Originally posted: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/07/15/tabletop-review-to-kill-a-king-castles-crusades/
To Kill a King is a follow-up adventure to The Goblins of Mount Shadow. Both adventures can be played stand alone from each other, though locations and characters do repeat. As such, you can play the two back to back as the start of a campaign, or you can play Mount Shadow, play a few more adventures, and then come back to To Kill a King and show how the landscape of the kingdom has changed in their absence.
To Kill a King, as you might have surmised, is all about regicide. Obviously, this is not an adventure designed for good-aligned characters, although it can be run as such by having the players tricked into murdering the king. The team’s rogue, or better yet, assassin takes center stage in this adventure, and I have to admit, I’m really pleased to see an adventure that puts the Assassin class in the spotlight. I have always had a soft spot for the class, going all the way back to First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and so often, the class is treated as an afterthought or like it doesn’t exist. If you have an assassin amongst your players, it’s worth getting this adventure just for them, because let’s be honest – every other adventure for fantasy gaming systems tends to focus on warriors, clerics, thieves and magic-users.
Now, I’m not really a fan of wetworks adventures, as can be seen in my various Shadowrun reviews. Wetworks adventures are notoriously hard to pull off, because they are nothing but cold blooded murder, and while most players and their characters have no problems killing monsters or obviously evil horrors from another dimension, they tend to balk at outright killing a innocent or good aligned person simply for a payday. Most of these wetworks adventures are written in such a way that they are without any branching options or considerations for if/when one or more players refuse the mission, even though this is a well known and commonly occurring problem with these adventures. Thankfully, To Kill a King is not such an adventure. It provides many pages of alternate outcomes and what can happen if some or all of the party says no to the assassination attempt, including everything from a new party of NPCs hired to take the case on up to a rampaging dragon hellbent on destroying the kingdom. I was utterly impressed by the sheer level of detail this adventure has to it, and that every possible outcome has been thought of in advance, and so the Castle Keeper is given ways to plan accordingly and still run the adventure. To Kill a King is one of the most well thought out adventures I’ve ever encountered and I applaud the foresight by the author.
Besides diverging adventure paths based on how the players react to the assassination attempt offer, there is an amazing amount of detail in To Kill a King. NPCs are given a lot of back story and are fully fleshed out. The castle is described down to the smallest nuance. I’m just blown away by how much information, characterization, plot and content is crammed into these twenty-six pages. I’ve honestly seen adventures two or three times as long with less detail put into them. I also loved the sheer amount of political intrigue in this adventure. There are so many factions with shadowy goals and a willingness to let guile and cunning do the work instead of swords and sorcery. It’s so rare that you see an adventure for a fantasy RPG that is all about talking head and politics. I honestly love those types of adventures, because they are so rare and force players to do role-playing instead of roll-playing. Indeed, there is so much under the table backstabbing and doubledealing potential here that To Kill a King feels more like a Vampire: The Dark Ages adventure than your typical Castles & Crusades one.
Best of all, To Kill a King is far more than a single one-shot adventure. The ramifications of the assassination or not taking the job are wide-spread and can affect your C&C campaign for the remainder of its existence. After all, the players have just taken out a king or exposed a conspiracy against him. Are all the nearby kingdoms plunged into war? Will the heroes seek revenge? Will the players be labeled traitors to the realm or heroes? If the king is killed, will they betray their employer by helping someone else gain the throne, or will they themselves be betrayed? There are almost limitless outcomes that can occur from running To Kill a King, creating adventure paths and subplots of their own to ensure there will always be a story to be told or an adventure to be had in your Castles and Crusades campaign. This is simply brilliant, and I really hope To Kill a King gets the attention it deserves and also helps to bring in new players to the system.
To Kill a King is easily my favorite Castles & Crusades adventure of all time, and this is coming from someone who has been playing the system since first edition. Hell, it’s easily one of the best adventures I’ve encountered this entire year, and I’m sure it will be on our short list, if not the winner, for our Adventure of the Year (Solo) award here at Diehard GameFAN come that time of year. To Kill a King is simply an amazing adventure in all respects, and even if you don’t play Castles & Crusades, it’s worth picking up this adventure to try and make it fit in your own fantasy RPG or, at the very least, to see how well done and insightful this piece really is. It’s extremely detailed and yet “open world” enough that the Castle Keeper won’t feel like they are running a generic linear dungeon crawl. Indeed, To Kill a King is the exact opposite of that experience.