Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Combat and the Siege Engine


We are required to put a pic in hahaah

Below are several options for creating or recreating a siege engine mechanic for Castles and Crusades. Please feel free to correct my math or any mistakes you might note. Add suggestions etc. Let us work through this as a team!!! LOL

In the original document there were no armor classes (1). Armor was a CL.

No armor                             CL0

Leather                                CL2

Chain                                   CL5

Plate                                     CL8

Encased                               CL10


An attack was a siege check. An attack was a strength check. (2) A successful hit is scored on an 18 or better. (3)

As you can see in the chart below the chances to hit were high and the dice range was huge.

 Prime                    Secondary                           Modifiers

+6                           +2                                           Add level and modifiers as usual

1st level                Fighter(P)            Wizard (P)           Wizard (S)

CL0                         +7                           +6                           +2

Range                     8-28                       7-27                       3-23

Chance to hit         50%                        45%                        25%

Current                  55%                        50%                        50%


5th level                Fighter(P)            Wizard (P)           Wizard (S)

CL0                         +16                         +12                         +8

Range                     17-36                     13-32                     9-29

Chance to hit          95%                        75%                        50%

Current                  75%                        60%                        60%


In this chart only the BtH is added. As you can see, this differentiated the fighting classes in quick order and gave a preponderance of importance to strength as a prime even for nonfighting classes. It is a game where, at the end of the day, the swift sword rules.


Prime                    Secondary                           Modifiers

+6                           +2                                           Add Base to Hit (BtH) and modifiers as usual

1st level                Fighter(P)            Wizard (P)           Wizard (S)

CL0                         +7                           +6                           +2

Range                    8-28                       7-27                       3-23

Chance to hit         50%                        45%                        25%

Current                  55%                        50%                        50%


5th level                Fighter(P)            Wizard (P)           Wizard (S)

CL0                         +11                         +7                           +3

Range                   12-31                     8-27                       4-23

Chance to hit         75%                        55%                        30%

Current                 75%                        60%                        55%


One: By original I mean the second or third draft because the 1st draft was almost wholesale rejected.

Two: This is not entirely true because for some types of attacks it was a dexterity check.

Three: In the original document the target number was 20. This was changed because it was viewed as too difficult.

 Note: There were three iterations of the game in the development process before the final was settled on. All iterations have been lost except the final. The final was also reworked to some extent to accommodate current (circa 2005) gaming structures and was ‘off-balance’ from the first three iterations in certain areas. For example; through the first three iterations we kept the experience point valuations I had developed. In the final writeup, those valuations were amended for certain classes. Those original notes may be somewhere at Steve’s house. I routinely drop stuff off at Steve’s for safe keeping. I am very poor at keeping stuff. Steve is not. They may show up. There is a red notebook somewhere containing all those notes Mac and myself compiled under a yellow light on my front porch. This is why we call it the Red Book.

Bonus to Initiative!? Madness.

For some reason I never allow the characters to add their dexterity bonus to their initiative. Castles & Crusades does, in the rules, suggest that you add the bonus to the roll. Though I don’t know if Advanced Dungeons & Dragons did, or does, but if it did, I never allowed it to. I went from that game to C&C, and have never allowed the dexterity bonus to come into play with initiative.

When asked why that was, I couldn’t give a decent answer. I wasn’t sure why. Somewhere in some dark corner of my GM’s mind, the roll should be pure, leaving it all to chance. Or so I surmise. But that doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t sound like me. I’m know I had valid argument for it once, long ago, as we used to sit and discuss things like this back in the woebegone days.

If I were to roll the dice though, I think my argument went something like this. Animals are fast. Sweet good lord, they are fast. I can’t imagine any upright two legs with the soft cushions of civilization in their past, equaling the lion’s speed. And by default, you can assume the manticore moves every bit as fast as the lion or wolf or the fabled honey badger. No matter what, getting the drop on them is tough. So the advantage that comes with an 18 dex, just doesn’t seem to fit.

