OSR Games Wolf Packs and Winter Snow

Dying Stylishly

Registered User
Validated User
Well, I wrote a game, so now I'm gonna sell it.

What it is:
Basically, a it's hack of b/x D&D, along the same lines as games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Beyond the Wall, Adventurer-Conquerer-King, and so on. If you're at all familiar with the OSR, most of this will be fairly familiar to you.
The big difference is in the ice-age setting. The game's been made specifically for games in this time-period, which has meant stripping out a lot of the standard assumptions of old-school D&D and remaking them to fit a prehistoric game. A good chunk of the game's focus is on wilderness survival and exploration.

What's different about it:
  • Classes are designed specifically for the setting. The core classes cover human hunters, experts and magicians, as well as a fourth class for Neanderthals. On top of this, there's five optional classes for more unusual character concepts.
  • Saves are designed with the setting and play-style in mind - Saves vs Weather Conditions are a thing, for example.
  • D6-based skills, like LotFP, with some tweaks to fit a survival-based game.
  • Equipment customized for the setting. Armour is bought piece by piece. The more pieces of armour you wear, the better protected you are (with higher armour class and protection from having bad stuff happen to armoured locations), but each piece of armour weighs you down more.
  • No XP for treasure or for winning fights. Instead, XP is earned in three ways. When a dangerous animal (Rhinos count, rabbits don't) is killed, you get XP for every part of the animal you make use of. When you explore a cave system and make it safe for people to live in, you get XP - the larger the caverns, the more XP. When you find magic items and bring them back to civilization, you get XP. As a result, XP is given for doing the sorts of things that would get you proclaimed a hero in the ice-age setting.
  • Hit-points are divided into Flesh and Grit. Losing flesh means actual physical injuries. Losing grit is just a matter of having your stamina worn down, running out of luck, and so on. Grit is lost first, and comes back when you rest. Losing flesh is what kills you. If you can't defend yourself against an attack (because you've been ambushed, for example), damage goes straight to your flesh, and grit won't save you.
  • Thanks to the flesh and grit rules, combat is fast and brutal. The side that wins will probably be the side that gets the drop on their enemies. Ambushes, dropping big rocks on things, fire and other dirty tricks are strong in this system, just stabbing a monster until either you or it falls over will get you killed.
  • There are no spell-books and scrolls. Magic-users record their spells as paintings on cave walls, or bind them into charms and fetishes. Magic is still nebulous and experimental. Although the system's still basically vancian spell-slots, magic-users can experiment with their spells. They can cast high level spells before they 'should', or try to do unusual things with spells, or research new spells of their own. Doing this has a pretty significant chance of going wrong, however, and can have pretty nasty consequences. Rather than using monetary costs for magical research and crafting, players will have to forage and scavenge for specific magical ingredients.

What's in the book:

  • Character creation.
  • Game rules, with a focus on things like hostile weather conditions, finding food, and so on.
  • Systems for attracting and managing a tribe of followers. A system for herbalism that lets any smart character make potions and poisons from the plants around them.
  • A magic system that's flexible, but prone to disaster, with spells tweaked to fit the time period.
  • Guides to running the game, explaining the way it's intended to be run, and focussing on wilderness survival and cave exploration.
  • Systems for the GM to create landscapes, cave complexes, tribes of people, and unique monsters on the fly. Various tables to provide hooks and inspiration so that the game can be run with only a little prep and some improvisation.
  • Statistics for various wild animals, weird monsters and NPCs.
  • Optional classes in the back of the book, with notes on how to integrate them into the game. These classes are Aberrants (skulking mutants with a fondness for ambushes), Morlocks (pale, crawling subterranean cousings of humans with their own weird magic - certainly not elves), Mystics (human prophets of horrible alien gods), Orphans (pretty much Mowgli - the class) and Wendigos (eat people, gain their strength).

How the game tends to play:
Different groups will have different experiences, of course, but in play-testing a few common themes came up. Survival is hard. Predators, weather conditions, diseases and other environmental factors can screw you over unexpectedly, so it's worth being prepared for disasters. Playing dirty means you survive, playing fair means you die fast.
Things tend to be pretty lethal even a good way into the game. You're never entirely safe, and things can go very wrong very fast. The game rewards you for smart, resourceful and daring play. If you're dumb or overly cautious, you'll be ground down.
Combat is fast, brutal and nasty. If you absolutely must fight (so you can eat the thing you killed, for example), then stack things in your favour as much as possible before the first blow is struck. Grit comes back pretty fast, but if things go wrong your flesh is not a strong defence.
Magic is really useful, but it's weird. A lot of spells aren't obviously combat-focussed, but an inventive magician can get all sorts of utility out of them. Of course, if they push their luck, it will all blow up in their faces, and the magical mishaps are either really fun, or screw you completely.

