Paleomythic (2019)

When I think of Osprey Publishing, I think of military history. Specifically, I think of their huge, beautifully illustrated series detailing military uniforms and equipment for specific regions, unit and time periods (Angus McBride of MERP fame illustrated quite a few of them during his career). So when I heard Osprey was producing RPGs, I figured they would be stuffy, if pretty, things, focusing on military style play. Twilight 2000 through the ages, or some such. Nope! Not at all. Totally wrong.

This is Paleomythic (2019), and it release alongside Romance of the Perilous Land as Osprey’s first RPG. Author Graham Rose calls it “stone and sorcery” and it is a compact system that powers play peppered with ideas not often touched on in RPGs. The mechanics are very similar to Year Zero Engine — attributes and skills translate to a number of six-sided dice that a rolled for checks, sixes count as successes. Injuries reduce attributes, and thus the number of dice rolled. A number of character templates offer special abilities or magic (all of which, rather than having discrete systems, have effects tied to attributes). The low tech increases the importance of equipment, which is limited and mostly utilitarian (containers are a big deal, for instance). Combat is quick and easy, with weapons having keyword traits that determine their effects.

The whole thing is lean and fast; the focus of the game is on survival and exploration in a stone age setting not often explored in RPGs. The rest of the book gives the GM tools to create the world and populate it with monsters, hazards, tribal groups and pockets of civilization. Again, the low tech makes even the most mundane RPG scenario seed feel like an epic undertaking. I didn’t think this would feel so exciting, but it does! Gimme a wood club, a bow and a need to find some specific herbs for the tribal elder and I’m all set, I guess. The fact that the art and layout is gorgeous help a lot, as does the sample adventure.

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