Imagine a world before recorded history, when tribes fought over primordial lands, when warriors struggled against savage and gigantic beasts, and when nefarious priests conceived their evil plans, whilst hidden away in their mysterious stone temples. This is a world where weapons are made of stone, wood and bone, and where armour is a thick hide or fur. It is a world where fabulous gems reward the bold, and where the curious can explore cave complexes and discover strange new tribes. This is the era before time, the time that never was, the Paleomythic.
What is Paleomythic?
Paleomythic is a Stone & Sorcery RPG, a phrase coined to describe a genre in which the adventure concepts of sword and sorcery are used in a stone age setting. In a sword and sorcery game, players characters are typically humans armed with little more than a sword, facing malevolent mages or hideous monsters in their quest for wealth and renown. Their rewards are chests filled with gold, or the gratitude of exotic princesses and rich kings.
Stone and sorcery takes these ideas back in time to a mythic stone age. Here, the hero is also recognisably human, but armed with a simple wood spear, a cudgel or flint weapon. The rewards are similar, though marvellous gemstones replace gold coins. The dangers are many and varied. Characters may face evil priests and nefarious doomsayers, as well as prehistoric beasts and savage beast men.
The Paleomythic RPG was inspired partly by my love of prehistory, paleoanthropology archaeology. I still recall the first time I saw an iron age hill fort, which to some might have looked like a few hills, but to me was a place to fire the imagination. In my minds eye I saw huts, people and animals in those hills, and it was enough to inspire me to look deeper into the prehistory of Britain (and eventually further afield).
Quite a few years ago, I discovered the ‘Tor’ comics whilst browsing around in the ‘bronze age’ and ‘silver age’ sections of the marvellous ‘Nostalgia & Comics’ shop in Birmingham, UK. Tor was a prehistoric character created by Joe Kubert, first appearing in the 1950’s. The stories were crude, and in no way historically accurate, and yet they great adventure tales. Tor was updated by Kubert in the graphic novel ‘Tor: a prehistoric odyssey’, and is a must read for those interested in the prehistoric fiction genre.
The book ‘Quest for fire'(translated from the Belgian original ‘La Guerre du Feu’) is to my mind a classic of prehistoric fiction. This book, written by J H Rosny, was published in 1911, but reads like a modern short novel. It is a simple, but fascinating tale and another must read for prehistory fans. There is also a film of the same name, released in the 1980’s, which is a great attempt at a more realistic prehistoric film (with no dinosaurs in sight). Amongst its’ cast is Ron Perlman, who has since appeared in some classic films and tv series.
The other major influence for the game is the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard. The books are, in my opinion, the purest example of the sword and sorcery genre. The stories were recreated in graphic form in the 1970’s comic series ‘Savage Sword of Conan’. It was these comics that kindled my initial interest in the sword and sorcery genre, and to this day it is my preferred brand of classic fantasy (as opposed to the Tolkienesque sort, laden with elves, dwarves and so on). Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s been a film that does the sword and sorcery genre justice (but I live in hope).
I’m incredibly grateful to the artists that worked on Paleomythic. Their work is both skilled and evocative. You can see more of their work here: