Your comments on here and on your forum have piqued my interest about the C&S system. Is the free download "Chivalry & Sorcery Essence" still available anywhere? I gather this was a 'taster' for the full rules system.
Not sure whether the system might be a good middle ground between the popularity/power gaming of D&D and the grittiness of HM. From what I've briefly read, characters still 'level up' and get that 'progression buzz', but the benefits don't get too crazy.
Yes, this is true, characters still level up but the degree of increase in abilities, Hit Points and other changing factors is very subtle. If fact, each level you have to roll your CON Cr or less just to gain a single HP or Fatigue point increase. If you fail you do not change for that level. However, I play 2nd edition only, I never like the 3rd and 4th editions, there were too many changes for my liking, which were changed so dramatically as to change the entire culture and style of the rules.
What I like about 2nd edition is that it is very gritty, I would go so far as to say that when Crossby designed Harnmaster he had a copy of C&S by his side, the stats and many rules he implemented into HM are so uncannily similar to C&S that you cannot mistake the chance that he used many of C&S's ideas.
Saying that, C&S is very different from many other systems out there and it is these differences that appealed to me and my own group. For example, in most systems you roll to hit, roll damage and the opposing adversary's armour affects the chance to hit etc.
In C&S you still roll to hit which is not modified by AC but once that hit is scored you apply a singular set amount of damage which is dependant on ability, level, weapon and strength etc...this can be increased through the chance of scoring a Critical / Bash hit which is all part of the same dice roll. The lower you roll the more chance to score these critical hits.
To this the adversary rolls against his DAC (Damage Absorption Capacity) on his armour to try to block as much of the incoming damage as possible. The more he blocks the less gets through to inflict damage. This is a two edged sword though because the more you block the more damaged your armour becomes because your MDAC is reduced by the amount of DAC you blocked.
Also, because the disparity of HP between humans is fairly low you have much more equal combats taking place. An average human fighter may have around 30 HP which can fluctuate between 20 - 50 or so but this is much rarer to see. You often see humans fluctuating between 25-35 while really tough opponents are around 40 or so depending on level of course.
What my players like about C&S 2nd edition is the PCF table. This is a matrix that is set between 0 - 50. It represents the Personal Combat Factor of a character, his overall ability in combat. When you design your character your stats and background come together in a formula to define your PCF which mostly begins around 10 - 20 depending on ability. This increases (automatically) each level by 1.5 for fighter types and 1.0 for non-fighter types. Each point gives values for particular combat abilities such as:
1/ Blows - number of blows you can use in a single turn
2/ HITS & PARRIES - the set bonus value given to a D20 for striking or parrying blows
3/ WDF - Weapon Damage Factors - the impact value in HP terms against an adversary
4/ Shield Parry - the value given to the shield parry ability to block incoming blows
5/ Dodge ability - the value given to the chance to avoid incoming blows
This is a very comprehensive matrix which is modified by level and overall ability. Background, Race, Stats and many other determinants will modify or adjust it which gives each character a real sense of individuality over other characters of the same level which often sees very general or one dimensional ratings for ability with weapons etc.
C&S is anything but one dimensional, each character made (designed) is very different in almost any way possible. Two players might design a Man-at-Arms each in a single sitting and I guarantee both individuals will be completely different by the end of the design. Each will have his own defining personality, characteristics and overall abilities which are so personal that you cannot compare them. The depth of the character designing of the game is that in-depth...
It does have its drawbacks though, it is not a simple system, its complexity does put people off and tends to shy those away from it who otherwise would probably have loved the system had they applied more patience. It is a system where you have to use a generic set of the rules to begin with and add more of the complex sections as you go. But like adding water/milk to a cake mix over time while stirring. If you take this approach into the playing of the game you cannot fail to see its overall superiority over many other systems out in the market even today. Try to add all the rules in the first session and you are bound to give up and go back to D&D...
If you want to know more about it do not hesitate to contact us over at the C&S forum. we are more than willing to help new players learn and old game.