Yes, I backed the original Kickstarter and backed the Remastered Edition. So I got my grubby little hands on a hard copy already. Last week I stumbled across a discussion of Crypts & Things in the G+ OSR Community, so I figured I’d do a little rant about it.
At it’s core, Crypts & Things is a Swords & Wizardry variant. It uses extensively the house rules from Akratic’s blog (with permission). So there’s a modified wound/HP system. Skills as Saves and so on. Pretty straight forward. The Remastered edition makes some further changes. First Saving Throws are gone. That’s right no saves. Player characters have a Luck score (which starts out at 6+1d6). Roll two 2d6 under to get lucky. The catch is if you are Lucky, your score goes down. Yes, it come back with rest and leveling. But that’s pretty much it. Monsters don’t have saves. This may sound like the players are going to be overpowered but a lot of the tougher monsters are just immune to magic and casting spells has its own risks. The Saving Throw may be gone but its legacy lives on as a Skill Throw which is modified by class or ability scores.
Character classes are what you would expect but there some variations/additions. Fighters have specialized fighting styles. Thieves are much more martial. And there are no clerics. And there’s nifty little life path system, that give characters some bonuses and a little bit of a history. The Remastered Edition adds some extra exotic classes beyond the normal( Fighter, Barbarian, Thief, Sorcerer). There’s the Beast Hybrid, a result of obscene arcane experiments, sort of like a Shifter from Ebberon. The Disciple. OK. They’re monks. Elementalist is like a shaman that worships/gains power for the Elemental Lords. Lizard People (pretty much what you would think but more intelligent) and Serpent Nobles (think Kull of Atlantis.)
As I said earlier, magic is dangerous. It’s broken down into Black, Gray, and White. Black magic is the really bad stuff (Note: Magic Missile is considered Black Magic). It required a blood sacrifice to even memorize a spell plus Sanity loss(Yes, there’s a sanity system based of Wisdom) and even corruption. But you think you’d be safe staying to White Magic. Nope. Each time a White Magic spell is cast, there’s a chance that you’ll draw every evil baddie in the neighborhood to you.
That’s the basics of the system. Now let me talk about monsters. There’s a good chapter on unique monsters. Sure there’s some of the standards like ghouls, dragons, and harpies. But there’s Chreker (a weird pixie like creature with a paralyzying shriek), the Head Hand, and of course the Zunder Cat. (zunder, Zunder, Zunder CAT!) And there’s a good take on Vampires. They aren’t undead. They aren’t hurt by sunlight. They’re aliens.
Then there’s the setting. Zarth. It’s a dying corrupted world. This is one of my favorite sections of the book. Heck, this section you could use no matter what rules you use. Not only for the content but for the way it is presented. It’s not overly detailed. There are adventure hooks, and random encounters for each major area. The gem is the “What the Elder Told Me” chapter. It’s basically a set of questions as answered by the more experienced of a culture. It’s simple and conveys a lot of information about the world. And for the curious, here’s the questions. Who are you? Who are we? What makes us great? Where do we live? What is important in my life? What makes one great? Who are our enemies and what is evil? Who are my gods? What is magic? Can you tell me the truth about the other people of the world?
My opinion overall is that it offers some good variations on a stock elves-and-dwarves style game. Don’t expect it to be a Conan RPG either. It hits a a sweet spot of a weird fantasy, alien dying world. It’s not totally in your face like Carcosa. It’s uses a well tested and supported rules system in Swords & Wizardry which also makes it easily hackable with other OSR games. For me, it goes on the “I really want to run this some time” list.
And you can grab it up on RPGNow, of course.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan and backer (of the Kickstarter) of Crypts & Things Remastered and I’m a fan of Sword & Sorcery. Yes, I’m all in for a crazy gonzo game but I also like the gritty weird fantasy of the lower magic settings. If you’ve got Crypts & Things then cool and really back if you want to. But this post about other resources out there for Sword & Sorcery games.
How about some free stuff first?
Head on over to grey-elf.com then just scroll down to the Age of Conan and Secrets of Acheron. This one is an homage to the Little Brown Books and pretty darned cool.
