WHAT IS CAVEMASTER?
Cavemaster is a serious Stonepunk tabletop fantasy role-playing game of Pleistocene adventure using the Habilis game system. The creature list is extensive and authentic, with a few cool anachronisms. Cavemaster isn’t just a tabletop RPG where you play a cave-man. It's an RPG that cave-men could have played!
WHAT IS HABILIS?
The Habilis game system is a fictitious archaeological re-construction of the role-playing game rules first used by our Homo Habilis ancestors approximately 2 million years ago. Habilis requires no components that can’t be found in nature: rocks, sticks, and bits of animal hide rather than paper, dice, hex grids, or plastic or metal miniatures (though you certainly MAY use more modern components, if you wish). It requires no written language or detailed record-keeping either, and its mechanics are simple enough to have been passed down verbally from each tribe’s Cavemaster (CM) to his (or her) apprentice(s).
A Quick Introduction to the Habilis Rules
Abilities are represented by groups of small stones on your ‘character skin’. In a challenge, you pick up the relevant stones and secretly divide them between your hands. Your opponent (or the CM) does the same. Each participant picks one of the other person’s hands, and the stones in that hand are revealed.. If you reveal more stones, you succeed!
WHAT IS STONEPUNK?
In the tradition of Cyberpunk and Steampunk, Stonepunk is an exercise in speculative fiction. Stonepunk turns the clock back to the end of the Pleistocene Epoch (approximately 10,000 years BCE), and asks what might have happened if the culture and technology of that age had developed further, or in exciting new directions!
Backers can get printable .pdfs, physical printed books, and even hand-made faux leather bags containing specially hand-selected sets of Cavemaster game stones!
Check out our previously published games at the UNIgames web site!
Listen to an interview with designer Jeff Dee including a discussion of Cavemaster here: http://vigilancepress.podbean.com/2011/12/27/jeff-dee-talks-cavemaster-and-more/
You can read about the authors' Cavemaster playtest campaign at http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/black-brow !
Yes! With every signed copy of the Cavemaster rulebook, you also get a copy of the PDF version.
The four Cavemaster 'races' are different human breeds that co-exist during the same time period, in the way that Neanderthals and Cro-magnons co-existed in reality. Rather than being limited to those two choices, Cavemaster offers four different hypothetical human breeds. Artwork by Talzhemir:
Maheechee - "The Tree People"
The lightly-furred Maheechee spend their days swinging through the trees looking for fruit and insects. With their big eyes, they can see fairly well in the dark but have trouble seeing in bright sunlight. They are small and furtive, with slightly long arms. When Maheechee can catch them, they eat small animals. They are the least technological breed; they do not usually make fires or cook their food. Their favorite method of defense is throwing the rocks they carry up to notches in the trees. They also fight with sticks.
* Core Stones: 3
* Racial Stones: Climbing 1
* Racial Traits: Their sensitive eyes allow them to operate without penalties in low-light conditions (though they are just as hampered as anyone else in absolute darkness). However, they suffer a penalty of -1 on all actions while subjected to full, direct sunlight. Maheechee are arboreal creatures, moving at a rate of 1 span through the tree canopy but only ½ span on the ground (or in water).
Rogok - “The Cave Lords”
Similar to Neanderthals, though more dimorphic. Heavily built with powerful muscles, the Rogok live in caves. Males are big, hairy, and muscular. Females are small, smooth, and voluptuous. By wrestling with other males, roaring and leaving scent marks, Rogok males establish their territories. During courtship, if the female is unimpressed, the Rogok male is puzzled and disappointed, but will leave her be. Capable of such things as crafting tools from bone, sewing with sinew, making and maintaining fires for warmth, and decorating their homes and possessions, Rogok give the most status to warriors. They fight with curve-tipped thrusting spears and atlatl-and-dart.
