May of 1990 saw the release of one of my favorite titles
which I forget about more often than not. During this review I was kicking
myself in the pants because if I would had remembered it and picked it up, it
would have saved me many headaches. DMGR2
The Castle Guide is the result of a collaborated effort between many writers and
researchers, and it served to fill in some large gaps left in the system for a
very long time. Property! At 9th level, most PC classes gain the
ability to benefit from property, and this opens up a large can of worms for
many DM’s and players, namely one of law and government.
We are aware that the default government for any fantasy
world with swords and sorcery is Feudalism. Even if we have different forms of
rule, it still boils down to Feudalism. Researching feudalism is tough, and for
the most part we can play our games in a way that completely ignores it, and we
have to if we have no other options! Well, that is where this book comes in
handy. The rules for a fighter becoming a lord at 9th level, and
attracting followers is not very well detailed, and there are a lot of misconceptions
with it: that it limits play, that it requires BATTLESYSTEM, that it takes a
lot of boring bookwork; but what the rule eluded to, was that a local hero should become a national one, an epic hero!
We players of the AD&D system are good at
writing around things that we aren’t experts at. We are writing fiction! And
this book doesn’t change that; it isn’t a historical text, it is a guide book
that allows DMs to add a dimension to their games which we might not normally
have, and it works for all settings: published or home-brewed.
Well, let’s crack it open.
CHAPTER 1: The Feudal
This chapter is a crash course in government as it applies
to our fantasy societies. The complex philosophies are broken down in a way
that is fast, fun to read, and informative. It isn’t overwhelming,
the language is kept simple, and this is all practical information that is
system neutral (or dependent) which can be applied to existing games with no
issues. It is thorough enough to allow us to be able to see society itself: how
they live and die, so that we can remove some of the modern baggage which we
take into the game. This chapter doesn’t limit play, it actually cleans it up! If
we apply it to the settings, the maps make more sense, we get a better picture
about what is going on, especially in regard to all of the things that had been
CHAPTER 2: The Days
Knights need not be fighters, and this book is about more
than just castles, but it does focus on the “Lord” clause hidden in the system.
It identifies exactly what this means, how one can become a lord, what they are
responsible for, and gives ideas on how to apply this concept to our games
without having the entire campaign high-jacked by one PC.
It also redefines the Laws of Chivalry in a cleaner way than
in previous publications that doesn’t result in suicidal characters, nor
does it give rules lawyers the ability to take over the table. It is a lot more
For those that do wish to pursue it, the book does examine
the Knights Path as it was, and also touches upon demi-human equivalents to
knights. It is fun to read! It gives tons of ideas for NPCs as well as story
CHAPTER 3: The Tournament
For many of us, these things are either used to take a break
from our normal game, or they are ignored, but its place in Feudalism is a very
important one! Tournaments were not just sport, this was medieval politics in action,
and it gives the DM a clear understanding of this, and how to apply it to their
games. Tournament, was how lords typically did
war with one another; it was a means of grabbing more power or proving your dominance
over your allies and enemies. Under feudal law, it is illegal to murder a lord,
but if one is challenged to a duel, and the other accepts, a lord can be
legally slain in tournament.
On a technical level, this chapter provides two quick
systems, one for handling jousts, and one for handling contests of archery, but
also gives a couple of ideas for other displays of power better suited to
CHAPTER 4: The
Evolution of Castles
Once it gives details for the world of castles, it then
explains the castles role in society, and what happens there. The word Castle
itself is used to describe many different buildings, this chapter identifies a
castle’s role in its environment, and details a few different styles of them as
well. It also begins the technical details of construction by listing what
materials can be used to build them.
CHAPTER 5: Castle
This chapter is fun, as it provides details for its own
system of play that is completely independent of the core AD&D rules. It
has tables and explanations which make it possible to determine how long a
building will take to construct, how much it will cost, and even a fun
chart of random events that can take place during the construction!
The chapter also offers a detailed example of play using all of the rules applied,
including a map of the finished product.This is sandbox play at its finest! It allows the DM and
the Players to focus on aspects that they want to, and ignore those that they don’t.
If one doesn’t want to play this scenario out because they are currently busy
with bigger fish, they can pay others to oversee the construction and the DM
will be able to know when it will be finished, or this can be a fun part of the
game; and one that the players will remember!
