Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum

The Castles & Crusades Codecies series are great books to add some flavor and history to your game.  While overtly for the Castles & Crusades game they can be used by nearly any game.  I reviewed the Codex Celtarum a while back and I loved it. So I picked up all the others.
Since I am currently on a big Greek Mythology kick, let's have a look at Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum.

Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum
For this book, I am reviewing the PDF only since that is what I have at hand at the moment.
The PDF is 146 pages with color covers and black & white interiors.  The art is up to the high standards you should expect from Troll Lords with plenty of evocative art from Peter Bradley.   Like the other books in this series, this one was written by Brian Young, who has the educational background to tackle these books.
Brian introduces us to the material with an apology that this book could have been twice as large and not cover everything.  Indeed, the book's scope is ambitious with what we normally consider Classical Mythology; the stories of the Greeks and the Romans with some Etruscans thrown in for good measure.  Ambitious indeed.

Note: There are a couple of errors in the hyperlinked table of contents in the PDF, but nothing that keeps anyone from enjoying the book.

Chapter 1 covers the actual history of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans...or as much as can be done in 20 or so pages.  There are actual history and mythical histories.  The myth in this section and book takes heavily, as can be expected, from Hesiod's Theogony.  It's like being back in Freshman Classics all over again!  The section, for its brevity, is well thought out and hits on the big pictures and themes.  I suppose if you want more you can always read Theogony yourself.  In fact, do that, anyone that is a gamer should have a basic understanding of the Classical Myths.

Chapter 2 details the all-important geography of the area.  Why "all-important"? Because the Greeks and the later Romans were products of their environments; their history, religions and myths were influenced by their geography to an extreme extent.  From the Greek city-states of early antiquity, to rise of the power Athens and Macedonia and in the literal center of it all, the Mediterranean Sea.
Again, this chapter is a quick overview, but a better one than I have seen in other game books.
This chapter also covers mythical locations (but not the mythical worlds just yet).  Remember to the Greeks these places were places just as real as everything else.  One could, if they so desired, walk to the underworld. That is if they knew the way.
This chapter also introduces the Explorer/Adventurer class.  Something that feels right at home in the world of the Greeks or the worlds of Gygax.  Some should convert this to another system and see how it plays out.

Chapter 3 features the monsters and beasts of the Classical World.  There are a lot of old favorites here and well as new representations of other favorites.  Of course, this is one of my favorite chapters.  Greek myth got me into D&D via the Monster Manual and there are a lot of monsters here that get right in the 1979 nostalgia.  My only disappointment here is that is no art of any of the monsters. I know we all know what most of these creatures look like, but I still feel a little cheated in not getting enough Peter Bradley art.

Chapter 4 is my favorite.  Monsters got me into D&D and RPGs, but it was magic that kept me coming back. Chapter 4 features Greek and Roman sorcery and magic including necromancy and prophecy.   Even the most casual reader of the classic myths should know how important Oracles are to the tale.  From Jason to Perseus to the tragedy of Oedipus, Oracles move the story forward. Here we get our next class, the Oracle (with notes on how these mouthpieces of the gods work in the other Codies).  Unlike the Pathfinder Oracle, this one is not a spellcaster but a reader of omens. It also requires a fairly experienced player to play to make proper use of it.
Also featured here is the Nekuomantis, or the classical Greek necromancer.  In many ways, this is the true necromancer before RPGs got ahold of the archetype.  These characters speak to the dead to learn secrets and the future.

Chapter 5 deals with the Gods and Titans and other immortal creatures.  It is fairly comprehensive compared to all other game books and very helpful in populating the ranks of the Immortals.

Chapter 6 focuses more on the humans and mortals of the world.  The heroes and their issues.  The basics of the Greek and Roman armies are also covered.  This chapter also introduces the Gladiator class.

All in all a great overview but also leaving me with the desire for some more.  Still I rather enjoyed it and can see a lot of uses for it.

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