Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What's new in this part of Nerdistan

Just thought I would make a quick update about a few things that I recently received. Some thoughts and first impressions... Hopefully I can follow-up in the future with something more in-depth on these products (specifically the gaming ones). But, uhm, don't hold your breath; just in case.

I should point out that these are NOT very detailed reviews and are based more on my gut reaction and personal preference than any kind of High Reviewist Fare. If you need some good reviews, I recommend heading on over to RPGnet and looking the gaming material up (C&C can be found both with "Castles & Crusades" and "Castles and Crusades"). The other stuff mentioned can always be found through your pal: Google.

Castles & Crusades Player's Handbook, and Monsters & Treasure (both 3rd Printing)

I ordered these fine books directly from the Troll Lords. First off, let me say that the service was excellent and the Trolls are very friendly, helpful, and informative. The fact that C&C has good product and fan support was one of the determining factors in my getting into C&C. It took awhile for the books to get here (thanks customs!) but I was elated when they did. My first impressions are as follows... Thin but thick. By this I mean the books are thin (128 pages each) but they are jam-packed with gaming goodness. In fact, at $20 USD each you are getting a great deal. Sure, they don't have the same kind of art standards as, say, the Warhammer and WotC books, but they make up for it in data and a decent layout (art is black & white, by the way; looks very classy). And did I mention the price? I think I did. Anyhow, yeah, the art is okay and even brilliant in some places; but it tends to be small. By that I mean there are no big pictures, really, in these books. That's okay because Troll Lord makes up for this in sheer word power. The words themselves are obviously written by someone who enjoyed working on this game and really love the whole Castles & Crusades thing. There are a few typos and some terrific run-on sentences that the more stodgy of us might turn their English-degree noses up at, but we shouldn't care what they think. this game read well, and should appeal to old school gaming grognards as well as neophyte n00bs. And what of the rules? I'm not big into dissecting the rules right away, as I'm not really a "crunch" guy. I'll leave that stuff to the math dorks and PnP faux-videogamers. Nothing wrong with that, mind, just not my deal.

Anyway, the rules will appeal to those of you who (like me) tried to take AD&D back up again after doing the big 3.x switch and went "Huh... huuuuhhhhh... I dunno". I love AD&D, make no mistake. I see nothing criminal about nostalgia. Those who do think it's criminal just want to justify disliking something. Goody for them, I say. But for those of you like me that have been looking for a good variation on AD&D that's a little less generic than the excellent OSRIC and Basic Fantasy Roleplay systems or less mind-numbingly complicated as Hackmaster, then C&C is for you. Oh, and hey, I LOVE Hackmaster. It just takes a few hours to make a character and several weeks to resolve critical hits. Speaking of Hackmaster and those other "old skool" systems, Castles and Crusades can have all the other D&D products kit-bashed into it. C&C is made for house ruling. Everything you need is in the two main books, but if you can't help but tinker and mess with stuff, you'll be pleased to find that all the other AD&D and Dungeons & Dragons rules books can be incorporated with little to no trouble.

For instance, if you love those HackMaster character creation background tables like I do, you can use them (minus the Honour factor, unless you integrate that aspect into your C&C game, too). Have a 3.5 pre-fab adventure you wanna run? Sweet. Very little converting will have to be done. I'm still not quite sure how to exactly bring over the skills and feats, but it doesn't look all that complicated. The Castle Keeper's Guide (GM's book) will be coming out around Xmas (hopefully) and that should have more rules variations and other things; details can be found at the Troll Lords site.

In short, if you are looking for a non-complicated AD&D-esque game that has great support and a terrifically friendly fan community, then you simply cannot go wrong with Castles & Cruades. my only complaint is that the SIEGE Engine is mentioned a lot on the boards and on the covers, but is hard to find referenced in the books. Also, there are no indexes; but the table of contents works alright. It's really not that big of a deal. Another teeny gripe is that I'm beginning to see the same curvy "archaic" font being used a lot and I wish the section headers were a bit bigger. These whinings are very, very minor and so far I feel my money was WELL spent and I am positive that I have acquired one of the best RPGs on the market right now.

First impression Score: 9/10

Castle Zagyg Vol. 1: Yggsburgh

This is something that will have to wait for an in-depth review in the future... If I ever get around to it. In brief I can say that after flipping through this, I get the impression that Gary Gygax's creation, the town of Yggsburgh, is incredibly detailed. There are even sections telling you how folks dress. In detail. Of course, Gygax is known for this, and that's why I love him. My penchant for lists, maps, and charts come from this man. As well as my sense of wordplay (well, EGG and UK movies and TV). Initially, I have much to be excited about!

