HomeCharactersFantasy CharactersChivalry & Sorcery & Eyestrain, Part III


Chivalry & Sorcery & Eyestrain, Part III — 8 Comments

  1. C&S 1st edition was confused with poor layout and the infamous small font. In it’s defence this was 1977. In that everyone is in agreement. Yet, it broke new ground and deserves praise as it in turn influenced all the other games (inc. D&D).

    A shame you didn’t pick 2nd edition (1983) to work through as it addressed most of the criticisms by reworking the rules somewhat, completely redoing the layout to something usable whilst losing none of the flavour.

    Of particular note (re: your article) was Character Generation, switching from random die roll to a points pool allocation mechanism 50+(10*2D6) resulting in 70 to 170 points to spend although you could have a bonus to that if your horoscope was favourable.

    C&S 3rd/4th did it slightly differently than that, but I’d encourage you to take a new look at 2nd. It fixed much of what 1st got wrong.

    5th Edition is due out in several months by the way.

    • I picked up Second Edition when it was semi-new (I think I got it around 1986 or so), so I am familiar with it. My interest in going back to the original was that it seemed more interesting to me, as an exercise in a rules walkthrough. I’m not sure how to characterize my “create a character” articles, because they’re not really reviews, per se, or rules analysis, or history… they’re all of the above, combined with (attempts at) humor and sarcasm.

  2. I came in via a link directly to your C&S article so haven’t read your other posts so didn’t realise your “angle”.

    Now I know that, it would be good to hear a summary from you IE how did C&S 1 stand up against Petal Throne, Tunnels & Trolls, OD&D & En Garde! (all first editions of course)… the 1974-1977 first batch of RPG’s.

    Good work Mr Lizard, a very interesting angle for some blogs.

  3. I very much enjoyed your three amusing C&S articles.

    Back in the day (1978 or so) I remember C&S was the game that a few hard core diehards at the university played so they could look down on the D&D players. For the rest of us it was kind of a joke – “percent chance of trout tickling” in the survival rules, that sort of thing. I think it was acknowledged the magic system was cool, and the C&S Sourcebook had some well-written GM advice on roleplaying encounters.

    I can see how random character generation with players willing to go with the flow could create some interesting concepts – the ugly, unwise but clever-tongued and dextrous daughter of a minor noble who moonlights as a sneak thief has story possibilities, albeit perhaps more as an NPC than a player character!

  4. “Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.” – LoR.

    Having played the game. Yet another retro-active commentary from one who has neither played the game, nor really really sought to understand it. The game expects a map of the world with kingdoms containing several large regional baronies and towns with associated economic and military resources. This world serves as the physical backdrop of the game. The zeitgeist of the time was to begin with a dungeon complex.

    The setting of the game is an authentic-feeling alternative version of medieval Europe. Social hierarchies outside the church are based on personal bonds of fealty and homage and family ties rather than institutional hierarchy, rather than character alignment. Every player, save the king, has an overlord or master they serve, and vassals or apprentices they care for. Influence, favors and debts of honor are central to all relationships. This idea of service and influence serves as the central cultural backdrop of the game. The game realized that much could be achieved through influence and guile, as well as combat and magic. Core mechanics focused on influence first, and combat and magic.

    At the heart of the grand campaign element of the game are the personal ambitions and duties of the leaders of society and their effects on the world. Players begin the game by being assigned a leader and region, or faction of leaders and regions, to administer. Politics and warfare are used by leaders a means to increase their personal influence, and advance their holdings, family and stakeholders. The conduct and affairs of these leaders and other important NPCs, and the effect of the machinations of these leaders creates the temporal backdrop of the game.

    Leaders can include:
    • Secular Noble Lords: kings, dukes, marquesses, counts/earls, and barons.
    • Ecclesiastical Lords: primates, bishops, archbishops, monasteries, and religious fighting orders of the church held with considerable independence from secular Lords.

    Leader can be expanded to include:
    • Town Mayors who lead independently chartered towns that are often closely allied with their king. Mayors with their guild councils have strong commercial, trade and banking interests which intersect and compete with those of the secular and ecclesiastical Lords.
    • Mercenary Captains who lead independent companies of men-at-arms who are either free roaming or possess/control a region through brigandage and extortion.
    • Grand Masters of regional or national magic societies, orders, and quasi-military orders located in towns, or places of mystery. Some operate as secret societies, others openly under the protection and encouragement of the King. These societies search for knowledge, are not temporally focused as the secular Lords, and sometimes run afoul of the ecclesiastical Lords.(Like Ars Magica – undoubtably a spin-off of the C&S magic concepts).

    Leaders can further be expanded to include:
    • Other nations, regions, culture and races: Nordics, Step Nomads, Celtics, Japanese, Byzantine, Saracen/Moorish, Lizard People, Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits, Urak-Hai, Goblins/Orcs, Centaurs, Giants/Trolls

    Player groups can choose to administer political/military historical or fantasy campaigns of diplomatic and military conquest with their leaders as NPCs they control, or play their leaders as more in-depth player-characters commanding and influencing the marshalling of political, economic, military, personal and other resources to create winning positions for themselves, their families, their regions and their stakeholders. As examples, as a secular Lord player-character influencing their knights, chivalric orders, overlords, allies, and adversaries through court intrigue, courtly love, staged tournaments, and battles. A grand Masters of a magical society influencing their masters, their orders and chapters, their overlords, allies, adversaries, and legendary beasts. Likewise, ecclesiastical bishops, mercenary captains, and mayors of independent cities likewise playing their respective roles and influencing to achieve their respective goals.