Mechanically my argument probably went like this. Because monsters do not have attributes listed in either game (I know they do in modern versions of Dungeons and Dragons), but they can arguably be faster than people, then it puts the characters at an unfair advantage (which is a horrid way to put that) as they are the only ones with the bonus.

Maybe it was one or both of those. Maybe something else I forgot?

Regardless, when you show up at my table, and I hope that you do. You aren’t going to add your dexterity bonus to your initiative roll!

Next week we gear up for the latest release of the Castles & Crusades Players Handbook (8th printing, available for sale on December 6, 2021).

Word of the Day -- Vapid

Frequent readers of the wotd post will remember that my wife and I love puzzles and word games.  This is word in the quiz the other day that I missed.  For some reason I thought it meant something erratic or a fast beat, but in reality:

Vapid -- lacking flavor, zest, interest, animation, or spirit 

means, in a word, boring.  I'm always annoyed when I miss a word in the puzzle, but I'm also excited because that means it's something that I can dive into.  Here's a bit from Merriam-Webster:

Then away goes the brisk and pleasant Spirits and leave a vapid or sour Drink. So wrote John Mortimer, an early 18th-century expert on agriculture, orchards, and cider-making, in his book on husbandry. His use was typical for his day, when vapid was often used specifically in reference to liquor. The term, which entered English in the 17th century, comes from vapidus, a Latin word that means "flat-tasting" and may be related to vapor. These days, you're likely to hear people referring to wine as vapid. You're likely to hear the word in plenty of other situations, too. Vapid, along with the synonyms insipid, flat, and inane, is often used to describe people and things that lack spirit and character.

Now we know!

Morning Myth – Lamia and Infidelity

A Cautionary Tale


I was looking at the lamia yesterday. Now there is an interesting tale of which I knew only a smidgen. Lamia was a queen in Lybia of whom Zeus grew overly fond. The two had many children. Hera, not delighted by this turn of events, kidnapped all Lamia’s children and did something with them. 

As with most Greek tales of that age, there is nothing but suffering for all. Lamia went on a bender and started kidnapping and eating children. She could also appear very beautiful and had an appetite for luring men into ‘uncompromising’ situations, killing them and then drinking their blood or eating them. These were/are unending benders. Her actions either turned her into a monster or she was later morphed into one by Hera or others.  

Lamia was also cursed and could never close her eyes. This prevented sleep and kept her constantly obsessing over her lost children. She lived in eternal anguish. Zeus did two things for Lamia as assuage the tragedy of her life. The first was to giver her second sight so she could see into the future (which, in all honesty, sounds like a punishment rather than a gift) and the ability to remove her eyes. The latter allowed her to sleep I suppose and not obsess over her children.

Over the ages, Lamia became a byword for various types of creatures of the night that kidnapped children and lured men into situations they would have been better off avoiding. Some essential elements of the Lamia remained solid throughout this time. She was evil, kidnapped children, and killed men. 

Reading up on the Greek myths, as opposed to northern Scandinavian and Mongol mythologies, I have come to the conclusion that Greek men of that age had a significant issue with fidelity. It seems to me that most stories of woe begin with an affair or involve an affair of some type. Imagine that, a whole mythology based around infidelity and cautionary tales for those who engage in such. Though it seems unfair that the women seem to be the one’s being punished more often than not. 

I find myself growing fond of these evil beasts - yet again. At some point in my gaming career I started to create personalities for the beasts the players were supposed to kill. These would, over the years, become quite elaborate with long back stories, motivations, and a host of ancillary material. I also found myself more and more reluctant to allow the players to kill some of the beasts. 

One in particular is a Lamia named Antione who decided to take revenge upon the whole of mankind for an injustice. She has, what is called, the Black Menagerie. Antione is one of my favorite villains and no one, in 40 years, has ever slain her. 

Those write-ups are what prompted Steve to ask me to do the series for the patreon account. In that, I do a weekly 1k word mini-adventure. The latest is muck dwellers and mudmen. I don't care if anyone slays them.

