Here's a page with a neat little rules thingy that takes some of the cooler parts of HackMaster and injects them into Castles & Crusades. That's pretty darn cool. HackMaster is way too crunchy for me while C&C is a little too light. With this rules plug-in suddenly C&C looks like a very good option for a fantasy campaign. Yay, critical hit charts! I really think a lighter system than 3.5 could go a ways to help me put together a campaign that's a little bit more than a string of unrelated dungeoneering. Even with the CastleHack elements added in, C&C looks like a good candidate to be that system.
Of course I just made up my mind yesterday that my next fantasy campaign would use Arcana Evolved. I came to this conclusion after grappling with the issues regarding starting a new campaign in an unfamiliar setting. With straight D&D people already know the races and classes and most potential players have a PHB so they can make their character at home before the first session. With AE you encounter the twin problems of Explaining the Setting (including all the races and classes) and the dreaded Chargen Session of Doom. Few things kill my buzz harder than wasting the first session of a campaign on passing the book around while trying to build characters.
So I decided that I will short-circuit the process somehow for this theoretical campaign. The easiest way to pull that off would be with pre-gen characters. Anybody out there remember module N4 Treasure Hunt? An AD&D module written by Aaron Allston (author of Strike Force, one of best supplements every produced by the hobby) and published during the late 1st edition era, Treasure Hunt ain't exactly a classic of the genre but it does have a cute gimmick. The included pregen PCs are zero level characters. They have some stats and a race. They're each proficient with a dagger, a staff, or a club. Other than that these PCs are a blank slate. No character class. No alignment. Heck, they start out with a negative XP total. During the course of the adventure the DM tracks what the PCs do. There's a nifty little chart. Example: Attempt to use the dead hobgoblin's polearm? The DM marks a plus sign ('+') next to the classes that wield such things and a minus sign ('-') next to the classes that can't weild polearms. Everyone is allowed to try all the class abilities useable by a first level character. When a PC reaches 0 XP the DM assigns them a class (and alignment) based upon their prior activity. So the guy who put on the armor and swung the sword will probably end up a fighter. The PC who used the spellbook to cast sleep winds up being an magic-user, etc.
It's a cute little way to start out a campaign. Newbies don't have to know anything about the class system, they can just try to do stuff. I've seen veteran players enjoy the process, too. Module N4 is one of the handful of published adventures I've run more than once. Because of the differences in system and setting N4 isn't directly adaptable to Arcana Evolved, but I see it as inspiration for how to get an AE game off the ground. I'm not exactly sure yet how I'd implement the idea. One thought I had involved just whipping up one member of each PC races, each as a first level member of their respective racial paragon class.