Castles & Crusades: Player’s Handbook, Sixth Printing
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Cost: $29.99 (Physical)/TBD (PDF)
Page Count: 192
Release Date: 06/27/2014 (Physical)/TBD in Early July (PDF)
Get it Here: Troll Lord Games
So getting a physical copy of the sixth printing of the C&C Handbook was a bit of a surprise. I was one of nearly seven hundred Kickstarter backers for the project, it’s true, but my pledge level was for the “leather only” tier and not for the normal hardback covers. This is because I already own a physical copy of the first printing and a digital copy of the fifth printing (In fact, the images in this review compare the first to the sixth printing so you can see how far the game has come!). So imagine my surprise Monday when I found a copy of the regular version in my mailbox. Troll Lord Games accidentally sent me a copy of the regular version and when I let them know, they said keep it. Hey, I’m not going to complain. In fact, that’s why I’m doing a review of it: as a thank you of sorts. Of course if you’ve been reading Diehard GameFAN for any amount of time, you already know I love Castles and Crusades and review releases for it pretty regularly. So it will come as no surprise to anyone that I can heartily recommend this PHB to any fan of old school or retro-clone style gaming.
Now nearly two years ago, I did a review of the FIFTH printing of the Castles & Crusades PHB. So you’re probably wondering what the real change is between the two. Well, not a lot. It’s readily apparent the covers are different. 5p has a party fighting a dragon while 6p has a solo warrior taking on a giant Umber Hulk. Interior-wise, it’s very similar to the point where the thank you list shows the 5p Kickstarter backers instead of the 6p ones, WHOOPS. There are a few clarifications and errata put into the sixth printing, but the two are essentially the same as each other content wise. Where things differ is with the layout. You’ll notice the font is somewhat bigger in the sixth printing, which makes the book easier on the eyes. The larger font also causes the art to be shifted from its fifth printing location. It also goes without saying that larger type also means more pages in order to accommodate the new size. The table of contents is also slightly different from some new headings for sections. Encumbrance and Equipment are merged into one “Equipment” section instead of being two separate ones. Other than that though, both books are very similar with full color glossy interiors and the same excellent artwork. It also has 99% the same content so if you own the fifth printing, don’t feel you need to get the sixth. This is simply a new printing, NOT a new edition of the rules.
So why did they do the reprint? Well, because Troll Lord has sold out of the fifth printing and decided to do a new cover along with the first ever full color reprints of The Castle Keeper’s Guide and the Monsters & Treasures books. Again, if you own a previous version, you’re set. You can still use the first edition book just fine. The rules changes and clarifications are minute enough that you can still run any recently published C&C adventure without any confusion or problems.
If you’re new to Castles & Crusades, what about it do I love so much? Well, it’s akin to a mix of the best parts of first and second edition Dungeons & Dragons. The mechanics for C&C are entitled “The Siege Engine” and it was originally meant as an alternative to 3e style D&D. You have the same core six stats of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. You use 3d6 to generate stats. You have all the core classes like Assassin, Barbarian, Monk and Illusionist from 1e D&D and the Bard from 2e (Thank god it’s not more akin to the terrible 1e version, right?). Even the Cavalier from Unearthed Arcana is here, but C&C calls it a Knight. All the basic classes you know from any form of D&D are here. There aren’t any prestige classes in Castles & Crusades, nor is there any emphasis on skill min/maxing. It’s just a straight forward game where you roleplay, not just roll dice.
One of the more unique aspects of C&C are the Primary and Secondary Attributes. All races get two primary attributes, save for humans, which get three. You can pick whichever stats you like. A wizard can have STR has a primary attribute or a Cleric can have dexterity. It’s your character, so it is your choice. Now one primary attribute is chosen by your class, but the other(s) are up to you. So an wizard would get INT as one of its stats but then an Elven Wizard could have INT and STR or INT and CON or whatever. A Human Wizard would get INT and two other stats, say DEX and CHA. These stats designated as primary get an easier roll whenever a stat check comes up. Secondary attributes receive a higher difficulty roll when used because well, it’s secondary. It’s all very well done and adds another nice facet to your character.
Playing C&C is extremely easy, especially if you have any experience with D&D. You gain XP in the same way, level up in the same way, engage in combat in the same way and more. C&C does have ascending AC instead of THAC0 though. Sorry fellow old-timers. People who have only played third and fourth edition D&D should find C&C a more streamlined experience. There’s less time checking your character sheet, no worried about skill points and where they should go each level and there is far more opportunity to play your character rather than letting the dice act as the primary arbitrator of what happens. Now if you’ve NEVER played a RPG before, you will want to read the PHB a bit before you jump in. Still, you can make a character in roughly fifteen minutes and start playing a little after that. The rules are simple enough that if you have at least one friend who has played before, you can start an adventure and have them explain the nuances as you progress. It’s like speaking a language – you learn things better with full immersion.
All in all, if you have yet to pick up Castles & Crusades, then my god man – go buy this Player’s Handbook. It’s one of the best retro-clones out there and it’s extremely affordable compared to other AD&D style fantasy games out there. If this quick little overview of the Sixth printing isn’t enough, go back to the C&C review archive on our site and look at what you’re missing out on. This is a great game with a very strong community. There’s no better time to start Castles & Crusades. You might have missed the Kickstarter for this printing, but you can still pick up the book!