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Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2013 14:09:54
The Codex Celtarum is written by Brian Young. He is a gamer and an academic in Celtic history and languages and all around nice guy. Honestly he is the kind of guy I want writing this sort of thing. You talk to him and get the feeling that he could immediately tell you a story from the Mabinogion and it would roll off his tongue like the bards of old. This is the guy you want working on your Celtic game.

The first thing I noticed in his introduction was his acknowledgement of the differences in legend and in history and where he was putting his cards. For me, as someone that has had to have the same tug of war, the value of this book went up several degrees.
Before moving on to the book itself I spent a lot of time with Castles & Crusades again, this time from the point of view of a Celtic-themed game. Honestly I think it might be one of the better systems to do it with.

The book itself is divided into eight sections plus the forward.
Now at this point it should be noted that the design of this book is to play in a Faery realm, so it is something you can drop into any game world. There are some game-based assumptions made, but nothing to keep you from making this your own.

Chapter 1: Once Upon A Time covers the creation of the Celtic universe including the various wars that happened at the dawn of time and various personalities. We are introduced to various gods. The Horned One and the Blue Hag take central stage. At this point I want to say that reading this is like reading a story of old as an adult; familiar yet nuanced in ways I didn't know then. For me the myths and tales this is based on are familiar, but this is new telling for a new world. We are treated to so many names that are familiar and new at the same time; The Tuatha Dé Dannan, Danu, Lir, Goíbhníu, it's like hearing the names of old friends. In a mere 6 pages we have the whole background of the world to the present day. Nothing extra, nothing left out.

Chapter 2: In Lands Far Away details the physical and metaphysical lands of Faery and mortal plane they touch. There are the Two Cauldrons, Night & Day (which have affects on the faery) and the Twelve Houses of the Gods (with a cool map). Given the subject the human lands are the British Ilses and Ireland and given the author we get a lot of Welsh names. The faery lands don't have the same rules of nature as the mortal realms. So there are some tables about the odd passage of time or the nature of the land. Normally I would balk at this sort of randomness, but here it not only works, it is part and parcel of the mythos. BTW if you don't quite recognize the map of the lands, hold it up to a mirror.

Chapter 3: There Lived a People has everything you want to know about the Faery races. This includes the major sub-races (Light, Darkness and Twilight) and traits faeries can have. Now the utility of this chapter should be obvious. I will also add that if you want to give your FRPG Elves a nice shot in the arm then adopt this part of book. We are given detail (in terms of monster stat blocks) of the Children of Light, Children of Twilight and Children of Darkness. Nearly every Celtic-fae type is here in one form or another. There are lot of new creatures here (unless you are very familiar with Celtic myths) and some that I don't believe have ever been featured in a game book before. There are also plenty of Faery beasts and supernatural animals. We also get some giants, but no stats since they are legendary.

Chapter 4: Great of Magic and Power details, what else, magic. If human wizards study magic and human priests pray for it then the Fae ARE magic. The distinction is not a subtle one. The magical powers here are listed as spells. So they can be used by the fae as if they were spells, but that robs them of what makes them so interesting. Instead go with the suggestion in the book that each member of the fae get a number of special powers based on their intelligence. And there are plenty of powers here! If you are anything like me and love magic, spells or powers for characters then this chapter alone is worth the price of the book. I have to admit I am pleased to see similar powers here as to what I have in Ghosts of Albion under Faerie Powers. It tells me that we were drawing from similar sources. There are plenty of differences though allowing for personal preference, but it shows that Brian and I were thinking along similar lines.

Chapter 5: Strong of Feats and Deeds handles what the Celts did best. Fighting. Well they did other things too, but this is what those stories were all about. If your fighting-type characters felt left out in the last chapter, then this is one help you out. Plenty of options. I particularly liked the Tattoo magic. There are feats as well. Before you panic these are feats in the traditional sense of the word and there are only a score of them. If you have read any of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, then these are the feats of Cú Chulainn. There are also some fighting orders detailed such as The War Sisters, the Fian (Fianna) and the Dragons of Prydain (of which the most famous is Arthur).

