Friday, September 19, 2014

The Castles & Crusades Black Box

I love getting mail. Really, who doesn't? I particularly love getting mail when it contains some cool gaming stuff like this little boxed set from the fine people at Troll Lord Games. I saw this box while I was at Gen Con, but I was more focused on other releases from the company (as well as talking about their then-upcoming Amazing Adventures Kickstarter with them) to give this a look.

I wish that I had given it more of a look. The Castles & Crusades Black Box is a limited edition supplement for Castles & Crusades to commemorate the game's 10th Anniversary. The black box is only being released in a run of 1,000 copies, with the first 300 being numbered (inside of the lid of the box) and containing a signed plate.

What's in the box? Well, that is where it gets interesting. For me the most interesting of the three booklets in the box would be the Adventurer's Backpack. Why? Because it contains four new classes for your Castles & Crusades game, based on the familiar fantasy gaming archetypes but taking them into new directions.

These new classes are Archer, Avatar, Thief and Magic-User. Yes, a couple of the names are familiar, but these classes take things into different directions with them.

The Archer is like a fighter, but obviously based around the bow. I have to admit that the first thing that I thought about when I read through this class was Horsewoman from the DC Comic Demon Knights. Anyone who thinks that archers are going to be wimps have obviously never read that comic (and if you haven't I am sorely disappointed in you).

The Avatar is the cleric analog in the rules. Rather than giving a worshiper access to spell and abilities, like with the standard Cleric, an Avatar is a physical manifestation of a deity. This means that the Avatar is there for a specific purpose, to fulfill some goal or action of the deity manifesting in them. Obviously something big and bad is happening if an Avatar is getting involved in the story.

Knowledge can be just as much of a special ability as being able to climb walls and sneak attack. This Thief represents that, from the noble with a larcenous heart to the pilfering servant. Anyone can pick a pocket, but not everyone can plan and pull off a heist...and know how to get rid of the ill-gotten goods.

Finally is this new spin on the Magic-User. While they can cast spells like their brethren, this class is focused on detecting and identifying magic, as well as using and empowering magic items. A true "magic user." One thing that I have never liked about Magic-Users in the D&D-esque games (and one of the first things that I houserule in a campaign) is to turn "Read Magic" and "Detect Magic" into class abilities for the Magic-User. I've felt that these should be things that Magic-Users do from their nature and training. It is good to see that someone else feels that way too.

The Adventurer's Backpack seems to hint at something new for Castles & Crusades in the future. Could it be time that the game is getting its own version of Unearthed Arcana? If these new classes are any indication of that I hope so. While I like the iconic in games, I also like being able to embrace the weird, and any supplement that will allow for that gets my approval.

The Of Gods & Monsters Of Aihrde booklet is pretty much what you get on the tin. This talks about unique versions of some iconic monsters for the Aihrde setting of Castles & Crusades. There aren't actual game stats for anything in this booklet, just interesting discussions of gods and monsters, and a few tables. We get plenty of game stats for monsters, so it is good to see some character being investing in them as well.

Rounding out the box is The Golden Familiar, an adventure for your C&C games.

All of this for just $29.99. This seems to be available only through the Troll Lord Games webstore, so if you are interested in picking up one of the Castles & Crusades Black Boxes you will have to go to the link at the beginning of this post.

Plus, there's dice. What gamer doesn't like dice? Get your copy before they are gone.