In the Castles and Crusades Monsters and Treasure we have a lamia and a queen lamia. The queen lamia is more akin to Lamia whereas the lamia are more akin to later renderings. below are a couple of adventure ideas.

Adventure Hook: A local baron's son has gone missing. The baroness hires the party to go to every bar and tavern in the area to roust him out and return him before he creates an unexpected heir. The problem is, he is not in any bar or tavern but has eloped with a lamia.

Adventure Hook: A wealthy merchant hires the party to escort her to a far away city. It would be a long journey and she wants more protection than she has. She is, of course, a lamia and has set her eyes upon one of the characters for feasting.

Lamia (This is a chaotic evil magical beasts whose vital statistics are HD 9d10, HP 65, AC 20, BtH +9, and Move 60 feet. Her primary attributes are mental. She wears a ring of polymorph self, ring of mind shielding, bracelet of charm, +3 necklace of resistance, and +2 vest of protection. She wields a +3 poisoned dirk, +2 dagger of wounding, or attack with two claws for 1d4 damage each in combat. She carries iron bands of binding, a potion of invisibility, a potion of heal, potion of ethereal jaunt, and 20,000gp in coin and jewelry.)

Interested in the Lamia? I would suggest beginning here.


A New Blog to Watch - Overpriced Popcorn: Film Reviews for the Rest of Us


Jason Vey, the writer and line developer for Amazing Adventures, regular contributor to Castles & Crusades, and 5e developer for TLG, has a blog going that you should be watching if you're into fandom, but tired of the toxic dismissal of just about every movie that comes out. Jason's blog is called Overpriced Popcorn: Film Reviews for the Rest of Us, and looks at current and sometimes older films with a different eye than you generally get from critics and fandom. It's true that Jason's reviews are generally celebratory, but he tries to take a balanced views to the films he reviews, looking at each film in terms of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (the latter being the visuals and technical execution, both positive and negative). At the end he delivers a summary along with a rating of 1 to 5 "tubs of popcorn." 

After years in film school resulting in a minor in film studies from the University of Pittsburgh, Jason grew tired of the constant jaded dismissal of movies by professional critics, and has little patience for the toxicity of fandom in general (which has only gotten worse since negativists have bizarrely decided that those who enjoy things are actually the toxic ones). He decided to put his money where his mouth is, use his education and skills as a writer, and look at films with a different eye: a balanced view that he calls "Film reviews for the rest of us." 

He doesn't always hit the mark, but by and large his reviews offer a variant perspective and are interesting to read. They are very much recommended. 

A few of his recent film reviews include:

Every so often he'll also whip in an insight into popular culture in general there, recommend podcasts, and the like. As we all know, these are the things that inspire us for our RPG campaigns, so if you're looking for some ideas for your next Castles & Crusades or Amazing Adventures game, check it out and read a few reviews!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Word of the Day -- Quisling

This is one of those words that just sounds totally different than you think what it ought to mean.  It sounds like something to do with a test or trivia.  But in actuality is from a person's name:

Quisling -- one who commits treason : traitor, collaborator..

Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian army officer who in 1933 founded Norway's fascist party. In December 1939, he met with Adolf Hitler and urged him to occupy Norway. Following the German invasion of April 1940, Quisling served as a figurehead in the puppet government set up by the German occupation forces, and his linguistic fate was sealed. Before the end of 1940, "quisling" was being used generically in English to refer to any traitor. Winston Churchill, George Orwell, and H. G. Wells used it in their wartime writings. Quisling lived to see his name thus immortalized, but not much longer. He was executed for treason soon after the liberation of Norway in 1945.



A Proper Homage to AD&D

 With the release date for the 8th printing of the Castles & Crusades Players Handbook set for December 6, 2021 (on our store, it will be in local shops in January), it seems fitting to explain a little about what we've been with it. 

