Review: Bluffside City on the Edge

Bluffside: City on the EdgeIn the days of d20 we had more than a few city supplements published. Freeport is the most famous and the easiest to use with all of its support. It is a gritty pirate city making it easy for players to understand and the original trilogy of adventures written for it as well as other after that served as a great introduction and way to make good use of Freeport. But while Freeport is great, and I did run a very enjoyable campaign there it was not my favorite city published in the days of d20. That honor goes to the city of Bluffside. Bluffside is a city built on the ruins of a lost civilization. It is written with creativity and plenty of mystery that appeals to me. I just hope this time around it gets the support it deserves and that some of the many mysteries the book raises get some kind of answer.

The new version of Bluffisde is written for the Castles and Crusades RPG. It is not a system I like and when it was first announced I was not going to buy it for that reason. However, I found my old copy of the original and was reminded on how much I enjoyed reading the setting. I did eventually buy a copy and I am pleased that I did. I have zero intention of ever using it with Castles and Crusades but luckily there are very few rules that I would need to convert into whatever system I might use when running the setting.

Bluffisde has a rich history and is filled with mystery. A very long time ago there was a civilization that was destroyed in a cataclysm. Bluffside is built over and around the ruins of one of their cities and seemingly the center of the cataclysm.  It is named Bluffside because it sits high on a cliff over the ocean. The many districts of the city are in many ways small cities themselves. Each district is separate as the area the city is built on has crevasses that make it impossible to build a single large expansive city. This really makes the different area unique and feel much more like small neighborhoods.

The books is filled with great places of interest that are ridiculously easy to use. Each one defines a shop or building, lists the regulars so it is easy to know which NPCs one might encounter there, and lists a couple hooks to turns any point of interest into a seed for some type of adventure. Some of the hooks are complex, others are just simple sentences, and all serve to be a good starting point for some type of adventure – big or small.

The book does have a lot of Castles and Crusades information in it. It has 20 pages that are just NPC stats, and many pages of creatures, spells, items, classes, etc. They take up almost half the book coming in at about seventy of the hundred and seventy pages. Because of that, the decent sized book becomes a lot smaller for people like myself that will get little use out of those pages.

Bluffside is a city of mystery. There are plenty of underground caves that can lead to ancient ruins. Even the ancient palace the city is built around has not fully been explored in over a century. There are ancient magics alongside a very modern political set up that create issues for the player characters. There are a few powerful groups each with different agendas and knowledge of the city and its mysteries. The area around the city is also still wild. There are valuable metals to be found in the mountains along with tribes of goblins and other monsters. It is a city ripe with opportunity for adventuring.

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.

Free City of Eskadia Preorder

jackfrontcoveraTroll Lord Games is running a preorder for the Free City of Eskadia: Jack of Lies for the Castles & Crusades system. There is seven days left to get in on this and try to push the product from a softcover book to hardcover by reaching the $4000 pledge level.

The preorder is being run in a very similar manner to a Kickstarter, minus the Kickstarter site! There are various pledge levels ranging from a PDF of the book at $10 to a $125 Master Thief Pledge  which will get you the PDF of the book, a physical copy of the book in hardcover if the $4000 goal is met, or softcover if not, plus posters and other Castles & Crusades “core” rulebooks.

The city of Eskadia sits just off the Vestlig Sea. Known as one of the deadliest cities in the world a variety of guild and trading barons seek to control the city. Beyond the squabbling of these power groups the city is also known to house several various cults of the underworld and black magic adding to the complexity of the power struggle. And deadliness of the city.

The book contains descriptions of neighborhoods, markets, plazas, inns, and more. The sourcebook will offer all the information you need to make the city come alive as a backdrop for a city adventure in your own campaign.

Troll Lords have posted a preview PDF of the product for you to take a look at. If you are interested in seeing this tome produced as a hardcover, you have seven days left!

