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  • Writer's pictureW. R. Frady

The Olde Wizard's Study

Updated: Jan 29

Castles & Crusades

Tabletop RPG’s (Almost) Hidden Gem

Castles & Crusades Castle Keeper's Screen
Castle Keeper's Screen Homage to AD&D 1st Edition

Well met, friends and fellow adventurers. Welcome to the Ebonspire Inn, home of the Ye Olde Wayfarer’s Adventurer’s Almanac. Here we talk about Adventures from long ago, Tales from tabletops long past, World-building, Inspiration, and The Fantasy Roleplaying Hobby in general. Ah yes, the night is slowly encroaching upon the Vale of Lost Souls, and the mists are descending upon the land once more, so by all means, come in, pull up a chair, grab a mug of your favorite ale, and listen as we discuss the topic of the evening. For those of you who have been here before, you know that, even though I discuss Tabletop Roleplaying Games as a whole, ranging from Dungeons & Dragons to Warhammer, my Roleplaying System of choice is Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games. So, this evening, I shall discuss this Hidden Gem and why I have come to see it as my personal go to Roleplaying System.

Castles & Crusades
Castle & Crusades Art by Peter Bradley

To give a little bit of background on this topic. I began Playing Dungeons & Dragons during the late 80s/early 90s. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition was fairly new, AD&D 1st Edition was still prominent, and Classic D&D was making a comeback with the big Black Boxed set as well as others. I became enthralled with D&D after a chance encounter allowed me to play while visiting my brother. I was a faithful D&D gamer throughout its various incarnations, until the D&D 4th Edition came out. I disliked nearly everything about D&D 4E from the Changes made to Classic Character Races and Classes, to how the Core Rules began to puppet string how you were to play your character. Also, the lack of compatibility made players have to buy updated material just to continue to play their ongoing campaigns or ditch old Campaign settings in favor of the new. D&D had started becoming more of a money pit than its predecessors. (A trait that has become more prominent over the years.) I first went to Pathfinder RPG, of which I still love the First Edition to this day. But by matter of a Chance encounter online, I stumbled upon Troll Lord Games’ Magnum Opus- Castles & Crusades. What initially drew me to Castles & Crusades was the Artwork which heavily favored the Artwork of the D&D Era in which I had begun to play. Upon Closer inspection I felt as though I was gazing into the past, but with a modern twist. After Obtaining and reading the Quick Start Rules and the Condensed Rulebook, I was hooked. I had found everything I loved about AD&D, but with some unique adaptations that set the whole apart as its own Roleplaying System. Let’s take a look at some of these.

A Bridge Between the Old and the New-

Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games
Castles & Crusades by Troll Lord Games

Castles & Crusades forms a bridge between the old and the new. Familiar rules, Classes, and styles of play offer veterans of the AD&D era a way to bring their games/campaigns into the new age without completely start anew. Yet, the rising Armor Classes, Challenge Classes, and streamlined Attribute Check System that make up the majority of the Siege Engine system easily appeals to those who are just starting or began with the early forms of the D20 System. This rules-lite system allows for more gameplay and Roleplay as there are not so many different stats to keep up with that players and Gamemasters spend more time crunching numbers than playing out a story/adventure. Also, like its predecessors, C&C only needs the core Rules to get started playing. The majority of these rules can be found in two books, the Castles & Crusades Player’s Handbook, and the Castles & Crusades Monsters and Treasures Book. Gamemasters, called Castle Keepers in this system, can improve their game with the Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide. This CKG is compatible for use with any campaign system as it is much like its AD&D predecessor which covers topics from running the game, to dungeon crafting, NPCs, World-Building and more. On top pf this, Players and Castle Keepers alike have access to expansion sourcebooks like The Adventurer’s Backpack and The Codex Mythologies, which offer both new classes and in the case of the Mythology Series, historical sources for playing in those cultures. But while I can continue on this, let’s talk about the core of the Castles & Crusades Game itself…

