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Castles & Crusades - Night of the Spirits: Halloween Gets All Medieval in this OSR Adventure!

The OSR or Old School Renaissance (or perhaps better phrased Revival?) has really changed how many gamers play RPGs over the past decade or so. Coupled with the ease of publishing online, numerous new publishers and new authors have taken ideas of the earliest forms of role-playing games and re-invented them with fresh new designs.

One of the earliest OSR RPGs was a retro-clone of original Dungeons & Dragons called Castles & Crusades, which was named as an homage to the Castles & Crusade Society founded by Gary Gygax. While taking cues from d20 and other sources, C&C has many unique mechanics including the SEIGE system for skill and action resolution. It's been a staple of the OSR movement since it was released in 2004.

In keeping with the season of the year, Troll Lord Games has released an adventure module for C&C with a Halloween theme. Set in Dark Ages England, this adventure pits heroes against the dark forces of the Otherworld, when creatures out of legend stalk humanity on the night of Samhain!

Night of the Spirits (for Castles & Crsaders RPG)

  • Writer: Brian N. Young
  • Illustrators: Peter Bradley
  • Publisher: Troll Lord Games
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: PDF (26 pages)
  • Price: $0.99 (Now Available from RPGNow in PDF format )

Night of the Spirits is an adventure module by Troll Lord Games for use with the Castles & Crusades RPG. The adventure is designed for use with three to five characters of Levels 4 to 6, and contains all monster statistics and encounter materials needed to run the adventure.

Production Quality
The production quality of Night of the Spirits is fairly good overall, with some great writing presented in a rather basic, no-frills layout. The author clearly has a flair for creating that dramatic edgy action found in OSR scenarios, where danger abounds everywhere the heroes might look. The layout is simple text, with bolded headings, and a basic type-face font selection. Read-aloud text appears in shaded gray boxes or boxes with heavy black borders.

Unfortunately, navigation through Night of the Spirits is a bit troublesome, as it has neither a table of contents nor PDF bookmarks. On the up-side, the book is under 30 pages in length so the lack of these tools is not too much of a hindrance.

However, the artwork is quite good, with dramatic full-color cover art and some solid black-and-white drawings inside. The interior artwork is a bit sparse however, but definitely evocative of the "old school" style. The maps are decent, if rudimentary, but again they are more than adequate for an OSR-style adventure.


This is Halloween... ?

Night of the Spirits
is an adventure which draws heavily upon the legends and myths of post-Rome England, where the druids still hold sway and fairy creatures of the Otherworld plague humanity.

The introduction section of the book gives a run-down of the overall plot and presents several hooks to get the heroes involved. There is also information about the nature of the setting in a post-Roman England.

This module takes place in what the Welsh have called (since those days in the post-Roman era) the Hen Ogledd or ‘Old North’. The bloodlines and politics of most of these northern kingdoms were tied with those in what is now Wales along the Cumbrian zone. In Welsh sources, these tribes were named Gwyr Y Gogledd or ‘Men of the North’.

The author includes many creatures known to fantasy RPG gamers - goblins, fairies, hags - but adds in Celtic folklore enemies such as - pwca, dunters, and cath sith. The Welsh/Celtic names of NPCs, Otherworld beings, and locales are kept intact, which can lend a great ambiance to game play sessions - if one can pronounce them.

The heroes quickly learn that there have been a rash of missing persons from among a few villages which lie close to a dark and haunted woodlands. The adventure is set around the three days of Samhain (or as it is now called by some, Halloween) and the heroes have only a little time to find out what is really behind the mysterious disappearances. The plot is a bit linear - and the author even admits it is such - but it would seem that this is done more for dramatic pacing than a need to control the storyline.

Without giving any of the major plot points away, the heroes of this Castles & Crusades adventure could well be facing some incredibly dangerous situations, a few of them being downright lethal, as are often seen in OSR adventures. Heroes will have to consider when to fight, when to sneak, when to parlay, and when to run for the hills, if they want to emerge victorious from their quest. And it’s worth noting that the fate of the heroes, as well as that of the villages and towns in the region, hinges upon the success of their mission. Failure to find and rescue the missing villagers might well mean that this is the last Samhain these lands ever celebrate!

Overall Score: 7.8 out of 10.0


Conclusions

Castles & Crusades: Night of the Spirits
is a fun and well-written OSR adventure module brimming over with Celtic folklore and mythology. Its historical-fantasy setting, blending post-Roman Britain with magic and enchanted creatures allows it to be quite accessible to fans of European history and medieval fantasy. And while it remains heroic fantasy, it has a certain gritty edge to the story, with personal consequences for the heroes as well as to the lands in which they dwell.

And given that the nature of Castles & Crusades is OSR, with elements familiar to D&D, Night of the Spirits could easily be ported over into versions of D&D, both old and new, as well as Pathfinder or other OSR rules. This makes this adventure module fairly useful as a resource regardless of the system a group is using.

While the production quality is modest, it is still a fairly solid product and well worth taking a look at as a Halloween one-shot adventure or to incorporate into a campaign. And the price is a steal during the RPGNow.com Halloween sale, so get it at a great price while you can!

Grade Card (Ratings 0 to 10)

  • Presentation: 6.25
  • - Design: 6.0 (Solid authoring and plotline; a no-frills layout; lacking of bookmarks disappointing)
  • - Illustrations: 6.5 (Cool cover art; good interior art with an OSR look – but rather sparse)
  • Content: 8.25
  • - Crunch: 8.0 (Cool encounters; excellent OSR interpretations of Celtic myth!)
  • - Fluff: 8.5 (Good heroic storyline; awesome use of British folklore)
  • Value: 9.0 (Great price for a cool OSR adventure!)
 

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