Castles & Crusades Weekend Sale

Castles and Crusades Players Handbook CoverTroll Lord Games is having a 50% off sale on their Castles & Crusades PDFs this weekend over at RPGNow! This is a really good deal for someone looking for an inexpensive way into the Castles & Crusades system or hooked at their last sale and ready to pick up some more supporting material.

Included in the sale are the Players Handbook, Castle Keepers Guide, and Classic Monsters.

Castles & Crusades is a great rules-light, but still robust, system if you are feeling weighed down by hefty tomes of rules from more recent rule systems. I wrote a little about Castles & Crusades late last year here at The Iron Tavern.

Note: The prices on the main listing pages seem to reflect the discount correctly, the individual product pages are not. Once you add them to your cart the discounted price is reflected.

Review: Interludes – Brief Expeditions to Bluffside

brief_exp_bluffside_coverThe Iron Tavern received a copy of Interludes: Brief Expeditions to Bluffside (IBEtB) last week to review. This is a supplement for the Castles & Crusades system published by Samurai Sheepdog and written by Jeff Quinn and Peter Schroeder. This product is a conversion of the original supplement for the Bluffside setting which was d20 D&D 3.x compatible.

The PDF is 42 pages in length, including appendixes and OGL license information. The product is in black and white. The adventure is designed for 2nd level Castles & Crusades characters.

The product includes an extensive Table of Contents. Every major encounter area, NPC, and player handout is included in the table of contents. Each clickable to jump right to the correct location.

Next follows the adventure summary and background and then a course of the adventure section. These are quite handy for a CK to quickly see the flow of the adventure and make reading the rest of the adventure a little easier by having this overview in mind. The adventure centers around a kidnapping of a family from a small village named Kirkwood. The PCs will be investigating and tracking down just who orchestrated this kidnapping.

The rest of the book is broken up into three main sections. Kirkwood, The Holy Grove, and The Crossroads. Each area is well detailed with buildings, NPCs, and maps throughout. The level of detail makes the area feel more like a mini-campaign setting than a single adventure. The detail has both good and bad points, though the bad points can be easily turned into good depending on the CK’s approach the module.

After reading this adventure I felt like there was almost too much going on and this product would be better marketed as setting than an adventure. With the amount of detail and NPCs for even the village of Kirkwood a CK could easily use it as a base of operations and an instantly populated town with interesting people and rumors. The main adventure almost felt secondary.

The adventure arc was good, it just felt a little lost amongst the other detail. A kidnapping with a twist and one that ties a couple of power groups together. I felt the adventure was very solid and would be an enjoyable play.

The module strikes me as better if the CK goes into it with expectations of it being a mini-setting with an already provided adventure with several additional plot-hooks and suggestions for future adventuring in the area. Kirkwood could provide many, many sessions of adventuring between the as written adventure, rumors, and suggested adventure opportunities.

The product is lightly illustrated with a handful of graphics appearing within. There are numerous maps of the area, buildings, and such. The maps suffice, but I think they could have been of higher quality, the resolution seems a little low for several of them. It does not impact the usability of the map though, just the overall appearance.

Overall the product seemed a little rough around the edges, but given just a little bit of work and prep from the CK offers an excellent starting point for a campaign. The town of Kirkwood is wonderfully detailed. There are plot hooks sprinkled throughout via rumors and there are numerous NPCs for a CK to use to generate building their own. While it appears the PCs are meant to pass through the village, it seems like a good place for low-level PCs to call a base of operations.

If you are need of a lower level C&C adventure and possibly a place for your PCs to call home for a bit I think Interludes: Brief Expeditions to Bluffside is a good purchase. Just be aware that it needs just a little polish from the CK to really make it sing and make it your own.

New Year, New Game 2013

New Games 2013

Photo by StarsApart – Flickr

This post was written for the second annual New Year, New Game blog carnival hosted by Gnome Stew as part of the 2013 New Year, New Game challenge.

