Sunday, October 16, 2016

Musings on Crypts & Things Remastered: Part the First

Now that I’ve read through Crypts & Things Remastered (C&T) and had a chance to digest the material a bit, I thought I’d give some more specific feedback. As there is a lot of material packed into its pages, I’m going to break this review into chunks, rather than try to sum up in one monster post.

A note on the text itself. The book is laid out in an easily read two-column format with comfortable margins. I saw no major organizational errors, and -apart from the inevitable typo or two- it was presented in a clear and readable style.

The art in the book is very clean, black & white, line drawings by David Michael Wright. The images are spaced nicely throughout the text and do a good job of evoking the feel of the subject matter. The cover (and rear) are Wright’s as well, but in color.

The book starts off with “Upon Suicidal Winds They Come.” A short fictional piece that aims to sets the tone of the game and setting. From there is some brief text describing role-playing games, the dice, and a note about the Swords & Wizardry system that C&T is based upon. There is also a “What’s In This Book” page, which seems extraneous, but is actually rather handy for getting a sense of the book’s organization and which sections are likely to contain what you’re after. The Kickstarter acknowledgments are easily skipped over unless you’re looking for your name (I did!).

Scrolls of Wonder

This part primarily deals with character creation and player knowledge. It’s an organizational method I’ve seen used in other games and one I appreciate because it allows a GM (or Crypt Keeper) to tell players to limit their reading to a range of pages rather than skipping around the whole book.

C&T wastes no time by launching into character creation and ability scores. True to its S&W roots, the modifiers are simple and easy to follow. Like the original, C&T also offers the ascending AC option for those who prefer it to the “old-school” method.

C&T characters also have three traits that are not present in the original versions of D&D: Luck, Skill, and Sanity. Skill is level based, rather than rolled, and Sanity is based off of Wisdom. These are covered in more detail later in the rules, but are included here as they are an integral part of creating a PC.

There is a fairly standard equipment section listing things like armor, weapons, and adventuring gear. One tweak I did appreciate was the idea that more weapons could be wielded with one or two hands. Armor is reduced to four types plus a shield for simplicity (Leather, Chain, Ring, and Plate). It would a simple thing to add splint mail and the like back in if it were desired, though.

There are up to nine (9) classes in C&T. I say “up to” nine because five are considered “exotic” or optional. The core classes are:
  • Barbarian: More of a wilderness expert than a berserker. The barbarian is an iconic figure in swords & sorcery, so I agree with giving them their own class and making it a standard one.
  • Fighter: This is a trained warrior. A mercenary or soldier. A must have in any fantasy RPG. They’re given specializations and leadership skills, helping make them more than just generic meat-shields.
  • Thief: (kudos for the old-school term instead of “rogue”). Your classic pickpocket and second-story man. The thief is not a skirmishing fighter, but a disarmer of traps and a discoverer of secrets.
  • Sorcerer: I saved the spell-slinger for last, as C&T’s take is not only different from the classic magic-user, it ties in closely to some default assumptions about the world of Zarth itself. Spells are divided among three “colors” of magic. Black, White, and Grey. Using black or white spells can carry risks, in the forms of corruption or attracting the attention of evil forces. Rules for this are covered in more detail later.

There is no cleric or healer class. The mechanics for hit points recovery are a bit different than “normal” D&D. The sorcerer class does have some healing ability, but it far from its main focus.
The exotic classes are even more evocative of the setting:
  • Beast Hybrid: Those of a tainted bloodline that was created by Serpent Men magic. They can “hulk out” and transform into bestial forms that grant superior senses and strength.
  • Disciple: Kung-fu jedi/monks. They even have lights and dark sides!
  • Elementalist: An alternate spell-caster. Guess what kind of spells they use.
  • Lizard People: An ancient race, older than the Serpent Men. They are physically tough and keepers of ancient knowledge.
  • Serpent Noble: The Serpent Men are a major part of the Zarth setting and history. There is a whole section of the book about them and their history. Suffice it to say for now this is the PC option for that species.

The last part of character generation is Life Events. Here the player rolls twice, once for their origins and another for their trade (what they did or were trained for before becoming an adventurer). While this is mostly for flavor, the results can also yield bonuses to scores for things like how your PC was raised. I personally like the randomness, but some people may prefer choosing their backstory. Again, this is not a difficult thing to adjust for your own campaign.

What I liked in this section: I very much enjoy the sanity, skill, and luck mechanics. The changes to the “core four” classes seem well suited to a swords & sorcery setting.

What I didn’t like: Not much. I’m still on the fence about a few things like the exotic classes and some of the fighter specializations. I’m sure that some actual playtesting will give me more to go on with them.

That’s probably plenty for one post. I’ll pick up the next time with the spell lists.

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