Dragon Castle TRPG

Dragon Castle

Tokyo Game Market booth listing for Dragon Castle
Tokyo Game Market booth listing

I was immediately drawn to the listing for Dragon Castle TRPG as I flipped through the Game Market catalog. The old school feeling by the design and mechanics is something I really dig.

Being but a few pages, Dragon Castle was a very quick read. The rules, monsters, and character sheet are just three pages on card stock. Included looseleaf in the package is a thin cardboard battle sheet to track position during combat, a double sided FAQ sheet, and finally a card stock single page adventure.

Contents of the basic rules for Dragon Castle
Contents of the basic rules for Dragon Castle

It’s a well thought out way of packaging the beginner rules. The scenario is detached from the rules, making it easy for the DM to reference. Additional monsters are also included, and the minimalism allows for a lot of creativity. For an experienced role player, this is quite freeing. For a true beginner, it may be a bit overwhelming; not due to rules complexity, but terseness.

The Rules

Headings for the two pages of rules, "Player Rules" on the left, "Game Master" rules on the right
“Player Rules” on the left page, “Game Master” rules on the right page

The rules are split into two pages: one for players and one for the game master. I really enjoyed the compactness of the rules, but it also meant sometimes re-reading a few times to fully unpack them.

Player Rules

The basic rules include three character classes: Fighter, Mage, and Thief. Attributes are basic, with just Ability, HP, and Damage. Each class also has a special attribute, such as Fighters doing more damage per level, Mages casting spells, and Thieves, well, ~thieving~ acquiring items.

Stat block for a PC fighter
Stat block for a PC fighter: melee class whose damage increases with level

Speaking of items, they’re rated with a difficulty to attain. Characters roll and if the result is under the difficulty, can acquire the item. Spells are also treated as magic items, with healing, attack, and attack all being the three spells in the basic rules.

Resolution is roll under with a D6. The target number is the character’s Ability score, but it can be modified by certain abilities and conditions.

The A4 cover opens up to a two page rules spread
The A4 cover opens up to a two page rules spread

Combat begins with a pre-combat round in which preparations can be made, items used, and arrows fired. Positioning is reminiscent of old Final Fantasy games with two lines. Those in the front line can attack and be hit by the opponent’s front line, while the back line can cast spells.

Advancement is handled by counting the number of adventures. In addition to increasing the adventure count, completing an adventure nets the character a new item. Every five encounters a character advances a level.

Game Master Rules

This page begins with an overview of the GM’s role in the game, and is followed by advice for ability check and trap difficulties. Finally, half the page is a list of twenty seven monsters, each with a silhouette.

Gryphon stat block
Gryphon stat block

The monster stat block contains the same three stats as players, plus a brief description and danger level. Interestingly, those marked with a “D” (Dangerous) will finish off incapacitated characters, while those without it will not.

Character Sheet and Item List

The character sheet takes up half a A4 page. The second half is the items list, which includes class restrictions for items.

Dragon Castle Character Sheet
The character sheet has the attributes in the three center boxes, with a large memo section beneath them. To the right is items. The top section is character background, details, and level info.

FAQ

The FAQ sheet is a nice addition and doesn’t just clarify rules, but adds additional info. An example of the former is how removing armor affects hit points. The latter can be seen in its description of what the battle sheet is used for.

Scenario

The scenario is nicely laid out, with the overview, cast of characters, and clues for the PCs concise and organized. Like much of the basic rules, it is very minimalist, with most of the description left to the game master. One of the maps includes a small random encounter chart with three options: slimes, giant snakes, and killer hounds.

The gist is a noble’s ring has been stolen and the player characters are approached by the noble’s emissary to retrieve the ring. It’s then up to the players to gather info and retrieve the ring.

Language

A fairly easy read few difficult words and grammar. Its short length means re-reading is easy and is a nice way to familiarize oneself with fantasy TRPG vocabulary.

Sample Rules Text

(D)マーク付きのモンスターは気絶したキャラクターに追い打ちし、「とどめ」を刺します。
Monsters with the “D” mark will continue attacking unconscious characters and finish them off.
– Player rules on “Unconsciousness, Death, and Item Loss”

Sample Flavor text

鷲の頭と翼、獅子の胴体を持つ怪物
A monster with the head and wings of an eagle, the body of a lion.
– Monster list entry for Gryphon

Actual Play

There is an actual play of the game by voice actresses on YouTube:

Acquiring

The basic rule and its supplement are available for free on the maker’s website, as well as for sale at local hobby shops, such as Yellow Submarine. The physical basic rules are 300 Yen (~$3 USD), while the eighty page advanced rules are 1,500 Yen (~$15 USD).

The publisher Argolines was founded in 2004 and publishes other gaming materials as well, such as a “RPG Maker” book and an RPG BGM.

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