Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cavemaster, Play Review

I played Cavemaster at NTRPG 2012 Convention. But, I don't have a copy. I probably butcher some of mechanics (sorry Jeff).  There's much more to the system than I was able to experience in a one-shot. (In fact, flipping through rule book I saw scads of "abilities", four+ races, bunch of creatures and lots of good artwork.)  Consider this "review" a teaser.  I hear the Cavemaster rulebook will be in stores soon.  PDF now.  POD book now

tl;dr Cavemaster is fun, is original, and it was a big hit at convention.  I'm sure it would be fun for younger gamers and the mechanics would be easily comprehensible to anyone who can count.  But, it wasn't simplistic or "kiddy".  An old, curmudgeon like myself enjoyed it.

From Jeff Dee's Kickstarter page:
Cavemaster is a serious Stonepunk tabletop fantasy role-playing game of Pleistocene adventure using the Habilis game system.
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).
Fire hair and friends

The Standard Mechanic.  Every player had 6 stone cave person. We physically had six stones; four core stones, two different "talent" stones.  All stones same, just placed on different areas of our skin (aka character sheet).  When player wants their character to do something they pick up their four core stones and secretly divide them between left and right hands.  The CM does the same (with stones equal to difficulty of tasks or the core stones of creature being attacked).  The CM and player each pick a hand and whoever has more stones "wins".  There's various bonuses and penalties for all the usual things.  These are added/subtracted from count of stones revealed (rather than changing number of stones).  In addition if action is related to one of the character's talents, say throwing Javelin for Hunter or standing guard for Keen Sight, character get's +1 bonus.

In addition to being a measure of skill / level, stones represent how much hurt can be absorbed. A number of stones (core or talent) must be set aside equal to the amount of damage taken.  Example; if wolf bites me with total of 4 (stones + bonuses) vs my 2 "defense" I must remove 2 stones from my character sheet.  Choosing between my core ability (and thus future fighting ability) and my talents (sacrificing skill bonuses and abilities).

Picking stones and trying to outguess CM is surprisingly fun and entails a lot more strategy (minimize risk with even number in each hand, go for big kill with all stones in one hand, all sorts of bluffing and fake out, etc) than may be apparent from just reading about it.

I played Fire Hair, red headed cave woman.  A Hunter with Keen Sight armed with javelins. Our band was feeling fat and pretty happy with ourselves after feasting on a couple of wild boars.  When another member of our tribe came running up with tales of cannibal Pachock (Sp?) attacking and dragging away the rest of her band, including my sister!

Fire Hair and friends butcher wolves.
Well, after hour and half of healing wounds (from boar battle) and invoking the Cedar Spirit (a couple players had Spirit Affinities and could ask their spirit for aide.  Aide had to relate to the spirit e.g. Cedar; find food. Mammoth; scare away wolfs and used the standard mechanic) we finally went chasing after the bad things.  Only to be predated upon by some wolves.

This Cavemaster game was part of GameFest.  After few rounds of being gnawed on by wolves it was time to switch games.  A short but sweet intro to Cavemaster for me!

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