Crypts & Things
by Newt Newport (D101 Games)
Type: Swords & Wizardry variant
Availability: Paid print version (soft- and hardback) on LULU. Full PDF on RPGnow. No free version.
Crypts & Things (1st ed)
Form factor: Full old-school feel with brutal barbarian cover by Jon Hodgson and b/w interior art. Some of the art is Arnold-great, while some is about what you see in most OSR type books. The book is nicely organized with a Player’s section (called Scrolls of Wonderous Revelation) and a Game Master’s section (named The Book of Doom). Overall, this book has a lot of that 70s metal vibe going on.
Community: Support for C&T is mainly by the author himself on the publisher’s web page. There is also a sub-group for C&T in the D101 Games group on G+.
Product support: Other than the main rulebook, there are two official supplements for C&T (both adventure modules): Blood of the Dragon for low level characters and Tomb of the Necromancers for characters level 6 to 8. There might be other fan-made supplements out there, but none that I am aware of.
Nota bene: As we speak, there’s a Kickstarter going on for a Remastered version of C&T, including at least three new official modules. The Kickstarter was funded after a week, so a new version of the game is now in the pipeline! Check it out here
Tinkerability: Being a version of S&W, this game is very easy to tinker with, especially using S&W materials.
Compatibility: Excellent. However, there are some major differences in rule mechanics between C&T and most other OSR games that needs to be taken into consideration.
Flavor: Arnold Schwartzenegger. Conan. Elric. Xoth. Black Sabbath. Desert. Chainmail bikinis. Ridiculously large swords. Serpentman Sssorcerors. Cthulhu. Doom. Awesome!
AC: Ascending as well as descending S&W style (unarmored man is AC 10 [AAC] or AC9 [DAC]).
Save: Single save
Level range: 1-21+
Race & Class: C&T is human only for players
Classes included*: Barbarian, Fighter, Magician, Thief
Races included: Human
Hit Dice: Varying according to class (all based on d6)
Monster Hit Dice: Static (d8)
XP charts: Separate table based on class
*The classes might have the same name as in other games, but they differ to varying extent from other incarnations of the game.
Despite being a variant of Swords & Wizardry, Crypts & Things brings a lot of simple but innovative changes to the “standard OSR” table. Each of the character classes get some cool new abilities, there’s a simple skill system and magic is different for example. All these changes help in creating a swords & sorcery or swords & sandals feel, rather than the quasi-medieval or Tolkienistic flavor of most OSR variants.
Characters: Ability bonuses are in line with b/x or Labyrinth Lord, thus making the higher abilities more important than in S&W. The Barbarian is definitely Conan-y, complete with battle frenzy and wilderness skills as well as thieving skills. Fighters are fairly standard, but get to choose from a series of specialist combat styles in order to distinguish different fighter types. As there are no Clerics in C&T, the Magician fulfills both roles. Basically, if you use magic, you’re a Magician. In C&T, magic-use is dangerous and casting spells will corrupt your soul in the long run. The Thief is a little better at fighting than the standard D&D thief, and more in line with the heroes of Swords & Sorcery literature. In conjunction with character generation the PCs also roll on a Life Event Table, generally giving simple bonuses to various aspects of the character and an effective way of personalising the character as a kind of background not based on previous occupation.
Power level: Is on a par with S&W and other similar OSR games.
Alignment: There is no alignment in C&T.
Magic: As mentioned earlier, the Cleric is gone from Crypts & Things, leaving the Magician to do the magic. Previous cleric spells are transposed over to the general magic system. Instead, spells are divided into White, Grey and Black magic. White magic is safe to cast, Grey magic cost hit points to cast (2 x spell level) and Black magic cost the spell level in Constitution damage plus requiring a successful Saving throw or the magician will lose Sanity and start the downward spiral to corruption.
Skills: The game includes a simple task resolution system based on Akrasia’s House rules. The system uses the Saving throw number as the target number. Characters with a certain class skill add +3 to the roll and a difficulty modifier might also be used by the Crypt Keeper. The task resolution system is very loose and nothing is broken if you ignore it if it’s not to your liking.
Combat: Pretty standard as OSR games go. A big difference is on the character damage side. C&T uses two kinds of damage points: hit points and Constitution damage. When hp reaches zero, additional damage is applied to CON instead. When CON reaches zero, the character dies. Hit points represent superficial damage, while CON represent serious bodily harm. Healing magic will restore CON damage only, while hit points are restored after 8 hrs of sleep (5e style). Of course, CON damage is slow to heal and being down into CON damage will have you roll a Save each time you are hit or fall unconscious. Simple but effective. Another combat difference is that everyone get to backstab in C&T even if thieves do it better.
General thoughts: Despite clocking in at a slim 149 pages including index, character sheet and OGL this book has a lot going on between the covers. Especially the GM part of the book is jam packed with cool stuff. There is even a grim setting included: The Dying World of Zarth, under the Locust Star. The setting is the perfect starting point for your forays into swords & sorcery adventures as is the short introduction adventure also in the book. Personally, I’m going to use the World of Xoth (by Morten Braaten and others) for my C&T games. Since I got The Spider-God’s Bride I always wanted to play, but never knew what system to use. Until C&T came around, that is…
The chapter on treasure and magic items is short, because magic items are rare and dangerous. Basically they are treated like artifacts in other incarnations of the game. Included is also a monster chapter with many new and unique monsters for your OSR games. I would say that the monster part alone is worth a lot of the investment in the book.
The last part of the book is composed of Appendices A to M covering topics like advice for the GM, Crypt creation, Random tables, Alternative XP systems, notes on horror elements in the game, Khaos features (mutation tables), Passion tables and my favourite: Soundtrack – recommended music for C&T games. Yes, it is all metal!
The author is one of those singularly productive people and has a background in d100 gaming (he also wrote OpenQuest for example) which is felt in the book as some OSR-isms are thrown out quite easily. He publishes through his own publishing brand, D101 Games, a small UK RPG publisher with a strong DIY feel and is also very responsive to questions and always takes his time to answer on the company’s page on G+.
Please note that this “review” is on the first edition of the game and that there is a new edition in the works – the Kickstarter is going on at the moment and it is funded. From what I have read, it is going to be an expanded version of the game with prettier art. There are also no more than three new adventures planned for the new edition.
To round off, this game is the perfect OSR mod for that Conan-style game and I heartily recommend it for all OSR aficionados as there is a ton of cool ideas in it. Sadly, there’s no free version and I think the game would have more fans if it was available as a free art-free version for example.
The next post in this series is going to cover one of the hidden secrets of the OSR: Dangers & Dweomers