Following a thoroughly interesting and deep conversation with Simon Williams from the Legend of the Bones podcast about solo roleplaying last evening, I found myself curiously drawn back to an old favourite d20-based roleplaying game. Picking up my copy of the Castles & Crusades box set, I found myself seriously considering using it for some solo gaming.
The idea arose because of two colliding thoughts: first, Simon had been explicit about how playing a game solo could be so much more richly focused on Otherworld-immersion when one focuses away from the rules and mechanisms to instead truly engage with roleplaying – i.e., playing in role and making decisions in role.
The second thought was the idea Simon asserted of playing in a game that is what you would enjoy playing and not being beholden to the tastes of any other player. As I considered this, I realised that I’ve been noodling around with classic Old-School Dungeons & Dragons for weeks now but that the best iteration of that old game is for me Castles & Crusades.
It was mention of the game in a blog comment yesterday that propelled the realisation into my conscious mind, and I found myself reaching for the woodgrain-effect box from the shelf. This morning, I rescued my Castles & Crusades core books from the stacks and began to peruse them.
I didn’t realise how much my heart would pick up and my interest be fired by flipping through this awesome game from the earliest days of the so-called Old-School Renaissance. The simple mechanisms might just be ideal for getting out of my way while being enough to overcome what usually bugs me about D&D. Plus, C&C was written in consultation with Gygax, a fact that connects it back to the game’s roots.
I don’t know what I’m going to end up doing with it – which is a part of the appeal because that sense of apparent aimlessness is a factor in good play. What I do know is that I am excited to pick up those 3d6 from yesterday and use them to roll up some characters.
As the mysterious Free City of Refuge continues to develop, I feel drawn towards some kind of play within the framework that location suggests. Along the way, I’ve been thinking deeply about the journey I took back in 2008 when I first began to seriously look for alternatives to D&D 3.5e. I believe a combination of classic D&D procedures, the rules from C&C, and a strong focus on character- and Otherworld-immersion might be the ticket.
It’s that classic moment all over again: the realisation that where you thought you were losing your passion for the roleplaying hobby, a single conversation collides with seemingly random ideas and before you know it you’re excited again. Big thanks to Simon and to everyone around me who, over the past few weeks, have been helping me let go of old habits and see what fallow ground might give life to.