A page of thoughts, ideas and reflections on Paleomythic and prehistoric things in general.
Thoughts On: Gatherers
Initially perhaps, the gatherer talent may not be the first choice of many players. There’s nothing showy about the talent certainly, but for many adventures, having a gatherer in the party may prove vital.
Gatherers are survival focussed. They will keep themselves and the party going when there’s a long distance to cover, and they can mean the difference between arriving at a destination strong, rather than weakened and vulnerable. They’re also resourceful, and can be valuable when trying to find that elusive material for an important craft item.
For single player adventures, with a player and a GM, a character with the gatherer talent is a good option. Being able to gather more food and materials allows a single character to have more time to do other tasks, rather than having to constantly focus on looking for food or putting up with periods of starvation. In addition, being able to improvise tools for crafting and other tasks becomes very useful when there’s no other characters around to help.
Thoughts On: Locks
Some may think locks don’t belong in the Paleomythic world, and of course there’s no reason why a GM has to use locks in their adventures. However, one of the reasons they were included in the game is as a prompt for GMs to think about ways in which goods and areas might be secured, rather than relying on important items and places always being guarded.
In this sense then, a lock is a means of making an area temporarily inaccessible to those who aren’t supposed to have access. A lock does not need to be an intricate mechanism or device; and can be, for example, a feature of the design, layout or use of an area. Like a trap, a lock can be used to deter or inconvenience others, although unlike traps, locks aren’t usually designed to harm.
Here’s some unconventional ‘lock’ ideas for GMs:
A labyrinth lock: An important item or area is made inaccessible by a constructed labyrinth, perhaps of crawl tunnels or narrow passages, with a direct route known only to a few.
A lock of disguise: This is an area which is hidden, perhaps a very skilfully painted hide made to look like a section of rock, attached a wall to conceal a niche. The ‘key’ for this lock is simply knowing the area exists.
A deterrent lock: An area or item accessible only by first navigating a danger. For example, imagine a small pit which contains a treasure, with a clearly visible venomous snake also housed in the pit. Unlike most traps, the danger here is immediately evident, it deters rather than tricks. Locks like this may have a special tool, such as a hook to move the snake, to act as the ‘key’.
A trick lock: Here, the area or item seems inaccessible, but this is a trick or illusion of some sort. For example, a huge boulder blocks an entrance, so that it would be foolhardy to attempt to shift it.. until someone tries. Then it becomes evident that the boulder is hollow and not as heavy as it appears.
Thoughts On: Sword and Sorcery Armaments
The sword and sorcery genre shares many similarities with the ‘stone and sorcery’ of Paleomythic, and it is a relatively simple task to run sword and sorcery adventures with little modification to the rules.
Weapons: As suggested in the main rules, metal weapons can be made durable with the inclusion of ‘weakness points’. This works like the standard rules for weapon use, but the more durable sword and sorcery weapons must accumulate a certain number of points before the break. Below is a list of sword and sorcery weapons with suggested weakness points and weapon effects:
Axe – weakness points 5, fracture
Broadsword – weakness points 6, gore
Crossbow – weakness points 3, ruin
Dagger – weakness points 4, pain
Flail – weakness points 6, trip
Greatsword – weakness points 7, destroy
Mace – weakness points 7, slam
Poleaxe – weakness points 6, smash
Scimitar – weakness points 5, slice
Shortsword – weakness points 5, intimidate
Spear – weakness points 6, pierce
Armour: Sword and sorcery armour is not the makeshift hides and bones of the Paleomythic world, and is instead made specially to take a beating.
Armour functions as noted in the rules, stopping a single wound when more than one is inflicted. However, the armour can be damaged multiple times before being deemed damaged (and useless until repaired). This is measured in weakness points, just like weapons. For example, a leather jerkin has 3 weakness points, so is not deemed damaged until it has stopped 3 wounds.
Note that weapon effects that cause ‘ruin’ effects count has causing 2 weakness points, but the piece of armour is still considered repairable.