What the games weaknesses are:
There's a few things to note here. Most obviously, this has been largely a one-girl project (other than playtesting), and I haven't been able to hire artists. The artwork is, therefore, pretty sparse and entirely takes the form of black-and white silhouettes taken from public-domain pictures. It works OK as a stylistic choice I guess, but if I had the budget it's something I'd change.
The game is, unashamedly, based around basic D&D, and a lot of the caveats there apply. Characters start weak, and die easily. If you like that sort of game, you'll enjoy this, but if you don't, this might not be the game for you.
I'll freely admit I'm terrible at spelling. I *think* my proofreaders and I caught all the spelling mistakes and stuff, but... who knows.

Where can I get it?
It's available on Drive-thru-RPG here. It's currently on pay-what-you-want as a PDF, so picking it up for free is totally a thing. In the near future, there'll be a black-and-white paperback version available for sale, probably for about ten bucks. I'm currently waiting on proofs from the printer, but assuming nothing's the matter, the print version should be available in the next couple of weeks.

So, there you have it. I made a game, go get it.
 

Wizard_Lizard

New member
Hi! I bought your game and it's frankly very, very, very cool. I think you really found a way to take the best out of B/X and the OSR for your own design goals, and it shows that you're not fumbling around in the dark here. Now that this is said, I have a few questions and comments.

• I'm going to run a first test session solo for a friend tomorrow, I rolled 6 characters for him to play (he'll basically run one and the others will be NPCs, with him switching characters when needed or if his current "main" PC dies), which are three hunters, a neandertal, an expert and a magician. I generated a region that has 538 six mile squares on two A4 sheets, do you think that's big enough? I can't upload it since I'm not a regular RPG.net user (actually I registered mainly because I wanted some way to contact you since there's not much info online about your game); which leads me to my second question : do you have a blog or something with more stuff on it?

• The basic premise is that the party comes from the (colder) north and will explore this new unknown region, so they don't have a camp yet, so I wrote down the three first spells as tatoos on the arms and palms of the magician, do you think that suits the general theme of ancient tribal magic or would fetishes work better? Also, are they doomed without a tribe, and are the PC expected to be part of a larger tribe from the start? Luckily, there's a big one-square tribe not far from where they're going to start so I don't think it'll be an issue either way, but I'd like to know how you do it, basically, to get a better idea of how to run the game, because I've never ran games set in pre-civilisation times (though I am familiar with LotFP and old school D&D in general).

• Should I expect any more stuff to come out of your project, or is it a finished thing and you're not working on it anymore?

• Do you have any book, movie or other reference materials that could come in handy for inspiration?

I think that's about it. If you're interested, I'll post an actual play report in here if I have time, to see how it worked out in play.

Cheers :D

Wizard_Lizard
 

Dying Stylishly

Registered User
Validated User
Whoops, I totally missed the replies here.

For Wizard-Lizard:
I totes have a blog: it's here.
I mostly find that players explore a square a session (more if they find something interesting). I've been running on a 12 by 12 grid recently, and that's plenty big enough.
So, with regards to tattoos: that's how Morlocks do it. A magician will have a sanctum somewhere (in your example I'd fudge it a little so when they settle somewhere they can make that place their sanctum), and if they move about they can only really carry their spells in bound items - fetishes like you suggest. The point here is that a magician can loose access to spells as well as gaining them. However: it's your game, run it how you think will be fun.
I always assume that the PCs are a small family/band of their own. If they had a larger tribe once, they've left it or lost it. The big goal is to attract a tribe of your own as you hit higher levels (or to find one in play and take it over, that totally works).
I'm working on a couple of mini-adventures, which will both have some extra rulesy stuff in the appendices. Like the five extra classes in the back of the book, these are all going to be optional, at the GM's discretion. I have rough drafts for a class for undead PCs, stuff about boats, a class for Neanderthal healers, and some more example monsters, hazards and so on.
In terms of inspiration? Not massively, actually. I've read up on a lot of non-fiction about the stone age, but there's not so much fiction that really captures what I'm going for. The Clan of the Cave Bear books are good, mind you, and I'm a sucker for Raquel Welch in a fur bikini.

To FredH:
There's an a4 paperback version in the works - I'm wrangling the printers to get a functioning version. A hardback version that includes the mini-adventures and optional stuff mentioned above is currently a pipe-dream, but might happen.
Currently I'm working on a game that's essentially 'OSR ghostbusters', so that'll show up at some point too.
 

Paka

Or call me Judd
Validated User
I am intrigued and just bought it.

Looking forward to reading it and giving it a go at the table.
 
Top Bottom