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Review of Paleomythic, RPG of Stone and Sorcery

Paleomythic is a stone and sorcery roleplaying game in which hunters, healers, and warriors struggle to overcome harsh winters, savage predators, and hostile tribes. PCs can experience a grim tale of hardship and survival or experience grand adventure and magic.

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Paleomythic is a digest sized hardcover with full color art from Osprey Publishing. The PDF costs more than the actual book so I am reviewing the hardcover. This RPG is a delight to read and even if I don’t to get to run it soon I find it interesting and inspiring. The physical book is beautiful and well laid out. There are seven chapters and an appendix and ends with an index followed by a page of cave paintings. The game requires six-sided dice. Player characters are Stone Age humans of ancient Mu.

Each PC has a number of traits which generates a dice pool of the same amount. If a specific trait directly affects the roll a bonus die is added. Flaws are optional and may remove a die. Any result of 6 is a success. Combat wounds reduce traits so the dice pool will vary. The right tools can also add a bonus die but the tool breaks on a roll of 1. A weapon is a tool and if a 6 is rolled for a weapon it not only hits but also has an effect kick in.

Talents are special abilities a PC may have. Character creation consists of picking one to three talents and an additional number of traits to equal six total. An added flaw adds an additional trait. There are twelve traits and twelve corresponding flaws and six talent groups: adept, bestial, fighter, oracle, sorcerer, and specialist. Each group has six talents for a total of thirty-six talents. Example talents include: mystic, snake charmer, hunter, cultist, shaman, and fire maker. Traits can help determine background and PCs also have three starting goods and more goods for each of their talents.

Combat, including chases, covers twenty pages with plenty of detail. Other tasks like swimming and trading take up another fourteen pages providing a good level of detail without being overwhelming. Hazards round out the rules covering things like fire and traps.

paleomythic2.jpg

The next section follows with a discussion of the world of Mu. Random tables are provided to help flesh out settlements and inhabitants. Sample NPCs are included. The gods of Mu are covered to wrap up the chapter.

Adversaries are up next ranging from human foes to a large variety of beasts like bears, boars, scorpions, snakes, and spiders. Beast tribes are described next, followed by the dead like skeletons, spirits, and wraiths.

The Game Moderator section covers a variety of topics like travel and weather with random tables for assistance. There are five 2d6 tables to help create adventure seeds. Paleodelving receives several tables which involves exploring caves and old ruins.

Game variants are included such as making the game semi-realistic and removing the more fantastic elements like beast men and magical talents. Other hominid species like Neanderthals are options a GM can add to this variant. The stone and sorcery vibe could be dialed up to sword and sorcery as well with rules for more advanced weapons and world modification tips.

The book rounds out with a paleodelve called Captives of the Beast Men. Captives have been taken by beast men and the PCs must rescue them from a series of caves. The cave system only has a couple of branches so it can seem a bit linear but serves well enough to introduce the game.

The appendix consist of a random name generator, a random talent generator, six sample PCs, and a character sheet. The random PCs are helpful if you want to run this RPG as a one shot which I really appreciate.

Paleomythic is a compact, carefully designed, beautifully illustrated and laid out hardcover of an RPG. GMs could come up with many adventure, NPC, and settlement ideas just from reading through it, even if they don’t run the system itself. Few campaigns are set in a stone and sorcery setting. This one is well done and easy to understand with a dice pool system and a setting that paints a picture of a prehistoric world. Grab your antler pick and bone shield and get ready to paleodelve.
 
Charles Dunwoody

Comments



Bluenose

Adventurer
Both this game and Romance of the Perilous Lands are new beautiful games from Osprey. I hope they do well because I want to see what Osprey does next.
There are three more listed on Amazon as future products - a wuxia game, one that looks like near-future SF, and one set in the bronze age. I'm happy with both the existing ones, though I think we're more likely to play Paleolithic that RoPL as Pendragon fills the 'Arthurian' niche well for us.
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
Picked up a copy on a whim, and didn't regret it. The two things that impressed me most about Paleomythic are...

1) The production quality. The artwork is stunning; full-color, evocative of the setting, and every piece as good as the cover or example included in the article. This is Tier 1 art, which is unsurprising given Osprey's normal standards in that area for their hundreds (thousands?) of military-related books. It's a beautifully-bound hardback with quality paper. And the size of the book makes it perfect for reading-for-pleasure. It's a 200+ page book, but the folio size makes it seem deceptively compact. Great for reading on the bus or in the park.

2) The self-contained nature. Paleomythic is a PH with multiple classes and sub-classes and "feats"... and a combat/adventuring system for DMs... and a campaign setting... and a huge list of gear with a basic crafting system... and a rich pantheon... and tables to build your own settlements and NPCs... and a description of a Shadowfell-like alternate dimension... and a full bestiary... and an introductory module... and an appendix for adapting to other settings (more "real world", more "fantastic", more "bronze age"). Romance of the Perilous Lands (book 2 in the Osprey series) is also quite nice, but doesn't feature an introductory module or crafting system or build-your-own tables. It does have a more fleshed-out magic system and bestiary (and is more "crunchy" in general), but Paleomythic simply has a little bit of everything.