Shields are unchanged, and work like they do in the Paleomythic rules.
Coif (cap, flexible), weakened points 2
Helm (metal helmet, rigid), weakened points 6
Hood (mail links, flexible), weakened points 5
Leather Greaves (leg armour, flexible), weakened points 3
Metal Greaves (leg armour, rigid), weakened points 6
Leather Vambraces (arm armour, flexible), weakened points 3
Metal Vambraces (arm armour, rigid), weakened points 6
Sleeves (mail armour for arms, flexible), weakened points 5
Scale (leather with metal plates, rigid), weakened points 4
Jerkin (leather tunic, flexible), weakened points 3
Mail (Metal links, flexible), weakened points 5
Plate (metal cuirass, rigid), weakened points 6
Note: This hasn’t been play tested!
Thoughts On: Food
The stereotype of the ‘caveman’ chewing on a hunk of meat or a bone as their major food source is one that has been prevalent for many years. In truth, it is far from the diet of most actual prehistoric societies, which (as you would expect), varied quite a lot from region to region and depending on the prehistoric period considered.
Dismiss also from your mind the modern notion of the ‘Paleo diet’, which is a result of a very poor understanding of the diet of early human societies. This fad diet incorporates modern foods which did not exist in pre-modern societies, and makes assumptions about the range of foods without considering, amongst other things, geography.
Paleolithic diets were as varied as they could be, subject to the location and season. Many foods present today, such as various early forms of fruits and vegetables, were available to the prehistoric forager, although some would probably be almost unrecognisable from the foods we have today. Other foods used by Paleolithic peoples are certainly now uncommon in the diet of modern humans.
For the Paleomythic world, GMs are encouraged to make foods a feature of gatherings and social encounters. Food can reward the adventurous, and be a way of honouring visitors. It can also highlight hardship, such as being given meagre rations during a famine, or monotonous meals during captivity.
So what can characters eat? To begin with, consider raw foods. Fruits, vegetables, leaves, nuts and seeds make meals and snacks, and are useful as transportable rations. Raw foods can also be prepared to make pastes, or dried to make then last longer. Many of the peoples of ancient Mu cook their food, and there will be preferred methods in certain regions. Perhaps an area prefers boiled and seared food, whereas the same food is roasted in another area. Some tribes may simply warm their food, whereas food fried in oil might be popular at a particular settlement.
Modern names for foods can be used, but it is also an option to describe foods in terms of taste and appearance. The following descriptions are all modern foods, but without their names players must use their imagination; sweet green fruit, small dark berries, oval shaped nuts, a paste of seeds, oil from dark fruit, sour plump berries, mashed bitter leaves, large dark leaves.
True cookery begins when foods are combined in interesting ways. Simple variations on bread, combining ground grains, seeds and vegetables with water and vegetable oils makes for a staple used in many areas of ancient Mu. Herbs and spices combined with other foods, such as fish, meats and cooked vegetables, make flavourful meals. Foods boiled in pots with spices, to make all manner of stews, is a popular way to cook food in many parts of Mu.
Thoughts On: Character Death
Like most RPGs, characters in Paleomythic can die. Many players and GMs have their own thoughts and preferences on character death, and Paleomythic is flexible enough to accommodate many of these preferences. However, the game system was designed to heighten the sense of character vulnerability, and for this reason character death is often a regular and ongoing consideration.
In Paleomythic, the system accounts for the effects of wounds on characters. Just as in real life, being wounded impairs ones’ ability to fight, and increases the probability of death. Suffering too many wounds makes characters extremely vulnerable, and it is a feature of Paleomythic that escaping a dangerous situation, rather than confronting it, is often the prudent choice.
This is as it should be; Paleomythic is a game about humans at the dawn of time, and the setting is such that character fragility should be evident. In this way, the achievements of characters, equipped with the most basic of weapons and supplies, become all that more meaningful. The ever present danger of death in Paleomythic heightens the tension of a fight, and means that if death is cheated, it is a victory indeed.
