Some Background: Back in the day, SPI had a perfectly respectable monthly magazine with a game in it, called ARES. (“the Day” in this case being the 1980s). I remember it with some fondness. You can find almost all of them as PDF files now in the Internet Archive, if you wish to examine the source material. One of my favorite SPI products of that era was their very small SF and Fantasy line of Quad Games, and my favorite one of those was a tiny ziploc game called DeathMaze. Many games get relegated to shelf space over the years, but not DeathMaze. I played that constantly for a couple years, because it worked just fine solitaire, and could fit in the outer pocket of my college backpack. Cheap, too. SPI was trying to make inroads against that sprawling cash cow called Dungeons and Dragons back then, and were producing a lot of material that fit solidly in that realm. Deathmaze was part of a series of small format SF/F pocket games that fit in a ziploc and didn’t cost much. They didn’t sell very well, I guess the true fantasy geeks scoffed at them and the wargamers didn’t want to have much to do with fantasy back then. I loved the premise. You play a small party of adventurers moving around in a randomly generated dungeon that is constantly evolving as you draw new room tiles out of a cup, encounter creatures and kill them, get treasure, and etc. etc. It really wasn’t much of a roleplaying system.. certainly no D&D clone with the most rudimentary combat system and a magic fatigue system similar to the Fantasy Trip (where casting magic hurts you), but I found it very entertaining. Citadel of Blood was a lift of sorts from a SPI fantasy ‘verse that premiered in one of my favorite SPI games ever, Swords and Sorcery. S&S was a giant sprawling boardgame/roleplaying game construct of a sort that SPI excelled in- the War of the Ring, John Carter of Mars, The Sword and the Stars, Demons, to name a few. A lot of people were put off by the silly concepts of Swords and Sorcery, but not me. I was put off by the awful combat system. The background fluff was just fantastic. Communist Orcs, Mysterious Wizards, Jolly Elves, Grim Dwarves, and Kronks. Oh and you could summon an OGRE Tank (called a Continental Siege Machine) and a SS Tank Regiment in that game, did I mention that? Good times, good times. The Citadel of Blood is just one location on the map in Swords and Sorcery, with an expanded story and an adventure game that used the build-a-maze mechanics of Deathmaze and the story and characters from Swords and Sorcery. The result is highly playable, and more importantly simply perfect for distance playing over Zoom. My friend Joe Procopio hosted the cameras and the game components at his house:
The other player, Steve, and myself played four characters. A main character, randomly drawn from the Citadel of Blood character pool, and an apprentice of sorts. I drew Eodred, a human with some spellcasting capability, who had a bow and a dagger. I named my Dwarven Apprentice “Boozehammer” in homage to Patton Oswalt. Boozehammer had an axe and a bow, and he had some minor spell-casting abilities.
A quick note about magic: In this system the world has three suns: A blue one, a red one and a yellow one. Your innate magic power is different depending on which Sun is at perihelion on the day you are adventuring– so if you have a red 3, a yellow 4 or a blue 5, and it’s a “yellow” day, you get 4 points max magic. Simple, but kind of clever fluff. It’s a limiting factor that adds color. For instance, Boozehammer only had a 2 yellow magic score, and we lucked out to be adventuring on a yellow day, adding his measly 2 points to spellcasting.
We managed to get down to level 2 in this session. One of us figured out that we would find the Mcguffin we sought on Level 3, a certain distance below and away from us. The problem is that the system keeps throwing things at you, and the farther down you go the harder you get hit. I don’t think our odds of surviving are very good, but I’m ready to have a session 2 at some point. We saved our work:
Along the way we encountered Wolves twice, bribed a vampire to go away, and fought all matter of evil critters. Magic was kept at a minimum because you can take damage points for casting spells. Gack!
It was a fun experience and kind of a geeky pleasure to bring this back to the table after, what, 30 years?
You can see more pictures of this session on IMGUR.
You can play this game over tabletop simulator, too.