What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Yarr! The Pirate ArrPG

Friday, October 30, 2009

What is this 'SIEGE Engine' anyway?

Some people who have heard about Castles & Crusades may not know much about it. Others may have read a reference about the 'SIEGE Engine' but not actually know what this is referring to. I'll be honest and admit that I haven't tried to systematically try to explain what it is very often and usually I explain the concepts to a new player during character creation. Most of it is quite intuitive and I haven't had a player who didn't understand the key concepts. However, a basic explanation and background might be beneficial to those who stumble upon this blog.

Basically, the SIEGE Engine is the underlying system and mechanic which the game is built up on. Now C&C has many similarities to what I refer to as 'classic D&D' and AD&D. It is a level-based game whereby you choose a character archetype to play and each character has six key attributes to help quantify their strengths and limitations.

With both D&D and AD&D, you had certain differences aside from one of them being referred to as 'Advanced'. The only reason I bring this up is that AD&D also led to the introduction of a proficiency based system. This was basically the introduction of a more complete skill system to the game. At first it was introduced as an option, but with the advent of AD&D 2nd Edition, it became recognized as a core concept. Classic D&D on the other hand didn't have this kind of itemized skill system. It kept things relatively simple but in no way was this inferior. Both games had their strengths and people preferred one over the other as more of a matter of taste. Both games also had certain classes with key skills (notably the Thief) and resolution for these special skills were built into the class. They both used a similar system of Saves -- a five category system to answer the needs of a Fantasy role playing game. However, the game also had different methods to resolve different sort of tasks. Some things required a high roll and the dice and others a low roll. Some used a d20 and others used percentile dice.

WOTC changed the shape of the game when they bought TSR and put out what they called 3rd Edition. No longer was there a differentiation between D&D and AD&D; it became one line which clearly progressed from AD&D 2nd Edition. They took the various ways to resolve saves, skills, and abilities, and unified the manner in which these were resolved. Only one die-type was needed -- the d20.

Now, what does all this have to do with Castles & Crusades? Well, 3rd Edition also introduced a new style of play and a level of book keeping that some just didn't like. Suffice to say that some gamers longed for an older style of play and something that was considered 'rules-light' to better achieve this. There was no doubt that key improvements had been made with the advent of 3rd Edition but there already existed some some great, foundational material.

Work on Castles & Crusades began and the SIEGE Engine quite simply was the attempt to reconcile certain features from the newer 'd20 based' system but be in keeping with the older style of games that came before it.

For skills, it adopts the philosophy found in Classic D&D -- there are no itemized skill lists though certain classes (like that Rogue again) had skill-like abilities built into the class. However, one key difference exists. This is the designation of certain abilities as 'Prime'. These Primes represent an additional advantage the character has with regards to those specific abilities for the purposes of task and skill resolution as well as saving throws. The designation of a Prime means that the associated ability need not be high score for the character to be competent at doing certain things. A fighter may naturally be strong because of his stats but may also be modeled as an intelligent or wise tactician because of which stats have been designated as Prime stats.

One way to perhaps illustrate this concept would be an example of a character who knows how to use a particular ability to their best advantage compared to someone who doesn't. In this way for example, someone who knows how to best use their strength to complete a task may end up doing better compared to another character who doesn't even if they happen to be the physically stronger of the two.

As briefly mentioned these primary attributes will also affect saving throws. C&C links different saving throws to each of the six main attributes which hadn't been the case. Though it means that there is no 'dump' stat for each character now, the selection of primes can make a significant difference and help offset a low ability score. The game rational is that the character has probably 'worked' to compensate for this shortfall.

Each attribute will have a modifier attached to it, which will also factor into these die rolls as will the actual level of the character. In this way, a 8th level character will be much better at accomplishing the sort of tasks or making his save compared to what he was like at 2nd level.

The inclusion of these Prime Attributes helps to provide an additional level of 'customization' than what Classic D&D offered but without adding the complexities that AD&D only began to introduce. Finally, it also uses the d20 to accomplish all these things but remains consistent in how it's done.

I guess that rounds off the basics on what the Siege mechanic represents for C&C. I'm just hoping I did an adequate job at trying to explain it.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yet another Blog...

It's been a little less than two months since I decided to focus my efforts and form up Arcana Creations -- a design studio of sorts with the purpose to help produce material for my favorite hobby. With the efforts made on 'The Secret of Ronan Skerry' about to go to print and into distribution, and with the recent release of a digest-sized conversion of 'The Ruins of Ramat' for the Castles & Crusades role playing game, my friend John from Brave Halfling Publishing had another idea.

'Why don't you start up a blog?'

Well, I gave it some thought. The idea on one that also dealt with C&C, the Siege Engine, and some of the things I'm doing didn't seem to be a bad one either. However, I realize that some of the regular bloggers do so successfully with dedication and effort. Since my focus would also gravitate towards C&C and the Siege Engine, I thought that 'Under Siege' might be an apt name for the blog.

Hopefully, this will prove to be a enjoyable experience -- both for the reader and the writer.