Wednesday, October 31, 2018

OSR Review & Campaign Commentary On The Castles & Crusades Codex Germania By Brian Young

"The Codex Germania unearths the mythological realms of the ancient Germans. From the murky forests of their beginnings rise the myths, the magic, gods, goddesses, monsters, heroes and legends of the ancient Germans, all brought to life for your Castles & Crusades game."

Let me go on record as saying that 'The Codex Germania'  is a big book for Castles & Crusades weighing in at 112 pages! That 112 is packed in wall to wall Germanic mythological goodness & its perfect for Halloween! With new PC classes such as the witch & variations on the slayer class not to mention the variety of horrid monsters waiting to chew on your PC?! But there's more here then simply that. Brian Young goes into the book's contents in the intro & it sets the tone for the entire book;

"This book allows both the Castle Keeps and the players to explore the breadth of early Germanic  mythologies and culture.For the sake of history and religion, the pre-Christian Germans are covered because their imagination and colorful beliefs hadnot yet submitted to a European commonality. By the time of Christianization, the Germanic world largely lost it imaginative heritage of wondrous sagas about divine heroes, other worlds,supernatural creatures, and magic. This codex attempts to capture some of that essence and places it into the hands of gamers"

But does the
'The Codex Germania' deliver on its promise of mythological Germany rife with new monsters, PC classes, spells, & more?! Well the mythological &  historical background is right on point with the beginning chapters;
'This chapter serves a twofold purpose in telling history. First, it will give a brief overview of early Germanic history in Europe, giving beginners in this field of study a basic understanding.
Secondly, it gives the creation mythos from the early Germanic  pagan religions as best as possible. Note, that due to the variations among the many tribes, those disparate but similar strands
of myth among Germanic peoples do have a commonality and a link to the Nordic sources that came later.' The book here is really on point & gives the dungeon master an actual usable thumbnail view of ancient Germany's history & mythology. The second chapter in we get even more background focusing on the peoples &  land itself after the first chapter with a an inter spacing of some mythological elements ;
The many descendants of Tuisto dwell in many lands throughout Europa, from east to west and have large tribes often numbering a 100,000 or more members. The three groups of peoples have covered a wide territory over time, from the boundaries of
the furthest south (Roman Empire and Spain) to Britannia to the west, Scandza to the North and the Black Sea to the east.
In this section, the many tribal confederations and regions across Europe, from east to west, will be given a detail that joins both the mythical and historical into a unified perspective for
game play. Germania, on the far side of the Rhine, was seen in Roman eyes as Germani Liberia (Free Germania) where the many tribes there were not under imperial control.
Mythical places in the Germanic Otherworld will also be describedas best as information can be gathered from the limited sources. Key locations in Germania and other settled (and invaded) regions by Germanic tribes are detailed here for places that CKs can use in their games. The mythical locations in the Codex Nordica can be used to enhance those listed here by the CK."
This sets everything up to come just as we've seen in  The Codex Celtarum because we  get a detailed history on the two ancient Germany's. Germania Inferior & Superior are brought to the forefront by Caesar Augustus;
'Caesar Augustus sought to have total control over all of Germania early in his reign before letting this wild and untamed part of Europe deluge the Empire. His designation was Germania
Magna or ‘Great Germania’, but this was cut short after the fatal Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 C.E.
It was deemed unrealistic that Germania would ever be completely in the Empire’s possession and so other strategies were employed to find means in which to incorporate this untamed land. The method of divide and conquer, which had been working well against the Greeks and Celts, was not so simple in the
face of this newly encountered people.'
You get a really nicely detailed semi mythological setting with lots of historical details & then the book jumps feet first into the mythological realms of Germanic mythology after detailing  swaths of history on kings, tribes, & gobs of history.  This material parells many of the Teutonic & Norse mythologies that I've seen over the years but its got a slightly different take here. Take for example 'ÆLFHÁM – Home of the Elves
This magical world exists outside of the reach of Middangeard normally and is bound tightly to the tree of Irminsul, as it is filled with its constant magical energies. The elves that live here are whimsical and frivolous acting among each other, but they turn sinister and devious towards strangers (specifically humans) if they are interrupted.
Fair beings, standing both short and tall, the ælf-kind are purely composed of magic. Their world is a large, wild forest-land filled with other magical beings and creatures that can be called faery.
These ælves can glow with a white light from within in a heavenly manner if needed to banish away evil or dark beings keepingthis world untainted by the presence of darkness.
 Wēland the smith (or deor) is their king (Ylfcynig), who dwells in a simple forest smithy away from the hustle and bustle of the court and palace. In his stead, he has many stewards and chiefs that function for him while he creates wondrous items at his
forge. Wēland’s crafts have been sought after by many across the worlds, and they have attempted many deceptive plots to do so.
To outsiders, the myriad rulers of Ælfhám will appear lofty and arrogant in manner, but this is due to the immortals’ difference from mortals, and the possession of their great magic. The land is largely untamed and filled with wondrous sights and beings beyond all comparison (CK can refer to the Codex Celtarum for faery abilities and extra beings not in this particular codex).
The inhabitants of this world choose to intrude on Middangeard often, becoming involved in the affairs of mortals and altering events to suit their own purposes. They do not, however,
allow mortals to meddle in their business. Mortals are looked down upon by the ælf-kind for their crudeness, vulgarity, and lack of refinement.
The goddess Frigge dwells here and is often seen riding in her chariot in the forests, surrounded by her faery entourage. It is wisest by mortals and invited strangers to never interrupt her ride. This world has never known the scourge of the giants or other invaders in its history because of the powerful enchantments possessed by its natives.'
These are the Elves I grew up hearing & reading about with my German neighbors in my home town. Yes they have some of the qualities of the Tolkein Elves but these are the origins & their every bit as alien & weird. The realms of Fairy & the Germanic gods are not to be treated upon by mankind.  The monster section folds neatly within the mythological places & realms of the gods starting with alp is a type of elf vampire & then finally ending with the Germanic dragons which we get solid guide line rules ala Beowulf.
The Germanic dragons are nasty pieces of work & this might happen to your PC's.