Chapter 6: With Great Gods and Heroes covers the gods, demigods and heroes of the lands. We have been introduced to a few already like The Horned One and his wild Hunt. Arthur is mentioned as well as my personal favorite Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool). There are no stats for these gods or heroes. Why? That is easy. They are not meant to be killed or even interacted with. They are the legends of this land.

Chapter 7: Great of Name and Mighty of Deeds covers new rules. First up are changes to the various character classes. Not a lot needs to be altered here. Again as I mentioned above, the classes in C&C are based around concepts and skills rather than powers, these can translate better. There are some new classes too. The Woodwose is something like a wildman, a mix of barbarian and ranger. These are humans that have lived in Faery a little too long. The Wolf Charmer are something like a Beast Master. They charm animals to follow them. There are some adventure hooks from classical Celtic tales. A list of names for characters from Brythonic and Gaelic roots.

The last part, Chapter 8: Items Enchanted and Divine, are all the pieces that didn't fit above. But it still has a lot of good material. We get a nice discussion on Faery Metals and how they can be used. There is a list of divine items (artifacts in other games) listed by owner; that's right the Gáe Bulga is not just lying around waiting for you to find it. No this +8 spear (!) is well in the hands of Cú Chulainn.
Ogham is discussed and the various societies and cultures of the heroic age; the Picts, the Britons, the Anglo-Saxons and the Gaels. Holidays around the isles are also detailed.
We end with a map.

Ok. So what can say here.
First the book is absolutely excellent. I am insane with jealousy on how good it is really. At 176 pages it crams a lot into space. I love the feel of this book. There is something about that just feels right to me and it makes C&C the perfect system to play a Celtic-based Faery game. Now. Some points of clarification again. This isn't a book about playing in a Celtic society per se. There is no "day in the life of a Celtic warrior" bit. Only lip service is given to Bronze Age tech or what the larger Gaelic society was like. Also this book isn't about playing "weird elves". There is nothing here for example from the Germanic tradition of Faerie stories. The aim of this book is very specific. If you are looking for one of the above sorts of books then this might not fit your bill.
But if you are looking for a book to play in that intersection of Celtic myth and Faery lore, then this is the book you want.
As with all C&C books the layout is clean and easy to read. The art is fantastic.
If you are a fan of Celtic myth, Faery lore, or Castles & Crusades then I highly recommend this book. Even if you don't play C&C, I would get this book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
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BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules
Publisher: Dreamscape Design
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 14:00:36
At 60 pages it is a small but complete retro-clone of the Holmes Basic game.
The price is great. If you are looking to get into the Old School Renascence and play some old-school games, then this a great place to start.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules
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Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 6
Publisher: Art Fantasies
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 13:57:34
11 hi-res Computer 3-D images. Both in JPG and TIFF formats.
Easy to understand and use license. Images are predominately fantasy and maybe even a little Cheesecake. But that is what it says it is on the cover, so that is exactly what I was wanting/buying. Vague anime feel to all the images, again, to be expected and what I was looking for. But not as much as previous volumes in this series. You can see the growth of the artist(s) in these.
Not sure where I'll use them yet, but I have them for when I do.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 6
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Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 5
Publisher: Art Fantasies
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 13:56:20
11 hi-res Computer 3-D images. Both in JPG and TIFF formats.
Easy to understand and use license. Images are predominately fantasy and maybe even a little Cheesecake. But that is what it says it is on the cover, so that is exactly what I was wanting/buying. Vague anime feel to all the images, again, to be expected and what I was looking for.
Not sure where I'll use them yet, but I have them for when I do.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 5
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Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 4
Publisher: Art Fantasies
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 13:55:17
11 hi-res Computer 3-D images. Both in JPG and TIFF formats.
Easy to understand and use license. Images are predominately fantasy and maybe even a little Cheesecake. But that is what it says it is on the cover, so that is exactly what I was wanting/buying. Vague anime feel to all the images, again, to be expected and what I was looking for.
Not sure where I'll use them yet, but I have them for when I do.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 4
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Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 3
Publisher: Art Fantasies
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 13:54:10
11 hi-res Computer 3-D images. Both in JPG and TIFF formats.
Easy to understand and use license. Images are predominately fantasy and maybe even a little Cheesecake. But that is what it says it is on the cover, so that is exactly what I was wanting/buying. Vague anime feel to all the images, again, to be expected and what I was looking for.
Not sure where I'll use them yet, but I have them for when I do.
This one has a couple of witches and demoness I really like.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 3
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Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 2
Publisher: Art Fantasies
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 13:53:13
11 hi-res Computer 3-D images. Both in JPG and TIFF formats.
Easy to understand and use license. Images are predominately fantasy and maybe even a little Cheesecake. But that is what it says it is on the cover, so that is exactly what I was wanting/buying. Vague anime feel to all the images, again, to be expected and what I was looking for.
Not sure where I'll use them yet, but I have them for when I do. A good number of witches in this, which I like.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 2
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Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 1
Publisher: Art Fantasies
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 13:52:08
11 hi-res Computer 3-D images. Both in JPG and TIFF formats.
Easy to understand and use license. Images are predominately fantasy and maybe even a little Cheesecake. But that is what it says it is on the cover, so that is exactly what I was wanting/buying. Vague anime feel to all the images, again, to be expected and what I was looking for.
Not sure where I'll use them yet, but I have them for when I do.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 1
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Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 1,2,3,4,5,6 [BUNDLE]
Publisher: Art Fantasies
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 13:46:46
Bundle of 6 Fantasy Women Clipart. Not bad for the price. See individual volumes for full reviews.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Women Clipart Volume 1,2,3,4,5,6 [BUNDLE]
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Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 09:51:28
Castles & Crusades actually has a number of monster books. Each has a slightly different focus. This one focuses on the game world of Aihrde. The Castles & Crusades Monster stat block is a nice combination of Basic's simplicity, 1st AD&D's comprehensiveness, and some 3.x style rules. Saves are simple (Physical, Mental or both), AC is ascending and there is a "Challenge Rating" stat and XP all factored in. Honestly it really is a synthesis of the best of D&D. Grabbing a monster from another source and converting on the fly really could not be easier.