Now the downside of this system is that it details how to
construct a building from scratch, it does not detail how to take an existing
structure and improve it, for that you will still need to use the 1st Edition DMG.
CHAPTER 6: Unusual
As noted before, this guide allows any structure to be
built, not just castles! From simple wooden forts, to enormous palaces,
anything is possible. This section is an idea factory so that the DM and the
players can work together to see these things built.
CHAPTER 7: Warfare!
There are two game systems that can be played with our structures
once they are constructed, BATTLESYSTEM and AD&D, these are two very
different games. While it recommends BATTLESYSTEM, and sets out to revise and
expand rules for handling a siege, it also allows this to be played out through
AD&D rules, which is writing around the mass combat. Yes, it offers quick
play rules for very complex things, but it also seeks to empower a DM with the knowledge
that he needs to feel up to the challenge of writing scenarios that can be
technically terrifying for them.
Detailed in this chapter are military strategies and
concepts for both sides, and the most comprehensive details of siege engines
and mechanics that has ever been undertaken by TSR.It also reprints materials found in Dragon
Magazine which detailed unusual means of attacking a castles walls such as
Giants beating the things down, and while the systems detailed in this book
focus mostly on historical data, it does give you warnings on how the effects
of magic, if left unchecked, are going to destroy society and render it back
into the stone age. Unlike real castles, these have to withstand attacks from
wizards and dragons as well, and while the book can’t provide the answers to all of
our problems, it gives us enough information so that we can be prepared for the
CHAPTER 8: Quick
This chapter addresses two problems inherited in the system,
the level of detail that we are wanting to achieve, do we want to play this out
with BATTLESYSTEM, do we want to stick to AD&D, or do we want to use a
combination of both? Either way, a siege can last months or years, regardless
of the methods we want to use to determine who wins, we are going to want to speed up the clock
from time to time.
We want a mixture of random and character driven events, and
this offers a few different methods for dealing with it. No method is perfect,
but it will get you started, and at least comfortable with the idea of dealing with
anything from orcs testing the defenses to all out war, regardless of what side
of the walls your character is standing on.
CHAPTER 9: Generic
The biggest failure of this book is the noticeable lack of
examples. Including the example found in chapter 5, there are only four
maps, and three of them are those worthless forced perspective maps. While
sitting down with your players and designing a castle from scratch can be fun
for some tables, that is not playing D&D. DM’s know how to draw maps, but
players typically only think about the game when they are at the table, and
players who sit down and draw detailed maps of dungeons is kind of a lost art
now, simply because we play differently than we used to.
Thankfully, today we have the Internet, and many examples
can be purchased 3rd party. I personally recommend PDF versions of Castle Book I (1978) andCastle Book II(1981) that were put out by the
Judges Guild, as you’ll get more bang for your buck with them. TSR did follow
up this title in 1991 withCastle Sites, but it only offered seven
examples that were limited in use and too overly detailed for my taste. It is
also acceptable to steal maps from modules; even if the module is trash,
sometimes they at least have a map or two that you can lift and have your
players key it.
This book is one of my favorites, and it is well designed! I
like the fact that it offers lots of options and, historically, in AD&D,
this was the precursor to the Green Series of historical settings. The Castle
Guide stands on its own as a fun campaign, I played it in a one-on-one scenario
and it was one of my all-time favorite games! Granted, it isn’t without problems,
as it still requires Gary Gygax’s Dungeon Master's Guide, at least in my opinion,
but I think that this is as close as you can get to a perfect book that is easy
to grasp and fun to play. Its usefulness is limited, but that does not take away
from it, as what it does do is superb in execution. I give it a B-, it did push
the game further and allow anyone to play high level campaigns easily, it also
helps us up our medieval game without being snobbish.
As far as value, this book got a huge print run, but not as
large as the "Complete Class Handbooks" did, so it’s going to cost a bit more.
For a copy in good and gently used condition, you are looking at between
$20-$35, a beat up copy should run you no more than 5-10 dollars depending on
just how bad it is. A near mint copy I can see getting a fair market value of $55-$75
max. If you own this book, take care of it! Use it, as it is fun and very
helpful, but since they aren’t going to make any more of these things, once one
is destroyed, then it is gone. PDF’s are
available for it, and while they’ll do in a pinch, if you do use this book, you’ll
be doing a lot of page turning, so the physical copy is preferred.