Knights of the Chalice - Old School CRPG using d20/OGL rules

we're talking "Get off my lawn!" old school, here, circa 1990 Gold Box.

I've been playing for a couple days, and it is really scratching that turn-based tactical combat itch pretty good. If you liked the Gold Box series, XCom, or anything of that ilk, check it out. It uses the d20 rules according to WotC's Open Gaming License, so it plays pretty much like D&D 3.5, except with some minor changes, such as:
- names of some things are changed so as not to refer to any copyrighted D&D stuff (required by the OGL I believe)
- no skills
- only 3 classes (knight (which is really just fighter), cleric, and wizard)
- only 3 races (human, half elf, and mul (half-dwarf I think))

That may sound kind of limited, especially the last 2, but it's not as bad as you might think. Given the plethora of fighter feats, I was able to make 2 very different knight characters (one greatsword specced guy, and one highly dextrous 2-weapon fighting guy). But the detail in the implementation of all the various combat rules, such as grappling, blind-fighting, concealment, etc pretty much overshadows any of the perceived downsides, I find. The AI is pretty hardcore, too, they will pound on your wizard mercilessly and react to your spell choices with good counters, etc.

Also, the art is decidedly old-school, as in low-res. The font up until today's patch (1.10) was an almost exact clone of the old Gold Box font (which may or may not cause you to shudder), jaggies and all, but now the font has been smoothed and is pretty crisp and readable.

The game makes extensive use of in-game hotlinked help entries that explain just about everything in the game (like what different modifiers mean, what is causing them, what conditions are affecting a character, what feats an enemy has, etc), that is pretty nifty.

Anyway, there's a demo if you think it might be your cup of tea. The full game is about $25, and is purported to be about as long as Baldur's Gate (I couldn't say, I'm only about 10 hours in / level 10 party).

How much is £14.95 in real money?

168.30 yuan?

About $25 a couple days ago when I bought.

Wow, it's really sad how much those screenshots turn me on to the game.

The demo is hard as hell. Total PK in two playthroughs lasting about 20 minutes each. At least from the demo, this is a really hardcore game.

Yeah, the demo is a special scenario not tied to the actual full game, I believe. I only messed with the demo for a couple minutes and 2 battles before I bought the full game, so I haven't tried the whole thing. I read from others that, yeah, it's pretty tough, maybe a little tougher than the actual full game. But the fights definitely keep you on your toes, the AI does a pretty good job of making things difficult for you. Enemy spellcasters use their full assortment, not just fireball and magic missile, fighters will definitely flank you for bonuses, archers will target your wizard then your cleric, etc. It's not easy, but it is pretty fun. In the full game, you can also somewhat set your own difficulty level by a couple options: 1) you can turn on max HP per level, and 2) you can set the number of 18s you automatically get when rolling your chars (from 0-6). There's also an Ironman mode. I'm currently playing non-ironman, with 1 18 per char and random hp per level. It's been good, hard but doable, up til one battle I'm at around level 10 that I just can not win right now. I may have to go do random battles to level up or something, I am really getting massacred.

Played through some more of the demo this morning. You know how, sometimes, a game will reach out and grab you and not let go? I think this game has done that to me. I made it through the battles that PK'd me last night - the demo really demands that you play smart and not make too many stupid mistakes.

Good to hear that there is a way to adjust the difficulty a little. Trying to resist picking this up (I've got a huge backlog of just RPG games to wade through, not to mention other stuff), but I'm pretty weak in that regard.

So, of course I bought this and have been playing rather obsessively this weekend. It's 7:30 PM on Sunday night, the grass still needs mowing, I didn't get the begonias planted and there's still a tree growing through my fence. But my party's level 8!

Awesome! Good job, man!

I'm thinking of re-rolling because I've got 2 knights, one max strength greatsword wielder, and the other high dex dual wielder. I may just got sword and board for the extra defense. The greatsword guy really tears stuff up, though. The dual wielder is impressive against easy targets (with all the 2-weapon fighting skills and a Speedy (extra attack) sword and hasted, he gets like7 attacks at level 10), but against damage resistant enemies he's useless. I haven't yet experimented with making swords of different materials yet, though.