At first I was not going to get this book. I had all three of the other monster books and this one seemed a bit redundant. But this one had something the others didn't; Demons and Devils. I don't want to say that this is the only reason I got it, but they were conspicuously absent from all the other books. Of course this book has more, a lot more, than just that.

I did enjoy all the new dragons and like it's "parent" book, this book has a bunch of new treasure.
Some of the monsters are world specific, but nothing that can't be worked around. In truth most of these monsters are all brand new to me and that is worth the price of the book alone. Even most of the demons, devils and dragons are new. Likewise for the treasure.
176 pages.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde
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Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2013 09:49:47
This is the main monster and treasure book for C&C. Here you will find what I call the "classic" monsters from the great Monster Manual. If you are familiar with 3.x then these are all the monsters from the SRD in C&C's format. There is plenty of new text here though to make this more than just another SRD-derived book. Like all the C&C books the art and layout is great. I have the physical book, the pdf and a printout of the PDF and all read great.

The Castles & Crusades Monster stat block is a nice combination of Basic's simplicity, 1st AD&D's comprehensiveness, and some 3.x style rules. Saves are simple (Physical, Mental or both), AC is ascending and there is a "Challenge Rating" stat and XP all factored in. Honestly it really is a synthesis of the best of D&D. Grabbing a monster from another source and converting on the fly really could not be easier.

This book though is more than just a monster book, all the treasure and magic items (normally found in a Game Master's book) are here. This is a nice feature really. One place to have your encounter information.

This really is a must have book for any C&C fan. 128 pages and full of everything you need.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure
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Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2013 12:30:55
It is often said that Castles & Crusades is the Rosetta Stone of Old School Gaming. It certainly is that, but there is a lot more going on here than just that. Castles & Crusades is very much a stripped down version of the basic 3.x SRD. As such there are lot of concepts that are modern including a one-roll mechanic for all sorts of situations. Though if that were all then there would be nothing separating this from say True20 or other "lite" d20 iterations. Castles & Crusades plays like good old fashioned D&D. The aesthetic here is 1st Ed. AD&D, with the simplicity of Basic era D&D. The concept is noble and one we see in many of the retro-clones. But where the clones attempt to use the OGL to make an older version of the rules, Castles & Crusades makes it's own rules and instead goes for the feel or nature of the game. So while you will see Thieve's abilities represented by percentage rolls in Basic Fantasy or OSRIC and as a skill in 3.x in C&C it will be a Dexterity check. Simple, elegant and easy. The Ability check, whether your abilities are Prime or Secondary, are a key element of C&C.

