Crypts and things is a retro-clone based on Swords and Wizardry, with a strong Swords and Sorcery, doomed world, weird fantasy theme. Unlike a lot of other OSR games with the same themes it stays away from inappropriately creepy fetish fuel – the worst I can find is a personality type for henchmen is “Pervert – A depraved excuse of a human being”, and one evil sorcerer who it mentions degrades his apprentices in especially humiliating ways. Crucially that’s about all the detail it goes into, and the GM advice chapter specifically states that you should respect your player’s comfort levels.
The system is based on D&D with a few tweaks – for example, the plethora of saves are replaced by a Fighting Fantasy style Luck stat, which can also be tested for other effects such as doing maximum damage on an attack, not losing a spell after you’ve cast it, or just happening to have a useful bit of equipment with you.
Characters in Crypts and Things are a bit tougher than their D&D equivalents – HP represent superficial damage, and once a character is down to 0 HP they have a penalty to Attack Rolls and Skill Tests; further damage is taken against their Constitution with a Luck test required to stay conscious after each blow (or optionally a roll on the Dangerous Wounds table with results ranging from Winded to Heroic Impalement – take one point more damage and get a free attack against your attacker.) Once per day a C&T character can restore 1d4 HP by having a stiff drink.
There are no Clerics; healing magic is the domain of Sorcerers instead. Magic is divided into White, Grey and Black magic. Of the three, only Grey Magic is mostly safe to cast, White magic can draw the attention of nearby Undead or Others (malevolent entities from outside the world), and Black Magic causes corruption.
Combat is mostly free form, notable rules are that anyone can Backstab, you general can’t decide who to hit if you’re firing into melee, Initiative is round to round rather than per engagement, and spells are declared before Initiative is rolled.
The world of C&T hits all the standard Sword and Sorcery tropes – jungles full of Snake-Men, Ice wastes, decadent empires, pirate ports, ruins of past civilisations all over the place and so on. Some of the location names are a bit on the nose – Death Wind Steppe or the Terror Lizard Run, anyone?
On the whole there’s enough interesting stuff that it’s not a total write-off, and the write-ups both have a sense of enthusiasm about them and are useful for gaming purposes. Most locations are given a brief overview, a couple of adventure hooks and an encounter table. Port Blackmire is an exception – a pirate and demon controlled city detailed at the District and Landmark level, which feels quite inspired by Fighting Fantasy’s Port Blacksand. (The Fighting Fantasy series and 80s UK fantasy gets a callout in the inspirations section, and I can definitely see a lot of the influences.)