This one is mix of free and for pay stuff. I’ve really good things about Xoth.net and their setting but I haven’t gotten around to picking it up yet and yes some of the material is Pathfinder/3.x but it’s easy to convert. Here’s the main page for the Hyborian Age but the real meat is here with the adventures. And here’s their shop. Order the PDF’s through them or dead tree versions thru Lulu.
Now, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is pretty damned cool but their adventures are also darn good fare. But let’s not forget their free resources on their website.
Lastly here’s another couple of adventures that comes with some neat house rules too. I’m talking about Liberation of the Demon Slayer and Revelry in Torth. Yes, there’s some little things that I’d tweak and they’re a bit racy. So you’ve been warned.
No I know there’s lots of other stuff out there and there’s plenty of retor-clones and hacks out there. It’s a big internet and I’m just one little guy with a hyper puppy bouncing around the office. Other resources and stuff go ahead and share.
Did I also mention that there’s only a few days left on the Kickstarter for Crypts & Things Remastered, and I really want that last stretch goal. By Crom, Kill monsters and take their stuff!
So there’s the Kickstarter going on and it’s reached its goal. But then there’s always some cool Stretch Goals. And yes I’m a big fan of this game.
Here’s the basics:
It’s Old School
It’s Sword & Sorcery
But there’s a couple of new things in the Beta Version of the Remastered Rules (available to backers) that are just way cool.
The first is Luck. This a pretty cool take. SAVING THROWS are GONE. Yes, I did all caps to make it clear. Characters don’t have Saving Throws. Instead, you make a Luck Check. Fail, well, too bad. Succeed good for you but your Luck goes down so next time success will be more difficult. Of course, you also use Luck for anything random “Who does the rock land on?” type rolls. Also, each class has a special trick they can do with a successful Luck check. It’s a pretty cool little mechanic. But on the other side of this, monsters and NPC don’t have Luck nor do they have Saving Throws. I’ll admit I’m still a little on the fence about this part but I need to play with the new rules more I make a final judgement on that.
The second thing is the change in spell casting side effects. I won’t bore with the old version just elaborate on the new one. There’s the three colors of magic (Black, Gray, and White). You get the idea. Problems cone not only casting Black Magic but also White Magic. In the case of Black Magic, the character gains corruption. Roll each to see it bad things happen. It’s simple, cool, and very tweakable for whatever setting you happen to be using.
What’s really interesting is the danger of casting White Magic. But hey isn’t that supposed to be good magic? Yep, it is. It’s all white shining good. It’s so shiny and pure that it attracts the attention of undead and demons who just might be in the area. So maybe you the fighter doesn’t need that little bit of healing.
So there’s more thoughts. I really can’t wait until the final version of this hits the virtual streets. And may all the Stretch Goals be reached!
Let’s face it. The “World’s Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game” was more influenced by Tolkien than Robert E. Howard. So, the first step many folks take when trying to do a Sword & Sorcery game is just “D&D with just humans.” For me, Sword & Sorcery is about attitude and atmosphere.
It needs to be sex, drugs and rock & rock. It’s heavy metal and punk rock all rolled up into one big crazy world. It’s twisted magic and monsters. It’s lost temples, forgotten gods and scoring that one big pile of loot before you die. Sword & Sorcery stories are about mean streets, wastelands and corruption. In a way, S&S has a lot in common with cyberpunk. I’ll let that one inspire you for a moment.
But here’s some elements that are bouncing around in my little head for some house rules for Crypts & Things. Yep, there’s going to be follow up posts as soon some more of these ideas start come together.
Humans Only. Sticking with that but doesn’t mean that it has to be bland. Humans from different cultures and lands will have slightly different skills. So just because everyone is human doesn’t mean that they are all the same.
Classes. The heroes of S&S stories have checkered pasts and a wide variety of skills. Classes can have their niche but characters need to flexible to survive. The two little keys here are no weapon and armor proficiencies and let the characters try anything. Plus throw on a level cap. I’m considering doing something along the lines of E6 for Crypts and Things. Just make an additional chart similar to the background chart. When a character “levels up” past sixth level, they roll and gain a new bonus.
Magic is dangerous and corrupting. The first thing, Vanceian magic is right out the window. Magic isn’t flash and bang. It’s creepy. It’s about how big a price someone is willing to pay for power. This is a major tweak and well worth it’s own post.
