Death in the Treklant (Castles & Crusades)
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Page Count: 81
Release Date: 02/05/2015
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
Back in December I did a feature/unboxing on the leather-bound copies of Castles & Crusades‘ Player’s Handbook and Monsters & Treasure. The unboxing included many of the Kickstarter extras from crowdfunding those releases including the Death in the Treklant trilogy. If you click back to the unboxing you can see all three physical releases. Now Troll Lord games has bundled all three together in a digital collection and given the titles a shockingly low price of $6.99. That’s pretty incredible. I’m glad other people will now be able to get these adventures as they’re really quite good and every Castles & Crusades fan should get a chance to enjoy them, even if they missed the Sixth Printing Kickstarter.
Death in the Treklant contains three adventures. Together they comprise a nice mini campaign to introduce new players to the Castles & Crusades system. Vakhund: Into the Unknown is for characters Levels 1-2. Dzeebagd: Under Dark & Misty Ground is the second adventure and it is for characters Levels 2-4. Felsenthein: Dogs of War is the third and final adventure and is designed for characters Levels 3-5. Each adventure is designed for between four and six players and it is suggested as least two characters be warrior types and at least one be a cleric. Of course, this is good advice for most low level adventures, so take heed you newcomers. All three of these adventures were originally released in 2000-2001, but have been out of print until the PHB Kickstarter. So long time Troll Lord may already know or have these adventurer. To be honest though, I’ve been playing C&C since its first printing and this was my first time experiencing these adventures, so maybe not.
Vakhund has your beginning characters acting as bodyguards for a caravan. A wealthy merchant and his daughter are travelling with the caravan, but one thing leads to another and the daughter is kidnapped. The merchant hires the PCs to get her back. It’s a pretty straightforward plot hook for introductory characters. What follows is primarily encounters with goblins and hungry animals. Hey, this is for Level 1 characters after all, so you won’t be fighting werewolves or flesh golems. Much of the adventure is set up for the Castle Keeper. It is filled with many NPCs who all have basic stat blocks and a detailed back story. Because of this, the adventurer is pretty evenly split between talking heads, narration and combat. This even split allows gamers to experience all aspects of a RPG instead of being a straight up hack and slash dungeon crawl or nothing but intrigue and politicking. The adventure culminates with tracking down the daughter and saving her from the band of kidnappers and also a race of monstrous creatures known as the Urk. There’s a pretty powerful end boss in this piece and an even more powerful monster called Pejznog that you might want to avoid if possible. With these two, expect the mortality rate of the PCs to be high. Still, it’s an excellent way to learn the basics of C&C and the dungeons are small enough to see interesting without turning into dungeon crawls.
The second adventure Dzeebagdcontinues the story if you decide to play the campaign instead of making Vakhund a one-shot or stand-alone. With this adventure it is implied that the merchant’s daughter is still in the clutches of nefarious evil doers and you must journey farther into the goblin kingdoms to rescue her. Dzeebagd also starts to fill in some of the blanks missing from the first adventure such as why the young woman was kidnapped. Dzeebagd really fleshes out the story of Vakhund further and helps players see how adventures can interconnect as well as the difference between a campaign and an adventure. Again, these adventures are really great if you are introducing C&C to a group of newcomers, while veterans might find them a little hand-holding for their experience level.
Besides the continuation of the kidnapping plot, there are several other interesting sub-plots that come up in Dzeebagd. This including a goblin warlord getting too big for his britches, and group of refugees being systematically wiped out that have gotten so desperate they are hiding in a dungeon. Players will have to contend with both of these problems in addition to the original plot hook that brought them this far.
Much of the first half of Dzeebagd revolves around random encounters. If, like me, you eschew this concept, the adventure will be pretty short. I’m not a fan of stock filler, but at the same time, if you want the PCs to be able to survive these three adventures, a bit of grinding will be needed. My advice is a bit of a comprise and structure when and where characters will encounter potential threats or allies. Many of the random choices are one time affairs that add color to the overall adventure, which is one of the reasons I like C&C so much. Their random encounters tend to be meaningful and not throwaway hack and slash. Unlike Vakhund though, much of Dzeebagd is a straight up dungeon crawl, so be prepared for the dynamic shift between the two adventures.
Finally we come to the third and shortest adventure in the set Felsentheim. This adventure has a significant increase in difficulty for the both the Castle Keeper’s and the players. Not only is there a lot of combat, but the PCs will be taking part in a large scale battle, which is something that be hard for even experienced gamers. As such the Castle Keeper has to really do a lot of prep work to ensure this adventure runs smoothly. Thankfully Felsentheim gives truncated rules for running a large scale adventure towards the back so that should hold a less experienced CK’s hand SOMEWHAT. Again though, this is one you’re going to want to read several times and take copious notes for to ensure it plays properly.
There isn’t a lot more to that adventure than fighting. You have a chase scene, a couple of set encounters and some minor NPC discussions, but this is pretty much one big fight. It’s a fine climax to the previous two battles, but for those looking to use Felsentheim as a one shot, you might be a bit disappointed.
Overall Death in the Treklant is an excellent collection and the $6.99 price tag makes this an unbelievable deal. In print, each of these adventures would cost you $7.99 so you’re getting the set for more than two-thirds off by purchasing digitally. That’s a must buy for any C&C fan. These adventures still hold up fifteen years later, and if you’re looking for something new to use with your C&C troupe or just looking for an excuse to try Castles and Crusades as a system, you should definitely consider picking up Death in the Treklant. You’ll get your money’s worth and then some with this one.