Looking Back

The Iron Tavern participated last year in the New Year, New Game blog carnival. Last year I talked about some of the things that made it hard for me to get out of my groove and try out new games. I also listed the three games I wanted to try at the table in the year 2012. They were:

The One Ring
Dragon Age

How did I do? Well, I did not get the chance to play any of the games on the list I made last year. The year was not a loss however! I did play two new RPG games in 2012 and added several others to my collection.

New Games for 2012

What games did I play? First up was Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. This one is obvious to regular readers of The Iron Tavern as I have made many posts about it. I bought the book because I wanted it for the artwork. Then I started reading the book and I wanted to play it. I ended up in a brief game on Google+ Hangouts and was hooked. From there I started running a few one-shots on Google+ Hangouts and finally broke down and started running a weekly DCC RPG game on Google+ Hangouts and Roll20.

A little later in the year one of my DCC RPG players mentioned a game available for free download called Dungeonslayers. I ended up playing in a Christmas themed Dungeonslayers game that he ran. The game was a good time, something about the opposed roll mechanic that made each round of combat something a little more than rolling a 20-sider and seeing if you hit and then rolling damage. That game has evolved into a regular weekly game as we moved into 2013.

Added to my collection in the year 2012 were numerous Castles and Crusades books and Barebones Fantasy. Only the lack of time prevents me from playing either one of those. I would actually like to see one of those systems replace my default Pathfinder game, but I need to try them out to see which seems a better fit for my go-to game.

New Games for 2013

Despite not playing any of the games I mentioned wanting to play in my post last year on this topic, I am going to risk listing the games I want to play in the upcoming year. I have already mentioned two of the games from the list of three. First:

Castles and Crusades. This game has been around for quite some time. I’ve started collecting most of the hard covers, I am just waiting for an opportunity to play it. I am attracted to it because it is a lighter than my current go-to game of Pathfinder, but so close to the D&D feel that it seems a really good fit. Add in I can easily convert 3.x/Pathfinder adventures down to it and 1e and 2e stuff up to it, I’d have modules to select and choose from for a very long time.

Barebones FantasyBarebones Fantasy. This game has been getting excellent reviews over at RPG Now and across several of my social media circles. A rules-light game with simple mechanics and an interesting “skills” system as class. I’ve done a read through of this book and really want to give it a spin this year. Just waiting for a time that a G+ game opens up at a time that I can participate.

Fiasco. This game was on my 2012 list as well, but I am keeping it around for 2013. This one doesn’t seem to be catching the same talk on social media it was last year, or maybe I have gravitated to different circles. In either case, I would like to try it out to see what it is all about.

New Games, New Year

New games, New Year was a good thing for me. It got me thinking about breaking out of my normal groove. And though I did not play the games I had listed in 2012, I did get out there and play some new games. Not only were these new games a great time, but I met a lot of great people playing them. I

I have made new online friends and met several of them in-person at Gen Con. I’ve drifted to new social circles that are full of people doing cool things. So even though I did not actually play a single game on my list from 2012, I did get out there and play some new games, met some new people both virtually and at cons. I call that a success.

So, get out there and play some new games! Break out of your rut of playing whatever your game of choice is now and try something a little different. It has been a blast for me and I have met a lot of great people by expanding my gaming circles a bit!

Castles and Crusades Sale

Castles and Crusades Players Handbook CoverI just received an email tonight that Troll Lord Games is running a 40% off sale over at RPG Now. The sale is to celebrate the launch of their most recent Kickstarter for Codex Celtarum. The Codex Celtarum is a 144 page book for Celtic Mythology and includes over 150 new spells and more for your Castles and Crusades game. Castles and Crusades is of course a rules-light fantasy RPG game making use of the Siege Engine.

In addition to offering a large portion of their catalog at 40% off, they are also offering a bundle where any purchase of the Players Handbook comes with a free copy of Gods and Monsters.

Whether you are an existing player of Castles and Crusades or a new to the system, this is a great sale to take advantage of to build up your collection!

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!