Friday, October 23, 2015

Castle Gargantua Review

+Kabuki Kaiser  has hit it out of the park again with the latest release of Castle Gargantua.  Castle Gargantua builds on some of the mechanical ideas of procedurally generated adventuring that were featured in Ruins of the Undercity and The MadMonks of Kwantoom.

The book is written for Labyrinth Lord or Lamentations ofthe Flame Princess rules but is generic enough that it could be used as is, or easily converted, to any OSR rules system.  I personally think this would make a terrific Dungeon Crawl Classics setting as well.

Where Castle Gargantua departs from the previous works is that this time the sourcebook is intended to be used by a standard group of players with a GM.  Of course, as the author contends you could run this with a solo group with little in the way of conversion.  All of the tools are presented to organically develop an adventure that has the ability to surprise both players and Judge alike!

The setting for these mechanics is the eponymous Castle Gargantua, a giant magical castle of unknown origins that changes for each group that dares venture through its corridors and chambers.  There are some general themes that tie the whole structure together, including guardians, beginning entry points and the sometimes giant structure of the place.  For instance, instead of the standard 10' square, a grid square is assumed to be 60', creating a rather large adventuring environment. 

All parties begin able to enter through the giant front doors of the fortress, but from there, things can go anywhere.  Each time the party enters a new room the GM throws all the dice and consults a very concise and tight table that gives him the type of room, exits, contents, ambience and specifics on monster, treasure and, of course, weirdness.   There is a meta tracker called The Big Picture, that gives the GM an easy mechanic to tie a cluster of rooms together with various themes such as Stone, Blood, Lust and Wine.  

As if this wasn't enough there are also random Gold areas that can be encountered.  A Gold area differs from the rest of the dungeon because they are mini adventure/lair areas that are completely stocked and ready to go.  In fact, these can easily be pulled out of the implied setting and run as mini-dungeons, or plopped down into your favorite megadungeon.

I am no art critic, but I know what I like. and I like the art in Castle Gargantua. The cover is by  Jeremy Hart who also does some interiors along with David Bouchacourt de Puytorac.  The illos are clean and very evocative of the dungeon themes where they are presented.    The cartography for the Gold encounter areas is done by the unparalleled +Dyson Logos .

The only negative I could say about Castle Gargantua is that it looks like it could play a little over the top with the weirdness, and that may not be a fit for every group out there.  On the other hand, Kabuki does give advice on how to tone down some of the more adult themes that can present themselves, and those same restraints could easily be applied to tone down the weird.

Full disclosure; I received a gratis .pdf copy of Castle Gargantua but ordered the premium color hardback on my own dime cuz it is that good!