    Player groups focusing on adventure role-playing generate unrelated player-characters who live within the culture and in the wake of the grand events of the grand campaign. In adventure-focused groups, players administer the leader NPCs at a strategic-level sufficient to create the backdrop and impetus for the individual player characters’ local-level scenarios.

    Alternatively, player groups can choose to eliminate the grand campaign element, and be fully depend on the gamemaster to administer or storyline all events and interactions. This last form of play is the only one offered by the second version, third and fourth versions of the game.

    Whether played as a PC or administered NPC, leaders each possess their own unique capacities to influence and command, as well as unique resources available to them. Influence is used as social currency to acquire friends, gather pledges and favors, nudge decisions in their favor, achieve positions in government and social orders, and conclude alliances. Command is used as social currency to inspire and direct a Lord’s followers and forces.

    The style of play between leader or faction of leaders is generally adversarial. Each attempting to outmaneuver others to their own advantage. The object is to defeat one’s enemies in battle, woo other leaders away to your side, and to increase holdings by claim and conquest. Leaders can begin the game as part of a geo-political faction. The membership in a faction can change. Whenever a leader suffers a defeat in a given year the leader will seriously consider withdrawing from the fray, and potentially realign to another faction.

    During the game, leaders build fortifications and strengthen defenses, replace and train forces, hire mercenaries and underlings, undertake political intrigue and feats to strengthen or weaken their influence, conduct diplomacy to establish alliances and family and stakeholder ties, make claims on regions and influence legal support from the church, conquer others regions, weakened others by means of raids and pillage. This happens while crops and commerce booms or fails, peasants rebel and are quelled, epidemics and plagues break out and dissipate, raiders and pirates disrupt, Lords die without heirs or are exiled or are excommunicated, heresies spread and die out, the church schisms, crusades are called against heretics and infidel, and fairy races (elves, dwarves, hobbits, trolls, etc. in a homage to Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons) and legendary beasts interact to create wonder, mischief, good or evil.

    Mass battle are fought strategically through a paper and pencil system, or tactically as a miniature wargame system (1982 Origins Award winner). The strategic warfare system computes leaders’ military assets, strength factors and tactics to determine a battle’s outcome. The miniatures wargame system uses typical miniatures/counters representing leaders and military units, moved simultaneous with split movement execution following tactical written orders.

    Individual combat, “pas des armes,” or magickal equivalents arising from player-character role-play is resolved through an initiative, fire/cast, move, initiative, melee process that allows for a full range of tactical maneuvers. Jousts are fought through a simple system of aim points and defensive positions.

    For players who chose to focus on role-play adventuring (which is the only focus of C&S in the 2nd edition onward), their place of birth will be in the region that they administer as leader to prevent conflict of interest and explain their intimate local understanding. If player-characters are noble with a particular title, those characters will automatically be level 6, and a minimum of 18 years of age. Player-characters born into noble families will have to wait for the current title holder to die to succeed to the title.

    At the heart of role-playing element of the game are characters’ roles and duties in society, their influence on others in their local portion of the world and the portions they adventure in. Players begin the game by creating a player-character with some depth. Politics and warfare are used by leaders a means to increase their personal influence, and advance their holdings, family and stakeholders. The conduct and affairs of these leaders and other important NPCs, and the effect of the machinations of these leaders creates the temporal backdrop of the game.

    The first Player-character in a particular town, holding, guild, magic order, etc. often design their local community, castles, manors, guild halls, order chapter house, place of mystery, or hovel. A mage designs the headquarters of an order with mysteries and conventional and magical defenses against intruders. A knight, parish priest, villager, yeoman designs the Knight’s fee with its manor, church, village, freeholds, fields, mysteries. A townsman designs the town, guild halls, businesses, seaport, mysteries and peculiarities, as well as commercial mines or forestry operations done under grant from the regional Lord. Player-character pay particular attention to portions they control. Other player-characters will further the design with their portions as they join increasing the depth of detail.

    In play, player-characters are rewarded with advancement both for demonstrating the skills, attitudes and behaviors associated with their role and for time spent doing things associated with their profession. For example, Mages spend considerable time mastering their art. Calendars are used in the game to track time spent doing things in both the campaign and individual adventures, syncing them to each other and syncing game-time to real-time.

    Relationships, magic and combat role-play revolve around completely different precepts than all other games of the time, and most now. The differences in character generation and game mechanics, that appear central to your review, are there to support these differences. This game is not D&D, nor Pathfinder, nor Traveller, nor anything else. It is C&S, and it is different. To understand it, you wold need to read the rules, all of the supplements, and actually play it with a group that knows it. Perhaps this is the real source of the issues you have reflected in your review.

    • Nah, he was just having fun. I still have my old copy of the 1st edition rules, and I draw upon them for cool idea in a number of games I play (or run).
      The ideas in C&S were great. Their execution was… less great.

      2nd edition tidied a lot of stuff up, but that wouldn’t have been so enjoyable to poke fun at now, would it?

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