The Castle Keepers Guide is the guide for Castles & Crusades Game Masters. It is a massive book at 291 pages. There are some obvious parallels between this book and the immortal Dungeon Master's Guide, but I am going to focus on this text.
Part 1, The Character largely parallels the Players Handbook with advanced discussions on abilities, classes and races in Chapter 1. Magic is covered in detail in Chapter 2. Equipment is expanded on in Chapter 3 and non-player characters are discussed in Chapter 4.
Chapter 1 does give the CK more options than just what is detailed in the Players book. For example the 4d6 method is discussed among others. If you prefer the newer attribute modifiers; ie the ones from the SRD, 3.x where 18 grants a +4, then those are also discussed and how they might affect the game. Along with that abilities of 20 or greater (godlike abilities) are discussed.
For characters, more options are given and experience levels beyond what is listed in the Players Handbook, typically to 24th level.
Chapter 2 on Magic is a must read for anyone like me that loves magic using classes. In particular there lots of good bits on spell components and the prices of various items needed to research spells or make scrolls. The effects of holy ground on clerics is very nice to see.
Chapter 3 details a number of mundane and exotic items not found in the Players book.
Chapter 4 covers NPCs as allies, adversaries or as hired help.
Part 2 covers Worlds of Adventure, or how to build your own fantasy game world. Everything from how many moons, to average tempertures by month and zones is covered. Details you might not ever need, but here for your use when you do need them. I rather liked the large portion devoted to urban settings; something I feel gets shorted in fantasy games. Of course dungeons and other underground environments are covered. As well as air and sea adventures.
Other sections detail equipment usage, land as treasure (and running this land once you have it) and going to war.
Some discussion is had on Monster ecology as well. Trying to make sense of what monsters live in your world and why. The standard monsters from Monsters and Treasure are discussed with an eye to what they are doing in the world; what is their purpose and ecological niche.
Chapter 13: Expanding the Genre is actually the first chapter that attracted me to buying this book. On the outset it covers merging different times with your fantasy world. Say adding guns, Gothic Horror or Pulp Adventures.
Chapters 14 and 15 details some of the underlying assumptions of the SIEGE Engine rules powering Castles & Crusades. This chapter makes a lot more sense in retrospective of reading Amazing Adventures.
Chapter 16 talks a little more about treasure. Chapter 17 about combat.
Chapter 18 adds some secondary Skills to the game. Not needed to play, but certainly will add some more flavor. A Rogue that only steals magical items for example might have a need for Ars Magica.
Finally we end with Character Deaths and Fates.

Castles & Crusades is constructed in such a way that most of the information a Castle Keeper needs is in the Player's book. But if they plan on doing anything other than just dungeon crawls then Castle Keepers guide is a must have. Like the Players Handbook the layout and art is fantastic. I also could not help but notice some really nice pieces from Larry Elmore and Peter Bradley. Always a bonus in my book.

If you are a Game Master of any FRPG based on or around the d20 SRD then I would highly recommend this book. The advice is solid and the mechanics are so easy to translate that it hardly matters what game you are running, it will work with this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide
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Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 6th Printing
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2013 11:34:50
It is often said that Castles & Crusades is the Rosetta Stone of Old School Gaming. It certainly is that, but there is a lot more going on here than just that. Castles & Crusades is very much a stripped down version of the basic 3.x SRD. As such there are lot of concepts that are modern including a one-roll mechanic for all sorts of situations. Though if that were all then there would be nothing separating this from say True20 or other "lite" d20 iterations. Castles & Crusades plays like good old fashioned D&D. The aesthetic here is 1st Ed. AD&D, with the simplicity of Basic era D&D. The concept is noble and one we see in many of the retro-clones. But where the clones attempt to use the OGL to make an older version of the rules, Castles & Crusades makes it's own rules and instead goes for the feel or nature of the game. So while you will see Thieve's abilities represented by percentage rolls in Basic Fantasy or OSRIC and as a skill in 3.x in C&C it will be a Dexterity check. Simple, elegant and easy. The Ability check, whether your abilities are Prime or Secondary, are a key element of C&C.

