Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wolf-packs and Winter Snow: Part I

 Wolf-packs and Winter Snow by Emmy Allen

I have been eyeing this game since I first spotted it on RPGnow a month or so back. An rpg set in the upper paleolithic, how awesome is that? Well it turns out, pretty darn awesome. I purchased the pdf last Friday and have read through the game at least three times now. I dig it that much.

The rule system is very much OSR or even just Old School Moldvay, but the rules are not simply just another clone, they have a lot of new bits, that like good bits should, add a ton of flavor.

So what exactly do you get? Well to start with you get the familiar set of attributes straight out of OD&D. You get a short list of classes, Hunter, Expert, and Magician (though I would have preferred the term Shaman), and Neandertal. There is also a list of alternate classes in the appendix that I would use as a "consolation" prize for people who role up pretty hopeless characters.

Hunters are ...well hunters. They excel in tracking and poking animals with sharp pointy things.

There is a brief skill system that uses the old Xin6 chance for success in any skill attempt. The Specialists get a small number of points they can put into the skills of the players choosing. The skill list is small enough to be easy to remember and use, but diverse enough that your group could conceivably all play Experts and there wouldn't be much overlap in skills if any.

Magicians use Vancian spell casting found in the older editions (or maybe all of them) of D&D, but as an added twist to this old system is the lack of spellbook. So each magician needs a sanctum, a cave near their home base where they can record their spells as paintings on the cave walls. There is also a system or two for crafting magical items, and I might even let magicians replace the cave painting things with tattoos so they look like Otzi or the Siberian Ice Princess (even though these are much later in time).

Neandertals are a mix of Hunters and Experts with a good bit of Flesh and Grit mixed in.

So hit points are split into two systems Flesh and Grit. Flesh represents physical injury and Grit is more the bumps, bruises and fatigue aspect. Grit comes back with rest, while Flesh takes longer and requires medicine and healing. Also, failing a Healing check results in further injury to the PC, which made me laugh out loud, because I can think of more than a dozen games where people just kept rolling those heal checks until a character got better. Well not any more! Me thinks this will be standard practice in all games henceforth. Mwuuuuhahahahahahah. Ah good stuff.

Next is equipment and encumbrance system. It is a really streamlined system that should be intuitive and easy for people to remember. My players constantly complain about Basic D&D's encumbrance system which I think is pretty damn easy to handle. So this should be right up their alley. You get two items, gear, weapon, armor, what have you, per point of strength. Over this and you are severely burdened. Small stuff like needles, a bit of string, a stick of chalk don't count at all, or take up one slot at the DM's discretion for every five items or so. There is a simple chart that gives movement rates and penalties, easy enough.

Equipment can get messed up and broken. There is an easy system to keep track of that.

Cannibalism, it can happen in the depths of winter when there is no food. So it can keep you alive but bad things will happen to your mental health as a result.

Light sources. Now you would think this would be pretty standard like in most games. You know, where a torch lasts for 6 turns exactly, each and every time. Well not here due to inconsistent manufacturing, guess that Expert wasn't as good as he thought at making torches. In all likelihood the torch will probably last longer in this game than in most other OSR games, but its an interesting mechanic.

Lots of good information and rules covering poison, cold weather, fire, altitude sickness, and more, all good stuff and really fun to incorporate into the game.

Combat is that pretty much as you would expect it, roll d20 to hit plus modifiers. Though there are a lot more choices for combat. It reminds me quite a bit of the Dragon Age RPG (and now Fantasy Age) combat options. Which is a good thing, more options the better. Armor Class is Ascending and thus pretty easy. The list of weapons is short, as you would expect in a game set in this period.

Well, I will leave off here for now. Hopefully I can post up a part II in the next few days as the game still has lots more cool stuff to offer an Ice Age gaming aficionado. Like building a tribe, herbalism, magical backlash, exploring caves, exploring wilderness and more. I would also like to discuss the few things I don't like about the game. We all know no game is perfect, but I only have a few quibbles and those I can count on one hand. Which is more than I can say for some games that I have played dozens or hundreds of times.

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