out if they see they are hurt bad enough or they seem to be on a losing side.

My thoughts on the C&C White Box

I am already a fan of the Castles & Crusades Fantasy Role Playing game. I run a Lost Lands campaign with the C&C rule set. C&C already has its own settings which are amazing. C&C has enough books currently in publication and ones that have been out of print for years all of which you can use in your game. The only two books necessary to run the full game are free for the time being on the Troll Lord website in digital form and I strongly suggest downloading them and at least exploring them. All you need is a Players Handbook and Monsters & Treasure book. There is a good amount of third-party and community created content (PDF Warning) for it as well.

I consider C&C to be the Rosetta Stone of the Fantasy RPG. The system easily supports any material from 3.5 and before or even Pathfinder with little conversion. It also is easy to use most material from current retro clones of the game as well. With the large amount of material out there from Troll Lord Games you do not need to go to other places to find much of what you are looking for.

My suggestion on the White Box, is that it should be used to start a campaign with a balanced adventuring party and branch out to embrace more books and other elements as the campaign progresses. Really if I were asked what to pick up to get into C&C I would start with the core books of the main game, not this. This does seem more like a collector item at the end of the day, but it is a solid beginning point to get into the game. The game itself is easy to add options and elements it does not have in the base player’s handbook. The Castle Keepers guide also has many optional rules that could be used to expand the game. Well worth it, and good job Trolls.

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