Yggsburgh is a hefty tome and it comes with a double sided map with a layout of the town on one and East Mark (local area) on the other. It's intended to be dropped into any fantasy setting, or you can use the one that Gygax provides. Either way works. The book's design is simple and a model of efficiency... except that there is no Gord-damned index! This is something that could have really used one, too. However, don't let that detract you from picking this up. Everything is organised well, with the only thing being that font that Troll Lord likes to use popping up again and again. Hey, it's not like I hate the font or anything... I just think that if they are going to font-bomb us that they should use something less curvy maybe. This sound like I'm hating on them. Not at all. I really dig Troll Lord. But I have to complain about something... And if it's the font, then that's awesome. The pages aren't glossy like the C&C core books, but I kinda like the "matte" approach much better anyway. I can make notes with my pencil and light doesn't reflect off of the pages (which makes books a bitch to read outside or under a lamp like the one above me right now). Some might complain about how simple everything is in Yggsburgh. It's definitely not mind-blowing in visual style. I do have to point out that this doesn't mean the art sucks. Far from it! The B&W art pieces inside are excellent (albeit sparse). Not only that, but the map, though also non-complicated, is quite serviceable and nicely done. Of course, you have to dig hexes. I have my pro and anti-hex days, myself. at the time of this writing I am pro-hex.

I can't wait to go through this and read it cover to cover. I'm eager to know what thing Mr. Gygax has in store for greedy little gamer-nerds everywhere. from what I've seen so far, this is worth every penny.

First Impression Score: 8.4/10

Bard's Gate

I love getting books on cities and areas; as you may guess, considering I preceded this bit with Yggsburgh. I usually mutate them into my own thing; or I might just read these tomes and never use them, mainly mining them for ideas. Bard's Gate is no exception, and for this I am glad. Yet another great product from Necromancer Games, Bard's Gate is a fully fleshed out fantasy city that is a "bastion of art". The interior is black and white and very, very expertly laid out. The rules involved are 3.5 d20, but really this city can be worked into any system, especially Castles & Crusades or any other variation of D&D. The art isn't all that bad, either. I wish the fold-out map was in colour, though. It's nice enough, it being a rather simple city map that looks like it was designed in Campaign Cartographer with City Designer. Not a bad thing, if you ask me. Still, the map isn't anything TOO special. I guess I got spoiled on all of those maps from the old TSR days. But I'm happy there is a map nonetheless, as it's not less-than-good or anything. Everything else look awesome, from the way things are explained, to the city's secrets, to overall design. Some folks have said that this city is stock-fantasy average and that Bard's Gate is rather generic. Well, if this was average and generic, I would be happy with things of this nature being mediocre all the time, then! A very good supplement for any GM or group. Once again, I may write about this more in the future.

First Impression Score: 8.6/10

And now for a couple comic mini-reviews!

Knights of the Dinner Table #130

Things heat up in BA's game and it's the usual lollercaust experience for me. Noah's Gamer's Rant on the Movies provides a excellent and funny razing of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Whether I agree with him or not on anything, this is one of the first features I flip to. Lookin' at Comics provides some more interesting comics to check out, like Rogues of Clywyd-Rhan and Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. Good, Bad, and Ugly provides 3 great GURPS characters. There's some Aces & Eights stuff, Rustlers of the Night gives me a Hackmaster monster I would like to throw at my players, and a write up on Twilight 2000. And there's more! KoDT is more than a comic, it's a frickin' awesome magazine for gamers everywhere. I don't know why I even bother reviewing this, because unless these guys start to really, REALLY cock up, I'm going to give it a high score every damned time. Hoody Hoo! 9/10

The Mice Templar #1

Mike Oeming's long worked on project finally bears mousy fruit! Written by his pal Bryan J.L. Glass, Mice Templar delivers. Essentially, this is Conan meets Watership Down with some Star Wars Jedi thrown in. Except with mice. And not be Mouse Guard. In fact, this bears little semblance to Mouse Guard, as it's more visceral and gritty. Mice Templar is pretty violent, too. Not something for the little kiddies. The basic plot is a coming of age story, and a quest that demands a boy becomes a hero. With a mentor. Sound familiar? I didn't say this was all that original. Even with that, this comic kicked ass. It was also nice to see that there were no ads! Just cover to cover comic goodness for a measly 4 bones. If you are into sword & sorcery, fantasy, and adventure, I cannot recommend this highly enough. There were a couple moments where I felt the story seemed disjointed, but this is a minor nitpick. It could have also just been me being tired. So, no worries. This title is everything I hoped it would be, with Glass and Oeming demonstrating what artistic vision is all about. Glass is someone who should write more books, and Oeming's art is in top form, with every nuance and quirk of his style enhancing his overall strengths. This is a stylistic book in the vein of Mignola somewhat, and that's high praise indeed coming from the likes of my. It doesn't look like Hellboy, it just reminds me of that particular style. Mike Oeming's art has been hit or miss with me over the years (though more hit than miss, I will happily claim), but this may be the best thing he has done so far in his career. It looks like he poured himself into it. It also reads that way, too. All in all, a great book and big rat-free kudos go out to these guys for getting this out there. Click on the heading link for a whole bunch of great information on Mice Templar. 9.1/10

Whew! That's it for today, kids. Man, this is like a love-fest! Do I ever really bitch about anything? Sure I do. It just so happens that I've been lucky, lately. Just wait until I'm not so lucky. Then you'll see... Muahahaha-- Uh, yeah.

Thanks for reading! Always feel free to drop me a line.

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