There are two basic changes to the PHB the Monsters & Treasure and Castle Keepers Guide. The first are the covers. The second is the interior layout. I'll talk about the second tomorrow in detail, but today just want to point out the covers.

Each of these three books comes in two covers: the standard cover and the alternate or tribute cover. The standard cover is the wonderful panoramic art by Peter Bradley that paints a story from cover to cover. 

The alternate/tribute are homage covers to the original covers of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons covers that sprang into our lives back in the 70s and early 80s and launched an entire new industry that eventually blossomed from table top to video game. Those covers are iconic for all gamers and nostalgic for older gamers. We felt it was high time to pay tribute to these mighty predecessors to Castles & Crusades and there is no better place to do it then the front covers.

Jason Vey put this beautiful montage together. You can enjoy the original and the C&C tribute covers all here. 

The Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, 8th printing goes on sale on December 6!

Morning Myth - The Naga

Change “Our Game” (1)

Before It Is Too Late (2)

Ahh, the naga. My beloved naga. I’ve always liked the naga. Over the years, as I became more familiar with them, I came to like them even more. So much so, that I even visit naga shrines.

The naga has commonly been portrayed as evil in the western lore. At some point recently good nagas have appeared. I suppose this happened as others did more research. As far as we (they) know, the naga originated in India as a race of divine beings in Hindu mythology. The naga thence migrated throughout southeast Asia and into China. (3)

The naga are snake/human hybrids. They can appear with human torsos and snake bodies, snake torsos and human bodies, fully human, or fully snake. They are more like cobras than any they snake. There are male nagas and female naginis, can and do breed with humans (4). As a general rule, the naga are viewed as beneficent to humans and not a natural adversary. They are associated, variously, with fertility, wealth, rain, and similar. A naga even protected the buddha during his seven days of meditation. (5)

Insert image of budda

That said, Brahma relegated the nagas to go and live with the other semie-divine beings because they had become so numerous and a pest to man. This is because by and large, nagas are still all-too-human. I found this interesting because, though generally beneficial, certain snakes can be dangerous. In some areas of India there are still snake rounding up and killing festivals to clear an area for crops or building. Imagine that? In other traditions the nagas live amongst people, especially amongst the traditions of southeast Asia, Nepal, and Tibet.

The nagas are to be split in the next release of the Monsters and Treasures (6). Some will remain in the MT and others will be moved to the Monsters of Legends book. (7) They will not be evil malignant creatures for the most part. I have to peel out a few because they can be dangerous.

For general reference begin here and as always, enjoy your day and be sure to check out the Monsters andTreasure and Mythos Series. Both produced by Troll Lord Games and shipped directly to you if you buy them.  

1: See last blog (Source: link)

2: Better late than never so they say. I don’t know who ‘they’ are but sometimes better never than late is, for lack of a better word, better. (Source: George Bernard Shaw)

3: I actually can not find a source for this. I have not done proper research so this is just random neural firings creating a memory for me. All my myth books and general reference or research material are in boxes. I am still unpacking after 8 years. (Source: 80 boxes of books in my garage.)

4: There was a royal line in India that once claimed, as its right to rule, that its founding king mated with a naga to produce semi-divine heirs something close to that anyway. (Source: Scattered memories.)

5: I don’t know why but I like this short article, perhaps because the author considered the subject matter with care. Tone as it were. ( https://www.burmese-art.com/about-buddha-statues/naga-buddha-statues-with-snake )

6: Or next next. This matter has not been fully nor even partially resolved. 

7: See six above.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

There Are No Myths But The Myths


Redefine Myth (1)

In Your Game (2)

(Foremention: All my asides, missives, digressions, and inanities will be appended as footnotes at the end of my writing. For the most part anyway. Ignore them at your leisure.)

The word myth has always sat lopsided with me. Its meaning contains both too much and too little and not just enough. It is used as a meager honorific and a dastardly pejorative. I think most of us use it in the same manner most of the time or at least understand the intent when another uses it. (3) That said, it does not do its most common application justice. Myth implies a lie, a dissimulation, a falsity, almost a neanderthalic (4) set of beliefs about the world.  


