At the beginning of June I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the playtest version of Crypts & Things, being published by D101 Games. It is way too early to give a complete review of the game, but today I would like to share an overview of some of the things Crypts & Things will offer, as well as a few personal observations along the way.
I have had a few weeks to peruse the playtest files Newt Newport was kind enough to send my way, and overall I have a very positive feeling about the game. Crypts & Things (C&T from here) is a variant of the Swords & Wizardry (S&W) rules, fine tuned for dark sword & sorcery action. Though I have not had an opportunity to actually run a game of C&T, I can say with confidence that this is my favorite variant of the S&W rules I have read so far.
Here are a few things C&T will offer that sets the game apart (my personal comments are in brackets):
- First, the game dials back the standard Tolkien influence found in most fantasy games, and ramps up the Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber influences. [Love it!]
- To bring a strong sword & sorcery flavor, Elves, Dwarves and Halflings have been omitted from the game. Humans only for player characters. [This is the type of game I prefer, so I highly approve.]
- A Barbarian character class has been added, which was inspired by a version of the class first published in White Dwarf magazine in 1977. [White Dwarf!!! 'Nuff said...]
- Fighting styles have been included, which adds a way to help differentiate one Fighter from another.* [Anyone who has been paying attention will know that I have implemented my own version of this into my game, so Newt and I are on the same page here.]
- The Magician class has been added, which replaces the Magic-User and Cleric.*
- Magic has three flavors, White, Grey and Black.* Magic-User and Cleric spells are combined into a single spell list. There are no spells in the game above level 6, except Restoration, which is a 6th level spell in C&T. [I think this is a very sensible approach that reflects the sword & sorcery setting.]
- Damage characters suffer in combat is handled through Hit Point (exhaustion and fatigue) and Constitution (actual life points) loss.* [This has been a long standing house rule of mine, so two big thumbs up!]
- Casting spells causes exhaustion, so a number of Hit Points are lost depending on the spell level. The spell Cure Light Wounds only restores Hit Points and not Constitution loss.* [Once again, great minds think alike.]
- No Vancian magic system, and spells can be cast as many times as a Magician desires.*
- A Thief variant has been added, inspired by the Grey Mouser, so they will lean heavier on their fighting skills than Thieves normally seen in other games.* [Love it!]
- Speaking of thieves, the rules state that every character in the game is essentially a rogue, so everyone has the ability to back stab, which means two damage dice are rolled when a successful attack from behind is performed.* [I love this rule!]
- The ability to Turn Undead has been removed from the game, making undead much more powerful in C&T than seen in other fantasy games.
- During character creation the player can roll on the Life Events chart, which will randomly generates important events that have occurred in the character's past. [I like this... ALOT!]
- A Saving Throw mechanic is used to handle class skills in the game.* [Very cool!]
- Sanity rules have been included, which boil down to Wisdom loss when mental damage and deterioration is suffered.* [This is a very easy and sensible way to handle sanity loss. I approve.]
- The "Compendium of Fiends" has around 120 creatures, with about 60 of those being designed specifically for C&T.
- A fully fleshed out sword & sorcery setting will be included in the book, which is "the dying world of Zarth."
This is just a taste of what C&T has to offer. Taken all together, I would say this is a very complete package. It is really hard for me not to like C&T, mainly because I have implemented many of the same rules, or something remarkably close, in my own game. Newt has taken an approach that is very close to my own vision of what I think a dark sword & sorcery game should be. I know this is just the playtest version, but already the game is coming together nicely and one I suspect the old-school community will enthusiastically embrace.
Final note, Newt asked me to mention that 90% of the alternate rules found in C&T are from Akrasia's OGL Sword & Sorcery house rules. These rules are marked with an asterisk (*) above.