I had heard of Castles & Crusades for years and ignored it. I didn't really love the title and the fact that it was based on the OGL and had 3.5e based mechanics was a turn off for me as I was returning to my gaming roots and discovering this wonderful thing called the OSR and Labyrinth Lord.
When I was at GaryCon this year I played in a game of C&C at the behest of my travelling pals. It was late and the DM (well, Castle Keeper...) was tired. The table wasn't terribly focused or respectful. So the game suffered.
But I could see immediately that I liked the game. I took a gander at the book (6th printing) and quite liked it. Then, as chance would have it, I encountered a copy of the Players Handbook, 6th printing, at our local Book & CD Hut for $14. Bam! Bought.
And I'm so glad I did. This book is awesome. It's succinct, tightly written, focused on exactly what it needs to focused on, useful, clearly laid out, and beautifully illustrated (Peter Bradley rocks).
Someone had told me earlier that the game is a nice marriage between old and new. It is a sort of modern-age AD&D. I agree completely. If I was going to create a game like AD&D using the 3.5 OGL I would like it to turn out like C&C.
Here are some highlights I love about the game:
♦ 3.5 did away with the classic saving throws and reduced them down to three saves. C&C takes them back to a list - actually six categories instead of the classic five. But they are each linked to an attribute. So, for example, if you save vs. dragon breath you are using Dexterity as a base. A save vs. spells is based on Intelligence, and so on. It is a nice way to avoid the clunky old tables (which I personally love, BTW) and make attribute scores more important while still having the shadow of the old table present right on your character sheet (look...there's "petrification"!).
♦ All the basic classes are represented. There are in fact 13 of them. And each makes sense and is based on one ability score, which is called "Prime". Likewise all the classic races are there, including the gnome. Good job.
♦ Classes are structured like the classic game. Instead of the single table for XP you have different XP requirements for each class. I love that. I am well versed in that language and I love to invent classes. It feels like I could easily slip into C&C and create or convert classes without having to learn a new RPG language. I appreciate the simplicity of the single-table method (DCC uses that too) but I do not like the way it forces all classes to be "balanced" against each other. I prefer to have the freedom to create weaker or more powerful classes and balance them by means of XP required per level.
♦ All skill rolls are attribute checks. Good. No more clunky percentile rolls mixed with d6 rolls. I love the flavor of those old mechanics but frankly using a d20 attribute roll is much smoother and easier. In C&C you have an elegant Primary vs. Secondary system by which difficulties are determined. It is intuitive and fast in play. Nicely done.
I'm sure there are things I don't like about this game. I just haven't encountered them yet. I hope to play or run the game sooner than later!