Neanderthal


Sorry for the radio silence, gang. I've hung up the DM spurs for a while, and I'm playing in a Caveman Campaign run by a friend of mine, Matt Groves. So, I thought I might take a break from telling you what's cool about my game to tell you what's cool about his.

A C-C-Caveman campaign, you say? What's so cool about that?

1. You rise from the dirt with nothing. No clothes, no weapons, no equipment. Anything you want, you have to make with your own two hands. Kill a boar, strip its hide for armor and tie a tusk to a stick to make an axe. Tie vines together for a rope, use a strip of fur as a sling. You want bows and arrows? You better find a master craftsman to invent that shit.

Whenever you get an item, roll a craft check: d6+int+a bonus for good materials. Write that number next to your item. Whenever it gets damaged badly - say, if an enemy gets a good hit against your armor, or they attack your weapon directly - roll d6 as a save. If it's over your craft number, it breaks. If it's under, it's safe - but subtract one for next time.

This strips D&D right back to the primitive basics. Brutal and primitive, your fists are your first and last defense  You have a very small amount of shit, and you care about all of it. This is the spike you tore off that giant cactus - this is the armor you made from the bones in the dinosaur graveyard. Everything is personalized and unique.

It works because no-one else has anything either: you can't buy anything, and most of the battles are fist VS fist. This puts the focus on using the environment - throwing sand in their eyes, pushing shit onto them. Punching does a d4, a crafted weapon does a d6, a great weapon does d8. You might want to downgrade the hit points by a bit.


2. Everything is based on something tactile. You need things like eyes or tongues for spell components. You get experience by eating the brains of your foes. The end of every battle is marked with a bloody frenzy as you start ripping into the bodies of the fallen.

(Pro anatomy tip: Human bodies comes with two "Club Bones" that make perfect weapons.)

Leveling up involves smoking rare herbs to enter the magical level-up plain and commune with the gods. Classes are basic: Wizard spells should be fiddled with to become more like subtle tricks than obvious magic.The ability to start a fire is a good level 1 wizard spell, for instance.


3. Everything was cracked out of the clay mold just the other day. The land is still molten; mountains move, gods walk. There are no cities, trade routes, or civilization - just straggling tribes surrounded by crazed wilderness. Anything could be over the hill. Forms are still fluid, the way they are in creation myths; many animals still talk.


4. Megafauna, megaflora, everything is enormous and archetypal. The trees reach forever, and the most dangerous enemies are the beasts; massive and untamed. Dinosaurs are still here, of course, scattered and dying but still terrifying - the dragons of the setting.


5. We've started creating a tribe (An all-woman amazon outfit called "The Furies", using wolves like motorcycles). Recruiting members, finding a place to live, figuring out how to build a lair and what to make it from; it's the primitive basics of the stronghold, stripped down to the cool shit. 

That's what makes it so good in general. Everything in D&D stripped down to the most basic form, and made as tactile as possible. It's simple and brilliant, and you should definitely try it sometime.