The Players Handbook is the first book you need for Castles & Crusades. At 140+ pages it is all about getting your character up and going. The abilities here are the same six you have always used and they are even generated by rolling 3d6 and assigning. If you have a different method that you liked back in the day OR if you have adopted some point by system from a new version I see no reason why it would not work here. I am a fan of 4d6, drop the lowest myself. The ability score modifications are a bit different than new OGL games, but are in fact much closer to older games. Bottom line is just pay attention to how many pluses that 18 gives you if you are used to playing newer games.

Next you will choose a class based on your abilities. Each class has a prime ability; one that is most associated with it. So fighters have strength, clerics wisdom, wizards intelligence and so on. Speaking of classes, all the "classics" are here and some new ones. So you have Assassins, Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Illusionists, Knights, Monks, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues and Wizards. There are some minor tweaks that make them different from other versions of the same class in another game, but nothing that made me scream "That's not right!" in fact in most cases I was more inclined to agree with what they did. For example I like the Barbarian for the first time ever. Each class has some special abilities and skills.
In C&C it is assumed that if a character wants to do something that instead of a skill roll an ability check is made. There is Target Number, 12 for Primes (something you are good at) or an 18 for Secondary. You add your mods, any class or race based modifications and there you go. Simple. Skills are no longer of a list of things you can or can't do, but now potential to do or at least try anything. This is something we did back in the old days, but the newer twist here is that this is just the same as any d20 based roll. Be it skills or attack. So Rangers and Barbarians are good at tracking, wizards at arcane lore and so on. makes things pretty easy. So improvement over 3.x games, no tracking skill points.
I have to add, that there is such a cool old-school vibe here that it is just like reading a book from the early 80s. Only with far better layout and art. As another aside, the art is fantastic. I love my old school games and wizards in pointy hats and all, but the wizard in C&C looks AWESOME. I would not mess with that guy, I don't care if he looks like a farmer or not.

Races are up next and all the usual suspects are here.
Races and Classes are built in such away that customization is REALLY easy. If I wanted to play a Goblin here I bet I could rather easy. Every race gets two Prime stats. Typically you want one of these to correspond with your class. Humans get three allowing for their flexibility. All other races also get modifiers to abilities and/or special traits. While the modularity of 3.x is obvious, the feel is still more 1st ed.
We end character creation on completing the character with persona, gods and alignment.
Up next are some lists of equipment and rules on encumbrance. The rules are some of the easiest encumbrance rules I have seen. So far so good? Well we have by this point gotten through roughly a third of the book. Not too bad for 50 pages.

Magic and Spells take up the remaining bulk (65 pages) of the book. Not a surprise given four spell casting classes. Spells are listed alphabetically and range from 0-level cantrips to 9th level spells for each of the four classes. That is a major break from their old-school roots when only wizards had access to 9th level spells.
The spell format itself is also closer to that of 3.x, though no XP penalties that I could see.
The nest 20 or so pages deal with the Castle Keep (GM) of the game. This includes all sorts of advice on how to handle conflict, award XP and even how to set up an adventuring party. Good advice all around to be honest and enough to keep most groups going for a long time.
There is also an appendix on multi-classing as an optional rule. I have not tried it yet, but it looks solid. Not as elegant as what you see in 3.x, but better than what we had in 1st or 2nd ed.

The Players Handbook is all most players will ever need and even some Castle Keepers.
I have the 4th ed version with the black and white interior art and the newer 5th ed with the full color art. Rule wise they are the same, but the full color version is really, really nice and the art is just fantastic.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 6th Printing
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Emily Vitori Designs: Female Ranger and Companion
Publisher: Stardust Publications
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/13/2013 16:08:52
Another piece of what I needed when I needed it. Great looking hi-res TIFF image and easy to understand license.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Emily Vitori Designs: Female Ranger and Companion
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Emily Vitori Designs: Techno-Mage
Publisher: Stardust Publications
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/13/2013 16:06:05
Cool piece. Not something I have an immediate need for, but cool.
Hi-res TIFF image and easy to understand license.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Emily Vitori Designs: Techno-Mage
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