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?
closed as not constructive by Pat Ludwig Mar 22 '12 at 15:41
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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.
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.
Og by FireFly Games looks like the kind of thing you're after.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 rpggeek.com. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.