Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: Crypts & Things

Crypts & Things is one of those games that has been sitting in my "to be read" pile forever.  It is an Old School game built off of Swords & Wizardry.  Some of the material is familiar to anyone that has played S&W or any of the various D&D/Retro-clone games.  Where C&T differs is in scope (what the characters can eventually do vs what the creatures can already do) and tone.  C&T is very much "Conan vs. The Horrors".  It tries to go after the same ethos as say Dungeon Crawl Classics or Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  I think though it succeeds where those two games fail with me because it still assumes that the characters, rough cut as they are, are still something of a hero.

The game begins with the same basic info on Abilities found in all old-school games.  We get to classes.  Here there are some changes.  The Barbarian is a core class for example.  The Magic-User and Cleric are now rolled into a Magician, which is not a bad change really.  They are stronger than their OSR counterparts (d6 HD vs the more common d4).  The Magician also can channel White, Grey or black magic; so effectively 3 classes. The other classes are Fighter and Thief.  If you don't like Clerics (as a seperate class), well this is your game.

Hit points are also handled differently in C&T. It is less health and more a measure of health, will, and determination to live. Honestly it is the same as a house rule I used to use back in the day.

There is a completely old-school Random Life Events table (which, like most everything in this book, can be used with other games).There are a few pages on equipment, on styles of play and about 20 pages of spells.
Additionally there is a minimalist Sanity mechanic that I thinks works rather well.  I am a huge critic of sanity mechanics in RPGs and I feel that most never get it right, especially in a heroics-based rpg.  While there is a lot of room for interpretation in these rules, the gist of the rules are good.  I can certainly say I don't hate this mechanic.

The rest of the book (about 3/5 ths) is devoted to the game master or Crypt Keeper. This includes a little bit about the assumed game world, a pastiche of Howard, Lovecraft, Smith, Moorcock and other Appendix N luminaries.  Normally I scoff at this, but here it works rather well.  More to point it can also be ignored or added as needed since it doesn't take up a lot of space.
Next we have Treasure. Like many games of this sort there is not a lot of magic items.  Indeed there are only 20 total; designed to be rare and special.
After that is the monster listings.  This is what really sets this game above and beyond it's peers.  There are plenty of monsters here both new and old.  There is also a monster creation section.
We end the main book with a sample adventure.
13 Appendices follow that would work for any game and finally a great looking character sheet.

What is Crypts & Things good for?
It is a great addition to any S&W game for starters.  Get it for the monsters alone, or the revised Magician or Barbarian.  There is something here new for you.
It is a great addition to any OSR game for a grittier, "us against the darkness" sort of game.
In terms of horror, it is the subtle creeping horror.  It is somewhere between Ravenloft (minus the camp and cliches) and Call of Cthulhu.  Though unlike those games which has the implication of "looking for trouble" in C&T trouble comes for you.

Honestly almost everything you need to know about C&T is on that cover.  A magician and barbarian fighting snake-like lizard men.

1 comment:

Pun Isaac said...

After reading through the book I have to say I am a fan of how HP are handled.