All that aside as it is not germane to the discussion at hand. (5)

Are there Myths in your Game? (bold)

The long and short answer to the question is yes and no and maybe. (6) In most games, the deities are real so they are not really myths now are they? Those monsters from legend appear in the gameverse (7) so would not really be myths now would they? I think one can see where I am going with this. These deities and beasts of legend and myth in our world are not beasts of legend and lore in the gameverse. They live and breathe in the gameverse. (8)

FYI, we have a mythic series. You will really enjoy it. Link here. I also wrote (I keep forgetting this) Gods and Legends.

Are there myths in your game? Can there be myths in your game? I would hazard that all things are possible in the gameverse, so let’s just say yes and yes. But remember, if one uses the common understanding of myth, it only applies to something ‘not real.’ (9) So, what is considered myth here is not myth there.

A myth would be a belief in something doing something that ultimately turns out not to be the case. (10) For example, X deity doing Y event never actually happened and, in fact X deity does not exist and Y event never even happened. This could be anything from a poorly remembered and recorded event to an intentionally misremembered/recorded event to prop up some system such as donations to a temple or obeisance to a lord of the realm who claims divine blood. The big reveal of an adventure or story arc could be the discovery of a myth or intentional contrivance. (11)

Yes and Yes

My point to this idle ramble is that perhaps, as Masters of the Game, the Keepers of the Castle, and stuff, we need to rethink what a myth is and how it works in the worlds we run and the players adventure in. Take a look at yesterday’s blog post (LINK IT). Artemis was angry that she was not properly worshipped and she acted on that anger. That would happen in the gameverse. The deities are not a myth. Their actions are real. On the other hand. Take the myth of the Fouke Monster down in my neck of the woods. It does not exist. In the gameverse, a Fouke Monster (12) may not exist as well but everyone believes it to exist.  

1 By redefine ‘myth’ I mean dispense with it altogether. I think we all understand sorta generically it refers to stories about gods and stuff, that a myth describes something that is not true, falsely explains certain events, and yadda yadda. Myths are actually much more than that. Myths are chthonian and are as true as any other contrivance in explaining events or phenomena in our universe.

2 Let’s just agree to call it “Our Game”

3 Which completely contradicts my opening sentence. Nevertheless, I shall sally forth into frothy waters.  

4 Not sure if that’s a word. If its not, it should be. Actually, probably not in the manner I am using it.

5 I could go on and on and on about this but won’t.

6 I am, if nothing else, committed to noncommitment.

7 I like making up words. Here is one, constabulate. That would mean a constable of some similar office holder of the ‘public good’ making pronouncements, rules, and judgements commiserate to their power but not necessarily within the pervue of the appointed powers of their office. Constables and others constantly constabulate to affect more power over those they ‘serve.’

8 I think this whole discussion of myth in my head started with what to name the upcoming book on monsters of myth and legend. I was really thinking of a title and did not think myth belonged in in it. I’ve moved on from that now. Let us see where I land. Maybe back to the question, maybe somewhere else. Can't say, not knowing.

9 Not real in the sense that X deity did Y event in our world.

10 Disregarding, for the moment, the previously mentioned idea that myths are as true as any other belief in explaining the world’s workings.

11 Returning to the elemental truth or utility of myths, one could run with the discovery of falsehood and revelation to a populace who adhere t0 that belief. Since commonly held myths are a social glue and set of instructions on how to behave, the destruction of the myth could cause a social breakdown, revolution, and yadda dadda. Just run with it. 

12. There is even a documentary. I worked in Boggy Creek for a year. I never saw a monster but I did decide to move out west to the high desert after I was done.

Songs from the Drowned Lands ~ Kernaghan

Recently I took a trip to New York (the city) and needed something to read that I could easily carry on the plane. I don't really buy pa...