Monsters should be unique, twisted and frightening. It’s not a horror game (although there elements there) but players shouldn’t be yawning and saying, “It’s another shambling mound.”
Combat is freaking dangerous. Hit points are cool and easy but with Hit Dice, the numbers can just end up too big to keep things gritty and dangerous. So here’s my little idea. Hit Points equal Constitution+ (1/2 Strength). That’s it. It doesn’t matter how many levels a character has. Getting a sword in the gut in a back alley brawl could it end it just as quickly as facing an other worldly horror. Now is the time I bore you with some math. Let’s say we’ve got a character with average stats of 11. That means 16 HP. At low levels, that’s a good chunk of HP but once you get around 4-6 not so much. Also, there really shouldn’t be “heavy armor”. I don’t see S&S characters running around in clunky plate mail. Probably, chainmail at the best. And I know somebody is going to make a chainmail bikini comment. Correct, it really isn’t armor. Neither is a fur lion cloth.
I usually don’t load a post with so much artwork but like I said at the beginning it’s about atmosphere and attitude. And a picture is worth a thousand sword cuts.
Just got the PDF of this last night. Hey, cool. My name is in it. Yeah, I backed this one on Indiegogo. No problem.
So to catch you up. Crypts & Things in a Sword & Sorcery variant for Swords & Wizardry available from D101 Games. And here’s my little review of the core book. Yeah, I wrote that before I started this blog. Any way, I like it. Just think that there needs to be sword & sorcery out there (but that’s another rant for later).
Blood of the Dragon is an introductory adventure and one of the rewards for the project meeting its goals. I’d say that it’s good starting fodder. There’s a little bit of a hex crawl that can be easily expanded or GM’s can add more details to their liking. And there’s a little dungeon crawl. And few adventure seeds here and there.
One of the things I hate trying to review or even comment on an adventure is avoiding spoilers. So I’ll try to avoid that but give you a hint that the new monsters for the module are Battle Apes! Take it from there, kids.
Overall, I’d say that it’s a decent intro module. Not quite as good as Keep on the Borderlands or Death Frost Doom, but I think that those two are classics. The adventure is pretty straight forward. Remember, it’s an introductory module so it’s better for beginning players. I feel that much of the hex crawl is kind a blank canvas for GM’s to throw in their special kind of insanity. There’s some encounters but wish there were a few more. Personally, I’d probably take it, tweak it and make it even more twisted. But hell that’s the kind of guy I am.
I don’t know when, if or for how much this retail. But I’m happy with it.
I said I’m mess around with Magicians for Crypts & Things and here it is kids. Yeah, I fully admit that this one full of my own biases. First, I’ve got a soft spot for spontaneous casters from later editions. Go ahead and call me a Sorcerer fanboy. Second, I’m continuing on with the specializations because like I said before why should the fighter have all the fun. The Magician remains basically the same as HD, Saves and so forth. And as I have said before there’s nothing that says you can’t tweak this to what you are using for your own home game.
Spell Casting: Magicians do not have to memorize multiple castings of the same spell per day. They may memorize the number of spells indicated by the spells per day chart. He may cast a number of spells of the appropriate level per day as indicated on the same chart. (You just have to actually read the book to see the chart). The number of spells memorized and castable per day is the same number. For example, if a Magician can memorized two first level spells. He can memorized Magic Missile and Detect Magic. During the day, he may cast whichever he happens to need. Magic Missile twice or Detect Magic twice or each spell once.
Sense Magic: With an modified Saving Throw a Magician can sense the presence of magical energy. He knows nothing other than fact that there is magic afoot. NOTE: This works best if you alter the Detect Magic spell to”Analyze Magic” and the spell become whatever type of magic that is being analyzed (White, Gray or Black).
The Magician gains specializations at 4th, 8th and 12th.
Alchemist: The magician gains a recipe book for potions containing two first level recipes and one second level. These recipes should be similar to the spells available. Check with your GM for costs and brewing times.
Extra Knowledge: The Magician gains an additional spell in his spell book. He must be high enough level to able to cast the spell. He may take this Specialization more than once.
Extra Magic: The Magician may cast an additional spell per day. When selecting this specialization, he must select a spell level that he is capable of casting. He cannot change this once it is selected but he may select this specialization more than once.