I think my old ATI Rage could run that game.

Very interested in this. Question for those that have played though. I can probably pick up a Neverwinter Nights 2 pack for about the same price these folks are asking for. Is there any reason to pick up this game over NWN 2?

That's a good question. The answer (as it is a lot of the time) is "It depends."

Chalice is really an old school CRPG - Khoram's note about the D&D Gold box is right on the mark. If you expect story, get NWN2, there's not much story here. Character interaction is just filler between the fights. There's a ton of fights to be had as well, some of them pretty hard (at least for me). It looks appropriately retro, so if you like shiny and new, this is probably not for you either. Also NWN2 has tons more content, so, objectively, NWN2 is a far better value for your dollar.

However, I love this game because it DOES remind me of playing on my C64 instead of studying fluid mechanics, so all the old school stuff really works for me. Also, since there's always a fight lurking close by, it has a "next turn" factor that good turn-based strategy games have: not exactly the same thing, but there's a temptation to hold off on putting it down because there's something fun to do less than a minute away.

Also, it's simple without being simplistic. Not much plot, not much dialog, it's all about the fighting and leveling up. The depth comes from the d20 ruleset, which, as far as I can tell, is well implemented by the game.

Plus, I always like to support the independent guys if I can.

Agreed on all accounts, Nightmare. Basically it comes down to this: do you enjoy turn based tactical combat? If yes, then KotC is your game. If not, then NWN 2 is probably a better choice.

Personally, turn based tactical (fantasy/D&D if I can get it, otherwise stuff like XCom works too!) is my mostest favorite genre of gaming, like, ever. Going back to the early 80's. So this was a no brainer for me.

The implementation of the rules is really well done (well, the rules as allowed by the OGL and minus the bits he didn't want to include, like, um, skills). Plus the guy (it's one guy doing the programming) is super-responsive; I think he released 2 or 3 patches this weekend, including fixes for bugs reported Thurs and Fri. That's quick turnaround! I can't wait to see what he does next.

You still playing this Khoram? My Internet was out this past weekend (thanks Comcast, you bastards!) and I played this obsessively all weekend. I'm at level 14 and am in the middle the quests given at the town with the dock on the world map (can't remember the name just now). Still having a blast although I've rage-quit a couple of times, only to re-start and get past the point that made me rage-quit pretty easily. The game definitely rewards playing intelligently and not blindly attacking everything that moves.

Still playing! Though I'm only level 12 - been taking it slow, other things distracting me. I know what you mean about rage-quitting - I do the same except instead of quitting I start new parties. On my original group (with 2-hander str knight and dual-wielding dex knight) I just could not get past that nasty gnoll ambush - I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about. I also could not defeat the second elemental battle at the keep. So I "rage-rerolled", this time I went with 2 sword and board knights, one with dwarven waraxe and the other with bastard sword. Doing much better. Also took Improved Initiative as the first feat for every character. Cloak of Displacement for the mage. Got some lucky rolls at ability creation. I'm at the hill giant place - I had completed it by just convincing the hill giants not to attack anymore (I think by tricking them into believing I had come from some more powerful giants?), but then I realized that I would miss out on LOTS of loot and experience, so I went back to a previous save and am in the process of decimating the hill giant fort

I think my only disappointment with the game is that the adventure is supposed to take you from level 1 to 20, so any future game will not be a continuation with the party. I guess he could write another completely different scenario using the same engine. Will be interesting to see what he does.

The hill giant fort was fun. I appreciate that there seems to be a non-combat way out of some battles but I usually just dive in and start swinging

The level cap is a little disappointing but I think D&D starts to break down once you get to higher levels. The RFF starts to become a bigger part of the fight and all your sound tactics fall to the roll of a die.

For example, in one set-piece battle, the first time I tried it my mage got held in the first round and that was pretty much that: total PK. After re-load, my mage resisted long enough to make a huge difference and the battle turned out to not be that big a deal. So the tactics don't matter nearly as much as the die rolls once you get to a certain level. But this isn't a problem with the game, it's a problem with the ruleset.

My other (minor) gripe is the lack of control over the party member's position in 2- or 1-square hallways. Seems like whenever I come yo a scrap in those places, my mage is always in the vanguard. It usually does not end well.

