Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm looking for an rpg that is basically about hunting/gathering, and surviving as a tribe. Mostly for mechanical ideas. Has anyone ever tried/heard of such a game? How does it work? Who makes it? Is it still available?

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by Pat Ludwig Mar 22 '12 at 15:41

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This doesn't meet our current system-recommendation standards. The "Mostly for mechanical ideas" leads me to think that this question should be reasked along the lines of "How can I model a hunter/gatherer culture?" If you're mining for ideas, ask that directly instead of looking for games that might help. – Pat Ludwig Mar 22 '12 at 15:41

11 Answers 11

GURPS has a couple of sourcebooks for that sort of play. GURPS Ice Age is exactly what it says on the box; it's about tribes and ice ages and so on. GURPS is pretty crunchy, so I imagine you'd get the mechanics you're looking for. GURPS Fantasy II is also about paleolithic tribesmen and survival, but it takes place in a really seriously weird fantasy world. E.g., the "gods" of the setting are thinly veiled Winnie the Pooh characters, which Robin Laws nonetheless makes sinister. So maybe not as useful, but no list of paleolithic games is complete without it.

share|improve this answer
Is GURPS Ice Age still available? How did it compare to other GURPS settings books? – anon186 Aug 24 '10 at 13:35
Yep, you can get it as a PDF via the link provided. It was one of the first GURPS books, if not the first, and it was pretty short: not quite as rich as one might expect from other GURPS sourcebooks. – Bryant Aug 24 '10 at 13:52
For GURPS 4e, there is also "Lands Out of Time", which has some stuff from Ice Age updated for 4e. – foxxtrot Aug 24 '10 at 19:30
Interesting. picked up both pdfs(fairly cheap), and will give it a good read sometime this week. currently knee deep in homework, taking a breather. Will comment back with any findings soon as able. – Michael Makali'i Fernandez Aug 25 '10 at 11:10

GURPS Ice Age is actually quite in-depth. It was a short book but packed with info, fun to read, and it even has an adventure. I'd highly recommend it if you are interested in this style of play.

share|improve this answer

Og by FireFly Games looks like the kind of thing you're after.

Or there's Operation Caveman and Grunting: The race for fire.

Although before spending any money I'd be tempted to just run that using Fudge on the Fly.

You could re-flavour the fudge success ladder words with a caveman bent.

share|improve this answer

I think Tribes from Steve Jackson Games fits the bill quite nicely. It's not a traditional RPG in that there's a winner at the end and the GM is basically just rolling on random events tables. The game is heavy on social interaction between the players (who gets the food, who gets to mate, etc.). Every character type has a special ability that the other characters don't have. This forces the party to work together to survive while at the same time each player individually is trying to win.

share|improve this answer
I think I may check this out. I found a cheap copy online, and was mostly interested in mechanics. Thanks for the find! – Michael Makali'i Fernandez Aug 26 '10 at 6:11
I've played Tribes a few times and we've loved it every time. It went on the shelf when they said they'd be giving it the "Lord of the Fries" treatment and really doing up a nice edition. Then they never did. I'll have to get it down again! – gomad Nov 17 '10 at 20:52

In addition to Gurps Ice Ace I recommend also Gurps Low Tech (as, for example, hot air balloons and hang-gliders can be made at tech level 0). They're both available on Warehouse23 from the relevant products' pages.

share|improve this answer

If you can find a copy of John Wick's Orkworld, it is exactly about hunting and gathering, and surviving as a tribe. It deals with the cycles of nomadic living, and about how strength, cleverness, and orating ability are valued in that kind of society.

The orks can easily be switched up for prehistory humans just by saying so, although changing out the culture for a different one would be more work than it'd be worth. That said, the culture of Wick's orks was developed to be tribal and nomadic first instead of "orcish", and specifically ignored what people think of when they hear the word "orc" in an RPG context.

share|improve this answer
  • Orkworld is a serious take, but uses bronze age orcs, not stone age.
  • Og is a humorous take on it; it's more like Ally Oop than any real stone age
  • GURPS Ice Age is an excellent sourcebook on it.
  • Stone Age was inspired by Orkworld, and is a free download at It's in a rough state, but it takes a serious approach.

There have been articles on using AD&D and a couple other games for doing paleolithic games.

Traveller has rules for harvesting animals for food, and for primitive weapons, and does have a suitable career (Barbarian) in supplements for some editions and core rules for others.

Of the above, I know that Orkworld and Stone Age deal explicitly with the difficulty of gathering food, maintaining shelter, and such. GURPS Ice Age doesn't have the resource driven mechanics, but does touch on it in the text. Og ignores the whole food issue; Og's about the humor, not the realism.

share|improve this answer
+1, thanks for the info. In traveller, is all of this info in the core book? I've only flipped through it briefly when I was off line a couple years ago. – Michael Makali'i Fernandez Aug 28 '10 at 5:28
It depends upon edition. Classic Traveller, yes. Mongoose? checking... CGen yes, drifter (barbarian); Animal creation rules, yes; harvesting rules, no; primitive weapons, yes. – aramis Aug 28 '10 at 5:37

If you are open to culturally specific games, there's also Brennan Taylor's How We Came to Live Here, which is about the ancient Pueblo people of the American Southwest. Very, very cool game and just got nominated for an ENnie for Best Writing. It's very much about surviving as a tribe and has amazing guidelines for being parts of different clans and societies in the village.

share|improve this answer

Kevin Allen Jr's game Primitive is a really interesting take on this, very freeform and focusing on communication without language. Super weird and cool.

share|improve this answer

Greg Porter's Dreamtime supplement for CORPS was a short, sweet paleolithic setting for his generic CORPS gaming engine. You can find PDFs of the supplement (and the original CORPS rules as well) on various online e-RPG stores, and they're reasonably inexpensive. You could also use the supplement with pretty much any simulation-y generic rules set (like EABA, HERO, GURPS, BRP, etc) and a bit of elbow grease.

Porter's designs are elegant and reasonably fluid, but they're not rules-light, necessarily, and because it's mostly one guy doing the work on is own schedule, they're not graced with acres of supplementary material: CORPS had a "bestiary" book that was scheduled to appear that, for various reasons, never did. EABA would make a good second home for "Dreamtime", and it's "Stuff" supplement does contain some guidelines for building creatures, but Greg hasn't gotten around to producing a new version of the Dreamtime book for the EABA rules-set.

share|improve this answer

Jason Godesky's Fifth world is very much a game about hunter-gatherers and the animist world-view. The setting is post-apocalyptic, but not in the usual rpg sense of mutants and barely understood technology - rather, humanity moved on to animist culture.

The game is free, open-source, and very anarcho-primitivist. System-wise it is based on Fudge, but the rules about establishing relations and situations are worth reading and fairly unique, from what I know.

share|improve this answer
Have you played it? – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Mar 22 '12 at 15:37
No, I have only mined it for design ideas . – Thanuir Mar 23 '12 at 8:43

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.