Myths and legends of all nations; famous stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources by Marshall, Logan, tr Publication date 1914
Not artwork from the book but these are the type of monsters in 'The Codex Germania' .

Chapter four In Wizardry & Enchantments goes into the magic PC classes, magicks, spells, & enchanted items of 'The Codex Germania';
'There are many new character classes included that are different from the normal wizard and illusionist classes in that their approach to spell-casting and enchantments are
not typical, the Erilaz or (rune master), and Wælcyrig/Halirúna
or (witch).
The many aspects of rune magic are detailed here and how they can be used in normal gaming. Runes in gaming have always been somewhat close to the ancient Migration Period attestation of runic magic and their later Viking parallels. This chapter
will outline a system that is closer to those mentioned previously." Yes I'm skipping over the ring oaths because there's a ton of background with these which are for adventures & I'll go into this later. This chapter is very well done in my opinion & really sets  'The Codex Germania' apart in its approach to handling the whole of Germanic mythological magick in Castles & Crusades. And this brings me to Serve the Gods which really dives deeply into the Germanic Pagan & Druidic traditions. It dives deeply into the Germanic mythological pantheon from the creator gods to the gods of warfare to hearth & home. Sacred groves & funeral practices actually get a solid style of use for Pagan cleric PC classes here.
Chapter six 'Skilled in Battlecraft' gives the PC martial classes something to use in the Germanic mythological world. We get more pseudo historical information on the Germanic warrior, further details of the ring oaths of a warrior, & more useful information on the martial affairs of Germanic warriors, soldiers, etc. Including historical information on women warriors of Germany. Deadly rules for ancient artillery & arrows along with the shield wall. Property, land, blood money, and more all used in ancient warfare in Germany. Then finally two new PC classes The Dragonslayer & the Wod or Germanic 'Fury' which is similar to Norse beserker but they have some of their own mythic or divine wrinkles. Both classes are very well done. The slayer & witch classes from the magic section are excellent foils for both of these classes & I can see using all of this to put together an adventuring party for ancient Germany.
Finally we get to the Castle Keeper's information about ancient Germany, its rulers, & society. This is a very well laid out chapter & has critical information about the whole of running a campaign. Again its very well put together.
'The Codex Germania' is a solid & well put together product. I like how accessible it is & how well put together all of the information is in this book. I think that the 'The Codex Germania' is a solid five out of five.

Now for the Amazing Adventures! rpg dungeon master this is another in my mind essential book. Why?! Because of the fact that there is so much to pillage & use. The Wod, the Dragon slayer, the slayer class,the witch, & more make excellent foils for the Pulp adventuring of AA!

But once again this is a solid case of using the Amazing Adventures companion & the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters especially because of the Dragon Slayer class.  The dragons & NPC witches of
'The Codex Germania' are solid evil & make excellent vile villains. They have motives, personalities, & out and out agendas that should they find their way to civilization would wreck havoc. The Monsterous Manual has a wide array of minor dragonic monsters that could also wreck havoc with the world of ancient Germany. The Wod could be used as the basis for a nasty PC class of fighter or adventurer. The use of 'The Codex Germania' for a World War two game is both intriguing & beyond the scope of one blog review & yes I will go into this more as my Amazing Adventures campaign continues!

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