In April 2021 we presented the Chivalry and Sorcery Bundle, featuring the Fifth Edition of the venerable medieval fantasy RPG from Brittannia Game Designs. Among the oldest FRPGs still published, Chivalry and Sorcery has a 40-year reputation for historic authenticity. Created by Ed Simbalist (1943-2005) and Wilf Backhaus (1946-2009), C&S depicted a feudal Europe (originally 12th-Century France, later a range of periods) with nobles, knights, Christian priests, and medieval doctrines. Though the First Edition (Fantasy Games Unlimited, 1977) has the usual fantasy races, monsters, and an elaborate magick system, it wears these trappings lightly. In those early days, and in its cleaned-up Second Edition (1983), C&S focused not on dungeon crawls but on the feudal system, court intrigue, tournaments and jousts, and a comprehensive catalogue of ordinary life. The designers took inspiration from flavorful historical treatises such as Life on a Mediaeval Barony (1923) by William Stearns Davis.
Chivalry and Sorcery also has a well-earned reputation for complexity. Early characters had 13 attributes, a social background in a rigid hierarchy, a multiplicity of skills, and astrological auspices; there were 21 classes of magick users. Resolving a single battle could take hours. Several later editions (C&S3, 1996; “C&S Light,” 1999; “Rebirth Edition,” 2000; “Essence v1.1,” 2011) aimed, in various ways, for accessibility.
Now, four decades on, Chivalry and Sorcery is still accessing new audiences with its Fifth Edition (2020), funded in a July 2019 Kickstarter campaign from UK designer Stephen A. Turner. C&S 5E refines the mechanics of past editions into a single percentile-based “Skillskape” mechanic. Though character creation remains intricate (Brittannia sells a custom Excel utility), attributes are simplified, and magick moreso.
Most interesting, especially in terms of accessibility, the new C&S draws on modern research to present the Middle Ages as they really were: diverse in cultural influences and rich with visitors from outside Europe. Now priests can follow Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, or you can tailor the faith rules to any religion, whether real-world or fictional. What hasn’t changed: The Fifth Edition still weaves its fantasy on a foundation of realism, believability, and history. Want to foil an assassination plot at a royal wedding — clear a pack of bandits from Creag Hill in Somerset — or find a missing priest and recover his tithes from a haunted keep? Chivalry and Sorcery helps you tell all these stories with authority and conviction.
In a December 2019 review of C&S 5E on Save vs Player Agency, Andrew Marrington wrote: “Chivalry and Sorcery Fifth Edition is the most complete, playable medieval fantasy roleplaying game you can buy today. […] There are certainly a lot of rules, and in general they aim for a realistic feel rather than simplicity for simplicity’s sake. There are certainly not ‘more rules’ than Pathfinder, though.
“If you want to play Arthurian knights inspired by the works of Sir Thomas Malory, you should go buy Pendragon and The Great Pendragon Campaign. But if you want more options, if you want a more complete medieval fantasy experience, then Chivalry and Sorcery provides. In fact, you don’t even need to play an adventurer. […] You could run a C&S game as a medieval fantasy town simulator if you wanted. Every stratum of medieval society is playable.”
For those who fight, those who pray, those who toil, and those who enchant, this all-new Chivalry and Sorcery Bundle was a comprehensive guide. There were seven titles in our Player Collection (retail value $49) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks, including the complete 600-page Chivalry and Sorcery Fifth Edition core rulebook (plus the Character Generator Excel spreadsheet); four Companion character supplements from earlier editions (and still compatible with 5E) — Dwarves’ Companion, Elves’ Companion, Armourers’ Companion, and Knights’ Companion; and The Art of Chivalry and Sorcery.
Those who paid more than the threshold (average) price also got our entire Gamemaster Collection with nine more titles worth an additional $71.50, including the rules expansion Nightwalkers (for vampiric and lycanthropic characters); the location sourcebooks Dragon Reaches of Marakush (plus its Dragon Reaches Map) and Anderia (along with its Anderia Map); three full-length adventures — Treachery, Treason, and Creag Hill; and the C&S 5E GM Screen.
Twenty percent of each payment (after gateway fees) went to the charity chosen by Stephen Turner of Brittannia Games, The Honeypot Children’s Charity. Honeypot supports young caregivers — children under 18 who provide care and emotional support to a parent, grandparent, or sibling who is ill, disabled, or suffers from a mental health condition or substance abuse.