Castles and Crusades

I have recently been taking another look at Castles and Crusades from Troll Lord Games. Castles and Crusades was released in 2004. At the time I was playing D&D 3.5 and pretty happy with the system, so my initial look was more out of curiosity.

Now in 2012, Troll Lord Games has released the 5th printing of the Castles and Crusades Players Handbook. I said 5th printing, not edition. The 5th printing of the Players Handbook is in color, includes errata, and the encumbrance rules have changed from the earlier printings.


I have run and played a lot of Pathfinder and before that a lot of D&D 3.x. Regular readers of The Iron Tavern know I have been running a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG recently as well. The spark that DCC RPG has given me also has me curious about other games with a lightweight rules system.

I have really enjoyed DCC RPG and our Tuesday night group is having a great time. My son however thinks there is just a little too much randomness in DCC RPG to his taste. I can understand where he is coming from. He wants his spells to work consistently and to feel a little more heroic in his gaming than DCC RPG might lend itself to be.

I have introduced my son to Pathfinder and he has been having a great time with that. I sometimes think he might spend more time worrying about feats and skill selections though than being creative and letting his mind run wild with his characters.

I have been having some thoughts on just how many rules I need in an RPG as well. That thought is a subject for another blog post, but these thoughts have led me to lightly kick the tires of a few other systems.

So when Troll Lord Games was running a promotion recently and I was able to snag the PDF of the Players Handbook at an impulse buy price, I snatched it up.


I read through the Players Handbook refreshing my memory from my brief look at the system several years ago. This time something really seems to strike a chord with me. I have classes and plenty to choose from. I have a simple resolution system with the SIEGE Engine used by Castles and Crusades. I have high levels of adaptability to adventures from 1st edition to 3.x.

Missing from Castles and Crusades? Long skill lists and feats!

Motivated readers can find many a message board post from me where I supported the 3.x skill system. In retrospect I think what I really liked was not so much the skill list, but the fact there was a consistent system to resolve tasks needing skills. Taking a step back I can more fully appreciate the SEIGE Engine with its using an ability score check to resolve tasks requiring a “skill check”.

Feats. DCC RPG taught me that feats were in actuality limiting to a players creativity. This area of rules has a major influence on what a character can or cannot do. Castles and Crusades does not use feats – get creative, come up with a cool move and trust your Castle Keeper (GM) to adjudicate the action. Let the CK have the power to resolve things and not turn this over to feats.


As noted above, Castles and Crusades uses its SIEGE Engine for its resolution mechanic. Based on ability scores, you roll an ability check and depending on whether the ability is a prime or secondary ability that determines the difficulty. If rolling a check with a prime ability the base for the check is a 12. If a secondary it is an 18. You then add in any other modifier to affect the base and the player rolls a d20, needing to beat the Challenge Level the CK sets.

That is it. That is the SIEGE Engine in a nutshell. Want to lift a large boulder? Make an ability check. The check will be a little easier if Strength is a prime ability for your character and a little more difficult if it is a secondary ability.

Fresh Air

I think Castles and Crusades might scratch the itch I have right now. I have really come to appreciate a rules-light system from my time with DCC RPG. As I have become more overwhelmed with the Pathfinder rules as the system grows, I may have found another system to add to my stable for when I run.

DCC RPG hits the spot for a lot of us old-timers where the randomness makes things fresh again. Castles and Crusades gives me the older school feel with modern mechanics. I am starting to think all of my old modules and such have relevance again as they will be easy to run under C&C rules.

By the time you read this the order I placed for the physical Castles and Crusades rulebooks should have arrived. We will give it a test with my son in the near future. Keep an eye out for that blog post in the future!

9 thoughts on “Castles and Crusades

    • I think all systems have some fans that annoy other folks. Gamers are opinionated!

  1. If you want to check out the Savage Worlds system I think I have the books. Good article and I would play this.

    • If you have it, I might borrow it for a read sometime. Head good things about it as well, but haven’t done much digging into it.

  2. C&C was what I compared Pathfinder to after first PF campaign I played in. I enjoyed myself and everything, but I couldn’t think of anything that would have been really different if we had played C&C. And that was before the Advanced & Ultimate books came out. So, while I have no real problem with PF, there’s more of it than I need. A surfeit of Pathfinder, if you will.

    Although, I keep having Hackmaster urges.

    • That is sort of the kicker for me, I don’t think one loses much to Pathfinder if you choose to play C&C. You can have the same stories, similar campaigns, and such with C&C, just less “paperwork” with C&C it seems.

      What has me looking at other systems now is the feeling of being weighted down with skills, feats and lots of rules. C&C seems to strike a nice balance between a consistent mechanic to resolve tasks/issues while giving players a big playground to develop their character without having to find the right feat to help paint the picture you want.

      Don’t get me wrong though. I am playing in a Pathfinder campaign and having a great time. I think I am more eyeballing things from the perspective of what system I might choose to run the next time my turn to run comes up.

  3. Same boat here, Jeffrey, and similar sentiments. After a couple years of DMing PF, it just got to be too much work, too much crunch and everything slowed down. It wasn’t just me as the DM. Less experienced players were having a devil of a time keeping their own abilities, feats and modifiers straight. I took a break from DMing and then a look at C&C and realized how much easier it would have been to run that system through the same adventure path and how little would have been lost. So next time, it will definitely be C&C.

    • PF has just become very cumbersome. So many feats and skills it takes a fair amount of work just to keep a character properly updated even for an experienced player.

      C&C just seems elegantly simple in comparison. More time spent creating fantastical worlds than combing books for feats, spells, and such.

      I have yet to get an actual C&C campaign going, but the next campaign I run for my home group will be a C&C one.

  4. Pingback: Castles & Crusades Weekend Sale | The Iron Tavern

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