Inside Pulse 12

Tabletop Review: The Lost City of Gaxmoor (Castles & Crusades)

Castles & Crusades: The Lost City of Gaxmoor
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Cost: $10 (Digital)/$25 Print
Page Count: 120
Release Date: 05/28/2015 (to Kickstarter backers)/TBD (Everyone else)
Get it Here: It’s not for sale – yet.

Most Kickstarters run for thirty days. Troll Lord Games however decided to run a very short campaign (only 17 days) for The Lost City of Gaxmoor. It worked out for them though, garnering 446 backers (the second most out of their ten campaigns) and netting nearly $22,000 – far more than the $4.500 they originally sought. What helped make Gaxmoor such a success considering it had such a short campaign life? Well, three things. The first is that simply put Castles & Crusades is awesome. You can check out the many reviews I’ve done of products for the game (most of them are positive) here. The second reason why this was a success is because The Lost City of Gaxmoor is actually a remake from when Troll Lord games published d20 products instead of using their own Siege Engine system. The third and final reason might be the biggest draw for many gamers. The writers of Gaxmoor are none other than Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. & Luke Gygax. If you don’t know who they are (or their father) than I guess this is your first time being exposed to the tabletop side of RPGs (perhaps you visit Diehard GameFAN for our video game coverage?) and you’ve picked a great piece to start you on your journey into pen and paper gaming.

As mentioned, Gaxmoor started out life around 2002 as a d20 product published by Troll Lord Games. You do not have to have experience with the original to enjoy this. The Castles & Crusades version is not a sequel, prequel or follow-up. It is its own beast. If you want to purchase the original, you can find it on Ebay or Amazon.com for under ten dollars. C&C is flexible enough that you can interchange it with d20 pretty easily, but it is closer to AD&D 1e/2e in feel. So even if you are beholden only to Pathfinder, you can still pick up the new version and use it with your game pretty easily.

The Lost City of Gaxmoor is both a setting and a campaign. The original d20 version was designed to take characters from Levels 1-10 over many play sessions. With the Castles & Crusades version, we have more of a city guide filled with specific encounters and plot hooks rather than one overarching adventure that you have to follow. In this regard Gaxmoor is more like a sandbox video game RPG akin to Skyrim or Fallout where you end up spending more time exploring and getting sidetracked by side-quests rather than being railroading on to a singular linear plot. This makes DM’ing The Lost City of Gaxmoor more work than the average published adventure, but it also means it can be a lot more memorable for the players. So Gaxmoor isn’t a piece I’d give someone new to running a tabletop game, but it’s a great choice for someone to first play as they won’t feel “on rails” and they’ll encounter a wide range of antagonists and NPCs while learning the mechanics of a game. You have a set story hook and four encounters before hitting the city, but after that – everything is wide open.

I should also add that unlike the original version of Gaxmoor which laid out the levels characters should start at and advance to by the time things are ended, the new C&C version does not. Encounter strength varies wildly, which can lead to a total party kill, but it should also teach the team to be cautious and not rush in, weapons a’ swingin’. I mean the second encounter in the game (and it’s fixed) it up against an Ogre-Ghoul! You usually don’t see 4d8 HD creatures as an early encounter in an adventure made for Level 1 characters. So expect a lot of PC death as your party combs Gaxmoor. This is balanced out nicely though as Gaxmoor has many places for new characters to pop in and join the party. I love how this was done and it prevents a player from sitting around twiddling his or her thumbs waiting to get back in the game.

The plot revolves around the city of Gaxmoor suddenly re-appearing in our dimension. It has been gone so long that most humanoids forgot it ever existed. Your party is chosen to help investigate the location and see who (or what) dwells within the walled city. There are over a dozen factions within Gaxmoor to suss out, wipe out or ally with. Even though much of your time will be spent in the confines of a single city, make no mistake, this will be a full length campaign and then some. The adventure requires as much detective work and verbal solutions as it does the hacking and slashing of foul beasties, which means there is something for every gamer with this piece. Remember this is an extremely open ended adventure/campaign, so there is no actual ending or sorts. It’s a very non-linear piece and it’s up to the Castle Keeper and the players to decide when and how the adventure ends. In addition to the campaign itself, you’ll also get a history of Gaxmoor overview, seven new monsters, fourteen new magic items and many, MANY maps. So players and Keepers alike will be able to take more than just the experience and memories of The Lost City of Gaxmoor with them.

The Lost City of Gaxmoor is a wonderful homage to the old school days of roleplaying. The Gygax brothers more than live up to the family name with this piece, giving you a campaign that will last you for a very long time and provide you with many subquests, dungeons to explore, allies to make, and monsters to slaughter. You can play through the campaign several times and discover new things, or even entire sections that you might have missed previously. You will definitely get your money’s worth with The Lost City of Gaxmoor and if you have yet to experience Castles & Crusades, then this might be the best way to get started. As soon as The Lost City of Gaxmoor becomes publicly available, order this from Troll Lord Games and/or DriveThruRPG.com. Even better, while you are waiting for this campaign to come out, you can pick up the Castles & Crusades starter pack giving you the Player’s Handbook, Monsters & Treasure a set of character sheets and three adventures. I know I sound like a shill, but it’s a great deal and I do think most fans of old school or fantasy RPGs will love Castles & Crusades when they give it a try.

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