* Core Stones: 3
* Racial Stones: Strength 1
* Racial Traits: The Rogok are gifted with powerfully one-track minds. This results in a +1 bonus on all checks where single-minded perseverance would be advantageous. However, it hampers their ability to innovate. Rogok suffer a -1 penalty on all inventing attempts.
Tanui - “The Sea People"
The Tanui always live close to the rivers and seas and most of their diet is fish and sea mammals. They are tall and slender. Those who follow the shark or seal totem file their teeth into points. They wear scraps of fur or skins of fish. Expert tanners, they make boats out of single pieces of the hide of very large land animals. They typically fight with clubs and barbed harpoons attached to cords.
* Core Stones: 3
* Racial Stones: Swift 1. Tanui move at a rate of 1 1/2 span on land, and 1 span in water.
Racial Traits: Ancient Wisdom. The Tanui encode their cultural knowledge in elaborate ritual, mnemonic chants, stories and poems. Tanui characters therefor gain a bonus of +1 on all knowledge checks related to things within Tanui cultural experience. However, because they are so tied to their own ways, they suffer a penalty of -1 on all inventing checks, and on all checks to use equipment that falls outside of the Tanui sphere of knowledge. Tanui raised among other breeds do not have this trait.
Yorwa – “The Busy People”
Similar to the Cro-Magnon and most similar to modern humans. Lacking the ferocity of the Rogok and the agility of the Maheechee, the colorfully decorated Yorwa are the thinkers. The Busy Ones are also great cooperators, although their occasional obsession with pre-planning tries the patience of the other races. They are the most technologically advanced, having mastered how to make cordage from fiber and weave baskets (but farming and the art of pottery is still many centuries away). The Yorwa live in huts made of twigs and mud. Yorwa fight with straight-tipped spears and stone-throwing slings.
* Core Stones: 4
* Racial Stones: None
* Racial Traits: None
Here are some initial thoughts.
In running the Cavemaster playtests, one of the first things that stood out was the fact that politics and intrigue are front and center. In a typical fantasy RPG, the players start out as complete nobodies who might eventually get caught up in skullduggery affecting the fate of nations. But in a caveman game, your character's entire civilization consists of a few dozen individuals. The emperor isn't off in some distant, heavily-guarded palace. He's squatting over at the next fire, surrounded by a few bully-boys and gnawing on the best hunk of seared mastodon. There's some immediate and dramatic story potential there!
Translating traditional fantasy RPG tropes into a Paleolithic context like this provides a deep mine of ideas for Cavemaster adventures. What's the caveman analog of a tavern brawl? A dungeon expedition? A secret door? A reclusive wizard's tower? An ancient prophesy? A dragon? A magic sword? A haunted cemetery?
One particular appealing aspect of traditional fantasy RPGs, which may not seem to directly translate to a caveman setting, is 'treasure'. Cavemen don't have money, but does that mean they have no concept of 'valuables'? They have no written language, so does that mean no magic books or scrolls? They don't have metallurgy, so does that mean no magic armor or weapons? Absolutely not! Any sufficiently shiny rock or beautifully carved bone, ivory, or stone can be considered a 'treasure'. They don't have an alphabet, but they do have a rich visual language of symbols and drawings to evoke the power of the spirits when inscribed onto a simple amulet, animal-hide garment, headdress, or stone weapon. Cave-man 'potions'? Easy: salves and medicines brewed from powerful herbs. And that's just the spirit-magic based 'treasures'. As Arthur C. Clarke said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. When the characters are cavemen, the bar for 'sufficiently advanced' can be pretty low!
Then there's the setting itself. Talk about your wilderness adventures! Apart from small scattered bands of humans, the entire world is an untamed wilderness - full of creatures' lairs, places strong with spirit power, and perhaps even the remains of lost civilizations - which arose for a time before falling into decay, leaving their own treasures and technological innovations behind. Untamed wilderness, indeed - unless the players decide to tame it, and forge a new civilization of their own!
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