Tabletop Review: Castles & Crusades: A Druid’s Lament (Free RPG Day 2014)

Castles & Crusades: A Druid’s Lament
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Cost: FREE
Page Count: 10
Release Date: 06/21/2014

This year’s Free RPG Day release from Troll Lord Games is an adventure entitled A Druid’s Lament. Note that the title page calls the adventure, “The Druid’s Lament,” but the cover reads “A Druid’s Lament.” Not a big deal, but you’ll probably be able to do a search for either if you look for a copy down the road. A Druid’s Lament is designed for a party of four to six characters between Levels 6 and 8. That’s a pretty high character build for a gateway adventure, but the adventure is pretty short and easy so newcomers shouldn’t have a problem if guided by an experienced GM or player in the group. The adventure also comes with six pre-generated 7th Level characters, so you don’t even need to bother with character creation. As this is NOT a set of Quick Start Rules, you will need someone who has access to at least the Castles & Crusades Player’s Handbook. Either that, or you’ll have to pick it up at the same gaming store where you got this year’s free adventure.

Like a lot of Castles & Crusades adventures I seem to review, A Druid’s Lament is a lot easier if you have a Druid and or Ranger in your party. The pregens contain one of each so you’re in luck there. The core adventure revolves a good NPC and their good intentions going disastrously bad. So bad in fact, the PCs will have to come in and clean up the mess. In many ways the adventure reminds me a lot of Ravenloft and how curses worked in the old AD&D Second Edition setting. Retro gamers may find it ports well to that system. C&C and AD&D are pretty close to each other, so it shouldn’t take a lot of work on the part of a DM/Castle Keeper. Anyway, the adventure has the PCVs having to put a bunch of clues together, starting with a strangely murdered family, a haunted forest and a spirit of rage and revenge that did its duty and then some.

A decent part of the adventure will take place in the town of Sherwood where you’ll meet NPCs and be pointed in the right direction. From there you’ll wander through a forest and engage in a small dungeon crawl. There isn’t a lot of combat to this piece, with six or seven battles at most. There isn’t a wandering monster table either. I personally never use those, but I know some people do, so you’ll have to make your own if you want to pad this adventure out. One of the things I think is interesting is that the boss of the adventure is not the hardest opponent in the piece. There is a tougher antagonist but you don’t have to fight it. Heck, it might even befriend you if you use your mouth instead of your blade. I thought that was a really nice touch. It’s a fairly easy adventure over all, and the PCs should be able to breeze through this thanks to always having a numbers advantage unless they get really unlucky with their die rolls or just randomly attack things. The focus of A Druid’s Lament really is on the story and the characterization of the NPCs the players encounter, so while the adventure does balance hack and slash and talking heads nicely, the Castle Keeper should take care to keep the emphasis on characters over combat if they really want to get the most out of this piece.

In the end, A Druid’s Lament is a very short adventure that can be played in a single session. The adventure itself is only six pages long, with the rest going to the cover, a title page with legal mumbo jumbo, a full page drawing, a map of the dungeon type location players will have to find and tread through and a page for two new magic items and the pre-generated characters. Yes, the pregens all fit into a little under half a page, which saves space but the Castle Keeper running this might want to spread the stats out into a full character sheet for easier reading.

For a free adventure, A Druid’s Lament is quite nice. It’s short and sweet, giving newcomers a great look at what they can expect from Castles & Crusades while also being quite fun for long time fans of the system. With the seventh printing of Castles & Crusades coming out later this year, you might just want to pick up A Druid’s Lament now and use it when the core rulebooks get released in full color (and for some lucky few, with swanky leather covers to boot!) Be warned though, each Free RPG Day 2014 box only comes with three copies of this adventure, compared to five to fifteen copies of everything else, so this will be hard to get, especially if you live in an area with a lot of C&C fans. You can’t go wrong for the price point, and if it leads you or some of your friends to try out the C&C system as a while, so much the better.



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