As a matter of interest, the book very much reminds me of the CRPG/Survival game called Conan: Exiles. It gives the sense of starting out with a loincloth, and gathering wood and flint to make spears. Traveling to remote settlements, while avoiding attacks from crocodiles, hyenas and cannibals. Finding mysterious sites where cultists of barbaric deities conduct human sacrifices in their name. Inhaling strange herbs and finding yourself dreamwalking amidst ancestral spirits. Even the description of the campaign setting (Mu) is similar to the layout of Conan: Exiles - frozen wastes to the north, deserts to the south, hills and forests to the west, steaming swamps to the east. There are elements of Paleomythic which would better model some of Conan's stories than the actual Conan RPG from Modiphius, IMHO.
 


Jargogle

aka Colin Chapman
It really is an elegant, inspiring game. It's the RPG I never knew I wanted and definitely the best game I've come across in over a year. It even inspired me to create a fan bestiary and supplement that I am sharing, bit by bit, in the Osprey thread on RPG.net alongside other resources such as a fillable character sheet.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I'm definitely intrigued. I can already see how I could create a potential game setting using a mix of Paleomythic, Primeval Thule, and possibly something like Numenera. I kinda like, for example, the idea of paleolithic humans living in the shadow of ruins of prior civilizations of either more conventional fantasy peoples (e.g., elves, dwarves, etc.) or even science-fiction peoples, with humans dealing with crashed space ships, stranded alien cultures, and the like.
 

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
I've been looking for a good "stone age" game for a very long time, and this one finally sounds like it hits every specific point I've been wanting. I think I'll be getting this one.
Thanks to all for the great review and helpful comments!
 



Aldarc

Legend
You know what? I'm gonna tag @Hussar and @S'mon because I know that they had Primeval Thule games and this may be of interest to them as well, if they have not seen this already.

Due to this thread, I grabbed a pdf copy of Paleomythic yesterday. I'm fairly impressed by the implied setting of Ancient Mu. When you read the talents "Serpents" and "Soul Eater" you get hints of older civilizations that have now collapsed and dark threats that their existence could hint at. For example, are characters with the 'Serpents' talent the descendants of a Yuan-ti like society or are they the people alongside the 'Snake Charmers' who may one day become the Yuan-ti?

A lot of the talents do an excellent job of not only evoking paleo-societies but also the Sword & Sorcery genre. But at the same time, the art also depicts both "stone age" cavemen, but also highly advanced paleolithic societies that seemed inspired by North and South American aboriginal cultures.

I could also see using Paleomythic for an Empire of the Petal Throne / Tekumel or even a Dark Sun style setting.
 
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Fireball36

Explorer
It seems to me that success doesn't come by that often if it all hinges on you rolling a six without an offsetting one. In Shadowrun you roll a lot of dice and fives AND sixes contribute to the success of your attempt. In a lot of games, I can get a feel for my chances of a successful roll. I have no idea from the review above on how many dice an average fighter would roll to hit and thus their chances to hit an average opponent. If anyone can shed some light on this, I would appreciate it.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Then let's build a character! Kul the Average Fighter

In Paleomythic the number of traits and talents you have varies depending on what you choose at the beginning:
  • 1 Talent and 5 Traits
  • 2 Talents and 4 Traits
  • 3 Talents and 3 Traits
You can also pick up a maximum of two additional traits if you pick a flaw for each additional trait. So let's say that we pick 3 Talents, 3 Traits + 2 Traits + 2 Flaws. Assuming you are healthy and no relevant flaws, you get a number of dice to your rolls equal to your number of Traits. This means that we will have at least 5 dice except on rolls that involve our flaws.

What traits would we like for Kul, our average Stone & Sorcery Fighter? We can choose 5 traits, but we must pick 2 flaws. So for Traits, how about Brave (facing foes and fighting in melee), Strong (physical strength), Resilient (resisting pain and disease), Dexterous (slight of hand, delicate work) and Wilful (they're a stubborn bastard). But now we need to pick 2 Flaws: Careless (the corresponding flaw to Guileful trait) and Clumsy (corresponding flaw to Agile trait).

At this point, what do these traits mean? On a typical roll, we will roll 5 dice. On a roll involving one of our 5 Traits, such as Brave when we fight with weapons, we will roll 6 dice. Kul gets a bonus dice to the roll if their task involves a Trait they possess.

So how about Talents, because Talents can occasionally provide bonus dice or benefits, as will be the case for our character. Let's pick an obvious Talent first: Warrior. With the Warrior talent a PC gains an additional attack with melee weapons for each of the two following traits they may have: Strong and Dexterous, which Kul selected. So Kul can make three melee attacks (if these traits aren't damaged). Kul naturally wants to be a Barbarian too. This talent causes his melee weapon hits to inflict an additional wound. Then Kul decides to lean into this more heavily and picks the talent Savage. With the Savage talent he gains a bonus Resilient die when resisting illness and disease. Plus, when he's damaged in melee, he can roll a 1d6 'savage die': on a 6, the damage is avoided; however, on a 1, Kul is fatigued and can't use this ability in combat again.

So Kul the Average Stone & Sorcery Fighter when fighting with his melee weapon will roll 5 dice (for his 5 traits) plus 1 bonus die for Brave. But he gets to make 3 melee attacks on his turn and he will inflict a bonus wound with each hit.

I hope that helps.
 
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