Necromancer: If the Magician does not already have Animate Dead in his spell book, he gains that spell. He also gains the Charm Undead spell (which is identical to Charm Monster but only works on Undead). Unfortunately, his connection to the Undead is so strong that if attempts to cast White Magic, it effects him as if he cast Gray Magic.
Powerful Magic: The Magician’s spells are extremely powerful. Targets take a -1 penalty to Saving Throws. This Specialization may be taken more than once.
Summoner: The Magician gains a +1 bonus on summoning and controlling extraplanar creatures. A magician may take this Specialization more than once. NOTE: This Specialization is intended to be used with the Summon spell from Lamentations of the Flame Princess and not the normal Summon Monster spells. Don’t worry. kids. I’ll be posting a tweaked version of Summon later this week.
As luck would have it our DM for the Friday nigh game was taken ill so I threw out the idea for a Crypts & Things one shot and the group agreed. I quickly rolled up 8 third level pre-generated characters (two of each class) on Thursday night and was off.
We played it mostly by the rules as written but I did throw in a couple of my own crazy ideas. For rolling up the characters, I used the 6+d6+d6 Method. Basically, all scores start off at 6. Roll 6d6 and arrange to your liking. Then 1d6 for each stat in order. It pushed the probability towards making of a decent character of a particular class without diverging too much from the good old roll 3d6 and quit crying. Overall, I think the players really enjoyed the game. It was a fresh break from Pathfinder. And everyone picked up the rules quickly. We did make a couple observations during the game. The fighter actually seemed like the weakest class. He’s got a bad save and that made it difficult for him to do anything. Additionally, he wasn’t that much better at fighting than the Barbarian or Thief. It turned out that the Thief armed with a bow turned out to be the best damage dealer in the party. The group liked the damage system especially getting all their HP back after 8 hours of rest. Magic was useful and the magician started down that slippery slope to insanity after failing four saves during the session. Another interesting thing is that this is the first time in many years we ran a combat heavy session without using miniatures. And did I mention fast. Yeah, the combat was really quick compared to the endless cross referencing that we were used to. Personally, my biggest surprise was the amount of enjoyment, the players got out of the life events chart. (Hmm, maybe I should write up some longer ones.)
So yes. I definitely want run this again but with more preparation and few tweaks (more about those in later posts).
Here’s some random and crazy notes about what happened during the session.
I decided to go quickly tweak introductory adventure in the back of the book and throw in a couple more encounters to make things interesting. To give the players some ownership of the pregens, each of them rolled four times on the life events chart. After the dust settled this is how the characters knew each other.
The sorceress and the fighter were brother and sister (and not having an incestuous relationship) were in service to their father (who was not an evil sorcerer). Their father orders them to retrieve the lost spell book of Nizar-Thun for his collection or he’ll start charging his lazy kids rent. To help them in their quest Here’s a Thief and a Barbarian. And another Barbarian, Thudthack, who needs to go because Dad’s pet demon grew bored of him and he’s got to go. A little quick haggling with Igor the Castle Quartermaster for supplies and the little group was off.
Random Encounter the First: Group of three bounty hunters who stumble across party. They weren’t very bright. The bounty hunters were on the trail of this evil sorcerer and his crazy family who live somewhere in this area. The party convinces the bounty that they know nothing of evil sorcerers and that they should at that castle about a days walk back in that direction. Yes, they sent them back to dear old dad “who isn’t evil, just misunderstood”.
Random Encounter the Second: Moth Worms attack. A good fight but nothing special.
Enter the Town of Nor-Haven: A small little village at the edge of the swamp. The party starts complaining about the lack of Mouth Worm warning signs. One of the yokels explains to him that he is the local sign maker and there signs all over the place. The party quickly realizes that not only can was this guy illiterate, he might have still been the smartest guy in the village. The party spends an eventful evening and then overpays form some crappy canoes the next morning.
Serpent Men Ambush: The party gets ambushed. Poor Thudthack will forever be known as the barbarian who could stand up in waist high water and got sliced and diced by a pair of serpent men.
The actual dungeon: I won’t go into because it’d be spoiler filled. But I think the highlight was at the very end when party goes to cross a bottomless pit using some rope and really didn’t pause to think about that a demon that still on the loose until said demon showed up and started cutting the rope.