(Zack comes clean about his new game of choice).
I'm a vagabond, a wanderer of tabletop gaming. From my early forays in Palladium Fantasy and hideously houseruled 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games to my appreciation of Risus, Two-Fisted Tales, Epic Roleplaying, Rolemaster, Traveller, Rifts, and everything in-between, I have played and ran a tremendously large number of roleplaying games.
I've tried Troll Lord Games' Castles & Crusades before, had my Castle Keeper Screen signed by Gary Gygax himself in 2007. And though the sessions and demos I ran were fun, there was always something else to try. And being an ENnies judge for 2008 also ensured my free time to dedicate to any single game was severely lacking.
But in now coming back to it, and in loving both the exciting modern products out there and the original and homages to an earlier time in gaming, I have found Castles & Crusades to be so much of what I've been looking for. Very few times (I can count them on one hand) has a game purely "clicked" for me. As in I got it--I got the feel, the system, the direction. And that's what happened when I took my C&C Players Handbook in hand (and screen) once more. What did it? I don't know--a desired refinement of how I run my games, an re-examination for what I want out of my hobby, whatever. But I did want to share just a little of why I am so absolutely, genuinely, enthusiastically pleased with Castles & Crusades:
Bridging A Gap: I have friends who were weaned on the older editions of D&D, and those who have played nothing but 3rd Edition. Castles & Crusades allows me to sell elements of both those experiences, giving us a common meeting ground and a larger player base from which to draw. Its familiar to veterans, and easily picked up by novices.
Time: Plain and simple. Look, I have a wife, 2 kids and 1 on the way, and a lot more responsibility than Young Zack ever did. C&C's system, the SIEGE Engine, is so simple that it usually takes all of 3-5 minutes for gamers to get the gist of it. I want to be able to use all the resources I've built up over the years, run a game that encourages active, fast, inspiring GM (CK) rulings, not pace-killing rules lookup. I want low prep time, employing notes and material I already have. I'm ready to get back to the basics, and get down to gaming in a faster and leaner fashion.
A Place To Build Upon: Castles & Crusades is a framework. It isn't a toolbox so much as a sturdy workbench. This is seriously one of the most easily-houseruled games I have ever seen. You want skills, feats, some new magic system? Want to use THAC0? Have some insane d20 rule you plug into every game you play? Castles & Crusades not only allows you to plug those items in, its modularity will make it easy to do so. We are talking compatibility not only with the various prior editions and the d20 crowd, but efforts like Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lord, Mazes & Minotaurs, Fight On!, True 20, Paizo's and Adventure Games Publishing's docket of releases, and more. Hey, I have something from Iron Gauntlets I might throw in there. Or I can do nothing, and be just fine that way. There's just too much goodness out there that I may wish to look to for inspiration, and Castles & Crusades promises the integration of that goodness, easy-like. It's a baseline for it all.
A Style I Want: I don't want hours spent on hair-splitting character builds. I don't want reams of special powers for each player. I don't want skills and rigid, mutiple modifiers to get in the way of player initiative and creativity. I want me as a GM (CK) and my players to remember when we made rulings, not remained bogged down in rules. This ties into time constraints, but I want a fast-play, unified mechanic. I want the standard tropes and hallmarks of our shared hobby heritage there, unwarped. I want strong character archetypes. I want player backgrounds to matter in the course of play. I want so much of what has made the Old School Renaissance of gaming so inspiring to me and others. Of course, many of these lie at the feet of each Game Master/Castle Keeper, and can happen in any game. But its still good to have an RPG that's on your side about it.
A Company I Can Support: Troll Lord Games has never been anything but fantastic in our business dealings. The books are affordable. Their fan support online has been helpful and inspiring. When I was still in the military, Troll Lord contributed to a care package that was sent to a buddy of mine, and he was absolutely thrilled. It meant a lot to him, and by extension, to me. Their support of my friends and I in a tough, sometimes unpopular, unfashionable conflict will not be easily forgotten.
There is also the fact that Troll Lord Games was the last company Gary Gygax himself chose to be involved with. People can knock me for being overly sentimental and say that shouldn't matter for what game I'm playing, but that does carry some water with me. More importantly, I feel like Troll Lord is run by people who understand the innate and unique appeal of Gygaxian fantasy. They have the enthusiasm and heart I look for in a gaming company.
I've never been a one-game, one-system guy. There are too many great games out there I want to run--Epic, Rifts, Traveller, we aren't through yet. One day, I will again get to run In Harm's Way. And Castles & Crusades is ok with that. I know its there, willing to undertake any sort of tweaks or mods I might find in my travels. But I do know what game I'm coming home to. Castles & Crusades is my choice going forward to take advantage of the Old School Renaissance (heck, its my staging area for it), to keep that link going to a wider pool of players, and to maximize the time I have for quality, generation-spanning fun. That's why I'm on board with Castles & Crusades as my fantasy D&D cousin of choice. And together I see us, my friends, and eventually perhaps our kids having great adventures...