Imagine a world of knights in shining armor, mighty castles, and high chivalry. In this book, you'll find a wealth of information desgined to allow any DM to create a campaign world based on feudal Europe. Sections address life in a feudal culture, new Battlesystem rules for the resolution of sieges, a quick resolution system for massive military campaigns, and an assortment of generic castles to spark your imagination.
The Castle Guide is a must for any player or DM who's ever wanted to fight for a seat at the round table.
DMGR2: The Castle Guide (1990), by Grant Boucher, Troy Christensen, Arthur Collins, and Nigel Findley, was the second book in the Dungeon Master's Guide Rules Supplements for AD&D 2e. It was released in May 1990.
Continuing with the DMGRs. TSR's brand-new "DMGR" series had begun just two months previous with DMGR1: Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide (1990). Like its predecessor, The Castle Guide was a premium leatherette book intended primarily for GM use. However, it took a very different tack from the previous volume, acting as a general sourcebook for the setting of the medieval world, whereas DMGR1 had been all about how to run games.
About the Medieval World. The Castle Guide was innovative at TSR in part because it took a much more realistic look at medieval history than most previous works from the company - which all tended to focus on fantasy realms that were at best pseudo-Medieval. There'd been a few adventures which trended in this direction, including the Celtic-flavored C4: "To Find a King" (1984) and C5: "The Bane of Llywelyn" (1985) and the Briton N2: "The Forest Oracle" (1984), but there wasn't anything that made the full leap to a properly historical setting.
Meanwhile, more historical settings were starting to appear in the rest of the industry, with the medievalist Chivalry & Sorcery (1977) being the first step. RuneQuest's Fantasy Earth (1985), King Arthur Pendragon's Arthurian England (1985), and Ars Magica's Mythic Europe (1987) all had moved C&S's medieval ideas over to an actual Earthly setting.
Though The Castle Guide was TSR's first experiment with an historical setting, they'd publish many more historical books in the future as their "HR" series (1992-1994). In fact, HR2: Charlemagne's Knights (1992) and HR7: The Crusades (1994) are particularly good complements to this book because they detail knights of the same time period in other locales.
About Castles. Though this book is called The Castle Guide, there's slightly less detail on castles than you'd expect. The first part of the book covers feudalism, knights, and tournaments, while the last part covers warfare. Castle content can be found in between, with history, construction notes, and more. There are some nice crunchy bits on castle costs and random events - terrain that TSR had also covered in a different form in the D&D Companion Set (1984) several years earlier.
The most innovative castle-focused element in The Castle Guide is probably its look at specific castles for various D&D classes - a neat integration of the pseudo-medieval FRP milieu with an actual medieval setting.
The most disappointing element is probably the fact that there are only floorplans for a few castles. There had been a few books prior to 1990 with piles of castle maps - including Judges Guild's Castle Book I (1978) and Castle Book II (1981); The Palladium Book of Weapons & Castles (1982) and The Palladium Book of European Castles (1985); and Castles of Hârn (1987). However, The Castle Guide did not join those ranks.
Battlesystem Returns. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, TSR tried hard to make their Battlesystem (1985) work as an alternative to GW's Warhammer. By 1990, when The Castle Guide was released, Battlesystem had recently been published in a second edition (1989), compatible with AD&D 2e and more focused on miniatures. Thus it's no surprise that The Castle Guide included lots of Battlesystem info, all about castles and sieges.
What's more surprising is that TSR was already seeing the issues with Battlesystem's popularity and thus also included "quick resolution systems" for warfare that didn't use Battlesystem at all.
Future History. Dragon Magazine #201 (January 1994) included a few articles on castles, both of which referred to this book: "The Evolution of a Castle" by Thomas Reid and "Seven Steps to a Successful Castle" by L. Richard Baker III.
The next year TSR returned to the topic as part of their 2.5e series with Castle Sites (1995). That book focused more on the castles themselves, providing stats and floorplans for seven castles over 96 pages. However, it also moved away from the "realistic" medieval world to a more fantastic milieu full of dwarves, storm giants, and more.
About the Creators. The Castle Guide was the work of several authors - each of whom probably contributed a separate and distinct section to the book. Collins was a frequent Dragon author, while the other three were frequent freelancers for a variety of companies. Boucher and Christensen both also contributed to the next DMGR book, the Arms and Equipment Guide (1991).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.