The Paleomythic system was designed so that GMs and players that wish to simulate the brutality of an ancient existence can easily do so. It allows for all manner of hardship (whether that is combat, starvation, disease, exposure and so on). It allows for meaningful and meaningless character death, for necessary and futile death, so that all manner of dramas can be played out.
If this sounds harsh, remember that Paleomythic can be more than savagery. Many a satisfying game can be had engaged in activities that focus on subjects other than threat. Craft items, interact with the tribe, decorate caves, celebrate marriages and above all, tell stories.
Thoughts On: Treasure
The notion of treasure in Paleomythic is quite different from the valuable items and coins of traditional fantasy RPGs. Although GMs can use gems as a currency, and have characters purchase the items they need, much of the treasure of a Paleomythic adventure takes the form of materials.
Crafting, both making and repairing items, is an important activity in Paleomythic. Characters cannot rely on things as much as they can in other settings; this is a key aspect of Paleomythic. Having items break means that relatively mundane situations can be unexpected moments of drama. The quest for materials can drive adventures and secondary plots, allowing GMs to relax as ‘sandbox’ moments develop in the game.
Sought after treasures are those materials that add a quality to an item, either as an actual game mechanic effect (such as a more durable flint that resists breakage) or as a role played nuance (such as a beautiful and rare bird feather, or the hide of an unusual beast). Here’s a selection of items that feature both qualities, with an indication of their value in brackets:
Ancient Bone (16 per piece)
A rare find; some bones can be found buried in the ground. These bones, from long dead beasts, have an ancient power, and are as tough as stone. See the ‘unyielding items’ note below for how this affects items made of this material.
Ice Flint (12 per piece)
This unusual flint has a sheen and in the sunlight, it glints like ice. It is especially sharp, and when used to create weapons has the ‘second effect’ pierce (see second effects, below).
Iridescent Scales (9 per use)
These are the scales of certain fish which shift in colour and light. They can be used to decorate items, or ground into pastes to use as paints or for body decoration. In the latter case a person that is decorated with iridescent scale paint is treated as having the trait charismatic while it lasts, or as having the flaw unassuming negated temporarily.
Mountain Flint (12 per piece)
Certain areas of Mu, notably in high and inaccessible mountain regions, is where this type of flint can be found. Mountain flint is dark grey, and makes items tough. See the ‘unyielding items’ note below for how this affects items made using this material.
Primordial Spines (18 each)
Incredibly rare items found buried deep in the remote and forbidding places of Mu, these spines are long and incredibly sharp. When they are found, there are usually several buried together with the bones of some long dead beast. They can be incorporated into the construction of weapons, and add the ‘second effect’ gouge to the properties of the weapon.
Rainbow Feather (6 each)
Some large birds have feathers that surpass the colour and beauty of any others. Prized amongst these finds are the long and colourful rainbow feathers. Incorporating one of these into a crafted item increases its’ value by 6, and such feathers are deemed to be fine gifts amongst many of the tribes of Mu.
Rugged Hide (9 per piece)
Large and tough beasts are often protected by thick hides. Therefore, any beast described as having three or more pieces of natural armour (flexible or rigid) counts as supplying rugged hide when it is harvested from such a beast. Rugged hide as conferring the benefits of an ‘unyielding item’ as described below.
Spiral Horn (12 each)
This item comes from a strange sea creature, a rare and fantastic creature. If such an item is found, it can be used to fashion a ceremonial spear or staff that would be seen as a status symbol by many, and would be worth a good deal if traded.
Second Effect Items
For weapons with the ‘second effect’ quality; a tool die result of 5 indicates the noted second weapon effect occurs. The primary effect of the weapon still occurs on a tool die result of 6.
For items made of ‘unyielding’ material; a tool breakage result makes them ‘scratched’. Only when a scratched item gets a second tool breakage result is it considered damage (but still repairable). Weapon effects that cause an item comprising this material to be ‘ruined’ count as damaged instead.