Nightmare wrote:

The demo is hard as hell. Total PK in two playthroughs lasting about 20 minutes each. At least from the demo, this is a really hardcore game.

So I figured I could at least try the demo on this one. TPK over and over, but it's fun, and I think if I just play it a little smarter *next* time, maybe I won't get completely wiped off the map. Any advice for getting through the demo? Silencing the wizard and fireballing / acid arrowing the troll seem like a good start, but not quite enough...

I personally haven't been back to the demo after I decided to buy the game (so the demo fulfilled its purpose in my case! ). The game is a bit easier than the demo, although it is still challenging.

But, sorry, no advice on getting through the demo itself.

Ok, I bit.

If you had told me in 1993 that we would have hyperrealistic graphics in games in 2009, I would have believed you.

If you had told me that I would be playing a game with graphics similar or worse to the ones available at the time, I would have laughed you out of my parents' garage.

Yeah, but if you were playing games in 1993, you will probably dig this game.

Also, how do you know an area is going to be really hard? When the game gives you a place to rest right at the beginning of the map. Gonna be a bitch, I know it.

I've been playing this for a few sleepless nights now, and despite the irritating crashing bugs it's easily the Game of the Year for me so far. The AI is incredible and uses all sorts of tricks that I would never have even thought of. If you enjoyed the gold box games back in the day, this is a must buy.

You've had crashing bugs? I've not had any, nor seen much on the forum about it. What area of the game?

I've had them all over, all have come after about an hour or two of continuous play. Most often they occur while resting, but I've also had them in other random spots. It's especially frustrating because the battles in this game are so intense and can take a decent amount of time - forgetting to save really hurts. It also makes the Iron Man game mode unplayable.

Yeah, I haven't had a crash either. Have you looked over at the Heroic Fantasy boards? There may be some advice there. Also, the main dev (Blue Salamander) seems to be extremely responsive there. Maybe he can hook you up.

Yeah, I haven't had a crash either. Have you looked over at the Heroic Fantasy boards? There may be some advice there. Also, the main dev (Blue Salamander) seems to be extremely responsive there. Maybe he can hook you up.

I took a look and didn't see anything. It may just be something with my machine, though it's about as generic as it gets. I may have to load it on my laptop and see if that fixes the issue.

Made it to the final battle. I see no way to win it and am tired of trying. I think I know why I cannot win this and it's a little aggravating. Let's just say that if you play this, make sure your clerics and mages take crafting feats and use them. Maybe also read Heroic Fantasy's forums; there are some spoilery items but the game doesn't have much to spoil, really.

Spoiler:

There's no surprise twist or anything

I'm a little put out about the end of the game but, overall, it's an excellent tactical combat game using rules you probably already know quite well.

I hope a sequel gets made.

Someone beat it, according to what I've read on the forum. I haven't had time to play recently, so my guys are still stuck at level 12. What kinds of crafting you talking about? I've had my guys making magic arms and armor of different metals, wands and rings since level 1. Are you talking about something beyond that?

And he is working on a sequel (well I doubt you'll be able to reuse your party) - he has a separate section of the forum for it. Looks like he's going to be adding several classes like paladin, monk, etc, but probably not druid. Also more races. I'd like to see him up the party size to 6 as well.

Khoram wrote:

Someone beat it, according to what I've read on the forum. I haven't had time to play recently, so my guys are still stuck at level 12. What kinds of crafting you talking about? I've had my guys making magic arms and armor of different metals, wands and rings since level 1. Are you talking about something beyond that?

No, that's what I'm talking about. You really need to make some items with enhancements that get past Damage Reduction because the end battle is seemingly unwinnable without that. I have four level 20 characters decked out with the best stuff I've found in the game. But in the last fight, no one can hit any of the bosses for damage. There was a post (contains spoilers!) on their forums about how the DR is crazy tougher than the original D20 rules allowed for.

My problem is that I should have chosen some of the crafting feats to make some of these weapons that I need at the end game and it's too late and I'm not going to go back a play it again just to beat the final set of bosses.

I'm not complaining too much about the game; I really enjoyed it and it was well worth my time and money. I will definitely pick up anything else that he makes.