The Siege Engine-

The Castle Keeper’s Section of the Player’s Handbook describes the Siege Engine as a universal way to approach both Exploration and Combat alike as the Attribute Check System involves an attacker and a defender. This complements the story-based elements of the game as it focuses on the theme of characters looking to engage and overcome the challenges before them. This simplified matter of resolving encounters allows Castle Keepers

Castles & Crusades Art
Castles & Crusades Art By Peter Bradley

and Players alike to resolve risky circumstances without having to continually stop gameplay to reference specific rules on the matter. A player simply says what he wants to do, based on his class and level, and then the Castle Keeper applies the appropriate Challenge base, decides the difficulty or Challenge Level, and applies that to the base creating the necessary challenge score or Challenge Class needed for success. The player rolls the dice, applies his modifiers, Class level, as long as it is a class skill, and totals the result to see if his score allows him or her to succeed. This system not only makes the encounters more navigable all around; it keeps the game and the story moving forward with little to no delay, save under exceptional circumstances. With the Siege Engine and the Familiar Feel of the gameplay to older systems, it’s time to look at something that, for me, crowns Troll Lord Games and Castles & Crusades as unspoken royalty among the TTRPG community…


Castles &  Crusades Core Rules
The Core Rules of Castles & Crusades- The Player's Handbook, Monsters & Treasure, and The Castle Keeper's Guide.

I began playing Castles & Crusades when it was just in its 4th Printing. C&C has gone on to be in its now 8th Printing of the C&C PHB, the 5th Printing of the Monster & Treasure, and the 3rd Printing of the CKG. While there are several Printings of the various Core Rulebooks, one thing stays the same… Castles & Crusades. The printings mentioned are just a testament to the growth of the C&C game. As the system grows and evolves, new errata are born, new ways to approach old situations, improvements, and such come into the light. The updated printings reflect that. Rather than come down with Editionitis, like many of the top RPGs on the market, the Troll Lords Choose to update the established system. What does this mean for players? It means that the Castles & Crusades Core Rules are Fully compatible with one another from the 8th Printing to the 1st Printing of the Player’s Handbook. Much like an App on your Smart Phone, the Castles & Crusades System is updated for better performance, but the base of the whole stays the same. Also, reflecting back to the previous statements about C&C being a bridge between the old and the new, Castles & Crusades is also easily compatible with classic material from all the previous iterations of D&D (with a little bit of adjusting) as well as new material, from Dungeon Crawl Classics, D&D 5E, Pathfinder, OSRIC, and more. So, if you are a classic gamer who has material that you thought you might never use again, then here’s a sign that you don’t have to cast it aside any longer.

Castles & Crusades by Troll Lord Games
Castles & Crusades- Player's Handbook 7th Printing, Monster & Treasure 5th Printing, Castle Keeper's Guide 2nd Printing

Castles & Crusades has, since my introduction to its familiar yet streamlined system, become my preferred Roleplaying System. I feel the game that I came to love back in the late 80s

to early 90s lives on in Castles & Crusades. The Siege Engine, the return to familiar Saving Throws, and multi-functional compatibility keeps alive what veteran gamers loved from the classic systems while newer mechanics such as the rising Armor Class and the Challenge Class, serve as a bridge for the new generations of players to meet with the old on a common ground. The Troll Lords have really continued the tradition of Classic Roleplay with Castles & Crusades, and I am excited to be one of the many players, as well as Gamemasters, who are a part of this journey with them. As a writer and World-Builder; C&C will continue to be the system through which I explore the Fantasy Realms that I am creating for the foreseeable future.

Castles & Crusades
Castle & Crusades Core Rules and Castle Keepers Screen

Well, the fire is beginning to burn low, and it is getting late. So, this seems to be a good place to bring tonight’s topic to a close. If you are interested in looking further into Castles & Crusades, then you can find all you want to know at Troll Lord Games. It has been good seeing you all here at the Ebonspire Inn. May your journeys be safe, may the road rise to meet you, and until next time, my friends, Happy Adventuring.

W. R. Frady

Disclaimer- All products pictured above are from my collection and are for reference only. . Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Castles & Crusades each belong to their respective companies.

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